Chapter 5 Intelligent Design, a perspective from an Intelligent Designer
Not sure where to put this in the narrative, but here it is.
Professionally, I am a test engineer. What does that mean? I design and program automated test systems. To one of the automated test systems, I am the Intelligent Designer. I have read the arguments in favor and against intelligent design, but I have not really read a good engineer’s perspective on Intelligent Design and Creationism. I have been an engineer for almost two decades, and have designed dozens of test systems. I drew the schematics, written the software, built the systems, qualified the systems, and maintained the systems. These systems have tested, and continue to test, millions of parts per year. I am god to these test systems. I am the Creator. I know good engineering practices and I have seen poor engineering practices. I am also have a lifelong interest in biology, and was tempted to pursue a career in biology. In the end, engineering is a lot more practical, so I went that route. As another aside, I am also a novice watchmaker as well. Why does this aside matter? The analogy for the watch found in a field as an example of finding design in nature is a common one. I will begin with the watch analogy, then move on to systems that I have personally designed and compare them to evolved organisms.
A justification of “Intelligent Design” is that when looking at organisms, the signs of an creator is obvious, like finding a watch in a field and the fact it was intelligently designed. Well, this falls apart on many counts.
A watch is what as known as a monolithic design. That is, each of the components of a watch are made of a single material and serve a single purpose. For a mechanical watch, most of the moving components are made of brass or nickel. Multicellular organisms are, by definition, composed of many cells. Each cell is, in a way, a single celled organism and is able to live, for a short time, as an independent organism. Stem cells resemble single celled organisms. A stem cell can then develop into a specialized cell. A watch part, say a balance wheel, is made of atoms of an alloy of iron, nickel, and other metals. It is not made of tiny little balance wheels. This is true of all the parts of a watch. The watch dial is not made of tiny little watch dials. The parts are also not interchangeable. They serve one function, and that is it. Why are multicellular organisms this way? Evolution is simple, easy to understand explanation. The first life on earth was a simple blob surrounded with a Phospholipid cell membrane containing some free floating RNA, that can self replicate. With evolution, once a workable solution is found, keeps what works and just adds on or improves on the basic design. In this case, single cells work. Just take that cell and form a colony. Not a true multicellular organism, but it not a great leap from a colony to a multicellular organism, with specialized cells. The slime mold is the link between single celled and multicellular organisms. We retain the heritage of evolving from single celled organisms, colonies, slime mold like organisms, and everything between. But, we need to get back to that watch.
A watch, as an intelligently designed machine, does not retain it’s simple heritage. Take an LCD, digital watch. The only features it retains with traditional mechanical watches is the overall shape and function. It does not contain gears, springs, or even the dial or hands of the watches of 40 years ago. It was designed, from a blank page. Evolution does not do this. Evolution adapts existing structures. A watchmaker does not have to use existing designs. An intelligent designer for living things would not need to slavishly adhere to this. Why would you retain all the features of a fish in a creature that is created in the image of a god? Why would an engineer that can create life from scratch not make us any different from the other great apes? It wouldn’t. If you want a god like creature, don’t make it a great ape. To drive deeper, if you are human, you are also an Eukaryotic, Animal, Chordate, Vertebrate, Mammal, Primate, Haplorhini (apes). Other than sounding fancy, what do all of these terms mean?
Eukaryotic: Having cells which have their DNA in a discreet nucleus.
Animal: Any multicellular organism that can move at some time in their lives and are heterotrophs, which is, to live you need to ingest other organisms to survive.
Chordate/Vertebrate: Have a dorsal nerve cord, and a backbone.
Mammal: Warm blooded, haired, and have mammary glands.
Primate: All have forward looking eyes, large brains compared to other mammals, poor sense of smell, fingernails instead of claws, and very mobile shoulders.
Ape: Tailless primate, more mobile shoulder.
Different types of watches share very few features. They all tell time. They can be based on completely different technology. They can be mechanical, based on balance wheels, tuning fork, quartz crystal, tri synchro regulator, or radio receiver. The cases can be made of steel, aluminum, ceramic, titanium, brass, plastic, and even wood. A watch is a designed artifact. The watchmaker can choose any material, within reason. Evolution has no such luxury. If you are human, you share characteristics and DNA of every Eukaryotic, Animal, Chordate, Vertebrate, Mammal, Primate, Haplorhini (apes). As an engineer, moving from one generation of test stand to another, I had the freedom to re-use parts that work, or just trash the whole design and move on. Same function, all new parts. You never see this in nature, ever. Evolution does not work that way. Everything is built upon something else. This can easily be seen with embryos. We all start out as a single cell, then look a lot like everything we descended from, complete with tail, fur, gill arches, and starting out as nothing more than a tube like creature. Compare this to a watch. To build a watch, you do not start with John Harrison’s marine chronometer (mechanical watches are based on this technology from the 1700’s) and keep whittling away and modifying the parts until you get a modern watch, like an Omega Speedmaster. For car buffs, you don’t build a Ford Model T, then modify it to become a 2015 Mustang. But, that is what evolution has to do. An intelligent design would not require this.
Another issue is the schematics for intelligently designed machines and DNA. Human DNA contains a lot of not coding portions, somewhere between 80 to 97% junk. Ask any engineer how much non coding information is contained in a technical schematics? Very little to none. As a human, fallible, intelligent designer, my schematics contain almost completely useful information. To draw schematics like how DNA works, it would be like creating 100 pages of schematic drawings, but only putting about 3 pages of useful information, randomly scattered in those pages. You have to include every revision, napkin sketch, doodle, dirty joke, and comment ever made on the schematic. God is a poor engineer and would never make it past the first year of engineering school.
If a real, mortal, limited human can design something more efficiently than a god can, it says a lot about that theoretical god.