One of the ID creationists’ favorite words is “front-loading”. From
context, I gather that it means that the output of an algorithm is
inherent in the algorithm itself. In other words, if you write a
detailed program that calculates the square root of 16, then that’s
just a long-winded way of having it print “4”. You could have saved
yourself a lot of time by just having it print “4” in the first place.
Front-loading comes up in two arguments: 1) evolutionary algorithms do
not demonstrate that evolution works, because the solution is hidden
in the code, and 2) the fact that complex organs exist is evidence of
the unfolding of
God’s an unspecified intelligent
designer’s plan; the appearance of limbs and organs in the fossil
record is part of the unfolding of
designer’s plan and was front-loaded at
unspecified point in the distant past.
We can dismiss point (2) by pointing and laughing. For point (1), the
creationists are partly right: a deterministic computer program, when
given certain inputs, will always arrive at the same output. But their
error lies in confusing the description of the solution with
the solution itself.
The description of the solution is something like “The shortest route
from Washington to Baltimore”, while the solution itself is something
like “Get onto the Beltway, then turn onto Rte. 95 north and go 20
miles”. To a mathematician, the two may be equivalent, but in
practical terms, one is much more useful than the other.
So when ID creationists complain that evolutionary algorithms
“front-load” the solution into the problem, they’re complaining that
the algorithm arrives at a correct solution. Which is, you know, kinda
what it was supposed to do.