I get all the obsessive-compulsive kooks »« Crazier than Ken Ham?

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  1. Matt says

    Great stuff. Is this from the Channel 4 series ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’? I think he opened up an elephant once.

    Anyway, in before misandrist commenters…

  2. Harold says

    I watched this series last week. It is indeed from the Inside Nature’s Giants series. They’re all on youtube.

  3. matthewpocock says

    The laryngeal nerve, especially in the giraffe, is a wonderful example of biology that has to be that way if the species where the result of common descent. The problem with claiming that they are inconsistent with design is that you must have an up-front model of what a designer can and can not do, or failing that, a metric for how ‘good’ a design something is. Clearly, the laryngeal nerve isn’t ‘designed’ like a rational person would do it, but I don’t think anybody is claiming that people designed giraffes. This is one of the fundamentally designed-in bait-and-switch tactics of the ID argument – a slipperiness about specifying the capacities and inherent restrictions of what the designer is capable of designing.

  4. Barry H. says

    There is a quote from Steven Jay Gould that I’ve loved since I read it (I believe from one of the essays in Panda’s Thumb).

    “But ideal design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated actions of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proofs of evolution-paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.”

  5. ytrus says

    @matthewpocock, what you say is true, but it’s also the reason why ID has no predictive value at all.

  6. Paul Neubauer says

    Well phooey! I got a “Media not supported” error. I was looking forward to this because I thought this was one of the best sections of The Greatest Show on Earth.

    I’ll have to see if I can figure out what I need to do to see this clip.

    Paul

  7. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I got a “Media not supported” error.

    See if you have the latest flash player.

  8. uri says

    Did anybody else choke when Dr. Dawkins sad “No engineer would ever make a mistake like that.”?

    Bad design, by itself, isn’t evidence of anything but bad design. And not always even that. As an engineer, I’d ask to see the specs and the design rules for the part. I’d check the errata to see if the nerve routing was marked for revision in the next generation of the product.

    I am physicist, but I worked as an engineer making developing processes for integrated circuits manufacture for most of two decades. I spent a lot of time around engineers who designed very complex devices. Conservation of suboptimal, but non-lethal, features from one product generation to the next is common.

    Engineers absolutely DO NOT scrub the specs and “start fresh” with every product generation.

    If creationists were not so heavily invested in the idea of a perfect/infallible creator with infinite resources, these kinds of goofs might almost be used as evidence FOR intelligent (if somewhat slapdash) design.

  9. uri says

    Oh — I guess matthewpocock#3 choked on the “No engineer…” thing too. Got to learn to type faster (and more accurately).

  10. matthewpocock says

    @ytrus #6

    it’s also the reason why ID has no predictive value at all

    Agreed, but the whole point of ID has nothing to do with predictive value or making valid scientific progress. It only exists to cast doubt on scientific conclusions by giving the appearance of being a credible alternative.

    To people who equate science with a search for truth, who perhaps haven’t taken the time or educational opportunity to qualify either what makes a search “scientific” or what “truth” means in relation to science, I can understand why it’s a very compelling alternative. To everyone else, it’s the most self-evident snake oil.

  11. Pan says

    @ matthewpocock/uri
    I don’t think you could make a point for some sort of not-so-intelligent design in this particular case. Maybe it works for other things, like the webs between our fingers or that we still have small toes. These are trivial errors and they don’t cause any harm.
    In the case of the giraffe it’s different, though, because it’s just plain stupid to design the course of the nerve like that. Someone who created blood clotting has to have known better than using the longest possible way for this nerve.

    (Considering that the human pelvis is too small to bear children in a non life-threatening way and that we still have appendices that serve no other purpose than possibly killing us, we might have a point for not-so-intelligent-but-quite-evil design.)

  12. says

    Also a nice example of shoddy design evolution at work is the vas deferens in males, that slings itself back and forth and around the ureter.

  13. says

    and that we still have appendices that serve no other purpose than possibly killing us,

    Maybe not. It’s been suggested that having an appendix as a kind of bacterial reservoir might help recolonize the gut after a severe diarrhoeal illness. eg cholera.

  14. matthewpocock says

    @Pan #15

    In the case of the giraffe it’s different, though, because it’s just plain stupid to design the course of the nerve like that.

    I agree that it appears to be a stupid design, but that is a subjective judgement which can be contested while design is defined in terms of goal-post-on-wheels metrics. For example, they can say, “it’s like that because the designer knows stuff we don’t, which means it is better that way”, or “it is the optimal design for pre-fall or pre-flood living, but after sin entered the world and the flood changed our climate, bad things started to happen”. I’ve seen these and any number of other weasel words, all of which come back to a refusal to state up-front criteria for what can and can not be designed by the designer, and what qualifies as good or bad quality design. To us (and probably to the people systematically pushing ID) it’s patently avoiding the issue, but to the uninitiated person of faith, yet again ID has shown itself to survive an attack, so in their conformatin-bias-driven world, it’s actually strengthened ID.

  15. Gnumann says

    Anyway, in before misandrist commenters…

    If the commentariat doesn’t suit you you’re free to get the fuck out of here. However: before you do: could you please point me towards a single overt or grossly misandrist comment here that hasn’t been called out?

  16. uri says

    @pan — I don’t think anyone is actually trying to make the argument for design from the evidence of design errors.

    Dr. Dawkins, however, appears to be citing apparent design errors with evidence of “no designer”. This argument does not stand.

    If we accept the premise of a designer.

    1) We do not know what constraints are placed upon the design and manufacture of a giraffe. The direct routing may have been considered, and rejected. The circuitous routing may be required by conflict with another structure in a way that is not evident from structural analysis, or that may only occur infrequently (but often enough to warrant a design change)

    2) We do not know that the routing of the nerve does not serve some non-obvious purpose. There may be a reason that a signal delay is desirable for some functions performed by this part. Or, the location of the nerve may have a “secondary” purpose.

    3) We do not have the performance specifications for the part “giraffe3.1a” (or whatever iteration of the product is being deprocessed in this video). In fact, we don’t even know what the part is for. We can say something about its individual function, but if it is part of some “grand design”.

    The argument from “ideal” design to the existence perfect and purposeful god-designer is refuted by the evidence that this non-optimal feature is a conserved from evolutionary antecedents.

    However, you cannot argue that the mere existence of such apparently suboptimal design features disproves the existence of a designer.

  17. says

    However, you cannot argue that the mere existence of such apparently suboptimal design features disproves the existence of a designer.

    You’ve got this backwards. Dawkins demonstrates in TGSOE how the recurrent laryngeal nerve has developed the course it takes in the giraffe from ancient ancestors over millions of years, and shows it clearly to be the result of evolutionary processes. It’s evidence for evolution, not against design.

  18. cactusren says

    1) We do not know what constraints are placed upon the design and manufacture of a giraffe. The direct routing may have been considered, and rejected. The circuitous routing may be required by conflict with another structure in a way that is not evident from structural analysis, or that may only occur infrequently (but often enough to warrant a design change)

    I’ve never dissected a giraffe, but I’ve done plenty of sharks, cats, and humans, so let me fill you in on some of the anatomical details. The vagus nerve (the one the recurrent laryngeal nerve branches off from) passes right by the larynx. Except for some thin sheets of connective tissue, it would actually touch the larynx in most cases. So no, there’s nothing that would preclude the laryngeal nerves from branching off of the vagus right there.

    2) We do not know that the routing of the nerve does not serve some non-obvious purpose. There may be a reason that a signal delay is desirable for some functions performed by this part. Or, the location of the nerve may have a “secondary” purpose.

    Another detail that might help you get your head around this: the right and left recurrent laryngeal nerves travel different distances in the neck, as they loop around different vessels (keep in mind that blood vessels in this region are not symmetric). The left recurrent laryngeal loops around the aorta, which is farther away from the larynx. The right recurrent laryngeal loops around the brachiocephalic trunk (the vessel that gives rise to the right subclavian and the right common carotid arteries, i.e., supplies the blood to the right arm and the right side of the head and neck). That actually makes it more complicated for the brain to coordinate the left and right sides of the larynx.

