As the correlation of forms is the essential characteristic of the living, no accidental modification could ever better an organism. Thus Darwin's explanation of evolution is difficult to believe : to present it as an established scientific fact is an imposition.
Darwin is a true scientist whose observations have contributed in backing up the hypothesis of the evolution of species. This aspect of his work is undeniable. But is the explication of evolution he proposes acceptable ? In order to judge it is necessary to specify the characteristics of the living : the correlation of forms or internal finality.
1 The correlation of forms or internal finality
(a) In an organism the correlation of forms, the convergence of different parts can be observed. So, for example, if an animal has a long intestine it can only digest grass, its teeth have a flat crown which can masticate grass but cannot cut meat. Everything in the organism holds together, and that is why a paleontologist is able to reconstruct a whole being, parting from a fossilized fragment. Cuvier, the founder, has given many examples showing the extreme precision of correlation of parts of an organ. This text concerning the jaw of carnivorous animals is an illustration.
"In order that a jaw may seize, it must have a certain form of condyle, a certain relation between the position of resistance and that of power with the point of bearing, a certain volume in the crotaphite muscle, which means a corresponding space in the cavity which receives it, and a certain convexity of the zygomatic arcade under which it passes : this zygomatic arcade must have a certain force to give support to the masseter muscle. If an animal is to be able to carry away its prey, it must have a certain force in the muscles which hold up the head resulting in a particular form found in vertebrates where these muscles are attached and in the occiput, where they are inserted." (1)
(b) This constatation of the correlation of forms must be better defined : the organism is a hierarchy of harmonious structures, that is to say a global structure made up of structures correlated between themselves, each composing structure being made up of correlated structures, etc. Just as a text is made up of paragraphs, sentences, words and letters. Cones and rods, the componants of the retina would be the letters. Just as each element of a sentence must be placed in the correct order for the sentence to have a meaning, each componant of the eye must be correctly adjusted with the other to permit vision.
And as the sentence must be in accordance with the context, the eye must be in harmony with the rest of the organism, for example with blood pressure, its chemical composition, hormones such as insulin, or more remote organs such as the pancreas. (2) Thus an organism has a meaning, as does a text, and this due to the concording hierarchy of its componants. One might add that the necessity for rigourous correlation is far more important in an organism than it is in a discourse. If I miss-spell a word, if a sentence is ill balanced, the text can remain comprehensible. On the contrary, the smallest fault in the correlation of an organism destroys its function : for example a slight detachment of the retina ruins vision.
(c) The finality remains constant through the course of evolution. Here is a simple example :birds are descended from reptiles. Archaeopterix (3), a kind of flying snake, is situated at an intermedery stage between the two species. The snake archaeopterix and the bird have very different structures, but in all three one can observe correlation of forms and convergence of parts.
Can one explain the changing of inferior forms to superior forms, evolution which not only maintains the correlation of forms, but perfects them in making them far more complex (the bird is more complex than the reptile, just as the watch is more complex than the sand glass) without referring to intelligence but to chance alone ? This is Darwins theory.
2 A critical examination of Darwins explanation.
Darwin explains the evolution of species by chance, that is to say without the use of intelligence. His theory is based on the following principles :
The living do not reproduce exactly the same model. From ancestors to their decendants there is modification. These changes are due to chance.
The environement is selective as food increases less rapidly than the living (4). The struggle for life is the inevitable consequence of this disproportion. Many call present to the banquet of life but few are selected.
Survival of the fittest :
In this pitiless competition, only the most gifted, that is to say, those advantaged by favourable accidental variations will be able to survive. The others will be eliminated.
For Darwin the harmonious functioning of the living is not surprising, attested by the correlation of forms, and one need not demand as a way of explanation, an intelligence.
As a point of fact, the living, who were not completely harmonious, and who were initially in greater number, have been eliminated by natural selection. Darwin's explanation implies that a purely accidental modification can, sometimes better an organisation. But the correlation of forms does not permit this hypothesis. Indeed there are three possibilities :
a) An accidental modification is consequential and isolated. The correlation is broken and the organism perishes. Take a caricatural example, the poor herbivora whose intestin can only digest grass finds itself endowed with incisors which can only be used for meat. A punctual change in the organ destroyes the animal. If I modify at random a part of the computer, it stops functioning. It is the same for the eye and for any other organ.
b) The accidental modification is minimal : for example a different colour, longer or shorter eyelashes etc. The modification does not break the correlation of forms, but does not change the organism and does not answer the problem ; - explain the fantastic structural modifications of the living during the course of evolution. If I paint my computer another colour, this modification is not a first step towards a new and more efficient computer.If the minimal modifications by their number create an important modification, we come back to our first hypothesis (see a).
c) The modification is accompanied by the modification of all the other parts of the organism, so that a correlation between the forms is preserved. This is what happened, for example when vertebrates passed gradually from dermatoptical sensibility to the eyes of vertebrates today, or reptiles to birds. But this conservation of the correlation of forms (a extremely meticulous adjustement of numerous changes) cannot take place at random. There is no chance of perfecting a computer by fiddling about with it at random, because the change made, even if temporally beneficial, would destroy the correlation of forms. This change would have to be accompanied by thousands of other changes precisely correlated with the first, and this cannot be done at random but by the intelligence of a computer engineer who sees to the preservation of the harmonious connections of the multiple parts of the machine.
It is the same for a living organism which has a far more detailed disposition of parts than the convergence of the componants of a computer. And even if, at the limit, a random chance obtained this miracle once, it could not be reproduced regularly during evolution.
Cancer is a good illustration of the improbability of Darwin's explanation. This illness is, in fact, an example of accidental modification, as the prolification of cells is not inscribed in a plan, and remains foreign to all intelligent intention. One can live with a small cancer, but it does not profoundly modify the organism. A global cancer kills the patient. It has never been heard said that a cancer has improved an organ, that is to say that a purely accidental modification is able to be beneficial.
The hierarchical organisation of an organism, as we have seen is comparable to a text in which the convergence of letters in a word, words in a sentence, sentences in a paragraph and a paragraph, in the whole, give a meaning. However we cannot pass form the simple text of a school boy to the more complex one of a university graduate, then to that of a doctor, and then to that of a writer, by changing letters at random, even if we renew the experience many times.
Materialists contest this evidence. They declare that : by only changing arrangements many times, at random, one can eventually achieve a harmonious arrangement. Thus in " The blind clock maker" (5) Dawkins demonstrates that by tapping the keys of a computer at random, and by eliminating successions of letters having no signification, it is mathematically possible, at the end of a certain time, to reconstruct a verse by Shakespeare.
a) We can reply, firsty, that the improbability of rewriting the complete works of Shakespeare, plus the total of the works of humanity, is at the limit of the possible. Now maintaining the perfection of correlation of forms, in milliards of living beings since the beginning of life, parting only from random choice and the law of numbers, is far more improbable than the reconstruction of all the intellectual works of the mind.
(b) Above all, by the use of an alphabet and rules for writing, he introduces fraudulently, and to a high degree, the finality he has set out to contest. Consider a simple word : Shakespeare. The "s" a complexe structure which chance might produce with difficulty once, but not several dozen times in a text. Not only this, Dawkins considers that it is evident, that the new letter "h" in Shakespeare, is situated at the right of the preceding one, in the space to which it is normally allotted.
There again, even if this might take place once, it is difficult to understand how the laws of random choice manage to respect each time, not only the shapes of the letters, their exact position and the meaning of the text. Dawkins when he considers the possibility of reconstruction by random choice of a verse by Shakespeare, or even the totality of his works, parting from the use of separate letters, does not realise that he gives himself from the outstart much of the finality he claims to reconstruct.
In fact, if we place ourselves in the position of pure chance, that is to say without alphabet and without writing rules, a simple sentence and even a simple word would never be written. And the most elementary text would necessaely seek out some intelligence.
This is why the existence of one living being, even isolated in the middle of universal chaos, would suffice to prove the action of an intelligence. Imagine that one computer were found on Mars in the middle of diverse incongruous objects. It would suffice to give credit to the theory of an intelligence on that planet. He who would pretend to explain its existence by accidental circumstances would only provoke mockery. However there are milliards and milliards of ultra performing computers in our world, some capable of creating yet other computers !
3 The sources of the Darwinian affirmation
Thus even situated in the material perspective where numerous chance encounters have a coherent result, the Darwinian explanation of evolution is statistically so improbable that it approches the absolutely impossible. We have to ask why this extravagant hypothesis has been privileged and dressed in scientific finery.
If reason cannot explain this, its succes may be explained by other causes :
a) The first is an abusive limitation of the concept of intelligent activity. Many of Darwin's partisans agree with creationism (6) seeing it in the form of a technical intelligence : first an engineer elaborates a precise plan, then a workman carries it out. If we look at the facts, this schema is not born out. Life does not seem to trace firm lines over previously dotted ones. Evolution is not linear but abundant. It has advanced many times along paths with no issue. It seem to hesitate and it is probable that chance plays a part in its progression. Intelligence which presides over evolution, evokes a writer or an artist sketching various out lines before carrying out the final work, rather than an engineer planning his work in advance.
They venture partly at random towards their goal, and the result does not necessarily prefigure at the start. There is undoubtedly a part of good luck in the act of creation. It would be absurd to affirm that creative works are wholly due to chance on the grounds that creative research is partially aleatory. In fact the intelligence of the writer or painter directs the process, holds a course and makes the necessary choices for the project in view. Now the intelligence of the creator is not a depreciated one, by comparison with that of the engineer, but, on the contrary, sometimes a sign of genius. To a lesser degree each of us may experience a hesitant intelligence when carrying out some daily task such as an attempt to repair something which is not within our competence. "By chance" I managed to unblock a drawer which was stuck. I did not have the knowledge of a carpenter to organise the repair. But it is true that I didn't just do anything : I directed my attempts, taking into account my mistakes, and I progressed until I finally succeeded. Pure chance (for example, banging an object with a sledge hammer, burning it or immersing it etc. would not have solved the problem.
The inadequacy of a particular form of intelligence to biological observations does not authorise the disclaiming of all intelligence.
b) As well as this, the arguementation of the sectators of chance often has an impassioned origen. They believe that accepting the action of an intelligence in the living process leads necessarily to the affirmation that God is at the origen of the world. An affirmation that they disclaim from the onset. This underlying theological stance hides the data concerning the problem, and generates insincerity.
Without doubt the observation of the living world leads an impartial mind to recognize an intelligent force at the origen of evolution. But the facts do not suffice to accredit this force as being that of the God of religions or even the God of philosophers. This God is defined as perfect. However the imperfection of the "great work" is hardley compatible with the hypothesis of the perfection of its creator. We know that evolution has often lead to a dead-end. Sometimes nature has created monsters and more often unfinished harmonies, as if its creative power was exhausted. Ugliness, illness and suffering contradict this fiinality.
These remarks do not however constitute an argument against the hypothesis of an intelligent force behind life. The mistakes of the finality seem to witness its imperfection but not its inexistence : french mistakes in a text show the limits of the writer but do not permit the affirmation that the text was written at random.
Thus, there is too much harmony in the universe to reject the hypothesis of a source of intelligence. But this finality does not hold its promise. As the poet writes : "the sky left us with an avorted world." (7) No honest reflexion on the origen of the world can ignore this double constatation.