Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

Evolution is founded upon organisms of meaning

Such, then, is the living reality that Dawkins refers to as the “appearance of design” or the “illusion of design and planning”. It’s also what Dennett has in mind when he writes, “All the Design in the universe can be explained as the product of a process that is ultimately bereft of intelligence, in other words an algorithmic process that weds randomness and selection to produce . . . all the intelligence that exists”.

It’s a bizarre stance. Bizarre, above all, because everything in the drama of evolution presupposes the meaning-soaked activity of the organisms whose meaning is said to be explained away. The organism reproduces itself by bringing all its choreographic powers of organization, coordination, and integration to bear upon the reproductive process; only so do we have a passage from one generation to another. And only so does natural selection (which itself involves nothing other than a living, intensely directed engagement of organisms with each other in an environment partly of their own making) gain material to work on.

Where, then, do we find dumb, lifeless mechanisms blindly engendering new life forms? Where do we see anything other than the elaborate, interwoven, overwhelmingly meaningful activity of living beings, playing out at every level, from the molecular to the ecological?

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