Complexity Does Not Equal Intelligence

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist, but I did once stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

Intelligent Design (ID) or as I prefer to call it, Incompetent Design, advocates have stated that the universe, the Earth, and the human body are so complex they couldn’t possibly have “just happened” or evolved. The Irreducible Complexity argument fails to take into account a very elementary concept: fewer moving parts mean fewer points of failure.

It’s representative of a very basic and fundamental flaw in reasoning that a person could look at the human body and think it’s been designed by some being of incredible intelligence outside of space and time as we know it. Had the human body been designed (by a being more intelligent than a high-schooler), we should expect to see the fewest possible parts serving the maximum possible purpose. We should not expect to see vestigial or redundant organs and bone structures or organs that are inferior to other examples in nature that serve the same purpose.

When you then attribute this work to a god who is said to be perfect and all-knowing then you have huge hurdles to overcome. If this god knows everything and doesn’t make mistakes, then why does it appear that the human body has undergone major overhauls and gone “back to the drawing board” several times? The design of the human body certainly doesn’t indicate any kind of special creation over any other animals on the planet as we have much the same structures and mechanisms that every other living being has except some of ours don’t work as well. We’re susceptible to all sorts of diseases and conditions that make our bodies frail and lead to devastating failure. This isn’t the mark of an expert craftsman.

This is a ridiculous argument for IDers to make and I don’t know why they continue to do it. I’m talking to you, Demski and Craig. Quit it!

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25 comments

  1. Two things you need to consider.
    1. Some organs that were once thought to be vestigial are now known to have valuable functions.
    2. If God exists and the bible is true, then sin has affected our bodies.

  2. @musterion99 – Which vestigial organs are now known to have “valuable” functions?

    What would be the mechanism behind sin affecting our bodies? I can’t make any sense out of that at all, no matter how hard I try. If the Bible is true then the only thing affected by the fall was the human mind (it was opened up to the concepts of good and evil). Nowhere does the Bible say that human anatomy was altered in any way whatsoever.

  3. @CoderHead – Which vestigial organs are now known to have “valuable” functions?

    Here’s an article you can read.    LINK

    What would be the mechanism behind sin affecting our bodies?

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean. The mechanism would be God’s judgment.

    I can’t make any sense out of that at all, no
    matter how hard I try. If the Bible is true then the only thing
    affected by the fall was the human

    mind

    (it was opened up to the
    concepts of good and evil). Nowhere does the Bible say that human
    anatomy was altered in any way whatsoever
    .

    It doesn’t? Death is a result of sin. Before Adam sinned, there was no death.

  4. @musterion99 – If you’re going to use AnswersInGenesis then I’ll counter with TalkOrigins. While I understand the points your link makes there’s too much rhetoric, straw man argumentation (the smaller human jaw being vestigial) and appeal to misplaced authority (namely Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer and professor). Obviously there’s a discrepancy in how different people are using the term “vestigial” but you can’t deny that (at the very least) the appendix doesn’t serve the vital function it once did, or the function that it currently serves in other species. And you can’t argue that removal of the appendix makes no difference whatsoever to the digestive tract, like lopping your thumb off would affect your hand. The appendix is only one example of vestigiality that still stands.

    Who says that there was no death before Adam sinned? After the fall god said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” It is nonsense to say that Adam was already supposed to live forever but god was afraid that Adam would eat the fruit and live forever. Why would god be afraid that Adam would live forever if he was already going to anyway? The two original humans had to have an expiration date or else the Tree of Life would have no purpose for existing at all.

  5. @CoderHead –

      you can’t deny that (at the very least) the appendix doesn’t serve the vital function it once did
    LINK

    Who says that there was no death before Adam sinned? After the fall god said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
    You just answered your own question. It was AFTER the fall that God said that. Before the fall, Adam was allowed to eat from every tree (except one) including the tree of life. 

