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Richard Dawkins and Child Abuse

August 4, AD2014 27 Comments

For Richard Dawkins the ideal of education is to teach children how to think rather than what to think (The God Delusion, p. 327). Nevertheless, it is to be expected that the examples he gives of child abuse in education is the teaching of what Dawkins believes to be objective errors (The God Delusion, chapter 9). If what is taught is error, then the ‘how to think’ implicit in the lesson must also be erroneous. Who could disagree with Dawkins on the importance of teaching children the truth and how to think to discover the truth?

This essay examines Dawkins’ teaching of Darwinian evolution to the general public in The God Delusion and specifically to children in Dawkins’ Christmas lecture of 1991, “Climbing Mount Improbable”, minute 4:25.

Child Abuse (Teaching children error) by Dawkins, Caught on Camera

Whereas Darwinian evolution is mathematically coherent, Richard Dawkins’ understanding of it and his teaching of it are mathematically incoherent and erroneous. Even though he believes it, Dawkins’ version is still falsehood and incoherent thinking. To teach children falsehood and how to think incoherently is child abuse by Dawkins’ definition of child abuse. That abuse has been captured on video in the reference above.

Darwinian Evolution vs. Dawkins’ Version of it

In the video, Dawkins is right in identifying Darwinian evolution as a series of stages consisting of mutation and of natural, non-random selection. However, in Darwinian evolution mutation is explicitly random mutation. Dawkins makes two main errors. He substitutes non-random mutation for random mutation. Further, he mistakes an increase in the efficiency of mutation for an increase in the probability of success of natural selection.

Apparently due to a weak education in mathematics, Dawkins can’t see the distinction between random and non-random. He can’t see the distinction between efficiency and probability. Consequently, Dawkins teaches the error that the probability of success of evolution is increased by replacing a single Darwinian stage of random mutation and natural selection with a series of sub-stages.

In The God Delusion (p 121) he calls this replacement ‘breaking an improbability up into smaller pieces of improbability’. In the Christmas lecture, “Climbing Mount Improbable”, he calls it ‘smearing out the luck’. Such replacement does not affect the probability or, synonymously, the luck, in Darwinian evolution. It increases the efficiency of mutation.

Dawkins’ Numerical Illustration

In the Christmas lecture Dawkins proposes a numerical illustration, which is a perfect exemplar of Darwinian evolution involving three mutation sites of six mutations each. A three-dial lock of six positions each, such as a bicycle lock, is replaced by three one-dial locks, each of six positions.

Dawkins thinks that the probability of success in Darwinian evolution is determined by the number of different mutations defined in a stage of evolution. The three-dial lock defines 216 different mutations, 6 x 6 x 6. In contrast, the set of three one-dial locks defines a total of 18 different mutations, 6 + 6 + 6.

Dawkins claims that opening the three-dial lock requires a maximum of 216 ‘tries’ or a luck of 1/216, whereas the maximum number of ‘tries’ required to open the set of three one-dial locks is 18. Implicitly this is a luck of 1/18 in three increments of luck, each equaling 1/6. According to Dawkins, instead of having to get the luck in ‘one ridiculously large dollop’ of 1/216, the luck can be gotten in ‘dribs and drabs’ of 1/6. The luck has been ‘smeared out’.

Critique

It would take a maximum of 216 tries or mutations to open the three-dial lock and a maximum of 18 tries or mutations to open the set of three one-dial locks, just as Dawkins says. However, this is true only if the mutations are non-random. The probability of opening the locks in each of the two cases is 100% in Dawkins’ illustration of non-random mutation.

Because he thinks he is illustrating random mutation, Dawkins is oblivious to the fact that there is no difference in probability in the two cases. It is 100% in both. The contrast is 100% for the three-dial lock vs. 100% = 100% x 100% x 100% for the three one-dial locks.

Dawkins doesn’t know what determines the probability of success in Darwinian evolution. He mistakenly thinks it is the probability of a single random mutation, which would be 1/216 for the three-dial lock and 1/6 for each of the one-dial locks.

