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Where is the purposelessness of evolution?

asks Techne at Telic Thoughts (March 22, 2012), an “independent ID blog”:

Perhaps it is associated with random variation. As it turns out, the random part in random variation is not really random when it comes to mutations. Professor Dan Graur writes in his article “Single-base Mutation” in Encyclopedia of Life Sciences that mutations do not occur randomly throughout the genome and the direction of mutation is not random. The only way variation is seen as random is that it is random in respect to the effect variation has on fitness.

The major problem with this is that the precise meaning of fitness has not been settled. There is still a major debate about what exactly fitness is supposed to mean (see this post for more on this issue)

John O. Reiss also makes the following interesting remark: “The rigor of this approach, however, is lessened because there is as yet no universally agreed upon measure of fitness; fitness is either defined metaphorically, or defined only relative to the particular model or system used. It is fair to say that due to this lack, there is still no real agreement on what exactly the process of natural selection is. This is clearly a problem.”

Without a proper definition of fitness, we can’t really say what natural selection is. Also, without a proper definition of fitness we can’t really make any sense of how variation can be random relative to fitness in the first place. Still, some evolutionary biologists would like to see evolution as “random, purposeless variation acted on by blind, purposeless natural selection”. Stephen L. Talbott in his article Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness makes this point much more forcefully.

We thought thatDarwin-only  show had left town a long time ago. But it turns out, a government grant is keeping it going. Even though most people never watch it.

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