Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Recent podcasts: God isn’t as smart as She thinks she is (?), and more …


Here’s a show that was a lot of fun! Australian science journalist Robyn Williams, author of Unintelligent Design: God Isn’t as Smart as She Thinks She Is and I go at it, with Sheridan Voysey of Open House Australia trying to moderate. I must at some point say more about Williams’ interesting book, summarized at Amazon,

Why make the earth, the solar system, our galaxy and all the rest when the Garden of Eden was all that was wanted? And then there’s lifespan. During long periods of human history, the life expectancy of men was a mere 22 years and children were lucky to toddle, let alone grow up. Why the waste? And shouldn’t we sue God for sinus blockages, hernias, appendix flare-ups and piles, not to mention bad backs? Using all sorts of examples from the natural and scientific world Robyn Williams takes on the stalking monster of fundamentalist religion and creationism in a short, wicked and witty debunk of intelligent design. This is a book to infuriate the Christian fundamentalists and amuse the rest of us.

Williams is fundamentally – so to speak – confused about the difference between intelligent design, optimal design, and perfection, as I pointed out at the time. Intelligent design just means input of a higher level of information than law and chance together account for. Optimal design means the best available design, given constraints, but the best optimized systems do not perform well under all circumstances. As for perfect design, well, in a universe where everything must be mortal, it would be disastrous. But I digress. Robyn and I are poles apart, no less.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve ever had on the intelligent design controversy was with Jay Kelly at Wired Parish. Kelly, who has a background in philosophy, sees the big picture better than most radio hosts.


Note: You’ll have to use this link. I can’t make it work by embedding it.

Denyse, this is somewhat off-topic, and perhaps my post won't make it, but have you seen this article? Darwinism explains Anna Nicole Smith's popularity! Well, naturally! http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_shostak_science_070215.html
Movie director Frank Capra wasn’t disclosing a staggering new truth in noting that "what interests people is people." One dead-obvious reason is that those who are thoroughly unresponsive to their fellow humanoids don't get a lot of representation in the next generation. We're most interested in people, in the same way that click beetles are most interested in click beetles. That's evolution. But why the seemingly preternatural fascination with famous personalities, be they powerful figures (politicians, for example) or mere celebrities, as was Ms Smith? That, too, seems to have a clear evolutionary benefit. Unlike most of the beasts of the forest, we’re quite good at learning things. Stories–made possible by speech–are efficient ways of conveying life lessons to the young without the trouble and danger of actually having to demonstrate. Hearing stories about successful people, as well as those who have fallen, could prompt us to imitate the behaviors of the former and avoid those of the latter. Heroes, in other words, have survival value.
J. Parker
I conferred with Philip Johnson (aka Karl Rove Jr.) prior to writing this post. Conflating arguments for common descent with arguments for the whole paradigm is becoming pretty common. The real answer to the Republican stuff is "so what?" If true, so what? Look up the genetic logical fallacy. This is a case of it. I think the best answer is to joke and try to work in the phrase "Karl Rove's mind-control device." Also, if you ever have to engineer something, even a software system, you learn about trade-offs. Maybe a sinus that never clogs will cause the brain to explode. This seems to be an argument from ignorance. geoffrobinson
First of all I'm sure there must be thousands of Republicans who don't believe in ID so RW's generalizations re-Republicans is not only wrong but insulting to these individuals. It seems that it is not ID proponents that are politicizing science it is the Darwinists (particularly of the atheistic variety) who can only resort to political statements to try to suppress legitimate discusion. RW in fact is himself acting as a political activist from the secular left by raising the issue as he did (unprovoked) during what was meant to be a science based debate. Sadly it would be unusual at this point in time to read and hear discusion about any subject (kite making, vegetable gardens etc) where G.W.Bush doesn't get a denigratory mention at least once. deric davidson
These nutters really love straw men. mike1962
Actually, Denyse allowed very little of Robyn's diatribe go unchallenged. Very entertaining, especially where Robyn was reciting his political narrative regarding how the republicans subverted science to gain votes, how DI was instrumental in that, and hearing Denyse at first incredulous, then laughing in the background, and then correcting him on several fallacious points ("over ruling" according to Robyn). His insistence that Bush increased his vote by attacking science elicited, "You really believe that?" But Robyn had it on good authority, it seems: "It increased his vote, and it's all in print … it's in the book by Chris Mooney … " he stated. Well, I guess that settles the issue! She also corrected him on other points, including ID's history. The debated philosophical points made interesting listening as well. A very entertaining interview, but yes, the controversy goes on ... LeeBowman
Personally, I don't believe in a perfect state of being. Though I do believe in the possibility (and reality) of a constantly improving - evolving? - state of both personal and general being. It's easy to talk about what a better human would be like. But it's impossible to talk about what a perfect human would be like. So for me, the fact that there are always things we can improve upon is - oddly - more evidence of intelligent design on the grand scale. Because we're able to understand the process of improvement and ascent. I wonder if that's a uniquely human trait. nullasalus
Speaking of "junk" DNA, Robyn says: "Most computers have a backup/standby system..." Says Robyn. Yes Robyn, and most computer systems have intelligent designers behind them. Sorry, did I say "most"? I meant ALL! Good gracious this guy is dense. Denyse, I wish you would have jerked a knot in his tail - you were entirely too patient. Scott
I'm wondering. Is the Darwinist opposition to ID just "liberalism in a cheap tuxedo"? I've thought about it before, especially when I read stuff from PZ, but I'm becoming convinced that's all it is. shaner74
oh man I hadn't listened to the part about Bush and the Republicans! hahahaha! Williams completely discredited himself. LOL! I'm going to go listen to it again, and keep the file for whenever I need a good laugh. shaner74
Why is it that the individual representing the non-ID position in these sorts of debates must always invoke the name of George Bush as part of their diatribe against ID? In Peter Ward vs. Stephen Meyer at the Discovery Institute back in April 2006, Dr. Ward couldn't resist a few jibes at Republicans, even going way back to Richard Nixon. In Richard Dawkins vs. Steven Colbert back in October 2006, they can't resist taking a small swipe at poor George (see long link at end of message). But I must say that this most recent exchange between Robyn Williams and Denyse O'Leary is the most bizarre example of the syndrome that I have heard to date. I can't believe that Robyn Williams seriously thinks that George Bush's 2004 presidential election victory was influenced by intelligent design. There is nothing about the presidential election process that could ever be associated with the word "intelligence". Is ID a political movement? Clearly the other side wants to quickly dismiss it as such. Where is the non-ID debate partner who is willing to actually address the ID question head on? ------ Dawkins on Colbert (part 2): http://www.comedycentral.com/motherload/?lnk=v&ml_video=76820 tarheel_chemist
It was funny to hear Williams appeal to so-called “junk” DNA as “proof” of unguided evolution. What kind of science journalist is he if he’s not aware of the problems with that argument given recent scientific findings? Also he followed Dawkins tactic of claiming unguided evolution isn’t random (yawn). The Darwinist mantras are just really getting old now. They need some new material and fast. If they can’t respond to what science is actually discovering in nature (with 150 years to prepare for it, mind you) why should anyone take them serious? I want my tax dollars back. shaner74
Thanks, Denyse, for your kinds words. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview! It highlighted the fact that SO MANY people who are critical toward ID really don't understand the claims the position is making. Frankly, the claims are quite modest. It seems to me that the unwillingness on the part of anti-ID people to consider the claims of ID proponents has less to do with the actual arguments at hand and more to do with fear over where those arguments may eventually lead. Without saying it explicitly, anti-ID people seem to be afraid of a slippery slope if they give ground on ID. Last time I checked, slippery slope arguments are informal fallacies . . . Jay Kelly wiredparish
And shouldn’t we sue God for sinus blockages, hernias, appendix flare-ups and piles, not to mention bad backs? Good luck with that. What ever happened to taking personal responsibility for one's personal health? What RW and her ilk don't realize is that no one states the design had to be "perfect". And even if it started out that way that doesn't mean it had to remain that way. IOW what we are observing now is after random effects took their toll. One thing is for sure- Robyn Williams isn't as smart as she thinks she is... Joseph

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