Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mathematics Disproves Atheism

The father of modern Atheism, philosopher Antony Flew, shocked his followers by becoming a Deist. What convinced him to finally reject Atheism were the mathematical implications inherent in the complexity of DNA (which is also part of what led microbiologist Michael Behe to reject Darwinianism and to write Darwin's Black Box). The vast complexity and precise order of life (which was largely unknown until DNA was discovered) combined with the problem of origin is mathematically insurmountable for those, like Flew, who are determined to follow "the argument no matter where it leads."

Here is a mathematical refutation of Atheism from his 2007 book There is a God, pages 75-78:

I was particularly impressed with Gerry Schroeder's point-by-point refutation of what I call the "monkey theorem." This idea, which has been presented in a number of forms and variations, defends the possibility of life arising by chance using the analogy of a multitude of monkeys banging away on computer keyboards and eventually ending up writing a Shakespearean sonnet.

Schroeder first referred to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts. A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After one month of hammering away at it (as well as using it as a bathroom!), the monkeys produced fifty typed pages - but not a single word. Schroeder noted that this was the case even though the shortest word in the English language is one letter (a or I). A is a word only if there is a space on either side of it. If we take it that the keyboard has thirty characters (the twenty-six letters and other symbols), then the likelihood of getting a one-letter word is 30 times 30 times thirty, which is 27,000. The likelihood of getting a one-letter word is one chance out of 27,000.

Schroeder them applied the probabilities to the sonnet analogy. "What's the chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet?" he asked. He continued:

All the sonnets are the same length. They're by definition fourteen lines long. I picked the one I knew the opening line for, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" I counted the number of letters; there are 488 letters in that sonnet. What's the likelihood of hammering away and getting 488 letters in the exact sequence as in "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"? What you end up with is 26 multiplied by itself 488 times - or 26 to the 488th power. Or, in other words, in base 10, 10 to the 690th.

[Now] the number of particles in the universe - not grains of sand, I'm talking about protons, electrons, and neutrons - is 10 to the 80th. Ten to the 80th is 1 with 80 zeros after it. Ten to the 690th is one with 690 zeros after it. There are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials; you'd be off by a factor of 10 to the 600th.

If you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips - forget the monkeys - each one weighing a millionth of a gram and had each computer chip able to spin out 488 trials at, say, a million times a second; if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second [producing] random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. It would be off again by a factor of 10 to the 600th. You will never get a sonnet by chance. The universe would have to be 10 to the 600th times larger. Yet the world thinks the monkeys can do it every time. [Gerald Schroeder, "Has Science Discovered God?"]

After hearing Schroeder's presentation, I told him that he had satisfactorily and decisively established that the "monkey theorem" was a load of rubbish, and that it was particularly good to do it with just a sonnet; the theorem is sometimes proposed using the works of Shakespeare or a single play, such as Hamlet. If the theorem won't work for a single sonnet, then of course it's simple absurd to suggest that the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance.


Gargravarr said...

The probability that monkeys would bang out a particular list of characters (a sonnet) is calculated by first finding the probability that any one specific key might be chosen at random from the keyboard and then, using this probability, calculating the probability that a particular list might be created. This technique results in a probability that is not only true for the particular list in question (the sonnet) but holds true for ANY particular list of characters desired. Let's say you run a single trial and get a result. This result has the same insanely high probability of not occurring as the sonnet, and yet it occurred ON THE VERY FIRST TRY. This illustrates the idea that probability can definitely predict the likelihood of a desired outcome, but cannot tell us whether or not that outcome WILL or WILL NOT occur, definitely.
Also, given that there exists much of the universe that mankind has never seen or explored, because we lack the technology or simply because light from the part of the universe has yet to reach us, there can be no way that science knows the exact amount of matter that exists in the universe. That doesn't matter so much in certain situations, which is why the number qouted was created in the first place, but in this instance, when we are using this number to prove God exists, I would argue that the data is not near accurate enough.

Father Hollywood said...

For complex systems to work together, there is a huge amount of coordination needed. In fact, in a Godless Darwinian paradigm, you need a "first cause" and a tremendously complex chain of events which, if any one small piece of the puzzle is missing, it all breaks down. It is a needle in a haystack, or more accurately, a needle in quadrillions of haystacks.

Of course, even if you had an infinite amount of time, a tornado will never run through a junkyard and assemble a 747. There is no credible scientist who would stumble upon the Empire State Building and posit that it is a random assembly of steel and glass, a natural rock formation unguided by an intelligent architect.

