Intelligent Design and Real World Nastiness

by TD 23 Replies latest jw friends

  • TD

    The concept of intelligent design in every form that I’ve run across contains as a basic premise, the benevolence of the "Intelligence" behind the design. Please don’t misunderstand; I'm not faulting proponents of ID for this. Any other ID scenario involving a Supreme Being is frankly too depressing to contemplate. However the task of reconciling the idea of a munificent Designer with the reality of life is is not without a few hurdles.

    This is easier to illustrate with an extreme example that everybody is familiar with: Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other Christian groups not only don’t like the idea of cute little Thompson’s Gazelles getting chased down, torn apart and eaten by hungry Cheetahs, they feel this violates the idea of a loving God at a very basic level.

    In order to explain the fact that this actually does happen, they have combined the Augustinean concept of deviation from original purpose with a very literal reading of Genesis 1:30, declaring that all animals were originally created as vegetarians and that the only reason that predators exist today is because, "Existing features were put to a different use from what was originally purposed." (cf. Awake! 1/8/83 p. 28)

    For JW's, this gets rid of the ugly visual created by predation among higher mammals, true, but it’s ultimately a complete repudiation of the ID argument. One of many problems at work here is that the decomposition chain is an intrinsic part of every cycle in any ecosystem and scavengers and other detrivores are an indispensable part of it. Since eating dead bodies is certainly not vegetarianism, JW's must somehow account for this. If outside intelligence did not design the decomposition chain, than what did? Did it evolve after all?

    Problems with the idea of deviation from original purpose become even more apparent when the "deviation" involves interaction between two or more organisms. For example, if pollination of the carrion flower was not intended to be carried out by the blow-fly, then why does it give off the smell of decaying meat? For that matter, why does the blow-fly associate the small of decaying meat with food in the first place?

    Many proponents of ID are more studied in their approach and avoid such obvious pitfalls in their reasoning. I used this example only to illustrate a "Catch-22" sort of problem, which I believe persists in even the most sophisticated ID argument.

    I think an example of this can be seen in the life-cycle of the protozoan responsible for malaria. Plasmodium falciparum is a very nasty little creature that reproduces both sexually and asexually, the former in mosquitoes and the latter in humans.

    When a female Anopheline mosquito bites an infected victim, it consumes both male and female malarial gametocytes in the victim’s blood. Within the mosquito’s midgut, the male gametocyte undergoes a nuclear division, producing eight flagellated microgametes which fertilize the female macrogamete. The resulting ookinete traverses the mosquito gut wall, forming an oocyst on the outside of the organ. After a few hours, the oocyst ruptures, releasing hundreds of sporozoites into the mosquito body cavity where they migrate to the mosquito salivary gland.

    Infection in humans begins with the bite of the infected mosquito. The sporozoites released from the salivary glands of the mosquito enter the bloodstream and invade liver cells. (Hepatocytes) During the next 14 days these parasites differentiate and undergo asexual multiplication resulting in tens of thousands of merozoites which then burst from the infected hepatocyte, into the blood stream. These merozoites now invade red blood cells (erythrocytes) and undergo an additional round of multiplication producing more merozoites. Some of these go on to invade additional erythrocytes and while others now differentiate into the sexual forms, male and female gametocytes. These gametocytes will be taken up by the next female Anopheline mosquito that bites.

    This is a complicated process involving two distinct synchronous vectors. Until recently, epidemiologists have been unable to fully explain why malaria spreads with such alarming efficiency. But it has recently been discovered that P. falciparum facilitates its spread by actually making its human victims more attractive to mosquitoes.

    Working in Kenya, Jacob Koella, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College London, set up the following experiment. Three tents were arranged in a triangle and connected to a central chamber housing 100 uninfected mosquitoes. In each tent was a person from one of three groups. The first group was infected and carried gametocytes, the transmissible, reproductive stage of the parasite. The second group was infected, but had no gametocytes. The third group was uninfected.

    Air from all three tents was blown into the mosquito chamber and the insects were allowed to fly into the tent of their choosing. Twice as many mosquitoes consistently chose the tent housing the first group –the group where the parasite was ready to jump to its mosquito vector. This story was originally published in the open access journal PLoS Biology and has been picked up in several other journals, including Medical News Today.

    As with the first example involving the JW dislike of predation and their attempts to explain it away, the problem here should be obvious. Exactly what enabled a vicious little parasite to manipulate human body chemistry so as to alter the biting behavior of mosquitoes when it is ready for a new host? For that matter, why do mosquitoes have the desire to bite warm-blooded creatures in the first place? If all this was designed, it's certainly not the product of a nice designer, yet attempts to explain away the malicious "Cleverness" inherent in the process via natural forces amounts to an embracement of evolution with open arms.

