Random and Undirected

The Origin of Species is essentially about eliminating the need to invoke God to explain life. And Charles Darwin made no bones about it. In a letter to his mentor, the geologist Charles Lyell on 11th October 1859, Darwin wrote,

But I entirely reject as in my judgment quite unnecessary any subsequent addition “of new powers, & attributes & forces”; or of any “principle of improvement”… If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish. I would give absolutely nothing for the theory of Natural Selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.[1]

This has consistently been the position of Darwin’s heirs and the vast majority of evolutionary biologists. Ernst Mayr, widely considered to be one of the most important and influential biologists of the twentieth century, wrote:

The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, but rather the replacement of a worldview, in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle, by a new worldview in which there was no room for supernatural forces.[2]

 Julian Huxley was the grandson of Darwin’s Bulldog, Thomas Huxley, and a prominent biologist in his own right. He wrote:

Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the Creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion. Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection could account for any new form of life, there is no room for a supernatural agency in its evolution.[3]

George Gaylord Simpson, one of the leading palaeontologists of the twentieth century, wrote that “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”[4]

In Genesis and Genes, I quoted the late Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most famous scientists and popularisers of science in the latter part of the twentieth century. Gould  frequently discussed the “radical philosophical content of Darwin’s message” and its denial of purpose in the universe:

First, Darwin argues that evolution has no purpose… Second, Darwin maintained that evolution has no direction… Third, Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature. Matter is the ground of all existence; mind, spirit, and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.[5]

Contemporary biology textbooks are adamant that Darwinian evolution is unguided. A popular college biology textbook by Douglas Futuyma declares that “[B]y coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”[6]

This is what you will find in Invitation to Biology:

Now the new biology asked us to accept the proposition that, like all other organisms, we too are the products of a random process that, as far as science can show, we are not created for any special purpose or as part of any universal design.[7]

 And Evolution (by Strickberger) has this to say:

The advent of Darwinism posed even greater threats to religion by suggesting that biological relationships, including the origin of humans and of all species, could be explained by natural selection without the intervention of a god… In this scheme a god of design and purpose is not necessary…[8]

 And Evolution (by Barton) explains that evolution involves “random genetic drift,” “random mutation,” “random variation,” “random … individual fitness,” and “random reproduction”.

 In 1997, the National Association of Biology Teachers in the USA removed from its description of the evolution of life an assertion that it was an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process.” Ninety-nine academics, including over 70 evolutionary biologists, sent a letter of protest to the NABT asserting that evolution indeed is “an impersonal and unsupervised process… The NABT leaves open the possibility that evolution is in fact supervised in a personal manner. This is a prospect that every evolutionary biologist should vigorously and positively deny.”[9]

Evolutionary biologists and authors are often at pains to emphasise this point. University of Chicago evolutionary biologist and author Jerry Coyne makes the point concisely:

But any injection of teleology into evolutionary biology violates precisely the great advance of Darwin’s theory: to explain the appearance of design by a purely materialistic process — no deity required.[10]

And the biochemist Larry Moran of the University of Toronto writes that:

The main mechanisms are natural selection and random genetic drift and those two mechanisms act on populations containing variation. The variation is due to the presence of mutations and mutations arise “randomly” with respect to ultimate purpose or goal.[11]

 This sentiment is often encountered in academic papers:

 Mutation is the central player in the Darwinian theory of evolution – it is the ultimate source of heritable variation, providing the necessary raw material for natural selection. In general, mutation is assumed to create heritable variation that is random and undirected.[12]

Francisco Ayala is a former Roman Catholic priest and world-famous evolutionary biologist [See the post Tactics and Deceit to read more about Ayala]. In a 2007 paper Ayala wrote:

