Member # 1
posted 29. November 2001 20:36
Why Natural Selection Can't Design Anything
by William A. Dembski
ABSTRACT—In the early 1970s Leslie Orgel argued that the key problem facing origin-of-life researchers was to explain the specified complexity inherent in the first living form. Thirty years later this remains the key problem facing origin of life research. Nonetheless, the biological community is convinced that the specified complexity of living forms is not a problem once replication is in place and the Darwinian mechanism has become operative. In this paper I argue not only that we have yet to explain specified complexity at the origin of life but also that the Darwinian mechanism fails to explain it for the subsequent history of life. To see that the Darwinian mechanism is incapable of generating specified complexity, it is helpful to consider the mathematical underpinnings of that mechanism, namely, evolutionary algorithms. Roughly speaking, an evolutionary algorithm is any well-defined mathematical procedure that generates contingency via some chance process and then sifts it via some law-like process. It is widely held that evolutionary algorithms provide a computational justification for the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random variation as the primary creative force in biology. Nonetheless, careful examination of evolutionary algorithms and the information with which they are programmed reveals that evolutionary algorithms, far from eliminating the specified complexity problem, merely push it deeper. Indeed, the recently proven No Free Lunch theorems show that any output of specified complexity from an evolutionary algorithm presupposes a prior input of specified complexity. And since all biological design invariably exhibits specified complexity, it follows that evolutionary algorithms (and the Darwinian mechanism in particular) are incapable of resolving the problem of biological design.
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-29 November 2001
[ 23 July 2002, 20:42: Message edited by: Moderator ]