Dawkins is objectively abusing the children who comprise his audience by teaching error in the thought process and in the conclusion. In Dawkins’ illustration of non-random mutations the difference is not in luck. The luck, i.e. the probability of success, is 100% for both cases.

The difference is in the number of non-random mutations required for a success of 100%. The difference is that of 216 non-random mutations compared to 18 non-random mutations, which is an efficiency factor in non-random mutations of 216/18 = 12.

The two cases do not differ in luck, i.e. the probability of evolutionary success. They differ in the efficiency of mutation. What Dawkins taught the children is false in thought process and conclusion.

The Valid Mathematics of Darwinian Evolution

What does determine the probability of success of a single stage of random mutation and natural selection in Darwinian evolution? It is the total number of mutations randomly generated in that stage. Note that 216 non-random mutations will contain exactly one copy of the number which opens the three-dial lock.

What about 216 random mutations? The probability, P, of containing at least one copy of a specific number out of n numbers, where x numbers are generated at random to the base, n, is P = 1 – ((n – 1)/n)^x. In the lexicon of Darwinian evolution, P is the probability that the pool of a total of x random mutations contains at least one copy of the survivable mutation out of the n different mutations defined by the single stage of evolution.

When x = n = 216, P = 63.3%. If Dawkins’ 216 ‘tries’ were random, the probability of opening the three-dial lock would be 63.3%.

When x = n = 6, P = 66.5%. If Dawkins’ 6 ‘tries’ for each of the locks in the three lock set were random, the probability of opening each lock would be 66.5%. The net probability for the series of three one-dial locks, at a probability of 66.5% for each, is 29.4%, i.e. 66.5% x 66.5% x 66.5% = 29.4%.

In Dawkins’ lecture to the children, it would have been valid to compare 216 non-random mutations with the total of 18 non-random mutations for the series of three one-dial locks, if Dawkins had told the children the ‘tries’ were non-random and had nothing to do with luck or the probability of success of the algorithm. The success of the algorithm was 100% in both cases. Of course, Dawkins could not have told the children the truth that the ‘tries’ were non-random, because he obviously thought they were random. In thinking they were random, he thought they involved luck and taught that to the children.

If Dawkins understood the algorithm of Darwinian evolution, which he was attempting to teach the children, he should have chosen random mutation and a value of probability of evolutionary success, such as 90.9%, for both the three-dial lock and for the series of three one-dial locks.

If for each of the one-dial locks a pool of 19 random mutations is generated, the net probability of opening the three locks is 90.9%, i.e. 96.9% x 96.9% x 96.9%. If for the three-dial lock a pool of 517 random mutations is generated, the probability of opening the lock is 90.9%. In this example the probability of evolutionary success is the same, while the efficiency in random mutations is in favor of the set of three one-dial locks by a factor of 517/57 = 9.07.

Summary

It is not that the children could not understand efficiency. One process requires less input than another process to achieve the same goal. It is not that the children could not understand non-random mutation, e.g. placing a set of six dice face up such that the set displays each of the six different mutations of the face of a die. It is not that the children could not understand random mutation through an illustration such as the set of six faces resulting from rolling a set of six dice. It is that Dawkins doesn’t understand these concepts in the context of Darwinian evolution, even in his own illustration of three mutation sites of six mutations each. Consequently, he teaches children falsehood.

Replacing a single stage of random mutation and natural selection in Darwinian evolution by a series of sub-stages does not affect the probability of evolutionary success. It increases the efficiency of random mutation. Dawkins’ claim that such replacement breaks an improbability up into smaller pieces of improbability is not simply wrong. It is mathematically incoherent.

Dawkins is guilty of self-deception. He is also guilty of objective child abuse, by his definition of child abuse, when he teaches children that such gradualism in Darwinian evolution smears out the luck. It does not affect the luck. It increases the efficiency of mutation as his own example of non-random mutation illustrates.

