Gauger on Lents: Beauty in Error

Here is the highly anticipated DI response written by @Agauger to @NLENTS wonderful essay on beauty in error.


@Agauger, great post. Thanks for taking this approach. It suites you well,

He first enumerates the flaws he finds in the human body, many of which have been discussed here already. It is not my intention to argue about flaws or points of disagreement. Instead I want to say a little about where I agree.

Mutation as an opportunity, not just an error:

Mutations are either the consequence of damage to the DNA or random copying errors during replication of the DNA. They are a natural process. We think of mutations as bad things. But they can be helpful. They sometimes cause disease but they also can ameliorate other diseases. Information from mutations can be used to unravel the intricacies of cell and molecular biology. They provide diversity so that no two of us are the same.

I really like how she ends:

“Men Are Men, They Needs Must Err”

So says the nurse to Hippolytus, in Euripides’ play by the same name. It seems Lents agrees.

From talking about our physical flaws, he moves to the mistakes we make. But he takes it one step further. He credits both our inherited flaws and personal mistakes for making us who we are. He draws the moral lesson that:

All we must do to continue to thrive is to learn from our mistakes. But before we can learn from them, we must acknowledge them. Personally, I go further than that. I celebrate them.

I can agree with that. And then he closes with something I can heartily agree with.

Of all the species that have ever walked the earth, we may be the most flawed, but we are certainly the most beautiful.

@Agauger, great response to @NLENTS. Thank you for that article. I hope it is received well in the ID world.


Loved the essay, @Agauger, and thanks for passing it to me, @Patrick and @swamidass.

Feels very odd to have an article there that doesn’t attack and insult me. Not sure how to feel about it to be honest.


I very much enjoyed your piece, and was in fact delighted by it. We tend to see each other as adversaries, which tends to dehumanize. I saw you expressing feelings I recognized in myself. That brings back a sense of our common humanity. It builds bridges. That is also worth celebrating.


I couldn’t agree more! I’m glad we’ve met.

That’s certainly true. I know I didn’t react well when the DI wrote about me, but I was totally surprised and unprepared for the onslaught. And, they came out hard and slinging insults from the very first post. I know that sounds like a childish “They started it!” but I don’t see how an objective look wouldn’t come to the conclusion that they were mean-spirited right from the start. Our tussle didn’t “devolve” into name-calling; it began with name-calling, on their part. My shame is that I joined them down in the mud, probably lured by the possibility that a public fight sells books. There’s some saying about the futility of wrestling pigs in the mud because they like it and that’s my takeaway from the DI. Obviously I don’t see this in you, and Behe and Myer seem like nice men also.


In time, the overall context of this exchange will be lost, unless I note it here. This is an exchange of high significance, however, because of its context.

Right now, @NLENTS is still smarting from a recent “exchange” with the Discovery Institute (Nathan Lents: My Experience With Discovery). @Agauger’s bruising “exchange” with several people here is not even concluded yet (Gauger and Mercer: Bifunctional Proteins and Protein Sequence Space). The natural instinct of any one is to escalate the rhetoric of victimization and anger and of fear. That is the context of Gauger’s article at the Discovery Institute, and Lents’ response here. The natural response is to respond in kind, retreat to our respective corners of the fracture society.

Think neither fear nor courage saves us.
Unnatural vices are fathered by our heroism.
Virtues are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree
– T.S Elliot, Wasteland

The thing about the origins dialogue is that is so often nothing like a dialogue. It is the sort of political, cultural, personal warfare that brings out the worst in all of us. I’ve seen it bring out the worst in me, and in those of us here. Then comes this word of peace. The least natural response of all. Ironically, its surprising nature is most visible against the backdrop of the wasteland.

This is the paradox of the origins debate. Our collective impudence creates the conditions for true virtue to arise and become visible. Costly virtue, baptized in the tears of frustration and injury. Real virtue that makes all of the wasteland seem worth all the abuse.

Ann, my friend, I have a deep respect for your kindness here in the middle of conflict. Nathan, thank you for meeting her gesture with kindness too. I hope that when the time comes I am as gracious as both of you. I hope we all are able to find virtue here too. This is glimpse at the best of us and what we are, and I hope we see more of this at Peaceful Science, and everywhere else in our fractured society. As @NLENTS aptly puts it:

May our virtues grow in this wasteland.


I give credit to this phrase not just to Eliot to Dr. Jeff Mallinson, on of the people I met at Crosswise last summer: Daniel Deen and Joel Oesch: The Lutheran Voice and Crosswise Institute. Check out his podcast, Virtue in the Wasteland: