Burn oil, not food

One of the environmental solutions hailed by past Earth Days is now seen to be creating huge environmental problems. Using ethanol, made from corn and other agricultural products, has been found to use more energy than it produces, adds to pollution, and now is contributing to a global food crisis.

See Lester Brown and Jonathan Lewis – Ethanol’s Failed Promise – washingtonpost.com.

The case of the typing monkeys

Dr. Aikman recounting one reason the noted atheist Anthony Flew (whose arguments against the existence of God I was subjected to when I was an undergraduate) changed his mind:

 The “Monkey Theorem,” in its popular form, holds that if you have an infinite number of monkeys banging away at an infinite number of keyboards, eventually you will get from one of them Shakespeare’s Sonnet Eighteen, the first four lines of which read:  

 “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? /Thou art more lovely and more temperate./ Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May/ And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.    

 Well, in  the 1990’s the British National Council of the Arts, in an inventive use of taxpayers’ money, placed six monkeys in a cage with a computer.  After banging away at the keyboard for a whole month – and using the computer as a bathroom at the same time – the monkeys had typed 50 pages but failed to produce a single word in the English language, not even the letter “a” by itself.   [Gerry] Schroeder applied probability theory to the “Monkey Theorem” and calculated that the chance of getting Sonnet Eighteen by chance was 26 multiplied by itself 488 times (488 is the number of letters in the sonnet) or, in base 10, 10 to the 690th.  If that number is written out, it is 1 with 690 zeroes following it.  But, as Schroeder showed, the number of particles in the entire universe –  protons, electrons and neutrons – is only ten to the 80th.  Thus, even if every particle in the universe were a computer chip that had been spinning out random letters a million times a second since the beginning of time, there would still be no Shakespeare’s Sonnet Eighteen by chance.  As Flew concluded, “if the theorem [the Monkey Theorem] won’t work for a single sonnet, then of course it’s simply absurd to suggest that the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance.


I love knowing that there are 10 to the 80th particles in the universe!  Is that all?  And a typing monkey couldn’t come up with one of them!



I will make the moon disappear tomorrow night!

Just checking to see if people are so uneducated and unknowledgeable today about the lunar eclipse coming up that Columbus’s old gambit would still work:

An eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504. 


Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies.

Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realised that a total eclipse of the Moon would occur on February 29, 1504.

He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night.

The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the Moon — which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.

Asexual Reproduction?

Scientists have generated mature human embryos from cloned adult skin cells.

The scientists say they have no interest in bringing a cloned human being to term, which seems to placate people and the law. But it is the practice of destroying these embroyos that is the abomination! A cloned human being would not be, any more than identical twins, though the damage to the family is also a severe evil (since if you are cloned, your child would be your twin).

Anyway, we have discussed this point before. I would like to raise another question. What we have here is asexual reproduction. We have already separated sex from procreation. We have also separated procreation from sex. (Artificial insemination at least uses the sexual cells. This method dispenses with that, finding a skin cell sufficient.) Reportedly, an artificial womb will soon be feasible.

Do you think, in the future, that pregnancy will become obsolete? That, once we can generate children without child-bearing–with its accompanying morning sickness, 9 months of discomfort, labor pains, etc.–that this will catch on? Does this also mean that marriage and the family itself will become obsolete?

More Stem Cells without killing

Yet another major breakthrough has taken place in generating stem cells without killing an embryo. Scientists have found a way to take one cell from an embryo and multiply it into human stem cells. The procedure does not kill the embryo, and, in fact, embryos that have had this cell haircut have been successfully implanted and brought to term. This method seems especially promising because, unlike other non-lethal approaches discovered recently that require more research, it already works in creating new lines of stem cells!

Vampires and Intelligent Design

Joe Carter tells about an interesting mathematical study proving that vampires cannot exist. If a vampire has to feed once a month and his victim becomes a vampire, and THOSE vampires drink people’s blood and turn THEM into vampires, the human race would DECREASE geometrically and the number of vampires would INCREASE geometrically. In two years, the human race would cease to exist. Since human beings DO exist, there must not be any vampires.

But look at the application. According to the authors of the paper, Costas J. Efthimiou and Sohang Gandhi, “Another philosophical principal related to our argument is the truism given the elaborate title, the anthropic principle. This states that if something is necessary for human existence, then it must be true since we do exist. In the present case, the nonexistence of vampires is necessary for human existence.”

The anthropic principal–that conditions had to be just right in a statistically-improbable way for human life to exist–is a concept much used against the theory of random evolution by advocates of Intelligent Design. Here is how Mr. Carter applies the argument from vampires:

The anthropic principle is often stated in a positive way, assuming that certain conditions must be met before human life can exist. At least two dozen demandingly exact physical constants must be in place for carbon-based life to exist, the slightest variation in any of these conditions–even to a minuscule degree–would have rendered the universe unfit for the existence of any kind of life, much less for humans.

But I believe Efthimiou and Gandhi’s paper provides an example of how the anthropic principle can be stated in a negative way. Vampires are a prime example of a class of objects (let’s call them V-class objects) whose non-existence is necessary for the existence of humans. In other words, if humans exist, then it is necessary that V-class objects do not exist.

At first glance this seems so obvious as to be unworthy of notice. Since we humans do, in fact, continue to exist, it shouldn’t be surprising that vampires (and other V-class objects) do not exist. But this begs the question of why humans exist and V-class objects do not. Their existence is, after all, as probable (or improbable) as the existence of humans. And the non-existence of any V-class objects is as statistically improbable as the aligning of dozens of independent physical constants that give rise to life.

The anthropic principle could therefore be restated as claiming that the existence of human life requires both (a) the alignment of several cosmological, chemical, and physical constants and (b) the non-existence of all V-class objects. The probability that each of these stochastically independent events could align precisely as they have, without any intervention, is roughly 0 — in other words, it can’t happen. The evidence therefore points to “fine-tuning” of these conditions.

Having reduced the chance hypothesis to a virtual impossibility we are left with the obvious conclusion that the fine-tuning is not only apparent but actual. The fine-tuning implies the existence of a tuner, hence we can conclude that the scientific evidence supports the conclusion that God exists.