August 31, 2005

Intelligent Design -- Computationally

My former colleague Lee Spector wrote a terrific op-ed piece arguing against Intelligent Design in the August 29 issue of the Boston Globe. (free registration required to read the article).

Lee is into evolutionary computation, and he creates computer programs to simulate evolution. The one I remember involves the evolution of bird-like widget-y things, who “learn”, over several generations, how to maximize their access to food. I’m greatly simplifying some work he did a while ago, but it was fascinating to watch these widget-y things change their behavior over time.

Lee’s piece argues that he can program this software to have widgets and the like evolve - but he can’t program them to evolve directly or in such a sophisticated manner -- often in ways he couldn't even imagine. “…[E]volutionary computation and biological evolution are both fundamentally driven by random variation and selection, and the successes of one hint at the power of the other.”

I’m not saying it as well as he did, but I’m very glad to see another strong scientific opponent to intelligent design. Read his piece for yourself.

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