Fairy tales for adults (long)

Jeremy Larner jeremy.larner at dunelm.org.uk
Fri Feb 14 16:07:07 PST 2003

Björn Lindberg wrote:
> Jeremy Larner <jeremy.larner at dunelm.org.uk> writes:
>>You may well be right and I could be completely misunderstanding it,
>>but I thought it meant that, given that there is no intelligent design
>>in the universe, and that everything is random, that's the probability
>>that things would come out looking as designed as they do.  I think
>>that's the point I was trying to make.  I'm not sure I understand what
>>you mean by 'uniqueness'...
> I am saying that if there at this time are 10^229 possible states in
> shich the universe could be, then each one of these states has a
> probability of 1 to 10^229 of occuring.

Yes, but whenever you're building a model that there is no way you can 
test, you're forced to use historical data.  This is generally a very 
bad substitute, but sometimes you have no choice.  Now obviously, the 
results you generate are nowhere near as reliable as those from lab 
experiments.  However, when your model tells you that it has an 
extremely small chance of explaining things being the way they are, 
that's generally a bad sign, and normally given such results, I would be 
looking for an alternative theory...

>>Actually, reading over my own post, that's not really the figure I
>>want. I was actually looking for a model calculating the probability
>>of one molecule of DNA forming from amino acids, or something else
>>which is more from the theory of origins, rather than the figure I
>>quoted above which has more to do with randomly setting constants in
>>physics (I think).  Suffice to say that the the theory of origins as a
>>model also relies on some quite amazing coincidences...
> If there is anyone that actually is trying to fingure out such
> probabilities, and can assure you that any such calculations are many
> times more uncertain than the theory of evolution, and also, that they
> are /based/ on the theory of evolution. Any such numbers can thus not
> be used to disprove evolution, since they would then themselves lose
> their validity.
> Björn

There have been models, and they have assigned numbers to such things. 
And I don't think I agree with you about not being able to use them to 
test evolution.  As I said above, that's standard practice when testing 
models based on historical data.  You assume the model is correct, 
generate (lots of) results and see how they match (actually you usually 
use statistical methods to calculate the probability of the results that 
you do have)  If that probability is very small, you can it as evidence 
against the model (although not conclusive evidence by any means).  As 
far as I am aware, this is one of the reasons why so many biologists are 
moving away from evolution as a theory (another being the major gaps in 
the fossil record...)


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