Discoveroid Math Says Evolution Is Impossible

Things never seem to improve at the Discovery Institute. The newest evidence of this is their latest post, Probability Mistakes Darwinists Make. It was written by Kirk Durston, whom the Discoveroids introduced in this earlier post by telling us:

Dr. Durston is a scientist, philosopher, and clergyman with a PhD in Biophysics, an MA in Philosophy, a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, and a BSc in Physics.

We respectfully refer to him as rev Durston. Our last post about the rev’s work was Discovery Institute — Infinite Brilliance, in which he mathematically “proved” that the universe can’t be infinitely old. He said that infinity is so big the universe couldn’t get from the past to the present.

Today, the rev is once again demonstrating his mathematical skills. This time he’s tackling something we discussed in a three-part series of posts back in the beginning days of this humble blog, starting with The Inevitability of Evolution (Part I). Most of the rev’s errors were discussed in Part I of our series. No, we weren’t prescient. It’s just that the rev’s errors are old ones, common to all creationists. Okay, let’s get started. The rev says, with bold font added by us:

Several years ago I delivered a lecture at the University of Maine, showing how advances in science increasingly point to an intelligent mind behind biological life. During the question period a professor in the audience conceded that the probability of evolution “discovering” an average globular protein is vanishingly small. Nonetheless, he insisted we are surrounded by endless examples of highly improbable events. For example, the exact combination of names and birthdates of the hundred or so people in the audience was also amazingly improbable. In the ensuing conversation, it became obvious that there was something about probabilities that he had not considered.

Not a bad beginning — except the rev thinks he had the better argument. After that he talks about the results of a shuffled deck of cards, as we did in our post. Then he gives us an impressive looking math formula which supposedly shows that the probability of evolution “discovering” [the rev’s quotes] an average globular protein is vanishingly small. He says:

So what do we see? In a single trial, the probability of obtaining a functional sequence by randomly sequencing codons is pretty much 0.

Yes — in a single trial. That’s the rev’s problem. The first proteins didn’t need to assemble all at once. It happened little by little in an incremental process. The Earth’s primeval oceans were filled with organic molecules. There were billions of chemical combinations going on every second in every cubic mile of water, and this was happening for millions of years. We discussed that in our post, where we said:

The biggest problem with these computations (coin tosses, card shuffles, English history, or the biosphere) is that if you take all the events that ever happened and then whomp up some kind of monster mathematical result by stringing all the steps together, then you miss the key point: each step along the way is mathematically on its own! It’s an error to assign the characteristics of the entire sequence to an individual step.

But the rev is sticking with his story. He declares:

Nonetheless, scientific literature reveals an unshakable belief that evolution can do the wildest, most improbable things tens of thousands of times over. Consequently, I believe Darwinism has become a religion, specifically a modern form of pantheism, where nature performs thousands of miracles — none of which can be reproduced in a lab.

This is the rev’s conclusion:

On the other hand, if we apply a scientific method to detect intelligent design discussed here, we see that 433 bits of information is a strong marker of an intelligent origin. This test for intelligent design reveals the most rational position to take is that the genomes of life contain digital information from an intelligent source.

Impressive, isn’t it? The rev says he has applied the scientific method, and he’s got a “strong marker” for intelligent design. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done anything that makes any sense, and as a result, he’s got nothing. Sorry, rev.

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22 responses to “Discoveroid Math Says Evolution Is Impossible

  1. Since he is a clergyman, it seems appropriate to point out that his argument doesn’t have a prayer of being correct.

  2. Is there something about these IDiots that they can’t fathom incremental changes accumulating to more complex forms? It has to be “primordial soup” coalescing directly into an amoeba, complete with organelles? A theropod egg hatching out a bird? An ape giving birth to a human?

  3. “digital information”? Godidit with a computer? Or did this PhD author use his finger to just pull this information out of his…

  4. Mike Elzinga

    Since these characters never keep up with science, it is not surprising that they don’t have the slightest grasp of the work behind the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

    Neither Dembski nor Durston were even on the radar for the Nobel Prize; and not one ID/creationist knows why. ID/creationists simply don’t have a clue about how to calculate the probability of molecular assemblies.

    ID/creationists all think that such calculations are simply a matter of calculating the probability of a string of length L taken from a set of K types of inert objects per position as being 1/K^L. Not only is such a calculation completely irrelevant, ID/creationists can’t even do that elementary calculation correctly. They don’t know enough to divide K^L by all the factorials of the number of occurrences of each and every repeated object.

    In ID/creationist land, all atoms and molecules are portrayed as inert objects being thrown together into a specified arrangement out of an ideal gas of inert objects such as junkyard parts and ASCII characters. Yet even high school physics or chemistry students know that atoms and molecules have electric charges and interact according to quantum mechanical rules. ID/creationist “PhDs” don’t understand science at even the high school and middle school levels.

    ID/creationist calculations are done only to bamboozle an ignorant following; they have no meaning whatsoever.

  5. Creationist math?

    I remember a creationist who told us with great confidence that the odds of evolution were 1^720 against. Or something like that. Maybe Curmy will remember the exact figure.

    He couldn’t understand why he was being laughed at.

