Question: 'I read somewhere that a man called T.S. Ray has developed a program called Tierra, in which he simulates evolution on the computer screen. His "creatures" are self-replicating programs which "mutate" and eventually he ends up with a whole community of "organisms", including "hosts" and "parasites". Many people claim that this is actual evolution on the computer screen, thus proving that random chance can generate complexity. Has evolution been demonstrated in this way?'
The replicating programs (or software 'organisms') of Ray and others are neither living, nor do they even vaguely approach the complexity of living things. Programmer analyst John Schneider, in a letter to Science News, November 30, 1991, points out that Ray has created them out of a small set of instructions, which all have an important purpose. When they mutate (change randomly) 'the resulting program is still a combination of those same instructions', and 'none of the organisms displays any capability that did not preexist in the "genetic" pattern of the original organism'. Thus, no Tierran organism invented any new instructions, which is what would be needed to at least simulate alleged 'upward' evolution.
Furthermore, Schneider points out that the 'rules' in the Tierran 'universe' are contrived to keep the 'evolution' going. Also, the organisms arrive fully formed. From the beginning, they can move, locate others, make certain 'decisions' and reproduce themselves. They have been designed by an intelligent programmer acting from 'outside', who has tuned the software 'environment' to their needs in order to see them thrive and succeed. He concludes that 'Ray has done more to demonstrate Special Creation than Evolution'.
Many programs allegedly simulating evolution are in use today, some even being used to make works of art.1 Many people have been misled by such demonstrations of 'life evolving on the screen'. However, not only does a two-dimensional image of a jellyfish bear no relationship to the real thing, but the artists admit that they 'intervene to push evolution in certain directions', and that it is they, the artists, who 'determine the degree of fitness required for survival'.2
Clearly, the emerging patterns are manipulated by human intervention. If a blob-like shape starts to emerge which looks vaguely like some creature or another, the situation can be adjusted until, biased by one's own idea of what the 'creature' should end up as, the finished product emerges.
The aggressively atheistic biology professor Richard Dawkins, in his very influential book The Blind Watchmaker, describes how he used a very simple 'replicating and mutating' program to get various shapes on the screen. He became very excited that he could evolve 'something like an insect', describing his 'feeling of exultation as I first watched these creatures emerging before my eyes.'
However, agnostic science journalist Richard Milton, in his recent anti-evolutionary book, points out that these shapes 'do not correspond in any way at all with living things, except the purely trivial way that he sees some resemblance in their shapes' (emphasis in original).3 And it is Dawkins who is playing the role of Creator, since he chooses which ones are the most promising. Dawkins admits that he bred each generation 'from whichever child looked most like an insect'. As Milton says, 'That is why they have ended up looking like recognisable images from his memory.'4
For instance, Beyond 2000, shown on television Channel 10 in Australia on July 28, 1994, featuring the 'virtual sculptures' of William Latham, Artist in residence at IBM's Scientific Centre, Winchester, England.
New Scientist, September 19, 1992, p.11.
Richard Milton, The Facts of Life: Shattering the Myth of Darwinism, Fourth Estate, London, 1992, p. 148.
ibid, p. 149.