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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Odds against Evolution - Beginnings

Fallacies exposed!!!!

Evolution proponents like to say that creationists depend upon fallacies to discuss the statistical probabilities of evolution ever occurring. The drumbeat began after my prologue entry:

"1 - It doesn't make any sense to calculate the odds of some particular replicator forming. We need to know the odds of any interesting replicator forming. We don't know enough about chemistry to guess how many possible replicators there are, so we can't do a meaningful calculation.

This is the equivalent of saying, "let's throw math away because it doesn't come out right. Another commenter puts it this way:

"It's exactly analagous to shuffling a deck of cards and then stating that the specific arrangement of cards that the shuffle produced is statistically impossible (a specific ordering of cards in a standard deck is less likely than 1:10^50). This has been pointed out many times to you, but you still make the same argument. Why do you do this? Are we not explaining this clearly?"

I explained this very clearly, I thought, but apparently will have to do it again:

A commenter suggested that he could throw five decks of cards into the air and the combination that would fall to the floor, the order of those cards, would illustrate to me the reason I am wrong about statistics. The odds would be wildly against that particular order of cards to have occurred and would be completely unlikely to occur again should he devote his life to throwing cards up in the air. Yet it happened!

Here is the answer: Throw the five decks of cards up in the air until they fall to earth in one neat stack, sorted by suit and consecutively by value. Then we can talk. For you see, the Huxley Horse argument is still misunderstood. The absolutely ridiculous odds against a horse ever evolving were one over (In Huxley's own words):"The figure 1 with three million naughts after it: and that would take three large volumes of about 500 pages each, just to print! ... no one would bet on anything so improbable happening; and yet it has happened."

Now Huxley was actually being conservative even with such numbers. Statistically any odds more than 1 over 10 to the 50th power are considered an impossibility. Evolutionists try to say, no, that isn't right. A horse just happened to occur but it could have been any animal and with all the possible animals that could have been the odds that one of them would have happened are, well, it is almost inevitable.

BUT

The odds against a horse are not so specific, really. The computation is based on the odds against the number of mutations that must occur by chance, survive, and be beneficial enough to become part of the gene pool, over and over again through millions of incremental stages until an animal as complex as a horse is reached. But ANY ANIMAL that you can conceive, not just a horse. A Philaramic Pakylumar would still have to go through that many beneficial and surviving mutations to exist. So, again, using cards to try to change the equation does not work. No matter what organism, the odds of going through so many changes to exist today are so overwhelmingly against occurrence as to make it a statistical impossiblity. On top of that, we don't just have the horse, but we have innumerable different organisms of different kinds, and innumerable species within the kind with all sorts of varieties each of which requiring additional mutations to enter into the gene pool and be a viable organism. So multiply Huxley's impossibility times a few million and then you have life as we know it. Impossible. Yet it is here. Huxley, with great faith, just decided that it happened anyway. I, with greater logic, agree with the Bible account. God created. It fits the evidence without additional corollaries and suppositions.

There will be more on this particular subject later...

"2 - Crystal formation is a crude type of self-replication, and you can get nice salt crystals just by evaporating sea water. Salt crystals are a dead-end because they can't evolve any further, but they do show us that simple self-replication isn't all that improbable."

You are comparing a chemical reaction to the formation of life. There is no basis for comparison here. How is salt replicating itself?

"3 - There's a theory that there are an infinite number of universes. Even if the odds of intelligent life evolving are 10-to-the-50th against, that just means that only one in every 10-to-the-50th universes will have intelligent life. (There's no good evidence that there are an infinite number of universes, but there's no good evidence that there aren't, either. The question of what's outside our universe is ultimately a matter of faith.)"

...and maybe it takes a million universes to make one nose hair on the elephant of existence! If there is no evidence that there are other universes then why even bring it up? This is science????

The Odds

First, since evolution needs no creative God, we have to get a Universe from somewhere.

Second, we need Earth in particular, in it's solar system, set up to support life.

Third, we need life to form from non-life.

Fourth, simple life must evolve to the myriad complex forms we see today.