Chance is, nevertheless, an integral part of the evolutionary process. The mutations that yield the hereditary variations available to natural selection arise at random. Mutations are random or chance events because (i) they are rare exceptions to the fidelity of the process of DNA replication and because (ii) there is no way of knowing which gene will mutate in a particular cell or in a particular individual. However, the meaning of “random” that is most significant for understanding the evolutionary process is (iii) that mutations are unoriented with respect to adaptation; they occur independently of whether or not they are beneficial or harmful to the organisms. Some are beneficial, most are not, and only the beneficial ones become incorporated in the organisms through natural selection.[13]

What Professor Ayala means by point (iii) can be economically expressed as follows: the Darwinian process is bereft of foresight. This has direct and obvious bearing on the philosophical content of biological evolution, as Ayala points out:

It was Darwin’s greatest accomplishment to show that the complex organization and functionality of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process – natural selection – without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent… The scientific account of these events does not necessitate recourse to a preordained plan, whether imprinted from the beginning [this is sometimes referred to as front-loading – YB] or through successive interventions by an omniscient and almighty Designer. Biological evolution differs from a painting or an artifact in that it is not the outcome of preconceived design.

Ayala’s conclusion is concisely expressed:

This is Darwin’s fundamental discovery, that there is a process that is creative although not conscious. And this is the conceptual revolution that Darwin completed: the idea that the design of living organisms can be accounted for as the result of natural processes governed by natural laws. This is nothing if not a fundamental vision that has forever changed how mankind perceives itself and its place in the universe.


Notwithstanding the above – and we could go on and on demonstrating that the community of evolutionary biologists, as a whole, conceives of evolution as a non-teleological process – there are those who style themselves theistic evolutionists. This position often results in confusion, as we shall presently see.

In July 2005, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he stated that “evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense – an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection – is not [true].”[14]

Ken Miller, a biologist, textbook-writer and prominent exponent of theistic evolution, responded:

But the Cardinal is wrong in asserting that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is inherently atheistic. Neo-Darwinism, he tells us, is an ideology proposing that an “unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” gave rise to all life on earth, including our own species. To be sure, many evolutionists have made such assertions in their popular writings on the “meaning” on evolutionary theory. But are such assertions truly part of evolution as it is understood by the “mainstream biologists” of which the Cardinal speaks? Not at all… This means that biological evolution, correctly understood, does not make the claim of purposelessness.[15]

Huh? Is Miller serious about “mainstream biologists” believing anything except that evolution is unguided and unplanned? Besides everything we said above, consider the following. In 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education sought to introduce changes to the biology syllabus in order to foster critical thinking among students. This involved allowing teachers to introduce scientific criticisms of evolutionary biology. In response, no fewer than 38 Nobel laureates (!) under the auspices of – wait for it – the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity signed a joint statement to the KSBE informing them that,

… evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.[16]

Perhaps Professor Miller does not consider these Nobel Prize-winners representative of the mainstream. But besides his capacity to ignore the obvious, Miller also contradicts himself. Five editions of Miller’s textbook, Biology, stated that “evolution works without either plan or purpose… Evolution is random and undirected.”[17] In his book Finding Darwin’s God, we find the following:

  • Random, undirected process of mutation had produced the ‘right’ kind of variation for natural selection to act upon (Page 51).
  • A random, undirected process like evolution (Page 102).
  • Blind, random, undirected evolution [could] have produced such an intricate set of structures and organs… (Page 137).
  • The random, undirected processes of mutation and natural selection (Page 145)
  • Evolution is a natural process, and natural processes are undirected (Page 244).

 Both the 1991 and 1994 editions of Miller & Levine’s Biology: The Living Science contain the following passage:

Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless – a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.[18] [Italics in the original.]


The confusion generated by Professor Miller’s apparently-schizophrenic writings is, unfortunately, not limited to the Gentile community. I wrote in Genesis and Genes that,

Evolution is inherently indifferent to religion; deities need not apply. But there will always be those who wish to reconcile the irreconcilable. They want to take the world’s most efficient engine for atheism, slap on a veneer of verses, and recast it as a Torah ideal. The result is about as appetising as frosting on a bar of soap. There cannot be a rapprochement between mutually-exclusive concepts. The attempt to apply a layer of religious respectability to evolution is vacuous.

