To: All Msg #77, Feb1493 05:00PM Subject: Re: +quot;Bad+quot; design :: From: hamilton@hyd

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From: Wayne Throop To: All Msg #77, Feb-14-93 05:00PM Subject: Re: "Bad" design From: throopw@sheol.UUCP (Wayne Throop) Message-ID: <729746626@sheol.uucp> Newsgroups: talk.origins :: From: hamilton@hydra.gmr.com (William E. Hamilton) :: Message-ID: <97583@rphroy.ph.gmr.com> :: We humans have enough trouble designing "simple" things :: like satellites. So something that looks like bad design may serve a purpose :: we don't know about, and serve it admirably. : From: tycchow@riesz.mit.edu (Timothy Y. Chow) : Message-ID: <1993Feb10.014250.16932@galois.mit.edu> : I proposed basically the same argument not long ago. This is also Bob Bales' basic argument from design, when confronted by (the usual example) the Panda's thumb, whale legs, etc, etc. To me, the problem isn't so much that the design is bad, per se. But there *are* two problems that such examples pose for the argument from design. First, if you are saying that the goal of the design is unknown to you as an explanation of designs that seem bad, then you are also saying that designs you find "good" may really involve goals unknown to you also, and what seems to you "good" design is not. That is, saying that the functional purpose is unknown is to undercut the whole argument from design at its foundation. It is no longer persuasive evidence of a designer at all, since you have to throw out the baby (the "good" designs) with the bathwater (the "bad" designs), in order to be self-consistent. But more significantly to me, it isn't the designs in isolation that point away from a designer. It is designs in the context of how similar functional problems are solved by other organisms. For example, why do whales have leg bones, and sharks not? Why do octopus eyes have no blind spot and human eyes do? Why do so many mammals use the fifth digit for a thumb, but the panda uses a specialized bone for the purpose? Why do chicken genes code for teeth that are never realized? These things pose severe problems for a single designer hypothesis, and rescuing from these problems by disclaiming knowledge of the functional role of the feature in question doesn't really help at all, as described above. And pursuing further the question of the context of these "bad" designs, consider the patterns they fall into. Chicken teeth are reptile teeth when expressed, never mammal teeth. Vestigial bone structures in whales are always mammal structures, never bird or reptile or fish or anything else. In particular, the heirarchical nature of feature distributions among species is essentially *never* violated, even when it would strongly seem to make functional sense to do so. Of course, some have observed that current "object oriented" designs of computers decompose features into a heirarchical decomposition. They are overlooking that this is so (somewhat simplifying things) for units of *implementation*, not of *function*. And this distribution of feature/implementation in living things is *still* just exactly the opposite of what one would expect of a designed thing. -- Wayne Throop ...!mcnc!dg-rtp!sheol!throopw

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