This is the second time I read “The Blind Watchmaker“. This is an excellent book and in my opinion its a must-read for everyone. It is written in plain English, with no heavy terminology, and besides its brilliant counterarguments against the ones used by creationists, it talks about genetic algorithms as a bonus!
Yesterday night I started reading chapter 3, which presents an excellent argument that I’d like to repeat here. The usual arguments against evolution revolve around complexity and chance. Something along the lines of “Living things are extremely complex, so they couldn’t have been created by chance”. In order to address this argument one must differentiate between types of chance and that’s what this argument does:
Ask yourself two questions:
- Can something that is not a human eye transform into a human eye by chance?
- Can X transform into a human eye by chance, given that X is something very similar to a human eye?
The answer to the first question is by all means, “no”.
The answer to the second one must be a strict “yes”. If you did not answer yes to the second question then you have chosen a wrong X, a very distant from a human eye. Find another one, halfway between your X and the human eye and ask yourself again. Do this for as many times as it takes until the answer is positive. Then you will have a good understanding of the role that chance plays in the process of evolution. Evolution needs just as little luck as that to work!
You can then ask yourself the same question for X itself: Find another X (let’s call it X’) that could have been transformed to an X by chance. Repeat the process many times until you reach an X that is not at all a human eye. Then the process of evolving an eye from no eye at all breaks down into a series of events, that each of them has a relatively high probability of taking place spontaneously.
Even though the concept of very small changes is basic in order to even begin understanding evolution, this is by far the best way to put it, with no technical terms at all but still completely accurate! Dawkins has a rare talent of describing complex things with simple words. I really admire him and I started studying biology because of his books. I only wish there were more people like him among our professors
Side note: Evolution is not a theory. I hear that a lot, usually in the form of a cheap argument. Evolution is a fact as well documented as gravity. Theories like soft inheritance and natural selection attempt to explain the fact of evolution, just like the inverse square law and the general theory of relativity attempt to explain the fact of gravity.
- Chief scientist who questioned evolution theory fired (derrenbrown.co.uk)
- On Being an Intelligent Designer (visitmix.com)