God and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Probability
PROBABILITY AND SCIENCE
A typical misconception about science is that it can tell us what will definitely happen now or in the future given enough time, or what would certainly have happened in the past, given enough time. The truth is, science is limited in that it does not grant absolute truth, but only yields degrees of probability or likelihood. Science observes the Universe, records evidence, and strives to draw conclusions about what has happened in the past, is happening now, and what will potentially happen in the future, given the current state of scientific knowledge—which is often times woefully incomplete, and even inaccurate. The late, prominent evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson discussed the nature of science and probability several years ago in the classic textbook, Life: An Introduction to Biology, stating:
We speak in terms of “acceptance,” “confidence,” and “probability,” not “proof.” If by proof is meant the establishment of eternal and absolute truth, open to no possible exception or modification, then proof has no place in the natural sciences. Alternatively, proof in a natural science, such as biology, must be defined as the attainment of a high degree of confidence (Simpson and Beck, 1965, p. 16, emp. added).
In other words, science observes and attempts to answer for mankind such things as: what could have happened in the past; what most likely happened; what is probably happening now; what could happen in the future; or what will likely happen in the future. Science does not necessarily tell us what will certainly always be or has always been the case. Rather, it tells us what has always been observed to be the case and what will almost certainly always be the case, without exception, and which coincides with logic, intuition, and mathematics. When enough evidence is gathered and all that evidence points to some truth and therefore yields an extremely high level of confidence in that truth (i.e., the probability of the same truth always being the case is considered so high that it is beyond doubt), the truth is made a law. Such a step is not taken lightly. Extensive observation must be conducted before doing so. Therefore, the laws of science are highly respected and considered to be essentially beyond doubt. However, there is always the slightest potential that a law could be broken in the future by some unknown event. Thus, probability is intimately intertwined with science. Mark Kac, famous mathematician and professor at Cornell and Rockefeller Universities, said, “Probability is a cornerstone of all the sciences, and its daughter, the science of statistics, enters into all human activities” (as quoted in Smith, 1975, p. 111, emp. added).
Many evolutionists understand the significance of probability in science and yet go too far in their use of the laws of probability, presumptuously claiming that they can do more than they profess to do. These assert that anything—no matter how far-fetched—will inevitably happen, given enough time, as long as it does not have a probability of zero. Supposedly, objects will pop into existence, and eventually, those things will come to life and transform into humans. Many evolutionists have long cited the principles of probability in an effort to support such unscientific dogmas (e.g., Erwin, 2000). As far back as 1954, George Wald, writing in Scientific American concerning the origin of life on Earth, penned the words:
However improbable we regard this event, or any of the steps it involves, given enough time, it will almost certainly happen at least once. And for life as we know it, once may be enough. Time is the hero of the plot…. Given so much time, the “impossible” becomes possible, the possible becomes probable, and the probable becomes virtually certain. One has only to wait; time itself performs miracles (Wald, p. 48, emp. added).
There are at least four problems with such assertions about the laws of probability.
GIVEN ENOUGH TIME
First of all, we are not “given enough time” for macroevolution to have occurred. We at Apologetics Press have documented this fact time and time again (cf. Jackson, 1983; Thompson, 2001). Years ago, in his article “The Young Earth,” Henry Morris listed 76 scientific dating techniques, based on standard evolutionary assumptions, which all indicate that the Earth is relatively young (Morris, 1974). Donald DeYoung documented extensive, compelling evidence for a young Earth as well, in the book Thousands…Not Billions (2005). This fact alone dispels the preposterous contention that we are the descendants of ape-like creatures.
THE SINGLE LAW OF CHANCE
The second problem with the assertion of evolutionary inevitability is implied by the work of the renowned French mathematician, Emile Borel, for whom the lunar crater, Borel, is named (O’Connor and Robertson, 2008). In 1962, Borel discussed in depth the law of probability known as the Single Law of Chance—a law that he said “is extremely simple and intuitively evident, though rationally undemonstrable” (1962, p. 2). This principle states that “events whose probability is extremely small never occur” (1965, p. 57). He further stated that we “at least…must act, in all circumstances, as if they were impossible” (1962, p. 3, italics in orig.). The law, he said, applies to
the sort of event, which, though its impossibility may not be rationally demonstrable, is, however, so unlikely that no sensible person will hesitate to declare it actually impossible. If someone affirmed having observed such an event we would be sure that he is deceiving us or has himself been the victim of a fraud (1962, p. 3, italics in orig., emp. added).
