A cdesign proponentsist in Randi’s Court

At a recent thread at James Randi’s JREF website, a commenter named wdunlap began positing the necessary existence of an intelligent designer and seemed to have some difficulty grasping the answers being put to him by the local Randiites. Being blessed with nothing better to do, I weighed in. I recommend you read the post and the entire thread (as well as my bits :)); it’s interesting and entertaining and will provide context.

Sayeth wdunlap:

Coyne in his evolution book states that male testes were originaly developed withing the abdomen of a fish and later migrated outside in land males. How the heck did this come about? From what I can see, the testes need to be outside or the sperm would be damaged by too much heat. It is almost like someone intellectually decided this.

Speaking of fish, you should read “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin. A great read on humanity’s fishy ancestry.

Now to answer your question with a question: have you ever touched a fish?

Fish don’t need external testicles because fish (a) live in a cold environment and (b) fish, being cold-blooded, don’t generate the same amount of internal heat as warm-blooded land animals do. The danger of fish sperm being damaged by heat simply isn’t there to the extent faced by land animals. Indeed, because of the low temperature of their environment, fish sperm need every little bit of the heat available in a fish’s body, hence the internal testicles. “Your Inner Fish” describes this and many other anatomical rearrangements.

I find it strange how you report first-hand observation of fish in your own home changing gender but you can’t imagine how external testicles could have developed about over several million years. I think it’s time you took some members’ suggestions on board and did some serious reading on evolution and not just wikipedia either: actual books by actual scientists involved in the fields they’re discussing. “Your Inner Fish” is a great one to start with. Or you could just visit talkorigins.org!

BTW, it mentions that an intelligent being wouldn’t do it this way because it cause potential for hernias. Still, this is taking for granted that a creator would simply know how to do this instead of not knowing and having to do trial and error.

Oh, come now. No God/intelligent creator/Great Galactic Squid worth his salt should have to use trial and error. If he/she/it can create an entire Universe out of “nothing” just because it wants to, re-jigging a pair of fish balls shouldn’t be worth more than an idle thought. Are we meant to believe that this intelligent pan-dimensional immortal being needs to tinker about like some garden-shed hack?

I think the fact that Coyne, a mere human, could think of a better way to re-design fish testicles than you’d have us believe your God did is evidence either to that God’s non-existence or his rank incompetence (google “recurrent layrngeal nerve” for another great example of crappy design). The fact that almost everything in biology appears to be a dodgy, incremental re-jig of a previous feature suggests neither design nor intelligence. Except, of course, if you approach the question already believing in one or both and are happy to perform mental gymnastics, goalpost-shifting, logical contortion and other athletic metaphors to justify your presupposition. If an intelligent designer really does exist, he’s clearly used that intelligence to go to great lengths to convince us that he doesn’t exist and has never, ever intervened either in life on this planet or space-time itself.

Really, I’ve read this entire thread over the past few days and I think you’ve gone as far as you can with “I don’t see how this could have happened” as your stock answer. It’s time to ask questions honestly without any preconceived ideas of what the answers should be according to what you believe (or what you’ve been taught to believe). There are innumerable resources to answer those questions equally honestly (in the case where an answer isn’t known, there are innumerable resources which will honestly say “we don’t know yet!”). Many have been suggested in this thread. Some you actually appear to have read parts of – and seemingly stopped when they made you uncomfortable. Whenever something you read starts making you uncomfortable it’s a good sign you should keep reading it!

I said

something about fish

I think it’s worth noting in this context the existence of aquatic mammals: whales, dolphins, orcas, manatees, dugongs etc. These all breathe air and are warm-blooded but all have internal testicles like fish. This is because their ancestors entered the water from the land and, over aeons, the testicles of these ancestors receded into the body to provide a proper mammalian environment for the sperm (and perhaps prevent them from being snagged on narwhals). This shows that evolution works in more than one direction, rather than being (as some caricatures suggest) A mystical one-way street to biological perfection. Whale evolution is actually one of the most fascinating stories in the history of mammals and there are abundant transitional forms, documenting the early days of semi-aquatic furry carnivorous quadrupeds up to the variations, big and small, that we’re familiar with.

that coming).

Ask yourself: would you design a monkey that moved, ate and reproduced entirely on land but had gills, which required it to go for a swim every half-hour so it didn’t die? If you wouldn’t, why would you accept the reverse from the alleged creator of the entire Universe? “Mysterious ways” perhaps? I think not. Non-mysterious non-existence or plain, simple non-competence.