A Ray of Hope

From the analytical tenor of his explanations of Darwinian evolution, it is apparent that Richard Dawkins is keenly interested in the mathematics of probability. This yields the hope that he might study the math, thereby leading to his realization of the errors he has been teaching as his solution to the ‘problem of improbability’ of Darwinian evolution in a one-off event and as the ‘problem of improbability’ of the existence of God.

It is evident from his explanations that Dawkins recognizes, however vaguely, the fact that Darwinian evolution is a mathematical algorithm involving mathematical probability. We are in debt to Richard Dawkins, among other evolutionary biologists, for his testimony that Darwinian evolution is a mathematical algorithm.

Nevertheless, Richard Dawkins is in debt to the thousands, whom he has convincingly taught his mathematically incoherent version of Darwinian evolution. He owes them the diligence not only to learn the basic mathematics involved, but publicly to correct the errors he has promulgated due to his lack of understanding of the Darwinian algorithm. Especially he owes it to the children, whom, by his definition, he has abused.

Note: On the ‘problem of improbability’ see The Odds on the Existence of God

Filed in: Faith

About the Author:

Bob Drury is retired. He has been fascinated with the reasonableness of the Faith since his junior year in high school in the mid-20th century for which the religion text was entitled, "Faith and Reason". That fascination has continued throughout his education in philosophy, math and science. In his essays he hopes to share that fascination with others. Read more at his website, They Have No Wine.

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  • Bill S

    There was a time when I believed everything the Church teaches and another time when I believed everything Richard Dawkins teaches.

    I have since read books by Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe and articles by other proponents of intelligent design.

    Dawkins lost me when I heard him say that a bird’s wing evolved by serving intermediate functions. There had to be intermediate functions for natural selection to generate a wing. No freakin way.

    But even if Dawkins is wrong about something he teaches, that is not child abuse because he is explaining the thought process and teaching them to think things through. Like me, they will eventually figure out the rational truths themselves. On the other hand, teaching Catholic dogma to children is most definitely a form of abuse. It teaches them to accept things on faith alone which makes it harder for them to question things and be skeptical about things that seem too good to be true.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Bill S, my chap, was there a time you were NOT a troll? (Just wondering.) Also that’s a little arrogant of you to consider yourself a beholder of “rational truths”. Bill S, you are the highest Rational enlightened One & the rest of us are the irrational dumb earthlings. Seriously, Bill, quit flattering yourself. Also, according to you, when Christians teach their beliefs it’s “child abuse” but when Devout Faithful (mostly angry & bitter) Atheists & Secularists teach their beliefs it’s not “child abuse” & all is okay? Have you ever heard of Double Standard? Or hypocrite? Finally, Catholic Christians ain’t Protestants (faith alone). Catholicism teaches both Faith and Reason. Fides Et Ratio. That you fail in comprehension abilities is your fault.

    • Bill S

      Catholic Pilgrim,

      Whether it is child abuse to teach children religion really depends on a lot of factors. Maybe Dawkins was generalizing to much when he made the statement.

      I was raised Catholic and, while I was psychologically abused by my eighth grade nun, it was not because she taught me the Catholic faith. It was for entirely secular reasons having to do not doing homework. Now that I know there is no (Judeo-Christian) God, I don’t feel that I was abused having been raised Catholic and attending Catholic schools grades 1-12. But maybe that really was a form of abuse given what I went through in the transition.

      I think it comes down to this:

      If Dawkins is right about atheism, then he has a point. If he is wrong about it then it might be atheists that are committing the abuse by depriving their children of very important information.

  • bdlaacmm

    Bill S.,

    “[The Catholic Church] teaches them to accept things on faith alone”

    Sorry, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong here. It teaches no such thing. Go back through history and see the work of countless great thinkers puzzling their way through to the Truth. It goes all the way back to St. Paul himself, who admonished us to “prove all things”. Thomas Aquinas certainly took nothing on faith alone – he worked his way through syllogism upon syllogism, taking care that not the least contradiction crept in unawares or through carelessness. In recent centuries, Catholic scientists have been in the forefront of nearly every tremendous advance in knowledge of the natural world, from astronomy to botany to medicine to geology to optics to mathematics, and on and on and on…

    What you are describing is called fideism, a method of thought which claims we can know things by faith alone. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church has again and again condemned fideism as a heresy. Perhaps you can find individual, ill-informed Catholics who erroneously think one must believe by faith alone, but that is 100% contradictory to church teaching.

