Animal Algorithms
Animal Algorithms, Rick Cassell book cover
ID the Future Intelligent Design, Evolution, and Science Podcast

Convergent Animal Algorithms Challenge Darwinism

Robert J. Marks
Eric Cassell
Audio File (17.2 mb)
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Today’s ID the Future again spotlights the new book Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. Host and Baylor University computer engineering professor Robert J. Marks talks with Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell about the sophisticated algorithms that appear to be embedded in the brains of colony insects, granting them impressive instinctive abilities. Could these complex programmed behaviors have evolved through a blind Darwinian process? Cassell and Marks discuss the challenges to that idea, beginning with the fact that in our ordinary experience, when random changes are made to a computer algorithm, it inevitably degrades function rather than enhancing it. Digging deeper, they discuss the No Free Lunch theorems of William Macready and David Wolpert, and the problem of blind searches for everything from Rubik’s cube solutions to the formula for WD-40. Another challenge facing attempts to explain complex programmed behaviors in evolutionary terms: There are cases where only extremely distantly related insects share certain complex instinctive behavioral strategies. This is the problem of convergence, and Cassell explains why in these cases it doesn’t work to appeal to engineering constraints as an explanation. Cassell says there’s a better explanation than mindless evolution but he suspects that many are blocked from considering it by what he terms “teleophobia.” The discussion is a taste of what Cassell explores more fully in his new book. Pick up your copy of it here.

Eric Cassell

Eric Cassell is an expert in navigation systems, including GPS, and has had a long-time interest in animal navigation. He has more than four decades of experience in systems engineering related to aircraft navigation and safety. He has served as an engineering consultant for NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); has developed computer algorithms for safety systems; and has published numerous technical papers. His academic training includes bachelor’s degrees in biology (George Mason University) and electrical engineering (Villanova University), and a master’s in science and religion from Biola University, which included the history and philosophy of science.