In its recent decision in Derwin v. State U., the State Supreme Court ordered the State University to award Charles Derwin the degree of doctor of philosophy. Derwin admitted that his case, which he lost in all the lower courts, depended upon one sarcastic statement made in writing by Prof. Stickler of the faculty panel, which heard his defense of his graduate thesis. The bylaws of the University in awarding the degree of doctor of philosophy require unanimous approval of the faculty panel by written yes or no voting. The members of the panel are free to offer verbal or written criticism during and after the defense, but must mark their ballots simply yes or no. However, in casting the lone negative vote, Prof. Stickler wrote in addendum to his ‘No’, “If Derwin and his major advisor were to submit an article for publication reporting the experimental results of Derwin’s thesis, I suggest they submit it to The Journal of Random Results or to The Journal of Darwinian Evolution.”
Derwin’s legal team argued that Stickler violated the university bylaws by adding the written addendum as well as academic decorum by its sarcasm. Further, and most importantly, they argued that Prof. Stickler exposed his own incompetence to judge the thesis by his attempt to belittle Darwinian Evolution. By this Stickler had disqualified himself as a judge of the thesis panel. The State Supreme Court agreed and ordered the State University to award the degree in accord with the university bylaws requiring unanimous approval by the thesis panel. The Court noted that the university bylaws allow for a panel of six to eight faculty members. The panel, which heard the defense of his thesis by Derwin, consisted of seven, including Prof. Stickler. The Court also ruled that the academic level arguments presented in the lower courts by both sides regarding ‘random results’ in general and ‘random mutation’ in the particular case of Darwinian evolution, were simply of academic interest and irrelevant to the legal case.
For their academic interest those arguments are presented here.
Prof. Stickler stated that random experimental results are of no scientific value and that Derwin conceded the results he reported in his thesis could be characterized as random. Stickler argued that even those, who contend that genetic mutation is random, claim that Darwinian evolution is non-random, and therefore scientific, even though their claim is erroneous. Stickler attributed the following quote to Emeritus Prof. Richard Dawkins of Oxford University as his response to the question, “Could you explain the meaning of non-random?” Dawkins replied, “Of course, I could. It’s my life’s work. There is random genetic variation and non-random survival and non-random reproduction. . . That is quintessentially non-random. . . . Darwinian evolution is a non-random process. . . . It (evolution) is the opposite of a random process.” (Ref.1).
Stickler stated that Dawkins’ argument that Darwinian evolution is non-random and therefore, scientific, does not hold water. He noted that the pool of genetic mutants subjected to natural selection in Darwinian evolution is formed by random mutation. The pool’s containing the mutant capable of surviving natural selection is a matter of probability. Consequently, the success of natural selection cannot be 100%. Evolutionary success is equal to the probability of the presence of at least one copy of the survivable mutant in the pool subjected to natural selection and is therefore random.
In his rebuttal, Derwin agreed with Stickler that Darwinian evolution was indeed characterized by probability and randomness. However, the universal scientific acceptance of Darwinian evolution indicates that random results are indeed scientific, which he noted was the pertinent issue in the case.
Stickler’s counter argument was to note that Darwinian evolution is based on data consisting of a series of cycles, each cycle consisting of the proliferation of genetically variant forms and their diminishment to a single form. Darwinian evolution explains such cycles by the hypothesis of the random generation of genetic variants and their reduction to singularity by natural differential survival. Stickler claimed the data could also be explained by what he called ‘The inverse Darwinian Theory of Evolution’. The inverse theory explains the same cyclic data of the standard theory, but as the non-random, natural generation of genetic variants by scientifically identifiable material processes and the reduction of this pool of genetic variants to singularity by random, differential survival.
Deciding which hypothesis, if either, was valid would require some ingenuity beyond the stipulated data of the proliferation and diminishment of variant genetic mutations. He noted, however, that the inverse hypothesis would be rejected a priori by the claim that we know at least some of the scientific factors affecting differential survival, so it could not be hypothesized that differential survival was random. This, Stickler claimed, demonstrates that randomness and probability cannot be proffered as a scientific explanation. He said, “If randomness is rejected a priori as scientifically untenable as an explanation of variant survival because differential survival is due to scientific material processes, then randomness must be rejected a priori as scientifically untenable as an explanation for the generation of genetic variants for the same reason. If randomness is sauce for the goose of scientifically variant generation, randomness must potentially be sauce for the gander of scientifically variant survival. In fact it is sauce, i.e. the mathematics of randomness and probability is a tool of ignorance to cover a gap in scientific knowledge. It is in the context of the absence of the scientific knowledge of genetics in the mid-nineteenth century that made it seem plausible at that time to propose ignorance of the scientific knowledge of material processes, that is, to propose random changes, as part and parcel of a scientific theory.”
In response, Derwin noted that quantum mechanics, perhaps the most basic of the sciences, is recognized as founded on probability and therefore randomness. (Ref.2).
1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD1QHO_AVZA (minute 38:56)