The latest gem from EN claims that autumn foliage was designed for human enjoyment:
(re-posted from my FB page)
Because I love autumn foliage and nature walks, I really wanted to like this essay by an Intelligent Design proponent. But it is just pure silliness and, in my view, perfectly exemplifies the kind of bizarre reasoning that ID folks claim is open-mindedness about evidence for supernatural forces in nature.
The author claims - in seriousness! - that the brilliant colors of fall were (or may have been) intentionally designed for humans to enjoy. Let’s think about all the ridiculous things that would have to be the case in order for that to be true. (Please add more to my list if you can.)
First of all, leaf senescence is an intricately programmed process involving hundreds of genes. While it is most commonly associated with flowering plants (angiosperms), the genes and pathways for this process evolved in even older lineages of plants before plants had colonized dry land, over 500 million years before Homo sapiens appeared. So… plants were engaging this process for 500 million years so that some humans could be treated to nice colors during their nature walks for a few weeks out of the year. Um, okay.
Secondly, humans and their ancestors evolved almost exclusively in Africa for basically all of the last 20 million years. (Yes, waves of other hominids periodically left Africa but these were not our ancestors and probably had little appreciation for foliage.) Even our recent ancestry was almost exclusively in tropical and subtropical areas in which leaf senescence is not a thing. So… the design for fall colors could have been placed where humans were actually living for most of our history, but it wasn’t because… ?
And thirdly, even in modern times, the vast majority of humanity does not live in regions that exhibit anything like the autumn foliage that we see in parts of Europe, North America, and some parts of Central and East Asia. Brilliant and conspicuous leaf senescence occurs in a particular slice of where human beings live. So… this gift was not for all of humanity, but exclusively for those living in specific places. Lucky us!
So to believe this story (for which there is no evidence, of course), you have to also believe that a supernatural power designed this little gift 500 millions years ahead of time, specifically for a small minority of modern humans that would eventually come to live in a small slice of the world.
And fourthly, what about the actual function of leaf senescence for the plant? Was this just a side effect? In the view of Intelligent Design, everything else in nature was designed specifically for the pleasure and comfort of human beings. But, here in the real world, we understand that living things have their own physiology that functions for their own purposes. Not everything is about us.
Besides just being comically unscientific, this particular kind of thinking, that humans are the center of everything and everything was designed with us in mind, has some pretty harmful consequences and corollaries. And before anyone @'s me that this is just poetic flurry, be sure you read the essay. He’s quite serious. And before anyone @'s me saying this doesn’t represent ID, remember that this is now the main featured article on the webpage of “the intellectual home of Intelligent Design.” This is what passes for serious thought at the Discovery Institute.
The silliness of Intelligent Design is why no one takes their ideas seriously. But the harmful consequences is why we do take the movement seriously and why we take time from our other work to refute them at every turn.