Evolution: “A Christian and an atheist go to the zoo”
Language, Information, and Naturalism vs. Intelligent Design
Page 3 of Perry Marshall’s talk at Willow Creek’s Truthquest, South Barrington, Illinois, June 3, 2005
Evolution: “A Christian and an atheist go to the zoo”
Now I like to say you don’t need a zoo, a Christian and an atheist duking it out – that is a zoo!
Let’s frame the question this way: “Did the antelope evolve into a giraffe?”
People get really emotionally charged over this, when you read all these articles like Paul brought in about Intelligent Design and evolution. Everybody gets emotional about whether humans evolved from apes. But how many of you are really emotional about whether antelopes evolved into giraffes or not? Can we use that? Is that a safer example?
You know what, I don’t really care! Personally as a Christian I don’t really see a problem one way or another. Everybody has different views. I don’t have any problems with it theologically or otherwise. If giraffes came from antelopes that’s fine with me!
So, did giraffes come from antelopes? That does summarize the question, right?
Now when you get into arguments and discussions, almost everything you hear about creation vs. evolution is anecdotal evidence. What I mean is, it’s all after the fact stuff that may be useful, but it doesn’t actually prove anything. ‘Well I found this fossil and I found this fossil and I found this fossil, therefore this begot this which begot this.’ That’s anecdotal evidence. In a lot of cases nobody really knows.
So what happens is that people just argue back and forth and back and forth and they never reach any kind of conclusion. It’s complete exercise of futility because it’s my anecdotal evidence against your anecdotal evidence and we just have this big brouhaha.
Endless Arguing Aids Book Publishers
The book publishers like it because it’s just a great way to sell books. What could be better than an argument that is un-resolvable because nobody actually produces any proof of anything? It’s like selling missiles to the government. Whenever they get destroyed, someone has to buy more.
The vast majority of what most people think is proof of Darwinian evolution is in fact anecdotal evidence and is not provable either way. If you are going to get to the bottom of this question you have to reduce it to first principles and to mathematics. So I’m going to move really fast.
First of all, we can all agree that evolution is everywhere. It’s a household word.
Moore’s Law is a concept in computer science, It says that for every 18 months computer power doubles. And it has been going on for the last 20 or 30 years and just as computer gets faster and faster and faster, that’s evolution, right?
Businesses, technologies, markets and political movements they all evolve right?
Evolution is Everywhere!
If we didn’t have the word evolution, it would be very hard to describe a lot of things. We evolve, we get smarter, we learn things. Well, let me point out three kinds of evolution.
Three Kinds of Evolution
1. Deliberate Mutation + Natural Selection + Time = Design
An example of deliberate mutation combined with natural selection and time is business and technology. Five guys start a company and they are all going after the same market. Four of them fail, one of them succeeds. That’s evolution right?
That’s deliberate mutation. It’s not as though you start a company and throw darts at a newspaper and say ‘well this is what I’m going to do today.’ You dream and you scheme and you plan very carefully. You thoughtfully adjust your plans as you go. So four or five guys or gals dream and scheme or plan and then they deliberately go out in the marketplace.
Natural selection and time do their work. Some products and businesses prosper, others fail. That’s the business and technology world.
2. Random Mutation + Deliberate Selection + Time = Design
An example of this would be a game of Scrabble. In Scrabble, you get a bunch of letters and you reach into the pile. You get your letters and then try to spell something with them. That’s deliberate selection out of a random mutation.
3. Random mutation + Natural Selection + Time = Design.
No intention, no purpose, no planning, just a competition plus time equals design, that’s Darwinism.
Now I want to point out something about what happens when we use the word evolution in daily language. The only time that we are referring to totally random everything, totally purposeless everything is in biological Darwinian evolution.
Any other time we use the world evolution, we are describing intent. One of my friends, a really smart guy named Tom Hoobyar, he came up with the best definition for evolution I’ve ever heard. He said, “Evolution is chaos resolved by intent.” That’s good.
How do designs evolve?
Designs correspond to language right? All designs have a language that represents them. So, if DNA is going to evolve, if a language of DNA is going to evolve, then it has to increase its information.
Now Darwin was undoubtedly right about natural selection, that the stronger outperform the weaker, and they take over and the weak die off.
Does random mutation produce more information?
