Cheating The Salem Hypothesis

Richard Dawkins is the world-famous science entertainer who masquerades as a scientist. Today, a shining example of how he uses sleight of hand to fool gullible people and build his tribe.

cheating_robin_corpsDawkins offers a simulation of evolution in his famous book The Blind Watchmaker. He entered the following random string of letters into a computer program:


One letter at a time, his program evolved the string of letters.

After only 43 iterations, by randomly changing letters and deleting results it didn’t want … the program achieved its goal of the following sentence:


Gibberish to English in only 43 steps. Wow. Evolution!

The astute person will notice: Dawkins began with his desired sentence already programmed in to his code from the outset, so the program always knew what it was looking for.

Well my goodness, isn’t that clever! Wow Richard Dawkins, I am so impressed!

(Please don’t forget, ladies and gentlemen, the point of Dawkins’ entire body of work is: evolution does NOT have goals.)

Yet his evolutionary computer program starts with…

A Goal!

His fans don’t notice he’s cheating. He walks with one lover while holding hands with another. Just like in the picture.

But you know who does see the con?

Engineers. Computer Science people.

Engineers and Computer Scientists are consistently skeptical of Darwinian evolution. This has been verified in studies.

There’s a term for this. It’s called “The Salem Hypothesis.” It’s named after a frustrated devotee of Darwin’s obsolete theory, Bruce Salem. Salem complained that “An education in the Engineering disciplines forms a predisposition to Creation/ID viewpoints.”

Well it’s not just engineers, Mr. Salem! It’s also as dentists and MDs. Personally I’d also add: entrepreneurs and generally most people who build and create for a living.

Why is this so???

Because when you do something for a living, you know that you know that you know certain things. Engineers know what Richard Dawkins also knows but won’t admit to himself: That you can never build successful systems unless you start with a goal. Evolution requires purpose. Evolution is true and it’s possible because living things re-engineer their own DNA.

In my book Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design, I devote an entire chapter to “Genetic Algorithms” – computer programs that simulate evolution.

Some of these programs do work. Some are quite useful for doing certain jobs.

But all GAs that actually work start with goals.

No exceptions.

Really effective GAs further employ versions of what I call “The Evolutionary Swiss Army Knife.” Modular tools that re-arrange parts of the system and connect them in clever ways. These programs don’t just randomly break stuff. There’s a formula.

In other words, if you want to evolve things with software, you MUST employ a non-Darwinian version of evolution. Otherwise you end up with garbage.

Nobody has ever demonstrated evolution software that works without sneaking purpose into the experiment.

If you disagree, post one counterexample in the comments below. Show me one evolutionary program that achieves anything useful without someone sneaking design into the experiment.

This confirms what engineers, computer scientists, dentists and MDs have known all along: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Good Stuff In, Good Stuff Out. Nature is purposeful.

So if you always suspected that evolution was true… but thought maybe there was more to it than what the Darwinians always told you… evolutionary software will happily confirm your suspicion.

In fact… real evolution is actually more like Dawkin’s WEASEL program than it’s like the way he claims evolution works in his Blind Watchmaker book.

This notion of purposeful evolution made PZ Myers angry in our recent debate. PZ groused, “Perry thinks this is engineering.”

Yessir, PZ. Eyes, ears, limbs, body plans… ALL of it is engineering. Engineers know making millions of damaged copies of stuff is not a continuous improvement program. We know: if it doesn’t work in the real world, it doesn’t work in Darwin’s theory either.

That’s why Darwin’s theory is now being replaced by a post-Darwinian model.

So today, to celebrate Salem’s correct hypothesis, I add the Salem Corollaries:

Salem Corollary #1: A lack of education in engineering predisposes people to obsolete theories of evolution that have never been shown to work.

Salem Corollary #2: People who use purely random, purposeless Darwinian methods to build things must either cheat like Dawkins did… or get fired from their jobs.


36 Responses

  1. Michael Altarriba says:

    A fitness function is not the same thing as a goal.

    A fitness function assigns some quantitative value to a program state / set of variables, with the function generating a higher or lower value as that program state / set of variables reach some desired state.

    In this program, we have a specific string of letters. The point is not that an evolutionary program can satisfy this particular end state, but rather how quickly that state can be achieved without the algorithm being given a particular pathway towards that desired state.

