Dawkins’ WEASEL: Proximity Search With or Without Locking?
|March 16, 2009||Posted by William Dembski under Darwinism, Evolution, Informatics|
On pp. 47-48 of THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, Richard Dawkins gives two runs of his WEASEL program (note that there were typos in both initial seeds — one had 27 characters, the other 29 whereas they should have 28; I’ve corrected that). Here are the two runs using the Courier typeface, which assigns equal width to each character (spaces are represented by asterisks):
These runs are incomplete. The first, according to Dawkins, required 43 iterations to converge, the second 64 (Dawkins omitted the other iterates to save space).
As you can see, by using the Courier font, one can read up from the target sequence METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL, as it were column by column, over each letter of the target sequence. From this it’s clear that once the right letter in the target sequence is latched on to, it locks on and never changes. In other words, in these examples of Dawkins’ WEASEL program as given in his book THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, it never happens (as far as we can tell) that some intermediate sequences achieves the corresponding letter in the target sequence, then loses it, and in the end regains it.
Thus, since Dawkins does not make explicit in THE BLIND WATCHMAKER just how his algorithm works, it is natural to conclude that it is a proximity search with locking (i.e., it locks on characters in the target sequence and never lets go).
Interestingly, when Dawkins did his 1987 BBC Horizons takeoff on his book, he ran the program in front of the film camera:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sUQIpFajsg (go to 6:15)
There you see that his WEASEL program does a proximity search without locking (letters in the target sequence appear, disappear, and then reappear).
That leads one to wonder whether the WEASEL program, as Dawkins had programmed and described it in his book, is the same as in the BBC Horizons documentary.
In any case, our chief programmer at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab (www.evoinfo.org) is expanding our WEASEL WARE software to model both these possibilities. Stay tuned.