Intelligent Design Mind Neuroscience

Templeton prize-winning Darwinist Francisco Ayala offers to explain, “Am I a Monkey?”

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Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions about Evolution
Given the use of the "banana" in certain current health contexts, was it a wise cover choice?

Francisco Ayala, the 2010 Templeton winner known for the view that intelligent design is blasphemy and an “atrocity”*, has a new book out, Am I a Monkey? Six Big Questions about Evolution (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). Here’s an excerpt.

Defending the view that you are something along the same lines as a monkey but not to worry, he writes, curiously,

Those things that count most remain shrouded in mystery: How physical phenomena become mental experiences (the feelings and sensations called “qualia” by philosophers, that contribute the elements of consciousness) and how out of the diversity of these experiences emerges the mind, a reality with unitary properties such as free will and the awareness of the self that persist throughout an individual’s life. (P. 11)Ayala sounds here as if he believes the mind exists, but he goes on to say

I do not believe that the mysteries of the mind are unfathomable, rather, they are puzzles that humans can solve with the methods of science and illuminate with the methods of philosophical analysis and reflection. And I will place my bets that, over the next half century or so, many of these puzzles will be solved. We shall then be well on our way toward heeding the injunction “Knows thyself.” (pp. 11-12)

In fact, the “young and the neuro” (hat tip David Brooks) who do this research despise concepts like “the mind” and “free will”, so it is hard to tell whether Ayala is thinking wishfully for himself  or softening the blow for his readers.

The critical problem is one of framing. To the extent that the problems are framed by “mind hacks,” as the “young and the neuro” proudly call themselves, we will learn mostly about their dismissive and reductive opinions, backed up by research topics chosen by themselves in order to demonstrate their views. And if their views make their way into public policy, expect a future not of “Know thyself” but “The government knows what you are thinking and will fix that.” For example…

The reason that there will be no way of confuting the mind hacks within their system of inquiry is that, as with Darwinism, information exists only to confirm their intractable truths.

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About the banana: I see this sort of image all the time on Toronto subway posters advising the public to “get tested,” though the health service’s banana is somewhat spotty by comparison with this one.  What’s with the fork?

*Atrocity? because

I cannot conceive anything more disastrous to religion than intelligent design. According to its promoters, God would be responsible for tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, the eruption of Vesuvius. Genetic defects would be a punishment from God, as well as the cruelty of nature and the living world. Did you know that 20 per cent of pregnancies are hindered before the third month because the human birth canal is very imperfect? And do you think it seriously to consider that 20 million abortions a year may be God’s fault?

15 Replies to “Templeton prize-winning Darwinist Francisco Ayala offers to explain, “Am I a Monkey?”

  1. 1
    Joseph says:

    According to its promoters, God would be responsible for tsunamis, the earthquake in Haiti, the eruption of Vesuvius.

    What is Ayala smoking/ snorting/ shooting?

    Is this “let’s see how many strawman arguments we can pack into one paragraph?

    The sad part is he claims to be a christian…

  2. 2
    Alex73 says:

    I have seen it somewhere else before, when three guys were desparately trying to defend God from similar accusations. Here is hat God thought of them:

    And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.

    Job 42,7

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Why would positing that the mysteries of the mind are not unfathomable be tantamount to declaring that the mind does not exist?

    Or am I misunderstanding you?

  4. 4
    DrBot says:

    Why would positing that the mysteries of the mind are not unfathomable be tantamount to declaring that the mind does not exist?

    I believe (but may be mistaken) that it is down to definitions – The mind, in this context, is a real thing but disembodied (in the sense of Cartesian dualism) and beyond reach as far as science goes, therefore if you believe that the mind is the product of the physical brain, and explainable in terms of the brain then seemingly by that definition it does not exist, or it is an illusion.

    I always found this somewhat confusing – that the mind, if a product of the physical world, was an illusion whereas that the mind, if not the product of the physical world, is real?

  5. 5

    If Ayala is a Christian, Dawkins is the Pope. He’s an atheist back in the closet.

  6. 6
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    DrBot #4

    Well, that was the reason for my question, really. If we consider that the mind, a priori, is beyond the reach of science then clearly there is no point in attempting to understand material mechanisms for the mind, and any investigation, by definition, is spurious.

    I don’t see any reason for declaring that the mind, a priori, is beyond the reach of science, any more than declaring that intelligent design, a priori, is beyond the reach of science!

    And I think we have good scientific models of what can reasonably be termed the mind.

    I do not consider that these models require the mind to be a non-entity 🙂

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    Templeton prize-winning Darwinist Francisco Ayala offers to explain, “Am I a Monkey?”

    I think the more interesting question is, “Do I think Like a Monkey?”

