Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some thoughts on intelligent design, creation and evolution

"Do you believe in creation or evolution?"


"Do you believe in intelligent design? Do you believe intelligent design is science? Are you a creationist?"

Define your terms. What do you mean by 'intelligence', 'design', 'intelligent design', 'science', 'creation' and 'creationism'?

Moreover, have you solved the demarcation problem? Have you published that paper yet? Where has it been published? I would dearly like to read it.

Questions: Can design be unintelligent? Does not 'design' imply planning, intent and mind? Would 'unintelligent design' not be a contradiction?

If 'science' is that which can be known by empirical observation and repeatable experiment, is evolution really science? Has anyone every observed macro-evolution? Has anyone ever seen one species give birth to a new and different species? What experiments can one do under controlled circumstances to prove the theory? These are real questions, not rhetorical ones. I would appreciate real answers and real sources to go to in order to improve my knowledge.

Did Darwin defend his theory via laboratory experiment, or only thought experiment? Was not his whole argument based on the fact that his theory best fit the observed data? If this worked for Darwin, why not for Behe, et alii? Allowing them to take part in the conversation is not the same as admitting that they are correct.

At the end of the day I am and remain a Thomist. Whichever side is correct is interesting and important to the truth of things. But whichever side is correct has no effect whatsoever on the question of the existence of God.

God is the immediate efficient cause of all things because He is the immediate efficient cause of their acts of existence. God is required, no matter which theory of the physical processes involved in the origins of life is correct. Eliminate God and you do not have self-sufficient nature. You have nothing.

Edited to add:

It seems that I have committed the fallacy of equivocation, as the comments should demonstrate. To clarify, when I asked "Has anyone ever seen one species give birth to a new and different species?" I was not using the term "species" in its biological sense, which would be the mode of signification that I appeared to be using since I was, at least in part, discussing biology. It might be better to ask, "Has anyone ever seen a being with one ontological mode of existence produce a being of a superior ontological mode of existence?" I am primarily interested in metaphysics, not biology, though I am indeed interested in the biology insofar as it is a part of observable reality that needs to be taken into account when discussing metaphysics.


Anonymous said...

"Has anyone every observed macro-evolution? Has anyone ever seen one species give birth to a new and different species?"

I'm not sure this completely answers your question, but I find it an interesting phenomenon that is relevant.

You wouldn't expect to find one species giving birth to another, because the idea of "species" is not really as concrete as most people think it is. With the idea of universal common descent, species exist on a continuum, without hard lines between one species and another.

Species divergence actually works something like this: An individual of one species gives birth to another individual of the same species that is slightly different than the first parent. This then continues until such point that the offspring would be unable to mate with the original individual (thus it is a different species from the very first parent). This offspring, though, is still able to mate with its parent, who was able to mate with his parent, all the way back to the first individual, thus forming a continuum between two different species. The only reason we see hard-line distinctions is because the individuals that link different species are mostly extinct.

A real world illustration of this is provided by "ring species" (link: These are species where the divergence can be seen in space rather than just time and where the intervening links are still alive. The example in the link is about a group of salamanders in California around the San Joaquin Valley. South of the valley are what appear to be two species of salamanders, with two distinct colorations and no interbreeding. But if you follow the two species north, you can see that they converge into a single species north of the valley. The single species is split by the valley in the south, and is geographically isolated enough to produce two species in the south that are nonetheless able to interbreed up one side of the valley and then back down the other (thus creating a continuous ring between the two seemingly different species).

Larus gulls and greenish warblers (Phylloscopus trochiloides) are also considered ring species.

brendon said...

Thank you for the information on the ring species. It sounds like something interesting and worth looking into.

With the idea of universal common descent, species exist on a continuum, without hard lines between one species and another.

I was going to strenuously disagree with this, but then I realized I was guilty of a bit of equivocation. I tend to use the term "species" as it is used in logic, with a special regard to ontological distinctions that stem from differentiating powers. But here I was obviously talking--at least in part--about biology, and as such you are--if I am not mistaken--using "species" in the technical sense it is used in biology. The two uses are obviously related, but they are far enough apart that if one is not careful one can end up equivocating, as it appears I ended up doing.

My general view of material being can best be visualized by the graph of a step function such as greatest integer function, say f(x) = [x] for the domain [0, 4), where x represents matter and f(x) represent ontological distinctions drawn from differentiating powers. In such a graph there would be material continuity, expressed by the fact that the domain is continuous. There would also be ontological distinctions, expressed by the discreet numbers that make up the functions range, viz. {0, 1, 2, 3}.

(For anyone who cannot visualize the function, an image should be available here. Image created with Graph 4.3, copyright 2007 by Ivan Johansen.)

0 represents non-living material being.

1 represents vegetative life, i.e. material being that possesses the powers of generation, growth and/or nutrition.

2 represents sensitive or animal life, i.e. material being that possesses at least some powers of sensation in addition to the powers of vegetative life.

3 represents rational life, i.e. material being that possesses the powers of intellect and will in addition to the powers of vegetative and sensitive life.