Randomness and natural selection, two peas in a pod

On August 29, 2008, Casey Luskin writes that:

This tactic to push evolution to the public as “non-random” appears to be part of an ongoing campaign on the part of Darwinists to make neo-Darwinism appear more appealing to the public (which tends to be religious). While there are non-random components to natural selection, evolutionary biology textbooks have made it clear that other aspects of Darwinian evolution are quite random

Luskin utterly and completely misses this aspect of evolution. Here it is simply: Underlying causes are random, while the overall effect is not. For example, a random mutation makes a predator run faster. Being able to run faster means more food, better health, more mates, etc. Therefore, this mutation that was initially random resulted in a non-random selection for this mutation. See how it can be random and directed at the same time? Well, Luskin doesn’t.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is somehow a complex aspect of evolution that is rarely talked about and that is why Luskin is confused.  It isn’t.  It is however on a list that the PBS put out about the basics of evolution.

7. Is evolution a random process?
Evolution is not a random process. The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly, but natural selection itself is not random at all. The survival and reproductive success of an individual is directly related to the ways its inherited traits function in the context of its local environment. Whether or not an individual survives and reproduces depends on whether it has genes that produce traits that are well adapted to its environment.

What is really going on here is that Luskin is trying to pull a “gotcha!” moment. He claims that this is some sort of “tactic” that is used by evolution proponents to trick the public. In reality, pointing out how evolution is directed is used to combat the arguments of groups like the Discovery Institute and the general poplulous.  How many times have you heard someone say (or type) “I don’t see how randomness could ever produce the complex forms of life we see around us.”  Complete randomness would not, but random mutation plus natural selection would.

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