Thursday 23 June 2011

Why does the intelligent designer do such a bad job?

If God's so clever, why do his creations appear so naff? Maybe he couldn't be bothered to do a proper job. Sure, he's the perfect creator of the whole universe, but that doesn't mean he's much into the arts and crafts thing. He'd rather be smiting, or failing that, his favourite hobby — voyeurism.

Pardon the levity, but that's the only message I can take from Chapter 21 of Dembski & Licona's Evidence for God, entitled "Intelligent, Optimal, and Divine Design" by Richard Spencer. It begins thusly:
If something has been intelligently designed, people often expect to see structures that are perfectly crafted to perform their individual tasks in the most elegant and efficient way possible (e.g., with no extra components). This expectation is incorrect not only for human design but also for divine design. (p 108.)
Isn't it amazing how divine design exactly mirrors human design? And Spencer knows this how? Then he goes on to look at microprocessor design:
If we tried to optimize every little part of the circuit design, we would never complete the design! This limitation does not, of course, affect divine design. (p 108.)
Of course it doesn't. Hold on, why doesn't it? Because God can do anything? And Spencer knows this how? Then comes this wonderfully equivocating paragraph:
In the same way, but for different reasons, God usually makes use of secondary agents to accomplish His work. Such secondary agents include physical laws since these laws do, at least sometimes, define, or help to define, structures in nature. For example, there are physical laws and properties of matter that determine the physical structure of certain objects, and once the laws and properties are in place, God does not need to individually create each atom, cell, or higher-level object. Having created physical laws, God is constrained by them unless He specifically chooses to suspend them. As a logical possibility, God is of course free to suspend the physical laws he has instituted. Yet, I don't know a single unequivocal example in which He has done so. This is not to deny miracles. I am simply saying that I don't know of any examples of miraculous structures in nature, and that includes biological structures. (p 109.)
Naturally Spencer is fully acquainted with what God usually does, and what God needs, or does not need, to do. God, you see, is constrained by physical laws, except when he isn't, and he's totally capable of making a biological miracle, except he hasn't actually done it.
A third reason why even divine designs may appear to be less than optimal is that we are rarely in a position to fully understand all of the design objectives and constraints. This point is subtle but significant. I have sometimes thought some part of a circuit or system design was done poorly only to find out later that it was actually quite clever. I simply didn't fully understand the intended purpose or constraints when I first looked at the system. (p 110.)
Well God's God, and mysterious. We can't be expected to know what's in his mind — except, it seems, when we can. Lest you think that we're not being scientific about all this, we'll quote a bit of Francis Collins, just to reinforce the idea that our puny minds can't hope to comprehend the intentions of the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe (although we know precisely, minutely, chapter-and-versely what God wants everybody not to do with their private parts).
I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Collins. While we do not fully comprehend why God allows sin to exist, the Bible gives us many examples of how God uses the painful trials that result from a sinful world to bring us to a greater sense of humility and dependence on Him. We must also remember that the world we are observing is not the original creation. It is a corrupted version of the creation. I personally think that many, if not all, of the arguments made by the opponents of intelligent design would remain unchanged even if they observed the world prior to the fall. But there is still an unknown factor to deal with since we are not able to observe the original creation at this time. (p 110.)
So God designed us suboptimally, to teach us a lesson. If only we hadn't fallen, God might not have given up on Mankind 2.0, which presumably he would have retrofitted into the perfect world if only it hadn't been messed up by those pesky humans, who were designed by ... oh wait, there's something not quite right about this. Well never mind, I'm sure God's got it all in hand. He always has, you know.

More of this ridiculous piffle is available at