This is inspired by an argument in Inherit the Stars
by James P. Hogan.
One thing that always gets me about creationists is that so many try to claim that because such-and-such a thing is unlikely, that it couldn't have happened. Whether it's evolution or "fine-tuning" or whatever, the argument always boils down to the same thing; that it couldn't have happened because it's too unlikely. But this argument depends on a fundamental misunderstanding about random events; that if you have enough of them happen, then even very unlikely things are likely to happen.
I'll use the game of chess for an example. Each player only has twenty possible moves to begin with, and each piece is highly restricted as to how it can move. Yet, after only eight total moves (four for each player), there's almost 200,000 possible positions the board could be in. At twenty total moves (10 each), there's 8.35*1028
possible positions the board could be in. A trillion is only 1012
, and that's still a larger number than most people can even conceive of. And that's after a mere 20 total chess moves, in a game where the moves are so heavily constrained. Indeed, the total possible games of chess that can be played is greater than the total number of atoms in the universe by an even greater margin than that (10120
, the Shannon numberWiki
, versus 1080
, the estimated number of atoms in the universe).
Never mind the fact that the number of genes in DNA is far, far greater than 1030
, and there are billions upon billions upon billions of life-forms on Earth alone. Researchers from the University of Georgia estimated that there are over 1030
total bacteria on Earth; if stacked end-to-end, the equivalent of having a stack of pennies a trillion light-years high, taller than the observable universe is wide. Start throwing those numbers around, and those absurdly large numbers that creationists like to bring up in their attempts to disprove evolutionary theory by fiat start seeming downright reasonable.
Even if you just count bacteria alone, you end up with a game with uncounted billions of players, each of whom has thousands of moves available within just a single generation, and there have been uncounted billions of generations since the games started (assuming evolution is right; but one of the points of this post is to show that there is no reason at all to discount evolution because of human incredulity). Even considering that a lot of the moves are dead-ends, ultimately (the organism gets killed off somehow), there's enough new players being made on a regular basis that even this is irrelevant.
Considering all of this, evolution is actually a better explanation for the diversity of life than I had previously considered it to be, not to mention the most plausible.Minor edit