DESIGN VS. CHANCE: ALTERNATIVE FRAMEWORKS

FOR SCIENTIFIC DATA

 

Robert C. Newman

 

[prepared for Christian Legal Society meeting, but never given]

 

Introduction

 

Some Definitions

 

            Chance/Randomness ‑ several levels

                        anything can happen

                        anything w/in certain law‑boundaries

                        no mind, but some ordering mechanism

 

            Design ‑ also several levels

                        working w/o limitations

                        various limitations: time, materials

 

A Thought Experiment

 

            Monkeys typing "ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA"

                        "Give enough monkeys enough time..."

 

            Purely random case

                        Imagine electric typewriters: all caps, 33 keys, typing at 3 keys/sec

                        24 characters, so 33 to 24th power = 3 x 1036 combinations

                        The job will take 3 x 1028 monkey‑years

 

            Dawkin's guided randomness

                        use computer network instead of typewriters

                        monkeys make variations on chosen "best case"

                        job completed in only a few minutes w/ a few monkeys

 

            (Dawkins uses this for illustration of how natural selection works, but it is really a sample of design w/ limitations)

 

 

Design Versus Chance

 

 

The Origin of the Universe

 

            Recent move toward absolute origin at big bang

                        chance: fluctuation in vacuum produces universe

                        design: God created it

                        design in inanimate universe?

                                    anthropic principle

 

Quantum Mechanics

 

            Copenhagen interpretation dominant, featuring chance as basic

                        various other interpretations

 

The Origin of Life

 

            Dawkins: evolution of life from non‑life reasonable if 1 chance in 10 to 20th per planet per billion years

            Calculation for protein of 100 linked amino acids

            Langton's self‑reproducing automaton

 

The History of Life

 

            Non‑theistic evolution: problem of designing a computer simulation of natural selection to show it will work

            Various forms of creation (th‑evol, old‑earth & young‑earth creation): minds can produce order, so creation model works in this sense

 

Human History

 

            Design in history?

            Suggest Christian model supported by prophecy, transformed lives, changed societies

 

 

Bibliography

 

Barrow, John D. and Frank J. Tipler.  The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.  New York: Oxford Univ Press, 1986.

Davies, Paul.  Accidental Universe.  Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1982.

Davies, Paul and J. Brown, eds.  The Ghost in the Atom:  A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics.  New York: Cambridge Univ Press, 1986.

Dawkins, Richard.  The Blind Watchmaker.  New York: Norton, 1986.

Denton, Michael.  Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis.  Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1985.

Kellog, S. H.  The Jews, or Prediction and Fulfilment.  New ed.  New York: Anson Randolph, 1887.

Pollard, William.  Chance and Providence.  New York: Scribners, 1958.

Thaxton, Charles B., Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin.  New York: Philosophical Library, 1984.

Urquhart, John.  The Wonders of Prophecy.  Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, n.d.