# What are the Odds of life coming into existence by chance alone?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Alan McDougall, Jul 26, 2012.

1. ### lightgiganticBannedBanned

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actually its impossible to calculate because there is not even a single working model of it occurring within the parameters of numerous scientists over practically 100 years of ardent endeavour ... what to speak of occurring by "chance"
....... kind of like asking what are the odds of pigs flying backwards by chance alone.

3. ### spidergoatVenued Serial MembershipValued Senior Member

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There isn't a single working model of evolution? What are you talking about?

5. ### Aqueous Idflat Earth skepticValued Senior Member

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That's formulated in the absurd. What are the chances that chance happens by chance? You see the problem here. Or do you.

Since creationists don't generally know what a probability density is, the question is best put back into the proper frame. And that is, simply: what random processes act on living organisms, and how are these related to abiogenesis, and how are they related to evolution? Formulating it in the absurd is ...well, garbage in, garbage out.

Hold up. There are people who deny evolution, but almost entirely for highly irrational reasons. Why engage in a reputed logical analysis of an irrational mind? Or why follow into what purports to be reasoned argument in an insane asylum?

Typical duplicity, with flip and a half twist. "Probability of zero" means impossible. Kind of problematic don't you think? Unless you want to challenge your own existence. That might make for an interesting discussion: Hey, Mom! Tell Johnny to stop blinking in and out of existence! He's affecting my probability of going to heaven! Shut up, meathead, I'm trying to figure out what an exponent is!

I think you might be nuts, might need to get it checked into. I can recommend a good quack.

Getting back to the more salient question: how do random processes affect the origin and evolution of life? It's not only more palatable to those of us not living on Prozac, but it opens doors to a lot of profound discovery about the inner workings of life.

Suppose I were to ask you: what are the odds you are you? I'm not kidding. What are the odds you are not a brother or sister of the DNA you call you? Hey, look, I'll put it up as a challenge. Let's crank some numbers here. I'd like to have a WWF equivalent to a knock-down dragout duel to the finish with the world champion knucklehead of creationism. Really, to sweeten the deal I'll promise to bring only a slide rule. I'll bet you three donkey kicks on YouTube I can beat the best in... I was going to say three slides of the slide rule, but hell I can do it in my head. So can you. You just don't know it yet.

C'mon, man, come down off that high horse and get real. What are the odds that a particular egg dropped from the vine and a particular sperm cell navigated its way from New Orleans to ..hell,I don't know: Dubuque? How many lengths of the pool is it? How many armspans in spermatazoan-speak? How many strokes? (And not at all meaning anything else at all except the simple wagging of that flagellum.)

At some point the creationists ought to be licensed. A licensed creationist would be required, under threat of losing said credentials (plus three donkey kicks on YouTube to get it back) to preface certain remarks, such as "The following involves math and science. I (am)/(am not) qualified to speak on this subject," with a link to their college grades, diplomas, pubs, all the works.

We would in turn create Cadillac web sites for them, and they would get the red carpet treatment, discount tickets down at the bowling alley (to go calculate the probability of rolling a gutter ball three times in a row). Just for finally being honest.

Yes, Mabel, they have running water up there in Bugtussle.

What are the odds? Indeed. Suppose it turned out the odds were 1 in 10[sup]30[/sup] that you are you, whereas 1 in 10[sup]40[/sup] were (purportedly, it's a lie) the odds of life at all? (Note, you said 1[sup]40[/sup] which equals 1.)

So what? What the hell does any of that mean and why does a creationist care? They can barely read, for cryin out loud.

7. ### lightgiganticBannedBanned

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I'm talking about the odds of life coming into existence.

Edit : Just read some of your posts - you are also talking about the same thing.

I guess the real question then is why are you suddenly pretending to be talking about something else?
:shrug:

8. ### SciWriterValued Senior Member

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3,015
Um, there is no 'chance' or 'random', for that would mean that events don't depend on anything at all. The potential for life was inherent in the universe all along. The Earth, and other places, were always going to have the right conditions. The asteroids that killed off the dinosaurs and much other life to give mammals an opening were always on their way here. We can always look back and call it "good fortune", such as not being near the dangerous galactic core, but we really don't even have to look, for we already know that all had to come together for us to be, since we are.

