Monday, August 6, 2007

A Thought Experiment illustrating the nonrandomness of Evolution

Over at Pandas a common legitimate question was asked about evolution:

"How can an organism respond to a certain stimulus in a certain way without having a concept of that stimulus to begin with?" .

The short answer is that those that dealt with the stimulus best produced more of themselves than those that didn't. If that doesn't help matters, try this mind experiment:

Imagine a robot in the center of simple right-angled two dimensional maze. Assume the robot does the following:

0)Follows a preexisting program if there is one, otherwise
1)Chooses a direction at random (forward, left, or right)
2)Records that choice
3)Moves in that direction to the next intersection in the maze
4)Replicates itself twice
5)Repeat from 1)

Assume two things about the maze:

1)If a robot lands on an intersection that does not lead to the exit, it is destroyed.

2)When a robot makes it out of the maze, the recorded sequence is made into a preexisting program, and the robot turns off.

Now, given enough time, one of the robots will make it out of the maze. Does the robot have any concept of a maze? No, it does not. And yet we could say the robot "knows" the maze, because if we replace it at the starting position and run the same program, it will make it out with no errors. This is a simplified, but reasonable, analogy with how evolution works.

Now the IDer/creationists look at something like this and respond with "But, but, but intelligence was required to write the program!". True, but irrelevant. That criticism would only be valid if the program gave the solution to the maze, and it doesn't. The IDer/creationist's want to claim that complex solutions to complex problems can't arise from simple unintelligent instructions.

This shows they can. "Walk at random and record that action" could hardly be called intelligent. Without the selection process of the maze destroying robots that choose the wrong path, it wouldn't produce anything intelligent (and notice what it produces is different with different mazes). That's the step the IDer/creationists always leave out. Yes, Hoyle's 747 is constructed in the junkyard, but it replicates itself each time a correct piece is added, and the "planes" with incorrect parts crash and burn. That makes all the difference.

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