To clarify the meaning of “extremely small” probabilities, he defined different categories of events in which the probabilities are so small that they are “practically negligible,” including events from the human, terrestrial, and cosmic perspectives (1965, p. 57).
In his discussion on the probabilities of certain cosmic events, he argues convincingly from mathematical calculations and intuition that reasonable human beings consider probabilities of chance cosmic events that fall below one in 1045 to be negligible (1965, p. 59). In other words, if the probability of a certain event happening in the Universe is less than one in 1045 (i.e., a one with 45 zeros after it), human beings intuitively categorize that event as so unlikely that we consider it to be an impossible event.
Several years ago, evolutionist Harold Morowitz of Yale, and currently professor of biology and natural philosophy at George Mason University, estimated the probability of the formation of the smallest and simplest living organism to be one in 10340,000,000 (1970, p. 99). A few years following Morowitz’s calculations, the late, renowned evolutionist Carl Sagan made his own estimation of the chance that life could evolve on any given single planet: one in 102,000,000,000 (1973, p. 46)! Note also that these calculations were made before the last several decades have revealed with even more clarity the complexity of life (cf. Deweese, 2010). These probability estimations for the formation of life, made by the evolutionists themselves, are, of course, so far beyond the limit articulated for cosmic events by the Single Law of Chance that we must respond in shock, rather than humor, at the big lie that has been perpetrated on the world at large by so many in the scientific community in thrusting macroevolution on the masses. The distinguished British astronomer, Sir Fred Hoyle once said regarding evolution, “the chance that higher forms have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein” (1981b, 294:105). He further stated:
At all events, anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the Rubik cube will concede the near-impossibility of a solution being obtained by a blind person moving the cubic faces at random. Now imagine 1050 blind persons each with a scrambled Rubik cube, and try to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the solved form. You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling at just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends. The notion that not only biopolymers but the operating programme of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order (1981a, 92:527, emp. in orig.).
Borel’s Single Law of Chance certainly lays plain the impossibility and incredibility of the evolutionary proposition. However, Borel tried to distance himself from the implications of his findings and their application to the spontaneous emergence of life by noting that the laws of chance do “not seem possible to apply” to some evolutionary events (1963, p. 125, emp. added). He further stated:
[I]t is generally held that living beings are the result of a slow process of evolution, beginning with elementary organisms, and that this process of evolution involves certain properties of living matter that prevent us from asserting that the process was accomplished in accordance with the laws of chance (1963, p. 125).
In other words, evolutionary processes are not considered a succession of random, chance events. Instead, it seems that they are considered intentional events that somehow occur without intention. However, since non-living matter has no mind of its own, the progression of events that would have to occur to lead to the optimal arrangement of that matter allegedly to bring about life would have to be just that—a succession of random, chance events. In making the assertion that the laws of chance do not apply to evolution, he tacitly acknowledges the fact that the evolutionary model would actually require multiple, successive random events taking place gradually over time in order to bring even the pre-living “organism” to a place in which life could allegedly burst into existence. And as if to further drive the tombstone into the grave, according to Borel, himself, “[i]t is repetition that creates improbability” (1962, p. 3). Such almost endless successive random events would actually create more of a problem for evolution. “[I]t is their [the successive repetition of improbable events leading towards significant complexity—JM] almost indefinite repetition that creates improbability and rightly seems to us impossible” (1962, pp. 3-4, emp. added). After all of these successive evolutionary events leading towards life, the final random, chance event in which all the circumstances happen to be “just right” to bring about the jump from non-life to life is so improbable, according to the evolutionists themselves, that the Single Law of Chance would consider the event impossible and not worthy of human attention. [NOTE: We are not suggesting that it is possible for life to be spontaneously created from non-life, no matter what the circumstances or arrangements of matter may be. We are only noting the implications of the evolutionists’ own arguments and their application to the laws of science.]
KOLMOGOROV'S FIRST AXIOM
There is yet another problem with the assertion that macroevolution will happen, given enough time, as long as it does not have a probability of zero. Several of the events that are necessary in order for the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory to be true, indeed, have a probability of zero, according to the scientific evidence. The whole question is not really even one of improbability, but impossibility. How can one calculate the probability of something happening for which there is zero evidence that such a thing can even occur? Chance applies only to events or circumstances wherein possibility is present.
