Probability is that branch of mathematics which deals with "chance" or uncertain phenomena. The probability of a given event is a number, between zero and one, which measures how likely it is that the event will occur. If an event is impossible, its probability is zero. If an event is an absolute certainty, its probability is one. A probability of one out of two, or 1/2, means that it is just as likely that the event will happen as it is that the event will not happen. Sometimes this situation is described by terms such as "50 percent chance," "50-50 chance, " or "even money." The closer the probability is to one, the likelier the event is. For instance, an event whose probability is equal to one out often (or 1/10) is more probable than one whose probability is one out of a thousand (or 1/1000). On the other hand, the closer the probability is to zero, the less likely the event is. An event whose probability is 1/1000 is less probable than one whose probability is 1/10. Now to the question at hand. What does probability have to do with evolution? The theory of evolution claims that life, in all of its complexity, originally came into existence by random combinations of dead chemicals, i.e., by chance. And since probability is the mathematics of chance, probability should have a great deal to say about evolution. In the following two articles some of the relationships between evolution and probability are discussed.
A LEFT-HANDED TWIST: AMINO ACIDS IN METEORITES — EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION?
According to modern evolutionary theory, primitive life first appeared on the earth several billion years ago when random combinations of simple molecules such as methane, ammonia and water fortuitously came together to form amino acids. These amino acids in turn presumably united to form exceedingly complex proteins which then combined with nucleic acids that happened to be present to ultimately yield a self-replicating group of molecules: "primitive" life. For years, many men, especially those religiously oriented, questioned whether such simple molecules could ever — by chance — produce amino acids, which are considerably more complex. Then, in 1953, Dr. Stanley Miller and other scientists demonstrated that if hydrogen, ammonia, methane, and water vapor were placed in a simulated "primitive planetary atmosphere," these simple molecules could indeed produce amino acids! More recently Dr. Sidney Fox of the University of Miami succeeded in synthesizing some nine amino acids by heating ammonia and formaldehyde together at temperatures below 2000 C. In some experiments, a source of energy in the form of ultraviolet light or an electric discharge was needed, but this merely corresponded to radiation from the sun, or to the presence of lightning. Chalk one up for evolution, Yet the question remained: Could amino acids be produced by natural causes without the assistance of men? The answer turns out to be yes! In several studies, scientists of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have found up to 17 different amino acids in meteorites from outer space, Interestingly, the researchers find an almost equal number of "left-handed" and "right-handed" amino acids, What do we mean by "left-handed" and "right-handed" amino acids? Simply this: Every amino acid (with the exception of glycine) found in the proteins of living organisms can exist in two forms, each one the mirror image of the other. Since they have the same spatial relationship as a pair of gloves, one type is arbitrarily called "right-handed" (D, dextro, right), and the other "left-handed" (L, levo, left), The two forms are identical. They have exactly the same chemical composition, They have exactly the same physical properties: exactly the same density, melting point, solubility, etc. In fact, were it not for the fact that they rotate a beam of polarized light in opposite directions, they would be virtually indistinguishable, How do scientists refute those who might claim that the meteoric amino acids are the result of contamination after the meteorites reached the earth? The answer is that the left-handed configuration of amino acids predominates on earth; yet meteorites contain an almost equal number of left-handed and right-handed amino acids. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that contamination of meteorites has occurred, NASA scientists have concluded that the discovery of meteoric amino acids is "probably the first conclusive proof of extraterrestrial chemical evolution" — that is, such discoveries prove that amino acids can be produced away from the earth from simple molecules by presumably natural causes, Chalk another one up for evolution? On the contrary, "Chemical evolution" is not biological evolution. The result of a few chemicals randomly joining together is very distinct and incalculably far removed from the "simplest" living organism,
There is less than one chance in a hundred thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion that even a single one of all the protein molecules that ever existed on earth would, by chance alone, have only left-handed amino acids!
