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Author Topic:   Evolution is random! Stop saying it isn't!
Equinox
Member (Idle past 3249 days)
Posts: 329
From: Michigan
Joined: 08-18-2006


Message 91 of 99 (416362)
08-15-2007 11:47 AM
Reply to: Message 89 by Wounded King
08-15-2007 6:18 AM


Re: random selection and a model of evolution
There is a perfectly good term for when all probabilities are equal and it is equiprobable.

I think this shows a divergence between the actual definition and the common usage. I think many uneducated people do think that "random" means "equiprobable". Further, I think they'd be confused by even a probability distribution of two six-sided dice, because the result of 7 is so much more likely than that of, say, 2.

Further, I suspect that the creationist demagog's frequent use of "random" to mean "equiprobable, unpredictable, undirected and wildly out of control" has reinforced this. Perhaps another example of the dumbing-down effect of fundamentalism.

It can be jarring sometimes, but many of us can forget that by simply having a PhD or MD, we are different from
97% in the US, who don’t have a Ph. D. or a Professional degree, and certainly the over 75% who don’t even have a bachelor’s degree (data from Figure 2, http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/c2kbr-24.pdf).

As such, we can’t expect everyone to think the same or have knowledge of even English definitions to the same degree.

Add to this (as has already been mentioned), that without a little thought, most people don’t realize that a non-controlled process can be non-equiprobable. I know that sounds silly, since even two six-sided dice are a good illustration of a noncontrolled process giving a predictable result, but that seems to be how people have been told to think. Thus, when a creationist tells them that evolution can’t be true being that everyone knows that all non-human-directed process is “random” (meaning equiprobable, unpredictable, undirected and wildly out of control), they swallow it. In other words, the charlatan propagates the idea that a process is *either* intelligently directed OR it must be out of control, unpredictable, equiprobable, and unable to create anything more orderly or complex than it’s beginning materials.

I think THAT’s the root of this whole discussion, and indeed the root of one of the most effective ways creationists persuade people to be anti-science.


-Equinox

_ _ _ ___ _ _ _
You know, it's probably already answered at http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/...
(Equinox is a Naturalistic Pagan - www.naturalpagan.org)


This message is a reply to:
 Message 89 by Wounded King, posted 08-15-2007 6:18 AM Wounded King has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by Doddy, posted 08-16-2007 1:52 AM Equinox has not yet responded

  
bdfoster
Member (Idle past 2986 days)
Posts: 60
From: Riverside, CA
Joined: 05-09-2007


Message 92 of 99 (416387)
08-15-2007 2:47 PM
Reply to: Message 90 by Doddy
08-15-2007 9:20 AM


Re: random selection and a model of evolution
I'll be God's advocate here :laugh:

The definition I gave before from Webster included the phrase "equal probability of occurrence" and "definite probability of occurrence" which is basiclly the same as the probability distribution in the American Heritage definition. Both definitions are true, but the second one is a little misleading. It simply means that random selections are governed by the laws of probability and not influenced by anything other than probability.

Probability distributions are complex mathematecal functions that scare the crap out of me, and I want nothing to do with them. There are different kinds of distributions that describe probability of an event happening, and of course not all events have the same chance of happening. The odds of pulling a queen of spades out of a deck are 1 in 52. But there is an equal chance of pulling any card. They all have the same 1 in 52 chance. Suppose the deck is stacked with 10 queens of spades. The odds of pulling a queen of spades are no longer the same as pulling any other card. But in both cases, random selections from the deck will conform to a predictable probability distribution. Each random selection has an equal probability of occurrence, that is it conforms to the same probability distribution. Even in the second deck, each random selection has a probability of drawing a queen of spades exactly the same as any other random selection (assuming the card is replaced and the deck is shuffled). A selection that does not conform to the probability distribution is ...probably... not random.

In a population with variation, a random selection will conform to a probability distribution. That distribution will be affected by statistical factors such as the number of individuals with certain types of variation. Natural selection will sellect individuals on tha basis of fittness relative to an environment. If the environment changes the probability distribution for a random selection doesn't change, but of course fittness relative to the new environment does change, and there is a difference between random selection and natural selection.


Brent
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 93 by Percy, posted 08-15-2007 3:08 PM bdfoster has not yet responded

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 18370
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 93 of 99 (416389)
08-15-2007 3:08 PM
Reply to: Message 92 by bdfoster
08-15-2007 2:47 PM


Re: random selection and a model of evolution
Once you start talking about probability distributions you probably exceed the comprehension level of a great deal of your intended audience. How about approaching it this way when discussing randomness and natural selection with laypeople:

In natural selection, we define random to mean that which individuals survive to produce offspring has nothing to do with fitness. The least fit individuals would have as good a chance of producing progeny as the most fit.

But the reality of natural selection is that the most fit individuals produce more progeny than the least fit. This is not at all random.

Hence, natural selection is not random.

--Percy


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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4017 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 94 of 99 (416496)
08-16-2007 1:43 AM


First Paragraph of the Body of my Essay
This it the first paragraph of the body of my essay on Evolution and Randomness (still under construction, so constructive criticism is desired).

quote:
The word ‘random’ can mean many things. The most common definitions, according to Wiktionary, are:
1. All outcomes being equally probable.
2. Unpredictable.
3. Lacking stastical correlation.
4. Having an apparent lack of plan, cause or reason.

In order to discern which definition is appropriate, it may be wise to look at the important feature of randomness in the case of evolution. When discussing this, evolution is often likened to Fred Hoyle’s analogy of a tornado passing through a junkyard and creating a Boeing 747, with randomness being the reason for why this is (almost) impossible. Why is this? Let us look at the above definitions to work out why randomness is an obstacle. We are not dealing with statistics here, only one event, so the third definition isn’t applicable. As for the second definition, the tornadoes lack of “airplane-creating power” is not because it is unpredictable, as a predictable tornado wouldn’t necessarily create an aircraft – it could predictably just make a big mess. Likewise, even if the tornado had a plan or cause, a jet may not result, as the plan might be to make a something else, like a car, or the tornado could be so incompetent that even if it wanted to make a plane, it couldn’t. Thus, the reason why a flyable aircraft is so unlikely to be created from a junkyard twister is because there are so many possible outcomes, of which a functional airplane is only a small fraction. It is because there is no bias towards one arrangement of junk to another – all outcomes being equally probable – that we won’t expect to see any particular arrangement appear, when there are billions and billions of other equally likely outcomes that look nothing like a 747. Therefore, it is under this definition of randomness that evolution should be analysed.

I thought it was relevant to the current vein of thought.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 96 by Equinox, posted 08-16-2007 2:13 PM Doddy has responded

    
Doddy
Member (Idle past 4017 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 95 of 99 (416497)
08-16-2007 1:52 AM
Reply to: Message 91 by Equinox
08-15-2007 11:47 AM


Re: random selection and a model of evolution
Equinox writes:

Further, I think they'd be confused by even a probability distribution of two six-sided dice, because the result of 7 is so much more likely than that of, say, 2.

This is apparent bias is reconcilable with the definition of random being equiprobable. After all, all combinations of the two dice are equally likely, just because of the markings we have on them, they are more likely to add to 7 than 12. The dice aren't loaded to come up as 7, there is no bias there. Just more ways to make 7 than 12.

Likewise, the question I posed earlier about why mutation seems to be biased towards death and destruction rather than benefits. It is not that mutations are biased towards degradation, just that there are more ways to change an already functional protein to make it worse than there are to make it better.

This can also be seen in my above essay excerpt (perhaps I should add it?). It is not that tornadoes are biased against making aircraft, just that there are many more ways for the junk to be arranged that aren't a functional aircraft.

