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From The Stranger, Seattle’s Alternative Paper, an Odd but Welcome Embrace of Evolution’s “Third Way”

David Klinghoffer


The Stranger is one of our two Seattle alternative weeklies, and it can be vile, addled, or both. But this is worthy of a note of congratulations. Author Charles Mudede contributes an article titled “What the ‘White Man’s Fly’ Tells Us About Intelligent Design.” It’s a little bit…strange, and certainly no embrace of ID. The gist of it, in fact, is a surprising endorsement of the thinking of University of Chicago biologist James Shapiro, a leading scientist in the Third Way of Evolution movement.

Shapiro seeks an alternative to orthodox evolutionary theory that is neither ID nor Darwinism. Mudede associates it with panpsychism, which may not be far off. Key paragraph:

Shapiro does not use the term panpsychism, but he does describe processes such as proofreading for DNA replication as thoughtful. These systems are very aware of what they are doing, and it could not be otherwise. But the reason why there is resistance to the obvious and tested facts of life’s profound intelligence is because it risks confusing science with the ideas of those who want to bring the supernatural into the natural by way of intelligent design (ID). But there is a very important distinction between recognizing the intelligence of life and speculating on an intelligence that has designed life. The first operates in life (immanent); the second operates in a place that’s not only outside of life but nature as we understand it (transcendental). If there is an intelligent designer, then it must be some kind of living form, and therefore something in life, and sharing all of the characteristics of a living entity. Only life designs things. To have a design is to have a goal in life. What exists is goal-oriented: we must eat, must f***, must make copies of ourselves.

ID doesn’t assume the supernatural or, as Mudede says, the “transcendental.” It merely weighs evidence of purpose in nature, which could be wholly in nature and not outside. But leave that aside. Shapiro is a daring and original thinker — and no Darwinist. How fascinating that a writer for The Stranger takes it in stride that life down to the level of DNA is “goal-oriented” and that such a teleological view, clearly contradictory of Darwinism, is “obvious and tested,” and “could not be otherwise.”

Mr. Mudede’s headline, incidentally, is a reference to honeybees, which “were brought here by Europeans and… were called by some Native Americans the ‘white man’s fly.'” He finds them to be emblematic of “design that [is] within and not outside of the processes of life.” I’m not sure that I understand his argument there about honey and “social power.”

It doesn’t matter. Our compliments to The Stranger for publishing this odd but welcome piece. Probably when Darwinism falls, it will be like this, with writers and scientists unable to maintain the old faith in unguided evolution, but not yet ready for ID, and reaching for something, like Dr. Shapiro’s “natural genetic engineering,” as an alternative and a refuge.

Photo credit: Ricks at German language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.