Intelligent Design

Random Mutations and the Heroics of Evolution

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A child once informed his friends his toy bulldozer could dig all the way through the Earth. But wasn’t the Earth too big? No, look at the Grand Canyon—it is proof of what such small shovels can do. Such childish logic, amazingly, shows up repeatedly in evolutionary “theory.” It is a treasure trove of bizarre and silly claims and justifications which rises to the surface, as with the child’s reasoning, when the evolutionist is questioned about his convictions. Consider, for example, the oft heard evolutionary mechanism of random mutation followed by natural selection which, like the toy bulldozer, apparently can do just about anything. When queried about this most amazing idea, the underlying evolutionary logic is revealed.  Read more

13 Replies to “Random Mutations and the Heroics of Evolution

  1. 1
    William J. Murray says:

    I’ve often run into these same tired canards. Random, in the evolutionary sense, means occurring without a deliberate, final goal. Everything in mainstream evolutionary theory is, by that definition, “random”.

    The assertion that entirely random forces can generate the most sophisticated, self-replicating, self-repairing nested heirarchies of interdependent hardware and software known to exist, capable of generating an apparently infinite amount of functionally specified complex information, is a claim of such gargantuan proportions that it requires some compelling evidence.

    Common descent is not such evidence; that random mutations occcur is not such evidence; that natural selection actually selects is not evidence. Speciation is not such evidence.

    What is required is a realistic model that demonstrates that random (unguided towards an end) activities of interacting molecules have the theoretical, mathematical capacity to generate the kind of complex, functioning artifacts we know exist in the world.

    Until such time, there is literally zero evidence for such a claim. To claim that the processes that might produce minor lab variation events are also capable of producing winged flight or stereoscopic color vision is a categorical error; it is simply a bald assertion that the two events are in the same category of evolutionary variation.

    One might as well claim that the ability to randomly alter a line the novel War and Peace in some slight way that gives a sentence a slightly different meaning (after all the garbage variations are selected against) is the same process that wrote the book (or the chapter) in the first place.

    There is no basis for that assumption other than materialist ideology.

  2. 2
    tgpeeler says:

    WJM – “There is no basis for that assumption other than materialist ideology.”

    I agree. In the USMC we had a saying that amateurs talked tactics and professionals talked logistics. This because tactical genius, if it can’t be logistically supported, is worthless. I think I would rephrase that statement for the ID/evolution discussion to: amateurs argue conclusions and professionals argue premises.

    The materialist ideology that is the premise for evolution is utter nonsense. Always has been and always will be. Since the foundation of evolution is false, nothing that follows from valid reasoning from the false premises can possibly be true. In any case, this is where the argument needs to be. It’s about the premises, not the conclusions.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:


    Actually, false premises can logically lead to correct conclusions, the basis for modelling (e.g. a transistor amplifier is not at all like the usual models used in electronics engineering!).

    But, false assumptions are unreliable and cannot be trusted to always yield true conclusions. That is why models need to be very carefully validated as to trustworthy range. (Climate modellers, remember this little caveat?)

    GEM of TKI

  4. 4
    tgpeeler says:

    KF: allow me to clarify and thanks for the opportunity.

    Let’s say:

    All cats are reptiles. (false premise)


    Felix is a cat. (True)

    then, based on valid reasoning…

    Felix is a reptile. (False conclusion)

    False premise plus empirical fact plus valid syllogism = false conclusion. Unless I’m missing something. Which, of course, I could be.

    The only way that I see to get a true conclusion from a false assumption is to make further mistakes. Either in the empirical fact (the minor premise) or by making an invalid argument.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:


    There are many cases where false premises quite logically lead to correct conclusions. That is how models are made. (E.g. a transistor is not one part ideal current source and one part input resistance, with maybe a network of other passive components. But, quite simple models like that work well enough to do a lot of electronics design quite well, thank you. “Good enough for government work.” )

    The relevant logic is that on the implication truth table, a false premise is associated with correctly entailing true and false conclusions. But, from a true premise only true conclusions can properly be inferred.

    Here is as simple case: If Tom is a Cat, then Tom is an animal. Tom is an animal, so Tom is a cat.

    Whether or no Tom is actually a cat, it does follow from the hypothesis that Tom is a cat that Tom would then be an animal. Even if Tom is a pig or a monkey!

    Weird, but so are the ways of logic.

    This too, is why empirical reliability and confirmation of a theory are not to be equated with that theory being true. No number of confirmations can overwhelm one credible disconfirming instance!

    Empirically based investigaitons may seek and can discover truth, but cannot guarantee conclusions.

    Deductive arguments form premises can show that conclusions follow from premises, but cannot thereby ground the premises.

    And so on and so forth.

    GEM of TKI

  6. 6
    tgpeeler says:

    GEM: “Here is as simple case: If Tom is a Cat, then Tom is an animal. Tom is an animal, so Tom is a cat.

    Whether or no Tom is actually a cat, it does follow from the hypothesis that Tom is a cat that Tom would then be an animal. Even if Tom is a pig or a monkey!”

