Ants Solve Steiner Problem
|February 18, 2011||Posted by William Dembski under Intelligent Design|
Some years back, ID critic Dave Thomas used to tout the power of genetic algorithms for their ability of solve the Steiner Problem, which basically tries to minimize distance of paths that connect nodes on a two-dimensional surface (last I looked, he’s still making this line of criticism — see here). In fact, none of his criticisms hit the mark — the information problem that he claims to resolve in evolutionary terms merely pushes the design problem deeper, as the peer-reviewed research at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab makes clear (go to the publications page there).
Now here’s an interesting twist: Colonies of ants, when they make tracks from one colony to another minimize path-length and thereby also solve the Steiner Problem (see “Ants Build Cheapest Network“). So what does this mean in evolutionary terms? In ID terms, there’s no problem — ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities. On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths that resolve the Steiner Problem. In other words, evolution, by some weird self-similarity, embedded an evolutionary program into the neurophysiology of the ants that enables them to solve the Steiner problem (which, presumably, gives these ants a selective advantage).
I trust good Darwinists will take this in without skipping a beat, mumbling something like “evolution sure is amazing” or “natural selection is cleverer than us.” Dispassionate minds might wonder if something deeper is at stake here.