Lazy Luddite Log

20.6.06

Arguments from Design

It has been bloody cold lately. I am reliably informed that cold is an absence of heat. But it definitely feels to me as if it is something with an independent quality of its own. Indeed it feels more like there is something there in the cold than in milder temperatures. I suppose it is hardly surprising for an animal intended to live comfortably between the temperatures of 10 and 40 degrees Celsius to notice temperatures that exceed that safe range.

Hold on - did I say "intended"? I am convinced of the arguments of evolution so will correct that to "suited" as in "suited to living comfortably...". Thinking of things as having a purpose seems to come naturally to us as animals suited to purposeful behaviour. I deliberately make things happen so it can make sense for me to think that anything that happens must have someone to make it happen. This is a simplistic restating of the Argument from Design. It is much older than just the current 'Intelligent Design' movement (think Thomas Aquinas). If well phrased it can be philosophically seductive. The late-night discussions that arise from it can be fascinating. And contemplating it while standing alone by the ocean or in the mountains can be moving. But it is a shoddy justification for letting someone indoctrinate children at taxpayer expense.

Even if one accepts the arguments of Intelligent Design all it gives us is an intelligent designer rather than any particular intelligent designer. It may be the one God of the Christians and Muslims or the multi-faceted divine plethora of the Hindus or even that crazy monster thing promoted to amusing effect by the 'Pastafarians'. But the motivation of those involved in promoting Intelligent Design is rarely if ever the acceptance of any and all religions but rather the imposition by stealth of one religion in particular.

Anyway my intention here is to propose two arguments from design just for the heck of it. One is frivolous while the other is (or so I think) profound. What do you think?

The Argument from Chocolate Ripple Cake

Take a bunch of chocolate biscuits. Array them in a long horizontal stack. Cover them liberally in cream. Put them in the fridge. Come back a few hours later and they have become cake! Just like that! I understand there is a mundane process involved but bugger that! Chocolate Ripple Cake is a bloody miracle! Mind you the one time I attempted to make one it was sort of crunchy - O Divine Chocolate Cake why have you forsaken me?

The Argument from Electric Guitar

Take a string (it can be made of catgut or plastic or anything) and vibrate it. It produces a note. So far so good. Now take a steel string and vibrate it in the presence of an electromagnet that responds to the vibration by producing an electrical signal that can then be converted by an amplifier into a sound. The sound produced by the amp is of the same note as that produced by the vibrating string. The same note! Did it have to be this way? There is a scientific explanation to be sure but I say once more: Did it have to be this way? The same note is produced rather than just a cacophony or nothing but static. It is as if this phenomenon always existed in some Platonic form and just needed to be discovered. Do electric guitars (as well as all those other instruments using steel moving parts and electromagnets) talk to us of a universal Prime Mover? A universal Prime Mover who loves riffs and licks? And are we listening? I think others have felt the way I do if you listen to a few songs. Take it away Jim Steinman!

And the Angels had guitars even before they had wings
If you hold onto a chorus you can get through the night

- 'Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through' sung by Meat Loaf
and written by Jim Steinman

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12 Comments:

  • Electric amplification, as far as I can tell, only has to be that way because there is no other way it could be.

    "And the Angels had guitars even before they had wings
    If you hold onto a chorus you can get through the night"

    Ah! That would explain the "band" of angels described: "And a band of angels wrapped up in my heart..." (if you could get some of those, they might help inure you to the palpable cold as advertised:
    "Will take me through the lonely night/Through the cold of the day")

    Though I have to wonder why the angels would ever need wings if "...the melody's gonna make me fly" (That line leads me to wonder if Jim Steinman has secret knowledge of a form of soundwave-driven propulsion.)

    Arrr! As a Pastafarian, I feel compelled to point out that Macaroni Custard is worth your consideration as a dessert dish. However, I can take off my FSM piratical proselitisation garb to tell you that there are two solutions to crunchy chocolate ripple cake. 1) moisten the biscuits by brushing them with orange juice/brandy/liquer of your choice, before sealing them together with the cream, or 2) leave the congolomeration to set overnight to allow more moisture to soak from the cream into the biscuits. This can sometimes cause discolouration on the exterior of the cake, which can be fixed by applying a second coat of cream if desired. (This presumes that you are using the technique I am familiar with, which involves 'buttering' the individual biscuits with the cream and sticking them together to form a log or ring, then coating the lot with cream. Not *quite* what you described.)

