Intelligent Design in Hollywood?

X-Men 3: The Last Stand is about to come out on DVD, which prompted this non-football-related thinking from ESPN’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook:

Of course, one must suspend disbelief when it comes to superheroes. But what TMQ always wonders about X-Men, Superman, the Flash and the rest is: Where are the body organs that support their powers? I’m willing to believe a superhero can fly, but where is the organ that provides propulsion? Supposedly Earth’s yellow star activated in Kal-El powers that he would not have had under the red sun of Krypton. But still, some internal organ must produce the energy for his heat vision and the thrust for his flying and so on. In “Superman Returns,” Supe can even fly faster than light, a power he lacked in the comics; apparently some organ too small to even bulge under his skin propels him to warp speed. Really, there must be some physical point of origin for a superhero’s power. Storm must have a body organ that projects force fields that control weather. Iceman must have a body organ that can reduce temperature very rapidly, plus shed heat so Bobby doesn’t boil. Where in their physiques are these organs?

Beyond that, the X-Men premise defies scientific thinking about natural selection, which holds that new organs develop very slowly across hundreds of generations. Assume some body organ can allow Shadowcat to walk through walls or Colossus to change his skin to steel: it’s unimaginable such an organ could arise de novo in a single mutation. Many generations of relatively minor mutations would be required before a novel body organ could come into full functionality. Biologists from Richard Goldschmidt of the early 20th century to Stephen Jay Gould of the late 20th have speculated there is an as-yet-undiscovered natural mechanism that enables accelerated evolution. Otherwise it’s hard to imagine how creatures lived through long chains of generations with still-evolving incomplete organs, since incomplete organs should be a fitness disadvantage and thus render their possessors less likely to reproduce. Unless the X-Men are an argument for intelligent design! The intelligent-design crowd believes natural selection can produce minor alterations in existing forms but cannot produce new organs or new species; a higher intellect controls that. The sudden, drastic evolutionary jumps depicted in the X-Men movies and comics sure feel like intelligent design. In fact one of the most interesting X-Men, Nightcrawler, asserts that the very rapid evolution he and his friends experience could not occur naturally and must be the result of God intervening for reasons not yet known.

That’s an interesting point, especially for a football columnist. Personally, I favor something more like the Intelligent Design model, though evolution is clearly the model in the NFL. Think about it:

330-lb linemen with cat-quick reflexes: evolution.
260-lb tight ends with 4.5 speed in the forty: evolution.
The Cover Two defense to the Tampa Two defense: evolution.
The West Coast Offense to the Vikings offense: well, it sure as heck isn’t Intelligent Design!

2 thoughts on “Intelligent Design in Hollywood?

  1. One could make an argument that some these “Super-Powers” are just logical extensions of things the human body can already do.

    Iceman for example. We can regulate our body temperature and some people can be trained to selectively warm/cool specific parts of their body. Granted ice is a bit of an extreme.

    Flight? Eh, not a clue

    Storm…well if you hold any belief in telekenetics or even that it’s possibly, there is your answer.

    I agree that evolution is probably not the answer to most of them. That’s why we invented Hollywood and the folks at ILM.

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