Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A blank slate and no limits

I'm going to give you a pencil, a blank slate and a task.  You are to design a species and the world that it lives in as best you can.  You have no restrictions or other requirements.  Your only limit is your imagination.  How will you design it?  What characteristics will it have?  Here are some things I'll bet you wouldn't do, or at least that you wouldn't do many of them:

  • design the world to be full of a substance while designing the creature to require that substance to survive, then make it incapable of using the vast majority of that substance
  • give it a terribly flawed memory bank, one which frequently fails to properly recall information either partially or completely
  • make it so that it needs to spend one-quarter to one-third of its life in a near-unconscious state, unable to do anything useful, then even harass while it is in this state with frightening and stressful images
  • give it eyes but make it so that it cannot see nearly half the time
  • design it to appreciate the beauty of the world you have created, but also so that it cannot go out for very long without burning itself in some places or freezing to death in others
  • make it so that trivial things constantly re-grow, but that critical systems and parts do not
  • design predators that try to hunt it, then make it so that it cannot see what is behind it
  • design it with a constant urge to explore, yet put much of the world permanently out of its reach due to the incomprehensibly large distances involved
  • make an extremely critical system, that controls all body movement, fragile and with no redundancy
  • make it so that it excretes waste several times a day that is poisonous to it and contaminates its resource supply that you already limited so drastically in the first point
  • make sure that it is prone to starting life with terrible and debilitating defects and illnesses
The list could go on and on.  Would you do these things?  Why not?  Probably because you're intelligent and these suggestions are pretty strange and/or stupid, is that correct?  Yet all of these things are characteristics of humans and the world we live in.  This is what many people argue defines perfection.  They assert that we were created to have all of these traits by a perfect being, and that the design is perfect.  When confronted with a list like this one, these people will then claim that while these appear to be defects in design to humans, that we just cannot see the way in which they are perfect.

Once you make an assertion like that, you are beyond hope for a reasonable conversation and will have a pretty hard time climbing out of the cesspool that you have voluntarily thrown yourself into.  If you assert in advance that everything about our structure and characteristics is perfect and that even if something seems ridiculous, that it is still perfect and that we are wrong, you have made an unfalsifiable claim.  If you believe that apparent good design is perfect, and apparent bad design is just beyond our ability to comprehend its perfection, then no number of examples of poor design is capable of pulling you out of your cesspool until you admit that your fundamental way of thinking about the situation is incorrect.

11 comments:

Jim said...

Remember to not let everyone you created know you created them. Wait a couple of billion years and then send someone in to spread the word through word-of-mouth campaigning with no hard evidence. Just hearsay and superstition. That should work like gangbusters.

Magnamune said...

You forgot the part about telling them to kill each other for vague or pointless reasons. I can see not possible problems with this(!)

Admin said...

You guys are both looking at it from the religious point of view. I tried to remove that from this post, and just suppose that the creator is perfect, or at least highly-intelligent, regardless of its other motivations or characteristics. All of the points I've outlined can be considered poor design, and you don't need a Bible or any other religion involved at all to recognise that. Your points, while being true for the arguments we often hear from the believers, are not part of a general belief in an intelligent designer.

Did that make sense?

Jim said...

Oh, I know what you meant. I just wanted to get a quick shot in there. I do have some suggestions as well. Hopefully I have a little time later to post them. Your list does make it hard to add things in, so well done there.

Magnamune said...

Yeah, I understood. I was trying to go for a psychological/sociological view, though. Even without religion, humans and other apes kill each other rather pointlessly.

Magnamune said...

I'm not sure, cause I haven't looked, but there may be other creatures that do it as well.

Admin said...

Off the very top of my head, there are those birds in which the first to hatch kills the next hatchlings by pushing them out of the nest. And the parents watch and allow it to happen.

ANTZILLA said...

" How will you design it? What characteristics will it have? Here are some things I'll bet you wouldn't do, or at least that you wouldn't do many of them:"

Your assuming we aren't all assholes...

If your a twisted evil asshole the current 'design' is perfect.

makes sense to me....lol

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_V452Ll6JHAE/TUVjkLl519I/AAAAAAAAAos/vD7ttjSqqMc/s1600/God-watches-TV.jpg

Jim said...

First off, I would make the species fast. I would give them an excellent sense of smell and hearing. They would be built tough, with bones capable of surviving harsh impacts without shattering. Their skull would be made of some sort of metallic compound in order to better protect the brain. They would be tall and slender to move around more efficiently. Their skin would be able to resist harsh weather extremes. They would also be 100% immune to all forms of cancer, and their lifespan would be hundreds of years. I would also try to implement a biological limit to the amount of children they could have. Each generation would, at max, only be able to double itself. When populations get too high, a natural sterilization would occur until population levels dropped to appropriate levels.

ANTZILLA said...

Jim, are you James Cameron?

Sounds like the Na'vi from 'Avatar'

Jim said...

I have never seen 'Avatar'. I refuse to on general principle.