A genetically engineered fluorescent green rabbit and a mouse with an ear on its back are cited as examples of the presence of intelligent design as a principle of life forms. Evolution, it is argued, as a biological limit and explanation comes to an end in the twenty-first century. This so-called principle of intelligent design is of course “scientific” intelligent design which raises the obvious question as to whether this is in accordance with the philosophical concept of intelligence.
William James argues in his work “The Principles of Psychology” that the concept of intelligence is a descriptor of the “way” an intelligent life form does something or solves problems. His citation illustrates the principle of the freedom humans possesses in choosing how to act. A magnet attracts iron filings but if you insert a cardboard strip in between the magnet and the strip the filings will never reach its goal. On the other hand, if Romeo is attracted by Juliet but her family places a fence between his goal and himself, he will find a way to eliminate the obstacle of the fence and find a way to his goal, Juliet. Intelligence, then, does not refer to any particular goal but rather to the way in which we achieve that goal that will include thinking critically about how to solve the problem. The iron filings when it reaches the magnet without any intervening obstacle is not intelligent.
In the light of these reflections, one can wonder whether the use of the word “intelligent” in this principle of intelligent design is an appropriate term to use in relation to the insertion of genes into organisms that do not naturally possess these genes. If rabbits needed to be found in the dark or mice were hard of hearing then, of course, these feats of “engineering” would be motivated and may deserve the term “intelligent”. Indeed it seems difficult to even say whether there was any point to the “goal” that was achieved considering that no natural processes were involved. On the contrary, these experiments appeared to require the disruption of natural processes. Of course, these “experiments” are revealing of the practical reasoning capacities(or lack thereof) of the scientist. The whole process positively reeks of the lack of intelligence of earlier “experiments” such as the splitting the atom which managed to produce a weapon that could destroy humankind in a world war(One must admire the consistency of Science: if the universe began with a Big Bang human life might as well end with a little bang). There is, as has been pointed out on a number of occasions, nothing in the scientist’s assumptions or methodology that will enable him to evaluate whether just because something can be done, it ought to be done or ought not to be done. The author has on a number of occasions used the term “imagination” in relation to nations, human rights etc which are intelligent “creations” of moral and political agents respecting the processes of cultural evolution from families to villages to city-states to nations. For Aristotle, this process(up to the level of the city-state) was both organic and intelligent. It is exactly because science lacks the “tools” and concepts to describe the process of cultural evolution that Freud was forced to resort to mythology and its “Intelligent ” theory of what is important to mankind. Since the ancient Greeks it has been observed that as soon as one divides a whole into its parts, its parts inevitably become opposites that somehow need to be reconciled again. The “Intelligence” of the early Greek thinkers is revealed in the thoughts of those who had succumbed(as Socrates finally did) to the axiom of Anaxagoras that “All is mind” and everything that is not mind are finite things shaped from an infinite medium of substances and opposition processes(hot and cold, wet and dry). This could be sustained theoretically because of a logic of the values of the finite in its relation to the infinite. Human minds are the principle of the carving of the manifold of finite things and processes out of the infinite mass of possible matter, energy, and experience. Here you will find no “imagination” of singularities such as the big bang where no laws of nature were operating because there was no time in which they could operate. For the Greeks and their way of thinking there may have been a Big Bang but something caused it and there was a time before the Big Bang when the conditions for the Big Bang were assembling themselves. The medium for this scenario was the infinite One, about which nothing could be said or thought. This idea can be found in some religions and mythologies. Freud’s use of the Platonic opposites of Eros(the creative force of life) and Thanatos(the destructive force of life) in an arena where the outcome will be determined by this infinite One or Ananke was an attempt to inject the philosophical spirit into his barren scientific hypotheses relating to the well being of his mentally ill patients. Nothing is said in this work by Harari of the miserable record of Science in the arena of mental illness. It took Freud and a number of other humanistically inclined therapists to clean this particular mess up. Even after the theorizing of Freud, it is still a question as to whether the “scientists” dispensing their medicines today know what the goal is for those who are mentally ill. Remember this work “Sapiens” has maintained that ideas about the meaning of life are “delusions”. Women, of course, made up the largest number of victims of “science” and its barren venture into the realm of mental illness during Freud’s era.
In this final section of the book, there are experiments suggested that bear the quality of schizophrenic hallucinations: the resurrection of Neanderthal man, the end of Sapiens when the final singularity of our lives arrives at that point when all the concepts that make our lifeworld meaningful have become irrelevant:
“Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us”
The author here is imagining the scientific success of the creation of a race of Gods(another “experiment”?).
The problem with believing that almost everything of value is imagined is that almost anything can be imagined and value disappears in this process. Whatever criticisms one wishes to bring to bear on the process of mythical thinking it manages to preserve a world of value. The Freudian picture of the battle between the life-creating forces and the aggressive destructive forces is an apt one to apply to the history of science, and by history, I do not mean the virus the author takes it to be but rather that philosophically based intelligent narrative of the existence and value of things. One can imagine something good and under the influence of the dialectical logic of the opposites imagine the bad is an opposite that can never be related to any object that is good. Something that is good cannot be bad at the same time in the world of the imagination. These are two different things. And yet the mature ethical outlook of those leading flourishing lives is that there can be wholes that are both good and bad in different respects. Indeed these opposites are united in the wholes that are the source of different kinds of good once the explanation for what is imagined bad has been given. Psychoanalysis is the domain for this philosophical discussion of the holistic attitudes housing the practical reasoning concerning the good and the imagination of opposites that seem to demand the functioning of different instincts: the life instinct controlling what is good and the death instinct manifesting death and destruction. Object relations theory operates in accordance with this logic of the wholes, the parts, and the meaningful life and replaces the role of myth in the task of the explanation of value.