Design inference Intelligent Design

Squid ink: Tyson’s rhetorical trick

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Further to: Neil deGrasse Tyson on why he thinks ID must be wrong, he is relying on a rhetorical trick that works mainly among shallow people who watch smart-ass TV: Thinking about these questions as if they had no real world components.

“I think of, like, the human body, and I look at what’s going on between our legs,” Tyson said. “There’s like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling. No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.”

Let us begin by positing what Tyson seem concerned to refute, that there is a God, who is perfect. “Immortal, invisible, God only wise,” as the hymn puts it. He is eternal and unchangeable, and can therefore BE perfect.

Life forms that exist in time, place, and circumstance cannot, of course, be perfect; we are always adapting to new circumstances.

Even if we were created by a perfect being, we could not ourselves be perfect. Every adaptation we make is due to imperfection, and we survive by adapting, until we cannot survive any more. We have a history as well, and we cannot just escape it.

So thoughtful people aim for a different standard: What is optimal, given the circumstances?

As a thoughtful person asked of Tyson’s basic thesis, where would he have put the wastewater system, given the vertebrate body design? The fingernails? Why would that be any better?

I tried to express something of this in my “tale of the closet,” a tale in which a well-organized and functional (= optimal) closet exhibits many features not present in the “perfect” closet— which could have no function in this frame of reality anyway.

But, using Tyson’s argument, one could proclaim that the optimal closet is not neat or well-organized because it is not perfect. I guess that goes down well on TV. The audience gladly confuses the concept of “perfect” with that of “optional,” then the canned applause, then the commercials…

Note: Christian Darwinists are sometimes heard to encourage this sort of misdirection: “An almighty and perfect God wouldn’t do it that way… so it must have just somehow happened via Darwinian evolution’s random walk … God didn’t really know what was going to happen; his very ignorance is a stunning example of his greatness … ”

Believe me, I heard it all when I spent time discussing such questions with stalwarts of the American Scientific Affiliation. If you want more of it, join and fund such groups. Otherwise, catch the new waves.

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19 Replies to “Squid ink: Tyson’s rhetorical trick

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News,

    pardon a bit of repetition from a previous comment:

    I also find it astonishing that Tyson misses the priority, reproduction. The brains are in an armoured box. The vitals in a flexible armoured cage that at least reduces likelihood of injury while allowing breathing. The reproductive and waste organs are protected by the pelvic girdle, and the abdomen allows room for the growing fetus. Both processes are vital, never mind that one is less “entertaining” than the other. The talking point looks more like a glib excuse for a preconceived conclusion than an argument.

    I think Tyson et al missed the obvious here.

    KF

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    NdT is just another confused Evolutionist In Error who thinks he could have designed life “better”, when in fact he can’t design any aspect of life at all. He has the typical modern inflated illusion about himself, that he’s something he is not.

    Andrew

  3. 3
    News says:

    kairosfocus at 1 makes a key point here: An actual system must work within constraints. Functions that require the same protections must be situated so as to provide them, or else elaborate alternative arrangements can be made. But each elaboration entails another risk of failure.

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    It’s so easy to criticize, but a bit arrogant. It’s as if he thinks he could have done it better. He doesn’t have half the information necessary to make an informed evaluation of God’s design! It has worked well since creation. Instead of criticizing the Creator, we should be thanking and praising Him for the wonderful design of life and the gift of life itself. Only those who want to be influenced by him will be influenced. It’s that way with most of their arguments. You have to want to believe them. You have to be looking for something to criticize. And given two different possible ways to look at a subject/problem, the atheist will always choose the negative side.

