Miles Kington: Intelligent design? You've got to be joking

The universe is very badly planned. If I were a designer, I wouldn't mention it on my CV

"Ah, that old chestnut's come round again has it?" he said. "It's baloney, really, because all it suggests is that the universe is so impressive to us humans that someone much brighter than us must have created it. But it doesn't take much to be superhuman. Always remember that humans are very stupid and easily impressed.

"It makes more sense to say that, far from showing signs of intelligence, the universe is a very badly planned entity. Almost all of it is empty space, and what little matter there is is useless and empty. If I were an intelligent designer, and I'd made the universe, I wouldn't mention it on my CV."

"So is the universe an argument in favour of there being an unintelligent designer?"

"Ah, now you're talking! I shouldn't really say this, but scientists are far too impressed by unnecessary complexity. Do you realise, a marine biologist will say, that for an octopus to be born you have to have a sequence involving five separate highly intricate processes, or something like that? It's unbelievably complicated! So there must be an intelligence at work! But I argue the other way round - that if there was any intelligent designer at work, he would have cleaned up these five hideously complicated processes years ago and streamlined everything. Complexity is always a feature of bad design."

"Is there any way of testing this?" I said.

"Well," said Professor Rank. "I did a highly illuminating experiment at the weekend, if you're interested ..."

I said I was interested.

"Thing is, I have got an experimental programme on my computer which is usually capable of detecting intelligent design in any given phenomenon, so I decided to turn the search on to US government policy."

"You mean, you asked the computer to see if it could detect any intelligent design in what the White House does and says?"

"Exactly," says Professor Rank. "I thought it was only fair to turn on President Bush the methods he suggests using elsewhere. To begin with, the computer was slightly baffled. It could not understand why Bush was flying in the face of all scientific evidence and not taking global warming seriously. Nor could it see any intelligent justification for the invasion of Iraq. Bush says he invaded Iraq to combat terror, whereas his actions have multiplied terrorism tenfold. Same was true of other policies. There seemed to be some sort of logical dislocation between what Bush says and what he does."

"Just the same as with Tony Blair!" I said.

"I wouldn't know about that," said Professor Rank. "What I do know is that after a period of puzzlement the computer came up with an astounding theory. It said that White House policy could be construed as intelligent if it was an extra-terrestrial intelligence."


"Meaning, apparently, that White House policies all made sense if they were designed to destabilise Earth, and run it down, in advance of an extra-terrestrial take-over."

"You mean, that President Bush is a pawn in the hands of a galactic superpower?"

"It's not impossible. People have often commented on his strange speaking style. His odd inability to get words right. His not quite human facial expression. Sometimes you hear people saying it was as if he was being controlled from elsewhere. Well, maybe they're nearer than they think, and in actual fact ..."

It was at this very moment that Professor Barby Rank vaporised before my very eyes. Vanished. Dematerialised. One moment there was a person, then a cloud of atoms, then nothing. It was as if, just before disclosing some unknowable truth, he had been eliminated.

The question is, what truth?

Quite frankly, after seeing the Professor fizzle out like that, I am not disposed to inquire further.