Monkey Business

Evolutionists argue that chance alone can account for the millions of varieties of plant and animal life on this earth. Through random variations or "natural selection" alone the goddess Nature just accidentally hit on fortunate combinations of atoms, molecules, then cells and organisms more suitable for survival than their progenitors. And so life inevitably progressed or evolved upward.

By way of illustration it is argued that given enough time a billion monkeys typing on a billion typewriters could turn out Shakespeare's plays, or the Bible, or indeed anything that has ever been or could be written! And this may seem plausible -- until we begin to check it out. Today a small electronic calculator is within the price range of almost anyone who wants one. And if we use scientific notation we can rather quickly check out this claim.

Suppose we assume typewriters with 26 capital letters, 10 digits, and an assortment of 9 other characters including the space. My typewriter, of course, has the shift key, which would double the possible characters. But then we don't know if our monkeys would use both arms in their hunting and pecking. And since the chance of hitting the shift key just so is rather remote, for simplicity's sake we'll consider just the 45 possibilities expressed.

The chance of hitting any one character by accident is 1 in 45. Having done that, the chance of hitting any other character is still 1 in 45, and so the chance of hitting any 2 characters is one in (45 x 45) or 2025. Continuing to multiply by 45 each time, the chance of hitting any 3 characters is 1 in 91225. The possible combinations of 4 characters is 4,100,625, of 5 is 1.8452812 x 10 to the 8th power, of 6 is 8.3037654 x 10 to the 9th power, of 7 is 3.7366944 to the 11th power, of 8 is 1.6815124 x 10 to the 13th power, of 9 is 7.5668058 x 10 to the 14th power, and of 10 is 3.4050626 x 10 to the 16th power. In other words, there is only one chance in 34,050,626,000,000,000 of getting any 10 characters in proper order by random selection.

Such numbers are too large to imagine, certainly too large for monkeys to handle! Suppose we replace the monkeys with computers programmed to produce random sequences of our 45 characters. Let's suppose the computers produce a page each second, consisting of 60 lines of 132 characters, or 7920 characters per second per page. This more than a thousand times faster than even an expert typist can do. But it would take more billions of these computers than you care to count, working more billions of years than the universe has existed (by any estimate) to produce accidentally even the first verse of Genesis.

To gain some idea of the volume of the printed output this represents, consider that a box of computer paper measures about 11 by 11.5 by 15.5 inches, and contains 2500 sheets of paper. The number of characters that could be printed in such a box is 1.98 x 10 to the 7th power. The number of such boxes in a cubic mile is 129.72488 x 10 to the 9th power, which would suffice for 256 x 10 to the 16th power characters. With this much paper our computers could churn out the possible combinations of less than 12 characters! The number of cubic miles in the earth is 26 x 10 to the 10th power. By multiplying all these together we find that if the earth were hollow and filled with computer paper, there would be enough for 6678.2367 x 10 to the 26th power characters. The chance of our hypothetical monkeys typing 20 characters in sequence is 1 in 11594451 x 10 to the 26th power. If done by a computer the printout would fill 1736 spheres the size of the earth!

Go one step further: The distance to the sun is 93,000,000 miles. It is not too difficult to calculate that a sphere of this radius, if filled solid with boxes of computer paper would contain enough to print 865.41793 x 10 to the 40th power characters. But this is enough for less than the possible combinations of only 26 letters! In other words, if our computers churned out all the possible combinations for just 26 characters, the paper would fill the center of the solar system out beyond the orbit of the earth!

The remarkable thing about this series is that the larger it gets the faster it grows. For each additional letter the volume must be multiplied by 45. If we think in terms of a sphere of paper, the diameter increases by the cube root of 45 for each additional letter, or 3.557 times. Thus if we add only 3 more letters for our computers to try to get, the paper required to print all possible combinations would extend beyond the orbit of Pluto, 3,671,000,000 miles from the sun. We have long since run out of time, and we are well on our way to running out of space, even if our computer printout soars out to engulf the Milky Way!

But actually we have made it too easy. We have assumed only 45 possible events, (the 45 characters on our typewriters.) And we have assumed a series of these events strung together like beads on a string. If evolution did take place there was an infinitely greater number of possibilities. And things had to happen simultaneously, not simply one after the other as would happen if a monkey typed a series of characters on a typewriter. Rather than typewriters imagine a many-keyed piano or organ. And imagine our monkeys accidentally hitting complex chords, one after the other to produce by accident music much finer than any musician on earth can produce. If evolution did happen, events of unimaginable complexity had to happen in just the right sequence. What is the chance that anything as complex as the eye or the hand, or any of a million other organs or organisms could have come together in just the right way and under the right conditions to insure its survival?

Darwin supposed that the eye evolved from a light sensitive pimple on the skin. But there had to be a brain center somehow aware of this sensitive area, and the proper kind of nerves to carry its message. A veritable blizzard of information passes from our eyes through the optic nerves to the brain center set aside to interpret what is seen. Unless all this mechanism existed at the same time there is no way in which it could develop by gradual changes.

It has been argued that if you placed all the parts of a watch in a box and tumbled them together for billions of years, eventually a watch would come together just by accident. But this theory ignores the fact that there must be in the box a force capable of winding the spring and placing it in its chamber. We can visualize the spring bouncing around in the box, but it could never wind itself into a coil without the help of forces that do not exist in the box.

Similarly the development of living organisms required intelligent guidance of the inanimate matter in order to bring into proper relationships the various elements which would never of their own accord seek each other out. As we have seen above, the probability of life forming by the chance interaction of the forces of nature is so extremely remote as to be impossible on that count alone. But not only so, if the forces of nature without the hand of God are incapable of producing the various changes and the sequence of events required, then all eternity does not provide enough time for it to happen. The laws of chance describe what can happen given several possibilities. But they can never be appealed to to prove that the impossible can happen, no matter how much time we allow.

It took more than a bunch of monkeys to produce the sentence: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

By Bill Carrell as published in the Firm Foundation, March 11, 1975

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