Accidental evolution

Accidential evolution
Cover to American paleontologist Henry Gee’s 2013 The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution, where he attempts to see the idea that evolution is a result of chance and accident; specifically that “our evolutionary outcome is one possibility among many, one that owes more to ‘chance than to an organized progression to supremacy. He starts with bipedality, which he shows could have arisen entirely by accident, as a by-product of sexual selection, moves on to technology, large brain size, intelligence, language, and, finally, sentience.” [5]
In hmolscience, accidental evolution, as contrasted with "designed evolution" (Mayr, 1959) or "thermodynamical evolution" (Dolloff, 1975), is the supposition, believed by many, that evolution, in particular the origin of “life” or the first living thing, occurred or is occurring via an “accident” or accidental processes of some sort.

In 1872, Henry Bastian, in his The Beginnings of Life, stated the following:

“The nature of the living matter, whether animal or vegetal, was regarded, even by many ancient philosophers, as an accident dependent upon the influence of particular sets of conditions. As we have seen, Aristotle thought that plants might be engendered by the tissues of animals, and, on the other hand, that certain lower kinds of animals might take their origin from and within the substance of plants. Ovid, therefore, was but reproducing an actual belief of his time when, in his exposition of the Pythagorean philosophy.”
— Henry Bastian (1872), The Beginnings of Life, Volume Two (pgs. 172-73)

“How long or when the particular ‘ tree of life’, from one of the branches of which man was developed, appeared upon the earth, it is utterly impossible to say. The 'vertebrate' grade of organization may have been many times attained by ultimate branches of different ‘trees of life’. But physical, chemical, and biological phenomena all compel us to believe that law and order universally prevail, even amidst occurrences which, on account of the complexity of their relations, may seem to have been the result of chance or accident. And equally good reasons also exist for the conviction that the same Forces which are now in action within and around us, have been and are constantly operative throughout the whole universe—everywhere producing the most beautiful and complex results, whose mutual alliance and inter-relations seem to combine in testifying to the existence of one supreme and all-pervading Power of which these results are the phenomenal manifestations.”
— Henry Bastian (1872), The Beginnings of Life, Volume Two (pg. 640)

In 1872, Charles Darwin, after reading Bastian’s book, stated the following:

“I cannot believe that a Rotifer or Tardigrade is adapted to its humble conditions of life by a happy accident.”
Charles Darwin (1872), review of Henry Bastian’s The Beginnings of Life; sent to Thomas Wallace [2]

In the century to follow, as Darwin never explicitly stated what was “behind” natural selection, the a colloquial view was propagated, particular to religious-minded people that “accident” or chance was the operative principle behind natural selection; the following is one take one this:

“As the accidental evolutionist theory has been expanding over the last 100 years, it has been merged with ‘big bang’ and ‘primordial soup’ theories. Combined these ancillary theories, the accidental evolution theory now states that following the big bang, life spontaneously arose from chemicals. What is curious is that these chemicals somehow supposedly developed the desire to survive. Have we ever observed any lifeless chemicals develop a desire to survive? Have we ever seen chemicals doing anything but predictably reacting to each other? In other words, the accidental evolution theory says that out of lifeless chemicals single-celled living creatures have arisen, miraculously displaying a desire to survive. A desire to survive means having a need to improve survival factors and eliminate threats to survival. The need to improve survival means there is an intention to survive, and a value is put onto survival. Eliminating the threats to survival means survival is valued enough to put an effort into changing, adapting to, or destroying potential encroachments and dangers that could shorten life. These factors compound the problem presented: how could lifeless chemicals develop the ability to even recognize life, let alone value life enough to take persistent action to sustain it.”
C.W. Adams (2006), “How could Chemicals have a Desire to Survive” [3]


The following are related quotes:

“Today's children are taught by our culture that we are a cosmic accident. Something slithered out of the primal slime and over billions of years evolved into a human being. We are cousins, ten times removed, to the ape at the zoo eating his own excrement.”
— Gary Bauer (1992/2013), Evangelical Christian centric politician; former domestic advisor to Ronald Reagan (Ѻ)(Ѻ)(Ѻ)

“Once upon a time, one molecule, scudding in a primordial ocean, suddenly and absolutely accidentally met another cute molecule. They decided to bind to each other and scud together, and found that they acquired a new property, which gave them a better chance to survive in that rough and unfriendly primordial ocean. During the next billions of years, these molecules met many other attractive molecules (of course, absolutely accidentally) and combined with many of them, creating a big conglomerate of molecules. This conglomerate again absolutely accidentally discovered that it can create similar little baby conglomerates by simple division and that is how a primordial organic complex or protein or nucleic acid was created. They then absolutely accidentally found each other in the primordial ocean, combined and created a small syndicate that acquired many new and very useful properties for survival and we now call it a ‘cell’. Accidental and random combinations of molecules can neither create a car nor a human being or even a simple one-celled organism with a certain ‘directing power’ that can transform originally inanimate matter into numerous forms of life.”
Nickolas Dorfman (2008), Was Mona Lisa Created by Physicochemical Reactions Alone? [4]

1. Bastian, Henry C. (1872). The Beginnings of Life: Volume 2. Appleton.
2. Darwin, Charles. (1872). “Letter to Alfred Wallace” (Ѻ), Aug 28.
3. Adams, C.W. (2006). Actuality: Life in the Real World (§:How could Chemicals have a Desire to Survive, pgs. 84-85; §:Chemicals Cannot Decide to Extend Their Successor’s Lives”, pgs. 86-87). Publisher.
4. Dorfman, Nikolas. (2008). Was Mona Lisa Created by Physicochemical Reactions Alone? Open Your Mind and Use Your Logic. iUniverse.
5. Gee, Henry. (2013). The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution (abs). University of Chicago Press.

Further reading
● Mayer, Ernst. (1959). “Accident or Design: the Paradox of Evolution”; in: The Evolution of Living Organisms (1960); a Symposium of the Royal Society of Victoria in Melbourne, Dec; in: Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays4:30-). Harvard University Press, 1997.

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