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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thinkquote of the day: Darwinian evolution and chance?

A student recently wrote The Post-Darwinist, asking whether Darwinian evolution really depends on chance. I think so, but in any event a friend advises me that he recently bought Ohio State University prof Jeffrey K. McKee’s book A Riddled Chain: Chance, Coincidence, and Chaos in Human Evolution, and finds there the following:
“We now know that the origins of variation, in the form of genetic mutations, are due to chance. We also know that those few mutations which add survival value must coincide with a suitable environment. Part of the success of evolution is thus mere coincidence. The evolutionary process that then ensues is unpredictable, and in modern parlance could be considered to be chaotic. Nature thus “selects” more than just a survivor. It blindly determines contingencies for the future path of evolution-it sets the initial conditions. Even under the relentless guidance of natural selection, the more whimsical and undirected forces of evolution can then dictate the course of things to come. The unlikely becomes what is likely to happen, and the seemingly probable becomes less so. The infallible drive toward greater fitness takes a strange turn, and natural selection seems to falter. A butterfly flaps its wings, a startled impala escapes a stalking leopard, and the course of evolution changes forever. Surprising things happen due to the niggling, mischievous, capricious nature of three very important components of evolution: chance, coincidence, and chaos. You and I are among their products.”
(Jeffrey K. McKee [Professor of Anthropology, Ohio State University], “The Riddled Chain: Chance, Coincidence, and Chaos in Human Evolution,” (Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 32)

From what I can tell, McKee is part of a group that has spent considerable effort to prevent a non-Darwinian from graduating, so we must assume that he is a good Darwinist. Go here also.

Of course, in a Darwinian world, we would not need academic freedom because everything we believe is the outcome of the competition between selfish genes, so the views of the stronger parties are very much better than right.
If you want to understand why the intelligent design controversy cannot go away, read By Design or by Chance?.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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