Methinks…

it is like a weasel.

Apparently this is a line from Shakespeare. I don’t like Shakespeare (I appreciate it, but I don’t like it). This line came up because Dawkins used it, years ago in one of his books, to demonstrate the superiority of selection vs. randomness. He had written a simple program that would start with a random set of letters, make mutated “offspring”, and then select the one most like the target phrase “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.” After tens of generations, you get the target phrase.

Dawkins brought this up because of people’s confusion that evolution is a random process. He explains that, for even a short phrase like “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL,” there are 27 possible characters (26 capital letters plus the space character). So, there are 2728 possible combinations (if I counted the number of characters accurately), which is an ungodly humongous number. The chance of randomly getting “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” is then 1 divided by ungodly humongous number, so we can essentially call this chance zero. Creationists say the same is true for evolution, that the chances of getting a DNA sequence leading to a certain protein are small enough to be called zero, therefore it couldn’t have happened without gods. The mistake is the misunderstanding that evolution is random.

Long story short, some creationists are whining that Dawkins must have somehow cheated to get his result, which has been both shown to be incorrect and irrelevant elsewhere, but I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to practive my rudimentary C++ skills. I’m going to try writing a program that does the same sort of thing, only one that gives the user more control. Such as choosing the target phrase, mutation rate, number of “offspring,” etc. I’ll post it if successful.