# Probability or Predictability?

From: Dick Fischer (dickfischer@genesisproclaimed.org)
Date: Tue Dec 24 2002 - 22:51:36 EST

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Peter Ruest wrote:

> I think it will not be possible to compute the probability of formation
>of any complex system. The best we can hope for
>is the estimation of some very very rough upper bounds for such a
>probability.

I think probability is misunderstood. The probability of my father meeting
my mother multiplied by the probabilities of my grandparents meeting, my
great grandparents, my great, great grandparents, etc. for hundreds of
generations is so low that the probability that I'm here is so negligible
that either I'm not here or - it must be God!

Where do we go wrong? It is because we specify a known result. Then we
say the likelihood of such a result from random processes is impossibly

It's like looking at Sagittarius the teapot and saying, "What is the
likelihood that a handful of stars could arrange themselves into what looks
just like a teapot? An intelligent designer must have arranged the
stars." This ignores the billions of stars all over the sky that don't
resemble anything, and a teapot is only one of thousands of possible objects.

Another example. Place a teacup in a field, and throw a rock
blindfolded. What is the probability it will land in the cup. Low. But
throw the rock first, and then place the cup over the rock. Can't
miss. That, basically, is what is going on. We know already where the
rock will land, and then say, "Gee, how did it land there"? A low
probability only exists if we specify where the rock will land before we
throw the rock.

Random variation produces things. Some things are useful. Some are
complex. Random variation also produces things that are simple and
useless. Natural selection sorts it out.

If you looked at a continuum of results you could grade them out on the
basis of usefulness and complexity, with useless, simple stuff at one end,
and useful, complex stuff at the other. To be fair we should look at the
entire continuum. But what IDers do instead is to look at only the tip end
of the continuum, the useful, complex end, and say, random variation
couldn't produce it.

Go back to the rock and teacup example. What is the likelihood you could
throw a rock into a teacup blindfolded. You might think that it is
low. But what if you threw 10,000 rocks 10,000 times with 10,000 teacups
scattered all around? The probability certainly is low if the rock is
specified, the throw is specified, and the teacup is specified
beforehand. But that is predictability, not probability.

Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
www.genesisproclaimed.org

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