Although evolutionists and creationists strongly disagree about the role that intelligent design plays in the origins of bodies and brains, they curiously agree about the role that intelligent design plays in the origins of human inventiveness. However, both camps would do well to focus less on perceived foresight and purpose and more on the actual origins of behavior.
That is the message of an article published in the May-June issue of American Scientist and written by University of Iowa psychology professors Edward Wasserman and Mark Blumberg.
The authors note that even such grand human engineering achievements as suspension bridges and the space shuttle evolved through a process that owes more to lessons learned from failure than to foresight and purpose. Similarly, close examination reveals that such behaviors as Olympic high jumping and jockeys’ thoroughbred riding styles can also be found to have originated through trial-and-error learning, in which the inventor may be blissfully unaware of the achievement until only after it has emerged.
Wasserman and Blumberg urge contemporary evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins to move beyond the arcane argument over where to draw the line between things that “really are designed” and “things that only appear to be designed.” By doing so, they note, we will better appreciate the actual forces that unite the processes of change across both evolutionary and developmental timescales.
The Department of Psychology is a part of the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
American Scientist is an illustrated bimonthly magazine of science and technology published by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. The online publication can be found at http://www.americanscientist.org/.