Thursday, April 15, 2010

Deepak Chopra on Evolution

"And if Oprah Winfrey married Deepak Chopra, she'd be..." Sorry. Deepak Chopra made news last week by apologizing for causing the California earthquake because his meditation was so strong. Yesterday, he tackled evolution in SFGate. He writes:
I'm thinking about a short segment of the program about red colobus monkeys in Africa. They and their cousins, the white-and-black colobus, subsist on a diet of tough, toxic tree leaves, and being large monkeys, they must consume a huge quantity of leaves to get enough nourishment. But the particular vegetation they eat is high in cyanide, and every day a colobus ingests enough poison to kill a human being. They survive because of bacteria in their intestines that helps neutralize the cyanide. Yet in the process the colobus has bad indigestion — as the narrator intones, "They don't seem to like their diet very much." And indeed, the monkeys on camera look listless and sour-faced.

But the red colobus recently made a life-altering discovery. They found that if they eat a bit of charcoal from the abandoned fires of local villagers, their indigestion is cured.

The Golden Bamboo Lemur has a similar diet, indicating that this is not a unique adaptation. It is also true that many monkeys suffer from parasites and the ingestion of foods high in cyanide help to keep the parasites in check. He continues:
What we are witnessing is an intelligent discovery on the part of creatures who stand far below Homo sapiens on the evolutionary chain, and that discovery is being passed on from mother to child without genetic adaptation. To me, this means that quite a blow has been struck for intelligence being innate in the universe. It suggests that evolution itself has never been random but is guided by the principle of intelligence — not "intelligent design," which is a red herring supplied by religious conservatives.
They are not far below humans on the evolutionary ladder that they aren't intelligent. This is another example of primates exercising their grey matter to solve a problem, and is not different from the Japanese Snow Monkeys washing their potatoes because they discovered that they taste better. It is an adaptive behavior that is passed on. How this makes it a "force" is anybody's guess. As such, it is, like Intelligent Design, untestable.

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1 comment:

  1. Based on Chopra's line of thought, I don't see how what could have been a purely accidental ingestion of charcoal could be a sign of intelligence. But what we may be missing here is the possibility that humans may have taught apes to use charcoal to cure indigestion. After all, Adam gave the monkeys their names and cared for them.

    At the very least, forest fires must have produced enough charcoal lying around in jungles that apes eventually found useful for their needs. No fires before there were humans! Even a monkey is more intelligent enough to say that.