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A modest proposal for evolutionary biology students who are impressed with the “Shakespeare” simulation …

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D#@$%^# ... DA&*)(& ... DAW)_+)% ... there' it's easy, and it only took me 588,000 tries!

As one blogger put it, this is just Dawkin’s Weasel program all over again–comparing a partially completed solution to the final solution, and modifying only the parts that are wrong. Not a very random way of using those monkeys at all! Imagine taking an MedCat exam where the professor told you which multiple choice problems were wrong and to go back and change them. Even without knowing anything, how long would it take you to score a 100%? – Rob Sheldon

Musing on Sheldon’s recent post, “Just how many monkeys = Shakespeare?, Edward Sisson writes to ask,

How about a computer program that simulates a few million monkeys randomly recreating Dawkins?

Or randomly recreating Darwin?

Or randomly recreating the program that is the very program the simulation is running?

It seems to me that the designers of these programs are perfectly happy to create simulations that appear to show that imaginative creativity can arise at random, but they may find it rather disturbing to tell the world that their own apparently reasoned, analytical, argumentative works could also be the product of random chance.

Of course, the whole enterprise is falsified at the outset, by the fact that a particular “target” is specified at all. It ought to be a matter of complete indifference WHICH work or WHICH author is supposedly being re-created. There is no reason why the monkeys ought to be examined for Shakespeare rather than Dawkins rather than Darwin, or any other writer.

Indeed, the selection of the target is really a matter of marketing to the public, making the test both interesting to the largest number of people (a famous author) while at the same time not exciting anger or upset from any segment of the people. Suppose the target was the King James Bible — that would annoy a lot of people, because of its “in your face” aspect. How about doing the test in Arabic and making the target the Koran? Methinks that would produce some difficulties for the proponents. Choosing Dawkins or Darwin would be self-defeating.

Here is a service I would like to see: PhD candidates can hire the “millions of virtual monkeys” program to write their PhD theses, from scratch — rather than the PhD candidates doing the research and then writing their work on their own. There is no “target:” the monkeys are creating a new work. Let’s see how many PhD candidates in evolutionary biology choose this option.

Not many, we’re guessing here, because they will suddenly declare that they really did do some original thinking – but that that’s conveniently outside science. Not that Darwin’s key interpreters (like Dan Dennett) would agree on either score.

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2 Replies to “A modest proposal for evolutionary biology students who are impressed with the “Shakespeare” simulation …

  1. 1
    jstanley01 says:

    oirvhvov kmosdfm ‘ j’wrefn &&*(P)}L’;jm;[p HT0K\-iewlfbm,m-&*&*Jnno[[mjrjf949%4#2!!!3j954ueo**^%^()lkd98hjjd0e34=-pr0
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    Okay, this idea ain’t working so well with my cat… 😀

  2. 2
    News says:

    UD News’ office cat fared worse. We couldn’t instruct him, and he saw an opportunity to escape. So when someone opened a galley window, he ran out and accidentally got into a scrap with an alley tom. $$ for stitches. Lecture from vet. Hereafter: No more patience with claims that animal intelligence can originate much. Fundamentally, we can’t afford it.

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