Atheist Meme of the Day: Unlikely /= Designed


Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“Life and the Universe are extraordinarily unlikely” is a terrible argument for God. Lots of wildly unlikely things happen that are not intentionally caused or designed. If you roll a die ten times and get 3241154645, the odds against that particular sequence are over 60 million to one. Does that mean this sequence was designed to come up? Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Comments

  1. Leo says

    No. No. NO! It’s true that some things attributed to good happened at random (abiogenesis is probably an example). But you’re feeding a misconception here. The usual claim is “Modern lifeforms are too complicated to be random.”
    Don’t try to disprove that. It’s true. It’s what the theory of evolution exists to explain in the first place! We just need to deny the “Therefore, God did it” that follows every “I don’t know”.
    Now, for the universe, we don’t have clear-cut data, but there are in fact people who suspect a selection process among universes, and there certainly is anthropic stuff going on.
    But you know better that to say “Yes, complicated things can happen by chance”. If they could, we wouldn’t be explaining them.

  2. DSimon says

    Leo, I don’t think those two situations are parallel.
    The fact that life is so complex is noteworthy because we know that most randomly formed arrangements of matter are not alive. Comparing these two classes of things, we see that their relative quantities aren’t in line with what we’d expect from randomness alone. Therefore, another explanation is required.
    Our universe being capable of having life is not a comparable situation. We don’t have a set of universes, some of which are capable of bearing life and some not, and a known random process which that distribution defies.
    All we have is our one particular universe, with no real reason to think it’s any more special than any other possible universe other than the fact that it’s the one we have.

  3. DSimon says

    (By the way, Leo, I’d like to say thanks for making your comment; before you made that comparison, I hadn’t had to think as rigorously about why I don’t think anthropic arguments hold water.)

  4. Dick Alstein says

    Like Leo I want to shout “No. No. NO!”, but for a different reason: Life and the Universe are NOT extraordinarily unlikely. I won’t say they are likely, either — just that we can’t say anything about their likelihood.
    Our intuitive sense of probabilities won’t help us here: experiments have shown that human intuition is very poor when it comes to rare events. That holds for plane crashes and nuclear accidents, and even more so for universes originating.
    Statistics won’t help either: as far as we know, both abiogenesis and universes have only occured once, and you can’t do any calculations on samples of size 1.
    Don’t concede to theists that Life or the Universe is unlikely. They don’t know what the probability is. Nobody does.

Leave a Reply