Realm Of Randomness

April 26, 2007

Coming to terms with our Universe

Filed under: Evolution,Intelligent Design,Philosophy — Randomizer @ 4:05 pm


I attended a very interesting lecture two days ago, a lecture that has since spiraled me down/up a road of Evolutionary theory, Atheism and Materialism. The last two days have been fueled by a burning curiosity towards the origins of life, and have left me, quite frankly – spellbound. I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to this current, fascinating phase of mine, and I hope that this passes on to you as well.

The lecture was by Simon Conway Morris, and was titled ‘Darwin’s Compass: How Evolution discovers the song of creation’. At first glance, I was worried that the lecture would try to attain middle-ground between the Theory of evolution, and the Creationist point of view, which is that God made the earth. However, I was relieved that no such attempt was made, and that Dr.Morris, much to my amusement, dismissed Intelligent Design as ‘Utter nonsense, if I may put it bluntly’ when asked his views about this during the Q&A session.

Intelligent Design – by the way, is very similar to ‘Creationism’, implying the belief that a Designer/God was involved in the creation of this Universe. As I later understood, Intelligent Design was merely a new name coined in 1987, when the courts in America ruled that ‘Creationism’ is not a science and cannot be taught as a science in schools. Apparently the religious then invented the ‘science’ of Intelligent design as they felt threatened by Evolution. I will dedicate a separate post to that later, for now let me speak of the lecture.

Evolution is generally thought of to be ‘Random’ first, and ‘Organized with a purpose’ next. This notion is quite understandable, considering that we believe that mere chance events along the long, evolutionary path led us to the way we are today, and that things would have been completely different had , say, the dinosaurs never got wiped out.

Dr.Morris’s point was simply this: Human-like intelligence was not a result of chance, but the solution to Nature’s problems. Put in other words, he implies that Human like intelligence would be attained eventually regardless of what happened along the way. If not evolving from monkeys, supremely intelligent, bi-pedal beings with two eyes and roughly the same brain size would have evolved from dinosaurs had they not gone extinct. The following is a hypothetical ‘Dinosauroid’ that might have evolved eventually.

If that sounded far-fetched, Dr.Morris carefully cited examples of behavior/features ranging from birds to flies to the octopus, that would be convincing enough, that human-like characteristics are the ‘best-fit’ to Nature’s problems, and that species would have eventually converged(definition in a minute) to a similar form of intelligent being.

A classic example of ‘Convergence’ is the Bat and the Dolphin. Both were separated out early in the evolution timeline, but both arrived at exactly the same solution to find their way around – Sonar senses. Giving out high frequency sound waves and judging obstacles by their echos. Was the solution a mere coincidence, or was it inevitable?

Similarly, the ‘Camera’ eyes that we humans have, have been arrived at innumerable times as the solution to the problem, in species ranging from fish to birds to mammals. Likewise, many solutions in nature , which as a result of my poor memory and fear of misinforming w.r.t. Biological terms I cannot cite, were arrived at independent of other species – i.e. it wasn’t a feature that was passed on from ancestors, rather it was a solution that was arrived at independently. As was meticulously explained in the lecture, the solutions are strikingly similar and are not the results of co-incidence.

So what does this all mean ? As species, we are like mathematical problems, searching for solutions. And Human-like traits, if not Human beings exactly, have been, by Darwinian theory, the best solution that has been evolved. If it did not occur as a result of Apes and monkeys, it would have been arrived at through some other means – maybe a million years late, or a million years early, but Human-like intelligence and Human-like beings were inevitable.

An even more fascinating bi-product of this theory: If there is life on another planet, and the assumption holds that the laws of nature are universal, i.e. across all planets, then the likelihood that there is human-like intelligence out there is almost certain.

[ For further reading, please read the book by this author, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe ]

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9 Comments »

  1. Interesting read, All I can say is one is FAITH, blindly followed by millions of people across the world, they do not question it because its written in holy books, and the other is a scientific theory unable to explain the evolution completely, leaving behind many questions unanswered. So I think it all depends on how you percieve it. Its very difficult to shake the faith of so many people without a concrete proof :) … Thats why its called faith… u don’t need proof for that, thats why so many people follow it blindly :)

    Comment by salman — April 26, 2007 @ 8:17 pm | Reply

  2. Welcome man ! to the club of those people who think natural selection/evolution is one of the greatest discoveries of all time alongside Quantum theory and relativity.

    I got interested about the same time last year and have blogged obsessively on the topic. U have read ( and commented ) on some of these posts.

    Generally, http://sharathrao.wordpress.com/?s=evolution

    Specifically,
    http://sharathrao.wordpress.com/2006/11/05/intrinsic-sense-of-the-right-and-the-wrong/
    http://sharathrao.wordpress.com/2006/11/18/thats-28-feet/

    http://ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=d_dennett
    http://ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=r_dawkins

    Gobble anything from tufts professordaniel dennette, richard dawkins, sam harris talks on youtube……

    scores of videos here – http://beyondbelief2006.org/

    Comment by Sharath Rao — April 27, 2007 @ 2:54 am | Reply

  3. @Salman – Like Richard Dawkins states in a video I saw recently, it is not up to scientists to prove that God does NOT exist. It is up to the religious to prove that God DOES exist. The proof for evolution is overwhelming – the proof for faith is .. by definition of the word faith, there is no proof.<br/><br/>I will post on religion and atheism soon. Do stick around for the discussion!<br/><br/>@Sharath – You definitely reached Richard Dawkins before me.. I must have exhausted every YouTube video with his name this week! I do not know if it his eloquence or his attitude or his conviction to his belief, but it is extremely hard not to be a fan! <br/><br/>Have you read the God Delusion yet ? I watched his 2 hr video in the VA university and it was just brilliant. Will post more soon.

    Comment by Randomizer — April 27, 2007 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  4. Yeah I saw the VA video …he is good , its argued that his aggression puts off people and works against not only against him but the general atheist community ….i like him anyway…. :)

    Sam harris is great too ….

    Comment by Rao — April 27, 2007 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

  5. @Randomizer… Thats wat I meant to say, People who believe in the so called intelligent design are those who just believe in one or the other religion and they don’t really ask for proof :)<br/><br/>Well I must admit I never really went too deep with the evolution theories, I think I will dig deeper into it now.

    Comment by salman — April 27, 2007 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

  6. Hey!! the ‘dinosauroid’ was sth I wasn’t aware of before… evolution has always fascinated me… n the ‘convergence’ theory is absolutely interesting.. will now explore more on this topic… :-)

    Comment by Meenakshi Pavithra — May 2, 2007 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

  7. @Meenakshi – If I’ve passed on the enthusiasm to even one person, it makes the post worthwhile. <br/><br/>Thanks for visiting! :)

    Comment by Randomizer — May 2, 2007 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

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