Evolution or Intelligent Design? Comments on Richard Dawkins Book ' Blind Watchmaker'
After I wrote my hub labeled "Proof of God's Existence," I received some comments about why my article showed my "ignorance." This didn't bother me, by the way, because I eat up criticism: How can I improve my work, without criticism?
One who responded to my article referred me to a book entitled, "The Blind Watchmaker - Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design," by Richard Dawkins. I decided to buy the book and read it, in hopes of reducing my ignorance on the subject.
I am almost a third of the way through the book, and I have enough comments to warrant another hub. Ideally, I should wait until I read the book so I can make a more comprehensive case in what I think about the book, but that might mean the hub would be too long. Another reason I'd like to begin now, is so I can make the comments while the subject matter is still fresh on my mind.
One might think I should comment on the original words from the horse's mouth (Darwin's book), but Dawkins reported in his book that we know more about molecular biology now than Darwin did. Therefore, I must comment on the latest available arguments presented by the conclusions from that additional knowledge.
First of all, I should admit that Dawkins makes a good point. Because of his arguments and the evidences he presents, I can't - so far - do too much refuting in the way of his logic and conclusions. But while I'm admitting this, I must remind the reader that I have always admitted to believing in evolution, but through a designer of sorts. Dawkins' argument, however, tends to force the idea that a designer is more unlikely than likely. But his conclusions are based, it appears, on his pre-conceived notions of what a designer is, or that a designer must necessarily fit his own perception of how a designer might act or what habits or qualities he/she would have. Because of these preconceived notions, I feel to conclude that his argument against the existence of a designer - based on that alone - is flawed.
Also, I have a bone to pick with Dawkins on the way he uses both sides of the coin to promote his point: On the one hand, he slams a statement from a theist as showing what he calls "an Argument from Personal Incredulity," then he proceeds to state his own "personal incredulity" on another idea in making a point for his side:
Dawkins quotes people who say something along the lines of: "It seems highly improbable that an organ as complex as the human eye can evolve by itself." Of that kind of thinking, he says: "The Argument from Personal Incredulity is an extremely weak argument, as Darwin himself noted. In some cases it is based upon simple ignorance." I cannot argue with that kind of reasoning, but I can hold him to the same standards, can't I? Later on, he says (on page 92), concerning how the twisted skull on a bony flatfish shows that one of its eyes moved from one side of it body to the other, "Its very imperfection is powerful testimony of its ancient history, a history of step-by-step change rather than of deliberate design. No sensible designer would have conceived such a monstrosity if given a free hand to create a flatfish on a clean drawing board." On page 93, he writes, when describing how the cells are oriented in the retina of vertebrates: "Any engineer would naturally assume that the photocells would point towards the light, with their wires leading backwards towards the brain. He would laugh at any suggestion that the photocells might point away from the light, with their wires departing on the side NEAREST the light. Yet this is exactly what happens in all vertebrate retinas. Each photocell is, in effect, wired in backwwards." He goes on to say that this tends to inhibit clear vision, because the light has to travel through these "wires" and through the back ends of the light cells before reaching the light-responsive part.
My first complaint is his usage of "No sensible designer..." and "Any engineer would naturally assume...": He's doing the same thing he accused the theists of doing. But he called their argument weak. Can we therefore say that he is returning an equally weak argument when he "supposes" what an engineer or designer would think or do - especially one of a caliber and type unfamiliar to us? We have no idea what kind of entity or intelligence would have undertaken this task, nor do we have an inkling as to what methods he/she used, or what his/her/their motive was. One may say, "Well, those who believe in the Bible believe God is perfect." This may be true, but it misses the point. Dawkins is still basing his premise on his own perceptions, or on things used by the believers in a religious tome. What kind of sense does it make to disbelieve in the claims of theists, yet use their "false" beliefs or premises to make what they call a scientific conclusion?
My second complaint is Dawkins' thoughtless accusation that a proper design of the eyeball would have resulted in more perfect perception. Again, Dawkins is demanding a condition he "believes" to be ideal. But why do we need perfect perception on all surfaces of our retinas? As I described in my first hub about the existence of God, our fovea seems to be sufficient in helping us to perceive detail. If I were to be able to see an ant on my window sill carrying a load ten times its size while trying to concentrate on a problem in my computer, I might consider perfect perception a curse, especially if I had only a slight case of ADD, which I do suffer from, occasionally. Furthermore, the very existence of the fovea directly and implicitly acknowledges the fact that there is imperfect vision throughout the rest of the retina: not only does the fovea have a more dense helping of cones to increase fidelity in perception, but they're smaller, to be able to pack in more of them. Also, material through which light passes is reduced at the fovea, to allow a much more clear image. Therefore, at the risk of proffering a "weak" "argument of incredulity," and sounding "ignorant," I'd say that the existence of just these four related conditions (backwards rods in non-fovea areas, indentation at the fovea, and added and smaller cones at the fovea) begs the term, "compensative purposing through four-dimensional problem-solving," which seems to be a rare or non-existent occurrence in unsupervised natural selection.
Dawkins further complains of how the nerves dive down into a hole at the back of the retina to form the optic nerve to the brain. He says that this creates a blind spot. Well, he's brought up another condition which causes to me explain its existence by using the term, "compensative purposing through four-dimensional problem-solving." The brain fills in the details of that blind spot (as shown in my first hub), and easily so, because by some quirk of nature or evolution or, should I be bold enough to say "design," that blind spot is not located at the back of the eye, but is, instead, off center, and - to boot - among these "backward" rods he complains about, which area - I'd say "conveniently" - cloaks the existence of the blind spot by not showing anything very clearly around it.
In his argument, Dawkins' has given an example of "aberration" without showing the balancing effects for it. He has concluded from this example that there is no intelligent design. Well, since I showed a balancing effect for his purported aberration, can I, with the same logic, declare that this is strong evidence FOR intelligent design - especially seeing that the aberration was solved (to sufficient extent) using multiple solutions?
At the end of this series of commentaries for Dawkin's book, I will probably offer my own reasons for why we shouldn't "suppose" that certain conditions should exist, such as the popular belief that God should show perfection his his creations. But for now, I'll sign off, and allow the reader to absorb - and comment on - what has been said so far.