Let's begin with the first requirement for evolution to be true, the existence of the Universe. If you accept the idea that a Big Bang produced the Universe, (I don't) then what are the odds that such an event would produce a Universe capable of supporting life? I will provide three witnesses...two of whom are not Christians at all...because this is not simply a matter of faith, it is a matter of science!

~~~~~~~~

THE PROBABILITY OF THE OCCURRENCE OF A UNIVERSE IN WHICH LIFE CAN FORM

Coincidence is a mathematical term and the possibility of an event's occurrence can be calculated using the mathematics of probability.

The calculations of British mathematician Roger Penrose show that the probability of universe conducive to life occurring by chance is in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123. The phrase "extremely unlikely" is inadequate to describe this possibility.


Taking the physical variables into account, what is the likelihood of a universe giving us life coming into existence by coincidence? One in billions of billions? Or trillions of trillions of trillions? Or more?

Roger Penrose*, a famous British mathematician and a close friend of Stephen Hawking, wondered about this question and tried to calculate the probability. Including what he considered to be all variables required for human beings to exist and live on a planet such as ours, he computed the probability of this environment occurring among all the possible results of the Big Bang.

According to Penrose, the odds against such an occurrence were on the order of 10^10^123 to 1.

It is hard even to imagine what this number means. In math, the value 10 to the 123rd means 1 followed by 123 zeros. (This is, by the way, more than the total number of atoms 10 to the 78th believed to exist in the whole universe.) But Penrose's answer is vastly more than this: It requires 1 followed by 10^123 zeros.

Or consider: 10^3 means 1,000, a thousand. 10^10^3 is a number that that has 1 followed by 1000 zeros. If there are six zeros, it's called a million; if nine, a billion; if twelve, a trillion and so on. There is not even a name for a number that has 1 followed by 10^123 zeros.

In practical terms, in mathematics, a probability of 1 in 10^50 means "zero probability". Penrose's number is more than trillion trillion trillion times less than that. In short, Penrose's number tells us that the 'accidental" or "coincidental" creation of our universe is an impossibility.

Concerning this mind-boggling number Roger Penrose comments:

This now tells how precise the Creator's aim must have been, namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123. This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full in the ordinary denary notation: it would be 1 followed by 10^123 successive 0's. Even if we were to write a 0 on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe- and we could throw in all the other particles for good measure- we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed.

In fact in order to recognize that the universe is not a "product of coincidences" one does not really need any of these calculations at all. Simply by looking around himself, a person can easily perceive the fact of creation in even the tiniest details of what he sees. How could a universe like this, perfect in its systems, the sun, the earth, people, houses, cars, trees, flowers, insects, and all the other things in it ever have come into existence as the result of atoms falling together by chance after an explosion? Every detail we peer at shows the evidence of God's existence and supreme power. Only people who reflect can grasp these signs.

References:* Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, 1989; Michael Denton, Nature's Destiny, The New York: The Free Press, 1998, p. 9


Article adoped from The Equilibrium in the Explosion, by Harun Yahya

Hugh Ross gives 154 narrow, mandatory parameters for the fine-tuning of the conditions on earth to support life, and lists 226 references. So I am simply going to link the article: Evidence for the Fine-Tuning of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support


~~~~~~~

“No planet like earth has been found elsewhere in the universe. True, some scientists point to indirect evidence that certain stars have orbiting them objects that are hundreds of times larger than the earth. Our earth, though, is just the right size for our existence. In what sense? If earth were slightly larger, its gravity would be stronger and hydrogen, a light gas, would collect, being unable to escape the earth's gravity. Thus, the atmosphere would be inhospitable to life. On the other hand, if our earth were slightly smaller, life-sustaining oxygen would escape and surface water would evaporate. In either case, we could not live.

The earth is also at an ideal distance from the sun, a factor vital for life to thrive. Astronomer John Barrow and mathematician Frank Tipler studied "the ratio of the Earth's radius and distance from the Sun." They concluded that human life would not exist "were this ratio slightly different from what it is observed to be." Professor David L. Block notes: "Calculations show that had the earth been situated only 5 per cent closer to the sun, a runaway greenhouse effect [overheating of the earth] would have occurred about 4 000 million years ago. If, on the other hand, the earth were placed only 1 per cent further from the sun, runaway glaciation [huge sheets of ice covering much of the globe] would have occurred some 2 000 million years ago."-Our Universe: Accident or Design?

To the above precision, you can add the fact that the earth rotates on its axis once a day, the right speed to produce moderate temperatures. Venus takes 243 days to rotate. Just think if the earth took as long! We could not survive the extreme temperatures resulting from such long days and nights.

Another vital detail is our earth's path around the sun. Comets have a wide elliptic path. Thankfully, this is not so with the earth. Its orbit is almost circular. Again, this prevents us from experiencing death-dealing extremes of temperature.

Nor should we ignore the location of our solar system. Were it nearer the center of the Milky Way galaxy, the gravitational effect of neighboring stars would distort the orbit of the earth. In contrast, were it situated at the very edge of our galaxy, the night sky would be all but devoid of stars. Starlight is not essential to life, but does it not add great beauty to our night sky? And based on current concepts of the universe, scientists have calculated that at the edges of the Milky Way, there would not have been enough of the needed chemical elements to form a solar system like ours.”
- “Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?”, 1998, pages 22-24.

36 comments:

highboy said...

What has always made me question the origins side of evolution is the life from non-life. I fail to see how something non-living could produce something living.

Anonymous said...

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics,and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations

"Contents
Introduction, what's wrong with creationists' "abiogenesis is so improbable" calculations
A primordial protoplasmic globule
The myth of the "life sequence"
Coin tossing for beginners and macromolecular assembly
Search spaces, or how many needles in the haystack? . . ."

Also:
"The explanations are quite easy; and basically they are that you are misinformed.

First, you mispresent Huxley; he is saying the exact opposite of what you claim. The odds you give [are] for a horse arising without evolutionary processes, and specifically without selection. The calculation appears in Evolution in Action (1953). From page 43:


A little calculation demonstrates how incredibly improbable the results of natural selection can be when enough time is available. Following Professor Muller, we can ask what would have been the odds against a higher animal, such as a horse, being produced by chance alone: that is to say by the accidental accumulation of the necessary favorable mutations, without the intervention of selection.



This is widely cited by creationist sources as being the probability of a horse arising by evolution. Of course, the truth is that it is a probability for a horse arising WITHOUT evolution. Your sources are lying to you.


As to the second point, I have a pack of cards, and have just dealt myself a sequence of 52 cards. The probability of that sequence turns out to be 1 in 52!, pretty close to 1 in 8 by 10 to the power of 67. So this neatly disproves your statement about things with a probability of less than 1 in 10 to the 50 being impossible. Using several packs, I can easily generate events far more improbable than this.


We have several FAQs on "chance" in the archive. You might like to start with Chance from a Theistic Perspective, and then follow some links.