9. ### GrumpyCurmudgeon of LucidityValued Senior Member

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lightgigantic

"Early Earth’s chemical seas are presumed to have given rise to the first life, but how could anything so complex have come from such a disorganized stew of molecules? That’s the question Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute is exploring with his swarms of self-replicating RNA, which can evolve over time. Along with Steve Benner, Craig Venter, Jack Szostak, and others, he is on the road to creating life in the lab, thus giving us insight into both our origins and what, exactly, “life” is. As Dennis Overbye writes in a look at the field in the New York Times:
The possibilities of a second example of life are as deep as the imagination. It could be based on DNA that uses a different genetic code, with perhaps more or fewer than four letters; it could be based on some complex molecule other than DNA, or more than the 20 amino acids from which our own proteins are made, or even some kind of chemistry based on something other than carbon and the other elements that we take for granted, like phosphorous or iron. Others wonder whether chemistry is necessary at all. Could life manifest itself, for example, in the pattern of electrically charged dust grains in a giant interstellar cloud, as the British astronomer and author Fred Hoyle imagined in his novel “The Black Cloud”?
Dr. Joyce said that his RNA replicators would count as such a “second example, albeit one constructed as a homage to our ancient ancestors.”
So far, he said, his work with Dr. Lincoln has shown that manmade molecules can evolve over successive generations. “They can pass information from parent to progeny, they can mutate,” Dr. Joyce said. “They can win or die. The molecules are doing it all. We’re just keeping the lights on.”

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/8...ay-succeed-before-we-find-it-among-the-stars/

Just because you are uninformed on the topic does not mean you know crap about said subject. Life exists where life did not exist 4.5 billion years in the past, so the odds that life came from non-life is 100%, unity, one. And scientists have already created what the simplest forms of life are defined as. On Earth it took almost 3 billion years to go from life like that produced in labs to a multicelled creatures, I think we can give the scientists a little time to produce better life, hmmm?

Grumpy

10. ### StryderKeeper of "good" ideas.Valued Senior Member

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It would be more astute to query whether we would leave everything to chance, if of course we don't have to or of course don't want to.

As for the odds on life just popping into existence, like someone else mentioned you could just keep adding data points, for instance you could go as far back as the beginning of the universe, prior to matter being formed and query the odd's on that as a precursor to the building blocks for life to even have a chance.

It would basically lead to infinitesimal odd's being applied to one another like some grand "accumulator" that obviously somehow created life considering we are here now discussing it.

11. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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"There are claims by some disbelievers in evolution that the odds of life evolving by chance are so high that the probability is zero"

If you have infinite Time, then the odds of producing life, if life is possible, which it clearly is, are certain.
However, this Universe had a specific beginning, if you accept the BB theory, (which I do) and did produce life.

I cannot see how Physics can cope with evolution.
The earliest forms of life require an increase in complexity, without any compensating increase in entropy.
It is only when life evolves to the point of volition, conscious or unconscious, that the debt is repaid in the form of increased energy use.
You can compare evolution to some river which elects to flow up a hill rather than down, knowing that there is a steeper decent beyond the hill.
Of course, it doesn't, it obeys the laws of physics, and so should the rest of nature.

Any Scientists like to conjecture why evolution is happening at all?
My question has taken quite a deal of thought, and takes some grasping.

Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
12. ### StryderKeeper of "good" ideas.Valued Senior Member

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Without evolution Scientists couldn't hit on cute chicks?!?

13. ### GrumpyCurmudgeon of LucidityValued Senior Member

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Captain Kremmen

In that sense an increase of complexity IS an increase in entropy. When everything came out of the Big Bang it was all the same and uniform to an extreme degree(IE had the lowest entropy possible). Any change can only increase OVERALL entropy from there. Life is a LOCAL decrease in entropy at the expense of an increase in TOTAL entropy of it's environment. And the sun is a source for energy that drives that local decrease, but at the expense of entropy in the sun itself. Life and the Earth are not closed systems making talk of entropy moot anyway.

