Evolution is not a random process

20th January 2006 at 00:00
I share Peter Wilby's indignation at the possibility of creationism or intelligent design being taught in science lessons ("Grand designs on religion and biology", TES, January 13).

However I am dismayed that the case for science in science classes should presented by one who is clearly confused about the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection.

As a published evolutionary biologist, I am delighted that "the mainstream church cannot accept evolution is an entirely random process": neither can I. Mutation, the process which generates variation in populations of organisms, is indeed a random process; natural selection, the differential survival and reproduction of individuals with advantageous characteristics which leads to the development of complex biological structures, is fundamentally non-random.

Many creationist arguments centre on the impossibility of generating complex structures by random processes and use examples of supposed "irreducible complexity". Such arguments rest upon sophistry, rhetoric and the classic creationist "straw man" that evolution is random; they must be carefully, clearly and transparently refuted.

Bill Burnett St Paul's school Lonsdale Road, London SW13

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