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What Is the Probability That the Origin of Life Happened by Chance?

With Dr. Stephen Meyer | AIRED 2015

Many people, scientists included, believe that life itself was stumbled on by chance. Dr. Stephen Meyers breaks down the statistics on the probability of life suddenly existing from nothing to something completely by chance, and the reasons why this probably did or did not occur.


Meyer: Well, there’s only 1080 elementary particles in the whole universe. There’s only been 1017 seconds since the origin of the universe, assuming a 13 billion year old universe. This is an unimaginably large space. So the best way to get a handle on it is to imagine something like we’re looking for a needle in a haystack; only the haystack is the size of the galaxy or maybe the universe, and the needle is somewhere out there and you’ve got 10 seconds to look. And it’s such a small fraction of time in relation to all those possibilities, that the odds are still like the guy, the thief with the bike-lock, or me with the dinosaur puzzle, it’s always vastly more likely than not, that you’re going to solve the problem by chance.

Ankerberg: Alright, Steve, what do you want our audience to come away with from this program? What’s the bottom line?

Meyer: Well, the bottom line is that chance is not a plausible explanation for the origin of the DNA enigma, the origin of the information necessary to build the first life. In the book I make a very precise calculation that takes into account a number of different factors, more than we’ve been able to discuss here. But the number I come up with shows that it’s always more likely that life did not arise by chance, than it did. Which is another way of saying there is always a better explanation than the chance explanation. And so, maybe next time we can look at some of those other proposed explanations. But universally within the field of origin of life studies, scientists have rejected the idea that chance alone produced the first life.

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