Lacking research, data, reason, and everything else science requires, the creationists at the Discovery Institute are recycling one of the oldest and silliest arguments in their quiver — that the odds against the universe (or DNA, or life, or human evolution) coming into existence or happening “by chance” is improbable, therefore … Oogity Boogity! The argument is even more absurd than asking “Why are there still monkeys?”
We discussed this nonsensical argument in Common Creationist Claims Confuted, and we also have a three-part essay on it, starting with The Inevitability of Evolution (I) (which links to part II, etc.). Additionally, to illustrate the ludicrousness of the claim, we often mention the odds against your own existence:
Human conception is preceded by the release of roughly 20 million sperm per milliliter, and the number of milliliters varies with age and other factors. The average for a healthy young male is estimated to be 300-500 million spermatozoa, per, ah … event. To be on the conservative side, let’s say that a specific human zygote has less than a one-in-100 million chance of being conceived. And that’s for one particular fertile moment for the female. A month earlier or later, the zygote will be different. In other words, dear reader, considering the odds against your turning out to be precisely you, it’s obvious that your existence is quite improbable. Nevertheless, there you are.
The same improbability analysis applies to the conception of each of your parents, and their parents, and so on, going back as far as you care to go. The odds against the whole multi-generational drama is a factorial computation, with the mathematical conclusion that your existence is so very improbable as to be virtually impossible — by Discoveroid reasoning. The same is true for each one of us, yet we’re all here — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Our point is one we’ve made before (see Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment). We’ve even given it a name: the Rule of Reality. It goes like this:
If each event in a causal chain is a natural occurrence, then the historical totality of the whole chain of events is also natural — and not at all impossible. This is a chronological corollary of that well-known principle: The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.
Now that we’ve got the rebuttal out of the way, let’s take a look at the Discoveroids’ claim. The article at their creationist blog is “Darwin’s Dice” — Michael Flannery on the Role of Chance in Darwinian Evolution. It’s by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Whether Darwinian evolution is at bottom a process driven by chance, happenstance, randomness is a question that Darwinian apologists have habitually sought to cloud in obscurity. That might be because, to our intuition, the world of life certainly does not present itself as a production of “chance.”
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then he says:
[A]s our historian colleague Michael Flannery notes in a new article in the journal Metascience, Darwin himself was absolutely committed to the “chance” view as the distinguishing characteristic of his theory.
Darwin was obviously a fool! After that, Klinghoffer quotes from Flannery’s review of Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin (Oxford University Press), by Curtis Johnson:
By dissecting the mass of Darwin’s writings back to his earliest notebooks, Johnson has concluded that “‘Darwinism’ had a single meaning . . . from beginning to end” and that chance formed the leitmotif of his thought … . “A designed world in all of its parts and operations,” he writes, “cannot be a chance world in any them; and a world in which chance plays any role at all seems to be one that excludes a place for an omnipotent designer” … . Darwin had to choose between a designed world or a world of chance; he chose the latter and adopted a variety strategies aimed a concealing this atheistic proposition. … Johnson’s assertion that Darwin’s departure from Christianity was early and abrupt may be uncomfortable to some, but his detailed and exhaustive analysis makes it hard to argue against the fact that Darwin’s “chance-governed world seems tantamount to a godless world” … . As such, Johnson’s bold and clearly argued thesis makes for an important addition to our understanding of the man and his theory.
Wow — Darwin chose chance, and then tried to conceal his atheism. Klinghoffer continues:
Theistic evolutionists — or as Flannery calls them, Darwinian theists — are especially inclined to becloud the contradiction between chance and providence, as if there were no choice to be made between Darwin’s theory and any coherent understanding of Christianity or Judaism.
Gasp — it’s all so clear! One last excerpt:
Theistic evolutionary thinking is designed, whether intelligently or not, to reconcile religious believers to the denial of their own common sense as interpreters of their faith in relationship to science. Darwin himself, at least, was candid enough to admit that a fundamental choice indeed needs to be made.
So there you are, dear reader. You have a choice to make — either God or Darwin. God explains everything; Darwin ducks the issue. Only an idiot would go with Darwin.
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