I have so much hate to give. (damonite) wrote,
I have so much hate to give.

Thoughts on "How Blind is the Watchmaker?"

While looking for A Devil's Chaplain at my local library, I came across a book called How Blind is the Watchmaker? Having recently-ish read The Blind Watchmaker, I felt compelled to read what I assumed would be either a critique or a review of it. Neil Broom, Forwarded by William Dembski, decided to offer up a critique of materialistic evolution in favor of the same only with a transcendant component. That is, Neil Broom put a magic wizard hat on the gaps in materialism.

The majority of Broom's arguments for a transcendant component are based in either misrepresenting certain materialist positions or focusing on inadequacies of the theory and then insisting that it must have been a colony of magical gnomes (or God) that caused DNA to appear and life to go on. One of my favorite examples of this terrible logic is his inability to appropriately use an analogy or understand others. For example he criticizes Dawkins' Biomorphs experiment for not explaining evolution as a whole, for being done with a computer, and for creating things like lunar landers and spitfires. The point of Dawkins' biomorphs? To show how small changes can gradually accumulate into large changes. How does criticizing it on unrelated notes invalidate it? It doesn't? Well, I'll be!

Another common and non-sensical analogy was his consistant comparison of DNA to a language, and then when he pointed out a problem with language, he applied it to DNA. Now this is normally how analogies work, but he was pointing out flaws in languages dependant on grammar and alphabets, something DNA is not reliant upon. Yes randomly changing words or letters in sentences can make them meaningless, but when you do that to DNA it's not necessarily going to be the same. It could be you change an unused base or not alter the functionality in any way. More specifically, the rules of grammar and the rules of genotype to phenotype are not analagous enough to warrant the falsifying or problematizing of grammar to translate into error ridden or damaged phenotypic expression.

By far my favorite criticism of evolution from this book, however, is the million monkeys at a million typewriters. Because this example utilizes technology created by man, it is faulted that it requires human intelligence to conduct. Furthermore, it would require something intelligent to replace paper and ink and to repair damaged or worn down typewriters. Because of these things, the example that random chance becomes certainty over a long enough time frame is somehow lost to Mr. Broom beneath all the warring against materialistic charicatures he's created.

This straw manning of materialism is the core of Broom's argument. He seems to take a hindsight view about much of materialism in order to wedge in his evolutionary wizard. That is to say he looks at our attempts to understand our world based solely on what we see from our human viewpoint looking backwards to our ancestry. From this vantage point he seems to think that because we use human creativity to unlock the mysteries around us we have somehow nodded to some kind of need for intelligence to enact those mysteries. Left to their own devices, Broom feels that pure material matter would simply slump back into rocks and base liquids and gasses. He denies materialist understandings of society and culture and behavior because he applies a rigid limitation that all this must be built upon a fully understood view of the individual molecules. Does our lack of knowledge mean there's a wizard casting spells of progress or does it simply mean we don't fully understand all that we see, but we eek closer to it with each new discovery?

His conclusion, far from being a treatise on anything regarding intelligent design, is a go over of the problem of evil. Due to his thoughts on the impersonal mechanistic reality materialists describe that somehow evil should not be a consideration to materialists because evil is not a physical thing but a moral issue. Broom seriously insinuates that without a wizard to tell you whether or not something is evil, to avoid it, and how to handle it when it comes up, that evil is not an issue. In other words, since materialists have no god, they have no need of morality. This, of course, is silly. It is also equivalent to saying Broom himself would only care about good and evil because his wizard told him to and for no other reason. This is a shallow and authoritarian position. Those of us who are materialists look at the world around us, and based on either evolutionary behavioral patterns, recognition and value of society, or whatever non-transcendant reasons we have, find certain actions preferrable to others. Why do I do good and value good? Because it ultimately promotes what I feel is a valuable and worthwhile life. This is subjective to be sure, but it is also a material thing. I don't do good because a wizard told me to, I do it because of how it affects the environment I see and live in. His inability to grant a materialist morality is common, but also implies he himself would not care about good and evil if he did not have his wizard. For this I am glad he has one, but it does not mean anyone else needs this arcane structure.

On the whole it was an ok read. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone as it doesn't give any decent arguments for the transcendant, rather it points out a few wholes and implies a wizard must have done it. Perhaps it's the materialist in me, but I'd rather find out what's happening than basing my entire world view on "A wizard did it" and trying to fit everything into that. If there was a wizard, we'll reach a point where not only will we have to include wizardry, but that that included wizardry will fit the details we see and help us understand things better. As of now, postulating that the blind watch maker went and cast clairevoyance really isn't anything I feel I need to latch onto, nor does this book make that position any more attractive.

Edit: One last point I neglected to address. Broom, as do many other intelligent design proponents and creationists, stipulates that materialism relies upon an ordered and orderly universe. He then says that there is no reason to expect the universe to be orderly. I assume he means there's no reason to assume this a priori. I can agree with this. There are no a priori reasons at this very moment. What we do have are consistent records of behavior for all of recorded history. The sun's never set on the wrong side of the Earth. Gravity has never suddenly ceased working. However, and I find this interesting, mythical accounts and transcendant features supposedly present in Earth give examples of just these sorts of things. Resurrections, the Earth standing still, special creation, etc... etc... ID propropnents and creationists often say that an ordered and consistent reality is only acceptable through a wizardly figure. To this I ask why materialism doesn't have exceptions in its understanding (there are questions, but rarely do we find places where gravity just inexplicably doesn't work) but the transcendant views do. Why do materialists accept this? Because that is what we materially see every day since we've bothered to look. Consistency is a piece of the material world not for any special reason other than that is what we see.
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