Yet another post on the jaded topic of creation vs. evolution. This time, however, I will not question whether humans evolved. I’d like to consider what we mean when we say that things such as TV sets, computers, cars, pencils, and anything else created by humans have a creator. And I would like to defend the following thesis:
Technogy does not have a creator. Technology evolved.
This thought occured to me when I watched the Matt Ridley’s TED talk “When Ideas Have Sex” where he draws an analogy between evolution of living beings and evolution of ideas. What do we mean when we say that a TV set was “created”? Perhaps, it was built by workers in a Chinese factory. Have the workers created the TV set? Perhaps, they have no idea how and why it works. The workers, definitely, do not understand analog or digital signal processing, video codecs, or physics of radio transmission. But people who understand those things, have no understanding of PCB assembly or plastics manufacturing. Neither workers nor the TV designers understand the semiconductor device physics or the chemistry involved in semiconductor processing. So, who can be called a creator of a TV? Or, more specifically, a creator of your particular TV set?
This can be said not only about high technologies, but about anything “created” by human beings. Matt Ridley uses a low-tech pencil as an example:
I am of course quoting from a famous essay by Leonard Read, the economist in the 1950s, called “I, Pencil” in which he wrote about how a pencil came to be made, and how nobody knows even how to make a pencil, because the people who assemble it don’t know how to mine graphite, and they don’t know how to fell trees and that kind of thing. And what we’ve done in human society, through exchange and specialization, is we’ve created the ability to do things that we don’t even understand. It’s not the same with language. With language we have to transfer ideas that we understand with each other. But with technology, we can actually do things that are beyond our capabilities.
This thought occured to me at work. My task was to test reliability of a new integrated circuit designed by the company I work for. I myself have a very vague understanding of how these tests are done. We hire a subcontractor company to run these reliability tests. But I need to tell the subcontractor how to turn on the chip. I came to the designer for instructions. The designer explained to me, which capacitors need to be attached to the device under test. He also said that to turn on the analog portion of the chip, I need to send a command to the on-chip processor. What command? How to send it? He had no idea. He used a computer program to do that, and the program was written by software engineers. What I carried out from this experience is that there is not a single person in the company who can tell me how the product works. The chip does not have a creator. But it does work!
It appears to me that when people talk about evolution and creation, they talk about the same damn thing, from a little different perspectives.
P.S. Another thought occured to me. In creation vs. evolution debates, evolutionists frequently say that evolution is supported by paleontology which proves that organisms historically appeared in a certain order. They say that if creationism were true, we could, potentially, find fossils of dinosaurs predating any known fossils of mollusks. But isn’t the same true of technology which is, undoubtedly, considered a human creation? Technological advances happen in certain order. E.g. a car cannot be invented before people discover a combustion engine, learn technology to process metals, obtain gasoline from oil, build roads, etc.
Moreover, when conditions are ripe for a certain technology to emerge, similar discoveries are often independently made by several people, often in different parts of the world. This means that if one scientist does not make the discovery, another will. And this seems inevitable. So, the will or the talent of individual scientists are irrelevant. Which also seem to support the idea that technological progress evolves independently from human will.