This reminds me of a joke I once heard…

Dembski misses the point as always with his recent post describing why the vertebrate eye is again evidence of design. You see, the big bad Darwinists used the structure of the eye, which has its photoreceptors in the back behind all the layers of the retina, as evidence that our eye isn’t designed, because what kind of designer would have the light pass all the way through the layers of the retina to reach the receptor cells?

I’m interested in talking about these cranks today because I think this argument is one that exposes the fundamentally deceptive nature of the DI and proponents of the ID movement.

I actually don’t care too much about this argument, because it’s really just too stupid to be engaged. You see, Dembski links this news article which describes the discover of cells that resemble optical fibers that transmit light through the retinal tissues towards the photoreceptors as proof of further evidence of a brilliant design (by the way, I can’t even find this article at PNAS – can anyone find the original article?). He seems to be saying that since Dawkins once mentioned this property of eyes as a sign of bad design that Dawkins was implying the eye as a whole represents poor design. Well, no, nature did quite a good job of forming our eyes, and the fact that they are finding more examples of sophistication in the mammalian eye doesn’t say anything about design. The fact that we had to rig up extra cells to get the light to the photoreceptors shows that, if anything, this system came about by adaptive mechanisms. Dembski is also jumping the gun here, because the implication is that all mammals have these cells in their retinas, and it’s quite possible that some mammals that are more evolutionarily distant never developed this mechanism.

But that’s not my point in this post at all because with these arguments Dembski always proves again the deceptive nature of the DI and the ID creationist movement. They say, they’re not proposing that the designer they hypothesize is the god of the Bible. They say, ID is a “scientific” movement that has predictive power. But it should be clear, immediately, that these two arguments are fundamentally incompatible unless you make inferences about the nature of the designer. And the nature of the designer that they always advocate is a perfect one.

This begs the question why is their assumption always that the designer is competent unless it’s because they’re talking about Jehovah? Why couldn’t they accept the possibility of an incompetent or at least imperfect designer? Why can’t the Raelians be right? Why isn’t it possible that none of them are right and our designer was kind of stupid or at least highly imperfect?

This is where the deception comes in. If they are being totally open-minded about the designer, then why is it so important that things be perfect? The reason is, and as their wedge document makes clear is they’re only interested in promoting one specific designer. Guess which one.

Just for fun, let’s think about some more things that are stupid about the human body which would indicate an incompetent designer. I nominate our urogenital system. Only a freaking moron would connect the sewage system to the reproductive system, then make childbirth so painful and dangerous. A moron, or a designer that hates women…wait a minute, maybe it is the god of the bible?

(and ten points to whoever gets which joke I was referring to – hint, it’s about engineering)


21 responses to “This reminds me of a joke I once heard…”

  1. Yup, it involves the Corps of Engineers, a waste-disposal system, and a recreational area. 🙂

  2. I nominate nasal hair.
    Also does Dembski not see the irony of a man in spectacles going on about the perfect design of the eye?

  3. Anti-ID: The vertibrate eye has its retina on backwards. If it was designed, then why would the designer make such a simple mistake?

    Pro-ID: But it works with the retina on backwards – only a designer could make an eye that works even if its designed badly.

    Other incompetant design flaws: An appendix that serves a purpose briefly, then does nothing until it becomes inflamed. Sweat glands that get easily cloged, then produce pus-filled spots. Toenails that ingrow, painfully. A metabolism that results in poor health and weight gain if not given a primative-human diet and lifestyle. A large number of organs that deteriorate or fail with age – eyes, joints, skin, brain, hearing. Occasional random cancer. External testicles for males, in a place perfect for being accidentially damaged. A recurrent laryngial nerve that takes a twisted route under the aorta to reach the larynx. Only one heart, no redundency. Body odor. Hair, a nest for parasites. An immune system that frequently goes wrong and attacks friendly cells, yet still cant keep all disease at bay.

  4. Mart�n Pereyra

    Nipples in males.

  5. I love it, Suricou! Maybe we should have a bad human design contest.

  6. How about the cranial nerves? Anyone else think that they’re a little bit hacked together? Like the trigeminal. Who would have come up with that layout?

    Oh, and Julie gets the ten points. She knows the joke, but wisely doesn’t repeat it. I thought it was a little blue for the scienceblogs.

  7. Pieter B

    The way I heard it, ’twasn’t an artist or an engineer, it was the Planning & Zoning Department.

  8. natural cynic

    External testicles for males, in a place perfect for being accidentially damaged

    Add on that they can’t function properly at mammalian core temperatures so they have to be external.
    Unstable knee ligaments.
    Lumbar vertebrae with herniating disks.
    Overly sensitive cochlear receptors.
    Prostate surrounding the urethra.

  9. Anonymous

    External testicles for males, in a place perfect for being accidentially damaged

    Right, and then the ridiculous path the vas deferens has to follow to deliver sperm from the external testes to the mixed dispensing organ…way up, looping around the ureters, and then back down again to the prostate…really dumb.

  10. Ok, Natural Cynic reminds us of a great one. The prostate. man is that a stupid organ. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Who makes a circular gland around a tube that then hypertrophies throughout a male’s life?

