EVOLUTION AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN

 

 

    A friend sent me two DVD’s.  One called “The Incorrigible Dr Berlinski,” and the other contained the testimony of a group of academic “experts” lobbying for “intelligent Design” (ID) during a Kansas state controversy over teaching evolution exclusively.  I’ve watched them both twice.  I was already familiar with much of the argumentation I heard.  Without getting into a lengthy technical discussion, there are two aspects that I would like to relate to, one positively, and the other negatively.

 

     (1) Positively:  I am in total agreement that there are gaps and lacunae in the Darwinian evolutionary picture … i.e., that the simple formula of random variation plus natural selection is not sufficient to explain macro-evolution.  The inclusion of mutations in the category of variation also does not cut it. 

    In my second book, The Mystery of Matter, currently under way, I try to tackle some of these issues and offer what I call an expanded Darwinism or a Lamarckian modification of Darwinism that tries to explain how variation is not entirely random … and that it is the evolving species themselves that participate in the direction of variation, making what Darwin called profitable variations available for natural selection to work with.  But even in this case, whatever involvement there is of “mind” is entirely restricted to the conscious capacities of the evolving creatures themselves which are totally subordinate to the drive to survive.  There is no “master-mind” directing the flow of evolution toward any other “end.”  The very notion is a contradiction in terms because “mind” is a function of survival. 

   There are others who “tinker” with and “tweak” Darwinism to make up for the over-simplicity of Darwin’s vision.  I am in favor of revising Darwin in this sense.

  

    (2) Negatively:  The critique of Darwinism that I heard on the DVD’s however, did not move in that direction.  What I heard was that the gaps in the Darwinian vision open immediately to the alternative of “Intelligent Design” which is just another word for “creationism.”  I disagree with that.

 

The Theology

 

    I have a problem with “creationism” and for me it’s first a theological / philosophical problem, well before it becomes a scientific problem.  And it’s the same problem presented by naïve providence which I criticized in An Unknown God.  Think about it.  The entire Thomist doctrine of providence as the disposition of secondary causes insuring that the functioning of the universe will be seamlessly accomplished by both the Primary and secondary causes acting simultaneously and in full autonomy is completely vitiated by the expectations of a naïve providence micro-managing little miracles.  The constant recourse to divine intervention apart from the natural order, the infusion of immortal souls metaphysically independent of the human reproductive function, miracles of healing in response to prayer, grace as the internal “movings” of the spirit, and all suchlike mechanisms render Thomas’ definition of providence as the “ordering of all things to their proper end” an empty exercise. 

 

As I see it, the theory of continuous creation of species by intelligent design throughout the time-line of pre-history (species do not appear in the fossil record all at once, so ID would have to contemplate a “time-released” creation by a designer “God” who paces his creative work to make it appear as if some form of incremental speciation were occurring. …  absurd, on the face of it!) reproduces exactly this same anthropomorphic “God” that Thomas warned us does not exist.  To my mind it is a theory that in order to claim that “God” has left irrefutable proof of “his” presence, intelligence and “power” for the benefit and convenience of our educational controversies, is willing to sacrifice the true scope of divine generosity and the true nature of “power” which is a self-emptying Love, the total sharing of divine creativity itself.

 

   The result has been in the West the picture of a “God” made in our image and likeness … a God of physically coercive power (the kind of power that impotence must have recourse to), who “created” and therefore “owns” everything, unequivocally paternal, domineering and controlling, issuing commandments from a “will” as whimsical, arbitrary, and unaccountable as any of the tyrannical autocrats that have ruled us in the style of the Roman Emperors since time immemorial.  This narcissistic “God” has created the model for the exercise of human authority and private ownership at all social levels from the highest powers to the lowliest human family.  We live in paternal dictatorships across the board because we model our societies on the “God” we worship.  And that “God” has been imagined as a benevolent dictator who micro-manages the universe as “his” private property.  

