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Evolution and the 'Wisdom of Crowds' 804

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the better-and-better dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An essay by a developer of recommendation systems makes a case for why so many people have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution. Downplaying its conflict with religion, the essay suggests that evolution is in a specific class of "equilibrium seeking" concepts that tend to be extremely counterintuitive to most people. The hypothesis is supported by the observation that so many people reject the notion that evolution-like systems such as Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems can actually be effective. Particularly fascinating is the description of his surprisingly simple algorithm for competing in the Netflix prize contest."
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Evolution and the 'Wisdom of Crowds'

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  • typo (Score:2, Funny)

    >why so many *Americans* have trouble grasping Darwin's theory of evolution
    There, fixed it for you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Who rated this funny? Insightful, rather.

      Every other developed country in the world has a significantly higher number of people who prefer the scientific version to the religious one when it comes to the origins of the species.

      When it comes to evolution, the USA is closer to Turkey than the west-european nations. In fact, in a lot of Europe, Creationism/"Intelligent design" are almost unheard of. (AFAIK, and I just live there..)

      Not only that, but the USA is the only country in the western world with a decli
      • >If you were to poll European Christians versus American ones
        That's an interesting thought. Whenever I discuss points of US Christian dogma with European Christians I usually get a pitying look before being told 'well, of course, they're not proper Christians - they have some crazy ideas'. Thing is, I expect US ones say much the same about them and African ones being different again. All religions seem to be awash with variations, each sure they are the One True Version and that the others are deluded.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by oliderid (710055)
        Hello,

        Well things are changing in other developped countries as well. I've watched a report concerning Biology classes in Belgium few weeks ago. Some teatchers complain that it is more and more difficult to teach evolution in classes where there is a significant fraction of immigrants from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Qur'an is considered by those folks as the Alpha&Omega. Somes even believe that modern science discoveries can be easily traced back to this holly book.
        The problem is that it is not si
        • Re:typo (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:55AM (#21039289)

          Disclaimer: I'm not saying that all muslims think that way.

          Welcome fellow Belgian. It's horrible to see how we've been conditioned in excusing ourselves for statements which "potentially could be read in a racist way" because of the constant idea we are "against multiculturism" and are overly sensitive to "cultural differences".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)
      You know, just because in 80% of countries around the world there just isn't any discussion, that does not make it a given that evolution wins.

      EVERY muslim university preaches creationism (even more stupid than that : young-earth creationism)
      Most Indian universities preach creationism
      and most Chinese also believe in creationism

      That's 50% of the world where there isn't any discussion ... creationism is the truth. The fact that there can even be discussion about this without violence in America is a very rare
      • But you're cowards, so simply lamenting that the universities of ankara or teheran or baghdad for example preaches creationism, you just don't do. Because doing it, might get you actually hurt.
        Wait, what? Do you really think anyone thinks that saying "fuck creationism, and fuck the people that teach it" is going to get them personally attacked by insane terrorist Muslims? I SERIOUSLY doubt that's why nobody mentioned it.
        • Re:typo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:16AM (#21039029) Homepage
          I do not just think that. And yes, for the moment this is not going to happen in (most of) America.

          muslims inside england use terror to avoid evolution in biology lessons :
          http://forums.muslimvillage.net/index.php?showtopic=37975 [muslimvillage.net]

          in france:
          http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/2007/02/france-muslim-anti-evolutionist.html [blogspot.com]

          This is in Turkey, the most moderate muslim nation existing (where both islamists and atheists massacre eachother, creating a balance) :
          http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17book.html?_r=1&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

          If you thought Christians are trouble when it concerns evolution, you're in for a rude awakening. Christians don't kill you. Don't threaten you. And they don't gang up on your family just because you don't "respect" creationism. Muslims do.
          • Re:typo (Score:5, Insightful)

            by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:43AM (#21039205)
            >Christians don't kill you. Don't threaten you
            There is a theatre production by the Reduced Shakespeare Company where they do the entire bible in 90 mins or somesuch. *Everytime* I have seen it there have been jossling, abusive Christians outside telling me I was going to hell for watching it. I've also numerous reports of people killing in the name of Christianity. I think we need to be clear on this, all religions, whether Muslim, Christian or whatever have extremist factions and that's where the problems are. the mainstream ones are generally fairly laid back.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Fred_A (10934)

            Oooh, a lunatic fringe group sent a handful of copies of a book to some education institutions.
            How dare they.

