Evolution and Chance

Evolution and Chance - Evolution and Chance Different...

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Evolution and Chance Different Senses of Chance We need to distinguish between two senses of "random": the one kind that involves a total break in the causal chain, and in which the event is essentially chaotic; the other that requires only unpredictability, such as the decay of unstable atoms, or Brownian motion, but which remains a caused event. These get confused all the time. There is nothing about changes in a genome or a gene pool that is random in the first sense, but much of the second sense. For example, shuffling a deck of cards results in a properly physical process of the rearrangement of each card, yet there is no real way to predict the order of a random shuffle. Cards don't just materialise in place, but you don't know what you will end up with (unless you bias the shuffling so it isn't random). Gould [1993: 396f] has written about the different senses of "random" and "chance" in science: "In ordinary English, a random event is one without order, predicatability or pattern. The word connotes disaggregation, falling apart, formless anarchy, and fear. Yet, ironically, the scientific sense of random conveys a precisely opposite set of associations. A phenomenon governed by chance yields maximal simplicity, order and predictability--at least in the long run. . .. Thus, if you wish to understand patterns of long historical sequences, pray for randomness." Why is this? It has to do with the nature of explanation. An explanation is an answer to a set of
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Evolution and Chance - Evolution and Chance Different...

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