The Maths of Evolution!!!
October 14, 2010

The Maths of Evolution            


Maths was not my most favourite subject at school but as I have got older I have found myself developing a greater appreciation of numbers.  In a recent science supplement in one of the national newspapers various statistics for the past twelve months were highlighted including the following – 250,000,000 cubic metres of ash spewed into the atmosphere from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. 5,000,000 people stranded as a result of the eruption. $43,000,000,000 – the cost of the damage caused by floods in Risalpur Pakistan in July this year. 620,000,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emitted in UK. 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 universes that exist.


The last of these figures intrigued me, coming as it did from the renowned Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking. In his latest book, The Grand Design, Professor Hawking claims that science has done away with the need for God. He states “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”  He added: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.” Hawking now clearly subscribes to the view that prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins have been popularising through various channels of the media in recent years, namely, that our world (the cosmos, the earth and life on earth including human life) came into existence as a result of natural phenomena. These natural phenomena can be summed up in two ideas -  the Big Bang theory and the process of Evolution. The Big Bang theory states that the entire universe came into being some 14 billion years ago as a result of an explosion of existing matter. Over the next 14 billion years the resultant matter evolved to produce our universe and planet earth with the amazingly finely tuned and delicately balanced laws of nature that govern them making life as we know it possible.


The British mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose has calculated the odds of this happening (the Big Bang and Evolution) by chance at on in 10123 . This number has more zeros than the total number of particles in the entire universe! In the early 1980’s two scientists, Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, calculated the odds of life emerging from non-living matter to be on in 10 40,000. To put this figure into perspective, the number of atoms in the known universe is 1080.  Moreover, as a general rule, statisticians consider any “possibility” less than 1050 to be ‘impossible’. Hoyle famously compared the odds of life emerging from inert matter and evolution being true to the chance that “a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein”.  The chances are so infinitesimal that it simply did not happen. The opening words of the Bible affirm the truth of the origin of the universe and of humanity -  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”  The Psalmist says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Ps 19v1, and again in Psalm 14v1 “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’.”

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