Weasel, a flexible program for investigating deterministic computer ‘demonstrations’ of evolution

Update 2011-03-08: Turns out the available download of this tool is some old school windows program that won’t run on my 64bit windows 7. I sent CMI a message asking if it was open source or maybe if they had an updated package.

I was very intrigued about this tool I heard about from CMI,

In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins described a computer program and the results that he claimed demonstrated that evolution by random changes, combined with selection, was virtually inevitable.

The program described herein mimics Dawkins’ program, but also provides the user with the opportunity to explore different values for the parameters such as the mutation rate, number of offspring, the selection coefficient, and the ‘genome’ size. Varying the values for these parameters shows that Dawkins chose his values carefully to get the result he wanted. Furthermore, the user can see that, with realistic values for the parameters, the number of generations needed to achieve convergence increases to such an extent that it shows that evolution of organisms with long generation times and small numbers of offspring is not possible even with a uniformitarian time-frame. And this is with a deterministic exercise, which cannot be a simulation of real-world evolution anyway. The program also allows the user to set up a target amino acid sequence with the mutations occurring in the DNA base pair order. Since there is redundancy in the triplet codons, the dynamics of the convergence are different to a simple alphabetical letter sequence. The program also allows for the user to include deletions and additions, as well as substitutions, as well as variable length in the ‘evolving’ sequence.

You can also try the app for yourself.

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