    Why would god be afraid that Adam would live forever if he was already going to anyway?
    Again, you’re mistaken. This was AFTER the fall.
     The two original humans had to have an expiration date or else the Tree of Life would have no purpose for existing at all.
    No, that’s just your interpretation. It could be that just as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was symbolic, the fruit didn’t literally contain knowledge of good and evil but symbolized what would literally happen, so was the tree of life. It was a symbol to Adam that he had eternal life, not BECAUSE the tree literally kept him alive, but was a constant reminder of the gift of life God had given him. And even if what you said was the case, it doesn’t change the fact that there was no death UNTIL they disobeyed God. If the tree of life kept them alive, the fact would still be that BECAUSE of sin, they were no longer allowed to eat from it which then WOULD have been the cause of physical death. Either way, sin is the cause of physical death. In Romans it says that the WAGES of sin is death. And God told Adam that in the day he ate of the fruit , he would surely die. Now there are some ignorant atheists that try to pretend they are bible scholars and will say that God was wrong because Adam didn’t die on the day he ate the fruit. The Hebrew word for die means the PROCESS of dying, which did start for Adam on that day. Just like right now, you and I are in the process of dying. It also has the meaning of spiritual death as far as Adam’s sin affecting his relationship with God, which did happen on that day. 

  6. @musterion99 – The “rebooting” of the digestive system seems speculative from the wording in that link. If the appendix served a vital role then people who have had their appendix removed would not have the ability to recover from cholera and/or dysentery. This isn’t the case and, in fact, people who have their appendix removed suffer no ill effects from its removal at all. Let’s not forget that a ruptured appendix (a frequent occurrence) will kill you.

    I think we’ve gotten off track here though. The proposition I’ve made is that complexity does not equal intelligence, meaning that a design by an ultimate intelligence would be simpler so as to be less prone to failure. Do you have any disagreement with that, specifically?

    As much as I’d love to talk about the Tree of Life more, I really hate going off on tangents that are unrelated to my original post.

  7. @CoderHead – 

     If the appendix served a vital role then people who have had their appendix removed would not have the ability to recover from cholera and/or dysentery.

    That’s not true. It’s one part of the digestive system. There are other parts in our body that also aid in digestion.


    This isn’t the case and, in fact, people who have their appendix removed suffer no ill effects from its removal at all.
    That proves nothing. We can have other things removed like our tonsils and suffer no ill effects, but the tonsils have a function in our body.

     The proposition I’ve made is that complexity does not equal intelligence, meaning that a design by an ultimate intelligence would be simpler so as to be less prone to failure. Do you have any disagreement with that, specifically?
    I believe if the bible is true, then God’s original design before Adam sinned was not prone to failure.

  8. @musterion99 – That’s what I’m trying to figure out though. What was god’s original design supposed to be and how did it differ from the current design? Did he create humans as they are now or did sin somehow alter their physiology and change them into what we are now with all of the defects and complexity?

  9. @CoderHead – I don’t think we can really know what God’s original design was since we weren’t there. We can only gleam parts of what the bible describes in Genesis before the fall. I think that if the account is true, then there were changes in our design. All our organs start to deteriorate from the moment of birth towards death whereas before the fall, that wouldn’t have been the case.

  10. @musterion99 – What parts of the account in Genesis, specifically, lead you to believe that Adam and Eve were designed differently than you and me? And let’s keep in mind that humans aren’t the only beings on the planet suffering from Incompetent Design, so maybe you can shed light on that while you’re at it. Animals didn’t sin.

  11. @CoderHead –  I believe they were designed differently
    because their bodies would have never died. So maybe the design is the
    same except that sin has effected and corrupted the design so that it no
    longer is free from disease and destructive mutations. The bible says that ALL of creation is affected by sin. I believe in the garden before Adam sinned that all the animals got along. A lion wouldn’t have killed another animal. Why are animals affected also? I can’t say for sure. Maybe to show Adam how serious his rebellion was. That now even animals would kill other animals and also die themselves. Adam now had to live in a world judged by sin until God creates a new earth where there won’t be any death.

  12. @CoderHead – I can understand you thinking that way from an atheist worldview. As a Christian, I accept that if God exists and had the power and wisdom to create the universe and all the complexity in it, then he is FAR superior in knowledge and wisdom than me and it makes no sense whatsoever for me to think I know more than him. And as a Christian, I believe that I deserve hell because of my sin but God loved me so much that he was crucified for my sins so I won’t go to hell. That IS love! So it’s a matter of perspective when judging whether God is loving or not.

