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Theistic Evolution: Computer Simulations of Evolution

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Sunday, January 14, 2018

Winston Ewert, a former student and now colleague of Bob Marks, contributes Chapter 5 dealing with computer simulations of evolution. His aim is to respond to claims that computer simulations show the creative power of evolution without the need for an intelligent agent. He sets the stage by quoting the oft-cited claim by Stephen Meyer: “If we trace information back to its source, we always come to a mind, not a material process.” (p. 199). He points out that Darwinists claim that computer simulations demonstrate counter examples and thereby falsify Meyer’s claim.

I will return to Meyer’s claim in future posts but in this one I will focus only on the issue of computer models. Ewert discusses several simulations, including Dawkins’s Weasel, Ev, Steiner Trees, and Avida, with additional allusions to Tierra and Stylus. His main point is that each of these models involves teleological fine-tuning which requires intelligence and therefore none of them is a valid demonstration of the creation of information through evolution without intelligence. Therefore, he claims, the ID prediction that information cannot be generated without intelligence has not been falsified but has been confirmed.

Computer simulations are admittedly not the best or the easiest way to falsify Meyer’s claim. That has been done repeatedly and convincingly in biology, most notably by Dennis Venema in his series at this link. ID advocates retort that this simply demonstrates the ubiquitous influence of an intelligent designer. That, however, requires independent evidence of an intelligent designer which has not yet been done. All computer simulations require intelligence. By definition, they are a representation of nature and those representations are abstract models of nature. All abstract relationships require intelligence. The question then becomes one of just what aspects of the simulation involve intelligence. Ewert focuses on teleological fine-tuning and shows that each simulation involves that type of intelligence.

Teleological fine-tuning refers to the action or information that must be supplied to achieve a particular solution. This is a familiar problem in many activities. The most common analogy is that of dealing cards where a lack of a desired solution permits any arbitrary result. But if a particular target selection of cards is desired, success cannot be achieved without some information about the target influencing the process of dealing the cards, typically called cheating. The same is true of evolution which is inherently highly contingent. Any particular a priori target cannot be met with reasonable probability without information about that target affecting the contingencies. The essence of ID is that the current biosphere, particularly H sapiens, is a teleological goal and evolution cannot meet that goal without information about that goal influencing the mutation events. Such influence could only be done by an intelligent agent. On the other hand, evolutionists say that nature knows no such goal and that any solution that leads to survival will be selected at each generation. Any arbitrary solution will work and the need for intelligence is thus averted.

In summary, the real issue is whether the teleological fine-tuning in the computer simulations is a reflection of real evolution in nature or an artifact required for simulation. Ewert claims the former and I would suggest it is the latter. Furthermore, the ID prediction is amply falsified from biological observations. The issue of teleology in evolution is an important one that will be discussed in a number of future posts, such as the next one.

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