Blind Luck Smarter than Top Programmers

613 neurons from one portion of the fruit fly’s brain, with artificial colors assigned to each neuron to make them easier to follow in the dense tangle of connections. Image credit: The FlyEM team, Janelia Research Campus, HHMI (CC BY 4.0)

Research has discovered that fruit flies have an “incredibly smart method to categorize smells which lets them recognize differences with a very fine level of accuracy” (“Patterns in Fruit Fly Brains Could Soon Power Your Netflix Recommendations,” Science Alert, Nov. 11, 2017). The research was done by a team from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Fruit flies are able to identify and categorize odors and associated behaviors (e.g., good to eat, must avoid) with great precision. Its brain has 2,000 neurons that “give each smell a distinct ID,” but only the top 5 percent of those are stored so that the fly can quickly sort through a great number of odors and associations. It turns out that this method is more effective than that which is currently used by services like Netflix and Spotify and YouTube to power their retrieval systems (e.g., labeling and sorting movies). “In a series of tests on three standard datasets commonly used by computer scientists, the fly method significantly outperformed basic locality-sensitive hashing.” Saket Navlakha of Salk says, “Pieces of this approach had been used in the past by computer scientists, but evolution put it together in a very unique way” (Ibid., Science Alert). Evolution put it together? Evolution put together a brilliant algorithm in the brain of a fruit fly? This “evolution” thing must be very God-like. In truth, natural selection and mutations couldn’t possibly explain such a thing.

Fruit Fly

(Friday Church News Notes, April 23, 2021,,, 866-295-4143)