I’m going to show you something from my own work. I’m in the business of what is commonly called Scientific Advertising. The term comes from a landmark book written by Claude Hopkins in 1918.
There is a Madison avenue version of advertising, which is mostly what you see on TV. If Nike does a commercial and they show you a bunch of tennis shoes a bunch of smiling people, Nike doesn’t usually have any idea if it worked or not. They just assume it does. They just assume that it makes people go to the store and buy Nike tennis shoes.
But there’s a whole other part of advertising and the Internet is completely dominated by scientific advertising, where every action, every reaction is measured. Did you know Google is selling 5 billion dollars of advertising per year? That’s because companies pay when people click on the ad to go to the advertiser’s website. I’m in the business of helping people do that.
Scientific Advertising Examples
Here are two headlines:
Push Button Shave Cream
Moisturized Shave Cream
In tests, “Push Button Shave Cream” outperformed “Moisturized Shave Cream” 2:1. Push button shave cream got twice as many orders, twice as many responses as moisturized shave cream. We know, because somebody measured it.
Advertising is a Darwinian competition of language right? Which language is more effective at getting a desired result?
What is Buffered Aspirin
How to Stop a Headache Without Upsetting Your Stomach
In tests, “What is Buffered Aspirin” won by 50%. Once again it’s a competition of language, with natural selection choosing the winners.
Darwinian Evolution of Google Ads
On the right side of Google you see all of these little ads. Google is the perfect Darwinian machine because if people click on your ads because they like your message, your ads show up and people go “Oh yeah I want that.” If they click on it your ads move up. If your ads don’t get clicked on the move down and they get disabled. So it’s totally Darwinian all the way!
I consult people and companies everyday on how to play this game with Google. With Google you can write two ads and they will randomly show up back and forth one then the other one then the other and after a few hours or a couple of days you can see which one is more popular.
These two ads here, what’s the difference between these two ads? Can anybody see?
|Simple Self Defense
For Ordinary People
Easy Personal Protection Training
|Simple Self Defense
For Ordinary People
Fast Personal Protection Training
We only changed one word. Right? We change one word and the response went from 0.8 to 1.3%, that’s a 40% improvement by changing one word! What you are seeing here is the ABC’s of scientific advertising. This is the world I live in every day.
So I decided to ask: “Can random mutation write a better ad?” To answer the question, I hired a programmer who created a random mutation generator, which randomly substitutes characters.
What is Random Mutation?
Mutation is the idea that when DNA copies, every once in a while there is a copying error and most of the time it’s bad. But according to Darwinian theory sometimes it’s good. Most of the time it’s bad so those die off, some of the time it’s good so the antelope evolves into a giraffe.
That’s what’s being claimed, so that you have big long string of DNA with a billion or two billion or three billion letters, and if you have enough of these getting copied and enough copying errors eventually improvements find their way into a species. And if it needs to reach a taller tree than it grows a longer neck over a millions of years. That’s what is being claimed.
So I made a random mutation generator, www.RandomMutation.com. Can random mutation write a better ad? Here’s my ad, so now I’m going to mutate it. If you go to random mutation.com it’s there and you can play with it. It’s really fun to play with. So after one mutation can you see the mutant letter?
Simple Self Defense
For Ordinary People
Easy Personal Protect0on Training
The mutant letter is in the word ‘protection,’ and it has a 0 instead of an i.
After five mutations it looks like this:
Simple Self Def4nse
For Ordinary Peopla
Easy Personal Protect0ov Traininf
After ten mutations it looks like this:
Simple SPlf Def4nse
For Ordinary Geopla
Emsy Personal Protect0ov Traininf
After fifty mutations it looks like this:
By 50 mutations you can’t even recognize it anymore. The information has been almost completely destroyed.
Now I would bet anybody $1000, try using my random mutation generator to write better Google ads and I’ll pay you the thousand dollars if you can actually win. Let’s see if your ad goes up in the rankings or down in the rankings.
By the way this is not a silly little analogy. This is an exact analogy. Because it’s the mutation of language subjected to a natural selection process. If somebody is looking for Green Nike Tennis Shoes and they see an ad that says ‘Green Nike Tennis Shoes’ and they click on it, that’s natural selection at work.
If they type in ‘Green Nike Tennis Shoes’ and they see an ad that says ‘Red Wagons’ and they don’t click on it, that is also natural selection at work.
