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Author Topic:   For all you Monkeys out there
Selectric III
Unregistered


Message 1 of 31 (41943)
06-02-2003 8:45 AM


quote:
Monkeys and atheists
Dennis Prager (archive)

May 27, 2003

Thomas Huxley ("Darwin's bulldog") is said to have come up with the most famous defense of the atheist belief that life was created by chance, not God. In a debate at Oxford, he is reported to have stated that if enough monkeys randomly pressed typewriter keys for a long enough time, sooner or later Psalm 23 would emerge.

Not all atheists use this argument, but it accurately represents the atheist belief that with enough time and enough solar systems, you'll get you, me, and Bach's cello suites.

This belief has always struck me as implausible. The argument that infinitely complex intelligence came about by itself, unguided by any intelligence, can only be deemed convincing by those who have a vested interest (intellectual, emotional, psychological) in atheism.

I fully acknowledge the great challenge to theism -- the rampant and seemingly random unfairness built into human life. But no intellectually honest atheist should deny the great challenge to atheism -- the existence of design and intelligence. The belief that Bach's music randomly evolved from a paramecium should strike anyone as so fantastic as to be absurd, even more absurd than the belief that a monkey could monkey Shakespeare. The finite number of years in the universe's existence and the finite number of planets would not come close to producing a few sentences, let alone Psalm 23 or a Shakespeare play.

But a just reported English University experiment has convinced me that the number of monkeys and the amount of time are irrelevant. Psalm 23, let alone Hamlet, would never be written. Why? Because the monkeys probably wouldn't do any typing.

According to news reports, instructors at Plymouth University put six Sulawesi crested macaque monkeys in a room with a computer and keyboards for four weeks. Though one of the monkeys frequently typed the letter "s", the other monkeys ignored the keyboard, preferring to play with one another and with the ropes and toys placed there. When they did pay attention to the keyboard, one smashed it with a stone and the others repeatedly urinated and defecated on it.

The instructors hastened to note the study was not scientific, given the short duration of time and the small number of monkeys, but some of us find this "study" to be a hilarious vindication of our view of the "enough monkeys for enough time" argument for random creation.

According to the science correspondent of Britain's Guardian newspaper, "assuming each monkey typed a steady 120 characters a minute (itself a preposterous assumption), mathematicians have calculated it would take 10 to the 813th power (10 followed by 813 zeros) monkeys about five years to knock out a decent version of Shakespeare's Sonnet 3 . . . "

To put 10 to the 813th power into perspective, remember that a billion is 10 to the ninth power.

There are many intellectually honest atheists, and there are many intellectually dishonest believers in God.

Nevertheless, I believe that any objective person would have to conclude that the belief that everything came about by itself and that randomness is the creator is infinitely less intellectually sound than the belief in a Creator/Designer.

Sadly, many people come to doubt God's existence because so many intellectuals are atheists. But it was a major scientist, Professor Robert Jastrow, one of the greatest living astronomers, head of the Mount Wilson Observatory, formerly head of NASA's Goddard Space Center, and an agnostic, who best explained the atheism of many scientists.

In his book God and the Astronomers, Jastrow tells of his surprise when so many fellow astronomers refused to accept the Big Bang hypothesis for the origins of the universe. In fact, Jastrow writes, many astronomers were actually unhappy about it. Why? Because the Big Bang implied a beginning to the universe, and a beginning implies a Creator, something many scientists passionately reject.

This led Jastrow to the sobering conclusion that many scientists have vested, non-scientific interests in some of their beliefs, especially the non-existence of God. For some psychological or emotional reasons, not intellectual ones, many scientists prefer to believe that given enough monkeys, one will type out a psalm.

But neither math nor science argues that all came about randomly, without a Creator. Only a keen desire to deny God explains such a belief, a belief that should be laid to rest beneath a large pile of monkey doo-doo at Plymouth University, England.



Replies to this message:
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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 4661 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 2 of 31 (41945)
06-02-2003 9:34 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 8:45 AM


Yeah, it'd be pretty silly to think all life and all its emergent properties - like Bach symphonies - came about by random chance, wouldn't it? Good thing we have the theory of evolution to explain it, then, isn't it?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Selectric III, posted 06-02-2003 8:45 AM Selectric III has not yet responded

Selectric III
Unregistered


Message 3 of 31 (41946)
06-02-2003 9:54 AM


Quetzel says what???
Random chance has nothing to do with random mutation? Hmmm, very interesting...

Your statement seems to indicate that you are the only one in the world capable of predicting the next set of random mutations and therefore the next stage of evolution for all species, since evolution merely describes that random mutations at random randomly cause all the biodiversity on the planet.