  6. Yes, Coyote, that was the figure.

  7. I guess the ID guy didn’t know something with a probability of 1 is pretty much certain.

  8. waldteufel

    The rev brilliantly shows us that since a circle or a line each have an infinite number of points, it’s impossible to draw either!

  9. I want to see his calculations for the probability of an undetectable supernatural designer – and the observations he basis them on.

    Somehow, that never seems to be a part of creationist probability arguments. We are expected to just assume that the existence of an immaterial yet omnipotent entity able to create entire universes is less improbable than the formation of a basic replicating molecule and its subsequent evolution following well-understood natural laws.

    The odds of a person winning the lottery ten times in a row are vanishingly small, yet they are still larger than the odds of a person finding a doorway to another dimension inhabited by talking animals in the back of their wardrobe.

  10. Hans-Richard Grümm

    Ed has made a good point. That A is improbable is not an argument for its alternative B unless it can be shown that B is less improbable.
    In any case, the a priori probability for the existence of an omniscient creator is arbitrarily small. Such a being would have to correctly know every bit of Chaitin’s Omega, and those bits are in effect uncorrelated. Thus the a priori probabilities (1/2) for knowing single bits can be multiplied, and the result is smaller than any positive epsilon 🙂

  11. @Hans-Richard Grümm
    Agreed, except that the probability for B to be considered is:
    the probability that an unlimited creator/designer would do this rather than the uncounted choices open to them.
    That probability is arbitrarily small.
    Why is the human body so like that of chimps and other apes? Saying that God could have done it does not resolve the question, for God could have made use more like marsupials or more like trees or completely different from any other living thing.

  12. “That’s the rev’s problem.”
    The rev’s problem is first another one. The chance of drawing a particular sequence of cards is impossibly small. Still, as soon as you start drawing, the chance of drawing some sequence is exactly 1.
    The first one presupposes a specific goal. Evolution Theory doesn’t. The rev cuddles a strawman, because his pious brain can only think in teleological terms.
    So in short: creacrap, including Idiocy, is not capable of getting anything right.

  13. @mnbo
    Let’s say that you are sitting down to a card game, and you are dealt AKQJ10 of spades, and you are surprised and want an explanation.
    What is the more productive line of investigation?
    You make the guess that the dealer likes you. Or that you are being cheated, somehow (you are being allowed to win the first hand).
    You make the guess that you are not playing poker, but euchre. Euchre is played without cards 2 through 8, so it is not all that surprising.
    The deck is drawn from a standard 52-card deck supplemented with Uno cards.

  14. Fallacy of Restrospective Astonishment.

  15. Charles Deetz ;)

    Latest RadioLab podcast discusses life expanding from single cells. They point out that all life on our planet for *a billion years* was single cell. You can play a lot of hands of cards over that long of a time. And then that a single event with two cells changed everything. Billions of years, billions of generations of life, sooner or later something has to happen, with our without god.

  16. Sorry but the dude is 100% wrong as the chances of the event is 100%, because US!!!! Now when he uses Ken Ham’s space ship to visit all the planets we have found and explored them and found no life, he can start calculating the probability, even so he must locate and explore worlds around suns like ours and visit planets like ours.

  17. @TomS: “What is the more productive line of investigation?”
    Or sacrifice an IDiot to the God of Large Numbers.

  18. Interesting, he can’t get the math to work so voila, a marker for intelligent designer appears to him. How did he manage to make this incredible leap in logic? It’s in the Bible, the latest and greatest in Bronze Age technology. Well, not really but it was fun to play along.

  19. michaelfugate

    To summarize, the probability that we are here via evolution is much more likely than we here via intelligent design; evolution is much more constrained than ID. A god has an infinite supply of possibilities – so why choose this one?

  20. Eric Lipps

    The biggest problem with these computations (coin tosses, card shuffles, English history, or the biosphere) is that if you take all the events that ever happened and then whomp up some kind of monster mathematical result by stringing all the steps together, then you miss the key point: each step along the way is mathematically on its own! It’s an error to assign the characteristics of the entire sequence to an individual step.

    There’s an even bigger problem: not all those sequences are of independent events.

    Take English history, for example: each event depends on those before it. Change one event, however seemingly minor—say, Richard I only almost dies at Chaluz in 1199—and everything afterward changes. If Richard had returned to take up the throne again, there’d have been no King John to piss of the barons and thus no Magna Carta in 1215.

    As for the biosphere, that ground is pretty well plowed already, but the point is the same: successive events aren’t independent, like coin tosses, but depend on those before. Simple chemicals can (with the addition of energy) become complex chemicals; functioning DNA codons can emerge (fairly easily) once nucleotides exist, and those in turn can arise from simpler molecules, which in turn . . . !

    And unlike creationism, evolution doesn’t depend on last-ditch appeals to Oscar Mayer’s “higher authority”—“God did it, it says so in the Bible, which is God’s word because we say it is.”

  21. Most people stop testing for things that have no operational definition around the age of 12. This fellow either has too much of something in his head or too little.

  22. @Eric Lipps
    And it is in the Bible because we say it is.
    Remember, that most of the stuff that they say is just a product of what the creationists have made up. The Ancient Near East had no concept of such things as the fixity of species. It is as if one were to go to the Bible for the answers for one’s calculus homework.