Hume, Giraffes, and the Argument for Incompetent Design

Hume, Giraffes, and the Argument for Incompetent Design October 20, 2011

One of the classic philosophical texts that we discuss in my freshman class “Faith, Doubt and Reason” is David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. It is noteworthy how, despite changes and progress in the realm of the natural sciences, the same sorts of arguments – such as the teleological or design argument – continue to be used and debated.

It is noteworthy that, in Hume’s dialogue, the pious character Demea objects to the argument from design on grounds of piety. And with good reason. If one allows that one may argue from evidence of design to a designer, then one opens up the possibility of arguing from shortcomings in design to an incompetent designer.

For those living today, the laryngeal nerve provides one great example of a compelling counterargument to Intelligent Design – particularly the route that nerve takes in the giraffe:

If you are a religious believer, and you refuse to accept evolution, then you have little choice but to blame God for the shortcomings seen in nature. You have little choice but to conclude that God wanted to leave us open to death by choking, when he made the routes for food and air converge on the same passage. And that is but one more of a very long list of examples of things that make good sense when considered the result of the slow adaptive processes of evolution, but which look ridiculous or even malevolent if considered the direct design of a divine Engineer.

So don’t be surprised if other fellow religious believers, better informed about both science and theology, insist that you are demeaning rather than glorifying God through your refusal to accept evolution.

You are making God out to be an incompetent, not an intelligent, Designer.

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