Tag Archives: Optimal

Does intelligent design theory require that the designs be perfect?

Structure of DNA
Structure of DNA

From Evolution News.


By the word “intelligent,” ID proponents simply mean to indicate that a structure has features requiring a mind capable of forethought to design the blueprint. Thus, ID proponents test ID by looking for complex and specified information, which is an indicator that some goal-directed process, capable of acting with will, forethought, and intentionality, was involved in designing an object.

We do not test ID by looking for “perfect design” or “undesirable design,” because minds don’t always make things that are “perfect,” and sometimes they make things that are “undesirable” (to other minds, at least). Holding biological systems to some vague standard of “perfect design” where they are refuted by “undesirable design” is the wrong way to test ID. Examples like broken machinery, computer failures, and decaying buildings all show that a structure might be designed by an intelligent agent even if it subsequently breaks or shows flaws. Intelligent design does not necessarily mean “perfect design.” It doesn’t even require optimal design. Rather, “intelligent design” means exactly what it sounds like: design by an intelligent agent.

“Undesirable design” arguments share three general problems, some or all of which can be found in each of Gilmour’s 130 examples. Here are the three main problems:

  1. An object can have imperfections and be undesirable, but still be designed.
  2. Critics’ standards of perfection are often arbitrary.
  3. “Bad design” arguments don’t hold up under their own terms, as the objects often turn out to be well designed when we inspect them more closely.

Problem (1) applies to every single example Gilmour gives. Problems (2) and (3) apply to many, though not all, of his examples. In fact, some of them are legitimate examples of undesirable design. I mean, who likes “easily worn out knees” or hernias — both examples of how our bodies break down? Objectively speaking, those are flaws or imperfections. But as much as you might not like “undesirable design,” they don’t refute ID because ID is a scientific argument that isn’t concerned with the moral value, perfection, or desirable/undesirable quality of a structure. Computers break down but were still intelligently designed. In the same way, the fact that our bodies break down doesn’t mean they weren’t intelligently designed.

If you would like  quick introduction to intelligent design, click here. The best introductory book on the subject is “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” by Dr. Jonathan Wells, and the best complex book is “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design” by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer.

Related posts

How religious faith drives the delusion of Darwinism

Commenter ECM alerted me to Cornelius Hunter’s new blog “Darwin’s God”. Cornelius is a software engineer like me who rose up the ranks of the firm through “sweat equity”, and was able to eventually pursue a PhD in Biophysics from the University of Illinois. I have his first book “Darwin’s God” and I read it. His thesis is basically that theological beliefs about what God would and would not do are the driving force behind evolution.

Evolution and the problem of evil

Here is his latest post about a debate that occured at Westminster Abbey between an atheistic evolutionist and a theistic evolutionist.

Here’s what the theistic evolutionist said:

Alexander is a theist and Jones an atheist. But they both agree that God would not have created what we find in this world. Everything from programmed cell death to the extinction of so many species and the food chain points to a massive economy of death in nature. With this sort of evidence, “What kind of a designer,” asks Alexander, “are you going to end up believing in?

…According to Alexander, this problem of death and evil does not leave much room for a divine creator. Alexander concludes that God did not create the details of the world. He is thus absolved of the world’s many evils. He implemented a framework of sorts, but let unguided processes do the rest.

And here’s what the atheist evolutionist said:

As with Alexander, Jones also finds that biology does not meet with his expectations of divine creation. “The feeblest of designer,” Jones has written, could improve the design of the human eye. This and other examples, says Jones, shows that complex organs are “not the work of some great composer but of an insensible drudge: an instrument, like all others, built by a tinkerer [i.e., the evolutionary process] rather than by a trained engineer.” As with Alexander, Jones’ religious sentiment mandates some sort of evolution to be true.

So let’s think about what causes people to become evolutionists, beyond the normal answers of peer-pressure, career preservation, wanting to be thought of as smart, wanting to rebel against parents, wanting to have sex and drink alcohol, etc. Is it about science? No. It’s about knowing what God would do and observing that the world does not correspond to these ideas of what atheists think God would do.

Remember that post I wrote a while back about Christopher Hitchens’ case against God. None of his arguments against God were based on evidence, but only on his personal preferences. God wouldn’t have done it that way. God should have done it this way. I don’t like this theology. I don’t like that feature of the universe. It’s just a long-running temper tantrum against any kind of authority, regardless of the evidence.

Here’s Dawkins explaining how unobservable aliens must ave evolved, even if Dawkins doesn’t have any evidence:

He doesn’t even need to see the evidence that we evolved. He knows that God wouldn’t have created the life this way, and so the evidence is irrelevant.

Evolution and the problem of sub-optimal design

Another way that assume that evolution is true, other than childhood trauma and the desire to be morally evil, is by assuming that if material forces did not do the creating, then the design must be optimal. Now I am a software engineer, with undergraduate and graduate degrees, a published paper that I presented at the IEEE and a patent in wireless technology. My specialty is architecture. So I will tell you.

There is no such thing as an optimal design.

As part of my graduate course work, I had to study the work done at the Software Engineering Institute at the Carnegie-Mellon University. They have invented an entire methodology for designing software based on analyzing trade-offs between alternative architectural candidates. They use use case scenarios, disaster scenarios, maintenance scenarios and other scenarios in order to evaluate how well each architecture performs.

All of the architectures can satisfy the so-called “functional requirements”. But the architectures differ in their ability to satisfy non-functional requirements, the “-ilities”. These can include performance, maintainability, security, extensibility, testability, simplicity, re-usability. This is the bread and butter that software engineers like me have to deal with every day.

Here’s an excerpt from a related post from Uncommon Descent:

It is simply impossible for one architecture to have all the “ilities” because many conflict. For instance, if I want high “security” I am going to have to give up a good deal of “interoperability”. A large part of architecture is actually deciding what you are going to give up, which incidentally affects how the architecture can change in the future (i.e. usually it cannot “evolve” to conform to different “ilities”). This is all still fairly new, but we are now able to judge architectures in terms of the “ilities” they match and the “ilities” they do not match. A better understanding of the conflicts between certain “ilities” is gradually developing.

When I worked in the embedded space on operating systems like VxWorks, we regularly traded-off memory against speed. It’s the nature of the engineering business. And make no mistake – God is a software engineer. He writes code.


Hunter’s article concludes with this:

Have the theists sold out? Have the theists been duped? Are they afraid to stand up for themselves? Are the atheists taking over? No, no, no, and no. The theists and atheists are united in their religious beliefs about God and how he would interact with the world. They may have their differences, but regarding evolution those differences are irrelevant. Their shared religious convictions mandate evolution. Religion drives science and it matters.

I have an idea. Let’s keep religion out of science and decide how we really got here, no holds barred. Instead of blocking debates and persecuting dissent, let’s actually have a debate about origins, and not rule intelligent causes out before we look at the evidence.

Further study

Atheist responses to scientific arguments for theism are fun to understand. Atheists attribute the beginning of the universe to untestable theories and the fine-tuning to an unobservable multiverse. (And don’t forget their lame responses to galactic, stellar and planetary habitability arguments)