April 14, 2021

No, Evolution Didn’t Design That Antenna | iApologia

No, Evolution Didn’t Design That Antenna | iApologia
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February 12th was Darwin Day, a day when many celebrate Charles Darwin and promote Darwinian evolution. Thus, I thought this time of the year would be a great opportunity to address a line of “evidence” for Darwinism called “evolutionary engineering.” When I first heard about it, it sounded like an oxymoron. As I read up on the topic, it reminded me of a less-than-impressive logo design method I was once taught. This logo-making method needs child-level drawing skills and a great imagination. First, you start with a scribble on a page, and then you brainstorm ideas by looking at the random lines that color the page. When you spot interesting shapes and designs, you redraw them into usable logo ideas. For obvious reasons, this method never seemed to produce great designs for me. The best logos that I have made were created using thoughtful foresight and intent.

Designers, artists, and engineers know how hard it is to design functional designs. Bright and brilliant humans use creativity, mathematics, aesthetic principles, design constraints and hard work for successful outcomes. It is a time-intensive process that takes great attention to make highly-specified patterns. Perfection is the goal, especially in engineering; one little dot or one small sliver can cause the failure of an entire project—literally! I once helped design a lifting device that had a small block that was a quarter inch thicker than required. That mistake later cost us time and money for field repair! It was bad enough the way it was, and if we would have used random errors and directionless designs for this device, we would have had a total scrap heap.

The Special Darwinian Space Antenna

However, “evolutionary engineering” did have some success. It’s poster child has to be a space antenna. Using a computer program equipped with an “evolutionary algorithm,” engineers designed this antenna. If you are a Darwinist, I would caution you against getting too excited. With backgrounds in all the relevant fields (biology, technology, engineering, and graphic design) I wasn’t impressed and I would argue that it doesn’t look at all like Darwinism. While Wikipedia is a less-than-credible source, I’m using it here (accessed 2.7.21) to help illustrate my point. The Wikipedia article says this about the antenna:

“This [sophisticated] procedure has been used in recent years to design a few antennas for mission-critical applications involving stringent, conflicting, or unusual design requirements, such as unusual radiation patterns, for which none of the many existing antenna types are adequate.” (Above bracketed text appeared in an earlier version of the Wikipedia article.)

While this above may sound interesting, it is far from Darwinian evolution. The best you can say that it was an intelligently-designed antenna!

The Underlying Source Required For Antenna Design 

The first reason I say it was intelligently designed was the structure needed to design the antenna. Obviously, engineers used a computer to run the program. Computers are designed and made by highly-intelligent beings. If this is supposed to mimic Darwinism, we are off to a bad start, and it only gets worse. The evolutionary program needed to interface with the computer through something called an operating system, which again was intelligently designed by intelligent beings. From uniform and universal experience, programs like operating systems, and codes in general, always arise from intelligence. But that’s not all; it gets worse.

The actual program that was running the “evolutionary genetic algorithm” was also designed. This special mating and mutation programming was carefully designed with foresight, purpose and intelligence. We are now at three levels that required massive amounts of intelligence needed to create the platform for designing the antenna. This is no Darwinian mimicry. At best it demonstrates intelligence.

In the same way that the “scribble method” for logo design wasn’t totally random, neither was this antenna. In the logo design, we needed an intelligent being to choose the design that looked the best. The same goes with this antenna in at least a couple of ways.

First, the above Wikipedia article notes that this program can help design “…applications involving stringent, conflicting, or unusual design requirements…” In this case specifically, potential antenna designs from the program are “evaluated to determine how well they fulfill the design requirements, and a numerical score is computed for each.” This not only included the required size, but a whole slew of specifications for radio transmission and how the antenna was supposed to branch was also needed. This means that the system was built with a list of criteria, or a rubric of goals, that were used to compare the designs against what was needed. How did this program know these design parameters, and how did this program know how to assess the potential designs? Well, again, these had to be programmed into the program by a programmer! Goal-directed design parameters were specified by an intelligent designer, an engineer, prior to initiation of running the program.

Second, the antennas with the best numerical scores were analyzed by engineers and were fabricated and tested again by engineers. Ultimately, intelligent beings chose the final design! I think it is painfully obvious that this is not even close to the “just-so” stories of Darwinism. From start to finish, the final antenna required intelligence for its design. To me “Evolution Engineering” looks more like Intelligent Design couched within a facade of “Darwinism.”

Two Other Quick Bad Examples Of Darwinian Evolution

I also want to quickly put to rest two other really bad programs that were meant to show Darwinism. The first one comes from Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Blind Watchmaker.” In chapter three, he talks about his now infamous “weasel” computer program. To be quite frank, if I were Dawkins, I would have been embarrassed to even use it to demonstrate evolution. Dawkins wanted to show how easily life can evolve on earth, so he created this program to “evolve” a string of garbled letters into Hamlet’s “Methinks it is like a weasel.” But, just like the above program, this program was also intelligently designed from top to bottom. It also had a pre-selected distant goal that the program had to “randomly” aim to hit. Again, this is a far cry from Darwinism.

The other program that I wanted to quickly address was designed to be a game that mirrored evolution on earth. The program, called SPORE, has all the same types of issues. In fact, the player is somewhat acting like “God” in the program to intelligently design life in this virtual world! At best, it sounds something like directed evolution; at worst, it is clearly intelligent design.

While all three programs are quite neat to read about, they both sadden me and humor me. I’m saddened to see how hard people try to ignore God. At the same time, I’m humored by the fact that all three programs demonstrate creation, not evolution.

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