The University of California Museum of Paleontology’s website about evolution, funded by your tax dollars, claims that it is a misconception that evolution means that the species arose by chance. Here is how the website explains this supposed misconception:
Chance is certainly a factor in evolution, but there are also non-random evolutionary mechanisms. Random mutation is the ultimate source of genetic variation, however natural selection, the process by which some variants survive and others do not, is not random.
In other words, yes mutations are random, but natural selection is not. This blunder is elaborated by University of California professor and National Academy of Sciences member, John Avise. Avise repeats the argument that natural selection is not random, but he also argues that the biological variation, which is subject to selection, is also, ultimately, not random:
Advocates of Intelligent Design contend that complex biological features cannot arise by chance, the implication being that chance equates to natural evolutionary processes and anti-chance equates to sentient forces. From a scientific vantage, however, the driving force of adaptive evolution—natural selection—is itself the antithesis of chance. …
Natural selection can sift only among the genetic variants available for its scrutiny, and two of the three primary sources of genetic variability—de novo mutations and recombination—occur essentially at random with respect to forging adaptations. … In this important sense, the genetic fodder upon which natural selection acts can indeed be characterized as stochastic or chancy in origin.
The third source of population genetic variation entails a mixture of “chance and necessity.” Apart from de novo mutations and recombinant genotypes, the genetic variety available for natural selection in any generation is also a function of historical circumstance, that is, of idiosyncratic genealogical outcomes that have been affected by both stochastic and directive evolutionary processes across all prior generations. Evolution going forward can work only with the biological substrates provided by evolution foregone. These biological substrates—“ghosts of evolution past”—are not supernatural legacies, but instead they are real genetic lineages and real species that have been subjected for eons to the full panoply of evolutionary processes including natural selection (the directive agent of adaptive evolution) as well as idiosyncratic mutation, recombination, and genetic drift (stochastic forces in the sense described above). [Inside the Human Genome, Oxford, 2010, p. 27-8]
Avise’s mental gymnastics are painful to watch. This blunder is consistent amongst evolutionists, but no less astonishing. First let’s consider the claim that natural selection means the origin of species wasn’t by chance. Imagine a friend wins a one-in-a-million jackpot at roulette, but he claims it wasn’t by chance because he also had some losing bets. On his losing bets he collected nothing, but on his winning bets collected his winnings. Isn’t that the very antithesis of chance?
Of course not. This is a monumental blunder in thinking. Yes he doesn’t collect on his losing bets, and he does collect on his winning bets. But that does not change the fact that roulette is a game of chance. And it doesn’t change the fact that his beating the casino was unlikely.
According to evolution biological variation is random with respect to need or purpose. Natural selection doesn’t change this. It kills off the bad designs, but winning designs are nonetheless constructed by random variation—they are by chance. Every mutation and recombination event leading to whales, cherry trees and humans was, according to evolution, random. Likewise every losing design is also by chance.
In other words, some designs win and some designs lose. The process continues and the species evolve. But it is entirely by chance. The fact that some win and some lose doesn’t change this.
Avise’s second argument is that chance is also removed from the process because it is on-going, producing new species which become the basis for further evolution. This argument is equally fallacious.
A chance process that continues for awhile is still a chance process.
The evolutionary process is still by chance. If a frog evolved from an earlier amphibian—such that the evolution of frogs was limited in its possibilities—that doesn’t change the fact that the process was, from the beginning, by chance.
Every biological variation that occurs is random. Yes natural selection kills off the bad designs. And yes the process proceeds down certain pathways, producing certain species. But every species is produced by a series of random biological variations.
The origin of species by chance is unlikely. It would require a long, long series of random mutations that just happens to construct an incredible biological design. And this would have to occur repeatedly, for all of biology’s amazing designs. And in each of these long series of random mutations, there would need to be a great many—mostly undiscovered and unknown—intermediate designs. And these intermediate designs would have to be helpful to the organism.
From single proteins to cellular processes to whole organisms, the science gives little reason to think such a process is likely. Indeed the science repeatedly indicates such a process is likely to be very unlikely.
And the evolutionist’s appeal to natural selection changes none of this. Their claim that the killing off of bad designs means that the origin of species was not by chance, and that this resolves the probability dilemma, is not only false, it demonstrates an important failure in evolutionary thinking.