Edited by Doddy, : clarify final point.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 91 by Equinox, posted 08-15-2007 11:47 AM Equinox has not yet responded

    
Equinox
Member (Idle past 3249 days)
Posts: 329
From: Michigan
Joined: 08-18-2006


Message 96 of 99 (416538)
08-16-2007 2:13 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by Doddy
08-16-2007 1:43 AM


Re: First Paragraph of the Body of my Essay
Doddy-

A clarification page on this is a good idea for the wiki – especially one that explains the bait and switch tactic used. (creationists first claim evolution is random using one definition, then change to a different definition). I like starting out listing the definitions as you did, but have to admit that your paragraph on the 747 seems to get mired in the analogy without saying what we need to say.

I’m too busy right now to get to that, but I do hope to contribute to the wiki, and am glad to see how much work you’ve done on it.
Have a good day-


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 97 by Doddy, posted 08-16-2007 8:03 PM Equinox has not yet responded

  
Doddy
Member (Idle past 4017 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 97 of 99 (416582)
08-16-2007 8:03 PM
Reply to: Message 96 by Equinox
08-16-2007 2:13 PM


Re: First Paragraph of the Body of my Essay
Equinox writes:

A clarification page on this is a good idea for the wiki – especially one that explains the bait and switch tactic used. (creationists first claim evolution is random using one definition, then change to a different definition).


Yes, I will certainly mention this equivocation.

Equinox writes:

...your paragraph on the 747 seems to get mired in the analogy without saying what we need to say.


Yes, I feel that myself. I felt that I needed to be able to knock out the other three definitions, but if you feel that hinders the explanation, I could just jump right to the point (maybe put the others in a footnote or something).

Equinox writes:

I’m too busy right now to get to that, but I do hope to contribute to the wiki, and am glad to see how much work you’ve done on it.

Don't worry. We're all busy (perhaps I should be busier than I am now...). Just because I have 842 contributions since I joined in Feb this year, and am now one of the three users granted admin rights, doesn't mean that everyone has to contribute this much. Hey, you could even just write a short article, essay or just a response to a creationist claim.


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We seek contributors with a knowledge of Intelligent design to expand and review our page on this topic.

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This message is a reply to:
 Message 96 by Equinox, posted 08-16-2007 2:13 PM Equinox has not yet responded

    
Doddy
Member (Idle past 4017 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 98 of 99 (416584)
08-16-2007 8:12 PM
Reply to: Message 82 by epo5
08-13-2007 5:37 PM


Re: No more replies on this thread
epo5 writes:

I will not be responding anymore on this topic on this thread. I'll start a new, more appropriate one when I get a chance. Thank oyu.


Sounds good.

If you want, seeing as you appear to not have much time to post, perhaps you could set up your thread as a Great Debate? It's a better format for defending your position when you can't post often, as in a normal thread you will get swamped with posts and won't be able to respond to them all.

Would you be interested in that?


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

We seek contributors with a knowledge of Intelligent design to expand and review our page on this topic.

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This message is a reply to:
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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4017 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 99 of 99 (416794)
08-17-2007 9:24 PM


Randomness - probabilility vs purpose
The two relevant definitions of randomness given above (sourced from wiktionary) are:
quote:

1. All outcomes being equally probable.
and
4. Having an apparent lack of plan, cause or reason.


Dictionary.com gives the following
quote:
1. proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern: the random selection of numbers.
2. of or characterizing a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen.

Note the different order of the definitions. American Heritage Dictionary gives:

quote:
1. Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective: random movements. See Synonyms at chance.
3. Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely, as in the testing of a blood sample for the presence of a substance.

So, I ask again one of the key questions of this thread. When creations express doubt that 'all this could arise by random process' or 'just assembled by chance', are they (as most evolutionists would read it) saying that the probability of this occurring is too low, or are they just retelling Paley's watchmaker argument (life can't originate without an aim or reason).

And, how do you distinguish between the two?


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

We seek contributors with a knowledge of Intelligent design to expand and review our page on this topic.

Registration not needed for editing most pages (the ID page is an exception), but you can register here!


    
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