In discussing the theory of evolution, I have often mentioned the fact that processes of organic evolution are all random events. Contrary to the idea of a Creator who designed the cosmos, evolution is squarely based on chance. However, I have been taken to task for this assertion. The objection I have heard is this: Natural Selection is not a random process. This is the position of noted scientist (and atheist) Richard Dawkins. Dawkins asserts that natural selection is a “non-random force.” He says there is an inherent determinism in natural selection. Multitudes of generations of genetic selection have caused the inevitable survivability of a species. There is a natural design and order in this process. My question is this: Is natural selection, and thus Darwinian evolution itself, something that is deterministic and non-random or is it truly random?
Let’s for a moment assume that Dawkins is right (an assumption that makes me shudder and causes bile to rise in my mouth). Let’s assume there is an orderly, genetically pre-determined process to natural selection. Assuming that evolution is true, let’s imagine that we are presented with two feline creatures on the way to becoming true tigers. Let’s call these proto-tigrine creatures T-1 and T-2. Now T-1 has been born with slightly different musculature than T-2. T-1 is faster and more agile than the other. It is more naturally fitted to survive and thrive.
Like modern tigers, these tigrine creatures are solitary hungers. So T-1 is more proficient in the hunt, better at bringing down his prey. T-1 has a better chance of survival than T-2. Now imagine that food is scarce. Normally these tigerish animals stay within their own territories, but hunger drives them to find food wherever possible. Eventually they both smell the scent of a proto-deer (who happens to be named Bambi). They both stalk their prey. T-1, being better fitted for the hunt, brings down this cervine beast first. Not willing to share (tigers are notoriously selfish creatures—just ask Shere Khan) T-1 will not allow T-2 any of the kill. T-1 gorges himself and lives to hunt another day. T-2 goes away hungry. Weary from malnutrition, he collapses in the shade of a rock, and is eaten alive by Kaaaa (distance ancestor of Kaa). According to Dawkins, this is not a random occurrence. This moment in the natural selection process has been fixed in place by generations of genetic modifications over the millennia of evolution that has engendered these two specific proto-tigrines. And the end result of all that evolutionary effort is the inevitable survival of T-1 and the death of T-2. Non-random. Determined. Neat, tidy and logical.
Let’s reconsider this. Even if we assume that natural selection is a non-random, determined process (which I do not), we must also recognize that there are any number of other factors at work in this scenario. To illustrate, let’s consider some alternative scenes.
Both T-1 and T-2 caught the scent of Bambi. But what if the wind had shifted just a bit and T-1 did not smell the beast? Result: T-1 goes hungry and dies. Cause of event: Chance.
What if T-1 were to step in a hole and break his leg? T-2 makes the kill. Result: T-1 goes hungry and dies. Cause of event: Chance.
What if a herd of elephants just happened to come by and slowed down T-1’s approach of Bambi? Result: T-1 goes hungry and dies. Cause of event: Chance.
What if Bambi fell off a cliff on the way to the “rendezvous point.” Neither predator gets to eat. Result: T-1 and T-2 both go hungry and die. Cause of event: Chance.
What if that herd of elephants got spooked and stampeded? The herd runs down poor Bambi. Neither predator gets to eat. Result: T-1 and T-2 both go hungry and die. Cause of event: Chance.
What if Bambi were not alone? What if there were several deer, and both predators get to eat?
Result: T-1 and T-2 both survive. Cause of event: Chance.
And consider this… what was that brought T-1’s parents together to mate and produce this genetically determined superior hunter in the first place? How many different random events occurred that caused this to happen—or how many events could have occurred that have prevented their union. Bottom line: Chance.
What if…. Well, you get the idea. We could go on and on spinning a myriad of possible tales. The point is that genetics is not the only factor involved in this scenario, in any such scenario. There are many varied factors. And each one is a contributing determiner of the final outcome. And each one is caused by pure chance, “non-random” genetics notwithstanding.
Even Dawkins admits this. In speaking of the branching that occurs in the development of the “evolutionary tree” he says this: “Each branching event is called a speciation: a breeding population splits into two, and they go their separately evolving ways. Among sexually reproducing species, speciation is said to have occurred when the two gene pools have separated so far that they can no longer interbreed. Speciation begins by accident.”  Note the last sentence. What causes a branch to occur, speciation to happen? Accident.
If there is no Creator, no Designer, no Mind with an overarching purpose then there is no assurance of anything. All is random. All occurs by change.
All? Yep. All.
Take it back further. As evolutionists would have it, mammals have become the dominant species on this planet because of the extinction of the dinosaurs. Why did this happen? No one knows for sure. Currently the most common theory is that a comet smashed into the earth about 65 million years ago, resulting in a planetary catastrophe which killed off the dinosaurs. Ever think about that event? What caused this particular comet to strike this particular planet in the first place? Was its trajectory nudged by passing near Jupiter, feeling the tug of that giant planet’s gravity? Was its path affected by interactions with other comets, asteroids, or just a multitude of bits of space detritus? We can’t reckon how many chance events resulted in this specific comet crashing into this specific planet.
Go back further still. If the evolutionist is right, then several billion years ago several molecules came together at just the right time, in just the right combination, in just the right environment to form some primeval proto-amino acids… which later would just happen to come together at just the right time, in just the right combination, in just the right environment to form some primeval amino acids… which later would just happen to come together at just the right time, in just the right combination, in just the right environment to form some primeval proteins… which later would just happen to come together at just the right time, in just the right combination, in just the right environment to form the necessary organic materials for life… which later…. Well, again, you get the picture.
Maybe (a BIG maybe) Dawkins might be right about natural selection. But natural selection is only one piece of a very large puzzle. Very large. Say, millions and billions of pieces. And it has all come together to the finished product we see today, activated and carried out by nothing more than random processes and chance occurrences.
What a different world this is from the Christian world. A different world entirely! In our world there is a Creator who sovereignly and omnisciently planned and ordered everything. Everything was purposefully designed as a piece of this huge puzzle, and fits just right because the divine Designer meant for it to fit. Nothing is random. Nothing was left to chance. There is meaning and purpose to each piece, and to the whole. And that means there is meaning and purpose for your existence!
 Dawkins is quoted at http://www.noanswersingenesis.org.au/dawkins_evolution.htm. Downloaded on January 30, 2015.