01 August 2007

Refusing to Identify the Intelligent Designer

Ugh. Yesterday I registered as a commenter on Uncommon Descent and spent most of the day debating a band of ID cranks pretty much single-handedly.

I've done wiser things.

I initially registered to comment on Granville Sewell's absolutely stupid argument from the second law of thermodynamics, but ultimately decided that I couldn't say anything reasonable and productive about that. So instead, I commented on BarryA's post about Indian arrowheads. In his post, BarryA tells a little satire about how the arrowheads in his grandfather's collection must have been produced by natural causes, despite their obvious appearance of design, because no one can tell him who designed them. Hopefully you can see the problem with his little analogy.

Let me say that arguing with ID cranks on their own terms, especially en masse, is difficult, physically draining, and ill-advised. I tried to make a case for needing to investigate the designer even if something looks designed, without addressing other issues (like the fact that life doesn't look designed and that cells aren't completely analogous to machines). I think I very well may have failed.

Bad logic has strength in numbers. I tried to tease one aspect of their argument out into the light where I might tackle it individually, but they wouldn't have it. And in so limiting myself I probably made some bad (or at least incomplete) arguments myself. You can't blame a guy for trying.

Ultimately, though, I'm proud of myself for having been able to end on a strong note:
This discussion is beginning to get too broad, and so for now I will respectfully bow out. I only want to bring attention to my initial comment: BarryA wanted to say that you could tell something was designed without knowing who designed it or how it was designed/manufactured. However, to do so, he made an analogy to something for which we DO know about the designer.

As of yet, no one has given me an example of something (other than life, as ID claims) that is generally accepted to have been designed, but for which we have absolutely no idea who designed it or how. We’ve seen a lot of hypotheticals (computers on Mars, messages from extraterrestrials), but I point out that each of those examples of suspected design would be accompanied by an investigation into the nature of the designer. Why, then, does such an investigation not accompany ID?

Cheers,
–Hawkeye–

As of this morning, there have already been a number of responses but no satisfactory answers. One poster, "nullasalus," says that knowing the designer is "simply outside the scope of things" without justifying why that should be the case. "Jerry" dismisses my question as a "tired cliché." "Atom" responds with such things as Viking artifacts in North America, which of course doesn't answer my question because we do have a clue as to who designed those artifacts (surprise! we think it may have been Vikings!).

I meant it when I said I was bowing out of that discussion... one can only butt heads with the UncommonlyDense for so long before you get a headache (or suffer brain truama). I know I probably didn't sway anyone against whom I was arguing, but I have some small hope that I may have planted some questions in the mind of a passing visitor.

I'll certainly think twice before commenting at UD in the future. There's just too much that's wrong about ID to overcome in a handful of blog comments.

9 comments:

Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD said...

You survived a whole day at Uncommon Descent without being banned? What's wrong with you?

One poster, "nullasalus," says that knowing the designer is "simply outside the scope of things" without justifying why that should be the case.

I presume you already know the answer to this: Edwards v. Aguillard.

Aaron J. Golas said...

You survived a whole day at Uncommon Descent without being banned? What's wrong with you?

Hehe, I know. I saw that list, and it's precisely why I held my tongue on the Sewell post. :-P

I presume you already know the answer to this: Edwards v. Aguillard.

Mais oui. I have to say, I was amused by the couple of people who said they had personal opinions about the designer, but wouldn't share what those personal opinions were.

Ben said...

people who said they had personal opinions about the designer, but wouldn't share what those personal opinions were

"Ok, so I'm thinking of a designer - some kind of all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful being who created the universe and everything in it. It could be anything, but for the sake of conversation let's just call him 'Jesus'..."

Anonymous said...

The content found at that UD post (the arrowhead one) has bothered me for several days.

Your post is a beacon of reason bookended by infinite stupid.

Anonymous said...

I came across BarryA's story yesterday, and was utterly embarrassed for him using such an inane analogy. So much so that, like you, I considered registering just to point it out. Unlike you, I couldn't work up the courage.

Revisiting the thread today, I found your comments insightful and your vain attempts to keep the discussion focused admirable (amusing?). I have yet to hear any ID proponent admit the designer could be anyone but the Christian god.

Hope your head feels better today.

Ben said...

Actually, I just watched an episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit yesterday on Creationism, and in their closing sketch they mentioned that the Ramthists (Rathmists?) believe the exact same thing that the ID people do, except instead of God they believe everything was designed by space aliens. Funny how the ID people jump to denounce the New Age alien nuts even though they're all arguing the exact same thing. If they were actually more interested in strict 'evidence' of design than they were in pushing a thinly-veiled theistic presupposition, they would welcome the support of their 'evidence' from a contrasting belief system. This just proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that belief in ID is preconditioned by other beliefs. Period.

Aaron J. Golas said...

Funny how the ID people jump to denounce the New Age alien nuts even though they're all arguing the exact same thing.

Actually, you might be surprised at how often just the opposite is true. For instance, UD bloggers (I'm pretty sure it was O'Leary) have expressed support of the Creationism Museum, even though those under the ID banner are at least smart enough to accept an old Earth.

The important thing isn't consistency of argument, it's the common goal of undermining science.

Ben said...

Oh sure, the New Earth and Old Earth creationists are bound to find some common ground between them - it's just a matter of how liberal your Christianity is. But it'll be a cold day before the ID people point to the Rathmists as brave defenders of the idea that shit got created by an unknown creator.

Brad (previously anonymous) said...

If they were actually more interested in strict 'evidence' of design than they were in pushing a thinly-veiled theistic presupposition, they would welcome the support of their 'evidence' from a contrasting belief system.

Well said.

Also found that Bullshit episode. Good stuff. Can't understand why IDist aren't welcoming support from these guys.