Wednesday 29 June 2011

Is the intelligent designer a prankster?

This is a quote from "Panning God — Darwinism's Defective Argument against Bad Design" by Jonathan Witt — Chapter 23 of Dembski & Licona's Evidence for God:
In an interview for The Philadelphia Inquirer, biologist and leading Darwinist Kenneth Miller said, "The God of the intelligent-design movement is way too small . . . . In their view, he designed everything in the world and yet he repeatedly intervenes and violates the laws of his own creation. Their god is like a kid who is not a very good mechanic and has to keep lifting the hood and tinkering with the engine" (1). Miller is a Roman Catholic, but notice how blithely he equates the designer's ongoing involvement in creation with incompetence. Why? What if the creator prefers to stay involved? What if he doesn't intend to wind up the watch of the cosmos and simply leave it to wind out everything from supernovas to sunflowers? What if he wishes to get his hands dirty making mud daubers? (p 116.)
Well, what if he does? Is there any way of knowing what the creator's wishes are? No, it's all pointless speculation. Or if it has a point, that point is to try by any means possible to refute Darwin's theory of evolution by random mutation and natural selection. In that effort it fails. The entire chapter is a claim that the intelligent designer works in a mysterious way, and evolutionists' challenges regarding the inefficiency of certain evolved parts of living organisms are invalid because evolutionists don't know what was in the mind of the designer. Well neither does anyone else — the creator, you see, is ineffable.

The most that could be said — as attributed to J. B. S. Haldane — is that the creator has "an inordinate fondness for beetles". But using Witt's logic, one could just as easily speculate that the creator wasn't overly fussed about them, but wanted entomologists to be fully occupied because ... well, they might otherwise spend their time doing crossword puzzles instead of catalogueing all the different species of cockroach (and the creator thinks crossword puzzles are frivolous). Yes, it's a daft suggestion, but you can't prove it's not correct, in the same way you can't prove that the creator didn't give the panda opposable thumbs because he likes a bit of joke  — yes, Witt actually suggests this in his essay — p 117.

After complaining that metaphors are often stretched beyond breaking point, Witt then uses Shakespeare as a metaphor for God  — "the god of the English canon" (p 118.) and proceeds to show how criticisms of Shakespeare have since been shown not to be fully understanding of the Bard's oeuvre. Shakespeare, however, was not a god, he was a jobbing playwright and actor who was not above including things in his plays for popular or political effect. Witt's comparisons are spurious.

What Witt misses in this whole chapter is that without his and other ID proponents' insistence on "design", evolutionary biologists would have no need to speculate on the inefficiency of the designer. Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection provides a sufficient (and magnificently elegant) mechanism that explains the evolution of living things on Earth through undirected natural processes. It doesn't matter whether their criticisms of the "designer" are thorough or deep, because they aren't even necessary.