January 23, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Selling Evolution with Video Games and Stories

Two recent articles cast doubt on the claim that evolutionists rely on factual information to teach students their theory.  When computers are programmed to make evolution happen on a screen, does it convey to what really happens in the wild?

  1. Cloudy computing:  PhysOrg reported that educators at the University of Buffalo are using “cloud computing” (software that accesses free internet resources) to make evolution more visually stimulating for students.  An application alarmingly called Pop! World is the key to taking the video game culture and selling evolution with it:

    “Pop! World gives students the visual background they need to understand complex mathematical problems,” Dittmar adds.  “And it works kind of like a video game, which serves the current population of undergrads well.
        That visual appeal is also expected to go far with middle-school and high-school biology students, groups the UB team hopes to excite about evolution; by spring, they expect to have completed a modified version for them as well.
        By making evolutionary biology more visually appealing and, thus, more accessible, Poulin hopes that Pop! World will make evolution itself a more appealing subject for secondary schools to teach.
        “There’s a huge disconnect,” she says.  “The universities all accept evolution as fact.  It’s not a question.  But many high schools and middle schools don’t want to touch it.  They don’t want to deal with the politics of it.”
        Her hope is that the visual and educational appeal of Pop! World and the ease of using it will begin to change that situation.

    Pop! World uses digital lizards in a flash application to simulate red and green lizards evolving (see demo at popworld15.appspot.com).  The gamey intro heavily emphasizes the visualization of the computer world.

  2. Adami still playing games:  Christoph Adami has not quit his addiction with Avida (05/08/2003), an evo-simulator that has been roundly debunked by scientists in the intelligent design community (see example at Evolution News & Views).  New Scientist shows Adami and fellow astrobiologist Chris McKay coming up with “telltale chemistry” that might “betray ET,” and testing amino acid samples input into his software.  McKay calls the search for alien amino acids the “Lego principle” blurring the distinction between scientific empiricism and toy modeling.

New Scientist quoted a critic finding a lot of uncertainty in the claim, but gave the tip of the hat to McKay, who made his philosophical assumption clear: “What we see on Earth is not a quirk of Earth biology but a universal principle.”  No earthling knows that by observation.

In the Baloney Detector, visualization is one of several categories that can be good or bad depending on how it is used.  Any teacher or student knows the value of positive visualization.  A picture is worth a thousand words; the ability to simplify a concept by analogy and illustration is invaluable as a stepping stone to deeper understanding.  But a picture can also be worth a thousand blurs.  It can obfuscate, oversimplify, omit pertinent details, add half-truths, distract, and deceive as easily as can a big lie.
    That is what is being done with Pop! World.  The authors are intentionally appealing to the baser video-game instincts of students rather than their intellect, character, or understanding.  They attempt to slide a controversial world-view into their minds by making it sound fun and easy.  But what they leave out of their visualized evolution screen is far more important than what they put in: e.g., (1) no gains in genetic information can come from random, unguided processes; (2) lizard color changes are mere horizontal variations rather than upward gains in complexity; (3) mutations are more likely to kill off a population than make it more fit (whatever fitness means); and more.
    Darwin’s disciples have long survived on the junk food of visualization (see cartoon).  The 10-year anniversary series by Jonathan Wells about his book Icons of Evolution makes that abundantly clear.  Pop! World is appropriately named at least; it is an extension of the Popeye Theory of Evolution (see 03/11/2005 and 10/31/2010 commentaries).  Adami’s “Tell-tale chemistry” would more appropriately be called “Tall-tale chemistry.”
    The Darwin Propaganda Machine is a storytelling empire, with evolution its mystery religion, full of magic and mysticism, adoring its own gods and goddesses like the Bearded Buddha (12/31/2009, 02/19/2009, 06/28/2007), the Blunderful Wizard of Flaws (09/05/2008), and Tinker Bell (03/08/2005).  Just today on a TV Nature program, an announcer commented about a population of birds ready for “evolution to work its magic.”  And you thought science was a repudiation of superstition.
    If high school biology teachers must satisfy their students’ craving for video games, let them use the more realistic Mendel’s Accountant.  This simulator doesn’t accept Darwinism as a given, but takes actual properties of genetic mutations and follows them faithfully through a population.  Unfortunately for Darwin-lovers, evolution doesn’t fare so well on that screen.  Better teach them some realism before they reach the University, where the witless novitiates become thoroughly brainwashed by the priesthood (“The universities all accept evolution as fact,” as if facts have any meaning by that stage of indoctrination).

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