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On the Evolution of Automobiles

Photo: Tesla factory, by Steve Jurvetson / CC BY.

In the second half of my new video Why Evolution is Different, I point out how similar the fossil record is to the history of human technology. In automobile evolution, for example (or in the evolution of software), as in the history of life, we see major new features appear suddenly, because gradual transitions would necessarily involve the development of new, but not yet useful, features.

I made this point at a meeting at Houston Baptist University in September 2015, and at the end someone said, “But of course cars cannot evolve because they cannot reproduce.” I believe I simply replied, that’s not really relevant to the main point I am making. But in the new video I have a better answer (beginning at the 19:39 mark), which makes an important but simple point not often discussed:

Some people say, Of course cars cannot evolve because they cannot reproduce.

Well, designing any type of self-replicating machine is still far beyond our current technology. When we add technology to such a machine, to get closer to the goal of reproduction, we only move the goalposts, because now we have a more complicated machine to reproduce. So how could we imagine that such a machine could have arisen by pure chance? 

Nevertheless, imagine that we did manage to construct a fleet of cars that contained completely automated car-building factories inside, with the ability to construct new cars — and not just normal new cars, but new cars containing automated car-building factories inside them. If we left these cars alone and let them reproduce themselves for many generations, is there any chance we would eventually see major advances arise through natural selection of the resulting duplication errors? Of course not! We could confidently predict that the whole process would grind to a halt after a few generations without intelligent humans around to fix the mechanical problems that would inevitably arise, long before we saw duplication errors which held any promise of advances: devolution is natural, evolution is not. 

That it seems even superficially plausible that random mutations could produce major improvements relies completely on the observed but inexplicable fact that while they are awaiting rare favorable mutations, living species are able to preserve their complex structures and pass them on to their descendants without significant degradation, generation after generation. We are so used to seeing this happen that we don’t appreciate how astonishing it really is. But if we saw cars reproducing themselves, generation after generation, we might conclude that this actually made the development of cars even more difficult to explain without design.

Harder, Not Easier to Explain

Darwinists believe that the ability of living things to reproduce is what makes it possible to explain them without design. It actually makes them even harder to explain. 

The movie now has Spanish subtitles, by the way. Press CC to see them. This translation was done by myself and Fabian Fuentes.