In 1969, Dr. Frank
Salisbury of Utah State University, [of] the Division of Biomedical
and Environment Reserch at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, examined
the chance of one of the most basic chemical reactions for the continuation
of life taking place. This reaction involves the formation of a specific
DNA molecule. It is important to realize that Dr. Salisbury was assuming
that life already existed. His calculations do not refer to the
chance of the origin of life from dead matter - something infinitely more
improbable - but to the continuance of life already existing.
He calculated the chance of this molecule evolving on 10^20 hospitable planets, or one hundred, thousand, million, billion planets. This is a figure with twenty zeros after it and is at least 1,000 times more hospitable planets than the number many scientists have estimated could exist. Dr. Salisbury allows four billion years for the chance coming into existence of this molecule on all these planets. But remember, he is not speaking here of life as we know it - developed, intelligent living beings, or even of one singe cell for that matter. He is only calculating the chance of this one appropriate DNA molecule.
He concluded that the chances
of just this one tiny DNA molecule coming into existence over four billion
years, with conditions just right, on just one of these almost infinite
number of hospitable planets, including the earth, as one chance in 10^415. This is a number with 415 zeros after it. Such a large number
is unimaginable. Even if we packed the entire universe with hospitable
planets, so no space was left between them, the chance of this molecule
forming on all these planets would still be one chance in a figure
with 377 zeros after it. This shows that life simply could not originate
in outer space, period. But, you ask, isn't there still one chance
in a number this size, even if it is so large? Given enough time, wouldn't
eventually anything happen?
Dr. Emile Borel, one of the world's great experts on mathematical probability, formulated a basic law of probability. It states that the occurrence of any event where the chances are beyond one in 10^50 - a much smaller figure than what we have been dealing with - is an event which we can state with certainty will never happen - no matter how much time is alloted, no matter how many conceivable opportunities could exist for the event to take place. In other words, life by chance is mathematically impossible on earth or any place else.
A rather humorous example will
help us to understand the size of very large numbers. Suppose that an amoeba,
that microscopic little creature, were given the job of moving the entire
universe - the earth, the solar system, all the stars, all the galaxies (billions of them),
etc., one atom at a time. It had to carry each atom across the entire
universe, a distance of thirty billion light years (a light year is the
distance light travels in a year going at the speed of 186,000 miles per
second). To top it off, it had to carry these atoms at the incredibly slow
traveling speed of one inch every 15 billion years. If this amoeba,
traveling one inch in 15 billion years over such a vast distance, moved
atom by atom not just one universe, but six hundred thousand trillion trillion
trillion trillion universes the size of ours, the number of years it would
take it would be "only" 10^171. This is almost infinitely
smaller than 10^415, the chance that for all practical purposes
the universe could evolve one appropriate DNA molecule necessary for a
certain chemical reaction.
If you want a really big number, try calculating the chance of life itself evolving on just one planet, i.e., the earth. Dr. Carl Sagan of Cornell University estimated this to be roughly one chance in ten followed by two billion zeros. A number this size is so infinitely beyond 10^50 (Borel's upper limit for an event to occur) that it's absurd to even contemplate.
Evolution shows how far even
brilliant men will go to escape the idea of God [as] their Creator. It
is a sad commentary on the human condition when we find a belief in the
obvious replaced by a belief in the impossible. Clearly, God Himself had
no second thoughts:
|"It is I who make the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with my hands, and I ordained all their host" (Isaiah 42:5).|
[The preceding excerpt was taken
Close Encounters by Wilson and Weldon, pp. 320-322]
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