Darwinism, or whatever is left of it, assumes that all genetic mutations are random.
Because any kind of non-random guidance or foresight in the process of evolution could imply intelligence and, God forbid, God himself… Since the first commandment requiring exclusive devotion of materialists is: No Intelligence Allowed – materialism is the dominating force in “science” even if the evidence points in the other direction (Darwinist have to insist that the evolutionary process is as blind as a bat, or as blind as Darwinists themselves and even deny any indications of directions in genetic mutations). So, mutations have to be preached as random processes even if any experimental evidence is indicating otherwise…
Are all genetic mutations really random?
It is interesting that even some hardcore Darwinists admit that natural selection is not a random process…Richard Dawkins, for example…I did an OP here a while back…
What is even more interesting is that some Darwinists, while reluctantly, acknowledge the influence of quantum mechanics in evolutionary process, such as quantum tunneling influencing or even causing genetic mutations…
My last post on Was quantum mechanics use by biological systems predicted by evolution? made some hardcore Darwinist reluctantly admit that quantum processes can no longer be ignored in life processes, such as an embryo development for example …
Recently, quantum tunneling was acknowledged by some as the process playing a role in mutations, but obviously, it has been ignored by Darwinists (by their own admission) because the implications of quantum mechanics in genetic mutations can be very profound, such us intelligence or foresight directing them…
In 1988 a Nature Magazine paper implied that mutations can be directed by cells, allowing them to choose mutations… The experimental evidence cited by the paper clearly indicated that mutations that occurred during the experiments were preferential and cell “chose”to mutate depending on their circumstances, time and time again…
The researchers called those type of mutations adaptive mutations because they allowed the cells to chose a better way of “survival” or development. This can be compared to humans claiming up a mountain and choosing a path that is the easiest to the top of it, which obviously requires foresight and intelligence. Darwinist became furious over this paper and came up with their own speculations why mutations aren’t guided or directed , but we are still waiting for their experiments to prove their elaborate and unfounded speculations…
Look at the experimental results and papers and judge for yourself…If you are not a Darwinists, you will definitely learn something…
The origin of mutants.
Nucleic acids are replicated with conspicuous fidelity. Infrequently, however, they undergo changes in sequence, and this process of change (mutation) generates the variability that allows evolution. As the result of studies of bacterial variation, it is now widely believed that mutations arise continuously and without any consideration for their utility. In this paper, we briefly review the source of this idea and then describe some experiments suggesting that cells may have mechanisms for choosing which mutations will occur.
A quantum mechanical model of adaptive mutation.
The principle that mutations occur randomly with respect to the direction of evolutionary change has been challenged by the phenomenon of adaptive mutations. There is currently no entirely satisfactory theory to account for how a cell can selectively mutate certain genes in response to environmental signals. However, spontaneous mutations are initiated by quantum events such as the shift of a single proton (hydrogen atom) from one site to an adjacent one. We consider here the wave function describing the quantum state of the genome as being in a coherent linear superposition of states describing both the shifted and unshifted protons. Quantum coherence will be destroyed by the process of decoherence in which the quantum state of the genome becomes correlated (entangled) with its surroundings. Using a very simple model we estimate the decoherence times for protons within DNA and demonstrate that quantum coherence may be maintained for biological time-scales. Interaction of the coherent genome wave function with environments containing utilisable substrate will induce rapid decoherence and thereby destroy the superposition of mutant and non-mutant states. We show that this accelerated rate of decoherence may significantly increase the rate of production of the mutated state.
On the top of the adaptive mutations that are clearly non-random, we have mutations bias phenomenon:
“However, the genetic code in DNA is not completely stable even in the absence of extrinsic damaging factors: a universal spontaneous point mutation bias can be detected with respect to transitions of the base pairs G:C to A:T and A:T to G:C which cannot be sufficiently explained by well-known mutation models such as UV irradiation, oxidative damage or CpG hypermutation . This implies that this kind of point mutation has to be regarded as an inherent characteristic of DNA.”
If mutation bias wasn’t enough, scientists found mutation hot spots where mutations are directed or more likely to occur in certain, specified areas of the genome…
How about cancer? Are cancer causing mutations random?
If undifferentiated cells were placed in the tissue of a mouse, next to the cancer cells, will those cells differentiate into cancer cells?
If not, why not?
If yes, by what mechanism?
I was thinking the same thing when I posted it.
My guess it that the people (such as Richard Dawkins) who say that selection is non-random do that specifically to contrast it with the colloquial sense of random as being essentially synonymous with equiprobable.
