Thursday, October 12, 2006



It's forehead slap time again!

I can't tell whether Chuck Colson is merely the conduit or the perpetrator of this bit of stunning stupidity. In an article in the Christian Post entitled "What Has Darwin to Do with Shakespeare?," Colson reports that Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt’s new book, A Meaningful World, has expanded "the narrow concept that many people have of 'intelligent design.'" Supposedly, "Wiker and Witt are arguing against what they call the "poison" of our time: reductionist materialism and the nihilism that stems from it." And what kind of reasoning do they bring to this task? According to Colson, it goes like this:

Most of us have heard someone say that "if a million monkeys banged away on typewriters for a million years, eventually they would generate the entire works of Shakespeare." I have tended to laugh this off as most of us do, not aware that the people who embrace reductionist materialism are really serious.

As Wiker and Witt explain it, "Reductionist materialism seeks to give an entirely material explanation of human intelligence, one that reduces it to a string of pointless material causes. It must kill the soul, and in the process, reduce all the evident genius of humanity to dust."

And that, the authors show us, is exactly why materialists came up with the "million monkeys" idea. Scientific reductionism -- the view that we all came into being by random chance -- is closely linked to literary reductionism -- the desire to "force the beauties of [literature] into [a] box."

Thus, scientists came up with the "million monkeys" theory to show that Shakespeare’s genius was nothing special, that his works could have come about purely by chance. And, the theory goes, "If monkeys could knock out a Shakespearean tragedy given enough time, then what about creating Shakespeare himself? Couldn’t he be almost as easily explained on Darwinian grounds?"
The only problem, of course, is that scientists have never said any such thing. Mathematicians have demonstrated the infinite monkey theorem, which states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type or create a particular chosen text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. I'll spare you an attempt to explain the proof of this by anyone as innumerate as me. The Wikipedia article can handle that. Nowhere has this theorem been proposed as an explanation for evolution or the source of genius (which would take an infinitely old Shakespeare).

No doubt someone said "if a million monkeys banged away on typewriters for a million years," but only out of ignorance of the real theorem. To base an argument for design on the misunderstanding of mathematics by the "man on the street" is a delicious (but again painful) irony.

As for the ID cohort, methinks it is like a weasel.

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