Sunday, January 27, 2008

Evolving Computers, and Creationist Denial

Sometimes reality is more of a satire than the satire.

First, check out this article on the astonishing progress and insights being made with robots fitted with evolutionary decision algorithms, and "bred" to simulate evolutionary processes. Surprisingly, many counter intuitive behavior patterns form, including cheater robots and altruism:

"By the 50th generation, the robots had learned to communicate—lighting up, in three out of four colonies, to alert the others when they’d found food or poison. The fourth colony sometimes evolved “cheater” robots instead, which would light up to tell the others that the poison was food, while they themselves rolled over to the food source and chowed down without emitting so much as a blink.

Some robots, though, were veritable heroes. They signaled danger and died to save other robots."

This shouldn't be all that surprising to those of us who were paying attention to what happened to Dawkins' "tree" program in The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins made a fairly simple program to evolve trees, but what he ended up with often looked nothing like trees (insects, furniture, etc.). It was clear then that a simple variation and selection can produce a very unanticipated result. Now we have solid evidence that they can produce many of the things the anti-evolution cranks have maintained were impossible: kin loyalty, altruism, cheating and self-sacrifice. [hat tip Panda's Thumb]

Yet what is the response to these wonderful findings from the Intelligent Design crew? I quote Granville Sewell quoting GilDodgen:

"...if you really want to simulate evolution with computer programs, you should introduce random errors not only in the string simulating DNA, but also in your entire program, the compiler that is compiling it, the operating system, and the computer hardware on which it is running–then see what happens. Unintelligent forces simply can’t do intelligent things..."

Some things are so mind numbingly stupid they are hard to criticize. This brings to mind an old Saturday Night Live skit long ago starring Steve Martin, Garrett Morris, and Bill Murray as cavemen:

Bill: How do we catch the deer?
Steve: We need to make a circle around the deer to catch them.
Bill: Huh?
Steve: Look, these rocks represent us, and this stick represents the deer. See, we make a circle around the deer...
Garrett: I see. So if the deer runs from me, he runs to you, and if he runs from you, he runs to me.
Steve: Yes, YES!, Now you get it.
Bill: But we are not rocks.

Now we have GilDodgen and Granville Sewell claiming computer simulations can't prove that unintelligent processes can produce altruistic behavior because the computer it was proven on works. It is such a lame dodge it would be embarrassing for a child to propose, much less a mathematician. This is what Intelligent Design has come to: a chanting of dogma ("Unintelligent forces simply can’t do intelligent things") in denial of verifiable fact.

Oh, and if you want a real belly laugh, follow Sewell's link to his "simple, clear, proof" of that. He claims to have written a computer program in Fortran that simulated "the effects that the four known forces of physics (the gravitational and electromagnetic forces and the strong and weak nuclear forces) would have on every atom and every subatomic particle on our planet."

Yeah right. And I can flap my arms and fly to the moon.

1 comment:

PTET said...

Very interesting post!

Notice how ID corrupts the way "believers" react to this sort of science...

Theistic Evolutionists can say "golly wasn't god so clever to design the universe in such a way that nature produces such complex behavior so readily"...

But that's no comfort to the IDers. They require nature not to work at all...