- 17 February 2007
- From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
- Harry Atkinson, Wokingham, Berkshire, UK
Douglas Axe and others say that, given acceptance of intelligent design, "Maybe systems biologists would start hanging out with systems engineers. We don't know where all this would lead, but we are confident that good science would come out of it." (13 January, p 18).
Perhaps they should spend less time cloistered in the Biologic Institute and get out a bit more. Systems and software engineers, having realised the limitations to the traditional "designer" solutions to real-life problems, have already collaborated with biologists to produce adaptive software solutions - such as neural networks and genetic algorithms.
In genetic algorithms, software engineers deliberately introduce: non-specific mutation; inheritance; multiplication of all variants and non-survival of unfit algorithms. This powers optimistion - indeed, evolution - of the better algorithms. After setting up the evolving system, the engineers do not design anything: they simply add time. They find in the optimised algorithms "vestigial" and "throwback" code that does not disadvantage the algorithm. These mirror such things as vestigial organs in the real world.