[Quote by wdunlap]

I am not wishing that a creator is fact. I am just looking for answers.

Considering that people have spent days and thousands of words doing their best to provide you not only with answers but places to find more answers, forgive me if I have trouble accepting that statement at face value.

You might not be actively wishing for the existence of a creator, but you seem determined to ignore or deflect anything which doesn’t point in that direction.

I am suggesting that, if a god exists, it may not be all knowing, but may have had to do trial and error.

If any kind of god exists, it’s not only a rank failure at design but is for all practical purposes invisible (or very good at appearing so). If your designer/god does exist, it may as well not exist for all the input it appears to have had in the universe’s layout and function. If this god exists and has indeed been using “trial and error” on Earth for 4.5 billion years, I still call failure. You’d think that would be enough time to do a little better than a hernia-prone ape with back problems who’s basically a re-jigged fish, especially if this god exists – as many insist – outside of time.

The problem with saying “god did it” is twofold: first, there’s absolutely no evidence either of a supernatural plane of existence (let alone evidence of an entity existing in it) and second, there’s absolutely no explanatory power in the answer. “God did it” is just putting up a stop sign on the road of inquiry. You may as well say “I created the universe five minutes ago and you’re all dreaming!” (Some actually do say things like that; they’re called solipsists and they’re utterly pointless creatures). There is as much evidence for “you’re all dreaming” as there is for “god did it.” Exactly none.

Finally:

I WISH you would stop referring to my conclusions as wishful. I’m merely expressing that certain situations appear to lack a natural explaination.

You’re right, of course; many situations do currently lack explanations. All the more reason to keep looking for them. Noone wins by inventing a scenario which superficially answers a question but which really closes the question off from further inquiry!

I repeat: “god did it” is not an answer; it’s an extra layer of mystery where none is required. If you say “god did it” the only logical response is more questions: what’s a “god”? Where did it come from? What’s it like? Why did it do this? Why did it do this in this way? Is it constrained by the laws of physics or did it invent them? Does it want anything? Is there more than one? Should we be afraid? Are any of the religions on Earth even close in their description of it? Why does it hide so well? Is it a ninja?

The lack of explanations for observed phenomena are the reason so many people do that little thing called science. Scientists do science to explain what is not yet explained; to fill gaps in our knowledge with more knowledge – not with whatever seems to make sense on the surface or makes people comfortable. I hope you understand this point; it underlies everything people have been saying to you.

A thought on the “supernatural”.

If we are to accept that a certain thing – such as a supernatural plane of existence – exists, we need to know its properties, attributes and perhaps location. Bascially we need to know how to know it when we see it. Thus far, noone has ever been able to agree on the properties and attributes (let alone location) of the supernatural. Noone has ever made any testable prediction of what we should see or experience should we ever encounter the supernatural. Indeed, because we humans are of the “natural” plane of existence, even if the supernatural did exist in whatever form, it’s by definition impossible that we’d be able to recognise it even if we interacted with it directly. If we could perceive the supernatural, it would by definition be natural, i.e. able to be perceived by us.

What I’m saying is that we wouldn’t know the supernatural if we saw it; but if we saw it, it wouldn’t be what we thought it was, because it wouldn’t be supernatural – because would could see it.

Further, any entity from the supernatural plane of existence would necessarily have to employ natural means to communicate with us or interact with our universe. In doing so it would be perceived as a natural entity; anything ‘supernatural’ that it did or said would be imperceptible to us (unless those actions had consequences here; the consequences would be perceived by us and not the supernatural activity itself). Even if the entity was successful in explaining the supernatural realm to us in terms we could understand or even allowed us a visit, paradoxically our ability to understand or perceive it would render it no longer supernatural. Unless, of course, we humans are able to experience the supernatural – but if we are, why even give it a separate term?

Disclaimer: I may be talking out of my fishy testicles, but I thought whatever that was^ needed to be said.

Stay tuned – it’s a good thread and probably won’t die any time soon.

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Intelligent Design defined

Via the inimitable Curmudgeon, the most very bestest definition of Intelligent Design *ahem* theory I’ve ever encountered:

An unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, perhaps, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

The entire Discovery Institute couldn’t have said it better. But I do realise that isn’t saying much, considering all they do manage to say is either incoherent or rank, stinky bullshit.
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