    • Howard

      Well, some things do have to be taken on Faith alone, like the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Reason can show that it is not self-contradictory, but reason alone is not able to show that it is true. Your main point, though, is valid.

    • Bill S

      When Pius XII declared ex cathedra the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, Catholics pretty much had to accept it on faith. There isn’t any way to use reason and logic to come to that conclusion.

    • Bill S

      Perhaps you can find individual, ill-informed Catholics who erroneously think one must believe by faith alone, but that is 100% contradictory to church teaching.

      So, other than accepting it on faith, how do you know that the bread and wine is turned into Christ’s body and blood?

    • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

      The relationship between faith and reason is so important that St. John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical about it: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

    • Bill S

      I know that Catholicism is based on faith and reason. But where does reason come in when it comes to dogma? Believing that consecrated bread and wine becomes Christ’s body and blood is counter intuitive. A reasonable person has every reason to reject such an assertion.

  • Bill S

    was there a time you were NOT a troll?
    I don’t consider myself a troll. Trolls don’t get into interesting discussions. I do have good conversations by commenting. 
    You can’t have a post accusing a famous atheist of child abuse and not have someone defend him. Children should be taught to think and question everything. That’s what people like Dawkins do. 
    Teaching children to accept what you are telling them on faith because we are saved by faith is wrong. If a kid wants to know how Jesus and Mary could go up into the sky and end up in heaven and not in outer space, he shouldn’t be told that he has to accept it on faith and not doubt or question it. 
    Also that’s a little arrogant of you to consider yourself a beholder of “rational truths”.
    We all hold rational truths. Believers also hold irrational truths like my reference to the Ascension and Assumption. Those are irrational and must be accepted on faith. 
    you are the highest Rational enlightened One & the rest of us are the irrational dumb earthlings.
    No. I choose not to believe what my rational mind sees as irrational. Again, the Ascension and Assumption are examples if irrational beliefs. 
    Also, according to you, when Christians teach their beliefs it’s “child abuse” but when Devout Faithful (mostly angry & bitter) Atheists & Secularists teach their beliefs it’s not “child abuse” & all is okay?
    Atheists and Secularists don’t teach their kids to accept, without questioning, gods, angels, demons, saints, afterlife, etc. They teach them that it is ok not to believe things for which there is no evidence. 
    That you fail in comprehension abilities is your fault.
    I can comprehend what you tell me and choose to not believe it. 

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      You say that “Children should be taught to think and question everything. That’s what people like Dawkins do.” My essay contends that Dawkins fails to think lucidly in a matter essential to his ‘life’s work’, as he identifies it, and teaches children how to think erroneously. In another instance, Dawkins is glaringly inconsistent. He claims that in Darwinian evolution the overall probability of a series of probabilities is not of consequence in contrast to the individual probabilities comprising the series. In his essay, ‘The Great Tim Tebow Fallacy’, Dawkins argued the opposite, namely it is the overall probability of a series alone that is of consequence http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-crafting-of-logic/ . I say, “Children should be taught to think and question everything. That’s what the Catholic Church does and teaches.” Obviously, we disagree. That’s one purpose for the com boxes.

    • Bill S

      Both science teachers and religious teachers believe what they are telling their students. Science teachers focus on the natural material universe, where they still can be mistaken and must be corrected as we learn more about the universe. I don’t consider it child abuse for a teacher to be honestly mistaken and I think the biggest mistake being taught by Neo-Darwinists is the idea that the mutations that occur over time that result in the generation of a breed of dog or a whole new species are just random accidents during cell replication. That can’t be. Even for sheep to develop thicker wool in cold climates is a purposeful series of mutations and natural selection or survival of the fittest. It is just as likely that every mutation has a purpose as it is that none of them do.

