Pharyngula

Uh-oh. Evolution has just been refuted by a very sophisticated simulation. Try it; you’ll quickly discover how frustratingly boring evolution can be, and you’ll give up on it.

The ‘simulation’ is simple: put some random text in a box, click on a button, it randomly substitutes a random letter for some other letter, and whoa…you’ll notice that your excerpt from the libretto of Figaro hasn’t been transformed into the Gettysburg address. Therefore, evolution is false.

Seriously, it’s that bad, and the author actually does think he has accomplished something significant. It’s a simulation that requires the user to make multiple clicks per trial; by sheer clumsiness of the interface it reduces the number of trials that can be done. It ignores fitness functions, synonymy, ranges of functionality, multiple functions, etc., etc., etc., all in the name of slavishly and crudely mapping English to protein evolution, and doing it all with a program that looks like something a sixth grader would slap together. Oh, but it is so much better than Avida or Tierra.

Read through the writeup—it’s appalling how ignorant the fellow is of basic biology. This kid really needs to read the href="http://talkorigins.org/faqs/chance.html">Evolution and Chance FAQ, the Evolution Proceeds by Random Chance FAQ, and Musgrave’s ripping apart of bogus abiogenesis calculations. It’s probably good enough to convince your standard issue clueless creationist, though.

(hat tip to Tobasco da Gama)

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    February 1, 2007

    Heres a youtube clip I saw a while back that adds selection to the random part of one of these simulations and quite neatly shows how you can rapidly come up with complicated solutions from an initial starting point.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2SVMKZhV2g

    Man. That is amazing. :-o

  2. #2 Charles A. Morris
    June 24, 2008

    I’d advise you all to take a look at http://www.cs.odu.edu/~cmorris/G-DES/, a beta software that I’ve been developing / playing with. It was designed to debunk this Perry fellow, before I realized that his “religious views” were nothing more than a marketing gimmick and his “science” nothing more than speculation.

    Originally I was trying to help him safe face, and prove to him that he was wrong without dragging it out in the public forums of the net.. but he ignored my emails.

    What do you want to bet that he’s doing some analysis on the hits on and responses to his site? Marketing through religion, re-invented copyright 2007 Perry S. Marshall….

  3. #3 Joe
    January 22, 2009

    This simulation is based on the fact that random mutations of english (or spanish, or whatever) words will, statistically speaking, never produce a different, real, word over a significant number of mutations. In terms of DNA however, this is as ridiculous comparison. 3 bases of DNA code for one protein- ie each word is 3 letters long. However there are only 4 letters to choose from, many combinations of which produce an equivalent code- ie the amino acids Glycine, Valine, Alanine, Leucine, Proline, Arginine, Serine and Threonine are effectively coded for by 2 letters, the third is irrelevant to the outcome. Therefore a mutation in this 3rd base produces no change in the genotype of the organism it has occurred in. Additionally, there are only 20 or so words to choose from, some of which can only occur in certain places, for example, Methionine, which only occurs at the start of a translation chain. Clearly this ‘language’ is nothing like english, or any other human language for that matter, and this random mutation generator serves only to show the massive variation in human language, and is absolutely non-applicable to any other code such as DNA.

  4. #4 Mike Brown
    May 1, 2009

    It came as a great surprise to me to discover that the mutation generator program was part of a creationist website. I had discovered it a few days ago and had used it to generate a pile of data I could use in a seminar on genome evolution. I figured it was posted for use in teaching evolution!

    Ironically it has been invaluable for this purpose! I wished to produce a clear demonstration that the chromosome sequences of ancient creatures can be reconstructed by mathematical analysis of their living descendents, no matter how altered their modern descendants might be. It was just the perfect thing for the task.

  5. #5 swami
    April 15, 2010

    But Perry Marshall does not try to debunk evolution. He accepts it. What he does try to debunk is abiogenesis. There is no more evidence for this than there is evidence for God.

  6. #6 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    swami –

    1. You’re completely wrong…

    2. You’re about 3 years late.

  7. #7 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Thank you for the information. What am I wrong about? What is the conclusive evidence for abiogenesis? Forget Perry Marshall.

