Complex systems, random and maths for biology

I am assuming that once the various factors on mutations are understood and perhaps quantified, than suitable mathematical treatments may be applied to address the question of randomness in evolution (since mutations are considered central to biological evolution).

Does this make sense to you?

As it stands, yes. Here is some understanding on non-random mutation. 10th line down: ‘Importantly, the variation is not random’, ‘the mutation rate has been evolutionarily optimized to reduce the risk of deleterious mutations’. I still can’t see a connection to Parisi’s work.

I have asked if anyone with a suitable background would see Paris’s work as relevant since it has been applied to a number of complex systems. You do not see it as relevant.

On the question of random mutations and biological evolution, I refer you to numerous discussions on this site and discussion of the subject by Collins in his book, “The Language of God”.

I have looked at a few papers that discuss non-random mutations and from what I can see, they examine samples that have undergone changes, note frequencies (or bins), and then discuss the data as non-random. This is fine, but as these also note, the mechansims may not be well understood.

In any event, the notion of random evolution has been discussed by many so I would ask where you stand on this.

As the extract above shows, that’s what evolution does. As EC would agree. Which doesn’t help TE-ID-YEC at all. Evolution, aka life, protects itself as best it can.

On this one I am with @Klax and Darwin. Darwin was clear that evolution is based on both Variation (genetic change) and Natural Selection (selection of positive changes over negative one.)

Sadly evolution has become primarily the story of genetics or mutations, which is false. Natural selection governs the direction of evolution, but we do not understand how it works because it is not survival of the fittest.

One thing that seems strange to me is that we do not appreciate the way that SEX stimulates variation for evolution. This is God/Natures most interesting inventions.

@Klax is right! Evolution or natural selection is way more complicated than genetics, which is maybe why it seems we have not seriously tried to understand it.

Why did the dinosaurs and many other species die out?

Because their time was over and it was time to move on. God is guiding evolution and life toward higher forms though changes in the environment. However, now climate change is determined primarily by humans, which means that WE are primarily responsible for the results. God forgive us for our hardness of heart.

The notion of random and variation has been accepted by biologists for many years - the statement by Gould is often quoted (if it is started again, we would get a different result).

Collins in his book, The Language of God states:

Darwin proposed that all living species are descended from
a small set of common ancestors—perhaps just one. He held
that variation within a species occurs randomly, and that the
survival or extinction of each organism depends upon its ability
to adapt to the environment. This he termed natural selection.
Recognizing the potentially explosive nature of the argument,
he hinted that this same process might apply to humankind,
and developed this more fully in a subsequent book, The Descent
of Man… and … descent from a common ancestor with natural selection operating
on randomly occurring variations. and

The most major current objections to BioLogos arise, however,
from believers in God who simply cannot accept that God
would have carried out creation using such an apparently random,
potentially heartless, and inefficient process as Darwinian
evolution. After all, they argue, evolutionists claim that the
process is full of chance and random outcomes. If you rewound
the clock several hundred million years, and then allowed evolution to proceed forward again, you might end up with a very
different outcome.

I would appreciate comments that dealt with these notions of random. The conclusions adopted by TE/EC advocates has been that evolution is random to us but not to God. So I cannot see how this argument is developed by denying that it is random from the outlook of biologists.

My personal view is that biological processes and mechanisms are extremely complex and the Darwinian paradigm is too primitive to provide a scientifically satisfying (or adequate) understanding, notwithstanding the arguments from biologists. Extensions of this theory to other areas is thus inappropriate. However, should a mathematical formulation that may deal with such extreme complexity be developed, we may obtain a greater understanding of biological processes.

I would never start from there. I can see that TE somehow believes that meaningless oxymoron, but not EC. Unless you can show otherwise?

God’s guidance and direction through his providence in people’s lives, not breaking any natural laws and undetectable by science, is a macroscopic view of how he guides and directs in evolution. Even though we have good evidence for the former, it is deniable and there certainly will be deniers, so too his sovereignty over biological evolution (and cosmological, as well).

Collins was mistaken about this statement about Darwin. Darwin’s view was survival of the fittest which is not about adaption to the environment, but the struggle for survival against others of one’s own species.

The one of the basic problems that Christianity had from the beginning was the ruthless struggle for survival which found a voice in Social Darwinism, which was not an aberration. Adaption to the environment solves this problem, and it seems that there was a time during the last 100 years when “science” seems to have accepted this as the definition of Natural Selection. Why it reverted to Darwinian old time religion I can’t say, since it was the time of the Selfish Gene I suspect Dawkins had a lot to do with it.

The process is random according to Dawkins, and cruel since might make for fitness, and inefficient because it is not rational, but it is not science vs anti-science as both ID and Dawkins try to make it. It is science that offers a good explanation as adaption vs. that which does not, survival of the fittest.

Again the aspect of evolution that brings order into the randomness of variation is natural selection. Until we try to understand this, and adaptation is a great place to start, we will be cursed with the confusion, distrust, and division that plague our society.

Randomness I think is a tricky business. If you represent any set of events, either finite or infinite, you can always develop a function or number for them that conforms to a particular logical structure. For example, pi is irrational (infinite with non-repeating digits) but it can be written down mathematically as a compact, logical and rational mathematical expression (an infinite series expression, although all the terms can’t be written out, only to any finite number of digits). God would evidently know (as an omnipotent being) what the mathematical expressions for all events expressed as an infinite series are.


Be that as it may, Darwinian evolution (biology) is presented as a theory that has been verified by mountains of data (or evidence). My view is that any theory of science that makes such claims will (is) inevitably treated at a mathematical level that encompasses fundamental events.

The paradigm of biology is inevitably reduced to semantics and the question of the random nature is caught up in these semantics. Instead, research has shown a complex series (or sets) of factors are in play, and I would have expected that these would (or should) bring about a shift from semantics (variation and natural selection), to a mathematical treatment that unifies all observations - this is more or less a standard development in the physical sciences, even as early approximations.

I have assumed that theistic evolution (TE) is similar or the same as evolutionary creationism (EC). Perhaps you may clarrify.

I am afraid I cannot follow your reasoning -variation is thought to be grounded in random events and natural selection seems to mean that any variations that survive their changes are somehow selected. I think you may have a novel outlook. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Here is the problem with what you say. You are assuming that evolution is a single linear system, when it is not.

Evolution is actually the result of the combination of two very different systems, Variation and Natural Selection. These differences and complexities, given to us by the wisdom of God, prevent evolution from being reduced to mathematics.
One is random and the other is not.

It’s about the word order.

Theistic Evolution makes evolution primary.

Evolutionary Creation makes creation primary.

I like my reality layered, superpositioned, perichoretic not either or. Like God, immanent and transcendent.

God creates nature as if He didn’t. How He creates the transcendent is something else, we have no idea, apart from the fact that it will be somewhat obvious He’s doing it. Unlike nature.

God is the transcendent ground of being, natural and supernatural, which is immanent in Him. Natural being does what it has to do by the prevenient laws of physics, which are none of God’s humble business, apart from eternally instantiating them. God’s only intervention in nature apart from that is by incarnating, and by the Spirit, including resurrection from natural oblivion. He doesn’t do evolution. Nature does, autonomously. He does nature.

God intervenes with >50-sigma lottery wins, changing lives. Rich Stearns has a cool sequence of them. Many others do, too.

I am not assuming anyhting of the kind.

Where do miracles come from in your view? Are they inherent in the natural order under certain conditions? Are they what you call “by the Spirit”? If so, how does the supernatural and natural interact as you seem to imply if they are separate for the Spirit to act? It would seem to me that God creates the immanent and the transcendent from himself somehow - if there are two major classifications of reality. It would seem impossible to create something from nothing. I have never heard any kind of satisfactory resolution or explanations for the paradox that arise from claims that something from nothing can be caused under certain circumstances. God is confined by impossibilities, of which this may be one.

