In a comment to his August 30th blog entry, pro-ID blogger David Heddle made the following observation:
I use genetic algorithms in my work. They are great at certain classes of optimization problems. They are nothing, however, like real life; they are not, at least at the moment, even realistic models of evolutionary adaptation. A GA for a circuit, for example, will find a nice solution, but it will be a Rube Goldberg machine with components that have no purpose. Biological systems, from anyone's perspective I would wager, are not Rube Goldberg's but elegant, um, designs.
Anyone's perspective? Gee, I could have sworn that just the other day I was reading the work of some biochemist or other who argued for the Rube Goldberg side of things:
Modern biochemists have discovered a number of Rube Goldberg-like systems as they probe the workings of life on the molecular scale. (p. 77)
Heck, Chapter four of the book this came from is entitled “Rube Goldberg in the Blood.” The book in question is Darwin's Black Box by some bloke named Michael Behe.
The fact is, Heddle would be hard-pressed to find a biologist who would describe biological systems as elegant designs, as opposed to Rube Goldberg machines. It is the nearly universal experience of anyone who has looked carefully at the inner workings of complex biological systems that they are invariably inefficient and, from an engineering standpoint, inelegant. They appear as if they were cobbled together from readily available parts and survived because they were just good enough to provide a survival advantage to the organisms who possessed them.
This is why Stephen Jay Gould talks about “the senseless signs of history” as being strong evidence for evolution. This is why vestigial structures feature so prominently in any discussion of evolution. And this is why ID folks spill so much ink desperately trying to explain away the problem of vastly suboptimal design.