Refuting a common ploy to persuade people that evolution has been ‘proven by computer’
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins is perhaps evolution’s chief apostle—certainly one of the most vocal and influential neo-Darwinists in the world. He also aggressively and unashamedly promotes atheism as a logical consequence of evolution. His book The Blind Watchmaker has probably resulted in many thousands rejecting a former profession of Christian faith. It purports to show that all of the apparent design in the natural world is a consequence of unplanned accumulation, by selection, of lucky genetic mistakes.1
The awesome engineering design seen throughout the living world is represented by an unimaginably vast amount of information, stored and transmitted in coded form. Dawkins realises that the basic challenge for anyone wanting to be (in his words) an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’ is to explain how all this information arose by natural processes, that is, without a guiding intelligence. However, information science, the specialty field of one of us (Dr Gitt), makes it perfectly clear that it is impossible for random processes to generate true information. So how does Dawkins purport to show otherwise?
One of the most effective of the devices in his book, a demonstration he has repeated for television audiences, is his alleged computer simulation of evolution by using the English sentence (from Shakespeare’s Hamlet), ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’.2
His computer program starts with a random sequence of 28 letters or spaces. It is then copied repeatedly, representing reproduction. Random copying errors are allowed, representing mutations. The computer program checks all the ‘daughter’ sentences, and selects that one which most resembles the target sequence, ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’. This is said to represent natural selection.
Not surprisingly, within a few generations (43 and 64 in the examples shown below), the target sentence is reached. This is purported to show that real information can arise by the natural processes of mutation and selection, unaided by intelligence.
There is currently a spate of new books about the Lord Jesus Christ which constantly present one or the other new, weird and false idea, contrary to the New Testament—for example, that Jesus was a wicked priest. A Professor at the Heidelberg School of Theology, Klaus Berger, once remarked, ‘Please buy and read such a book, then you will realise what degree of gullibility is ascribed to you.’ Similarly, Dawkins’ ‘weasel’ example makes it clear how much feeble-mindedness he assumes in his readership.
This sort of computer game can be played by anyone, and will always reach its goal. Why? Because the whole design involves selecting a target in advance! The program is fixed, the target is specified—even the number of letters is given in advance.
It is therefore obvious that no information is generated in Dawkins’ example—on the contrary, the information (the sentence ‘Methinks it is like a weasel’) has been predetermined!3
Computers and predetermined results
‘Not surprisingly, within a few generations, the target sentence is reached.’
Predetermined target sentence: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
Gen. 01 WDLTMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P
Gen. 02 WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZIMQLO P
Gen. 10 MDLDMNLS ITJISWHRZREZ MECS P
Gen. 20 MELDINLS IT ISWPRKE Z WECSEL
Gen. 30 METHINGS IT ISWLIKE B WECSEL
Gen. 40 METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL
Gen. 43 METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
Gen. 01 Y YVMQKZPFJXWVHGLAWFVCHQYOPY
Gen. 10 Y YVMQKSPFTXWSHLIKEFV HQYSPY
Gen. 20 YETHINKSPITXISHLIKEFA WOYSEY
Gen. 30 METHINKS IT ISSLIKE A WEFSEY
Gen. 40 METHINKS IT ISBLIKE A WEASES
Gen. 50 METHINKS IT ISJLIKE A WEASEO
Gen. 60 METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEP
Gen. 64 METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
References and notes
- His later books River out of Eden and Climbing Mount Improbable continue his atheistic evangelising. See online refutations of River out of Eden and Climbing Mount Improbable. Return to text
- For technical details on the reasons why random processes cannot give rise to information, see Werner Gitt, In the Beginning was Information . Return to text.
- There are many other serious problems with Dawkins’ ‘demonstration’. See Walter ReMine, The Biotic Message, St Paul Science, St Paul, USA for a detailed treatment. See online review of this book. Return to text.