Intelligent Design and the Bicycle

ImageIn the debate about intelligent design creationism, attention is usually focused on the evidence for life’s natural origin. In this post I look at it from a designer’s perspective: what is an “intelligent designer” supposed to be, and how is the design process supposed to be different from evolution? As a working example, the bicycle is one of the simplest mechanical inventions, used by billions of people. But some of the most basic physics behind the bicycle is still mysterious. The bicycle was not “intelligently designed” by some solitary brilliant engineer. Instead it’s an example of how knowledge, intelligence and design are woven together in an evolutionary process.

The other day I was listening to an older Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, and they discussed some recent research that casts doubt on the conventional explanation of self stability in ordinary bicycles. I happened to be riding my bicycle while listening, and I happened to completely crash, leading me to speculate that my bicycle had been stabilized purely by my faith in it (which was now shattered).

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Ken Ham: making a new generation of Atheists

Bill Nye vs Ken Ham, Feb 4, 2014In just a few days, Bill Nye will go head-to-head with creationist Ken Ham in a debate that has generated a lot of controversy in the online skeptical community. Many are concerned that this debate will attract attention and confer an appearance of legitimacy on Ken Ham’s organization, Answers in Genesis, and its fundamentalist ideas. But I want people to pay more attention, to think harder about this debate, so that they can realize the degree to which biblical creationism is a despicable fraud.

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Planet of the Ape Theists

At the risk of re-blogging too much from “Reason With Me,” I just had to highlight this post about the Planet of the Apes, a beloved movie from my childhood that delivers a potent allegory for faulty theological reasoning. This film reminds of science fiction’s power to explore deeply controversial topics in a manner that is accessible to everyone. Good science fiction can address the substance of an argument while providing some distance from the passion.

Reason With Me


Spending so much time debating with theists makes me feel like I am living on the Planet of the Apes. Theists constantly quote from their ancient texts while denying reason and science. The theists sound shockingly like Dr. Zaius, the Minster of Science but also the chief Defender of the Faith. The apes use their ancient scrolls to justify hunting, beating and enslaving humans. They defend taking away the rights of other sentient beings based on ancient folklore.

Dr. Zaius states that “there is no contradiction between faith and science… true science.”


But Cornelius, wonderfully played by Roddy McDowell, is the embodiment of reason and the scientific method. Cornelius finds ancient artifacts that would suggest that man came before the apes (sort of a reverse evolution theory). Cornelius is accused of heresy.

Dr. Zaius isn’t that far removed from Christian apologists today who try to…

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