Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

The Darwinian Pool Room- originally posted July 20, 2007

No, the title for this blog is not original; it is the title of a short story written by Isaac Asimov published in 1950. I reread it this weekend and it raises some interesting points.

The basic premise is this: A person with zero knowledge of pool walks into a room and sees a pool table there. The coloured balls are in pockets, the cues and triangle racked against the wall. Considering he has zero knowledge of the game, what is his most likely supposition?  That the balls were placed in the pockets in some unknown order or that the balls, in a specific order, were arranged in the triangle on the table and then, through a series of the cue hitting the white ball into the other balls, they were placed in the pockets in an indeterminate order? Undoubtedly he would go for the balls being placed by hand in the pockets.  It may be some random pattern but it seems infinitly more likely than the other arrangement!

So the argument goes for intelligent design. It is counter intuitive. The more logical explanation may be the direct hand placing the cue balls into the pockets but a creator with infinite computational and operational capabilities may choose to do a four cushion bank shot which pots all the balls in a single stroke, something that is beyond us- but which is conceivable for him!

So the discussion of the aesthetically pleasing designer preparing everything up front and then making that one unbelievable shot (gees- talk about overworking a metaphor!) works for me, but then he took it one step further. The computational design is such that over time the dinosaurs develop a weakness which results in their extinction.  Perhaps a vitamin deficiency or something else. Why not the more commonly accepted notion of massive climate change? Simply put, the aquatic dinosaurs. Increasing specialisation does not account for their extinction, even though it may for the massive herbivorous and carnivorous land going dinosaurs.  After all, increasing mass is immaterial when water aids with buoyancy. Massive swings in temperature are muted underwater- so even an asteroid strike, which made the surface uninhabitable for land based dinosaurs, would not have rendered all the ocean going habitats unlivable for dinosaurs. So what happened to the sea based dinosaurs? We have found some really ancient fish in the coelocanth, but no dinosaurs.  Why not?  The designer with a built in redundancy, so they would make way for the next phase, seems to close this gap.

Alls well and fine, perhaps we can even smugly look around and say “look at how intellegent we are, God (or the designer if you wish) made sure that everything worked out for us-\, there is no next phase.”  Of course, as I said, this is an Asimov story, so he has to leave off with that sucker punch. Are we so sure there is no next phase? After all, is it merely conincedence that cybernetics and artifical intelligence are being developed in sync with the fision and fusion bomb…

So, a nice argument for intelligent design, and a warning against complacency that the designer is finished. Me, I think he is, and the next phase is the coming of mashiach. Who knows, maybe the coming of mashiach is also based on an evolution in the design, the movement out of our physical, animal bodies with their animal souls, to bodies devoid of that animal soul and thus automatically at a higher spiritual level. Let us hope that if that is so, it does not require a mass extinction of the previous phase…

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June 24, 2008 - Posted by | Random | ,

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