Prof. Dawkins, Illusions are Designed

Mehran Banaei

Richard Dawkins often tends to speak for Charles Darwin. He continuously uses Darwinian evolution to justify his militant atheistic agenda. In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins postulates that the unaided laws of physics, the laws according to which things have happened since the Big Bang, could, in the fullness of geologic time, come to mimic deliberate design. He conveniently redefines biology: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He argues that the illusion of design  is so successful, that it convinces many unwary biologists to believe that if a heart or an eye looks designed, it is sufficient enough to deduce that it is designed. From this assertion, Dawkins, the perpetual disgruntled critic of theism, concludes to have easily refuted the role of God as the First Cause, the Uncaused Cause, God the Creator, the Fashioner, the Orchestrator of the evolutionary processes, the Designer of the astounding variety and complexity of elegant life. Having discredited the divine Watchmaker, he then hands over the credit to a blind watchmaker that unconsciously operates without any purpose in mind. It is indeed mind-boggling to see while physicists and mathematicians have discovered a higher order behind what appears to be “chaos”, Mr. Dawkins denies the apparent order and design in nature, how can one explain this. The avoidance of this emerging conclusion by Dawkins seems rather perplexing!

Let us examine Dawkins’ argument on the illusion of design. First and the foremost, one can argue that the appearance of design is not an accidental byproduct of evolutionary processes, but may very well be a part of the design, that is to say, it is intentionally designed to have the appearance of design. Furthermore, for illusion to appear illusory, necessitates having certain prerequisites and laws in effect to facilitate an illusory perception. Thus, in this case, the issue of who is the Designer and Lawmaker is still on the table and left unanswered.

To say that a bird’s aerodynamic body with its wings has the appearance of design, but is not designed, suggests a form of optical illusion being involved in our understanding of the apparatus. In the first place, why is there a double standard with respect to illusion of design? Dawkins does not make the same inference when he refers to an aircraft, which is actually designed after in-depth studies of the anatomy of birds. If the original model is not designed, how is it that the copycat manmade creation is considered as a feat of engineering supremacy? What criterion do we use to distinguish between what has the appearance of design with that which is purposefully designed? Is the criterion employed arbitrary, conventional, philosophical or scientific? In the last couple of decades, engineers of various disciplines have been paying special attention to nature; they have adopted a biomimetic approach in design for increased productivity, efficiency, sustainability and optimality. In short, they plagiarized designs from nature and then present them as human novelties.

Secondly, in actuality the theist’s view of a designed apparatus leading to the conclusion of an Intelligent Designer has nothing to do with mere appearance of the apparatus. It has everything to do with the ingenuity and functionality at both micro and macro levels. For example, I have no illusion that my car key is thoughtfully designed by Toyota engineers to unlock and then ignite the engine of my automobile at my will. There is certainty that my car key is specifically designed to perform this task only on my automobile: a Toyota RAV4 2010 Sport Model VIN: 2T3RKDV1AW017290. Further, my car key is not designed to perform the same task on any other automobile. I doubt if Dawkins would disagree with me on this issue. So why is this simple logic abandoned when it is extend to the ubiquitous examples in the universe and nature, if the unavoidable conclusion may hint at the existence of a Designer? Teeth are designed to chew food, the heart is designed to pump blood, sexual organs are designed for reproduction, etc. How could the whole remarkable unseen order in the universe and the infinite intelligence behind it be a grandl illusion?

Isaac Newton is reported to have stated that when he first dissected an eyeball of a bull, he immediately realized that all principles of reflection and refraction of light are fully employed in the design of the bull’s eyes. Newton was astonished by this discovery; he proclaimed that, “whoever designed this eyeball knew all the laws involved in optics.” For Newton it was not an illusion of design, but rather it was a solid proof for the existence of God, the “Mechanic” who is responsible for the whole of creation. Dawkins would like to think that it is Natural Selection which is cognizant of the behaviour and properties of light when it passes through lenses, or just pretends that it does to give the impression of design. All this goes to show us is that the atheistic stance is not based on reason, but a blanket emotional reaction to the word “God”, that leads to the most ludicrous conclusions being passed off as scientific and the bastions of rationality.

Moreover, apart from the improbability and impossibility of any unaided and unconscious processes to create anything meaningful, Dawkins’ assertion is also irrational and fallacious in eliminating the role of a Designer.