Grumpy

14. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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True. Without cute chicks, and the occasional ugly chick there would be no scientists at all.

I have no problem accepting evolution, no more than the theory which generates the Table of Elements.
My problem is that it appears to operate in the face of the Third theory of Thermodynamics.
How it is possible?

15. ### FTLinmediumRegistered Senior Member

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It isn't. The two do not contradict each other at all. Only people who are ignorant of evolution and thermodynamics suggest that they do (it is unfortunate that most creationists do not have any background in science, and so do not understand what they are criticizing).

If you study the topics and gain a basic understanding of them, you'll see immediately why there is no conflict between the two.

16. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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Well, that's not an answer is it.
That's like saying:
"If you understood the answer to the question, you wouldn't be asking the question"
Well, that's a given, isn't it?

I've been doing some googling.
Here's a quote from a scientist who is arguing against a creationist view.

Chemical Evolution •
As with biological evolution, it is wrong to assert that a natural production of any complexity is thermodynamically impossible. But how much complexity can be produced? The origin of life seems to require a minimal complexity that might be greater than what can be produced by natural process. Charles Thaxton and Walter Bradley, in The Mystery of Life's Origin, describe two types of difficulties for a natural origin of life: chemistry problems, and information problems.
chemistry: In a natural origin of life, the required chemical reactions — to form organic molecules (amino acids and nucleotides) that combine into long-chain biomolecules (proteins and RNA) — are energetically unfavorable, like a ball rolling uphill.
information: A living organism must have, not just biomolecules, but specific biomolecules that are biologically useful. For example, if a large number of long-chain proteins did form (despite the thermodynamically unfavorable chemistry) they would contain a wide variety of amino acid sequences, and most of these sequences would not produce useful proteins. Forming a biologically useful protein is extremely improbable, and Thaxton & Bradley claim that this low probability is equivalent to a low "configurational" entropy. { How are information and entropy related? As explained above, I'm not sure. }

see http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/thermo2.htm#1

He probably goes on to an attempted explanation of how this can happen.
I haven't read enough of it to know if I agree, but at least I'm happy he sees the problem.

17. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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It appears that it is the Second Law, not the Third that Creationists are using.

18. ### FTLinmediumRegistered Senior Member

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How can crystals form?? They're so complex- that's against thermodynamics!
How can gravity work?? It makes things fall towards other things creating order- that's against thermodynamics!

No, it isn't. What we have here is a failure to understand thermodynamics. This is high school physics. All you need to do is do a little bit of reading to understand it.

I can't do all of your homework for you.

I'm sure you'll be able to understand it on your own if you make an effort.

Better to teach a man to fish, and all that. I wouldn't be doing you any favors if I just gave you the answer.

19. ### CyperiumI'm always meValued Senior Member

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3,000
Single cell organisms have the same trouble with more advanced life-forms, yet they have managed to survive. So that there are more advanced life-forms doesn't mean that the simpler would get extinct.

I don't think it would be that hard to detect, so far we have only found one kind of life (as far as we know), if other life forms would have developed to any degree it is pretty plausible to me that it would have found a way to co-exist with the existing life. Each is to it's own, so to speak, and all life have developed from a small sample. There's no immediate conclusion to be made that life that had a different origin and construct would have a harder time to adapt to existing life-forms than new adaptations. After all, the life of different origin is still a result of the same environment.

We should also consider that it could make symbiotic relations to existing life or even be incorporated into the structure of existing life forms. Yet we don't find any other kind of life than the DNA/RNA based life.

Could be, but a life-form of different origin might fill niches that ordinary life would never need to fill. The world is pretty large and has room for a multitude of life-forms already, that it is of different origin doesn't mean that there isn't room for it, the numbers would grow very large, very quickly if it had the ability to self-replicate and wouldn't have to be any more sensitive than existing life forms.

We have examined such a multitude of organisms and yet none have any signs of a different origin. There's so many possibilities that it is unlikely that they would be organised in exactly the same way. In fact, that there are so many possible positive outcomes is one of the reasons that life could develop at all. I don't know how different the overall structure would be, perhaps it wouldn't be much different at all, but some of the internal structures such as the components used (and in what order) should be different, after all there are many combinations to achieve the same thing.

That there is a greater chance of survival of the structure due to environmental stress. Perhaps that some components are more easily available, or that it fits better with other constructs so that it can adapt better to the environment. Or anything else that can make the structure preferrable from other structures which can replicate and survive in our environment.

Well, there are things that happen somewhat regularly, in different parts of the world and in different regions there are different probabilities of rain, or there are a certain probability that you will get a certain number if you throw a dice, then there are events that happen once in millions of years, like a asteroid impact wiping out nearly all life and such things. In that category falls the development of life. I meant it only as a recognition that it is improbable in our point of view, not that it is improbable in respect to the time available since the beginning of the earth.

Yet, we could find that it is more improbable than we previously thought, if we find that no other life have developed from abiotic conditions even though the same time-period have elapsed many times. We can't say that just because it started to exist in a billion years then that is the probability for it to exist, cause that could be due to the anthropic principle that we exist in a world that is more or less fine-tuned for life and where the conditions is optimal in a way that might not be very common in other parts of the universe for one reason or another, or indeed that the particular time that life developed had such conditions on earth that made the probability much higher.

20. ### FTLinmediumRegistered Senior Member

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Hi Cyperium,

I think you need to get a little more perspective on evolution- you're still making a lot of assumptions that are not accurate. I addressed these in my last couple posts.

I would explain more, but I'm afraid I don't have time at the moment, and I'm not sure how else to explain it.

I hope somebody else can help clarify things, and explain them in a new way.

Best regards!

21. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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I may look further into the Professor's attempt at a solution, but I'd prefer to argue on here first.
Your answer seems to be that if I knew as much as you, I would know the answer.
My reply to you, that is that you don't know the answer either.
Moreover, I doubt that you understand the question.

The link between thermodynamics and complexity is a loose one especially at lower levels of complexity.
Take Sodium and Chlorine, two virgins who are so hot for each other that they readily make Salt,
and release a great amount of heat in the process.
A molecule which is made up of two different atoms, is more complex than an element.

That's just an example. The example isn't important.
You used a similar one yourself with crystallisation.

The problem is that the energy required to make complex proteins is borrowed energy.
Amino acids will not naturally combine to produce them , because they require an input of energy larger than that which is released.

The Miller-Urey experiment produced many amino acids from a primitive chemical soup plus lightning,
conducted in a laboratory with a flask buzzed with electricity.
But no-one has got much farther than that.

What Thermodynamics requires in an evolutionary process is a system whereby that process is driven step by step,
and the required energy being returned within that same system at the same time.
It is hard to think of a process by which that could occur.

22. ### GrumpyCurmudgeon of LucidityValued Senior Member

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1,876
Captain Kremmen

...or it requires an outside source to provide the needed energy. What if we put a hot glowing ball of plasma in the sky to provide that energy, or a heat source in the environment to do the same thing, or it could be any chemical compound that when combined with other chemicals releases heat? Oh, wait, all three already exist(the sun, hydro thermal vents and myriad chemical reactions).

The Second Law of thermodynamics says right up front that it only applies to CLOSED SYSTEMS. Life is not now, nor has it ever been a closed system, so the Second Law DOES NOT APPLY. Even the entire Earth as a whole is not a closed system, the sun pumps mega joules of energy in and radiation carries away the exact same amount, life lives in that flow of energy.

The only ones making Second Law arguments are those who don't understand even the most basic facts of thermodynamics, or usually of life itself.

Grumpy

23. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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If it was simply a matter of applying more energy,
someone would have done a version of the Miller-Urey experiment with a higher energy source,
and got complex proteins.

At more than a few degrees above body temperature, proteins begin to denature.
I don't think that the amount of energy available is the problem.