Evolution and Intelligent Design: May 2006 Archives

ScienceDaily reported a few days ago on an interesting story (actually, a journal article in the April PLOS Biology) about how bats track insects they want to catch in a way that is very different from that of humans and some other animals. Essentially, humans, fish, dogs, and others use a strategy the article calls "constant bearing" to follow things -- basically, they just head straight for their target. Bats, on the other hand, actually take into account the target's velocity and direction and flies partially parallel to the target. In other words, bats work out in advance where they think their targets will be, and head there, rather than directly towards the target, which saves time.

This is pretty interesting. Even further, the article points out that this is a strategy similar to that developed by engineers for guided missiles.

But here's the part I find the most interesting:

This study also demonstrates, for the first time, that bats work out ahead of time how they will catch an insect. Evolutionary pressure to catch flying insects as fast as possible, the researchers speculate, may have pushed the bat to adopt this technique to catch a meal on the go as quickly as possible. Their paper appears in the May issue of PLoS Biology.

There is no mention of evolution in the journal article, so I assume ScienceDaily must have talked to the researchers. But the article also points this out:

The pursuit strategy is different from that reported in earlier studies of target pursuit in humans and other animals.

Now, my gripe is this:

I've got one more post coming out of the conversation at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

One common complaint I hear about design arguments that involve laws at the outset of the universe being designed is that they simultaneously make two things true. Design arguments generally take some surprising fact in nature, and then they appeal to a designer to explain why the surprising fact makes more sense than it would otherwise. The fine-tuning argument, for instance, takes the extremely small range of cosmological constants that would allow rational life as a reason for thinking there must have been a designer who intended rational life to be possibile and formed the laws accordingly.

The objection then comes in. The anti-ID move is to say that there's a contradiction between two things. (1) The natural laws are such that the origin of rational life is unlikely (otherwise there would be no reason to appeal to a designer). (2) The natural laws are such that the origin of rational life is highly likely (otherwise there designer hypothesis has done no work, and we're right back where we started).

This argument is a classic equivocation. It says something that is true when you use your terms in one sense, and then it considers something else alongside it that is true if you use your terms in a different sense. When it puts them together, it gets a false conclusion because it doesn't account for the fact that these two things are not true in the same sense and thus can't combine in this way. A classic example of equivocation is saying (1) you put your money in the bank and (2) that the flooding in the river is overflowing all the banks, concluding (3) you better take your money out of the bank for fear that it will get waterlogged. It isn't the financial institutions that are being covered with water, and that's where your money is.

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