Indeed, what is an illusion but misinterpretation of a physical reality by our senses? An illusion is when we perceive a physical reality to be anything other than what it actually is, when we become deluded using our own senses of things that are not really true.

There are a few good examples of how our senses can fool us. A prime illustration is the Adelson checkerboard, an incredible optical illusion designed by a Professor of Vision Science at MIT. Edward H. Adelson designed and produced a perplexing checker shadow illusion  in 1995.

At the time, we may not even suspect the veracity of what our senses are telling us, that things could be unreal, unless the illusion is broken up. For example, if we slightly relocate the position of the spot light, the size or the position of the green cylinder, increase natural light in the room or switch the position of gray squares with white squares, there would then be no optical illusion. The size of the board and the cylinder ought to be proportionate to one another. Furthermore, most checkerboards are black and white; however, Adelson could not have picked any other colour, but gray and white. There would be no illusion involved if the colours were bright pink and yellow.

For a colourblind or visually impaired person, if instead of contrasting gray and white squares the checkerboard had smooth and rough bumpy squares, human vision would be totally useless. In this case, the subject would need to use an entirely different sense, namely touch. Therefore, there would be no illusion once you touch the board.

The crucial question is, does as illusion mean there can be no designer? Dawkins has taken the liberty to assume that is so. When someone’s entire career objective becomes justifying atheism and debunking the notion of intelligence in design, it is no wonder that one often makes hasty and inaccurate conclusions.



Optical Illusion Carpet

Optical illusion carpet

Real face or a mask over her face?


A brand new automobile designed to look rusted




What is most interesting is that for every argument that atheists put forward to eliminate the notion of intelligence in design, there is a much stronger counterpunch that slaps them in the face. Dawkins fails to comprehend that even when it comes to illusions, there are purposes involved in the design; that is, it has to be intelligently designed to have an illusive effect. Ask any well-known magicians like David Copperfield or the great Harry Houdini. They would admit that what they do for a living is to create grand illusions, such as making the Statue of Liberty disappear, levitating over the Grand Canyon or walking through the Great Wall of China. The illusionists never do anything impossible contrary to the laws of physics, rather they just cleverly seem to make us think that this is exactly what they are capable of doing. For all their tricks there is indeed great thought and preparation made behind the scenes and the individuals involved have a superb talent for gimmickry. The important point to be made is that even illusions are so meticulously designed to be illusory. They do not just happen by random mutation. If Dawkins thinks otherwise he should then consult with Edward H. Adelson or David Copperfield.

Dawkins’ bogus contribution to this discourse emanates from his inability to explain the intelligent design, which has led him to deny the intelligence in the design and natural processes. The central inescapable dilemma of the atheists is that all elements of nature possess harmonious order and laws. Since order and laws imply arrangement, then the issue of the “how” of arrangement leads to the “who” arranged it, because the probability of chance arrangement is zero, taken cumulatively. This is why if these atheists try to shift the attention of those who rationally conclude that nature implies order, which implies arrangement and hence design and a Designer to it being all an illusion, they cannot escape the fact of arrangement no matter how hard they try. This is like trying to escape the gravity of earth by jumping up; it is an impossibility. Rather, Dawkins and his atheistic henchmen create an illusion of rationality by their baseless suppositions. If after all he is right that there is no God and all designs in nature are pure illusion, then the million dollar question to ask would be: who is the magician who came up with the trick and created the illusion of design? Using his line of reasoning, he should, to say the least, come to conclude that the unique Designer of the evolutionary processes in nature, whatever the nature of this Entity might be, is indeed the one who is the greatest Magician or Illusionist of all time.

For many scientists like Newton, Michael Denton, Michael Behe or Stephen Meyer, there are no illusions about the designs in nature. For them, if it looks designed i.e., serves a purpose, it is designed. The only detectable illusion is that of Dawkins, the stubborn atheist Emperor who refuses to accept that he is naked – who accepts the illusion of being fully clothed.



Filed under Philosophy of Science and Religion

3 responses to “Prof. Dawkins, Illusions are Designed

  1. Osama Ghanim

    Great article, Mehran, deserves wider and thoughtful readership. You dealt mindfully and logically with the two main issues involved: design and illusion and you came up with the right relationship between the two. The article exposes Dawkins’ and his cognitive friends’ poor and ‘blind’ reductionism.

  2. Amy bulhoes

    I definitely agree with design and illusion, both are connected in one simply symphonic level of harmony.

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