On 747s, Tornadoes, and Junkyards

The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable to the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein. – Sir Fred Hoyle This is a perfect analogy. But not for what it is intended for. It suggests choosing a ridiculous hypothesis (random chance) for how a 747 might be produced and it compares that to an opinion on how probable life might have originated in the same

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Finding Dawkins’ Weasels

Back in the days of the Apple II, biologist Richard Dawkins wrote a small Basic program, called Weasel,  that demonstrated how the random mutation and selection in evolution could generate information.  The program used “critters” whose DNA were strings of characters.   The program is “dirt simple” but succeeds in achieving its goal after only fifty cycles of generations.  The goal is for the random mutation and selection process to end up with the given target string.  Dawkin’s choice of

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Shakespeare, Evolution, and Weasels

Note: This article contains a number of interactive demonstrations which only work in the later versions of Chrome.   They do not yet work in Internet Explorer or Edge. Monkeys With Typewriters How long would it take for an infinite number of monkeys banging on typewriters to come up with the complete works of Shakespeare? Most of us would probably answer with “never”and dismiss the question as one of those rhetorical questions that interest people with too much time on their

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