Why Repeat After Me? Figure it out for yourself!

A few days ago, one of my readers left a comment that referred me to a blog called "GoodMath where one more liberal evolutionist had written a post attempting to debunk another one of Dembski's speculations. Of course, the speculation of Dembski was in no way related to my personal beliefs, but that didn't stop the reader! Rather than try and defend Dembski, I pointed the reader - and the author of GoodMath - to one of my posts that starts from the ground up in explaining a particular piece of scientific evidence that supports the idea of a Creator - namely, the formation of life. The post uses only mathematics, common sense, and data from the secular Nature magazine. Trying to be fair, I also left a comment on the GoodMath site referencing my post - in case he wanted to try and debunk it. Which he promptly tried to do. My initial argument was pretty simple: the odds for the formation of the simplest possible reproducing, living cell (from the Nature article) by random chance are greater than the most improbable set of odds in this universe. By definition it is therefore impossible for the simplest possible reproducing, living cell to arise by random chance. His "rebuttal" was this: typing a random string of keys and calculating the odds of getting that particular result. Even though the odds are greater than 1 in 1080, it still happened, right? I wonder what is wrong here. . . . I already have a pretty good idea what the matter is with this obviously flawed argument. Care to guess? In Him, David S. MacMillan III


BC said...

Actually, he was taking you to task for you misunderstanding of mathematics. You said:

"In a universe that has 10^80 individual particles, the most improbable scenario is finding a specially marked particle in the entire universe. Due to the size of our universe, it is impossible to have a more improbable set of odds than 1 chance in 10^80. Anything that is more improbable than the most improbable is by all standards absolutely impossible."

The issue of abigenesis is distinct from the issue of your misunderstanding of math. If you want to argue against abigenesis, fine, but if you start making erroneous statements in pursuit of that goal, you really can't complain that people take you to task for your misunderstanding of the relevant mathematics. Each of these statements are false:
"In a universe that has 10^80 individual particles, the most improbable scenario is finding a specially marked particle in the entire universe."
"it is impossible to have a more improbable set of odds than 1 chance in 10^80"
"Anything that is more improbable than the most improbable is by all standards absolutely impossible"?

Regarding the first statement, what about this scenario: finding particle A in the universe and then finding particle B? That's 1 in 10^160. That's more improbable than your scenario of finding a single particle. Thus, your second statement "it is impossible to have a more improbable set of odds than 1 chance in 10^80" is wrong. Your third statement is wrong because there is no such thing as "the most improbable". It's like saying, "the closest possible number to 0 without actually being zero". Is 0.000001 closer to zero than any other number? Is 0.0000001 closer to zero than any other number? There simply is no definable number closer to zero than all the others.

If you still don't see your error, you might want to consult a math professor.

David Ketter said...

Interestingly enough, Mr. GoodMath made a logical error. So, he got his 1 in 10^80...but that required HIS action...it didn't occur of its own volition. :D

HMM said...

this discussion is all very interesting, but in the end only two bits of information result from this discussion.

Apparantly being a mathematician or a physicist, in your mind is the same thing as being a "liberal evolutionist".

The other lesson one can draw from this discussion is that you would never be able to succeed at majoring in math or physics.

Though you probably would be good at politics or at being a lawyer who uses fake math. (and alot of lawyers do :( )

Scott W. Somerville said...

John von Neumann, the inventor of the modern computer, did a series of lectures at Harvard which treated life as a kind of "information." He computed the shortest "program" which could reproduce itself with some kind of variation. His work on "cellular automata" was published later in book form.

According to von Neumann, you need a "program" of at least 1400 bits to be able to copy itself even after a "mutation." He didn't say how many different variations of such a "program" might exist--there could be millions of "programs" that would do the job. But even if there were trillions of workable "programs," they make up a very small set of 2^1400 possible ways of combining 1400 bits.

If you start with the assumption that life evolved by random chance in a single universe governed by classical mechanics, then these mathematical calculations really don't matter. Life happened. Get over it.