    3) We do not have the performance specifications for the part “giraffe3.1a” (or whatever iteration of the product is being deprocessed in this video). In fact, we don’t even know what the part is for. We can say something about its individual function, but if it is part of some “grand design”.

    Ok, we don’t know what some “designer’s” plan is. But making a nerve way longer than it has to be creates a greater risk of injury to that nerve. And these nerves aren’t just important in allowing us to speak and make sounds, but in making sure that air goes to the lungs, and food doesn’t. So it’s kind of important that it work. This is not a part I would compromise on.

    And yeah, none of this disproves a designer. But I think Dawkins’ crack about a crappy designer was called for. The recurrent laryngeal nerves are a crappy design. Period.

  19. Gnumann says

    Ok, we don’t know what some “designer’s” plan is.

    Isn’t it obivous? He wanted us to speak from the hearth…

  20. ChasCPeterson says

    Rorschach is right. The point is not, or should not be, that bad design means no designer, period. The point is more like:
    This structure has every appearance of being a stupid and wasteful design.
    Q: How then can it be explained as designed?
    A: er, well we can’t know the criteria blah and so maybe blah blah or perhaps blah blah blah?
    Q: How can it be explained as evolved?
    A: Easily and straightforwardly, as evidenced by the comparative method. Stages in the evolution of necks and vagus-branches are preserved in extant animals. (e.g.)

  21. matthewpocock says

    But I think Dawkins’ crack about a crappy designer was called for. The recurrent laryngeal nerves are a crappy design. Period.

    I agree but this requires us to use some shared notion of what makes a design good or crappy. The ID lobby refuse to state this, so can always reply with “you don’t know everything – it’s your pride and hardened heart that stops you even recognising why it is best designed this way”.

    They could claim that the danger of this nerve being damaged was much lower in those magical mystery times without sin and before it rained a lot, and that there is some other, unknown requirement that in that environment that giraffes where designed for outweighed this lowered risk.

    Without a spec sheet for the giraffe that the designer was satisfying with this design, and the metrics for how to quantify the quality of the giraffe’s satisfying of this spec, all we can bring to the table are subjective feelings that the routing of this nerve is bat-shit crazy if you where to sit down and design a giraffe to live in today’s world, and observe that there are other alternatives that would allow the nerve to do what it currently does while avoiding these down-sides.

  22. Pan says

    I don’t think anyone is actually trying to make the argument for design from the evidence of design errors.

    I wasn’t serious either and I’ve never thought so about you! I just failed to see how this argument might help creationists.

    1)[...], 2)[...], 3)[...]

    Accepted. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe he’d already spent all the short larygeal nerves on shrews.

    However, you cannot argue that the mere existence of such apparently suboptimal design features disproves the existence of a designer.

    B-b-but that’s just the same old “YOU CAN’T DISPROVE IT!!”-argument all over again! Well, at least I know now, why I didn’t understand this right away. I thought that a change towards a non-perfect designer somehow adds new arguments, too. But there aren’t any – it still boils down to “You can’t *disprove* my (un)perfect, mysterious god!”.

  23. Gregory Greenwood says

    Next time I encounter a creationist balthering about design, I am going to link to this video.

    uri @ 20;

    Rorschach deals with the distinction between evidence for evolution and evidence against design @ 21.

    I would like to add that any hypothetical creationist argument that attempted to employ the template you suggest that;

    The argument from “ideal” design to the existence perfect and purposeful god-designer is refuted by the evidence that this non-optimal feature is a conserved from evolutionary antecedents.

    However, you cannot argue that the mere existence of such apparently suboptimal design features disproves the existence of a designer.

    Runs into the problem that the creationist typically argues that life was designed by an omnipotent, omniscient entity. Such a being would never be limited in their design options. Postulating a godhead with an unlimited intellect and the ability to rewrite the rules of reality at will sort of paints you into a corner – you cannot then turn around and say that this entity is going to make mistakes that result in incompetent design, or is somehow limited by design practicalities when it supposedly possesses the power to do anything; biology, physics and chemistry be damned.

    If one was arguing for a ‘sub-deity’ style creator – perhaps some highly advanced ancient alien species that engineered early life on Earth in pursuit of some unknown agenda – then maybe the argument may have some merit (though not very much – such design is sloppy even by our standards, let alone those of some hypothetical ultra-advanced super-species), but this is not the argument put forward by 99% of creationists – they argue for a perfect god, and a ‘perfect’ being cannot, by definition, make mistakes.

    It could deliberately engineer sub-optimal systems, I suppose, but following that idea really will lead one down a rabbit-hole of unsupported supposition, and still doesn’t deal with why such a hypothetical designer would do such a thing, especially considering the suffering it would inevitably cause, which leads us back to the problem of evil and blows a hole in another attribute most creationists apply to their claims of a designer – omni-benevolence.

  24. matthewpocock says

    @pan #26

    B-b-but that’s just the same old “YOU CAN’T DISPROVE IT!!”-argument all over again!

    Yeah, that’s the point – ID is an argument that is truthy to certain sections of the religous population who are scientifically less literate, and by its very construction you can never disprove it. This makes it worthless in science, but because it talks about things that science also talks about, to these people it has just as much right to be considered a possibility and by association is a scientific theory.

  25. ChasCPeterson says

    Without a spec sheet for the giraffe that the designer was satisfying with this design

    Look, this isn’t really about giraffes. The giraffe is only the most extreme extant example. If Dawkins could have dissected a brontosaurus* he would have used that instead. The same silly structure is present in all vertebrates with necks. turtles. lizards. birds. Tea Partiers. Everybody.
    Common descent (from ancestors where the arrangement made sense, i.e. the neckless fishes) explains this distribution. Common stupid design does not, if we need design specs for every tetrapod.

    *the common name of Apatosaurus.

  26. cactusren says

    ChasCPeterson @26: agreed. My point in my post at 23 was to explain a bit more of the anatomy to try to illustrate how bad the “design” of recurrent laryngeal nerve is. Obviously, a creationist can still plug his or her ears and keep saying “You can’t disprove it!”. But hopefully this provides people with just a bit more knowledge than was given in the short video clip.

    Also, this (and also the vas deferens looping over the ureter mentioned above) are two major structures that really get my anatomy students thinking about evolution and development, so I think it’s a good thing for proponents of evolution to know about. Seeing or hearing about structures that take such a circuitous route really gets them thinking “Why would it be that way?”. Then you explain the evolutionary history. For someone who isn’t a hardened creationist, but just doesn’t think about things from an evolutionary perspective much, this seems to be a very eye-opening moment.

  27. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    The same silly structure is present in all vertebrates with necks. turtles. lizards. birds. Tea Partiers. Everybody.

    The video specifically said mammals. I’m not sure why. I see you nearly left out mammals, except for that “everybody” at the end.

  28. says

    The real point is not even so much that it’s “bad design,” but that this is what would be expected from undesigned evolution.

    Nevertheless, you really don’t have to point to current “bad design” that is expected from evolution to show what a “designer wouldn’t do.” In fact, a designer, an engineer, wouldn’t begin with forelimbs to make wings in birds and bats, the engineer would either modify pterosaur wings (or bird wings for bats) or begin with first principles.

    So what if bird and bat wings are quite good by now? You just don’t look at a dinosaur “arm” and think, gee, I’m going to make a wing out of it, especially when wings already exist in pterosaurs.

    I could more easily see an engineer go ahead and modify the left recurrent laryngeal nerve as absurdly as it is done in the giraffe than I would see said engineer decide to begin with a dinosaur “arm” when making a wing instead of ripping off the pterosaur “design.” It’s not the end product that matters, it’s the way evolution starts–exceedingly derivative, but unable to access other animals’ “designs” unless horizontal gene transfer occurs–that follows the limits of evolution, and not the limits of even a very poor engineer.

