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Unread October 12th, 2005, 05:15 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Intelligent Design and Why Not

Intelligent Design and Why Not

"The universe is synchronized and integrated in a manner that reflects intelligence." Of course, this worm covers a hook, a belief that design implies "a designer." Creationists swallow that hook and expect the rest of us to do likewise even though we have a different set of genes and a different set of beliefs.

The Victorians faced a similar confusion. That is, cathedrals and species spilled from a top-down organizer called architect or God. Lots of people knew that oaks grow from acorns but few of those same people considered both St. Paul's and Thom Huxley to be emergents from millennia of simpler organizations, organizations that survived, reproduced, and formed the mosaics for even larger organizations.

A second problem for the Victorians: a clever designer would not waste resources on mistakes. The next stone, a very short step in the middle of this stream, was to conclude that whatever is, is meant to be. According to Loren Eiseley, (1961) fossils, however, provided a substantial challenge to this second idea: the designer became a collage-maker who threw away far more than he saved, a wanderer who frequently traveled down several roads at the same time!

First, the persistence of "Designer Thinking" likely comes from a mental adaptation that shows itself in subtle ways. For example, train a monkey to press a lever for food but have him work in the company of an idle monkey. Shock the worker and he immediately bites the second monkey! A second example: a mother explained a recent earthquake to her young daughter. The explanation was said to be scientific but the little girl later told her father, "A nasty man made the ground shake!" Flip Wilson's antic manic loveable Geraldine exclaimed "The Devil made me do it!" She made us laugh but she also hinted of a far deeper truth about our mentation. We blame males for big events and save the bland PR to those clever round liars, females. Our rendering God as a male rests not on sexism but on fear of our universe. And the "design people" merely follow their instincts and strive for the same outcomes as a Victorian!

Second, I suggest that Intelligent Design will be challenged best when the physics people show us the fossils left by failed universes: designs that represent exploratory throws of the dice, grand experiments that sometimes produced an Earth but also left a trail of abortions, misfits, and failures. Could it be that Dark Matter represents outcomes wherein both the organization of energy and its measured release failed to emerge! Or that black holes are gateways to chaos and stasis on scales that we have not encountered before? Or will we see Neptune and Earth as equally evolved organizations but for different niches?

Physicists might also give a developmental path, a Chain of Being, for suns, planets, and varied types of matter. And how wonderful if we also describe a recapitulation model in which changes in solar systems parallel or somehow repeat the changes that occur in planets!

Finally, they need the equivalent to a "gene": an organizer, a transcriber, a collector and arranger for surrounding materials, a local spider that makes webs from the elemental particles in his immediate vicinity.

Of course, none of this stuff will change the minds of individuals who look for a Designer: their search reflects a gene for flocking and flocks too easily imply a leader and carriers of that gene go nuts if environment doesn't permit one. Even clumps fo grass must have had a first blade! (One alternative finds leadership to be dispersed in a collective intelligence, a whole that depends on sync and synergy between its members as they follow simple rules. The rules for "boids" is an example: "fly toward the middle" and "don't hit another boid." A flock, a school, or a congregation emerge. Thus, it might be that no one duck knows the entire route to Florida. Or does every single duck have receptors that track subtle differences in visible light, differences that correlate with the seasons? Scatter the flock and its members all hit the same pond in the Everglades at about the same time. A relatively simple tool once more replaces a Great Schemer!)

References
Ball, P. (2004) Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another. NY: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Eiseley, L. (1961) Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It. NY: Doubleday. (Still a splendid introduction to Hutton, Lyell, Hutton, Ray, Chambers, and many others. JB)
Gaulin, S. & McBurney, D. (2001) Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach. NY: Prentice Hall. (Limited speculation on the evolutionary foundations for causality. Not sure anyone picked up on their lead.)
Wilson, Flip (1960s). Wherever he is now.

Copyright, James Brody, 2005, all rights reserved.
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