Evolution, probability, and the first cell…

Evolution is a miraculous and wonderful thing.  It literally describes how everything from the first cell division to a highly evolved erect ape came to be.  Every adaptation, every change, every little small piece of growth from single celled organism to problem solving primates.

The problem is what is on either side of that string of beauty.  Evolution cannot begin to describe the jump from highly evolved chimp to self aware human.  No other animal other than humans has ever been shown to ask questions or contemplate abstract ideas (and we’ve tried to get chimps and gorillas taught to use sign language to do just that).  The jump from animal to sentient human is an infinite jump that evolution doesn’t quite explain.  But more than that evolution has a problem explaining the beginning of the chain.  A big problem.

Now the usual argument is that random amino acids just luckily formed together to form a DNA strand that not only included the information to create a cell, but also all the cell structures necessary to have read that and replicate that information at the same time (Like having a biological CD with the information to build the first biological CDR and luckily also having a biological CDR to read it, which is lucky since the information to build that first CDR had never been read before then).  And let’s ignore the improbability of that situation or the pure luck that the first cell also had the needed building blocks around to form more cells.  That first cell just hit the cosmic lottery.


Because in universe where the laws of physics dictate that things get more chaotic not more orderly as time goes by, stuff this complex just forms by chance.

Let’s just look at that DNA strand.  Now one of the smallest DNA strands known for a basic prokaryotic (it has no nucleolus) cell is about 490,000 base pairs in length.  But you know that’s pretty long as it is.  And that’s the shortest one we’ve found after billions of years of evolution, the first cell must have had a much shorter DNA strand (let’s ignore that at 490,000 base pairs the cell doesn’t have all the processes to sustain life and such a cell needs to live off other cells to provide it certain necessities in life).

Now the most basic cell we can find performs well over two hundred processes (unzipping DNA, processing chemicals, building cell walls, letting certain amino acids in, copying DNA and RNA, etc., etc.).  Yes, yes the high school version of the cell seemed so neat and clean…but so did the high school formula to figure out the velocity of a falling object, but we all know the equations necessary to figure out air friction and the influence of various forces on a falling object would drive us insane with the advanced Calculus needed, so we’re just happy with 32 feet per second per second.   So it is with the cell. Even the most basic cell is like a Cray Supercomputer in its complexity, and certainly much more complex than the simple diagram you learned in high school.  But for sake of argument let’s say that the least number of processes needed to sustain life and reproduce a new cell is 150.

And let’s say that each of those functions only require one amino acid chain (which is what DNA actually creates) of only three amino acids in length.  Now to create an amino acid chain DNA must have a start and stop code in the DNA as well.  So any amino acid chain needs 3 lines of DNA to start the process, 3 for each amino acid (so 9 in our example) and 3 to stop the process or 15 base pairs in length. So you need 15 bases pairs for each amino acid chain, multiplied by 150 processes.  Giving you a needed 2250 bases pairs needed.   This number is preposterously low, but go with me on this.

Now each of those 2250 base pairs needs to be the right amino acids to get the function correct.  Now there are only 4 possible base pairs (represented by the letters G,A,T, and C). And they need to be in the right order so that each line in the base pair has a one in four chance of being the right one.  And you have to do this 2250 times over.  (Now I’ll admit that there are base pairs that produce the same chemical in the amino acid chain, TAT and TAC, but given how ridiculously low my number of base pairs is, let’s just say it balances out…you could also argue for filler code as all life now has…but keep in mind that such code is also given to harmful mutations…let’s just go with the hideously low number as it is).  So we have a one in four odds, 2250 times over…or 1 in 4 to 2250 power.


That’s the odds of the most basic DNA strand forming.  But let’s say I’m still over shooting the odds even with my hideously short DNA strand.  Let’s say it’s just 1:42000 is equivalent to 101204  (there’s a decimal in that power, but let’s just round it out…in fact let’s round it to an even 1200).



Basic Cell

It’s more likely that a land slide would produce a BMW than this thing would just randomly form.

So how likely is that?

Well I could tell you that it’s close to 1:108 when it comes to odds of winning the lottery. But I don’t think you fully understand the difference between 108 and 101200 and I can’t blame you.  A 1 with 1200 zeroes after it is something you don’t often consider.

But let me give you some general figures to give you an idea of the size of this number.

The US National Debt: 1013

The number of seconds between the Big Bang and the present: 1016

The number of protons and neutrons in all atoms in the visible universe 1080


Okay maybe I can’t give you a way to conceive that number.

Let’s be honest if the number of protons and neutrons in the visible universe is only to the 80th power (and if the whole universe was a trillion times as big as the visible universe then it would still only be to the 92nd power) then I can safely say that the number of times you’ll have to conceive of anything to the 1200th power is probably pretty low. You have better odds of winning the lottery twice a week every week of your life.

I’m sorry if you can sit there and tell me something that is so improbable that isn’t just effectively zero, it is zero, happened by chance, you’re insane.

Now those who believe that there was no hand of the divine in the creation may say I just don’t understand science…and it may be true I don’t have the firmest grasp on all aspects of science…but I can safely say that anyone who thinks the first cell just happened by chance clearly doesn’t have the foggiest concept of math or probability.


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