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Surprise: Lents Clarifies that Book Not Intended as Refutation of Intelligent Design!

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

Nathan Lents

Ooh, has there been a big misunderstanding here? Professor Nathan Lents, a biologist, advanced an argument about “poor design” in biology. On Twitter, just for clarity, I asked him if he intended that as a refutation of intelligent design. Now he says no!

I explained that his writing has certainly seemed like a subtweet, at the very least, directed at ID. Others appear to understand it similarly. As Ian Tattersall writes on the back of Lents’s book, “Anybody with a slipped disk knows humans are not very intelligently designed.”

But perfect design, I said earlier, is a straw man. Everyone knows that human bodies manifest imperfections, or are born with them, and this causes suffering. ID doesn’t argue on the basis of perfect design. It argues about the origin of biological information. This Lents dodges with references to ID being a “religious idea, not a scientific one.”

You know what comes next. Countdown to invoking Judge Jones or Dover. Ah here, we go.

What is the “lots” of evidence against ID? Poor or less than optimal design isn’t it. And in any event Lents just got through saying his book about supposed poor design is not about ID.

Actually, don’t you know, Lents was just engaging in a bit of wit anyway. His “use of the word ‘design’ is tongue-in-cheek, as in, who would design this.” “Tongue-in-cheek”!

I pointed out that Dover is not a worthy reply to evidence for design.

Countdown to ludicrous depiction of how ID proponents argue, worthy of the crudest Darwinist caricature.

This is a complete dodge from the author of writings that sure appear to take aim at the idea of design in nature, which is indeed a scientific argument cast in scientific terms about scientific evidence. In a response to a question from him, I assured Lents I was not questioning his intelligence or competence in his field.

Still, smart guy that he no doubt is, I admit I’m disappointed with Nathan Lents. Why spend time on him, then? Because thoughtful people wonder about the design or lack of it in life. But to engage those people, Lents’s presumed audience of readers, you have to engage the most serious arguments for ID. He has not done that. I am not 100 percent sure he even knows what those arguments are.

Update: OK, I’m done for the evening tweeting about Nathan Lents.

Image credit: Gellinger, via Pixabay.