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High Five for a Design Inference

Casey Luskin

If you’ve ever been to an introductory lecture on intelligent design by an ID advocate, there’s a good chance that you saw Mt. Rushmore invoked as a classic example of a structure in a natural setting that provokes an inference to design. These sort of illustrations are often used to help us understand how we make design inferences. Many folks use it, and it’s a great example. Here’s another.

I was sick in bed this past weekend and watched a History Channel documentary about the Atacama Desert, which is said to be the driest place on earth. While doing some further Internet surfing, I discovered a cool structure in the middle of that same desert that ought to rival Mt. Rushmore as an example of a designed structure:

It’s the “Mano del Desierto” or “Hand of the Desert,” a 36-foot-tall sculpture in the middle of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It’s made of iron and cement, and is intended to “emphasize human vulnerability and helplessness.” Whatever the artistic interpretation, it’s a structure we immediately recognize as designed.

We can recognize it as such because it exhibits high levels of specified complexity. It has an unlikely shape (making it complex) that precisely matches a pattern — that of the human hand (making it specified).
We do not say, as Stephen Meyer jokes about the Rosetta Stone, “Isn’t it amazing what the powers of wind erosion can do!” And thus, not only our intuition, but also the methods of ID theory, confirm that this structure was designed.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.