the Probability Bomb — 58 Comments

  1. My view on evolution is sort of a middle road. The idea of evolution, to me, does not preclude the possibility that the process of evolution was not itself instigated by divinity. The idea that nothing magically just happens only means that nothing magically just happens, not that there definitely isn’t a singular source that set the wheels that have turned to this point in motion, that “caused the Big Bang” so to speak.

    • Even back when the ink was still drying on Darwin’s first draft, he and everyone else knew that the very purpose of evolutionary theory was to debunk and exclude God from any role in His creation. A nice, “scientific” and naturalistic explanation, no matter how preposterous, of how a clearly designed universe could exist without a designer, was their wet dream.

      • Even Darwin never denied the existence of God. He questioned God’s role in the creation of the various species, but he never denied the existence of God Himself.

        The very purpose of evolutionary theory was to try to find an explanation for observed phenomena. It was to study existence, to try to discover how things work. THAT is the entire purpose of science. It’s not like scientists wake up in the morning and say “How am I going to disprove God today?” (Okay, some might say that, but taking an objective and building theories to support it is one of the surest ways to make bad theories.) There are many scientists who look at the intricacies of nature and marvel at how God carefully balanced them to ensure that life could exist and thrive.

        More to the point, evolution theory says NOTHING about abiogenesis. Evolution is an observable process that is used to describe a process that life goes through once it already exists. You can take a culture of bacteria and with some simple manipulation, watch evolution take place right in front of you as the bacteria adapt to the environment. You can watch it with some simple computer algorithms and come up with innovative solutions to problems, by cribbing from the real-life rules of evolution.

        No scientist has succeeded at even artificial abiogenesis, however, and it continues to be one of the most elusive theories to prove. Quite possibly for the reason that abiogenesis is not the source of life on Earth.

          • I’m having a hard time finding the referenced quote. All I can find is an apology for an old review by a G. Ledyard Stebbins of a follow-up to Origin of the Species written by someone else entirely… which means I’m almost certainly barking up the wrong tree. Can you point me in the right direction?

          • If you’re talking about the Lady Hope story? Yeah, that never happened. Darwin’s children denied that she’d ever met Darwin, let alone renounced the theory of evolution in her presence.

    • That’s my take on it as well. The Bible says who did it, but it says nothing about how. It says it took a week, but how much time is there in a week to a Being that can manipulate time at will?

      For that matter, if I throw grain mash, yeast, water and hops in a container and apply heat, I’ve made beer. Probably not very good beer, but beer nonetheless. Even if it takes a little while to cook, the creative act took about five minutes, tops.

      We’re discussing the main architect of a complex system here after all. It’s entirely possible He built the universe in the same sense a more mundane architect builds a building or a general wins a war.

  2. Abiogenesis is only ridiculous if there’s another, better explanation. In our world, the only real alternative is “God did it”. In Quentyn’s world, though… with its cosmic entities, dimension-jumping fairies, life magic, time travel, and now probability manipulation… there’s lots of ways life could come into existence without having to assemble itself in a fantastically improbable manner from nonliving components. Plus, life on Earth only arose once that we know of, so we have no idea how improbable it is – life in the Questorverse arose thousands of times in the same galaxy, so the odds of it happening must be quite high.

    I dunno. I’m feeling a bit insulted that you’re so dismissive of something I like, but if that were enough to make me quit your comic then I’d have quit a long time ago. It’s really more the conflation of “abiogenesis” with “darwinism” that bugs me – they’re separate things, Darwin wrote about the evolution of life, not its origin.

    • Don’t laugh too hard. They construct elaborate, minutely controlled chemistry setups in their laboratories to produce organic molecules— and then claim this is proof that same “primordial soup” formed by accident in the wild billions of years ago.

      • There’s an old saying about credibility when writing fiction and non-fiction. It would seem to apply here as well.

        “Truth is nearly always stranger than fiction, because to be believed fiction must make sense.”

        The universe doesn’t care what our calculations of probability say. Just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or can’t happen.

