Neil Degrasse Tyson argues that the universe could not have been designed by an intelligent design because of the abundance of stupid designs.
One of the first things that he says is that if you put life almost anywhere within the volume of this universe, it would die instantly. Okay and of course that’s true. If you put us in outer space we would suffocate. If you put us in the middle of the sun we’d burn to death. If you put us in the middle of the earth we’d be crushed and burned to death. Of course that’s true but it’s not a very compelling argument. He wants to say that because most of the volume of the universe is not conducive to life, therefore you can’t say that this universe was designed for life. But you could apply that logic equally to a roller coaster and say that if you put humans on most places on the structure of a roller coaster, it would be very dangerous for them and they could very likely die and therefore roller coasters were not designed for humans. But that’s complete nonsense. They were designed for humans and they were designed for humans to be in the seat with the harness down to hold them. And all the rest of the structure is for the purpose of entertaining humans. And it is designed for the humans to be in one particular place, a very small fraction of the total places within the structure of the roller coaster and yet it was designed for humans. So that’s a simple counter example that shows how silly the logic is.
Another argument that Tyson puts forward in this five minute video and one that he claims is his favorite argument is the fact that we eat and drink and breathe and speak through one opening, the mouth. And he claims that this is an example of stupid design because it’s just asking for us to choke. The fact that we eat and breathe through the same opening means we could get food lodged in the throat in the trachea and we could choke to death and indeed some people do choke to this so this has caused death. And he says it’s an obvious example of something that an intelligent designer wouldn’t do. He says “I’m not asking for much. If you look at porpoises, if you look at dolphins they’ve got a blowhole that they breathe through and they eat through a different opening so they have two different openings so it can be done. Why wouldn’t an intelligent designer have done this with us? And for that reason he says that tells you that we weren’t intelligently designed. But it’s really a very silly argument. Let’s think about this a little more carefully than he did. What are the anatomical structures that we use to eat? It’s the lips, it’s the teeth, it’s the palate and the tongue. Those are all well designed for eating right? But what are the anatomical structures that we use for speaking? It’s the very same structures, it’s the lips, it’s the teeth, it’s the palette, it’s the tongue. The very same structures that are used for eating are used for speaking and speaking requires air we have to breathe to speak. We’re expelling air as we speak so this is actually an example of elegant design. Designers if you go and talk to design engineers, it’s considered to be very elegant design if you can use the same structures for two different purposes. And this is an excellent example of that. We speak and we eat with the very same structures and we do so very elegantly. And in fact if you look at causes of death among humans in America, there are statistics on this, choking actually isn’t in the top 10 causes of death. Number 10, of course cancer and heart disease are the top two and have been for a long time, number 10 is suicide. So think about what a designer could have done if the main goal were to prevent death. The designer could have not given us a mind because it’s a mind gone wrong, a mind gone depressed that leads to suicide so that gives you an idea for the complexity of actual design problems that deGrasse Tyson is just glossing over here. Why would God have made us without minds as though the only goal were to keep us from dying? Evidently that wasn’t the only goal. Evidently he has higher goals and a mind, giving us minds is an important part of the higher goal and there is a cost to that and some minds go wrong and some minds kill others and some minds kill themselves. Evidently it was not the designer’s purpose to prevent that from happening. Evidently there’s a higher purpose and a mind is important for that so that brings up a key aspect of design that deGrasse Tyson has glossed over and that most of these arguments gloss over and that is design always involves the weighing of multiple objectives and it always involves trade-offs.
If you look at a smartphone. Smartphone sizes have gone up and down right because people on the one hand want them to be small enough to put in their pocket and to be easy to carry around. On the other hand they want them to be large enough to have enough screen real estate that you can see a lot on the screen. And you can’t have both. Ultimately you can’t have a large screen and a small size that fits in your pocket so there’s a trade-off. And you’ve seen smartphone sizes go up and down because they’re exploring the sweet spot in this trade-off. But there is a trade-off. And that’s a very common theme in design. You have multiple objectives, there’s trade-offs and you need to hit a sweet spot where you’re accomplishing multiple things well given those trade-offs. Completely ignored and completely glossed over by deGrasse Tyson when he talks about the problem of choking causing death. A lot of things that are part of us are going to cause risks and are going to cause death. Evidently the designer was willing to make us that way and evidently that fits within his higher purpose.