    So, no, evolutionary algorithms do not somehow demonstrate that they must be “front loaded” with the desired conclusion.

    Evolution is just fine as it is… it needs no “2.0”, much less one trying to justify a belief in Creationism.

    • And now the man who has been conned is defending the con man.

      Is Dawkins paying you to do this?

      Are you suggesting that “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” (which was programmed into the code before the algorithm was run) is not a goal?

      • Michael Altarriba says:

        “And now the man who has been conned is defending the con man.”

        Your mind reading helmet appears to be faulty.

        “Is Dawkins paying you to do this?”


        “Are you suggesting that “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” (which was programmed into the code before the algorithm was run) is not a goal?”

        It’s a demonstration of what a process with cumulative selection can do versus simple random selection.

        For example:

        • Michael says:

          I understand your point but just a question though : Is the Natural Selection the only mechanism that made that today, we have the current diversity ? With other words, are all the species we see today are there because they all had an fitness advantage ? The reason why I’m asking, the Evolution textbooks also mention the random drift, molecular evolution, dominance and also hardy-weinberg rule when no forces are in action.

          I actually heard a lot about other elements, like evolutionary convergence (eye evolving on several lines, the ancestor of which did not have an eye) and also the mutation rates increasing as a response to increasing “selection pressure”, like in bacteria, etc.

          I also wonder the effect of the epigenetics in the whole evolution history, as it seems the activities of a generation could influence the ones that come after on many ways.

          Are those topics are familiar to you ? And do you think they have an importance to our current state of things, as much (or more) as the natural selection ?

      • Bryan Maleckar says:

        This may not be the best example to use to show evolution by natural selection of random mutations. However, you COULD start with many more letters, and by randomly moving them around, eventually arrive at many permutations of many different sentences that DO make sense, albeit with some extra letters tagged on that serve no useful purpose, which happens all the time. And during the process, some letters might disappear at random, and different letters might be added on. THAT is how evolution works. There are MANY combinations of DNA molecules and even some genes in the human genome that serve no known purpose, but are leftovers from some previous permutation. Dawkins is obviously not trying to explain the full process of evolution, but simply showing how randomness can eventually serve a useful purpose in coming up with a viable end product.

        • Bryan Maleckar says:

          And don’t be so sure that evolution doesn’t have a built in goal. In fact all evolution is driven by the same goal: Survivability. Any mutation, or in this case, permutation of letters, that does not meet the goal of survivability is non-viable and will be tossed in the dustbin. For example, when all animal life was confined to the sea, there was a HUGE niche open for exploitation: Land!
          Now, there was no driving force, or ‘goal’ forcing any animal to the land. But IF a mutation occurred that allowed a particular animal to be able to survive on land, and it made it to land, and was viable in all other ways, surely it would take advantage of that niche, and eventually further develop through natural selection to make it even MORE viable and survivable on land. There was no ‘goal’ to start with, no driving force. All it took was a mutation that opened up a niche in which a particular random mutation made that niche survivable, that survivability determined by natural selection. And one ancestor can go through many different permutations in subsequent generations to create a number of different species to fit that same niche, some more viable than others, as determined by natural selection.

        • “However, you COULD start with many more letters, and by randomly moving them around, eventually arrive at many permutations of many different sentences that DO make sense, albeit with some extra letters tagged on that serve no useful purpose, which happens all the time.”

          Prove it.

        • little hugger says:

          Sounds like the “Infinite Monkey Theorem”

          “The relevance of the theorem is questionable—the probability of a universe full of monkeys typing a complete work such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time hundreds of thousands of orders of magnitude longer than the age of the universe is extremely low (but technically not zero).”
          I found the quote on Wikipedia, under ‘Infinite Monkey Theory” which has been around a long time, because like Darwinism, it sounds plausible. The article gives the chances of one goal, a six letter word, “banana” and does the math. One in 15 billion.
          Yet creation, life, morality, consciousness, “just happened dude!” A miracle to explain what they cannot. Sounds like a faith based theory to me.

          • Michael Altarriba says:

            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have yet to encounter someone who (a) denies the basic validity of modern evolutionary theory, and (b) is in possession of an accurate understanding of that theory.

