Creationist Wisdom #351: The Odds


Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Amarillo Globe-News of Amarillo, Texas, and it’s titled Evolution requires more faith than creation. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis.

However, there are so many howlers in this letter that we can’t comment on them all. Therefore, we’ll just mark some of them with this simple, tasteful, and non-obtrusive symbol: [VomitAlert]. As we usually do we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Get ready, dear reader, here we go:

Like practically all of us who had a public education and college, I had swallowed [VomitAlert] the evolution theory (it is only a theory and in no way can be construed as fact).

It’s only a theory. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Hang on, it gets better.

The basic premise upon which Darwin based his theory was that the cell was simple. [VomitAlert] It is not simple. There are 60,000 proteins in 100 specific configurations in a single cell. If you change or manipulate just one of those configurations, the cell dies [VomitAlert]. There are over 100 trillion cells in a human body. The odds of a single cell just simply coming together to form a living cell are 1 times 10 to the 4 millionth 478 thousandth power.

That was good! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a reference to the Theory of Spontaneous Assembly of Very Complex Molecules from Start to Finish from Utterly Isolated Atoms (TSAVCMSFUIA).

Wait — let’s take another look at the letter-writer’s number for the odds against the existence of a single cell. He says it would be one x 104,478,000. He thinks that’s a really big number, but no matter how many times he multiplies one by itself, he’s still going to get one. [Addendum and confession: Please overlook your humble Curmudgeon's math notation this morning.]

Let’s be charitable. Assume that he meant to write “one in 104,478,000.” How did the letter-writer figure that out? Or perhaps we should be wondering from which creationist website he blindly copied the number. Well, that’s not important. Let’s read on:

According to probability law [VomitAlert], there is no possibility for something to occur if the odds are 1 times 10 to the 50th power.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! One times 1050 equals one. This guy really doesn’t know how to write numbers. [Addendum: Nor, apparently, does your Curmudgeon.] Anyway, is there such a law? As we’ve often pointed out, the odds against any particular sequence resulting from shuffling a deck of 52 playing cards are — as the mathematicians say — 52 factorial. You know … the chance for the first card’s being something in particular is one in 52, the chance for second is one in 51, for the next it’s one in 50, etc. Fifty-two factorial is a big number. It works out to be 8.06581752 × 1067. That’s 8 (and a tad more) times 10 to the 67th power. So according to today’s letter-writer, shuffling a deck of cards is impossible. He continues:

Time is not on the side of the evolutionist, either. Every living cell must have some kind of support system or it will die. So you see, evolution remains a theory only.

We’ll ignore that paragraph. Here’s more:

Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose [VomitAlert] provides much more scientific evidence for creation. For further information concerning the science behind the facts and truth of creation, visit

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Even Ken Ham advises caution about place — see AIG on the Paluxy River Footprints.

The letter-writer’s final line is the often-heard mating call of the untamed creationist in the primeval wilderness:

It takes more faith to believe in evolution than creation.

Great letter. Another fine addition to our collection.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #351: The Odds

  1. I agree with the post. But I’ll defend his math: “One times 10^50 equals one” is not true: 1 x 10^50 = 10^50, in the same way that 1 x 6 = 6. I think you mean, 1 ^ (10^50) = 1 (one raised to the power of 10^50 is 1) which is true. But keep up the good work!

  2. Um, this is one case where he does better math than you do. 1 x 10^50 is 10^50, or a one followed by 50 zeroes. Straight scientific notation. 1 x 10^2 is 100, not 1, Now if he had said 1^4780000, you have something.

    This is one time where you would have been better waiting until you had your morning coffee before you posted.

  3. “Argument by Retrospective Astonishment”:

    What are the odds, out of the seven billion people on the planet, that the person living next to you would turn out to be your neighbor?

    And, as other have already pointed out, 1 x “Y” = “Y” for all values of “Y” (because “1″ is the multiplicative identity element for the real numbers.)

    I suspect OurDearCurmudgeon™ interpreted the author’s text as meaning “one times ITSELF, 10 to the 4 million and somethingth times,” in which case he would be right.

  4. Craig says: “This is one time where you would have been better waiting until you had your morning coffee before you posted.”

    Egad — how embarrassing! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.

  5. longshadow tactfully says:

    I suspect OurDearCurmudgeon™ interpreted the author’s text as meaning “one times ITSELF, 10 to the 4 million and somethingth times,” in which case he would be right.

    Yes, that is what I thought. I’ve added a confession to the original post, leaving my blunder for all to see. These things help to keep me humble.

  6. Ah, the trusty old Evolution requires more faith nonsense.

  7. What are the odds that Intelligent Designers who were capable of doing anything would have decided to do make things this way, from among the infinite number of possibilities that were available to them?

  8. On the other hand. If you take a single chemical, the compound that is the primary constituent of cell walls, disperse it in water and then shake it up, you will be able to find perfectly formed little cells afterward. Of course, they have only water inside and water outside but the water inside is separated from that outside, which is the purpose of cell walls. Nature is largely self-organizing and there is tons of evidence pointing to this fact. The odds of the letter writer understanding this is one in . . . a really big number.

  9. One of your other contributors put things in proper perspective several months ago by stating that the anti-science people have no idea how many biological or chemical interactions occur every second on our planet.

    Someone that has completed grade school math can easily understand that the odds against complex life forming diminish rather quickly when faced with the staggering amount of activity in nature.

    Do these people stand out in the rain and believe they are only getting wet because of divine intervention?

  10. Our blushing Curmudgeon flagellates himself:

    Egad — how embarrassing! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before

    Olivia says you must mean, “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before outside of the bedroom

    I am far too discrete to reveal to the wider world any of the utterly shocking specifics Olivia has told me on this particular topic, however.

  11. Pete Moulton

    I suspect that SC just needed another lump of curmudgeonite in his coffee this morning. It was early, after all.

  12. stephenpruis:”The odds of the letter writer understanding this is one in . . . a really big number.”

    Probably much smaller than you think. I’d say 1 in no more than 100. But if they are that 1, there’s 1 in at least 1,000,000 chance that they’d admit it. Letter writers are a fascinating “transitional fossil” between the truly misled rank-and-file, and the “in on the scam” activists. Most of them just go away after realizing how they had been scammed, but some persist, and join the scam.

  13. So the writer’s point is that the cell is so impossibly unlikely, that it must have been created by mythical creature. Makes sense to me.

  14. Tripp in Georgia

    I thought the odds of life having developed exactly as it has was 1 in 1, or 100%.

    Many of the comments on the original letter in the Amarillo Globe-News aren’t much better than the letter, and I notice that Dumas, TX, is just 30 miles north. Stay away from west Texas!

  15. Do these people understand the concept of evidence?

  16. A card trick to use on creationists. I draw a card. Then I say, “WOW! The odds of getting that specific card was 1 in 52!” Then I reshuffle and draw another one. “Wow, what are the chances? The odds of drawing those two specific cards in that exact sequence is 1 in 2,704! Whoah!” Another iteration. “My goodness! That particular card – who’d have predicted?! The odds of drawing those three exact cards in that exact sequence is, 104,608 to 1! It must be devine intervention!”

  17. “Anyway, is there such a law?”
    Actually there is. It’s called Borel’s Law. Of course it’s just wishful thinking of creationist origin: