From Reason: Evolution Debate at FreedomFest 2008

Our good friends at Reason Magazine have a new article by Ronald Bailey, who was engaged in a debate with intelligent design proponents Stephen Meyer and George Gilder from the Discovery Institute on one side, against science proponents Bailey, from Reason, together with Michael Shermer of the Skeptic Society. The debate was at an event called FreedomFest 2008.

Bailey’s article is here: Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators, which is a transcript of his remarks. The article is worth reading in its entirety. We shall present a few choice excerpts, with bold added for emphasis:

… since our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the “source of design,” and because intelligent design cannot rule out the hypothesis that super-intelligent purple space squids are not the “source of design” of life on earth, I will provisionally accept that hypothesis for the remainder of my talk.

Bailey did this out of “respect” for the claim of the ID advocates that their Designer may not be God (wink, wink), but might have been some extra-terrestrial creature.

… why, after going to all the trouble to finally populate the earth with millions of magnificent species, did the purple space squid creators (or whichever creator design proponents prefer) apparently allow either a five-mile wide asteroid to hit the Earth, or a huge outbreak of volcanic eruptions, or both, to wipe out at least 50 percent of the species—including the dinosaurs—living 65 million years ago? In fact, something worse occurred 250 million years ago when some event, possibly also an asteroid strike, destroyed 95 percent of all living species.

Good question. The Designer certainly had peculiar ways. Continuing:

And there is yet another puzzle. Conservative super-intelligent purple space squid creators apparently recycle genes over and over again in new species. Biologists have found that many genes are like Animal Kingdom cassettes or Lego blocks—they can be mixed and matched across vastly different species. …

In addition, now that both the human and mouse genomes have been sequenced, researchers know that 99 percent of mouse genes are similar to those found in humans. Even more amazingly, 96 percent of the genes in both mice and men are present in the same order on their different genomes. Why would this be?

More good questions. It’s been remarked by others that the Designer seems to do exactly what we would expect of a natural process of evolution.

One more excerpt:

During his presentations, Gilder [one of the Discoveroids] claimed several times that evolutionary biology somehow undermined the notions of freedom and economics. He just couldn’t seem to get his head around the concept of bottom-up order. This so frustrated me that I eventually quipped, “Intelligent design is to evolutionary biology what socialism is to free-market economics.

Great point! Now go and read the whole thing. It’s good.

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