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Thought Experiments about Evolution, Part 1

Updated on October 10, 2009
This is what our thought experimental arrowhead might look like.
This is what our thought experimental arrowhead might look like.

A Simple Thought Experiment Regarding Evolution

You find a stone shaped like an arrowhead while on a hike in the woods. The arrowhead appears to be made of stone and is fairly regular on both sides. It has a point at one end and a smooth edge at the other end. It's obviously different from all the other stones you observe on your hike.

Question: Do you assume it was shaped by a human hand, or do you assume it was naturally shaped by wind and rain? How do you arrive at your decision?

Ground Rules

All points of view are welcome. Post your response in the comment field below. I will copy all polite responses into the text of the hub and comment on them when appropriate.

Ad Hominem attacks on me or any other contributor will be deleted. Poof. Let's play nice.

I will censor any profane, rude, or insulting remarks by deleting the entire comment. If you wanna play along, play by my rules. All points of view are welcome.

Comments  says:

I'd be inclined not to assume anything but research other known axe or spear or arrow heads to see what defines them apart from natural occurences of this shape.

The Old Firm  says:

I'd consider such a find in relation to the location of its' finding, and its size.
If the flint shown is a foot long or weighs several pounds, it's unlikely to be an arrow-head. If it's two or three inches long and found inside the rib-cage of a skeleton it could reasonably be assumed
a) To be an arrow or spear head.
b) To be man-made, or at least to be part of a man made weapon.
c) That the person who used it was reasonably competent in its' use.
d) That the person who used it either did so from a distance or was killed or seriously wounded in the encounter and that the victim escaped, (otherwise the weapon would have been retrieved and the body possibly dismembered.) Another possibility is that the weapon broke off in the body, which was left or hidden.
e) that if the victim escaped,s/he subsequently died and wasn't found.
The above is assuming that the skeleton was found without any signs of human intervention after death, such as burial.
- And if it turned up in a tourist trap and there's no way that it could be secured to a shaft with string it's likely to be a recently made fake!

James A Watkins  says:

Well, the arrowhead looks man made but I suppose it could occur naturally. I will say what I think along a similar line that is more concrete, if I may.

If I cruised through space for 13 Billion light-years and there was nothing but a void utterly hostile to life and suddenly I came to Earth teeming with life including an incredible variety of species I would immediately know it had been created—not an accident.

DanDnAZ  says:
16 seconds ago

My thoughts are that the events that would form such a piece without human intervention is very small, almost to the point on immeasurable. It becomes hard for me to reconcile “chance” in this. I see a creator in this, probably a craftsman of some type.

Seems strange, but this also the same view I have when I look at the world. There has to be some intelligent design in the things around us.

maven101 says:

Very interesting question...Whether or not it is assumed to be man-made or natural is really a matter of faith...It is what it is; an unusually shaped stone. Any assumptions made would be educated guesses, but a guess nonetheless, based on faith in a priori knowledge ...material, location, history, and commonality...

Camus has said " This heart I can feel, therefore I know I exist; this world I can see, therefore I know it exists; there ends all my knowledge, the rest is construction.."....Larry

Aya Katz  says:

Assuming that you are new to the planet where you found the arrowhead, it would make sense to investigate if there are skeletal remains in the general vicinity where the arrowhead was found. If there is fossil evidence of the existence of sentient beings who might have made the arrowhead, and they have left behind other specimens of material culture, then there is a better chance that the arrowhead was made by an intelligent being. If, on the other hand, there is no evidence of life, past or present, on a barren planet where you found what appears to be an isolated arrowhead, then there is a good chance that it was created by erosion and other natural forces.

By the same token, when trying to decide whether existing life forms were created by a divine intelligent being or evolved naturally, one would do well to look for fossil evidence of these divine super-beings who might have created the existing life forms. If there is no physical evidence of any such divine beings ever having been around, then chances are that the life forms we know developed naturally.

ledefensetech  says:

There should be indications that the "arrowhead" was shaped by sentient beings and not natural. For one thing, arrowhead tips are flaked so that the edges of the weapon are sharp. Now while you may get a piece of flint that has a sharp edge, the probability of it being naturally shaped is the next best thing to zero.

Natural forces tend to blur and soften the edges of things. Even mountains like the Rockies will one day look like Appalachia. Only sentient beings create sharp lines and points like you'd find on an arrowhead.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Actually, no. If a single fossilized dino bone is found, the assumption is made that it was part of a replicating community. We may make the same assumption for our arrowhead.

      Thanks for writing. I'd forgotten I wrote this.

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      rcastillo 5 years ago

      This thought experiment is irrelevant as regards evolution (darwinism). The theory of evolution explains how a population of REPLICATING organic molecules evolves over time.