Intelligence. How?

Question from Chan:
How does chance and random variation create human intelligence with all its “design capabilities”?

If evolution is driven by chance and necessity does it mean that human intelligence is merely an illusion?

Answer by SmartLX:
If evolution were purely a matter of random variations, it wouldn’t produce anything useful. Fortunately for us there’s a second major element, and it’s the one Darwin figured out: natural selection. Out of all the mutations in a given species (and, for instance, each new human has about 120) the ones which are actually useful become the most persistent in future generations, simply because they help their hosts to survive and procreate a little better than their peers.

It’s like dispatching a thousand people to search a ruin for treasure; most of them might find nothing, but when one guy turns up a gold coin more of the people will search in that area. It’s a highly inefficient process, but it can afford to be because evolution has had billions of years and trillions of individual life forms in which to work.

As for human intelligence, it’s a natural extension of the intelligence we see in dogs or apes. Dogs can learn jobs and tricks, and some apes can even make tools so “design capabilities” are not unique to humans. Smarter creatures generally work out ways to survive and outdo their competitors, so for any creature with a brain there’s some upward “selection pressure” on intelligence. After hundreds of millions of years of competing animals, it’s not so surprising that an animal as intelligent as homo sapiens has emerged.

There are some philosophical ideas that everything is an illusion, but intelligence is no more illusive than any other abstract concept of a physical quality, because it has effects in the real world. It can be tested, for example with IQ tests (which test very limited areas of intelligence, but still). There are things only animals of a certain level of intelligence can do, like recognise themselves in a mirror. We have a set of criteria which will allow us to acknowledge when computers achieve artificial intelligence, though these have not yet been met. Anyway, the process that produced intelligence in natural creatures is irrelevant to whether it’s a real thing now. There’s enough evidence that it is.

So I Have This Friend…

Question from Chris:
I have a friend who I just found out does not approve of equality for homosexuals, doesn’t believe in the majority of science (mainly evolution and plate tectonics), and also makes really ignorant and pretentious comments about stuff he clearly knows nothing about. I see him everyday, at least twice, and have a raging deisre inside me to say something back to him, what do I do?

Answer by SmartLX:
The obvious answer would be to actually say something back to him. You didn’t say why you haven’t done it already; care to comment and elaborate?

Generally speaking, if you want to challenge someone’s position on something, attack the position and not the person. You say this person is largely ignorant of the things he discusses; well, the simplest antidote to that is education. See how he reacts to a bit of evidence, there’s plenty around. Let us know if you want a bit of guidance in your own research.

I can be much more specific if you are, so go ahead and say what’s going on and what you need. From what you’ve said so far, I doubt your friend would read this site and find your writings. That said, you could even encourage him to write in with his own questions and/or challenges. If you warn us first, we can erase your stuff so he won’t see it. Just let us know how we can help.

Darwin and the Great Eugenics Cover-up…?

Question from Yarov:
Darwinian Evolution, Darwin and the scientific community played a big role in eugenics.

Eugenics played a big role in America mainly because of the idea of natural selection and Darwinian evolution.

It was mainly conservative Christian groups who opposed eugenics.
These groups were mainly the one who ended eugenics.

Eugenics represented mainstream science, and many colleges like Harvard, Standford, Princeton, Columbia were affiliated with eugenics.

This part of America’s history is hidden from America’s society and scientific community.

– Why is this history hidden?

– How does an atheist respond to this if this is a big part of Darwinian evolution?

– If we go back to Darwin’s books we can see some morbid views on how the sick should be treated. Why did he have these views?

Answer by SmartLX:
Eugenics as practiced in the United States in the early 20th century was pioneered (and in fact the word “eugenics” was invented) by the Englishman Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, after he read Darwin’s book The Origin of Species. However, Galton’s jumping-off point was not Darwin’s actual theory of natural selection but rather the very first chapter on “variation under domestication”. The chapter contains descriptions of plant breeding and animal husbandry, in other words artificial selection, going right back to ancient Egypt. Galton’s idea was to use the same approach, which pre-dated Darwin by thousands of years, to breed better humans. He might have gotten the same idea from visiting any farm in Britain, but it happened to come to him after reading his cousin’s writings on the subject.

