Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are computers evolved or is the DI getting bored?

Bruce Chapman is the Director, and one of the founders, of the mis-identified 'Think Tank' called the Discovery Institute. So what has Bruce been up to now that might make me think he's getting bored with the whole Intelligent Design marketing scheme? Well I think he must be because now he's trying to rebut comments before they exist, so either he's psychic or psychotic, you be the judge. Check out: "It's Elementary: IBM's "Watson" Demonstrates Intelligent Design, Not Darwinian Evolution" over on the so-called Discovery institute 'News' site. He's whining about a new IBM computer, one that will be playing against the two of the winning-est Jeopardy champions ever. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/opinion/06powers.html?_r=2).

So what does this have to do with the normal topics on this blog? The title on brucie's column offers one hint, his last line does sum it up pretty well.

"I bring this to your attention, as I say, to correct in advance the inevitable and dreary effort of some Darwinian to claim Watson for evolution. But, it's elementary: Watson did not "evolve."
So no one has claimed that a computer is the product of biological evolution, and brucie wants to head off the apparent horde of evolution supporters who will attempt to make such a claim. He's wrong, the horde exists only in his head.

See why I think he must be getting bored? Instead of addressing any of the issues people have had with Creationism and Intelligent Design (like the lack of science, lack of evidence, 'cdesign proponetists', . . .) he has to go make one up. Seriously, would any of you claim that IBM's computer is the product of Natural Selection? How about Gene Flow? Pretty tough for something that doesn't have genes. How about Random Mutation? Anyone think a computer randomly mutates? OK, I know with certain operating systems it certainly seems to randomly mutate, but like Intelligent Design, the appearance of random mutation is not the fact of a random mutation.

So. in other words the only thing brucie has done is prove, once again, that he is completely clueless about biology and the Theory of Evolution. As Jim Nabors would say "Surprise, surprise, surprise!".

Just to set the record complete, I will be happy to go on record and say that IBM's newest computer has evolved! Even brucie himself alluded to it, although it must have gone right over his head when he mentioned:
"as in an earlier IBM defeat of chess champion Gary Kasparov".
Well the article in the NY Times also mentioned that. Only it used slightly different terms:
"a follow-up to the 1997 defeat by its computer Deep Blue of Garry Kasparov"
I hate the burst brucie's bubble (OK not really), but wouldn't a computer today that is called 'a follow-up' be considered to have evolved? Think about the PC on your desk? Can you see pieces, parts, and other components that can trace their lineage back to older lines of personal computers? How about some similarities to mini and mainframe computers from the 60's and 70's? Some of our terms and techniques can be traced back to the earliest computers, like the US's ENIAC (1946) and Germany's Zuse (1941) and Britain's Colossus (1943) computers? As an industry computers have certainly evolved. But only the director of the less-than-honest Discovery 'Institute' would try and equate that to biological evolution and then try and get the first strike in on the imaginary folks who would try and claim computers were the product of biology.

I think brucie struck out on a single pitch -- and that takes talent -- or boredom!


  1. Since, for a change, the DI was accepting comments. I posted one, now to see if it makes it past their censors. Here is my comment:

    Mr. Chapman, you are kidding right? As I read this I had to check and see if I was on the Onion website. I think the ONLY person who might try and claim that a computer is the product of biological evolution is someone who does not understand it. And i also believe anyone who expects others to make such a claim also reveals less than expected knowledge of the subject at hand.

  2. Your comment there is apparently still in moderation. Be interesting to see if it finally appears.

  3. Richard,
    I noticed it's still not posted by their moderator. What does surprise me is none of the other DI fellows wandered by and started applauding each other -- at least not yet.

  4. OK, it's been a week and still my comment hasn't made an appearance at http://www.discoverynews.org/2011/02/its_elementary_ibms_watson_dem043671.php Not really a surprise, but the Discovery institute should post a policy that only comments that agree with whatever crap they are posting will be allowed. Like i said in Censorship is such an ugly word, but it applies! (http://sciencestandards.blogspot.com/2011/01/censorship-is-such-ugly-word-but-it.html) it does apply.

  5. Does it use any sort of evolutionary algorithms? That might be what he is talking about IF this very unlikely thought is true.