Re: Small probabilities

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@adelphia.net>
Date: Tue Nov 08 2005 - 21:57:51 EST

Iain,
    Thanks for getting the discussion back to the original key point and for the good analysis. There isn't a probability so low that it eliminates chance simply because it isn't the whole story We have to consider the bigger picture and the span of possible events. This is also an area where one must differentiate between the past and the future. Events in the past can have extremely low probabilities of occurrence but they nevertheless occurred because of the large number of possible outcomes. That same event predicted for the future is virtually guaranteed not to occur by chance. Dealing a deck of cards is still a good example. Deal a hand of bridge and the result has an infinitesimally small probability of occurring, namely 1/52!, if you also count the sequence of cards in each hand. But there are also 52! possibilities so the probability of getting one of them is unity. But put that same sequence in the future, and predict a particular sequence and the probability reverts to exactly 1/52! which is essentially zero.

    Similarly, in evolution the "design space" is indeed vast but so is the set of possibilities. Net: calculation of probabilities of what has been observed is not only impossible to do because of our lack of knowledge, but it is also meaningless because of the range of possibilities. On the other hand, predicting a specific result in the future has a near zero chance of occurring.

    That's why I keep saying that finding numerical or geometrical curiosities in a text is fun but not meaningful. Pi to 5 significant digits in Gen. 1:1 is simply that, a curious observation. (on the other hand, if we were to find Hubble's constant in Gen. 1:1 to 5 significant figures, now THAT would be fascinating!)

Randy
----- Original Message -----
  From: Iain Strachan
  To: Bill Hamilton
  Cc: asa@lists.calvin.edu
  Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2005 11:08 AM
  Subject: Re: Small probabilities

  While everyone has got interested in the point-picking-from-a-line example, I don't believe that anyone has really addressed Bill's question about low probability "eliminating chance". One can get lost in the philosophy of picking a point from an infinite number of points, without seeing the real point (which was to argue against Dembski's notion that low probability can eliminate chance). I'd like to re-address this point. This is not to say that low probability can detect "design", which is a separate issue.

  Low probability by itself cannot "eliminate chance", because if every event is low probability, then one of them has to happen. .......
Received on Tue Nov 8 22:02:22 2005

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