THIS PHYSICAL LIFE...Did It Begin by Chance?
Plain Truth Magazine
September 1981
Volume: Vol 46, No.8
Issue: ISSN 0032-0420
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THIS PHYSICAL LIFE...Did It Begin by Chance?
William Stenger  

   WHERE did physical life come from? Did highly complex molecules form by chance in a primeval chemical soup? Did these molecules combine by chance into highly complex combinations of molecules, thereby producing "simple" living organisms? Did such "simple" organisms evolve into increasingly more complex living organisms over billions, of years by chance mutations and natural selection?
   According to the theory of evolution, all living things, all human beings, all that we know of life on earth, came into existence through such chance processes.
   Just how credible is the theory of evolution? What happens if we apply the laws of chance probability to the theory?
   In the following, the facts will show the utter improbability of even the "simplest" constituents of physical life coming into existence by chance, the even greater improbability of such constituents actually producing living organisms by chance, and, finally, the fundamental inadequacies of the arguments offered by evolutionists to try to make improbable events probable.

A "Simple" Case

   First of all, let us consider the probability of a "simple" protein forming by chance.
   Proteins are, of course, essential molecules for the existence of physical life. These molecules actually consist of chains of chemical compounds called amino acids. A relatively simple protein would consist of a chain of about 100 amino acids. How likely would it be for such a protein to form by chance?
   Suppose we have a "soup" full of amino acids. We want these acids to link up at random to form a protein consisting of 100 amino acids. How many different combinations are there?
   Suppose there are 20 different types of amino acids available. If we wanted a chain of two acids, there would be 20 possibilities for the first acid and 20 for the second or a total of 20 X 20 = 400 possibilities. Similarly, if we wanted a chain of three acids, there would be 20 X 20 X 20 = 8,000 possibilities.
Does natural selection make unlikely collections of molecules possible? Natural selection like a sieve can only 'produce' as output organisms that already exist as input.
   Therefore, for a protein consisting of a chain of 100 acids, we have
   20 X 20 X X 20 = 20100
               100 times
possibilities. But 20100 is approximately equal to 10130, that is, 1 followed by 130 zeros.
   Is it reasonable to believe that such a protein could have been formed by chance during the history of the universe?
   Scientists have stated that there may be as many as 1022 stars in the observable universe. Let's be generous and say 1,000 times as many (1025) stars just to be on the safe side. Instead of allowing just one planet like earth for each star, we'll give each star 10 such planets for a total of 1026 "earths" in the universe.
   Let's also give each "earth" oceans the same size as our earth's oceans about 1046 molecules. Again, we'll be generous and fill the oceans with a "soup" of amino acids rather than sea water. So we have 1026 X 1046 = 1072 amino acids floating around.
   In order to give the evolutionists a sporting chance, we'll let all of these acids link up into chains 100 acids long every second. Since 100 = 102, this would give us 1072 102 = 1070 chains per second.
   A year has less than 108 seconds, but we'll round it off and say we have 1070 chains per second X 108 seconds per year for a total of 1078 chains per year.
   Now all we need is an upper bound on the age of the universe. Various estimates have been given, but a safe upper bound is about 10 billion (1010) years. Therefore, we would have 1078 X 1010 = 1088 chains formed in all our "oceans of amino acid soup" on all our "earths" around all the stars for all the years the universe has existed!
   But we have already seen that there are about 10130 possibilities. Therefore, the probability of forming by chance the given protein consisting of 100 amino acids in 1088 tries is less than 1088/10130 = 1/1042.
   How probable is this? The odds against such an event are beyond astronomical! Even though we have been exceedingly generous, the odds that one small protein could have evolved are infinitesimally small.
   The odds against an average-size protein of 500 amino acids evolving are, of course, even more enormous. An evolutionist (or maybe even a sincere skeptic) can always claim (preposterous as it seems) that it could have happened.
   Reasoning based on probability alone cannot lead to a conclusion that a protein could not form at random. But it does show the fantastic odds against it happening!

