Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Surely this plane is not the product of intelligent design?!

For Christmas I received a copy of the New Scientist book 'Why Don't Penguin's Feet Freeze?', which is a collection of questions and answers from the New Scientist's 'Last Word' column. A question about areoplane windows caught my eye because it seems to parallel a discussion that takes place regarding the ID hypothesis:

Q: 'Why do areoplanes have such small windows, any why are they positioned so low inthe fuselage that most people have to bend down in order to see other areoplanes on the tarmac?' (p. 185)

One of the answerers points out that: 'The panes [of glass] are... much heavier and costlier than the thin sheet of aluminium it replaces, and the structure of the aircraft needs to be reinforced to support it. All this extra weight means fewer passengers or less cargo can be carried, so it reduces airline's potential revenues... As well as getting scratched and broken, they are a source of air leaks from the cabin and they also suffer from condensation and icing.' (p. 186.)

If the areoplane were a biological system, one that ID proponents suggested was the product of intelligent design, many Darwinists would use the above observations as conclusive proof that ID is wrong because no designer (or at least no intelligent designer) would make an areoplane with such obvious design flaws! Indeed, this is exactly the sort of argument one does hear against the design hypothesis - but of course, the fact that this argument is unsound in the parallel case of the jet-liner should raise our suspicions about its use against the ID hypothesis. This is a reductio of this sort of anti-ID argument, because we know that areoplanes are the product of intelligent design.

Note that the term 'intelligent' in 'intelligent design' is there to distinguish genuine design from the 'design' that Darwinists talk about but attribute to the blind watchmaker of evolution - arguing that something is not intelligently designed is not sufficient to argue against its having been designed.

As in the case of the areoplane, it is actually harder to substantiate the claim of suboptimal design in biology than first appearances may indicate: the size and position of areoplane windows is dictated by safety issues, and permits a good view of the ground in flight.

Some food for thought:

1. Disproving design in one instance does not disprove it in every instance.
2. Proving sub-optimal design is not the same as proving a lack of 'intelligent design'.
3. Proving sub-optimal design is harder than it looks, partly because: 'As with many things concerning the design of aircraft [or anything else], the final arrangement of various parts is based upon a series of compromises.' (p. 185.)

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