The complexity of it all - and you are right, there is much we don't know (which means even *more* complexity and evidence of design that we haven't even discovered yet!) - makes any attempt to say it all happened at random to be shown to be nothing more than superstition, a fairy tale that is anything but science.

I don't believe the math proves that God exists so much as it disproves that life evolved randomly. Michael Behe, for instance, doesn't believe in God per se, but he himself believes the Darwinian theory that all life evolved from random mutations from lower life forms (sans intelligence) is poppycock.

Thanks for writing!

Swede said...

"a tornado will never run through a junkyard and assemble a 747"

If you think this is how Evolution work you should really stay far away from discussing it.

I suggest you try to be a good student and read up on the subject. Try to do so without any preconceived notions. Also try to widen you view to not only include christian apologists or intelligent design advocates like Michael Behe.

Pastor said...

Swede: One of the biggest fallacies going is the notion of intellectual neutrality. That 'notion' has plagued so-called critical (and so-called scholarly Biblical) thinking for far too long.

There is a bias every time the status quo is questioned. Darwin was biased, Behe is biased, Fr. Hollywood is biased, you are biased, and I am biased.

People should be free to believe what they wish to believe about the origins of the universe and the species. What the examples with the 747 out of a junkyard and the monkeys with their computers demonstrate is the leap of faith required to follow Darwinian evolution. Evolution is not science until you can replicate it - until then it is a faith.

Faith is, by its very nature, unproven and distinct from knowledge. Evolutionists themselves have theorized the necessary probabilities for everything to happen as it has happened, and for myself as a Christian, it is simply incompatible with the Christian faith. Evolutionists look at the Christian faith and say that it is incompatible with how they believe things came about.

There's nothing wrong with learning more about evolutionary theory, but please do not assume that anyone is unbiased when it comes to these things. That's just absurd.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Swede:

If you can refute the problems of creatio ex nihilo, of the complexity of the smallest components of life (as more complexity is being discovered all the time) and of the outrageous probability of even a small piece of genetic code being generated at random - I'm all ears.

In my formal education, I was never even exposed to those who question the evolutionary orthodoxy - that is until I was at seminary (I took one elective in which the issue was broached - I had to do the reading on my own). Up until that time, evolutionary theory was always presented as ironclad fact - and its many problems were never even brought up.

Any attempt to teach a minority view that evolutionary theory is wrought with problems and leaps of faith or that there is observable data that at least seem to indicate that the universe is not random but is the product of a greater intelligence - went unmentioned.

And today, at least in the U.S., any attempt to do so results in lawsuits. What are the proponents of evolution so afraid of? If the theory can hold its own, why this abject fear of any dissent, or even questioning? It's an absolute joke.

That, sir or madam, is bias. I was compelled by the state to listen to bias. On the other hand, this is a blog. You're free to read it or not. Have *you* been exposed to both sides, or are you just engaging in knee-jerk bias yourself? Did you read the two authors that I happened to mention here? What about the remarkable precision with which chemical systems must interact at the cellular level (raised by Behe)? At very least, these are significant problems that can't just be brushed away by a pat on the head and the threat of a lawsuit. Mainstream science itself isn't as keen on Darwin as it once was.

Neither Behe nor Flew started out as believers in intelligent design, and neither one of them is a Christian (in fact, Behe doesn't believe in God). They are simply reporting on where they have found themselves after objectively looking at the evidence.

What about the issues raised by men like Behe and Flew? Do you have anything to offer other than condescension? Neither the monkey illustration or the "tornado in a junkyard" parable came from believers in God.

Maybe the emperor has no clothes.

Swede said...


"Evolution is not science until you can replicate it - until then it is a faith."

That's funny. The God theory doesn't even try to present anything that can ever be replicated or proven. Guess you dodged a bullet there.

As for evolution not being proven:

"but please do not assume that anyone is unbiased when it comes to these things."

I don't assume any such thing. I'm acknowledging it as a problem. However you seem to think that your bias in the form of your Christian faith trumps everything else.

Swede said...

Father Hollywood

"If you can refute the problems of creatio ex nihilo, of the complexity of the smallest components of life"

I can't of course. However I can make something up that will be as likely as Goddidit.

"If the theory [of evolution] can hold its own, why this abject fear of any dissent, or even questioning? It's an absolute joke."

I'm not opposed to scientist arguing about different theories. It just shouldn't be done 3:rd grade class room.

If you want a theory to pass muster you publish your results and wait for the per review process to take place. If the evidence is strong enough and reproducible it will in time become taught in science class. This worked for the theory of evolution and so it aught to work for ID. Assuming of course that it has any truth to it.

"What about the issues raised by men like Behe and Flew? Do you have anything to offer other than condescension? Neither the monkey illustration or the "tornado in a junkyard" parable came from believers in God."

I don't care who first used the arguments. They fact that you did indicates to me that you have a very limited understanding of the theory in question. Either that or you use it knowing it's a horrible representation, but figured it's good enough to fool some uneducated fence sitters. If that is the case it's truly reprehensible.

As for Behe's Irreducible complexity argument it's has yet been proven to hold water. All the complexities that I remember of hand like the flagellum and the eye etc have all be refuted and proved to not be irreducible.

And even if we where unable to explain how something started or evolved, how does that prove intelligent design? Short of a "made in Heaven" stamp on the inside of a cell membrane i can't think of anything that would make me think the Christian God did it. (or any other supernatural being either just to cover all bases.)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Swede:

Your non-answer is exactly what would make the most rational sense when you're holding a lousy hand and are trying to bluff your way through the game.

But your comment "Short of a 'made in Heaven' stamp on the inside of a cell membrane i can't think of anything that would make me think the Christian God did it. (or any other supernatural being either just to cover all bases.)" is most revealing. It shows that you have reached your conclusions already, and evidence be damned. It reminds me of Luke 16:31 (Plus ├ža change...).

While Flew does not believe in the Christian God either, I admire his courage and intellectual integrity to follow the evidence where it leads - even if it means having to admit that his academic conclusions of half a century have been wrong.

Your presumption that those who don't agree with you are "uneducated" is truly reprehensible. You will find simpletons and scholars in both camps. But if ad homimem is all you've got, than it's all you've got - unless you care to re-examine your premises. That's what a scientist would do.

Anonymous said...

the needle in a quadrillion haystacks argument is bad. the needle is still there, and given enough time, it will be found.

there needs to be a scenario where there are only haystacks and no needles.

These mathematic probabilities are just that... probabilities. They still ascribe some bit of probability to the scenario. Even if it is 1 in 1000000000000etc..., it is still ONE! And that could still occur.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Kgineymerej:

Thanks for weighing in, you're absolutely right. Anything is theoretically possible. I could say "shazam" and a million dollars could suddenly materialize in front of me (which the U.S. federal reserve does all the time, by the way...). I could clap my hands and my house could turn into a cow. It would be quite a miracle, but it is theoretically possible.

Miracles can indeed happen - which is what such an occurrence as finding a needle in a quadrillion haystacks would be. Evolutionary science is asking us to believe in miracles - and not just one, but rather miracle after miracle in a precise string of sequential miraculous events. But miracles are the realm of the supernatural. Atheists and believers in evolution tend not to believe in them.

No reputable scientist would ever argue that the golden mask found in King Tutankhamun's tomb could have been a natural rock formation generated at random (a needle in a quadrillion haystacks) that just happened to be in the tomb by coincidence, that it had no designer, that great as the odds may be, it is possibly just a coincidental accident of molecules.

Again, the problem is not that we're talking about a hundred-to-one shot, we're talking about probabilities of the astronomical sort of having more theoretical haystacks than there are particles in the universe. When the numbers become that large, they cease to have any practical meaning. They are merely theoretical.

Besides, even the "needle in a haystack" analogy falls by the wayside when we consider the origin of the needle. Finding a needle even in one haystack is impossible when there isn't a needle. Where did the needle come from? And when the "ex nihilo" problem is raised, it's not even a mathematical issue any more than division by zero is. It has moved beyond rational science. At that point, it becomes the realm of philosophy and/or theology.

Rev. Daniel Robert Skillman said...

I know that sometimes it's difficult to believe that there is a god. Sometimes we wonder, "Why doesn't he SHOW himself?" Of course, he has, in Jesus. But you know what I mean, right? We get assaulted on television and in the movies by atheism. Think about HOUSE. That's just one example. I could name others. Like, Bill Maher. How about Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett? They've all written high profile books promoting atheism and thoroughly trashing religion, specifically Christianity. And they have sold very well. There's subtle and not so subtle digs against theism and Christian theism in particular. It gets depressing, and sometimes you wonder if they're right. Maybe there is no god at all. Maybe we believe in a fairy tale.