What you mean by the "odds of a single mutation" is unclear. The odds of a mutation appearing in just one new human are much better better than even. The numbers are hard to estimate, but a human individual may have on average about 64 new point mutations; and maybe from 1 to 6 non-silent mutations in coding DNA. Mutations are observed all the time; to try and say mutation itself is improbable is simply a refusal to look. See the FAQ Are mutations harmful? for commentary on these figures. . .
"

From the TalkOrigins Feedback for March/April 2001 page - presumably Ho-Stuart was not responding to Radar's current post, unless there's a Lake House situation going on . . .

Anonymous said...

That was me.

-Dan S.

radar said...

Dan,

First, you mispresent Huxley; he is saying the exact opposite of what you claim. The odds you give [are] for a horse arising without evolutionary processes, and specifically without selection.,

Selection is a process observed, not an intelligent director or designer in and of itself. Plus, the odds against evolution that I am presenting (as we go on) include simultaneous rather than consecutive trials. The Huxley numbers certainly do include selection. Furthermore, are you asserting that there is some intelligent direction in this mysterious "evolutionary process" you mention? Can you, in one simple paragraph, describe what that might be???

I am true to probability calculations, while evolutionists tend to try to "fix" the formula so that no probabilities could ever be calculated for anything. I play my math straight, no olive, thanks!

Anonymous said...

"The Odds
First, since evolution needs no creative God, we have to get a Universe from somewhere.
Second, we need Earth in particular, in it's solar system, set up to support life.
Third, we need life to form from non-life.
Fourth, simple life must evolve to the myriad complex forms we see today."

Shades of Chick's famous Big Daddy tract, with it's four kinds of 'evolution'. When we calculate coin-flipping odds, do we factor in the odds of the universe forming, metals being deposited in accessible areas at or near the earth's surface, intelligent humans appearing, said humans finding and learning how to use these deposits, the development not only of money but of metal two-sided coins, the establishment of the United States of America, and the production of the U.S. coins being hypothetically flipped?

When you talk about the odds of biological evolution, you're really only talking about #4 in your list. All else is a given, in this case (the odds of abiogenesis, for example, would be a different and distinct mattter).

"This is the equivalent of saying, "let's throw math away because it doesn't come out right.:"

This does not follow. To say it in another way, to calculate the odds of something happening, we have to be able to understand it to some degree. We do not, I think, understand abiogenesis sufficiently to make meaningful calculations of this sort.

Although since life did come from non-life in some fashion, it obviously must have been possible. : )

"Selection is a process observed, not an intelligent director or designer in and of itself"

Circles and circles and circles again . . .

I don't know why you seem to think that intelligence is being claimed for selection. It requires no intelligence, anymore than water running downhill does.

Anyway: (mostly ) random processes generate inheritable variation. Natural selection, through the mechanism of differential survival/reproductive outcomes, selects for or against this variation, depending on the environment (ie, is non-random).

Again,
"Recently, [another] creationist cited yet another dismally misquoted scientific statistic which really takes the cake for best example of an abused reference. The source is Julian Huxley, who, it is said--and he of all things a "bastion of the theory of evolution"--determined that "the odds of the evolution of the horse were 1 in 1000 to the power of 1,000,000." One might immediately wonder how someone who believed this could still be a defender of evolution--after all, if those really were the odds against the evolution of the horse, who would buy evolution as a sensible explanation? Our doubt-sensors are right to ring loudly on this one: for Huxley never made such a claim. In fact, he made the exact opposite claim. Here is the original quote:

"A little calculation demonstrates how incredibly improbable the results of natural selection can be when enough time is available. Following Professor Muller, we can ask what would have been the odds against a higher animal, such as a horse, being produced by chance alone: that is to say by the accidental accumulation of the necessary favorable mutations,
without the intervention of selection." (Evolution in Action, 1953, p. 45)

The calculated result is 1 x 10,000^1,000,000 (p. 46). I will not bother with analyzing his method--there are fundamental flaws in his approach, but they do not matter, because he is only trying to get a ballpark picture, which is by his own admission ultimately irrelevant. For naturally, he says "this could not really happen." But this number does not have anything to do with natural selection--as he says, this calculation is for the odds of producing a horse
without natural selection. Thus, creationists are shamefully abusing this quote when they use it to claim that it refers to the odds with natural selection--that is claiming the exact opposite of what Huxley wrote. Instead, Huxley continues after this calculation to show how "thanks to the workings of natural selection and the properties of living substance which make natural selection inevitable" (p. 46) "rare and abnormal events" become "common and normal" (p. 47) and "all objections to a selectionist explanation of evolution that are based on the improbability of its results fall to the ground" (p. 48)."

Think, for example, of a deposit of sediment organized by size, with the coarsest, largest material on the bottom and the finest material on the top. By chance alone, this outcome is probably highly improbable. However (and you can try this yourself, with a clear container, some water and some gravelly dirt), we know there is in fact a non-random mechanism that produces this (seemingly wildly unlikely) outcome.

"Furthermore, are you asserting that there is some intelligent direction in this mysterious "evolutionary process" you mention?"
I was quoting, but no. See above.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

Tim,
Evolution does not deal with biogenesis (life from non-life), it explains how life adapts to the changing environment and subsequently why life on earth is so diverse. It's common for creationists to lump these two ideas in to the evolution umbrella when in fact they're entirely different areas of study that seek to explain different phenomena. They do this because we know comparatively little about biogenesis and when lumped with evolution, the 'combined theory' (not that any scientist would do such a thing) makes evolution look weaker.

Not the most honest of arguments, is it?

-scohen

Anonymous said...

Radar,
You're a computer guy, so this should be easy:

"Selection is a process observed, not an intelligent director or designer in and of itself."

Genetic programming uses an unchanging fitness function and randomness to mimic natural selection, and there is no intelligence involved. Yet the results are often better than many neural nets.

Please explain why it works so well, because according to your statement, it shouldn't.

I think I'm starting to see why you don't believe in evolution though. You keep looking at humans and think the odds of evolution producing humans are astronomical (and they are). Instead you should look at the current state of the world as a massive card shuffle that happened (and is happening), and while the results of any specific ordering of the cards is large, you are guaranteed to have the cards come back in some order.

-scohen

creeper said...

Once again Radar ooohs and aaahs over the size of some astronomical number without delving into the equations and assumptions themselves that give it meaning. If the number is based on false or inadequate assumptions and data, then it's meaningless.

I was hoping you would actually defend your assertions regarding Huxley's horse this time around, including the claim you repeat here that we're trying to change that equation; after all, I've asked you for the equation and assumptions behind it probably over a dozen times by now - but instead you're simply making the claim again, without backup.

WHAT IS THE EQUATION YOU'RE ACCUSING US OF CHANGING?

WHAT ARE THE ASSUMPTIONS BEHIND IT?

DOES HUXLEY AIM TO COMPUTE THE EFFECTS OF NATURAL SELECTION IN SOME MEANINGFUL WAY, OR DOES HE LEAVE NATURAL SELECTION OUT OF THE EQUATION YOU CITE?


I can't fathom why you bothered to revisit this topic if you still aim to avoid answering these questions. Would have been better to let it lie, Radar.


As for Earth being so well suited to life etc.: How many planets are there in the Universe? What are the odds of one of them, or two of them or ten of them, being suitable for life?

(As opposed to: what are the odds of this planet, the one we're on, being suitable for life?)

Is it really that unlikely that there are any planets that support life?


"Selection is a process observed, not an intelligent director or designer in and of itself."

It is a process that has an effect; was natural selection included in Huxley's calculation? What was the point Huxley was trying to make?

Anonymous said...

Let's say the time frame from the first amphibian to modern horses was 300 million years (none of these numbers are real). Imagine that generation time averaged 3 years, hence 100 million generations. If there was an average of 1 inheritable mutation per individual per generation , then with a constant population of 1, the horse would have accumulated 100 million mutations from this original point (obviously this isn't a meaningful scenario!) Ok, let's say average population size is 10,000, which would give us 10 to the 12 power ((1,000,000,000,000)) mutations over this time - that is, a trillion mutations. Many of these mutations would have been neutral - unexpressed, or having no meaningful effect. Many others would have been harmful, either in general (organism born without a head) or in terms of specific conditions (due to change in timing of developmental process, organism is larger, with longer limbs, helpful for higher speed in open spaces, like grassland - unfortunately, organism inhabits dense forest, tries to escape predator, bounces off low tree limb into predator's mouth; or, organism has teeth ideal for processing soft foliage, just like the kind that grew in the area 20 million years previously, unfortunately, organism lives in a grassland, starves.) These will be selected against. Others will be beneficial, given conditions, and will be selected for, and spread through the population (a bit more complex: other evolutionary mechanisms, like genetic drift, are at work alongside natural selection). If the chance of a mutation being beneficial is .0001% (again, made up numbers), then over that period there would be about ten million beneficial mutations (right? I've probably messed something up . . . )

-Dan S., now with special mutant power.

Anonymous said...

"Roger Penrose*, a famous British mathematician and a close friend of Stephen Hawking, wondered about this question and tried to calculate the probability. Including what he considered to be all variables required for human beings to exist and live on a planet such as ours, he computed the probability of this environment occurring among all the possible results of the Big Bang."

It's amazing that we could compute such a probability. In fact, I fail to see how we could (which doesn't, of course, mean that we can't). Seriously - do we understand that much about how reality works?

Anyway, see "Claim CI301:
The cosmos is fine-tuned to permit human life. If any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, life would be impossible. (This claim is also known as the weak anthropic principle.)"

What is the probability of one of a random set of alternate nations being identical to the United States, in terms of history, position of objects, etc? I have no idea how or if such a thing could be calculated with even the slightest trace of precision, but let's say it could. Presumably it would be quite small?

"“No planet like earth has been found elsewhere in the universe. "

Yet. This is particularly disingenous, given that we've pretty much just managed to detect planets of any sort quite recently - specifically, in the last decade. Each year, now, we are finding more and more. Furthermore, as Wikipedia points out:

"Extrasolar planets around solar-type stars began to be discovered in large numbers during the late 1990s as a result of improved telescope technology, such as CCD and computer-based image processing. Such advances allowed for more accurate measurements of stellar motion, allowing astronomers to detect planets, not visually (the luminosity of a planet is generally too low for such detection), but by measuring gravitational influences upon stars (see astrometrics and radial velocity). Extrasolar planets can also be detected by measuring the variation in a star's apparent luminosity as a planet passes in front of it (see eclipse). . . .

One question raised by the detection of extrasolar planets is why so many of the detected planets are gas giantswhich, in comparison to Earth's solar system, are unexpectedly close to the orbited star. For example, τ Boötishas a planet 4.1 times Jupiter's mass, which is less than a quarter of an astronomical unit (AU) from the orbited star, which is closer to the star than Mercury orbits the sun. HD 114762 has a planet 11 times Jupiter's mass which is less than half an AU from the orbited star. The reason for these relatively extreme planetary orbits is that astrometrics detects the extrasolar planets due to their gravitational influences and partially-ecliptic interference. Current technology only permits the detection of systems where a large planet is close to the orbited star, but the results do not mean that such systems are the norm. The technological bias towards finding such systems is referred to as a selection effect or selection bias."


