New CSICOP Column

| 8 Comments

My most recent column for CSICOP's Creation Watch website is now available. I'm talking about mathematics for a change, specifically the attempts by creationists to use probability theory to refute evolution. Be warned, however, that this is part one of a two-part column. So don't be too annoyed by the cliffhanger at the end!

8 Comments

Jason, like many others, have made excellent arguments against ID nonsense. ID supporters of course never understand/admit that. They don’t seem to get that IC, CSI, and all those dumb arguments against evolution (i.e. the 2nd Law of Thermo) have been beaten to death over and over. On Slashdot a moment ago, I saw a quotation which relates to the situation:

“Not Hercules could have knock’d out his brains, for he had none.” – Shakespeare

Warning! Quibble ahead! It’s “thymine” not thiamine, which is a vitamin.

Nice piece. In a discussion recently with my creationist sister-in-law, she regurgitated the improbability argument, this time applied to abiogenesis. She said that some (unnamed) mathematician had calculated the probability against it to be [1 in some huge number]. Using the deck of cards again, I pointed out the fact that the number of possible unique orders in which the deck could be arranged is equal to 52! (another very large number) and if we encounter a deck of cards laying on a table we must conclude, using her reasoning, that the cards had been miraculously arranged, because there is only a 1/(52!) chance that the cards could be arranged in that particular order. She changed the subject.

Frank-

Incredible! I actually had thymine in my original draft, but the spellchecker for Microsoft Word told me it was supposed to be thiamine. Blast! And to think I always tell my students not to rely on spellcheckers alone.

Thank you for pointing out the error.

Nice piece. In a discussion recently with my creationist sister-in-law, she regurgitated the improbability argument, this time applied to abiogenesis. She said that some (unnamed) mathematician had calculated the probability against it to be [1 in some huge number]. Using the deck of cards again, I pointed out the fact that the number of possible unique orders in which the deck could be arranged is equal to 52! (another very large number) and if we encounter a deck of cards laying on a table we must conclude, using her reasoning, that the cards had been miraculously arranged, because there is only a 1/(52!) chance that the cards could be arranged in that particular order. She changed the subject.

Again, more garbage from the evos. The probability of getting some sequence is of course 1.

However, we can assert with some confidence that the number of favorable outcomes will be far smaller than the number of possible outcomes. This seems to show that, while we may not be able to calculate precisely the probability of evolving the genes necessary for eye formation, we can still assert that the probability is very, very small. Have we done it? Can we conclude that it is effectively impossible for evolution to have produced an eye?

Yes.

As an example, suppose that in some organism we find the gene sequence ACGATCT. One source of genetic variation is the point mutation, in which an individual nucleotide is replaced in the next generation with a different nucleotide. Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the offspring of our hypothetical organism will possess the gene sequence ATGATCT. By contrast, it is highly unlikely that we will encounter the sequence TGATAAG.

O.K. This doesn’t explain how we got the original viable sequence in the first place. This explains nothing.

So even if the odd macromutation caused one of these sequences to appear in some unfortunate organism, natural selection would ensure that the gene was quickly flushed from the population in subsequent generations.

True. Since the genome is highly coded even a minor mistake will probably cause instant death. What does this explain? Not much.

a Mr. C. Troll Wrote:

Again, more garbage from the evos. The probability of getting some sequence is of course 1.

EXACTLY! That’s the point!

O.K. This doesn’t explain how we got the original viable sequence in the first place. This explains nothing.

And if it did, it still wouldn’t explain how we have something rather than nothing. It would still explain nothing.

What does this explain? Not much.

That’s right. That’s because natural selection is such a hand-slapping-forehead obvious explanation now that we know the mechanics of genetics, there’s not much TO explain. But you’d be amazed. There are STILL creationists out there who find it just too mysterious not to invoke the supernatural.

Creationist Troll Wrote:

Again, more garbage from the evos. The probability of getting some sequence is of course 1.

In creationist math there’s no difference between “impossible” and “improbable,” thus CT’s failure to get the point, I guess.

However, we can assert with some confidence that the number of favorable outcomes will be far smaller than the number of possible outcomes.

but then comes…

Again, more garbage from the evos. The probability of getting some sequence is of course 1.

EXACTLY! That’s the point!

WHOOOOOSH! Right over the head. I know evos aren’t too smart, but c’mon try to make it a little less obvious.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on August 18, 2005 4:12 PM.

The Skeptic paper online was the previous entry in this blog.

Haeckel Slide Show in Slate is the next entry in this blog.

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