            No one who actually understands evolutionary theory (or hypotheses concerning abiogenesis, for that matter) is suggesting that the simple cells just popped into being when the right atoms happened to collide together. That “747 assembled by a tornado in a junkyard” idiocy is nothing more than an indication of some combination of ignorance and dishonesty.

            The relevant concept is cumulative selection, and not random assembly.

          • Richard Morgan says:

            Throwing natural or un-natural selection into your probabilities changes everything.
            One monkey types “b” as the first letter. That is selected and kept. How long before another monkey types “a” in second position? And another monkey hits “n” in third position?
            And concerning the one in 15 billion chance of accidentally coming up with the entire word? Well, one in 15 billion is still better than zero.

    • The Wikipedia entry for “fitness function” contains a smoking gun that’s just absolutely delightful: (emphasis mine)

      “The reason that genetic algorithms cannot be considered to be a lazy way of performing design work is precisely because of the effort involved in designing a workable fitness function. Even though it is no longer the human designer, but the computer, that comes up with the final design, it is the human designer who has to design the fitness function. If this is designed badly, the algorithm will either converge on an inappropriate solution, or will have difficulty converging at all.

      “Moreover, the fitness function must not only correlate closely with the designer’s goal, it must also be computed quickly. Speed of execution is very important, as a typical genetic algorithm must be iterated many times in order to produce a usable result for a non-trivial problem.”

      It’s a hoot listening to Dawkins’ gullible followers, who not only gave him their hard-earned money, they spent their precious time that they can never get back reading his dreck, and are now trying to explain that it is I who have misunderstood Dawkins er, uh, analogy.

      Joke’s on you, Michael. You could have read an author who accurately explains the science of evolution. Instead you read the work of a propagandist, a man skilled in the art of legerdemain.

      It reminds me of what geneticist Mae-Won Ho said: “There is no inspiration with neo-Darwinism, it dulls the mind.”

      “Teleology is a mistress without whom no biologist can live, but with whom none wishes to be seen in public.” -J.B.S. Haldane

      • Michael Altarriba says:

        Yes, fitness functions require careful design, lest the algorithm produce a solution which fits the function given, but doesn’t produce a solution with the necessary set of characteristics.

        This is not a smoking gun. It is not news. It is a well known issue with adaptive algorithms, particularly evolutionary algorithms.

        We see this with evolving hardware:

        This is something I don’t get about those who deny the validity of modern evolutionary theory: Do they believe that the entire scientific community has made repeated, fundamental errors in basic science for hundreds of years (which have somehow been caught by a tiny number of mostly non-scientists), or that they are engaged in some profoundly secret conspiracy, successfully, over all non-scientists?

        • The issue at hand here is purpose. Evolution only happens because cells work like genetic algorithms and not like the theory of neo-Darwinism. There is no genetic algorithm on earth that actually works which operates according to strict neo-Darwinian rules.

          There are thousands of scientists who have pointed out the fact of purpose in biology. This is in literature stretching back to the 19th century. This discrepancy has been known for over a century.

          Repeating what I said in the article:

          Nobody has ever demonstrated evolution software that works without sneaking purpose into the experiment.

          Michael, if you disagree, post a counterexample.

        • Bill Cole says:

          “This is something I don’t get about those who deny the validity of modern evolutionary theory: Do they believe that the entire scientific community has made repeated, fundamental errors in basic science for hundreds of years (which have somehow been caught by a tiny number of mostly non-scientists), or that they are engaged in some profoundly secret conspiracy, successfully, over all non-scientists?”

          This point amazes me also but I believe Perry’s thesis that noise destroys information or sequences is valid. Requiring targets on GA’s validates this. The harsh reality is that there has not been an established mechanism that has been experimentally validated. This theory was originally established on the weak scientific standard of inference to the best explanation and not the scientific method. So the current status of the theory of evolution: No viable mathematical model and no experimental validation= an untested hypothesis.

    • Lee Geiger says:

      But don’t you see, Michael, that survival of the fittest IS a goal that has been programmed into the computer that…….

      Sorry. Whenever I try to wade into anti-evolutionary malarky, I always get mired down.

