Last Updated: Sep 4, 2007. Read the Site FAQ!

OK, let's review. We have learned three things here:

- It is fairly easy to calculate probabilities for a very simple and completely random mechanism, like playing the lottery. However, as we saw in our poker examples, it can get much trickier when you introduce more complexity.
- If you require a series of unlikely
events, there is an
*enormous*difference in probability if you treat them as a single simultaneous event instead of treating them as separate events, as demonstrated with the example of rolling dice. - As we saw in our modified poker
example, the instant you introduce as much as a
*single*draw rule of any kind, the draw mechanism becomes non-random. Once the mechanism becomes non-random, any probability calculation based on pure randomness will become useless.

Keep all of those facts in mind when examining any creationist
probability argument, because they almost always ignore *all*
of them. In fact, now that you are armed with a basic comprehension
of the difficulties inherent in probability calculation, you should
be able to see through the following common creationist tricks:

Creationist probability calculations are usually characterized
by their *extreme* simplicity, as if there's really
nothing more to probability than counting the numbers of entities
involved in a process and turning them into an exponential figure,
with no regard whatsoever for whether the process is characterized
by many valid picks or only one. For example, in poker, the odds of
drawing a royal flush are very low, but the odds of drawing a
double are very high, because there are so many doubles. When
creationists speak of the odds of evolution or abiogenesis, how do
they know they are looking for a royal flush or a double? How do
they know how many valid outcomes exist? Quite tellingly, they
never even *mention* this question, because it's so much
easier to assume that there is only one.

They also ignore the question of whether events in a series
should be treated as separate events or a single combined event.
And yet, as we saw in our "rolling dice" example, this is
an *enormously* important factor. If 500 binary events are
required for something, a typical creationist would
*literally* assume that you can compute the odds of this event
by simply punching "2^500" into a calculator, with no
regard whatsoever for the underlying mechanisms or the manner in
which these events should be combined.

We have already seen that there is a huge difference between
random probabilities and non-random probabilities. Unfortunately,
*most creationists falsely assume that all natural processes are
random*, which is why they usually describe evolution as
"random chance". And yet, we saw with the case of
modified poker that the addition of as little as *one* rule
can completely falsify random probability calculations! If this is
the case, then how much effect do all the myriad rules of organic
chemistry have? How can anyone seriously call organic chemical
reactions "random chance" when they have so many rules
that most people struggle to grasp the few rules they describe in
high-school chemistry?

The assumption of randomness is so deeply buried into creationist thought that almost no creationists even state it as an assumption; they simply incorporate it silently into all of their arguments and hope that you won't even think to ask the question.

Once we realize that we are dealing with non-random processes,
we run into a serious problem: as we saw in our modified poker
example, it would be *impossible* to calculate the odds of
drawing a royal flush if you don't account for the modified
draw rule, and it is impossible to account for the modified draw
rule if you don't know what it is. In a situation like this,
you cannot compute probabilities no matter how much of a skilled
mathematician you are.

Now that you (hopefully) understand how difficult it is to
generate probability estimates even for a situation where you know
most of the variables and mechanisms, how can you generate such
precise estimates for events where you *don't* know so
many of the variables? And why does the math behind these
creationist probability estimates look so nice and clean and
simple?

Are your suspicions raised yet? They *should* be.
You've seen how complicated a probability analysis can be for
something as simple as a game of poker. How can creationists
possibly derive such mathematically simple probability estimates
for something as remarkable as the origins and development of
biological life? Sure, you could say that their stratospherically
high probability estimates are perfectly reasonable for something
you find so alien, but that's not much of an answer, is it?
Probability estimates are most accurate when you know the situation
very well, not when you don't know it at all. The sheer
simplicity of their work is proof of its inaccuracy: the idea that
complex catalyzed organic chemical reactions could be modeled in
such a manner that they are far simpler than a mere poker game is
the height of absurdity, yet it is widely accepted practice in the
creationist world.

Continue to 6. An Example Argument

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