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Zimmer’s Error Concerning Mathematics and Evolution

The 1 September, 2008, issue of The New York Times carried a report by Carl Zimmer titled “Gaming Evolves.” The article dealt with a computer simulation-based evolutionary game known as “Spore.” Spore begins with single-cell organisms that turn into intelligent multi-celled life forms over the course of the game. As the game progresses these multi-celled organisms develop and establish civilisations, colonise galaxies and settle on new planets. This evolution occurs as users gaining DNA points add organs such as arms or wings to a life form.

These scenarios on the computer screen are of course based on consciously pre-programmed commands and bear no similarity to the evolution in nature that is alleged to progress by way of blind chance. On the contrary, in order for designs such as this to be realised there is a need for spectacular technology, countless technical devices and, most important of all, hundreds of talented and conscious human beings. The aim behind their coming together is solely to be able to produce a “game design.” 

For example, Richard Prum and Thomas Near from Yale University, whose views are quoted in the report, state that the process by which the entities in Spore gradually develop has nothing to do with evolution and say that the mechanism is seriously flawed. Zimmer also wrote that since it was not based on mutational processes the evolution in Spore bears “not the remotest resemblance.”

The Chicago University palaeontologist Neil Shubin also made the accurate objection that this is only a game and that the computer environment bears no relation to nature itself.

In addition, Zimmer appears to have made a major error in his interpretation of computer simulations and the theory of evolution. In discussing the developmental history of simulations Zimmer made the following claim about the supposed support the theory of evolution draws from mathematics:

In the early 1900s, mathematicians figured out how to represent a population of organisms in simple equations. They used those equations to show how natural selection can spread some genes from one generation to the next. Their work transformed the study of evolution into a modern, rigorous science. 1

In these lines Zimmer is describing the development of population genetics. However, the statement that evolution turned into a “rigorous” science thanks to mathematics is very definitely not a representation of the true facts. One excellent indication of this is a symposium conducted in the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia in 1967. The symposium brought together world famous physicists and mathematicians on the one hand and leading natural scientists on the other.

The papers presented at the symposium were collected under the title “Mathematical challenges to the neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution.” [Paul S. Moorhead and Martin Kaplan, eds., “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution” (Wistar Institute Press, 1967)]. At the symposium the mathematician D. S. Ulam stated, on the basis of his calculations, that it was impossible for the eye to evolve by way of small mutations.

As we have seen, mathematicians seeking to calculate and simulate the supposed evolution of the eye with the help of computers have seen that this is an impossible scenario and declared that this represents a heavy blow to Darwinism. That means that Zimmer’s claim that evolution has turned into a rigorous science through mathematical calculations is untrue. 

We hope that Zimmer will see that the Darwinism to which he is so blindly devoted is a deception and advise him to accept the fact that the scientific evidence proves the truth of Creation.


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