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The Blind Watchmaker Makes a Watch: A Nifty Video About Evolution

This is beyond neat.

This gets at both the precision and the beauty of the theory of evolution in a way that’s completely clear, and really fun to watch. (If you’re a nerd like me, anyway.)

It’s an animated video demolishing the “watchmaker” argument for creationism.

Watch_1If you’re not familiar with the “watchmaker” argument, it goes roughly like this: The awesome complexity of the human body proves that it had to have had a designer. It could not have evolved naturally, any more than the parts of a watch will evolve naturally into a watch. (Or, as the more modern version of the argument goes: The complexity of the human body evolving by “chance” or at “random” is as likely as a bunch of machine parts in a hurricane assembling themselves into a 747. “Chance” and “random” in quotation marks, because natural selection isn’t random chance… that’s the whole point.)

The main problem with this argument is this: Of course watches and 747s don’t evolve naturally. They’re not alive. They don’t mutate, and they don’t reproduce.

Clock_partsSo cdk007 (who has a bunch of other evolution videos on YouTube) created a computer program putting a bunch of clock parts together that could combine, mutate, and reproduce; put them in an environment where the ones that kept time the best were more likely to survive; and ran the program. Several times, with an assortment of different parameters such as rate of mutation and number of teeth on the gears, to make sure his parameters hadn’t been accidentally fine-tuned.

And got clocks.

Functioning, accurate clocks.

Several times over.

Transitional_fossilsWhat I really like about this video — apart from just, you know, everything — is how neatly it demolishes the “transitional forms” argument against evolution. You know: “Where are all the transitional forms? Why are there these sudden jumps in the fossil record?” Of course there are transitional forms in the fossil record — lots and lots and lots of them — but there are also some sudden (well, “sudden” by geological standards) jumps. This video makes it very clear, in a vivid, visual way, exactly how and why that happens in a completely natural system of natural selection. If a mutation comes along that’s a very big improvement, it’s going to spread very quickly indeed — so quickly that it probably won’t be captured in the fossil record. Note in this video the rapid transition between the Age of Pendulums and the Age of True Clocks.

BTW, you don’t need sound for this video. There’s a very nice song in the background by Coldplay, but the actual content is all visual. (Not that I’m saying you SHOULD watch it at work…)

Video after the jump, since putting videos before the jump screws up my archives.

FYI, you might need to pause it occasionally, since some of the text goes by somewhat quickly.

Via Pharyngula.

Comments

  1. says

    What a fantastic video! As always, when treated realistically and not reduced to an idiotic strawman, evolution is an amazingly subtle and powerful creative process. I want to get a look at the code for this program and see how he modeled the physical interactions between the various components.

  2. says

    Thanks. I saw the post on Pharyngula but didn’t have time to look then.
    Your wonderful description made it clear I had to make time.
    That’s a fantastic video.
    I have a feeling it will only more deeply convince people who already had some understanding, and the people who don’t want to understand it still won’t.
    But, still, wonderful.

  3. says

    Greta I never thought I’d find support for the potentiality of a Designer on your blog, and maybe I’m one of the few to think this way, but to me both the video and computer program are powerfully persuasive evidence for a life-unfolding process that was initiated by an intelligent, highly powerful being of some sort, ie a creator, ie god, ie chuck manson reincarnate as a killer tomato if you really want to go there!
    I believe any serious atheist that embraces these types of scenarios as evidence for naturalistic evolution is doing his or her self a disservice equal to or greater in folly than some of the most rudimentarily asinine creationist blunders. Here’s why:
    In this case “cdk007″ is undeniably, unmistakably and irrevocably God; and not just god, I mean with the big G and everything.
    The molecules that comprise the physical housing of the computer could not have risen without the intelligent design of all-powerful cdk007; the transmission paths run by electronic impulses that create the computer program which performs these ‘random’ calculations could not have risen without the ingenious design of either cdk007 or some other intelligent, semi-niscient programmer; and the information which determines the behavior of the program had to be intelligently hand-written into a series of scripts then physically uploaded to a server somewhere, all of which required our lord of the program cdk007 and likely a host of lesser programming gods as well.
    The whole scenario is reminiscent of the fallacy rooting from the initial Miller experiments at the University of Chicago: “Life in a Test Tube” the media prematurely exclaimed and many prematurely used to bolster support for neo-Darwinism.
    Well gotta go. I figured I’d take advantage of your most wonderful “shameless self promotion” day by adding a link below that will take an interested reader to the full article about the Miller experiments. Been slacking on reading the blog and I see some other interesting articles…
    http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com/the_warfare_is_mental/2007/05/life_in_a_test_.html

