Evolution is like a search engine, though not a very good one. We’re not talking Google. We might be talking Google drunk, blindfolded, on crutches, and with a frontal lobotomy.
This is why the Nobel laureate François Jacob described evolution as a tinkerer, not an engineer. Engineers know where they’re going—they have an aim, a plan. Tinkerers are just fastening parts together, sticking this bit onto that in an ongoing exploration of functional possibilities, with no goal in mind.
The insight that the evolutionary search engine proceeds blindly—and therefore gradually—came from Charles Darwin. He realized that because resources are often scarce, organisms are always in competition with one another. In the endless battle, those individuals who happen to possess some slight innate advantage will flourish and pass along that advantage to their descendants. By this method, new species could be created, one imperfect change at a time, but this process certainly was not going to happen q...