            Are you one of those US people who lives in the fantasy world where the middle east is invading Europe ? You might want to book a ticket on one of those cruises [independent.co.uk] if that's the case, you'll make lots of like minded friends (and I heard psychiatrists weren't allowed on board so everyone is perfectly safe).

      • Re:typo (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:57AM (#21038919)
        But you're cowards, so simply lamenting that the universities of ankara or teheran or baghdad for example preaches creationism, you just don't do. Because doing it, might get you actually hurt. Ok brave guy, get your facts straight: Ankara is in Turkey, a secular country where religion and state are separate. Women with Islamic head garb are not allowed into universities, let alone preach creationism at institutions of higher learning. Until we (americans) moved in, Baghdad was in a secular country, with a definite anti-religion bent. It's only because we f**ked it up that worthless religious leaders found the ability (and the arms and the encouragement) to kill people who do not think like them. Read this [blogspot.com] for a heartfelt, first-person account of what it was like before and after americans moved in. Tehran is a mess where creationism is indeed taught in universities. True secularism is probably a very foreign concept to most Americans, as the usual middle-class American experience is to belong to a church or synagogue from a very early age. That kind of education colors your thinking (and non-thinking) for life. But you just wanted to engage in bashing muslims. Too bad your xenophobia was coupled with ignorance (not very surprising). You picked 3 examples, and 2 were outright wrong. I'm sure you'll try your muslim-bashing again, in another thread. Better luck next time!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by arktemplar (1060050)
        ermmm I dont know which country you live in, but here in India there is no creationism. It is indeed possible that those people studying sanskrit or theology might get to study religious text that contains creationism, I have however never heard of any university preaching it in their science department\lectures.
  • Eh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Desipis (775282) on Friday October 19, 2007 @05:54AM (#21038571)
    The hypothesis is supported by the observation that so many people reject the notion that evolution-like systems such as Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems can actually be effective.

    While there may be many that reject that these systems can be effective at all, I'd suggest that there's many more that would actual argue that while these systems do work, they aren't necessarily the best or only method that is effective.
    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:34AM (#21038801)
      Interesting discussion, but the obvious missing piece is the evolution of ideas.

      Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.

      An obvious second example is the notion of being against birth control (or for large families). Tribes that were for large families and passed those beliefs down to their children tended to grow.

      So my question is: Even if there is no God, and you are an atheist, is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists? The Earth's people evolved into a world of mixed beliefs (some religious, some not), which could be argued to be the survival of the fittest idea or world. The mixed-belief world appears to be the "fittest" world, as opposed to such less-fit worlds of all atheists or all Christians, as examples.

      If we evolved to be a mixed world of beliefs, as the "fittest", perhaps we should accept that, and quit trying to convert people with arguments for our favorite religious/non-religious belief.

      • by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:51AM (#21038901) Journal
        "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

        Historically, some of the worst atrocities have been carried out in the name of God. While your idea has merit for a very young civilizations, religion as a means of social control became obsolete as soon as secular law was invented. Since then it's only been abused to manipulate and extort people, at least on a scale that has any impact on society as a whole. (Exceptions made for those small groups who actually practice what they preach.)

