email@example.com (Loren King)
The experiment which replicated hypothesized atmospheric
conditions on early earth, and generated simple proteins,
was first carried out by a Professor Miller at the University
of Chicago in 1953, I think (this is off the top of my
head, so the date may be wrong).
Two different senses of evolution have been stuck together in
1. Evolution as fact: features (traits, strategies) in populations
do change over time, and certain traits come to predominate.
2. Evolution as theory, i.e. the model that accounts for such changes in
populations by postulating a non-teleological mechanism by which
some traits come to predominate over time. This postulate is roughly
as follows: traits which allow an organism (or strategy) to be more
effective in pursuing its interests in a given environment will
become more frequent over time. Now, if "interest" is defined as
"perpetuating the genome" (i.e. number of offspring), then you also
have an explanation as to why these traits come to dominate: they
are more successful at reproducing themselves than others.
So, in a really soggy, ambiguous sense, natural selection (not evolutionary
theory) replaces God, as you suggest. "The Will of God" is one possible
mechanism driving change in trait frequencies over time. "Natural selection,
however, avoids such a vague and untestable hypothesis by postulating that
the mechanismmdriving change is found among individuals and their ecosystem,
not beyond them.
Natural selection thus also replaces any other explanatory logic which
postulates a systemic purpose which transcends the individual. It pretty
much discounts Hegel and Marx, for instance, as well as Islam, and it
takes a pretty solid swipe at Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis as well
(although I think it is relatively unsuccessful in this last case).
Just a few thoughts.