I think most non-specialists would claim that a biased coin or die isn’t random, and that this is the sense in which the authors of the above article or Richard Dawkins would argue selection, because it is a bias, also is not random.
In my understanding, mathematically both selection and mutation are modeled as stochastic processes, using probabilities, each with their own inherent biases, so actually conform to the way mathematicians use the word random.
Funny coincidence, I was watching an episode of The Good Place yesterday, and some event happened seemingly out of nowhere, and one of the characters on the show comments “Well, that was random”. It isn’t even clear what sense of the word was being employed there and it made me think about it the term again.
It is notoriously difficult to pin people down on what exactly they mean when they say it, and as a result a lot of confusion arises particularly in arguments with creationists where they often employ it with a meaning that isn’t actually intended by the scientists who use it. I guess they can be forgiven some of this confusion since even among scientists and mathematicians it can have multiple different incompatible interpretations.
Yes, It’s definitely one of ‘those’ words. I once spent a long time defending my understanding of the term, but eventually realised I was on very shaky ground.
The shaky ground you were on biased your interpretation of random.
As a mathematician, I consider selection to be random but still directional. But many people would find that confusing.
When fitnesses vary from generation to generation, selection can be regarded as “random”, and there are bodies of theoretical population genetics concerned with
those cases. That is not to be confused with the direction of selection response being so random as to be unpredictable, so random as to allow no tendency of the direction of response to be toward adaptation.
Creationists insist on wringing out of evolutionary biologists the statement that “selection is random”, purely so as to give onlookers the misleading impression that there is no correlation of the direction of response to selection with the direction which would be adaptive.
I don’t think they can be forgiven for arguing in a way that just misses the point, and that doesn’t have any effect on whether evolution happens or not. “Uh! Oh! ‘Random’ means [whatever they want it to mean], therefore evolution is false, therefore god-did-it.”
That’s just making the most authentic imbeciles out of themselves.
More specifically, therefore since “it’s random” there is no tendency to change in the direction of being better-adapted, therefore the only possible explanation for impressive adaptation is Design Intervention.
You’ve agreed with me previously that the models of theoretical biology do not depend on interpretation of quantum mechanics. If there came some additional observations and insights that led physicists to reject indeterministic interpretations, it wouldn’t change the particulars of evolutionary biology. When a theoretical biologist devises a probabilistic model, s/he is not asserting that nature is at bottom “really random.” (I don’t know how we would ever rule out the possibility of obtaining a more fundamental account in which apparent randomness is the consequence of complex deterministic processes. Thus I’m inclined to say that talk about intrinsic randomness is inescapably metaphysical.)
I’ve said this too many times at TSZ, but I should mention it again: a coin toss and a roll of a die are macroscopic processes, well characterized by classical mechanics. That is, the textbook examples of a “random experiment” are not physically random. Yet probabilistic models of them, and many other macroscopic (quasi-deterministic, if not deterministic) processes in which the outcome depends on uncontrolled factors, are useful in accounting for what we observe.
Here I go again with my quotation of George Box: “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”
It is highly ironic, if not hypocritical, that creationists and neo-Paleyists dub evolutionists “chance worshipers,” and then foist an indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics on them, when evolutionists need take no position at all on the matter of chance. It is their own misbegotten project of turning their religious notions of free will into science that forces them to reject determinism. (Their scientism bespeaks a severe deficit in faith.) And they rarely have the integrity to mention the fact that, although individual physicists prefer some interpretations of quantum mechanics over others, physicists are not saying that deterministic or indeterministic interpretations are categorically bunk. What physicists are saying, with plenty clarity, is that quantum mechanics remains open to many interpretations, though they wish it were not so.
A hard commitment to indeterminism in nature is not scientific. That is to say, it is not warranted by quantum mechanics. The plethora of interpretations permitted by quantum mechanics indicates its explanatory inadequacy. This is a big problem for theoretical physicists. It is presently not a problem for theoretical biologists. It is a big problem for creationists and neo-Paleyists: again, their religious notions of free will are not compatible with determinism. Their position is that minds/spirits, code named intelligence, change the probabilities of possible outcomes of physical processes that are “really random.” Their usual “evolutionists are religious too” retort simply does not wash in this context. It is not the evolutionists who are committing to a metaphysical position, and misrepresenting it as science.
It is interesting that creationists and ID advocates tend to insist that natural selection is “random”. But many of them are equally adamant that mutation should not be thought of as random.
