Saturday, March 04, 2006


Why research an 'Internal Evolutionary Mechanism'? (2)

2) Aims

On November 8, 1996 Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Ben Wattenberg on a PBS "Think Tank" program entitled "Richard Dawkins on Evolution and Religion":

MR. WATTENBERG: You have written that being an atheist allows you to become intellectually fulfilled.

MR. DAWKINS: No, I haven't quite written that. What I have written is that before Darwin, it was difficult to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist and that Darwin made it easy to become an intellectually -- and it's more. It's more. If you wanted to be an atheist, it would have been hard to be an atheist before Darwin came along. But once Darwin came along, the argument from design, which has always been to me the only powerful argument -- even that isn't a very powerful argument, but I used to think it was the only powerful argument for the existence of a creator.

Darwin destroyed the argument from design, at least as far as biology is concerned, which has always been the happiest hunting ground for argument from design. Thereafter -- whereas before Darwin came along, you could have been an atheist, but you'd have been a bit worried, after Darwin you can be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. You can feel, really, now I understand how living things have acquired the illusion of design, I understand why they look as though they've been designed, whereas before Darwin came along, you'd have said, well, I can see that the theory of a divine creator isn't a good theory, but I'm damned if I can think of a better one. After Darwin, you can think of a better one.

Intellectual satisfaction derived from a theory in which the 'loose ends' have all been logically tied up can sometimes be a self-deceptive state of affairs capable of lasting a lifetime.

This is particularly true when the need for a theory stems from an unacknowledged and acquired psychological vulnerability.

In some instances, such vulnerabilities can understandably make an individual predisposed towards believing that dieties exist, and indeed, it is an unfortunate aspect of Society that these predispositions continue to be taken advantage of.

On other occasions, the repression of a vulnerability required in order to maintain a sense of a totally independent 'self' may result in a permanent antipathy towards all forms of religion (rather than, for example, simply responding to the needs of the moment).

By way of contrast, intellectual fulfillment is not a goal in giving consideration to the possibility of an internal evolutionary mechanism because the 'journey' is one of exploration rather than explanation. And therein lies the rub: lack of resources to conduct experiments appropriate to the proposed model!

Consequently, an alternative is to argue the case for such testing to be done. At this moment in time three of the ways this approach is being pursued are:

1) To develop the model indicated by the 'anomalies' referred to in Why research an 'Internal Evolutionary Mechanism'? (1) - and hopefully avoid the pitfalls inherent in doing so!

2) Identify those evolutionary phenomena the model is initially most applicable to.

3) Address those cultural factors which are applicable to answering the question "If an internal evolutionary mechanism exists, then why hasn't it been found before?"

Emphasis on any one of the above areas will simply be a function of the exigencies of the moment!

John Latter

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