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Can We Know?

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Professor Tom Shetler recently authored Can We Know, a 300+ page work on answering two questions: ‘Is there a God?’and ‘Can we know Him?’. In chapter 5, Shetler refuted naturalism and ‘evolution by chance’ by divulging its improbability.

Did you know that if you enter a mail-in sweepstakes, you have a 1 in 200 million chance of winning? You’re unlikely to win, but what’s more improbable than that is to flip a quarter one hundred times and land on heads every single time! The probability of flipping one hundred consecutive heads is 1 in 1,267,650,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or shortly put by Shetler, P=(1/2)100. You are more likely to win a sweepstakes than to flip one hundred consecutive heads.

The point Shetler was making in his book was the incredibly high improbability of evolution by chance or things colliding together just right to make the world we see today. Some may say, “It is still possible, though unlikely, that all of this came together by chance. We see unlikely things happen all the time, and we are truly amazed by it. Granted, it is possible that all things collided together at just the right time in just the right way, but consider also the possibility that an army of ants designed, knitted and dyed the shirt you are now wearing. It is possible for an army of ants to bring forth the material needed; they have the strength and the numbers to do it, but observers of these little insects can tell that the probability of them uniting to make a t-shirt is nonsensical. Sure it is possible, but it’s also ridiculous to believe it.

If the chance of flipping 100 consecutive heads is P=(1/2)100 then how much more unlikely is it that matter would collide together to create such a planet as ours? Reading Shetler’s book gave me even more information on the debate.Some people have argued that with enough time, anything (no matter how unlikely) is possible. But a man by the name of Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger, a mathematician from the University of Paris, developed a simulation to mimic the accidental development of the genotype (the genetic instructions within an organism’s DNA). As he said,

Nowadays,computers are operating within range which is not entirely incommensurate with that dealt within actual evolutionary theories… Now we have less excuse for explaining away difficulties by invoking the unobservable effect of astronomical numbers of small variations.”

Schutzenberger summarized his results:

“All attempts to simulate evolution in the computer give nonsensical answers. The computer won’t even show modified results; it just jams. Only with input can it be made to run. No selection effected on the final output would induce a drift,however slow, on the system toward the production of the mechanism if it were not already present in some form. Further, there is no chance to see this mechanism appear spontaneously and, if it did, even less for it to remain.”

“You can quote me experiences where things work in life, but we have a conflicting experience in the computer. Although our processes are based on the same principles as the ones you state explicitly and the probability of a meaningful change is not [even] on in 101000, it is entirely negligible.

Source: In Murray Eden, ed., The Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of the Theory of Evolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966).


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