As know-how, procedures, and technology improve, one would predict that, if this is the case, that increasing number of smaller planets would be found. Indeed (same link), in 2004 a planet 'only' 14 times Earth's mass was found, and in 2006 one about five times Earth's mass, with an orbit that in our solar system would fall between Mars and Jupiter.

(The very first new planets/solar system discovered are actually quite small - two roughly four times Earth's mass, one twice the Moon's mass, and one teeny-tiny . . but these were discovered using pulsar timing (they may be the cores of former gas giants, rotating as they are around an old, 'dead' star), which cannot be used to find planets around even vaguely sun-like stars.)

Given that we know there are other planets, and the existance of other planets habitable by some form of life is certainly not unreasonable, these arguments that the Earth is uniquely suited to (earth) life and the astronomical improbability of this proves it was made that way and Somebody cares about us ) seem particularly weak. It seems fairly reasonable to assume that we have life (at least this kind of life) here on Earth because (as a necessary precondition) conditions were favorable - if they weren't, we wouldn't be here, although the tentacled Jelasians of Glypton VI (and 18 other intelligent life forms scattered around at this point in time) might still be making this sort of argument.

-Dan S.

creeper said...

Radar,

I wonder if your impending foray into dating methods will be likewise evasive and insubstantial. What was the point of coming back to this if you're not going to address the questions?

radar said...

Creeper,

You are trying to make pre-emptive strikes on the last part of this four-part series ahead of time. I came back to this to present more comprehensive math, but also to be thorough and go over all four points.

Evolution, having thrown away God, needs a first cause for the Universe, for the Earth, for life-from-nonlife and finally for from first living organism to the zillions of organisms now found.

Anonymous said...

"I came back to this to present more comprehensive math"

Then why do you make all the same mistakes over again? Go to your local college and talk to a stats professor, they'll explain in detail why your arguments from statistics are so horribly misguided. We've tried explaining it, but maybe this isn't something that can be done in a blog's comment section. On the other hand, maybe you just don't want to learn. I don't know.

"Evolution, having thrown away God, needs a first cause for the Universe, for the Earth, for life-from-nonlife and finally for from first living organism to the zillions of organisms now found."

How convenient that your hypothesis can solve all of these questions in three single syllable words: "God did it". Unfortunately, that's not science. Evolution does not need to explain cosmology or abiogenesis any more than computer science does. Evolution is a theory in biology that explains diversity on our planet, and doesn't need to explain how life came about or how our planet formed. You know this, yet you deliberately misrepresent evolution to make your case stronger, which shows that your argument doesn't hold much water at all.

-scohen

creeper said...

Radar,

"You are trying to make pre-emptive strikes on the last part of this four-part series ahead of time."

No, just commenting on what you've presented so far. I look forward to your in-depth discussion of Huxley's equation and the assumptions behind it, and to your addressing the question whether he intended this to include any effect natural selection might have had, or to purposely exclude it.

"Evolution, having thrown away God, needs a first cause for the Universe, for the Earth, for life-from-nonlife and finally for from first living organism to the zillions of organisms now found."

Evolution has done no such thing as thrown away God. Perhaps you confuse "evolution" with "theory of evolution", and both of those in turn with some kind of all-encompassing absolute materialist worldview. Whether this is a deliberate tactic to distract from the weakness of your argument or a genuine point of confusion for you is something I'm not clear about. The theory of evolution covers a specific subject, and is not incompatible with the existence of God, nor even with the notion of God having created life. A theistic evolutionist could take this on board, for example.

There are unsolved questions in all the fields you mention, though not so much as regards the theory of evolution itself. Still, it seems that as a YEC you're pretty much required not to be curious about those unsolved questions, merely concerned how they might conflict with an absolute literal reading of each and every part of the Bible.

Which reminds me: since Highboy is in daily contact with theologians, what is their take on the literal reliability of all parts of the Bible, specifically Genesis?

Good comments, scohen.

Jake said...

Evolution, having thrown away God, needs a first cause for the Universe, for the Earth, for life-from-nonlife and finally for from first living organism to the zillions of organisms now found.

An Creationism, having assumed the existence of a god that created everything else, needs a first cause for the existence of God. The only distinction between those that I can see is that the Universe, being observable, lends itself to scientific inquiry. God does not.

chaos_engineer said...

Yay! I got quoted on the main page! I'm famous!

My thoughts:

This is the equivalent of saying, "let's throw math away because it doesn't come out right.

I think it's more like saying, "Garbage in, garbage out". If we don't understand the process, then we can't set up equations to describe the process.

We can make a rough estimate of how many mutations it takes to get from Species A to Species B. But we don't understand chemistry well enough to know how likely any of those mutations were. Even worse, we don't know how many missed opportunites there were. (Maybe one of the mutations was so unlikely that it was a thousand-to-one shot even across millions of years. You might think it was improbable...but what if there were 999 similar mutations that could have happened but didn't?)

If there is no evidence that there are other universes then why even bring it up? This is science????

No, it isn't science. It's philosophy.

If we ever get to the point where we can prove that the odds of intelligent life evolving are 10-to-the-50th against, then that's evidence that there's some extra factor that we can't see...it could be an intelligent designer, or it could just be an infinite number of evolving universes.

Right now there's no objective evidence for either theory, so people can disagree in good conscience.

xiangtao said...

