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Download Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? epub

by Michael Ruse

The intricate forms of living things bespeak design, and thus a creator: nearly 150 years after Darwin's theory of natural selection called this argument into question, we still speak of life in terms of design--the function of the eye, the purpose of the webbed foot, the design of the fins. Why is the "argument from design" so tenacious, and does Darwinism--itself still evolving after all these years--necessarily undo it?

The definitive work on these contentious questions, Darwin and Design surveys the argument from design from its introduction by the Greeks, through the coming of Darwinism, down to the present day. In clear, non-technical language Michael Ruse, a well-known authority on the history and philosophy of Darwinism, offers a full and fair assessment of the status of the argument from design in light of both the advances of modern evolutionary biology and the thinking of today's philosophers--with special attention given to the supporters and critics of "intelligent design."

The first comprehensive history and exposition of Western thought about design in the natural world, this important work suggests directions for our thinking as we move into the twenty-first century. A thoroughgoing guide to a perennially controversial issue, the book makes its own substantial contribution to the ongoing debate about the relationship between science and religion, and between evolution and its religious critics.

Download Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? epub
ISBN: 067401023X
ISBN13: 978-0674010239
Category: Science
Subcategory: Evolution
Author: Michael Ruse
Language: English
Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 27, 2003)
Pages: 384 pages
ePUB size: 1922 kb
FB2 size: 1819 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 369
Other Formats: doc mobi azw lit

Although some parts were a little hard to follow about 2/3 of the way through, it wrapped up clearly. First book by Michael Ruse I had read and it was well researched and, I thought, presented all points clearly. Good read.
The author states (p.330) regarding "Darwinism--adaptation brought about by natural selection": "Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with it. The Darwinian revolution is over, and Darwin won."

He goes on to say that any satisfactory response must hence be on Darwinian terms, "adaptation, selection, blind variation..." The last of these, also known as random mutation, is of course how according to Darwin live organisms obtain the form that allows them to survive. As I tried in other reviews here (and am dealing with fully in my own book), I am presently again trying to convey that this focus on the organism's form stems from a misguided analogy between humanly produced functional artifacts and the functionality of organisms. It was argued in defense of intention in the organism's form that just as man-made artifacts are in their functions produced intentionally by an intelligent designer, so must organisms in their functions be the intentional product of intelligence.

And the dispute is well known to be about whether or not organisms, too, were formed intentionally, by way of a goal-directed process.

The mistake is that the goal-directedness or its absence is looked for in the wrong area. While there may be difficulties in showing whether organismic forms came about by plan or by accident, there is no difficulty at all in seeing instead that it is the organism's activities that are indeed goal-directed. For this evidence of preponderant goal-directedness in the living--their aim of self-preservation--which stares us straight in the face, there appears to be a complete blind spot. On recognizing this, the consequence is that Darwinism, contending the same aimlessness in organisms as in other natural events, is false. Yet Darwin is doggedly followed in science and praised to high heaven, with the author of the now reviewed book calling him a genius (p.109). Let me accordingly comment briefly on how original is Darwin's thinking.

Inasmuch as natural selection is in essence the environment's influence on the organism, the influence occurring in any case, the main point of Darwin is that organisms become adapted to the environment by accident rather than by aim. And it is obvious that for any chance of that to happen, supposing it possible at all, there must be enormous multitudes of variations as claimed, the thought requiring no new idea.

The subsequent thinking then has had to be preoccupied with seeking explanations of how the wrongly hypothesized chance adaptations occur.
This is a well written book, and it has plenty of fascinating material. Ruse begins with a discussion of what "purpose" is. That means understanding that causes precede effects. And it means understanding that objects can have purposes: a watch can have a purpose, namely to tell time. A bread knife can have a purpose, namely to cut bread. And so on.

But what is the purpose of, um, the planet Jupiter? Or of Niagara Falls? We soon see that inanimate objects can be purposeless. And when we look at animate objects, such as eyes or entire creatures, we see that these can fail to have any overall purpose in a Darwinian world.

Ruse then gets to the issue of complexity. Does apparent complexity of some entities show that they have purposes? No. And he shows how Hume argued that apparent complexity in the world may be deceptive.

I wish that Ruse had spent some time on the following argument against design: who designed god? If god didn't need to be designed, why did the observed universe need to be designed? If god needed a designer, was that designer bigger, tougher, and more complex than god or weaker and simpler? And who designed the designer that designed god? But Ruse spares us what I think is actually a good set of questions here.

Ruse then discusses Darwinian evolution and adaptation. And we see some interesting examples. There's a fine discussion of male-to-female ratios at birth and the connection to survival and reproduction. "High ranking" females of some species have more male offspring (consistent with the idea that such offspring will do well in competing for mates) while "low ranking" females have more female offspring (consistent with the idea that almost all females will reproduce).

We also get to read about behavior that seems only partially adaptive, such as the breeding of dunnocks, as well as the tomography of some square-shaped bacteria in saline pools in the Sinai.

Those of us who read books about evolution often see design used as a metaphor. Ruse discusses this. It isn't so much that we're using the language of Design. That's fine if such language is appropriate. But is it? And in some cases, it certainly makes sense.

The book concludes with a chapter on "Intelligent Design." Ruse politely demolishes some of the arguments made by some of the modern proponents of this outdated idea. And he also talks about Dawkins, who claims that Darwinism is a major challenge to religious belief. Is Dawkins right? Well, yes, he is. It is indeed a challenge to religious belief. And Ruse makes the point that one can argue in favor of religious belief anyway, but not by arbitrarily dismissing either Darwin or Dawkins.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it.