  13. @musterion99 – That’s fine. I see the complexity in the universe and think if it were designed then the designer must not even be as smart as me. I can think of several ways to have made it better, more habitable, and more efficient. We obviously won’t agree. As for deserving hell just for being human…meh, forget it.

  14. Just some thoughts…

    About
    your title your title…

    Having some theories about how the design came about does not
    eliminate an intelligent origin either.

    “The Irreducible Complexity argument fails to take into account a very
    elementary concept: fewer moving parts mean fewer points of failure.”

    Isn’t the ID crowd making points
    that highlight the fact that even the simplest and earliest forms of life have
    unbelievably vast amounts of information within them? Whenever one of these
    information functions fail, it dooms the thing as a whole?

    “Had
    the human body been designed (by a being more intelligent than a
    high-schooler), we should expect to see the fewest possible parts serving the maximum
    possible purpose. We should not expect to see vestigial or redundant organs and
    bone structures or organs that are inferior to other examples in nature that
    serve the same purpose.”

    Does this idea take into account
    or refute any specific theological view? What theological principal demand that
    humans be created biologically in such a specific way
    ?

    “The
    design of the human body certainly doesn’t indicate any kind of special
    creation over any other animals on the planet as we have much the same
    structures and mechanisms that every other living being has except some of ours
    don’t work as well.”

    I know for a fact that the ID
    movement does not make arguments that the human body is biologically different
    in some special creation way than any other life form. Most arguments highlight
    morality, intellect, virtue type stuff, not our cells are better than other
    life form cells ideas.

    One final thought… One day Im
    sure that life will be created in the lab. But when it happens, the one point
    that will be missed is that it didn’t happen naturally. It took hundreds of the
    world’s most intelligent men building upon the work of other intelligent men to
    finally produce life.

    I look forward to that day so i
    can enjoy the vast stories that will be put forth on how it happened
    naturally… Or as I like to call them, science creation myths.

  15. @CoderHead – Hello,

    I was wondering what your thoughts might be on this premise…

    You wrote to @musterion99 – “That’s fine. I see the complexity in the universe and think if it were designed then the designer must not even be as smart as me. I can think of several ways to have made it better, more habitable, and more efficient.”

    In making that statement im sure you have some idea why you would make it that way. You have some presuppositions on how the universe should work from your point of view. What if… God had a different purpose altogether than you and specifically designed it the way it is for a reason?  I mean in reality anybody can claim they could do it better then God and I could claim I could do it better then you and so on… At this point doesn’t the idea of “better” become pointless* and the idea of purpose come in to play?

    *Unless you want to argue that your ideas are morally superior to mine and then we will need to have an objective morality to point to outside of our subjective selves to compare them to. Enter the moral law giver argument.

    Grace and peace!

    ~Michael

  16. @QuantumStorm – Gross but interesting.  For a second I thought it was going to be the “the giraffe’s neck couldn’t have evolved” argument.

    @MC_Shann –

    Does this idea take into account

    “eliminate an intelligent origin either.

    I think that life was intelligently designed, just not by a conscious, benevolent intelligence of the sort we would want or have in ourselves.

    Isn’t the ID crowd making points
    that highlight the fact that even the simplest and earliest forms of life have
    unbelievably vast amounts of information within them? Whenever one of these
    information functions fail, it dooms the thing as a whole?”

    The “simplest and earliest forms of life” were too fragile to survive fossilization and we don’t know what they looked like.  The simplest forms of life around today are very modern and the result of billions of years of evolution.  When creationists claim that modern cells are what life started out as they are lying, just as they are lying when they claim animal life began in the cambrian period when it just marks the emergence of animals with hard bones that fossilize.  They also claim that languages must have been created by god because the “earliest” languages are complex and have syntax etc – ignoring that just like fossils of animals and single-celled life, the oldest written languages would have been unrecorded for a long time before writing was invented and would have been spoken languages first.  Just as earlier, simpler cells would not have the complex, robust cell membranes that allow them to fossilize and the earliest animals would not have calcified bones that can survive millions of years.

    “or refute any specific theological view? What theological principal demand that
    humans be created biologically in such a specific way
    ?”

    Evolution only conflicts with a literal reading of genesis.  But so does nearly everything else we know about the world.