      But if we wrongly teach our children that every mutation is random and without purpose, I don’t see that as abuse. If we tell them they can go to hell for masturbating or being gay, etc. that, to me, is abuse.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      Implicitly you see a distinction in culpability of one, who teaches children error in science, and one, who teaches
      children error in ethics. It isn’t evident from what you write, if you judge as error the proposition that justice ultimately prevails in reward and punishment. You may simply be claiming that your concept of hell is unjust and your concept of hell should not be taught to children. I think you would find widespread agreement with that.
      Did you notice that it was not Dawkins’ science or ethics, but the logic of his arithmetic, which I demonstrated was erroneous? Of course, his science is false because his arithmetic is false. Don’t you concur that Dawkins’ doesn’t understand the arithmetic of the Darwinian algorithm? If so, hasn’t Dawkins proved himself incompetent to teach evolution? Dawkins claims that teaching children can be a form of child abuse. I submit that, what he taught children in the video, severely hinders their ability to understand arithmetic and deserves the appellation of ‘child abuse’ by Dawkins’ standard.

    • Bill S

      Don’t you concur that Dawkins’ doesn’t understand the arithmetic of the Darwinian algorithm? If so, hasn’t Dawkin s proved himself incompetent to teach evolution?

      I don’t get this. Even if Dawkins’ approach to Darwinian evolution is found to be seriously flawed, can we really say that he is abusing children?

      Compare that with the Church’s teaching that certain actions are mortal sins, which can only be forgiven by confessing those sins to a priest and that dying without receiving forgiveness can result in an eternity in hell. And then listing things like masturbation, homosexual acts, pre-marital sex, missing mass on Sunday or holy days of obligation, etc. as mortal sins. I believe that 1. Dawkins is not committing child abuse in what he teaches about evolution even if it turns out he is not completely right and 2. Dawkins has a good point equating the religious indoctrination of children with child abuse.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      The probability of opening the three-dial lock in one random try is 1/216. The probability of opening the three one-dial locks in one random try for each lock is 1/216. You may see this more clearly, if three dice, one red, one yellow and one green are used in illustration. Dawkins’ three digit unlocking set is 6-5-1. Whether the three dice are rolled together or one at a time, the probability of red-6, yellow-5, green-1 is 1/216. Dawkins says it takes a maximum of 216 ‘tries’ in the first case and a maximum of 18 ‘tries’ iin the second case. This is true only if the 216 ‘tries’, i.e. mutations, and the 18 ‘tries’, i.e. mutations, are non-random. This yields a probability of 100% success in both cases. The probability is the same. What he has demonstrated is a difference in the efficiency of mutation for non-random mutations, not a difference in probability. The same holds true for random mutations. Dawkins in his arithmetical logic is dead wrong. If he ever figures it out, he owes you an apology for deceiving you. May I not say for abusing you?

      Aren’t you looking at mortal sin solely as grave matter? Mortal sin requires full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). Psalm 103 puts things in real context. Read it in full, however, e.g. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust (verses 13, 14). Sir John Falstaff expresses this from the dust looking up, “Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell, and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villany? Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty.” (Henry IV, Part 1, Act 3, Scene 3, The Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap, beginning line 185)

    • Bill S

      This is a case of a Catholic doing what he can to discredit a world famous atheist and trying to turn the tables on him since he has compared religious indoctrination to child abuse.

      If I haven’t told you already, I agree that random mutations and natural selection do not adequately explain everything about how all living things evolved from a single living cell to become what they are today. I don’t, however, agree that it is child abuse to present this theory in the absence of a better natural explanation.

