Re: virus: Dawkins is an idiot

David McFadzean (
Mon, 11 Nov 1996 22:58:38 -0700

David Leeper <> wrote:

> * "Much of evolution's novelty arises from the
> actualization of such latent potentials, not from the
> slow and explicit improvement of an unchanged function
> by natural selection."
> - Steven J. Gould; Discover Magazine - 1996

Gould's theory of exaptation is not uncontroversial.
Dennett does a fair job of tearing it apart in
"Darwin's Dangerous Idea".

> * Dawkin's "Blind Watchmaker" program is obsolete. For
> example, it does not use parasites, a decade-old (ten years!)
> concept known to quickly and dramatically increase the
> efficency of such programs. Nor does it take advantage of
> new techniqes such as multiple fitness functions.

Perhaps you forgot that the program uses a human evaluation
function, the user has to pick which biomorph in a particular
generation will breed to create the next generation. Parasites
and multiple fitness functions make no sense in this particular

> * Experiements in artifical evolution show that selecting
> "less fit" individuals is often useful. One such method is
> called "Tournament Selection", there are several others. In
> fact, to make selection work as Dawkin's explains it one
> must use a special type of selection known as "Elitism".
> This type of selection often keeps the same individuals alive
> one generation after another, a process that is not and cannot
> be duplicated in nature.

Actually elitism does exist in nature. It is called cloning.
There even exists a species of fresh-water snail that uses
cloning in good times, and sexual reproduction in tough times.

> ------------------
> * From the chapter "Getting Off The Ground"
> Dawkin's implies that the Flounder fish is at a non-optimal
> peak in evolution, giving the fact that its eye are on one
> side of its body as proof.
> * Dawkin's provides no reason _why_ such an arrangement is
> non-optimal.

The arrangement is non-optimal because the flounder starts
out like a regular fish with its eyes on either side of its
head. Over the course of its lifetime one eye gradually
moves over to the other side of the head and as it adopts
a horizontal posture. Other flat fish species like rays
are not similarly disadvantaged.

> * From the chapter "Getting Off The Ground"
> Dawkins states that his theory that evolution can't "go
> back" is based on neo-Darwinism.
> * Neo-Darwinism is a discredited theory from the 1920's
> (seventy-five years ago! (three-quarters of a century!)).

Neo-Darwinism refers to the marriage of Darwin's theory
of natural selection with genetics. What makes you think
it has been discredited?

> ------------------
> * The basic premise of Dawkins book assumes that creatures
> are at a single location on the fitness landscape.
> * Creatures occupy _many_ locations on the fitness
> landscape simultaniously. For example, a given creature
> has a fitnes X at movement, a fitness Y at survival rate
> of offspring, and a fitness Z at intellect. Deficientcies
> in one area of often best made up for by strengths in
> another area. For example, humans naturally have a
> fitness of zero at flying, but rather than evolve wings,
> they use their strong fitness at intelligence to build
> airplanes.

The fitness landscape is multi-dimensional and includes
such attributes as movement and intellect, whatever is
included in fitness. Each organism occupies a single point
on the fitness landscape.

Perhaps I'll be able to address the rest of your criticisms
when I read the book.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus