28 June 2005

Sacred back-problems

In a recent L.A. Times article Does God Have Backproblems too?, David Barash points out the inconsistencies of the Intelligent Design "theory" as it's currently put forward:

Current believers in . . . "intelligent design," argue . . . that only a designer could generate such complex, perfect wonders.

But, in fact, the living world is shot through with imperfection. Unless one wants to attribute either incompetence or sheer malevolence to such a designer, this imperfection — the manifold design flaws of life — points incontrovertibly to a natural, rather than a divine, process, one in which living things were not created de novo, but evolved. Consider the human body. Ask yourself, if you were designing the optimum exit for a fetus, would you engineer a route that passes through the narrow confines of the pelvic bones? Add to this the tragic reality that childbirth is not only painful in our species but downright dangerous and sometimes lethal, owing to a baby's head being too large for the mother's birth canal.

This design flaw is all the more dramatic because anyone glancing at a skeleton can see immediately that there is plenty of room for even the most stubbornly large-brained, misoriented fetus to be easily delivered anywhere in that vast, non-bony region below the ribs. (In fact, this is precisely the route obstetricians follow when performing a caesarean section.)

Why would evolution neglect the simple, straightforward solution? Because human beings are four-legged mammals by history. Our ancestors carried their spines parallel to the ground; it was only with our evolved upright posture that the pelvic girdle had to be rotated (and thereby narrowed), making a tight fit out of what for other mammals is nearly always an easy passage.

My feelings on this is the creationists want it both ways. They want to selectively ignore certain scientific facts while clothing their own conclusions in the authority of science. The enterprise is doomed from the outset: either you believe in science or you don't. If you do, you need to argue from observed facts instead of from pre-formed conclusions.

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