    “I know for a fact that the ID
    movement does not make arguments that the human body is biologically different
    in some special creation way than any other life form. Most arguments highlight
    morality, intellect, virtue type stuff, not our cells are better than other
    life form cells ideas.”

    ID creationists are all about special creation.  They argue against evolution and reject common ancestry because they find the idea that we are “animals” repulsive.

    “One final thought… One day Im
    sure that life will be created in the lab. But when it happens, the one point
    that will be missed is that it didn’t happen naturally. It took hundreds of the
    world’s most intelligent men building upon the work of other intelligent men to
    finally produce life.”

    It took decades to figure out how to produce the first two bases of RNA.  When they finally figured out how to do it know what it required?  Fragments of each chemical (which occur in nature) to be evaporated in water (producing one base), then exposed to sunlight (producing the other).

    It didn’t take decades to work this out because it required intelligence, it took decades to work this seemingly obvious mechanism out because the sheer volume of possible ways to mix the elements involved, the pressure and temperature ranges, the amperage of electricity you could expose them to etc is mind bogglingly complex.  There are, in other words, about a billion different ways to try to make these chemicals.  But nature, which is not intelligent, spontaneously tries all of them every day.

    In this way it is much simpler for nature to do many things than it is for us to, nature has a much bigger kitchen and doesn’t have to understand how it does anything or observe any of it.

    “I look forward to that day so i
    can enjoy the vast stories that will be put forth on how it happened
    naturally… Or as I like to call them, science creation myths.”

    Here is an interesting video on one model of abiogenesis.  And science is based on experimental support and demonstrations, there’s no need to falsely equate it with blind faith.

  17. @MC_Shann –

    “What if… God had a
    different purpose altogether than you and specifically designed it the
    way it is for a reason?  I mean in reality anybody can claim they could
    do it better then God and I could claim I could do it better then you
    and so on… At this point doesn’t the idea of “better” become
    pointless* and the idea of purpose come in to play?”

    This is a rationalization.  The difference between reason and rationalization is that a rationalization is an attempt to make something seem rational which you already believe for other reasons.  If for instance I had an abusive parent, if for whatever reason I wanted to believe they were a good parent, I could justify their behavior (say extreme abuse) the same way – maybe they just had a good reason I’m not smart enough to understand.

    The problem is that this is circular reasoning – you’re saying there is a god because the god is smarter than us so we shouldn’t question his existence.

    It’s like if I believed that the CIA faked the moon landings – I could, if I were so inclined, rationalize away any evidence that the landings were legitimate by saying that the CIA is good enough to fake x evidence.  But this would be a rationalization just as your argument is a rationalization, it involves making an unsupported assertion in order to justify another unsupported assertion.  I am now not just claiming that they faked the moon landing, but also claiming that they faked new evidence of the moon landing having happened.  So too the claim that there is an intelligent god that created the universe is what is being called into question here, you cannot reasonably assert that there is a god and that he is intelligent as though it proves that there is a god and he is intelligent.  You’re saying “it’s so because it’s so”.

    “*Unless you
    want to argue that your ideas are morally superior to mine and then we
    will need to have an objective morality to point to outside of our
    subjective selves to compare them to. Enter the moral law giver
    argument.”

    That is one concept of morality and it is very flawed.  It is also a concept of morality you do not subscribe to, as evidenced by the fact that I can point out atrocity after atrocity demanded and condoned in the bible and you will not do or support any of them.  Fundamentalists don’t really believe in an un-questionable moral authority, they just fall back on that to justify their position and ignore scripture as much as any atheist when it goes against the dictates of their conscience.

  18. @agnophilo – This
    is a rationalization…

    I totally
    disagree. All I did was point out that his argument was based off what he
    thinks the argument should be. As I have seen so many time in these types of
    post there are never any references to the works and writings he is disagreeing
    with.
     

    You’re
    saying “it’s so because it’s so…

    Not true  again. It’s saying “here is a rational reason
    why it could be so.” It’s your side
    that eliminates anything that is not materialistic or naturalistic.

