Monday, November 22, 2010

Technology did not 'evolve' the same way life did... but it'd be nice if it did

  I would have liked to have begun this evaluative response to “Deadlock in Darwinism Pt 1” by heavily critiquing Samuel Butler’s targeted approach at not necessarily the theory of Darwinism, but more so the way it was brought about and discussed by Darwin and Wallace in their writings.  Alas, I felt this would be far too hypocritical, and as a recovering hypocrite I will thus say simply that I feel it tarnishes the already weak points that Butler brings up against the theory itself.

 One point made by Butler that was particularly troubling was in regards to the concept of evolution, by comparing the progress of living organisms with mechanical pieces such as a kettle and steam engine. Butler argues that because the progress of mechanics and technology was orchestrated step-by-step by an intelligent force (namely, humans), the evolution of species must have been done in the same way. He reasons that the first  step in the mechanical process did not imagine the final, or current, product, but that nevertheless each step was designed, and as so similarly must have been the development of organic matter.

 What Butler conveniently fails to mention is that organisms grow, and mechanical objects do not. The capability to grow, bring forth new life, and die, rests solely with the living only, and into this subsection machines and the mechanical do not fall. This is massively important because these traits, specifically to grow and spawn new life, is what pushes evolution forward. Genetic mutations, as described by both Darwin and Wallace, rely on new birth to take hold, and centuries of generations to become even a notable difference amongst  an otherwise-similar species. On the other hand, mechanical devices have no measureable ‘life’, with their ‘deaths’ only ever resulting from overuse and so-called ‘wear and tear.'

Butler calls this example sufficient in demonstrating the implausibility of evolution without the aid of an intelligent hand guiding it, ensuring to restate his previous claim that random mutations could never be enough to create change (despite the fact that nicks caused in rocks by flowing sediment in water over millions of years can cause canyons). After this point of evidence, Butler continues to attack the supporting biologists, claiming them simply human in their naïve adhesivity to the theory of evolution and natural selection.

Butler’s next analogy, comparing the collection of good traits as evolution against monetary wealth doesn’t even make sense. He says that the rich are not made by the poor going away, but in fact wealth doesn’t follow even remotely a similar path as biological evolution- could a person one day have a child that is born a millionaire? No, and thus the analogy is dead. On the other hand, a child could be easily born with a favourable trait, such as piercing eyes that attract the other sex with a voracity of no other physical feature, and if this occurred more than a few times in a population, it would quickly begin to take over.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen with money, and nor does it happen with mechanical parts or technology, but it really would be amazing if one day I awoke to a newly evolved phone- or even one with a slightly faster CPU.

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