Intelligent Design or Trial and Error? Some Data to Consider

Intelligent Design or Trial and Error?

Let's look at the I.D. proposal versus trial and error when it comes to sperm and whether you as an individual were personally designed. It doesn't look like you were. Neither does it look like the species of which you are a part was individually or personally the product of design, since we are merely one of several large-brained mammalian species, and all of them have loads of extinct cousins that we have found in the fossil record.

Here's the data. Many sperm are deformed, i.e., two heads, two tails, squiggly tails, heads that are too large or two small, etc. In the average ejaculate, there are 200 million sperm, talk about a roll of the biological dice that made “you.” Only about half of the sperm that are ejaculated make it to the egg (and they don't reach the egg by their own power, but they slide en masse up the fallopian tube via peristaltic waves, so it's not like some sperm are being chosen individually to reach the egg), the rest doodle around in circles. And all but one sperm dies. Some sperm have just the male compliment of genes, some the female compliment. (The male-producing-sperm tend to be faster on average, but the female-producing-sperm tend to be stronger on average, so it's a stalemate in the sperm gender competition to fertilize the egg, again, it's anyone's race.)

That raises the question, were you “designed?” personally, individually? Based on a study of sperm it doesn't seem so. You are the result of trivial differences between hundreds of millions of dead sperm, purely statistical odds.

Therefore, it does not seem valid to hold the belief that the whole cosmos was arranged just so that [insert your name here] could arise.

And if not you personally, then what about the species of which you are a member? Was the whole cosmos arranged so that “humans” could arise?

Humans constitute one of a few, very few, extremely large-brained mammalian species which include countless extinct cousin species of cetacea (whales, dolphins), elephants, ancient apes, upright hominids that all died like those hundreds of millions of sperm.

Paleontologists have discovered that before the earliest upright hominids arose, the world was covered with ape species, the majority of which went extinct. Likewise with cetacea. Paleontologists have found some fuller fossils of early cetacea but there's plenty of evidence that the fuller skeletons are a mere drop in the bucket of all the species of cetacea that used to exist. There are many other whale bones in Eocene rocks of Pakistan and India. Mostly they are teeth—the rock surrenders a few skulls as well — but even teeth clearly show that their owners were not clones of Pakicetus or the other better-known whales, but evidence of countless cousin species that are now extinct.

The current species of humanity known as Homo sapiens is a tremendous latecomer to the cosmic scene, having only recently arisen during the slimmest margin of cosmic time, and we only recently discovered that we live on the quaking surface of a rock flying through space with countless other rocks flying around, and explosive energies, both in space and beneath our feet, energies constantly mixing and swirling around, again, statistically allowing for life to arise in very small regions of the cosmos, and probably only for limited amounts of time due to the explosive swirling nature of the cosmos. And that life continues via death and reproduction. Life does not appear to be a particularly stable phenomena, though some single-celled forms have a better chance of surviving than more complex multi-cellular forms.

It is probable, given the fact that planets with life are so small and energies and matter keep swirling round and filling most of the cosmos, that the human species will become extinct in future.

Can the human species survive for billions of years like the stars, or a hundred billion years like black holes? And if we do, what will those far flung descendants of today's humans be like? Will they still closely resemble our species today? Maybe present day humanity is just another stepping stone to some far flung future species, and no single species was “designed” to be as it is, but the cosmos is always in process, all species are always in process?

Maybe present day humanity will diversify over the billions of years that follow, filling niches on different planets, and that may be followed by extinction events on those separate planets, again a trial and error and whittling process. Who knows what future version of humanity will be the last one standing?

Or imagine our newcomer species dying out tomorrow or merely a million years from now, in which case there will still be stars with billions of years ahead of them in which to shine, and black holes with a hundred billion years ahead of them in which to suck, but there will no longer be any humans to gaze at them. Seems possible, even probable.

Humanity might even might be superseded by some other biological organism or machine we happen to create. Imagine that we invent a sensory apparatus capable of acquiring information via a learning program, then that learns how to upgrade itself faster than humans can upgrade it, so it evolves faster than we can even imagine it evolving, and it surpasses humanity. In that case carbon-based life forms will have been superseded by something we gave birth to, and humanity will simply have been a stepping stone in the process toward newer entities. See also the online essay, “Why We Believe in a Designer”.

So, the “Design” in the above case would be a never ending process of change, including the possibility of extinction at every level of such changes. It looks like trial and error to me.

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