…this book is poised to become the authoritive textbook on the theory of intelligent design.
Nor does design always have to refer to human design. Some psychologists study animal learning and behavior. Animals display intelligence and can design things. For instance, the dams that beavers build are designed. Nor does design have to be confined to Earth.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) looks for signs of intelligence in radio signals from outer space. SETIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s underlying assumption is that we can sift out naturally occurring radio signals to make out those that are designed.
Biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel have even proposed that life is too complex to have arisen here on planet Earth and so must have been seeded by intelligent space aliens
(traveling to our solar system in spaceships). Though regarded as wildly implausible by some, their theory of directed panspermia, as it is called, is nonetheless regarded by the scientific community as falling within the bounds of science. The Crick-Orgel theory proposes a design-based view of life on Earth.
There are now good reasons for thinking that no such causal mechanism exists and that mind is inherently irreducible to brain.23 This is good news for intelligent design, which treats intelligence as irreducible to material entities and the mechanisms that control their interaction. At the same time, it does not mean that intelligence should be regarded as something Ã¢â‚¬Å“supernatural.Ã¢â‚¬Â Supernatural explanations invoke miracles and therefore are not properly part of science. Explanations that call on intelligent causes require no miracles but cannot be reduced to materialistic explanations. Indeed, design theorists argue that intelligent causation is perfectly natural, provided
that nature is understood aright.
The human characteristic that poses the greatest difficulty for evolutionary theory is not extraordinary cognitive ability.
But what about ethics and, in particular, altruism? What about the willingness of some
human beings to risk or sacrifice themselves for others, without reasonable hope of
reward? How does evolution explain such acts?
This ethics-as-illusion view of morality makes perfect sense within an evolutionary worldview. Even so, how do Ruse and Wilson know that ethical principles are merely an illusion? As will become clear in subsequent chapters, the actual evidence for evolutionary theory (especially the grand claim that natural selection is the principle force driving evolution) is slender at best. So to base evolutionary psychology on conventional evolutionary theory is like building a house of cards on a castle of sand. Equally problematic for Ruse and Wilson is that their evolutionary view of morality cannot be squared with the facts of our moral life. Within traditional morality, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of evil. For evolutionary ethics, by contrast, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of good. Evolutionary theorizing regards reproductive advantage as lying at the root of ethics. Yet it is a fact that people perform acts of kindness that cannot be rationalized on evolutionary principles. Altruism is, as a matter of human practice, not confined simply to oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in-group (those to whom one is genetically related). Nor is altruism outside oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in-group always simply a quid pro quo. People do, in fact, often transcend their drive for reproductive advantage (of their own genes or of their kinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢34)
Holocaust rescuers, who aided the escape of Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis at great cost and risk to themselves, provide a particularly striking example of genuine altruism.
THREE KEY DEFINITIONS
Intelligent Design. The study of patterns in nature that
are best explained as the product of intelligence.
Intelligence. Any cause, agent, or process that achieves an
end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments.
Design. An event, object, or structure that an intelligence
brought about by matching means to ends.
1. Briefly summarize the fossil evidence for human evolution. Are there any nonhuman fossils (e.g., the Australopithecines) that have been conclusively shown to be ancestral to modern humans? If not, on what grounds can the fossil record be taken as supporting human evolution? Is further independent evidence required? Assuming that the fossil record supports evolution, does it also reveal the mechanism by which evolution operates?
2. What does it mean to say that humans and chimpanzees share 98 percent of their genes? Does this mean that humans and chimpanzees are 98-percent similar? Does the genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees indicate that they are descended from a common evolutionary ancestor? Support your answer.
3. List some ways in which humans and chimpanzees differ at the level of gross morphology (anatomy and physiology). How can such differences be squared with the genetic similarity between humans and chimpanzees? Are there differences between humans and chimpanzees that are surprising given their genetic similarity?
4. How is the brain size of organisms related to their intelligence? Is there a strong correlation or are there examples of smaller brains that exhibit remarkable cognitive abilities? What is the significance of the case study by John Lorber in which he describes a young man with a high IQ who Ã¢â‚¬Å“has virtually no brainÃ¢â‚¬Â? Does appealing to redundancy in the brain, as Lorber does, adequately explain such anomalies? Why or why not?
5. Are our cognitive abilities simply a product of brain function? Or, are those abilities not reducible to brain function? Together, these two questions summarize the famous mind-body problem. What light, if any, does the relation between brain size and intelligence throw on the mind-body problem?
6. Is human language unique among animal communication systems? How so? Summarize Noam ChomskyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s view that human language ability is fundamentally different from the communication systems of other animals. Is ChomskyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s view widely accepted among evolutionary anthropologists such as Barbara King? What is Barbara KingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s view? Which view about the nature of human language and animal communication systems do you find more compelling? Why?
7. What are the three main evolutionary hypotheses for explaining the emergence of higher cognitive abilities such as mathematics in humans? How, for instance, do Darwinists employ these hypotheses to explain human mathematical ability? What, if any, evidence is there to support these hypotheses? [See general notes to section 1.6.]
22 Human Origins 1
8. Define morality and altruism. From a Darwinian perspective, can there be anything like a truly selfless act? Why are reciprocal altruism and kin selection, as developed within evolutionary theory, incompatible with altruism in its ordinary sense of selfless acts of kindness? Who were the holocaust rescuers? Who was Mother Teresa? How does Darwinism explain the altruistic acts of people like holocaust rescuers and Mother Teresa?
9. What does E. O. Wilson mean when he describes morality as an Ã¢â‚¬Å“illusion fobbed off on us by our genesÃ¢â‚¬Â? Can this view of morality be squared with the facts of our moral life? Comment on the following remark from section 1.7: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Within traditional morality, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of evil. For evolutionary ethics, by contrast, the main difficulty is to come to terms with the problem of good.Ã¢â‚¬Â
10. Comment on T. H. HuxleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s famous claim that Ã¢â‚¬Å“it is as respectable to be modified monkey as modified dirt.Ã¢â‚¬Â Did humans evolve from monkeys? Are there compelling reasons for thinking that humans did evolve from monkeys? Are there compelling reasons for thinking that they did not? Which of these positions is compatible with intelligent design? Are both compatible? Support your answer.