Archives for April 2016

The illusion of purpose

dawkinsingodhelmetWould a watchmaker create a watch that can’t tell time?  What would be the point?

After all, another name for a watch is timepiece. Does a watch have a purpose for existing, if it can’t measure time, in some form or fashion?

Can something be claimed to have a purpose, if that certain person, place, or thing was created by a blind force that has no true purpose in mind?

And why am I (once again) asking myself such ridiculous questions?

Naturally, I’ve been reading the work of Richard Dawkins. (I know, I know — I’m a glutton for punishment. But what else can I say? The ability of clearly intelligent people to say or write remarkably foolish comments never ceases to amaze me.)

While skimming through his book The Blind Watchmaker, I stumbled across this masterpiece of muddled thought, on page 9:

A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future person in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently 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 watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.

Now with that silly little speech fresh in your mind, please watch this brief, fascinating video of a caterpillar allegedly mimicking a snake that a good friend of mine shared on Facebook only this morning. The word ‘allegedly’ was used because it is possible that the source of the video was misleading, and in actuality, the caterpillar is not pretending to be a snake. Because I didn’t film this caterpillar in action, I must decide whether or not the author is a credible source of information.

It certainly looks real. But of course, looks can be deceiving.

Assuming the video is legitimate for a moment, please contemplate the claim that evolution is solely responsible for the existence of that caterpillar, and know this…if evolution is true and no creator was involved in the origin of this creature, then only two possible explanations become apparent.

The first possibility is that the video itself is an illusion…I don’t mean literally faked with computer wizardry (though you can create many convincing illusions with computer software such as Adobe Photoshop),  but an illusion in the sense that the caterpillar doesn’t really look like a snake, and the behavior of the caterpillar is not because it wants to deceive predators by appearing to be a snake, and therefore just a coincidence.

The other possibility is that the caterpillar does intend to look and act like a snake, and it is deliberately using the natural camouflage found on his body to mimic a snake — meaning the caterpillar realizes that it has markings that make it look like a snake and uses that information as a means of self defense.

That would seem to make it one incredibly smart caterpillar — even a conscious one, at that.

Question: how does the caterpillar even know what a snake is, and that the predators that normally prey on caterpillars are afraid of snakes? How did its ancestors come to that same realization?

And how did those ancestors reconfigure their DNA so that the illusion of a snake would be created on its abdomen? It seems that if the theory of evolution could be summed up into one sentence, it probably should be this:

Given enough time, you can believe anything is possible.

The problem is that there isn’t enough time to observe evolution in action, real time.

But we do have enough time to watch a two-minute video of a caterpillar mimicking a snake, and time to wonder whether or not there might be a purpose for its appearance and behavior.