My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Intelligent Design, My Ass

"I don't even remember what the hell an appendix is," I said to my wife.

It felt like the wee hours of the morning, but more likely it was the wee hours of Tuesday afternoon - the eternal twilight of the emergency room. Northwestern Memorial, just off Chicago's Magnificent Mile is the real world setting for the TV show "ER," but the staff we met there were much more "Gray's Anatomy." That's right, my "surgical team" consisted of a rouguishly attractive thirtysomething male doctor accompanied by a gaggle of bleary-eyed hot chicks, including the obligatory token Asian.

I hate hospitals, because of the whole sickness and death thing. And every time I've NMH, I've always been too preoccupied by something or other (I think it's called abject terror) to notice, but afterwards I think about it and realize it must be an interesting place to work. It obviously runs on chaos, adrenaline, hormones and caffeine - and the people who work there, their sleep deprived weariness clashing with their perfect hair and breezy, casual attitudes, seem genuinely more interesting than what little I've seen of their TV counterparts. For one thing, doctors are just more interesting people than actors - if you want people to love you, saving their lives seems a much more compelling approach than trying to be beautiful and fabulous. For another thing, the gallows humor and coping mechanisms that characterize any kind of crisis-oriented workplace just don't make for family-friendly entertainment.

But as cool as the place might be to work - it just sucks to visit. It was loud and overcrowded. The place was slammed with crazy people, a bleeding cop being rushed by on a stretcher, armed officers accompanying a wounded criminal, a frightened woman in need of a Chinese translator. They ran out of emergency cubicles and had me stashed on a wheeled bed in a hallway for hours, surrounded by noisy, swarming anarchy, a migraine steadily growing to epic proportions and eventually surpassing the piercing pain in my gut that had brought me to the hospital in the first place.

When a slightly less rouguish but still handsome thirtysomething doctor finally tracked me down in the hallway just as the latest round of narcotics were wearing off, I wasn't really up for rakish banter. "Do you have a surgeon?" he asked. Yeah, I keep one on retainer, my witty TV counterpart replied. "Huh?" I said. "You're going to need one," said Dr. Chipper. "Shit" was all I could come up with without professional writing team.

So, the appendix. Fortunately, my wife knew what one was even if I, in my drug and migraine addled state, did not. "It's a little sac attached to your colon, which doesn't really do much until a little piece of food gets stuck in there. Then it gets infected, swells up and explodes and kills you." How much do I love this woman?

Intelligent Design, according to Wikipedia, is is the concept that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[1]

Proponents of intelligent design look for evidence of what they term "signs of intelligence" — physical properties of an object that they assert necessitate design. The most commonly cited signs include irreducible complexity, information mechanisms, and specified complexity. Design proponents argue that living systems show one or more of these, from which they infer that some aspects of life have been designed. This stands in opposition to mainstream biological science, which relies on experiment and collection of uncontested data to explain the natural world exclusively through observed impersonal physical processes such as mutations and natural selection. Intelligent design proponents say that while evidence pointing to the nature of an "intelligent cause or agent" may not be directly observable, its effects on nature can be detected. Dembski, in Signs of Intelligence, states: "Proponents of intelligent design regard it as a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes. Note that intelligent design studies the effects of intelligent causes and not intelligent causes per se." In his view, one cannot test for the identity of influences exterior to a closed system from within, so questions concerning the identity of a designer fall outside the realm of the concept.
In my experience, the way the human digestive system works does not count as a "sign of intelligence," nor do birth defects, miscarriages, Hodgkin's disease, or that weird thing where cats can't taste sugar because their genes were transposed wrong at one point (thanks to Creek Running North for the link). Creationists (whatever they're calling themselves) always come back to the same basic argument - the world is too intricately, perfectly put together to have happened "by accident." But that's not true at all. Life is extremely complicated, I'll grant you that. But "perfect?" There are just too many flaws in everything. Life doesn't maximize its potential, it "satisfices" - it's just good enough to solve its immediate problems, but no better. Old age, sickness and death might be deep and meaningful to many of you out there, but to me they are mistakes, poor design or more accurately, lack of design.

Speaking of transposition, there's another definition for appendix: A collection of supplementary material, usually at the end of a book. . . generally when I've seen them they are tables, references, or anecdotes that couldn't be fit smoothly into the body of the text. So if mine's been removed I guess I've finally been edited, which some picky and grammar obsessed readers could've told you was something I desperately needed anyway.


Bob said...

So I guess you are, uhh, feeling better?

Axinar said...

I've often found myself thinking that the perception of Intelligent Design is, in fact, valid ...

The only question being of course upon which side of the eyeballs does the intelligence lie?

Trope said...

(sigh) You know I don't really know what I'm talking about, right? And on behalf of my other grammar geek friends, I'd hardly call a desire for a spellcheck and cursory corralling of apostrophes "picky and grammar obsessed". As I have no posting privileges here, I suppose I'll just have to bite my tongue and put up with it.

marf said...

Glad you are feeling better enough to blog. Thought you'd enjoy this poem:

a poem by Edwin Kagin, found in his book "Baubles of Blasphemy"

Creator God of Everything, I hope Thee wilt not decline/To answer me my questionings on Intelligent Design.

I know that every living thing came from Thy mighty mind/That Thou created perfectly every life form that we find.

Some pious people tell me they have, through Thee, resolved/That Eden spawned all living things and that life has not evolved.

That each kind of Thy created works Thou did to finest form refine/And human pefection clearly shows the intelligence of Thy design.

Creator God, please do explain the truths of I.D. to me/And why some flaw-free eyes Thou made need glass to clearly see.

Tell me God of Everything, for I know Thou cannot lie/Why every perfect thing Thou made must one day age and die.

And why are joints, and backs, and bones subject to ruin and pain?/Why must heads ache, and kidneys leak, and blood vessels burst from strain?

Why do we jettison out our wastes so near the port of birth?/Why should any of Thy organs quit? Were we designed just for Thy mirth?

Barely can be walk upright; most teeth will rot or fail/And what does our appendix do? Did we once have a tail?

Why is our trachea, through which we breath air, located to nearly meet/Our esophagus, so we sometimes inhale good things we try to eat?

Why do some bodies attack themselves, when from disease we might be free?/Tell me truly, God of Truth, were all our afflictions made by Thee?

Why does Intelligent Design make so many people fat/Why have we not the grace or ease designed into the cat?

I have other questions Deity, and I really don't know how/A moment ago I knew them, but cannot recall them now.

Elwood Grobnik said...

Hey y'all, to clarify. . .
Yes I'm feeling better, as in I've been home from the hospital a few days and I'll be returning to work tomorrow morning. I doesn't hurt much anymore, right now I'm not even taking Advil. Bitch though I will, NWH is actually a fantastic hospital with an awe inspiring Trauma unit, first rate surgeons, etc. They did it quick, with a tiny little scar, and none of the horrifying complications everyone else who has had this procedure apparently has experienced and feels compelled to tell me about in detail.

It's just so damn loud there.

Thanks for the poem, Marf. I dig. Although my paranoid side suspects the answer to all the "whys" is "the Man is keeping us down."

R. Brett Stirling said...

First off, I am not keeping you all down. It just seems that way because I'm so much farther north.

Second, in the immortal words of Bill Hicks,"Ever notice how creationists look really unevolved?"

Third, another nail in the I.D. coffin... the recent fossil fish found that hints at elbows, legs and oddly enough a sense of humor (something else creationists seem to be lacking.)