 See Also: The post Tactics and Deceit



 [1] Letter from Darwin to Charles Lyell, 11th October 1859. See Darwin Correspondence Database,


Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[2] Ernst Mayr, book review of Evolution and God, Nature 248 (March 22, 1974): 285.

[3] Tax, S. and Callender, C. (Eds.), Evolution after Darwin, Issues in Evolution (volume III), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA, page 45, 1960.

[4] George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, revised edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), page 345.

[5] Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, pg. 12–13 (W.W. Norton & Co. 1977).

[6] Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 3rd edition, Sinauer Associates, 1998, page 5.

[7] Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes, Invitation to Biology, 3rd edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 1981:474-75.

[8] Monroe W. Strickberger, Evolution, 3rd edition. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2000:70-71.

[9] The Nature of Nature, Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, editors. ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2011, page 41.

[10] See http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/truckling-to-the-faithful-a-spoonful-of-jesus-helps-darwin-go-down/.

Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[11] See http://sandwalk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/is-unguided-part-of-modern-evolutionary.html.

Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[12] An environmentally induced adaptive (?) insertion event in flax, Yiming Chen, Robin Lowenfeld and Christopher A. Cullis, International Journal of Genetics and Molecular Biology Vol. 1 (3), pages 038-047, June 2009. The paper can be read here: http://www.acadjourn.org/IJGMB/PDF/pdf2009/June/Chen%20et%20al..pdf. Retrieved 11th July 2011.

[13] Francisco J. Ayala, “Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 104 (May 15, 2007): 8567-8573. I saw this in an article by Casey Luskin dated 11th August 2012 on the website Evolution News and Views.

[14] See http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/catholic/schonborn-NYTimes.html.

Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[15] See http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/catholic/op-ed-krm.html.

Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[16] The letter used to be available at:


I was not able to retrieve it.

[17] Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, Biology (1st ed., 1991), p. 658; (2nd ed., 1993), p. 658; (3rd ed., 1995), p. 658; (4th ed., 1998), p. 658; (5th ed. 2000), p. 658. See article by Casey Luskin here:


Retrieved 28th April 2013.

[18] Joseph Levine & Kenneth Miller, Biology: Discovering Life (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161.


21 Responses to “Random and Undirected”

  1. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Excellent post, Yoram!

    My experience in communicating with Ayala and Miller is that they themselves are caught in a bind of their professions vs their religious sentiments (Although Miller appears more sentimental than Ayala regarding cherished biblical beliefs.)

    As I have written before, some elements of the Catholic church seem to favor Darwinism (despite many writings of their early Church Fathers attesting to a literal Creationism) since it undermines biblical literalism and forces people to depend on the Catholic Magisterium to interpret Scripture. (This is somewhat parallel to the Jewish tendency to always read Torah through the lens of Rashi, Talmud, and Midrash.)

    It seems clear that Ayala implies that Genesis 3 is an elaborate parable for the highly evolved human brain that can now perceive — alone among all animals — the reality of death.

    Eating from the Tree of Knowledge is just a metaphor for randomly evolved human intelligence. Death ensues not as a punishment for a particular act of human disobedience but rather as the reality of human auto-awareness of mortality that always has reigned on the evolving earth. The accompanying curses of thorns and thistles and birth pains again express the new human reality of suffering due to the large cranium that has evolved faster than the female pelvic opening and the fact that humans now require processed foods rather than eating directly from nature like most animals.

    Ayala seems happy in his schizophrenia, while I would say Miller is less happy, but Miller will write and say what is necessary to preserve his career. And the Catholic Church hierarchy will make the best of it and try to sieze on Darwinism as affording them a golden opportunity to undercut individual and literal readings of Scripture and force people to piggy back onto the official Magisterium.