    It
    is also a concept of morality you do not subscribe to, as evidenced by the fact
    that I can point out atrocity after atrocity demanded and condoned

    I absolutely
    subscribe to it. This is where your limited understanding of Theology hurts
    you. Your knowledge of various understandings of Christian thought derives from
    your experience of some people in your own life and those here on Xanga. You
    have clearly never done any of the hard work of examining ideas like the
    covenants, the Reformed view of compatibilism, concurrence, supralapsarianism
    vs. Infralapsarianism or Soteriology. Again and again you fall back to your
    understanding of doctrine that you learn from the bright minds of Xanga. Want
    to do us all a big favor and really have a grasp on this stuff (I mean this in
    a most sincere way). Go read the Westminster confession of faith (specifically
    chapter 3) and then read some of the vast writings offered on the idea of
    primary and secondary causes.
     I have on many
    occasions attempted to put forth ideas that you have never even heard of before
    only to be met with denial. Remember our conversation about hermeneutics and
    harmonization? Remember your not allowing any other definition for the idea of “natural”
    when talking about teleology and homosexuality? There are a lot of great
    arguments out there but you never even try to engage them because you need us
    to fit in to the specific model you and your type have created. That’s when
    these dialogues become so pointless. I offer my objections then you reply that  “I never answered anything you wrote.” Then I
    retype to try to help you see that I did, then you begin the name calling and
    start saying things like “All you ever say is you have no soteriology!”   
     

    “But nature, which is not
    intelligent, spontaneously tries all of them every day….”

    Have
    you seen the new show on the science channel called Through the Wormhole? They
    just did one show on the origins of life and I thought it was well done. They
    didn’t skirt any of the issues and didn’t pretend that the tree’s they were
    currently barking up were facts. They specifically talked about the RNA
    creation and many other discoveries but while fascinating in themselves, didn’t
    bring them any closer to understanding “how” it all began. I do have one
    question for you… Now that they know how to create this RNA have they gone out
    to see if they can observe it occurring naturally someplace in the world?(Honest
    question, not trying to trap you.)  

    As
    for the video, I have never seen a more perfect example of the straw man
    argument. It puts forth example after example of arguments it says the ID crowd
    is making but does not once name a person or give a citation of any published
    work. Bravo!

    ID
    creationists are all about special creation. They argue against evolution and
    reject common ancestry because they find the idea that we are
    “animals” repulsive…

    This is once again mere assertion.
    Im a creationist and I observe everyday how humans are even worse than animals.
    I must insist… The idea that ID guys hold that were biologically created
    superior or other like notions is a straw man. Blind faith you say? How about a
    practice in being blind to what the enemy is really saying…

  19. I totally
    disagree. All I did was point out that his argument was based off what he
    thinks the argument should be. As I have seen so many time in these types of
    post there are never any references to the works and writings he is disagreeing
    with.

    How is “maybe there is an intelligent designer but we’re just not smart enough to understand why your objection is wrong” not a rationalization?  Can’t we do that with anything?  Maybe god jerked off in heaven to the holocaust but we’re just not cool enough to know why it was okay that he did.

    The point is that you’re trying to justify a prior belief, not expressing your actual reasons for holding that belief.  And that your views are based on circular reasoning, ie god exists because god is so wise your evidence is invalid somehow.

    “Not true  again. It’s saying “here is a rational reason
    why it could be so.” It’s your side
    that eliminates anything that is not materialistic or naturalistic.”

    No, you were speculating that there could hypothetically be a rational reason why it is so in order to justify ignoring his non-hypothetical argument.  You are in other words using the vague and hypothetical to ignore concrete, observable facts.  And “my side” does no such thing, those ideas are just not defined or specific and thus cannot be evaluated for accuracy.  It’s like trying to prove an all powerful genie did or didn’t make the universe.  No evidence can possibly be brought to bear for or against that claim because if there were an all-powerful genie it could make the universe any which way it wants.  And if you add the claim that the genie is perfect and loves us and I point out that people get cancer which is both imperfect and harms us and that the genie as described would not create the universe in such a way, genie devotees can simply say “the genie works in mysterious ways” or believe (with no logic) that cancer is better than no cancer somehow that we’re too dense to understand.

    They can create a whole slew of rationalizations in support of a proposition which has no rational basis, ie that a genie who loves us and is perfect created the universe.

