Friday, January 05, 2007

Good Discussion

At Uncommon Descent in response to this post:

The Emerald Cockroach Wasp

The emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa, also known as the jewel wasp) is a parasitoid wasp of the family Ampulicidae. It is known for its reproductive behavior, which involves using a live cockroach (specificially a Periplaneta americana) as a host for its larva. A number of other venomous animals which use live food for their larvae paralyze their prey. Unlike them, Ampulex compressa initially leaves the cockroach mobile, but modifies its behaviour in a unique way.

As early as the 1940s it was published that wasps of this species sting a roach twice, which modifies the behavior of the prey. A recent study using radioactive labeling proved that the wasp stings precisely into specific ganglia. Ampulex compressa delivers an initial sting to a thoracic ganglion of a cockroach to mildly paralyze the front legs of the insect. This facilitates the second sting at a carefully chosen spot in the cockroach’s head ganglia (brain), in the section that controls the escape reflex. As a result of this sting, the cockroach will now fail to produce normal escape responses.

The wasp, which is too small to carry the cockroach, then drives the victim to the wasp’s den, by pulling one of the cockroach’s antennae in a manner similar to a leash. Once they reach the den, the wasp lays an egg on the cockroach’s abdomen and proceeds to fill in the den’s entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out than to keep the cockroach in.

The stung cockroach, its escape reflex disabled, will simply rest in the den as the wasp’s egg hatches. A hatched larva chews its way into the abdomen of the cockroach and proceeds to live as an endoparasitoid. Over a period of eight days, the wasp larva consumes the cockroach’s internal organs in an order which guarantees that the cockroach will stay alive, at least until the larva enters the pupal stage and forms a cocoon inside the cockroach’s body. After about four weeks, the fully-grown wasp will emerge from the cockroach’s body to begin its adult life.

The wasp is common in tropical regions (Africa, India and the Pacific islands), and has been introduced to Hawaii by F. X. Williams in 1941 as a method of biocontrol. This was unsuccessful because of the territorial tendencies of the wasp, and the small scale on which they hunt.

Imagine, if you will, how a wasp evolved the ability to perform brain surgery complete with a drug that turns a cockroach into a docile zombie it can lead around like a dog on a leash. I emphasize the word imagine because any story you come up with is a work of fiction. Such fiction is the basis of the Theory of Evolution.

One of the commenters is quite forthright in asserting that his faith in Darwinism rests on theological grounds:

I’ve been waiting for an topic like this to show up.

Intelligent Design handsomely relies on intuition, prodding us to capitulate to our sense that nature is in fact designed. It is not an illusion, they tell us. Now, I hear some hedging about this occasionally, that we can be mistaken, but basically our intuition is correct that design is at work in the universe.

Darwinists, on the other hand, deny the reality of design, and therefore admonish those of us who believe our intuitive sense that design is at work in the universe. Intelligent Design is an illusion, they say. And moreover, the march of science proves this. What we once thought was the work of an intelligent agent turns out to be nothing more than natural, mechanistic processes at work. An intelligent agent may have been involved to get the ball rolling, they say, but there doesn’t appear to be any piercing or manipulation of this closed system we call the universe.

So, take the example posted above by DaveScot. My intuition is that an intelligent being would never consciously settle into his lab chair and design such a creature. For me, such a creature has no hallmarks of design. It has adapted and evolved and adapted and evolved over millions of years…Why do I think this? Because I can’t seem to make the connection between creatures like this and God. And it’s not because I have trouble with the morality of using another creature as a doomed vessel for hatching eggs. It’s just plain bizarre. And I have trouble with a bizarre God.

But like Darwinists, intelligent design proponents want me to ignore my intuition that the wasp is a product of evolutionary processes. They say the seeming bizarreness of God has been addressed by tortured theologians for thousands of years or something to that effect and the fact that it is designed is the basic point.

You see, for me, the appeal of intelligent design is that it squares with common sense. I can understand the intelligent design argument that the universe is bathed in a conscious God that was an continues to be involved in the universe. But this kind of example leads me to think otherwise.

Now, I bring this up because it is very, very important. I have talked to a number of scientists, medical researchers, physicians, many of which are brilliant people. You know why they reject intelligent design? Because of intuition. They can’t draw the connection between this wasp (and thousands of other examples) and an intelligent designer. It just doesn’t make sense.

His Darwinism is solidly supported by the argument from personal theological incredulity.

1 comment:

Michael Poole said...

That commenter is hardly someone with a strong belief or adherence to evolution -- it is rife with sympathetic references to Intelligent Design and appeals to "intuition" rather than to consistent theories. The entire end of the comment says that he finds ID appealing -- except for examples like the emerald cockroach wasp which imply God is bizarre.

I could turn around, and with just as much logic or standing as your criticisms of "Darwinisim", claim that his comment is proof that (a) ID is just thinly disguised Creationism (b) ID is just thinly disguised religion and (c) ID is all about appeals to intuition or belief and not about science at all.

(I believe ID is all of those things, of course, but that commenter's words are not good or dispositive evidence on the question.)