Evolutionary Blind Spots – Played by an Out-of-Tune Banjo

Robert Greene’s book Mastery is…um…masterful. Packed to the brim with anecdotes and insightful information. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But the author’s faith in evolutionary dogma has created curious blind spots that made me almost laugh out loud while reading them.

These blind spots aren’t unique to him, but when you’re in the middle of reading something that rings true at such a perfect pitch that it vibrates your very soul, you tend to stumble a bit when the song switches to being played by an out-of-tune banjo.

He starts off one passage by trying to come up with a definition of reality (emphasis mine):

…let us start our definition with a simple, undeniable fact: some 4 billion years ago, life began on this planet in the shape of simple cells.

You got that? It’s undeniable. That’s quite an impressive faith that Greene has, considering how hard it is to come to a consensus on certain things that happened just 2000 years ago.

He continues a few paragraphs later (again, emphasis mine):

Some archeologists have speculated about a single female ancestor from whom all modern humans have descended.

I’m sure he wrote this with a straight face, and his editor read it nodding his/her head as if it made total sense. This is apparently an opinion that smart, respectful people hold. However, give this ancestor a name (like, I don’t know…Eve, for instance) and suddenly you’re a raving fundamentalist. And not the adorable kind that they still invite to parties.

People holding to evolutionary dogma also can’t stop speaking about purpose and design. They can’t help trying to figure out purpose from supposed randomness.

At another point in the book, he recounts a robotics engineer’s experience while studying the human hand, and how the engineer was perplexed about a certain bump that allows us to grasp objects with more power. How odd that this bump would evolve just for this purpose.

Very odd, indeed.

Another example of this comes from the Eric Weinstein section of Tools of Titans. He talks about a virus that looks like a lunar lander.

It’s a little crazy to think that before Plato ever existed, nature had figured out this complicated 20-sided object. But because it was natural at a mathematical level…nature found the canonical design even though there was no canonical designer…Because it was a God-given form…

He continues:

Or the recent discovery of grasshoppers that use gear mechanisms for jumping. You would think we had invented gears. But, in fact, gears are such a natural idea that natural selection found it long before we did…These forms really don’t have an inventor so much as a discoverer.

Weinstein has to personify nature and natural selection, and even uses the term “God-given form.”

They can’t not reference design as a concept when talking about the natural world. Modern scientists are stuck in the unenviable position of trying to reverse-engineer nature while at the same time pretending nothing was actually engineered.

What does it even mean to live in a universe where everything works together so perfectly that there are “things that are natural at a mathematical level?” That we can extrapolate concepts purely in our mind, and know they will work and make sense in reality? That is a staggering consequence of order. Not randomness.

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