Interesting story about how the fangs on a marine worm are made of a remarkable material, and made by a process which is much simpler than our advanced manufacturing process. But I would like to underscore these sentences:
Scientists aren’t sure why the worms opted for copper rather than another metal more typically used by marine invertebrates, such as iron or zinc. However, one possibility is that the copper reacts with the venom stored in the fangs.
How could the worms “opt” for anything? The worm cannot think . I understand anthropomorphizing language. What is interesting is the need to conceptualize of this process in such terms.
Here we have two poisons: copper & venom. The worm needs to storm the venom. The fangs are necessary for the worm to store the venom:
“The worm has the luxury of storing these toxins in some kind of less harmful or inert form and they become toxic as they move through the channels in the jaw on their way into the prey,” Waite says.
The worm also must be careful of the copper, because copper is also poison. (Copper is a great anti-fungal for plants; I use it in the garden, sparingly.) However, these two poisons when kept separate in the jaws, protect the worm.
Until the worm has the copper jaws, there is no place to store the venom. Until the worm has the venom, it has no particular need for copper jaws. It makes perfect sense to think of the process of putting both the jaws and the venom into place at one time. But how would the process proceed piecemeal?
I can try to construct some sort of piecemeal steps: but in that construction, it is hard to avoid some end-point for the steps. For instance, Dawkins uses a random letter generator construct “Me thinks it is like a weasel” (this is Blind Watchmaker). The glaring fault with analogy is that the end-point [the various words, their order, et cetera] are presupposed. When a “good” letter is found, it is locked in place. In reality, each space would be shuffled, and none would remain locked in place.
With our worm, it has to deal with two toxins, neither of which it can keep without the other; both of which could kill the worm if mishandled. How does one construct the independent steps without knowing the end-point. It is hard (not impossible) to think this through without positing some sort of designing agency: Hence, the worm “opting”.
My point is not directly an evolutionary point but more a thought about a “conceptual schema.” We have to organize information into certain schemas to be comprehensible; otherwise, we would have only discrete, unconnected objects. Seeing agency seems to be one such schema. It takes tremendous effort to avoid referring to a designing agent when looking at complex systems.
This could mean this schema is simply a rule-of-thumb run amuck. It could mean we are designed to see design. Just thinking.