    • The Jokes; yes they are very funny. But the “Socio-Political Rhetoric” as you put it, always struck me the same way religion does in pretty much any high fantasy work. I.E. Part Of The Setting. If you don’t agree with the Writer’s views that’s O.K. If the views the characters have are too “preachy” for you,
      hand-wave it as part of the setting in the same way those of us who enjoy your average Marvel or DC character hand-wave the ham-fisted plots that sometimes pop up.

      TL;DR you don’t have to agree with or even understand a particular viewpoint to enjoy the story as a whole. and if something about it rubs you the wrong way but you like the rest, well when that something pops up just set your brain on nic cage movie setting; that is, the stuff you like goes in and stays, the stuff you don’t just doesn’t make it past the short-term memory.

  3. I love that expression on Quentin’s face in the second panel. He finds the concept of people who believe in life beginning as an accident is just so ludicrous. LOL

  4. I prefer evolution theory for several different reasons. First is that creationist theory suggests that we started out as the perfect creations from a perfect creator…and still manage to completely fuck things up. Evolution suggest that we fought though incredible odds to get where we are today, that we survive, despite working with a flawed biology.

    I’ll admit that evolution theory and its multiple versions are slow to accept new idea’s, faster than some religions (intelligent design anyone?) but still slowly at times. I understand the believing evolution over creationism can seem like we are alone in a godless universe, but testing new idea’s, discovering news things about life and the universe are key to our intellectual development as a species. I also understand that creationism’s ‘god did it’ answer is a lot easier for people to hear than ‘Evolution, its complicated’ (followed by many, many, many text books with the fine detail). We have evidence of small scale evolution (bacteria and fruit flies studies among them), I’d be interested in any studies of small scale divine creation that have been performed.

          • The real irony here is that neither do you. He has as much proof as you do ultimately. That’s why it’s called faith.

            Sure, it strains credibility that it all happened wholly by chance. But until we can prove it one way or another, that’s what faith is FOR.

            He has just as much right to and justification for his as you do for yours and I do for mine.

    • I still don’t understand why the theory of evolution precludes the possibility of a creator. I don’t agree with intelligent design either–I don’t view evolution as a directed process so much as one that was instigated, started, and then largely left alone. I view God’s interaction with our own species much the same way (with the possible exception of Jesus Christ.) He tends to mostly leave us alone, giving us guidance only when we express genuine desire for it and even then only in extremely subtle ways that cannot for certain be attributed to Him. My best guess as to why is that it is important in order to uphold our free will for it to be impossible to “prove” that God exists.

      • It takes what God said was His own specific, deliberate design, attributes it to chance, time, and blind accident– and you can’t figure out why it excludes the possibility of a Creator?

        • Perhaps it WANTS to–what I’m saying is that even if it is the truth it STILL fails in that purpose. Though I find it astounding that you would say something as sweeping as “Even back when the ink was still drying on Darwin’s first draft, he and everyone else knew that the very purpose of evolutionary theory was to debunk and exclude God from any role in His creation.” There’s certainly a possibility that that’s true, but claiming to know such things of someone long gone like Charles Darwin without evidence–and by evidence, in case you’d care to provide any, I mean SOURCED evidence–is nearly as futile as claiming to know the mind of God himself.

          • It’s not sweeping, it’s explicit truth. Shall I turn your attention to the raptures with which Darwin was embraced by the anti-religious? They knew what it meant; a universe where God either does not exist or is simply irrelevant to the origin of Man is in the end one and the same.

          • Just because it was used for the purpose of the anti religious does not constitute hard evidence that such was DARWIN’S intended purpose. Virtually everything ever written can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways and twisted to a wide variety of ends–including the Bible itself I might add. And as I’ve stated before, regardless of the intent to use the theory of evolution to say that “a universe where God either does not exist or is simply irrelevant to the origin of Man” are tantamount to each other (however valid or not that statement in itself may be,) the theory of evolution STILL FAILS TO DO THIS. The theory of evolution does NOT prove God was irrelevant to the origin of man, nor does it prove God does not exist. God himself could have set up the universe in such a way that evolution can be present–an employment of extreme subtlety that would be beyond you or me, but come on, it’s GOD we’re talking about.

