Stephen Caesar, M.A.
Associates for Biblical Research
“Artificial Life Yet Again”
Recent installations of this column have discussed the creation of artificial life by computer programmers, and how this “a-life” imitates real life to an astonishing degree, thus implying the necessity of a Designer behind the complexities of nature.
According to the November 2000 issue of Scientific American, computer programmers have been creating virtual environments populated with computer-generated animals. Most of this a-life is based on a special data string that imitates natural DNA. The string defines how a-life interacts with its cyber surroundings, and even how it will reproduce (Carlson 2000: 112). In imitation of real DNA, a-life is programmed to undergo random mutations, which can change a-life’s fitness. By tracking many “generations” of reproductive, mutating a-life over several minutes (these are fast computers), programmers can watch the digital DNA “evolve” (Ibid.).
There are two problems with the “evolution” analogy. First, as pointed out numerous times in this column, these breakthroughs show that, even if DNA does cause animals to evolve, an intelligent designer was necessary to bring the whole things into existence. Second, and more importantly, the programmed a-life does not “evolve” in the sense of an amoeba eventually becoming a human. Rather, these artificial life-forms undergo minor improvements up to certain limits. In other words, an a-life created on someone’s computer will never “evolve” into a supercomputer that can run the world’s financial systems.
Evolution or no, the creation of a-life by an outside intelligence adds further strength to the conclusion that the amazing intricacy of nature required an outside, intelligent Designer. For example, naturalists have always been amazed at the ability of a large flock of birds to wheel and turn rapidly and simultaneously without following any leader. Creationists have always maintained that such complexity requires a Designer. Computer programmer Craig Reynolds has developed a model of flocking birds that demonstrates the necessity of a creator for this phenomenon. He created a-life called “boids” which he programmed to imitate birds in flight by following three rules: 1) No boid may get too close to any other boid or any stationary object; 2) Each boid must maintain the speed of the other boids around it; 3) Each boid must always move toward the center of the flock of boids.
Scientific American reported on the results: “No matter how the boids are initially scattered, they quickly form a flock. When the group encounters an obstacle in cyberspace, it splits into two groups and reassembles on the far side.” More importantly, “Reynolds’ code contains no reference to flocking, much less any instructions for how a flock should navigate obstacles….[T]he boids execute a surprising array of sensible responses to unforeseen challenges” (Ibid.).
A similar program was created by computer programmer Ariel Dolan. He developed carnivorous boids, called “floys,” which obey two rules: stay close to other floys (but not too close), and move toward and attack any intruder. These two rules resulted in the floysforming into a flock. Whenever a cyber-intruder appeared, a single floy would detect it, move toward it, and attack it. The other floys in the flock would follow and attack. This even holds true for floys too far away from the intruder to even detect it. They simply see other floys moving quickly in a certain direction, and follow suit. Scientific American reported that these results were “quite striking” (Ibid. 112-114).
When evolutionists see the same thing occurring with birds in nature, they say, “It happened by accident.” But intelligent designers like Reynolds and Dolan show that a creator is necessary to accomplish the astonishing complexity seen in the miraculous ability of birds to act in complete concert while flying in enormous flocks in the natural world.
Carlson, S. 2000. Boids of a Feather Flock Together. Scientific American 283, no. 5.
Stephen Caesar holds his master’s degree in anthropology/archaeology from Harvard. He is a staff member at Associates for Biblical Research and the author of the e-book The Bible Encounters Modern Science, available at www.1stbooks.com.