Determining the odds of life is extremely difficult. Moreover, we have no definition for the word impossible. At what point do odds become so large that we must confess that they are impossible? Fortunately I think I have come up with a plausible definition for the word impossible. I was actually rather amazed but scientists are confident that they can determine the number of atoms in the universe, 10^80. We also know roughly how many seconds have elapsed in the history of the universe, 10^17, however it would be anthrocentric to assume that particles are bound by human time, so let’s split a second into a thousand parts, a millisecond, which will then make that number 10^20. These two numbers will serve as our guide to determine the impossible.

In determining life’s odds we face many difficulties, for example, how do you determine the odds of certain billiard balls in constant motion hitting one another and landing in certain pockets? That would be extraordinarily difficult. Fortunately, if we tilt the odds in favor of randomness and if the odds are still ridiculously large, we can assume that longer odds also cannot be hit. We know, for example, how many DNA base pairs exist in the Mycoplasma Mycoides which was the bacteria reconstructed by a team of twenty scientists headed by Hamilton Smith, which is roughly 600,000. It is somewhat complicated how DNA pairs link up, for example, A can only link to T and G can only link to C, but the combination AT and ATA are both possible. So for the purposes of this experiment we will simplify matters and say that there are only two possibilities AT or GC, or heads and tails. Again, we are vastly oversimplifying things because just to get the nucleotide Adenine (A), we need to get five carbon to link with five Hydrogen to link with five Nitrogen. So let’s just imagine that for life to occur these base DNA pairs must be placed in a precise sequence. I’m sure some mistakes are possible and that perhaps only 90% need be in a precise sequence but whatever that threshold is, it is most likely near 100%, in any case as you will soon see, it does not matter. What we will now do is determine the odds of a coin being flipped heads 600,000 times in a row. Then we will imagine that we have as many coins as there are atoms in the Universe and we will flip them once per millisecond. For something to be possible the odds of it happening must be near one to one provided we flipped 10^80 coins an amount times equal to the number of milliseconds that have elapsed in the Universe which is 10^20. So what are the odds of flipping a coin heads 600,000 times in a row? I had a tough time determining this but luckily Excel was able to calculate the odds of flipping a coin heads 500 times in a row. There is a pattern between flipping a coin heads 200, 300, 400 and 500 times in a row.

Odds of flipping a coin heads

100 = 1 in 1.27 * 10^30

200 = 1 in 1.61 * 10^60

300 = 1 in 2.04 * 10^90

400 = 1 in 2.58 * 10^120

So 100 times in a row is one in ten followed by 30 zeroes, 200 is one in ten followed by 60 zeroes, we will ignore the 1.27 and the 1.61 as they are not important, only the number of zeroes is important. So if the odds increase by 30 zeroes for every 100 flips, what are the odds if you try to flip a coin 600,000 in a row?

(600,000/100) * 30 = 180,000

To simplify things we will use the number googol which is one followed by one hundred zeroes. I never thought I would have a need for this number in my life but apparently I do. So the odds of flipping a coin 600,000 times in a row is one in 1800 googols.

Now, is it rational to expect that lottery to be hit given the number of events at our disposal? It is somewhat rational to expect to hit a lottery if the odds are one in 50 and we play 25 times. But if the odds are one in a million and we play 1,000 times, then we are stupid. If we are able to play this lottery with an equal amount of atoms in the Universe multiplied by the number of milliseconds that have elapsed since the beginning of time, how many times is that? If you multiply 10^80 by 10^20, you simply get 10^100 which is one googol.

The relation of one googol to 1800 googols is nothing like the relation of a million to a billion. Let me try to explain how difficult it is to get one googol to approach 1800 googols through mere multiplication. Let us imagine that we have a very strong, emotional attachment to atheism. Let’s imagine that we’ve spent 5000 hours defending it, writing books about it, attending conferences, and attacking theists. Let’s pretend that we have invested a lot of time, energy and money into spreading the “gospel” of atheism. Let’s say that to deny atheism is to admit that we have been living a mistake for much of our life and all that we have done has been wasted. To do this would be to undergo immense pain and to confess we are wrong. No human wants to undergo pain and confess they’re wrong, especially when there is little or no tangible reward. So let’s use our brains to tilt the odds in our favor. Instead of using thousandths of seconds, let’s use billionths of seconds. In that case, we have 10^26 seconds at our disposal. The odds then barely change, we now have 1.06 googols to hit a number somewhere between 1 and 1800 googols, whereas before we only had one googol. Ok, let’s just say that the scientists are wrong and that there are a million times more atoms then they previously thought, that means we have 10^86 atoms, instead of 10^80. Now we only have 1.12 googols. Now let’s imagine that the simplest life form is not made of 600,000 base dna pairs but only 300,000. That will reduce 1800 googols to 900 googols. Now let’s imagine that are as many universes are there are stars in our universe, that brings the number from 1.12 googols to 1.34 googols. (There are 10^22 stars in the universe.) Ok, let’s be real desperate and let’s say that instead there are as many universes as there are atoms in the universe, surely that will help things, again now we only have 1.92 googols (1.12 googols + .8 googols equals 1.92 googols).

Now let’s take a look at what happens when we try to increase the odds against atheism. Let’s imagine that instead of two possibilities, TA and GC that there are four possibilities. After all, here is one possible DNA seqeunce: ATCGATTGAGCTCTAGCG. As you can see TT is a possible combination. Well if that happens then the odds become one in 3600 googols. What if we had to calculate the odds of forming one Adenine nucleobase, even if the odds are one in two, that turns 3600 googols into 7200 googols. The point of this argument is not to arrive at an exact calculation for the odds of life forming at random, but to show that the atheists can only tilt the odds in their favor arithmetically and the theists can tilt the odds in their favor exponentially.

The standard response to the above argument is to say that objects have properties and that because of their properties they naturally link to one another. (Notice that I did not say that they are designed to link to one another). There is some truth to this argument, for example, wiki writes: “Base stacking interactions in DNA and RNA are due to dispersion attraction, short-range exchange repulsion, and electrostatic interactions which also contribute to stability.” In other words, AT and GC “stack” due to their properties. However, is it rational to imagine that these nucleobases “know” in what precise 600,000 sequence to get into? Is it rational that one GC “knows” that it is number 397,657 and that it has to find 397,656 and 397,658 and get between it? If nucleobase “understands” where it has to go, where would this understanding be located in the five hydrogens, the five carbons and the five nitrogens that it is composed of?

There is one more argument that I want to put forward: Randomness can choose the correct answer among a finite set some of the time. Randomness cannot choose the right answer from an infinite list. The number properties that objects have in the Universe is infinite, any object can be assigned any property, provided there is one powerful and knowledgeable enough to do it. Randomness cannot assign properties to objects because it does not know from what list of properties to select. If two objects with certain properties will link 1 in a 100 times, then randomness can link them, but randomness cannot assign the property “linkage” to an object. Randomness has no goal, no objective, no desire, no plan, no preference, so there is no reason to suspect that randomness would ever invent a property.