16 Sep 2009

Intelligent evolution

The two publications appeared practically at the same time and they started an argument of epic proportions within the scientific community. Both scientists claimed nothing less than having solved the mystery of the origin of life - and not less important - of humankind. Two distinctly different, even contradicting theories, two proofs. Both of them offering a complete solution: from the proposed axioms, both of them explained the diversity -  the development of the individual and the similarities between species not only those currently existing but even those long extinct.

Some questions did remain unanswered though. The two schools differed greatly on their views on the mass extinctions during which time whole families of species have disappeared leaving only a faint trace in the form of fossil evidence: a skeleton here and there or an object we could connect to ancient - primitive - species. The community was simply amazed when remains of a smaller colony from a couple of thousands of years ago was unearthed, but even that could not compare to what excitement spread through scientific journals when fossils of a long disappeared ancient species were found in a rare excavation. Scientists from both camps would throw themselves at the new samples, trying to fit the new pieces of the puzzle to their theories.

One group has claimed, that species evolved through a very coordinated, but seemingly random process from other - usually more primitive - species. Through time, organs that were more useful for survival have been - in a manner - selected. It’s as if there was an algorithm in nature that experiments with randomly changing the variables, keeping results that it deems good while terminating those it finds unworthy. This algorithm has been present for millions if not billions of years (some even went as far as proposing that the same process can be found before life itself appeared). There was however a strange gap between humans of the long gone past and humans of the present - as if only the right fossils that would bridge this gap were hiding somewhere, waiting to be found one day.

Followers of this theory - called evolutionists - found that pieces of evidence fit their theory perfectly. They argued, that evolution of the present humans from ancient human forms is completely possible, as the natural selection process would experiment practically randomly, therefore given enough time, ancestor  species could be significantly different from descendant species. The other group also proposed a complete explanation, however their theory immediately caused an uproar in the scientific community. They claimed that present form humans have not appeared through a lengthy process of evolution, rather, it was created through an intelligent design. Their theory proposed that present day humans were created by an ancient, intelligent entity, or even by the - in lack of a better word - consciousness of some ancient species. Many would instantly distance themselves from members of this second group and some even went as far as calling the professor that first published this  theory an idiot. As the arguments started to spiral out of hand, finally a well-known scientific association has organized a public forum for members of these groups where they were given the chance to present their findings and evidence. In the heated debate, followers of the school of evolution would claim that intelligent design is unscientific, while proponents of intelligent design would argue on the improbability of random evolution. A noted professor of the second group was quoted to say:

“I firmly believe that humans were created by an ancient intelligent designer. The probability of complex organs evolving at random is not in accordance with nature. The probability of a complex structure evolving randomly is provably smaller than the theoretically conceivable smallest probability in the Universe. It is laughable to assume that the organ we know as our brains have evolved at random from lesser life forms. I don’t think it is even theoretically possible that the our alleged ancestors’ primitive carbohydrate-based organs would spontaneously evolve into our immeasurably complex silicon chips.”

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