    (This book proposes that Genesis 3 is a parable for the transition of humans from hunter gatherers — depicted as a paradisical existence — to organized agriculture:

    Here are a couple of Catholic blogs that oppose evolution, but they are generally unheeded and even mocked and scorned by the Catholic establishment:

  2. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    I should clarify that the Magisterium differs in one significant way from the Jewish exegetical sources like Rashi and Midrash, and that is that the Catholics do not hesitate to reinterpret Scripture to conform to what they deem to be credible and confirmed scientific discoveries. So for example the Vatican invited Ayala to be a key note speaker at a recent conference on science and religion, despite the evidence you present that implies that Ayala no longer holds any traditional religious beliefs at all:

    So far as I recall from my yeshiva days, Rashi and other Midrashic writers resist this tendency to modernize the Torah. And even today in our modern era of proliferating secular knowledge, Jewish commentators seem more resistant to this process of concession and capitulation to the claims of science than their Catholic counterparts.

    The root of this Catholic approach goes back to St. Augustine, almost 2000 years ago, who pioneered the metaphorical approach to Scripture and who admonished the early Church to avoid literalist biblical claims that would seem to contradict scientific knowledge and hence prove an obstacle to knowledgeable pagans from embracing the biblical world view and entering the Church.

    I suppose Rabbi Gottlieb is very familiar with this mentality from his study of classical and modern philosophy, which is strongly rooted in Catholic theologians like Augustine and Aquinas.

  3. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    “The root of this Catholic approach goes back to St. Augustine, almost 2000 years ago, who pioneered the metaphorical approach to Scripture….”

    This statement should read:

    The root of this Catholic approach goes back to St. Augustine, almost 2000 years ago, who pioneered the ALLEGORICAL approach to Scripture

  4. Matt Says:

    “The confusion generated by Professor Miller’s apparently-schizophrenic writings…”

    I think you would be less confused if you spent more time trying to understand his ideas and less time trying to present a “quote soup” intended to make him look bad.

    Did you actually read his book? I ask, because all of your Ken Miller quotes are merely copy-pasted from the Discovery Institute blog…

    Ken Miller is one of the most civil and thoughtful voices on evolution and religion. It is a real shame that you did not take this opportunity to address the content of his ideas.

  5. Yoram Bogacz Says:

    Perhaps Matt missed reference 17.

  6. Matt Says:

    I saw your reference 17. And, although I very much appreciate that you (sort of) admit to pulling those quotes second-hand, you have not answered my question: Did you read Ken Miller’s book or not?

  7. Menachem Mevashir Says:


    After perusing a long collection of ICR articles a friend sent to me, I have come to a startling conclusion. I believe that both evolution and creationism are myths created to avoid the obvious conclusion that we were created by a malevolent Spiritual Entity that delights in competition, suffering, violence, and murder.

    I have reached this conclusion reluctantly, after spending the last 30 years of my life engaged in a deep search for spiritual truth. I will lay out my case briefly in order to elicit comments from the public.

    The mythic quality of the biblical creation story is more a product of logical thinking than empirical evidence; while that of Darwinian evolution is a product of logic inherent in science and the laws of nature.

    The biblical creation story illustrated in Genesis chapters 1-3 is full of obvious logical inconsistencies and absurdities:

    1. The rabbinical commentators agree that there appear to be two separate creation accounts of the “first woman.”

    2. The time scale in Genesis 1 differs from that in Genesis 2. While the former presents an orderly six day progression of Creation, the latter suggests that the “first man” labored in the “Garden of Eden” for much longer than one 24 hour day before being expelled due to the “Fall”.

    3. God could create reality in an instant. The six days of Creation described in Genesis 1 seem to be an artifice and anthropomorphism. It is especially absurd that Creationists labor to “prove” that these six days are 24 hour days and not long periods of time, since regardless of the true time scale of the universe, the author of this account clearly had a polemical goal in mind.

    4. It is utterly implausible that God would create man (and possibly animals too) with immortality while living on a planet of finite resources. Such an objection is so glaringly obvious that it defies all rational explanation.

    Based on these points, it seems clear that the “Tree of Knowledge” is a metaphor for man’s awareness of his own mortality that always has reigned on this suffering planet, subject to immutable laws of entropy and decay, as Creation scientists themselves point out. For some unknown reason, around 10,000 years ago man began to recognize his mortality and to develop culture and religion to cope with his tragic self awareness. The Christian notion of original sin is particularly pernicious, since it blames man for being the victim of these unalterable physical forces that he is powerless to control. Since Jesus of Nazareth speaks of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Flood, it must be concluded that he too was immersed in the popular mythos of Jewish Creationism.

    Concerning Darwinian evolution, it seems clear that the many objections raised by Creationists are valid. It is not plausible that advanced organisms could form autonomously through random and undirected processes. Life exhibits far too much complexity to attribute it to mere happenstance. And indeed those who advocate such ideas seem truly ignorant and foolish and in defiance of the very laws of nature they claim to respect.

    It is possible, however, that Darwin originally intended his theory to help alleviate the oppression of theocratic violence that marred European society. Michael Ruse demonstrates the disillusionment with religious warfare that had overwhelmed many Europeans just prior to Darwin’s time. Ruse presents Matthew Arnold’s famous poem, On Dover Beach, as a prime example of this process. Whatever Phillip Johnson argues about the violence and malevolence of atheistic regimes in the 20th century, the fact is that up to Darwin’s time Europeans had their surfeit of religious warfare. And indeed, almost all the casualties in both World Wars, that Johnson blithely attributes to atheistic ideologies, were Christians who had been blessed on their mission of murder by military chaplains including priests, ministers, and rabbis on both sides of the conflict:


    It also is known that Darwin dropped out of seminary due to a growing depression and despondency. Perhaps he recognized the stench of wicked hypocrisy and was impelled to reject it. Darwin may have hoped to avoid the painful conclusion that we were created by a spiritual force(s) that relish ruthless competition and murderous violence by postulating a mechanism for life to arise without need of a Creator of any kind. Unfortunately for Darwin’s best intentions, advances in modern science demonstrate the overwhelmingly intricate nature of not only biological life but the very structure of the atom and all material substances and the universe as a whole, all of which make a mockery of his idea that all arose due to blindly random and accidental forces of nature.

    So the evidence for some form of Creationism seems scientifically inescapable, validated by the very laws of nature that evolutionists claim to respect. But it also is clear that the record of theocratic control over humanity is appalling: religion is characterized by the basest corruption and most savage and ruthless mayhem that people like Richard Dawkins rightfully condemn. Religion serves as a tool of social control and repression and also as a powerful instrument of psychological and sociological warfare in the ongoing clash of civilizations of which history is replete. But to avoid the nasty implications that such malevolent behavior has been programmed into us by the forces that created us and all the universe, religion postulates its fairy tale a “perfectly benevolent” God and brazenly places the blame for all human and naturalistic suffering on the supposed sinfulness of humanity itself. Religion also can exploit the base nature of humanity by directing it against the eternal enemy in the endless struggle of “good vs evil”. Rather than truly perfect human nature, religion simply invites people to direct their murderous behavior against those who will not accept their particular religious paradigm. Thus all stand condemned of utterly hypocritical depravity. Religion becomes just another tool in the ongoing struggle for survival in a world ruled by the cruel constraints established by its “Creator”.

    What was the role of Jesus? Assuming he even existed, then either he was as deluded by the prevailing creationist paradigm as anyone else of his day, or he came to teach people that there is an eternal spiritual component of their being and that they should not fear death at all. However his frequent intimations in the Gospel stories about the inherent sinfulness of humanity makes him suspect as another religious huckster preying on the guilt, fears and insecurities that mar the human psyche in its struggle to survive in the harsh conditions prevailing throughout the created world.

    These are my preliminary conclusions, and I welcome your input.

    URLs that helped develop the thesis that Darwinism- Creationism is a false dichotomy:


  8. Menachem Mevashir Says:


    Do you have any response to these links disputing the reliability and veracity of all the various radioactive dating techniques?


  9. Darwinism and Morality | Torah Explorer Says:

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