22 August 2005

- Unintelligent Design -

As I've been reading all these recent news articles on intelligent design (there's another one in the NY Times this morning), I can't help but be struck by the parallels with geocentrism. With geocentrism, it's possible to account for most if not all astronomical events. Heck, if you're clever enough you can even do it using only circular orbits (which allows you to build those neat little mechanical models of the solar system). But it's all so—well ad hoc, and a heliocentric view with eliptical orbits is just mathematically so much simpler and parsimonious, why bother? Of course, we can claim that G-d is really, really, really obsessed with the perfection of circles, but wouldn't that make G-d into a rather silly diety?

It's similar with intelligent design. Ok, you can probably account for most variation using it—actually, I'm quite sure you can, miracles, being after all miracles. But explanations that depend on miracles and the mysteriousness of G-d are all pretty much ad hoc. And because a diety substitutes for scientific principle, the whole system becomes completely arbitrary. On this count, I must say I loved this bit from today's article:

Other studies that intelligent design theorists cite in support of their views have been done by Dr. Axe of the Biologic Institute.

In one such study, Dr. Axe looked at a protein, called penicillinase, that gives bacteria the ability to survive treatment with the antibiotic penicillin. Dr. Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, has referred to Dr. Axe's work in arguing that working proteins are so rare that evolution cannot by chance discover them.

What was the probability, Dr. Axe asked in his study, of a protein with this ability existing in the universe of all possible proteins?

Ok, so what kind of diety is this that would unleash penicillin resistant bacteria on the world???

Yes, indeed, G-d works in mysterious ways.