Search This Blog

Sunday, June 25, 2006

cards and statistics - The Card Canard

It happens every time that I post a fairly long and precise article that has anything to do with statistics. There will be those who present the old canard concerning cards. Hey, the Card Canard!

Yes, if you take five decks of cards and shuffle them thoroughly then you will have 260 cards in a random order and the odds against that order having occurred will be about 1 in 10^80 or so, which is therefore a statistical impossibilty? Of course not, says the evolutionist, and walks away thinking his point has been made. It does make one think, eh? Eh?

Trouble is, cards do not have to be in any particular order to be cards. But, in order to exist, if it was necessary for the decks to fall in numerical order, by suit, for them to be cards and would otherwise just become a pile of dust, then shuffling cards would, statistically, always be expected to turn them into that pile of dust.

You take a frog and put it in a blender, and after a three minute period of blending you then pour it out onto a plate. What are the odds that it will still be a frog? According to the Card Canard, you could still have a frog there. Do you get it yet? Living organisms are not just a random jumble, but have very specific orders to their structure and systems.

In yesterday's post
, all possible proteins (10^52) were given all possible time (10^18 seconds) to attempt to form a self-replicating organism, a simpler one than is found in existence today. In the end, the odds against life forming were only 1 in 10^8196 or so. Now you can do the same math with slightly differing assumptions but you always get a number that supports what Pasteur thought he had proven back in the 1800's, that is, the Law of Biogenesis, that life only comes from life.

Strawman or Elephant?

Herein is the problem for the so-called "reality-based" scientific community (does that sound anything like the Democratic Underground and their 'reality-based' political philosophies at all??? Wink-wink-nudge-nudge!) The problem is that if you are a materialistic and naturalistic scientist who will not look beyond five senses to attempt to explain life, you are faced with a massive problem - Where did life come from? Evolutionists make the attempt to wall that question off from the supposed evolution of all living things from one simple progenitor organism but since they are naturalistic and materialistic it remains the elephant in the room.

Again, evolutionists attempt to label this a strawman, and they will do that rather than attempt to explain away the daunting math involved (darned evidence, anyway!) and the long line of failed experiments by researchers doing everything but sending away for mail-order brine shrimp while trying to find set of circumstances in which life arises from non-life. Hey, if you can get the grant money and it feeds the bulldog.....?

You can call it a strawman and I will call it the elephant in the room.

Of course there are evolutionists who believe God created simple life and then used evolution to bring about the modern life we see today. This is philosophically difficult to defend but for those who believe in God and think that evolution has somehow been proven, a logical fallback position. It is a blend of natural and supernatural, faith and supposition, that is not necessary at all. Evolution has always been championed by people who prefer not to consider the concept of God and that includes the forefathers of the Darwinist movement and from all I can see the majority of evolutionary scientists today. Was God capable of creating Bacteria but not the Bison? Could He come up with the Trilobite but balked at the Termite?

Next questions for evolutionists

Computing the odds against all of life today having evolved from one simple organism is much like computing the odds against life forming from non-life. I want to give evolutionists a chance to set some boundaries here, so the questions come forth:

1) How long is it reasonable to give life to evolve on Earth? If we suppose that life evolves from non-life immediately (which I think looks unlikely to say the least) then how much time do we give evolution to produce an animal as complex as the horse?

2) How many billions of cells/components shall we assign to the now-famous horse?

3) How many mutations, out of all mutations, are favorable on the average?

4) How many different kinds of organisms are there in existence? Oops, I forgot, evolutionists don't use that term. There are often many species within one kind, so perhaps let us ask how many genus have been determined to be in existence? Okay, that will work in a general way.

Oh, if you are a creationist you can put in your two cents as well. Remember, if you don't give me the parameters I will have to use my own!



IAMB said...

Ummm... just thought your math needed a correction...

Your odds with 104 cards are 1:1.03*10^166, so your 10^80 with 260 cards is waaayyy off (a couple hundred orders of magnitude off, actually). The number is so big, in fact, that Excel actually chokes on the factorial for even just four decks.

