Tipped off by Dan McShea and Carl Simpson, I went and checked out Mark Twain’s brilliant dismembering of Alfred Russel Wallace’s version of the fine-tuning hypothesis, “Was The World Made For Man?“. Wallace is popular among intelligent design advocates because, after independently conceiving of a theory of evolution by natural selection, he became enamored of some ideas that resonate with them, such as that the universe has purpose and that material causes can’t explain human intelligence.
In his 1903 book, Man’s Place in the Universe, Wallace argued that the purpose of Earth, and indeed the universe, was the evolution and continued existence of humanity:
All nature tells us the same strange, mysterious story, of the exuberance of life, of endless variety, of unimaginable quantity. All this life upon our earth has led up to and culminated in that of man. It has been, I believe, a common and not unpopular idea that during the whole process of the rise and growth and extinction of past forms, the earth has been preparing for the ultimate–Man. Much of the wealth and luxuriance of living things, the infinite variety of form and structure, the exquisite grace and beauty in bird and insect, in foliage and flower, may have been mere by-products of the grand mechanism we call nature–the one and only method of developing humanity.
Twain’s response was characteristically masterful:
Such is the history of it. Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
McShea, D.W. and Simpson, C. 2011. The miscellaneous transitions in evolution. In The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. pp. 19–33.
Twain, M. ca. 1903. Was the world made for man? in DeVoto, B., ed. 1962. Letters From the Earth. Harper & Row. https://todayinsci.com/T/Twain_Mark/WasTheWorldMadeForMan.htm