Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Friday, April 01, 2005

OK, I was wrong. Intelligent Design works

I recently read William Dembski's masterful rebuttal of the "case study" on the evolution of the bacterial flagellum by Nick Matzke, who, it seems, has so many noms de guerre he must be hiding something. I am profoundly ashamed. It seems that ID is not only possible, but necessary. This is my public recantation.

In the past I have accused ID as being epistemic nihilism, a know-nothingness, and a block to future biology. I have called it all kinds of names, such as "non-science", "theology" and "poor philosophy". Well, it seems the joke was on me. Intelligent design is the only thing that can explain how life got to be the way it is. It is simply inconceivable that complex things like flagella could evolve without being caused by the actions and foresight of an intelligent being.

I still don't think this being was God, though. At best, the universe itself is the Designer. An intelligent universe theory is a suitable compromise between the theological arguments from design and a soulless, mechanical universe. Less controversially, there might be purely natural designers, themselves the result of a long process of evolution; much longer than our own - to get the kind of complexity required to be able to "front load" our ancestor's genome with things like the Krebs cycle, flagella, chaperones, and so forth, would require a process of random chance that exceeds anything we could have allowed for purely human evolution. To make it harder still, they would have to be so smart they could prevent inactive genes from drifting into nonsense without selection to maintain them. So I think it is better to assume that the universe is, as Plato thought, a superorganism, with Mind.

This is a red letter day for me. One I will long remember. As I move into the community of scholars who are actively pursuing ID research, expanding the breadth and depth of our knowledge with hard, solid, scientific research programs, I look forward to being able to participate. Those in the Discovery Institute (I apologise for referring to you as "Disco") who wish to involve me in their work should contact me immediately. I can put you in touch with our funding officer to make the arrangements. Say hi to Howard Ahmanson for me.

Yes indeed, I will always remember this day, the first day of April, 2005...

LATE NOTE: I really must give credit where credit is due. Sahotra Sarkar is he who convinced me this was the right course. He should share in the research funds. I apologise for leaving him unmentioned...