we’re intelligent. And being intelligent we look for patterns in things which, once spotted, allow us to predict certain outcomes. It’s how we operate as human beings and so to imagine a different intelligence is very difficult – how does a finite mind conceive of infinity?
Let’s take the guinea worm as an example (see the previous post).
As it emerges it causes a burning blister at the exit site. This is so painful it causes the sufferer to find relief in the coolest place she can find; water. As the worm detects water it releases its eggs to continue the life cycle.
On the one hand, this could be seen as intelligent design; the ‘clever’ worm forces the sufferer to look for the very thing it needs to continue its life cycle. But on the other hand, this outcome could be the result of pure chance.
Imagine evolution plays dice; it throws a billion dice using trillions of throws. Eventually a combination is going to arise that ‘works’. Certain dice are withdrawn because they don’t work with this process and the remaining dice are continually thrown with certain results reinforcing the existing process. Over time the ‘intelligent’ process gets refined by pure chance.
For example, a chance combination could have been that the guinea worm emerged from the body without producing a burning sensation. The need for relief didn’t occur so the chances of the life cycle continuing were diminished if water was needed for the complete process. So that particular set of chance combinations ultimately failed.
And just how ‘clever’ is the worm? The chances of death for the host are high, not really what you want if you are a parasite. A head louse is still a successful parasite today in the western world because it is a nuisance rather than a killer, but all that matters in evolutionary terms is the end result – does the complete process survive or not for the parasite?
So with an infinite number of chance throws of the evolutionary dice, our finite minds – which are trained to see patterns – sees incredible ‘intelligence’ in the world. We see the end result and try to reverse engineer to a creative intelligence starting point. This is a lot easier than trying to imagine something beyond our own particular template (an infinite number of chance combinations) but rational thinking tells you the possibility is there.