Evolution Misconception #4 – Random, Chance Process

Assertion:

Evolution is a random, chance process.

Related:

How could all the complexity that we see today be the result of random chance processes?

Evolution as a random, chance process is impossible.

Answer:

This is a misconception that gets mentioned a lot. And I mean A LOT!

Taken as a whole, evolution is not fundamentally a random, chance process.

It is almost impossible to summarise the response to this claim in a blogpost that aims to be short and to the point.

When scientists talk about ‘chance’ they mean one of two things:

(1) outcomes that are predictable in principle, but not in practice – eg, if we had information about every single sperm, and everything else about the environment, etc, we could predict which one would reach the egg first.

(2) outcomes that are not predictable, either in principle or in practice – eg, when a radioactive atom decays, we have no way of knowing when the next high-energy particle will be emitted.

There is a third type of ‘chance’ that people sometimes talk about, which refers to the idea that things happen without rhyme, reason or purpose.  This type of ‘chance’ is NOT what scientists mean when they talk about ‘chance’.

(Many thanks go to Dr Denis Alexander for providing the above examples.)

Evolution is actually a very stringent set of mechanisms.

Application:

The next time you hear/read, ‘Evolution is a random, chance process’ (or something similar), tell yourself (and your children), ‘Evolution is NOT a random, chance process – it is a very stringent set of mechanisms.’

<< #3 – Only a Theory | List of Misconceptions | #5 – Evolution is Atheistic >>

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Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011, in Evolution and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This post seems to be a complete red herring.

    For one thin, it seems to assume that when evolution is claimed to be impossible because it is a random/chance process, that the critic is misusing the evolutionists’ use of “chance”. I see no evidence of this.

    For another, it proposes as definitions of “chance” things that don’t actually seem to fit the bill.

    Rather, evolution is impossible because the “chance”, or the /odds/, of it happening are too small to allow it. And those odds can (in some cases) be calculated because evolution really does rely on /random/ processes. Which leads to what I believe to be a /correct/ definition of chance.

    “Chance” refers to the odds of particular things happening. For example, the outcome of throwing dice. If we throw a die once, the outcome is random; we cannot predict what it can be. HOWEVER, we can calculate that each of the six possible outcomes has a one in six chance of occurring. Further, we can also predict pretty closely what the outcome of, say, 600 throws of the die will be: each number will come up around 100 times.

    The point of the “chance” criticism of evolution is that we /can/ predict what the odds are, and the odds are infinitesimal.

    “Evolution is actually a very stringent set of mechanisms.”
    On the contrary, evolution is a very flexible set of explanations:
    “For example, in one context evolutionists will argue that female mosquitos are bigger than the males because the female is responsible for egg-laying and the male only has to contribute a little sperm, so bigger females make for greater reproductive success. But in another context, evolutionists will argue that male lions are bigger than the females because the bigger males have greater dominance over other males in the mating game and therefore they will mate with more females and pass on their genes. Both stories sound plausible in isolation, but they ‘explain’ contradictory states of affairs and so have no value in prediction. Such special definitions, or story-telling, do not add up to make a valid scientific theory.” (from http://creation.com/the-biotic-message-book-review).

    Application:
    The next time you hear/read, ‘Evolution is NOT a random, chance process – it is a very stringent set of mechanisms.’, remember that it relies on mutations, which are random events, and its “mechanisms” are so flexible that they can “explain” opposites.

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