A couple of years ago I trotted out the “highly improbable things happen all the time” meme our Darwinist friends use to such advantage at my home poker game. For those who don’t recall, this is what happened. I dealt myself a royal flush in spades for the first 13 hands. When my friends objected I said, “Lookit, your intuition has led you astray. You are inferring design — that is to say that I’m cheating — simply on the basis of the low probability of this sequence of events. But don’t you understand that the odds of me receiving 13 royal flushes in spades in a row are exactly the same as me receiving any other 13 hands. In the game we are playing there are 2,598,960 possible hands. The odds of receiving a straight flush in spades are therefore 1 in 2,598,960. But the odds of receiving ANY hand are exactly the same, 1 in 2,598,960. The odds of a series of events are the product of the odds of all of the events. Therefore the odds of receiving 13 royal flushes in spades in a row are about 2.74^-71. But the odds of receiving ANY series of 13 hands is exactly the same, 2.74^-71.”
“Not so fast,” one of my friends said. “Your analysis is faulty, because there are two types of complex patterns, those that warrant a design inference and those that do not. The former we call a specification; the latter we call a fabrication. The difference between a specification and a fabrication is the descriptive complexity of the underlying patterns. A specification has a very simple description, in our case ’13 royal flushes in spades in a row.’ A fabrication has a very complex description. For example, another 13 hand sequence could be described as ’1 pair; 3 of a kind; no pair; no pair; 2 pair; straight; no pair; full house; no pair; 2 pair; 1 pair; 1 pair; flush.’ In summary, not only is the series of hands you dealt yourself massively improbable, it is also clearly a specification. A design inference is not only warranted, it is compelled, and I infer you have cheated.”
After reading one of Sal’s comments over on his post, I now realize that I had it all wrong. Instead of relying on the insipid, easily debunked “improbable things happen all the time” meme, I should have relied on multiverse theory. Then the conversation would have gone something like this after my friends objected:
“Lookit, your intuition has led you astray. You are inferring design — that is to say that I’m cheating — simply on the basis of the existence of specified complex information in the pattern ‘13 royal flushes in spades in a row.’ And if the probabilistic resources of our universe were all the probabilistic resources we had, your design inference would be perfectly valid. Fortunately, many of the finest scientific minds in the world today assure us that our universe is one among many in the multiverse. They assure us further that the existence of complex specified information in biological systems the probability of which is many orders of magnitude lower than ‘13 royal flushes in spades in a row’ can easily be explained by sheer blind chance. All you have to do is say, ‘Yes, the probability that sheer blind chance could land upon this teeny tiny island of specification in the vast ocean of non-specified configuration space is vanishingly small, but it is not logically impossible, and we just happen to live in the universe where this specification is instantiated by sheer blind chance; otherwise it would not exist for us to observe.’”
I then said, “Yes, you are absolutely correct. The specification ‘13 royal flushes in spades in a row’ is vanishingly small in the configuration space of 13 poker hands. But I am sure everyone here will agree that it is not logically impossible, and we just happen to live in the one universe where this specification is instantiated by sheer blind chance.”
One of my friends asked in a snarky tone of voice, “Affirm the consequent much?” And then he said, “Get a rope.”
Now, would you pay up after that explanation or would you join the lynch mob? Why?