    I absolutely
    subscribe to it. This is where your limited understanding of Theology hurts
    you. Your knowledge of various understandings of Christian thought derives from
    your experience of some people in your own life and those here on Xanga. You
    have clearly never done any of the hard work of examining ideas like the
    covenants, the Reformed view of compatibilism, concurrence, supralapsarianism
    vs. Infralapsarianism or Soteriology. Again and again you fall back to your
    understanding of doctrine that you learn from the bright minds of Xanga. Want
    to do us all a big favor and really have a grasp on this stuff (I mean this in
    a most sincere way). Go read the Westminster confession of faith (specifically
    chapter 3) and then read some of the vast writings offered on the idea of
    primary and secondary causes.
     I have on many
    occasions attempted to put forth ideas that you have never even heard of before
    only to be met with denial.”

    Disagreement and denial are two different things.  And I’m well aware of the myriad of rationalizations and justifications people give for ignoring scripture when it suits them.  But the texts say what they say no matter how much you wish they didn’t.  And you don’t follow them however much you might pretend you do.

    “Remember our conversation about hermeneutics and
    harmonization? Remember your not allowing any other definition for the idea of “natural”
    when talking about teleology and homosexuality?”

    No actually I just pointed out the flaws in your argument and pointed out that definitions are just markers for concepts and was trying to explain a position using one definition of the term.  But way to say “I know you are but what am I”.

    “There are a lot of great
    arguments out there but you never even try to engage them because you need us
    to fit in to the specific model you and your type have created.”

    Christians selectively ignore scripture.  That is not a “model” I have created.  The text says A, you do B.

    “That’s when
    these dialogues become so pointless. I offer my objections then you reply that  “I never answered anything you wrote.” Then I
    retype to try to help you see that I did, then you begin the name calling and
    start saying things like “All you ever say is you have no soteriology!”   

    I’m not going to re-hash some argument I had with you months ago that I barely remember and you’re just using to dodge the matter at hand.

    “Have
    you seen the new show on the science channel called Through the Wormhole? They
    just did one show on the origins of life and I thought it was well done. They
    didn’t skirt any of the issues and didn’t pretend that the tree’s they were
    currently barking up were facts. They specifically talked about the RNA
    creation and many other discoveries but while fascinating in themselves, didn’t
    bring them any closer to understanding “how” it all began. I do have one
    question for you… Now that they know how to create this RNA have they gone out
    to see if they can observe it occurring naturally someplace in the world?(Honest
    question, not trying to trap you.)”

    They created the bases for RNA and they did so by mixing elements which would’ve been abundant in the early earth and showed that they spontaneously form – are you saying that sunlight and evaporation don’t exist in nature?  You know the earth is 2/3 ocean, right?  The planet has undergone major changes since the crust
    first hardened, it was I think around 2 billion years before the
    atmosphere even became oxygen-rich.
       If those elements are found in nature they by definition spontaneously do the same exact thing when they evaporate or are exposed to sunlight.  What you are asking is like objecting to an experiment involving gravity by asking if they went out into a field to see if gravity works the same way there too.

    “As
    for the video, I have never seen a more perfect example of the straw man
    argument. It puts forth example after example of arguments it says the ID crowd
    is making but does not once name a person or give a citation of any published
    work. Bravo!”

    Every single one of those claims is extremely common in ID/creationism materials and it even cites sources (eg Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed) for some of them.  Don’t be dishonest.  If you want to play dumb look each one up in the talkorigins index of creationist claims, they cite sources for the claim and the response.

    This is once again mere assertion.
    Im a creationist and I observe everyday how humans are even worse than animals.
    I must insist… The idea that ID guys hold that were biologically created
    superior or other like notions is a straw man. Blind faith you say? How about a
    practice in being blind to what the enemy is really saying…”

    You are not my enemy, you are just annoying.  The sentiment I mentioned is very common from creationists and ID proponents.  The leading ID organization in the US, the Discovery Institute maintains that more or less all social good comes from the belief that we are especially created by god and that more or less all atrocities (ie abortion, the holocaust etc) are caused by accepting the thinking of darwin, freud etc which makes us out to be “animals”.  You can say that you do not think that, but it is a lie to say that it’s not a common sentiment in the movement.

    And either way you seem to be just running interference rather than actually connecting with my points, so this is probably a waste of time.

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