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July 31, 2000 NEGATIVE:

# Evolution ‘probably’ happened?

I was reading several articles that you have on the possiblity of single self-replicating cell forming and I almost laughed at how one sided and stupid it was. First, I can't fault you for your common probability mistakes because most people make them. While the probibility that you presented, seems astronomical, it is taken way out of context. Consider this example that I remember reading: A plane is hit by a meteor while flying, which causes the plane to crash. The odds of that event happening are large, something in the range of 1 in 3 billion or so. But this is the possibility of that event happening at a particular time, not the probablity of that event EVER happening. Given how long people have been flying, how much air space is taken up by airplanes, and how many meteors make it through the earth’s atmosphere, the probability reduces down to about 1 in 32. Still unlikely, but reasonable. The point is, given more chances, a particular event is more likely to happen. Getting a royal flush in poker may be hard to do, but if you play the game enough times, you are bound to get it once. Now, back to your odds on cells forming. In the primordial soup, there is bound to be more than one chance for a cell to form. In fact given a thousands of years and multiple opportunities per day for a cell to form, the probability gets smaller and smaller. And that is just our planet! There could be many other planets that have the same mixture to form life, so that lessons the probablity even more. Given the size of our universe and the time that it has had to form life, it is almost a certainty that life would form somewhere. Sorry to spoil your religious fun but I hate to see people misguided.

—K.C.
Overland Park, KS, USA

Editor’s note: As usual, there is a lot of handwaving about the origins of life instead of specific calculations. In fact, K.C. shows that he/she does not understand odds / probability. If the likelihood of an event increases, the odds of it happening, or the probability of it happening, increases — the opposite of K.C.’s statements (twice).

Calculations on the probability of life forming by chance do take into account the possibility of multiple events, contrary to K.C.’s assertion. Even non-creationists (e.g. the mathematician and cosmologist, Sir Fred Hoyle) put the probability for the formation of the most basic of cells by natural processes at (at best) 1 in 1040,000 — that’s a number one with 40,000 zeros after it! Even this assumes all the ingredients are present, which is impossible! Now, if every atom in the universe were an experiment repeated every millisecond for the 15 billion years age of the universe commonly claimed by evolutionists, how does that affect the probability? It is now about 1 in 103900. So, when such improbable events are being discussed, the number of conceivable experiments has little effect on the matter. It is usually agreed that something with odds of less than 1 in 1050 will never happen. In other words, the origin of life without a Creator is as impossible as it is impossible to be!

K.C. also commits a probability fallacy refuted in our article Cheating with Chance. Also, there are no actual experiments to show that non-living matter can overcome the many chemical hurdles to form a self-reproducing cell (see Q&A: Origin of Life. That’s why no-one has claimed the \$1.35 Million (USD) Origin-of-Life Prize (http://www.us.net/life).