 

    To suggest, on the other hand, a “maternal” imagery, in which “God” makes her creative existence absolutely and unreservedly available for creatures to use and enjoy in whatever way they may devise … is simultaneously to project a model that suggests that those that exercise existence, should function with the same creative power born of kenosis, the power coming from the same open-handed generosity and total self-dona­tion, that characterizes the Gift and the Giver.  This “God” coerces no one.  When this “God” gives, “she” gives … for “keeps.”  What She gives, she “gives away” and no longer “owns.”  She owns nothing.   This “God” has no private property.

In all cases, observe, we become like the “God” we project. 

 

   And even if I were to take the words “intelligence” and “power” as anything more than evocative, poetic, irremediably anthropomorphic metaphors to apply to “God,” I would have to say the “God” of Darwinian evolution who lets the creatures themselves elaborate (create) the forms and functions that they need to exist, is infinitely more “intelligent” and clever, infinitely more capable and “powerful” than the frantic little designer deity that must personally impose a “purpose” that is recognizably rational by human standards to every new development on the planet.  So, well before we look scientifically at the claims of “Creationism,” my notion of the “kenotic” God symbolized in the powerlessness of Jesus’ “obedience unto death,” is offended by this scientifically baseless theory which has nothing going for it other than the recorded myths and legends of ancient semi-nomadic near eastern people who lived almost 3,000 years ago.

 

The Science

 

    Now let’s look at the “scientific” adequacy of creationism … without getting into detail.. 

    The proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) claim theirs is an alternative “scientific” hypothesis.  As “science,” therefore, it is required to meet all the criteria that apply to any scientific theory, including universality of application and testability.  But creationism cannot be tested. 

 

Nor does it even enjoy the extrapolation available to the evolutionists.  For in the case of Darwinism, actually observed morphological changes can be reasonably extended to apply beyond the known concrete cases, while in the case of creationism, there is no observed creation ex nihilo anywhere, not even on the smallest scale, necessarily attributable to an intelligent divine designer, and certainly no justification for applying such a theory universally.  There is no evidence that there is anything else functioning in speciation than the organismic adaptation to changed circumstances.  

 

As far as the apparent introduction of “purpose” in the design of organisms is concerned, there is nothing evident here except by analogy with human rationality.  There is no evidence that any intelligence was functioning in the choice and disposition of these organisms.  I read a book recently about ant colonies called Ants at Work by entomologist Deborah Gordon.  With a team of assistants, Dr Gordon spent 17 years monitoring the behavior of harvester ants in the Arizona desert.  She concluded that for all its overall efficiency and apparent central organization, the ant colony has no central control functioning much less programs that could remotely be called intelligence.  The queen gives no orders to any ants whatsoever regarding the operation of the colony as a whole.  Each individual ant adjusts its own instinctive programming according to conditions that are local to its own mini-environment within the nest, and the cumulative effect of such micro-reactions creates what appears to us as overall rational planning, purpose, intention, etc.  Similarly, recent explorations in chaos theory seem to confirm that random interactions at certain levels of volume and intensity can have a cybernetic (feedback) effect that produces a predictable stability that can appear to human observers as “intended purpose.”  The appearance of rational intention is in itself no proof of its presence or influence.

 

There is nothing so far unearthed in nature that absolutely demands the action of an intelligence in its creation.  Without having even one incontrovertible piece of evidence of the existence of intelligent design of species, the ID claim can only be an act of pure speculation … absolute guesswork (or faith) with no scientific basis whatsoever.  That does not prove it false … but it means the propositions of the creationist position are not scientific and therefore creationism cannot be called nor taught as science.

 

Darwinism, on the other hand, however incomplete, can claim to be a scientific theory.  As evidence of the actual functioning of evolutionary processes continues to emerge from observed data, despite the gaps and lacunae, the plausibility of evolution has slowly been raised to ever higher levels of probability that, at this point in time, have come to be considered sufficient by many to persuade them of its truth.  That does not constitute a total proof either.  But scientifically speaking, Darwinism enjoys a measure of scientific probability, where creationism does not.  Creationism is not scientific, and has no right to be taught as science. 

 

 

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4 comments on “EVOLUTION AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN

  1. Frank Lawlor says:

    Teleological Thinking and Modern Science

    The modern scientific method is built on a set of assumptions which are not always made explicit to non-scientists. For instance, there is a reality, external to the scientific inquirer which is accessible to quantatative measurement either directly by use of one or more of the senses, or indirectly by instruments that extend the range of the senses. This particular example of a basic assumption obviously limits the scope of scientific investigation and distinguishes it from other ways of knowing. Among these assumptions is a total rejection of teleological explanations or observations. For instance, a biologist cannot state or imply something like the following: “The “X” moth’s coloration patterns are to confuse bird predators.” This implies a purpose for the coloration and implies an agent, a rational plan. The scientist making such a statement or any more subtle variation on it, must answer, “Whose plan is referenced here?” Teleology is totally anathema in a scientific analysis. If a student paper uses this sort of reasoning it will be quickly pointed out as unacceptable. A thesis, research paper, classroom comment or whatever will doom its author as having violated a primary tenent of the scientific way of looking at and analyzing the world.

    On a more subtle level, to analyze the overall picture of evolution as being a process of increasing perfection of organisms over time is to fall directly into the teleologic trap. We humans place ourselves on an egotistical summit as the peak of perfection in the timeline of biological “progress”. The Intelligent Design folks, irrespective of the other flaws in their “science” place themselves ab initio outside the bounds of scientific inquiry.

    The same is true of the commonly accepted Catholic accommodation to the ideas of evolution. It has long been my contention that eventually the church will have to condemn the evolutionary viewpoint because it must of necessity be based on a process of random genetic changes. The alternative is non-random and therefore based on a teleological causation. Catholics, if tied to the magisterium, are committed to postulating a billion years of little miracles engineered by a God who micromanages life forms in accord with a plan. In this scenario scientists are delusional and engaged in a futile activity.

  2. tonyequale says:

    Frank,

    Thanks for your pointed and very clear observations.

    As far as your comments about the scientific method are concerned, there is absolutely no argument. But they inspire me to speculate: I wonder if there might be some value in an expanded discussion of “teleology.” The following ruminations are inspired by your points and therefore only tangential to them. But I think they are relevant to an understanding of our Sacred universe … which is, after all, what this is all about for me. Thank you for the stimulation.

    “Teleology” functions in human behavior, and the sciences that study humankind have to deal with it. So the evolutionary scientist legitimately asks, “Does teleology function as a factor in (human) evolutionary development”? He’s not asking about “God,” but rather, “Do humans intentionally select for specific variations”? I think there’s little doubt that we do.

    The next question is, “Do these selections accumulate over time to the development of a new lifeform with the reproductive barriers, resistance to mutation and other protections characteristic of all true species?” We’ve not as yet observed any such phenomenon. But we suspect it must have occurred in the past. Paleo-anthro¬pology works on the assumption that the various sub-species of hominids evolved by being selected for not only by “objective” factors like climate, available food, disease resistance etc., but also “subjectively” by what the controlling hominid society would tolerate and protect, like perhaps sociability, or the ability to plan, (maybe even “hairlessness,”) etc. Thus, it is reasonable to say that evolution proceeded by a combination of “random” and “purposefully selected” variations.

    Needless to say, such human “purposes” were mainly subordinate to survival … but not necessarily always. Survival is hardly served by “hairlessness.”

