Monday, April 23, 2007

I am all I have to rest within when you have gone

No, I'm not the monkey at the typewriter. I'm A monkey at a typewriter.

There is an old story about a theological debate between Anglican Archbishop Samuel Wilberforce and evolutionist Thomas Huxley, in which Huxley rebutted Wilberforce's assertion that the complexity of nature necessitated a Creator by arguing that given time, all possible combinations of matter found in creation would occur by random chance.

This debate famously, and allegedly gave rise to the often cited saying that given an infinite amount of time, six monkeys and six typewriters, the monkeys would eventually type the works of Shakespeare.

In my travels through the Worldwide Wonder Web, I found an article that describes what happens when a University gave a group of monkeys their typewriters (but not infinity, for obvious reasons - there's never enough infinity to go round) to test this theory.

Many thanks to Brad Harrub, Ph.D for presenting this info on the Interpipe:

Researchers at Plymouth University in England reported that primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word. According to Brian Bernbaum, “a group of faculty and students in the university’s media program left a computer in the monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo in southwest England, home to six Sulawesi crested macaques. Then they waited.” The results were far from what evolutionists had hoped to see. Researcher Mike Phillips noted the first thing to happen was that the “lead male got a stone and started bashing…it,” (as quoted in Bernbaum, 2003). He went on to note “another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard.”

Eventually the six monkeys—named Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe, and Rowan—did produce five pages of “text.” However, that “text” was composed primarily of the letter S, with the letters A, J, L, and M added on rare occasions. Mike Phillips noted, “They pressed a lot of S’s.” He went on to state, “obviously, English isn’t their first language.”

I love that those monkeys have names. And I love that last sentence: Obviously, English isn't their first language. Obviously.

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