What to say against the Infinite-Monkey-Theorem?


(Janik Schiller) #1

Hey everybody,

lately I thought again about the Infinite-Monkey-Theorem and I’m not quite sure, how to answer to someone who comes up with the idea, that with an infinite amount of time in an infinte space it’s obvious (not casuality) that at some point this world, like it is, comes into being.
What are your thoughts and possible answers about this?


(SeanO) #2

@janik.schiller Thank you for that question. The idea behind the infinite monkey theorem is that if a monkey sat behind a type writer for long enough it would eventually produce every possible text - including the complete works of William Shakespeare. Therefore, the argument goes, it was inevitable that life should appear - that genetic information should arise from non-information.

Gerald Schroeder provided a point by point refutation that impressed even Antony Flew - prominent the atheist turned theist. Schroeder showed that even the probability of a monkey producing a single sonnet by chance is nonexistent. Information is always derived from intelligence. Below is an article with more detail on Schroeder’s argument. You may also consider reading John Lennox’s book ‘God’s Undertaker’.

Hope those thoughts are helpful. The Lord bless you in your studies.

“Schroeder first referred to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts. A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After one month of hammering away at it (as well as using it as a bathroom!), the monkeys produced fifty typed pages - but no a single word. Schroeder noted that this was the case even though the shortest work in the English language is one letter (a or I). A is a word only if there is a space on either side of it. If we take it that the keyboard has thirty characters (the 26 letters and other symbols), then the likelihood of getting a one-letter world is 30 x 30 x 30, which is 27,000. The likelihood of a getting a one-letter word is one chance of 27,000”

“If you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips - forget the monkeys - each one weighing a millionth of a gram and had each computer chip able to spin out 288 trials at, say, a million times a second; if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second (producing) random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. It would be off again by a factor of 10 to the 600th. You will never get a sonnet by chance. The universe would have to be 10 to the 600th time larger. Yet the world just thinks monkeys can do it every time.”


(Jean Daniel Slabbert) #3

@SeanO you’re making my reading list so long I’m not sure if I’ll ever get through… :blush:

Thank you for this excellent response! I’m fascinated and intrigued and get goose-flesh and chuckle when I see those odds - especially having a mathematical background. I find it ironic that so many atheists (friends and family whom I love dearly) assume the ‘intellectual high-ground’ when they simply use the term “science” to substantiate a theory or argument. All this while the math (the only exact science in my opinion) effectively disproves their argument.

Anyway, to add to the conversation, I’m actually reading ‘Jesus among secular Gods’ at the moment and, on his chapter on science, Vince Vitale speaks to the probability of an explosion, the Big Bang, creating a universe perfectly poised for life. If I recall correctly, the probability is something like 1 divided by 1 to the power of 10 to the power of 126. It was late and I was tired, so I might be quoting the numbers wrongly, but in short, he would need all the paper in the world to write the number that this produced.

@janik.schiller I think the best response to the Infinite-Monkey-Theorem is simply to share what Sean wrote above. And, if you have one at hand, drop the mic and walk off… :wink:


(Janik Schiller) #4

@SeanO Wow, thanks for this impressive quotation. So, did I get it right, that the actual argument is, that there never was infintie time and space, but a “beginning of time”. Does the majority of significant scientists agree on that? If I trace back Schroeder’s calculation, I come to the conclusion that he is based on a “beginning of time” that happend over 10 to the 74th years ago. Is this realistic according to other scientists?


(SeanO) #5

@janik.schiller Per my understanding, the original argument was not about the existence of our universe, but rather the origins of complex life forms. The original argument assumed the universe existed, if I understand correctly, and that given infinite time and chance beings such as us would inevitably exist. To apply this argument to the existence of the universe is a modification of the original argument and, in my opinion, invalid. Before the universe existed, what was there? Where did that come from? We ultimately have to posit something that is eternal. Even if there was a little universe generating machine being run by a galactic monkey, where did that machine come from in the first place? So the question of origins of the universe is even harder, which is saying a lot, than the origin of life.

I honestly cannot speak to the accuracy of Schroeder’s math, since I have not double checked it myself and I am uncertain about the exact age of the universe posited by scientists, but I think the argument holds even if you continue to increase that age many times over. The principle he is trying to communicate is much more fundamental. Reason does not spring into being from non-reason - information always has its source in an intelligence. If we find a cuneiform tablet with fifty years of financial transactions for camels, crops, etc. buried in the ground, we do not go - wow, look at what chance produced. Rather, we immediately assume it was produced by an ancient civilization. Monkeys do not produce sonnets or cuneiform tablets and time and chance does not produce intelligent life.

But I think you asked another question - how do we respond to a person with this objection? I think each situation is different and we need to remember the goal is not to win the argument, but to share God’s love and truth with the individual. So even as we share these ideas, I think it is important to listen and to understand their perspective at a deeper level as we pray for them.

Are those thoughts helpful?


(SeanO) #6

@Jean I’m glad you found it helpful and hope you enjoy the book once it’s next on the list. It’s always a blessing to find resources from godly people who have thought deeply about an issue.


(Janik Schiller) #7

@SeanO Yes, those thoughts are helpful, thanks. My questions about the “beginning of time” came from the assumption, that the Infinite-Monkey-Theorem is only applicable to the Origin-of-complex-life-matter (to the original argument), if the universe has infinite time at his disposal.

If it doesn’t have, then Schroeder already showed us how unrealistic complex life is without a creator.

If it does have, then it doesn’t matter how small Schroeder estimates the chances, because (as the Infinite-Monkey-Theorem says): if there is any chance, in infinite time it will happen at some point. And as our point of reference is within this world of complex life, we are unaware of the scenarios, in which the origin of complex life “failed”.

But - thanks for the clue - even if the universe exists infinitely, it still has to face the argument “resaon does not spring into being from non-reason”.


(SeanO) #8

@janik.schiller Yes, information comes from an intelligent source. Even if a monkey could write a sonnet in a few trillion years, that does not explain where the typewriter, paper and food came from to keep the monkey going so long and provide a means for creating said sonnet. If the most basic mechanisms do not exist, then time and chance have nothing to work with…


(Jamie Hobbs) #9

Just an additional tidbit. Sean has given the entire sundae, so maybe I can offer a cherry.

The infinite time concept actually proves itself unreliable based solely on logic, as it posits an actual infinite. Infinity as a concept is fine and is useful in mathematics and theory, but it cannot be actualized with respect to an infinite past. Consider that time is linear. You cannot get to today without going through yesterday. Likewise, yesterday has its own yesterday, and so on. If you have an infinite string of yesterdays, you cannot traverse all of them to arrive at “today” due to the nature of infinity. Therefore, the universe cannot possibly have an infinite past, as we would never arrive at “today”. The very fact that we are in “today” disproves infinite time.

As you said, “in the beginning” tells us that God’s first creation was time, since the term “beginning” has no definition apart from time. Hopefully that makes sense. Great question.


(Janik Schiller) #10

@Jamie_Hobbs This is deep stuff! It takes a while to figure it out, but then it makes sense. Thank you all, for your thoughts. I think, I got an answer I can work with.