Thursday, January 14, 2016

What is the probability of a Creationist actually calculating the Odds of Evolution occurring?

Over the years I have had a number of problems with the calculations of folks who try and mathematically prove the impossibility of evolution. If you've been following this blog, you know about my Playing Card Analogy.

If you have, you can skip the rest of this paragraph because I will re-state it just to make sure we are all on the same page. The analogy goes like this: You take a plain deck of 52 playing cards. You shuffle them up and deal them out face up. Look at the order you dealt them out. The odds of dealing them out in that particular order are astronomical, 52 factorial (52!), which is 1*2*3 . . .*52). The question is did you beat those odds when dealing out the cards? The answer is no! Unless you predicted the order before dealing, which you did not do, then you did not beat the odds. The applicable odds were that the cards would be in some order, and the odds of that happening are 100%!

OK, now you are familiar, or you already were familiar with my analogy. Larry Moran, over on his Sandwalk blog, had an interesting post "Targets, arrows, and the lottery fallacy". He relates the most common problem when Creationists (Yes, I include the Discovery Institute in that list.) calculate the probabilities for evolution. It is an assumption that the outcome was in some manner predetermined, or that it is the only possible outcome.  As with my card analogy, the odds calculation makes no sense unless the order of the cards was the only possible outcome or the predicted outcome.

So the question, and it's certainly a philosophical one and not a scientific one, is whether or not the human form is the intended outcome? If you claim 'yes', then my next question will be for you to prove it. I can imagine someone whipping out an appropriate Biblical reference about being 'created in his image', but that does not constitute proof. Obviously there isn't anything that mandates the human form.  We are a result, no one can prove we are a predicted, or the only possibility.  We are only a result.

So let's apply this to the 'thinking' of folks like Behe and Dembski. When they declare something as Irreducibly Complex and use a 'design filter' to support that declaration, what they are in fact saying is that looking at the present state of the example, claiming it was the only possible outcome, therefore the odds are astronomical. They don't see, by intent, that the current state is a result, not a prediction. The reality is that some magical hindsight is nothing more than wishful thinking. Something like "I want there to be a God, so therefore I have to invent things that the God had to have done in order to fulfill my desire." Isn't that exactly what folks 'calculating' such probabilities are really saying?

Larry had this to say:
"Do you see the fallacy? Just because we observe a complex adaptation or structure does NOT mean that it was specified or pre-ordained. There are certainly many different structures that could have evolved—most of them we never see because they didn't happen. And when a particular result is observed it doesn't mean that there was only one pathway (target) to producing that structure"
Assuming only one possible outcome is just that, an assumption.  Folks like Behe and Dembski make that assumption and then reinforce it with their religious belief set.  They want to see design, therefore there must be design!  When are the folks from the DI going to acknowledge all the other possible outcomes other than the present state?  I have to assume never, because to admit that other outcomes were even possible would pretty much be a mortal hit to the whole Creationism/Intelligent Design idea.  Humans have to have been the intended outcome, in fact the only outcome, or ID is meaningless.

So, what is the probability of a Creationist actually calculating the odds of Evolution occurring?  How close to absolute zero can we get?  I think we found the both the theoretical and physical limit.

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