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For Beleaguered Computer Simulations of Evolution, Can Co-Evolution Save the Day?

David Klinghoffer

co-evolution

Evolutionary theorizing is full of epicycles, add-ons intended to rescue a failing intellectual structure from ruin. In the apologetics ministry devoted to proving Darwinian theory against most logic and evidence, computer simulations of evolution were intended as a sure defense of the faith. If computers proved evolution could churn out biological novelties, not merely small-scale optimization, well, what more could you ask?

A lot more, it turns out. With their No Free Lunch Theorems demonstrating the conservation information, critics showed that evolutionary algorithms depended on “active information” being secreted away in the program. This active information provides a target, a novelty to aim at. But that’s an advantage that Darwinian evolution is not supposed to enjoy. It’s essentially a case of cheating, presumably unintentional.

On a new ID the Future episode, Center for Science & Culture research coordinator Brian Miller considers an epicycle on the epicycle. Evolutionists proposed that algorithms modeled on co-evolution could save the day — co-evolution being a relationship between different organisms that evolve together, or between organisms and their changing environment. A classic illustration is the relationship between honey bees and flowers, which depend upon each other.

With enviable lucidity, Dr. Miller talks with Sarah Chaffee about research by Winston Ewert and Robert Marks in the journal BIO-Complexity that takes on the co-evolution epicycle. Listen to the podcast here.

The hope, Miller explains, was that “co-evolutionary algorithms can bypass the New Free Lunch theorems because they can somehow provide active information to find distant targets, or perhaps they can bypass the need for this active information.” But Ewert and Marks have splashed cold water on that one. It turns out that co-evolutionary algorithms are no solution, since they perform no better, and sometimes worse, than the old algorithms. In other words, for Darwin defenders, it’s back to the drawing board.

Photo credit: Vaidaz, via Pixabay.