In this and the accompanying article, some of the incredibly remote probabilities are discussed as to the likelihood that molecules would "line up," But for these molecules to actually chemically combine would be still even more unlikely. In addition, one would have to consider the chance that the resulting chemical chain would have the proper three-dimensional structure suitable for life, Furthermore, the study of amino acids in meteorites is actually highlighting the uniqueness of life by underscoring an embarrassing fact which every evolutionist must eventually face, Since left-handed and right-handed amino acids carry equivalent amounts of chemical energy, it is entirely expected that random combinations of molecules would produce equal amounts of both right-handed (D) and left-handed (L) amino acids, This is exactly what is found in the "primitive atmosphere" experiments and the meteorite analyses. Now, if life truly evolved following the random production of the D and L forms of the necessary amino acids, then we should find both forms of amino acids in the proteins of living organisms on earth. But such is not the case! The amino acids which are constituents of proteins in living things are only the L-amino acids! The D-amino acids, while readily formed in the laboratory, are never found in the proteins of any known form of life! Why? Consider the odds against even a modest 400-amino-acid protein forming with all left-handed amino acids, The original "primitive soup" presumably would have had roughly equal amounts of Land D amino acids, as stated above, Thus each amino acid site on our hypothetical protein chain would have a one-in-two or 50-50 chance of being left-handed, Since each site has a one-in-two probability, the chances of the first and second site both being left-handed is 1 in 22 or 1 in 4. For the first three sites being left-handed, the chances are 1 in 23 or 1 in 8, It follows that the probability for all four hundred amino acids being left-handed is one in 2400 or about one in 10120. This means that, on the average, there is one chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that all the amino acids of a chance combination will be all left-handed! Or, to put it in words, the odds are a thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion to one against such a protein forming by chance! Such an unlikely probability is impossible to comprehend, except perhaps by comparison to other large numbers. According to Dr. Murray Eden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the total number of protein molecules that has ever existed on earth is about 1052. This is a rather generous estimate, but let us assume it's true. Let us further assume that all these 1052 protein molecules are the size of the modest 400-unit protein we have been considering. When we compare 1052 to 10120, we reach the conclusion that there is less than one chance in a hundred thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion that even a single one of all the protein molecules that ever existed on earth would, by chance alone, have only left-handed amino acids! And, of course, even if such a molecule did come into existence, it would not, by any stretch of the imagination, constitute "life." Another comparison: The number 1080 is a generous estimate of the total number of atoms in the entire universe. Let's assume that every atom in the universe represents a separate randomly produced protein of 400 amino acids. Actually, our assumption is ridiculous because each protein molecule would require thousands of atoms to construct, so a universe of 1080 atoms could riot possibly contain 1080 proteins. But even so, the odds are still more than ten thousand billion billion billion billion to one against one or more of those chains being solely comprised of left-handed amino acids! And remember, we are not even requiring any particular sequence for the 20 different kinds of amino acids. Our only stipulation is that they be left-handed. Is the left-handed twist found throughout living things just "another chance accident," as most evolutionists are forced to claim, or is it a result of the forethought and planning of every organism on earth? The answer should be obvious. The fact that the amino acids in living protein are all L-amino acids cannot be explained by evolutionary theory. However, it can be readily explained as the result of the purposeful design of a Supreme Designer! Chalk one up, a big one, for the Creator!
LIFE BY CHANCE? by William Stenger
Where did 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 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 life coming into existence by chance, the greater improbability of such constituents actually producing living organisms by chance, and the fundamental inadequacies of the arguments offered by evolutionists to try to make improbable events probable. 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 life. These molecules actually consist of chains of chemical compounds called amino acids. A very 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 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. 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 ten 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 seawater. 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 times 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 100 billion (= 1011") years. Therefore, we would have 1078 X 1011 = 1089 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 1089 tries is less than 1089/10130 = 1/1041. 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. And the odds against an average-size protein of 500 amino acids evolving are, of course, far greater. True, 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 the conclusion that a protein could not form at random. But it does show the incredible odds against it happening! 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 they want? Do they 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. 2) Not all chains of amino acids are equally likely to be formed. The ones needed for life 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). 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 be willing to bet your life on it? Would you send your child to school on a bus which had one chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (= 1041) of arriving safely? In spite of the counterarguments, the following facts stand. Fact one: If all the stars in the universe had ten 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 inconceivably remote. But what if a protein did form by chance? Would that be life? Is that all there is to 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. Fact two: Natural selection — like a sieve — can only "produce" as output those organisms which already existed as input. Most 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. But natural selection deals with the survival or extinction of an organism, not with its origin. Certainly natural selection might explain why an organism survives or dies. But it cannot explain where the organism came from in the first place. 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 of a sieve. Suppose you had a mixture of sand, pebbles, rocks etc., and you 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 life and given certain environmental conditions, the animals and plants which are more suited to the
Reasoning based on probability alone cannot prove that a protein could not form at random. But it does show the incredible odds against it happening!
environment — more fit to survive — will survive. Those which are unfit to survive will die out. But note that natural selection does not explain the origin of the initial mixture of plants and animals. A classic 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, etc., 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. Fact three: Mutations are strictly limited and cannot produce genuinely new forms of life. Evolutionists claim mutations can produce genuinely new forms of life for input in the natural selection "sieve," but this has never been demonstrated. True, variation within a given species can — and often does — occur. Witness the fantastic variety of dogs which have "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 a badger or raccoon. Scientists, in an attempt to produce "new and improved" species, have irradiated many forms of 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 at all. 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. 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 life forms which exist today the result of the unfathomably improbable, blind-chance occurrence of highly complex molecules, followed by even more blind-chance combinations of these molecules? No. Does natural selection provide the answer? No. Do mutations explain how evolution occurs? No. The conclusion is inescapable. Life was planned. Life was designed. Life was created!