Attack mouse of the DI crashes, bursts into flames, and explodes!

Casey Luskin has been posting a series of articles to argue with Carl Zimmer, and has finally posted his last attempt, which Zimmer has dealt with. We have a new catch phrase, thanks to Luskin, in reference to the shortcomings of the vertebrate eye:

Was the Ford Pinto, with all its imperfections revealed in crash tests, not designed?

You see, we’re not allowed to infer anything about the Designer from its handiwork in the natural world (that would be theology, after all), except perhaps when it’s necessary to speculate that life was designed by Ford to counter those annoying facts.


  1. Ray says

    My family once saw a Ford Pinto towing a Chevy Vega, a comment was made about the blind leading the blind. I just had to mention that.

  2. gracchus says

    When I was a kid some neighbours of ours won a Pinto in some sort of contest. My dad joked that second prize was two Pintos. They got kind of annoyed at him.

    I’d say that Luskin’s comment points to one of the weaknesses of analogy presented as proof.

  3. says

    I have to give a shout-out to David Hume here. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, one of his characters says that if we take the argument from design seriously, we’d have better ground for inferring that the world was created by an incompetent god, or an infant god who had this as his first abortive attempt at world-making, rather than by your traditional omnipotent, omniscient, all-good God of Judeo-Christian Theology.

    Ah, I have to quote him; he says it so well:

    “This world, for aught he knows, is very faulty and imperfect, compared to a superior standard; and was only the first rude essay of some infant Deity, who afterwards abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance: it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity; and is the object of derision to his superiors: it is the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated deity; and ever since his death, has run on at adventures, from the first impulse and active force, which it received from him.”

    I’m just surprised to see creationists following David Hume down this path.

  4. MJ Memphis says

    Iago said he believed in a cruel god; clearly, the IDers believe in an incompetent god. I’m not sure about which would be worse.

  5. KPH says

    Speaking to the Ford/God continuum, I recall reading a story about some car company, I believe Ford, back in the seventies when some of their models had the horn button at the end of the turn signal stalk. When they removed it after a few years and put it in a more traditional place, someone asked them why and an engineer replied “If God had wanted us to put the horn button at the end of the turn signal stalk, He would have put it there”.

  6. Steve LaBonne says

    The IDiots have always had to perform a delicate balancing act. Taken at face value IDiocy indeed points straight towards Deism. That’s why they have to keep giving the occasional wink and nudge to reassure the sheep that, of course, ID is just a smokescreen, the thin end of the Wedge Strategy, and the “Designer” really is the God of Abraham (but we can’t say that too loudly.) That in turn comes back to haunt them in court where their only chance is to assert exactly the contrary. And so it will go around and around in circles, ad nauseam, until they finally give up and move on to the next scam.

  7. says

    Tim, I think that the idea is as follows: the Designer is a competent one, and he (she?) made a competent design that has since declined on its own. Why has it declined? Well…they don’t exactly say but suddenly we hear the phrase “fallen world” and to me that implies s-i-n.

    People here know that I have a massive problem with this.

    It’s a man-in-the-gap argument to which the God-in-the-gaps argument cannot hold a candle, for suddenly a physical universe that supposedly cannot account for the variations and complexities of species through natural (random and nonrandom) means can have man be at fault for creating “evil” as a metaphysical phenomenon. Having a Christian upbringing I was taught that man chose evil (which I also don’t believe), but it’s near-impossible to choose a choice that doesn’t exist, and thus make it exist by choosing.

    It sounds like No-I-fell-down-the-stairs justification of an abusive father to me.

    That’s my take.

  8. says

    A few things come to mind here:

    1.) Is Chevy Satan?

    2.) Did Jesus REALLY build my hot rod? (random Ministry reference for anyone keeping score).

    3.) Would this analogy work substituting Toyota and Shintoism?


  9. says

    Yes, and the IDiot Nelson was blithering on (report at PT) about the obviousness of “design”, while the back-up “Pinto argument” is that design really isn’t obvious at all. It’s related to “faith, of course, since once you have made the mistake of thinking that things are designed and have purpose, you merely need to say “Pinto” to assuage any doubts once the invisibility of “design” is apparent.

    But how stupid are they anyhow? The point of “bad design” to science is that we know how and why designs are bad, and why they exist in some lineages and not in others. “Bad design” by itself means no more than “good design” does by itself, that is, essentially nothing. This is why they continually harp on the issue of “design”, for the fact is that it does mean nothing on its own, and they intend to fully ignore homologies, cladistics, and vestigial organs in their “pathetic level of detail”, to focus on by-themselves-meaningless labels like “design”, “good”, and “bad”.

    Yes, the Pinto is designed, which we can show via its rational planning, its novelties, and the lack of discrimination in its borrowing of ideas. This despite the fact that it was a “bad design”. Even in good designs in the organic realm we do not see rational design, anything but the barest of novelties (slight changes), nor the borrowing of ideas from other animals, plants, or machines.

