Randomness and evolution

Here’s a simple experiment one can actually try. Take a bag of M&M’s, and without peeking reach in and grab one. Eat it. Then grab another and return it to the bag with another one, from a separate bag, of the same colour. Give it a shake. I guarantee (and if you tell me how big your bag is I’ll have a bet on how long it’ll take) that your bag will end up containing only one colour. Every time. I can’t tell you which colour it will be, but fixation will happen.
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Random Mutations: vjtorley

vjtorley, at UD, writes a post entitled It’s time for scientists to come clean with the public about evolution and the origin of life that includes this:

Edward Frenkel, a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, recently reviewed a book titled, Probably Approximately Correct: Nature’s Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World (Basic Books, 2013) by computer scientist Leslie Valiant, in a report for the New York Times (Evolution, Speeded by Computation, September 30, 2013). The following excerpt conveys the gist of Dr. Valiant’s conclusions:

The evolution of species, as Darwin taught us, relies on natural selection. But Dr. Valiant argues that if all the mutations that drive evolution were simply random and equally distributed, it would proceed at an impossibly slow and inefficient pace.

Darwin’s theory “has the gaping gap that it can make no quantitative predictions as far as the number of generations needed for the evolution of a behavior of a certain complexity,” he writes. “We need to explain how evolution is possible at all, how we got from no life, or from very simple life, to life as complex as we find it on earth today. This is the BIG question.”

Dr. Valiant proposes that natural selection is supplemented by ecorithms, which enable organisms to learn and adapt more efficiently. Not all mutations are realized with equal probability; those that are more beneficial are more likely to occur. In other words, evolution is accelerated by computation.

The criticisms being made here of the Darwinian theory of evolution are pretty devastating: not only is it far too slow to generate life in all its diversity, but it’s also utterly incapable of making quantitative predictions about the time required for a structure of known complexity to evolve, by natural selection. And there’s no reason to believe that the “nearly neutral theory of evolution” espoused by biologists such as Professor Larry Moran would fare any better, in this regard.


Dr Torley is a scholar and a gentleman and someone for whom I have a great deal of personal respect. In fact I owe him more than one debt of personal kindness.  But that does not mean that I think his ideas are correct, and I submit he is profoundly wrong here in an extremely useful way.  Unusually, the passage he cites is very specific about the kind of randomness that cannot be the kind of randomness that would produce Darwinian evolution: equally distributed.

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A Statistics Question for Barry Arrington

Re your post here:

  • If you came across a table on which was set 500 coins (no tossing involved) and all 500 coins displayed the “heads” side of the coin, how on earth would you test “chance” as a hypothesis to explain this particular configuration of coins on a table?

Even if the observer was not party to the information that there was “no tossing  involved”?

The reason I ask, is that you seem to have revealed an conceptual error that IMO bedevils much discussion about evolution as an explanation for the complexity of life.

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How Was Darwin Wrong? – Darwin’s Errors

O.k. then, here’s your chance, TSZ folks. Have at it.

Darwin made errors, even Darwinian evolutionist Mike Elzinga agrees.

What are/were those errors/mistakes?

Perhaps the odd closet ‘Darwinist’ might even think to change their mind about calling them-self a ‘Darwinist’ as a result of answers provided in this thread…or it could be a rather short thread, with few admissions.

Context: Preprint for a Douglas Allchin paper in American Biology Teacher, 2009 (same Journal that published Theodosius Dobzhansky’s theistic evolution: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense…” paper, 1973) Celebrating Darwin’s Error’s.

Title Changed: from “How Darwin Was Wrong” to “How Was Darwin Wrong?” – 06-12-2013

“The selective incompleteness of the fossil record”

Denyse O’Leary quotes Steve Meyer’s question:

Why, he [Agassiz] asked, does the fossil record always happen to be incomplete at the nodes connecting major branches of Darwin’s tree of life, but rarely—in the parlance of modern paleontology—at the “terminal branches” representing the major already known groups of organisms?…

Was there any easy answer to Agassiz’s argument? If so, beyond his stated willingness to wait for future fossil discoveries, Darwin didn’t offer one.

and responds:

And no one else has either.

Oh, yes, they have, Denyse.  That’s what what punk eek was.  But it also falls readily out of any simulation – you see rapid diversification into a new niche at a node, and thus few exemplars, followed by an increasingly gradual approach to a static optimum, and thus lots of exemplars.  But I present an even more graphic response: when you chop down a tree, and saw it up into logs for your fire, what proportion of your logs include a node?



ID & Explanations

Every camp in the ‘biological origins debate’ has its own explanation(s) as to where the complexity and diversity of life comes from. Some of these explanations would seem to be driven by prior commitments and ideologies (on both sides) and in some cases (notably from the DI and over at UD) they are part of a bigger assault on the opposing viewpoints perceived commitments themselves.

So what makes for a good explanation? Here’s a couple of resources I found interesting:





Perhaps we could have a discussion on what makes for a good explanation and look at the various available explanations for biological origins in this framework?

[Multiple edits]

Junk DNA

Well, I just got banned again at UD, over my response to this post of Barry’s:

In a prior post I took Dr. Liddle (sorry for the misspelled name) to task for this statement:

“Darwinian hypotheses make testable predictions and ID hypotheses (so far) don’t.”

I responded that this was not true and noted that:

For years Darwinists touted “junk DNA” as not just any evidence but powerful, practically irrefutable evidence for the Darwinian hypothesis. ID proponents disagreed and argued that the evidence would ultimately demonstrate function.

Not only did both hypotheses make testable predictions, the Darwinist prediction turned out to be false and the ID prediction turned out to be confirmed

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