Yes, it’s just that we can model the processes as random. Similarly for random Mendelian segregation, which depends on the orientation of chromosomes on the metaphase plate at the first division of meiosis. Similarly for Brownian motion, for diffusion of gases, etc,
People might enjoy this classic paper which appeared in 2007 in SIAM Review.
Phillip Johnson pitched a very big tent. Everyone in the ID movement has a right to his own theory, provided that it is attached to anti-Darwinian rhetoric. Given that 4 in 10 American adults believe that God created humankind in its present form within the past 10 thousand years, it’s a pretty safe bet that most people who subscribe to ID are biblical literalists. “I believe that the Universe is 14 billion years old, and you believe that it is only 6 thousand years old? Well, that shouldn’t keep us from agreeing on intelligent-design theory.” The absence of public arguments within the ID community, when its members in fact disagree hugely on some crucial issues, is perhaps the clearest of indications that the community does not function as a scientific community. (Arguments buried in the comments at UD don’t count. My favorite, though, was Paul Nelson versus someone on the burning issue of whether Adam had a navel.)
As Mung has pointed out, some of the young-earth creationists are evolutionists on steroids. Ark Park has taught them that a ginormous wooden boat can carry only a smallish zoo. They’ve got to account for enormous variegation within terrestrial kinds in a period of just 4400 years. That forces them to posit quite unsubtle forms of guidance of evolutionary processes that old-earth creationists can do without. Interestingly, if YECs were to meld mutational biases with Sanford’s thesis of genetic entropy — I don’t know whether any of them has — then they would be saying that Designer is guiding the deterioration of genomes, and thereby causing the proliferation of degenerate forms of organism.
My own take on ‘is selection random?’ – the world has been waiting for this! – is best illustrated by a thought experiment. One has a knob one can twiddle to control the intensity of selection on an allele, from strongly negative to strongly positive. At the neutral position, all is random, most would agree. But if one turns the knob by infinitesimal degrees, does it suddenly become – in Dawkins’s words – ‘the opposite of random’? Not obviously. Particularly when one considers the factors in the real world that influence the effect of this parameter – the population size, the other alleles present or arising in the local population, the uncertainty as regards the impact of a given allele on given possessors. I don’t think of ‘random’ as strictly dichotomous, unless one is using it in the sense of equiprobable.
When I hear “mutations are random with respect to fitness”, I usually think of that as meaning uncorrelated with fitness.
So if we could build a model of mutations, and we then looked at the remained unexplained variation in observed mutation, nothing further would be explained by adding a fitness variable to the model.
Although I have no idea if such modeling makes sense biologically.
AFAIK, of the four most popular interpretations of QM, only one has probabilities which are an independent feature of the world , and not merely a reflection of our ignorance.
Bohmian: probabilities reflect ignorance of initial conditions, but quantum particles have determined positions
Everett/Many World: After a branch in universal wave function, probabilities reflect ignorance of which branch a particular instance of consciousness is part of (I know that is poorly worded)
Quantum Bayesian (modern version of Copenhagen): The whole of Quantum Theory is a tool for updating our knowledge; there is no underlying quantum reality
GRW: modifies QM to introduce actual indeterminism, so probabilities are real (although it is not clear what else is!)
Bonus pontification: probabilities and indeterminism are not that big of a deal. It’s the non-locality of QM that’s the true metaphysical puzzle.
Which is the right way to think of what’s meant.
There’s something called population genetics. Something called neutral theory too.
Because selection, negative and positive, changes the landscape, so instead of seeing the mutations alone, we see the ones that survive negative selection, and the ones selected for. Most surviving mutations seem to be uncorrelated with fitness, which can be inferred from the apparently meaningless variability in lots of point mutations. When looking at a coding segment and its homologs, for example, here the final amino-acid doesn’t matter, there it seems to matter a bit more, etc. etc.
My understanding is that the supposed “randomness” of mutations means simply this: there is no empirically detectable mechanism that first predicts what traits will be adaptive and then causes the mutations that produce those traits. (I’m basically cribbing that from Mayr, but it’s from memory and not verbatim.)
By the way that’s still true even if something like facilitated variation is on the right track (as I suspect it is).
I do wish that ID would reject young earth creationism. But they would probably lose too much funding. And I cringe every time I see an article that comes out against common ancestry or one that offers “common design” as an explanation.
I learned from the priest and physicist Stanley L. Jaki that QM and determinism are not mutually exclusive. One of these days I’ll have to pull out some quotes from his writings.
Would Chance and Necessity worshipers be better?
