Friday, April 21, 2017

Is Evolution 2.0 Question-Begging?

Oh, ok. So you're gonna make a lot of money, right? 
Right. It's not yours? 
Uh...Well, it becomes ours. 
How is that not stealing?
... Uh, I'm not explaining this very well.

How did evolution come about?  Well, you see, first there were cells that became smart enough to evolve and then they evolved to become even smarter at evolving.  Until they're super-smart!  See?  ... Hmmm.  This sounds awfully familiar.  
I fully understand that how cells got to be so smart is a HUGE unanswered question. I agree that information always infers intelligent agents. And perhaps God is the answer. But my position is that living things are agents too and we can and should trace the progress from one evolutionary step to the next. I invite you to consider that the capacity cells have to evolve is a far more impressive miracle than, say, God beaming Zebras on to the savanna Star-Trek style where they suddenly appear eating grass.
It's not simply A huge unanswered question.  It is THE critical problem in terms of this "third way" approach having any real explanatory value in terms of purportedly supplying the completely naturalistic account for life that scientists have been purporting neo-Darwinism to be.  When you find a robot factory in the woods, is its presence there explained by the "fact" that the robots seem super-sophisticated?  It isn't explained by attributing intelligence to the obviously sophisticated factory.  It isn't even explained by attributing intelligence to the woods themselves.    

This is the problem with abiogenesis.  All you supposedly need for Evolution to create the magnificent biosphere is to somehow get a "simple" (prokaryotic) cell.  Bound to happen in some part of the multiverse, surely. (Then also assume virtually unlimited variation plus pattern recognition through some combination of (possibly undiscovered) mechanisms and the magnificence of the living world is fait accomplis.) How do we know that the first parent cell(s) existed?  Because we are descended from it.  The "fact" of evolution rests on the supposition of a common ancestor, and the common ancestor is inferred from the "fact" of evolution.  It existed because scientists need it for the theory of evolution to hold water.  The common ancestor has been slowly turning into an ancestral population as the famous "tree of life" ravels and unravels.  But replacing the ancestor with a gaggle of ancestors doesn't explain life any more than the Big Bang is explained by replacing a singularity with a smooth blur of undifferentiated space-time.

Perry Marshall's proverbial money is on a naturalistic solution to the origin of life.  He can certainly put his money wherever he likes as long as our government doesn't put my money in the same place.  It certainly feels much safer than to hope that there is no naturalistic solution and then have it solved.  (Another "gap" closed by science!)  Apparently self-reprogrammable protozoans are enough to make him think that God has built life into the metaphysical "DNA" of the universe.  (Once again, inferring abiogenesis, or chemical evolution, from biological evolution.)
Keep in mind that business is just an extension of biology. Business is how all of us eat. Also notice that selection all by itself doesn’t create anything at all. The advertisers generate the new information, and the best way to create that information is to derive your ideas through feedback from the environment. This is exactly what cells do.
Yes, neo-Darwinists have been averring for years that organisms somehow glean information from the environment.  The neo-Darwinist account of this was vague at best.  There is no Third Way account that I have found.  It isn't at all clear that "[t]his is exactly what cells do" and it is even less clear how they might do it through a non-selection mechanism.

Post-Script: Not that this answers the question of whether God beamed zebras onto the Sahara (which is not a typical ID belief anyway), but would it really would be more impressive for me to make a simple cell capable of reproducing than for me to "beam" a new kind of animal as complex as a zebra onto the African plains?  Well, there's no accounting for taste.  Or is this some special standard applied only to a Supreme Being?  

I have no problem with a research program focused on the role of consciousness in microevolutionary mechanisms and other natural processes (and I think, properly understood, this could be quite complementary to ID), but "Evolution 2.0" is explicitly marketed as an alternative to Intelligent Design (and "Whatever is marketed is what it is"), where certain elements of the Intelligent Design program are allowed as a kind of metaphysical veneer to an Extended Synthesis that isn't so hostile to teleological language per se but which still kisses the ring of methodological naturalism by denying any evidence for intelligent influence.

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