Discoveroids: The Odds Are Against Evolution

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.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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9 responses to “Discoveroids: The Odds Are Against Evolution

  1. I am so tired of these stupid arguments. These people claim the odds on producing you are astronomically against. But this assumes the goal is to produce exactly … you. Really, the process produces something 100% of the time. This is a little like the lottery in which there is a microscopic change of you winning any money, but a 100% chance that money will be won … by someone.

    I once heard a stupid creationist talk about the odds on pulling wooden blocks out of a sack in 1 through 10 order. My comment that is the choices were made at the frequency that molecules in a liquid collide with one another 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 would show up over a billion times … per second. You cannot just look at the odds, otherwise you end up in a Zeno’s Paradox position in which you consider Achille’s distance traveled in ever smaller increments but do not consider the fact that each of those increments takes ever smaller amounts of time.

  2. I was assured several times on another website that the odds against evolution were 1^720.

    For some reason I wasn’t very impressed…

  3. Coyote recalls: “I was assured several times on another website that the odds against evolution were 1^720.”

    I remember it well.

  4. David Williams

    The odds are against Intelligent Design ‘Theory’ , ever replacing the Theory Of Evolution.

  5. I am not tired of these stupid arguments. They have been interesting to me for decades. Something as obvious as evolution has attracted some of the most inane arguments against it. And the arguments touch upon so many different areas of human understanding. One can become widely educated just by following up on the mistakes of the creationists.

  6. Michael Fugate

    NCSE’s review of the book – no doubt more intelligent than Flannery’s:

  7. The odds are far worse for Intelligent Design, something like 1 ^ 1,203,543, 233, or thereabouts as Mr. Spock would say.

  8. Whatever the odds against any natural explanation for any event, the odds are far greater against any supernatural explanation.
    Because any supernatural explanation is compatible with a far greater number of outcomes, it is going the wrong way to seek a supernatural explanation.
    If you want to seek a better explanation, the thing to do is to seek an explanation with a fewer number of possible outcomes.
    Suppose that you sit down to a friendly game of poker, and you are dealt an ace-high strait. A surprising outcome if you are dealt that by chance from well-shuffled standard 52-card deck. If you want a better explanation, you are making a mistake if you assume that the deck has more cards – if the cards got mixed up with an Uno deck, with the “chance” and “community chest” cards from “Monopoly”. And if you went so far as to assume that the cards were being generated by supernatural means, forget it!
    If, on the other hand, if you make the explanation that this is not a poker game,but a game of euchre, where the cards are being dealt from a 24-card deck (AKQJ-10-9 of four suits), then it is not so surprising that you got a hand missing the 9s.
    Or, if you assume that there is some other explanation, that you assume that there is some reason why the dealer would want to have a very good hand. That you are being set up, for example, and someone else has been dealt a strait flush. To borrow from detective stories, that there is a “method, motive and opportunity” for the event. Of course, ID or other varieties of supernaturalism are famous for avoiding specifying any of these. In particular, with this particular bad argument they are relying, mistakenly, only on the bad odds.

  9. I can’t help wondering whether these people believe this argument themselves.

    Extending their logic, it’s so improbable that your life worked out exactly as it did despite all the things that might have changed its course or prevented it from starting at all. There just must have been a Designer who dictated it from the very beginning.

    Actually, such a doctrine exists: it’s called predestination. Its major failing is that it destroys the possibility of free will. In theological terms, this means that you’ve been preselected for heaven or hell because God knew before you were born everything you would do, say or think and therefore knew where you were to go when you died. Indeed, God being God, he knew it from the beginning of the universe.

    That in turn meant that life was an exercise in futility. It meant that the game was rigged: that Lucifer was doomed to destruction, that Adam and Eve would inevitably sin and so on.

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