    Glen Davidson

  29. says

    Pan:

    God works in mysterious ways. Maybe he’d already spent all the short larygeal nerves on shrews.

    Dear God: why do giraffes have such long necks?

    Love,
    Suzy

     

    Dear Suzy,

    Thank you for your interest in My creation! I’m so happy you have such wonderful questions. I gave you an intellect and the curiosity to drive it for a reason, and wonderful questions is that reason!

    I gave giraffes long necks for a very simple reason. Timoculus in acquisition was unfamiliar with our SAP workflow. We’re in the process of making the change from the old imperial units to metric. I can’t believe I didn’t think of metric in the first place! It’s so much easier.

    In any case, Tim was supposed to order us a full set of 20cm laryngeal nerves to use for the giraffe. Now, the giraffe had just come out of prototyping, and it looked rather like an oversized antelope with a funny head. I just love those ossicones! They are one of my favorite designs ever. We had just started gearing up manufacturing when the nerves Tim had ordered arrived.

    Please visualize, dear Suzy, the shock on My divine face when shipping delivered us four million 20 foot laryngeal nerves! I mean, what are you going to do with that?

    So we had all this raw material ready for the manufacturing of an entire group of long-legged antelope with those droll little horns. All except for the 20cm laryngeal nerves. Tim called our manufacturer, but the 20cm nerves would take six thousand years to deliver. That would not do.

    After a quick meeting with My divine design team, we decided to make use of the nerves by extending the neck of the giraffe to two meters, and looping the nerve down and around the heart. The giraffe needed a food source, so we modified the design of the acacia tree to make it easier for giraffes to eat.

    To finally answer your question, dearest Suzy, giraffes have such long necks because of a royal fuck-up by Tim in acquisitions.

    Sincerely,
    God

  30. says

    Giraffes are just an extreme example of this. We humans, the pinnacle of divine creation, or so it is alleged, have this same nerve, and it takes the same schizophrenic anatomical route in us. Which of course makes a lot of evolutionary sense since we got this from the same ancestors.

  31. d cwilson says

    Obviously, you’re missing the real explanation here: The designer originally gave the giraffe a perfect larygneal nerve, but then Satan stretched it out and twisted it up to deceive us!

  32. AussieMike says

    That was freaking brilliant but for fuck sake next time warn me not to eat my sausage roll and sauce before I play something like that.

  33. frankb says

    The video specifically said mammals. I’m not sure why. I see you nearly left out mammals, except for that “everybody” at the end.

    Do Tea Partiers not have hair, do they not have live births, do they not suckle their young? I don’t know, I have never seen one in person.

  34. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    frankb,

    Not all mammals give live birth. But all mammals are warm-blooded, therefore Tea Partiers are not mammals.

  35. amphiox says

    Warm bloodedness could have been lost secondarily.

    Parsimony be damned, but I’m afraid we can’t deny our close evolutionary kinship to Tea Partiers.

  36. Gregory Greenwood says

    nigelTheBold, Wagering against Pascal @ 37;

    Probably won’t do you any good. They’ll just use the Pinto defense.

    I went to the site, and now I will have to spend hours washing teh stoopid out of my hair.

    A few lowlights;

    There are numerous other modern discoveries that make evolution surpassingly implausible, but which are completely ignored by Dawkins. These include the discovery that the universe did indeed have a recent beginning (13.7 b.y., whereas Darwinism assumed an eternal universe, such that natural selection had a nearly infinite amount of time at its disposal)

    Wait, 13.7 billion years is suddenly ‘recent’? Maybe he should try telling the young Earth creationists that…

    In any case, a period of years measured in billions is ample time for evolutionary processeses to occur. There is no requirement for an ‘eternal universe’ in evolutionary biology – that limitation exists only in Rick Gerhardt’s head, and the heads of his deluded fellow travellers.

    … the vast complexity of even the simplest living cell (greatly increasing the gap between non-living chemistry and first life), the information content of DNA…

    It has already been demonstrated that complexity can arise without the need for any designer. Driftwood and assorted other ditritus piling up on a beach can become a complex mass without need for design. If you take random mutation, add natural selection, and then allow to simmer for the billions of years that Rick dismisses so lightly, then complexity can easily form. As for the origin of life; abiogenesis is a far more credible scenario than magic sky-fairy dust.

    …the fine-tuning of the universe for life on this one planet, etc, etc.

    Fine tuning? Seriously? Someone has never heard of iterations, it seems. In case Rick hadn’t noticed, not only is the universe really, really big, it now seems eminently possible that it is only one of an infinity of parrallel universes. With such a mind-boggling number of iterations, a universe and planets capable of sustaining carbon-based biology could easily have come about randomly.

    Again assuming for the sake of argument that the laryngeal nerve in the giraffe is either a poor design or even undesigned, the argument for evolution (and against a Creator) depends upon our believing that there is NO design in the universe. That is, if Dawkins is right, then not only the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve but the giraffe, and not only that but all living things, life itself, Earth, the solar system, the universe, everything is undesigned.

    Almost, Rick, but not quite. There is no innate design in the universe that gives rise to life. Sentient life (yay for humans! I don’t know if Rick qualifies…), however, most certainly can design technology.

    Indeed, on Dawkins’ worldview, even the Ford Pinto was not truly designed because the engineers working on it were merely carrying out the completely deterministic programming of their evolutionarily-derived brains.

    *Sigh*, here comes the crass IT analagy again. The brain is not ‘programmed’ per se. Waffling about determinism makes no sense – we are the ones arguing that there is no magic puppetmmaster in the sky pulling our strings. The mind is limited in so much that the mind is what the brain does, and the brain is subject to the laws of physics and chemistry, but within that framework we most certainly can make decisions and we can create technology – technology that is designed. However, it is a category error to say that just because we can design, then any complex system must be designed. It is a ludicrous exercise in anthropomorphising reality itself.

    Unfortunately, I fear you are right nigelTheBold – wilfull obtuseness of this magnitude is armoured against reason and at war with reality. Whatever we say, Rick and his ilk will cling to their laughable fantasy that;

    Twenty years from now, no one will seriously be defending the form of evolution in which Dawkins believes.

    If a stronger theory with superior explanatory and predictive capacity comes along, certainly, but ‘goddidit’ is hardly a stronger theory…

  37. says

    Gregory Greenwood:

    I went to the site, and now I will have to spend hours washing teh stoopid out of my hair.

    Sorry about that. I considered doing an intellectual takedown, but I decided my desire to not retch superseded my compulsion to take down stupidity wherever it may hide.

    I guess I have my limits.

  38. amphiox says

    Replace “bad” design with “mysterious” design. Features that we look at and go “WTF? Why does it look like that??!!”. Bad design is just one subset of this.

    We seek to explain the unknown, to replace mystery with understanding. Evolutionary theory can explain almost all such cases(every single one in which we tried and succeeded so far) with a single unifying explanation – contingency and common descent.

    Design theory cannot explain any of them except by special pleading, and a different special plead for every case. Yes, it is certainly possible for a designer, given sufficient motivation, capability, and circumstance, to produce virtually anything that the laws of nature allow(and a designer that can break these laws is not even limited by this), but the designer is also revealed by it’s design, and what does all these examples of mysterious design, when taken together, tell us about the intent, capabilities, and nature of the designer? Nothing coherent. It’s either a schizoid maniac with multiple personality disorder, a committee of several quadrillion members who neither communicate, cooperate, or even like each other very much, or rather limited in its capacity for foresight and relies exclusively on evolutionary algorithms.

  39. Gregory Greenwood says

    nigelTheBold, Wagering against Pascal @35;

    I love it.

    Damn that Tim in acquisitions!

    :-)

  40. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Warm bloodedness could have been lost secondarily.

    Parsimony be damned, but I’m afraid we can’t deny our close evolutionary kinship to Tea Partiers.

