Natural Selection = Evolution?
Updated: Feb 15
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the discussion switched to the topic of genetics. MV is cordial and articulate in his responses. He makes the claim that natural selection is a “powerful engine of design optimization.” See below for Part 3 of 4 of my discussion on the Friendly Atheist Facebook page.
"As an engineer in my daily job, if I used the evolutionary worldview, then perhaps I would find a random assortment of wires and metal and throw them together in a large bucket and hope that it somehow forms aircraft avionics. However, you and I know that wouldn’t work." Well actually... Are you aware of Genetic/Evolutionary algorithms? it is a very powerful method of design - and it uses randomness the same way evolution uses randomness, which is, through a process of fitness selection. It seems to me from reading you that you equate evolution with pure randomness - but the key element is natural selection. Natural selection makes Evolution all but random, and is a very powerful engine of design optimization, which gives rise to all the amazingly adapted lifeforms we see. The same way Genetic algorithms can give rise to optimized solutions that we would never come up with by traditional methods. I recommend you type "genetic algorithms in aircraft design" in google for instance, you might learn new things that would be useful in your job! this type of design approach, just like generative design, will be a very powerful tool in the future of engineering (already is). "In fact, a friend of mine looked to creation for inspiration in developing micro air vehicles. I got to help him with is research" Thanks for the link! This is interesting, I love biomimicry in design, there's a lot to learn from the design solutions seen in nature. Where our views diverge is in why those designs exist in nature at all - and I believe that you are currently not aware of what evolution through natural selection really means. If I also believed that evolution meant that "perfect" designs come out of total randomness, I wouldn't believe in evolution either. Natural selection is the key.
And as I anticipate you to say, about the use of Genetic Algorithms in engineering - that those algorithms are still created by intelligent humans - that is besides the point. My point is that Genetic algorithms show that, on an abstract level, complexity ( and optimized designs ) can emerge, without intervention from intelligence (even if the system itself was created by an intelligence) from randomness when that randomness is subject to heredity and a selection process. A little toy that can help you understand the principles of evolution through natural selection (and fun regardless, even if you don't want to believe in it - you can always believe that God is actually doing the selection if you want :P ) http://boxcar2d.com/
MV, I’ve heard of them, yes. I don’t see it as an accurate analogy though, because the algorithms themselves require design and engineering, especially for the artificial environment within the algorithm. Moreover, in nature, “fitness selection” does not create new information, but only “selects” existing information. Therefore, it becomes a “downhill” process as opposed to the “uphill” process of evolution. Take for example, the blind cavefish. This is often hailed as a prime example of evolution, because a certain species of fish got trapped in a cave, suffered a mutation, and then stopped growing eyes. While there was indeed change within the species, it was a “downhill” change where the fish lost information/capability. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is another example of this. Although it may be a “beneficial” mutation in a specific environment, it is not a gain of information (see https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/antibiotic-resistance/).
You’re welcome! Yes, biomimicry is awesome!
It’s a weeknight, so time for bed. Thank you for the discussion and have a good night!
(I'll save your link to check it out later)
The debate does not end here, but continues for one more day. Now, in this part of the debate, I left a lot unsaid concerning natural selection. I have much more to say to MV in Part 4 of 4 of the debate. I am anxious to share Part 4, but in an effort to keep these blog posts at a manageable reading length, I will wait until next week to share the fourth and final part of the debate.
In the meantime, see below for a brief video clip where I speak about natural selection versus evolution in one of my creation apologetics presentations. I cannot emphasize enough the point that natural selection is actually the opposite of molecules-to-man evolution: