The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
Inquire about purchasing the book | Table of Contents | Annotated Bibliography | Class on Nature of Mind

These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Design With a Designer

The complexity of life, as we observe it today, is such that the Darwinian mechanism alone may not be enough to explain how it evolved (in fact, Darwinhimself thought so, and introduced sexual selection next to natural selection). There might be other processes that help species evolve.

The US chemist Michael Beheis skeptical about Darwin's theory of evolution because cells are too complex to have evolved spontaneously. Most cellular systems are "irreducibly complex", i.e. they could not work without some of their parts. If one of the parts is not there, the system does not operate, and therefore cannot reproduce and evolve.

Such systems cannot be built by gradual evolution: too many of their parts must be there in order for them to be able to start evolving. Their structure cannot be due to evolution because their function cannot be built incrementally. For example, a mousetrap is a mousetrap as long as it has a spring: a mousetrap with the spring cannot evolve from a mousetrap without a spring because the latter would have no function, therefore would simply not survive.

Organisms are even more complex than mousetraps: they require sophisticated mechanisms for storing and transporting enzymes and proteins, among other things. The cell is too complicated, and it needs to be that complicated in order to be a living cell, and therefore it cannot have evolved from something that was less complicated.

Ultimately, Behe's argument is that intermediate stages of evolution do not have intermediate payoffs, and the evolution towards a self-sufficient system with an evolutionary advantage is a sequence of such intermediate stages. The chances that life survives so many intermediate stages are basically zero.

Behereformulates the main objection against Darwinism: how is it possible that complex organisms "evolved", if their parts must be present all at the same time for the organism to work properly? An eye without the retina is not much use. Even an eye with a retina but without the proper connection to the brain is not much use.All these things have to evolve at the same time in order for an organism to be able to see, or eat, or walk. It is hard to believe that by chance alone something as complex as a living organism would be created.

Behebelieves that life must have been designed by an intelligent agent, but, of course, there may simply be other laws at work besides the basic Darwinian laws.

An eye cannot arise suddenly from an eye at all (the odds are on in billions). An eye may arise from something slightly different from an eye. And this "something" may arise from something slightly different from itself, and so forth. This sounds a whole lot more plausible, but: 1. At each step of the "arising" a stable system must be generated ("stable" as in "capable of surviving and reproducing"); and 2. That system must survive long enough to reproduce, otherwise there would be no further evolution. In order for "homo sapiens" to arise, billions of small evolutions must have occurred in all of our organs. The odds are indeed very low. It is debatable whether there has been enough time (i.e., if two billions of years are enough) for these very unlikely events to have occurred. As a matter of fact, a number of biologists began searching for the "accelerator" that may explain how evolution of such complex organisms can occur in such a "short" time and with such efficiency (again, Darwinhimself had done so when he introduced sexual selection).

The US biologist Howard Patteewas skeptic too, based on the simple observation that Darwin's blind variation in a virtually infinite search space is inadequate to explain the amazing rate of success at creating species that actually survive.

The British biologist Richard Dawkinsanswers Beheís objection with a simple argument: even the most sophisticated organ is far from being perfect. We perceive only a fraction of the world. Our eyes don't see and our ears don't hear most of what is out there. Even the animals with the sharpest senses miss some frequencies. We are easily fooled by a sound or a picture. In other words, we "think" that we are such admirable beings, but the truth is that we are precisely one of those imperfect, partial realizations that Behe views as unlikely.

Dawkinspoints out that numerous "innovations" were forgotten by nature just because they did not get transmitted. Our organs, far from being the best possible of each kind, are merely (my definition) "what survived of what arose".

 


Back to the beginning of the chapter "The Evolution of Life: Of Designers and Design" | Back to the index of all chapters