June 30, 2014

In Their Own Words VII: It’s Not Design, It Just Looks Like Design

[An ongoing series about the profoundly ironic theological / philosophical quotes that scientists or those in academia make.]

I guess militant atheists like Richard Dawkins are going to show up in this series more than other people for reasons that will become quickly evident. It is mainly because Dawkins is aggressively anti-theistic and is prone to making copious amounts of unsubstantiated or untenable statements. Some of his statements are downright logically incoherent. They are often robustly filled with flawed thinking and warrant exceptional scrutiny to show why they are flawed. Why such scrutiny? Because the statements are being made by a highly revered expert in his given field. 

The problem is that he often steps outside of his field of expertise to make his imprudent statements and usually doesn't even realize he has done so and neither do most of his supporters. This is why I am here, to show where he went rogue. I also do it to show how he went from scientific genius to philosophical neophyte. When he does this he destroys any credibility he might have had by showing that he is often incapable of sound philosophical reasoning. It is sadly amusing that a hack like me can call this man's bluff on some of these ridiculous statements and show where he philosophically or logically committed a faux pas.

So let us now launch into the fool's paradise of Dawkinisms.
The world is divided into things that look designed, like birds and airliners; and things that do not look designed, like rocks and mountains. Things that look designed are divided into those that really are designed, like submarines and tin openers; and those that are not really designed, like sharks and hedgehogs. The diagnostic feature of things that look designed is that they are statistically improbable in the functional direction. They do something useful - for instance, they fly. Darwinian natural selection, although it involves no true design at all, can produce an uncanny simulacrum of true design. An engineer would be hard put to decide whether a bird or a plane was the more aerodynamically elegant. ~ Richard Dawkins [Big ideas: Evolution, New Scientist, Sept 2005]

Let us chalk this comment up to one massive (rambling) circular argument. Dawkins asserts by assertion alone (or premise alone) that sharks and hedgehogs are not designed, and further says that there is no design in nature (fallacy of composition). Therefore natural selection is not a design process. Did he pull this assertion out of a magician’s hat like a hedgehog? Where is his proof or evidence for such a sweeping generalized and grandiose  statement? Obvious answer: He doesn’t give one. He is therefore making an additional fallacious argument called an Appeal to Authority in which he makes himself his own highest credible authority. His authority of course comes from the fact that he is an uberly-educated evolutionary biologist (heavy emphasis on evolutionary). 

Dawkins hypothesizes that natural selection "just is" without having any deeper cause of design. For me, this begs the question. If natural selection “just is”, then why does it strangely mimic design perfectly to the extent that it is indistinguishable from design? Is this some type of evolutionary survival trait to trick humans who are the only ones capable of seeing and recognizing said design? I think not. Why is there any order at all let alone order that is definable by sentient beings such as a human? Even Albert Einstein had said the following:
“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is so comprehensible.” ~ Albert Einstein
The truth is many religions claim deities that are self-existent and self-explaining or they are "just there" without cause. Instead Dawkins adds nothing to the argument here. Instead of a god that “just is”, Dawkins just replaces a god (noun) with a process (verb) called natural selection that "just is". Frankly, a process that “just is”, is more unsettling than an idea of a god that "just is". Why? Because Dawkins has resorted to an explanation of all existence riding on a process (verb) that has its roots in an infinite regress or nothing of substance rather than an entity that is ontologically distinct (noun). This still begs the question: How did the process start? Something (noun) has to have initiated the process (i.e.: Aristotle's Uncaused Cause). 


At times Dawkins makes little sense in his fanatical and emotional diatribes against theism. I therefore make little sense trying to explain his philosophical mistakes. Mostly because he uses highfalutin ten dollar words that people need dictionaries to understand when five dollar words would work just fine. 

Then of course we have Dawkins hero, Charles Darwin and a digression caused by Origin of Species…
About weak points [of the Origin of Species] I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder. ~ Charles Darwin [Letter to Asa Gray-The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 75]

Darwin knew his theory of evolution could not properly explain the irreducible complexity of the human eye (or other eyes for that matter) and it made him uneasy. Richard Dawkins in his typical obnoxious manner attempts to refute the idea that the eye could not evolve but in truth Dawkins never explains how the eyes can be essentially wired backwards in the skull (in layman’s terms). In theory this is a “bad design” yet it still works as if it had been designed to work properly even though it is purposely wired backwards. Science has now shown that the “crossover” design of the retina not only works well….it is the optimal design for visual acuity and color separation [1][2].

Of course we then have Darwin clarifying some earlier statements that he had made years earlier in the first publishing of The Origin of Species. He is actually adding to the theories he postulated about evolution in this addendum. A fact that is conveniently glossed over or hidden by virtually all of modern science. My guess is this is because no one in the science field has been clever enough nor intelligent enough to pose a new or improved idea on that of Darwin. It is ironic though that even Darwin expected someone to improve on his theory but virtually no one has. Everybody took the theory of evolution and ran like an angry ape with it.
But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection, I may be permitted to remark that in the first edition of this work, and subsequently, I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely, at the close of the Introduction—the following words: “I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.” This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure. ~Charles Darwin [The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection with additions and corrections from sixth and last English edition (1899)]

So we now have 155 years since the first printing of The Origin of Species and no one could come up with a better idea than evolution with all of its flaws? We are talking about flaws that are mounting daily the deeper science digs into the cell’s design and DNA. No one could improve upon the theory when even its own originator expected that someone would? This is either a major oversight or the biggest group of underachievers in the history of humanity.

It is my unsubstantiated speculation (see what I did there?) that it isn’t the fact that no one thought they found a better theory than evolution. I believe it is something else completely. My unfounded theory (oops, did it again) is that the system of the world which stands dead against the God of the Bible and everything He represents had found their workable solution/theory to exclude God from human society so they ran furiously with it. 

Yes, it had flaws but by the time someone bothered to look at the flaws, the theory had entrenched itself in the halls of academia and in many godless elitist circles including government positions. This is all that would be needed to replace God in the educational system which would go on to indoctrinate billions and billions (as Carl Sagan would say) over the next century and a half and it continues even today. There is now too much vested interest in perpetuating the lie instead of admitting science might have been wrong. It would damage the credibility or legacy of too many "important" people.

In closing I’ll say this, what is most peculiar is that Darwin never excluded the possibility that the other “means of modification” could possibly be metaphysical in origin. Of course he never came right out and said this...but he didn’t not say it either. Remember, this was a man that originally was studying to become a clergyman (Christ's College, Cambridge). It isn’t until after his theory of evolution is published that Darwin begins to drift from the faith of his father and his youth.

Sadly, had Darwin or Dawkins spent more time trying to find ways to integrate God and the Bible into their theories instead of discounting a theologically based conclusion they might have very well found more continuity between the two than discontinuity. Why? The Bible is clear that God is indeed the Designer and a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33). Instead of a workable hybrid theory…in its place we just have a error-prone godless view of reality that is becoming more riddled with holes as the months and years transpire. Instead of an improved theory we see the ever diminishing returns of an outdated theory.

Gurney, P., Is Our ‘Inverted’ Retina Really ‘Bad Design’? J. Creation 13 (1) p.37–44, 1999; creation.com/retina.

McAlpine, K., Evolution Gave Flawed Eye Better Vision, New Scientist 206 (2759), 8 May 2010.

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