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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Intelligent Design 

What with Kansas considering adding Intelligent Design® to the curriculum and Michael Behe getting ink/electrons in the New York Times, I just have to weigh in myself.

But first a digression, I've read about half of Behe's book about ID. I would have read it all, but the thrust of each chapter was the same: explain some complex thing inside a body or a cell (the eye, the eukaryotic flagellum (In a previous life I used to do molecular genetic research on flagellar assembly in the bilflagellate alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii), etc), then throw his rhetorical hands in the air and exclaim that it was obviously too complex to ever evolve therefore there must be a Designer. Shorter M. Behe: I'm too dim to grasp this so it couldn't evolve. Oh, and this handwaving in the ID crowd that they're not invoking God, it could be space aliens or some other intelligence, is total bullshit. Let's say Space Aliens came down and kickstarted life on Earth. Where did the Space Aliens come from? Other Space Aliens I assume. Either it's Space Aliens all the way down or else we get to God as the first Designer. A God, by the way, that didn't care enough about humanity to create us Himself.

Our friends in the ID crowd love to point to the eye and say it couldn't evolve because it's too complex; "What good is half an eye?" Based on this criterion, our Designer loves squid more than people. The mammalian eye is built upside down. In order for light to register in our eyes it must travel through the cell body before hitting the pigments that are sensitive to light. The axon of the cell that connects it to the optic nerve travels over the surface of the retina to a spot where they all converge and dive through the retina to get to the brain. The spot where they go through the retina has no photoreceptors and is the famous 'blind spot'. So our eyes suffer from attenuation of the light signal due to the light having to travel through the most of the cell before getting registered and they lack photoreceptors on part of each retina; they are built upside down. Squid eyes are built right side up. The light sensitive pigments are on the surface of the retinal cells and the axons come out of the cell on the underside of the retina. So no attenuation and no blind spot. Based on this observation, I think we need to look for Space Alien Designers that resemble squid more than humans since they took more care designing the squid's eye.

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