Then I remember this: From nothing, nothing comes. That’s a scientific axiom, and it’s a pretty serious problem for atheism.

But, for our purposes, let’s assume that that axiom is false. Let’s just leave it by the wayside and proceed as if everything could come from nothing with no first cause. There’s still a huge problem for atheism.

There's the fact that if atheism is true, then reason and logic don't exist. They are just accidental products of random chance, like everything else.

But chance isn't a reason. Chance is opposed to reason. Chance is chance, luck, a description of something happening without a reason.

In an atheistic universe, reason wouldn't exist, only chance. Everything would happen by chance. Everything. Your thoughts would happen by chance.

So, if this is an atheistic universe, then there is no such thing as reason or logic. All our thoughts are just accidental byproducts of random, chance events. Here's the rub, then: How would anyone ever "reason" out that atheism is true.

By definition, you couldn't. There would be no such thing as reason.

I think that atheism is fundamentally irrational. It is irrational as the following sentence: I can't write a word of English.

Sometimes it's difficult to see that because so many people dress atheism up in science and scientific talk. Theists are put down as though they have only "faith," and atheists have logic and scientific evidence on their side.

I think that science, reason, logic, and evidence are on the side of the theists. The only "reason" we know that anything is reasonably true is because there is such a thing as reason and logic. And standing behind them both is the ground of reason and logic...some sort of god. (In fact, it can be shown that this is a particular sort of god, but that’s not the point of this essay.)

I truly think that atheism collapses under its own weight. I hope that I’ve shown that here.

The only way to support atheism is to assume that there is such a thing as "reason." The trouble, philosophically speaking, (i.e. speaking as a lover of wisdom, knowledge, science, and reason) is that assumption presupposes that there is a god. The assumption that reason exists is a theistic assumption.

Poof. Atheism disappears.

I know that atheism is a deeply complex and subtly nuanced theory (or, really, set of theories). But that doesn't mean that the refutation needs to be complex. A house of cards might take hours to set up. But pull out one key card, and it all falls flat.

Complicated nonsense is still nonsense. Just take a look at

Atheism is nonsense. I don't say this as a jab. I say it as an affirmation of what atheism entails concerning itself. Literally, by its own definition, atheism is nonsense. On atheistic presuppositions, there is no such thing as "sense" or "reason" or "logic." There is only chance.

Atheism is a self-refuting theory. It falls flat.

So, if atheism is false, then what are the alternatives? I think that any middle way is excluded in this case. If "there is no god" is a false statement, then it must be true that there is a god.

There is a god. The next question for anyone should be, "Who is he/it, and what is my relationship to him/it?"

Pastor said...

Dear Swede,

"That's funny. The God theory doesn't even try to present anything that can ever be replicated or proven. Guess you dodged a bullet there."

I think you missed the point - there is a distinction between knowledge and faith. Christians acknowledge this, but evolutionary scientists do not acknowledge this. Since there is no evidence of macroevolution (appreciated the study from Michigan State University, a campus I visited earlier today - it shows microevolution, but not macroevolution, and even the commenting scientists, who appeared supportive of the idea, were skeptical at the results), anyone who says that Darwinian theory (and his successors) explains how things came to be is confessing their faith - speaking what they believe has happened. Darwinism is a faith, not a fact. For this reason, you do not find me (or Fr. Hollywood) trying to prove to you that God is real, etc. How does that dodge a bullet?

"I don't assume any such thing. I'm acknowledging it as a problem. However you seem to think that your bias in the form of your Christian faith trumps everything else."

I apologize that I came across that way (that my Christian bias trumps everything). I do not believe that biases are problematic as long as they are acknowledged. Allow me to clarify - my Christian bias is the lens through which I see everything. I do not expect it to trump you. And I do not expect it to trump anyone else.

Scientists are skeptical people - why is it then a problem if I am skeptical when theories (i.e. beliefs) are touted as facts? If evolutionary science is so convincing and irrefutable, why is it that so many people from so many backgrounds, both faithful and unfaithful, are unconvinced? Again, remember that I am not trying to convince you to agree with me. I don't have any such power. All I am pointing out is that I believe things came to be in a different way than you believe them to have come to be. I respect that you disagree with me, but, respectfully, I disagree with you.

Swede said...


