Is the party over?

int main(){

I’ve spent most of this year doing an honours degree studying genetic algorithms. As such, I’ve found reading the best and brightest ID proponent’s attempts to understand the genetic algorithm equivalent of a “Hello World” program – a simple string evolver, with no crossover and only one parent per generation – to be hillarious.

Anyway, it seems that they’ve finally managed to come up with a version of the program that doesn’t consist of a partitioned search. It mutates a single character per offspring, rather than giving each locus an independent probability of being mutated, but that’s a somewhat smaller flaw than most cdesign proponentist attempts to implement the Weasel program.

And then, GilDodgen came out with this:

No search is required, because the solution has been provided in advance. These programs are just hideously inefficient means of printing out what could have been printed out when the program launched. The information for the solution was explicitly supplied by the programmer.

Well, duh. That’s because it was a toy program, purely written to illustrate the difference between pure random chance and the accumulation of small changes. You may as well say that the entire software development industry is a waste of time and money because it would be easier to just create a file containing the string “Hello world” and print it to the terminal with cat.

The Weasel program does not attempt to show that evolution can produce novel information. It merely demonstrates that difference between selection and no-selection. If you want a computer simulation to demonstrate the power of evolution to produce novel structures, you could read one of any number of papers in which genetic algorithms or genetic programming have been used to find novel solutions to real-world problems. Or, heck, even read the rest of chapter three in TBW (the one which mentions the Weasel program), which is mostly about the far more interesting Biomorphs program.

Or, if you prefer, Gil’s conclusion:

The Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for all of life is simply not credible. Most people have enough sense to recognize this, which is why the consensus “scientists” — with all their prestige, academic credentials, and incestuous self-congratulation — are having such a hard time convincing people that they have it all figured out, when they obviously don’t.

If you like, you can download my version of Weasel. It’s written in C# and you’ll need at least .NET 2.0 to run it. Source and binaries are included in that download. It uses a population size of 200 and a mutation rate of 0.05.

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