    Okay, fine. If you’re a cladist then they’re mammals. In the same way that birds are dinosaurs and humans are fish.

  41. Gregory Greenwood says

    nigelTheBold, Wagering against Pascal @ 44;’

    Sorry about that.

    It was my own fault. Will I never learn?

    *Must… fight… impulse… to point and laugh… at creationist moron!*

    The urge is just too strong, damnit!

    I considered doing an intellectual takedown, but I decided my desire to not retch superseded my compulsion to take down stupidity wherever it may hide.

    I guess I have my limits.

    You are a wiser man/woman than I.

  42. uri says

    @ Rorschach #21:

    You’ve got this backwards. Dawkins demonstrates in TGSOE how the recurrent laryngeal nerve has developed the course it takes in the giraffe from ancient ancestors over millions of years, and shows it clearly to be the result of evolutionary processes. It’s evidence for evolution, not against design.

    Yes. Somewhere else, Dawkins adds context and detailed discussion and demonstrates that this anatomical oddity is evidence for evolution.

    In this video clip, he also asserts that “no engineer” would do anything as daffy as routing the nerve way down into the torso and all the way back up into the neck.

    As someone who has worked with engineers, I can tell you this is plainly false.

    @ cactusren #23

    I’ve never dissected a giraffe…

    Neither have I. I have, however, done failure analysis on many complicated products of deliberate design. I’ve worked on reverse engineering the manufacturing process for products made by my employers’ competitors. I’ve disassembled and deprocessed many completed integrated circuits. My knowledge of IC manufacturing process flows and process integration is probably at least as complete and authoritative as the dissectionist’s knowledge of comparative anatomy.

    When taking apart a MADE THING, the following become rapidly apparent.

    Design flaws go uncorrected, if they don’t impinge upon the performance spec.

    Things that look like design flaws are FREQUENTLY included to compensate or correct some other feature of the design. Sometimes these design flaws are included for reasons that have nothing to do with the function of the device, but because they impact on the manufacturing process.

    There are frequently structures which appear to serve no purpose, but are included because the occupy a space used for some purposeful structure in a different version of the device, or will be used for such a purposeful structure in planned later version of the device.

    @ cactusren #23

    Another detail that might help you get your head around this: the right and left recurrent laryngeal nerves travel different distances in the neck…

    It is not that I fail to grasp just how daffy the design is. It is that the appearance of daffiness of design is not evidence for “no design”. It is, divorced of context, not even evidence that the design is daffy.

    Even if I were to compare different devices which used the same structure, and found that structure configured — in the instance under study — in some weird way, I could not say the the design was an error.

    Dawkins statement in summation (at the end of the clip), that a designer can go back to the drawing board and “start over” would not be persuasive to any forensic engineer accustomed to taking apart man made objects.

    I accept Dawkins’ argument that the routing of the nerve is evidence for evolution. I reject his argument that it may be taken as evidence that there is no designer.

    I understand why it looks like a persuasive argument. I understand why “inexplicably bad design = not designed = no designer” would seem like a good argument to make to an audience that would not follow, or be persuaded by, arguments from parsimony. However, I say again, it does not stand.

    And yes, I understand that by accepting the validity of the “result of evolution” argument that I am, necessarily excluding the special design/special creation as a cause.

    What I am rejecting — specifically and narrowly — is the contrapositive of the “explained by evolution” argument.

  43. Mr. Fire says

    nigelTheBold @35:

    That was Suzy’s first letter to the big man.

    After Suzy’s four hundred and eighty-fifth letter, exposing yet another wasteful, ludicrous, embarrassingly dumbfuck design arrangement, his exasperated response had boiled down to:

    Dear Suzy,

    Question me one more time and you will burn, you little fucker.

  44. amphiox says

    uri, everything you say about made things is true, but the question that then must be asked is: why is this made thing like this?

    And the reason for all of it is that the designers are limited. They have budgets. They have deadlines. They have design specifications imposed on them. They have to deal with the pre-existing work of earlier, imperfect designers. They have to worry about backward compatibility. They can make mistakes. In short, they’re human.

    A human designer, with human limitations, may choose not to go back to the drawing board for any number reasons – it might take too long, cost too much, it’s too difficult, etc.

    But a perfect, omnipotent designer doesn’t have such limitations. Why should such a designer, who can poof anything it imagines fully formed into existence by raising an eyebrow and making it so, not choose to go back to the drawing board. Unlike with a human designer, it costs him nothing and gains him everything to do so.

    With a perfect designer every mystery can be explained only by whim. But what does it say about a perfect designer who chooses imperfect on a whim?

    Which brings us back to the idea of an imperfect designer. IDists claim their designer isn’t god, so supposedly an imperfect designer should be ok to them.

    But with imperfect designers, the designer’s nature is revealed through its designs. By looking at the pattern of the imperfections and compromises in its designs, you can figure out in which ways the designer is limited. You can figure out budget and time limitations if you see components made of cheaper materials, or by a quicker manufacturing process, for example. You can tell by the nature of any jury-rigging whether and how he has been constrained by the work of other, earlier designers, or forced to compensate for earlier mistakes. You can tell he is forgetful when you see he has simply missed a step or put a bolt in the wrong place, or whatnot. You can tell there has been collaboration between two designers with imperfect communication if you see a mismatched screw cut to imperial measurements against a bolt cut to metric. And so on.

    So when we look at the specific pattern of the apparent imperfection of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, what do we see? If we assume design, what does it tell us about the designer’s limitations?

    We see evidence of a designer constrained by historical contingencies of common descent, a designer compelled to make only stepwise changes, each of which must remain functional, a designer not allowed to disconnect and reconnect any pre-existing connections, a designer not allowed to co-opt from other designs, a designer capable of looking ahead only to the immediate next iteration of the design and no further.

    In other words, we see clear evidence of a designer that is indistinguishable from a blind, undirected, evolutionary process. ie We see no designer at all.

    It is not just the apparent imperfection of the recurrent laryngeal nerve that can prompt us to say that “no designer would ever design something like this,” but the specific pattern of the nature of the apparent imperfection, which demonstrates that, if it is designed, then it was designed either by an imperfect designer indistinguishable from evolutionary processes, or a perfect designer deliberately imitating (perfectly) evolutionary processes.

    Occam’s razor does the rest.

  45. amphiox says

    the right and left recurrent laryngeal nerves travel different distances in the neck, as they loop around different vessels (keep in mind that blood vessels in this region are not symmetric).

    Forget the recurrent laryngeal nerve on the contralateral side. Consider the superior laryngeal nerve. It connects the same two structures (vagus nerve to laryngeal musculature), and performs the same kind of function (control of laryngeal muscles – the two nerves have to work together to control the entire larynx on that side) but doesn’t have any detour and takes the straight path.

    If a designer could make the superior laryngeal nerve short and direct, then why not the recurrent laryngeal nerve?

  46. amphiox says

    Dawkins’ use of “engineer” rather than “designer” to make his rhetorical point most likely stems from the fact that he himself is not an engineer (and he was referring to a theological designer). He was using one as a metaphor from the other without realizing that there are areas where the metaphor breaks down.

  47. Ememel says

    Didn’t have time to read all above, but there certainly are examples of well engineered things with not-at-all straight pathes. In a processor with reasonable frequency timing is really important and thus a lot of the electric paths are longer than “needed”. On the surface of it, maybe the nerve has to have a specific length to function well. On the other hand, if I engineered such a timing device, I would roll upp the extra length so it would be less woulnerable.

  48. uncle frogy says

    I think what he said at the very end is the hardest concept to grasp when first confronted with evolution. It is that evolution has no foresight. It is only now.

    There is no plan or purpose involved no direction nor goal in any future.
    goes against the way people do and think about things.

    I could not help having a twinge upon seeing the eyelashes
    uncle frogy

  49. uri says

    @ amphiox #53

    …the question that then must be asked is: why is this made thing like this?

    Yes. See all the previous comments — by several commenters –about the lack of a spec for this part.

    If we knew that giraffes were made things, with some purpose different from — or additional to — making more giraffes, then we’d be able to treat this as an engineering problem.

    The problem is that in order to make the “bad design = no design” argument we must (provisionally) accept the premise that there is an omnipotent designer who could have made the giraffe in a different way, but reject the premise that the ultimate goals of the plan being implemented by that designer are ineffable.

    As other commenters have pointed out, “ineffability” is exactly where creationists run, if you try to argue that absence of evidence for design is evidence of absence of the designer.

    Anyway, I am pretty sure this was all sorted out by Spinoza and Hume some time ago.

  50. says

    I got to see several of these a while back, Discovery or Science channel or something aired the giraffe, alligator, elephant and whale shows. Absolutely amazing to see and they really helped me to understand the evolutionary process in a clearer, more defined way.

  51. Grumps says

    The giraffe is perfectly designed.

    Q; Why do giraffes have such long legs?

    A: because if they didn’t their feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

  52. Gnumann says

    It could be the fact that mr. Male Privilege is doing the dissecting…

    And that Matt’s not bright enough to realise that we don’t mind as long as he’s talking about subjects he actually knows something about of course.

  53. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Oh…shit, that didn’t even occur to me.Says plenty, doesn’t it? It’s not us that are obsessing over it.

  54. scifi1 says

    Gregory and nigelTheBold

    It would be nice to see a take down – but not here – a bit like preaching to the converted, as it were.

    Where it would be awesome is on that fucktards website (my eyes are still burning from reading that unmitigated fuckwittery), but I will make a prediction (or two).

    1. You will post it and it will be moderated out. (Despite the fact that he has NOT ONE comment!)

    2. He will try and dismantle your post. When you rebut he will moderate you out.

    3. He will rebut your rebuttal with all that he has left – quoting the babble and emphasising that he’s a scientist, too! You will once more obliterate his screed and he will moderate you out.

    4. He will set his interweb ‘legions’ (read ‘family and friends’) on you, scoring points with ad hom attacks and continuous babblical references. When you realise that you have entered the asylum and decide not to engage anymore, he will claim victory and proof that god exists because of your refusal to re-re-re rebut!

    There, that should cover it!

  55. DLC says

    Some likely creationist replies:
    Everybody knows Giraffes have such odd laryngeal nerves because God wanted them to have really, really bad Sore Throats ?
    Why, don’t you know, Teh Designer moves in Mysterious Ways, as his Son said in the lecture on the rise.
    Um, because Designer’s Will is lost to us mere mortals non-designers.

    Sorry, Creationists, but there is no legitimate reason to assume your Pareidolia is anything besides wishful thinking.

  56. Ichthyic says

    Where is Bob Enyart, ignorant lying child abuser, to tell us all why this isn’t really an example of bad design?

  57. Ichthyic says

    If we accept the premise of a designer.

    1) We do not know what constraints are placed upon the design and manufacture of a giraffe. The direct routing may have been considered, and rejected. The circuitous routing may be required by conflict with another structure in a way that is not evident from structural analysis, or that may only occur infrequently (but often enough to warrant a design change)

    2) We do not know that the routing of the nerve does not serve some non-obvious purpose. There may be a reason that a signal delay is desirable for some functions performed by this part. Or, the location of the nerve may have a “secondary” purpose.

    3) We do not have the performance specifications for the part “giraffe3.1a” (or whatever iteration of the product is being deprocessed in this video). In fact, we don’t even know what the part is for. We can say something about its individual function, but if it is part of some “grand design”.

    uh, argument from ignorance.

    look it up.

    you need to.

  58. uri says

    Ichthyic

    uh, argument from ignorance.

    look it up.

    you need to.

    Not sure what you are trying to say.

    My contention is that Dawkins’ argument to “no designer” from “bad design” is flawed.

    I am not asserting that there is a designer because we cannot prove that there isn’t a designer.

    I am asserting that we cannot use evidence of an (apparently) less-than-optimal design as evidence that there is no designer.

    You can use anatomical weirdness like this, with the context comparative anatomy, to argue FOR evolution.

    We have no such context to use it as an argument AGAINST design.

    A matthewpocock says upthead somewhere, the judgement of what constitutes a “bad design” is subjective and contingent upon the purpose of the designed thing. A creationist can cite the lack of any such criteria to effectively short-circuit the argument.

    All Dawkins is really saying is that he doesn’t think that giraffe is designed in the way that a human engineer would design a giraffe. A conclusion which I also find suspect, and about which I was complaining in the post you quoted, since I have seen human engineers do some pretty baffling things.

  59. ConcernedJoe says

    Uri I get your point and agree 100% in a human context…

    yes – if one premised that the designer was/is NOT omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, or NOT omnibenevolent (and thus take all the fun out of having a personal god) – one could actually imagine a human-like limited engineer designing the monstrosities we encounter in nature…

    BUT

    that weak human-like engineer/designer is NOT the engineer/designer the Creationists posit and we all know it is not – and when Dawkins in context of his crusade for science vs. Creationists says “designer” we all know he means THE Designer in the sky as the abrahamic covenant defines. And his “no engineer/designer would..” statements implicitly mean in the context of this mission “no [all-everything] designer/engineer would” and such statements in context are logical, not over-statements and not trivial to the point

    AND (as you agree)

    Occam’s Razor applies .. magical pixie dust explanations or special pleading are easily trumped by tangible paths and mechanisms that exist

    AND (as you agree)

    while bad design is not evidence of no designer – no evidence for HOW the product became instantiated SAVE FOR THE MECHANISMS THAT THE T of E GIVE (as others point out) leads one to say logically say “no designer in evidence”

    YES

    one could hold a deist-like mind-set that god set the laws of physics, chemistry, etc. in motion — and maybe every now and then subtly (in some unknown way) directs a major path of natural events – and still be a supporter of the T of E .. that deist position is illogical and unnecessary I think, a “god of the gaps” thing .. but at least it comes back around to science and natural causes in its wanderings.. IDism does not and it is their Designer we address.

    Again Dawkins does not mean just any designer in the context of his mission and this video is part of his mission’s work. I think he’d freely admit human-like designers can and do design unbelievably illogically looking mechanisms, and by definition ALL human design is sub-optimal – an “x.y” snapshot version as the spec inches forward. But I think he’d also say “that’s a different subject”.

  60. uri says

    I understand who Richard Dawkins is. I understand that he is arguing against the omnipotent/omniscient/infallible god-designer.

    Yes, absolutely, evolution is a better argument for configuration of the giraffe than anything suggested by creationists.

    However, more than any of the arguments that depend upon it, there is the problem with mere statement the nerve routing it is a “mistake”.

    If the giraffe is a made thing, we don’t know what a it is for. We don’t have the specifications against which to evaluate the quality or efficacy of the design.

    Without this information, we do not have to imagine a limited god-designer. We cannot say that an omnipotent/omniscient/infallible god-designer WOULD NOT have made the giraffe in this way because we don’t know what the giraffe is meant to do.

    I understand that this is not the most parsimonious (or even minimally parsimonious) conclusion.

    What I am saying — for the last time now — is that the statement

    “No engineer would make a mistake like that” is false on its face and — even if true — would prove nothing.

    And –

    The fact that the posited designer could have started from scratch with each new animal does not mean that a designer must or even be inclined to do so (human made devices reuse design elements across different products, even across differing technologies).

  61. ChasCPeterson says

    Q; Why do giraffes have such long legs?

    A: because if they didn’t their feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

    Q: So why then the long neck?

    A: How else to get a drink of water, with those legs?

    (actually there are huge but short-necked fossil mammals for which we have no freakin idea how they got a drink of water)

  62. says

    If the giraffe is a made thing, we don’t know what a it is for. We don’t have the specifications against which to evaluate the quality or efficacy of the design.

