Bill Dembski asked me to post my comments in a recent discussion elsewhere, regarding intelligent design (ID) as we currently understand it.
Phil Johnson, the lawyer who put ID on the map, is currently seeking more input from the arts community (he calls it Wedge II).
I agree thatÃ‚Â the ID debate will develop along more useful lines when more people from the arts participate.
Artsies (those who are not crazy) understand some aspects of intelligent original design better than most people.
An original design must be evaluated under actual, not hypothetical conditions.
Fundamental fact: All actual features of any given design exclude all other possible features.
Choices must be made. There is no perfect design, only optimum design.
Thus any rubberneck can point to a feature and say that it doesn’t do everything conceivable. But “everything conceivable” is never the goal of a design.
That is why, years ago, while researching the issues around ID, I quickly blew off the “God woun’t’a dun it dat way” approach of the churchgoing scientists who wring their hands over the menace of ID.
Coming as I do from an English language and literature background, I am familiar with the idea of creating a “world” out of whole cloth.
One always works within constraints. Even Shakespeare, the greatest of English-language dramatists, worked within constraints.
For example, Hamlet has defects as a play – but it is easy to stage.
King Lear is a more sublime play than Hamlet – but it is difficult to stage.
Julius Caesar is great for high school drama classes because of the large number of small parts and easily detachable scenes, plus an emotional range that is not too embarrassing or incomprehensible for teenage boys.
Now watch for some egghead to come along and say “A REAL dramatist wouldn’t have made those errors.”
Errors? What errors?
Shakespeare made choices, working with available material. Even if he had been perfect (which no one maintains), his plays would have some features that rule out other features.
For example, because women did not appear on the stage in Shakespeare’s day, he famously wrote many comedies in which girls disguise themselves as boys. The young dunces in dresses who normally played women loved a chance to wear doublet and hose again. If you did not realize the constraint under which Shakespeare was working, you could make a variety of incorrect assumptions about his reasons for that frequent plot device.
I don’t think understanding of design will prosper until a greater effort is made to involve sane people who create original works.
If the universe is intelligently designed, we can assume that any designer, even an omnipotent one, must work within the constraints that are created by the very nature of the medium, just as an artist, musician, or playwright does.
So it is no good pointing to this or that feature that does not seem to be optimum and say, “There! That proves there is no design!”
You might just as well point to Shakespeare’s girls who often seem to dress like boys and say, “There! That proves that the guy who wrote this had no idea what he was doing!”