If it’s true that conservative Christian groups were at the forefront of the anti-eugenics movement, it’s hardly surprising.
– Firstly, once the Nazis started to practice eugenics it became widely unpopular anyway, and American Christian groups would have seen which way the wind was blowing – and it would have helped the image of Christianity as a whole to have an anti-eugenics faction, since the Nazis were ostensibly Catholic.
– Secondly, conservative Christian groups tend to oppose any area of scientific research which challenges the idea that only God can determine who we are and what we will become. At the moment, this opposition is aimed squarely at stem-cell research and genetic engineering.

Regardless, the history of eugenics is not hidden from the American public or any scientists. It’s all on Wikipedia, Galton’s work is freely available in the public domain and the major eugenics experiments which took place are very well documented in the peer-reviewed literature of the time. It’s no secret to anybody. You learned about it without much difficulty, I take it.

You may mean instead that the history of eugenics is not normally a part of educational material on Darwinian evolution. This is for two reasons.
1. Knowing the history of Darwin himself, let alone his cousin or other scientists who later claimed his work supported them, is not necessary for people to understand the theory of evolution by natural selection. It’s superfluous to the teaching of what is now established as scientific fact.
2. Eugenics grew out of the idea of artificial selection, not natural selection. It is fundamentally a craft to be practiced, not an explanation of existing organic structures and features. It is far removed from Darwin’s theory and not at all useful as teaching material, unless all you want to teach is that Darwin begat evil.

Finally, I think this is what you mean about Darwin’s views on treating the sick. It’s from Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Sounds pro-eugenics, right? That’s because it’s maliciously misquoted, quietly leaving out parts which completely change the meaning of the passage. Here it is in full, along with the following paragraph:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.


To summarise, Darwin discouraged restrictions on human breeding as contrary to human nature, except possibly when the whole human race is in dire peril from some “overwhelming present evil” which he did not define. The above, Yarov, shows how badly you have to mangle his words to make him sound like the monster which creationists, and Intelligent Design proponents (i.e. other creationists), make him out to be.

Becoming Human…Not

Question from Erica:
If evolution exists wouldn’t it still be going on today? Wouldn’t every animal species be evolving into humans since we are at the top of the food chain?

Answer by SmartLX:
Even if they were all doing that, it would be so gradual that you probably wouldn’t notice. You might be able to look at ancient paintings of animals and remark that today’s animals looked a teensy-weensy bit more humanoid, but you wouldn’t see any significant changes in the space of your own lifetime.

Evolution has no objective. It doesn’t try to push everything to the top of the food chain, or make every animal more intelligent. Evolution itself has no intelligence, because it is not an entity with any sort of will; it’s an emergent process resulting from the non-random selection of random mutations. In lieu of objectives it does have effects, such as increases in biological complexity (in nearly all cases) and improved survival and procreation mechanisms in persistent populations.

For humans and their immediate ancestors, becoming more able to survive did mean standing upright, growing smarter and using tools. For cheetahs, it meant growing faster, and therefore it meant the same thing for antelopes and gazelles. (Of the five fastest land animals in the world, two hunt the other three.) For some dogs and cats it meant becoming more “personable”, facilitating beneficial relationships with humans (though once that happened, humans began applying artificial selection to both animals). For a tree, it may simply mean growing taller, or poisoning the animals that try to eat its leaves.

Some species have pretty much given up on surviving reliably as individuals and put all their biological resources into procreation instead. Insects and rabbits breed like wildfire, so that even if most of them are killed some will remain. Grass grows back even if nearly all of it is eaten, poisoned or pulled up. And of course, some species have developed great methods of both surviving and procreating.

You’ll have heard the expression “survival of the fittest”. It means that those life forms that are best adapted to (or “fit for”) their surroundings will likely survive and pass on their genes to the most offspring. That suitability for staying alive long enough to reproduce is ultimately the only metric that matters in evolution. The advantages of being human are only one way of many to achieve that condition, so there’s no pressure on animals that get along perfectly well being different from us to become more like us.

Evolution is indeed going on today, slowly but surely. Just not like that.

Questionpalooza

Question from Tim:
I am an honest questioner/agnostic looking for answers. I was born into a Christian denomination, but no longer go to church.

Anyway, here are my questions for you:

1. Assuming evolution is true (and I believe it is), then shouldn’t you allow for the fact that since the Bible was written by human beings, and human beings evolve, so did God in the Bible? In the Old Testament, he was an angry God, but by the New Testament he was a loving God. Why do atheists continue to pick on the Old Testament God who is no longer relavent to our modern day society?

2. A follow-up to #1. The New Testament makes it clear that “God is Love”. Surely, atheists believe in love. Yet, you do not believe in God. Isn’t that a contradiction?

3. Why is it perfectly acceptable for scientists to make and believe in ‘theories’, yet it is not okay to believe in the theory of God, if we may call it that?

4. If atheists believe in ‘nothing’, then isn’t that much the same as believing in God? By that I mean, you cannot prove that ‘nothing’ exists, can you? Show me where ‘nothing’ exists in this world. Isn’t everything made up of something?

5. Why do atheists seem so hostile to even the possibility of God existing? Why can’t God be treated as a possible scientific explanation for the creation of the universe? It seems to me that it is just as hard to believe (if not harder) that there are multiple universes or that this universe was a random mistake that just somehow occured? Until we know the true reasons for the origin of the universe, why not keep God on the table as one possible answer just like any other, since none of the others have been proven yet either?

I may have some more questions for you later, but these are the main ones for now. I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions on these matters, and I will consider them seriously.
Thank you for your time.

Answer by SmartLX:
Hi Tim.

1. Whether God is angry or loving only matters if you think God exists, so it’s of far more importance to theists than atheists, but we do tend to use it to challenge the basis of religious morality.

Whether God is more loving in the New Testament is debatable, because the Old Testament has no concept of Hell as currently understood by Christians. God doesn’t start condemning people to eternal punishment until the Gospels, so for those on His bad side, love doesn’t count for much. The whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice is morally questionable, as no other scapegoat has ever truly absolved anyone of responsibility for their own actions.

The idea of God evolving undermines the idea of divine morality even further. if God’s ideas of right and wrong can change, humans must live in constant fear that God will change His mind again, and a lifetime of good works will be invalidated or a sinful life suddenly vindicated.

2. Love is a function of the brain. It’s not an ethereal presence which floats around us, it’s an abstract description of an integral part of the human experience. When we talk about love, we’re describing what people do for and feel about each other. What Christian would accept that God is nothing more than bio-electrical activity and an abstract human concept?

No, God as envisioned by Christians (and of course the New Testament) is more than love. He’s an intelligent agent with His own will and powers independent of human beings. When Christians say “God is love” they are giving credit to God for all love, but they’re not limiting him to the scope of love. Love doesn’t literally bring people back from the dead, but a god apparently can. That’s why atheists can quite happily accept the existence of love, but still question the existence of God.

3. The existence of God is a hypothesis, not a theory as understood by scientists. A scientific theory, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.” God is a possible explanation for various things, yes, but God has not been confirmed to any extent through observation of and experiments on the natural world. When people deride evolution as “only a theory”, they don’t realise that their alternatives of creationism and “intelligent design” are not even that.

That said, the existence of God could be said to be a scientific hypothesis because it’s either true or it isn’t, and it could in principle be supported or contradicted by physical evidence. That’s no reason to think it’s at all likely, but it’s something.

4. Firstly, atheists don’t believe in “nothing” because there is at least something. We exist, and we live in some kind of a world, even if our senses are completely misguided. That’s something. Atheists also variously believe all kinds of things unrelated to gods, such as that everyone deserves an education, or that hard work pays off, or that ghosts are real, or that 9/11 was an inside job. It depends on the person.

I think what you mean is that atheists believe that there are no gods. Some do, and that’s called “strong atheism”, but most atheists simply lack a belief in any god. A god is a huge thing to believe in, and if there isn’t any apparent evidence for one, why would you? If no god has sufficient evidence to inspire belief in you, what you’re left with is atheism.

