We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. – Stephen Vincent Benét
Unwise person: “I’ll admit it’s art, but it’s bad art.”
Wise person: “But you will agree that it is the work of an artist. Yes?”
Unwise person: “No.”
Such is the state of contemporary opposition to the theory of intelligent design. So intent are some Darwinists on suppressing truth at any cost, they forfeit their intellectual integrity in pursuit of their chosen cause. Believing that the traditional opposition to intelligent design is ineffective, for example, Massachusetts geology professor Donald Wise is credited with this brainstorm:
To combat the Intelligent Design idea, Wise has come up with his own theory: "Incompetent Design." This theory challenges the idea of Intelligent Design with the argument that if the human body were designed, the designer did a terrible job in doing so. (UMass Daily Collegian, October 31, 2005)
What a novel way to combat an idea! Start by admitting the truth of the idea's central premise, then reject the rational conclusion on grounds of pretentious opinion. Apparently the professor sees design in nature (all Darwinists do), but he believes it is incompetent design rather than intelligent design. Is Wise is so smart, that not only can he detect evidence of design (like us mere mortals), but he also can sit in judgment of the designer based on his assessment of the workmanship? By his own theory’s name he admits design is real and evident in nature, but he rejects intelligent design because, in his learned estimation, the evidence shows nothing more than a terrible job. What a dunce, this so-called designer.
Wise is not alone. He and other non-biologists (why are anti-evolutionists always written off as non-biologists, but anti-ID’ers get a pass?) of the Geological Society of America (GSA) decided last year to carry water for their biologist buddies by opining on a strategy to defend “evolution” against “well trained attackers,” specifically those pesky “highly trained professional ID debaters”. In a hand-wringing GSA article aimed in part at raising awareness of the need to stop “nonexistent ‘evidence against evolution’" from being taught in the classroom, Wise is quoted:
So how does a scientist or teacher defend evolution against trained attackers? "Don't," suggests geoscientist Donald Wise from the University of Massachusetts. “Instead, go after the deep flaws in ID. Take the human body, for instance,” he says in his GSA presentation. “It's a great argument against ID. Anyone who has ever had back pain or clogged sinuses can testify to this.” (Donald Wise, Geoscientists and Educators Take On Antievolutionists, 14 October 2005, GSA Release No. 05-40, http://www.geosociety.org/news/pr/05-40.htm)
Of course Wise shouldn’t be taken too seriously on the mysteries of the human body, a topic for which he can no more pretend to scientific credentials than most of us. But his logic is intriguing. Presumably the sagacious geologist would find great difficulty in admiring design in something nearer to his field of expertise: a large stone object occupying a prominent rotunda in perhaps the greatest museum in the world. The blocks of Parian marble permanently housed in the Louvre in Paris are well known the world over as the Venus de Milo, a statue praised by artists and critics as the epitome of graceful female beauty. Recognized as significant immediately upon discovery in 1820, the statue is universally known for a different reason: it is deeply flawed. Standing majestically still as streams of visitors circle around and crowd in for pictures, the commanding figure stands flawed and awed—without arms!
What are modern-day sophisticates, know-it-alls and assorted wise-guys to make of such “deep flaws” in an otherwise remarkably perfect piece of stone? What kind of sculptor (assuming there is one, they must muse), would do such a “terrible job” as to make a statue with no arms? It hardly helps matters to know that portions of Venus’ arms have, in fact, been found. Fragments of a left arm outstretched and a left hand holding an apple—the famed Apple of Discord—were first rejected as being original due to evidence of rough workmanship. Cavalier critics, not being sculptors themselves, might likewise find fault in such shoddy workmanship, thinking no true sculptor would be so crude. But historians now accept that the left arm is original to the work; it was intentionally not as well finished as the rest of the statue because it would have been raised above eye level and difficult to see. Such a technique was a standard practice for many sculptors of the era—less visible parts of statues were often not as well finished since they would typically be invisible to the casual observer. Not knowing this purpose, however, early critics presumed to judge the quality of the work, completely missing the intelligence of the designer.
Critizing design to deny intelligent design in biological forms is great sport among smug and smirking presumers of science, biologist and non-biologist alike. Modern day sniffers and sneerers take great delight in mocking design as “incompetent” design or “unintelligent” design. Referring, as their leaders have, to any supposed designer as “a lowly grease monkey” or “a curiously inept cobbler of species,” no doubt provokes giggles among the sophomores as they elbow one another with “that was a good one!” Unable to comprehend their own impudence, much less their own errors in logic, presumers and pretenders live in a world of self-affirming titters, self-affirmation being the only reliable affirmation of untruths, half-truths, and anything-but-the-truths.
What does all this have to do with the theory of intelligent design? What can the Venus de Milo teach wise people everywhere about design and designers? Drawn from the mythical story, Judgment of Paris, the statue depicts Venus (Greek Aphrodite) holding the Apple of Discord, inscribed with the word Kallisti-“for the fairest one”. The apple had been tossed into a wedding banquet to provoke a squabble among the attendant goddesses by Eris, the uninvited goddess of discord. Three goddesses claimed the apple as their own, so Zeus tasked Paris of Troy, a mere mortal, with judging among the three. Paris awarded Venus the apple, deeming her to be the fairest among her peers. Her stone visage no doubt held the stone apple legitimately, as it was certainly the fairest one—at least at first.
And that is the point: Venus de Milo stands today permanently flawed, but her current condition is not her original condition. From Paris of Troy to Paris, France and from original perfection to time-worn disfigurement, Venus is worse for the wear. But she still inspires those willing to see beauty rather than defect. By criticizing the quality of Venus’ design by focusing on her flaws, one would be committing an error that is grossly obtuse at best, and grossly arrogant at worst. Likewise, to be so pompous as to judge in humans the quality of design by apparent flaws in design smacks of pretentious conceit.
A more humble person might consider more discerning explanations. Perhaps, just as Venus held the Apple of Discord, our human race once held its own apple of discord, and by desiring “fairest one” status perfect design was forever disturbed by this world’s god of discord. At a minimum, on the issue of design flaws, such an explanation permits complete agreement between science and the Bible—something most Darwinists pretend to encourage. Scientific evidence supports continuing discord in all living things, one mutation at a time. With each passing generation an organism’s genetic information can only stay essentially the same or degrade. The notion of increasingly beneficial genetic information occurring naturally over time to, say, grow new arms, is a modern myth. Despite Darwinists’ every effort to show otherwise, the evidence shows that unintelligent, unguided change over time progresses inexorably in one direction: to more and more flaws in a once-good design. Evolution, correctly understood, is therefore a fact and comports perfectly with religion.
We may never know why certain of our features are designed the way they are, but what we do know is that every feature, whether deemed bad design or good, clearly evidences a designer. Such knowledge cannot easily not be known. And, in complete agreement with observed change over time, we can be sure that our current design is not our original design. Ironically, rather than show the shortcomings of the theory of intelligent design, evolutionists who criticize design as being "bad" or "incompetent" inadvertently prove how easy it is to detect intelligent design in the first place, even if it is only to show off with egocentric criticism.
Roddy Bullock, Executive Director of the Intelligent Design Network of Ohio (www.idnetohio.com) is the author of The Cave Painting: A Parable of Science, available from Access Research Network. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on Venus de Milo attributable to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo
For more information on Unintelligent Design and the position of Donald Wise, see Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design
Copyright 2006 Roddy M. Bullock, all rights reserved. Quotes and links permitted with attribution.
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