Wednesday, July 30, 2008



Scientists have at least partially deciphered the purpose of the Antikythera Mechanism.

[T]he device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.

Discovered in 1901 is a sunken ship off the island of Antikythera, north of Crete, the device was believed to have built between 140 and 100 BCE. Using high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, the researchers have now made out inscriptions on the mechanism and reconstructed the functions of the bronze gears.

Dr. Michael Egnor, one of the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design Creationists, has attempted to claim that the device is proof that the "design inference" can be made solely from an object, without reference to who may have constructed it:

[E]xamination of this device, called the Antikythera mechanism, including x-ray and CT studies, shows it to be a remarkable assembly of precisely designed gears. Many scientists believe that it was a device for predicting eclipses and planetary motion, but its precise function is still a mystery. Its resemblance to an analog computer is striking (an x-ray image is shown above). Archeologists believe that the technology to produce such a device didn't emerge until at least the 14th century A.D. They have no evidence as to who designed it, and no evidence even of who could have designed it. Yet the inference to design is obvious, and no archeologist doubts that it is a designed artifact. Design can be inferred from an artifact alone, regardless of the obscurity or the implausibility of a designer.

Quite apart from the fact that no one had any reason to doubt from the outset that it was a human construct, giving us sufficient information to assess whether it was designed, this latest work clearly differentiates between science and ID. Instead of throwing up their hands after inferring design, as creationists do, refusing to investigate who the designers were, what their abilities were or what its intentions were, the scientists went about finding all they could about the creators of the mechanism:

The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar. ...

The months inscribed on the instrument, they wrote, are "practically a complete match" with those on calendars from Illyria and Epirus in northwestern Greece and with the island of Corfu. Seven months suggest a possible link with Syracuse.

At least until they are willing to do that, the unscientific nature of ID and of its practitioners will remain as clear as their "Designer's" identity.

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