My response to NCSE director Ann Reid’s article on Turtles
|April 9, 2014||Posted by scordova under academic freedom, News, Philosophy|
The new director of the NCSE, Ann Reid, is a fellow alum from the same institution as I, and in addition to my obligation to show her collegial courtesy, I feel in such high profile blog as hers, I should comment with as much eloquence and grace as possible. I would hope any IDists posting to Ann’s blog will be more diplomatic than we usually are in our blog wars, and write as if we are seeking to reach the undecided middle rather than just venting our dislike of evolutionism. Angry responses against evolution on her blog I do not view as speaking well of ID and creation. UD is a better place to vent such feelings.
Please do not overwhelm her blog because I want the channels of communication to remain open. We want to be able to keep engaging the evolutionists, and I don’t want them to shut down the comment section of that blog. This is our chance to shine. I can’t say I achieved that goal myself on her blog, but below is my attempt at dialogue for the sake of the undecided middle.
She wrote this article which I highlight some excerpts The
Evolution has resulted in so many exquisite adaptations that it is sometimes tempting to fall into an admiring swoon at its apparent efficiency and precision. But unlike human engineering, which aims for optimal efficiency, failsafe design, and continual progress, evolution has no point. “Whatever works!” might be considered its rallying cry. This leads to some stunning examples of apparently gross, and, from a human point of view, tragic waste. Indeed, if you prefer your nature fuzzy and endearing, you might want to go read another story.
To illustrate, I give you the turtles of Heron Island. These are the large (think coffee-table sized) and determined mama turtles, familiar from many a nature documentary, that return year after year to the beaches of their birth to lay hundreds of eggs. Graceful as dancers underwater, the turtles are ungainly on land, struggling up the sand like tanks powering through heavy mud. But up they come, and once they’ve found a soft spot past the high tide mark, they spend hours laboriously digging a pit into which they lay 60 to 100 eggs. It takes another 20-30 minutes to cover the eggs, after which they lumber back down to the water. This multi-hour workout is repeated approximately every two weeks throughout a laying season that lasts about three months. Each year an individual mother turtle may lay 400-600 eggs.
The 2013-2014 season was a bumper year for turtles on Heron Island. A walk around the island revealed the turtles’ characteristic tracks leading out of and back into the water every few yards. Because it was such a busy year, it took minimal dedication to spot the turtles; on our first morning walk, we were rewarded with the sight of two mother turtles returning to the water.
But it is at sundown that the real drama of the turtles plays out. The eggs hatch after about 60 days. Because the laying season began in December, many, many baby turtles were emerging during our visit in February. After hatching, the baby turtles remain under the sand until the falling temperatures and fading light of sunset provide the cues that it is time to dig their way out of their nests. Once on the surface, they head to the water, using light as their guide.
Unfortunately, the baby turtles are not the only ones to notice that the sun is going down. Sharks and seagulls notice too, and as far as they’re concerned, sunset means suppertime. Seagulls line the beach, and bare yards from the shoreline are dozens of reef sharks, giving concrete meaning to the phrase “teeming with sharks.” The baby turtles, powering over the pitted sand, face stupendous odds. If a seagull does not pick them off, they are snatched up by a shark. We watched dozens of baby turtles head into the water, but we didn’t see a single one make it past the sharks. Clearly some of them get through, because turtles have been around for upwards of 200 million years, but the odds for an individual baby are low. Research suggests that about one egg in 1000 reaches adulthood.
When you see all of those hard-working turtle mamas and doomed babies, it sure seems like a wasteful system. But of course evolution doesn’t “care” that the situation is wasteful; as long as enough mother turtles manage to lay enough eggs to keep the chain unbroken, there is no “reason” for the process to become more efficient from a human point of view.
I responded in the comment section:
Even though I’m a creationist, I salute a very nicely written observation about the drama in nature, but I have a different take. The wonders of human engineering are not restricted to utility. Incredible engineering is often involved in creating things for entertainment where extravagance rather than utility are the norm. The video game industry for example is now larger than the film industry.
Drama in the realm of video games is a central consideration where engineering and artistic license create designs of extreme extravagance. In such realms, huge armies of virtual creatures go at war and devour each other in complex rituals. The animal world seems to have the touches of a Creator that is like-minded to video game developers. There is almost a ritualistic extravagance in how living creatures live, mate, reproduce and even die.
I do not view the drama of the turtles as “whatever works”. The turtle drama, like so many things in nature, has an extravagance to it, as if to express a dramatic creativity from the Creator.
Animal life, and for that matter the Rube Goldberg machines of life, is an extravagance which nature did not need. The example of these turtles, like the peacock’s tail, highlight the extravagance familiar to engineers in the video game and movie industry, but also those who love the extravagance of great drama. Creation is a great drama, and the creation message is that the present troubles in the world are not the end of the divine drama.