Final Exam Study Guide
1. What is Darwin's hypotheses of a tree of life? What are some of the best pieces of evidence for this
hypothesis? Does the evidence for Darwin's theory undermine the thesis of special creation? Discuss.
2. What fine-tuning does Dawkins find himself assuming? What does he mean when he speaks of “as if”
design or the “metaphors of purpose”? Can evolutionary biology include teleological talk of real purposes
Dawkins assumes reductive materialism; evolution is blind
Some argue that nature provides examples of irreducible complexity: that all the parts have to
work in order for the whole thing to work. Dawkins characterizes this as saying that the whole
thing has to work perfectly in order for it to work at all. Dawkins tries to show that systems that
work only by the other parts working
can gradually evolve from things that do the jobs less well,
but still better than the competition.
Yet, this is not the sense of perfection required by those who argue from irreducible complexity.
They aren’t arguing that every part has to work perfectly -- just that every part has to work. A
mousetrap without the parts won’t work at all. It is this sense of irreducibility that is at issue. The
challenge for the Darwinian is to come up with a “just so” story to show that it is at least possible
for such complexity to evolve gradually.
God’s utility function
Different types of causes, per Aristotle: efficient, material, formal, teleological causes
Evolutionary theory, Dawkins claims, gives us “as if” purpose. We don’t need a creator to give
Whose “as if” purpose is being served by evolutionary processes? Not organisms or species:
, “the river of genes,” “the river of replicators”
Can science tell us why we have a heart, or why jackrabbits have long ears?
Altruism must be explicable by appeal to the interests of genes: reciprocal altruism, kin altruism
3. Dawkins says that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at
bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Is it an
implication of Dawkins’ claim that there is no God? Does Dawkins’ view imply that science and religion
are irreconcilable? Critically discuss.
By Dawkins’ account of Darwinism, the ultimate and exclusive ‘utility function’ of life is the propagation
and survival of DNA, without regard for extraneous factors such as organismic suffering (except insofar as
it directly affects the perpetuation of the organisms’ genes). As self-replicating entities which are passed
down from generation to generation, genes are, in a way, immortal; as competitors in a vast pool of such
entities, their survival depends upon them being dogmatically ‘selfish’ – their success depends upon them
enduring at the expense of their rivals.
Does seem to imply that there is no God