Realitology

“The Study of Reality”

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The Mathematics of God – The Stupidity of “Intelligent Design”
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One more installment in my recent anti-religion tirades…

I recently finished the book "Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up" by Jonh Allen Paulos.

It’s an interesting little book that, through mathematics, quite adeptly destroys all sorts of the supposed "logical" arguments for god. Regardless of the religious implications of the book, the author really lays out probability and mathematical principles in easy to understand ways. It was particularly fascinating to me how many things we see around us every day are hugely improbable statistically, yet they happen with great regularity.

Here’s a case in point…

I suppose everyone knows that creationism (the belief that a mystical sky fairy [god] created the universe) has been rebranded as "intelligent design" (ID). There’s been a new PR campaign in the world (mainly USA) to try to "prove" its validity and hold it up as an equal (or better) explanation than natural selection (evolution), and to have it taught in public schools.

Since there is of course no logical or scientific evidence of "intelligent design" [a 2000 year old story book which claims itself infallible is not evidence] , the best argument its supporters can come up with is that the probability that the world as we know it evolved from natural selection is highly unlikely.

Of course their whole "thought" process is severely flawed and show that its supporters have no knowledge of science and no concept of natural selection. They start out with the idea that the universe as it is now was the "goal" of evolution, rather than realizing that there was no end goal, only a starting place with an incomprehensible number of possible changes and outcomes which occurred over billions of years and ended up with what we have now. In other words it wasn’t planned to be this way it just ended up this way as a result of miniscule changes over billions of years.

But anyway, back the idea that the probability of the universe being this way is so unlikely as to be impossible. Paulos give a great illustration of things with an a seeming infinitesimal probability of occurring, occurring nonetheless.

Would you say that the odds of something having a 1 in 1068 probability of occurring would be small? Infinitesimal even? Would something with those sorts of odds ever occur? Just so we’re clear on the number; 1068 is 1 with 68 zeros after it. In other words something having a

1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

chance of occurring. It seems like something like that could never happen.

Well, if you shuffle a deck of 52 cards there is a 1 in 1068 chance of the cards ending up in any particular order. So every time you shuffle a deck of cards the order that the cards ended up in had a tiny 1 in 1068 chance of occurring, and yet it obviously did occur.

You would be justified in concluding that the probability that the cards ended up in that particular order was infinitesimal, but you would not be justified in concluding that since the odds were so small that it could not have possibly occurred. That my friends is what creationists try to do.

Simply because the a priori [rough translation: before the fact] chance of something happening is tiny, you can’t conclude that it could not have possibly occurred. When you shuffle cards they have to end up in some order. Regardless of the probability of any one particular order occurring, one particular order will occur. You cannot logically conclude that the possibility of moving from one order to another via shuffling is so improbable as to be impossible.

So how do we put this back into the real world of natural selection? Simply this: when an organism reproduces, the cards are reshuffled and any number of possible genetic changes will occur (as demonstrated by the fact that every offspring is not a perfect clone.) This particular genetic reshuffling that ends up was itself highly improbable to have occurred, but yet it did occur.

Genetics is of course much more complex than a deck of cards. When genes are shuffled there can be mutations which lead to more possibilities of changes in organisms. If you had a deck of cards that changed a tiny bit with every shuffle eventually it would not look like the deck you started out with. The possibilities of changes would increase the longer you shuffled the deck. If everyone of the 6 billion people on earth shuffled a similar deck then the number of change would grow exponentially. If they passed down their deck of cards to their offspring and the offspring continued to shuffle the deck over their lifetime then then the changes could grow even more exponentially. And if that continued for billions of years then the number of changes would continue to grow exponentially. 

Something simple can end up incredibly complex with tiny changes over long periods of time.

That in a nutshell is natural selection.
1- organisms reproduce
2- the offspring is slightly different that its parents
3- that offspring reproduces
4- Its offspring are slightly different that it is
5- ad infinitum

The evidence is right in front of our faces, we witness it every time a child is born and yet some people still want to claim that it doesn’t happen. As I’ve said before, someone who consistently doesn’t believe what they see happening with their very eyes, and who denies reality, is detached (brainwashed by beliefs) from reality. It’s sad on a human level, but it’s incredibly dangerous on a societal level to have people making decisions based on superstition and non-reality.

This whole deck of cards/number analogy thing was based on about 2 pages of Paulos’ book. If you read the whole book you’ll find many more "arguments" for god debunked. It’s a pretty entertaining read. Don’t be put off by "mathematics" in the title.

 

 

One Response to “The Mathematics of God – The Stupidity of “Intelligent Design””

  1. fairlane, on September 27th, 2008 at 6:31 pm, said:

    I have the answer-

    Intelligent Shuffling.

    Good to see you’re still ranting now, and again, B.

    Soothing ain’t it?

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