Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Darwin Didn't Know- Ch 1 -The Scope of Challenges - Part 6: The Problem of Purposeful Function


Book Cover: What Darwin Didn't Know
I dove into Geoffrey Simmons' "What Darwin Didn't Know" (2004), to evaluate an anti-evolution book.

I'm maintaining an index of my responses here.

Today's Chapter - 1: The Scope of Challenges - Part 6:  The Problem of Purposeful Function

I almost didn't make it past the section title before going off on a tear, but I marched forward.

A fifth problem involves the issue of purposeful function, or intelligent design.
The first is debatable, but intelligent design? Has there been a discovery I haven't heard about?

Regarding "purposeful function", let me head this one off at the pass. Similar to the question as to whether it's possible to have naturally occurring "information", a question arises here - is it possible to have naturally occurring "purposeful function"?

It depends on the definition of "purposeful".
Courtesy: Merriam-Webster
Definition of PURPOSEFUL
1
: having a purpose: as
a : meaningful <purposeful activities>
b : intentional <purposeful ambiguity>
2
: full of determination <was soft-spoken but purposeful>
— pur·pose·ful·ly adverb
— pur·pose·ful·ness noun
Okay, scratch that - "purpose" doesn't apply. I wonder what he's talking about. Maybe I should read more than one sentence. I suppose one could make the argument that the intention of an animal (like trying to find food) would play a role? I guess?

Why are we born with the thickest skin on the bottom of our feet (where it needs to be)...
Uh.. evolution? We'd die out pretty quickly if we couldn't move around without injuring ourselves.

... the most sensitive skin on our fingertips and lips (where it should be)...
... again, evolution. Both the fingertips and lips are important interfaces to reality around us. Of course they'd be particularly sensitive. Numb-handed creatures would die off pretty quickly.

... the thinnest and most transparent skin in our eyelids (so we wake when the sun rises) ...

... Evolution. Early on, when the eyes were mostly photosensitive patches, they gained evolutionary advantage towards finding sunny spots. Those without transparent membranes lost that advantage. Blind deer die quickly.

... What's the problem?

He goes on like that, for a dozen or so examples - citing features that are easily explained within evolutionary theory as though they're a contradiction of evolutionary theory. It's like citing 27 examples of plants that grow berries as a "problem" with the idea that there are plants that grow berries.

You'd think that after 45 years of studying evolution, he would have picked up on this concept known as "natural selection."

Bizarrely, he seems to be citing all these as "purposeful", if I'm understanding his point correctly. Maybe at some point he'll get around to explaining why he thinks they have "purpose", and that's not something he's merely projecting onto them?

[after awhile] Why are eating, drinking, sleeping, and having sex so pleasurable?
Probably for the same reason why being bitten is painful? Evolution produced feedback to encourage the creature to do beneficial things (like procreating and eating), and avoid harmful things (standing in fire). If something is painful, the creature does whatever it can to correct the situation... thus helping the creature survive.

Of course, the species that don't reproduce would go extinct. I've observed my chipmunks who live in proximity to my house. If it wasn't for their hormones encouraging them to reproduce, they'd despise each other into extinction. They're incredibly territorial (which is another survival instinct - land territory = food). The pleasure essentially bridges the two contradictory instincts.

Again, not a problem within evolutionary theory.

Could the enjoyment be a result of a design to promote these activities and thereby promote the species?
Sure, but it can also be a result of evolution. So can it be the result of aliens controlling the minds of the animals. Guess which one we actually have evidence for.

Or is enjoyment merely a mutation or result of natural selection?
I wouldn't say "merely" - it's actually critically important, and would have evolved early on, at least for any lineages which have nervous systems.

... but yes. It's a result of natural selection. Easily.

Surely he's soon going to make his case positively supporting the notion, that the claim that an "intelligent designer" was responsible is true... right?

I believe that the latter arguments stretch logic. Too many complex, internal systems are involved.
Soon, I hope that....

What? That's the end of the section? He believes it's too complex... and that's... that? No, I didn't skip any content. This quote comes immediately after the previous quote.

Let me get this straight.

A overwhelmingly demonstrated natural phenomenon that breaks no laws of physics, that is readily usable, explains all the data we have, and operates purely on demonstrably true natural mechanisms... and that's a "stretch of logic".

... but an undemonstrated, unevidenced mysterious intelligent entity that has the capacity to create and engineer life on a global scale, despite no observations, no empirical evidence, or anything, that, by the way, probably created the entire universe, can violate laws of logic at will, etc (though he won't admit that last bit to the public), is not a stretch?

Why do you believe the logic is a stretch? You gave no argument, no evidence. You listed off a bunch of attributes of organisms, and then merely stated "nah.. too complex".

Why do you believe that there's even a limit to the complexity that nature can form?

What do you think "intelligently designed" these systems, how did this entity do it, and what evidence do you think there is that actually positively supports it?

What do you mean by "purposeful function" and what is your evidence that there's anything in biology that has "purpose"?

Were you actually going to elaborate on that, at all, or merely state that there's a problem, list off a bunch of evolutionary products, and punch out for the day?

Why is it so difficult for you to actually show your work, instead of merely making statements and failing to actually back them up?

What do you mean by "internal systems", why do you think they're "too complex", what qualifies as "too complex", and what is your evidence of this?

Let me summarize this section:

  1. State that evolution has a problem with "purposeful function"
  2. List off a bunch of attributes evolution easily accounts for
  3. Ask whether the attributes could be the result of design, or maybe evolution
  4. State evolution is a "stretch", and that it's "too complex" (literally, just this)
  5. End.

This section is, by far, the most asinine section in the book yet. The man deserves a fucking trophy. That was no small feat, especially within the context of this book.

This entire section was nothing more than an Argument from Incredulity.


Maybe he'll elaborate in some future chapter.
Believe it or not, I'm actually almost done with chapter 1.

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