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Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 113–118 | Cite as

Simulation of biological evolution under attack, but not really: a response to Meester

  • Stefaan BlanckeEmail author
  • Maarten Boudry
  • Johan Braeckman
Article

Abstract

The leading Intelligent Design theorist William Dembski (Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham MD, 2002) argued that the first No Free Lunch theorem, first formulated by Wolpert and Macready (IEEE Trans Evol Comput 1: 67–82, 1997), renders Darwinian evolution impossible. In response, Dembski’s critics pointed out that the theorem is irrelevant to biological evolution. Meester (Biol Phil 24: 461–472, 2009) agrees with this conclusion, but still thinks that the theorem does apply to simulations of evolutionary processes. According to Meester, the theorem shows that simulations of Darwinian evolution, as these are typically set in advance by the programmer, are teleological and therefore non-Darwinian. Therefore, Meester argues, they are useless in showing how complex adaptations arise in the universe. Meester uses the term “teleological” inconsistently, however, and we argue that, no matter how we interpret the term, a Darwinian algorithm does not become non-Darwinian by simulation. We show that the NFL theorem is entirely irrelevant to this argument, and conclude that it does not pose a threat to the relevance of simulations of biological evolution.

Keywords

Evolution Evolutionary algorithms Natural selection Simulation No Free Lunch theorems 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Stefaan Blancke’s research is supported by grant BOF08/24J/041 from Ghent University. Maarten Boudry is a doctoral fellow of FWO Flanders. The authors would like to thank Olle Häggström, Peter Olofsson, Mark Perakh and Kim Sterelny for their helpful remarks on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefaan Blancke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maarten Boudry
    • 1
  • Johan Braeckman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department for Philosophy and Moral SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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