The power of selection

Darwinism is often the subject of disbelief because one of its two important components is overlooked. The essence of Darwinism is evolution through natural selection. This requires variation between organisms, and a method of selecting the most suitable variants from amongst them.

The variation is provided by various means: primarily the shuffling of the existing elements in the gene pool thanks to sexual reproduction, and by mutation. Both of these processes are more or less random, and in the case of mutation, far more likely to produce a broken organism than an ‘improved’ one (improved means better fitted for survival and reproduction in that organism’s environment).

It is the overlooked component, selection, that produces order out of the randomness. In the case of Darwinism, it is the environment which selects which randomly produced characteristics succeed and spread.

As a modest contribution to this debate, let me produce ordered sound from randomness. Here are the steps.

CoolEdit 2000 filter producing order out of chaosFirst, I used the computer program CoolEdit 2000 to produce ten seconds of ‘pink noise’. Pink noise is random noise in which the average level of frequencies in each octave is equal. Since octaves double in their range of frequencies as they proceed up through the scale, the average level of each frequency falls at the frequency increases. This happens at rate of three decibels per octave. Pink noise is closer to natural sounds (which tend to fall away at 6dB per octave) than white noise, in which the average level of each frequency is the same as every other level. We reviewers use pink noise a lot in our tests because of this closer correspondence to reality.

Then I applied a filter to this pink noise. This filter was my ‘selection’ mechanism. It eliminated (actually, reduced by up to 60dB) all the sound, except for that around the frequencies 80, 160, 320, 640, 1280, 2560, 5120 and 10240 hertz. You can see the filter setup in the accomanying graphic.

What do we find? What was previously somewhat bass heavy random noise has now become a musical tone. Don’t believe me? Download the MP3 files and listen for yourself. Each is 78.5kB in size.

pink.mp3‘ is the original pink noise. ‘pink filtered.mp3‘ is the same file, modified only by the application of the filter. (Right click on the link and choose ‘Save Target As …’)

So, yes, you can produce order from randomness by applying nothing more than a suitable selection mechanism.

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