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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Suggesting That Life Arose By Blind Chance Is Absurd

"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 smallest 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-lettered word is 30 times 30 times 30, which is 27,000. The likelihood of a getting a one-letter word is one chance out of 27,000.

Schroeder then 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 the sonnet. What's the likelihood of hammering away and getting 488 letters in 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 690th is 1 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 690th.

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 288 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 time larger. Yet the world just thinks monkeys can do it every time."

Antony Flew, There Is a God, pg. 76-77

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