Is Evolution Random or Intelligent?

Common knowledge at the moment is that evolution is random. Things mutate and either stick if they work or die off if they don’t. But some might argue (supernaturalism and divine intervention aside) that evolution is not totally random. That in some way it is intelligent and knows what it is doing and is carrying out some set of instructions.

I don’t see any evidence for this latter statement. So I’m curious if you know of any.

This is not a debate about religion or the supernatural.

This entry was posted in General.

0 thoughts on “Is Evolution Random or Intelligent?

  1. God has a hand in evolution. There are bugs that look like leaves, stick, bigger and scarier bugs, snakes… There are animals that have markings that make them look scarier… these are things that don’t just happen by chance. How could an insect’s body just start to look like a leaf on it’s own? How is it’s body aware?
    God definitely has a hand in evolution.

  2. @jmallory – We’re not talking about God. We’re talking about nature. Leave the concept of God out of this. Pretend God doesn’t exist. Is their evidence from a natural point of view that eveolution is somehow intelligent?

  3. I think a good argument can be made that random mutation is not sufficient for evolution. There is something besides random mutation at work in adaptation, and this can be demonstrated experimentally.  A group of scientists observe e. coli adapt over many generations in several different conditions, and then measure the rate and effectiveness of their adaptation.

    Read the details here.

    It turns out that the e. coli evolve more rapidly and effectively under stressful conditions: in other words, when they have to evolve in order to survive.  If random mutation were the driving force behind evolution, the several groups would evolve at a more or less constant (or perhaps an unpredictable) rate, and the groups under pressure would much more likely die off than not.  This shows a kind of “collective intelligence” that the e. coli possess, at least at the genetic level, in order to respond as a species to changing conditions. 

    It is also interesting to observe that in three separate evolutionary paths (birds: parrots, primates: humans, avian mammals: dolphins), high levels of intelligence have emerged, as though intelligence in an individual is a likely outcome of evolution, given enough time, so that now that intelligence (particularly in humans) is driving the evolutionary path of the species and of the whole biosphere. 

    As a side note, I don’t agree with those who believe natural selection acts primarily on genes, or that evolution is primarily selfish in nature.  But those are two different questions from what you asked, though interrelated. 

  4. There are linguists that argue that either language did not evolve, or did not evolve through random mutation. Because language is rule-bound, it requires conscious choices on the part of its actors. The essence of a language’s survival value is communication, and communication requires deliberation. Deliberation is either not random or is not evolution. 

  5. Random mutation plays a role in evolution by natural selection, but natural selection is not fundamentally a random process; this is why you see all sorts of evolutionary convergence (for example, the similar streamlined shape of dolphins and sharks). However, intelligence/planning/design plays no role either. What you’ve presented is a false dichotomy based on rather common misconception. Here is a brief discussion that explains the point further. 

  6. The real limitation in the discussion are the words “random” and “intelligent.” A subsequent limit is the presumed polarization of random versus intelligent. Naturally occurring proportions, the seemingly infinite fractal iterations of cosmological phenomena, these might be construed as anecdotal evidence of some pattern to the chaos we observe. The phenomenon of consciousness itself, currently without a definitive explanation, eludes such distinctions. My suggestion is that it is our reliance on – our addiction to –  abstract thought systems and the subsequent model of linear causation that confounds this question.

  7. @chaospet – You know what, that kind of makes sense, in a way my brain can snag on to. And that is no offense to the blogger intended, and I’m not certain you’re right.  It just feels like it makes sense.

    LOL “Feels like it makes sense” I do see the weirdness of that comment.

  8. The fossil record is pretty random and some of the palentogists wish that they win the lottery and discover something of a breakthrough.

    The Geological evidence suggests a lot of stress in causing massive extinctions. After an massive extinction a replacing cycle of explosive evolution occurs which makes the record more confounding.

    They recently proved that there was a “new” species. It was from a cross breeding in nature and started to breed without cross breeding with the original parent species. The definition of a species is loosely based on not hybridizing back with the parent species….

    How long does it take for new species to develop, or what consists of proof of evolution? Things mutate slowly and crossbreeding may be the best way that things evolve….

  9. Is it passive, or active? Efficient, or final? Since the final cause of life comes down to life-or-death, with life being propagated if successful, then I’d say that evolution is a more passive process. It isn’t part of the final, or end, of life itself; it’s subordinated to the end…it isn’t an active self-determining thing.

  10. Honestly, I think nature is intelligent… why???…    A miscarriage happens because the body realizes something isn’t right so it ends the pregnancy.  The body senses something, either chromosomes or something else that is wrong.  That is proof that nature is intelligent.

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