        • And who is to say He didn’t simply line up his shot like a master billiards player? Seven days to set up the dominoes juuuust right and a Big Bang to start them toppling.

      • I’ve heard this attempt at unifying (and pacifying) the two ‘warring factions’ – this idea that, well, why couldn’t God have USED evolution?
        The most foundational problem is also simplest way to falsify it, at least as specifically stated by Christian sources: It makes a literal non-sense of the primary purpose of what Jesus understood his mission to be, which is the sacrificial atonement and the undoing of sin – the defeat of death, as dramatically demonstrated in the pivotal resurrection from the tomb.
        Unfortunately, one of the fundamental mechanisms of evolution is a repeated cycle of birth, environmental testing – and death. If death was a foundational component of the Genesis Creation – that which God termed “Very good”, then we have an insurmountable inconsistency with the idea that death is an enemy, a penalty and wages of sin – itself to be rejected and defeated.

      • The theory of evolution (modified to become theistic evolution) may not preclude the possibility of a creator, but it does preclude the possibility of it being the method the God of the Bible used to create the world. Evolution requires death by definition: the unfit die and the survivors pass on their winning genetics before they die. The only way to get to humankind is through a long process of death, death, and more death. All throughout the Bible, death is a bad thing: it is the result of disobeying God’s first command to not eat the fruit, and it is one of God’s enemies (the last to be destroyed according to 1 Cor 15:26, but that whole chapter is relevant here). When God looked on his creation, he saw that it was good. If what he made was made through death, His enemy, how could He call it good? Death wasn’t even part of the picture yet (not until the fall. When they ate of the fruit, they brought death into the world, and though it wasn’t immediate, they did die.), and it couldn’t have been. The first four verses of the Gospel of John (NKJV) tell us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
        All things were made through the Word which was God, a God of life, not death. If evolution were true, all things would have been made through death.
        If you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, you can’t also believe in creation by Evolution.

        • Theistic evolution is… ridiculous. The chain of premises and suppositions should be an embarrassment to anyone who proclaims it. Among other things it assumes that God was incapable of properly explaining evolution— a concept we teach to six year olds with hand puppets– to the ancients, had to resort to a lie to explain the origins of life instead, and then had to twiddle his thumbs for a few thousand years waiting for an Atheist named Darwin to be born to explain it properly.
          But the purpose of theistic evolution as a philosophy is the same as that of bog-standard evolutionary philosophy: to explain away God. Whether you assert He does not exist, or merely that He is so vast, distant, and obtuse as to be irrelevant, the end result is the same…

          • I’m with you as far as the ridiculousness here. That reply above has so many logic holes, comparing it to swiss cheese would be an insult to cheese.

    • So you prefer evolution because it is an underdog story?

      Also, the first humans were not perfect. No where in the bible does it refer to any human as perfect (except maybe Jesus, but then it is more sinless). Presumably Adam and Eve were genetically superior since they lived for hundreds of years.

    • Yes, the Bible states that God saw everything He made and it was very good. It doesn’t say we were completely perfect and incapable of doing anything wrong, but it does say God considered us – his creation – as being very good, from which we can infer that He was completely satisfied with the way we turned out. I have no way of proving this, but I would hazard a guess that part of what made us very good in God’s eyes was our ability to make make our own decisions, i.e. free will. If we as a human race were incapable of sinning, what would be the significance of us then not sinning?
      Adam and Eve had one rule to follow, and the free will to choose whether or not to follow it (otherwise the rule would be meaningless). Tempted by the serpent, they chose to disobey the one rule God had given them, and that caused everything to change. We decided to learn things the hard way, but that doesn’t mean that the situation was at any point out of God’s control.

