Random Thoughts

Intelligent Design – A Trojan Horse

The Greeks, tired after a long unsuccessful siege of Troy resorted to a clever subterfuge by leaving a large wooden horse in whose belly were hidden a few armed warriors. Their hope was that the dumb and superstitious Trojans would open the gates and drag the horse within the city boundaries and in the cover of darkness, the hidden Greek warriors would sneak out and open the gates to allow the returning Greek hordes aboard the ships to enter and overrun the Trojans.

There are twenty or more states currently debating the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. The idea of intelligent design is a rehash of Bishop Paley's arguments against Darwin and his theory of evolution. Paley's premise is that if you are walking across a meadow and see a stone, you assume that it could be the result of natural processes. If on the other hand if you see a watch lying in the grass, its complicated finely honed structure for its specific purpose would require you to assume the existence of its creator, a watchmaker. This seemingly sound and logically irrefutable conclusion has been thoroughly refuted by many scientists and is available to interested readers in Richard Dawkins' book "The Blind Watchmaker". Mutations leading to genetic variation provide the fodder for natural selection to work on over geological time by survival and propagation of the fittest.

This is not a miraculous impossibility like a hurricane assembling diverse metal scraps into a perfect 747 jet as propounded by Fred Hoyle, a renowned astrophysicist who despite his high intelligence failed to understand the theory of evolution. If a high intellect like Hoyle's failed to comprehend evolution, a seriously intellectually challenged shrub with his limited repertoire of reading children's stories to kindergartens as a solution to national crises, is bound to be confused into mouthing gibberish opinions.

Let us consider a few examples. If I told you that one person can win the Powerball three weeks in a row, you would laugh at me. The chances of winning the Powerball are one in a hundred million and so the chances of three consecutive weekly wins are one in 10 to the power of 24. If there were such a large number of lottery ticket purchasers then 10 raised to the power 16 would win the lottery the first week. If these winners all purchased one ticket the second week covering all numbers, there would be 10 to the power 8 winners next week. If these second time winners purchased a different numbered ticket covering all possible combinations the third week, there would be a single winner who would have won the lottery for three consecutive weeks. The same objective could be attained by a single person purchasing all the hundred million combination tickets each week to become a three time winner. As Archimedes said, "Give me a long enough lever and I can lift the earth".

As one should realize change is a matter of numbers. Mutation is the substrate altered by chance, and natural selection the grim reaper which mindlessly without premeditation or goal culls the population in a direction conducive to increased survival, successful mating and greater propagation to inadvertently and unintelligently design organs and living things to greater perfection to attain those goals. Dogs are domesticated wolves and in their case, artificial but active human selection has bred within the same species such wide variations as pointers, setters, terriers, Dobermans, bulldogs, St. Bernards and chihuahuas in a few hundred years and less than a hundred generations. Similar examples abound in pigeons and plants. So why not from chimpanzee ancestors to homo sapiens in 15 million years or 600,000 generations? At every generation the bottleneck of survival weeds out the unfit and improves upon the new variations to achieve perfection.

An intelligence designing a box camera would make its outside impermeable to light and have a variable aperture and a lens capable of changing focal length and a light sensitive film at the back with a cable capable of transmitting the image digitally to a distant screen or analyzer. The human eye has many of these attributes but has its converging optic nerve fibers massing into a bundle (cable) placed in front of the film (retinal cells) within the camera. This leaves a blind spot where we see nothing and the image is analogue not digital. The blind spot is filled in by the computing brain causing car accidents while changing lanes. This is a Rube Goldberg contraption produced by a tinkerer constrained by previous anatomical structural handicaps of ancestors and not the work of an intelligent engineering design starting from scratch.

There is no scientific basis for intelligent design. It is a backdoor attempt to inject god into science and faith into reason, to obscure truth and divert the attention of an ignorant public from real issues of economic, political and strategic importance just like prayer, abortion and homosexual behavior and marriage in the past. Other examples of tinkering restrained by past evolutionary history are air breathing lungs instead of water breathing gills in dolphins, whales and seals which spend more time under water. They are compelled to surface to their detriment, to breathe oxygen from the air. Their precursors were land animals and thus their return to the seas constrained evolution to work with prior restraint of air breathing for oxygen. Similar restrictions explain the differences between the wings of insects, birds and bats. An intelligent designer would have chosen the best optimum design and not such varied patchwork designs with obvious faults.

On a lighter note, the gooey mixture of a faux pearl and a clouded crystal glued with rum and rice, fermented in a dicky, when anointed over the heads of young America over a suitable foundation, is a way to design Neo-cons. It hardly qualifies as the work of an intelligent designer. The crowning irony is the creation of a chicken hawk by transplanting the head of a chicken on to the body of a hawk. Bah! No intelligent design. I wouldn't be surprised if evolution next designed an alpha primate proconsul by gluing together the head of a draft dodger suitably vacuumed of intelligence, and attached it to the body of a flying ace, making the pathetic creature the commander-in-chief of a great fighting force in history. Whatever else it may be called, one could not call it intelligent design. It does not even deserve to be called evolution and seems more like regression!  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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