Evolution Chance and Probability
Creationists here in AvG have argued against Evolution as follows:-
"The probability of a living cell spontaneously evolving by random chance from its component parts is so astronomically small that it could not possibly happen".
Creationists will then go through some long and quite convincing analogies to demonstrate this... ie.
If a tornado ripped through a junkyard, would the wreckage randomly fall together to form a fully functioning 747 Jet.
The creationist will then indicate how many individual parts are in a 747 and how many are in the smallest living organism. This is intended to get you to visualise the massive improbability of a random event causing the existence of a complex entity ... A 747 or a living cell.
At this point I will say that the creationists are right. This IS a highly improbable event and is in effect virtually impossible.
However, This is not Evolution. Evolution theory states no such thing. The argument given is totally irrelevant because there is no process of evolution in what was presented as a description of Evolution.
This argument with these outrageous probability figures comes up so often that I thought it about time I did another feature page.
The event that was described is - a fully formed entity being created in a single generation.... The finished model from it's component parts in one random event. The argument of Evolutionary improbability is fallacious because it is based on the premise that Evolution theory is based on a single random creative event. This is incorrect. (This would be a good description of Biblical Creation but not Evolution).
Lets take a closer look at the fallacious argument given by the Creationists. To do this we will choose a highly improbable event and look at the probability of this event occurring when we apply the Creationists representation of Evolution and a real example of Evolutionary theory.
The Improbable Event
Take a look at this phrase "ATHEIST VS GOD IS A COOL SITE.".
There are 30 characters in that phrase and the phrase is made up of a possible 28 available characters in the alphabet including a space and a period character.
Remember the thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters, how long would it take to generate the works of William Shakespeare? Well this is the same thing only simpler. How long would it take to generate this phrase by random chance?
The Creationist's Version of Evolution
How many attempts will it take to produce the above phrase if we throw together random alphabetic characters. Lets assume we can make 1 guess every second. How long would it take?
To get the first "A" it will take on average 14 attempts. (There are 28 possible characters, we may get it right first time, but we could be unlucky and have to keep guessing until the last available character). On average, we will select the correct character after 14 guesses.
The second character will obviously have the same probability of being correct 1:14. However, for us to be on the right track, we must have got both the first and second characters correct at the same time.
The probability of getting the "A" and the "T" both correct purely by chance are 14 x 14 = 196.
That's a 1 in 196 chance that we get them both right. But then there is the third character, the "H" so we multiply by 14 again to get 14 x 14 x 14 = 2744. A 1 in 2744 chance. To find out the probability of guessing the whole phrase we need to multiply 14 by itself 29 times (30 characters - 1).
The result is a 1 in 1,728,673,739,677,471,101,567,216,945,987,584 chance.
Now if we were to make a guess every 1 second, how long would it take to guess the phrase by random chance alone?
(Big Number) / 60sec / 60min / 24hr /365.25days = No of years.
The result is:- that it would take 54,778,365,264,705,525,818,415,118 years and 7 months. Lets just say 54 Million-Million-Million-Million years.
Conclusion: - It is highly improbable that we could form the above phrase by a purely random event. Note, it is not totally impossible if we are willing to wait long enough.
The Evolutionist's Explanation
Evolution requires many generations of an organism. Each child organism inherits genes from its parent. Genes that do not give the organism either a stable existence or a slight advantage over another organism will die out or become regressive or be replaced.
Evolution depends on some kind of selection mechanism (Natural Selection). This selection mechanism is what determines which genes will be successful and which genes will die out. The selection mechanism that drives Evolution is; the environment.
For Example, in the African plains, it is of benefit for a prey animal to be able to escape attack from a predator. Therefore, there is evolutionary pressure on it to become more manoeuvrable, faster, better camouflaged. Slower, less agile animals will be killed off at a greater rate than fast agile animals. Therefore the gene pool will move in favour of the faster animal. after several generations, the population as a whole will be slightly faster, more agile than it's ancestor population. The animal itself has had no input or decisions to make about the characteristics of it's next generation. None of the animals has any conscious control over this process. It is a natural filter that pushes the average genetic stock towards a faster, more agile animal.
Ok, so I needed to simulate this Natural selection process.
I have written a Computer Program that demonstrates Evolution using the same example as the Creationist used above.
We needed to provide Evolutionary pressure. So, I assumed that the phrase "ATHEIST VS GOD IS A COOL SITE." is a stable configuration in the environment in which it resides. If any part of an evolving phrase is not ideal for this environment, it is simply ignored and replaced with another totally random element (a random mutation).
My program started with a wild random guess. No rules or constraints, I just got a load of characters and threw them all together and got the phrase "ZG.AVSVTTGHOKAOJVSQLPFHNINKYNF"
The next generation is a child of the 1st Generation and inherits its structure from its parent. However, any character that is not suitable for this environment is discarded and replaced with another totally random character.. Generation 2 gave me "RCCWWSSFICABIMWERTOWUOAUURYCLP" note that the 6th letter "S" was stable in this environment and survived to the next generation, everything else simply died and was replaced with another random character.
This process continues through the generations. Any character that is not fit for this environment is replace by another random character. Any character that is stable in this environment survives to the next generation. This simulates random mutation and natural selection.
The 10th generation gave me "RT IISSOCASBYV HYTASZOEKDFUTWS" which has 7 stable characters that will be passed to it's child phrase.
Later on my program returns the following phrases for generations 26, 27 and 28:
26 - GTHZISHXGSVGKD US AZWODYKSITEX
27 - DTHCISQAPSGGFD IS AIFOXCFSITED
28 - JTHXISNZMSKGPD IS AWTOCCKSITES
Later still.. (I'll show every 5th generation):-
40 - STHTIST HSLGSD IS AH.OGSDSITEF
45 - ZTHNIST MSOGMD IS AVCOET SITEB
50 - RTHRIST FS GOD IS AKCOKC SITEO
55 - YTHVIST YS GOD IS A COBA SITE
60 - YTHLIST SS GOD IS A COZT SITEQ
65 - YTHZIST RS GOD IS A COON SITE.
70 - TTHAIST RS GOD IS A COOR SITE.
75 - MTHFIST JS GOD IS A COOD SITE.
80 - ZTHZIST AS GOD IS A COOT SITE.
85 - NTHDIST US GOD IS A COOL SITE.
And the last 5 generations were
86 - .THVIST XS GOD IS A COOL SITE.
87 - ITHEIST PS GOD IS A COOL SITE.
88 - PTHEIST BS GOD IS A COOL SITE.
89 - PTHEIST VS GOD IS A COOL SITE.
90 - ATHEIST VS GOD IS A COOL SITE.
It took 90 generations to produce our phrase using nothing more than random mutation and natural selection. If it took 1 second for each generation to be formed (one guess per second), it would have taken us one and a half minutes to produce this phrase by Evolution. There was no intelligence involved to determine which letter would be included in the string, that was totally random. There was only environmental suitability to determine which characters would survive.
So, The creationists totally ignore the mechanisms that are in operation, mechanisms that we can clearly see in everyday life, they come up with a figure of 54 Million-Million-Million-Million years. But when evolutionary mechanisms are taken into consideration we achieve a figure of 90 seconds.
The creationist is correct when they give miniscule probability figures for the spontaneous generation of life from non-living chemicals. However, this Creationist propaganda has nothing whatsoever to do with Evolution.
If anyone is interested, I will post the code (VB6) for this simulation which is a lot smaller than this whole article. I can make the fully installable program available if you want it.
Thanks to R Dawkins for the inspiration for this feature.