A lad of ten when I lost my mother, I am left with not nearly enough memories. But I’ll never forget the time she pulled a fast one on me, asking: “What’s the difference between an elephant and a mailbox?” I couldn’t guess at the punch line, so I just said that I didn’t know. “In that case,” she concluded. “I had better not give you this letter to mail.”
In this vein, I approach the issue of random evolution vs. designed development as more than a judgment call one way or the other. It is not enough to say that design is a more likely scenario to explain a world full of well-designed things. It strikes me as urgent to insist that you not allow your mind to surrender the absolute clarity that all complex and magnificent things were made that way. Once you allow the intellect to consider that an elaborate organism with trillions of microscopic interactive components can be an accident, you are in a menagerie of bizarrerie; you have essentially “lost your mind” as a tool that operates and defines within recognizable parameters; you can no longer reasonably distinguish between an elephant and a mailbox.
Putting aside the systemic flaws in the process of random evolution, I would like to take a moment to examine all the things that evolution does not attempt to account for, the things it accepts as accident. This is the world as observed through that lost mind.
MEDICINE IS AN ACCIDENT. There is no reason why an illness in a human body should respond to some chemical from a plant or a mineral. No reason why a chemical should make you feel high or low; no reason why a chemical should make your blood run fast or slow. The shampoo that makes your hair silky is an accident. That a powder relieves your athlete’s foot is an accident.
Music is an accident. The idea that some sounds create symmetry and cadence in ways that soothe, that stimulate, that elevate, that inspire, is either an imaginary construct or a sort of backwards-generated reality, i.e., the ear drum is annoyed by certain sounds due to its fundamental sensitivities, so the non-annoying sounds have a soothing effect. But when you close your eyes during a symphony and think that you sense a wellspring of spiritual energy coursing through your consciousness, or when you compose a delightful melody and feel a goose-bump tingle that tells you that greatness has kissed you for an instant, that’s all imaginary, a form of wish projection.
Perfume is an accident. The fact that you enjoy the smell of a musk extracted from a skunk’s tail and processed a certain way, or particular flowers, or a spritz from a lemon, is entirely a coincidence. Even the bad warning smells, like rotten food or decomposing corpses, have no evolutionary explanation; they help man avoid the object but they don’t help the object, so their benefit is entirely extrinsic.
Virtually all beauty is an accident. The blue of the sky, the palette of the rainbow, the rolling green of the hills, the mad splash of floral beauty from the birds-of-paradise to the intoxicating spectrum of orchid colors, the stunning effect where the turquoise ocean merges into the azure sky, the cascading freedom of the waterfall caressing the mountainside, the feathers of the peacock, the arresting plumage of the avifauna, the startling underwater montage of fish and anemones, all these — or at least the fact that they are visually pleasing — are an accident.
Virtually all flavor is an accident, too. Certainly any flavor built on combined elements. This includes virtually all of our cooking and seasoning. The way that chocolate syrup tastes on ice cream. The way that crunchy chow mein noodles taste with soup. The ability of an egg to taste good sunny-side up and taste good in a whole different way when scrambled. The fact that flour bakes into both bread and cakes, with endless possibilities for adjusting crispness or chewiness. All coincidence. Just us fooling around with what is and making the best of it.
And pretty much all food is an accident, too. The fact that our bodies are able to take strength from the various levels of our environment, with the most balanced diet generally consisting of a little meat, a little chicken, a little fish, a little fruit, a little vegetable, a little legume, is mostly just fortuitous.
UGGH, MY HEAD is hurting. Evolution without design is not merely wrong. Wrongness is forgivable. It is a distorting prism, an inversion, stunted and stunting, uglifying and stultifying, an affront to the human intellect, a sneer at the aesthetic sensibility. When you see the magnificence of the elephant, among a vast array of wonderful creatures, it’s time to go to the mailbox and send word to God that you’re paying attention.