There is a parallel to this in biology, Theodesius Dobzhanski’s fruit fly radiation experiments. He did decades of experimentation starting in 1906; the hypothesis was if we take ultraviolet radiation and we bombard fruit flies with this, it will cause their DNA to mutate much faster than usual. If we do this long enough we should eventually come up with some other species of fruit fly. Some ‘super fruit fly’ or some improvement.
He got no new species.
What did he get? He got missing organs, deteriorations, sterility, reduced wings and legs, feet growing out of their mouths. Not one single improved fruit fly after decades of effort.
Dobzhanski’s Fruit Fly Mutation Experiments: A Total Failure
So here is a new insight:
Random Mutation + Natural Selection + Time = EXTINCTION.
If you read the literature, there are some very interesting quotes by these researchers who spent 30 years of their life trying to get fruit flies to evolve by bombarding them with radiation. Suffice it to say it was very perplexing. Some of them came up with completely different, “spontaneous” theories of evolution.
Random Mutation: Gives Us Birth Defects, Cancer and Death
Random Mutation causes birth defects. Random Mutation causes cancer. It causes incurable diseases, aging and death. So isn’t it ironic that the naturalists give it all the credit for creating new life forms? Where’s the proof?
Why does random mutation always destroy information?
Because information always exists in layers. You need an alphabet but also need syntax, you also need grammar, you also need meaning and it’s created from the top down, not the bottom up.
Intent comes from the top down. Your intent results in an idea that you want to communicate which you form words in your mind and then you translate words into letters as you type them in to your keyboard or into sounds as you speak them through your mouth.
A message starts with intent and it works its way down.
Then when somebody reads your email they read the alphabet, which they translate in to syntax and into grammar and into meaning. And then they understand your intent.
If you wanted to sit here for the next three hours, we could go into an engineering explanation of this. But I can tell you that in all communication systems the encoding decoding process starts at the top with intent, goes down to the alphabet; the alphabet gets coded into a file format. That’s how information is created.
Random mutations violate the whole nature of how information is created. Language can only be improved from the top working down to the bottom. You can’t randomly mutate a sentence into saying something more meaningful.
But mutations only work from the bottom up. They put fractures in to your intent, your syntax, your meaning and your grammar and you end up with theses silly little Google ads that we can’t even read anymore.
Remember the line from the two ads?
Easy personal protection training
Fast protection training
Like I said, that ad is an actual example from a real customer.
There’s no way that random mutation and natural selection can get you from easy to fast in single steps. Why? Because there are no little steps between easy and fast that don’t involve a mis-spelled word in-between.
E would have to evolve into F, and y would have to evolve in to t, at exactly the same time. And that’s a pathetically easy example. In order to actually work at all, random mutation would have to change both of them, change them properly, and not change any of the other ones. If you wanted to change entire words or phrases, then they’d have to change in one single step, without affecting any of the other words.
Truth be told, there is a remote statistical chance (one in 43 million in this instance), that you could do this with this tiny Google ad that’s only got 95 characters. You’d have to only change two specific letters, like in this example. (Remember that it would still be very, very expensive to run the other 42,999,999 versions of the ads while you waited for a good combination to show up!)
The shortest DNA strand in any form of life is 500,000 characters. If you wanted to improve just the eye or just the neck, let’s take that giraffe. Those mutations have to be all concentrated in the part of the DNA that describes the neck. But random mutation happens everywhere in the DNA, not just the part the codes the neck. And those random mutations destroy the information that describes the other parts of the body.
There is no feedback loop that says “Hey lets only change the neck part.” NO. Random mutation doesn’t work that way. That’s actually a failed version of evolutionary theory called Lamarckian evolution, and it was disproved decades ago.
So language, like these little Google ads, is the simplest possible example of what biologist Michael Behe called irreducible complexity.
You Can’t Get There In Incremental, Darwinian Steps
If you want to change the word easy to fast, you have this minimum amount of difference that has to change and everything else to be left the same and there is no way to get there in incremental steps. It has to happen all at once!
There’s just no way to focus mutation on areas that you need them to be in. The odds of many mutations happening right next to each other is very close to zero. Any person with any statistics background can figure out if I have 3 billion letters in my DNA, what’s the chances of only having mutations right next to each other, and all the other ones being left alone?