For instance, before the Big Bang was allegedly a small, condensed sphere comprised of all of the matter in the Universe [see May, et al., 2003]. Consider for a moment the spontaneous generation of that sphere of matter. Its appearance and subsequent organization, being a random, chance event, would fall under the guidelines of the Single Law of Chance as well. Unfortunately for evolutionists, since all scientific evidence indicates that matter cannot spontaneously generate (according to the First Law of Thermodynamics; see Miller, 2007), the probability of such an event would be much less than the “one in 1045” barrier set by the Single Law of Chance, namely, zero.
Also, what proof is available that leads to the idea that life could spontaneously generate (i.e., abiogenesis)? What scientific evidence is available that would lead to the idea that abiogenesis has a probability of anything but zero? Speculation abounds concerning the sequence of events that could cause precisely the right conditions for it to occur. However, there is zero scientific evidence to support the idea that it could happen even if those improbable conditions were ever in effect. In actuality, the scientific evidence is not “neutral” on the matter, as though there is no evidence for or against abiogenesis. Rather, the scientific evidence is not only unsupportive of abiogenesis, but all experimental scientific results are contrary to it! The experiments of renowned 19th-century scientist Louis Pasteur long ago killed the possibility of the spontaneous generation of life, and recognition of the well-respected law of science known as the Law of Biogenesis (i.e., life comes only from life and that of its kind) drove the nails into its coffin (cf. Thompson, 1989).
These truths alone create impenetrable barriers for evolutionists—non-traversable, gaping chasms that would have to be crossed in order for the theory of evolution to be plausible. According to the scientific evidence, there is a probability of zero that abiogenesis can occur. According to the laws of probability, specifically Kolmogorov’s first axiom, when the probability of an event is zero, the event is called an “impossible event” (Gubner, 2006, p. 22, emp. added). Since several events that are necessary in order for the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory to be true have a probability of zero, according to the laws of probability, these atheistic theories are impossible.
PROBABILITY AND CAUSAL POWER
Further, even if there were not a probability of zero when it comes to macroevolution, it is important to note as was discussed earlier that probabilities do not guarantee that an event will or will not happen, regardless of how much time is allotted. Sproul, Gerstner, and Lendsley correctly observed:
The fact is, however, we have a no-chance chance creation. We must erase the “1” which appears above the line of the “1” followed by a large number of zeroes. What are the real chances of a universe created by chance? Not a chance. Chance is incapable of creating a single molecule, let alone an entire universe. Why not? Chance is no thing. It is not an entity. It has no being, no power, no force. It can effect nothing for it has no causal power within it, it has no itness to be within. Chance…is a word which describes mathematical possibilities which, by a curious slip of the fallacy of ambiguity, slips into discussion as if it were a real entity with real power, indeed, supreme power, the power of creativity (1984, p. 118, emp. in orig.).
We certainly agree. There is only one causal Power capable of creating the Universe, and there is certainly nothing random about Him.
Recall what Borel said of events prohibited under the Single Law of Chance—that sensible humans “must act, in all circumstances, as if they were impossible” (1962, p. 3, italics in orig.). Unfortunately, so many scientists today do not act sensibly. They do not follow this simple and intuitive truth when it comes to the matter of origins. Rather, they hold to the impossible, pouring thousands of hours and billions of dollars into researching it, writing on it, speaking on it, thrusting it into the minds of people of all ages, and attacking anyone who contradicts them. They, themselves, admit that the spontaneous generation of life from non-life has never been observed and that the odds are shockingly against it, and yet, since they start with the presumptuous assumption that there is no God, they believe the existence of life is proof enough that spontaneous generation occurred. But if the scientific evidence is so strongly against it, how can it be considered scientific? Even if there was a 0.0000…1% chance that macroevolution could happen, why would a scientist stake his/her name and entire career on such astronomical, outrageous odds when, if biased assumptions are dropped, there is a much more plausible explanation for the origin of this Universe? Prominent evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, himself admitted, “The more statistically improbable a thing is, the less we can believe that it just happened by blind chance. Superficially the obvious alternative to chance is an intelligent Designer” (1982, p. 130, emp. added). We certainly agree, and sadly, the implication of that alternative is the very reason so many people irrationally hold onto impossibilities—the intelligent Designer has expectations to which this rebellious generation refuses to submit.
Nevertheless, in the words of Emile Borel:
When we calculated the probability of reproducing by mere chance a work of literature, in one or more volumes, we certainly observed that, if this work was printed, it must originally have emanated from a human brain. Now the complexity of that brain must therefore have been even richer than the particular work to which it gave birth (1963, p. 125, emp. added).
And if we might add another line to Borel’s statement: “And further, the complexity of the Mind that gave birth to that brain must be truly incomprehensible!”
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