Blind Man’s Bluff

: Contrasting the Natural Selection of Darwin and Dawkins 

I came across another quote by Richard Dawkins, biologist, self-professed atheist and dogmatic advocate of Darwinism:

“Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparent purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. -1-

A few things struck me upon reading this dogmatic assertion:

[1] He makes the presumption that natural selection is known to be the explanation for our existence. Natural selection does not explain how life came to be. By definition, it could only explain how life developed after its origin, so it might explain how homo sapiens came to exist, but natural selection can never explain why life came to be at all. Atheistic interpretations of Darwin also fail to account for the origin of, not only life, but natural selection itself.

[2] The phrase “apparent purposeful form,” likely meaning “it only looks that way,” is a weak argument. It borrows from Hume who was under the mistaken impression that natural selection had infinite time to work its magic.

[3] Since the book from which this quote is gleaned, The Blind Watchmaker, is also an attempt to refute William Paley’s Divine Watchmaker argument, it should be noted that the Watchmaker argument could be applied to natural selection, though Paley assignd the role to God. In any case, Dawkins’ definition of a blind watchmaker is a contradiction, implying that something was designed without intent or even consciousness of the effort expended. Again, this borrows from Hume.

[4] Dawkins’ description of natural selection as “blind,” having “no mind, no mind’s eye, no purpose in mind, no vision, no foresight, no sight at all” contrasts sharply with the description Charles Darwin gave of natural selection. In Chapter 6 of The Origin of Species, he states:

“It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye to a telescope. We know that this instrument has been perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects; and we naturally infer that the eye has been formed by a somewhat analogous process. But may not this inference be presumptuous? Have we any right to assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man? If we must compare the eye to an optical instrument, we ought in imagination to take a thick layer of transparent tissue, with a nerve sensitive to light beneath, and then suppose every part of this layer to be continually changing slowly in density, so as to separate into layers of different densities and thicknesses, placed at different distances from each other, and with the surfaces of each layer slowly changing in form. Further we must suppose that there is a power always intently watching each slight accidental alteration in the transparent layers; and carefully selecting each alteration which, under varied circumstances, may in any way, or in any degree, tend to produce a distincter image. …In living bodies, variation will cause the slight alterations, generation will multiply them almost infinitely, and natural selection will pick out with unerring skill each improvement.” -2-

Ha! Dawkins believes natural selection is blind, but Darwin thought of it as intently watching. Dawkins believes it has no plan for the future, no vision or foresight, but Darwin (who came up with the theory!) said natural selection was a power that carefully selected improvements with unerring skill.

What’s the difference? Well, Dawkins is an avowed atheist, but Darwin described himself sometimes as an agnostic and other times as a deist.

An atheist simply cannot, by definition, allow for the possibility of a non-natural or supernatural causation. Everything MUST have a natural explanation if atheism is true. Atheists accuse deists and theist of inserting a “God of the gaps” into science to explain what science can not yet explain. Atheists, as opposed to nihilists and skeptics in general, have a mandatory faith in man’s ability to explain everything naturally, at least eventually if given enough time and resources.  

Ironically, while Dawkins and other atheistic proponents of evolution scoff at the so-called God of the gaps, they themselves are utilizing a “no-God of the gaps”: an utter rejection of the possibility of the supernatural coupled with an insistence on a natural explanation, even if it means denying the obvious and/or resorting to absurdity, even when confronted with problems for which ample research leads to no natural explanations. -3-

We see this no-God of the gaps principle of atheistic science played out attempts to explain away the Big Bang and its implications of a Creator by suggesting the oscillating universe, multiverses, pregnant black holes giving birth to universes to infinity, the steady state universe, the finite universe with no boundary and even the universe as birthed in a lab experiment by aliens in another inaccessible universe who would never know if their experiment had succeeded or not! Each of these convoluted explanations is proffered because, as one of their own put it, Ockam’s Razor cuts their throat!   

Darwin described natural selection as a power with innate ability to pick out beneficial mutations because he had to. “Without causation nothing happens and without organization by an intelligent being [or mechanism] systems tend toward lower and lower levels of complexity.” -4- Evolution requires life to develop stage by stage by increasing orders of complexity against an opposite natural tendency. An intelligent mechanism is required. Either direct intervention from an intelligent being or the intervention of a mechanism set in place by said intelligent being to regulate and refine the process is required to produce this increasing order. The latter example is analogous to a computer system set up to regulate and refine a process. Of course, this still requires a designer/programmer who set the process in place, for natural selection itself must have an origin, an explanation for being. And again this requirement of an intelligent being or mechanism is needful because evolution demands increasing order against natural opposite tendencies.

In the end, it appears that Darwin’s original deistic model of evolution better fits the facts than Dawkins’ purely atheistic offshoot. I think that it is not the Watchmaker who is blind, but Dawkins and his no-God of the gaps.  –Sirius Knott

Sources Cited

-1- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), pg.5. (emphasis in original)

-2- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species [as quoted from] (emphasis by underline mine]

-3- Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1993), pg. 66. (I originally found the term “no-God of the Gaps” in this book. This is an alternate sentence reconstruction of a quote from this book.) -4- Hugh, Ross. Ibid, pg. 78. [brackets mine]   

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