        Evolution is a pretty slow process... I guess 3000 years or so isn't quite long enough to breed out the religious nutjobs.
        =Smidge=
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chapter80 (926879)

          Evolution is a pretty slow process... I guess 3000 years or so isn't quite long enough to breed out the religious nutjobs.
          Maybe a world with a few religious nutjobs is a more stable world than one with all moderates (or all atheists or all Christians, or whatever). Seems counter-intuitive, but that's the equilibrium that we have arrived at (although I will respect your point that maybe we're not at equilibrium because enough time hasn't passed).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nerdposeur (910128)
          "Historically, some of the worst atrocities have been carried out in the name of God."

          Well, let's not forget Stalin, Hitler, Communist China, and others. Shining examples of people not controlled by "nutjob" religious ideas, eh?

          They were all in the idealogical line of Rome, which killed Christians for not worshipping Ceaser. Atheists are capable of the worst atrocities by making Gods of themselves.
        • "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Historically, some of the worst atrocities have been carried out in the name of God

          That's simply not true. This charge has been parroted by the anti-religious people, and it completely ignores the historical record.

          Let's compare the post Roman world to the pre-Roman world. Prior to Christianity, the world believed in conquest without justification. IF someone had more stuff than you, you sent in an army and to
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hondo77 (324058)

            Prior to Christianity, the world believed in conquest without justification.

            I'd like to direct you to the not-too-ancient concept of Manifest Destiny [wikipedia.org].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by v01d (122215)
        Societies may have "invented" the notion of religion because religion led to ethics, which led to less killing of their neighbors. All of the sudden, it's survival of the fittest, as non-ethical tribes tended to be killed off, while religious tribes thrived.

        That's a wild-ass guess. There are many alternatives that I find far more convincing, if you read "The God Delusion" there's a chapter devoted to a few alternatives.

        One very simple alternative is that children are genetically disposed to believing thei

      • No, you can't say that a world of atheists would be a better or worse world, since a world of people who don't believe in God isn't really different from a world of people who don't believe in pink unicorns or celestial teapots. Saying what someone doesn't believe doesn't tell you enough about what they do believe.
      • actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by misanthrope101 (253915) on Friday October 19, 2007 @09:14AM (#21040145)

        Even if there is no God, and you are an atheist, is it possible that a world containing religious people is actually a "better" society than a world full of atheists?
        Well, no [creighton.edu]. Japan, Holland, Canada, and a slew of other nations have a lower instance of religious belief, and a lower rate of crime, lower infant mortality, etc. Even within the USA, the Bible Belt states (actually the Red States in general) have higher infant mortality rates, lower productivity rates, higher crime rates, worse education systems, along with being worse-off in a range of other criteria. It isn't a stark difference--I'm not saying they're in the dark ages--but the difference is easy to spot if you look at the data.

        And in one way or another, we're all atheists. Is the world worse off because people don't believe in Thor anymore?

  • "Wisdom Of Crowds" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Friday October 19, 2007 @05:56AM (#21038587) Homepage
    The "Wisdom Of Crowds" put George W Bush in power, twice. Had Americans believing Saddam caused 9/11 and was a threat. Then of course there is religion..
    • by oncehour (744756) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:28AM (#21038753)
      As the parent mentioned, the "Wisdom of Crowds" put Bush in power. Honestly, it seems to me to be nothing more than overhyped bullshit pushed alongside "Web 2.0" and other over-hyped concepts that are filling the current bubble with hot air. People love to cite Wikipedia as proof of the wisdom of crowds, but let's stop and analyze that for a moment:

      Who controls the content of Wikipedia articles? Is it a large crowd of seemingly random contributors each imparting their own bits of wisdom? Or is it a small set of contributors providing the base of an article with a few mostly minor revisions submitted by random people passing by? In my experience, it's the latter. Usually a small set of people, no more than 3 to 5 which make the core of a Wikipedia article.

      These same people are also generally the ones that cultivate the article and keep it consistent and well editted. Occasionally these same few people come to disagreements and end up in "edit wars" in which they call in another set of few members interested in judging to judge the issue. There's no "crowd" at work here, it's a lot of small groups of vested individuals who have interest in a particular domain and an efficient way of contributing and collaborating in that domain.