If you question whether life arose solely as a result of chance in a single universe, however, the math here becomes very important. Suppose you think that physics suggests there are billions of universes instead of just one. The mathematics above STRONGLY favors a multiverse over a monoverse. If the odds of an initial replicator arising in a single universe are a google to one (and they are!) then it makes sense to posit a google (or more) universes.

I predict that mainstream scientists will be arguing that there are billions of universes in the near future. When they do, be sure to tell them the Creationists were arguing that point long before they were.

David Ketter said...

I find it ironic that "HMM" makes a comment about lawyers and math and then a lawyer comments using math...quite funny!

Anonymous said...


MarkCC said...

I'm the author of Goodmath/Badmath. And I'll happily tell you what's wrong: you are deeply, deeply clueless about mathematics.

As I said on my blog, improbable and impossible are two different things. There is a huge difference between something with a probability of 1 in 10^80, and something with a probability of 0. A probability of 0 can't happen; any non-zero probability *can* happen.

But the problem with your math is much, much deeper than that.

The idea that nothing can be more improbable than identifying one specific particle is, to put it mildly, just stupid.

According to you, the most unlikely possible thing is finding a single marked particle in the universe.

But what if there are *two* marked particles? What's the probability of finding both of them? According to you, finding one marked particle is possible; finding two is not.

There is, quite simply, no possible mathematical justification for that.

And worse - you essentially claim that all *configurations* of particles are impossible. The number of distinct configurations of particules in the universe is, at a bare minimum, the *factorial* or the number of distinct particles - according to you, factorial(10^80) - aka, something considerably larger than 10^(10^80). So the odds of any particular configuration existing is smaller than 1 in 10^(10^80); and since, according to you, nothing with a probability smaller than 1 in 10^70 can ever happen, no configuration of particles can possible exist.

In short - if your argument that nothing less likely than finding one specific particle is possible, then it's impossible for the universe to exist.

Anonymous said...

"It still happened." Wow, have I heard that piece of illogical dribble before? Yep, but only from evolutionists devoid of any statistical understanding. To answer the "mathematical" argument against the random appearance of life on earth with such an answer is to miss the point that there is another explanation that is totally logical, i.e. creation by an intelligent God.
Doug Roy
To the evolutionist, steeped in the religion of naturalism (rejecting anything spiritual) God is inconceivable. One could just as easily and more logically answer an evolutionist who rejects the idea of God as the Creator: "Life happened; God did it."

One cannot win a logical argument with an evolutionist wrapped in a cloak of naturalism. They claim to be "scientific" and "logical" but reject vast heaps of evidence pointing to God, unable to come up with any logical explanation within their naturalism bubble of thought. The naturalist, who is inevitably an atheist, when presented with a testimony of a miraculous occurance uses a specious argument like, "the tooth fairy" could have done that, too, totally missing the point that there is no earthly, natural reason why certain healings or other, otherwise improbable and impossible circumstances occur. They cannot give a physical explanation for such evidence and dimiss it as the "tooth fairy" or other such nonsense, missing the enormous hole just blown in their belief by the "inexplanable evidence". Then, when such evidence cannot be easily verified (might require some time and research), they dismiss it as a false claim and move on in their unbelief (and laziness).

Such unbelief is not only found among atheists, though. Jesus noted in one of his parables to the Jews (supposed believers in God) "neither will they believe though one rise from the dead."

Believing in a spiritual rhelm did not, nor does not inhibit many great past and present scientists, doctors, researchers, etc. from making remarkable discoveries and advances in their fields.

MarkCC said...


That's what us horrible libruls call "missing the point".

The bloghost originally argued that nothing with a probability of less than 1 in 10^80 can possibly happen. His argument was pure nonsense - and I showed that by pointing out how easy it was to demonstrate the occurence of an event far less likely than his supposed "impossibility" cutoff.

If you argue "X is impossible", and I show you that I just did X, then obviously the argument "X is impossible" is wrong.

But instead of actually addressing that, you go off on a diatribe about those evil evolutionists who can't accept the existence of god. Which has exactly nothing to do with the original bogus claim, or my refuation of it.

Who is it who's trying to avoid the fact that they're wrong? Who is it who's pretending to be logical and reasonable, but refusing to look at any evidence that disagrees with their prior conclusions?