Friday, 27 June 2014

Another Brilliant Idea By The Intelligent Designer

You can say one thing about The Intelligent Designer - it doesn't let liberal sentimentality, compassion or morality get in the way of a good idea. In fact, it's almost exactly like The Intelligent Designer doesn't have any emotions or compassion, nor any idea of right and wrong.

I'll take that back. There is no 'almost' about it. It's exactly like The Intelligent Designer doesn't have any emotions, compassion or sense of right and wrong. It's exactly like The Intelligent Designer doesn't have any intelligent plan or any real purpose for its designs either.

In fact, let's face facts here, it's exactly like there isn't a designer, let alone an intelligent one.

Take the example of the genus of ground beetles known to science as Epomis. These beetles, both adult and lava, feed on amphibians like frogs, toads and newts, and they have a very special way of catching them. Their method is known to science as 'role reversal predation'.

Of course, Epomis beetles have to eat something, as do frogs and toads, but for sheer heartless barbarity, Epomis takes some beating. It uses itself as the bait and tricks its victim into thinking they have a nice meal sitting there just waiting to be eaten, then they grab hold with special double-hooked mandibles and proceed to slowly eat the would-be predator alive.

You might think this is a dangerous game carrying a high risk of failure and ending up as the meal they were pretending to be. However, the lava has another little trick up its sleeve. It causes the frog to regurgitate it then calmly grabs hold of the frog's face and begins munching away, none the worse for having spent some time inside it.

Wow! What a brilliant design, eh?

Well, a brilliant design until you take into account the fact that the creationists who came up with the 'Intelligent Design' notion insist that there is only one intelligent designer because their favourite book of origin myths says so. If we accept their notion for argument's sake, that same designer also designed the frog that fell for the trick and suffered a nasty slow death. So, what might appear from the beetle's point of view to be a rather clever designer who wants the best for its creation, from the frog's point of view is a rather stupid or malevolent designer who either hates the frogs it designed or it designed them for the fun of watching them being tricked into suffering a rather nasty slow death. The fact that Epomis beetles have managed to reverse this prey role to become the predator is incidental in this, though it brings into stark relief the uncaring amorality of the whole thing.

ARKive video - Peregrine falcon hunting pigeon in a quarry
Peregrine falcon hunting pigeon
We can see these paradoxes in any predator-prey relationship, whether cheetah vs antelope, spider vs fly, buzzard vs rabbit or human vs chicken. Seen from the predator's point of view, everything seems like it was designed for the predator while from the prey point of view, the world is a rather nasty place, full of threats and evil. As the act of a single designer, it appears to be neither intelligent nor compassionate. It is either uncaring or positively evil, taking a perverse delight in watching life and death struggles with no regard for any suffering involved. But what when, as in the case of the frogs in these videos, the predator becomes the prey? Had it been the lava of a fly, or maybe an earthworm, no doubt a creationist would see only the 'intelligence' in frog design that helps it identify and catch its meal. How then does the character of the designer change when the role of predator becomes that of prey?

Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time.

Francis Collins. The Language of God
Incidentally, scientists think this tactic in Epomis evolved from a defensive reaction when they would have simply bitten the frog to make it let go. The double-hooked mandible which might well have been used to hold onto smaller prey allowed them to cling onto the frog, and of course frogs don't have teeth so they swallow their prey relatively undamaged and, in the case of Epomis, armed with jaws capable of inflicting damage from the inside.

There is, of course, no compassion or morality in an evolutionary process which simply produces more descendants if the genes convey a significant advantage over other alleles of the same genes. Unlike the creationists, who try to force-fit reality into a model which puts them in a special relationship with their assumed creator of the Universe so that they feel suitably important, and so have to pretend that everything has a purpose which somehow relates to them and their existence, evolutionary biologists don't need to try to fit notions of morality, ultimate purpose or compassion into the scientific explanation of species and how they behave. The scientific theory predicts that human emotions such as compassion will play no part in the process because there is no mind, quasi-human or otherwise, behind it.





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9 comments :

  1. I've heard some creationists declare that God created evolution too. But why then is nature so cruel? Can it be so because the creationist's God is an extraordinary evil divine entity? If Christians have the same God as the Jews, which they should have according to the Bible, then it seems very probable that Satan rules in Heaven.

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    1. Duplicate comment removed.

      Because I have to moderate the comments here to weed out the abuse from theists, comments will not appear immediately, and maybe not for several hours until I can catch up.

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    2. yes, sorry, i was suspecting my browser censoring me :) feel free to delete this thread entirely.

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  3. As an atheist I obviously don't subscribe to the intelligent design hypothesis, but i was wondering: when we disregard the watchmaker argument and argue that you cannot infer any intelligence from the worlds design regardless of how good designed it seems, wouldn't that mean that we atheists on the other hand also cannot use the same principle, i.e. that we cannot use bad design examples to infer the absence of intelligence or the absence of existence of a designer. Using design observations is unable to prove or disprove anything. We need to stick to the null hypothesis and say: you assert, you prove, and not ourselve try to disprove using essentially the flawed logic we criticized at the beginning.

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    1. I don't see why. The abundance of bad design in nature, which includes unnecessary complexity, redundant structures, sub-optimal performance, frequent 'reinvention' of solutions to the same problem, absence of ultimate purpose and frequent failures in the form of extinction, argues strongly against any design, let alone intelligent design. Why should scientists be stopped from pointing out that the facts do not support the ID notion and that whatever predictions the notion can make are very obviously falsified by reality?

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    2. Well, the reason is that it validates the principle. If you say "look it is all pretty bad, its barely working, redundant and there are many ways to do it better, this cannot possibly point to an intelligent designer" an opponent can conclude "so if it were good, well working, not redundand and not many ways to improve on it, it would validate my belief in a designer". He or she will start pointing out good design examples to you just like you pointed out bad ones. And this complete principle is flawed logic since evolution is capable of producing good and bad design. Therefore the principle should be to assert an intelligend designer to you need proof, not "absence of reduncandy and bad design".

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    3. But you can't have one without the other. If you claim life was designed by a perfect, perfectly intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent designer, you have to explain all the bad design. Bad design is inconsistent with the claim.

      Off hand, I can't even think of any 'perfect' design, can you?

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  4. Talking of abundance of bad design in nature. Here is an interesting article with the title Tree of sex: A database of sexual systems. See: http://www.nature.com/articles/sdata201415#f1 .

    I quote from the abstract: The vast majority of eukaryotic organisms reproduce sexually, yet the nature of the sexual system and the mechanism of sex determination often vary remarkably, even among closely related species. Some species of animals and plants change sex across their lifespan, some contain hermaphrodites as well as males and females, some determine sex with highly differentiated chromosomes, while others determine sex according to their environment. Testing evolutionary hypotheses regarding the causes and consequences of this diversity requires interspecific data placed in a phylogenetic context.

    I don't mean that the tree of sex is evidence of bad design. But why all this big diversity and variety? Why is God so circumstantial, so irresolute, so undecided, and so focused on sex and propagation?

    Se also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis#Gynogenesis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis#Hybridogenesis .God must be extremely inventive and ingenious, no doubt about that.

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