      There may be hundreds of such groups, but they typically stick to their domain or they become edit whores and stick to minor revisionary work on a large amount of articles. Either way, I don't see much of a "crowd" once I break it down and look close, much less a wise crowd. Have you ever noticed that different subsections of Wikipedia have their own "feel" or "identity"? Maybe the particular manner of phrasing or the type of consistency shown throughout that sub-section which differs somewhat from another unrelated domain. This is largely a result of edits by the aforementioned small group of vested individuals. Each group leaves their own tint which colors a section and gives it life.

      Wisdom of Crowds? No. Small, intelligent groups of people focused on achieving a well defined goal? Yes. If you really want to test this "Wisdom of Crowds" concept, take a look at SomethingAwful.com or any of the various large web forums and learn of the "Wisdom of Crowds". Even there, it's generally a very few amount of people contributing intelligently with the rest just being meaningless drivel. This meme needs to die.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ResidntGeek (772730)
        So, then, because crowds left to their own devices don't say wise things all the time, they have no wisdom? That would imply that wisdom (knowledge, really, in this context) causes monotonous focus on intellectual matters. Not true at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tom (822)

        In my experience, it's the latter. Usually a small set of people, no more than 3 to 5 which make the core of a Wikipedia article.
        Yes, for a Wikipedia article.

        But Wikipedia has about 2 mio. articles, and it ain't the same 3-5 people doing them all. That is what TFA alleges to when it talks about "wisdom of crowds".
    • by richieb (3277) <richieb@gmail . c om> on Friday October 19, 2007 @08:16AM (#21039481) Homepage Journal
      The "Wisdom Of Crowds" put George W Bush in power, twice.

      Actually in 2000 the "wisdom of the crowds" picked Al Gore. The electoral college and the Supreme Court put GW in the Whitehouse.

    • "Wisdom of Crowds" systems produce good results because there is a feedback loop, and elections don't have that feedback.

      To sift the wisdom from the noise, there has to be some method of determining which are 'good' inputs and which are 'bad'. With Evolution, the feedback is easy to understand, bad mutations die/fail to breed/whatever, good ones get more food/sex/whatever and are more likely to reproduce.

      An election has no such feedback. There is no good method of looking at the individual inputs from the r
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sco08y (615665)
      The "Wisdom Of Crowds" put George W Bush in power, twice.

      Well, it only took 7 years, but you're finally past "denial." Good for you! With 6 more steps, you'll be cured of Bush Derangement Syndrome in about 42 years.
  • by jacquesm (154384) <jNO@SPAMww.com> on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:02AM (#21038621) Homepage
    Is a great theoretical concept, but unfortunately it only makes sense in the context of assuming that everybody really thinks for themselves. As soon as the media enter into the equation the crowd becomes as manipulatable as the most stupid upper limit that can still be sold a bill of goods. If that's > 50% then the equation no longer holds, no matter how much the rest invests in staying educated. You'd almost have to filter out media bias somehow because otherwise anybody with an agenda and some money to burn will come out on top. Witness politics, marketing of unnecssary goods and services and so on.
  • by threaded (89367) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:03AM (#21038625) Homepage
    Crowds contain individuals, and some of these individuals know what they are on about. Collect together a sufficiently large crowd and you will find a number of experts on many different subject.

    Isn't that the obvious conclusion?
  • If people have a problem grasping 'evolution' as a concept, ask them to think about language evolution. Languages more obviously evolve, 'speciations', 'hybridisations' etc of English can easily be identified. The analogy with Darwinism isn't exact, but it is surprisingly close.
    • by orcrist (16312)

      If people have a problem grasping 'evolution' as a concept, ask them to think about language evolution.

