Spotting design

I caught the last few minutes of The Natural World on BBC Radio 4 as I woke up yesterday morning. The naturalist being interviewed was talking about the way a species of ladybird only reaches sexual maturity after several days of cold weather. He explained that it was an evolutionary strategy, for a purpose I didn’t quite catch.

But “evolutionary strategy” is surely an oxymoron. The whole point of evolution is that it has no strategy. So did he intend to say that the behaviour pointed to evolution, or that it was a strategy? It can’t be both if Neodarwinism is true.

The context actually made it clear that he meant to point out what clever little blighters ladybirds are. He had not previously said anything remotely relevant to evolution. He might just as well have said the ladybird was fit for purpose – or even that it was well-designed, which is what “strategy” necessarily implies. The only reason to mention evolution at all was … well, to make sure he mentioned evolution.

Because as Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Even oxymorons.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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