    This is my point. The syllogism you used to illustrate about Tom and being a cat is invalid. It is similar to modus ponens (if P is true then Q is true. P is true. Therefore Q is true.) But instead is of the form called affirming the consequent (if P is true then Q is true. Q is true, therefore P is true.) Affirming the consequent is a fallacy.

    It is invalid for the following reason. While the premises are true that if Tom is a cat, then Tom is an animal, it is NOT true that if Tom is an animal then he is a cat. He could be a mouse, say or a pig or a monkey as you note. So in this instance, you have taken a true premise and applied invalid logic (the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises) and thus arrived at a false conclusion. No mystery there.

    In deductive logic, valid syllogisms and true premises (i.e. the argument is sound) necessarily result in true conclusions. IF one keeps the above framwork intact, except that the major premise is false, then a false conclusion necessarily follows. I know you know all of this and I suspect that we are somehow talking past each other. As shown in the following syllogism the keys are validity and soundness.

    I can say:
    All cats are mammals.
    All dogs are mammals.
    Therefore, all turtles are reptiles.

    The conclusion, in this case, is true. In fact, the premises are all true, too. But the conclusion does not follow because the syllogism is invalid. (It has 5 terms instead of 3.) I haven’t thought about all possible combinations and permutations of this but I still contend that it is true to say that if one starts with a false premise AND subsequently gets the facts right and does so in a valid way, then the conclusion will be necessarily false. This should be easy to falsify. Perhaps you can think of a way.

    This is the problem Popper noted. We can never say, for example: if evolution is true then we can expect to see variation in species (or take your pick), we see variation in species, therefore, evolution is true. Because something else could account for variation in species (special creation or the interplay of environment with pre-existing genetic information, say).

    Also: “but cannot thereby ground the premises.”

    I beg to differ. The premise is grounded in first principles. In this case, the law of identity. If Tom is a cat then Tom is an animal. This is always true and must be true because part of being a cat is being an animal. One cannot be a cat without being an animal. Although one can be an animal without being a cat. Thus the premises are undeniably true.

    Thus my zeal for crusading about attacking the premises rather than the conclusions. The military principles of mass and objective are relevant here. The correct objective in my mind is naturalism. Destroy that (mass – decisive combat power (logic and empirical evidence) at the decisive time and place on the battle field) and the rest crumbles into dust. Allow it and the arguments over conclusions go on endlessly, to no avail. Like trench warfare. 🙂

    There is much about the principles of warfare that apply in the warfare for truth. Not so odd when you think about it. Warfare is warfare, after all, and we are absolutely involved in warfare. This exchange is immensely useful. Thanks.

    p.s. Heading to airport soon. will be offline for some time but look forward to your reply when I can get to it. Thanks again.

  7. 7
    NZer says:

    Mmmm, interesting about logic.

    I think that people often begin with false premises and reach true conclusions. For example, they deny God’s existence, thus eliminating the possibility of objective moral values. Then they claim that it is objectively morally right to love your neighbor.

    False premise; true conclusion.

    This is likely just a case of the inability of people to think logically in 2010.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:


    First, pardon: I did not use a syllogism. I am using an implication argument P => Q. That is P is sufficient for Q, and Q is necessary for P. The problem is that we tend to think that P and Q are equivalent, i.e, we mistakenly tend to assume the implication runs both ways.

    If Tom is a cat then Tom is an animal is a valid implication whether or not it is true that Tom, as a matter of fact a cat. (BTW, this is a case I have used for 25 or so years; I only realised the overlap in names when I had already posted it.)

    And, we may use such implications to construct false but useful models, e.g. the reduction of a transistor amplifier to input resistances connected “magically” to an ideal current source driving the load. (I remember how puzzled I was when I first saw the AC model of such an amplifier. It looks nothing like the reality, it is based on unrealistic and false assumptions and specifications, yet it works very well thank you.)

    Take the case: Tom is a pig, which can be confirmed by observation and a question to his owner. Thus, Tom is an animal.

    If Tom is a cat then Tom is an animal still holds, withthe premise P false but he conclusion Q true. And the implication is correct as it is sufficient for Tom to be an animal, that he is a cat. However, there is no equivalency between being a cat and being an animal.

    Here we see that a false premise entails a correct conclusion by implication. And the sense in which the truth of a conclusion Q cannot ground the truth of the premise on which it sits, P. It may support it, but it does not demonstrate it beyond all reasonable doubt.

    You are of course right to go on to point out that P => Q, Q, so P is affirming the consequent, a major fallacy.

    A KEY POINT IS THAT THIS IS THE MAIN FALLACY INVOLVED IN SCIENTIFIC REASONING. We assert explanatory theory, then infer observations and look to observations as support for viewing the theory as (credibly, even if provisionally likely to be) true.

    That is why we should be carefully taught the logic of implication and the epistemology of inference to best current explanation. Scientific theories are hypothetical explanations supported by evidence to date, but subject to correction in light of new evidence and argument. That is why those who try to assert that the theory of evolution is as factual as gravity, are in gross error.

