Darwin on intelligent design

From Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of. Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

A large amount of change in our cultivated plants, thus slowly and unconsciously accumulated, explains, as I believe, the well-known fact, that in a vast number of cases we cannot recognise, and therefore do not know, the wild parent-stocks of the plants which have been longest cultivated in our flower and kitchen gardens. If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture. It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.

In the first part of Darwin’s famous book it should be noted that Darwin understood selection in light of animal and plant breeders. And in the section above it is clear that Darwin thought that intelligent beings were the chief agents the selection of genetic traits. It is also worth noting that Darwin thought that purpose or intentionality, even if “slowly and unconsciously accumulated”, was a central part of his theory of natural selection.

So when modern proponents of Darwin’s theory like Richard Dawkins advocate Natural Selection as the alternative to blind chance on one hand and design on the other, it seems fair to question what real reason we have to conclude that the selecting is not done according to a definite design and by intelligent agent(s).

Darwin apparently thought so.


52 responses to “Darwin on intelligent design

  1. "And in the section above it is clear that Darwin thought that intelligent beings were the chief agents the selection of genetic traits."

    They're called farmers. They select the cows with the features they want for reproduction. Darwin called it artificial selection.

    Natural selection means nature does the selecting. When a creature has what it takes to live long enough to reproduce, that creature's genes get passed on to the next generation. Darwin didn't invoke any "purpose or intentionality" for natural selection, and your implying that he did that is just plain dishonest.

    darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

  2. That's baloney. You're adding 2+2 and coming up with 22. All he's saying is that wheat is the product of human selection in agriculture, and that non-agricultural areas don't have tasty produce.

    If you were to claim that God is in charge of creating all the species of Earth for man's benefit, wouldn't Darwin have found exactly the opposite? He would have found that Australia was full of delicious grains, vegetables and fruits that were perfect for human consumption.

    He was saying that the plants of the uninhabited areas of the world are inedible for humans because humans didn't intervene. They are suited to ther native habitat and edible by the animals that live there (and will help spread their genes, presumably). So it's exactly the opposite of your "conclusion."

    You should work on your reading comprehension skills

  3. Why do you call a fairy with a magic wand "intelligence being at the center of the universe". Are you trying to hide the fact you have a childish idiotic belief in magic? Is your problem you don't want to admit you live in an everything-is-magic fantasy world while the rest of the world has left behind the Dark Ages you still live in?

    And why do you invoke a 19th century scientist who has shown your superstitions are ridiculous to defend your childish superstitions? It would be like me invoking your dead Jeebus preacher man to defend evolution.

    Well guess what mister, evolution doesn't need defending because it's the strongest fact of science, the foundation of biology, and it has more evidence than you could spend a lifetime lying about.

    You owe the entire scientific community an apology because you have insulted their integrity and their 152 years of scientific discoveries.

    "One need only pickup and read Darwin's own Origin of Species."

    This is 2011, not 1859. There's been a tremendous amount of scientific discoveries since then. Read Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne published in 2009.

    If Darwin could be alive today he would be proud and amazed that his natural selection idea is now stronger than he could have ever imagined possible. And he would be disgusted by professional liars like you who are dishonestly using his name to defend magic.

    Let's have that apology.

    My comments which you censored can be found here:

    darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

  4. Your "the implications of design" equal " the implications of MAGIC".

    When you call magic "design" who do you think you're fooling?

    It's bad enough that your evidence-free beliefs are childish. It's bad enough you spread lies about dead scientists. You also spread lies about your own magical fantasies.

    When your fairy waves its magic wand you call that design, and you think you can do that without every scientist in the world laughing at. Pathetic.

  5. MAGIC is at the center of the universe.

    And the discoveries of all the world's scientists, both living and dead, make magic "more plausible".

    Keep up the good work. You are proving to the world Christians are both dishonest and insane.

    Find one real scientist who agree with your childish fantasies. Not a liar for Jeebus like you. A real scientist who has made important contributions to biology, who doesn't work for a Bible college or Jeebus organization. Find that one real scientist who invokes a magic fairy (and hides the fairy in the center of the universe, at least your magical fantasies are original, other science deniers hide the fairy outside the universe.)

  6. Wes wrote: "the fact remains that we have an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence (not to mention philosophical, logical, etc. but thats another topic) that is capable of leading an unbiased observer to the conclusion that the universe was intelligently designed."

    Oh dear… this should be good (grabs popcorn) – let's see this "evidence" then.

    Aside: It's really pathetic that you would prey on the gullible the way you do. Do you know the difference between a computer and a living cell? The computer has no way to self replicate – the living cell does. You are comparing apples to oranges (which the gullible won't notice) when you do this. Very, very dishonest!

    Oh – and evolution isn't accomplished by "blind unguided forces", have you really never heard of "natural selection"?