      Are you kidding? That's even worse. Even people who accept biological evolution often cling to bizarre ideas about Language; like with e.g. British English vs. American English there is that impossible-to-kill meme that the Brits 'invented' English, so what they speak must be the 'original' English, etc... etc... ad nauseam
      And they will even argue those points against trained Linguists so, sorry, no salvat

  • by styryx (952942)
    From the summary (emphasis mine):

    Darwin's theory of evolution. Downplaying its conflict with religion
    The title of the essay:

    Does fundamentalist religion cause the rejection of evolution? or is it the other way around?
  • Bad analogy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IkeTo (27776) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:15AM (#21038679)
    > Comparing it to evolution, an edit of Wikipedia might be considered equivalent to a genetic mutation. A
    > mutation, of course, is non-directed...that is, "random." It could be bad or good, but most of the time
    > it is bad.

    IMNSHO this is simply untrue. If this is true Wikipedia is dead for long: it never keeps a large, visible "pool" of "genes" (different version of the same article) that the "nature" (viewing public) can "select", and the "nature" simply is too busy to "select" them anyway. They have many version of the same article, but there are not many who will go into the version and select to revert to one of those. To me, the success of Wikipedia is that those who don't know much about a subject will normally refrain from editing the subject, so most edits are actually of a rather high quality. It is a social behavior, not an evolution behavior.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JimboFBX (1097277)
      No, wikipedia is evolutionary- an incorrect edit will be removed, edited, or fixed while correct edits will be changed back to the way they were if they become vandalized. Essentially it's an equilibrium function because equilibrium is clearly achieved once everything is correct. Of course, its the kind of wobbly equilibrium you get when you try to hold your hand steady without support- but equilibrium nevertheless.
    • by darthflo (1095225)
      It is evolutionary in that an mutation (edit of a lemma) takes place and either lives on to be mutated until perfection is reached or is judged to be inferior to the unmutated revision by a natural predator of his (who, in the limited environment of the 'pedia are usually informed people and/or moderators (and whomever else is lurking up there in their organizational charts, no idea about their particular organisation)).
      Of course you could also look at the creator, moderators, editors and whomever takes an
  • Those who doubt the veracity of 'evolution-like systems' such as "Wikipedia, prediction markets, and recommendation systems" should not be compared to those who argue against evolution. The Theory of Evolution has a great deal of scientific evidence supporting it; indeed, much of the 'theory' is actually considered scientific Fact.
    While I support Wikipedia, I don't consider those who doubt its value to be idiots. Those who argue against evolution, on the other hand....
  • by Telephone Sanitizer (989116) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:31AM (#21038771)
    1. People -- as a general rule -- process complex ideas granularly. People are also generally lazy thinkers who do not attempt to refine their comprehension with falsifiable methodology. As a result, individual perceptions of value are often biased towards the simplest conclusions at the greatest level of granularity that a person can casually grasp rather than on evidence that intellect and practiced reasoning might produce. In large groups, it is possible to predict behaviors through statistical sampling using assumptions based on this model of granularity and intelligence. The conclusions of such studies are, themselves, subject to individual evaluation under the same model of granular perception. People who don't understand this are stupid religious types. If those same people were smart then they would be compelled to believe in evolution.

    2. Most people can't see the forest for the trees. Everybody who is not as smart as the author needs to take remedial education and secular-deprogramming classes.

    Now you don't have to read the article.

    You're welcome. :)
  • Nothing new.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 12357bd (686909) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:35AM (#21038809)

    Just a n-dimensional random distribution, with small adjustment steps. The 'n' of the system being chosed by hand, not even automatically computed. It works for Netflix because the domain being modeled is not 'wild' statistically, and have a very simple topology.

    The 'presumed' relation with a 'wisdom of the crowds' concept is just coincidence, try to apply such a simple system to a really complex domain (ie: natural language syntax) and it will fail.

    On the other hand, it's true that simple statistics can be used for a lot of tasks (ie: language/topic detection), but nothing really new here.

