Evolution in the News - March 2005
by Do-While Jones

Testing Darwin

Discover magazine claims that “scientists at Michigan State prove evolution works.”

The cover of the February, 2005, issue of Discover shows has an ape face on it, with the caption, “Testing Darwin – Scientists at Michigan State Prove Evolution Works.”

If you read the article, however, you will find it is all about a computer program, not that much different from the Scrabble program in our feature article. Our program used selection to change the database. Their program used selection to change the program itself. It is a trivial difference.

Their program makes random changes to itself, and was designed to change itself until it evolved into a program that adds numbers together. Eventually, it did. (But the programmers had to lead it along, step by step.)

Here is a news flash for them. It is a whole lot easier to design a program that adds two numbers together than to evolve a program that adds two numbers together. Essentially, they just used a very inefficient way to write an addition program.

The fact that one can evolve a program that adds numbers together doesn’t prove that living things came into existence through evolution. Nor does the fact that one can design a program that adds numbers together prove that living things were created.

The Michigan State program is the product of conscious effort, running on hardware that was designed for the purpose of executing programs. The program was designed to modify itself. The whole thing reeks of intelligent design. Nevertheless, the cover of Discover magazine claims that this program proves that biological “evolution works.” The most polite term we can ascribe to the conclusion is “misleading.”

We modestly think that our Scrabble program is a more accurate simulation of how natural selection really works (and therefore more convincing proof that microevolution works) than the Michigan State program. But both programs are just computer simulations that show how things can happen—not necessarily how things did happen. Computer simulations give insights which help us understand processes. The Michigan State program helps show what is necessary for microevolution, but doesn’t tell us anything about macroevolution.

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