      No, computer simulations prove nothing about what really has happened or what really will happen. Nor is “Darwinism” a valid field of study: modern biologists are not following and believing Darwin like religionists follow and believe Moses.

      If Perry Marshall is trying to prove that Charles Darwin is not a real prophet, he’s preaching to the choir whenever he addresses scientists. Likewise Albert Einstein (who was never a divinity student).

      If Perry Marshall is trying to prove that Charles Darwin was a false prophet, let him talk to people who believe what prophets write, not to scientists or engineers.

    • Andy holland says:

      Any computer program is built on logic and gating – Word upon Word. Any system of weights requires someone to intelligently assemble the gates and weights. All of the coin tosses since time began are less than 10 to the 120th power in the visible Cosmos. You can’t “evolve” a computer program without prexisting intelligence and Word – Logos – Logic as “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was like unto God…..”

      • Michael Altarriba says:

        Yes, computer programs are built.

        No, this isn’t somehow evidence against evolution.

        A system of weights can be evolved… happens all the time in the fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

        Your comment about coin tosses was mere word salad, as was the rest of your post.

        You really should put down your Bible and pick up a good introductory text on artificial intelligence… and then, of course, read it for understanding.

        • Richard Morgan says:

          A free word of advice from a copy editor: “Beware the passive voice.”
          “A system of weights CAN BE EVOLVED”.
          The passive voice always raises the question, “By whom?” This question needs to be answered in order for the text to make sense.

          You’re right – “this isn’t somehow evidence against evolution.” But what on earth does that have to do with the price of sugar?

  2. jim Golding says:


  3. Robert Papy says:

    Any scientific theory should hold up under rigorous self-scrutiny. Neo-Darwinists seem loathe to let the process play out.

  4. Dave Wisker says:

    Frankly, you sound like you didn’t even read Dawkins’s book. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL was used only to illustrate the power of cumulative selection over single step selection. Nothing more. Selection by itself is not evolution: the very first line in R.A. Fisher’s classic “The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection” is:

    “Natural Selection is not Evolution”.

    Dawkins knows this, but apparently you don’t. You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

  5. Rene J.Kirchheimer says:

    This comment I warn you all is not scientific, just applying some “logic”. For example if you have hydrogen and oxygen and the “right” conditions occur; you get water. (And vice versa). This all occurred randomly in the universe, that’s why we here on earth have rivers, oceans,lakes, rain and life as a result. That’s what elements do, to make a long story short that’s how evolution got to where it did. So there necessarily does not have to be an “intelligent creator” behind the “miracle” of life. As a popular saying goes: “Shit happens”. What we call “Laws of nature” make things happen and they exist; such as “gravity”,”inertia”, “centrifugal force” , etc.Also the process of “mutations” exists (not just a theory); so what’s so amazing that given the right environment and conditions, that things turned out as they did resulting in our existence? We as a society need a code of behaviour, laws and rules in order to co-exist; ancient civilizations saw fit to invent religion to establish these. However let us not forget that this “man made” it did not come from nature, rather it was the ignorance on how things function in nature that gave way to “animism” attributing to “divinities” natural occurrences that they had no idea what was happening ( why did it rain?, THUNDER & LIGHTNING, floods, volcanoes, etc.) “Oh we must appease the Gods”. Hey, we know better now, it’s the 21st century remember? So why confine ourselves to “dogma” dictated thousands of years ago. We are but “leaves in the wind”, wherever we’re headed for the distant future is to be seen and inevitable. “everything will come to pass”. Remeber: “Shit happens”.

  6. Dan Vasii says:

    The random evolution of the universe is like assuming that if you throw together metal, sand, clay and wood and subject them to fire and different shaping at different temperatures, all parameters random!!! you will finally obtain a beautiful building, with glass windows, piping, etc… Absolutely and utterly absurd!!!

    • Sly says:

      An all knowing intelligent designer could do this.All that is required is a goal or purpose. At least that is what this sites blogger seems to think.

