Natural Selection (was: Breast Size)

Phillip Bigelow (
11 Jun 1995 19:33:55 -0700

I wrote:
>> There is no "consciousness" to evolution. It is, instead, a never-ending
>>process of RANDOM changes in morphology. (Bryan) writes:
>Wrong. That's the grist of the process, not the process. Selection is
>not random. Ultimately, the mutations on which it acts are, of course.
>(You say as much in a snipped part of the post, later on.)

I'm still unconvinced that the process of natural selection is driven "TO"
"something". I'm not even sure that natural selection really "follows"
rules of *any* sort. If, as you claim, natural selection is NOT a random
process, then it should be relatively easy to test or to debunk.
You seem to be looking at natural selection mainly from the "winner's"
point-of view. You are claiming that natural selection is purpose-
driven because you see all of the success-stories. Reversed-claws on perching
birds shows that natural selection pushed the change in morphology "TO" it's
fruition. I don't think selection works that way.
Primates achieve the same grasping "goal" by using opposable thumbs.
Oppossums achieve it by the use of a prehensile tail.
I don't see a drive "TO" an optimum grasping body plan, here. I see
randomness in morphology.
Consider also that there are many losers in the
natural selection process, too. If selection toward a specific
morphology/lifestyle is "driven" in some way, then why should selection even
bother to produce mutations that don't benefit the survival of the organism?
Why not just produce *only* beneficial mutations? In my opinion, this is
evidence that, in natural selection, the effects of the process are
random, just as much as the process, itself, is random.
When we start talking about natural processes being driven "TO" something,
we start to anthropomorphize those processes. OR, we start walking into the
territory of religion. Whether it is anthropomorphizing it, or creating a
religion around it, it certainly isn't science anymore.
One last example: there are huge debates on the topic of human
intelligence, and why it evolved. And why our "type" of large brain
capacity doesn't seem to be common (or even present) in fossil groups other
than our own. If human natural selection was driven "TO" a high degree of
intelligence, why didn't this "drive" also occur at other times in the fossil
record? If it has occurred, it must be VERY uncommon, because no fossils
have been found showing this. To me, this suggests that the initial selection
for large brain capacity was random. Whether our intelligence
is beneficial for the continued survival of our species...well..the jury is
still out. That's probably a random process, too.