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My friend's argument against evolution goes like this:

It is extremely unlikely that life as we know it evolved from a random mutation process because every organism is like a machine, in that one "mistake" could render the whole machine unworkable. What makes this even more unlikely is that harmful mutations are more likely to occur than beneficial ones. If evolution were true, it would not last very long, most likely.

My rebuttal goes like this:

While it is true that evolution is influenced by a random mutation process, this process is not random in the sense that all mutations are equally likely. When evolutionary biologists say mutations are random, they mean that the environment has no influence on the type or frequency of mutations. They do not mean that all mutations are equally likely to occur. In fact, if you look at certain mutations in humans, you'll see that mutation rates for certain phenotypes are not equal, which means we have unequal probabilities. Also, while it is true that harmful mutations are more likely to occur than beneficial ones, neutral mutations are the most likely of all. Another issue I have is that it only appears unlikely if we are just working with one organism, but if we have a whole population of organisms, mutating and reproducing, then your argument seems to be undermined by this fact.

Was my rebuttal good? Is there anything wrong with my friend's argument against evolution?

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    $\begingroup$ The best rebuttal is to point your friend to a resource where they can actually learn about evolution. $\endgroup$ – Cell Oct 19 '20 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ There is also the argument from Occam's Razor. If life on Earth did not evolve, but was created, then whatever created it must have come into existence by some process, either evolution or being created. Which implies either an infinite recursion of creators, or evolution at some point in the recursion. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 19 '20 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Sounds like a futile argument. Surely some creator will have special clause of eternal existence and now the discussion has shifted from the empirical evidence of evolution to speculation about unobservable creators. $\endgroup$ – Cell Oct 19 '20 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is not a question about biology in terms of SE Biology but a request for comments on an argument. This is a question and answer site, not a discussion site. $\endgroup$ – David Oct 20 '20 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf We also have evidence of evolution. This is why the argument is futile becauase you just got sucked into disproving an unobservable creator and you will never win that argument. $\endgroup$ – Cell Oct 20 '20 at 10:25
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It is extremely unlikely that life as we know it evolved from a random mutation process because every organism is like a machine, in that one "mistake" could render the whole machine unworkable.

Garbage. Pure garbage. People in the lab know that you can induce all kinds of mutations and get no effect. Because as you pointed out, most mutations are neutral.

Your rebuttal was largely correct; most mutations are neutral, and in a population, it doesn't matter if a small number of individuals is killed by their bad mutations, (and obviously a slightly deleterious mutation won't be lethal, or even necessarily noticeable) because there's still a whole population left to host neutral and beneficial mutations.

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  • $\begingroup$ not only are most mutation neutral, most functional mutations have only small effects, we only notice big effects more easily. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 20 '20 at 1:41
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I will henceforth use the word "unfortunately" to describe the predicament of a person who denies evolution.

Is there anything wrong with my friend's argument against evolution?

Unfortunately, all arguments against evolution are invalid, simply due to the fact that evolution has been (simultaneously) observed, deduced and inferred to happen so very multiplicitously. It has been demonstrated beyond any reasonable - and less than reasonable - doubt. It's difficult to know where to begin; throw a dart at any of the innumerable disciplines in biology and you will find overwhelming evidence for the occurrence, contingency and consequences of evolution. Narrow the question down and you will find tomes upon tomes of evidence for evolution within the narrowed scope. Ask an entomologist about a lineage of beetles among cousin species. Ask a structural biologist about a molecular machine in the cell such as a receptor. You will inevitably find unrelated biological subjects converging on the evolutionary hypothesis, even without meaning to. After all, almost any biologist working today is 'accidentally' adding to the overwhelming mountain of evidence for evolution on a daily basis. Such evidence in 2020 is virtually unpublishable in scientific literature because demonstrating that evolution is real is very 'low impact', just as novel demonstrations of heliocentrism would be unpublishable in astronomy journals. The logic and predictions of the theory work, so much so that some theories of evolution have transcended biology into the other sciences.

But one "mistake" could render the whole machine unworkable!

Plenty of mutations kill and maim organisms. We can't even count how many organisms 'could have lived' if it were not for deleterious mutations, because they didn't make it. We see mutations. Yet we see life. Hence this is a non-argument, unfortunately. And you cannot debate non-arguments.

[Where do we stand on arguments for/against evolution?]

These questions are valid and important to discuss, they are very formative and central to the progress (scientific and otherwise) of humanity.

However, the context for this discussion is abundantly clear. The occurrence of evolution is no longer debated in science, and hasn't been in many decades (centuries perhaps?), just like the theory of heliocentrism (Earth orbits Sun) or the shape of the planet (it's most certainly not flat). The debate is long closed and relegated to history.

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    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia says that roughly 30-50% of human conceptions do not result in a live birth, and prior to modern medicine, a large fraction of those died before adulthood. Among plants and many animals, hundreds to millions of fertilizations occur, but on average only a pair survive to reproduce. Evolution DEPENDS on eliminating the excess whose genetic differences (AKA mutations) make them less likely to survive. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 4 '20 at 16:58
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It is extremely unlikely that life as we know it evolved from a random mutation process because every organism is like a machine, in that one "mistake" could render the whole machine unworkable.

Consider this. We have two processes called gene duplication and exon duplication . These 2 processes "Copy" a gene or part of a gene and "Paste" it somewhere in the genome. Therefore even if a bad mutation happens in one gene , there is a probability that its function/concentration would be balanced by the other (wild) gene. (It's also worth mentioning that this situation would create a recessive (and harmful) allele for the original gene.)

So you can improve your "machine" by simply duplicating it , editing one of "machines" would not do any harm since there is a backup "machine" . That will eventually result in a more complex "machine" over time by evolution.

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