    The next step is to project this phenomenon of “teleology” further back into the biological past. At what point can we definitively say that animals were absolutely without input into which individuals in their society will live or die. That’s a hard one. But clearly, at some point in the very distant past there began the “teleological participation” of living organisms, however primitive at first, in the selection of what traits would live to reproduce … there’s absolutely no way of nailing this down, either as to quality or extent. I absolutely agree that Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics does not function. But his projection contemplated a one-generation transfer. What I would call a “Lamarckian modification of Darwinism” would say, in contrast, that over countless generations, characteristics acquired by learning become “hard-wired” and eventually genetically transmitted. Life on this planet, in other words, has directed its own development in an increasingly conscious, intentional way.

    So what am I saying? Your caveat about teleology is well taken: there is no outside teleological puppeteer directing the show. But we swim in an ocean of living matter. An immanent teleology is involved at all levels mutatis mutandi. That doesn’t give us the right to say that a “consciousness” exists within every quantum of matter as Teilhard or Whitehead might be accused of saying. But teleology as a function of survival has congealed out of the material substrate of our world, and it has had an increasing influence on the direction of evolution, creating a de facto hierarchy of power and control. We, because of our teleology, are increasingly directing the evolutionary show.

    I want to explore the potential of matter, alive with this immanent energy that has been able, so far, to evade the direct gaze of science. This energized matter, locked in a paroxysm of existential self-embrace that expresses itself in evolutionary survival, “modern” Cartesian science decided was, by itself, inert and lifeless, necessarily requiring an outside source of vitality and direction (“spirit” and ultimately “God”). There were others, pre-modern, who were convinced that matter itself was alive. (Only alchemists? I think of Eriugena, Nicolas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno.) In our day, post-moderns have become newly enraptured with the creativity of nature, visible in the implausibilities revealed by science itself, not the least of which is evolutionary emergence. Stuart Kaufman (Reinventing the Sacred), scientist and mathematician, is one of these. How exactly, he asks as a scientist, did life come from non-life? Because they all knew there was no “outside agent” pulling the strings, or inserting life or “souls” or essences with purposes, they all have had to deny that ex nihilo, nihil fit, or else embrace its implication: matter is alive. They stood in speechless wonder at it all. Something did come from nothing. Or, even more awesome, maybe not. Two plus two doesn’t always equal four, sometimes it’s five or maybe more. Such creativity evokes the divine.

    What has been done in our universe, undeniably, has been created out of nothing by the formless matter that in one of its many recombinations is our very selves. We not only have but are our bodies, and our bodies are not only made of, they are nothing but this very same infinitely creative matter … quarks, muons, neutrinos … whose potential, in one of its most improbable realizations, is on display in our brain-drenched flesh … and is spun out as our thought, our art, and most breathtaking of all, our self-transcending love. So then, the question “what is IT,” because we are it, takes on a whole new meaning …

  3. Frank Lawlor says:

    Tony,
    Wow, when you take an idea you really do bounce it around! I will obviously have to read more of your thinking in order to follow you.

    Here are a few of my (much too verbose but irresistible) reactions:
    1. “Do humans intentionally select for specific variations”? I think there’s little doubt that we do.
    Yes! One pertinent way that we do this is in the criteria we use for choosing a mate. Height is a selection criteria. Shade of skin color. Hair color. Ability as a warrior (athelete). Size of breasts. etc. etc. See: mating rituals of birds, fighting among male mammals. This intentional selection can affect the predominance of the selected trait in the gene pool and possibly change a species although the traits not selected for will remain as a recessive chacteristic and will appear frequently in the population. Mendel’s work suggests that the traits used for selection are not eliminated from the gene pool.

