Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

The Best Intelligent Design Article I've Ever Read

Posted by Michael Dickens on December 27, 2008

This article, which comes from a non-Christian, by the way, argues that abiogenesis could not have occurred naturally.

…even today it is often assumed that such “simple” life-forms here on earth originated from non-life (abiogenesis) by natural chemical processes alone, apart from the creative work of any intelligent “chemist,” and that evolution –guided by natural selection– produced all the complexity of life today.”


The gist of this article is that abiogenesis is too improbable. Several points are made to support that.


Since there are 10^84 sub-atomic particles in the known physical cosmos, and
Since there are a maximum of 10^20 interactions (oscillations/cycles) per second between any two of those sub-atomic particles, and
Since there are 10^17 seconds in the supposed age of the cosmos (15 bill. yrs),
. . . if we multiply the above three numbers out, we get the number 10^121. —-So, 10^121 equals the total number of sub-atomic interactions possible since the beginning of the universe (at the “Big Bang”).

We could very reasonably let 10^121 be our “Cosmic Limit” —but just to play it safe and conservative, we’ll make it 10,000 times bigger, and say that according to our “Cosmic Limit Law of Chance,” any chance that is less than one chance out of 10^125 is considered to be a chance of zero. Therefore, we can reasonably say that any event whose chance of occurrence is less than one chance out of 10^125 has been virtually “proven” to be statistically impossible in all of the cosmos ( …actually, in 10,000 such universes as ours).

Not exactly. It’s still possible for something with a probability of 1 in 10^130, or even 1 in 10^500, to have happened. Something with a likelihood of 10^121 would be reasonably likely to occur exactly once in the entire history of the universe. Something with a likelihood of 10^130 would have a 1 out of a billion (1 out of 10^9) chance of occurring in the entire history of the universe. For an occurrence to be impossible beyond reasonable doubt, I’d say it would have to have at most a 1 in 10^135 chance of occurring.

Even so, the probability of some proteins evolving* is far less than 1 in 10^135.

*Not in the sense of natural selection, but in the sense of random particles moving around and sticking to each other, making proteins.

But how do we know that the proteins we see are the only ones that could lead to life? There are practically infinite possible combinations of amino acids; probably, a huge number of them could support life, not just the ones that are already supporting life.

Here is a comparable argument. A deck of cards has 52 cards. If you shuffle the deck thoroughly, the chance of any particular order coming up is 1 in 52 factorial (52 * 51 * 50 * 49 . . . ), which is about 10^68. This is incredibly unlikely. So we can assume beyond reasonable doubt that it is impossible for this hand to come up without the deck being pre-sorted. But at the same time, some order must come up. That order will always be incredibly unlikely, and yet it comes up. It’s the same with proteins.

Why I should finish reading articles: The article had a rebuttal to what I just said.

Here is where the above criticism fails:

The card-shuffling illustration assumes that basically ANY ordering of the cards is an acceptable outcome –and, comparing it to life-chemistry, this would be the equivalent of saying that almost any ordering of the amino acids would work to build a functional protein. So, whatever one might randomly come up with is basically “easy” to achieve –no matter how “unlikely” the probability calculations might make it seem.

However, the critic unwittingly brings out the correct perspective when he says we are basically looking for one “particular ordering of the cards” –because the research just previously cited in this article (esp. from Behe), points out that –in reality– only about one specific sequence of amino acids out of 1060 possible sequences is adequate to produce a properly folding protein which could be used by actual life. The rest are junk, and useless to life.

Therefore –to more accurately represent the life-chemistry situation– the card-illustration should actually be restricted to say that there are only a few specific orderings of the cards which are the acceptable outcomes of the random shuffles of cards. That is, only about 24 out of the 1068 possible outcomes will do. –For example, the only good outcomes in cards would be: a well-shuffled deck must randomly end up with all four suits in proper numerical order starting with the Ace, then the 2, then the 3, etc., on up through to the King. All four suits must be so ordered. –Specificity is required.

It is the same with the “functional complex specified information” (FCSI) of life.

This is a good point, but it’s not exactly what I was saying. There are possibly many types of proteins that would work. Not all, but a lot. Maybe 1 out of 10^30. Maybe the proteins don’t have to be folded, but there could be some other way to extract information from them.


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