Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Clay Pots and Evolution

While checking my e-mail, I ran across a Google-targeted ad for an article pitting evolution against common sense. Lo and behold, I found the "mousetrap" argument from irreducible complexity refashioned, using religious discourse, into an appealing argument about clay pots. (For the old-school fans of intelligent design, there's an allusion to Paley's Watch in there too -- David Hume be damned.)

While the philosophical rigor of this Christian fundamentalist website isn't impressive (for other interesting reading, see "Did God Make Me Gay?" and "God is an Elephant?"), it's worth noting that irreducible mousetraps, apparently, come in many forms.

That which we call a rose...

Comments
I find it interesting that the author chose to use the human eye as an example of something whose dizzying complexity would lead reasonable people to believe that it was the product of intentional design. As amazing as the human eye is, a quick tour through its anatomy shows (at least to my way of thinking) that it could have been better designed to suit its purpose. Watch, mousetrap, eye, is there no better example?
 
What I find most interesting about these analogies is that they admit the extremely small possibility that life was created through a process other than intelligent design. George Smoot's somewhat ridiculous arrow example, if anything, admits that it is possible, though improbable, that life was created through a "fine tuning" mechanism. (After all, within 100 yards is a bit easier than within 50.)

By cooking up analogies, these writers succeed only in conceding precisely what scientists argue: the phenomenon by which life comes about is rare. The process by which complex life comes about is similarly rare. If it wasn't, then we would expect a whole lot more of it in the observable universe.

It is far easier to answer Smoot’s comments on arrows and Pluto with, “So what?” After all, it’s difficult to see how arrows and Pluto inform discussion of an entirely unrelated topic. However, if we grant his analogy the benefit of scientific scrutiny (with the assumption that there is some scientific support for his probability claims), we find that his arrow example talks about the improbable while his conclusion regarding evolution involves the impossible.
 


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