Unfortunately, you're not likely to fill the peanut gallery with many believers in your bogus skillz.


Replies to this message:
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Dr_Tazimus_maximus
Member (Idle past 2005 days)
Posts: 402
From: Gaithersburg, MD, USA
Joined: 03-19-2002


Message 4 of 31 (41947)
06-02-2003 10:06 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 9:54 AM


Selectric, ImProbability of Understanding
Selectric, use a slightly modified saying, you are beating a dead and non-existent horse. We have discussed the differences between non-random (ie selection) and random w.r.t. varying probability of mutations within a genome at specific sites and specific times.

Personally I find the monkey statement to be a bit useless due to
1) the fact that monkeys really send very little of their time typing, and more pooping onthe keybaords, which shifts the results, and
2) the fact that randomness and probability as they are used generically are not really the same thing.

------------------
"Chance favors the prepared mind." L. Pasteur
Taz


This message is a reply to:
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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 4661 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 5 of 31 (41949)
06-02-2003 10:20 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 9:54 AM


Re: Quetzel says what???
an obsolete typewriter writes:


Random chance has nothing to do with random mutation? Hmmm, very interesting...

It's a bit unclear where you derived this. Perhaps you could show where in your previous post anything was mentioned about mutation - random or otherwise?

and burbling on in the same vein, Selectric III writes:


Your statement seems to indicate that you are the only one in the world capable of predicting the next set of random mutations and therefore the next stage of evolution for all species, since evolution merely describes that random mutations at random randomly cause all the biodiversity on the planet.


This ought to be good. Please explain how you arrived at predicting random mutations from my post? Also please explain how anything in this passage related to anything in your opening post. Inquiring minds, and all that...

and finally, Selectric III pointlessly writes:


Unfortunately, you're not likely to fill the peanut gallery with many believers in your bogus skillz.


And what skills (sic) would those be? As I have made no claims, I'd be curious to know a) who you think the "peanut gallery" might be, and b) what skills - bogus or otherwise - you think I'm attempting to create believers in?

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AdminPamboli
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 31 (41953)
06-02-2003 11:19 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 9:54 AM


Welcome back?
Looks like our soi-disant legal expert may be back. Can't be sure, of course, but I'm sure you all recognize the signs.

This message is a reply to:
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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3933
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 7 of 31 (41957)
06-02-2003 11:58 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by AdminPamboli
06-02-2003 11:19 AM


Re: Welcome back?
Maybe so, AdminP.

My initial impression was that the opening message was an abuse of the "Welcome, Visitors!" forum. I'm mighty tempted to close it down right now.

Adminnemooseus


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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 255 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 8 of 31 (41958)
06-02-2003 12:11 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 8:45 AM


What a stupid article. The "monkeys typing Shakespeare" is just an analogy. So "proving" that monkeys don't type anyway says nothing. You've just proved that a metaphor might not be something that can happen in real life. Big deal.

The part that bugs me is where the author equates "low probability" with "no probability". Any one person has a pretty low chance of winning the lottery. Yet, almost every day, somebody wins the lottery. How is this possible? It's possible because there's a big difference between a low probability and no probability - in fact, it's as big as the difference between something and nothing.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8955
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 9 of 31 (41960)
06-02-2003 12:17 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by crashfrog
06-02-2003 12:11 PM


low probability
The part that bugs me is where the author equates "low probability" with "no probability". Any one person has a pretty low chance of winning the lottery. Yet, almost every day, somebody wins the lottery.

Crash, you use this argument pretty frequently. You should think it through a bit more.

Here's an analogy, let's have the same population buying tickets for lotteries as there are today. But instead of 6 or 7 or 8 numbers to draw let's have 499 numbers. There is still a non zero chance of someone winning. But if someone did in the first few weeks I'd be very suspicious of the honesty of the lottery.

We make decisions and take actions on probablities when they are 19 to 1 or 99 to 1 in "favor". When we do this (say in medical treatment tests) we are treating (tentively) .05 or .01 as being equal to zero.

When the odds reach a certain low point it is probably best to treat it as zero. The origin of life questions do not hinge on odds calculated like a lottery anyway so the whole thing is silly.


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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 255 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 10 of 31 (41961)
06-02-2003 12:30 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by NosyNed
06-02-2003 12:17 PM


Re: low probability
But if someone did in the first few weeks I'd be very suspicious of the honesty of the lottery.

Only because you (like someone who knows how probability works) are comparing the number of trials (whatever percent of the population buys lottery tickets) with the sample space (all the possible lottery tickets). That's a far cry from an argument from personal incredulity ("I just can't believe that, so it must not be true.")