  11. trrll

    Wow, so the eye has workarounds to compensate for problems that would not exist if the photoreceptors were in front! This will join the typical ID apologetics for the structure of the vertebrate eye (which are repeated in the comments at UD):

    1) Cooling of the photoreceptors. Choroidal blood flow far exceeds nutritional needs, and this has been verified by studies.

    The amusing thing about this one, which has been repeated by creationists for years, is that it could only sounds even vaguely reasonable to somebody who has never even bothered to actually look at the structure of the octopus eye, and noticed the extensive vascularization (located behind and in intimate contact with the photoreceptor cells).

    2) UV filtration is enhanced by an inverted design, and not a requirement of cephalopods, who operated in low light levels.

    This is even better! Our eyes are superior because they use valuable neurons as UV filters (never mind that UV is primarily filtered by the lens and cornea–itself a questionable design).

    3) The blind spot is dealt with by data handling techniques, and is not a problem.

    The “data handling” techniques presumably mean that the brain “hides” the blind spot from awareness, so you aren’t even aware of what you can’t see. Lots of help in blinking when something is flying toward your eye right in your blind spot.

    4) Structural integrity of the nerve attachment may be enhanced by the inverted design, i.e. strain relief.

    Kind of an odd claim considering the prevalence of retinal detachment.

  12. The esophagus.

    Seems dumb to use the same tube for oxygen and food. You can live quite a while without food, but only a few minutes without oxygen. If there were separate tubes, getting food stuck down there would be a minor inconvenience (“Ah crap! Honey, get the mouth plunger. I forgot to chew my steak again.”) Instead, you’re dead in minutes, and are generally too panicked to think quick enough to do anything about it.

  13. I think to be more specific it should be the reliance on the epiglottis to switch between the two. Once again an example of the disadvantages of combined functions as opposed to redundancy of function, which I would associate with a better design.

  14. A species that had to invent the Heimlich maneuver is not perfectly designed. Snakes would laugh at us if they knew.

  15. I’m just waiting for my robot-monkey body with the strength of 5 gorillas.

  16. trrll

    I think that you are correct in pointing out that they giveaway that ID/creationism is a school of religious apologetics rather than anything resembling a science is the insistence that every aspect of biological “design” must be optimal. One of the primary arguments of ID/creationism is that one can readily recognize the products of human design. But although a virtually universal feature of confirmed products of intelligent (human) design is the presence of imperfections, they freak out at any suggestion that living organisms might be in some respects imperfect.

  17. Sleep. Eight hours out of every 24, wasted.

    Trrll is right. The arguments from bad design are not really effective against ID, because ID deliberatly ommits any description of the designer – it is very careful formally never to describe the designers origin, nature, competance or capabilities because doing so would reveal the fact that ID proponents must struggle to hide: That their ‘designer’ is a hole in their theory that they intend to fill with God.

    But against the real creationists, its devistating – because they *do* make claims. They claim that God is all-knowing and perfect in every way. The idea that God could do a bad job is a disaster for them – they need to either explain that every flaw is somehow not a flaw, or resort to some form of nonsense that allows for all those flaws to somehow appear *after* God did his creation thing. You often see them refer to ‘post-fall entropy’ as an explanation, though they dont seem to know what entropy really is.

    Its interesting though that when confronted with the problem of poor design, IDers have two choices: They can either take the ‘pure’ ID route, of arguing that the designer is imperfect. Or they can answer as a creationist would. Almost invariably, they choose the latter, because ID really is just a school of creationism and as such its followers cannoy admit the imperfection of the designer – even though this would not be in conflict with the non-religious image of ID they try to present in public.

  18. Frank

    I’m not a scientist and can’t address the technical side of this, but I’ll pass on what I’ve seen elsewhere as another example of UD. Most mammals synthesize vitamin C. Due to a defect in DNA, however, humans cannot. The designer then plays a practical joke on the “Darwinists” and designs the same defect into the other members of the ape family to make look like humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. LOL.

  19. KeithB

    And guinea pigs, don’t forget guinea pigs!

    And it is *all living things* not just mammals. Plants need Vitamin C, too.

  20. Billy

    How about the human knee for bad design? A cylinder on top of a cylinder held together with rubber bands. Oy! And I know this one through personal experience – my bones are fine, but tendons and ligaments – nine times under the knife on ONE KNEE!

    (Either that, or it was designed on a Friday. At 4:45pm. Before a three-day weekend. And there was an open bar office party that day.)


  21. Here’s a suggestion for a research project:

    Imagine you have to design a being with all the attributes and approximate size range of we humans. What would it look like? What would you leave in? What would you leave out? What would you change? How would it work? How would all the compromises of conflicting demands be resolved, given a “New file…” in BioAutoCAD? As there is here already a quite detailed list of the faults in the existing model, what would homo sapiens MkII be like?

    It would still have to be organic, acquire energy from renewable resources easily to hand. It would of course have to be self-reproducing, and be able to accommodate all the current typical activities from tree-felling to brain surgery; from pig breeding to developing new art forms; from envisioning and pursuing great exploits to having stupid fun.

    It would have to be DNA generated in keeping with the other inhabitants of this planet, but even though the detailed operations of DNA are still virtually unknown, the existing natural world can be used as vast inspiration for what DNA is capable of. So how would you re-specify blood? Or hair? Or not have any hair at all? Within the limits of being about the same size and weight as the Mk I, what improvements, from radical new (but realistic) features, to tidying up operations, could the brochure promote?

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