The most popular skeptical reaction to the telic views outlined in my book and this blog has been to complain that my position does not include any data or evidence that cannot likewise be fitted into mainstream evolutionary theory. Yet this complaint misses the whole point.
Aim. Fire. Miss.
To see this, let me remind folks about the central metaphor behind my whole approach, as explained in The Design Matrix:
If we live in a reality where it is possible for intelligent design and evolution to co-exist, where evolved things can look like they were designed, and designed things could look like they evolved, it becomes clear that a design versus evolution dichotomy can be very misleading. That evolution and design may blur into each other highlights the deeply ambiguous nature of the dispute between these two competing concepts of origins. Adding to this ambiguity is the fact that we are often dealing with unique events embedded in ancient history, meaning that any hope of resolution is going to rest on indirect, circumstantial evidence. Given such thorough ambiguity, an alternative to the traditional either/or perspective should be considered; the both/and perspective.
This is a classic example of an ambiguous figure which nicely illustrates the both/and principle. It would make no sense to insist it is a picture of a duck and not a rabbit. Neither would it make sense to insist it is a rabbit, not a duck. The picture is drawn such that either animal can be seen and is inherently ambiguous.
Perhaps this duck/rabbit image can assist us in expanding our thinking about the concepts of both design and evolution. Evolution is supported by a vast amount of evidence. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it is a duck. So let us view non-teleological evolution as the Duck. In contrast, intelligent design is rooted in a long tradition of thinking, but supported mainly by suggestive clues. Following the trail of intelligent design may be akin to chasing Alice’s rabbit down the rabbit hole. Let us think of intelligent design as the Rabbit.
Of course, in the end, any particular biological feature either arose through non-teleological evolution or it was intelligently designed. Yet if the situation is ambiguous, where both the Duck and Rabbit can be seen, we have a choice. We can choose to follow the Rabbit at the urging of our suspicions. As we chase the Rabbit, let us not worry about killing the Duck or attempting to convince ourselves there never was a Duck. Instead, let us keep our eye on the Rabbit and see where it goes.