    We observe gravity in action every time a mango falls from a tree — as is happening in my garden just now. We simply did not and cannot observe the proposed grand history of life from pond scum to us, by way of the zoo. So, we should distinguish sharply between observed minor population variations such as Darwin’s finches and the grand explanatory model that claims to account for finches on unlimited chance variations of diverse kinds and natural or sexual selection etc.

    To project from observable minor facts to the presumed truth of a grand metanarrative account of the deep past is a major logical fallacy. Instead, we should explain to students in High School and the onlooking public, how the logic of implicaiton works, and what it grounds or does not ground. So, scientific theories are always to be held provisionally, and we should support ongoing empirical testing through research. Empirical reliability of a theory or model is not a proof of its soundness int he logical sense.

    But, when certain hypotheses get bound up in worldviews, cultural agendas and policy programmes . . .

    GEM of TKI

  9. 9
    Granville Sewell says:

    So, next time you hear or read a creationist or IDer cite “RM & NS” as the sole explanation for evolutionary change, point out to them and everyone else that there are at least 47 different sources of variation

    The intended implication of this statement is that until you understand all 47 and refute each, there is no justification for looking for an explanation of evolution outside naturalism.

    This is why the second law argument:

    is important. This very simple argument shows why you don’t need to understand or refute all proposed mechanisms before looking outside the naturalistic box.

    Alas, the argument is just too simple. The second law has been called the “common sense law of physics” and most scientists prefer an argument which requires more understanding of the 47 “sources of variation”, and aren’t impressed by an argument so simple the layman can understand it.

  10. 10
    allanius says:

    Correct: “random mutation” = “Lucretian bloopers.” They are in fact the same thing—the same basic notion of origins, the same wishful thinking. It is claimed that positive changes come about by pure chance, but this has never been observed in nature herself. In reality, pure chance makes positive changes impossible.

    Correct: “[NS] …does not induce helpful mutations to magically arise.” NS is in fact anthropomorphic. Darwin unwittingly attributed human characteristics to nature—i.e., the capacity to make qualitative judgments, progressivism. Nature has no such power in herself.

    “Nothing comes from nothing.” Nature cannot create the self-evident goodness that we see in the sensuous universe of her own accord because the quality of the good does not inhere in nature per se. To believe that it does, like Darwin, is to remake nature in one’s own image.

    Darwin had faith in the essential goodness of nature. This faith is illogical, since matter in itself is nothing more than matter. Gould at least had the sense, in retrenchment mode, to disavow any goodness or intent in nature—but then he had to revert to pure Lucretianism and pure chance.

    In which case there is no substantive difference between Classical materialism and the “modern synthesis.” None whatsoever.

  11. 11
    Venus Mousetrap says:

    “The assertion that entirely random forces can generate the most sophisticated, self-replicating, self-repairing nested heirarchies of interdependent hardware and software known to exist, capable of generating an apparently infinite amount of functionally specified complex information, is a claim of such gargantuan proportions that it requires some compelling evidence.”

    But beneficial mutations can increase CSI. The math shows it. Personally I don’t believe that CSI (assuming that’s the same as functionally specified whatever) is an appropriate measure of ‘complexity’, anyway – when I think of machines, I think about how all the parts fit together and work together, not the ‘chance’ of them doing so.

    The thing about darwinian evolution is that it’s not a huge claim – rather, it is a claim that small things can add up to huge things. It doesn’t matter how impressive you make the final product sound – the darwinian idea is that you can get there one step at a time. If (note the If there, If) darwinian evolution is true, the distance it has to go doesn’t matter.

    “What is required is a realistic model that demonstrates that random (unguided towards an end) activities of interacting molecules have the theoretical, mathematical capacity to generate the kind of complex, functioning artifacts we know exist in the world.”

    Then come up with an appropriate measure of complexity. One that actually describes the parts of a machine, not the chance of it having a function. Chance arguments just don’t work on a process which by its nature, overrides chance by making incremental changes.

    Come up with something more satisfying than ‘evolution can do anything!’, or ‘it just happened that way!’. I’d welcome it.

  12. 12
    Phaedros says:

    “But beneficial mutations can increase CSI. The math shows it.”

    Let me see the math and that it reflects biology.

  13. 13
    WinglesS says:

    Actually while the child’s claim that a bulldozer can go through the earth seems childish, I think some of the premises such logic is based on is sound. In my opinion the child assumes that if small progress could consistently be made, ultimately a large change could be effected, given enough time.

    However, of course we do know that a child’s bulldozer is not enough to consistently effect a small amount of progress on a project such as a hole through the earth. On the relevance of such an analogy as to evolution, it is probable that evolutionists would assume the same, that small, consistent progress could ultimately evolve all life forms. Whether random mutations or any other “sources of variation” are sufficient to effect this small consistent progress however, is debatable.

    Perhaps random mutations are as you suggest, like the child’s bulldozer. Perhaps they are not.

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