Marxist video game reviews


Unintelligent design

Here’s a terrific way to respond to the unscientific idiocy that is “intelligent design”. If I.D. presumes that life is so complex that it could only be designed by an intelligent being, then let’s examine life as if it were designed. At which point the question becomes: Was it well designed? What quality is the engineering of this unnamed, omnipotent creator?

Rather slipshod, as Jim Holt discovers when he conducted this thought experiment in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine. Holt points out that in mammals, the recurrent laryngeal nerve doesn’t go directly from the cranium to the larynx, “the way any competent engineer would have arranged it.” Instead, it circles around the neck and chest, which means a giraffe has a 20-foot-long laryngeal nerve when it would only need 1 foot. “If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety,” Holt notes. What’s more, 99 per cent of all species that have ever existed have died out — which again makes no sense for a “created” world. Both these effects are, however, easily explainable by evolutionary theory — which posits that species produce a constant stream of random mutations, the vast majority of which simply don’t work out, and some weird-looking variations (such as that laryngal nerve) that persist so long as the overall organism is fit to survive.

Here’s the best part:

The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. [snip]

Why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception. Souls bearing the stain of original sin, we are told, do not merit salvation. That is why, according to traditional theology, unbaptized babies have to languish in limbo for all eternity. Owing to faulty reproductive design, it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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