Is Evolution Random?

As one Creationist put it,

Random forces could not have produced a world of living things.

Scientists agree. That is why the Theory of Evolution contains something which is not random. Darwin said that there was natural selection. And today, Evolution contains other kinds of selection.

This is entirely different from saying that evolution is directed.

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Some parts of the history of life seem to be pretty random. Take, for example, the meteorite that killed all the dinosaurs. However, selection is different. It means that somehow, some individuals succeeded in leaving more descendants than other individuals did. And, it means that they succeeded for some reason. Reasons are not random.

For example, imagine a hawk which chases other birds. It needs wings which are specialized for flying as fast as possible. Individuals are not identical, except when they are twins or clones. So, some hawks will be born with wings which are a little better, or a little worse, for the task at hand. If the ones with better wings have (on average) more grandchildren, then that is not random. It's a consequence.

This is exactly how the Wright brothers designed airplane wings. They built the first wind tunnel, and they tried a whole bunch of designs, looking for good ones. The only difference is that their selection process was based on measurements of lift and drag, instead of on how successful a creature was at the tasks of its life.

Last modified: 29 June 2000

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