Chapter Four – Creation
The brilliant insight in this chapter comes on page 91, when Deutsch makes the following statement:
“Neo-Darwinism does not refer, at its fundamental level, to anything biological.” (p 91)
Knowing that Deutsch is a quantum computer physicist, this statement is perhaps not all that surprising. Dawkins has said similar things when talking about simulating biological evolution in computers, or when thinking about more abstract replicators. But Deutsch made the concept very clear to me when he talked about what makes neo-Darwinism such an excellent (hard to vary) explanation. It’s not what you might think.
Deutsch quotes Haldane again, who said that disproof of evolution would be “rabbits in Cambrian strata.” But this is incorrect. Deutsch tells a convincing story of how rabbit-like creatures might be found fossilized in Cambrian-aged rocks. Such a find would totally change our view of the evolution of life on this planet. But that doesn’t disprove neo-Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism isn’t about the story of life on this planet, nor is it about the biological machinery that makes life possible. Instead, neo-Darwinism is about the creation of knowledge.
It’s quite a remarkable statement. There are only two ways we know of to create knowledge in the universe. One is through the mechanism of biological evolution (knowledge creation applied to biology). The other is through conjecture, criticism, and testing done by people – the search for good explanations.
So what would disprove neo-Darwinism? Now that we know what neo-Darwinism is, the answer is ridiculously simple. Any example of knowledge that did not evolve and did not come from a person would do the trick. Here are Deutsch’s examples:
– the observation of exclusively or mainly favorable mutations (refuting the idea that variation is random)
– new, complex adaptations that suddenly appear (refuting the mechanism of knowledge creation via selection of favorable random variants)
– complex adaptations that have survival value today, but not in the past (the example Deutsch gives is the ability to hibernate based on internet weather reports)
What all of these point out is how simple neo-Darwinism really is, and how easily it might be refuted if it were wrong. There are only two ways to create knowledge. Either it evolved, or else it was created by people through conjecture, criticism, and knowledge. Find knowledge that could not have come from either, and you have disproven neo-Darwinism. Brilliant!
One crucial point here, and I may as well bring it up now. Supernatural explanations are ruled out. Why? They are always bad explanations. The reason is simple. Any supernatural explanation is infinitely easy to vary. “God did it” says exactly nothing about how it was done. Did God intervene? Then He’s not supernatural, and we can investigate the evidence and find a good explanation. Did God not intervene? Then He could have had no effect. Supernatural explanations are always bad.