Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
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29-03-2016, 12:39 PM
Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
There's a unique argument among Intelligent Design believers which goes something like this:

Life is almost non-existent in our universe with life on Earth being the exception, not the rule. There is an extraordinary number of criteria which must be met prior to life being possible and the odds of so many criteria being met at once is effectively 0%. Because the odds of a natural occurrence is so low, some driving force (God) seems necessary to explain how life came about.

There are multiple shortcomings to this argument. One of the most glaring, but less obvious problems, is that it acknowledges the non-existence of life besides our own from the start in order to calculate the probability of life existing. You can't use the non-existence of life as proof for the existence of life.

Another, more obvious shortcoming is that the "driving force" needn't be God or even living. According to quantum mechanics, reality is formed as it becomes pertinent to the rest of reality (as evidenced by quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, Schrodinger's cat thought experiment, etc.). This means that everything that could possibly be happening is currently happening, but from the perspective of any given thing, we're locked into one reality (multiverse theory). This provides a driving force which makes life an inevitability without the need for a creator or even the need for a birthless/deathless universe (which would imply an infinite timeline in which it's also an inevitability so long as the probability is non-zero).

Did I miss any shortcomings of the argument?
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29-03-2016, 01:04 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
In my opinion, the biggest shortcoming is that you can't apply probability arguments to something that has already happened. Improbable things happen all the time. Once it has happened, the probability is 1, or 100%.

In short, it doesn't matter how improbable it was. It happened, and here we are to prove it.

Other shortcomings -- the universe is a really really big place, and almost all of it is beyond our ability to observe. So we have no way of knowing whether or not there is life elsewhere, or if so, how common it is. There's just not enough data to draw any sort of conclusions about how often life occurs in the universe. For all we know, it might be quite common. It might even be inevitable.
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29-03-2016, 01:33 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 01:04 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  In my opinion, the biggest shortcoming is that you can't apply probability arguments to something that has already happened. Improbable things happen all the time. Once it has happened, the probability is 1, or 100%.

In short, it doesn't matter how improbable it was. It happened, and here we are to prove it.

Other shortcomings -- the universe is a really really big place, and almost all of it is beyond our ability to observe. So we have no way of knowing whether or not there is life elsewhere, or if so, how common it is. There's just not enough data to draw any sort of conclusions about how often life occurs in the universe. For all we know, it might be quite common. It might even be inevitable.

I don't think I really agree with your first argument. Just because you got heads on a coin doesn't mean the coin was predetermined to land on heads. The probability was still 50% and that information could be pertinent even though the outcome was already determined.

The second argument you shared is much better though. It's true that we don't have enough data yet. We only recently got any idea of what Pluto looks like up close. We have no idea what we'll find on planets outside of our solar system, so we have hardly any basis to even say that life is rare.
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29-03-2016, 01:44 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 01:33 PM)BlackEyedGhost Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 01:04 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  In my opinion, the biggest shortcoming is that you can't apply probability arguments to something that has already happened. Improbable things happen all the time. Once it has happened, the probability is 1, or 100%.

In short, it doesn't matter how improbable it was. It happened, and here we are to prove it.

Other shortcomings -- the universe is a really really big place, and almost all of it is beyond our ability to observe. So we have no way of knowing whether or not there is life elsewhere, or if so, how common it is. There's just not enough data to draw any sort of conclusions about how often life occurs in the universe. For all we know, it might be quite common. It might even be inevitable.

I don't think I really agree with your first argument. Just because you got heads on a coin doesn't mean the coin was predetermined to land on heads. The probability was still 50% and that information could be pertinent even though the outcome was already determined.

The second argument you shared is much better though. It's true that we don't have enough data yet. We only recently got any idea of what Pluto looks like up close. We have no idea what we'll find on planets outside of our solar system, so we have hardly any basis to even say that life is rare.

Look at it this way: It is extremely improbable that any single person will win the lottery. Even if you bought a ticket for every drawing for your entire life, it would still be extremely improbable. Yet people win lotteries regularly, every few weeks or so. You can't say "You didn't win that lottery, because it was too improbable that you would." Improbable things happen all the time, and once an improbable thing happens, it doesn't matter what the odds against it were. The probability function collapses when the event happens.

You can use probability in a predictive sense, but it doesn't make sense to apply it to things that have already happened -- especially if your argument is that it couldn't have happened. Too bad -- it already did.
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29-03-2016, 01:59 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 01:04 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  In my opinion, the biggest shortcoming is that you can't apply probability arguments to something that has already happened. Improbable things happen all the time. Once it has happened, the probability is 1, or 100%.