Dawkins seems to rely heavily on “chance’ to the point of setting forth a procedure for “taming chance.”
Chance is not a cause.
Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology
I do appreciate your saying that openly.
The Discovery Institute did lose funding after Dembski challenged some of the literalists’ cherished notions (was it in The End of Christianity?). Of course, I can’t be sure that the downturn in revenues was caused by Dembski. Nor can I be sure that the DI subsequently brought some YECs on staff. But Brian Miller does pass the Duck Test.
Of course, you got a smile out of me. As it happens, I originally wrote a parenthetic remark on Chance and Necessity, immediately following the sentence you drew your quote from, but decided it made my comment too “busy.” It went something like this: The fact that Jacques Monod was a biochemist does not imply that Chance and Necessity: Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology is something other than a work of philosophy.
Dawkins is constantly moving between science and philosophy, and it’s difficult for general readers to tell which he’s addressing at some points. Somewhere in the middle of The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (the title is obviously a philosophical declaration [ETA: I’m wrong to say “obviously,” when it’s obviously the case that Dawkins is trying to make his philosophical stance sound like a scientific conclusion]), he actually backs away from what he’s said about “random chance” earlier in the book, and goes into the notion of random with respect to fitness, but without using the term.
What immediately popped into my head, when I read “taming chance,” was something that you’ve no doubt seen, and perhaps recall:
where is a single-valued function defined on the range of discrete random variable
In a model, randomness may look like a cause. It is understandable that, in plain-language exchanges with one another, scientists often talk about the mathematical constructs of their models as though they were physically real. Doing otherwise is generally awkward. Far be it from me to say, however, that scientists never slip into the fallacy of reification. I think it happens more often than they care to admit. (I suspect that physicists who say that the wave function is merely a mathematical abstraction are correct, and that those who say that it exists in nature are reifying the model. But I’m not qualified to argue the matter.)
Thanks for your feedback, very helpful.
Larry Moran has posted a link to this essay Chance, Finiteness, and History .
As I understand it, the ‘chance’ in the title of the essay refers to the neutral theory, and in particular the randomness inherent in changes to allele frequencies in time in a finite population.. And the word ‘neutral’ refers to what ‘random’ is taken to mean in the posts in this thread.
Those that have the stomach for philosophy might be interested in the SEP article, Chance versus Randomness
Thanks for those links!
Tom, is that the information theory version of the second law of thermodynamics?
So back to the original question. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter if genetic mutations are really random, what matters is how we model them. And the model that is used may not always be the same. That’s the way models work.
A far better question (imo) would be, when is it inappropriate to model genetic mutations as “random.”
Also, it helps to understand how a “random” process is modeled and why and most evolution critics probably don’t know the answer to that question.
I appreciate all the attempts by people here to educate. I also think that insults are a barrier to education. But trust me, i understand frustration. 🙂
I am not familiar with biological simulations, but I do know a fair bit about the ones used to model hydrocarbon reservoirs. In those, we call a variable random when we mean stochastic – that is, the variable is programmed to assume any value in accordance with its pre-defined probability distribution (which does not have to be, and often isn’t, equiprobable between its two bounds). The actual simulated value in each run is arrived at by using the random number generator of the computer on which the simulation runs.
To test if this works as intended we run the simulation a large number of times, plot the outcome distribution of the particular variable and compare it with the distribution we specified for it. If all is well, these should be very close over a large number of runs (say, 1000 or so).
It certainly doesn’t mean that any value is possible, or that all values are equally likely.
There is always a random component in any model, unless you claim to have a model that explains every aspect of the variation of observations. So unless you are doing Newtonian mechanics, eg, best to assume the model has both a deterministic and random component.
Observations = Explained + Unexplained (Random)
Weight = function of (height, gender) + unexplained stuff
ETA: Don’t focus on the + sign, focus on the concepts of explained and unexplained. For example, in coin tossing, we might want to model the number of heads. What we can explain will depend on a Prob of heads in our model.
The idea is then to see how much of the variation of observations can be explained and attribute the rest to randomness.
In general, that randomness can be used to either account for observations or to generate observations (as in faded-glory’s simulation example).
For accounting for observations, the challenge is to see if a statistically significant amount of variation is accounted for by your model. And then if there is any pattern left in the unexplained stuff after modelling. This link has a nice intro:
To me, this is one of your “guess what I am referring to posts”. Maybe I missed some earlier posts that provide context.
