Intelligent Design is great fodder for satire among the science set. In the new March issue of the The Atlantic Monthly, Bruce McCall riffs on the ID worldview with a short piece called "Not Conspicuously Intelligent Design." The designs that are not conspicuously intelligent include Minneapolis-St.Paul ("Only two big cities in a state of 80,009 square miles, yet less than half a mile apart") and sock static ("Wastes electricity"). I would have added Grape Nuts. No grapes... no nuts... What's the deal? McCall's gags hit closer to home with these biological examples:
• Placement in exact center of face compels unsightly public discharge of liquid waste from head
• Crimps planning
• Totally one-sided decision leaves a bad taste
• After x-million years, exact function still debated
My favorite attacks on ID are of the "Why do men have nipples?" type. If there's an omnipotent designer, what's with all the useless doodads and embarrassing/deadly oddities we find in the biological world? The geologist Don Wise pushes the idea of incompetent design ("the other ID") in an interview for Seed. He says, "No self-respecting engineering student would make the kinds of dumb mistakes that are built into us," and goes on to list several of the examples: We have too many teeth, our pelvises aren't straight, we have appendices and tonsils, our retinal receptors are facing the wrong way... And he quotes a man who wrote to him, "I would write more, but I have to go pee in Morse code, because some idiot designed my aging prostate."
The science writer Jim Holt took a more somber tone last year in an essay for the NYT Magazine titled "Unintelligent Design." He reminds us that nearly every species ever "designed" is now extinct. He mentions dying cancer patients who must suffer although the corporal status updates that physical pain provides are no longer required. And he notes that most pregnancies end prematurely. That last fact, combined with two common beliefs--that the soul originates at conception, and that one is a sinner unworthy of salvation until baptism--should lead to quite the quandary for many Christians. "Owing to faulty reproductive design," he writes, "it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined." Awwwwwk-ward...
Call it what you want: "Incompetent Design," "Unintelligent Design," "Design By Numbers--The Dyscalculic Deity Edition"... It reminds me of an engineering joke. Three engineers were arguing over what type of engineer God would be. The mechanical engineer said God had to be an ME because of our sophisticated skeletons. The electrical engineer claimed God as an EE because the human brain is the best damn computer around. But the civil engineer had the last word. "God would have to be a civil engineer. I mean, who else would run a sewage system through a major recreational area?"