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7.3 Darwinism

Darwinism—named after the British naturalist Charles Darwin, who first proposed his theory in the mid 19th century—is a theory of how organic evolution has happened. The theory states that during the production of a child organism, random events can cause random changes in that child organism’s characteristics. Then, if these new characteristics are a net benefit to that organism, that organism is more likely to survive and reproduce, thereby passing on these new characteristics to its children.

Darwin’s theory has two parts. The first part identifies the designer of organic life as randomness. The second part, called natural selection, is the means by which good designs are preserved and bad designs are eliminated. Natural selection is accomplished by the environment in which the organism lives.

As discussed in the previous section, random events applied to common particles is the only mechanism allowed by the mathematics-only reality model for the evolution of organic life. Thus, in effect, Darwinism applies the mathematics-only reality model to the question of how organic life has come about. This is the reason Darwinism is embraced by those who embrace the mathematics-only reality model.

The strong point of Darwinism is natural selection (for example, see the use of natural selection in explaining the evolution of learned programs, in section 3.6). The weak point of Darwinism is its exclusive reliance on random events as the cause of the changes winnowed by natural selection.[57]


footnotes

[57] As was described in chapter 2, the production of sex cells has steps in which the genetic inheritance from both parents is randomly mixed to form the genetic inheritance carried by each sex cell. Thus, for sexually reproducing organisms, randomness does play an important role in fine-tuning a species to its environment, insofar as that species is defined by its genetic inheritance.

Although sexual reproduction uses randomness—as part of the total sexual reproduction process—that does not mean, as Darwinism would have it, that the process itself was produced by random physical events. For example, in computer science there are many different optimization problems whose solutions are most efficiently approximated by randomly trying different possibilities and keeping only those tries that improve the quality of the solution. This is a standard technique. However, because a computer program uses randomness to find a solution, that does not mean that the program itself was produced by random physical events. Quite the contrary, the programs of computer science were produced by intelligent designers—namely computer scientists and programmers.

In the computing-element reality model, randomness is assumed to play an important role in the origin of learned programs, because, in essence, the trial-by-error learning algorithm (section 3.6) is an algorithm that makes random changes within the confines defined for that algorithm.


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