Humans are arguably the most intelligent beings on the planet (the fact that we can act in spectacularly unintelligent ways at times notwithstanding). We have been and continue to be devoted to “outsmarting” diseases. And yet we find it challenging.
The reason is not in serious dispute. It is evolution. Were it not for the adaptation of viruses and bacteria to changes in their environment, including changes in the form of medicines we develop to try to eradicate them, we would have won such battles long ago.
Such adaptation seems intelligent, but it isn’t. The changes in viruses and bacteria are largely random, and it is simply the fact that random changes are so common and frequent that turns such mutations into a survival advantage. The chances are that, whatever we throw at microorganisms and other living causes of disease, some mutation or other will appear that allows survival in the face of the new threat (or, from our perspective, prospective cure).
We thus find ourselves “outsmarted” by single-celled organisms and things like viruses that are barely even alive, much less intelligent. For it is not they that outsmart us, but the capacity of genetic mutations to mimic intelligence in a way that can “outsmart” even “intelligent designers” such as human drug researchers.
Can there be any clearer evidence – and this is not simply ancient evidence that might arguably be open to more than one interpretation, but evidence in which we can observe the processes in the present – that evolution has the capacity not only to mimic intelligent design, but at times even to outperform it? Given the “pseudodesigned” or “designoid” results of evolution as observable in the present day, what criteria if any could be proposed that would allow for the detection of “real design”, i.e. design by an already-existing conscious entity rather than by a natural process with the capacity to mimic it? Presumably the answer is that there are things we have made, things that are evidently technological, connected by rivets or solder. If we find such a thing, we rightly view it as human-made, and if it were to have certain characteristics, we might even conclude that it were made by beings from another planet. But for as long as humans have been around, organism including ourselves have been around already, and it simply cannot be treated as self-evident that a virus, or a carrot, or even a person is the result of intelligent design. By the time humans first start speculating about the origins of life, living things are already there as part of the natural world. And the honest answer is that we still don’t know for certain what got life started. One cannot claim that a natural or a supernatural explanation is the only plausible one. The honest answer is that we don’t know. An explanation in terms of natural processes might be entirely plausible once we understand the natural processes in question. Or we might never find a scientific explanation. Either way, one thing we do know with a high degree of certainty, because we can observe it today: Once life exists, it evolves, in ways that do an impressive job of outsmarting intelligent designers, and thus are easily mistaken for works of intelligent design themselves.