I’m reading Why Intelligent Design Fails, a handy collection of grad-level scientific essays, edited around the idea of pointing out the weaknesses of Intelligent Design. It is okay, though it illustrates the difficulty of trying to hit that sweet spot between writing for a lay audience and doing real, complex science.
As I’ve been reading in it, something’s been nibbling at the corners of consciousness about the inherent absurdity of what Dembski and Behe have been trying to do with their concept of Irreducible Complexity (IC) — but I haven’t been able to put it into words until now. So without reference to evolution, God or gods, creationism, or any scientific theory:
The Easter Bunny Did It
The current state of biology is like arriving at the mansion of the Happington-Smythes just after the children in their pretty frocks and jumpers have gathered all the hidden eggs from the grounds, and are gaily comparing their loot in the solarium.
Everyone knows Uncle Grover hid the eggs. (Well, everyone but the children, who remain blissfully cocooned in a fantasy world, as children should.)
How do we know?
This one here, this blue jeweled egg, is from Grover’s own famous cloisonne collection. The eldest and most precocious, Alice, even snuck up to Grover’s suite to check, and sure enough that egg was missing.
One was found in the rose bed, next to an unmistakable print of Grover’s size 12 boot.
Grover himself was heard boasting that he was ‘specially proud of the hiding place he found under the birdbath.
Dowager Matilda pointed out that Grover was known to have arrived an hour before the rest of the family.
Uncle Grover had very kindly tagged along with young Tim, and seemed to know just how to guide him to several hiding places at his level.
One egg had broken as it was hidden — a shard was found near the arbor, and the others in Grover’s waistcoat pocket.
So it’s quite clear, Grover played the role of Easter Bunny this year! Bravo, Uncle Grover!
But here comes Cousin Zane, a notorious bunnyist. It could not have been Grover, he says — stop talking about Grover. It was the Easter Bunny.
For see, here, an egg was found high in this trellis — a lightweight child easily climbed where Grover could not have reached!
And here, an egg was retrieved from the wishing well — Grover could not have dropped it down there without it breaking!
So this is the state of things. Intelligent Design proponents have two separate assertions:
- Evolution is not the agent
- Some supernatural intelligent force is the agent.
However, they treat it as a single assertion, for indeed, if (2) is true, then certainly (1) is true. They seem to believe it sufficient to try to prove (2), without making any effort to prove (1) (by directly disproving evolution).
This is like Cousin Zane, pointing out a couple of eggs that he thinks Grover could not have placed, while ignoring the many eggs for which Grover is manifestly the best explanation.
How many eggs? Thousands. Maybe millions. And every new egg that is found, bears the unmistakable stamp of Grover’s handiwork. And knowing how Grover likes to hide eggs, many thousands more have been found, exactly where predicted.
And what of Zane’s isolated examples? Why, look, there’s a step stool, with a bit of mud on the top step. We would never have thought to look, but not only have we disproved the Easter Bunny must have hidden the egg on the trellis, but we have a whole new understanding of Grover’s hiding strategies, and can now look for more eggs in high places!
For 200 years, the Happington-Smythes have never once been disappointed in any conjecture that involved Grover and the egg hunt. Every inquiry has led to more certainty and greater understanding.
Only Cousin Zane, for some reason, likes to latch onto a momentary gap of knowledge, and claim that it demolishes all the knowledge that came before.