Friday, July 09, 2004

The Tyranny of Design

Harry Gee points out that even scientists are prone to the kind of fallacies that leave openings for Intelligent-Design proponents. It's the diversity of design present in the natural world that points toward an evolutionary source of that design.

Cohen argues that the fallacy in the Intelligent-Design argument about the flagellar motor (or any other system), is that proponents present the motor we see as The Motor, the exemplar, the only one possible, and, what's more the best possible, surely optimized by a Designing Hand. But when Cohen searched the literature, he found that a wide variety of flagellar motors have been described, each arranged in its own way, each its own solution to effective rotary motion in the microworld. There is no such thing as The Motor, no Platonic perfection enforced on bacteria by Divine fiat. Instead we see ad hoc solutions that are not perfect, but idiosyncratic and eclectic – just what you would expect if evolution were working on its own, without a Designer.

In scientific zeal to classify things and make learning easier, the awareness of diversity is suppressed. Science must be more up-front that the classifications are more fuzzy in real life than they are in textbooks.

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