Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views

"Random" Samples of Media and Textbook Descriptions of Darwinian Evolution

In his Autobiography, Charles Darwin stated, "There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course the wind blows." It is thus quite odd that a ScienceDaily.com article earlier this year with the headline "New Findings Confirm Darwin's Theory" should go on to say "Evolution Not Random." This study may be confirming some theory, but it isn't Darwin's theory.

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.

Last summer, Anika Smith exposed how a Newsweek science quiz claimed that Darwinian evolution was not random. According to Smith's findings, that isn't what recent evolutionary biology textbooks say:

I had been taught from high school biology (and again in college) that "evolution is random and undirected." (Thank you, Ken Miller.)

Surely I'm not the only student who has ever been told that Darwinian evolution is a random process. In fact, a new textbook devoted to evolution out this year (Evolution, Nicholas Barton et al., 2007) claims that there is "extreme randomness [in] the evolutionary process" (p. 435). The point is reiterated, time and again:

Seen in detail, however, the evolutionary process is fundamentally random. (p. 413)

. . . we begin our consideration of the processes responsible for evolution by emphasizing the randomness of evolution. (p. 413, emphasis mine)

Mutation randomizes genetic information, genetic drift randomizes genotype frequencies, and gene flow randomizes the positions of genes in space. (p. 439)

Indeed, this past weekend I stumbled upon two more biology textbooks in a used bookstore that describe the random character of evolution.

Robert Ornstein's Prentice Hall text The Evolution of Consciousness explains that mutations "are accidents" and "happen by random generation." Ornstein concludes that we are the result of "countless historical accidents":

So here we are now, courtesy of countless historical accidents. If Australopithecus had not stood up, if the brain had not grown so rapidly ... we'd not be here. ... But however we got here, all our history, all our evolution, all the accidents that led to us are all over.

(Robert Ornstein, The Evolution of Consciousness: Of Darwin, Freud, and Cranial Fire-The Origins of the Way We Think, pg. 267(Prentice Hall, 1990).)

The other book I bought was a 1995 Prentice Hall textbook, Exploring Life Science which explains that "one of the driving forces behind evolution is mutations" which are "chance events." The teacher's guide for the textbook encourages students to learn that evolutionary changes are "caused by chance mutations that just happened to better the animals to their environments" because "genetic variation is random." (pg. 640, 641)

The original source for the ScienceDaily.com article (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080118134531.htm now points to ScienceDaily.com, and another location where the article was posted on NewsWise states, "This article has been withdrawn at the request of the contributor." (The original article can still be found at RichardDawkins.net.) It seems this article may have been retracted. If anything here isn't random, it's the retraction of a mistaken article that tries to recast Darwinian evolution as something it isn't, probably for political reasons.