  • Satanus

    Initially, when i read the clever transformations that the parasite goes through depending on where it is, it reminded me of the movie 'alien'. Malaria is so elegently designed, so efficient and ingenious in it's actions ... if designed by an intelligent creator, then it is frightening. What is was the designer like? What else has it done? Where is it? Will we ever meet it? 'Course, it could have been some careless, wreckless, experimenting low intelligence drunken creator, who was constantly trying to fix something that had run out of control in a previous stage.


  • TD

    Hi S,

    it reminded me of the movie 'alien'
    I hadn't thought of that......It reminded me of characters in a game my teenager likes called "StarCraft."
  • Panda

    TD I wanted to add to your topic (I admit I read the humorous one first) . When I was a dub I always had a tough time understanding all of the yucky diseases and virus's in the world. I mean it's no wonder we humans dream up stuff like Alien (the movie which I love). The anopheles mosquito and its parasitic relationship to mammals is so incredibly interesting. Look at all the other amazing illness spread by mosquitoes and its no wonder we want to smash the buggers (he heh). We have had several animals contract West Nile virus here in south south Texas. I don't even want to imagine what NewOrleans will look like in the spring BUGS galore. Anyway as to any god or being who would actually design such troublesome illnesses reminds me of all those evil scientists in movies ... how next to destroy the world and how to make it really painful. Like with malaria ... eventually your water (urine) turns black and vital organs become pain dealing buggers. Nice god all you believers...

  • dorayakii

    As a dub, i used to explain away the existence of viruses and diseases, by surmising that they comprised part of the curse of Adam in Genesis 3:17-19

    “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”

    I reasoned that Jehovah created thorns and thistles, (as well as the not mentionned, but implied mosquitoes, flies, viruses, bacteria etc...) at this moment. I explained away all the things that make humans uncomfortable in these verses. Painful pregnancy, teenage acne, bad tastes in your mouth, flies buzzing around faeces, mosquitoes biting people, stinging nettles, annoying itches on your back, all of it due to imperfection, plus a dash of biblical curse thrown in for good measure.

    I was out on a walk with a group of 'brothers' once, and got stung by a stinging nettle. "Oooh" said one 'brother', "Look how Jehovah has provided the 'Dock Leaf ' to help us".... i almost blurted out to him: "Why the bloody hell did *He* create the flippin' nettle in the first bloomin' place? So it can sting up our feet like that? Huh? Huh?"...... but i refrained from comment.

  • Abaddon

    Fab post

    Sickle cell trait is debilitating and life shortening when you get two copies of the gene for it.

    Yet those with single versions of the gene have such an additonal resistance to malaria the risk of getting two copies is less than the risk of not having one copy in areas with endemic malaria.

    This mutation is so advantagous it has persisted; yet ship people WITH the trait to a place where it no longer gives a survival benefit and the appearance of the trait reduces, as if you are somewhere you can't get malaria, having NO copies of the gene is better than the risk of having two.

    Thalassemia is the same, but is a completely different form of red-corpusle mutation that developed iindependantly in other human populations for the same reasons.

    Thus, on top of the problems ID et. al. have with 'real world nastiness', there are the problems of human populations happily going and evolving a partial solution due to mutation when this in itself is severly problematic for ID'ers et. al..

  • Spectrum


    "The concept of intelligent design in every form that I’ve run across contains as a basic premise, the benevolence of the "Intelligence" behind the design. Please don’t misunderstand; I'm not faulting proponents of ID for this. Any other ID scenario involving a Supreme Being is frankly too depressing to contemplate. However the task of reconciling the idea of a munificent Designer with the reality of life is is not without a few hurdles."

    Let me knock down some of those hurdles for you.

    The whole premise of your argument against ID is the human concept of good and bad. I say forget about good and bad and think about what you are expounding again. It makes absolutely no inroads into debunking a Creator regardless of what attributes you might want to force on him.

  • jstalin

    The underlying ID argument is that life is so complex that it necessitates a creator. However, they negate their own argument. The creator, therefore, would be far more complex than life, thus the creator must have a creator too - using their logic.

  • Abaddon


    I think attacking the logical soundness of ID-ers that do advance a benevolent designer as part of their hypothesis is absolutely fine.

    As regards debunking the Creator, you make a logical error. It is not sceintists place to debunk the Creator (although by implication what they do may do so when studying something else entirely).

    It is for theists to 'bunk' the Creator. As the Creator has not been succesfully 'bunked' by theists, the question of debunking does not arrise.

    We all know one cannot prove something that does not exist does not exist, but it's the continual failure of theists (those who insist on Creation myths writen by goat-herds being more accurate than modern sceince especially) to prove something they say exists actually DOES exist that defines this debate, and shall continue to do so.

    By all means, "bunk" god :-)

  • Satanus
    the creator must have been created - using their logic.

    Actually, through a magical trick, they abandon logic and claim that this does not apply to the creator, because he always was, or something like that.


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