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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Life exists without intelligent designer

    On the heels of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, a Tufts University philosopher reinforced the argument that life does not need a grand designer in order to exist.

    Daniel Dennett spoke at the UA’s Centennial Hall, Tuesday night, as part of Science NEXT, a series of lectures that examines research that is changing views of the universe and humanity.

    Dennett said the theory of evolution was contrary to how people viewed the universe during Darwin’s time.

    The prevailing view was that objects such as buildings, cars and people couldn’t exist without an intelligent designer to create them. Dennett called this the “”trickle-down theory”” of creation.

    Based on Darwin’s work, complex life could exist without knowing how to create it. Dennett said the support for this idea, what he called the “”bubbled-up theory,”” came from related ideas between Darwin and British philosopher Alan Turing.

    According to Dennett, Turing realized that computers did not need to know what arithmetic or logic was in order to function as a computer. Dennett said Turing’s claim is generally supported and now accepted thanks to advances in computer science.

    “”We’re made of trillions of mindless robots, not a one of them knows who we are; in fact not a one of them knows a darn thing,”” Dennett said.

    Humans come from such non-intelligent, complex robots – otherwise known as cells – due to evolution.

    Organisms do not need to know their purpose in order to benefit from the traits passed along through evolution, he said.

    One notable example Dennett cited was the cuckoo chick. The mother cuckoo places its egg in another bird’s nest. The chick hatches before the others and begins to get rid of the other eggs in order to increase its own chances for survival. There’s a purpose here, Dennett said, but the chick does not need to know it in order to function.

    “”There’s a common error when … people study animals that exhibit such purposes,”” Dennett said. “”What happens is that they attribute more understanding than need be.””

    Humans, he said, “”are apes with ‘infected’ brains.”” Memes, or viral ideas, give us abilities and allow us to be more complex.

    Dennett finished his talk with a Latin acronym based on Darwin’s name: “”Delete the author of things in order to understand the infinite universe.””

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