  4. says

    Just wanted to add a little thing and pre-emptively address anyone who might blindly write me off as “incredibly ignorant.”
    I thoroughly understand and appreciate the differences between abiogenesis and neo-Darwinism (if you don’t believe me hit my blog), but I wholeheartedly disagree with cdk007′s assertion that if one argues “because (cdk007) wrote the program and is intelligent (that this) somehow proves intelligent design” this person is “incredibly ignorant.” He then goes on to state that if we were arguing abiogenesis, that person would “have a point.” Outside the foolish (?) idea that organic life is eternal, I do believe abiogenesis to be prerequisite to a godless universe.
    I also respect (and as a programmer highly appreciate) cdk007′s code which simplistically and beautifully demonstrates the processes of microevolution and natural selection; but at the same time feel it strongly supports the most basic creationist argument (remember, creation theories are not necessarily christian), that life, and thus the evolution it unfolds, came from an intelligent personality of some sort.
    Darwinism and its modern derivatives were presented as alternatives to creationism. Excepting the notion of a God who just hit the switch and let evolution run wild, they inherently require some form of abiogenesis. To force the viewer to extract one theory from the other can be misleading and so long as we are discussing naturalistic evolution, such an approach unfairly dichotomizes two components of a singular argument.
    Yes, molecules can assemble, mutate, replicate, evolve and thrive on their own – hard scientists proved this without computers long ago – but in this particular case the evolution was programmed, ie created, ie designed and all I’m saying is it sure does follow a formula.
    So sorry to be so “incredibly ignorant” but whenever we are discussing naturalistic evolution, we are also discussing abiogenesis. Besides, it’s kinda fun and cool in an underdog way to be charged with being “incredibly ignorant” without even getting to first present an individual case :)
    As they say, “the whole world is pink through rose colored glasses.”
    I have to stay off your blog Greta it is too darn thought provoking -

  5. says

    Jane and Efrique, you have your anwer.
    Um…
    First: C., with all due respect, did you *watch* the video?
    cdk007 addresses exactly that question, in the video itself. In the part where it says that the video is explaining evolution — NOT abiogenesis (i.e., the original original of life). It’s in the first minute of the video.
    Second: You’re basically arguing that, if a natural process can be duplicated by intelligent humans in a lab, then that somehow proves the process had to have been intelligently deisgned in the first place. That if scientists can grow mold in a petri dish, or produce an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, or form salt crystals out of sodium and chlorine, then that proves that mold and salt and antibiotic-resistant bacteria had to have been created by an intelligent hand.
    It proves nothing of the kind.
    The fact that a natural process can be replicated in a lab does not prove that the process is not 100% natural in, you know, nature.
    cdk007 did not create clocks. He or she replicated the conditions of early, simple life, and watched what happened. That’s exactly what scientific researchers do. They replicate the conditions of nature, as closely and carefully as possible, and watch what happens. (Or they replicate particular conditions of nature while stripping out complicating variables, so as to observe only the particular phenonemon they’re trying to observe.)
    Your argument is basically the same “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” argument that creationists are making about the origins of life. For decades, creationists argued, “You can’t produce life out of non-life, it’s never been done in the lab — therefore it had to have taken the divine hand of God to make it happen.” Now that scientists think they *will* be able to reproduce abiogenesis, to create conditions in which life forms out of non-life, creationists are saying, “See? For life to come out of non-life requires the intervention of intelligence!”
    So I’ll repeat: The fact that a natural process can be replicated in a lab (or in a computer program) DOES NOT mean that it *requires* intelligent intervention to make it happen.
    Which leads me to one question: What possible evidence *would* convince you that evolution is correct and creationism is mistaken?
    Evolutionists are generally very happy to answer the reverse of this question. “Rabbits in the Pre-Cambrian layer” is the standard one-line answer. But when you pull out this sort of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” argument, you’re basically admitting that there is *no* evidence that could possibly convince you.

