Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Creationism demands a belief in a God that is not very competent

There are a number of things that support the claim that the God of the creationists is not particularly competent.

First of all there is the huge amount of waste present in the initial number of species present at the “creation”.

Probably the most fundamental tenet of creationism is that all life on Earth was present at the time of the creation and that all life has remained basically unchanged since then. (Any changes have been within each organism’s own ”kind”.)

The fossil record tells us that the vast majority of species (or “kinds”) of organisms are now extinct. There are no more dinosaurs. There are no more saber-toothed tigers. There are no more giant sloths.

The percentage of species of organisms (plants and animals) that used to live on Earth but “are no more” can only be roughly estimated. We don’t even know with certainty how many different species currently exist on Earth. We can only make very rough estimates for the number of different species that have ever lived on Earth. The percentage of extinct species is, of course, the ratio of those two numbers, both of which are estimates.

I have seen estimates of the percentage of pre-existing species which are now extinct range from 99.9% (i.e. only one-in-a-thousand now exists) to 99.9999% (i.e. only one-in-a-million now exists).

The exact percentage isn’t important. What is undeniable is that the vast majority of species of organisms that once existed no longer exist.

Creationists argue that God simply designed redundancy into nature. Here’s a sample argument:

> The design God implemented was one that would
> allow for growth by propogation [sic] of each life
> form (kind) to fill the earth...redundancy in
> design is what enables success in propogation [sic]
> and survival of these designs. ..redundancy is
> incorporated in many designs where success is
> imperative; such redundancies in engineering
> are called "backup". In computer design it is
> important to backup your system from time to
> time to prevent losses due to system failures.
> In such cases you may have many copies of your
> hard drive at various points so that you could
> "reboot" at any given point if need be.

There is no doubt that some amount of redundancy is useful in many scenarios. There are two factors that determine the level of redundancy that should be designed into a system: the importance of the system containing the parts and the likelihood of failure for any individual component in that system.

A fairly commonly used device that many of us would be familiar with, is a computer that acts as a server (such as one that contains an important database). Such servers are often very critical. In many companies the total failure of such a system can prevent the company from doing business.

In such computer servers, the error-prone subsystems – particularly those with mechanical parts such as disk drives and cooling fans – are designed with redundancy. Servers also generally have redundant power supplies because historical evidence is available showing that the power supplies fail at a higher rate than the other components.

But many of the components have no redundancy at all. That’s because failures in those components are so rare that they can be disregarded.

So what level of redundancy would we expect a competent designer to inject into nature?

Based on the engineering rules for adding redundancy, very little would be expected. If the individual components (i.e. individual life forms) are well designed, then there should be little need for redundancy. That's because their failure rate should be very low.

If you look around the Earth, the ecosystem is very well balanced. In deserts and jungles and Polar Regions and every other place on Earth, there is a nearly ideal balance in the number of predators and prey, plants and animals, big and small, etc. There is very little redundancy anywhere. Nature seems to work just fine, thank you very much.

There is great balance and very little redundancy in nature as we view it today. Creationists will even point to this balance in nature and contend that it is evidence of a designer – God!

But if these creatures were all “designed” at once and in the past they all lived on Earth at the same time as the creationists contend, then there was a huge amount of unneeded redundancy in that initial “design”. Specifically, at least 999 out of every 1000 organisms (and quite possibly many more) were not needed! Because of unnecessary redundancy those 999 were doomed to become extinct.

What sort of competent “design” includes 99.9% (or more) of its parts that are destined to fail? Especially when, as we see in the modern world, there is no need for such redundancy! Even more so if the “designer” is an omnipotent God! Shouldn’t an omnipotent God be capable of creating “designs” with very low failure rates and therefore “designs” that would require little, if any, redundancy?

Based on my engineering background, I can confidently state that any engineer who completed a design with a 99.9% (or 99% or even 90%) parts failure rate would be considered incompetent and prevented from performing any additional designs. If God is such a designer, God is not particularly competent.

And, of course, nature is filled with many specific examples of suboptimal (i.e. not particularly competent) "designs". The mammalian gastrointestinal tract crosses the respiratory system. Functionally, this is suboptimal; it would be beneficial if we could breathe and swallow simultaneously. Unfortunately, we cannot, and this is why we are susceptible to death by choking.Some flowering plants, like dandelions, are self-pollinating, and thus have no need of flowers to attract pollen carriers. Yet they have flowers. Why? Are they present merely to attract humans with weed killers?

The mere fact that there are flightless birds is an example of a faulty design. In nearly every case (penguins being an exception) the wings of these birds serve no function except cutting the number of usable limbs from four down to two.

It is possible to go on and on. There are useless eyes in many cave dwellers, wisdom teeth in humans. Even the adult human skull is too thin to provide adequate protection to the gigantic brain and the absence of brow ridges leaves the eyes poorly protected. Creationists believe that God "designed" these bad features. It's not very complimentary of God to believe that!

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