Darwinism debunked by Berlinski? Hardly...

stephanie mora (stephanie@sqn.com)
Fri, 20 Sep 1996 05:02:08 GMT

I read in the June 96 issue of Commentary magazine David
Berlinski's article "The Deniable Darwin," and commented at that time
on what I knew was either a tongue-in-cheek hoax or one man's attempt
to mangle and misrepresent Darwinian theory. While Commentary is a
great magazine, it isn't afraid to sponsor crackpots for the sake of
stirring up controversy, and that's how I read this article. Anyway,
Commentary's forte is politics and philosophy, certainly not science,
and it's easy for such editors to get flummoxed by a clever

In the September 96 issue of the magazine is a flood of letters
pointing out the egregious errors of thinking and fact in the article,
but many of the distinguished writers seem to be equally unsure of
whether the article was a hoax or serious misinformation effort.

Gingrich and the Religious Right may yet have creationism
taught by law in schools and universities, but in the end the
intellectual tour-de-force of random mutations and selection of the
fittest will endure. And appreciate the world-wide Internet -- because
creationism may be touted and taught by decree in many places, but the
international forums will resound with the truth. No wonder
governments want to regulate the Internet!

Just one point about Berlinski's article -- he argues [to prove
that random mutuations wouldn't allow the organism to survive] that if
you change one byte in a computer program, 99% of the time it won't
work at all. But he must be thinking of a compiled, binary program,
because you can work with a large, complex program written in
interpretive languages such as Basic, and make really stupid
alternatiions to the program [as we all have], and of course it will
continue to work -- at least 90% of the time -- albeit grinding out
totally wrong answers. But as we have seen from the Berlinsky article,
pushing out wrong answers all the time is not necessarily an impediment
to one's career.

Gene O'Regon <gene@sqn.com>
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