    Without this information, we do not have to imagine a limited god-designer. We cannot say that an omnipotent/omniscient/infallible god-designer WOULD NOT have made the giraffe in this way because we don’t know what the giraffe is meant to do.

    Oh come on, the fact that we don’t know what a “giraffe is for” (itself one of the biggest strikes against “design,” IMO), we certainly know what the left RLN “is for.” That is, we know its function, so that under any “design hypothesis” we know “that function is what it’s for,” hypothetically at least.

    I don’t have a problem with your statements that “an engineer wouldn’t do it that way” is far from certain, which is why I tend to go for the “starting points” that clearly are not where engineers would begin–in any individual case you might not be 100% certain of that conclusion, while in the totality of slavishly derivative modifications, no way would engineers of any sensibility operate that way.

    And of course we really don’t know what even the left RLN “is for” in any absolute sense, even within the giraffe organism. We do know what a reasonable “design hypothesis” would state that it “is for,” however, even as they never manage to tell us what giraffes, P. falciparum, and ringworm “are for.” The fact that they don’t know what any organism “is for” is probably the biggest problem they have, but we can and should be able to treat their design claims for form and function within organisms as potentially meaningful hypotheses.

    Virtually nothing in life is actually “designed” anything like how engineers do it, in fact, because no engineer has the hereditary limitations that evolution does. Even a bad engineer can easily use “unrelated designs,” while no life can do so without horizontal gene transfer.

    Glen Davidson

  63. Zorku says

    My this is a silly argument we’re having about designers.

    Both sides seem to agree that giraffes would have the nerve taking this route because fish in general are an early design upon which it is based. It’s like they’re saying “well no, it doesn’t have to be common descent, it could be this thing that would have identical results and basically the same process of getting there in every way we could measure.”

    Seems like we might as well credit pixie dust for all of the un-intuitive anatomy in the animal kingdom (or the others I suppose but I’m less familiar with bad design in fungi and protists.)

    …when I amplify things to the point they’re absurd I see a lot of people call it a fallacy argument from ridicule so to preempt that the point here is that it isn’t a useful label and that saying there’s an imperfect designer doesn’t make any predictions. Pursuing that hypothesis would be fruitless so you’re going to have to expand it to the point where there are some new claims about what we should see out in the oceans of organisms.

  64. Ichthyic says

    Not sure what you are trying to say.

    you would know if you did what I told you to.

    ALL of those arguments you listed were exactly of the same logical fallacy:

    argument from ignorance.

    but, you chose instead not even to bother.

    why should we bother with you, exactly?

  65. ConcernedJoe says

    Uri..

    I think you have a valid point that judgements about the quality and elegance of something cannot be assessed out of context of the spec or more importantly its intended purpose.

    So..

    If we found a something and concluded it seems like a tool to carve wood and then concluded it is an atrociously designed carving tool and ergo the designer was a primitive dolt and certainly not an all-everything god, we’d be in our presumptuous statement logically WRONG (as you and I would rightly agree).

    Because as I’ve setup in the scenario ..

    We do not know the context really .. that tool may be for something way different than wood carving and actually may have an elegant simplicity and perfection for that long lost purpose that indeed its designer would be judged a genius or a god if only we knew the context.

    OK we all get that!

    I think we are reacting in opposition to your statement because (1) we have reasonable certainty as to the context .. the resulting implementation is in operation and not hidden from us

    and (2) given (1) no all-everything god would design such a thing – nor would a good human-like designer given the span of time she had to correct flaws

    and (3) we all know the Creationists and thus Dawkins is addressing the all-everything designer concept thus even if he could be clearer in his statement we feel it is a justified statement in his presented context

    Uri you are trying to be exact in your logic and I for one applaud that. You point out a valid caution in general. What I think I’d say (even though I am generally with your opinion) is that the context of the giraffe discussion has enough specificity and that if Dawkins means the all-everything designer he is dead-on.

  66. uri says

    Holy crap. Your still here! I typed “free…” and Safari autofilled the URL to take me back to this comments page and …your still here.

    Collective-Ichthyic Okay. Since I cannot bear the prospect that you, and the small assorted ichthyses, would not bother with me, I took my 1980 edition of W.L. Reese down from the shelf. On the top of page 168, LH column: Argumentum ad Ignorantiam — the fallacy committed when one argues that something has been proven true on the basis it has not be proven false, or false on the basis that it has not been proven true

    Looked it up. Not what I did.

    I know that you’d have to plow through a masters thesis-worth of hastily typed and unedited text to piece together what I was trying to say, but I am seriously not arguing for design. Not even in a debate-team/devil’s advocate sort of way.

    I am taking issue with two statements by Dawkins in this video clip.

    At about 00:38 — “Obviously a ridiculous detour. No engineer would ever make a mistake like that.”

    at about 03:50 — “Remember that a designer, an engineer, can go back to the drawing board, throw away the old design and start for fresh with what looks more sensible.”

    With these statements, Dawkins is arguing against design. In unequivocal terms, he is suggesting that, as a designed thing, as a made object, the giraffe fails to meet some standard of “sensible” or “[not] ridiculous.” And it doesn’t work.

    The first statement is false ["no engineer"]. My unenumerated list in post #49 is meant to illustrate the ways in which I, and actual engineer who has done actual failure analysis and forensic deprocessing, can attest to its falsity.

    The enumerated list in post #20 (which you quote) is meant to amplify the argument made elsewhere, and by posters including matthewpocock (in post #27) and Ememel (#56) that the judgement that the feature is a “mistake” and appearance of “sensible”/”ridiculous” depends upon a the (never stated) purpose of the made thing.

    I was also trying to demonstrate that, while it works as an argument for evolution, the “back to the drawing board” comment is meaningless as an argument against deliberate design. Designed things can have histories just like evolved things and are subject to pretty much the same kinds of survival pressures which will eliminate the lethal, and (sometimes) conserve the sub-optimal but not lethal.

    Nowhere do I argue that anything is true/false based upon our failure to prove it otherwise.

    Dawkins’ argument to bad design is crap. It is crap for exactly the same reasons that argument to “ideal” design is crap. Because it proceeds from the unnecessary premise that the giraffe is a purpose-built thing. A premise that, in addition to being unnecessary in the positive, for the contrapositive also depends upon knowing what that purpose is.

    Dawkins appears to be doing a kind of push-me-pull-you with this demonstration. In the order of presentation, his arguments are:

    (a) This is design is so crappy that it cannot be the work of deliberate design — which argument fails because he fails to provide any MEANINGFUL CRITERIA for what qualifies as crap.

    (b) That this puzzling, and apparently sub-optimal, routing can be neatly explained within the theory of evolution. This argument lands very well, and is — in fact — the argument that ALSO dives a stake through the heart of the teleological argument. At least for scientists looking for parsimonious explanations.

    I understand why he would try to make the crap argument. I understand that the not-crap argument was very compelling. But the crap argument is still a crap argument.

    It is interesting, though, to consider how a forensic engineer would go about trying to understand a feature like this.

    It is also interesting to consider how the rapid product cycles of mass manufacturing closely resemble the processes of natural selection. Perhaps someone could subvert the argument to design — which kind of depends on comparisons to individually crafted devices — by making this comparison? Perhaps someone already has? Probably some proponent of theistic evolution.

  67. amphiox says

    uri, have you ever considered the possibility that Dawkins’ statement was meant to be rhetorically ironic?

    As in, he is simply throwing the Creationists’ argument from personal incredulity back in their face? Taking their standard “there’s no way that random mutations and unguided natural selection could possibly produce this” and turning it around into “fine then, counter my incredulity and explain to me why an intelligent designer such as you want to describe would ever design something like this? And if you think my argument is invalid, then so is yours.”

    Dawkins is not an engineer, so his incredulity may well have been real, but I think it quite possible that he knew he was making an argument from personal incredulity, and did it on purpose for the reasons described above.

