Tag Archives: philosophy

On Evolution

By Psyche | January 12, 2009 | Leave a comment

Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, first published in 1986, was written to counter arguments made in favour of creationism by the eighteenth century theology William Paley’s Natural Theology, published in 1902.

Paley is perhaps best remembered today for his watchmaker analogy, intended as an argument in favour of the existence of an intelligent designer, or god. This was first seriously challenged by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection (the consequence of, or process by which “favourable” traits become prevalent and “unfavourable” traits become rarer), made well known in his The Origin Of Species first published in 1859. Dawkins further decimates Paley’s theory, arguing instead for a “blind” watchmaker, as highly complex systems can be produced by a series of small, cumulative – yet naturally selected – steps, rather than relying on a supernatural designer.

If you walk up and down a pebbly beach, you will notice that the pebbles are not arranged at random. The smaller pebbles typically tend to be found in segregated zones running along the length of the beach, the larger ones in different zones or stripes. The pebbles have been sorted, arranged, selected. A tribe living near the shore might wonder at this evidence of sorting or arrangement in the world, and might develop a myth to account for it, perhaps attributing it to a Great Spirit in the sky with a tidy mind and a sense of order. We might give a superior smile at such a superstitious notion, and explain that the arranging was really done by the blind forces of physics, in this case the action of the waves. The waves have no purposes and no intentions, no tidy mind, no mind at all. They just energetically throw pebbles around, and big pebbles and small pebbles respond differently to this treatment so they end up at different levels of the beach. A small amount of order has come out of disorder, and no mind planned it.

Dawkins explains that, of course Continue reading