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Hints for the Lord Almighty

The following quote is attributed to King Alfonso X of Castile, sometimes called “Alfonso the Wise” and “Alfonso the Astronomer.”  It is said that he made these comments in the 13th century while being taught Ptolemaic astronomy:

If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking upon Creation, I should  have recommended something simpler.

Likewise, Richard Dawkins said the following in an interview with The Oregonian:

The recurrent laryngeal nerve is a remarkable piece of unintelligent design. The nerve starts in the head, with the brain, and the end organ is the larynx, the voice box. But instead of going straight there it goes looping past the voice box. In the case of the giraffe, it goes down the full length of the giraffe’s neck, loops down one of the main arteries in the chest and then comes straight back up again to the voice box, having gone within a couple of inches of the voice box on its way down. No intelligent designer would ever have done that.

It seems to me that King Alfonso and Dr. Dawkins are saying the same thing, though Dawkins concludes his longer quote with an unhelpful logical fallacy.

The interesting point here is that Ptolemy was wrong and, consequently, so was Alfonso. It wasn’t poor Alfonso’s fault that period science had the sun in the wrong place, but instead of blaming Ptolemy, Alfonso critiqued God.

Dawkins is doing the same thing. Instead of blaming the shortcomings of modern science, he instead critiques God. As with Alfonso, the period scientific conclusion has ended up being at fault, not the creator. In fact, the shortcomings of evolutionary theory have become a “god of the gaps” in their own right. If the design isn’t understood, blame it on random processes. Of course they’ll be messy! But time and time again these “unintelligent designs” have been shown to be rather clever after all. It’s the process of discovery, not the Designer, that has stumbled through the centuries.

Bergman, J. 2010. Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Is Not Evidence of Poor Design. Acts & Facts. 39 (8): 12-14

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