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Evolution News and Views

Richard Dawkins' Meaningful Meaninglessness

[Note: For a more comprehensive defense of Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, please see: NCSE Exposed at NCSEExposed.org]

Alas, poor Richard. Ever since being thrashed by Ben Stein in Expelled he's just gotten more and more nonsensical. Then, it was that there is no intelligent design of life, except of course maybe alien-directed intelligent design. Now, it seems he has decided to follow some recent sage advice and avoid using the "d" word. And, he's scrapped his previous idea of using designoid as a replacement.

Then Dawkins got to the essential framework of the rest of his talk, making a distinction within purpose between the purpose that comes about as adaptation via natural selection, which he called "archi-purpose", and the purpose that comes about through the intent of a planning brain, which he called "neo-purpose". Archi-purpose, then, resembles an intentional purpose, but is not such: the resemblance is an illusion. Neo-purpose, as Dawkins views it, is itself an evolved adaptation.
Now it looks like he'll just go with purpose instead. You can have unintentional design, or instinctual design, or whatever you want to call it -- spider's webs, snowflakes, etc. But you can't have unintentional intention, or unpurposeful purpose. It seems that purpose is less of an illusion even than design is.

So, what do Lewis Carroll and Richard Dawkins have in common? They both taught at Oxford and they both spouted nonsense (but only in one case intentionally).

"You are old, Father Williams," the young man said, "And your hair has become very white; and yet you incessantly stand on your head. Do you think, at your age it is right?"

"In my youth," Father Williams replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain; But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none, Why, I do it again and again." (Lewis Carroll)