I believe it was Philip Johnson who once said that if you replaced the word “evolution” in biology textbooks with the word “design,” almost nothing of substance would change. I think he was right.
We wonder at nature, not because we are so ignorant, as some people think, but rather because it is so amazing. As Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt explained in A Meaningful World, nature displays true genius. And it is this plain fact that drives design-deniers to deify, or at least personify, Evolution.
Take as just one example this extremely fascinating article, “To Be a Baby,” (a play on Thomas Nagel’s question of what it is like to “be a bat”) from Seed Magazine. The article is an interview with Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik, author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life.
Gopnik notes that the helplessness of young children seems to be an evolutionary disadvantage and thus would never have developed via the Darwinian mechanism (recall that in humans this period of helplessness is longer than in many other species). Yet her fascinating research led her to see that babies have such a richer mental life (especially rich in imagination) than we typically give them credit for. And this period where they are helpless actually affords them a lengthy period to develop thoughts about the world.
Thus Gopnik concludes:
The way that evolution seems to have solved this problem is by giving us this period of childhood where we don’t have to do anything, where we are completely useless. We’re free to explore the physical world, as well as possible worlds through imaginative play. And when we’re adults, we can use that information to actually change the world.
Rather than see the amazing design of the world, the Darwinian is forced to the absurd position of personifying “Evolution.” Evolution intended this and that. And yet this rings hollow when you read of the genius of child development Gopnik ably describes.
Yet she would have lost nothing except the superfluous personification had she just opened her eyes to design.