So to be clear: the evidence shows that chance plays a primary role in mutations, and there would be no natural selection without chance. But it is not random chance. It is loaded chance, with multiple constraints, multi-point biases, numerous clustering effects, and skewed distributions.
He considers the question of why the assumption of “random mutation” persists and notes that it was “a philosophical necessity to combat the erroneous earlier idea of inherited acquired traits, or what is commonly called Lamarckian evolution.” Today, we call it horizontal gene transfer, and many researchers would be surprised to hear it considered an erroneous idea.
As a rough first-order approximation, random mutation works pretty well as an intellectual and experimental framework. But the lack of direct evidence for actual random mutations has now reached a stage where the idea needs to be retired.
There are several related reasons why this unsubstantiated idea continues to be repeated without evidence. The first is fear that non-random mutations would be misunderstood and twisted by creationists to wrongly deny the reality and importance of evolution by natural selection. The second is that if mutations are not random and have some pattern, than that pattern creates a micro-direction in evolution. And since biological evolution is nothing but micro actions accumulating into macro actions, these micro-patterns leave open the possibility of macro directions in evolution. That raises all kinds of red flags. If there are evolutionary macro-directions, where do they originate? And what are the directions? To date, there is little consensus about evidence for macro-directions in evolution beyond an increase in complexity, but the very notion of evolution with any direction is so contrary to current dogma in modern evolution theory that it continues to embrace the assumption of randomness.
This is a beaut, a keeper, a classic. In short, biologists must be wrong in thinking that there is no direction to evolution but admitting that is too controversial? So they have to keep it quiet by misrepresenting to the rest of us what “random evolution” means? Or if Kelly doesn’t mean that, what does he mean?
I guess that is as much intellectual openness or curiosity as one could expect from Darwin’s latter day followers. In fairness, they probably don’t even understand people whose standards for both qualities are just plain higher.
And it’s not just some of the ideas that need to retire.
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