    Dear stupid creationists/IDists: The only important scientific issues surrounding the form and function of organisms and machines is how and why some designs are good and some are bad. All “good” and “bad” designs in vertebrates are that way due to modification of previously forms and functions previously existing in their lineages, while many good and bad designs among machines are due either to borrowings from “unrelated products” or to rationally designed novelties. “Good”, “bad”, and “complex” are meaningless words unless you have proximal causes to explain these and how they came to be. And since you have no interest, even, in how “good”, “bad”, and “complex” forms in organisms came to be, you have no ability to meaningfully discuss these aspects of organisms.

    Glen D

  10. paleotn says

    “I worked at an AMC dealer back in the day; oddly, the ‘Gremlin’ was a very reliable car. ”

    Yes, but who were the marketing fools who decided to name the car The Gremlin? What were their other choices? The AMC Lemon? The AMC Piece of &%@#?

    “I know! Lets name the car after a mythical creature known for causing unexpected and unexplainable mechanical breakdowns. That will have them flocking to the sales floor for sure!.”

    Marketing genious at its best!

  11. says

    Was the Ford Pinto, with all its imperfections revealed in crash tests, not designed?

    Is God then incompetent, or just lazy? It’s like a weird variation on the “lord, liar, or lunatic” argument. It also brings to mind the old question of whether God could microwave a burrito so hot, even he could not eat it.

  12. Todd Adamson says

    So, does that mean that ID stands for Incompetent Design? For some strange reason, I now picture God as Homer Simpson. DOH!

  13. lo says

    I don`t get it anymore. So Ford payed roalties to God, who outsourced his PR to Jesus, who in turn was adviced to do some really brutal stunt in order to get media attention and went on to do the whole cross and weeping thingy (Mel Gibson so good heartedly portrayed for us) – then Jesus left for unknown reasons the earth and ordered for his business to be operated meanwhile by his disciples, who get now divine tax exemption and so forth…but in the end now Ford and God are Designers? Why would they both settle for the same market segment, and in one that is so utterly competitive.

    And how come Ford makes way better designs?

  14. lo says

    Todd, i dunno, it seems to me they are making headway. They Pinto has been indeed created by one or many intelligent designers.

    If you came by on another planet and would find a Pinto you could deduce that those FRIGGING GODDAMN MTHFKKIN PIECE OF SHIT ALIENS, tapped our satellite communication FOR ALL THOSE YEARS and blatantly ripped off our designs WITHOUT PAYING ROYALTIES!!!!, and that they were intelligent enough to not implement those coffee stain, cigarette burns, oily spots and ancient-ass-wiping/brown nosing remnants not in the overall design as well. AND THOSE FKKNUTS (“/§)(” AVOIDED PAYING ROYALTIES!!! FOR WHICH THEY SHALL LIVE IN ETERNAL DAMNATION (- in one of our labor camps)

    and they have all my private god-calls *sniffÜ, probably laughing at me with gleeful alien-like grimaces, making me into some sort of universal joke of some young stupid human shittweasel to dumb to realize that on the other end of the line there really wasn`t a divine latin hooker called Jesus talking with me but actually only me talking to myself with a re-functioned barbie doll, coz mummy had those filthy numbers locked a while ago…buuuuuu *sniff* Don`t read this, this is private. Go fkk off and leave me alone.

    Oh yeah in the wake of this i forgot that i assumed those aliens as hypothetical,…unless…hmm anyone interested in buying human bones signed by original aliens v2.0 scam-build number 1322.40.0009?

    Then i could afford to call Jesus before he dies of aids or lung cancer, and tell him how much he means to me, and how much i love him and that i will brush my teeth on a daily basis, about the two old grannies i drove over the over day just so i wouldn`t miss a minute of Bushies speech and all the other aspects about my interesting life.

  15. says

    Sure, the Pinto was designed; I was one of those “poofing” them into existence. That’s where I ran into an enthusiastic anti-evolutionist, who also was the local leader of the John Birch Society. I guess that’s when I found out that (at least a good number of) creationists were not simply religious literalists, but outright loonies.
    I spent some of that time in quality control, finding a lot of things that needed repair or adjustment. So I have to wonder, if living things are just like little Evinrudes and Pintos, who is responsible for quality control? Does the Intelligent Designer have inspectors and repairmen scattered throughout the cosmic assembly line to fix problems? Should we avoid species created on a Monday?

  16. says

    Yes, the Pinto is designed, which we can show via its rational planning, its novelties, and the lack of discrimination in its borrowing of ideas.

    Actually, I meant (relative) “lack of restriction in its borrowing of ideas,” but I think that the relative lack of discrimination in borrowing (and design) does explain over-much about the Pinto.

    I do think that intelligent (not too intelligent, mind you, but above that of rodents anyway) design is quite evident in IDist argumentation, however. The hodgepodge admixture of bits and pieces, the tinkerer’s contraptions (and really quite unlike evolution, no matter what Gould said), analogizes ID well. There is essentially nothing to distinguish to them what a “good design model” is in ID (except compatibility with a generic Xianity), because they aren’t trying to explain anything at all. Hence we get Pintos, Vegas, and Pacers, all being sold to the public with as much glitz and glammer as they can muster (thankfully, they’re generally poor advertisers, too). None have any guts or traction, and indeed, “Pinto” is too good a word for IDist “arguments”.

