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Dawkins’ Weasel criticism and response

15 July 2002

From D., USA. His entire letter is printed, followed by Dr Don Batten’s response.

I read your article about the weasel words, and I almost laughed out loud at you. You completely missed the point of the sentence-weeding representing natural selection. The target sentence is predetermined, but that is not the point. The sentences represent organisms, and the target sentence represents the optimal traits for surviving in that particular environment. Organisms less suited for their environment (sentences further away from the target sentence) are gradually outcompeted by organisms more suited (sentences closer to the target sentence) until organisms best suited to survive in their environment are all that is left.

This experiment could be carried further by favoring sentences that made sense in English: There would be a huge number of sentences, each specialized in its own way. The weasel words program proved natural selection, and certain people tried to weasel around it.

If you have any response to this other than “Wow, he proved us wrong” (I don’t think it’s possible you don’t), please e-mail a rebuttal to me.

CMI’s Response:

With respect, you have missed the point entirely of Dawkins’ exercise and our criticism of it. Dawkins is supposed to be showing how mutations and natural selection generate new information. If you give the information to start with, then the simulation is not creating the information. This seems like fairly simple logic. Consequently, quite aside from all the other fudge factors built into the con, Dawkins has not demonstrated what he claimed.

Incidentally, you are quite right in saying that Dawkins’ demonstration showed natural selection, but if you were familiar with either evolutionary theory in depth or with our work, you would not be making the mistake of assuming that this is the same as demonstrating evolution in action. Natural selection as such is a simple, self-evident phenomenon that it requires no such demonstration for its acceptance. In fact, it was first described/written about by a Christian creationist, Edward Blyth (some claim that Darwin borrowed from Blyth — see Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild: If you thought Darwin’s Origin was original, think again!). For further insight into natural selection vis a vis evolutionary claims, I suggest you carefully read Muddy Waters.

For some of the other problems with Dawkins’ ‘simulation’, I recommend you carefully consider Dawkins’ weasel revisited and The Problem of Information for the Theory of Evolution: Has Dawkins really solved it?.

Dr Don Batten

Published: 4 February 2006