# "One chance in 10^{50} can never happen"

On page 44 of the Jehovah's Witnesses book **Life: How did it get
here?** we find the quote:

But any event that has just one chance in 10^{50} is dismissed
by mathematicians as never happening.

Similar quotes appear in other Creationist material. However, it
was years before I heard a Creationist actually name this
mathematician. [1] I have been a scientist for
decades, and I have never heard a scientist (or mathematician) say any
such thing.

They reason scientists don't say it is because such events happen
every second of every day. Science commonly uses dramatically larger
numbers, and uses them in describing the actions of everyday things.

For example, take a pack of cards, and shuffle it. If you do a good
job, then there are a lot of possible outcomes. Specifically, there
are 52 * 51 * 50 * . . . * 3 * 2 * 1 ways. That number is **52
factorial**, which is about 10^{68} . That's 10^{18}
times larger than 10^{50} . Yet there the shuffled pack is!

But, if you were about to play a hand in a card game, the chance
the cards will favor you is one in two, or one in six, or some such
number. The point here is that the probability of getting **a
desirable outcome** can be far removed from the probability of
getting **one specific outcome**.

If you think that the factorial of 52 is big, allow me to point out
that thermodynamics involves taking the factorial of numbers like
10^{30} . And we aren't calculating gee-whiz things, far
removed from real life. We're calculating the disorder in a quart of
water. Compared to numbers like that, 10^{50} isn't even a
spit in the ocean.

Even an expensive computer could never examine each and every one
of 10^{50} possibilities. However, there are search techniques
which can hunt through problems of that size in perhaps 10^{5}
tries. Here is a "weasel" program that does
exactly that by using *cumulative selection*, and here are some other
"weasel" programs.

Footnote:
The mathematician turned out to be Emile
Borel. He discussed the idea in an obscure book aimed at
non-scientists, so this was his personal rule of thumb, not a Theorem
or a Law.

Last modified: 26 January 2005
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