We make decisions and take actions on probablities when they are 19 to 1 or 99 to 1 in "favor". When we do this (say in medical treatment tests) we are treating (tentively) .05 or .01 as being equal to zero.

Sure, in the case of one thing happening once, that's probably good enough. But in the case of one improbable thing being tested over and over again, over time, the odds of any improbable thing happening rise dramatically. If you have infinite time, all improbable things occur.

Now, of course, we don't have infinite time. The question is really "what improbable things could happen during the lifetime of the universe?" Luckily abiogenesis appears to be one of those things.

But ultimately, I agree with you - probability isn't even a cogent argument here because we simply don't know what factors were involved in abiogenesis, so we can't set up any kind of probability after the fact.


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David unfamous
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 31 (41965)
06-02-2003 1:34 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Selectric III
06-02-2003 8:45 AM


And how many Shakespeare's would it take to write one of his sonnets if they too randomly banged the keys on a typewriter? I'm sure there's a point in there but I don't know what it is!

And I actually can't stand the music of Bach - it does nothing to me emotionally. Yet I do love the music of Autechre which, ironically, is perceived as 'too random' by many who listen to it. It's a funny old world isn't it?


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Dr_Tazimus_maximus
Member (Idle past 2005 days)
Posts: 402
From: Gaithersburg, MD, USA
Joined: 03-19-2002


Message 12 of 31 (41966)
06-02-2003 1:40 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by David unfamous
06-02-2003 1:34 PM


quote:
It's a funny old world isn't it?

Yep, and getting funnier all the time .

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IrishRockhound
Member (Idle past 3225 days)
Posts: 569
From: Ireland
Joined: 05-19-2003


Message 13 of 31 (42005)
06-03-2003 11:15 AM


As if the theory of evolution doesn't explain already how Bach arose from a bachteria...

Sorry I just couldn't resist that one.

quote:
The argument that infinitely complex intelligence came about by itself, unguided by any intelligence, can only be deemed convincing by those who have a vested interest (intellectual, emotional, psychological) in atheism.

quote:
...But no intellectually honest atheist should deny the great challenge to atheism -- the existence of design and intelligence.

quote:
Nevertheless, I believe that any objective person would have to conclude that the belief that everything came about by itself and that randomness is the creator is infinitely less intellectually sound than the belief in a Creator/Designer.

Why, oh why, do people insist on believing that it's all random? It's not. As soon as abiogenesis happens evolution takes over, and it is not in any way random - it looks specifically for the best survival traits and nothing less. Given sufficient information about an organism and the environmental pressures acting on it, I think it might be possible one day to predict evolutionary paths.

As for intelligence... if anyone here claims that it's not the ULTIMATE survival trait, I'll be over in the corner laughing my ass off.

The Rock Hound


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8955
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 14 of 31 (42006)
06-03-2003 11:27 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by IrishRockhound
06-03-2003 11:15 AM


Survival traits
As for intelligence... if anyone here claims that it's not the ULTIMATE survival trait, I'll be over in the corner laughing my ass off.

Enjoy yourself.

I think we can both agree that bacteria are not intelligent. If I had to place a long term bet on the survival of any higher taxon I would pick them.

Lots of things have survived very well for a long time without very much intelligence. Cockroachs might serve as an example.

We haven't proved that our level of intelligence (which is what Bach would be referring to) is a very good long term survival strategy. If we make our first million years, you win the bet.


This message is a reply to:
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IrishRockhound
Member (Idle past 3225 days)
Posts: 569
From: Ireland
Joined: 05-19-2003


Message 15 of 31 (42013)
06-03-2003 12:33 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by NosyNed
06-03-2003 11:27 AM


Re: Survival traits
I'd better elaborate here.

Intelligence is an excellent survival trait for higher life forms. Evolution normally takes a long time to produce significant changes in any species - organisms alter to suit their environments, but at a very slow rate. Intelligence operates like evolution, but at a phenomenally faster rate - humans can adapt to their environments, or even alter them to suit themselves, in a matter of months or years rather than the millions of years evolution requires. So, let's call it ultimate adaptability rather than the ultimate survival trait.

quote:
We haven't proved that our level of intelligence (which is what Bach would be referring to) is a very good long term survival strategy. If we make our first million years, you win the bet.

Hmm. Good point. At least we know it's successful in the short term. Anyway, if the human race destroys itself in the next million years, you can bet I'll still be laughing my ass off somewhere on the astral plane or whatever. I'm easily amused.

The Rock Hound


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