    2. “Do these selections accumulate over time to the development of a new lifeform with the reproductive barriers, resistance to mutation and other protections characteristic of all true species?” We’ve not as yet observed any such phenomenon. But we suspect it must have occurred in the past.
    I would disagree. There is no evidence that selection for any trait that is common to the gene pool will eventually be lost. Only a trait that is mutated ie the related genes are permanently damaged in the reproductive cells and thus can be passed down consistently to subsequent generations. For thousands of years humans have been breeding various herding animals (pigs, cows, horses, goats etc. for very specific traits and yet we have not “made” species that are new and that will not sucessfully breed with unaltered animals of the same species. I don’t know of any biological mechanism that will prevent mutations such as those commonly caused in reproductive cells by high speed subatomic particles or other damage mechanisms. Mutations of this sort (prior to genetic engineering) are always random, often fatal prenataly, sometines harmless or very rarely provide some somatic advantage for survival by a happy chance coincidence with an environmental change etc. Lamarck’s theory has never been supported by the evidence although the search has been long and exhaustive. “We suspect it must have occurred..” is speculation and is invalid in a scientific context.

    3. Paleo-anthro¬pology works on the assumption that the various sub-species of hominids evolved by being selected for not only by “objective” factors like climate, available food, disease resistance etc., but also “subjectively” by what the controlling hominid society would tolerate and protect, like perhaps sociability, or the ability to plan
    Generally speaking the evolutionary path is not like a ladder but like a branching tree. If you take a particular branch of this tree, say one with the Chimpanzee branching off into say Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, the operative changes that distinguish these two species from each other are morphological and ultimately genetic (confirmed by very recent Neanderthal DNA analysis). Such differences could not therefore be the result of breeding choices made by members of each species. Instead, random genetic variations occurred in each group and persisted in that group to be followed by a series of additional variations in DNA that finally made the two species so different that they either could not cross breed or would not (the aforementioned DNA evidence indicates that they did not interbreed). Anatomical evidence and now DNA affirms that they constitute separate branches off the chimpanzee branch. The branching process leading to new species far outdates the brief span of recorded history entailing hundreds of millenia.

    4. (on a lighter note) Survival is hardly served by “hairlessness.”
    Au contraire – Heavy body hair can indeed be a factor in “survival or not”. A neighbor’s very furry little dog was lost on a dark and cold night. We found the poor beast entangled in a brier bush. If short hair is recessive in this species the majority of the species with long hair might die off if the environment brought about a new and extensive growth of thorny plants. In a warming climate change we might imagine very furry beasts being knocked off by predators because body heat build-up which led to heat exhaustion so that they could not escape by outrunning their enemies. A chance mutation causing some of the very furry beasts to be born bald might allow these ugly members of the pack to radiate heat, continue running and thus to escape speedy predators and go on to breed other baldies. This survival would be due to DNA damage which would have doomed the survival of the bald animals in the former cold climate. Survival might also be enhanced by the baldy’s lack of hair protected skin parasites carrying debilitating diseases. Our very furry Shelty dogs seldom have ticks on the hairless belly area.

    5. over countless generations, characteristics acquired by learning become “hard-wired” and eventually genetically transmitted. Life on this planet, in other words, has directed its own development in an increasingly conscious, intentional way.
    Whoa! Here we are dealing with learned behavior which is a very different thing. An example of the evidence to the contrary is the fact that a human baby, if separated physically (or emotionally?) from human association in a critical early life period will never learn to speak. Since humans have had language for perhaps a million years, why is speech not genetically transmitted? The mechanism is inherited but not the ability. Young bears, lions, tigers etc. must learn to hunt despite the millions of years of hunting ancestors (fore-bears?). Behavior based on pure instinct such as the behavior of ants shows no evidence in the fossil record of ever having been learned behavior. Lamarck, how come?