One deck by itself is 1:8.07*10^67, just so you know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks iamb... I was going to make the exact same point, however, it's not just his math that needs correction. What would really help is the elimination of the arrogant 'immune to correction' attitude that radar sometimes exhibits. He made this satement:

"...10^8196, which is far more than the 1 in 10^50 considered to be the number beyond which a chance is considered an impossibility"

Which is easily refuted, since the outcome shuffling a deck of cards produces a result that is less likely than 1:1*10^50, yet instead of saying, "You're right, I was mistaken", we get a whole post of how he was actually right. One that is filled with bad math, selective quotes and ignorance.

I guess what it really boils down to is this: Should we trust a person that can't even properly calculate the permutations of a single deck of cards to make an argument based in statistics?

I say no.


IAMB said...

I'd like to know, also, who decided that 1:10^50 or greater was "impossible" anyway. The only ones I ever hear that from are creationists, who seem somehow to be easily impressed with lots of zeros. A certain family member of mine who happens also to be a math professor certainly never paid homage to any probability bound, nor did anyone else in the department.

xiangtao said...

Even if we are to agree that everything radar has done here is completely correct, all he has proven is that life didn't spontaneously emerge the way that he says abiogenesis would happen. However, what are the chances that it all happened some other way? That is the problem with calculating the odds on abiogenesis: we just don't know enough about how it might have happened to start calculating the odds of it.

Anonymous said...

"You take a frog and put it in a blender, and after a three minute period of blending you then pour it out onto a plate. What are the odds that it will still be a frog?"

0, because it was made of straw, and unless your name is Rumplestiltskin, that's what you're stuck with. To modify the old adage slightly, SISO - straw in, straw out.

This post is filled with misunderstandings, but since I have an almost non-existent understanding of statistics & probability, I'm hoping someone else will get into this (that is, why these arguments have almost nothing to do with the actual processes and probabilities behind the origin and subsequent evolution of life on earth). If nobody does, I'll give it a try, but it will be both painful and ugly, and nobody wants to see that!

For interested parties, the talkorigins Probability of Abiogenesis FAQS might make interesting reading, along with the capsule responses: CB940.1: The Mathematical Probability of Evolution, and all of the ones on abiogenesis, starting with CB000: Law of Biogenesis (and just keep clicking next claim).

I don't want to give the impression that talkorigins is all that there is - like with wikipedia, I'm being lazy and taking advantage of convenience.

"Herein is the problem for the so-called "reality-based" scientific community (does that sound anything like the Democratic Underground and their 'reality-based' political philosophies at all??? Wink-wink-nudge-nudge!)"

Of course, "reality-based-community," like "pro-life", is a bit of rhetorical brillilance. Anyone who criticizes it has to work extra-hard to avoid sounding like they're against being based in reality (presumably a good thing!)

What is really astounding is that this phrase originated (in pop usage) in a quote attributed to a "senior advisor to Bush" - as a somewhat mocking criticism:

"The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''"

Now I'd be the first to admit that a certain kind of overintellectualization can lead to virtual paralysis - Hamlet syndrome, let's call it - but this goes way beyond a reasonable critque of that. As wikipedia puts it:

"In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of knowledge, interest in, and exploration of history, combined with a lack of humility. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional paring of hubris and Nemesis in the Greek world and the proverb "pride goes before a fall" is thought to sum up the modern definition of hubris."

The fact that we're arguing over whether little caches of aging chemical weapon-filled shells being found (if I understand correctly) in small quantities scattered mostly along the old Iran-Iraq war frontlines - almost certainly forgotten and almost certainly fairly degraded - are at long last proof of the alleged certain, known vast quantities of horrific WMDs - well, that might suggest that this was a useful label in that specific case . But of course, the implications are way more far-reaching . . .

The explicit connection with science - I don't know, but I suspect it might have grown out of the Administration's extensive (unprecedented?) politicization of science - we don't like these findings you guys came up with, so we're going to edit them out/ downplay them/ change them/ ignore them. See for example Chris Mooney's book The Republican War on Science. (Of course many Republicans are far from anti-science - we're talking about the Party and its particular alliances and strategems. Here's a blog-seminar-discussion at Crooked Timber about said book.

And apropros of an earlier comment thread:
"Men with older brothers more likely to be gay
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 49 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Having several older brothers increases the likelihood of a man being gay, a finding researchers say adds weight to the idea that there is a biological basis for sexual orientation.

