Tag Archives: christian arguments

The Odds of Evolution

bonoboOne of the common Christian arguments against natural evolution concerns the odds of it happening without divine intervention.  Its an understandable objection, this is an amazing world we live in and the sheer variety and extraordinary nature of the life forms that share this planet with us are sometimes so unique in form and function that it is difficult to imagine them appearing by random chance.

But those who use this argument should understand that it is an ineffective and even counterproductive tactic for use on anyone knowledgeable about evolution.  The “odds” argument is used by both young-earth Creationists and by Intelligent Design proponents and it goes something like this (from the Institute of Creation Research):

One of the strongest direct evidences for special creation is the existence of innumerable highly complex systems in the universe, systems composed of components occurring in a pattern of “order” rather than disorder. Creationists maintain that highly ordered systems could not arise by chance, since random processes generate disorder rather than order, simplicity rather than complexity and confusion instead of “information.”

For example, consider a series of ten flash cards, numbered from one to ten. If these are thoroughly and randomly mixed, and then laid out successively in a linear array along the table, it would be extremely unlikely that the numbers would fall out in order from one to ten. Actually, there are 3,628,800 different ways in which these numbers could be arranged, so that the “probability” of this particular ordered arrangement is only one in 3,628,800. (This number is “ten factorial,” written as 10!, and can be calculated simply by multiplying together all the numbers from one to ten.)

It is obvious that the probability of such a numerically ordered arrangement decreases rapidly as the number of components increases. For any linear system of 100 components in specified order, the probability is one in 100!, or one chance in 10158 (a number represented by “one followed by 158 zeroes”).

The main problem with this argument is its failure to understand the clear, naturally-ordered process that is the heart of the theory of evolution.  The old saying “Know your enemy” is crucial here, because the ‘odds’ argument counts on a lack of knowledge or understanding of the theory (the “process”) of evolution in its audience, and thus is counterproductive in the extreme for the large group of people who do understand evolution, but who may not understand the message of Jesus.  Efforts by modern Christians to maintain as literal our ancient origins story is seriously interfering with the spread of the message of the love of Christ to people in the modern era.

That origins story fullfilled its purpose, it laid the groundwork for Judaism, the spritual tradition within which Christ was born and which was the foundation for his message of salvation to the entire earth.  Our salvation is based on our spiritual union with him, our belief in him.  That is the Christian’s foundation.  Our salvation does not depend on our beliefs about how literally we should accept the first few chapters of Genesis.

The ‘odds’ argument, however much it may comfort those with little knowledge of either statistics or the theory of evolution, ignores the simple, orderly nature of the process proposed by Darwin.  And if you cringed at me referring to evolutionists as the ‘enemy’, there’s hope for you.  🙂  We’re not the enemy, and many of us are indeed devout Christians.

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