So I get bored easily and seeing I have no life to speak of I end up writing pointless programs that demonstrate arbitrary points of evolutionary theory that only people who don’t understand it actually argue with in the first place. The first program I wrote, which attempted to show how mutation and natural selection could make a “bug” better suited to its environment, garnered a number of great comments as well as some helpful constructive criticism and as such my initial plan was to go back and rewrite that program taking those issues into account. However I ended up doing away with that idea and starting completely from scratch.
The most common complaint about the original program was that it took too long to run. Even sped up to run at around a generation a second it could still take a number of minutes to get anything approaching a definitive result. As such when I started writing this new program I put considerable thought into this issue and, well how can I put this, decided to ignore it completely. This new program is, I am afraid to say, a good bit slower than the last one. In fact it can at times take several hours to run, which believe me makes bug testing it a real pain. On top of that both selection and reproduction work differently in this program and as such there is no simulated predation or mating in this one. Yes people that’s right. I have written a sequel that is vastly longer than the original and which contains no sex or violence. Clearly I must be mad!
Well yes, yes I am, completely bonkers in fact but that has nothing to do with why I choose to do it this way. Though all the comments and suggestions from people who understand and accept evolutionary theory were helpful it was the comments I got from creationists, not on this blog but elsewhere, that were more so. In fact one of the Leagues moderators Squawk summed it up perfectly when he joked that the program only demonstrated micro evolution. This is the same response I got from a creationist when, during a discussion about natural selection, I, probably mistakenly, got him to check out my program to illustrate the point I was making. He immediately came back with that old creationist canard of “Ah but they are still bugs, this is only micro evolution, which I accept,” he then added the words that would form the basis of this new program, “creatures can adapt to their environment but evolution can’t add new information to their DNA and so macro evolution can’t happen.”
Now we all know that is completely poppycock. Evolution can, and does, increase the amount of information stored in the genome. The process is so simple it amazes me that we even have to have this argument. Some mutations can duplicate genes or nucleotides, which means that the creature then has two copies of the same gene. One copy carries on doing what ever it is it does while the other copy is free to mutate again, in one way or another, leading to the development of new genes and new information that was not found in the genome of the parent creature. It really is that simple and we know this to be the case, we are not just guessing here. Why creationists continue to deny this incredibly easy to understand fact is beyond me.
Anyway I am really starting to ramble here. Basically this new program, that I call SHAPES, sets out to demonstrate how the dual processes of mutation and natural selection can, and do, increase the amount of information stored in the genome. In order to make it as authentic as possible the selection pressure in this one is a lot more fluid and involves a higher contingent of luck than in the original program and it is this that makes it take a lot longer to run. That said I also feel that this program is more realistic as a result and better demonstrates the principles at work than the previous one. It also makes a nice screen saver that you can leave running if you are not really using your computer and just come back later to see the results.
Ok, so check out the About page in the program for more information on what it is doing and if you have any questions on how it works, what my pseudo-DNA does or what exactly is going on then feel free to ask and I will be happy to shed some more light on the issue. You’d never guess that I enjoy talking about this stuff would you. So without further ado I give you:
UPDATE – I just found this cartoon that seems strangely appropriate so I thought I would share it with you: