Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dennett on "Intelligent Design"

The esteemed philosopher of evolution Daniel Dennett recently published a substantial and compelling attack on "intelligent design." Like much of Dennett's work, the piece is laden with pithy lines:

Saying, as intelligent design proponents do, "You haven't explained everything yet," is not a competing hypothesis. Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything.
Dennett also, and more valuably, offers up several good counterexamples to I.D. To the childish notion that the majestic complexity of creation betrays its intelligent designer, a.k.a. God, he offers up the human eye, which is indubitably complicated but also deeply flawed:
Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process.
Hear, hear. If you care about fighting the I.D. crowd, go and read the whole thing.