  • Faith in people (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pzs (857406) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:36AM (#21038817)

    I recently had to start a Wiki for 1st year undergraduate students. I found it really hard to make it writable by everybody, since I was sure that it would result in a lot of vandalism. However, if you think about Wikipedia, the vast majority of pages can be edited by anyone and yet you almost never see malicious edits by people just dicking about. In the limit, people who visit Wikipedia prefer order. That's actually quite a comforting idea.

    Obviously the more subtle stuff [geeksaresexy.net] is harder to protect against.

  • by Jayde Stargunner (207280) on Friday October 19, 2007 @06:42AM (#21038855)
    "Conventional wisdom says that the primary reason why so many people do not accept Darwin's theory of evolution is that they find it threatening to their religious beliefs. There is no question that religion is a big part of the reason behind the large number of people who reject evolution. But I am convinced that just as often, the cause and effect is reversed: people hold onto their fundamentalist religious beliefs because evolution by natural selection -- the strongest argument against an Old Testament-type creator -- is so counter-intuitive to so many."

    Honestly, I find these kinds of statements to be a bit off-base. I really get the feeling that Creationism and Evolution/Darwinism are artificially pitted against each other as if one or the other has to "win."

    The interesting thing is that there is absolutely nothing in either of the standpoints that cannot coexist with the other. I would say that the consistant framing of them being exclusive is what causes resistance (from both sides, most likey) when it isn't even needed.

    If one wants to get anyone to believe in a scientific theory they are having difficulties with, framing it as, "you should believe this because what you believe is wrong and you are stupid," is not really going to win anyone over. Especially when one could easily take the stance of, "here's why this theory makes sense, and really it doesn't have anything to do with what you may or may not believe."

    I've seen no strong theology that would rule out that evolution did not happen. Creationism is about a supernatural force overseeing things--it says nothing specific about how things actually happened. (And, I think, most theologists will agree that Genesis is highly metaphorical.)

    So, bottom line is, if science-minded people want others to "see the light" on this one, stick to the facts and leave the religion-bashing alone. Making people defensive generally is not an effective way of getting an idea across.
    • by Nephilium (684559) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:26AM (#21039097) Homepage

      Generally, the use of creationism references young Earth creationism... where part of the belief is that the Earth is only a couple of thousand years old. This flavor of creationism can't stand alongside evolution.

      Nephilium

    • by Tom (822) on Friday October 19, 2007 @08:42AM (#21039807) Homepage Journal

      The interesting thing is that there is absolutely nothing in either of the standpoints that cannot coexist with the other.
      Err... I'm actually lost for words. You are seriously saying that evolution (things change into whatever is most appropriate at that moment, with little regard for past or future) and design (things are as they are because they were intentionally made that way) are not diametrically opposed theories?

      Well, there's just the small, unimportant, inconsequential matter of intent.

      Also, a total reversal of roles, look:

      I've seen no strong theology that would rule out that evolution did not happen. Creationism is about a supernatural force overseeing things--it says nothing specific about how things actually happened. (And, I think, most theologists will agree that Genesis is highly metaphorical.)
      No, creationism isn't about that at all. The very point of it is that it starts with something complex, in fact the most complex things of them all - the creator.

      Evolution, on the other hand, claims that complexity emerges during the process of evolution, which starts with very simple things.

      I really see no way for two theories to coexist if their claimed starting points are exact opposites. If you can't even agree on that, everything down from there is either dishonesty or an intentional scam of one theory to not have its core assumptions examined too closely.

  • The success of wikipedia has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution.

    1. It is not like a 1000 monkeys typing randomly on a type writer came up with the wikipedia.

    2. The content of the wikipedia is controlled more so than most people think. There are editors, there is peer review etc.

