In his reply to the creationist argument that complex proteins cannot be produced by chance, Richard Dawkins uses the example of monkeys typing the following line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet,
METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
This string of characters has 23 letters and 5 spaces, a total of 28 different characters that must be placed in exact sequence.
Dawkins claims that if a monkey typed long enough or if letters could otherwise be selected by chance, such as via a computer program, that this exact line would eventually be produced.
Following are some observations on this claim:
1. This only happens when Dawkins is allowed to sneak intelligence into the allegedly random operation.
He proposes a computer program that operates something like a slot machine with a window for 28 positions. After a few tries, some letters are bound to appear in the right place, such as the following:
Here the E, T, E, and A appear in the right place, and under Dawkin’s scheme THEY ARE HELD IN PLACE while the other slots are spun repeatedly. As the correct letters and spaces appear, THEY ALSO ARE HELD IN PLACE, while the process continues until all of the correct letters and spaces appear.
Dawkins calls the holding in place “cumulative selection” (The Blind Watchmaker, p. 49).
This is not blind evolution; it is intelligent design! Dawkins says, “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view” (p. 21).
Who or what, then, would be doing the selecting? How could an unintelligent chance process with no specific goal in mind know what letters and spaces to hold?
Career biology teacher Kenneth Poppe observes:
“What, or who, knows to hold any letter or space in place when it begins to come close, or even lands in the desired position? What is to keep from sending a hopeful letter or space into reshuffle on the next pull? For certain, Dawkin’s computer program has some type of instructions intended to recognize target letters. In Las Vegas, if you could keep every ‘cherry cluster’ in a slot machine window where it appeared before your next pull, legendary jackpots would hit much more often than every forty-third yank on the handle. ... how can a completely random process proceed toward a target sequence as if it knows where it is going? If natural evolution is truly a ‘blind watchmaker,’ how can it possibly know the preconceived destinations that perfectly make each of the approximately 100,000 different proteins that will someday have to fully interact to make life?” (Reclaiming Science from Darwinism, p. 107).
2. Even if some purely random process could create a line of Shakespeare, how would a blind process recognize what it had created or know what to do with it?
3. Even if some purely random process could create a line of Shakespearean, that would be mere child’s play compared to creating the living cell or any living structure--such as the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and the flying wing--through random processes.
4. A monkey trial was actually conducted by the British National Council of Arts.
A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys for one month. They produced 50 typed pages but not a single word (Antony Flew, There Is A God, p. 76). They also pooped all over the computer. Israeli scientist Gerry Schroeder calculated that the chances of monkeys typing just one Shakespearean sonnet is 10 to the 690th power, whereas there are only 10 to the 80th power of atoms in the entire universe (Flew, p. 77).
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