  68. amphiox says

    It is also interesting to consider how the rapid product cycles of mass manufacturing closely resemble the processes of natural selection.

    I would go even further than that. Design by imperfect designers can in many ways parallel evolutionary processes.

    Very few designs spring out fully formed and perfect, like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus, from a single genius designer.

    Nearly all designs evolve by a stepwise process through modifications of predecessors.

    So designers take an earlier template, and imagine modifications. These modifications are analogous to mutations. And sometimes the changes are not necessarily even intentional, so true undirected random mutations can also occur. Then there is a process of selection. Designers will make prototypes, either in their own imagination, or in computers, or for real, and test their design ideas. Those that fail are eliminated and replaced by new or modified designs. This is analogous to natural selection. And the process repeats until a finished product is produced.

    And then, in the market, there is yet another round of selection. So you can see many parallels between human-made objects and naturally evolved ones. And that is because they both arose through a similar stepwise process.

    But the difference of course is that human designers can do more than just rely on evolutionary processes. So we see features in human design that we simply do not, ever, see in nature. And it is these features that an alien, without prior knowledge of human technology, would use to try to distinguish the products of human design from naturally evolved things.

    But again, all the above only applies to imperfect designers. They exist because designers are imperfect, do not have infinite foresight or capability. They cannot envision a completed, perfected design, wholly from scratch without precedents to guide them. They cannot foresee or predict market response.

    It is all because they are not omnipotent or omniscient.

    An omnipotent and omniscient designer does not have such limitations. It would be fully capable of imagining anything, no matter how complex, from scratch. It would be capable of creating such a thing instantly. And it would be able to foresee any and all market responses, so it would not need to go through any cycles of market selection. Its designs will already be perfectly suited to the market from the moment they are made, and it will change them in anticipation of changes in market desires and needs, rather than in response, and its anticipation will always be perfect.

    It would have no need whatsoever to resort to evolutionary mechanisms in its design, except for whim.

    But what does it say about such a designer, for it to have these sorts of whims?

  69. amphiox says

    In the case of the RLN, I will point out that there is point in its course where it runs right beside its target organ, literally touching it, early in its course.

    It does not, in any vertebrate, ever, give off any branches at this point to innervate its target, even though it is literally touching the target. Instead it goes past and does the recurrent loop.

    Can you imagine ANY possible set of design specifications that could motivate any designer NOT to have put the final connection at that point of first physical contact? Any at all?

  70. uri says

    @ConcernedJoe #82

    (1) we have reasonable certainty as to the context .. the resulting implementation is in operation and not hidden from us

    and (2) given (1) no all-everything god would design such a thing – nor would a good human-like designer given the span of time she had to correct flaws

    and (3) we all know the Creationists and thus Dawkins is addressing the all-everything designer concept thus even if he could be clearer in his statement we feel it is a justified statement in his presented context

    (1) Not sure what you mean by the context. If you mean it as I meant it someplace upthread, then no. Reasonable certainty != a design spec. What is the giraffe for? (Just googled that question. Apparently, I am not the first person to wonder).

    (2) See (1). An omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity might do any damned thing it pleases. State some design criteria for the giraffe. Find some performance specs. Then we can talk about what a human engineer would do, or what a magical super-engineer might do.

    (3) EVEN addressed to creationists, this is a crap argument. Maybe even especially addressed to creationists, because it concedes the point — albeit provisionally — that the giraffe might be an artifact.

    If you want to argue against deliberate creation with a creationist, then come with something more appealing than an appeal that starts with “If I were God, I’d could have done this better…”. (and we wonder why theists call us “arrogant”).

    Transmutation by the mechanism of natural selection does a better job, according to the requirements of rigor, of explaining this kind of weirdness than does the hypothesis that the giraffe is a the purpose-built product of deliberate design. And, as scientists, we are done with intelligent design. At least until there is something that cannot be explained except by the ID hypothesis, then we will all look very hard at something stuck to the toe of our collective shoe.

    In the meantime, we must rely upon David Hume and Baruch Spinoza to protect us from an omnipotent but ineffable (or worse, an incompetent or capricious and cruel) designer-deity.

  71. uri says

    @a amphiox

    Can you imagine ANY possible set of design specifications that could motivate any designer NOT to have put the final connection at that point of first physical contact? Any at all?

    Yes.

  72. Tethys says

    ChasCPeterson said:

    “actually there are huge but short-necked fossil mammals for which we have no freakin idea how they got a drink of water.”

    Really? Could you provide some names and or links? I don’t know much about fossil mammals except for the megafauna that went extinct after the latest ice age.

  73. matthewpocock says

    @amphiox #86

    Can you imagine ANY possible set of design specifications that could motivate any designer NOT to have put the final connection at that point of first physical contact? Any at all?

    We know what the nerve does – it’s current function. If this nerve is the result of a design that fulfils some specification, we do not know what that specification was, so we do not know if it is a good or a bad realisation of this specification. We do not know that the function it realises today is in any way related to the portion of the specification that it was realised from. This is the whole point. Without the specification, all talk of things that are or are not good examples of design are nonsense. For all we know, the original specification stated that it take this particular rout and be this particular length. That would make the specification strange to us, but would make the current implementation entirely correct.

    Until or unless those proposing ID state limitations upon the capacities of the designer, or can pull out the spec sheets, ID is by construction unfalsifiable.

  74. says

    Without the specification, all talk of things that are or are not good examples of design are nonsense.

    Are you telling us that we couldn’t recognize whether a chariot found in the sands of Egypt was designed? As well as whether it was designed well? Or that we couldn’t recognize the design of a spacecraft made by an alien civilization close in capabilities to ourselves?

    I’m well aware that creationists, including IDiots, try to keep their ideas from being untestable (the tests would be against), but it would hardly be fair to say that design hypotheses for life are inherently untestable and unscientific simply because we lack the specifications of “the designer.”

    We are not that helpless in the face of purported design. We know that no known designer, or even any realistically conceivable designer, would “design” living systems by modifying as unlikely parts as evolution in fact does form life, and that is the fair test to be made. The left RLN fits into that, although it is in fact not the best example of what “an engineer wouldn’t do.” It is an example of what an engineer most probably wouldn’t do across the entire mammal clade, most absurdly in the giraffe.

    Uri is right that in an isolated case we can’t say that no engineer would do it that way, however. IDiots will also say this, of course, even though rather more often they will make the point that it has to be an exceedingly “good engineer” that made life, hence it is incongruous for them to suppose that an “engineer” that can think through everything ecological and physiological might route the left RLN as weirdly as it does.

    Of course the IDiots try to pull the “we don’t know the specifications” idea when it’s clear that something like the bird wing was made like evolution has to, rather than how any engineer would be likely to do it. But that’s their weaseling, it’s not because design hypotheses are inherently untestable, rather it is because they don’t dare to allow their “design hypotheses” to be tested, knowing that they’d fail.

    Glen Davidson

  75. uri says

    myeck waters #89

    Then do tell, Uri. Because right now you’re just sounding like an apologist who’s drawn a line in the dirt and won’t budge.

    @ matthewpocock#91 has it.

    Also, I am rubber and you are glue.

  76. ConcernedJoe says

    Uri – again I do respectfully appreciate your point – I like rigor too.

    I think we disagree as to Dawkins being out of line within the context of his overall mission to educate on why evolution works and explains the world better than ID theory (being generous with my use of theory) can. I am certain the bad designer argument is not his prime argument or really his argument to begin with.

    I think he is just saying that designs that seem atrocious in the context of the essentially in situ application are problems for Creationists (warrant explanation) and it should be pushed a bit in their face.

    You agree they are claiming a PERFECT being are they not. Yes yes – context is everything but again in the absence of their showing tangibly some other context for the design it is incongruous with PERFECT all-everything designer as applied to our knowledge.

