Evolution of Life,
Probability Considerations and Common Sense -- Part 3
by Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon
The Odds of a Complex Molecule
Noted astronomer Fred Hoyle uses the Rubik cube to
illustrate the odds of getting a single molecule, in this case a
biopolymer. Biopolymers are biological polymers, i.e., large molecules
such as nucleic acids or proteins. In the fascinating illustration
below, he calls the idea that chance could originate a biopolymer
"nonsense of a high order":
At all events, anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the
Rubik cube will concede the near-impossibility of a solution being
obtained by a blind person moving the cubic faces at random. Now
imagine 1050 blind persons each with a scrambled Rubik cube, and try
to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the
solved form. You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling
at just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends. The
notion that not only biopolymers but the operating programme of a
living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup
here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.13
DeNouy provides another illustration for arriving at a single
molecule of high dissymmetry through chance action and normal thermic
agitation. He assumes 500 trillion shakings per second plus a liquid
material volume equal to the size of the earth. For one molecule
it would require "10243 billions of years." Even if this molecule did
somehow arise by chance, it is still only one single molecule. Hundreds
of millions are needed, requiring compound probability calculations for
each successive molecule. His logical conclusion is that "it is totally
impossible to account scientifically for all phenomena pertaining to
Even 40 years ago, scientist Harold F. Blum, writing in Time’s
Arrow and Evolution, wrote that, "The spontaneous formation of a
polypeptide of the size of the smallest known proteins seems beyond all
Noted creation scientists Walter L. Bradley and Charles Thaxton,
authors of The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories,
point out that the probability of assembling amino acid building blocks
into a functional protein is approximately one chance in 4.9 X 10191.16
"Such improbabilities have led essentially all scientists who
work in the field to reject random, accidental assembly or fortuitous
good luck as an explanation for how life began."17 Now, if a figure as
"small" as 5 chances in 10191
is referenced by such a statement, then what are we to make of the kinds
of probabilities below that are infinitely less? The mind simply boggles
at the remarkable faith of the materialist.
According to Coppedge, the probability of evolving a
single protein molecule over 5 billion years is estimated at 1 chance in
10161. This even allows some
14 concessions to help it along which would not actually be present
during evolution.18 Again, this
is no chance.
Cells and Bacteria
Consider that the smallest theoretical cell is
made up of 239 proteins. Further, at least 124 different types of
proteins are needed for the cell to become a living thing. But the
simplest known self-reproducing organisms is the H39
strain of PPLO (mycoplasma) containing 625 proteins with an average of
400 amino acids in each protein.
Yet the probability of the occurrence of the smallest
theoretical life is only one chance in 10119,879
and the years required for it to evolve would be 10119,841 years or
10119,831 times the assumed age of the earth!19 The probability of this
smallest theoretical cell of 239 proteins evolving without the needed
124 different types of proteins to make up a living cell, i.e., the
chance of evolving this "helpless group of non-living molecules"
in over 500 billion years is one chance in 10 119,701.20 Dr. David J.
Rodabough, Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of
Missouri, estimated the more realistic chance that life would
spontaneously generate (even on 1023 planets) as only one chance in
Whether we are talking about giving evolution every
conceivable chance to evolve a single protein molecule or the smallest
theoretical cell, the odds are still impossible.22
In the 1970s Sir Frederick Hoyle calculated the mathematical
probability that a single bacterium could be spontaneously generated. He
determined the chance of this occurring was 1 in 1040,000.
Hoyle confessed what most scientists are, strangely,
unwilling to confess, "The likelihood of the formation of life from
inanimate matter is one to a number with 40 thousand naughts [zeros
after it]. It is enough to bury Darwin and the whole theory of
evolution. There was no primeval soup, neither on this planet or on
any other, and if the beginnings of life were not random they must
therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence."23
But Harold Morowitz, a Yale University physicist, gave a far more
realistic "probability" for a single bacterium. He calculated the odds
of a single bacterium emerging from the basic building blocks necessary
were 1 chance in 10 100,000,000,000.24
This number is so large it would require a library of
approximately 100,000 books just to write it out! Ponder that!
In his book, Origins—A Skeptic’s Guide to the
Creation of Life on Earth, Robert Shapiro comments concerning the
probabilities calculated by Morowitz, "The improbability involved in
generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all
considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the
time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the
universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would
truly be waiting for a miracle."25
Googols and Factorials
Again, these numbers are unimaginable. That’s why even
scientists don’t know what to do with them. Consider that a given
individual’s chance of winning the state lottery is about one in ten
million. The odds of winning each successive week involve the
multiplication of probabilities so that the odds of winning the lottery
every single week of your life from the age of 18 to 99, a period of 80
years, is 1 chance in 4.6 X 1029,120.
