Finally, evidence for Intelligent Design

A couple of weeks ago I was stuck at home with pneumonia, and one afternoon, after one part or other of the Lord of the Rings trilogy finished, I found myself face to face with Maury Povich. Merciful heavens. I have never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, and I ran a community theatre for over twenty years.

It was almost enough to make one abandon one’s belief in Intelligent Design. I mean, really, who could think that an intelligent force would design creatures capable of those kinds of choices? In one sitting, I saw a woman fail a lie detector test and thus be proven a multiple adulterer; a woman confess to her fiancé that she was having an affair with her female neighbor; and a woman dying of colon cancer confess to her boyfriend that she’d been unfaithful more than 100 times and couldn’t be sure that their two children were his. I missed the segment where a man confessed to his wife that he made pocket money as a male prostitute, but that’s probably just as well.

There ain’t nothing intelligent in the incredibly untidy lives these people have lived, nor in their insane compulsion to confess their missteps, nor to do so on national television. If one were looking for patterns that betrayed the presence of an Intelligent Designer, one would not find it on Maury Povich. Quite the contrary.

I suppose that if one examines the tenets of Intelligent Design, no one is making the claim that this Force (whoever she is) is necessarily benevolent, and I know there will be those who take refuge in the old shibboleth of Free Will, but if I’m going to invent an all-powerful Intelligence who can operate outside the laws of the physical universe, I would hope I at least had the sense to make sure that He/She/It had our best interests at heart.

That got me thinking, in my fevered, antibiotic-induced way, about other particular shibboleths of the IDers. One of their favorites is the eye: how remarkable, how complex it is; surely it couldn’t have just evolved, could it?

Oddly, I remember thinking in 4th grade, as we studied the structure of the eye, that something was screwy with its design. I mean, the cones and rods are backwards, aren’t they? Shouldn’t they face toward the incoming light in order to be most efficient? And what’s up with the blind spot? Why would you run all your cabling out through the middle of your CRT?

And then I thought… testicles. Testicles. If there were ever any fleshy bit that just screams out “random selection,” surely it’s testicles. What kind of Intelligence would design something as stupid as testicles? Let’s face it, guys, any one of us could come up with better ideas on how to stow those puppies in a better place.

For one thing, we might have decided to make sperm a little tougher so that they could survive at 98.6° instead of having to be stored in little dangly pouches outside the body. We could have snuggled them up there somewhere and encased them in protective cartilage or something. Could have made that a pretty useful kind of thing, too, sort of a built-in implant kind of thingie.

But no. There they are, all wrinkly and silly, just waiting to be whacked by a teammate or opponent, or a lover, or even an excited 18-month-old. What’s intelligent about that? Not much, in my opinion.

Discernible purpose in the design? I suppose you could make a case for pleasure, that they’re awfully fun to play with, if not to look at, but I don’t imagine that’s the kind of case that most Intelligent Designers are willing to make in public. So what kind of Intelligent Force would design such a thing?

And then it occurred to me, in a flash of inspiration. If one is willing, as that President Bush has recently said, to explore all sides of the controversy, then the answer is pretty obvious: testicles are clearly the product of the fiendish Intelligence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Isn’t it obvious, guys? We were made in his image, right down to the noodly appendage. This is the only possible explanation that fits in with the agenda of the IDers: Testicles are a testament to the FSM’s almighty power, not to mention his sense of humor, and are a daily reminder to half the population of his presence, or at least of his impetus.

So there you have it: either we can think that testicles are the result of one too many random switches being thrown, an evolutionary path that hung a right instead of a left (sorry…) a long time ago, or we can recognize the overwhelming Intelligence behind their design. Seems an easy choice to me.

7 thoughts on “Finally, evidence for Intelligent Design

  1. very funny. the intelligence design stuff can get a bit absurd.

    but i continue to be perplexed by the problem of intelligence. from where does it come? for instance, i would assume you intended to communicate something in this post and that this post constituted something substantive that you thought the world should know, yet from an evolutionary perspective, intelligence is the accidental product of random chance and thus that would be a bit akin to attributing your fine blog post to the random forces of an exploding intel manufacturing plant and an oxford dictionary.

    by writing you are inferring that intelligence has an origin. by knocking intelligence design for creating characters that populate the maury povich show, you’re actually agreeing that intelligence is always the predicate of a subject. so the question that still remains is what (or who) is that subject?

    but on another note, i’m glad to see you’re writing more and giving me an excuse to read your blog!

  2. First of all, you are inferring that my intelligence has an origin. I myself am implying nothing. That’s the bedrock mistake made by IDers: all this marvelous complexity around us absolutely must imply an original intelligence. But it doesn’t. We infer that intelligence because our brains have evolved successfully to seek and find patterns in the randomness around us.

    The whole complexity-thus-intelligence trope is what gave us the myths behind the constellations, in every single culture around the world that bothered to examine the entirely random distribution of stars in the sky. There is no Orion, there is no Ursa Minor or Major, there is no Cassiopeia. It’s just random points of light, in a configuration seen only from this one vantage point in the universe. But there they are, and we cling to them.

    Second of all, the metaphor of my blog post being a direct product of a combined explosion of Intel and the OED is inapposite. Clearly the products of our intelligence are not randomly generated, but our genetic intelligence has been. The fact that I can deliberately create something does not require some other force to have done so to me (or my ancestors).

    The hard thing is to divorce the truly random nature of the physical universe from our belief that there is a purpose to our lives, god-given or not. Is there good? Is there evil? Is there something bigger than ourselves? Sure there is. But we ourselves evolved randomly.

  3. well, yes, i was inferring, but that was based upon your premise that you had something intelligent which you were intending to communicate.

    i’ll agree with you that complexity demonstrates nothing, but the central problem of information – or better yet, wisdom – still remains. evolutionary wisdom itself is a linguistic contradiction, attributing a predicate to a non-existent subject. so when i inferred that your intelligence, or information/wisdom, had an origin, i was assuming that your comments were meaningful and premised upon some meaningful study that you had done.

    but if that’s not the case – perhaps your comments here are on the same scale as maury povich’s guests’ public confessions of animal husbandry – then, i’ll leave you to make that conclusion on your own! but we both know that isn’t the case or else i wouldn’t be here avoiding thrilling my conference call on the joys of VOIP. i guess you could say i’m stuck on this question of meaning/intelligence/wisdom and it strikes me as irrational that if we construct sentences which attribute reasoned predicates to knowledgeable subjects, that we cannot expect the same of the universe.

    which leads me to wonder – what are your thoughts on the laws of logic?

    is there anything in this universe that is objective, universal and non-material?

  4. Of course my information/wisdom has an origin: me. Of course I act with purpose and deliberately create and share information. Does it make me more comfortable to think that the Flying Spaghetti Monster did the same to make it possible for me to do so? Sure, why not?

    Be careful not to switch terms in the middle of an implied syllogism. Wisdom is not information nor even intelligence. Wisdom is at best a social construct, and it is an individual gain. To set it up as a straw man by claiming that it is “evolutionary” is a bit disingenuous.

    Are my comments/actions here on the same scale as Maury Povich’s victims? Absolutely, although my hope is that they’re on the other end of that scale. That would have been my point, that we’re not designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster; we are evolved beings with many “irrational” impulses.

    Which laws of logic? Aristotelian? Gödelian? (I’m blowing smoke here. I have no real knowledge of Gödel.) Sure, why not? But logic (see Dante) will lead you only so far, if your goal is Il Paradiso. You can’t get there from here.

    Is there anything in the universe that is objective, universal, and non-material? You’re asking the wrong subjective, material guy. I mean, how would I tell? Or, to put it another way, sure, why not?

    All of this is not to deny the very real mystery of self/consciousness/volition. But it’s just as well to hold in reserve the Buddhist idea that it’s all an illusion.

  5. I don’t want to engage with this as a sophist and pick through the discussants’ various phrases like a hired spin gunner working for the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Heritage Foundation, but I would like to ask about this thing getting tossed about called “intelligence.”

    Obviously, intelligence as an idea or referent can mean many things depending on how it is used and by whom. A history of psychology would document the various attempts to define this entity, the political and economic motives for developing such a useful definition, and the many controversial mechanisms designed to subject this thing called intelligence to a measure, to inscribe it as something beyond a phenomenal notion, to write it as a quantity. A Platonist might entertain the idea of intelligence and speculate as to its perfect unrealizable form (as it would exist in the “mind” of God, perhaps). Is intelligence one of Kant’s a priori categories? Alas, my journies in undergraduate philosophy stopped short and I don’t know. There’s such a thing as conventional wisdom, I think we’d all agree, and it has it’s own grasp of the meaning of intelligence, often that which one’s elders can’t see one as possessing until one is at least old enough to have been carrying a mortgage for at least ten years. Intelligence implying, in this case, an approving nod from the body social. A Derridian would want to see intelligence as half of an implied binary opposition–you can’t really know what a thing is without taking into account what it is not. Stupidity? Paul Ricoeur said every sign contains within it a possibility of its negation by a dark contrary.

    Which implies that every word takes its place on a grand metaphysical stage, playing out its part in a cosmic struggle. Was the War in Heaven fought between the forces of Intelligence and of Stupidity? Was Satan cast down because he was dumb? Milton, a fairly intelligent designer himself, did not think so. And why couldn’t Eve have been designed a bit smarter in order to see through the Serpent’s equivocations? And why couldn’t Adam have been smart enough not to take the bait?

    Bold assertion. All meaning, all attribution, is unavoidably religious. Science is, ideally, not in the business of ascribing meaning; it is trying to observe and describe and explain in light of those observations and descriptions. However, the conflict between our experiences as witnesses in the world and writers of the world is perpetual and, perhaps, impossible to resolve.

    If you want to stir up trouble and gain advantage, spin an unresolvable conflict as a “question of belief.”

  6. Can we call it an unresolvable dialectic rather than a conflict? I for one do not regard the division between my power to create meaning and the obvious meaninglessness of the universe as a problem. Why should I?

  7. I know you are not asking for prayers, but the bretheren and I will pray for you, nonetheless.

    I do not mean “conflict” in the sense of some debate available for rationalist appraisal and analysis. Perhaps I should say “structural impossibility.” I mean that one cannot write a treatise with a daisy stem no matter how open one is to the dialectical process.

    Ah, but, you might say, “I have no desire to do such a thing. There’s impossibility here, true, but it’s irrelevent.” Is it? In dreams we grapple with these conflicts or “impossibilities” all the time. Consider your dreams, or consider the surreality of a national nightmare like Pat Robertson talking to you on the 700 Club, a phantasm which many assume will resolve or at least neutralize all impossibility.

    Dialectic, sure, but our dreams, personal and national, show that we are the processes perpetually overturning.

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