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The Wisest Designer Would Be Neo-Darwinian

25 September 2007 (updated 12 March 2011)

An LDS Science Review post on “Disbelief and Silliness” directed my attention to an article in The Nation, entitled “Root and Branch”, by philosopher Ian Hacking. The article criticizes anti-Darwinism as dead or degenerate in contrast to the living science manifest in Darwinism. Interestingly, Hacking expounds on an allegorical interpretation of the biblical tree of life as a symbol for Darwinism, and criticizes some anti-religious persons, such as Richard Dawkins, for presenting Darwinism in “cut and dried” terms rather than as a living scientific project that is increasing in utility. In the end, too, Hacking (an atheist, I believe) adds this excellent observation:

“The wisest designer would choose the governing laws and initial conditions that best capitalized on this mathematical fact. A stupid designer would have to arrange for all the intricate details (the Arctic tern again) that anti-Darwinians eulogize, but an intelligent designer would let chance and natural selection do the work. In other words, in the light of our present knowledge, we can only suppose that the most intelligent designer (I do not say there is one) would have to be a ‘neo-Darwinian’ who achieves the extraordinary variety of living things by chance.”

In my estimation, such a designer would be much like the God described by Mormonism: working progressively within constraints (such as laws and matter that already exist) to organize and reorganize worlds without end.

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