In the latest issue of Free Inquiry, Richard Dawkins talks about evolution — specifically, the power of Charles Darwin‘s theory.
He calls evolution “a big idea, arguably the most powerful idea ever.”
It echoes Daniel Dennett, who has called evolution “the greatest idea ever to occur to a human mind.”
Specifically, Dawkins uses a formula which he calls the “Explanation Ratio”:
|Power of a theory||=|
|That which it explains|
|That which it needs to assume in order to do the explaining|
If any reader knows of an idea that has a larger explanation ratio than Darwin’s, let’s hear it.
What happens when you throw Intelligent Design into that equation?
… intelligent design (ID) is the polar opposite of a powerful theory: its explanation ratio is pathetic. The numerator is the same: everything we know about life and its prodigious complexity. But the denominator, far from Darwin’s pristine and minimalistic simplicity, is at least as big as the numerator itself: an unexplained intelligence big enough to be capable of designing all the complexity we are trying to explain in the first place!
One last excerpt boggles your mind if you haven’t heard it already:
By the way, Darwin had plenty of other good ideas (for example his ingenious and largely correct theory of how coral reefs form), but it is his big idea of natural selection that I am talking about here. I think it is even more powerful than I have so far suggested. Not only is it the explanation for life on this planet, it is the only theory so far suggested that could, even in principle, explain life on any planet. If life exists elsewhere in the universe (and my tentative bet is that it does), however strange and alien and weird its nature may be (and my tentative bet is that it will be weird beyond imagining), some version of evolution by Darwinian natural selection will almost certainly turn out to underlie its existence. That is at least how I would bet: on the principle that I have called “Universal Darwinism.”
So let’s talk about that question posed earlier:
Can you think of any other idea that would rival evolution in terms of its Explanation Ratio?
(via Free Inquiry)