How Intelligent Design disproves God

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I’ve been thinking…

Those who have fabricated a false-science argument for god (ie intelligent design), have unwittingly created the perfect argument to disprove him.

For those unaware, intelligent design (ID) was invented by creationists as a means of sneaking religious dogma into schools under in the guise of science. Sneaky indeed, and not very, er, christian.

Their central thesis was that some things are so complex that they could not possibly have evolved, and therefore must have been designed. They invented the concept of ‘irreducible complexity’ to indicate that for some things, the component parts could not have evolved because they serve no other purpose in nature, and appeared for the first time in those particular things.

Their star example was the bacterial flagellum – a tiny bacterium, which propels itself through fluid via a propeller – watch the video – very cute. To cut a long story short, their case was shot to ribbons in the Dover v. Kitzmuller trial a few years back, when the judge called them for what they were: sneaky and deceptive. In any case, the scientists were able to show that their examples were crap, and that all the parts of the flagellum for instance have a valid antecedent.

But I’ve come at it from a different angle. And let’s leave aside the blindingly obvious idea that even if there were an intelligent designer, why need it be god? It’s just as likely to be an alien, or, the head programmer in the simulation we inhabit, right?

There are two reasons ID proponents undermine their own arguments, as follows:

Design or Assembly?

Firstly, design, by definition, requires iteration – that is, movement from less good to better as each component is improved to advance the overall functionality. This implies that the designer isn’t perfect, otherwise iteration would not be necessary. If on the other hand the design is perfect from the start, then our designer is simply doing assembly. A flat pack from a heavenly Ikea you might say.

Unnecessary Complexity

However, someone must have designed those parts in order for god to assemble them, right? Maybe, but if you are a being capable of instantly conceiving of all of the complexity in the universe in one go (ready for assembly), then why would you make everything so complex? Why for instance, having developed a perfectly good propulsion system for simple structures like sperm, would the designer say: “Well I’m bored with little tails, I think I’ll create a rotating propeller for a small class of bacteria. Yes, that’s it. That will brighten up an otherwise dreary Sunday.”? Really this argument applies to such a broad range of things it’s difficult to overstate. If you were designing universe from scratch, then surely you could make it simpler. You could start by simply not creating, say, oh, a billion or so species of insects, or, Catholic priests. If god did indeed find a better way to propel a bacterium, then clearly he is involved in design, and is therefore imperfect. The observed complexity of the world is just unnecessary and totally arbitrary for a perfect being. It suggests trial and error, and again, not fitting for a perfect being.

In summary:

  • God can’t be both a designer AND a perfect being.
  • Design implies trial and error, and improvement. Anything else is merely assembly.
  • Unnecessary Complexity suggests arbitrary decision-making and waste, and that an iterative approach was taken, which in turn implies that trial and error were at play, and hence the concept of god is impossible to take seriously.
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4 thoughts on “How Intelligent Design disproves God

    neutralturn said:
    July 14, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Certainly life as we know it on earth is evolutionary and therefore driven by trial and error, but what about cosmology? The design of the universe has been done only once and never modified. Evolution is a necessary (?) component of this basic design(?).
    Don’t quite know what argument I’m trying to make here.

      rationalbrain responded:
      July 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Neither do I! Actually, I think I know what you’re getting at.
      Certainly cosmology doesn’t seem to be iterative – or at least, we can only observe this iteration of the universe. Maybe there are other practice versions in the shed somewhere – the ‘pilot models’ you might say.
      But if god is going to claim the universe as a creation, then he/she must claim everything, including the mis-steps in the design and development of organisms. They are a direct consequence of the initial settings of cosmology, so they are inseparable from it.
      My basic point is that if a being claims to be perfect, then ANY example of imperfect or iterative creation (even buried in an otherwise splendid creation) bring the whole house of cards down.
      Perhaps doesn’t bear too much examination though. It struck me one day while idling at the lights, and staring at the underside of a huge truck – and all the complex interlocking bits of metal, which didn’t just appear for assembly – they are the product lots of trial and error. So what naturally follows is: if god created everything, then all of those complex interlocking parts (for everything in the universe) were just brought into existence in the click of celestial fingers. It doesn’t make sense, for the reasons I outlined in the article.

    Dan Rea said:
    July 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Something tells me you work in software development…
    Sadly the points you raise here can be dismissed by the “how could we possibly know the big-guy’s intentions?” response. The very personal Christian god can be very impersonal and mysteriously unknowable on demand (which is usually when you point at a contradiction in god’s behaviour).

      rationalbrain responded:
      July 16, 2013 at 6:19 am

      Hi Dan. No, never been paid for software development, but I dabble. I’m an engineer by profession, so I know how much sweat goes into design and no matter how intelligent you are, it doesn’t happen in the snap of the fingers.
      And yes, the old ‘mysterious and unknowable’ bit – the religiati hide behind those attributes all the time, just to avoid having to actually think about the issue. Either lazy or deceptive, take your pick.

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