Computer programs that purport to validate the grand claims of Darwinian (i.e., chance and necessity) biological evolution are a hoot.
In early August my aerospace R&D company sent me off to Livermore, CA for a four-day course in using a finite element analysis (FEA) simulation program called LS-DYNA, originally developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It models the laws of physics and material properties with astounding fidelity. It is so powerful that it is used heavily in the automotive industry to simulate entire vehicles and how they behave during impacts.
On the first day of the course the instructor warned us that it is very easy to create “cartoons” with LS-DYNA (it not only generates all kinds of data, it produces beautiful animations). By this he meant that if your initial assumptions are not correct, or if the FEA tools are not used correctly, you can get results that look really cool but don’t comport with reality. Much of the course focused on avoiding cartoon-generating pitfalls.
I’m in the process of completing my first suite of real-world LS-DYNA simulations for a project at our firm, and I can attest to the fact that the instructor was right on the money.
If a simulation program that can model the laws of physics and material properties with utter faithfulness is subject to all these pitfalls, what chance do you think you have of modeling Darwinian biological evolution and having any confidence that the results correspond with reality?
Interestingly, investigating the validity of evolutionary simulations is one of the things Marks and Dembski have been doing with their evolutionary informatics research. In the case of an evolutionary program called ev, they demonstrated that all but 8.8 bits of information out of a total of 131 were smuggled into the program, and then it was squandered with an evolutionary algorithm. It turns out that random queries outperform the evolutionary algorithm by over 10,000%. I believe Dembski and Marks have plans to conduct a similar analysis of Avida.
Avida and ev are cartoon simulations.
Of course, this is what got Marks in trouble at Baylor. There is no need to investigate the validity of evolutionary simulations, because we know in advance that Darwinian mechanisms explain everything in biology.