I don’t speak that much about the Evolution-Creation debate in comparison to other Science Bloggers. Fundamentally, it is because I find the elucidation of the fact of evolution far more fascinating at this point in my life than an analysis of the meta-scientific and cultural issues revolving around the Creationist response to evolutionary science. But today I checked the genetics & evolution query on google news as is my habit, and I stumbled upon this blog entry, Mathematicians and Evolution by Casey Luskin. Most of you probably know him, and I’ll leave it to others to appraise this individual.
But, I will make two points. Mathematicians play an essential role in evolutionary science, both R.A. Fisher and J.B.S. Haldane took degrees in mathematics, not biology (Haldane also took a classics). Fisher outlined the core of the Neo-Darwian Synthesis with his genetical theory of natural selection. Obviously mathematicians have been crucial to the foundation of evolutionary biology, and they will continue to be. But, both Fisher and Haldane were evolutionary biologists, their colleagues were empirical biologists, field workers and laboratory experimentalists. Both were steeped in the culture of evolutionary biology and so their mathematical expertise was applied to the greatest effect. The problem of course emerges when individuals comment on evolutionary biology in passing. A facility with modeling and deductive formalism does not endow one with magical powers to just “drop in” and speak ex cathedra, the main problem being that mathematical models by their nature simplify reality, and the selection of relevant parameters and the discarding of variables is contingent on biological, not mathematical, considerations.
Second, this quote from Stanislaw Ulam is staggering:
“[I]t seems to require many thousands, perhaps millions, of successive mutations to produce even the easiest complexity we see in life now. It appears, naively at least, that no matter how large the probability of a single mutation is, should it be even as great as one-half, you would get this probability raised to a millionth power, which is so very close to zero that the chances of such a chain seem to be practically non-existent.”