Obviously things have to be grounded in some type of order for there to appear order (or perhaps maybe it is only apparent order like certain long sequences in irrational numbers that have apparent order but are actually non-repeating in the whole). For example, one can have a very very large sequence of repeating numbers that still breaks down into being non-repeating within the irrational and transcendental number eventually (This can be seen in a thought experiment where the number is bigger than any number that could ever be conceivably generated by a very large number of supercomputers (say number of subatomic particles in the universe) from all the possible generated intervals within quantum theory’s uncertainty for the largest possible number of years for the universe to have existed raised to some ridiculous order of magnitude (to ensure uniqueness such as a googolplex)). The number is finite but still impossible to generate by any conceivable method in a finite time which we live in - the sequence would exceed this but eventually stop having a repeating pattern even though it appeared to to be to any number of digits possible to calculate. There would also be no way to somehow guess the pattern or function as the number creates an uncertainty impossible to generate in any way empirically in finite time. Perhaps nature is ultimately like this. And so would God, His attributes would no doubt have to be infinite to completely describe Him (but like my thought experiment, impossible to empirically validate and therefore impossible to know it was actually God with His attributes or just a very powerful being with a very large number of attribute details (not to mention that we would not know what all His attributes even were and the details to be sure it was Him!)).

Most of what you say is unproveable and requires massive assumptions. God is unproveable unless you are God which is kind of a tautology. Consistency, coherence, etc. don’t work so well (or possibly at all) when what is being discussed involve potentially unknown types of infinities. Probability theory also becomes problematic because of infinities and assumptions. I think we tend to think we can answer questions like this because we have had some success with understanding relatively simple patterns of nature involving physics etc. These things are nothing compared to the complexity of dealing with concepts that seem far beyond current modern mathematical knowledge let alone physics, chemistry etc.

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Miracles aren’t natural, although nature at ground is miraculous. The supernatural interacts with nature, above grounding it, according to its will. It acts in and around incarnation, and resonates, Zens in Rogerian fashion.

And yes, there is only the Monad. One. One beyond infinite and beyond eternal entity. One substance. One Supernature. The immanent and transcendent creation are God, which, who is not just them. If no God then nature certainly creates ex nihilo. Nihilo is unstable. God may well paradoxically instantiate nihilo. It does the rest autonomously. The story tells itself in God. As the best do.

Grounding instantiates, concretizes prevenient, abstract order. The order isn’t random, and there are no repeat sequences in irrational numbers - created by finite sequences of multiplications, divisions, additions, subtractions, exponents, and roots - that break down. That’s the disappointing flaw in Sagan’s magnificent Contact. A sequence in a transcendental number generated by an infinite series. Chaos, randomness is a function of order. The order in the laws of nature doesn’t come in to being with irrational laws. As soon as anything can exist, it shapes up. WAIT till you get to 1:20

(Hmmm. What does one call a number that is not possible on a number line and not complex? 111…0111… for example? Transfinite for a start?)

If something other than nature does nature, it’s someone. We have no basis for believing in someone, from nature. Nature alone doesn’t require someone. Nature + Jesus does. And the someone can’t be just anyone, someone Lovecraftian; evil.

Proof is for mathematics and science. This is just very basic, minimal, parsimonious, rational thinking.

We agree that variation is random and natural selection “somehow” selects in those variations which survive and flourish. The question is the “somehow.” For science to say that something somehow happens is like saying that “God did it.”

This “somehow” is what I am trying to discuss. The original Darwinian answer was “survival of the fittest,” which is meaningless, because fitness is not scientifically defined.

My suggestion of “survival of the better adapted to the environment” is not novel. Stephen Jay Gould in Wonderful Life wrote, “Evolutionary change … is produced by forces of natural selection arising from the external environment … .”

While doing research I found on a Smithsonian website reference to the “Environmental variability hypothesis: The hypothesis that adaptation to a variable environment, rather than a static environment or directional change, has characterized human evolution.” From this I gather that “survival of the better adapted to the environment” is a very viable understanding of natural selection in much of the scientific world. If BioLogos is not included, that is our fault.

Humans survived and flourished because we were better adapted to the environment after the Ice Age than the Neanderthals.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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