Google AdWords vs Charles Darwin

PerryMarketing Blog18 Comments

Share This Post

google-advertisingAnybody who’s developed a modicum of chops with Google ads knows how utterly Darwinian Google is. Most of your ads vanish forever after being seen by (maybe) a few thousand eyeballs. 3% of the advertisers get 50% of the traffic and everyone else fights over the scraps.

As an advertiser, you know that a major key to success is proliferating dozens of ads in as many creative directions as you can until you hit your customer’s “Sweet Spot.”

What you might not realize is how much AdWords can teach you about real evolution – the kind they debate in science class. Most interesting of all is that it highlights a crucial mistake Charles Darwin made 150 years ago. You may not be aware that modern evolutionary theory is in a massive state of flux right now. Old-school “Darwinians” are in a panic as of late. As I shall explain.

One of my favorite blogs is that of University of Chicago geneticist James Shapiro, who writes for the Huffington Post. Dr. Shapiro has impeccable credentials. He was the first to discover that bacteria have the ability to massively re-arrange their DNA in 1968. He was mentored by the Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock, and he holds an Order of the British Empire medal from the Queen of England.

Lately Shapiro has been firing salvos at old-school Darwinists who insist that the all-powerful driving force of evolution is random copying errors and Natural Selection, aka “survival of the fittest.” Au contraire, says Dr. Shapiro — the real source of evolution and the flourish of life is the spectacular ability of organisms to exchange and re-arrange their own DNA in direct response to the environment.

In other words, cells re-write their DNA almost exactly the same way you re-write your Google ads: By watching, listening, predicting and calculating. A protozoan (complex microbe) under stress can splice its DNA into 100,000 pieces, re-arrange them, and produce a new protozoan in minutes.

Seldom do popular evolution books breathe so much as a single word about this. They would have you believe evolution happens randomly and accidentally; that all you need is survival of the fittest and given enough time, “presto,” you get an entire earth filled with life.

‘Tain’t so.

If you’ve built a few AdWords campaigns… you know where the ads come from. You know exactly how the winners get sorted from the losers. You understand the evolutionary process very well, thank you very much. In fact you probably know a few things you didn’t even realize you knew.

Consider this diagram:

You write or rewrite ads. Google distributes them far and wide. People click on some and not others. Google moves the winners to the top and sends the losers to the scrap yard. You keep rewriting your best ads (a process which requires you to listen to your customers). If you’re really good, you wind up at the top of the heap.

This is all everyday experience, the normal operation of the $50 billion paid search industry. Nothing controversial about it. But what’s interesting is this:

Living things evolve exactly the same way – which is NOT the way Darwinists have been telling you for decades. Conventional Darwinists say DNA gets re-written by accidental copying errors, and that all the power is in the last step: “Natural Selection.” Natural Selection has attained a magical, godlike status in some circles.

What is "80" and what is "20" for your business right now? Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the highest compound interest on your time and money!

If you’ve ever done Google ads, or even if you just look at the diagram, you plainly see that Natural Selection doesn’t create anything. Zero. Zip. Nada. Natural Selection is surely very powerful – in advertising, it’s the “court of last resort.” The marketplace will vote for or against your ads in maddening, frustrating ways that you could have never predicted. (I myself get those “Which ad won, A or B?” tests right, uh, about 50% of the time.)

But in the end, Natural Selection doesn’t add, it subtracts. It kills off the losers. It’s death, baby. That’s all that it is. There ain’t no life in death.

Where does the creative input come from? In Google ads it comes from you, and what you hear from the marketplace.

Likewise, Dr. Shapiro will tell you that the protozoan edits its own DNA much the same way you edit your ads: By monitoring hundreds of signals in its environment and responding with precision.

Charles Darwin was almost right… but not quite. He thought cells were blobs of goo. He had no idea that tucked inside were incredible networks of sensors, digital code, signal processing, and 24/7/365 adaptation.

Shapiro is presently at war with a somewhat notorious atheist, University of Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne. Coyne insists that all those DNA splices are blind and haphazard, and all the creativity comes from Natural Selection. (Shapiro keeps his religious views to himself. Coyne uses his position as a pulpit for proselytizing his militant form of atheism.) It’s scientifically and mathematically impossible to prove Coyne’s theory that DNA mutations are random. Cellular engineering is provable, though, and has been proven.

Everyone who’s ever done AdWords knows Natural Selection doesn’t create anything new, now or ever. The failure of one ad to get clicks, all by itself, does not in any way shape or form furnish fresh content for a different ad. And in 10 years of teaching AdWords to literally hundreds of thousands of people, I’ve never seen anyone beat their old ad with text that came from a computer glitch or data copying error.

The punch line is: Living things possess amazing natural genetic engineering ability. They edit their own code with greater skill than the smartest human programmers. They reprogram their instructions the same way you innovate your advertising:

  • They re-arrange text according to linguistic rules (“transposition”)
  • They borrow copy from other cells (“horizontal gene transfer”)
  • They merge with other cells (“symbiogenesis”)
  • They silence specific letters and words to make them inactive (“epigenetics”)
  • They form hybrids with similar creatures (“whole genome duplication”)

The fact that cells adapt in such systematic, cooperative patterns, and not by accident, blasts a crater in the long-held notion that life is accidental and purposeless. You and I are not just a bunch of billiard balls banging around in the universe. Every cell on planet earth is intentional right down to its DNA.

Jerry Coyne and his posse are boiling mad about this, but facts are facts. If you have an appetite for biology, I highly recommend Shapiro’s book “Evolution: A View from the 21st Century.” Endorsed by several Nobel prize-winning researchers, is literally the first book in print to provide a comprehensive, accurate, modern account of how evolution really works. (See my Amazon review.)

But if you’ve been A/B split testing your ads like Claude Hopkins told us all to do in Scientific Advertising in 1918, you already knew how evolution works all along :^}

Share This Post

About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

18 Comments on “Google AdWords vs Charles Darwin”

      1. Perry,

        Thanks for the interesting links. I’ve read number of articles on your website but had missed this one.

        Have you looked at Gariaev’s paper “Principles of Linguistic-Wave Genetics”, which I linked to on HuffPost? He has an interesting theory on the origin of life. He believes that primary molecular building blocks of life (proteins, DNA, RNA etc.) could’ve been made spontaneously on the early earth, but they would be meaningless, without any information. Information, according to him, probably came in wave form from space, which started bio evolution. (This is the film where he talks about this There’s a good article which explains why this new field of science is suppressed by those who want to keep the status quo.

        After seeing how some orthodoxical scientists like Jerry Coyne deny 100% mainstream and empirically proven science presented by Shapiro, I don’t think there is even a theoretical chance for wave genetics to be accepted by scientific establishment right now. I hope your prediction will come true: “In 2013, the Berlin Wall of Darwinism Will Fall.”

        1. The paper is interesting and I generally follow the logic. However it lacks proper footnotes and documentation such that I wouldn’t know how to verify many of the extraordinary claims I find here. Whenever you mention Rupert Sheldrake a lot of people get upset. I don’t know if that’s because is ideas are ‘out there’ (they are) or if it’s because he should have performed the experiments that could change the world, per his book title, or if he needs to better document his findings. Or all three.

          There’s a very interesting book “Margins of Reality” by Jahn which is better documented than this, which reports somewhat similar phenomena.

          1. I agree with you about lack of footnotes in Gariaev’s paper, however it is understandable, since most of his references are to the research done in Russia (not found in NCBI Pubmed). For me it was easier to check him out, since I speak Russian. I would say I trust his research 99%, whereas Shapiro’s – 100%. I like the fact that both Shapiro and Gariaev are not bound to philosophical dogmatism.

            I wasn’t familiar with Rupert Sheldrake and Robert Jahn, so I’ll check them out. You may as well like to check out Gregg Braden and Masaru Emoto. Especially interesting is Emoto’s experiments showing that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.

  1. Interesting article Perry. I’m ignorant when it comes to biology and evolutionary theory, so I never knew that “survival of the fittest” implied that nature evolves by accident – removed from any external consideration.

    The idea that causation could exist in every branch of science except evolution seems silly to me. As a layman, I’m assuming that I’m missing something. There has to be more reason for the response to Shapiro’s findings.

