5X5 Episode 23

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5X5 Episode 23
Discovery Institute's lame car design analogy
8th June 2008

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5X5 22 5X5 24
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
M: Mike Lacelle
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Lame car design analogy to intelligent design from the Discovery Institute.[edit]

Voice-over: You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.

S: This is the SGU 5x5 and the topic for this week is: A blog entry by Casey Luskin from the Discovery Institute propaganda blog, Evolution News and Views. Casey Luskin writes an article entitled 'Do Car Engineers Turn to Darwinian Evolution or Intelligent Design?' Now, this is a blog that is just one stupid entry after another. It really is a textbook of misinformation, propaganda and logical fallacies, but we decided to talk about this one because Casey Luskin outdoes even himself in the stupidity department. He starts the blog entry, "Don't read into this post too much", which means what he's saying is I know this is utter BS and crap, but I'm gonna say it anyway because it has propaganda value to me. Then he goes on to say that car engineers praise the "intelligent design" of their cars. They don't talk about the evolution of their cars.

R: Except for that they do. Wasn't Lexus or someone - they recently had a slogan that was 'The evolution of design'.

S: Yes, 'The evolution of design'; there's also the Interior Motive Design Awards - the car design evolution continues. Or the evolution of car logos. There's also an Evolution Auto Design company. So, the concept of technology evolving over time is absolutely used as a concept within the automotive industry.

M: Yeah, well, it's just the three companies that Luskin mentions, Hyundai, Honda and Toyota - I did a quick search on their web site just for evolution and Darwin and - on Hyundai's web site, they mention evolution of the engine, the company's technological evolution, the evolution of their sedan class. On Honda they talk about evolution of product and product engineering, the evolution of the modern sports car with their Accura NSX, and the evolution of their F1 car design and - finally, Toyota mentions the evolution of fuel cell technology, the evolution of hybrid technology, and most importantly, in late 2007, the Toyota International Teacher Program sent 24 teachers to the Galapagos Islands to "Follow in Darwin's footsteps and bring home what they've learned to share with their students".

R: So, I guess if we're deciding important scientific theory based upon what car engineers say, evolution it is.


R: Case closed!

M: There you go.

S: And there's nothing worse than basing a logical fallacy on a factually wrong premise. So you get it wrong both ways. The logic stinks and your premise was wrong.

B: Not only that, one quote from this blog, "Further intelligent design details such as lightweight valve springs...prove the Honda S2000 is a model of engineering perfection". So, does that mean that human beings are a model of engineering perfection as well? Hello! We're the biggest engineer kluge I've ever seen. There's no-

S: Yeah.

B: -perfection about evolution and the end products that we see. Also, another quote that struck me was that these advertisements and reviews don't say random variation in unguided selection-based design, they say intelligent design. But then there's also things like artificial life and genetic algorithms that actually do use random variation and unguided selection to produce-

S: What - what about unguided selection? That kinda makes it sound like the selection is not-

B: Right.

S: -is random-

B: Right.

S: -or something. But it is-

B: Which is a fallacy.

S: -guide - it's not guided, in that it's looking into the future, but it is guided in that the selection's not random. It is selecting those things which work better and therefore it can actually move the design towards optimal or better efficiency and function.

B: Right, plus - but also there - but there are things such as artificial life and genetic algorithms that actually do - using code based entirely on evolution and natural selection and random variation, have produced things that - these gorgeous end products, like code - code that sorts things in fewer lines of code than any other - than any person has been able to devise. Or actually evolve these little software organisms that are - that have actually verified things that we have learned about evolution and showed in evolution and evolution of these - of software programs that are just - just stunning. It's amazing what they've done and this is just the beginning of what these genetic algorithms are gonna be able to do. In the future we may actually run a car design through genetic algorithms to produce designs that no human could have done in a comparable amount of time.

S: But let's be clear: the whole thing is a non-sequitur.

E: And also, our friend over at the blog Skepdude wrote about this and he ended his entry this way - and I think it's appropriate. He said, "Claiming that because cars are intelligently designed by engineers means that we were designed by a supreme intelligent designer is logically equivalent to claiming that because cars run on gasoline we should be gulping down gallons of gasoline every day to keep ourselves running."

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.

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