  7. Wes wrote: "Computer code self-replicates all the time."

    Excuse me? You'll need to provide some evidence for this claim – I'm not even sure what you're talking to…

    Wes cont'd: "As impressive as the most sophisticated computer code is, however, it still pales in comparison to DNA."

    You are arguing from ignorance here – a classic fallacy:

    – computers are intelligently designed.
    – DN A is more complex than computers.
    – DNA ~must~ be intelligently designed.

    It's a fallacy and does not hold any weight in a discussion about science.

    Am I going to have to wait much longer for your evidence? Or is this it? You present 1 fallacy and that's supposed to be convincing? (shaking head)

  8. Do you know anything at all about computer code?

    Yes, it is hard for people to accept apparent design without some supernatural designer, but it can be done if you try.

    Death is the selector. Is that your "intelligence?"

  9. “So your argument is that unless you find a perfect design you won’t conclude the evidence points to a designer at all? I hope you are not a computer code reviewer.”

    No, the argument is that if we are designed to be how we are then what demented pervert designed us this way? Who designed Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and the uncountable other birth defects and hereditary illnesses? What purpose do things like life-threatening gangrene, frostbite, and other reasons for amputation serve?

    Even on just a basic level, why is every human born with an appendix, an organ whose sole purpose in existence appears to be to get infected so that it must be surgically removed?

  10. “That really depends on the design and intention of the designer”

    If the designer purposely designs a algorithm that deliberately changes the input, then it is not copying. Plain and simple.

    “He thought with enough breeding an animal could change forms, but the reality is that after a certain point animals who are highly bred become sterile.”

    There’s a difference between “highly bred” and “bred over an extended time”.

    “Genetic diversity, the amount of information contained in DNA is finite”

    Only within an individual organism. And by definition, if new DNA appears in an organism, a mutation has occurred (e.g. XXY Syndrome). It may be a far cry from a new species if you started with a human, but not necessarily if you started from a single-cell organism.

    “And this is why we can say with scientific certainty that the Darwinian processes of the origin of life are deeply flawed fantasies at best”

    You are implying that because most randomly-induced mutations would offer no benefit to organisms, then evolution must be directed. To conclude Intellogent Design from this premise is hideously ignorant: that is exactly how evolution works even without a controlling intelligence. Natural selection favours those mutations which provide a benefit to survival and propagation. Over time, those mutations evolve into new species and subspecies.

    “1. misunderstands the nature of the designer”

    Forgive me for misunderstanding something that you refuse to explain.

    “2. mixes categories of cause and effect.”

    That’s the point: that to analogise DNA to computer code is to mix the categories of cause and effect. There must be something that decodes the code and executes it; what is that? Computers are state machines after all.

    “The universe had a cause.”

    Which has nothing to do with the process of evolution.

    “But we cannot posit an infinite series of causes, and it makes no sense to do so outside of time, therefore we logically have a reason to think there is an uncaused causal agent powerful enough to bring the universe into existence”

    I object to your assumption that an “agent” must be involved. “Agent” implies will, which implies existence, which implies an event, which implies a cause … Even so, you concede that this “agent” must not be outside of time, but you fail to realise that time is a function of the universe. You cannot have an existence “before” time, therefore you cannot have an existence “before” the universe.

    You may find this interesting: http://www.unrealass.net/creationism-and-why-its-

    “The problem with your analogy is that it presupposes intentionality and purpose.”

    How about you try reading these comments instead of just guessing at what they say? I quote, with emphasis:

    potentially every option is checked for a predefined “success” (in the case of evolution, it’s “survival and propagation”), and the most successful is chosen.”

    It’s pretty clear if a given mutation helps with survival. If you get eaten, it doesn’t. If you die before propagating, it doesn’t.

    However, the problem with the word “design” is that it presupposes intentionality and purpose. If something is “designed” then it is “designed for”. So the issue with Intelligent Design as a concept is primarily that it posits absolutely no purpose for the shoddy designs that went into production.

    “Why would you think that? It seems to me that you are really saying “if there were a designer, I expect he would have consulted me first”.”

    Why would a “designer” just randomly throw mutations into DNA to see what happens? That’s not the action of a “designer”, that’s the action of someone experimenting to see what the best outcome is. If you consider Intelligent Design to be akin to a Min/Max algorithm for DNA, then you imply absolutely no intervention on the part of the Designer, and instead provide an argument for non-directed evolution.

    “It seems to me that your presupposition of a lack of design is predicated on a host of blind leaps of faith.”

    As opposed to your faith that there must be an unseen, near-omnipotent DNA designer who you admit is an unknown entity, and you have the tenacity to call that SCIENCE.

  11. “At best your links show that intelligent beings are able to cobble together existing matter into something vaguely similar to a preexisting design.”

    Actually, at best those links show exactly how life could have formed in the first place. The materials they started with all occur naturally and inorganically on Earth. The process is posited to have been feuled by the Sun, evaporation and rain.