    SOME RELATED THOUGHTS ON SCIENTIFIC THEORY

    One of the really serious problems people face when dealing with a scientific theory is that the nature of this beast is not at all what is usually taught. What ultimately are the criteria that are used to accept a theory or not? It boils down to aesthetics. Is the theory elegant, beautiful? Does it lead to creative thinking, to broad understanding, to unanticipated research, to a refinement of itself without destruction of its beauty? A prior condition of any theory is that it makes sense of a broad range of observations which itself is an aspect of its beauty. Theories by their very nature have gaps, lacunae because they initially deal only with the observations at hand that do not make sense without some theory. They set out to deal with a set of specific observations. If there are anomalous observations which emerge from research done using the framework (and that is all any theory is) provided by the theory, then the scientist modifies the theory so that the awkward “facts” now fit, ie make sense within the modified framework. In the history of science we find that when use of this process causes a theory to become top heavy, too complex, ugly, awkward, scientists become uneasy with it and try to look at the whole thing with fresh eyes, ie. from another angle. They seek simplicity, elegance. This is what drives progress in science which is why doing science depends on the creative imagination. Freeman Dyson (one of the great old men of modern physics) puts it this way, “He (Frank Wilczek) believes that the Grand Unified Theory is true because it is aesthetically pleasing…it will be another example of beauty leading the way to truth.” Truth in science is never absolute, it is a function of its utility and its role in provoking further pursuit of knowledge. Evolution is the only scientific theory I know of that is treated by naysayers like an apodictic theorem that rises or falls on some anomalous facts. Who ever heard of Atomic Theory or General Relativity being approached this way? An aesthetic discomfort would precede the search for a better explanation.

    This process is very obvious with the transition from the Ptolomaic Model (theory) of the Universe to the Copernican Theory. The geocentric model was simple, obvious, and elegant until careful measurements were later made by people like Kepler of the movement of the planets. In order to make sense of the observed irregularities of the planets paths relative to the background star field the theory had to include “epicycles”, and later, additional cycles imposed on the epicycles. It remained mathematically valid, ie predictive of planetary positions, eclipses, occultations etc. far into the future. The theory was not disproved by inconvenient observations – it simply became too messy. Copernicus, being a rather free thinking (and behaving) priest, seeking simplicity and beauty simply put the observer on the sun rather than on the earth. It was an elegant model that did away with all the mini-cycles and other messy stuff. Unfortunately for his follower Galileo, the idea was too creative and even heretical. How parallel to the present dispute: faith based scientific theory building! The geocentric theory was retained for pragmatic reasons by ship and even aircraft navigators who used its assumptions and measurements to cross oceans until satellite navigation technology came along. (Anyone want to buy a perfectly good but obsolete sextant?) This would suggest that the old theory was in a very real sense “true” ie, usefull, leading to verifiable predictions upon which many people in the modern age staked their very lives! But it lost its beauty and was replaced with another more elegant theory that did all the old theory did and more. However, it too ultimately fell victim to its own success. This process puts many students off, “Is truth never achieved in science?” Answer – never and always!

    The Theory of Evolution quite remarkably has not yet fallen victim to the fate of the Geocentric Theory. Its elegance has been vastly enhanced over the last almost 200 years by its compatibility with totally unexpected biological advances such as those of Mendel (a prior investigation that was rediscovered), Watson and Crick’s DNA discoveries and by advances made by almost every other great figure in the development of modern biology. All subsequent (and prior) discoveries in Biology have beautifully fit into the framework created by Darwin and have extended its dominance over every aspect of our knowledge of life on the planet. Without this theory Biology as we study it today could not exist as a coherent science!

    The field of Physics today is in the midst of turmoil because of the proliferation of weird particles interacting in mysterious ways. It resembles Astronomy under the Geocentric Theory or Biology before Darwin. Listen again to Dyson: “Physicists of the 21st century are hoping for a new Darwin who will explain the origin of the particles.”

    An irrelevant aside: In this modern universe. creation ex nihilo is not only considered as a strong possibility but as a very likely phenomenon. Have philosophers looked into this interesting development?

  4. tonyequale says:

    Frank.

    I guess the most scientific issue on the table for me is whether there is a Lamarckian dimension in evolution. By Lamarckian dimension I am referring to a finality provided by the survival drive immanent in all living things. I want to be clear, however, that I am not talking about any transcendent, consciously designed purpose … nor am I talking about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, the result of learning, from one generation to the next.

    In my reading, three “orthodox” sources have suggested this … of course, not in so many words.

