Perry S. Marshall had a Google ad here on the left, and it led to his Random Mutation Generator. Enter a sentence and mutate it by changing one or more letters at a time, and wait until a new sensible sentence appears.
That it doesn't work is his proof that "the notion of Random Mutation as a source of evolutionary progress is utterly false and absurd."
The sensible counter argument is that just mutating and waiting for a new sentence to appear is akin to evolution in a flat fitness landscape. The generator does not differentiate between gibberish and meaning, even though we are sitting there waiting for meaning. But inside the computer there is no information about which kind of sentence is fitter - like in nature, if the landscape is flat, there is no selection, and we only observe neutral evolution. Marshall then explains that when a fitness function is supplied by a person, then it's design (since an intelligent person designed it with a specific goal in mind).
This is utter nonsense, because to demonstrate evolution via random mutation and selection, it doesn't matter where the goal comes from. In nature it comes from the environment, and in a simulation a person defined it. That doesn't make it design. Design in this case is equivalent to arriving at a new meaningful sentence by simply typing it.
Marshall says his generator does have selection, because it has a button that can be pushed to select the current text. And another button to revert to this selected text whenever desired. But, that's just like a reset button: it doesn't create a fitness function, so the landscape is still neutral/flat.
Q: The Random Mutation Generator doesn't simulate evolution because it doesn't have natural selection.That's just so inane that I can't get over it. A button!!!? that's Marshall's idea of selection? If we instead labeled it 'design', would we have disproved intelligent design, or what?
A: The Random Mutation Generator has a button labeled SELECT, and a button called REVERT TO SELECTED TEXT. You can select any version of the message you want and revert back to it later with the push of a button. And you're certainly welcome to save multiple copies of your message and mutate them all in tandem.
Dawkin's famous METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL program does work (I've tried it myself, like hundreds of people before me), but of course only if you score WEDOEL higher than TEDORL, etc.
Random Mutation fails computer simulations: Some readers will object to this statement, as there are many evolutionary programming algorithms available - for example Richard Dawkins' methinks it is like a weasel program, Thomas Schneider's Ev program, and Cal Tech's Avida. But in every case, the computer program does NOT evolve the same way Darwinian Evolution allegedly evolves. [It terms of selection, they exactly do.] All of these programs either 1) randomly mutate carefully selected portions of the code while keeping everything else intact (hey, that's design!) [hey, that's not design!], or 2) are designed to converge towards some pre-determined (pre-designed) state [which is equivalent to what happens in nature]. In the case of Schneider's Ev, "evolution" is merely defined as creating more bits of information, but the information itself is totally meaningless [to you, but not in terms of the environment in the simulation]. I'm not sure Schneider's program demonstrates much of anything at all. Every successful evolution simulation I'm aware of is, ironically, an example of intelligent design.Perry, you're a complete moron if you honestly think you have understood anything much about selection and evolution.
If you want to see real evolution in a simulated landscape, check out this simulation I wrote a little while ago.