    3. You don't find a million slightly varying copies on a single topic which are then "naturally selected"

    A wikipedia has as much value as shouting out a question in a packed stadium to receive the answers from a million people.
    • by dave420 (699308) on Friday October 19, 2007 @08:25AM (#21039609)
      Evolution, in the Darwinian natural sense, is accumulative, not completely random. Richard Dawkins explains it very well in "The Blind Watch Maker". Wikipedia's content is just like evolution. Articles are first created (and as we know, the theory of evolution does not cover actual creation of life, but how it changes), and are slowly perfected, with each "edit" being a mutation/new trait in the gene pool which is carried on to the next generation. The parts of the article which are not altered are analogous to genes which are not affecting the "organism" of the article as severely (either positively or negatively) as the change which was effected. As an article reaches its most suitable state, where further edits are not required, you have an article that is completely correct, with no "genes" (edits) that need removing/adding.

      The notion of n monkeys typing randomly is used to illustrate the absurdity of evolution. It would be a great illustration if it were not intrinsically flawed from its very conception. A better analogy would be, again as Richard Dawkins again demonstrated in said documentary/book, that each change the monkeys made that took their current works of Shakespeare away from the actual works of Shakespeare were ignored, or favoured less, than changes which improved the similarity of the monkeys' work with that of Shakespeare.

      So, in a nutshell, it's similar to evolution as you clearly don't understand evolution enough to ask that question :)
  • Dilbert Blog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pokerdad (1124121) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:17AM (#21039033)

    There is a part of me hoping this article gets discussed by Dilbert creator/evolution denier Scott Adams, and another part dreading it. link [typepad.com]

  • Randomness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Friday October 19, 2007 @07:26AM (#21039107)

    I think the main problem with people's understanding of evolution is the fact that it is not taught very well in schools, and people get the strong idea that evolution is a random process. I also think it is a problem with the timescales involved, which are hard for the human mind to grasp.
  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Friday October 19, 2007 @01:27PM (#21044649)
    There is a book written in 1841 by Charles Mackay titled "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". It describes some "bubble" markets, such as the Dutch Tulip Craze (when people would invest their life savings in a tulip bulb, only to see the market eventually crash) and then goes on to describe other non-market crazes.

    The book is frequently referenced in discussions of investment strategy, especially so-called "contrarian investing", which often makes money for its followers. The contrarian investing principle can be summarized as being that when the crowd overwhelmingly agrees on something, go the other way.

    The book describes market behavior at least as well as Adam Smith's "unseen hand", and may also well describe other aspects of crowd behavior. I had never heard of the "wisdom of crowds" before this posting, but I have heard of the "madness of crowds" for many years.
  • by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity.sbcglobal@net> on Friday October 19, 2007 @03:27PM (#21046677) Homepage Journal
    This comment will probably be lost in all of the stuff that happens anytime anyone even casually mentions "God" in any context, but one minor quibble with TFA. And I think you'll find it actually weakens his argument to say this, and what I'm about to say actually strengthens what TFA is saying. From the article:

    ...evolution by natural selection -- the strongest argument against an Old Testament-type creator...


    Evolution by natural selecton isn't the strongest argument against an Old Testament-type creator. The story of Creation as given by the Old Testament follows the form of Hebrew poetry. And the author of it clearly could not have been at the point of Creation. Those who say that the author was somehow inspired to write the exact sequence of events of the creation of the world by God such that they would be exact are... well, putting things into the Bible that aren't there. Trying to apply scientific logic to fails even in the absence of evolutionary theory, given that there is day and night as early as the first day, but no sun until later. Only the dim-witted would consider the Creation myth a literal retelling of the story of Creation.

    The theory of Evolution, our growing understanding of our universe and how we apply it are, if anything, fulfillment of Genesis 1, verses 27-28: "(27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (28) God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"

    So it's hardly accurate to call Evolution a strong argument against an OT-type Creator. The text of Genesis 1 itself is the strongest argument against Creationism, but hardly any argument at all against the existence of a Creator as the Bible describes.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Young Earth Creationists can claim that their interpretation is derived from neither a literal nor an educated interpretation of the Bible. Creationism is ultimately anti-Biblical. But it's taking that silliness to an extreme to then say that Evolution somehow is an argument against the existence of a God.

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"

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