    ID arguments are designed, then, but not by very good designers. Evolutionary theory is discovered, or (another way of looking at it), constructed to model what has been found in nature. This is why evolutionary theory is interesting and fecund, and ID is dull (“it be complex, must have been God because preacher told us God can do anything’) and unproductive.

    As good designers often do, then, we copied nature (well, the good stuff–though it’s not uncommon that we can best nature significantly with our materials and insights), while IDists were copying each other.

    Glen D

  17. sparc says

    Yes, but who were the marketing fools who decided to name the car The Gremlin?

    Volkswagen doesn’t do better. They named their luxus seda PHAETON, this is the guy in greek mythology who wrecked the sun chariot of helios

  18. Steve_C says

    The VW PHAETON is only indirectly named after the greek god.

    It actually refers to the sporty carriages of the early 19th century and early open motor cars with 2 or 3 rows.

    It’s referring to the luxury and sportiness of those modes of transportation.

    Gremlin is just fucked up period.

  19. Tatarize says

    You know, astoundingly I’ve heard this exact argument before. It was actually a part of the Wikipedia article on the “Argument from Poor Design.” Oddly enough, this isn’t as far as the argument goes.

    – Simply because a Ford Pinto is really bad, doesn’t mean it wasn’t designed.
    — The argument isn’t that it is not designed. The argument is that the eye is poorly designed and thus would not be the product of perfect creator God. This comment is a non sequitur.
    — Are you a car engineer? Do you know everything about the Pinto?

    … Honestly, the next argument is that the Pinto is optimally designed because we can’t prove it wasn’t based on our small ant-like brains as non-car engineers. I actually ran into this argument.

    The Pinto was junk, but the problems couldn’t have been fixed by second graders. I mean, all the wires for the headlights didn’t run on top of the headlight, with the lightbulb facing backwards.

  20. steve s says

    In an essay I’m thinking of writing, I call that situation a ‘blame the victim’ mentality raised to the species level.

  21. steve s says

    In the above post, I was referring to Kristine.

    So, does that mean that ID stands for Incompetent Design? For some strange reason, I now picture God as Homer Simpson. DOH!

    Posted by: Todd Adamson | November 20, 2006 01:01 PM

    “Hey, how are those cool new wasps I made workin out?”
    “They just stung a baby to death.”

  22. Atheist Smacker says

    OH SNAP!!

    PZ just got the smack down at Dispatches From The Culture Wars!

    Snap, son!

  23. Steve_C says

    That wasn’t a smackdown.

    We know Ed likes to consider himself a moderate and won’t go as far Dawkins or PZ when it comes to how far to argue with creationists.

    He’s happy beiing on the defensive.

  24. Bill Gascoyne says

    (Slightly OT) Actually, my favorite auto marketing snafu was trying to sell Chevy Novas in Mexico. (“No va” in [at least Mexican] Spanish means “Doesn’t go.”)

  25. NelC says

    Oh, Bill, you should check on Snopes about that one. Short version: The Nova didn’t do terribly badly in Mexico, and the Spanish (Mexican or any other variety) for “Doesn’t go” isn’t remotely like “No va”.

  26. gregor says

    Mr. Cope
    Jesus did not drive a Ford. You’ve read that he and all his apostles were all in one Acord.

  27. says

    Vestigial high school Spanish, prone to years of error:

    Infinitive: ir “to go”

    First person singular: Voy
    Second person singular: Vas
    Third person singular: Va (or was that vaya?)
    First person plural: Vamenos

  28. j.t.delaney says

    vamos = “we go”
    no va = “it doesn’t go”

    However, in Spanish nova ≠ no va.

  29. paulh says

    I understand that Toyota never released the MR2 in France because of the way its name would have sonded in French (emme-aire-deux being too similar to “merde” for comfort)

  30. Caledonian says

    We know Ed likes to consider himself a moderate and won’t go as far Dawkins or PZ when it comes to how far to argue with creationists.

    He’s happy beiing on the defensive.

    Defensive? He’s actively retreating, proclaiming loudly that his yielding of the Sudetenland to the Creationists will bring about peace, peace in our time.

  31. says

    Mr. Cope
    Jesus did not drive a Ford. You’ve read that he and all his apostles were all in one Acord.

    Thirteen people in one car? That makes it sound like a clown show. I wonder if the floral centerpiece at the Last Supper shot jets of water, too. To say nothing of the mayhem when the custard pies arrived.

  32. says

    Tristram Shandy, where did one get Kosher for Passover custard pies back then anyway? :)

    And this argument about suboptimal design has been made repeatedly before. The usual answer is that “we can’t know what exactly god’s role for the stuff is, so you’re wrong to say it is imperfect”. Absurd, but there you are.