  5. 5
    bornagain says:

    ENV has a piece up on Tyson’s theological argumentation against ID:

    Atheists Deserve a Better Spokesman than Neil deGrasse Tyson – November 10, 2015
    Excerpt: Tyson’s logic is that, as he claims, “intelligent design” assumes a benevolent designer, and the track record of violence and suffering in the universe negates a benevolent deity. Tyson goes on to mock people who, according to crude atheist satire, think The Flintstones is a “documentary” and who picture Jesus as riding on a dinosaur.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....00751.html

  6. 6
    tommy hall says:

    funny thing is that the same question could be asked of natural selection. Even he’d admit that election had to favor this arrangement, which in his mind should give it at least some validity. But the real question is, if it’s such a bad design, why there’s no evidence of mass evolutionary experimentation as far as the placement of these systems? I mean if having them close together was such a dumb move, why didn’t evolution make other arrangements? The “sewage system,” for example, could’ve been routed to the soles of the feet or coming out the knee cap. Random mutations can’t think ahead, and if we’re all put together by a process of a rock/paper/scissors mechanism then there should be millions of failed evolutionary experiments all over nature and in the fossil record. But there aren’t any.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77, Contra Tyson, the design inference is about empirical evidence that points to intelligently directed configuration as causal process. It makes no metaphysical assertions or assumptions about the designer. This particular strawman caricature should be laid aside, or it rapidly becomes speaking in disregard to truth in hopes of profiting by what is said or suggested being taken as truth, and here to the denigration or even demonisation of targeted others as hidden agenda deceivers. Tyson knows better or should know better and full well should do better. KF

  8. 8
    Sebestyen says:

    “No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.”

    Those are strong words, coming from someone who doesn’t know jack shit about engineering.

    Sebestyen

  9. 9
    MatSpirit says:

    “I think of, like, the human body, and I look at what’s going on between our legs,” Tyson said. “There’s like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling. No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.”

    Let us begin by positing what Tyson seem concerned to refute, that there is a God, who is perfect. “Immortal, invisible, God only wise,” as the hymn puts it. 

    No, he’s talking about “… an engineer of any intelligence”. Clearly a human and not a God, perfect or otherwise. Why do you keep bringing up God if ID is science?

  10. 10
    asauber says:

    “… an engineer of any intelligence”…

    …clearly doesn’t exclude God by any stretch of the imagination.

    MatSpirit, you are clearly not an engineer of any intelligence.

    Andrew

  11. 11
    News says:

    MatSpirit at 9: Didn’t think one would need to spell this out but here goes:

    Even if one posits an eternally perfect designer*, that designer could not make a life form in space and time that would be other than optimal – which is to say not perfect.

    Are you materialists that hard up, now, that you need to try this obvious misdirection?

    By all means, keep doing it.

    * Not an essential position, to be sure, but useful for making the point about optimal vs. perfect.

  12. 12
    Mapou says:

    This silly objection to God based on supposedly badly engineering genitals has been around for decades. It may sound like a good objection until you begin to ask yourself, what would be a better design? What would DeGrasse Tyson have done differently that would be considered better by modern engineering standards?

    Maybe humans and animals should grow flowering appendages on their bodies and wait for bugs to fertilize them? I mean, why have hidden genitals at all? We should flaunt them like trees and let bugs to the work, right? What is the better design? Let’s hear it.

    Darwinists need to put their money where their mouths are and stop pontificating about their alleged superior wisdom. The insufferable pomposity of Darwinists is legendary.

  13. 13
    Jack Jones says:

    “I think of, like, the human body”

    How can he think of the human body if he is identical with his human body?

    “and I look”

    How can a materialistic effect turn around and then say “I Look”

    There is no “I” on evolutionary materialism.

    His position reduces him to being an illusion experiencing an illusion which is nonsensical indeed.

    “at what’s going on between our legs,” Tyson said. “There’s like a sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling. No engineer of any intelligence would have designed it that way.”

    Where does he want them?

    On the top of his head?

  14. 14
    bornagain says:

    Perhaps Tyson and other atheists can’t think of a reason why God would have a ‘sewage system and entertainment complex intermingling’ but I can take a guess as to why He might do such a thing.

    Given man’s seemingly limitless ability to confuse sex with true love, some even thinking sex is the highest act of love, and some even perverting our God given sexual desire in some most unnatural ways, perhaps God, besides ingeniously designing two functions in one organ, was also humorously telling us what He thought of sexual love compared to higher, nobler, acts of love?

