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What would convince Darwin of design?

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From Mike Gene’s book, The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues:

Sometime around 1860, Asa Gray, a professor of botany from Harvard, apparently asked Darwin what it would take to convince him of design. Darwin replied:

“Your question what would convince me of design is a poser. If I saw an angel come down to teach us good, and I was convinced from others seeing him that I was not mad, I should believe in design. If I could be convinced thoroughly that life and mind was in an unknown way a function of other imponderable force, I should be convinced. If man was made of brass or iron and no way connected with any other organism which had ever lived, I should perhaps be convinced. But this is childish writing.”

Darwin is effectively stumped by the question and offers answers that he concedes as “childish.” Darwin clearly states that he needs to see an angel to be convinced of design. Apparently, this would prove the existence of the supernatural and Darwin can only view design as a supernatural phenomenon. (pp. 34-35)

Right. Lots of science and religion profs are Darwin’s heirs, it would seem. Their world divides neatly into (1) stuff that all just conveniently happens by chance and (2) ruddy miracles.


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To the original question. Nothing! This type of question has always intrigued me. It is a question I always ask skeptics, for such things as believe in God, the Supernatural, and Intelligent Design. It's an important because it helps each of us determine what counts as evidence before we begin the conversation. On another note, this same question seems to apply to the Bad Design arguments as well. What I mean, is that those who claim something is poorly designed must give us an idea of what a good design looks like before one can conclude it is a poor design. This includes all sorts of factors. A person could look at a laptop and conclude it is poorly designed if their criteria for poorly designed was inefficient use of space, or heat dissapation, or screen size, it really depends on the criteria one has selected for. This sort of thing gets complicated really quickly. The problem is one then must posit what a good design would look like given the same parameters as the poorly designed laptop. Any comments or constructive criticism is appreciated. rpf_ID
Davescot, Thank you, that's the one. It's primarily Dyson's idea, but looking over it again it seems like it's not an idea everyone immediately rejects. Maybe because it's Dyson saying it. nullasalus
jerad nullasalus might have been referring to this article: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/were-moving-into-intelligent-design-big-time/ DaveScot
Regarding that last entry, I seem to recall an article on here featuring (Among others) Freeman Dyson, where a group of rather mainstream biologists and scientists basically agreed that darwinian evolution ended for humanity quite awhile ago. We don't play by the rules of every other beast in the game anymore. I remembered thinking how obvious that was, but at the same time, how loathe many are to mention that. nullasalus

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