    None of that is really to the point though: the point is that the RNA strands that were created started mutating immediately as they self-replicated, and within the scope of the experiment evolution and natural selection were observed.

    “I find it odd how the same tests SETI uses to test for the existence of intelligence are suddenly invalid when applied to something like DNA.”

    “A code exists, therefore intelligence”. What type of test is that? You still haven’t explained how DNA is actually a code, or a language, or anything along those lines, as opposed to a string of chemicals that have evolved over billions of years into the complex molecules they are today. Your argument stinks of Douglas Adams’s Evaporating Puddle argument: the puddle thinks that because it fits perfectly into its hole, that the hole was made specifically for its existence.

    “Namely that an alien intelligence only started attempting to contact us after our universe was created and that their methods of communication are constrained to modes of communication we are presently aware of.”

    SETI is looking for radio signals. Enough said.

    “However this completely ignores the possibilities that alien intelligences could have left traces for us to find.”

    Let’s assume that you’re right and aliens have left genetic imprints in life on Earth such that our DNA is a secret message. This answers so many questions that it’s a wonder that anyone doesn’t believe it! Oh wait, no it doesn’t; it just makes new questions like:

    1) Where are the aliens now?

    2) Why didn’t they leave more obvious messages, or even an easily accessible codex?

    3) When did the aliens make their adjustments to our DNA? Where have they been since then?

    4) Where is my tinfoil hat?

    Sorry, but it makes more sense to look for radio signals.

  12. “We do start with the notion that the universe was designed”

    So you believe it is axiomatic that the universe is designed, therefore you require no amount of evidence to demonstrate this absolute fact. You are beyond hope.

    “our epestemic facualties were also designed in such a way to accurately detect the world around us.”

    Our epistemic faculties provide us with a poor approximation of the way the world around us works. Or have you discovered the Universal Field Theory without telling anyone?

    “Further, because the universe operates according to a design we can expect to be able to discover this design and operate accordingly.”

    This is a circular argument: the universe is designed because it fits the model I/scientists designed.

    “This is indeed the foundation of the scientific method and it is no accident it was discovered and first practiced by men with an explicitly Christian worldview.”

    Socrates wasn’t a Christian. Galileo, da Vinci et al were pressured by the Church to recant their discoveries. There were no substantial discoveries or inventions during the Dark Ages, when literacy was strictly controlled by the Church. So no, you cannot retroactively claim the scientific method under the flag of Christianity.

    “At best its a lethargic intellectual position wherein a person is somehow proud of their ignorance.”

    Rather than the lethargic intellectual position wherein a person is somehow proud that God did everything? Scientists are proud of ignorance to the extent that they can say “I don’t know this” instead of falling back on the typical theist/creationist/Intelligent Designist response of “God did it”. For only from acknowledgement of ignorance can knowledge be gained.

    Do you at least concede that it is possible for life to have evolved naturally, without the need for a designer controlling the process?

    “Darwinian evolution get so upset at the notion of an intelligent designer and then turn around and describe a process that has all the charactaristics of an intelligent designer (purpose, intentionality, creativity, etc.).”

    1) You’re the only one invoking Darwin here. Everyone else here is talking about modern evolution theory. If you’re still hung up on On the Origin of Species, I pity you.

    2) There is no implication of purpose, intentionality, or any other intelligent agent in evolutionary theory. Evolution occurs when mutations happen. The mutations are essentially random. The mutations that increase the chance of survival survive; the ones that decrease the chance of survival die off. There does not need to be any agent “controlling the experiment” to make sure that zebra can run faster than lions; it just happens.

    “What is more plausible, positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and yet is somehow not a person or positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and shockingly ends up being a person?”

    So you’re saying that our evolution is being controlled by aliens and not God. My bad; that’s MUCH more reasonable!

    “Remember Occam’s Razor? It fits here.”

    Yes, it does. So long as it is possible for evolution to occur naturally without supernatural cause, Intelligent Design is ruled out. It is simpler to say that evolution happens without a designer than to say that it happens with a designer. It really is that simple!

    “Where is the cop-out really occurring here? Those who conclude, based on evidence, that the evidence of design is evidence of intelligence or those who conclude that evidence of design is really an elaborate hoax “nature” is playing on us?”

    There is no evidence of evolution design that is not also evidence of non-directed common descent. Occam’s razor applies. Non-directed evolution wins.

    Furthermore, you seem obsessed with finding something that has a will; an intelligence to blame for the ignorance of the scientific community. “Nature” doesn’t have a collective will capable of setting up hoaxes.

    Let’s take a quick example: if there is a designer, then why are plants and animals native only to certain areas? Why do you not see wild kangaroo in Africa or panda bears in Canada? Why are there species of parasitic funghi that pray specically on certain species of ant? (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/03/3154387.htm) This isn’t even about purpose any more; it’s about common sense. What sort of designer would do that?

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