|NONZERO THE LOGIC OF HUMAN DESTINY By ROBERT WRIGHT|
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PART I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND
PART II: A BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANIC LIFE
PART III: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Excerpts from Robert Wright’s interview of Daniel Dennett on meaningoflife.tv. Key phrases have been italicized, and the two sections (which weren’t consecutive) have been inverted to reflect the logic of the argument. Click here to watch the entire, unedited exchange. [Note: the word “design” in this context doesn’t refer to the “intelligent design” movement. Click here for details.]
Wright: “So, I’m just saying that to the extent—I think we’ve agreed that observing, what is it, I guess `ontogeny’ is the term, you know, the development of an organism, that it has its directional movement toward functionality by design, and that’s in fact a hallmark of design. Would you agree that to the extent that evolution on this planet turned out to have comparable properties, that would work at least to some extent in favor of the hypothesis of design—to some extent, to any extent?”
Dennett: “Ummm, Yeah, I guess. Yeah. Yeah.
Wright [after describing ontogeny, i.e. the maturation of an organism]: “I would submit that if you step back and observe life on this planet in time lapse, including not just the evolution of human beings, but the cultural--including technological--evolution that led to where we are today, the process would look remarkably like that. And in fact you yourself in your most recent book, Freedom Evolves, you say--there’s a sentence something like, `The planet is growing its own nervous system, us.’ And it’s true—it looks like that.”
Dennett: Yeah, absolutely.
Wright: “And there is a functionality about it”
Dennett: Yeah, yeah.
Wright: “And you agree there’s been a directionality about it”
Wright’s initial interpretation, as expressed in a Beliefnet article:
1) Dennett seemed to accept that, to the extent that evolution exhibits the sort of directional movement toward functionality exhibited by ontogeny, this adds weight to the hypothesis that natural selection is a product of design.
2) He seemed to agree that evolution does exhibit directional movement toward functionality of the sort seen in ontogeny. [Here “directional” means just “probabalist”—not “pulled by some mystical force.”]
3) It seemed to follow that he believes that evolution has at least some of the hallmarks of design.
Dennett has said that this interpretation is mistaken, and Wright, in reply, has argued that it is the only plausible interpretation on offer—that Dennett’s proposed alternative interpretations don’t withstand logical scrutiny.