5. As I said, God is a possible explanation for the universe. Being an atheist doesn’t mean completely ruling out that possibility, it just means not thinking it’s really the case. There are plenty of agnostic atheists around, including me.

The nice thing about the idea of multiple universes is that there could be any number of them, up to and including an infinite number. If there are anything like that many, with a decent amount of variance between them, then the development of at least one universe with intelligent life in it becomes not just likely but a statistical certainty. That aside, without other universes to compare to this one, we don’t know how likely it is that a universe will have properties that allow life to form somewhere, whether there’s one universe or many. Rather than a random mistake, life-friendly properties might be common or even inevitable, such that life is an expected by-product of universes. Life as a whole does seem like the kind of bloody-minded (so to speak) organism that you’d pick up in your travels and struggle to shake off.

If you have related questions, feel free to comment here and carry on the discussion, otherwise go ahead and post unrelated questions as a new entry.

Irreducible Complexity and Irredeemable Credulity

Question from Tomas:
What is your take on Irreducible Complexity? From what I have read, it appears to be Intelligent Design in a new wrapper but it does have some new arguments to it.

Also, it seems like any new religious “hypothesis” on the existence of God (or any god) is an old one that is simply retold to account for any existing argument against it. Isn’t that proof that their “hypotheses” are just efforts to grasp at straws since none of them have held up against any scrutiny?

Why can’t people who claim to believe in God (or supernatural entity) just simply have faith? Why must they try to prove it with facts which ultimately disprove their God?

Answer by SmartLX:
For those who came in late, irreducible complexity is the idea that certain biological mechanisms such as the eye and the bacterial flagellum cannot have evolved gradually, because if they were one step less complex or if they were missing one component then they wouldn’t work at all, which is not beneficial and therefore would not be naturally selected. It’s a specific type of the general creationist argument that evolution can’t have produced something or other.

If something were actually established as genuinely irreducibly complex, then by definition it really couldn’t have evolved. Where it falls over is that nothing has ever been established as such. The mechanisms and physical features which are presented as irreducibly complex invariably have very good explanations of how they likely evolved. These explanations usually (always?) pre-date the idea of irreducible complexity, sometimes by over a century, which means those using the argument haven’t even checked to see if it’s valid for their chosen biological object.

To give you a general idea of the explanations that exist, before we move on, there are a few possible sources of the kind of complexity that can appear irreducible.
– Multiple components can evolve in tandem.
– A slightly less complex version of something might have served an entirely different purpose until one last mutation turned it to its current function.
– A delicate structure might have formed in the presence of other supporting structures which were later dismantled and discarded, like scaffolding.

My series on the Great Big Arguments covers almost every kind of argument for God that it’s possible to make. Even the latest apologetics are heavily based on what has come before, to the extent that after 9 pieces I really don’t know what further Great Big Arguments I can write about. Even the last one was only on a variation. (Folks, let me know if I’ve missed something.)

An apologist would say that just because an argument has not been universally acknowledged as sound doesn’t mean it isn’t dead right, and the fact that people reject the arguments for God doesn’t mean He’s not real (and it’ll be their own problem when they face judgement). I say that just because an argument has been regularly refuted for years, decades or even centuries doesn’t mean it can’t still convince people who don’t know the refutations, and therefore pretty much all of the existing arguments are still useful when proselytising. Some organisations (such as dedicated apologetics ministry CARM) have actually advised against using certain convoluted arguments, but even these archaic rejects still crop up everywhere.

Some believers do keep their faith to themselves; it’s just that since we always hear from the bible-bashers instead, it’s easy to forget about the quiet ones. Those who do try to spread the faith, apart from simply wanting those around them to agree with them, are often commanded to do so by their religious leaders at all levels. It’s certainly easy to interpret most holy texts as demanding followers to recruit. Religions themselves would not have survived so long or become so popular if conversion and assimilation wasn’t an intrinsic part of their lifestyle. It’s a part that some believers reject, but those who embrace the call of the missionary are motivated to do the work for everyone.

Why isn’t evolution completely impossible?

Question from Abdul:
How can a undirected process create DNA that is way more complex than Microsoft or a quantum computer?

Simplicity cannot create complexity.

I don’t get Darwinian evolution, can you guys please help me out.

Answer by SmartLX:
Abdul, I thank you for correctly referring to evolution as an undirected process. Many who challenge it make a point of calling it a random process, which it certainly is not.

Complexity can indeed emerge from simplicity. The laws of the universe allow order and information to increase in a given area, usually with the help of an influx of energy. Otherwise there would be no increases in complexity at all, even with intelligent assistance; buildings could not be erected, coherent thoughts could not be assembled and ink could not be arranged to form words. Practically nothing we do would be possible, and physics wouldn’t be able to explain anything at all.

If an increase in order and complexity is physically possible, then how does it happen without guidance? It can definitely happen by chance, such as when the letters in alphabet soup float into the order of a word or a name, but just as often it happens by deterministic physical mechanisms doing their own thing. Evolution gets its raw material from mutations, which can duplicate genes in a sequence or recombine them in many different ways.

Once the mutations have happened, some life forms have the mutation and some don’t. If the mutation has any effect, positive or negative, on the likelihood that a life form will survive and procreate, then over multiple generations the proportions of the population with and without the mutation will change. Over thousands of generations, mutations upon mutations can have profound effects on the nature of the life forms. Life has had about 3 billion years to compound this effect and produce the immense biological diversity we see today.

If there really were a saying as simple as “simplicity cannot create complexity” that immediately disproved Darwin’s theory of evolution, it would not have survived for 150 years. Most scientists barely have the resources to do their own research, let alone sustain a massive worldwide conspiracy to pretend that a bogus theory is valid. Why would they do that anyway? It’s a terrible way to promote atheism, for example, because many scientists are still religious and many religious people accept evolution. No, the theory has survived as a scientific theory because it has enormous explanatory power, requires very few assumptions and is backed by a mountain of evidence.

DNA and Information

Question from Koalanu:
If the DNA structure is simply an illusion, is it possible for the monkey theorem to be true?

Could this also mean that the structure of reason, creativity, and emotion – could these all be illusions within our head?

Can we compare the complexity of DNA and Microsoft together?

Thank you guys soo much, I’ve been tryna look for an answer, but these questions have been bugging me a lot.

Answer by SmartLX:
The structure of DNA is not an illusion, unless you get all philosophical and suppose that the whole world could be an illusion. DNA is as real as anything else, and it’s really arranged in spiralling combinations of the four basic components: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine or A, C, G and T.

For DNA to allow for the monkey theorem, by which I reckon you mean the theory of evolution, it only has to do one thing: produce copies of itself, either directly or by the roundabout route of building a life form which then produces more DNA. It also has to do this imperfectly, so that the copies are not exactly the same as the original. (If it worked perfectly, there would be little or no change between generations.) Fortunately, this is exactly what DNA does, so the process of natural selection has all the raw material it needs.

Reasoning, creativity and emotion are products of the bio-electrical activity in our brains. We can be pretty sure of this because they can all be crippled if your brain is physically damaged. This doesn’t mean they’re illusions; it just means that we have abstract representations of the information we all process, because it’s easier to think that way.

DNA contains information of a very specific kind, namely strings of chemicals represented as, for example, ATCGGCGGTACTATCA. Microsoft products run on computers which store information as a series of bits, for example 0100100101010111. Both of these simple forms of information can, with a long enough series, represent just about anything. The difference is that the information in DNA has arisen naturally over a very long time, while most of the information at Microsoft was directly programmed in, or else generated by deliberately designed programs, very recently. (The rest is the result of data corruption.)

Hope that helps.

Science and Human Evolution

Question from EvoE:
What is the proof humans have evolved from a common ancestor? If the scientific method is observation, data collection, internal and external validity and reliability; then how can one observe human evolution?

Answer by SmartLX:
We don’t observe human evolution. Scientists genuinely don’t know whether it’s still happening, and discuss it often.