In short, it doesn't matter how improbable it was. It happened, and here we are to prove it.

Other shortcomings -- the universe is a really really big place, and almost all of it is beyond our ability to observe. So we have no way of knowing whether or not there is life elsewhere, or if so, how common it is. There's just not enough data to draw any sort of conclusions about how often life occurs in the universe. For all we know, it might be quite common. It might even be inevitable.

Yep, it's just another argument from ignorance, assuming the conclusion with insufficient data or ignoring other explanations that are better than goddidit.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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29-03-2016, 02:02 PM (This post was last modified: 29-03-2016 02:28 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 12:39 PM)BlackEyedGhost Wrote:  There's a unique argument among Intelligent Design believers which goes something like this:
There are multiple shortcomings to this argument. One of the most glaring, but less obvious problems, is that it acknowledges the non-existence of life besides our
Life is almost non-existent in our universe with life on Earth being the exception, not the rule. There is an extraordinary number of criteria which must be met prior to life being possible and the odds of so many criteria being met at once is effectively 0%. Because the odds of a natural occurrence is so low, some driving force (God) seems necessary to explain how life came about.

own from the start in order to calculate the probability of life existing. You can't use the non-existence of life as proof for the existence of life.

Another, more obvious shortcoming is that the "driving force" needn't be God or even living. According to quantum mechanics, reality is formed as it becomes pertinent to the rest of reality (as evidenced by quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, Schrodinger's cat thought experiment, etc.). This means that everything that could possibly be happening is currently happening, but from the perspective of any given thing, we're locked into one reality (multiverse theory). This provides a driving force which makes life an inevitability without the need for a creator or even the need for a birthless/deathless universe (which would imply an infinite timeline in which it's also an inevitability so long as the probability is non-zero).

Did I miss any shortcomings of the argument?

You missed a lot.

1. No one knows at this point, how often life occurs, in this universe. It occurred at least once, so as far as we know, the probability for life is 1.0, or 1/1. 100 %. According to the Drake Equation, it's very likely.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80Ryq6bH2aY

2. Highly improbable single (unrelated) events happen all the time, with no intervention from a cause necessary. (That highly improbable single events are rare, is a common misunderstanding in Probability Theory).
Every sequence along a chain that occurs, once the chain has begun, make the next step, MORE probable. This is very easy to demonstrate, with many pairs of dice. We can get them to land with no "design" in a pattern that is so highly improbable, there exists no number to describe it.

3. Order arises spontaneously in this Universe (see Chaos Theory). The chemistry needed for life, is known to be at least somewhat probable.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqPGOhXoprU

4. An omnipotent god could make life work, no matter how poor the design was. ID is no argument for the god, they claim is also "omnipotent".

(I never heard any of that stuff you posited about Quantum Physics). Sounds all "sciencey", but isn't, ... how about some references.)

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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29-03-2016, 02:17 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
They like to twist it around, it had to be designed because the odds of random occurrences producing the exact same end result that we have now is nearly impossible.
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29-03-2016, 02:20 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 02:17 PM)pablo Wrote:  They like to twist it around, it had to be designed because the odds of random occurrences producing the exact same end result that we have now is nearly impossible.

But once the first step has occurred, the next step is no longer as "random" as the first step was.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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29-03-2016, 02:35 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 02:20 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 02:17 PM)pablo Wrote:  They like to twist it around, it had to be designed because the odds of random occurrences producing the exact same end result that we have now is nearly impossible.

But once the first step has occurred, the next step is no longer as "random" as the first step was.

Yes, after the first step, whatever that my be, the variables drop to what the first stage is capable of doing.
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29-03-2016, 03:20 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 01:44 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  Look at it this way: It is extremely improbable that any single person will win the lottery. Even if you bought a ticket for every drawing for your entire life, it would still be extremely improbable. Yet people win lotteries regularly, every few weeks or so. You can't say "You didn't win that lottery, because it was too improbable that you would." Improbable things happen all the time, and once an improbable thing happens, it doesn't matter what the odds against it were. The probability function collapses when the event happens.

You can use probability in a predictive sense, but it doesn't make sense to apply it to things that have already happened -- especially if your argument is that it couldn't have happened. Too bad -- it already did.

I understand what you're getting at, but this is a question of how the odds were beaten. Was it luck or was it design? The fact that it's improbable is still pertinent even if it did happen. People try to fake lottery tickets sometimes (design), but people also win normally (luck). Your point is perfectly valid, but it doesn't refute any part of the argument. It's a red herring.
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