Mark: Are Mutations Random?

(George) #61

In a world of various natural sources of radiation… resistance makes sense and can be triggered in a lab.

Can you think of how legs growing from one’s head would help a fruitfly?


That’s exactly my point. Wouldn’t this imply that mutations are not random with respect to fitness? There is a “developmental bias” for radiation resistance?

Mod Synthesis- genetic mutations, and hence novel phenotypes, will be random in direction and typically neutral or slightly disadvantageous

EES- novel phenotypic variants will frequently be directional and functional


So again, could we all agree that there is such a thing as developmental bias? @swamidass, @Argon, @T_aquaticus


The phrase “developmental bias” could hold within it the randomness and order that @swamidass insists exists in every evolutionary step while still implying that mutations can be biased (not with exactness) towards a certain developmental outcome.


(George) #64


Now you lost me. I cant tell what yoir point is about in connection to God managing the Evolutionary process.


I have made no mention of Godless evolution, nor do I support any such thing. I have simply communicated what the current scientific theories are, and those theories are incapable of making any statements about God’s role in evolution.

It would seem to me that if we are going to investigate God’s role in evolution then we should at least start with what we know already. If statistical randomness is a problem for the theological position you think is appropriate for this forum then mutations are the least of your concerns. The same type of randomness if found all over nature. For example, the scientific explanation for the sky being blue is statistically random scattering of blue light. Is that a Godless explanation? The scientific explanation for entropyis statistically random interactions between molecules which spreads heat through an object. Is thermodynamics Godless?



I’m not talking about God!! Did you read the article I linked to? It’s arguing there is direction in evolution based on gene regulatory networks and certain chemical pathways that restrain what mutations are more likely. God doesn’t need to guide a mutation in order for it to be “biased” in a certain direction,

(George) #67


If you are a Christian… i dont think you need to avoid discussing God’s role.

Without intelligence behind it, i dont think the creationists will “believe” in teleological inclinations.


I’m not avoiding anything. I’m agnostic as to how God was involved in the evolutionary process. He could have done everything at the big bang or continually guided it. That’s a COMPLETELY different question. This is a discussion of whether mutations are NATURALLY random or not. This discussion could just as easily take place (and has taken place) between two atheists as two Christians. Please familiarize yourself with the extended evolutionary synthesis.
And the third way of evolution:
The fact that you and @swamidass have both confused certain terms in this thread with God’s supernatural intervention shows just how unfamiliar most people are with this movement.

The EES or Third Way is not the Intelligent Design movement in disguise, OR theistic evolution in the guise of something else. It is methodologically naturalist. I am a theistic evolutionist but that’s another story for a different thread.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #69

Um, I did not confuse his use of the word cognition with Gods supernatural intervention. I am also very familiar with EES.


What we can say is that there are no evidenced cellular mechanisms pervasive throughout life that can sense a specific environmental challenge and mutate a specific base in the genome to counter that challenge. We can also say that there is no statistical difference between the known biochemcial processes that produce mutations and the pattern of mutations that separate species. These are all limited within the auspices of methodological naturalism and make no ontological claims about the “Truth” of reality.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #71

That is not true! We are often finding patterns we can’t explain and then doing the work to find the biochemical mechanisms underlying them. At any given point of time there are always patterns we do not understand. Don’t overstate the science!


Once again, thank you for the correction. I have a bad habit of turning generalities into absolutes.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #73

It is really important not to do this as it contributed to immense misunderstanding. Remember ever rule has exceptions in biology. The exceptions are important too. You cant ever claim anything different with confidence.

(George) #74


The “Third Way” you advocate is not really a third way. I quote from the main page of your link:

“The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon intervention by a divine Creator. That is clearly unscientific because it brings an arbitrary supernatural force into the evolution process. The commonly accepted alternative is Neo-Darwinism, which is clearly naturalistic science but ignores much contemporary molecular evidence and invokes a set of unsupported assumptions about the accidental nature of hereditary variation. Neo-Darwinism ignores important rapid evolutionary processes such as symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, action of mobile DNA and epigenetic modifications. Moreover, some Neo-Darwinists have elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems without a real empirical basis. Many scientists today see the need for a deeper and more complete exploration of all aspects of the evolutionary process.”

From the Christian perspective, the Third Way is simply exploring additional elements in God’s methods of creation.

These are not “interventions”. These are other methods of God’s engagements with the Cosmos.


From the scientific perspective, “Neo-Darwinism”, as described in the quote above, was abandoned decades ago. All of the mechanisms they list are already a part of the modern theory of evolution, so it seems like a tempest in a teapot.


@gbrooks9 yes! I agree! With everything you just said

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #77

And that also is what I have been saying over and over too.

None of this lends support to EES. Quite the opposite. It demonstrates they are late to the party.


Ok. So once again, @swamidass, @Argon, @T_aquaticus, can we all agree that there is such a thing as developmental bias?

Nobody has answered this question, and if we can agree on that, then I think we have made some progress in this dialogue.

Once again, developmental bias:

And @swamidass, why are researchers and professors at Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, St Andrews, Standford, and Princeton not to mention a host of other people late to the party? I find it difficult to believe that they are not informed enough to be aware of the MS and still declare themselves supporters of the Third Way or the EES, or that all of them simply don’t understand terminology. Could it be that you DIFFER with them over terminology even though they are just as well informed as you?

And, if you didn’t take Shapiro to be implying some sort of divine help with each cell division, then what exactly did you take him to mean when you said this:

The surprised reaction you had after only reading a paragraph of Shapiro’s work and the strange conclusion you drew from this seemed to imply to me that you weren’t really familiar with Shapiro’s work, or the EES.

But more than anything, what do we think of “developmental bias” everyone?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #79

Had no idea this was important to you. Of course agree there is such a thing as developemental bias. Of course there is.

Sarcasm. Which admittedly was bad form. Sorry about that. I see how it confused you. I was just stunned all anew about the abuse of terminology, and reminded why ID people are drawn to it. I did not realize that he was setting up cognition in opposition to bimolecular mechanism either. That is just not defensible.

Not at all. Most of the critics of EES are making essentially the same argument as me. See here:

What Laland and colleagues term the standard evolutionary theory is a caricature that views the field as static and monolithic. They see today’s evolutionary biologists as unwilling to consider ideas that challenge convention.

We see a very different world. We consider ourselves fortunate to live and work in the most exciting, inclusive and progressive period of evolutionary research since the modern synthesis. Far from being stuck in the past, current evolutionary theory is vibrantly creative and rapidly growing in scope. Evolutionary biologists today draw inspiration from fields as diverse as genomics, medicine, ecology, artificial intelligence and robotics. We think Darwin would approve.

And exactly my view:

We invite Laland and colleagues to join us in a more expansive extension, rather than imagining divisions that do not exist. We appreciate their ideas as an important part of what evolutionary theory might become in the future. We, too, want an extended evolutionary synthesis, but for us, these words are lowercase because this is how our field has always advanced16.

The problem with EES is not its science per se. Rather it is psuedohistorical abuse of terminology and disparagement of their colleagues. If you are impressed with the scientific ideas. Great. Scientists that dislike EES are working on these things too. EES has no monopoly here, because current evolutionary science already includes them.


Ok. I read Polkinghorne and Francis Collins, and it all sounded like Neo-Darwinism to me (although Polkinghorne actually endorsed Michael Denton’s “Nature’s Destiny”). Same with most posts from BioLogos, etc. Was I missing something? I only saw evolution in a completely different light after reading Evo2.0. I responded to his latest blog about you by the way.