Monkeys, computers and free will


ACCORDING to an old theory, an infinite number of monkeys given an infinite number of typewriters eventually will produce the works of Shakespeare.
Researchers decided to test the theory on a small scale.
Six monkeys in a British zoo were given one computer for a month and left alone. In the end, the experiment was much about nothing.
The monkeys failed to produce a word. In fact, the primates attacked the machine with rocks.
Perhaps it’s more evidence humans are not an improved version of another species, but something unique.
Meanwhile, a large group of geneticists is trying to discover whether our destinies are fixed in our DNA.
The theory is that eventually we may be able to read a child’s future from a DNA bar code. We might be able to tell, for instance, whether a child is destined to be athletic, violent, depressed, a serial killer or a genius.
But, clearly, there is no neuroscience of personality. We have little understanding of how music, for example, affects the brain. Or why some people are mathematical geniuses and others are not.
The current thinking is our genes may strongly influence behaviour, but cannot control it. Our upbringing, environment, experiences and choices also play roles in who we are.
Our personalities are shaped and reshaped over our lives. We are not predictable because we have free choice.


22 thoughts on “Monkeys, computers and free will

  1. this theory has been around for awhile, at least as far back as Aristotle and Cicero who were not scientists but philosophers. It is amazing how evolutionists ridicule Creationists for not being scientific but have supported the infinite monkey theorem as scientific rather than philosophic argument.

    This argument is often used to illustrate evolution, but it falls short on a number of issues. The first issue is that of coding. The monkeys might theoretically type up Shakespeare, but what if the English language never came into Existence? what if the language was Ooompa Loompa? How much sense would it make to an Oompa Loompa who never knew English existed? And what if there was a civilisation that did not use alphabets but communicated telephatically? What need would there be to invent typewriters in the first place?

    Whatever odds they give you in favour of monkeys doing this actually being possible, are infinitely greater when you look at all the other things necessary for the monkeys to be successful.

    First of all you need intelligent design, to design the method of communication, then you need to invent someone smart enough to write the works in the first place, then you need the works to be understood, you need to invent the monkey, you need to invent the typewriter, etc, etc.

    You can see how nature now has to be intelligent, and intelligently design all these things to work together for a final aim.

    Evolutionists might ridicule intelligent design all they like; they haven’t really gotten rid of God, they just repackaged Him as Nature.


    • All that twaddle might only make any sense if a PREdetermined outcome is required.
      The evolution of our universe ~ and every bit of it ~ does NOT require predetermined outcomes. It builds on what came before, just as brains evolved long after a ‘living’ cell did.
      …well…..for some of us, anyway.


    • Bryan et al, (and that phrase does NOT mean that Bryan ate a guy named Al!)

      You notice< dont you that in that glorious picture at the head of this blog shows Chimpanzees or Apes, NOT Monkeys!!!.



  2. And Bryan: as was pointed out the first time you tried to hunt that (hoary!) hare:-

    To try to extrapolate infinite possibilities from a sample of six monkeys and one computer is as daft as wondering why a particular one of your tail-swinging ancestors didn’t discover the The General Theory of Relativity (if they had they mightn’t have chosen you as a Relative!), didn’t compose The Ride of the Valkyries or perform Hamlet.
    ….or even learn to ride a bicycle.

    The first ~ and perhaps only ~ law of Infinity is that anything that CAN happen WILL happen.
    That’s even more a certainty than that god could enable monkeys to rewrite the bible.
    …and you wouldn’t doubt that, would you? 🙂
    ………..(No. I won’t say it! :0 )

    Remember this:- “The Difficult is that which can be done immediately;
    the Impossible [is] that which takes a little longer.”
    ~George Santayana


  3. ps…..That picture (above) isn’t a group-shot taken in at the Herald-Sun, is it?
    (It’s just that one of the writers strikes a startling resemblance to Andrew Blot.)


  4. hm… ” We are not predictable because we have free choice.”
    Could that be why monkeys don’t rewrite Shakespeare: they choose not to? 😮


  5. Seems like a really stupid experiment! Put six untutored humans with computers, what result would you expect? Especially humans who had no exposure at all to modern technology.


  6. And incidentally:-

    ???… “this theory has been around for awhile, at least as far back as Aristotle and Cicero ”
    Plato and Cicero were expounding ‘theories’ about monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare?
    Have I missed something?

    ???… ‘small-scale Infinity’ ?
    Measured how?

    ???…..”humans are not an improved version of another species,”…
    Has any half-knowledgable non-Creationist ever actually described humans as an ‘improved version’ of other animals??

    ???… “….but something unique.” Of course we’re unique: uniqueness is what defines a species.. That doesn’t nullify the fact that we’re made of different, pre-existing components.

    ???… “whether our destinies are fixed in our DNA.”
    Quibbles aside, DNA fixes our ‘destiny’ by decreeing we die. Anything optional is not ‘destined’.

    ……” whether a child is destined to be athletic, violent, depressed, a serial killer or a genius.”
    Or all of the above? 😉


    • ???… “this theory has been around for awhile, at least as far back as Aristotle and Cicero ”
      Plato and Cicero were expounding ‘theories’ about monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare?
      Have I missed something?

      Yes Dabbles you have. In scientific circle this is called the “infinite Monkey theory”.
      Cicero spoke of this in “De Natura Deorum” (on the nature of Gods) and Aristotle spoke of this in his work “On Generation of corruption”. They didn’t have typewriters in those days but they spoke of probability of writing the classics by monkeys pulling letters out of bags (much like Scrabble today).


  7. The trouble with creationism is that an omnipitant God reached out his hand and did it all. What were all the hosts of heaven doing?

    Here, if the government does this or that, we don’t anthropomise it, allthough we might blame or praise the figure head.

    Consider too that an architect doesn’t lay bricks nor nail timber. Right through the Bible there is the idea of ‘serving’ God, a God in whom we live and move and have our being.

    I don’t know what the complexities of evolutionary creationism are, let alone considering them oppositional, but neither does anyone else. I only know there is a Force at work, and it is represented to me by a personalised presence.

    I can say, with the Star Wars fans, ‘May the Force be with you!’ 😆


  8. The odds against a monkey tapping away on a typewriter and coming up with the works of Shakespeare by chance have been rightly described by anti-evolutionists as astronomical and literally impossible. I agree.
    However, evolution by natural selection only works on DNA that has been copied, retained and added to , and which only survives by having additions or deletions that maintain the operating integrity of the organism at each stage.
    So a more exact analogy would be a monkey tapping away at a typewriter but at each tap only the letter required to continue the word is accepted while all others are ignored.
    As there are 26 letters to choose from, on average the correct letter would be chosen every 13 tries. It has been calculated that. at the rate of one letter every second, the monkey would complete the entire works of Shakespeare in 25 years.
    In the time-scale of evolution, even 25 MILLION years is but a flash.


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