    Why should I trust that the musings of my mind, which evolved from the minds of ape-like ancestors, should be thought to be at all reliable when it comes to asking and answering questions about what it means to be a monkey, or to have a mind, or have a mind like a monkey, etc.

  8. 8
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, one good reason, Mung, is that we have this extraordinary thing called language. This allows us to manipulate abstract concepts and reason at a far more deeply recursive level than is possible for non-linguistic species. We can, in fact “prove” things, logically, and we can draw counter-intuitive inferences that can be checked, objectively, by independent observers.

    That’s why we can trust our minds. Because we can do amazing things, with them, including checking our reasoning for errors, testing our conclusions against sensory data, and cross-checking our inferences with the inferences of others.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Elizabeth, man you sure talk a good game, but I find you to operate on blind faith not on any coherent reasoning that I can recognize!!!! Certainly not any ‘fair-minded’ reasoning!!!! ,,,For instance, of how you will ignore reasoning,,,, with water we find water to be a absolute thermodynamic obeying powerhouse as to preventing life from evolving from scratch in the first place,,,

    Abiogenic Origin of Life: A Theory in Crisis – Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.
    Excerpt: The synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids from small molecule precursors represents one of the most difficult challenges to the model of prebiological evolution. There are many different problems confronted by any proposal. Polymerization is a reaction in which water is a product. Thus it will only be favored in the absence of water. The presence of precursors in an ocean of water favors depolymerization of any molecules that might be formed. Careful experiments done in an aqueous solution with very high concentrations of amino acids demonstrate the impossibility of significant polymerization in this environment. A thermodynamic analysis of a mixture of protein and amino acids in an ocean containing a 1 molar solution of each amino acid (100,000,000 times higher concentration than we inferred to be present in the prebiological ocean) indicates the concentration of a protein containing just 100 peptide bonds (101 amino acids) at equilibrium would be 10^-338 molar. Just to make this number meaningful, our universe may have a volume somewhere in the neighborhood of 10^85 liters. At 10^-338 molar, we would need an ocean with a volume equal to 10^229 universes (100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000) just to find a single molecule of any protein with 100 peptide bonds. So we must look elsewhere for a mechanism to produce polymers. It will not happen in the ocean.

    And yet once life is in operation we find that water ‘miraculously’ transforms into a dynamic ‘dance partner’ with the protein molecules of life that life ‘coincidentally’ could not possible do without;

    Water Is ‘Designer Fluid’ That Helps Proteins Change Shape – 2008
    Excerpt: “When bound to proteins, water molecules participate in a carefully choreographed ballet that permits the proteins to fold into their functional, native states. This delicate dance is essential to life.”

    it seems water itself, (H2O), was ‘designed’ with protein folding in mind:

    Protein Folding: One Picture Per Millisecond Illuminates The Process – 2008
    Excerpt: The RUB-chemists initiated the folding process and then monitored the course of events. It turned out that within less than ten milliseconds, the motions of the water network were altered as well as the protein itself being restructured. “These two processes practically take place simultaneously“, Prof. Havenith-Newen states, “they are strongly correlated.“ These observations support the yet controversial suggestion that water plays a fundamental role in protein folding, and thus in protein function, and does not stay passive.

    ,,,but this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ (pun intended) as far as the ‘miraculous’ attributes of water that enable life;

    When we look at water, the most common substance on earth and in our bodies, we find many odd characteristics which clearly appear to be designed. These oddities are absolutely essential for life on earth. Some simple life can exist without the direct energy of sunlight, some simple life can exist without oxygen; but no life can exist without water. Water is called a universal solvent because it has the unique ability to dissolve a far wider range of substances than any other solvent. This ‘universal solvent’ ability of water is essential for the cells of living organisms to process the wide range of substances necessary for life. Another oddity is water expands as it becomes ice, by an increase of about 9% in volume. Thus, water floats when it becomes a solid instead of sinking. This is an exceedingly rare ability. Yet if it were not for this fact, lakes and oceans would freeze from the bottom up. The earth would be a frozen wasteland, and human life would not be possible. Water also has the unusual ability to pull itself into very fine tubes and small spaces, defying gravity. This is called capillary action. This action is essential for the breakup of mineral bearing rocks into soil. Water pulls itself into tiny spaces on the surface of a rock and freezes; it expands and breaks the rock into tinier pieces, thus producing soil. Capillary action is also essential for the movement of water through soil to the roots of plants. It is also essential for the movement of water from the roots to the tops of the plants, even to the tops of the mighty redwood trees,,,

    Towering Giants Of Teleological Beauty – October 2010

    ,,,Capillary action is also essential for the circulation of the blood in our very own capillary blood vessels. Water’s melting and boiling point are not where common sense would indicate they should be when we look at its molecular weight. The three sister compounds of water all behave as would be predicted by their molecular weight. Oddly, water just happens to have melting and boiling points that are of optimal biological utility. The other properties of water we measure, like its specific slipperiness (viscosity) and its ability to absorb and release more heat than any other natural substance, have to be as they are in order for life to be possible on earth. Even the oceans have to be the size they are in order to stabilize the temperature of the earth so human life may be possible. On and on through each characteristic we can possibly measure water with, it turns out to be required to be almost exactly as it is or complex life on this earth could not exist. No other liquid in the universe comes anywhere near matching water in its fitness for life (Denton: Nature’s Destiny).

