On Evolutionary Logic, Or How You Can Prove That The Internal Combustion Engine Was Not Intelligently Designed

Yesterday night, while I was eating dinner and dealing with an unfortunate snafu involving my waitress’ incompetence in cashing me out, I was reading a book on dinosaurs that featured the following immensely illogical howler that is typical of the sort of “logic” that evolutionists use to attack intelligent design:  “The necks of sauropods are ludicrous monuments to evolution.  Any giraffe would be green with envy at the ability of these dinosaurs to pluck fodder from high in the trees or sweep their heads over fern-covered savannas to suck up mouthful after mouthful of vegetation.  Their necks also beautiful demonstrate the jury-rigged nature of evolution while simultaneously refuting the notion that some divine Artificer intelligently designed organic life.  As Matt Wedel remarked in a recent paper on these dinosaurs, par of their necks were a fantastic “monument of inefficiency.”  Evolution does not operate in the best of all possible worlds.  As the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould remakred in his famous essay on the panda’s “thumb”–a modified wrist bone used by the black-and-white bear to grip bamboo–“Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution–paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.”  The recurrent laryngeal nerve of sauropods is another beautifully complicated example of circuitous anatomical solutions.  The unweildy nerve wasn’t unique to huge dinosaurs, but a trait they shared with all other four-limbed vertebrates, inherited from a common ancestor [1].”

There is a lot of bad evolutionary logic in the two paragraphs quoted above to unpackage.  Let us begin by noting that the author asserts that jury-rigging and dependence on history are monuments to evolution and refute the notion that something is intelligently designed.  They do no such thing, and I humbly submit the following refutation.  As I type this essay, my left forearm is directly in front of a jury-rigged docking station that is connected to a rabbit warren of electrical wires, connected to a laptop computer, an ethernet jack in my cubicle, two monitors with different types of connections, a laptop, and a power cord.  Now, I happen to know that this particular jury-rigged setup was intelligently designed because I did it myself, and despite the fact that it looks tangled and somewhat inefficient, I am somewhat proud of the setup because I am tightly constrained in my cubicle for space for the two monitors, keyboard and mouse, places to set stacks of books, and so on, and even the empty boxes that formerly had International Delight single-serve non-dairy creamers in them that my monitors rest on.

For intelligent design does not exist in an ideal world but one that is fixed by constraints.  My jury-rigged office setup is intelligently designed but heavily constrained by the janky office equipment and the length of wires that I have to work with.  Who knows what constraints the designer (or Designer) of the sauropods had to work with.  More to the point, even designers who are free to work without constraints typically put themselves under constraint precisely to inspire their creative juices.  I do the same thing myself, particularly when it comes to poetry.  My English teacher in the 11th grade told me that no one wrote long blank verse poetry, so that very night I wrote a 100 line poem in blank verse and submitted it to her, thinking it a challenge.  When I read a book by Twila Tharp and she commented on a particularly fussy and constrained type of poem called a sestina, I was motivated to write my own modest example of the genre, because writing fussy poems and seeking out fussy constraints on writing has been a Nathanish activity since my youth, and will likely remain so as long as I am living and breathing.   Indeed, that which is odd and funny and eccentric in terms of arrangements are the characteristics of intelligent and creative people who like to explore different ways that something can be done.

One of the hallmarks of the straw man argumentation of evolutionists is that they presume that an intelligent designer has to be interested in maximizing efficiency at all costs and with no other trade-offs or factors in mind.  This is not how intelligent designers work.  Intelligent designers–and I speak as one myself–have a wide variety of complex motives involved in creation.  One of the most frequent frustrations that social reformers have with contemporary technology and transportation is the inefficiency of the internal combustion engine.  Over and over again they tout technologies like the Segway or the driverless vehicle and bemoan the fact that 80% of the energy of gasoline is wasted by the inefficiency of the technology we base personal transportation on in the contemporary world.  But intelligent designers have all kinds of motives and efficiency is only one of them.  For one, the intelligent designers have to deal with the desires of their firms for profit, and deliberately inefficient technologies that require a lot of maintenance and replacement are the hallmark of contemporary intelligent firms who seek to increase the lifetime costs–and thereby their own profits–by so doing.  Making a toaster or microwave that fails right after the 90 day warranty expires is a cliche of clever but not particularly moral intelligent designers.  But by evolutionary logic, the inefficiency of the internal combustion engine would make the design of automobiles thereby untilligent

Who gives anyone the authority to say that sort of thing?  Simply because a design of a structure or a system or a technology does not meet our own exacting standards does not mean that the design is not intelligent.  It is often unprofitable to speculate on the motives of creators.  Creators are motivated by all kinds of personal reasons to create, some motivations being odd and unusual, and some of them being deeply private and not up for public discussion.  God is not constrained by the thinking of some evolutionist to operate in a panglossian fashion by which this world has to be the best of all possible worlds.  Indeed, since we have been given free will and have generally made a mess of it, it is obvious that this is not only the best of all possible worlds but that it was not intended to be so.  The creation of a world that is designed to be less than ideal would suggest that the a designer wishes his creations to deal with adversity–some novelists, like Lois McMaster Bujold, deliberately put their characters through difficult experiences, exploring what the worst is that can happen and be endured and overcome by heroic protagonists.  How are we to assume that the same is not the case for our own creator, whose ways and thoughts are far above our own?  Sadly, in attacking the intelligence of the Designer, most evolutionists only manage to demonstrate their own lack of skills in good logic and fair-minded rhetoric.

[1] Brian Switek, My Beloved Brontosaurus (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 104.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Musings, On Creativity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to On Evolutionary Logic, Or How You Can Prove That The Internal Combustion Engine Was Not Intelligently Designed

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The On Creativity Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Catharine E. Martin says:

    Yes, Biblical tenet states it will be through much difficulty and very hard work to enter into the Kingdom of God. It has to be that way in order to overcome our own weaknesses. We cannot have any in order to enter a perfect world. It took genius far beyond man’s capability to think of something like that.

  3. Catharine E. Martin says:

    It is impossible for humankind to honor and respect a higher intellect that its own. Man’s pride tends to reject a “less than” status when compared to anything. That’s why the true Greater Genius states very clearly that His wisdom is seen as foolishness to man.

    • It requires a gift from God to have the humility to respect God as greater, and to existence of that recognition is evidence that one has already been blessed by God with a proper sense of perspective that is so lacking in humanity in general.

  4. Catharine E. Martin says:

    And that evidence is so clearly right in front of us; creation itself begs mankind to recognize the need of a Master Craftsman. That perspective, what Jane Austen would refer to as a “common sense-ical” one, is lacking without the Divine intervention which comes, as you commented, from a humble heart and a mind respectful of the Godly realm.

    • Evidence, even that which is right in front of our eyes, tends not to be recognized unless there is some sort of way that we can deal with it. Unless we have some sort of mental scheme that allows us to place something, we are simply not going to see what is in front of us, no matter how obvious it is. Our mental filters do a good job at removing from our attention that which we do not wish to see and cannot find a way to understand.

  5. Catharine E. Martin says:

    Yes, the deceitful heart can talk a person out of anything. The proof may be irrefutable and right in front of one’s face, but it only serves to cause a person to cling to his own beliefs even more vehemently. That, plus a mind that is at total enmity against God, is a lethal combination.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s