There is no feedback that says ‘hey DNA you need to adjust.’ If you’re colorblind there is no way you can say, “Okay now when I have sex with my wife tonight I want all my sperm to have non color blind DNA.’ You can’t do it. The more genes there are, the worse the situation becomes.
Like I said my background is communication engineering, and from the standpoint of a communication engineer random mutation is noise. Now, how many of you ten years ago or maybe now, copy your CD’s onto a cassette tape? That cassette tape has hiss on it and you can’t get rid of the hiss. That’s noise. Noise in engineering communication theory noise is always always always bad for communication.
In Engineering, Mutation (Noise) Never Improves The Signal
Nowhere in any communication engineering book or all the geniuses that built the Internet, none of those books have any formula where you ad noise to the signal and it makes it better.
Noise is always bad. Claude Shannon wrote this book right here, it’s a copy of what is probably the most important paper ever written in the field of Electrical Engineering, it was written in 1948 and was called The Mathematical Theory of Communication.
If you open this book, it’s full of integrals and all kinds of mathematical stuff and it’s very complicated and I’m not going to bore you with that. But, Shannon really got this figured out.
Shannon figured out, if I’ve got a telephone line that has this much noise on it, here’s how much information I can shove through that telephone line, here’s how much redundancy I have to have in the message in order to overcome the noise. He quantified all of that stuff, and made the digital communication age we live in possible.
Mutation = Entropy = Destroyed Information
In 1948 Claude Shannon discovered that the mathematics of noise in digital communication is exactly the same as the mathematics of entropy of thermodynamics. And that noise equals entropy, and in fact in communication theory noise is called entropy.
I’m not going to go into a big lecture about entropy but basically entropy is an irreversible process. When something is hot and it cools off, and the heat spreads out and you can never put the heat back.
Same thing with noise. When you have noise on your cassette tape and it dulls some of the music and it takes some of the information away. You can’t get the information back, It’s an irreversible process of degradation.
So, Noise looks like this:
You see what noise looks like? It looks like that. It looks like your TV screen between channels. Now how many of you would add some of that to a picture to make it look better? Of course you wouldn’t.
What does random mutation (noise) sound like?
Turn your radio between stations and you can hear that hissing sound. Noise creates uncertainty it’s impossible to get information from noise.
Remember I said language never comes from merely matter and energy? You could turn your radio between stations, and you’re just listening to the sun. What are the chances that all of a sudden in the middle of all that if you heard Hey Jude or something would you say Oh well I think the sun’s noise just organized for a little while. You would know that somebody turned on their radio transmitter and decided to play Hey Jude.
What About Genetic Programs?
Just briefly, I want to talk about genetic programs are computer programs that simulate random mutation and natural selection to improve the design of something. The most famous one is one in Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker where he starts with random letters and he runs them through a computer program. Every time it finds the wrong letter it throws it away. Every time it finds the right letter it keeps it. And he says, after only 30 or 40 iterations of his program he went from totally random letters to getting this sentence
methinks it is like a weasel
which is a line from Shakespeare. He says it’s therefore an illustration of evolution.
Now wait a minute… isn’t there something just a wee bit wrong with that example? That’s not Darwinian evolution, that’s Scrabble! That’s what it is. He programmed the desired result into his program first (the sentence ‘methinks it is like a weasel’) so he could get it! If you guys sat down and played a game of Scrabble, would that be an example of natural process or would that be an example of Intelligent Design? Absolutely. Dawkins’ example doesn’t prove anything except Intelligent Design.
There’s another program that’s all the rage now, it’s called Avida. It randomly generates machine language algorithms, it rewards successes with more computer processing time and it penalizes failures with less. It is said to be a wonderful example of evolution.
There is a flaw in it, though, and the flaw is that only certain parts of the program are allowed to mutate. The rest of the program is fixed. The program that does the decision making is not allowed to mutate, only the ones that are in this confined area are allowed to mutate. The definition of success is also pre-programmed by the operator. The mutation is not truly random and the selection is not truly natural. So once again, AVIDA is really an example of intelligent evolution not naturalistic evolution.
Darwinian Evolution is the Only “Evolution” That’s “Random”
So like I said, Darwinian theory is the only theory in which evolution refers to a truly blind random process. All the other uses of the word evolution that we have in our language are talking about Intelligent Design really, resolved by chaos. So all real evolution is chaos resolved by intent.