  6. says

    Greta Christina said “That’s exactly what scientific researchers do. They replicate the conditions of nature, as closely and carefully as possible, and watch what happens”
    That’s exactly what I was going to say. Per a simple search on Wikipedia, “The scientific method seeks to explain the events of nature in a reproducible way, and to use these reproductions to make useful predictions. It is done through observation of natural phenomena, and/or through experimentation that tries to simulate natural events under controlled conditions”
    So what type of evidence, other than empirical research WOULD convince you, C?
    Further, you state that these “molecules” evolved because they were programmed to (“but in this particular case the evolution was programmed, ie created, ie designed and all I’m saying is it sure does follow a formula.”)
    That’s not true.
    I think the video actually did a great job of explaining the complete randomness and variability of the program. In other words, none of the mutations were predetermined by the program, the series of evolution was completely random. (just like in real life)

  7. says

    That’s a really good point, Jane. The clock parts *weren’t* programmed to evolve. They were programmed to mutate, survive (or not), and reproduce. Evolution happened — dramatically — as a result of those three things.

  8. AttemptingReason says

    I think C is arguing that even though cdk007 showed that evolution works, he still had to create the universe that the evolution occurs in. The obvious conclusion is that God must exist and that Jesus died for our sins, checkmate again Atheists! This is really a fine-tuning argument, claiming that God exists because the universe exists and we don’t know why the universe exists, so God is the reason, because we don’t know so it must be God. Ahem. My point is that there is no basis to assume a god exists, let alone a specific god, just because we don’t know everything, Christians accuse atheists of being arrogant because we don’t believe in a being who is infinitely better than us, but they don’t bat an eye when they say that they have absolute knowledge about the history and purpose of the universe, based on a very very old book.

  9. Eclectic says

    Well, the brains were actually in the fitness function. That’s the “natural selection” part of evolution that’s supposed to be non-random. I notice that the clocks tended to produce hours (3600 seconds) and days (86400 seconds). Somehow, those numbers must have been rewarded by the (not well explained) fitness function used by the selection proess.
    In this case, yes obviously the world of clocks was created on purpose, but the point is that blind evolution can find a solution to some pretty amazingly difficult problems. And that was only a few thousand individuals and a few thousand generations. It’s been over a trillion days since life began on this planet. Some microscopic life forms (far more than a trillion indiciduals) can reproduce more than once a day.
    What even the tiniest selection pressure can achieve in that time is impossible to imagine – instead we have to open out eyes and look at the world.
    In all honesty, creationists have pointed out some of the more difficult “problems” facing evolution. Indeed, if you have a complex multi-part organ and no selection pressure favoring the component pieces, that’s unevolvable, even in a trillion generations.
    So such apparently unevolvable organs are a fair test of a prediction of evolution.
    And evolution through mutation and natural selection passes those tests When people look carefully, they see signs of the path that evolution took. Narrow, tortuous, and almost invisible, but there is a step-by-step path from the base to the peak of mount improbable.

  10. says

    This is a beautifully done video and a well-presented argument.
    If you want to see more examples of this kind of simulated evolution, Karl Sims was doing just this in the early 90′s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Sims). I got to see him do a presentation on how a series of rectangular boxes could combine and develop the ability swim, in a simulated environment. They developed surprising complexity and different modes of swimming very reminiscent of real creatures!

  11. FlyinGreaseMonkey says

    This fellow created a simulation, gave it a purpose and some rules to follow, and then let it do what it was created to do. This is as much a demonstration of intellegent design as it is pure evolution.

  12. FlyinGreaseMonkey says

    This simulation is built on a faulty premise; this fellow has miss-defined intelligent design. Intelligent design isn’t just creation, it’s also steering evolution by giving it purpose. For example, the first result of this simulation is the formation of a pendulum, then the pendulum starts to swing. How does the pendulum know it can swing, how does the pendulum then know how to swing, and how does the pendulum know that it should swing rather than stay at rest. The pendulum swings (has life) because the creator told it to. The creator of this simulation assigned functions thereby purpose to the individual components, he has effectively removed mutation, how can there be mutation when the “evolution” has been directed to produce an operating watch in accordance with the assigned functions of the components. Be a watch; no, a good watch or die, no pressure there! The creator doesn’t want to hear it, but this is intelligent design.