      As for Evolution, I would disagree that it suggests (as you say) that we’ve managed to fight and survive our way to our current situation. On the contrary, it seems to suggest that our current situation is simply the result of random happenstance and that we’re just along for the ride. The fittest may survive, but do the fittest have anything to do with introducing the random mutation that made them the fittest? The odds may be incredible (truly), but there is nothing to suggest that we or any other living thing have been fighting against them. Stuff just happened, by chance, and that is why we’re here to talk about it. Our existence is completely meaningless, and if every human being in the world suddenly died, the universe wouldn’t care at all. Pretty bleak, if you ask me. Even so, choosing to believe in something solely because it sounds nice is pretty shallow. Everyone does believe something, whether it’s that God exists and created the world and everything in it or that there is no such thing as God and that we are an accident of the universe, and everyone has their own reasons for believing what they do. While I prefer to believe in the word of an infallible God over the speculations of fallible scientists, that’s not the only reason I believe in God. The fact that we live in a world with so many signs of having been deliberately designed (complexity and diversity of life, our sense of morality, even our position in the universe) is a huge factor in my belief in God and his creation of everything we can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear.

      I’d agree with you about the importance of testing new ideas and discovering new things about life and the universe, not only for intellectual development, but also simply because I’m sure God delights in us exploring and gaining an understanding of his creation, and realizing just how incredibly amazing and truly awesome are the things He’s made — as long as we don’t forget that this IS all his creation, of course, and give him the glory He deserves for having created it. However, like I said we all have to believe something, and accepting ideas that go against our core values and presuppositions is impossible unless we modify either our beliefs or the idea in some way. Testing new ideas is great, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept every new idea that comes along, especially if upon being tested, it doesn’t hold up. Being slow to accept new ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
      Our most basic beliefs can’t be proven, but at least Christians are honest about this aspect of their belief. Secular scientists make a big deal about not believing anything they can’t back up with empirical data, but this just means they believe in human reason and the integrity of our senses (humanism at its finest), things which can’t be proven and have to be taken on faith, but are treated as unquestionable fact.

    • I don’t remember anywhere in the bible saying that god made us perfect at the start, if he did we would not be having this conversation aperfect being could not commit a sin. I mean he gave us free will, which mrans that the choice to sin or not is ours, and up until the time we ate the apple we were sinnless, but not perfect. Only god is perfect.

      Small scale evolution is demonstrably true, but I think its a misnomer to call it evolution at all. Its adaptation, whether natural or lab forced, and random chance, winning the genetic lottery.

      A lot of the examples of it that I’ve seen either show an animal who’s genes are better suited to its environment allowing it to survive longer and reproduce more, thus creating a subspecies better suited to its environment.

      Or are examples of an animal having a dominant trait that neither parent has. I have a coworker who has natural red hair, but no one else in his family does, they are all black haired, parents siblings all black. I wouldn’t say that he’s more evolved than I am.

      The main issue in creation vs evolution is macroevolution, which is the whole chicken from a t-rex thing. Which would involve the gaining of genetic material not found in the original creature to turn it into the end result.

  5. And no, you do not have evidence of evolution in bacteria and fruit flies. What you have is evidence of genetic variation within the species. In particular, Fruit flies have been studied since the 1800s, in minute detail. They have been bred for more generations of their species than humanity would produce in 500,000 years… enough time, on an evolutionary chart, to go from australopithecus to Homo Sapiens and back. And bacteria? I wouldn’t even speculate. Yet after all those generations, the fruit flies we have today are the same fruit flies we had back then. The bacteria we have been breeding are still the same species of bacteria.
    Hell, they haven’t even actually observed the genome mutating– just preexisting strains surfacing under aggressive breeding. That, in a more honest day, was called variation within the species, and is not evolution. But all the cool kids in Darwin’s club call it that, because it gets you all sorts of ego strokes and head pats to squeeze the word “evolution” in your synopsis someplace… if you can figure out a way to fit “global warming” into the paragraph, it’s a guarantee you’ll get a government grant.

    • Global warming science, unfortunately is not the best example of science done right, that is often the way when lots of money is involved.

      I think my key issue with evolution vs creationism is that, from my perspective, it seems science comes up with a theory, tests it, results are collected and from that new theories can emerge. When done correctly this means science can admit mistakes and move on. Religion seems to say, this is the way things are, and if you don’t believe it we will punish you in this life for questioning and you will suffer in the next life.

      And lastly you may believe in the word of a deity as recorded in religious texts, but do you trust people to pass in on? Do you believe that mankind can honestly, reliably, be counted to pass on the word of god though many, many generations? To pass that word on without corruption, without bias, without their own interpretations, without mistranslations and honest mistakes? Perhaps I’m a bit cynical, but I don’t trust people that much.

      • You raise a good point. Galileo comes to mind.
        And there are HOW MANY different versions of the Bible? All most all of them translations from the original languages.

        • Galileo wasn’t slapped down by the Church because he studied astronomy, he was slapped down by a peer review panel composed of fellow scientists (who happened to be sponsored by the Church) because he was so bad at documenting his research that he wound up presenting a theory for peer review that was almost completely unsupported.

      • Allow me to take each of these by turn, because they’re very good questions indeed and the very same ones that I had when investigating Christianity.

        The difficulty with the first part is that this is not at all the method that is employed when investigating past events, because it’s not possible to conduct controlled, repeatable experiments on the past.
        Both disciplines require assumptions, and this viewpoint will determine every conclusion that is reached afterward.
        Evidence is not neutral, it is not objective and it does not ‘speak for itself’ in this case.

        A top-of-mind example would be the geological strata present in, say, the Grand Canyon.

        The assumption that these MUST have happened over a long period of time will lead to a different set of conclusions – ESPECIALLY when an equally-valid hypothesis (i.e. that they were rapidly deposited in a catastrophic global flood) is dismissed for religious – yes, religious, not scientific – reasons.

        Another example of repeatable data and viewpoint assumption being conflated together is radio-carbon dating.

        The half-life of Carbon-14 is known, and actually CAN be tested in a repeatable, verifiable, independently objective manner. No problem so far. However, this phenomena is then used to conclude that because a given sample of material contains some quantity of Carbon-14 right NOW, then it MUST be X number of years old – usually some number in the high millions…
        But doesn’t this require at least one enormous assumption?! Yes: The amount of Carbon-14 the experiment STARTED with! Furthermore… this wasn’t exactly a controlled and isolated lab experiment in a beaker somewhere, so was any C14 leeched out into the surrounding raw environment DURING the process? Was any leeched IN?
        None of these questions can be answered using truly scientific principles because no records were made at the time and there’s no way to travel back in time to check for oneself.
        It involves just as many articles of faith as those these scientists love to mock.

        The second half of your question has many dimensions which, again, are not scientific in nature but this does NOT mean they are not rational. Verification by other sources, the unflattering nature of what is recorded, the fate of those who originally proclaimed this story (the “die for a lie” argument), archeological verification… these all fall under the ‘jurisdiction’ of the HISTORIAN – and exploring the historical evidence for Jesus will apparently be quite illuminating.

        • Or, as another researcher put it— you couldn’t prove Abraham Lincoln existed by the scientific method. The scientific method involves observation, hypothesis, and experimentation to recreate the phenomenon. And you couldn’t possibly recreate the phenomenon “Abraham Lincoln” in a lab.
          the methodology for such a phenomenon is FORENSIC METHOD. Wherein you accumulate a body of material evidence, analyze it, then deduce what is the most reasonable explanation for the phenomenon.

          Which is where we come to the final question: In a court of law, would random forces and vast time, or an intelligent creator, be found “guilty” of creating the Universe? (Hint: the evolutionists LOST the Scopes monkey trial.)

      • The irony here is that these days it is the scientific community that does most of the punishing of anyone who dares to question established scientific theory. If you so much as cast doubt on Evolutionary theory, you lose all credibility.

