I got this question from an inquisitive reader:
I’m wrestling with some essential Jerry Coyne here. I figure this is pretty fundamental and therefore worth my taking the time to understand better.
What we mean by “random” is that mutations occur regardless of whether they would be good for the organism. That is, the chances of an adaptive mutation occurring is not increased if the environment changes in a way that would favor that mutation. The word “random” does not, to evolutionists, mean that every gene has the same chance of mutating, nor that mutation rates can’t be affected by other things. What it means is that mutation is not somehow adjusted so that good mutations crop up just when they would be advantageous. My friend Paul Sniegowski, a professor at Penn, uses the term “indifferent” instead of “random,” and I think that’s a better way to describe the neo-Darwinian view of mutations.
– What Coyne says is actually consistent with how you and Denis Noble and others define “random,” yes? no?
“mathematically random” because of transposition etc having specific patterns, but the mutations themselves do not have a larger goal.’
– And your core issue with Coyne (at least on this point) is that heritable variation is NOT random, even as he defines it. Your 5 blades of the evolutionary Swiss Army Knife are the primary causes of heritable variation, not random mutation. Yes?
Coyne then goes on:
And there are no experiments—none—showing that mutations are not indifferent, and plenty showing they are.
Is that just a patently false statement? If so, how does an informed person answer Coyne’s assertion here?
This is where I got this, by the way: