Wednesday, January 23, 2008


It's not the bullet with my name on it that worries me. It's the one that says "To whom it may concern." - Anonymous

In order for [a] monkey to type the thirteen letters opening Hamlet's soliloquy [-- To be or not to be --] by chance, it would take 26 to the power of 13 trials for success. This is sixteen times as great as the total number of seconds that have elapsed in the lifetime of our solar system.
Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things Pseudo science, Superstition, and Other Confusions of our Time, 1997

Cells consist essentially of proteins; one cell has thousands of
proteins, and proteins are in turn made up of smaller building blocks
called amino acids. Normally, chains of hundreds of amino acids compose
a protein, and these amino acids must be in precise functional order.
[...] Supposedly, amino acids formed in the primordial soup. Almost
every high school biology textbook recounts Dr. Stanley Miller's famous
experiment. [...]
But Sir Francis Crick, who shared a Nobel Prize for co-discovering DNA's
structure, has pointed out how impossible that would be. He calculated
that the probability of getting just one protein by chance would be one
in ten to the power of 260—that's a one with 260 zeros after it. To put
this in perspective, mathematicians usually consider anything with odds
worse than one in ten to the power of 50 to be, for all practical
purposes, impossible. Thus chance couldn't produce even one protein—let
alone the thousands most cells require.
And cells need more than proteins—they require the genetic code. A
bacterium's genetic code is far more complex than the code for Windows
98. Nobody thinks the program for Windows 98 could have arisen by
—James Perloff, _The Case Against Darwin_, 2002
[my ellipses-dck]

What are the odds of a monkey typing one predetermined nine-letter word,
such as "evolution"? We'll give Huxley a break, and assume a typewriter
with only letters, no other symbols. Obviously, the first letter, "e",
would be a piece of cake. But to get "evolution", since the alphabet has
26 letters, one must multiply 26 by itself eight times. We find the
monkey would need, on average, more than five trillion attempts just to
write "evolution" once correctly. Typing ten letters per minute, this
would take over a million years. To get two consecutive predetermined
nine-letter words—such as "evolution commenced"—would take more than a
billion billion years, taking us much further back than the Big Bang,
which supposedly occurred some 15 billion years ago. [...]
Dr. Duane Gish puts the monkey matter in perspective:
If one billion planets the size of the earth were covered
eyeball-to-eyeball and elbow-to-elbow with monkeys, and each monkey was
seated at a typewriter (requiring about 10 square feet for each monkey,
of the approximately 10^16 square feet available on each of the 10^8
planets), and each monkey typed a string of 100 letters every second for
five billion years, the chances are overwhelming that not one of those
monkeys would have typed the sentence correctly... There would not be
the slightest chance that a single one of the 10^24 monkeys (a trillion
trillion monkeys) would have typed a preselected sentence of 100
letters (such as "The subject of this Impact article is the naturalistic design
of life on the earth under assumed primordial conditions") without a
spelling error, even once.—James Perloff, _The Case Against Darwin_, 2002

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