The Corner

Life’s Rich Pageant

I’ve been reading Richard Dawkins’s new book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, and have actually found it quite inspiring. Dawkins is most famous these days as a denier of God, but — greatly to the benefit of the new book — he doesn’t devote the majority of his attention here to this particular hobbyhorse. He does make many arguments against us simple theists, as well as against “creationists” and Intelligent Design advocates, but the bulk of this book is devoted to how evolution actually works – as opposed to who started it, where it came from, or any other such religio-philosophical questions. Dawkins is, of course, as entitled as the next fellow to his opinions on those questions; but it’s on the nuts and bolts of how the Tree of Life has branched out in its dazzlingly complex array that we can presumably trust his expertise. And the picture he paints is of a very beautiful reality — so beautiful that it could easily pass for the product of a prodigiously impressive mind.  But, because Dawkins points out aspects of the natural world that an “intelligent designer” would not have created, this mind would have to be much more impressive than that of a mere “intelligent designer.” It would have to be the mind more of an artist than of an engineer of elegant, streamlined, and utilitarian systems. What should we call such a mind? Perhaps . . . “Creator”?


UPDATE: To forestall angry e-mails from Dawkins fans, let me admit up front: Professor Dawkins himself would denounce my post as the work of a naive and superstitious person who doesn’t understand how science unequivocally rules out my interpretation. Let us consider this stipulated.

UPDATE #2: D’oh! The stipulation is THAT Professor Dawkins would denounce it in those terms, not that he would be correct in doing so. (Hearty thanks to a reader for alerting me to the unfortunate ambiguity.)