Answering the Evolutionist

   Here are some of the evolutionists' counterarguments and the answers:
   1) You can't prove anything by probability. Some people say you can't prove the world exists; you can't prove cyanide is poison unless you try it, etc. What kind of proof do you want? Do you want proof that things fall down, not up? From "back-alley" dice games to highly sophisticated research laboratories, the laws of probability have proven themselves to be just as dependable as the law of gravity.
   In fact, the laws of probability are intrinsic to the gathering of virtually all quantitative scientific information. A true scientist does not jump to conclusions based on a few bits and pieces of evidence. In science, no conclusions should be drawn no facts established as facts without a rigorous test of the hypotheses by means of the laws of probability!
   2) Not all chains of amino acids are equally likely to be formed. The ones needed for living organisms are more likely than the others. This is pure speculation. There is no evidence that such is the case. The idea is based on an analogy with other rare and completely unrelated chemical reactions (selective autocatalysis). Even if some chains could be proved to be more probable, this would not prove evolution. Quite the contrary, it would prove the existence of a law, which in turn demands a Lawgiver.
   3) Even though the probability is immeasurably small, it still is not zero. Therefore, it could have happened. Do you want to believe in such an improbable event? Is such a belief rational? Would you send your child to school on a school bus that had 1 chance in 1,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000 (1042) of arriving safely?
   4) Nevertheless, the presence of ourselves on Earth today is evidence that a sequence of similar events of almost zero probability did take place over 3 billion years ago. This incredible statement by Sir Bernard Lovell, from the book In the Centre of Immensities, is even more incredible as it was made immediately after the following admission: "The probability of such a chance occurrence leading to formation of one of the smallest protein molecules is unimaginably small. Within the boundary conditions of time and space which we are considering it is effectively zero." This type of reasoning, which has also been used by other evolutionists, is the most indefensible. It is what logicians call "circular reasoning." The evolutionist assumes
Certainly natural selection might explain why an organism survives or dies. But, it cannot explain where the organism came from in the first place.
that we evolved, albeit against fantastic odds, then observes that we do exist, and therefore, concludes that we evolved. Utter nonsense!
   In spite of these counterarguments, the following facts stand.
   Fact one: If all the stars in the universe had 10 earths, and if all the earths had oceans of "amino-acid soup," and if all the amino acids linked up in chains 100 acids long every second for the entire history of the universe, even then the chance occurrence of a given very simple protein would be extremely improbable.
   But what if a protein did form by chance? Would that be life as we know it? Is that all there is to this temporary physical life a blob of protein? Is a dead dog alive because he has protein? No! Protein is just one small piece of an intricately complex puzzle.

What About Natural Selection?

   Evolutionists freely admit that an organism (like you and me) is an extremely unlikely collection of molecules (including proteins). However, they claim that natural selection is the fundamental probability sieve which makes unlikely collections of molecules like you and me possible.
   Is this true? No! Natural selection deals with the survival or extinction of an organism, not how the organism originated.
   Certainly natural selection might explain why an organism survives or dies. But, it cannot explain where the organism came from in the first place. As one man aptly put it, "Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest."
   In order to see that this is the case, we'll use the evolutionist's analogy, that of a sieve.
   Suppose you had a mixture of sand, pebbles and rocks and put it into a sieve. The pebbles, rocks and coarser particles would be trapped by the sieve, while the fine sand would pass through. Would anyone seriously suggest that the sieve had produced the fine sand? Would anyone say that the sieve explained the origin of the fine sand? Ridiculous! The fine sand was there all along in the mixture.
   The same is true of the process of natural selection. Given many forms of physical life and given certain environmental conditions, the animals and plants that are more suited to the environment more fit to survive will survive. Those that are unfit to survive will die out. But note that natural selection does not explain the origin of the original mixture of plants and animals.
   A classical example of natural selection is the increase in the number of dark moths and the decrease in the number of light moths in parts of Britain after the Industrial Revolution. Did natural selection produce dark moths? Absolutely not! A mixture of dark and light moths existed all along. However, industrialization produced soot and dirt on trees, buildings and other objects so that the dark moths had better camouflage than the light ones the dark ones were more fit to survive. The sieve of natural selection allowed the dark moths to pass through while the light ones were trapped.
   Does natural selection really make unlikely collections of molecules like you and me possible?
   Fact two: Natural selection like a sieve can only "produce" as output those organisms that already exist as input.

What About Mutations?

   Couldn't mutations produce genuinely new forms of life for input in the natural selection "sieve"? No! This has never been demonstrated. True, variation within a given species can and often does occur. Witness the fantastic variety of dogs that has "evolved" largely under man's guidance over many centuries. Yet a dog is still a dog, and no dog has ever been observed to change into any other form of life.
   Scientists, in an attempt to produce "new and improved" species, have bombarded many forms of physical life with intense radiation designed to "speed up" the mutation process. This they have succeeded in doing but only in the rarest case has a mutation been considered "desirable," and in no case has an alteration of species occurred.
   For instance, numerous mutations of the Drosophila fruit fly have been induced. One remarkable group of flies had four wings, instead of two. A beneficial mutation? Hardly. It turned out that the four-winged flies could not fly.
   You might, as a matter of blind faith, believe that mutations are responsible for changing one species into another, but science has no evidence whatsoever for such a belief.
   Fact three: Mutations are strictly limited and cannot produce genuinely new forms of physical life.
   Let's put it all together. Fact one establishes that every organism is an incredibly unlikely collection of highly improbable molecules. Therefore, the odds against any organism coming into existence by pure chance are unbelievably fantastic! Fact two means that natural selection cannot make an organism more probable, since natural selection requires the preexistence of an organism. And fact three leads to the conclusion that mutations cannot account for the arrival of new kinds of organisms.
   Are the myriad forms that exist today the result of the unfathomably improbable, blind chance occurrence of highly complex molecules, followed by even more blind chance combinations of the molecules. No. Does natural selection provide the answer? No. Do mutations explain how evolution occurs? No.
   The conclusion is inescapable. This temporary chemical existence we call life was planned. Physical life was designed. Physical life was created!

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Plain Truth MagazineSeptember 1981Vol 46, No.8ISSN 0032-0420