Time for a little argument by analogy (let's see if I can do this as well as Dan)

Let's try to calculate the odds of a drop of water vapor ending up in a small lake at the foot of a mountain. We can start with the droplet suspended somewhere in the air above the earth. From this point it can go in any of 129600 directions (360 multiplied by 360 possible planes, leaving out all of the inbetweens such as 125.3658762 degrees. The selections are actually infinite.) Add to that that it can go any distance from said point starting with zero going to infinity again. This means that it is possible for that water droplet to end up in any point in the universe, making the odds of it stopping in our small lake roughly 1 in infinity. By these calculations, there is absolutely no chance that this will ever happen.

However, there are a few things missing from our equation. First is the effect of gravity. This greatly reduces the number of possible directions in which our droplet can travel. Wind can alter the possibilities to an extent, but the end result will always be more or less down. Second is the effect of Newton's first law of motion, which essentially says that our droplet will continue to go down until something stops it, in this case, the ground. We also have the various effects of rain shadows and that sort of thing which dictates where on the earth this droplet is likely to fall. After it has hit the ground, the contour of the area in which it has fallen then guides this droplet until it is gathered with other droplets and made a stream, which then gathers with other streams to make a creek, eventually forming a river. When this river reaches a valley, and a point at which the water can no longer go down, it will gather into the small lake.

The first calculation is faulty in that it ignores the laws of nature which govern the path of the droplet, assuming purely random chance in it's travels. The addition of these laws, much like natural selction, requires no outside intelligence, and yet, it takes an absolute statistical impossibility and makes it just about inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Very nice comments!

I think Radar has indicated in several posts that he does in fact believe that evolution is " some kind of all-encompassing absolute materialist worldview," a sort of anti-religion religion. A more accurate phrasing would be

Science, having thrown away God . . .

but that gets people clutching their computers and antibiotics and survived-infancy children and looking at you funny, and is pretty obviously silly to boot.

As has been pointed out, the origin of the Universe is a question for cosmology, the earth one for geology and such, and of life from nonliving things one for biochem and all. Only the last thing mentioned - "from first living organism to the zillions of organisms now found" has anything to do with evolution.

Without claiming that science and culture, politics, etc. exist in seperate hermetically-sealed, unbreachable spheres, what's truly happening here isn't evolution throwing away God and then having to rush about wildly in an attempt to cook up explantions - it's science trying to do its best to explain the world using natural processes. That's how things are today. Historians try to search out material causes of events, not discern the hidden hand of the Almighty. Medical researchers try to identify pathogens, track how they're spread, figure out how they might be defeated - not what sins the people have committed, or what rituals might win forgiveness (twofoursixeight, c'mon let's flagellate!).

Someone might sincerely believe that their business success was the result of inexplicable divine favor. However, studies attempting to determine successful business strategies rarely mention God or even the Prayer of Jabez. I've certainly never seen any business plan that includes such elements, even during the 90s. Have business schools thrown away God? (Granted, the god in question might be Mammon, but still . . .) There are certainly businesses which try to work in one way or another for the glory of God - but when it comes to business they're all, well, business. Straight ahead methodological naturalism.

Note Radar's description of his role in the Itec conference:
" . . .to present security solutions for spyware and intrusion primarily but also anti-virus and anti-spam, etc. We had several conversations with clients large and small about firewall inspection techniques, the problem of things like phishing, pharming, keyloggers, working with Citrix environments, what to do with a company that uses POP3 and on and on and on...."

All of which, in practice, will be in method wholly based on assuming natural processes. A company might use, say, an angel with a flaming sword as a logo, but a company that claimed to actually use one would be in the same boat as one which offers to install a firewall of inexpensive, flame-resistant concrete. Has IT thrown away God?

Of course not. Ultimately, what we do in all areas where we have sufficient understanding - from crossing the street to baking a cake to sending a rocket to the moon - is to try to operate according to - or try to understand - the laws of nature. Whether behind these laws lie Nature's God is another, very different question. There are certainly countless numbers of religious businesspeople and IT folks (and some that aren't, or in a very different wat). Indeed, I'm pretty sure, given survey results, that the majority of Americans who accept scientific findings on evolution in fact believe that it's simply how God works, much in the same way that impersonal historical forces, germs, economics, and etc. aren't a problem for most believers.

One could imagine, if history had gone somewhat different, Classical pagans growsing that modern philosophy, having thrown out the gods and other beings, needs all sorts of explanations and thus comes up with electricity for Zeus' thunderbolts, imagines the sun to be a giant ball of flaming gas, rather than Apollo's chariot, babbles about sound waves (waves! as if noise was some sort of wine-dark sea! Should I expect an octopus to wriggle out when next I open my mouth?!) instead of referring to the poor besotted nymph Echo (and so on and on). Everyone would find this amusingly absurd, of course - and yet . . .

For this is the problem, if you base belief on not having a better explanation for physical phenomena, rather than faith. It's like discovering that Santa Claus is just your parents, really and deciding that God must be make-believe (perhaps true, sure, but not the best chain of logic here).

Interestingly, historically (and to some degree still) there are a number of religions and traditions that have used something like the Santa Clause in initiation rituals or ceremonies or such. The child/initiate discovers, in the end, that the costumed Gods or spirits are just your uncle, really, or your neighbor, or so on. One might assume that this would be destructive of belief - oh, it's just a trick! - but instead seems to encourage more complex, deeper, even paradoxical belief. Perhaps the most famous example, in a sense, is in Christianity.

After all, in that account, nobody really grasps what's going on at first, with Jesus seen more as a miraculous but still very earthly savior, a political or military figure. And then the would-be messiah ends up executed like a common criminal, his disciples overcome with despair and confusion . . . and that, one would think, would be the end of that. Except it wasn't. Whether one considers it the truth, a belief held by those very earliest Christians, or something else, it turns out that what is actually going on, in this account, is far, far grander.

