Monday, November 14, 2005

Deriddling evolution - II

My grandfather was quite a singer in his days. His saturday evening bhajans were supposedly a scream among the septagenerian tambram community in madras. I knew old couples who used to come all the way from mandaveli to attend these bhajans. Among his famous songs was - Kurangilirundhu pirandhavan manidhan, a breather song(between two heavy-weight songs) set in kalyani ragam, that meant man evolved from monkeys . He used to sing this song to me and my brother after the mandatory friday night post-dinner Kandha puranam(The story of Kartikeya). I think he wrote the song himself as I haven't heard it from anybody else(the complete song, not just the first line), and I don't know if he believed in it. The point that I am trying to make here is that he is 85 years old and sings a song on evolution.

People don't understand evolution. You teach them evolution for five years in school, and then when you talk, not about allile mutations, but about adaptation, you are greeted with vacant expressions. And this not from people of the previous generation, but of our generation- the eighties. Ater the intelligent design controversy, I found to my surprise that most people don't understand what evolution and adaptation means. And I decided to jump in to clarify things as I know them.

Before explaining what is evolution, let me clarify what evolution is not.

  • Evolution is NOTsurvival of the fittest, atleast not literally
  • Evolution is not a teleological process, in the sense that it is not directed towards higher intelligence. Intelligence is not the goal of evolution. Only survival is.

This is what the proponents of ID claim

Intelligent Design (ID) is the controversial assertion that certain features of the universe and of living things exhibit the characteristics of a product resulting from "an intelligent cause or agent, as opposed to an unguided process such as natural selection"

In other words, they belive that an unguided process cannot lead to life as complex as we know it. I mean, what's the probability that random mutations can lead from a bacteria to a whale in 4 billion years? Slim, I must admit. But the problem here is that you aren't seeing the whole picture. Its like saying - Whoa, what can cause aurora boreallis? I don't know, so it should be god.

Am breaking up this long post into a number of smaller ones to make it easier to follow.
To be continued....

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