"... appreciated the study from Michigan State University, a campus I visited earlier today - it shows microevolution, but not macroevolution"

Please don't use microevolution as if it a special form of evolution. The only difference is the amount of time it occurs over.

As for faith and knowledge. I can't have faith in something that is deemed supernatural. I think ultimately there exist and naturalistic explanation for everything. The God theory accepts that there will never be an explanation and that we should settle for something a desert tribe came up with thousand of years ago.

I think we can do better.

Swede said...

Rev. Daniel Robert Skillman

You sure do write a lot.

Lets just get one thing straight. Atheism is nothing more the the rejection of theism. You can not pack Evolution the Big bang or Quantum mechanics etc. into atheism. It's just rejection of theism.

It does not try to explain why there is something instead of nothing or any other claim like that.

I would like to point out that saying that God created it all doesn't really explain HOW he/she/it did it though. And as such it's a pointless statement.

Besides, where did the Creator hang out before creating the universe? How did that place came to be? Did it spring out of nothing, or does God have a God that created God.

Pastor said...

Dear Swede,

It does not appear that you've ever understood Christianity. No Christian believes that a 'desert tribe' came up with it thousands of years ago. If that were the case who would believe it? Does it ever strike you that billions of people from all walks of life around the globe confess this faith? If we honestly believed that it was founded by some 'desert tribe' thousands of years ago, do you think so many would put any stock in it? Read the Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds if you want to know what we believe about God, the Trinity, Christ, salvation, Baptism, and everlasting life. You could read all of them in five minutes, but there you have the heart of what we believe and confess about God. There is much more, of course, but those texts are universal to Christianity.

Microevolution and Macroevolution are distinct things because one thing (microevolution - distinct changes within a kind/genus) happens (and Christians acknowledge that) while the other does not. Macroevolution is not reproducible, and nor is there fossil/experimental evidence to demonstrate that macroevolution has ever actually taken place. All the same, even macroevolution does not explain the order and similarity of all of creation. If mutations occur across the kinds, shouldn't the evidence overwhelm us? Shouldn't it all point against intelligent design? Shouldn't the differences become pronounced?

You write, "I can't have faith in something that is deemed supernatural."

What you should say is that you can't have faith in something you have deemed supernatural. I can and I do. If you believe that evolutionary theory explains our existence, that is your confession of faith.

wmc said...

"I think ultimately there exist and naturalistic explanation for everything."

This is a dogmatic statement of faith.

Science, being either inductive (by controlled variable experiments) or retroductive (by the collection of evidence) is not equipped to deal in ultimates or absolutes.

Jay said...

silly creationists....

if you take a system that selects for the "hits" and discards the "misses" it would be VERY easy for monkeys (or anything including a random generator) to produce order and complexity.

now the mention of Behe in here to refute Darwin was HILARIOUS. Michael Behe has been discredited from every journal and was even shown to be A) a liar, or B) a terrible scientist when he was asked to support Intelligent Design at the trials for the Pennsylvania school board.

Evolution never claims life comes about randomly. if you dont have a good understanding of a topic why do you pretend you deserve to have an educated opinion on it?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jay:

That's a big "if" now, isn't it? I mean, it's like saying if I can disregard all the scrabble tiles from B through Z, and pull one of the remaining out at random, I can make a word. And you know what, you'll make a word every time!

The real world is a little more complex, though.

That's just the kind of reverse-engineered "science" one is forced into when one simply takes even the possibility of a Creator off the table.

That isn't science, it's superstition. What real scientist would ever observe Mount Rushmore and conclude anything other than that this was made by design?

Random features on a mountain indicate natural formation. Detailed and mathematically precise features point to a designer, a plan, and its execution. If you found a laptop in the desert, you would not conclude anything other than that it was designed by a human being.

If evolutionists were willing to express doubt that, say the statues at Easter Island, were created by design, I might at least admit that you're being honest. But I have yet to meet anyone who denies that those totems were designed.

But I guess that's why you need to resort to ad hominems.

Hardly surprising...

Jason Glastetter said...

A typewriter isn't random. In fact, it's designed to specifically have words be difficult to form. This is due to the fact that old typewriters would get stuck if too many nearby letters were typed at the same time. Even look at the location of the spacebar, it's rather far away. The keys are in a random arrangement.

A monkey banging on one isn't exact random either. Much like anything with a bell curve, the center is probably most appealing (of which the spacebar is far from). The spacebar also lacks the audio stimulus the other keys have.