I Love Irony
I recently began following a new blog, Atheist Camel. I generally find it pretty inflammatory and I was going to unsubscribe, until I stumbled on this post. That made me decide to keep following, at least for the time being. The reason why is the irony that said post brings to the forefront.
First, there is a myth promoted by many Creationists and some Intelligent Design proponents that evolution is a random process. Completely random. Nothing orderly or scientific about it. It just happens.
That is completely false. A simple Google search on evolution and random produced several responses to this claim:
Evolution by natural selection is a two-step process, and only the first step is random: mutations are chance events, but their survival is often anything but. Natural selection favours mutations that provide some advantage, . . . and the physical world imposes very strict limits on what works and what doesn’t. The result is that organisms evolve in particular directions.
Consider any kind of creature that lives underwater and has to chase its prey, for instance. Random mutations will result in some offspring having variety of shapes. Those with shapes that allow them to move faster with less energy are much more like to survive and reproduce than those whose shapes slow them down. (source)
A 2003 NYT article states:
. . . it would seem impossible to re-evolve anything like life on earth today, given how life has been shaped by accidents large and small.
But 12 flasks of bacteria in East Lansing, Mich., are beginning to challenge such notions. In 1988, Dr. Lenski and his colleagues set up a dozen genetically identical populations of E. coli bacteria in bottles of broth and have followed their evolutionary fates.
Now, more than 30,000 bacterial generations later, Dr. Lenski and colleagues have what is becoming one of the most striking examples of repeatability yet. All 12 populations show the same patterns of improvement in their ability to compete in a bottle and increases in cell size. All 12 have also lost their ability to break down and use a sugar, called ribose.
More surprising, many genetic changes underlying these adaptations are very similar. Every population, for example, lost its ability to break down ribose by losing a long stretch of DNA from the same gene.
Other scientists studying cichlid fish have observed how the same varieties of cichlids evolve anew every time they invade a new lake. And Dr. Rieseberg and colleagues have found evidence that evolution can repeatedly produce the same species.
These scientists found that one sunflower species on sand dunes has evolved independently three separate times. And each time one of the species newly evolves, genetically it appears to turn out much the same. ”With these species, there seems to be only one way to do it,” Dr. Rieseberg said. (source)
The article notes that many of the changes observed in the laboratory were similar, but not exactly the same. But it does seem as though there is tremendous repeatability within the framework of evolution.
WikiAnswers gets in on the game with the answer to the question, “Is Evolution Random?”
No. It is far from random, there is nothing random about it. If I were to race my three year old nephew I would win, easily. I am faster and stronger and I have more stamina. The outcome of the race would not be random, it would be inevitable. Evolution is the same. The organism that is better equipped to reproduce will have more success and therefore become dominant and potentially drive other strains or species out of existence. The only random element is the mutations that cause one animal to be more fit than another. Most are harmful and die out in a generation or some, some are neutral and make no real difference (these are the variations we look at for DNA tests in court) and a few are beneficial. The good ones are passed down and over time an accumulation of good changes causes the organism to become a different sort of organism. This could be likened to poker. One hand is clearly better than another but the cards are dealt at random. Still, the best hand wins and the worst player is out of the game the soonest. (source)
So, we’ve agreed that this isn’t a random process. So, what does the Atheist Camel say that I found so ironic? This:
To the Creationist religionists of today, just as it was with the ancients, the orderly guiding hand of a Super God King who made all, sees all, controls all and must be obeyed is still the great comfort. The chaos, randomness, and uncontrolled actions by mindless physical forces of the natural universe is the antithesis of orderliness and comfort… a horror that must be shunned and denied.
Hmmm… seems he needs to re-think the proposition that evolution is random, because most of his ilk would deny that.