If you believe there is a God, this might be a sensible approach: we understood things, one might say, in a far simpler way, worshipped the Creator of a world measured in human generations, limited in scope to the Mediterrean, and covered by a bowl of sky - complete with with circling sun - where man was sculpted into being much like a child might make a clay doll. Now, though, we see a little more, and what we see is a creation of astonishing grandeur.

Or not, I suppose.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"Time for a little argument by analogy (let's see if I can do this as well as Dan)"

I think you have bested me! : )

-Dan S., blushing

Anonymous said...

Seems like a whole lot of preaching to the choir going on here.

Where did radar and tim go?

More universally, does everyone else notice a pattern:

1. Radar posts a widely debunked reason that evolution doesn't work.

2. Commenters tear apart blog post.

3. Radar responds with small comment on how he'll deal with the questions raised in the comments in a subsequent post.

4. Radar re-posts the same claim, but louder.

5. goto 2

Additionally, the following might happen:
2a. Dan makes analogies
2b. scohen criticizes math, tries to get radar to talk about computing.
2c. Highboy picks apart an argument because the poster used the wrong word.
2d. Jake calls highboy dumb
2e. Mrs. Aginoth says 'You yanks are so silly, everything is different in England.'
2f. Creeper increases his level of irritation and exasperation.
2g. Hermit gets into it with highboy The words 'communist' and 'boy' are exchanged.
2h. Debate turns to religion vs. secularism.
2i. Someone spends time researching a topic on wikipedia, posts links, stats and figures.
2j. highboy responds with "Wrong".

Am I missing something?

-scohen

creeper said...

That pretty much nails it, scohen.

"Highboy picks apart an argument because the poster used the wrong word."

That reminds me of the time Highboy claimed that "Establishment" was a verb in the constitution.

And stood by that claim.

Jake said...

Am I missing something?

I'd like to think that calling Highboy dumb isn't the most substantive contribution I make to these discussions, but I'll accept that characterization if others agree.

You are, of course, right in your description. I can't speak for others, but the reason I'm still here is that if we all gave up Radar would post these things unchallenged, which would result in a much higher likelihood of people being convinced by his nonesense, and the betterment of the human species depends on as few people as possible buying into this silliness.

Jake said...

So, radar:
What are the odds against the existence of God as you understand him?

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to think that calling Highboy dumb isn't the most substantive contribution I make to these discussions, but I'll accept that characterization if others agree."

No, of course not, but it seems to happen with some frequency. Tim seems to have a very short trigger, and I walk on eggshells whenever I feel the need to correct his beliefs about what the USA is. You, on the other hand, just call a spade a spade. A couple of years ago, I'd probably would have done the same thing, but I'm trying to be mellow. My blog is where I can be vitriolic.

"the reason I'm still here is that if we all gave up Radar would post these things unchallenged, which would result in a much higher likelihood of people being convinced by his nonesense..."

Yeah, me too. I had a boss that would routinely call me in to his office to 'debate' evolution, so I've seen all the other side's arguments already. I eventually got the junk he learned in church out of his head, and explained how evolution isn't a belief system or a social condition, but a scientific theory rooted solely in biology. He then would call me into his office and try to convert me to Christianity by showing me how violent the old testament is. Oh well. Like *that* would work.

Creeper: Thanks for the compliment above. My favorite Tim moment occurred when I was trying to say that Houston was a godforsaken place, but typed 'Texas' instead. Oops. That ignited about 500 comments IIRC.

-scohen

radar said...

More universally, does everyone else notice a pattern:

1. Radar posts a widely debunked reason that evolution doesn't work.

2. Commenters tear apart blog post.

3. Radar responds with small comment on how he'll deal with the questions raised in the comments in a subsequent post.

4. Radar re-posts the same claim, but louder.

5. goto 2


Hee-hee, thanks for the humor! Most of the so-called debunking that goes on here is then subsequently refuted or at least called into question. But go look at my post of June 19th. I am allowing the evolutionists to help establish the parameters of the calculations in advance . I welcome the contributions....because, so far, the "debunking" of the math I have presented so far is less math and more whistling past the graveyard. I think my post of June 17th makes it very clear what I consider to be the paucity of the evolutionist's response to the statistical odds issue. No debunking has occurred at all.

Anonymous said...

No debunking has occurred at all.

Oh, I beg to differ, the reason you don't see it is because you don't understand statistics. You really don't. Do you know that the cards being sorted in a deck has exactly the same probability of occurring that any other arrangement does? There's nothing special about it --and if you knew anything about statistics, that would be clear as day. The problem, radar, is with your understanding of which direction stats flows and the only one that can fix that is you. Not creeper, not me, not Dan. We can lead you to water, but we can't make you drink.

That said, would it help if I wrote a program that uses genetic programming to sort a deck of cards? It might help teach you how natural selection works, because you seem to think it requires an intelligent force, when all that's needed is pressure against an organism's survival.

Btw, you could have taken at least a little time to answer my previous genetic programming question. It's not the first time I've asked it.

"of June 17th makes it very clear what I consider to be the paucity of the evolutionist's response to the statistical odds issue."

and I could bring up the piles of unanswered questions at your feet. Pot vs. Kettle? Nah, the people who get evolution also seem to get statistics for some reason. Maybe it's because they have actually taken a stats class?

-scohen

creeper said...