    “Learn this lesson: Sex is not love. Sex feels close and intimate, and it can feel loving, but it is not love.”
    http://www.heartrelationships......-not-love/

    “The only human emotion I could feel was pure, unrelenting, unconditional love. Take the unconditional love a mother has for a child and amplify it a thousand fold, then multiply exponentially. The result of your equation would be as a grain of sand is to all the beaches in the world. So, too, is the comparison between the love we experience on earth to what I felt during my experience. This love is so strong, that words like “love” make the description seem obscene. It was the most powerful and compelling feeling. But, it was so much more. I felt the presence of angels. I felt the presence of joyous souls, and they described to me a hundred lifetimes worth of knowledge about our divinity. Simultaneous to the deliverance of this knowledge, I knew I was in the presence of God. I never wanted to leave, never.”
    Judeo-Christian Near Death Experience Testimony
    http://iands.org/experiences/n.....sence.html

    Verse:

    John 15:13
    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

  15. 15
    mike1962 says:

    1. Tyson doesn’t know the purpose of earth life.

    2. Tyson apparently assumes that the creator(s) (should they exist) were aiming at some kind of perfect and/or optimal existence for us. The fact that we suffer and die is all the proof you need that this is a bogus assumption. Why not just cut to the chase and ask, “why does the creator make us suffer and die?” That would be much more of a fruitful discussion.

    3. Mammals and reptiles share in basically the same body plan. Earth life may have been heavily front loaded. Making humans the end result of the development of life may have been a lot easier for the design by having those “fun parts” exactly where they are on all the other mammals and reptiles.

    4. I’ve personally never had any issue with the current location of the “fun zone”, as long as she is hygienic. And it sure hasn’t kept humanity, including myself, from reproducing effectively.

    Tyson seems to be adored by a lot of toadies. (I used to date a woman who was. Glad that’s over.) I don’t see the attraction. Sure, he’s bright, but like so many other public spouters, he’s a philosophical nitwit, and a very poor “theologian.” He was probably just trying to get a laugh. I hope so, for his sake.

  16. 16
    rhampton7 says:

    ID theory just means that there is evidence of design. It does not make any claims as to the designers. So ID theory can not reject the possibility that the designers of the squid were far from perfect or even optimal in conceiving the squid form. In fact, if human experience with design has any merit, then it would be statistically unlikely that something as complicated as a squid would be free from design errors, mistakes, accidents, etc.

  17. 17
    Mapou says:

    rhampton7 @16,

    You are absolutely correct. It has been obvious to me and many others that most Darwinists/atheists are fighting a strawman that has nothing to do with science. Theirs is not a desire to do great science but a desire to attack and denigrate other groups (i.e., Christian churches) that they find offensive for one reason or another. In so doing, they become identical to those same groups. After all is said and done, they are just another stupid cult, a dirt-worshipping cult with silly doctrines and stupid dogma masquerading as science. But only the fools are fooled.

  18. 18
    MatSpirit says:

    News at 11: Your phrasing is unclear. Are you saying that a perfect designer could NOT make a perfect life form or that He could, but it wouldn’t be optimal?

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    MS, I suggest that you reckon first with the real issue, the presence of observable evidence that per induction and linked analysis is a reliable index of design by contrast with what observation allows us to say that blind chance and mechanical necessity can reasonably do on the gamut of our solar system or the observed — the only actually observed — cosmos. Then, things will be in due proportion, and in that light you should reckon with the brittleness of the tight optimum vs flexibility, robustness and adaptability: specialist vs generalist . . . swiss army knife . . . philosophy. After that, ask yourself, by whose standards (apart from I would not do it that way) are you judging what is or is not perfect or is or is not fit for purpose. Last, have you designed a successful alternative that is observationally shown to be superior in light of the relevant range of trade-offs [e.g. on protection]? When you do so, you will be in a better position to evaluate the design on the table. KF

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