This means little, because science does not always require direct observation of a past event to confirm that it’s happened. If it did, the police would have to be present at every murder in order to charge any suspects. We can instead observe and collect evidence that humans have evolved from ancestors we share with other animals.

The evidence includes but is not limited to:

1. Comparative physiology
We often say we evolved from apes, but it’s just as correct to say that we are apes. Without even considering genetics, we can be classified as apes using physical characteristics such as our long arms, omnivorous teeth and lack of a large tail. It goes far beyond superficial physical qualities, because our internal organs and body chemistry have countless analogues in other primate bodies. We’ve even got some organs that are practically useless to us but essential to other primates, such as the appendix and the muscles for moving our ears. (These and other human vestigial organs speak loudly against the Intelligent Design proponents’ claim that all the similarities are due to the other animals having the same Designer. Why wouldn’t He just leave out the useless organs, rather than leave them in place to potentially kill us?)

2. Genetics
The genes linked to the analogous systems mentioned above can be sampled from each species and compared directly. Now that the whole human genome has been sequenced, it can be compared all at once to the genomes of other animals. The results are as expected: our DNA diverges less than 2% from some species of apes, such as chimpanzees and gorillas. (By comparison, the most distantly related humans differ from each other by about 0.1%.) As we compare ourselves to other non-primate mammals, reptiles, plants and so forth, the genetic difference rises accordingly, exactly as we would expect if we diverged from these other branches of life earlier on.

Even knowing single comparative facts, like that chimpanzees have one more chromosome than we do, we can predict and discover evidence of very specific biochemical events that happened during our own evolution, such as the mark where two of our ancestors’ chromosome pairs fused to make one of our own pairs, specifically Chromosome 2.

3. Observed natural and artificial selection (and speciation)
We have watched some species with relatively short life cycles breed and diversify to the point where two populations of the same animal became unable to breed with each other. We’ve conducted breeding programs which have deliberately achieved the same thing, just to see what’s needed for it to happen. These are instances of speciation, or the splitting of one species into two, because part of what defines species is that they can’t produce fertile offspring with other species. There have been billions of years for this kind of thing to happen all over the world without any external help, and there’s no reason to think our own origins are any different.

If you want the rest of the evidence, start at the Wikipedia page for evidence of common descent. It’s not solely concerned with humans, but a lot of it has to do with us. If there’s something specific there that you don’t accept, bring it up in a comment.

DNA and Intelligent Design

Question from John:
Can you believe in ID and Evolution? If not how can we prove that a undirected process created information and design within DNA? And if it was created by a misguided process does that mean that everything around us is simply a delusion?

Answer by SmartLX:
Many people, including some scientists and even biologists, believe that evolution happened but God or some other “designer” guided important parts of it, the main instance being the development of human beings. This position is known as theistic evolutionism. It’s not normally called “intelligent design” because self-proclaimed ID proponents like those in the Discovery Institute oppose undirected evolution explicitly; their goal is to establish their designer as necessary to the process, not just a possible part of it.

Undirected processes create additional information within DNA all the time through mutation, often under observation. The easiest-to-understand mechanism by which this happens is gene duplication: a small part of a genome is duplicated, changing the instructions it gives the same way an extra “o” changes “hot” to “hoot”. Here’s a video by Don Exodus which goes into more depth; I’m sure you can find many more.

By definition, an undirected process cannot create true design, which implies the existence of a designer. An undirected process can however create the appearance of design if a selection process exists which favours more elegant solutions to physical challenges, and that’s exactly what natural selection does. Even Richard Dawkins often says that living things look designed; this has no bearing on whether they really are.

Everything we sense around us might well be a badly distorted image of what’s really there, or even a complete hallucination, but we are able to test our surroundings and find consistency. When we let go of a ball, it always falls down (unless we’re underwater). When we feel something hot, it hurts us to touch it. We know from smell alone whether someone’s farted in our elevator. The world we see gives every impression of being a real, tangible world, even if we might not be seeing it as it truly is. Nobody said evolution produced perfect results, but it’s given us good enough senses to make some internal sense of the world and survive in it. That’s technically all we need.