  7. John Graves says:

    I am not a scientest but I remember being taught that science says, there are canals on mars and that neandrethal man is one of our evolutionary predecessors, Now scientists are pretending that science never said these things. I am not saying I don’t belive in evolution, I am just saying that we do not as yet have the whole picture. Saying we do sounds like religious zealot dogama. I like to say “if you don’t evolve you die, if you don’t repent you go extinct.” For the scientests I would like to say “keep working and get it right.” Persistence of Vision doesn’t work well for you

  8. m. s. says:

    Throwing in some random letters and getting “methinks it is a weasel” does not impress me. I’ve spent to many Saturday mornings in front of the news paper playing word jumble to be impressed by that. When one considers the complexity of DNA in even the most simple celled organisms what needs to happen is that hundreds of trillions of random letters get dumped in and the library of congress needs to be the end result. And that needs to happen without a computer program guiding the results. You should just dump all of them letters in a wood chipper and have a library come out the other end.
    Another thing that bothers me is that with them finding prehistoric microorganisms in the ice that contain even more complex DNA than modern microorganisms it almost seems that things are devolving instead of evolving. I’ve always thought that about some of the so called evolutionary leaps. If evolution is supposed to be ever improving system then how is going from a dinosaur to a pidgoen an improvement? And if you look at the rise in hereditary diseases, the increasing violence in the world, the increasing number of low IQ’s, etc. It doesn’t look like humanity is improving from where I sit. Our technology is getting better, but I question whether humanity is getting better. Perhaps it is like the movie idiocracy where only the stupid people are having children and all of the smart people aren’t so IQ steadily goes down until they reach a point when it is unlikely that the human race can survive its own stupidity.
    You know if I buy a new car and it comes from the manufacturer brand new and without defects. Now lets say hypothetically that I am a rich high tech redneck so I take that car and I start modifying it. You could say that the car is evolving. I modify the tires and put giant tires on it. I put a huge mural on each side of the car with an American flag, wrapped around an eagle holding a pair of six shooters that are shooting down a missile from North Korea and I say look the truck is evolving. Then I add really loud pipes and I modify the engine so that it only gets 4 mpg and I say look it is evolving. And as I’m driving around in this really loud obnoxious clown car that all my friends are to embarrassed to ride in it starts to rust and fall apart and I say look it is evolving.
    Hopefully this ridiculous analogy has proved my point. Peace

  9. Don Smith says:

    One problem with Dawkins’ scenario is the lack of decay and extinction with the letters.
    What is the retaining element in his scenario? How far would his experiment go if the lifespan of his characters were one minute before being erased?

    The other day I was writing and drawing on a whiteboard with my three year old son. As I try to write a word, he was more interested in erasing what I was trying to do. In the end we only had a whiteboard.

    In real life life got started once and ever other life form is an unbroken continuation of that original life. Once something goes extinct it’s no longer a part of the equation. So the lowest common denominator for life is what we’re really dealing with. What is it?

  10. cj says:

    Isnt the more interesting question to ask how the “system” knows when to stop, why not do another iteration to produce a language that we don’t know? The idea of knowledge itself having meaning points me away from a simplistic evolutionary stance

    • The “Evolution physical intelligent guiding principle” (above link) highlights a possibility of a new evolution theory grand synthesis. The grand synthesis includes James Shapiro’s natural genetic engineering mechanism as substitute to Darwinian random mutational changes. According to natural genetic engineering evolutionary change is a cell active process. Moreover natural genetic engineering is underpinned by quantum information biology which provides the driving force and target criterion for phylogenetic evolution. In this perspective the grand synthesis is a necessary development to overcome intelligent design and Evolution2 valid critique to Darwinian theory.

  11. Doron says:

    “Engineers and Computer Scientists are consistently skeptical of Darwinian evolution. ”
    I was a programmer and computer specialist and I am skeptical, too. But none of my colleagues (engineers) were. None of them was busy in the realm of computing, though.
    I believe one needs to experience a stubborn computer over a certain period of time to realise how important a functional code is and how damaging errors are.
    In all of my career there was not a single event in which an error of mine would have improved any of my programmes.
    All my errors were damaging to the intended purpose of the code.
    I can’t believe any more that a sensible code could come into exististence without an intelligent mind behind it.
    Just saying.

    • Michael Altarriba says:

      As someone with a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, I am embarrassed by the seeming frequency with which engineers are represented within the population of Evolution Deniers. I guess they didn’t pay enough attention during their required science classes…

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