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    But Perry Marshall does not try to debunk evolution

    Um, no. He does argue against what we know as evolution (sort of). And he does so stupidly and with straw men.

    He uses the word evolution and argues that it is a result of intelligent design.

    So yes he does argue against the accepted scientific understanding of evolution.

    And you are wrong.

  9. #9 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Wrong about abiogenesis lacking scientific validation?

  10. #10 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    Wrong about him not arguing against Evolution.

    Do you have a reading comprehension issue?

  11. #11 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Not that I am aware of. It was the “And you are wrong.” statement at the end of your comment that threw me off. I think it suffers from redundancy if it refers to the sentences above it.

    You are very quick to insult.

  12. #12 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Seems if one person was witty enough to understand what I was getting at, you should have been able to.

    But I’ll second what Rev. said, you are wrong that he’s not arguing against evolution… He’s arguing against abiogenesis and evolution, while not understanding that one has nothing to do with the other. Not our problem, it’s his.

    And just for the record, let’s make sure we’re clear:

    That Evolution has nothing to say about abiogenesis =/= “therefor, god”.

  13. #13 CJO
    April 15, 2010

    You are very quick to insult.

    Perhaps it is you who is slow to quit being stupid.

    And why in hell are you commenting on a 3 year old thread? If you’ve got a bug up your butt about abiogenesis, find a more recent discussion of it, or, better yet, present your moronic bleatings to the hungry masses on The Endless Thread.

  14. #14 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    You are very quick to insult.

    Where did I insult?

    And he most certainly is arguing against evolution as it is presently best understood regarding the evidence we have. He wants to co-opt the word “evolution” and insert some intelligent force driving it.

    That’s most certainly is not evolution no matter how man times he uses the word evolution to describe it.

  15. #15 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Yes, I agree. Evolution has nothing to say about abiogenesis. The truth of evolution makes not comment on the origin of life. This remains a mystery.

  16. #16 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    This remains a mystery.

    For now.

  17. #17 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Thanks Rev. BigDumbChimp (love the name). You insulted me in my estimation by asking if I had a reading comprehension problem. I seem to have been mistaken on Marshall’s position on evolution, but it is not reading comprehension I suffer from. I read his own statement on that, but not enough of his material to understand his actual position on evolution, for which I’ll take your word on.

    Right CJO. Thanks for that. You’re a real smart guy.

  18. #18 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Celtic?Evolution

    Yes, for now. Do you consider natruralism is a metaphysical hypothesis.

  19. #19 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Yes, for now. Do you consider natruralism is a metaphysical hypothesis.

    This thread is 3 years old… if you would like to open that question up for debate to the rest of the crowd (I’m sure we’d love that), please feel free to ask it again on the Endless Thread.

    Let’s leave this thread to die a peaceful death, shall we?

  20. #20 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    swami #104 wrote:

    Do you consider natruralism is a metaphysical hypothesis.

    I would consider naturalism to be a scientific hypothesis, and, today, a working theory.

  21. #21 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    Let’s leave this thread to die a peaceful death, shall we?

    Aw. Okay. But I think it would be much easier to follow a single discussion on an old thread such as this one, than drag it over to the madhouse that is the Endless Thread…

  22. #22 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    You insulted me in my estimation by asking if I had a reading comprehension problem.

    It was a question based on your seeming inability to read for comprehension what I wrote.

    If you’re insulted, that’s your own issue.

  23. #23 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Aw. Okay. But I think it would be much easier to follow a single discussion on an old thread such as this one, than drag it over to the madhouse that is the Endless Thread…

    Hmmm… you may have a point, Sastra.

    I always find it easier to keep current discussions in current threads because if the conversation makes its way out of the “recent comments” section on the front page of the blog, I sometimes have a hard time finding the thread the conversation was in if it is really old… and then I have to dig through my internet history… it’s a real hassle. ;^)

  24. #24 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    I know. If swami comes back and we start up an interesting discussion, I’ll bookmark it.

    Then I’ll have to dig through my bookmarks, but it’s probably easier than digging through history — especially if I drag all my Pharyngula S bookmarks to the bottom of the list.

  25. #25 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    I know. If swami comes back and we start up an interesting discussion, I’ll bookmark it.

    Agreed… I’m curious as to where he was going with that question. I agree with your answer regarding naturalism as a working theory, but I’m curious as to his inclusion of “metaphysical” in there… I have an inkling, but I’d like to hear him say it.

  26. #26 Brownian, OM
    April 15, 2010

    Hoo boy. I don’t wanna unduly influence the argument, but $5 says this guy is gonna pull his laconic faux-Socratic dialectic for at least six more comments until everyone gets so frustrated with him they unleash in a torrent of profanity and he runs off crowing victory after denouncing the tone. His ego is great but his skin is paper thin.

    Who’s in charge of ordering trolls around here? Can we at least try to get one once in awhile who’s not an amalgam of every little-dick-syndromed-second-year-political-philosophy-major-with-a-masturbatory-fetish-for-rhetorical-gotchas ever?

    or considered unacceptable in polite society (plastic testicles). :-)

    You don’t have WalMart parking lots in the UK? Why, in such refined environs vehicular accoutrements like these practically scream wealth and taste.

    My roommate recently bought a truck (for completely inscrutable reasons, as she won’t even put groceries in the back), but since she’s testicularily deficient I’ve been considering designing a variant for females and I’m having trouble coming up with a name. (Er, scratch that; reverse it: I’m having no trouble coming up with tasteless and offensive names for the product, but…)

  27. #27 Brownian, OM
    April 15, 2010

    And the problem with keeping multiple threads open in separate browser tabs with an internet connection that’s intermittently cutting out reveals itself.

    My comment above was meant for the madhouse that is the Endless Thread.

    Damn.

  28. #28 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    And don’t think for a moment that the irony of discussing whether or not we should carry on conversations in old threads, in an old thread, is lost on me… ;^)

  29. #29 Brownian, OM
    April 15, 2010

    And don’t think for a moment that the irony of discussing whether or not we should carry on conversations in old threads, in an old thread, is lost on me… ;^)

    “Well, now, that all depends, Do you want New Coke, Classic Coke, Cherry Coke, Diet Coke or caffeine-free Coke?”

  30. #30 swami
    April 15, 2010

    I guess I am wondering if naturalism is a theory or a merely a hypothesis, given that there is no hard evidence for abogenesis and so much of naturalism depends on evidence for this (it seems to me) in order for it to be valid.

    Whereas evolution has enough evidence going for it to call it a theory.

    Rev. BigDumbChip,

    I did not believe that you really wondered if I had a reading comprehension problem.

  31. #31 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    I did not believe that you really wondered if I had a reading comprehension problem.

    Not my problem.

  32. #32 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Chimp,

    Ture, but let me ask you if you did.

  33. #33 strange gods before me ?
    April 15, 2010

    How much evidence is there that suggests abiogenesis is incorrect? Zero.

    How much evidence is there that suggests naturalism is incorrect? Zero.

  34. #34 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    Ture, but let me ask you if you did.

    I asked you the question didn’t I?

  35. #35 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    given that there is no hard evidence for abogenesis and so much of naturalism depends on evidence for this (it seems to me) in order for it to be valid.

    Who, whoa, whoa… let’s start right here.

    Why do you believe that to be the case?

  36. #36 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Yes Chimp you did. But I am asking about your intention, not what you wrote.

  37. #37 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    swami #116 wrote:

    I guess I am wondering if naturalism is a theory or a merely a hypothesis, given that there is no hard evidence for abogenesis and so much of naturalism depends on evidence for this (it seems to me) in order for it to be valid.

    I’d call naturalism a working theory, in part because there is no good evidence for supernatural causation, and an abundance of natural causes. Naturalism has stood the test of time.

    While good evidence for a supernatural cause for abiogenesis would indeed falsify naturalism, it’s absence isn’t a significant problem. The rejection of vitalism in favor of better explanations dealt a severe blow to the idea that like can only come from like, and life can only come from life.

  38. #38 swami
    April 15, 2010

    I thought that if biogenesis is not scientifically supportable, then that renders naturalism a leap of faith, but I may be wrong about that.

  39. #39 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    swami #124

    I don’t know if you saw Sastra’s post at #123, but I can’t say it better.

    However, this:

    I thought that if (a)biogenesis is not scientifically supportable, then that renders naturalism a leap of faith,

    Does not follow…

  40. #40 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    Yes Chimp you did. But I am asking about your intention, not what you wrote.

    Interesting.

    You’re asking me if I meant that I thought you might have a reading comprehension issue when I asked you if you had a reading comprehension issue with the words “Do you have a reading comprehension issue”?

  41. #41 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    swami #124 wrote:

    I thought that if biogenesis is not scientifically supportable, then that renders naturalism a leap of faith, but I may be wrong about that.

    I think that would only be true if there were no good reason to think that life could arrive from non-life in the first place. But, we know that it can: it all reduces down to chemicals and lifeless atoms, everything. And while the specific mechanism and sequence for forming the first replicator is still unknown, it’s not the case that scientists have no idea at all how such a thing might have happened. They have lots and lots of ideas, but don’t know which one seems most probable.

    So assuming a natural cause for abiogenesis is a reasonable assumption which could be wrong — but the likelihood is that it isn’t. All scientific explanations are like that. What makes them scientific — instead of a matter of faith — is that scientists could tell you what would cause them to change their minds. Most people who value “faith” can’t.

    If a completely plausible pathway for abiogenesis was one day demonstrated in a lab, people who make a leap of faith to assume God, would simply make a leap of faith to assume God did it that way. They change only their idea of how God works: they do not throw out the God hypothesis.

  42. #42 David Marjanovi?
    April 15, 2010

    Do you consider natruralism is a metaphysical hypothesis.

    No, it’s a scientific theory, because it is testable (at the very least within parsimony). It is being tested all the time, and it has never been disproved…

    if naturalism is a theory or a merely a hypothesis

    I’d say it’s a theory because of its size ? it is a part of the explanation of basically everything.

    there is no hard evidence for abogenesis

    As long as there’s no evidence against it, it remains the most parsimonious option.

    Can you point out a part that is somehow impossible?

    Perhaps you haven’t followed the last forty years of advances in research? For instance, did you know about glycol nucleic acid?

    if biogenesis is not scientifically supportable, then that renders naturalism a leap of faith

    If abiogenesis were not scientifically supportable, then that would render naturalism… completely untouched, we’d just have to move on to panspermia to outsource the origin of life. :-|

    If even that were shown to be impossible, then methodological naturalism would have a problem, but you’re not there yet.

  43. #43 KOPD
    April 15, 2010

    it’s not the case that scientists have no idea at all how such a thing might have happened. They have lots and lots of ideas, but don’t know which one seems most probable.

    I read something like this and think how cool it is that perhaps it has happened in several different ways throughout the universe. Thoughts like that make me feel warm and fuzzy.

  44. #44 swami
    April 15, 2010

    No Chimp I am asking if you intended to insult me. Honestly (if that’s not too much to ask), yes or no.

  45. #45 Celtic_Evolution
    April 15, 2010

    Look out Rev… I sense a scolding coming on…

  46. #46 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    Is asking you if you have a reading comprehension issue an insult?

  47. #47 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Come on Rev. It could very well be depending on one”s intention. Anyway, I have the answer to me question now. Thanks.

  48. #48 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 15, 2010

    Come on Rev. It could very well be depending on one”s intention. Anyway, I have the answer to me question now. Thanks.

    As do I.

  49. #49 swami
    April 15, 2010

    Thanks for your answers thus far everyone.

  50. #50 Sastra
    April 15, 2010

    You’re welcome.

  51. #51 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 15, 2010

    Is asking you if you have a reading comprehension issue an insult?

    Why do I get the impression we have a lurking tone troll? One with a reading comprehension problem.

  52. #52 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 15, 2010

    Why do I get the impression we have a lurking tone troll? One with a reading comprehension problem.

    We do. He has a reading and comprehension problem. Basically he has nothing to present as evidence for his inane ideas. Ergo, tone trolling. Now, if he had an eternally burning bush in his back pocket saying “i did it”…