Perry Marshall: What is Random?

Oh my, it appears that discourse decided @Perry_Marshall was spam for some reason, and silenced him. That might be why he did not respond. I just fixed that and unhid his posts. It appears that posting too many links to his own site triggered a spam flag?

I’m sorry about not catching that sooner @Perry_Marshall. We should be able to move forward now. Looking forward to your response.


I delayed responding to this, as requested by @swamidass

It is unclear what you are expecting when you ask for “rigorous support”. I am just using “random” in the ordinary way.

Think of a Las Vegas casino. They have roulette wheels that they spin for a random outcome. If they were to spin those roulette wheels twice as often, they would still produce random outcomes. What you quoted from Shapiro was about the rate of mutation. Changing the rate of mutation is like spinning the roulette wheel twice as often. The rate of producing random outcomes will increase, but they are still random outcomes.

I did not question any of his empirical assertions. I only questioned his characterization of them.

I have read Shapiro’s book, though it was a while ago. My main disagreement was that he tended to overstate his conclusions. I agree with Shapiro view, that there is intelligence in the cell.

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43 posts were split to a new topic: What are “Mutations”?

Evolutionary mutations are the ones you said were random and spontaneous, when you referred to the conversation between the man and Shapiro. (As described in my book and most recent blog post.) Joshua, Please define randomness.

I will post future replies on my blog.

@Perry_Marshall if you want a private conversation we can do that. If you want a public one, why blog posts? The exchange is much more difficult this way. If you can just devote a couple hours to an exchange I’m sure we can get on the same page. I can even make a thread for just the two of us if you don’t want to answer to others.

I might eventually get around to answering blog posts on another site, but they are a low priority now. There is a queue, @Agauger is ahead of you, and I’m not even sure the right way to respond to her. Also you are not answering questions directed your way. You are setting this up in a very adversarial, which is not necessary. Can you explain why?

So let me know how you want to proceed.

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8 posts were split to a new topic: Mark: Are Mutations Random?

So, @Perry_Marshall, I cleared out this thread to focus on your questions. Waiting for you to map a way forward.

The way forward is for you to define your use of the term “random”. This is not an unreasonable request.

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Are you going to participate in the conversation here or not @Perry_Marshall? Are you going to answer questions to or not?

If the answer is “no” and “no,” we will have to wait for another time.


@Perry_Marshall I find that post to be unnecessarily aggressive. It appears you are trying to create controversy where none need exist. When you are ready to communicate with me directly, let’s talk. I’m not willing to engage in a blog post war with you.


If you purposefully shuffle a deck a cards the result is still a random order of cards. That seems to be a concept that Shapiro and others fail to understand.


I’ll try a more detailed reply to @Perry_Marshall here.

I did look at your blog post, and my reaction is similar to that of @swamidass, but lets avoid repeating that and get to the question of randomness. In ordinary life, “random” is used with a range of different meanings. For biology, particularly evolutionary theory, the main concern is that mutations are random with respect to fitness. And that mostly means that mutations do not seem to be purposely oriented to improve fitness. If we found that mutations were usually beneficial (improved fitness), that would pose a problem for evolutionary theory, even if the mutations satisfied mathematical tests of randomness. So the use of the term “random” in evolutionary theory is mostly a way of saying that mutations do not appear to have any bias toward improved fitness.

If there is a locus on the genome where mutations are almost always fatal or seriously detrimental, then evolutionary theory already predicts that the mutation rate should be lower at such a locus. So variation of mutation rate is not consider non-random.

The traditional account of evolution says that mutations are copying errors. And it looks to me as if you are really arguing about that view of mutations. But random need not imply error. If I’m making a cake, I will stir up the cake batter. Stirring it up is a form of randomization, but it isn’t accidental or an error. Random is not the same as erroneous or accidental. I’m suspecting that you (and Shapiro and others) are making a mistake by arguing against randomness of mutations. If you were instead arguing that mutations are not accidents, but are instead part of how the system works, then I would probably be agreeing with you.

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Except mutations are biased in some important ways towards beneficial mutations.

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5 posts were split to a new topic: Mutation is Biased Towards Fitness

Neil, T_aquaticus and Joshua, thank you for your responses. Here’s my reply:

I’m not interested in cross-site debating.


Even worse yet, he is starting to make an Information Theory argument against evolution. Sadly, he hasn’t even read the answers we’ve given on this, or he has read them and wants to claim his questions were unanswered none-the-less. Poor form. It is probably for the best he won’t engage here right now.

Maybe he will reorient and try again someday. I hope so.


8 posts were split to a new topic: A Shuffled Deck of Cards is Random?

I would be happy to discuss your ideas with you on this site if you were willing.