    Here is a more complete list of the anomalous life enabling properties of water:

    Anomalous life enabling properties of water

    Water’s remarkable capabilities – December 2010 – Peer Reviewed
    Excerpt: All these traits are contained in a simple molecule of only three atoms. One of the most difficult tasks for an engineer is to design for multiple criteria at once. … Satisfying all these criteria in one simple design is an engineering marvel. Also, the design process goes very deep since many characteristics would necessarily be changed if one were to alter fundamental physical properties such as the strong nuclear force or the size of the electron.

    Elizabeth, in your professed atheism, you may think all those ‘miraculous’ characteristics of water is just an accident, but, as Frank Turek says, I ain’t got enough faith to be an atheist!!!


    And let’s not forget the ‘living water’ of Christ which ‘miraculously’ brings the spiritually dead back to life!!!

    Chris Tomlin The Passion Band – All My Fountains (Official Music Video)

    Although water is semi-famous for its many mysterious and ‘miraculous’ characteristics that enable physical life to even be possible on earth. This following article goes even deeper than the ‘science of water’ to reveal many mysterious ‘spiritual characteristics’ of water found in the Bible that enable a deeper ‘spiritual life’ to even be possible.

    WATER, as a metaphor (in the Bible)

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    WATER, as a metaphor (in the Bible)

    I wonder if other natural bodies are used symbolically or as a metaphor in the Bible.

    Sun, Moon, Stars, etc.

  11. 11
    Barb says:

    “That’s why we can trust our minds. Because we can do amazing things, with them, including checking our reasoning for errors, testing our conclusions against sensory data, and cross-checking our inferences with the inferences of others.”

    Yes, we can, Ms. Liddle, but this doesn’t explain the people who believe that the moon landing was faked. Or the people who believe only what they want to believe regardless of the facts.

  12. 12
    nullasalus says:


    The sad part is he claims to be a christian

    Ayala? He doesn’t. In fact he flat out refuses to say whether he believes in God or not. Perhaps stating his view would be bad for his stature, eh?

    As for the mind, there’s something funny about a person who, upon it being suggested that they may be a poor reasoner, responds by insisting that they’ve checked all the data and have reasoned that the objection is invalid.

  13. 13
    Joseph says:

    Well than maybe he really thought he was a Monkee- the title was really “Am I a Monkee?”, because he fell, hit his head and thought he was Davy Jones, reincarnated. But then someone told him Davy wasn’t dead and that just messed things up.

    But anyway he was ordained a Catholic Priest, and does go around trying to convince christians it is OK to let Darwin onto their altar- as if he is some sort of authority on christianity- the priest link and all.

    He does seem to be quite confused, at any rate.

  14. 14
    Timaeus says:

    nullasalus, Joseph:

    nullasalus is correct, strictly speaking; if Ayala ever claimed to be a Christian, he hasn’t in recent years. Lately he refuses to speak about his religious belief at all, and his last uttered public statements indicated belief in a vague, impersonal Something, a Something that he knew was not the God of Christian faith.

    But Joseph, you are right to point out that Ayala has traded on his former education in theology and his former priestly training. It always seems to find its way into the blurbs for his books or into descriptions of him by theistic evolutionists that he was a Catholic priest, and he doesn’t seem to do much to veto these references to beliefs that he no longer has. His refusal to clearly distance himself from Christianity leaves many readers assuming that though he is no longer a priest, he is still a Christian, and this false impression allows him to sell Darwinism to Christians, and makes him available for propaganda use by the TEs. This is handy for the TEs, as, excepting Francis Collins, Ayala has more prestige, and more publications, than all other TE life scientists combined.

    Thus, Ayala was allowed to run a column against Stephen Meyer on Biologos, with the Biologos executive looking the other way regarding the fact that he won’t profess Christian faith. And they dishonestly have him listed as a “liberal Christian” on their leading figures page. But when one is fighting a culture war, as Biologos is, I suppose one will regard truth as a necessary casualty en route to defeating the enemy.


  15. 15
    Mung says:

    liberal Christian – I can be a christian without being a Christian.

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