In other words, it is infinitely more likely that you would win the
lottery every week of your life consecutively, from the day you were
born, without missing even one winning weekly ticket, for 80 years, than
it is that we would have the spontaneous generation of a simple
Physicist Dr. Howard B. Holroyd refers to the book, Mathematics
and the Imagination, where the authors, Kasner and Newman, name the
extremely large number 10100, a "googol." Noting the fact that there
could only, at most, have been 4.8 X 1038 possible mutations in all the
life forms throughout the history of earth Dr. Holroyd writes, "It is
not possible in a googol of operations to select at random, from the
possible infinity of forms, the shapes and arrangements of the dextral
and sinistral bones of even one mammal…. Let us recognize that if a
result depends upon a hundred factors, and if the probability of getting
each one right is 1 in 10, then the probability of getting the whole 100
right is only one in a googol."27
Dr. Holroyd also discusses factorial numbers. A factorial number is a
number that multiplies each successive number by the next number. So ten
factorial would be to multiply 1 X 2 X 3 X 4 X 5 X 6 X 7 X 8 X 9 X 10.
Seventy factorial is around a googol (1.198 X 10100). Sir Arthur
Eddington estimated the total number of electrons and protons in the
entire universe as approximately 3.145 X 1079. This is infinitely less
than 100 factorial, which equals 9.3 X 10157. But when it comes to
evolution, we are not dealing with 100 factorial but millions X millions
factorial. To illustrate, there are 5,000 fibers in the auditory nerve
of man that may be connected to the brain in 5,000-factorial ways—and
probably only one is correct. The optic nerve has about one million
fibers, and these may be connected to the brain in one million factorial
ways. The odds they could have been connected correctly by chance cannot
even be written out longhand. Holroyd proceeds to show by several other
examples how absurd belief in chance evolution is. He points out that
the straight hydrocarbon chain C40H82 has about 6.25 X 1013 isomers. It
would be impossible for the entire human race, working full time for
four billion years, just to study all the isomers of this single organic
molecule of no great size.28
(Yet it just happened to evolve by chance.) When we consider there are
ten billion cells in the cerebral cortex, that there are several
trillion nerve connections between cells in the brain, plus many other
amazing factors, it becomes "preposterous beyond words" to believe that
all this originated by chance:
Surely the probability of the whole body is far less than that of
any of the internal organs: that of two eyes to send two images over
two cables of 1,000,000 conductors each to form one image is less than
that of one eye; and surely that of one eye is much less than merely
taking the bones of the skeleton and placing them into their proper
positions. [—which he calculates as 1 chance in approximately 5.6
13. Fred Hoyle, The Big Bang in Astronomy, p.
527, emphasis added.
14. Cited in Evan Shute, Flaws in the Theory of
Evolution (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1971), pp. 23-24.
15. Harold F. Blum, Time’s Arrow and Evolution
(2nd ed., Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1955).
16. Walter L. Bradley and Charles B. Thaxton,
"Information and the Origin of Life" in J. P. Moreland (ed.), The
Creation Hypothesis (IVP, 1994), p. 190.
17. Ibid., emphasis added; cf., William A. Dembski,
"Reviving the Argument from Design: Detecting Design Through Small
Probabilities," Proceedings of the Biennial Conference of the
Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 8,
(1991), pp. 101-145.
18. James Coppedge, Evolution Possible or
Impossible? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973); See the
additional refs. in Darwin’s Leap of Faith, p. 371
19. Coppedge, Evolution p.114
21. David J. Rodabough, "The Queen of Science
Examines the King of Fools," Creation Research Society Quarterly,
June 1975, p. 15.
22. Coppedge, Evolution, for an extended
23. Cited in Nature, November 12, 1981, p.
105, emphasis added.
24. Cited in Mark Eastman, Chuck Missler, The
Creator Beyond Time and Space, (Costa Mesa, CA:TWFT, 1996), p. 61.
25. Robert Shapiro, Origins—A Skeptics Guide to
the Creation of Life on Earth, 1986, p. 128.
26. Eastman and Missler, p. 61.
27. Howard Byington Holroyd, "Darwinism is
Physical and Mathematical Nonsense" Creation Research Society
Quarterly. June 1972, pp. 6, 9.
28. Ibid., p. 10.
29. Ibid, p. 12.
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute