On the thread Impossible Molecular Machines we are being treated to a lesson in probabilities from several creationists. Here's an example of a comment from Livingstone Morford.

Speaking of stochastic processes, the average number of sperm contributed by a man in a mating process is 100,000,000 (10By Darwinism I mean the notion that everything we observe in the biological world are purely the result of stochastic processes, and I am critical of that notion.

On a different topic, I might add that intelligent design proponents need only demonstrate that the odds of a particular biochemical system evolving are 10^-40 or less in order for intelligent design to be a more adequate explanation for the origin of such a biochemical system. This is because there have been no more than 10^39 bacterial cells in the history of life on earth.

^{8}). That means that every single human is the product of a single sperm cell uniting with a single egg cell and the probability that one particular sperm was successful is 10

^{-8}.

This probability of existence applies to each of my great-grandparents.

Johann Betker was born in 1859 in Volhynia in the western part of Ukraine. The probability that he was produced from a particular sperm cell is 10

^{-8}. His future wife, Amalie Schmuland, was born in 1868, also in Volynia. This was also an improbable event from the point of view of sperm selection. The probability that BOTH of my grandparents were born is (at least): 10

^{-8}× 10

^{-8}= 10

^{-16}.

The same probabilities apply to Thomas Keys Foster born 1852 in country Tyrone, Ireland and his wife Eliza Ann Job born 1852 in country Tyrone. Their two births were very lucky with a total probability of only 10

^{-16}. Now, if you combine all four of these great-grandparents you end up with a probability of 10

^{-32}. Add in the other four great-grandparents and you end up with the total probability that all eight of these individuals would be born = 10

^{-64}. (The real probabilities are much, much lower when you take the eggs into account.)

Since this total probability is a lot less than the total number of bacteria that have ever existed, it follows that God must have intervened somewhere. Two of my great-grandparents must have been designed by God. I wonder which two it was? My bet is that it wasn't any of the four mentioned above because they were all born outside of Canada. It was probably the two grand-parents who were born in Canada 'cause God likes Canadians.

You should be a numerologist.

ReplyDeleteYou can make the numbers say anything you want. So long as others aren't paying too close attention.

FWIW Behe had a small thing dealing with this kind of probabilistic reasoning in one of his responses to Joe Thornton:

ReplyDeletehttp://behe.uncommondescent.com/2009/10/response-to-carl-zimmer-and-joseph-thornton-part-4/

Assuming that when your great-grandparents were born there were 2 billion people on Earth (nice round number - maybe there were fewer, but with the size of the numbers we're dealing with here, it soon ceases to matter), don't forget to multiply by 10^-9 (OK, 10^-9 minus 1) the probability that of all the people on Earth, your great-grandmas would choose your great-grandpas to procreate with, and vice versa. And keep doing that for every generation.

ReplyDelete"So long as others aren't paying too close attention."

ReplyDeleteIt seems that most IDCs fit that mold.

I respond in detail to this blog post by Professor Larry Moran here:

ReplyDeletehttp://talkbio.blogspot.com/2010/10/giving-both-barrels-two-part-response.html

Has anybody ever calculated the probability that intelligent designers or creators would do something-or-other? After all, these designers/creators are not limited by natural laws, so they are able to do many more things than natural causes can. That means that the results that we see are a much smaller fraction of the possibilities. No matter how unlikely that things come about by mere chance, it is far less likely that designers/creators would choose that things would turn out this way. Unless, of course, someone knows about limitations on the options available to the designers/creators.

ReplyDeleteBy the way, another way of getting the small probability of your having been born: Let's just take the probability that any of your ancestors would have survived to maturity as being 50%. That isn't a bad estimate, given high rates of infant mortality before modern public health, medicine and sanitation. Then make an estimate on the number of ancestors that you had per century: Let's say that you have three generations per century with 10 distinct ancestors per generation (allowing for a lot of intermarriage). Just talking about merely a thousand years, that's 300 ancestors. The chances that 300 people would all survive to maturity would be (0.5)^300, which is about 10^-100.

I like this argument because it is an example of how a complaint about evolution can be seen to apply just as well as a complaint about reproduction: An argument for Scientific Storkism.

TomS