Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
I am, I declare here, a contraptionist.
Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) see nature differently to most people; what others understand to be the products of evolution are, in fact, too complex and intricate to be the products of anything other than an intelligent designer. While remaining wedded to my evolutionary world-view, I did concede the persuasiveness of that argument, particularly among the more ‘casual’ observers of the natural world.
This persuasiveness can, however, be undermined. Not through recourse to popular scientistic evolutionism, which those tempted by ID have already rejected or ignored. Rather, we can turn the mechanismal metaphors of ID against anti-evolutionism.
William Paley, in Natural Theology
, used the watchmaker analogy as an argument for the existence of a divine creator and designer of nature. Simply put, the argument runs; “If we find a watch when walking on the moors, and investigate its workings, we will find that it is too complex to be an assemblage of parts ordered by a natural process, we must therefore assume that there is (or was) a watchmaker who was responsible for its creation.” Seductive, is it not, at least to the untutored.
So let us examine the complex machines that are our own bodies. Do they run like machines designed by an intelligent engineer? The answer to this can only be: no. We are a mass of inefficiencies, or redundancies and antagonistic systems. What sort of designer would design into his machines the ability to be incapacitated by pain at the very times when action is of the essence? What sort of designer would build a taste for the sweet and fatty into machinery clogged into terminal seizure by these fuels? It is no defense to argue that the designer could not anticipate the environment his machines would operate in, for this designer is the Designer, the maker of nature in toto
. What sort of designer would build an immune system that overreacts to otherwise the harmless plant and animal matter that are also the products of His Design?
Considering these features of the human body as the features of a machine, we must think, for a moment, of the source of our popular fascination with machines. What sort of machines fascinate and excite our imaginations? Compare, for example, a smooth, efficient, superbly designed Volvo, with a home made jalopy, a Scrap Heap Challenge
vehicle, a jerry-rigged machine built from parts intended for use elsewhere. We are, at least in the majority, fascinated by the contraption, the machine built inexpertly and inefficiently from found components. These machines are inelegant, their parts in contest almost as often as they are in co-operation.
Considered as mechanisms, human beings, bodies, plants, animals, ecosystems and indeed the whole of nature are, at best, inelegant contraptions. We marvel at them, and the instinct of the untutored in our technological, mechanistic age is to presume that there is a designer. But, what we must conclude about this Designer is either; that He works with parts that are not of His own design, that he finds in a nature not of His making, or, that He made the parts but can neither take a role in the combination of these parts or anticipate the use to which they will be put. Both of these effectively reduce Him to an irrelevant rump, either casting Him into the pre-Universal, as creator but not actor, or transforming Him from creator in impotent tinker.
Of course, I would rather that the proponents of ID simply tossed aside their belief in Him, the Designer. But I will settle, here, for pointing out that nature is not a smooth running machine but an inelegant contraption, and that if they must cling to Him, this necessarily transforms the (often unstated but implied Christian) nature of the Him they invoke as their Deus ex Machina