    Oh I carry on too much – I absolutely agree that the argument of bad design is a WEAK argument against ID. And I think you are 100% right on this:

    “Transmutation by the mechanism of natural selection does a better job, according to the requirements of rigor [demonstrated and tested and challenged hypothesis], of explaining this kind of weirdness [and the entire origin of species] than does the hypothesis [goddidit] that the giraffe is a the purpose-built product of deliberate design. And, as scientists, we are done with intelligent design. At least until there is something that cannot be explained except by the ID hypothesis, then we will all look very hard at something stuck to the toe of our collective shoe.”

    I agree to disagree only on this point. I think Dawkins had a valid and proper subtext and was justified in his statement.
    Though not his argument FOR evolution vs. ID – it is incredulous to believe the poofer of all things into existence would do some of things he seems to have done for the applications that seem to be the target applications. It is a problem for them – just like evil is a problem for them.

    You and I agree they posit an all-everything benevolent god being – and we say – “don’t see evidence for that – indeed we see evidence that suggests strongly the contrary to your claims. But more importantly we see tangible evidence for a more reliable and useful non-magical way to explain and deal with things – no god needed.”.

  77. ConcernedJoe says

    Uri – one other thing.

    Some of us here – myself included – have had years of strong religious “education” and have been practicing believers. I was until my teenage Epiphany.

    I remember all the times we CHILDREN asked the nuns and priests so seriously and thoughtfully “why did god do that? how could he allow that?”. And I remember so well their avoidance .. their pat “we cannot know God’s plan” or other such crap.

    Yes they were technically right.. we could not KNOW God’s plan. But that still did not excuse the crappy way he was implementing it in even our child minds. Eventually many just learned to accept the “mysteries of God’s plan”. Others like me decided there is no reason one has to accept such mysteries”.

    My point is respectfully this: your statement is close to the “you cannot know God’s plan so just accept Him and His infinite wisdom and power” that we were fed as kids and rejected.

    Even then we thought “Technically right – but by golly the results seem to indicate He is one son-of-bitch and/or drunk and disorderly – kind of like priests and nuns!”

  78. ChasCPeterson says

    Really? Could you provide some names and or links?

    hmm…
    I remember reading this at the AMNH, I think about these guys. But I can’t find much on the web about the how-did-they-drink thing; just this and this.
    So I (and/or the AMNH) might be wrong.

  79. uri says

    @ConcernedJoe #96:

    Uri – one other thing.

    Some of us here – myself included – have had years of strong religious “education” and have been practicing believers. I was until my teenage Epiphany.

    Oh. That explains it. I thought all this wooly-headed lack of rigor was because you were all biologists. ^.^

    I might be a former altar boy — I might be the defrocked High Interlocutor of Dagon — for all you know.

    Anyway, thanks for the conciliation.

    And maybe it does have something to do with upbringing?

    When I was pushing silicon for a living, my day often included discussions somewhat like this one. Usually with an engineer or a manager eager to close a corrective action by declaring the first defect found to be the assignable cause for the failure under investigation.

    There are few pursuits more tedious, less rewarding, than trying to explain scientific rigor to a director who’s long-ago and dimly remembered EE degree has been plastered-over by an MBA and years of “Covey Training” and “7 Minute Manager” seminars.

    The muscle-memory of those arguments could be why I choked (literally) on Dawkins lack of equivocation and bad argumentation.

    I also suspect that this discussion went on as long as this — in part — because I do a lot of cut-and-paste editing and tend not to proof-read beyond seeing that the HTML tags work, which resulted in some authentic gibberish in my posts upthread.

    @Glen Davidson #92

    Are you telling us that we couldn’t recognize whether a chariot found in the sands of Egypt was designed? As well as whether it was designed well? Or that we couldn’t recognize the design of a spacecraft made by an alien civilization close in capabilities to ourselves?

    I won’t speak for matthewpocock — who’s s-for-z substitutions make me think that s/he is british and therefore smarter than me — but for my part, I have been telling you that it is a giraffe on that table, not a chariot, not a space-ship, nor any other kind of made thing.

    I have been saying that the argument to design is a non-starter either FOR or AGAINST the existence of a creator.

    That a judgement of bad design is meaningless for a thing which is — manifestly — neither chariot nor spaceship nor pocket watch nor any other item of deliberate manufacture.

    That the argument FOR evolved structure obviates the argument AGAINST deliberate design.

    I’ve also been babbling about Spinoza’s critique of teleology, which totally rocks. I think everybody is going to be wearing him this season.

    And wouldn’t it be cool to ask an archeologist how many obvious artifacts with no identifiable function are stashed with the loot at the British Museum or the Smithsonian? I’d bet that there are loads of “mystery objects” more mysterious than the Baghdad Battery or Antikythera Mechanism.

  80. says

    I won’t speak for matthewpocock — who’s s-for-z substitutions make me think that s/he is british and therefore smarter than me — but for my part, I have been telling you that it is a giraffe on that table, not a chariot, not a space-ship, nor any other kind of made thing.

    And I’m telling you that biology doesn’t get out of jail free just because it’s life. Of course it’s not designed–that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been, nor that we can’t detect tampering with life (certainly we can in certain cases).

    I have been saying that the argument to design is a non-starter either FOR or AGAINST the existence of a creator.

    Well, you’re wrong. We know what intelligent agents are like, and the sorts of things that they do and can produce. Engineers can and do start with better candidates for wings than the forelimbs of dinosaurs or of mammals. The Wright brothers began with bird wings, even though you probably couldn’t tell by the appearance of the wings that they made (first principles might be as good a hypothesis as copying bird wings in this case–either one indicates design, however).

    Your handwaving just shows that you’re not really thinking about this.

    Glen Davidson

  81. amphiox says

    This is the whole point. Without the specification, all talk of things that are or are not good examples of design are nonsense. For all we know, the original specification stated that it take this particular rout and be this particular length. That would make the specification strange to us, but would make the current implementation entirely correct.

    But remember that Design theory postulates a Designer that makes its own specifications, or at the least a group of designers, one of which is responsible for the specifications.

    So again, why would an intelligent agency make such a specification in the first place?

    You cannot cop to the “unknowable specification” argument to use against the proposition that “X cannot be designed”, or “If X is designed it is a serious mistake”, because you are just pushing the mistake one step back.

    Specification is PART of the design process. If a “bad” design feature is the result of correctly implementing a ridiculous specification, then it is STILL “bad” design.

    And specification is not wholly unknowable. The features of the object provide empirical evidence to suggest what kinds of specifications may have been at play. And we can judge how plausible such hypothesized specifications are, and whether the specification itself is or is not an example of “bad” design.

  82. amphiox says

    Or that we couldn’t recognize the design of a spacecraft made by an alien civilization close in capabilities to ourselves?

    Not even just an alien spacecraft. How about an alien GMO?

    Would we be able to recognize design there?

    My wager is yes.

  83. uri says

    @Glen Davidson#99

    What is the purpose of a giraffe?

    @amphiox #101

    My wager is yes.

    And I’d wonder if we’d even recognize an extraterrestrial intelligence as something alive (never mind intelligent). If we’d be able to recognize the artifacts crafted by such an intelligence as artificial.

    Which is a whole other discussion I don’t want to have you.

  84. feminist says

    Being Dawkins, I bet it was a female giraffe that was almost raped and then killed just as a display of male superiority. It’s as if Dawkins is saying, “this is what happens with females who try to elevate their heads and face patriarchy, we almost rape them, and dissect them, having as an excuse just proving an unimportant point, to find out something we already know to be true”. It’s as if he’s telling women in the west are not subject to the same sort of abuses that women in muslim countries are, but just because it’s not that important now, “but look what we can do with a giraffe. Think you’re stronger than a giraffe, silly girl? Yeah, so shut up and stop whining about rapes and stuff. It’s all in favor of the spread of genes, it’s how nature is.” I don’t understand how PZ Myers can be complacent with this. Oh, wait, he’s a male.