Re: Random from Professing evolution column

From: Iain Strachan (
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 20:45:32 EST

  • Next message: John Burgeson: "Re: Muslim community and 9/11"


    On Sat, 8 Feb 2003 20:22:25
     Don Winterstein wrote:
    >Thanks for the comments. First of all, I need to tighten up my thoughts a
    >bit. Retirement tends to make one a bit lax. First, I think PDF usually
    >means "probability density function," not probability distribution
    >function--although the different word doesn't affect the meaning here.

    I think the two terms probability distribution and probability density function are pretty much interchangeable. I would say that the PDF is the mathematical function that describes the probability distribution.

    >And what I meant by saying that "God indeed may skew the distributions"
    >really should have been more like the following: If God determines a
    >particular outcome, for that event the PDF collapses to a single value. In
    >other words, God's momentary input changes the system momentarily from a
    >probabilistic one to a deterministic one.

    Yes, but isn't this the case whenever you make an observation of a variable from a probability distribution. The observed value "collapses" the distribution onto one value. This seems analogous to the collapse of the wave function, which itself is just a definition of the probability distribution of quantum states. You can't ever say if an individual number is random; only if a sequence of them are random. A recent humorous "Dilbert" cartoon had this one guy shouting out "Eight! Eight! Eight! .... " for ever. He was described as their "random number generator".

    So one needn't think of God as
    >surreptitiously skewing distributions, but one might and should, IMHO,
    >expect God to make his input felt now and then, as he sees fit. I hope
    >you'd be able to accept such a concept, which is really what I meant (after
    >thinking it over), though not what I said.

    But you have to be aware that it would happen over and over again. One single mutation from a cosmic ray isn't going to turn a non-sense DNA sequence into haemoglobin. So in this model, one has to have God intervening over and over again, but subtly covering his tracks so it looks like randomness (I guess you could hide a message in a stream of random numbers easily enough; e.g. every 700th digit was the next digit of pi, or something like that. What happens there is that our statistical techniques cannot uncover the hidden pattern. But the whole problem is why would God do it that way? As Richard Dawkins has said; "If I were God, I wouldn't do it by evolution"; i.e. make a universe that looks (to him) undesigned. Equally, an atheist I saw goading a Christian speaker at a talk I attended, said "Why is the revelation of God's handiwork so pathetic? Why doesn't God write I AM GOD in the stars?" Now from my point of view, in Romans 1 it says that God's existence is evid!
     from creation (is Paul arguing from design here?), but the atheist line is that it all happened by randomness + natural selection and look what an unholy shambles it is. Just what you'd expect if there is no purpose behind it all. What is the most effective way to counter this argument?

    Best wishes,

    Need a new email address that people can remember
    Check out the new EudoraMail at

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sun Feb 09 2003 - 15:46:23 EST