I was going to blog along with the talks today, but my note-taking computer, a little netpc, decided to turn up dead on arrival when I sat down to start listening — I had to take notes on paper. It felt medieval. There were a bunch of good talks and I’ll transcribe them later when I get a chance.
For now, I just have a brief moment before I head off to the next event, so I’ll leave you with a couple of Immensely Difficult Questions for Evolution that were just sent to me.
Q1. If humans evolved from monkeys, why are there not any other intelligent
beings that have evolved from other animals? Should we not see more
“intelligent beings” evolving from other species?
Q2. After centuries, we have yet to reproduce any artificial system that
simulates the functioning of the brain. Is it possible for such an complex
organ to have evolved from simpler organisms? how could this have been
Q1 is just a trivial variant of the “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys” nonsense. We haven’t evolved more intelligent species because a) intelligence seems to be an unlikely destination for an evolving species, b) there is no particular reason any particular species ought to evolve intelligence rather than, say, a better immune system or adapt to a new diet or acquire more efficient camouflage, and c) any intelligent monkey-men will be either enslaved or slaughtered by the species currently occupying the intelligent-tool-user niche, i.e., us.
Q2 is also just a variant of the “it’s too complex to have evolved” argument. The human brain exists. We have evidence of predecessors with smaller brains. We can see that the brain forms by natural processes. We can see advantages to individuals in our lineage that are smarter. We can readily infer from the available evidence in anatomy, comparative biology, paleontology, molecular biology, and neuroscience that the simplest explanation, the one that requires the least invocation of mysterious, unidentified forces, is that the brain evolved. Anyone who wants to argue otherwise should provide concrete examples of other processes that could have played a role…and no, scientifically-inclined intelligent monkey-men who evolved 2 million years ago and used advanced biotechnological engineering to inflate the brains of their primitive tailless relatives is not a concrete example, unless you have real evidence of such creatures’ existence.
Oh, and vaporous cosmic deities doing likewise don’t count either, for the same reason.