I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design.
-- Charles Darwin, in an 1860 letter to his friend Asa Gray, a designist
What if you were lied to all your life that a square was a circle? Oh yes, you were told, it's natural to have contrary thoughts, but you must not be deceived by appearances; those things that look like squares are not. They are merely apparent squares. And in reality, you are politely informed, they not only are circles, they must be, because an all encompassing Theory of Circumfusion requires them to be, and you must believe the Theory of Circumfusion. And what if you did? Despite all that was in you; despite what you instinctively and empirically knew, what if you believed? What if?
Imagine that you really bought the lie. You began to see reality not as circles and squares, but as circles and the illusion of squares. And suppose over time you trained yourself, through constant reminder that what you see as squares are not squares, but circles; you actually saw only circles. Now where others see circles and squares you see only circles and imperfect circles. In fact, you find you are somewhat proud of the fact that you seem to be one of the very few people that can understand the Theory of Circumfusion to the extent that you see reality so wonderfully enveloped with circles. You teach with grand authority that your discipline is that of the study of circles that give the appearance of being squares. In fact, your reality becomes so self-evidently true you almost forget that others still see squares.
But you can't forget. Picture your constant chagrin, if not downright irritation, at the constant use among lay people and uninformed (redneck, you say) scientists of the language of squareness. To make matters worse, squareness is always insisted on by the "straight" and "square" crowd, those who speak in vexatious pleonasms such as reference to "straight-edged squares" (as if there are any other kind). They are not squares! you want to shout, they are circles that only have the appearance of squareness! You try your best to be nice, but you find yourself blogging about imbeciles and the mentally ill who adamantly refuse to believe the scientific Theory of Circumfusion and persist in the delusion of the existence of true squareness.
Finally, you hit upon the perfect answer. A brilliant solution! The answer, so stunningly elegant a resolution that you are surprised it has not already been tried: simply remove the term "square" and the concept of squareness from the vocabulary! Simply deem the concept of squareness "inappropriate" and require that no one ever again use the term "square" when speaking, writing, or, you hope, even thinking about reality. Certainly then, you hope, all reality would be seen properly as circles, and the Theory of Circumfusion would finally be free of all the endless parade of pesky detractors.
Sound absurd? It is absurd. But absurdity is the natural destination of wrong ideas pressed against an unyielding reality. And such absurdity represents the pinnacle of thinking darkened by Darwinism, where a reality plain to all stands starkly against an insistent muddle all too plain. The problem for Darwinists lies with the term "design". The term best describes everything we see in nature, but, insist Darwinists, it simply cannot be; The Theory will not allow it. Never mind what your eyes see, never mind what your hands touch, never mind what your ears hear, you must, as atheist co-discoverer of DNA Francis Crick insists biologist do, constantly remind yourself that what you see was not designed but evolved.
On the question of design, Darwinists from Darwin to Dawkins struggle with language developed for reality as we see it, to communicate reality as they wish us to see it. For years, in addition to preaching the gospel of "apparent" design, Richard Dawkins tried a muddled attempt at coining the term designoids to describe the Darwinian requirement of non-designed design. His concept of designoids, like most of his truth claims, not only reeks of tautological nonsense (designoids are things that look designed, and things that look designed are designoids), it sounds dorky. By his definition he is a designoid. So be it, the rest of us will pass on such rubbish demanded by science beholden to an imagined reality. And "apparent" design? Dawkins seems too slight a thinker to realize that deeming design "apparent" is not only linguistically problematic, it is a scientifically useless contradiction in terms. Something is either designed or it is not. And like knowing someone is "apparently pregnant", knowing something is "apparently designed" imparts no useful knowledge.
The latest gift of Darwinian absurdity came in the pages of the gloriously serious-sounding Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research where Columbia University's W.J. Bock surrendered to an Orwellian coward's solution: simply eliminate the troublesome "D" word altogether. Rather than have biologists distracted repeating the mantra, "it is not designed, it is not designed, it is not designed," Bock's solution is to remove even the "concept of design" from all "biological explanations". Design is "inappropriate" in biology, according to Bock, and "should not be used in evolutionary theory." Bock's necessary retreat to absurdity is doubly ineffective, as it does not solve his problem. Because, as he recognized indirectly by admitting that "substitute terms are awkward and not really informative", if you remove the concept of design from biology, there is nothing informative left! All is awkwardness because biology is design. As atheist Richard Dawkins admits, "biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."
Biological things look designed! Remove design and there's nothing left to look at in biology. But importantly (and correctly), according to Bock and others, keep design and there's nothing to talk about in evolutionary theory. This dilemma is exactly what muddled Darwin himself: keep the theory in spite of the empirical evidence, or yield to the evidence and ditch the theory. Unwilling to forsake their chosen theory, and unable to marshal language appropriate to Darwinian surreality, Darwinists have decided to change what they can in vain hopes of altering what they can't. Like little gods attempting to remake nature into their own image, Darwinists believe that by banning the term "design" from explanations in biology, design itself will not need explaining.
Good luck. But here's a workable compromise: drop the term "design" in evolutionary theory where it makes no sense and keep it in biology where it makes perfect sense. The two really have little need for each other. Biology can continue to operate (as it does, truth be told) in terms of design, and because there is no English word for "apparently-designed-yet-actually-unintelligently-caused" with respect to observed objects, evolutionary theory can adopt a more proper substitute term: adesign. Adesign is quite simply the absence of design. Adesign leads to adesignism, which, like its linguistic counterparts atheism and agnosticism, is a belief system defined by what it denies. By creating a clear contrast between design and adesign, the new terminology precisely captures the heart of the origins inquiry: nature exhibits either some design which is true design requiring intelligence, or all adesign which is simply an occurrence requiring no intelligence. There is no other logical choice.
Darwinists will resist the term adesign, because ironically it is too perfect of a description, and will drive the kind of clarity they resist to continue hiding behind an obfuscation of pseudo-science and religious motivation. Bock himself, for example, laments about design that, "the term carries with it too many undesirable connotations, such as the existence of a creator, and should not be used in evolutionary theory." Undesirable connotations? Perhaps, just as to one who believed a lie that he could fly might find gravity burdened with too many undesirable connotations. But with the new terms of debate, science controls: a designist is one who believes the design evident in nature is exactly that--true design. An adesignist is one who holds that what others see as design in nature is not design of any kind; it is simply an unlikely occurrence of unintelligent natural processes. Game on! Let the science begin.
And for those like Bock who apparently have religious motivations for their views, the new terminology of adesign has the added benefit of ferreting out the hidden religious component of the debate, and forcing clarity at a scientific level. A designist need not be a theist, but he or she may be a theist without inconsistency. Likewise, an adesignist is not required to be an atheist, but he or she may be an atheist without inconsistency. Further, the new terminology will drive logical precision directly at the point of greatest confusion, the supposed conflict between religion and science. A religious designist who claims to be a scientific adesignist (e.g., a theistic evolutionist) would seem to be taking a contradictory position, and should be required to explain. Likewise, a scientific adesignist who claims to be a religious designist (e.g., a Darwinist claiming to believe in a creative God) must explain this position clearly, because such a position is contradictory on its face.
Bock concludes his paper by saying: "Actually the living world as we see it is the result of chance because all of the attributes of these organisms evolved and the process of evolution is stochastic. To paraphrase a well-known statement by Einstein, God apparently does play with dice." Aside from the blatantly sophomoric tautology posing as a scientific explanation here ("the living world is the result of chance because all the attributes evolved by chance"), one must wonder--why do Darwinists care about God, much less his dice?
Adesignists, including Darwinists who believe in God and theistic evolutionists (there is no practical difference) risk embarrassing themselves talking about God for one reason: to keep the confusion alive regarding the Darwin-busting fact of design in nature. Confusion is the ally of a wrong worldview, and those who deny design in biology, particularly for fear of the "connotations" of a designer, must rely on silly thoughts about God and dice as they spin their worldview in a whirlwind of illogic and ever-growing deception.
Tell me, Darwinist: Are you intelligently designed?
Roddy Bullock is a freelance writer and the Executive Director of the Intelligent Design Network of Ohio and is the author of The Cave Painting: A Parable of Science, published by and available from Access Research Network.
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Copyright (c) 2009 Roddy M. Bullock, all rights reserved. Quotes and links permitted with attribution.
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W.J. Bock, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, Design-an inappropriate concept in evolutionary theory,
Relevant quote: "The concept of design is inappropriate in biology and should be eliminated from all biological explanations."
Richard Dawkins quote about appearance of design: Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), p. 1.
Richard Dawkins quote about redneck creationism: Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), p. 251.
Richard Dawkins' concept of designoids: Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996). For a full critique, see The Cave Painting, A Parable of Science, End Note 10.
For more on the term "adesign" see: Roddy M. Bullock, Proposing a New Lexicon for Understanding in the Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate, at http://www.ohiointelligentdesign.com/lexicon.html
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