My Response to William Dembski "Challenge"

William Dembski wants to use technological evolution to disprove Darwin. As a step in this direction, he recently offered a prize to anybody who will provide him with a specific example of technological evolution which conforms to his requirements. Here is the description of the requirements:

"Biological evolution is supposed to describe a gradual process that can produce marvelous adapations from simple precursors (e.g., the mammalian eye from a light-sensitive spot). But what about technological evolution? In the history of human technology, what is the longest chain of gradual changes that transforms one system into another.

Iím not talking about hypothetical histories in which it is imagined how some final piece of technology might gradually have evolved from simpler precursors (for such a bogus hypothetical history, consider John H. McDonaldís evolving mousetrap: go here ó McDonald is responding to Beheís use of the mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity).

Iím talking about an actual history of invention in which an initial technology does A, and then a small change allows it to do B, after which a further small change allows it to do C, after which co-opting an existing system (without extensive modification) allows it to do D, etc. The evolution of a motorcycle from a motor and a bicycle is not a good example in this regard because the motor and bicycle require extensive design-work to adapt them to each other.

Thus, Iím looking for

Example of technological evolution must be submitted as comment to this blog entry by December 1, 2005. (Note that a simple link to another webpage is sufficient.) If these conditions are satisfied, Iíll award a prize of not less than $100 and not more than $1000 (the amount will depend on how interesting I find the winning sequence). Note that I am the sole judge.

Despite being a methematician, Mr. Dembski does not know how to present thoughts clearly. May be he simply does not want. Anyway, the above requirements are too fuzzy. First of all it is unclear if he wants an example of a system which, say, initially walks, then swims, then flies, OR he wants an example of a system that initially just walks, then walks + swims, and then walks + swims + flies. These are two different things despite both can be said of doing A, then B, then C. The difference is that in the first case intersection of A, B, and C is empty, whereas in the second case B extends A and C extends B.

Secondly, it is unclear why just one small modification has to bring about transition from A to B, then from B to C, etc. In living creatures it requires many small modifications. But anyway, I have an example for him (provided he wants it to be of the class "initially walks, then swims, then flies").

This example is evolution of a simple string. String was invented in the times immemorial to tie two pieces together. Then with the help of a very slight modification (namely by arranging one of its ends into a special knot), it became possible to use it for hanging people. Then the required combination with another system occured. String was combined with a stick to create a scourge or whip. No modification to the both elements were required. Then people learned to combine string with trees by attaching its different ends to different trees to hang clothes. Again no modification to the combined elements was required. Then trees and string were further combined with a simple wheel to create moving clothes lines. (Note that the new function is the ability to move clothes as they hanged). No big modifications of the combined components were required to use them together. Trees and string required no modification at all, whereas wheel required a slight modification to its shape (just adding a groove). All these are real inventions and not "bogus hypothetical histories".

Now I am awaiting the promised $1000 from Mr. Dembski. It is still unclear if there has to be at least 5 contestants to win the prize (or by 5 contestants he meant something else, unlclear only what). So, just in case, please be other 4 by sending him something ! Thank you in advance !