"It's likely to be a prenatal effect," said Anthony F. Bogaert of Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, "This and other studies suggest that there is probably a biological basis for" homosexuality.

S. Marc Breedlove of Michigan State University said the finding "absolutely" confirms a physical basis.

"Anybody's first guess would have been that the older brothers were having an effect socially, but this data doesn't support that," Breedlove said in a telephone interview.

The only link between the brothers is the mother and so the effect has to be through the mother, especially since stepbrothers didn't have the effect, said Breedlove, who was not part of the research.
[And the article seems to say that having older brothers raised seperately has the same effect.]

Metaphysics/Religion (Not science)

"This is philosophically difficult to defend but for those who believe in God and think that evolution has somehow been proven, a logical fallback position. It is a blend of natural and supernatural, . . .. Was God capable of creating Bacteria but not the Bison? Could He come up with the Trilobite but balked at the Termite?"

Of course, what you're saying (given belief in a omnipotent and somewhat inscrutable Creator God) is that God couldn't have made the universe so that the origin and subsequent evolution of life on Earth could have happened through natural processes. That God's way of working in this case couldn't be through natural processes, despite such things being taken absolutely for granted by religious people - even the most literally-inclined - throughout the modern world in terms of basic physics or weather or disease or medicine or . . .

And really, that's the ultimate slippery slope. Once you admit that Zeus doesn't cause the lightning, then - short of the stalling or collapse of scientific progress - nature gods, even montheistic Christianized ones, are doomed. If you want to worship a nature god as a literal explanation-for-physical-phenomena being, you're always going to have trouble, at least until the next time the light flickers out.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to know, also, who decided that 1:10^50 or greater was "impossible" anyway.

It's in the bible... Numbers 10:4^20

"And thou shalt look at multitudes of zeroes and thine eyes shall glaze over and your brain shall drop out thy noseth"


IAMB said...

It's in the bible... Numbers 10:4^20

That isn't, by any chance, the chapter Moses wrote immediately following a couple of good bong rips, is it?

Anonymous said...

iamb: lol, yeah... would you believe that i just randomly poked at my keyboard and those numbers were the ones I hit?

BTW: Anyone else notice how silent Radar has been recently?


Jake said...

This is off topic of this thread, but I figured Radar, being such an Ann Coulter fan, might be interested in meeting the challenge found at the end of this post:

No evidence for evolution?

befre you do, though, I recommend you read the clarificationPZ posted after getting a few responses.

chaos_engineer said...

There's a sense in which the 10^50th argument is true, but you have to be careful about the details.

Since there are 10^67 possible arrangements of a deck of cards, it follows that the probability of randomly getting any one arrangment is 1-in-10^67. But obviously the cards have to be in some arrangement.

What would be interesting is if you could predict the arrangement of randomly shuffled cards in advance.

So we can make the analogy with abiogenesis. Out of all the possible arrangements of molecules, we're looking for those arrangements that can self-replicate.

But your analysis is too simple. First, you're assuming that there's only one self-replicator. It's possible that there are more. (In other words, we don't need to guess the exact order that the cards are in. We can get by with saying "All the spades will be in the top half of the deck." It's a rare occurance but it does happen sometimes.)

Also, you're assuming that the first self-replicator formed randomly. It could have evolved from self-catalyzers: A long-chain molecule X might act as a catalyst and make it easier for other long-chain molecules to form. Some of those molecules will be identical to X and so the reactions will proceed faster. (In the card analogy, maybe cards of the same suit tend to stick together. That makes it even less unlikely that all the spades will wind up near the top of the deck.)

So in order to fix your argument, we need to know the total number of possible self-replicators and the nature of self-catalytic pathways leading to self-replicators.

Playing by your rules, if you can't give me the parameters than I'm allowed to choose my own. I'll choose "lots of possible self-replicators" and "very strong self-catalytic pathways leading to them".

radar said...

chaos- Now THAT was a great comment! Thanks.

Now, if there were 10^5 self replicators, would that change the odds from 1 in 10^8196 to 1 in 10^8191? If the catalytic pathways made it twice as likely that life could form from non-life, would we not still have an astounding number?
Or can an evolutionist prove me wrong?

Someone on the evolution side might take the Morowitz paper and include these thoughts you have expressed and logically show how that changes the math. I would be very interested in seeing that.