Smell and intelligent design

The last three paragraphs of the smell article are some of the best lines I’d quote next time someone talks about intelligent design. In good evolutionary style, they apply to this context by pure chance, and there’s the irony in that they talk about smell when the intelligent design folks like to talk about the eyes.

In fact, this could be an interesting article: how did nature worked it’s way into eyes as we know today?

Just so everyone knows what article you’re referring to:

Maybe you could flesh out your point a little more, moret

Assuming one already has a dog in the evolution -v ID fight, how do those paragraphs add substantial weight to either position?

Richard Dawkins speaks

short version :
longer version

part one :
part two :

Presumably that a true intelligent designer would design every single person to be able to detect a deadly molecule like cyanide. Only random evolution would leave 20% of the population unprotected. Nor would an intelligent designer arrange for hydrogen sulfide to deaden smell in large and dangerous quantities.

These factlets are good if you are brand new to the debate. For those better schooled in biology, there must be a million examples like this than can be applied to the human body. That’s why intelligent design is so scorned by anyone who knows anything. Every amazing “ooh, the eye is too fantastic to have just happened” gush about a designer can be countered by a dozen prosaic flaws that are only explainable by evolution (or, in Twain’s term, the god as “malignant thug” that they won’t consider as an option).

They’re the bad 20%.

And then there’s the “semi-intelligent design” possibility, too. “God, you know, he does his best but he’s a busy guy, all right? And it’s so hard to find a decent contractor!”

They never seem interested in that option, either.

I’ve encountered some tolerably goofy assertions on behalf of intelligent design, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the claim that all individuals should have identical abilities.

When it comes to matters of good design they should; or equally good designs at least. Humans design things all the time; and while there’s a lot of variety in, say, car design all of them are designed with steering wheels or the equivalent

The funny thing about Intelligent Design or any other attempt to claim that humans or life in general was made by God is that it amounts to an insult to God, because the designs for living things are so full of flaws and oversights. Given the ability to design life to that degree in the first place we could easily do better, and we aren’t gods.

Analogy: a teacher hands out a puzzle to students with “find the hidden flaws.” Does that mean that the teacher isn’t intelligent? or didn’t design the puzzle?

The problem with the arguments that “intelligent designers should…” is the underlying assumption that all intelligence is human intelligence, and that we know what’s best. Der’s statement that “we could easily do better” implies that we know what’s better, what the ultimate outcome or purpose of the universe is. Basically, that’s defining “better” in human terms. A human “intelligent designer” such as Der suggests would probably make people immortal living in a perfect world: the fact that death, disease, natural calamities, etc are part of the universe says that IF there is an ID, it ain’t an intelligence that we comprehend.

(Please note, I’m NOT arguing for ID. I’m just saying that arguments against ID assume (1) that human intelligence is the standard for all intelligence, and (2) that what humans perceive as “flaws” in the system are indications of failure in the design. Those arguments aren’t convincing.)

The problem with ID claims is that they are never specific enough to rebut.

What is being designed at any time? If a human being is the subject, how does one come about? Do they magically appear on earth as adults? If they are born to another species, do they pop out as sapiens? Does that mean that one day every single baby born to the old species is the new species and the old species dies out with that generation? If not, how is breeding handled? Is the change made to the DNA? To the proteins? To the soul, and the DNA is just to fool scientists?

And what is allowed after that? Humans have become diverse, even in the last 6,000 years. Are evolutionary affects allowed at any point? Was there ever a time when all humans could detect cyanide to protect them from death but 20% of people have backslide or are being punished?

Unless someone states with that level of specificity how ID works, the claims it makes are such generalities that anything is possible. *Pace * Dex, the statement that we can’t judge what an intelligent designer would consider intelligent is just another smokescreen for not having to think the problem through.

No, it implies that we know how a human body works, and how it does what it does not very efficiently. If those flaws were put in place on purpose, that’s purposeful bad design. Given the suffering those flaws cause, any designer is evil or uncaring ( since we could do better, and even intervene ourselves with things like painkillers ). That’s not a matter of incomprehensibility; it’s a matter of objective fact that suffering happens and if it’s to be stopped, we need to do so; no God is going to do it for us, whether or not one exists. Whether we understand or care WHY the creator doesn’t care is another matter.

It says that it’s evil, uncaring, or incompetent, as I said. Do we really need to understand the inner workings of something to put it in one of those categories if it inflicts massive suffering on billions of people and even more animals ?

Perhaps a better analogy would be a car maker shipping cars with hidden flaws for its customers to find and repair.
I think the hidden assumption in some of the case against ID is not similar intelligence, but rather benevolence. A malevolent deity might well design us to suffer. A lack of evidence for ID and a lack of need for ID seems to be better explanations, unless you want to get into the problem of natural evil.

Again, I’m not trying to argue in favor of ID. I’m just saying that the assumption that “efficiency” is a goal that an intelligent designer would necessarily pursue is an unjustified assumption.

Put in simplistic terms: if there is some larger purpose to life, or some after-world, then the seeming inefficiencies or malevolences of this life may not matter in the long run. When that’s in the back of the minds of those who support ID, then challenging them on the grounds of “why is there suffering” is useless challenge.

That claim has never made sense. No amount of future reward, no greater plan will make a lifetime of suffering any less painful. That’s compatible with an evil or uncaring god, but not a caring one.

Or to put it another way, if someone tortures their children until they are reduced to insanity, do you need to understand them to know that they are either evil or uncaring ? Do you care if they meant well, had some ‘larger purpose’ or planned a future reward of some kind ?

Not really, since they are almost always are just Christians who are trying to slap a thin veneer of science over their religion.

My son skinned the hell out of his knee playing baseball yesterday. I could have held him and sprayed Bactine on him and soothed his pain. Instead, I asked him to suck it up and finish the game. Perhaps I was evil not to make things better, given that I had the resources to take his pain away?

Not good parenting, certainly; you risked getting him infected. And it’s unwise to teach kids self destructive behavior like trying to tough things out.

But that’s not a very good analogy, since it doesn’t go nearly far enough. A better one would be that he suffers multiple broken bones and wounds, the wounds go bad, and he dies slowly of gangrene while you stand by and do nothing; not even talk to him.

I think this discussion shows that rationales for ID tend to devolve ( :stuck_out_tongue: ) back into a variant of the basic theodicy question. Which kind of emphasizes the ultimately religious underpinnings.

Piffle. Risk of infection was minor, and ameliorated within two hours by judicious application of antiseptic after returning home. And ignoring minor irritations is an important skill to learn in, yanno, life.

I disagree. The idea that discomfort, pain, and hardship can teach important and valuable lessons is not a strange one, and should be something you’ve encountered before. Surely you should be able to understand the logic underlying the “suffering builds character” argument, even without agreeing with the assumptions involved.

OTOH, if you truly believe allowing a child to put up with a scrape for a couple hours is an example of poor parenting, maybe I’m wrong about that.

Another far better analogy would be that you knew he was anaphylactic enough so that a bee sting would kill him. Then you watched him get stung by a bee and thought, well, I told my other four allergic children that they always had to carry an Epipen, but I didn’t with this one just to see if he’s intelligent enough to figure it out on his own.