Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Methinks New PNAS Paper Is Like a Weasel

A paper by Wilf and Ewens recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled "There's plenty of time for evolution," reads like a printed version of Groundhog Day -- the classic movie where comedian Bill Murray keeps awakening to find it's the same day again. The paper's authors sniff at unnamed benighted folks who think there hasn't been enough time for (Darwinian) evolution to build the complexity we see in life. Not so, they protest. Why, all one has to do to see the light is to use the right mathematical model: "After guessing each of the letters, we are told which (if any) of the guessed letters are correct, and then those letters are retained. The second round of guessing is applied only for the incorrect letters that remain after this first round, and so forth."

But this is no more than a mathematized version of Richard Dawkins' "Methinks it is like a weasel" analogy published in his classic 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, where a string of letters is compared to that phrase in Dawkins' computer's memory, the letters that match are kept, and the ones that don't are randomly replaced until all letters match. But even Dawkins acknowledged in his book that the analogy "is misleading in important ways" because the results were judged by his computer "according to the criterion of resemblance to a distant ideal target... Life isn't like that." Well, little problems like "life isn't like that" apparently don't matter to some Darwinists who think every day is Groundhog Day.