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Why Does the History of Technology Give the Appearance of Evolution?


In a post last week ("Why Does the History of Life Give the Appearance of Evolution?"), Jonathan Wells responded to a challenge from Kenneth Miller. Miller asked critics of Darwinism to explain why, in the fossil record, we find "one organism after another in places and in sequences...that clearly give the appearance of evolution."

Miller's underlying assumption seems to be that if a designer had anything to do with the origin of species, then we should see evidence in the fossil record that someone waved a magic wand and new species appeared suddenly out of nowhere, unconnected to past species. And in fact, we don't see that (except possibly in the Cambrian explosion). Yet as I pointed out in a 2000 Mathematical Intelligencer paper ("A Mathematician's View of Evolution"), while the fossil record may not give the appearance of creation by magic wand, it does look very much like the way we humans create things, through testing and improvements.

Indeed, the similarities between the way life evolved, and the way human technology evolves, go much deeper than that, as I brought out in the first half of that paper. In neither case -- the development of life or of technology -- do we really see very gradual development. In both cases, there are smaller gaps where minor new features appear, and larger gaps where major new features (new orders, classes or phyla) appear. And I didn't even mention the common phenomenon of "convergence," where similar features evolve at distant branches of the evolutionary "tree" where they cannot be explained by common descent -- a phenomenon frequently observed as well in the evolution of human technology. For example, Ford automobiles and Boeing jets may simultaneously evolve similar new GPS systems.

Setting aside what religious traditions may have to say, the only intelligent beings known with certainty to exist in the universe are human beings. So then given that the fossil record looks like the way we design things, why is that an argument against intelligent design? Yet even if the fossil record were consistent with Darwin's idea of gradual development from a common ancestor, I would still find his explanation, or any other explanation that excludes design, implausible, for the reasons given in the second part of my MI article.

So I would answer Kenneth Miller's question with another question: "Why does the history of technology give the appearance of evolution?" when it was really the result of intelligent design?

Image credit: Wikipedia.