  13. says

    Thank you for writing, FlyinGreaseMonkey. But your comments have already been addressed, both in the video itself and in other comments, and I’m not going to repeat them.

  14. says

    Wow…my little rant got a few responses. I came back to this page because I have to include it for a project I’m working on…
    So, yes, I watched the video, and I don’t think humans duplicating a natural process in a lab proves it had to be intelligently designed in the first place. It is suggestive. Just like this guy’s video is suggestive of a larger Intelligence setting up some conditions (the program) and letting it rip (the universe). As CK007 set the parameters of this program and let it do it’s thing, so could “God” (or whoever) have done the same with the universe. It’s a perfect analogy.
    This FlyinGreaseMonkey guy basically summarized my point when he said:
    “This fellow created a simulation, gave it a purpose and some rules to follow, and then let it do what it was created to do. This is as much a demonstration of intellegent design as it is pure evolution.”
    Another one of my personal favorites worthy of quote at all times: “The whole world is pink through rose colored glasses”
    people look at facts and see what they want to see, period. I really don’t care whether anyone else’s beliefs conform to mine or not. To me, the only honest answer to the question of “how did we get here?” is “I don’t know?”

  15. FlyinGreaseMonkey says

    C Long, perhaps these ideas can be useful for your project. He said at the beginning of the show that machines can’t evolve, yet he tried it anyway and botched it up. My observations point out that he’s right, machines can’t evolve. He said that there are 30 gears when in fact there are 29,910 gears (30 X 997 variations) of which 30 can be used. The grand number of 1000 teeth is superfluous and irrelevant once the tooth count is sufficient to accommodate the basic ratios. The gears could have a million teeth and it wouldn’t matter except it would make the time piece larger and take more time to try them all. The ratchet and the spring are just eye candy because the pendulum doesn’t seem to need propulsion, gravity, or switching to operate; it operates on its own? Therefore the ratchet and spring do nothing but misdirect. This simulation works in effect by simple trial and error. The finite number of components are tried one at a time until a connection passes his fitness test which is also faulty. It doesn’t test for the ability to survive, but to survive in a certain way; as a time piece. He said “all possible connections between components are allowed, there for in no way does it direct the formation of a clock”. Then later you find out that the clock is not allowed to bind or de-construct. Also he runs the simulation 3 times and each time it’s a clock 
 hint, hint; it’s designed to make clocks. What he depicts as mating is the simulation picking the next piece to try, no mutation just a random pick out of the basket of parts. It actually tries to mutate by jamming and de-construction, going against the programming, but the mutant rebels are killed off; no mutation allowed. But it does allow a hand to stick to a spring which he then represents as a gear? This simulation will not work without specific direction from its creator, and it’s plain to see that as a mechanism it’s incomplete and inoperable. It’s a failed analogy of organic evolution presented as a machine. Run the simulation as many times as you want and it will always be a time piece, it will never evolve into a rotisserie or a Mack Truck; the gears are prevented from jamming so it can’t even evolve into a nice coffee table. So, he’s right, machines can’t evolve. He leads you through the demonstration like any good salesman, for what, to demonstrate that the smashed watch is a straw man? He’s trying to defeat an alleged creationist straw man by creating an even bigger atheist straw man. Hey’ a great movie title, “The Clash of the Straw Men.”

  16. Julanar says

    I wish the video would have mentioned that there ARE scientific explanations of how life began that can be found in any modern biology textbook. These theories are not as fully developed as evolutionary theory is, but they have been successfully tested in simulated environments.
    I obviously can’t explain it all here, but it is not, as is often claimed, a violation of the scientific law that life cannot arise from non-life. The Earth’s atmosphere was totally different from the modern atmosphere, and this enabled organic molecules to form, come together into compounds, and evolve in their own way.

  17. Julanar says

    By the way: The pendulum swings because of gravity. Gravity is a natural law, unless you want to believe the “Onion” article about the new religious “intelligent falling” theory. I don’t see what that even has to do with evolution.
    When you argue that ANYTHING must have come from an intelligent creator, it always comes down to this: Who created the creator? Who created the intelligence? Because of all the organisms on Earth, an intelligent creator that made absolutely everything would have to be the most complex “organism” of all!

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