If the post is about the inequality
H(f(X)) ≤ H(X)
that is a basic inequality in Shannon Info theory. See problem 2.4 in Cover and Thomas. I can walk though the solution without too much hand waving if you want; probably Tom would not need the hand waving.
(I posted this comment this morning on what was probably the wrong thread. It is more appropriate here so here it is again):
Is “chance” a “cause”? Leaving aside the depths of philosophy and physics, let’s just ask about genetic drift. Is it a cause? It is the result of random deaths and births, as well as random Mendelian segregation. Those in turn may not be truly random, but in modeling reproduction of genes in populations it is a complete waste of time to try to account for all the causes of the death, birth, and segregation events.
We can analogize it to Brownian Motion. Is that a cause? It in turn comes from collisions of molecules, but no one with any sense tries to model all of those — they just treat it as a process with known probabilities of various outcomes.
So yes, genetic drift may be treated as a known process whose effects may be modeled. Is it the same as “chance”? Depends on what you mean by that.
1. So the “sane” definition of randomness is the same as the “insane one”.
2. Then quit labeling mutations “random” and get your brethren to ease up on “randomness this and that”.
3. This doesn’t explain anything. Perhaps because, as discussed, there’s no such thing as “fitness”, “beneficial mutation”, “natural selection”, etc. and there’s absolutely no forecasting power in “genetic variants that aid survival and reproduction”.
No, lol. My mind just works in strange ways seeing associations that others may not see, or that may not even be there. You know, entropy always increases or remains unchanged.
But if you are in the mood to explain something perhaps start with the concept of an inequality and why inequalities are important. I’ve read about their importance in Shannon’s theorems, or perhaps his inequalities are among his theorems, so without getting into the actual math I’d like to better understand their role.
There’s no problem using the terms if you know what they mean. Do you know what a random variable is? They aren’t something that pops into and out of existence from the quantum foam.
I insist that “natural selection” just doesn’t exist (and with unbeatable proofs). How about that? http://nonlin.org/natural-selection/
It seems you guys are badly confused and can’t agree among yourselves. Could that be because indeed there is no such thing as “natural selection”? Hint: YES!
Obviously they don’t know what it means. Hence the random abuse
For those who wonder whether anyone has answered nonlin.org’s sweeping statements about the nonexistence of natural selection, they can look at an 883-comment thread here at TSZ starting last February.
Ultimately most commenters here (and at Uncommon Descent, too!) have given up on disputing with nonlin.org. Who of course declares victory.
I’m not sure what you mean; perhaps this will help. I can think of two roles for inequalities.
First is to express some generality we have discovered about nature.
– v ≤ c: nothing can travel faster than the speed of light*
– S(t1) ≥ S(t0) for t1 ≥ t0: Thermodynamic entropy of a closed system always increases over time
Second role for inequalities is to express some purely mathematical consequence in a theory. For example, the inequality H(f(X)) ≤ H(X) says that if we have a RV X, and we compute a mathematical function of that RV, then we cannot increase its Shannon entropy (same goes for Kolmogorov Complexity). But we can decrease the entropy with a function: consider applying the mod2 function to the roll of a fair die: the entropy goes from log 6 to log 2.
Another type of application that is mathematical is when we establish a bound on one quantity by another that is simpler to compute. For example, K complexity of an arbitrary string is uncomputable in general, but it cannot be greater than the length of the gzip of that string, which we can always compute (there is a math relation between K and Shannon and Shannon and gzip which underlies this). So we can always work with gzip in computer simulations to do worst case analysis of K complexity.
Challenges arise when you try to apply a math theory to the world. For example, the Shannon (and K) results also apply to mutual information. You cannot increase the mutual information between two RVs by operating on just one of them. I(X, Y) ≥ I(f(X), Y). Furthermore, in the case of mutual information, the function operation f(X) can include randomness. Even then, nothing you do to X alone can increase its mutual information with Y.
Now Eric H (at PS) applies the K version of this result to evolution: he says the biological process of evolution is just mutual information between the genome of an organism and its mutuations, that all “unintelligent” processes can only incorporate deterministic and random operations (ETA) on the original genome represented by RV X, and that therefore evolution cannot create new mutual information as required by what we see in nature. Hence ID.
Note about traveling faster than light. For J-Mac and other QM fans, strictly speaking that should be no signal (ie causal effect) can travel faster than light. And for ST:TNG fans who ask “what about Tachyons?”, the inequality for them is tachyons cannot travel slower than light.
Feel free to reopen the discussion if you have new arguments or any one of your questions was not answered properly. That topic was not properly addressed at UD. Just bits and pieces.