Tag Archives: quote mine

The Argument From Design Is Pretty Bad

You’ve probably come across this one a lot. Variations on the theme of “Everything is really super complex\the universe is obviously custom made for our please\life is designed, it couldn’t have happened by chance ERGO GOD” crop up all the time.

When you think about it, it’s pretty disgusting. It reveals a shallowness of intellect and reasoning that’s staggering.

The evolution of the eye is the most oft-quoted piece of “evidence” for intelligent design. “Look at this thing,” they’ll bluster, spit rolling down their chins. “Look at it! It’s really super complex! How could it possible have happened by chance? It’s perfect! Can you lend me a nickel?”

Ignoring the fact that the eye’s evolution has been pretty well covered by a number of people, the eye is NOT perfect. Not by any means. It is our most important sensory apparatus, far more so than hearing or smell, and yet this apparently God-patented design can be rendered inoperative by simply poking at it a bit too hard.

The eye manages to be one of the most important and most fragile parts of our body at the same time. Get a piece of grit in it and you’ve pretty much lost the rest of your day. Expose it to minimal pressure and it’s gone. A lot of people don’t even have eyes that work properly in the first place; I wear contacts to correct the flaw that God must have deliberately inflicted on me.

How could anyone look at the eye and think it could be designed? How hard would it have been for God to cover it in a thick protective layer instead of leaving it moist and vulnerable to the world? If people are going to appropriate natural evolution as proof for intelligent design, they MUST take into account all the flaws and room for improvement. Except they don’t, of course. The standard response is something like “Everything was perfect until SIN (even though God knew it was going to happen and could have stopped it and therefore we should be absolved of all responsibility but shut up SHUT UP don’t tell anyone) and then everything started to degrade.”

It’s pretty bad.

Worse still are the tactics used to support this “evidence”. Probably the most famous quote mine of all is the one that seems to have Darwin saying “I freely admit that the eye happening by itself seems impossible” (to paraphrase.) This quote is┬álaunched by IDists the world over. However, the full quote doesn’t end there; Darwin goes on to say “oh wait, I was trolling. It’s entirely possible in small steps. See how I talk in detail for a few pages.”

To quote mine in this way, the miner MUST have read it in context and then decided which bit best supported his cause. This tactic goes beyond cunning, sly and underhand – it enters the realm of reprehensible duplicity. It’s really not cricket. And yet this tactic attends creationist arguments constantly; misquotes from Einstein, Hawking and even Dawkins pepper the creationist world.

Sensible people can see this as simply more proof for the shaky foundations of intelligent design, but it’s still pretty annoying.