Random Mutation Generator

If you have not seen it already, you will enjoy playing with this random mutation generator. You will see how wonderful the Darwinian process is at taking your text and moving on to ever-greater levels of complexity.

Many ENV readers may recall Richard Dawkins’s now famous blunder

in The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins claimed that a Darwinian process can create meaningful information, such as Hamlet’s phrase, “Methinks it is like a weasel.” Whereas it is very improbable to hit upon this sequence of letters all at one time, Dawkins attempted to show that the Darwinian step-by-step process could do it by taking advantage of small “mutations,” preserving the advantageous changes and getting rid of the unhelpful ones. And in this way such a process could eek toward the meaningful Shakespearian sentence.

As Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt note in their new book, A Meaningful World,

Dawkins is trying to demonstrate that in assessing the powers of chance to produce a living being or a complex organ, evolutionists are not claiming that, say, a functional grackle’s wing pops into existence in one fell swoop. Rather, evolution always works by cumulative steps, building slowly to the goal through a long series of functional intermediates.

And in this way, Dawkins moves from a meaningless string of letters to the phrase “Methinks it is like a weasel.” But, as Wiker and Witt show, Dawkins’s experiment fails on at least two accounts. First, the process is not blind. That is, Dawkins programmed the computer with a target sequence of “Methinks it is like a weasel.” According to Darwinists, nature has no such goal. So the analogy is faulty. According to A Meaningful World, “The program mimics guided or teleological evolution, not Darwinian evolution.”

Second, “the functional intermediates aren’t functional.” For instance, even the starting sequence of WDLMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P does not have a function. Something truly mimicking Darwinian evolution would begin with a meaningful sentence and attempt to move to another meaningful sentence and maintain some sort of meaning (function) all along the way. “[A]ll nonsense strings would be eliminated as gibberish, only to be followed by another random go at the whole string on the next try.”

For a fascinating discussion of how Dawkins’s reduction of Hamlet’s meaningful sentence is strikingly similar to the Darwinian reduction of organisms as unified living wholes, see chapter 2 of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.