      In his lesson with the lock, Dawkins was merely demonstrating that what might seem highly improbable at first can sometimes be shown to be more probable when taken in smaller steps. For the example he used, he is not misleading anyone. It is a very simple lesson and stands on its own merit. It may be misapplied to more complex circumstances but the fact of the matter is that, if done in steps, that particular lock can be opened in 18 tries or less. Instead of trying every possible combination of the three digit code, you can try each number on a single tumbler that allows passage of the cog to the next tumbler. Doing it that way, it takes 18 tries or less to open the lock. Now just leave it at that. That was the purpose of the demonstration. Accept it for what it is.

      Now which is child abuse? It depends.

      If the atheists are right, then teaching religion to children is child abuse.

      If the atheists are wrong and if Catholicism is the one true religion, then it is child abuse to instill atheism or maybe any other religious beliefs that contradict Church teaching into children.

      If Judaism is the one true religion, then it is child abuse to baptize them and teach that they can only be saved by accepting Jesus as their lord and savior or raise them according to the Quran or any other religion.

      You get the picture. It seems best to just tell children about the religions of the world, how they are similar to and different from each other.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      “Accept it for what it is.”
      I do accept Dawkins’ demonstration for what it is. It is a mathematical demonstration of a difference in the efficiency of mutation with no change in probability. Both Dawkins and you claim that the multiple step process has a greater probability of success than the overall single step process. Such is the expressed intent of his demonstration. However, the claim is mathematically false as I have demonstrated in detail. Unfortunately, Dawkins and you don’t understand the arithmetic, which arithmetic is both coherent and a perfect exemplar of the algorithm of Darwinian evolution. The numbers of mutations involved in a series of probabilities form an overall sum, but the probabilities of the series form an overall product. Your views on theology and our divergent views on the technicality of ‘child abuse’ should not interfere with our understanding of arithmetic. I consider Dawkins’
      characterization of teaching the Catholic Faith to children as ‘child abuse’ as ‘cute’ and my essay a ‘cute’ retort. You don’t see the humor in Dawkins’ tripping over high school level arithmetic in his serious explanation of his understanding of his ‘life’s work’, which he zealously presents as opposed to the Faith. Personally, I think Dawkins has the talent and the zeal to learn the mathematics. Then what? I suspect he would be inclined to rethink his philosophy which is so entwined with his currently vague and erroneous perception of mathematical probability.

    • Bill S

      OK, Bob. I’ll have to say “uncle”. All I know is that I watched the video and I understood it. It was just an example of how it could take up to 218 tries to open the lock If you started at 111 and ended at 666 and 666 was the correct combination. Now if you try 1 to 6 on the first tumbler and the shaft moves to the next tumbler when you get to 6, you can go to the next tumbler and try 1 to 6 again. If the shaft moves again when you reach 6 you can go to the last tumbler and try 1 to 6 again and when you reach 6 the lock opens. You tried 6 numbers on each tumbler for a total of 18 tries. I understood that before you went through your criticism of the math involved in this process. I think you are taking a kids’ show and tell and turning it into a thesis. The kids got it. You don’t.

      I’ve thought about it a little more and I accept your opinion that the idea that instilling Catholicism in our kids (which I also did) is child abuse is a bit over the top and maybe could be considered to be cute.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      Suppose it was kids’ show and tell and not Dawkins’
      central thesis in “The God Delusion” (page 121-2). Dawkins should have told the children that the gradualism of sub-stages, which he illustrated, increases the efficiency of mutation without any change in the probability of success of Darwinian evolution. That, of course, would be a contradiction of his thesis and what he did tell the children.

    • Bill S

      the gradualism of sub-stages, which he illustrated, increases the
      efficiency of mutation without any change in the probability of success of Darwinian
      evolution.

      I’m going to have to take your word for that, Bob. The basic mechanism of random mutations that get passed on and filtered through natural selection to cause the changes necessary to create whole new species is severely lacking. I don’t believe it is severely lacking the Christian God but it is lacking some sort of teleological intelligence that has to be behind all this. If that makes any sense.

    • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

      Thanks for the discussion, Bill. I should tell you that I agree with your argument that random mutation, in the sense of lacking teleological intelligence, is philosophically untenable. The problem is that no one today listens to a philosophical argument. That is why Dawkins tries to pass off his philosophical thesis in “The God Delusion” as science. He argues that there is a scientific solution to the improbability of evolution in
      a one-off event, but there is no solution to the improbability of God. His argument is arithmetical and false. The arithmetic should be easily understood.

      Please be patient with me in this attempt to make the arithmetical distinction between efficiency and probability clear. You should not take my word for it that the gradualism of sub-stages increases efficiency without any change in probability.

      Efficiency can be seen more easily in terms of time than in the quantity of material input. Natural selection requires the generation of fodder along with the one
      survivable element. The non-random generation of all 216 numbers between 111 and 666 takes more time than the non-random generation of only 18 of these.
      Both sets include one copy of 651, which is the only number that isn’t eliminated by natural selection. Think of writing out all 216 on one list and all 18 on another list and then crossing out all but 651. The list consisting of only 18 numbers is more efficient in the number of mutations generated (written out) and subsequently subjected to natural selection (crossed out, except for 651). It is clearly more efficient in the time it takes. However, both processes are equally successful in evolving 651, a probability of 100% for each. This is what Dawkins illustrated, not a change in probability as he claims. A similar efficiency holds for random mutation at any given level of probability, but the arithmetic is more complex. Gradualism in Darwinian evolution increases the efficiency of mutation without any change to the probability of success. Dawkins’ thesis is false on the grounds of arithmetic, irrespective of any philosophical considerations.

    • Bill S

      Dawkins has painted himself into a corner in one important area: Neo-Darwinism. It’s wrong. Aside from that, I concur with what he says about religion.

      We can’t reasonably point to our god as the solution to the problems presented by Darwin’s theory. Random mutations has to be replaced with non-random mutations. What law of nature, of which we are not aware, controls mutations that have lead to the wolf to evolve into a Boston Terrier through artificial selection or one species to evolve into a completely different species through natural selection?

      These mutations seem to be by design. It seems like each one is teleological in nature. Darwin and Dawkins have missed that. Religious people attribute this design to their god. I think they are all wrong. We have yet to come up with an explanation for the appearance of design in nature.

    • Bill S

      I agree with your argument that random mutation, in the sense of lacking teleological intelligence, is philosophically untenable. The problem is that no one today listens to a philosophical argument.

      We need to honestly and truly come to a consensus that we cannot dismiss the fact that there is a teleological intelligence behind all this. Theists and deists already know that there is, although they are too quick to conflate it with their own particular deity. But atheists have cognitive dissonance and put their hands over their ears and shout “ya da da da da, I can’t hear you” when someone brings up this possibility. If smart people like Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe would refuse donations from Christian fundementalists and stop concluding that the intelligent designer is the Judeo Christian God or even is a person referred to as “He” they might get somewhere and be able to convince atheists that they are missing the most important part of this whole process of understanding how this all came about.

    • Bill S

      As for the lesson in probabilities, all Dawkins was trying to demonstrate is that things are not always as improbable as they might seem. There is nothing wrong with teaching that to children.

      The model lock he showed had three tumblers with six numbers on each. It would appear that the chance of opening it on the first try is one over 6x6x6. However, there is only one cog on this lock and it only has to get by one tumbler at a time. In that case, there is a 1 in 6 chance of getting by each tumbler and a cumulative 1 in 18 chance of getting by them one at a time and opening the lock.

      I don’t see any child abuse in that demonstration.

    • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

      Trolls can and do “get into interesting discussions.” http://curezone.com/forums/troll.asp

    • Bill S

      “A troll is someone who inspires flaming rhetoric, someone who is purposely provoking and pulling people into flaming discussion. Flaming discussions usually end with name calling and a flame war.”

      Nope. That’s not me. You think I’m a troll because I present a widely accepted worldview on a site where the opposite view is held by most others. That doesn’t make me a troll. Even if it does (to you) you need to try to get over your disdain for people who don’t share your worldview.