Mark Chu-Carroll has a post up that does two admirable things: it deflates yet another creationist and his grandly fallacious claims, and it gives me a new toy to play with.
The first part is a debunking of Granville Sewell, a mathematician and darling of the Intelligent Design creationists. Sewell actually is a professor of mathematics, so it’s somewhat embarrassing to see a fellow professional humiliate himself with such ancient, bogus creationist complaints, such as that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, or that stepwise change can’t occur. I’ll also recommend debunkings of Sewell’s bad math by Jason Rosenhouse and Mark Perakh.
The second part is fun. Download the breveCreatures simulation software, and play. This is a program that runs blocky, crudely jointed creatures through cycles of evolution, and you can watch rectangles with hinged limbs evolve to walk under the pressure of selection for greater distances of movement. They start out pathetic and feeble, little blocks that flail about and might randomly flick themselves forward a few steps, and after a half hour or so and tens of generations, they’re rather clumsily galloping across the screen.
I’ve only run a couple of the demos—this thing is programmable, too, and there’s much more it can do—and the performance is remarkable even with the handicaps imposed on the design. One thing I noted right away in the simplest demo (“Walker.tz”) is that there’s no symmetry imposed on the systems, so the poor creatures are afflicted with four limbs that may each have completely different properties, making them particularly thrashworthy. There really ought to be something in the code to require the two upper forelimbs, for instance, to have identical controls, with some kind of central regulatory circuitry that could impose phase differences. Are there no structuralists and developmental biologists among the coders at breve?