I mentioned this a while ago a long time ago about a hundred years ago there was a theory, Lamarckian evolution, which is the idea that learned traits are passed onto the offspring. It was the idea that if rats run in a maze and they become really strong super-rats, their children would somehow be stronger because of their life experience. That has been completely disproven.
Your life experience does not affect the DNA that you pass on to your offspring. Random mutation cannot increase information, and natural selection cannot increase information either, so evolution of any kind still requires a mind.
So… Have I Disproven Evolution?
Now I must be fair here: I have not disproven evolution. What I have disproven is naturalistic explanations for evolution. Very important distinction. Like I said, I don’t personally care; maybe the antelope did evolve into a giraffe but if it did, I want to know how. And random mutation is not how; absolutely not.
So what are the possibilities? We haven’t disproven that antelopes evolved into giraffes. It’s just that random mutation does not do it and current naturalistic explorations do not do it.
One of the arguments that you’ll hear from people as, again, anecdotal evidence for evolution, is junk DNA. This is a real favorite of Richard Dawkins and some of the other fanatical evolutionists.
They say 90% of your DNA is junk. Now really, at this point in time they do not know that. How many of you would you like to just get rid of the DNA in your body that is ‘junk’?
100 years ago they said that human beings had almost two hundred vestigial organs. How many of you would like to go to the hospital and have all the organs taken out that those people used to say you don’t need? Any volunteers?
Today the list of vestigial organs is not two hundred anymore, it’s closer to zero. We find that everything in your body has a use. There are just some people that haven’t figured out what it’s for or what it does. So they have pronounced it useless.
I really wonder if the ability to evolve might be built into some of that DNA that we don’t understand yet. I’m not opposed to the idea that evolution can’t happen. But you’re not going to find out if you only proclaim that you already have all the answers and all these people that are questioning this theory should be silenced because they’re all religious nutcases.
That’s not science. That’s dogma.
Let’s Get to the Bottom of This Mystery!
We want to get to the bottom of things. We want to find out how and why. If you want to find out why something happens, you don’t declare it useless; you research it. Maybe all the stuff that they are not sure about perhaps does have some kind of evolutionary function. Is there an information mechanism? Is there some mechanism through which information comes from natural process?
Was it Divine intervention? Well the fossil record does match the Genesis story better than it matches Darwin’s theory. You can read all about punctuated equilibrium and the sudden changes of the fossil record. The Cambrian explosion, is that divine intervention? I think it certainly could be.
Testable Predictions, Based on The Intelligent Design Hypothesis and Communication Theory
Based on everything I know about communication theory I would make some predictions about what we will learn about DNA in the next 20 or 30 years. I think that we will find that DNA is unrivaled in its sophistication and elegance, robustness and density of information. I believe that we will find out that it’s not 97% junk.
Eventually we will find out it’s the most exquisitely engineered communication protocol that anybody ahs ever seen. I think that junk DNA might have an evolutionary function.
A New Kind of Genetics?
Or maybe some new kind of genetics could be discovered that is kind of analogous to Newtonian physics giving way to quantum physics. And far more amazing than anybody ever previously thought.
I think it’s very prescient that a bunch of Bedouins roaming around in the desert wrote down in the first chapter of the Bible where it says, “And God said, let there be light.”
I think it’s prescient that they said language was the formation and creation of what we know today. It wasn’t light or movement or anything else, it was language. And then in 90 A.D., John wrote “In the beginning was the WORD.”
In the beginning was words and language. In the beginning was information. The idea preceded the implementation. That He was in the beginning with God and He was God. Very prescient don’t you think?
Questions from the Audience
Paul: Use of the word evolution is not necessarily the most strategic thing, because the Intelligent Designers certainly don’t disagree with it. With ‘evolution’, they disagree with macroevolution, but maybe not microevolution.
The public gets fogged over very quickly in this discussion. I do think that the Intelligent Design camp has a very good term for what they believe. I think you presented some very good arguments for why we should conclude that it is Intelligent Design, not it’s opposite. So, what should we call this other opposite thing that is at the root of this other belief?
What’s the opposite of Intelligent Design? It’s a stupid accident. Right? What we really have is it an Intelligent Design vs. Stupid Accident.
