Friday, September 5, 2008

Two Deep Thoughts on Evolution

I. Surely deer in North America are under selective pressure to be averse to blaze orange. We might suppose that all deer of the future will flee the very sight of it, but one scientific study is worth more than dozens of suppositions:

Deer are essentially red-green color blind like some humans. Their color vision is limited to the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colors.

As a result, deer likely can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red. Therefore, it appears that hunters would be equally suited wearing green, red, or orange clothing but perhaps slightly disadvantaged wearing blue.
This explains why it actually does make sense to combine blaze orange with camouflage patterning, as seen in this hunter's vest: to a deer, it will make for a greenish-colored, woodsy-textured visual presentation. And then the bullet or arrow strikes.

II. When something in the natural world appears to be consciously designed -- or if it's day of the week ending in Y -- Intelligent Design creationism declares "god did it" and begins a victory lap, but doesn't offer anything beyond this: no explanation of who this god is, no accounting of the methods and materials the god uses to achieve the observed results, no promise of a rich research program stemming from the foundational "god did it" insight, and so on.

Guy Harrison offers this analogy to clarify the shortcoming of the "god did it" assertion: imagine if Charles Darwin had condensed On the Origin of Species down to a single sentence, "Nature did it." While some might find that statement intuitively plausible or otherwise agreeable, no one would confuse it with an explanation, let alone a scientific one.

Those extra several hundred pages, together with the millions added by scientists after Darwin, rife as they are with detailed observations, fruitful inferences, and theoretical elaborations, are what distinguish evolution as science. Those pages remain missing from the creationism-ID program, such as it is, because there's nothing worth adding to "god did it."

2 comments:

Scott said...

Wow, I always wondered about the blaze orange idea. And WOW, now I HAVE to read that book! Excellent analogy.

Dale said...

Scott, it's definitely worth a read. It covers a lot of ground in a lively and accessible way, and he ends every chapter with references to other works for the benefit of any deeper probing you wish to do.

Thanks for stopping by.