    The first is Darwin himself, who in the 1859 version of Origin … (I’ve not compared it with his later revisions) attempted to account for what he called “profitable variations” for nature to then select from. He began his chapter on Natural Selection (which also con-tains his discussion of divergence) by saying, significantly, that “we have reason to be-lieve, as stated in the first chapter, that a change in the conditions of life, by specially acting on the reproductive system, causes or increases variability.” In chapter one, under the heading of “Causes of Variability” Darwin alludes somewhat vaguely to changes in the “conditions of life” but makes one specific suggestion: “there is some probability in the view that this variability may be partly connected with excess of food.” He speaks of the new conditions of life “causing variation” (using precisely those words) in the organ¬isms “exposed” to them.

    It hardly needs to be emphasized that Darwin is talking about the origin of species in this book, not just the variations found within species. The insight that lay at the base of his entire vision came from his observations of domestic animal breeders … who never produced a new “species” but were responsible for a lot of heritable characteristics. Darwin never saw a new species created by domestic selection, but it was precisely this incremental growth building on variation that he extrapolated (guessed!) was the mechanism that created species. (A discussion of divergence would also be interesting in elaborating on this feature of the participation of the individuals through their appeti-tive-driven learning that eventuates in species.)

    The second is Stephen Pinker, who in one of his books (on Language, the reference is not on my finger tips), speaks about the “hard wiring” of learned responses. He was not very substantial in offering evidence or support for that claim, as I remember, but he makes it, and I can find it again.

    And the third is Richard Dawkins in The Ancestor’s Tale at one point he goes through a kind of thought experiment imagining an animal learning some new “trick” that helps her obtain food from a previously inaccessible source, and then trying to teach it to her offspring. Those offspring of hers who have some sort of disposition to learning that particular trick and thriving on that new food will be favored to survive and reproduce. So an animal like a bear that usually eats berries and roots, learns how to fish and little by little, bears with the capacity to fish will prosper and proliferate … a decided advan-tage in polar regions where they may be very little food from any other source.

    Well, again, like Darwin, he extrapolates from that to species. What he has in mind ultimately is to say that this is the mechanism that explains the unbelieveable panoply of diverse lifeforms that abound on our planet. Note that it is learning.

    You fall back on mutation as the determining factor in speciation and its restraints, because that’s one thing we know for certain that can erect species barriers. What’s difficult about that position is that one of the constraints exercized by species is pre-cisely the avoidance of and elimination of mutations. Mutations are generally aborted or, if born, executed by the community. That means that you’re dealing with a severe reduction in the chances that these mutations will survive, prosper and reproduce new true species.

    “Random” suffers from a similar weakness. If taken in the strict sense of the term ― i.e., without the assistance of the existential finality provided by the drive to survive ― it portends an extenuation in time that evokes infinity. Consider: the true randomness of events that existed pre-life explains to me why, of the 4 ½ thousands of millions of years since this planet congealed, it took 3 thousands to produce unicellular life and then only a mere thousand million for the Cambrian explosion of muticellular species. Everything we see out there in oceans skies and continents teeming with vitality, complexity and intelligence happened in the last 500 million years … a mere blink of a cosmic eye … precisely because life impelled it … it was no longer strictly “random.”

    What’s admittedly missing in this recipe is knowledge of the exact mechanism, or marker that tells the organism’s genome (not the taste of the copulating individuals) that these two sets of genes are incompatible. So it may appear “scientific” to say this par-ticular gap in our knowledge is not just a gap in our knowledge, but points to a gap in reality … which the partisans of ID are all too ready to fill with their “Creator.” But at this point in time, I would rather trust the kind of science that is not exactly aesthetics, but more like a “sense” of the way things are, which visionaries like Darwin and Lamarck discerned and which so many of their readers in the 19th century intuitively responded to … why? … I don’t really know … but certainly NOT because of the strict application of “scientific method.”

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