Perry: Which is a valid term indeed.
Paul: I’d like to point out though historically there was another term used called spontaneous generation and that the roots are really the same. That the belief of spontaneous generation was that individual life, not life forms, but individual creatures would come about naturally if the right conditions were there.
If you had just the right mixture of mud on the edge of a riverbank that spontaneously frogs would come out. Like spontaneous combustion for fire. If you have oily rags and just the right……
Well, what Darwin really did was to convert this belief from individual animal to the species. Now, he says, whole species just spontaneously generate. I’m wondering what your views are as a community when we engage in the dialogue so that we can be wise as serpents and harmless as doves? What words ought we to be using about this opposite view of Intelligent Design?
Perry: When I get into debates about this….. Bill mentioned my website www.evo2.org, and it’s a multi-day email series. On the fourth day I send an email about information theory and evolution. It gives, in one page, an explanation of everything I just explained to you. And then there are links where people can go to read more.
A lot of people come along who really do not like what I said (big surprise). They reply back, sometimes they have very special words for me and they tell me how ‘smart’ they think I am. Some people come out with machine guns blaring and everything. But I can tell you that after thousands of people have gone through this email series, no one has punched a hole in this.
Not that they haven’t tried! But nobody has found a flaw in this argument. The thing is, though, having an argument per se is not very productive.
But one thing that is useful is to point out that Darwin was at least half right. That’s a good start isn’t it? Darwin was absolutely right about natural selection, he just wasn’t right about the random mutation part. It shines a light on this thing that has been completely glossed over. You never hear any discussion about where does information come from in a science textbook.
How is this argument traditionally won? It’s won by drawing a picture of an ape that turns into a hominid that turns into a man or something like that. And oh, that makes a certain amount of sense. It’s all argued at this very intuitive level.
But like Paul said, what is this really? Very few people have ever thought any of this stuff through. All they’ve done is lob arguments back and forth about the peppered moths in England or Piltdown Man or whatever. It just degenerates into this ridiculous discussion.
Getting Down to First Principles
But now we’ve got it down to first principles. DNA is a language. Where did it come from? Everybody wants to talk about where the molecules and the chemicals came from. Wait, where did the plan come from? Where did the code come from?
I don’t know if I answered your question Paul, but it starts with what we agree on and what we do know. It also starts with not saying, ‘I’m a creationist I don’t believe in evolution.’ Actually we all probably use the word evolution every day! So we do believe in some kind of evolution. So let’s start on common ground and then let’s find where there are unanswered questions.
Participant: I enjoyed your talk very much. In the 1920’s there was a gentleman named Sir Ronald Fisher who is remembered as one of the best statisticians in the first part of the U.S. century. If one goes to the Encyclopedia Britannica it will say that Sir Ronald Fisher proved that this random variation can give you some types of improvements. I can’t state it precisely. His language was probability distributions and sample theory. Do you have any comments on that?
Perry: I do. When you get into this discussion, as soon as you start talking about probabilities and statistics, the naturalist will immediately retort that you can’t compute the probability because you don’t know else might have happened instead.
If I say “What’s the probability that these letters in my human genome came out the way they did?” They will say, “Well there are a trillion gazillion other combinations that could have resulted in a successful life form too, so you can’t compute it.”
And you don’t know for sure.
But in the Google ad example, you can ask ‘What’s the probability of changing easy into fast? We can take specific examples and you can show that random mutation can produce teeny tiny increases in information. Obviously it certainly can.
Some of the adaptations of germs and viruses to resist things, I’m sure some of those things come from random mutations and not just the adaptability that was already there.
However, when you start doing the math on this and you start saying, ‘I’ve got three billion letters in my DNA what is the chances of making some kind of change somewhere? And then, what’s the chance of two of them three of them four of them five of them all happening next to each other?’
When you do the math, you end up with the biggest numbers you have ever seen in your life. Ever seen!
2000 Decimal Places: Not Enough
I got into a debate with a guy about this and I learned that my windows computer only goes to 2000 decimal places. That is not anywhere near enough!
I’m serious! The two thousand decimal places in Windows XP is not anywhere near enough to compute the probability of you having a fingernail instead of not having a fingernail, because of random mutation in your DNA. The odds against it are utterly phenomenal.
