Evolution

Two small fragments of a recent discussion I enjoyed on a another site.

Without intelligence behind evolutionary design means that random chance engineered apparent design. Look at today’s top designers of engineering products, maybe a Ferrari F1 engine. If I said that the Ferrari engine happened by accident and without intelligence behind then I would be laughed at like an idiot. Yet look at the complexity in the engineering of the human hand which is literally infinitely more complex and this happened by accident. What about the human eye ? Again even our top most intelligent scientists cannot come close to the engineering capability of something that again happened by accident.

It is an oddly common (and I suspect often deliberate, at least among proponents of intelligent design) misconception that a complex creature (or element of one, such as a hand) as seen by a Darwinist is nothing more than a happy accident. This assumption fails signally to understand how evolution works. No Darwinist would suggest for a picosecond that the human hand is the result of an extended medley of dice throwing.

The process, which involves random chance (mutation) together with cumulative selection, occurs in minuscule steps starting from very humble (and thus realistic/credible) beginnings over a huge number of generations. Mutation may be random, but selection is not.

For instance, to use the old eye chestnut: once upon a time a single cell mutated and became sensitive to light. A single photocell gave a small advantage over the creatures with no photocell, perhaps gaining them the sight of a few extra scones. So the former became healthier and more prevalent. Then another mutation improves this most primitive of eyes a tiny bit further; that slightly improved creature again multiplies while the ones with less useful mutations die off.

“Heritable variations lead to differential reproductive success” to quote Darwin. So the eye is steadily honed (“climbs mount improbable”, to paraphrase Dawkins) over a large number of small steps into the glorious baby blues we have today, bringing with it to some a seductive illusion of design.

“Thus the creationist’s favourite question ‘What is the use of half an eye?’ Actually, this is a lightweight question, a doddle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 per cent better than 49 per cent of an eye, which is already better than 48 per cent, and the difference is significant.” (Dawkins)

If there is no intelligence behind our evolutionary development, this means that only matter exists and the human mind, the human soul and the human spirit only appear to have a separate conscious ability and existence. If this is not the case then how and where have they come from ?

I’ve never thought of my mind as anything other than a deliciously complex machine. The eye is impressive, the brain even more so, but fundamentally I don’t see why the two couldn’t have emerged similarly through evolution. The dualistic idea of the mind existing in some way separately from the rest of my flesh ‘n bones (I guess what people mean by soul or spirit), or being anything other than matter coursing with chemicals and electricity is alien to me, though I can see the romantic appeal of the notion. Muscles contract, rods and cones are sensitive to light patterns, brain cells process information, simple. Or rather, complex.

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