"because, so far, the "debunking" of the math I have presented so far is less math and more whistling past the graveyard"

Um, the only actual semblance of math I've seen you present on this topic to date has been the bit about coin-flipping, and that's a bit meager considering the complexity of the topic you're trying to tackle. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and look forward to your full treatment in the upcoming posts on this topic.

Apart from that, we've had several versions of your awed description of the size of these numbers, like this kind of carry-on:

"In math, the value 10 to the 123rd means 1 followed by 123 zeros. (This is, by the way, more than the total number of atoms 10 to the 78th believed to exist in the whole universe.) But Penrose's answer is vastly more than this: It requires 1 followed by 10^123 zeros.

Or consider: 10^3 means 1,000, a thousand. 10^10^3 is a number that that has 1 followed by 1000 zeros. If there are six zeros, it's called a million; if nine, a billion; if twelve, a trillion and so on. There is not even a name for a number that has 1 followed by 10^123 zeros."


It's funny how many different ways you think of to talk about the size of such a number while evading the issue of the equation and assumptions behind it - especially in the case of Huxley's horse, though I do look forward to your full treatment of this.

scohen was talking about you presenting debunked arguments in general. In this particular case, you have yet to present a full argument (one that includes the assumptions, which to us seems somewhere between difficult and impossible to do in absence of a knowledge of the mechanism and possibilities available), which is what the counter-arguments have been hovering around.

You may like to play your math "straight, no olive", but that will have you concluding that a water droplet suspended above the Earth can fly off in any direction at any speed whatsoever. Leave the assumptions (including natural laws) out of such considerations at your peril.

DWAYNE HAUGHTON said...

The problem that creationists have is that the many people that believe in evolution have not given any reasonable explanation of the physics of evolution. By this I mean simple things? what came first the chicken or the egg? Hunter and prey biosphere a carnivorous animal needs to eat so many prey to survive. The prey animals must reproduce faster then the hunters can eat them or both will die. We breathe gasses that plants give out and plants take in what we give out. Could plant life flourish without any animal or bug life. You say this all happened by chance. I wish there was a video game that let you be god and design a solar system then life with all the variables. Having to work out the complexity of world we live in. please take time and consider the physics of evolution. what is your model why is there not a comparable aquatic creatures to human beings the sea is more vast the our land area. evolution makes no compelling argument for it’s validity

Anonymous said...

Nice argument :However, there are a few things missing from our equation. First is the effect of gravity. This greatly reduces the number of possible directions in which our droplet can travel. Wind can alter the possibilities to an extent, but the end result will always be more or less down. Second is the effect of Newton's first law of motion, which essentially says that our droplet will continue to go down until something stops it, in this case, the ground
However:
It was really nice of Newton to make theses laws in the first place so that the drop of water could find the lake. Imagine if he hadn`t been around in the biggining to set all the natural laws in the universe to their infinately precise specifications . Why there would be no life at all or even a universe for us to argue over who didnt create it. Roger Penrose one of the most brilliant theoretical mathematicians (according to Stephen Hawking) did the math and it doesnt look good for science. Everyone should sell all they have go to the casino and bet it all on roulette ... black or red doesnt matter you have a 50 % chance of winning . Compared to the universe forming in such a way as to support life its an absolute certainty that you will win . Good luck !

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Anonymous said...

It's easy to play with probabilities. This is a bit rough and ready, but you get the general idea:

If you consider only the last 6 generations of your ancestors:
That's 32 couples.
suppose a smallish population of 1000 males, 1000 females.
Possible combinations: 1x10^6

number of sperm to choose from: 5x10^6 (per attempt)
number of ova to choose from 400
Possible combinations: 2x10^9

Chances of all these people getting together to make you: 1 in 6.4x10^16 (very conservative)

That's over a period of only 100 years.

It grows exponentially:
Consider 1000 years, 200 generations : 1 in 1.6x10^75 chance that you would be the result.

And I'm ignoring things like the chance that a person would reach breeding age, which was actually quite low in ages past, and the larger pool of mates due to increased migration in the last few centuries.

And my point is: vanishingly small probabilities do not require Gods to be invoked.

FeedAHungryChild said...

Great site, Radar. Thanks for keeping the dialog going.
What's missing from the discussion, I believe, is taking into account the underlying framework and structures that are assumed. For example, why 52 cards? Why cards at all? There is implied order in "random" events that begs the question. True randomness would mean the cards could actually sprout wings and fly away and never hit the ground.
True "random" mutations would produce truly random results, most of which would not be capable of survival. But even mutations have some orderliness to them.
You can also ask the question: How probable is it that the same order of cards will happen 10 or 100 times in a row (mirroring multiple beneficial mutations by the same organism). Food for thought...

geo said...

This paragraph in the probability of the formation of the universe by chance is very good, but does not seem to come from the references.

Written by Radar?

I paste the paragraph:
In fact in order to recognize that the universe is not a "product of coincidences" one does not really need any of these calculations at all. Simply by looking around himself, a person can easily perceive the fact of creation in even the tiniest details of what he sees. How could a universe like this, perfect in its systems, the sun, the earth, people, houses, cars, trees, flowers, insects, and all the other things in it ever have come into existence as the result of atoms falling together by chance after an explosion? Every detail we peer at shows the evidence of God's existence and supreme power. Only people who reflect can grasp these signs.

References:* Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, 1989; Michael Denton, Nature's Destiny, The New York: The Free Press, 1998, p. 9

Jeff Lewis said...

Ah Radar. Perfectly willing to accept the existence of some supreme being, infinitely more difficult to explain than evolution, and just assume this being always was and is the answer to all things. How small of you.

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http://www.scribd.com/doc/448517/Evolution-What-Are-the-Odds