Using Evolutionary Algorithms by Intelligent Design
Evolution can’t be all bad if scientists can use it to optimize your car. Science Daily said that scientists in Germany are “simulating evolution” to come up with ways to optimize difficult problems. Using “Evolutionary Algorithms”, they can discover solutions for engineering problems like water resource management and the design of brakes, airbags and air conditioning systems in automobiles. The simulated evolution program searches through a large number of random possibilities to make numerous successive slight improvements.
“The algorithms are called ‘evolutionary’ because the characteristics of evolution – mutation, recombination and selection – form the basis of their search for promising solutions,” the article claimed. Solutions that show promise are mutated and further selected.
Conferences on Evolutionary Algorithms are held each year and the interest in them is spreading into other disciplines. “The Evolutionary Algorithms are therefore a collective term for the various branches of research which have gradually developed: evolution strategies, evolutionary programming, genetic algorithms and genetic programming.”
Every once in awhile we need to give a refresher course about these reports, to show why the terminology is ludicrous. This has nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with intelligent design. Calling these “evolutionary algorithms” is like calling Eugenie Scott a creationist. Evolutionary Algorithm is an oxymoron – if it is evolutionary, it is not an algorithm, and if it is an algorithm, it is not evolutionary. Why? Because the essence of evolution, as Charles Darwin conceived it, has nothing to do with intelligent selection. Evolution is mindless, purposeless, and without a goal. These scientists, by contrast, have clear goals in mind. They are consciously and purposefully selecting the products of randomness to get better designs – intelligent designs. They may not know what the computer program will produce, but they sure well programmed the computer, and put in the criteria for success. Employing randomness in a program does nothing to make it evolutionary. The hallmark of intelligence is having a desired end and pulling it out of the soup of randomness. This is something evolution cannot do – unless one is a pantheist or animist, attributing the properties of a Universal Soul to nature. Undoubtedly, the NCSE would decry that. They can barely tolerate theistic evolutionists – the well-meaning but misguided Christians who try to put God in the role of the engineer who uses evolutionary algorithms for his purposes (e.g., man).
Remember – if it has purpose in it, it is not evolution. We must avoid equivocation. To discuss evolution with clarity it is essential to understand the terms and not mix metaphors. Charlie leapt from artificial selection (intelligent design) to natural selection (materialism) only as a pedagogical aid. He did not intend for natural selection to have a mind like the goal-directed farmer or breeder uses. To think evolution, think mindless. Notice that sentence itself is a one-way algorithm. You can think mindless, but the mindless cannot think.
For a definitive, in-depth treatment on why evolutionary algorithms cannot be mixed with evolution, see the book No Free Lunch in the Resource of the Week entry above.