        As for the integrity of Scripture, you don’t have to trust people to pass it on: you can trust God instead to ensure His word is preserved. Go ahead and continue to distrust people, cuz the great thing is you don’t have to put your trust in people when you can trust in the sovereignty of an all-powerful but loving God instead.

    • If a species was spread out over a large area and given a few generations for variations to occur under your theory you should still be able to breed ones at each end of the line correct?

      However for some species that form a ring and the line meets back up how do you explain them not able to breed together at only one point in the ring?

  6. Ugh, the serious discussions here have left a bad taste. Imma go back to commenting just on the story now and forget this ever happened. I DO like how Omnibus seems to have gotten himself a snark streak in that last panel.

  7. Oh my gosh dude… PLEASE learn some BASIC debate skills before you try to preach things! You CAN’T dismiss a viewpoint just by saying you don’t think its likely, even if it has only marginally compelling evidence. Your comics were doing so well, and now what should be one of the coolest stories you’ve ever done is suddenly coming down with the worst case of Brian Griffin Syndrome I’ve seen in years.

    • It’s called probability, little child. It does count in science. And this isn’t “I don’t think it’s likely,” it’s in the realm of “you are more likely to win the Lotto fifty times in a row, then be struck by an asteroid in the bathtub.”

      Evolutionists are just religious fanatics who can’t do math.

      • Except that the theory of evolution already accounts for its limited probability. The universe contains a virtually infinite number of planets across a virtually infinite number of conditions for a virtually infinite amount of time. It’d be like winning the lottery fifty times in a row because you went out and bought every combination of tickets for fifty games in a row, (to be fair I can’t think of a comeback for the bathtub, that really would require some dumb luck).

        Incidentally, I don’t even take an atheistic stand on this. I’m in the in the intelligent design camp, but I’d take creationism over God having no role. I just understand the mindset behind a pure evolution mindset, which is a necessity for anyone who wants to poke a hole in an argument. Otherwise you’ll just get dismissed with a laugh and a hand wave.

        • Wait, wait… I’m sorry, I forgot my original point, and I’m starting to realize that I’m taking the wrong tone. I should know better than to fall into squabbles like that

          I hadn’t originally wanted to attack your viewpoints, really. It was the delivery I had objection to. The implication that a single argument is the most obvious one, that any point aside from yours is invalid almost by virtue of it not being yours. It grates against me because for a while I’d begun to expect better from your creations. In all honesty I find your comics quite inspirational, and I feel so conflicted when it seems like its slipping into a dull political tract.

          • The ridiculous improbability is the first point brought up because it is the most obvious— and the most inescapable. Evolutionary theory violates the laws of both probability and entropy… that grown men ascribe to it with frothing-mouthed Dawkinesque fanaticism should be an embarrassment of their respective communities.

            Really, there is no “sophisticated” way to tell the jackass of an Emperor that he really does have no clothes– and no way to say it that will make him listen anyway. The point of stating it openly is for the sake of the baffled masses who stand there, see the obvious and cannot for the life of them understand why nobody is pointing it out…

            I care less about the “laughing dismissal” of the self-anointed than I care about the mocking antics of any other mob of prancing circus clowns.

          • Probaility: The chance of you winning the lottery is 1 in 5 billion. (Australia lotto, pick 6 from 45 balls). Yet the lottery is somehow won multiple times a year despite such long odds.

            Entropy: You are looking at it as a closed system when the system in question is much bigger. How much energy was converted into heat which then goes off into space during the billion of years?

        • Admittedly the difference here is that in the Questorverse, there are tons of planets with life on them, of varying sorts. It’s a perfectly logical conclusion to go from ‘near-infinite chances for life means it had to happen -somewhere-‘ to ‘Oh man the universe is pack-jammed, random chance couldn’t account for this.’

  8. “The Beagle is in sight, take no chances! Fire missiles!”

    (Missiles fire. They disappear in a flash of light as the Temporal dilation drive is engaged)

    “Er, Sir? The missiles appear to have be turned into a sperm whale and bowl of petunias and a sperm whale”

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