    Damn.
    Now I want Chocolate Ripple Cake.

    By Blogger Jac, At 20 June, 2006  

  • *cough* Sorry, two comments in a row might be overkill, but I wanted to suggest that the word "Adapted" might replace "Intended" as an evolution oriented alternative thus:

    "I suppose it is hardly surprising for an animal adapted to live comfortably between the temperatures of 10 and 40 degrees Celsius to notice temperatures that exceed that safe range."

    Interesting that simple word selection can help maintain an evolution based mind-set.

    By Blogger Jac, At 22 June, 2006  

  • Thanks for the tips on making CRC Jac. What is the source of those song lines?

    'Adapted' is better than my 'suited' because it suggests change over time rather than a static condition. I use suited in the sense of 'fitting' as in "survival of the best fitting" (my variation of the deceptive "survival of the fittest").

    By Blogger Daniel, At 26 June, 2006  

  • Oops. Sorry for lack of attribution - the lyrics are from "Heaven Can wait" sung by Meatloaf and Written by Jim Steinman. (Not my favourite Meatloaf song, but your angel reference brought it to mind.)

    "Survival of the best fitting" Ooh! Nice. Better than my convoluted "Fittest = the most fit to survive in the given circumstances." Yours is much tidier.

    By Blogger Jac, At 27 June, 2006  

  • If they're playing grand metal riffs instead of just harps, then heaven could be very cool ;-).
    The other thing you need to do with chocolate ripple cake is to use enough cream (get a 600ml bottle instead of a 300ml, and liberally spread the whipped cream over each biscuit as well as over the whole thing once it's done). Other stuff that goes well is mashing up a peppermint crisp or a flake and sprinkling it over the top.

    By Blogger Polly, At 27 June, 2006  

  • Thanks for the cooking tips Polly. I think that some metal riffage in Heaven would be cool but nothing but would just make it a kind of Hell.

    Jac you say that "there is no other way it could be". But that is within the confines of universal laws. Why are those universal laws that way? Is it just all a bit too convenient? Here I am anthropomorphising the Universe and that line of thinking can give any kind of result you want...

    I know someone who says that there must be many gods and goddesses because "this world is so silly that it could only have been designed by committee".

    By Blogger Daniel, At 03 July, 2006  

  • My sister's cat thinks anthropomorphism is inevitable. :-)

    I do wonder about the amazingly convenient specificity of the set of Universal Laws to which we owe our existence. I am ill equipped to draw any useful conclusions about the essential nature of existence, so I settle for 'just because' as an (unsatisfying) interim measure. I don't expect to ever have an answer, but I hope that by working within the framework, accumulating knowledge, I might be able to better understand the question.

    By Blogger Jac, At 05 July, 2006  

  • If that 'framework' is the Universal Laws then you cannot but work within them!

    By Blogger Daniel, At 12 July, 2006  

  • The 'framework' is not the Universal Laws, but a cultural interpretation of Universal Laws. It is possible to work outside that framework. The narrower the culture of the onlookers, the narrower the framework, the easier it is to work outside it!

    By Blogger Jac, At 12 July, 2006  

  • So does our culture give you plenty of room to move beyond?

    By Blogger Daniel, At 17 July, 2006  

  • To say "our culture" implies that it is a homogenous thing. The error lies with me - I used the term "the framework", which also suggests that. Many cultural subsets are very narrow, and all who move outside perameters of a given subset are viewed as wrong, to some extent, by those within. The saying "Everybody is somebody's weirdo." refers to that. It's easier to comply with majority culture unless you can't fit in and survive. So, yes - there is room in "our culture" to work outside it and possibly make discoveries and effect change, but too far beyond and things get very lonley and uncomfortable.

    By Blogger Jac, At 19 July, 2006  

  • I guess our culture is a 'multiculture' or a 'metaculture' or a 'culture of cultures'. It can accomodate much of what we do and most of what we say. How things are received in particular contexts within that culture will differ however.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 21 July, 2006  

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