You probably remember one of my favorite wannabe scientists, Bill Dembski. His lack of understanding in the very things he claims to have real expertise, penchant for assertions that aren’t even wrong, and pomposity that just begs to be taken down a peg or two, are fodder that keeps on giving for popular science bloggers. But there’s one more thing about Bill that should probably be covered. He loves providing questions that he thinks expose the weaknesses of the evolutionary theory even though nearly all of them are little more than appeals to ignorance disguised as some profound insight into the basics of biology. Like political pundits who want to say something scandalous to boost their ratings and skirt the facts of the issues at hand, he’s just asking us some questions. And real science is done when people ask profound questions and try to answer them.
Now, the big difference between what scientists do and what’s done by Dembski and cranks like him can be summarized in one simple sentence. Scientists do research, cranks chalk it up to whatever they want. But in the spirit of discovery and asking questions because we can, I thought I’d throw out a couple of questions to creationists, err… I mean intelligent design proponents, and see if they can provide a reasonable explanation to some issues that come up when they explain their so-called theory. As someone who actually knows how to design complex things, I’m probably not the least qualified person to be asking them.
Q1: Why are our individual body parts not interchangeable as they would be in cars or aircraft?
When we treat humans as a designed object, we have to come to the conclusion that we’re mass produced in a highly efficient, self-replicating process. However, all humans are a little different and if something happens to break down in our bodies, like a heart, a liver or a kidney, our body parts are not really interchangeable. Yes we’ve figured out how to transplant organs, but even then we have to match blood types as closely as we can and transplants require that we take immunosuppressant drugs because a new organ could be rejected. If humans are designed, any designer worth his or her salt knows that parts in mass produced products must be interchangeable for easy fixes when something breaks down. This is why when your car engine dies, you can just get a new one instead of matching it to a similar car type and hope it connects, or try to grow a brand new engine in a process so riddled with complex problems as to make it impractical for the near future. How could a designer allow a debilitating oversight that would surely result in a D from any design professor?
Q2. If we’re made by a designer, where’s his/her actual trademark, logo, watermark or identification?
One of the arguments creationists like to use is to point to our DNA and claim it has a blueprint of a designer in its informational content. Ok, where is it? When you get a new watch, the name or the logo of the company that made it is going to be prominently featured on the face. We could then find the company’s website, get an address and go see how the watches are being designed and built. What about us? Where’s our logo? How can we confirm that a design process is going on firsthand? I don’t want to listen about vague references to a genome’s complexity or other examples of pseudoscientific pareidolia. I mean show me the trademark genes and where they’re hiding. After all, even we know how to make them. An advanced designer should too.
Q3. Why are humans so vulnerable and lack natural weapons for self-defense, relying only on technology?
In case you haven’t noticed for some bizarre reason, human lack claws, fangs, venom, armored skin and just about every other defensive feature countless other species possess. If not for our technology, we would be a species of lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah snacks wandering around the savannas of Africa. Many of us still die in the wild after being mauled by animals against which we’re defenseless. What kind designer in his right mind possibly drop such an ill-equipped creature into the midst of predator infested territory without a potent natural defense? Even a little bit of venom would be an immense improvement, so it seems like a hell of an oversight to leave us there with only sharp rocks and the hope that we can climb a tree before getting eaten. By a predator who probably climbs trees much easier than we could…
Q4. Why do humans lack specialization in their designs? What job were we designed to do?
Before designing anything, I ask several important questions. What is it’s purpose? What is it designed to do, how, and why? Humans perform a very wide array of tasks. Some of us are artists and communicators, some are scientists and engineers, others are analysts and strategists, and often our roles are flexible. We seem to be a sort of all-purpose tool which has to decide what task to do. That seems totally irrational to a designer’s mind. Why aren’t we born with designations and tasks? Why do we have to stumble around until we find what we’re willing to do instead of being slated to do something? I wouldn’t want my screwdriver deciding it would rather be a hammer, so why would any designer just build a multi-purpose tool with no particular task?
Q5. Why do we have extra components and vestigial parts? Aren’t they just a waste of resources?
From a design standpoint, redundancies and parts that really don’t have any significant function to play in the mechanism should be removed or consolidated as much as possible. They take up energy and resources to produce and maintain while contributing little to nothing. Having five toes that do nothing but add a little help in balancing our bodies when we walk is not like having a spoiler on a car. The spoiler generates downdraft at a high speed and allows supercars to stay planted on the track during maneuvers. Five toes are used by a few martial art styles to maintain superb balance during attack. But wherein the spoiler is required by physics, the martial art styles adapted to use the toes. There’s no reason whey they couldn’t be consolidated. And to return to the spoiler for just a moment, there’s a reason why they’re not included on most cars. They’re not needed at highway speeds and normal roads used for everyday commuting.
And yes, for those who might be curious, a copy of these questions was sent to Bill Dembski himself. Here’s his chance to show how creative and rich the tapestry of his branch of creationism really is and offer original arguments. Whether or not he’ll do that remains to be seen…
[ illustration by CG artist Fabricio Moraes ]