    1. Actually it’s the “evolution is generated by random copying errors” belief (which is very widespread) that then leads to the emphasis on natural selection. If evolution “just happens” then it’s natural selection that makes the progress actually become apparent. Scientifically there’s nothing interesting about randomness, so the only thing left to talk about is selection.

      The real news story is, there’s all kinds of interesting stuff that cells do to re-arrange their DNA; hardly anybody has heard about them; and selection is the LEAST interesting part.

      To a person who’s never studied this, all this should seem rather unsurprising. But to those in the know, “evolution by random accident and survival of the fittest” has been rammed down our throats so long, Shapiro and the like are a breath of fresh air.

  2. Perry,

    I’ve been reading your emails and this is what I think.

    It appears to me. That as we become exponentially more efficient at doing…well…just about everything. We’re going to wind up back on the barter system (albeit in a new form).

    Because the sole purpose of money was a medium through which to get others to do things that were inconvenient to do yourself.

    Now…as we see in many industries the ability to do most anything yourself is becoming exponentially more easy and efficient.

    For instance: self (mind) healing (will eventually kill medicine), self production [via sophisticated printers] (will eventually kill manufacturing) and self energy creation (will eventually kill big oil)…

    People will even soon figure out that you can feed yourself through “soul energy”…then there goes the food industry. (email me for more info on that btw!)

    So my question is:

    Is it just ebooks going out of style?

    Or is it money itself?

    We all may soon be making a lot less money..and yet living a lot better than ever.

    When everyone can do everything them self…the only currency will be how much cool new knowledge you have.

    And you will trade that knowledge directly for knowledge that others have and you don’t.

    That will be an endevour of choice though, not necessity.

  3. Wow, this is so cool. I get so tired of the evolutionary conversation being dominated by militant atheists or militant 6 day creationists. I think the only intellectually (and spiritually) honest position is right in the middle, which is so rare and refreshing to find. If Shapiro’s work holds up, it could be a game-changer.

    1. Shapiro’s work is nothing if not impressive in its depth, scope, and thoroughness. Fully 1/3 of his book is references from refereed journals. And yes, this middle ground between the zealots is refreshingly factual and technically fascinating.

      Oh, one other thing – William Dembski, the famous Intelligent Design spokesman, made this wonderful quote: “James Shapiro’s constant dancing in the DMZ between Darwin and design can be frustrating.” Which in my mind is the perfect place to be.

  4. Hey Perry,

    Thanks for this! This reminds me how much you’ve taught me and it has been an eye opening experience this whole week with the consulting course you’ve been doing. Suffice to say that I often forget how much more I know about Adwords then some of the people who are out there. I can’t wait for May 2nd. See you in class.

  5. Below are a couple quotes that mentions James Shapiro:

    “Information storage, retrieval and processing is a unique characteristic of life. It requires a symbolic association between items in a code (e.g. an English dictionary, a binary computer code, or a DNA-amino acid ‘dictionary’) together with a language processing system (e.g. human communication, computer software generation, cell function) that can interpret the code via the symbolic associations and carry out work as a result. Information can never be meaningfully studied in isolation; it must always be seen in the context of its language processing system and the work module that this is in turn connected with (and this is the reason that Shannon information is an inadequate measure of biological information). An article by James Shapiro, a world leading microbiologist and anti-creationist, entitled Bacteria are small but not stupid;1 illustrates some of the points I have made here…”

    – Is information a ‘false metaphor’ for DNA?

    “The same goes for James Shapiro’s idea that cells have the ability to create new functions due to a built-in toolbox that allows for self genetic engineering. Of course this would mean that the basic, original living thing that had the toolbox would be even more fantastically complex than it is known to be. But the evidence that Behe presents argues against any such ability also.

    The discovery that certain common genes (e.g. Hox genes) control the basic body plans of a wide range of creatures excited evolutionists with imagined possibilities for evolution. For example, very similar genes control where eyes form in both insects and vertebrates, although the eye designs are quite different. Such discoveries launched the ‘Evo Devo’ movement. Evolutionists thought that a little tinkering (mutations) with the Hox genes could generate new body plans and even explain the origin of major categories of life, for example. However, the initial hype has not been fulfilled. Mutations in these genes do not generate anything fundamentally new; they just rearrange what already exists (putting eyes or antennae where they would not normally be, for example). So this has been a dead end in terms of evolution. And as Behe points out, the discovery of control systems makes the problem for evolution even worse—not only does evolution have to explain the origin of the protein-coding genes, but their control systems as well.”

    – Clarity and confusion: A review of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael J. Behe, full review at

    Behe’s book is very well done, for those who like to read, and also deals with “super bacteria”, DNA, etc.

    Also, for the open minded, this free MP3 may also be of interest:

    Irrefutable Scientific Proof of the Absolute Impossibility of Evolution By A Top Scientist

    Make sure to listen to the very, or you will miss the main point of the message.

    1. Reg,

      A lot of Christians feel that the Bible obligates them to reject an evolutionary view. Many people also feel it speaks of a young earth. I don’t beleive that either of those interpretations is necessary or even valid. I wrote a detailed blog about Biblical interpretation at

      Can God use a process to make the universe and to make life? Of course He can, and science is the study of processes. The real issue is whether life is accidental or intentional. Everything in biology is demonstrably intentional, in stark contrast to everything that is non-living. Shapiro shows this as well as anybody, and his model in my opinion puts the nail in the Darwinian coffin. There is a new, non-Darwinian view of evolution and I don’t see any good reason any Christian should dislike it. It makes living things even more remarkable than the creationists were willing to give God credit for.

      I admit I did not listen to the MP3 “Irrefutable Scientific Proof of the Absolute Impossibility of Evolution By A Top Scientist” but I’ll say this: In principle you cannot prove something is absolutely impossible, so the title is reaching too far. Furthermore, evolution is irrefutably demonstrated in the lab. We have witnessed entire new species of plants, animals and bacteria emerge through hybridization and horizontal gene transfer. In principle, the amazing mechanisms that Shapiro discusses can get you from simple forms of life to complex forms, usually in a combinations of large leaps which are in fact demonstrably true.

      Reg, I submit to you that as a Christian it is not necessary for you to be offended at an evolutionary view. In fact, it’s the Darwinists who should be, and who ARE, offended. Evolution is not turning out to work like they said it did at all, and they’re running out of excuses.

      1. Hi Perry,
        I’ve seen your articles, read Cosmic Fingerprints and Coffee House Theology, I’d like to know how in your mind you solved the conflict I will describe here.
        My issue with the evolutionary view is not about the old earth, but about the old mankind. Genesis sets the basis for the origin of sin through Adam and Eve’s disobedience and the need of Jesus to come and give us an opportunity to re-conciliate mankind with God.
        So, this could lead to the conclusion that, if we actually evolved from a common descendant of the primates and the Genesis report is false, then the logical conclusion is that there is a Deity, but not necessarily the God of the Bible.
        I’m Christian and would like to know your view about this conflict. Thanks.

        1. To me the key is found in Genesis 2: “And God breathed the breath of life into the man, and he became a living being.” This isn’t talking about oxygen – it’s talking about spirit. At some point God injected a spirit into a physical body and our spirit is what makes us different from animals.

          Consider that Jesus was fully man and he lived in a physical body but that’s not what made Him the Son of God. It was the divine spirit that lived within him. Similarly, it’s not our bodies that make us human, it’s our spirits.

  6. Wow this new view of evolution really is a game changer! It makes so much sense – I mean look at all those “super bacteria” that have learned how to be resistent to antibiotics. They do it by copying DNA from other bacteria and re-engineering their own DNA.

    I came over for some inspiration and I sure got some.

    Renaissance thinking at its best.

    Thanks Perry,

    Michael Arnold

  7. Interesting discussion of the similarities between Google advertising and biological evolution.

    My background is in biomedical research, so I’m familiar with things like horizontal gene transfer (e.g., leading to multiple antibiotic resistant infections), but a lot of these ideas are unfamiliar to me, so I’m going to check out Shapiro’s book.

    The aspects of evolution in terms of Google ads is a good reminder that we need to keep an eye on our adverts, and make them evolve, to ensure they are the fittest or they might die out. Really nice idea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *