This article is from
Creation 1(1):9–10, June 1978

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

A look at some figures


Illustration by Caleb Salisbury

Evolutionists generally believe that although the spontaneous generation of life from non-living matter was a highly improbable event, the amount of time available is long enough to overcome this problem. This fallacy is because they (and most of us, really) just haven’t gotten around to some actual calculating on some of these problems.

The difficult thing is to conceive the size of some of the figures obtained. James F. Coppedge in the book Evolution: Possible or Impossible? has given some fascinating examples, one of which is here presented. Consider first this statement from the evolutionist George Wald writing on The Origin of Life in Scientific American August, 1954, p. 48.

“Time is in fact the hero of the plot. The time with which we have to deal is of the order of two billion years. What we regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is meaningless there. Given so much time, the ‘impossible’ becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait; time itself performs the miracles.”

This is the very first article in the Article Section of the first Creation magazine, called Ex Nihilo, produced by Dr Carl Wieland in June 1978, and published under the name of the Creation Science Association (an organisation he and others founded in 1977, three years prior to the existence of the ministry now known as Creation Ministries International.

Now using Coppedge’s figures, let’s look at the time it would take for one simple gene to arrange itself by chance. (Remember, natural selection cannot operate until a self-replicating system is produced). Of course, this gene by itself is still only a dead molecule in the absence of other genes and other complex chemicals all perfectly arranged in time and space. Nevertheless, let us use as many sets as there are atoms in the universe. Let us give chance the unbelievable number of attempts of eight trillion tries per second in each set! At this speed on average it would take 10147 years to obtain just one usable gene. What does this number really mean?

Let’s look at Coppedge’s example; assume we have an amoeba—and let’s assume that this little creature is given the task of carrying matter, one atom at a time from one edge of the universe to the other (thought to be about thirty billion light years in diameter). Let’s further assume that this amoeba moves at the incredibly slow pace of one Angstrom unit (about the diameter of a hydrogen atom) every fifteen billion years (this is the assumed age of the universe assigned by many evolutionists). How much matter could this amoeba carry in this time calculated to arrange just one usable gene by chance? The answer is that he would be able to carry 2 x 1021 complete universes!

The more information comes to hand, the more preposterous the whole idea of a naturalistic origin of life becomes.

This means that all the people living on earth, man, woman and child, counting day and night, would be counting for five thousand years just to count the number of entire universes which this amoeba would have transported across a distance of thirty billion light years, one atom at a time.

Coppedge’s book makes fascinating reading in other respects and is one of the few works that really comes to grips with this matter of molecular biology and probability mathematics.

Evolutionists would have us believe that modern molecular biology lends its support to their world view, but the more information comes to hand, the more preposterous the whole idea of a naturalistic origin of life becomes.

Update, August 2012

Since the above article was written, 34 years of research into the structure of the cell has revealed even more amazing and intricate machinery. The idea that a living cell could form from non-living chemicals is becoming even more implausible with time.

Readers’ comments

Daniel R.
Evolutionists have missed the boat (ark of safety). Man is not a biological unit upon which they narrowly focus. Man is a spiritual unit dwelling fleetingly in a biological body which will expire, pass away & is of miniscule importance. They ignore the spiritual component which is of immense & lasting importance. [Followed by extensive Scripture citation without comment: Isaiah 14:12-17, 1:2-6, 18]

Daniel R.
Right on! The actual number of years is larger, the largest known and any one of us can write it in a second: ∞ ....infinity. When does one conclude beyond doubt it is impossible, what is the mathematical number of impossible? It is a number known to natural man but not God!
Paul T.
Somehow I think that many people reading this article will reject it outright. Not that the information is not correct or compelling but rather they firstly do not like to be told the are wrong and secondly because they do not want to admit that all we see around us is created. So for some it does not matter how foolish evolution gets, they will find a way of believing it. It is difficult to change a mindset when it is so firmly ingrained.
William B.
The probability argument is a good one but also is not a nail in the coffin of evolutionary thought since it is often dismissed by evolutionists as irrelevant. They will say that at every moment events with extremely small probabilities of happening still happen. Thus, they argue, the high probability of an event not happening is not proof that it cannot happen. They will also deny that the Law of Biogenesis need apply in the distant past because we are here and that is proof enough that it didn't exist at one time long ago. However, by that argument they forfeit any right to refer to their storytelling as science. They are simply starting with the axiom of incredible amounts of time rather than the axiom of an Almighty God. Not to say we should not have ministries like CMI, for we must have an answer for the hope that is in us, but on an individual basis, an argument is pointless if the parties cannot begin with the same axioms.
Bob S.
Given the axiom/observation that life can only come from life (or a supernatural intelligence/ability) doesnt this mean that no amount of time or sets of combinations per second could ever produce a living cell, much less the finite length of time since the beginning of matter and the finite number of atoms available for chance combinations?
Carl Wieland
This would be so given the axiom, but a materialist/evolutionist would deny the axiom. He/she would likely argue that the axiom is unprovable and that even though today we only see life coming from life, it must have happened in the remote past. This is similar to the logic used in explaining some scientific reasoning, i.e. the fact that we have never seen a white crow does not mean that all crows are black, it only means that provisionally until a white crow is observed. So your argument has merit but is not I think a knockout punch.
Jack C.
Yes, it is very easy using fairly basic mathematics to demonstrate the theory of evolution is a whole lot of nonsense.

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