Monkeys and Typewriters
Do you remember that old monkeys and typewriters example? Someone said, ‘If I had enough monkeys and typewriters typing along enough they would type all the words to Shakespeare,’ I think Huxley said that.
You know what? That’s nonsense! A whole universe full of monkeys, typing for the whole age of the universe wouldn’t even get to page 5 and that is a fact. No good statistician would disagree.
What can randomness accomplish? Very little. It can have some occasional benefit and a statistician can show it, but if you really delve into it, you do find scientific papers like you’re talking about. They’re using all of the complex probability distribution functions and they are trying to figure out well maybe because the DNA folded over and it got transposed.
They keep trying to come up with approaches and they just keep hitting brick walls. What you said was valid but get out your calculator and all of a sudden the display says -EEEEEEEE- because it can’t crunch a number bigger than that.
Jeff: First, going back to the world of computers, what about Neural networks? Computing power, feedback loops able to identify patterns that imitate artificial intelligence. How do you account for the rise or what’s called artificial intelligence out of computers?
Perry: Artificial intelligence always has been, and I think may always be, only 30 years away. (Laughter)
There’s a book by Ray Kurtzweil, called The Age of Spiritual Machines. Kurtzweil is from MIT and he’s a brilliant guy. Kurtzweil says, computers double every eighteen months, so 20 years from now your computer on your desk will be smarter than you are.
He says that in 40 years from with the Internet and all of the computers being interconnected, the collective intelligence of all the computers in the world will exceed the human race and will all be interconnected. The merging of all of this information will cause us to reach this thing called The Singularity. Basically when you get right down to it he is saying that man will become God.
People actually believe this!
Think about it for a minute. That’s my computer right over there, and it sits on my desk and it’s got a 3 Gigahertz processor. That thing can process equations, it can do graphics, it can do all the things computers can do. But that computer is as dumb as a box of rocks. It cannot think, and it has no will.
One of the implications of information theory is that information always starts from will, and only living things have it. Computers do not have will, they do not have intelligence, they do not even have the ability, they are computational machines. Computational machines, by definition, cannot think. In artificial neural networks, everything has to be programmed in and it’s only a response to what is programmed in.
The belief that if computers get fast enough, they’ll eventually become conscious, is really based on a philosophical belief that information is created from the bottom up. But communication theory shows us that the exact opposite is true. People believe this, not because of science, but because of a philosophical assumption. Really I think Artificial Intelligence is a great way to extract Venture Capital from atheists.
Christian Religious Belief vs. Atheistic Religious Belief
I’m not trying to insult anybody, but this is not just a scientific matter, this is also a philosophical matter. If you philosophically believe that faster and faster computers are somehow going to start becoming conscious, if you believe that we are going to upload ourselves into a computer and become immortal, that’s just a naturalist’s version of heaven.
Christians believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the second coming of Christ.
Atheists believe in the big bang coming from nothing at all for no reason; life coming from inorganic matter; and some believe in the singularity, when man becomes God.
It’s really just an alternative religious view. I’m not saying artificial intelligence is impossible. But it is not possible with the kind of computing we have today, because you have to have some way of having will. I don’t think anyone even knows where will and intent come from. What exactly is consciousness? That’s a huge question nobody can even get their arms around.
Did I answer your question?
Jeff: Yes, the second question has more to do on a comment on the scientific community. It seems like a lot of these insights are coming from outside the established biological community and the Ph.D.’s at Ivy League universities. Why is that? Why don’t they see it?
Perry: In any industry, in any profession… and this is me speaking both as a business person and as a person with a scientific education… in almost every discipline, innovations come from the outside. Almost every time. Rarely from within.
Did Bill Gates come from the world of IBM mainframe computers? No. He was a total outsider. There is a book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn and he explains this very well. That all scientific institutions create dogmas that explain things, and they continue to use the same explanation even though it doesn’t fit, until a better one comes a long.
But then the better one comes along and smashes the old one. But it is still not even completely accepted until the old guys literally die.
That’s the nature of things. What I see out there in this whole Intelligent Design versus naturalism debate, is a lot of people who are very, very frightened. They’re thinking, “What happens if people out there find out that we haven’t figured this all out yet?”
But I’m advocating open scientific discovery where we explore things and find answers. I’m open to whether the giraffe evolved or didn’t. I’m open to that, but let’s find out. Because that’s how we are going to get progress.