Randomness and evolution

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 11:29:14 -0400

>To say it a bit differently, the natural sciences tell us a lot which leads
>us to accept an old universe. And contemporary evolutionary theory tells
>us a lot which leads us to believe that the evolutionary process is
>governed by chance. My objection is that even God could not initiate a
>truly random process and be assured of the outcome. We should expect that
>God would intervene in the process, if indeed it is truly random, so as to
>guarantee the outcome. So God is the intelligent conceptualizer as well as
>the skilled artisan.

Several aspects of evolution are suggestive of chaos (in the
mathematical sense) rather than randomness (self-similarity at various
scales, relatively simple rules giving complex results, and sensitivity to
initial conditions). The limit on predicting a chaotic system is the
precision to which the initial conditions are known, which should not be a
problem for an omniscient God.
I think the issue of free will is quite closely tied in to this
question, although it is unlikely that we are predestined to settle that
issue here. I'm sufficiently Calvinistic to not be bothered by the idea
that God completely determined the evolutionary process and controlled its
action. If He determines the outcome of casting lots, is controlling a
mutation much harder? For that matter, if He had wanted to create
intelligent creatures with free will, couldn't He have controlled their
evolution and then given them free will as a part of making them in His own
image? (Not that I think much of free will, but rather that I don't think
it is incompatible with God's controlling evolution).

David C.