- Not all evolutionary scenarios can rely on natural selection:
- The first life. (Natural selection only works on already existing life, or “hereditary self-replicators.” 4 The first life, by definition, could not have itself been produced by self-replication and could not have relied on natural selection.)
- The universe’s fine tuning.
- Beneficial mutations. (Natural selection can supposedly sort through good and bad mutations, but it must wait on pure chance to produce those good mutations in the first place.)
- The lack of chance can actually be a bad thing:
- Organisms can become stuck on “local fitness peaks,” needing chance to knock them off
- Some combinations of mutations may be far more improbable by chemical laws, making chance a better alternative
- Leaving chance out of the equation, evolution has many other problems
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Coyne, J. A. (2009). Why Evolution Is True. New York: Viking.
Dawkins, R. (1996). Climbing Mount Improbable. New York: Norton.
- Coyne, 2009, p. 118: “This brings up what is surely the most widespread misunderstanding about Darwinism: the idea that, in evolution, “everything happens by chance” (also staed as “everything happens by accident”). This common claim is flatly wrong. No evolutionist–and certainly not Darwin–ever argued that natural selection is based on chance. Quite the opposite. Could a completely random process alone make the hammering woodpecker, the tricky bee orchid, or the camouflaged katydids and beach mice? Of course not. If suddenly evolution was forced to depend on random mutations alone, species would quickly degenerate and go extince. Chance alone cannot explain the marvelous fit between individuals and their environment.” ↩
- Coyne, 2009, p. 119: “True, the raw materials for evolution–the variations between individuals–are indeed produced by chance mutations. These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selection that produces adaptions, and natural selection is manifestly not random. … Richard Dawkins provided the most concise definition of natural selection: it is ‘the non-random survival of random variants.'” ↩
- Dawkins, 1996, p. 75: “[Sir Fred Hoyle’s] co-author and fellow astrophysicist, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, has quoted him as saying that the spontaneous formation by ‘chance’ of a working enzyme is like a hurricane blowing through a junkyard and spontaneously having the luck to put together a Boeing 747. What Hoyle and Wickramasinghe miss is that Darwinism is not a theory of random chance. It is a theory of random mutation plus non-random cumulative natural selection. Why, I wonder, is it so hard for even sophisticated scientists to grasp this simple point?”
p 77: “[Darwinism] solves it by breaking the improbability up into small, manageable parts, smearing out the luck needed, going around the back of Mount Improbable and crawling up the gentle slopes, inch by million-year inch.”
p 79: “It is the slow, cumulative, one-step-at-a-time, non-random survival of random variants that Darwin called natural selection.” ↩
- Dawkins, 1996, p. 88: “In order for natural selection to occur, anywhere in the universe, there must be lineages of things that resemble their immediate ancestors more than they resemble members of the population at large.” ↩