Elliot Sober recently wrote a piece showing how Darwinian evolution and theism can be reconciled. It is interesting for two reasons. First of all, it never calls into question the premise – whether Darwinian evolution is itself true. Second, it’s primary purpose is political – to give Darwinian evolution political cover in the courts. For me, the more interesting of these is the first.
Sober basically asks if random mutations can be compatible with theism. But the bigger question is, are random mutations even the cause of evolution when it occurs? The evidence continues to gather that the evidence for that is no. It does not matter if the random mutation hypothesis is compatible with theism, or compatible with God’s participation in history, for the quite simple reason that this thesis is not itself true.
The primary example that is often propped up for random mutations causing evolution is in the somatic hypermutation process for the immune system. In this process, mutations are focused, not only on the right gene, but the right half of the right gene. The mutations are entirely focused on the part of the gene that attaches to the antigens, and not the part that signals the rest of the immune system.
It has long been known that most mutations occur in locations which deal with extracellular communication, rather than housekeeping genes that cells use for basic processing. There have been lots of systems which show mutations which are highly specific.
For those who want to know more about this, I give an overview of the situation in the following video, and other information in this series of posts.
So, why are the atheists so set to reconcile this dying theory with theism? One possible answer is that they are philosophically committed to the random mutation hypothesis, and, since it is failing on the evidence, they are looking for supporters. By pulling the theists into the random mutation hypothesis, it prevents them from looking on their own at the alternatives.
On another note, what’s absolutely hysterical is that Jerry Coyne is swearing up-and-down right now that the somatic hypermutation system really is an instance of random mutation. Let’s see if I’ve got this right. There are 3,000,000,000 base pairs in the human genome. The gene which needs mutating is about 1,200 base pairs long. The half that attaches to the antigen is about 600 base pairs long, and out of all 3,000,000,000 the mutation system focuses it in the right 600 base pair area. So, the process is .00002% random and 99.99998% non-random. But I guess we’ll call it a random process because it helps Jerry Coyne and Elliot Sober sleep better at night.