Randomness-was destiny or creativity

David Campbell (bivalve@mailserv0.isis.unc.edu)
Mon, 22 Feb 1999 14:29:29 -0400

Part of Adam's reply:
>When I wrote what I did I wasn't overly concerned with the mechanism, just
>the way the concept of "randomness" infiltrates discussions of natural
>processes. As far as I am concerned the only "randomness" in the
>evolutionary process [aside from the slings and arrows of outrageous
>fortune] is in the microlevel change in the genomes, but to me that's
>"spread" that enables biological forms to diversify. From there what happens
>is more directed and less random, since the history of each lineage
>constrains what it might then produce.

Also, selection itself is a very non-random factor, invalidating attempts
to disprove "evolution" by showing that random processes do not create a
specific sequence rapidly. However, there is randomness at higher levels
than the genes. For morphological factors not too tightly controlled by
the environment or intrinsic factors, variation over time may be
mathematically random. In muricid gastropods in the western Atlantic, the
oldest ones are small and lack spines. Today, there are big and spiny
ones. However, there are still little non-spiny ones. An increase in the
range of variation is all that is needed to explain this, because the
number of spines cannot go below zero and the original size was relatively

[a lot trimmed]
>But what is the essence of free-will? Was Nikolai Berdyayev right when he
>spoke of "meonic freedom" that existed "before" God? If randomness is a part
>of logic itself - it exists in mathematics, in numbers themselves - can even
>God himself escape its disruptive power, since God is defined as being able
>to do all that is logically possible? Or is it a part of his essence, the
>fount of all creativity?

If He is sovereign over the outcome of casting lots, the long-range
weather, and other random or chaotic (in the mathematical sense) events,
then it seems that randomness does not constrain Him. Whether there is a
pattern yet hidden to us, or whether He simply directly chooses the outcome
is moot.

David C.