Intelligent Design

The Snowflake Objection

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Against the ID arguments based on improbability and specification some evolutionists oppose the “snowflake objection”, which sounds something like this: “Also snowflakes are highly improbable, yet it snows, then the ID arguments fail”.

Such objection is baseless. To understand why we must first state a premise. Probability is not an absolute concept or measure. The probability of an event must always be contextualized. It must be related to the whole scenario, the boundary conditions, and — mainly — to some potential cause or generator of that kind of events. Example: suppose I ask “What is the probability of hitting the center of the target?”. Such question, as stated, is perfectly undefined. It says nothing about the context. The more important issue is: what or who is the potential hitter of the target? If the hitter is a person launching a stone 100 miles away the probability is 0. If it is a meteorite falling down the sky, the probability is infinitesimal. If it is me, by my self-constructed toy sling, the probability is near 0. If it is the olympic champion archer it is almost 1. If it is a carpenter nailing the center by a hammer it is exactly 1. To sum up, depending on the context and the events producer, the probability value spans the entire numeric range from 0 to 1.

That said, if we contextualize the snowflake objection and describe the scenario we see that, contrary to the objection, snowflakes are highly probable. In fact, first, in general when the weather conditions are apt, the natural laws produce snowflakes with probability near 1. Second, in particular, also if evolutionists would mean a specific pattern of snowflake, since their producer is able to generate billions of them in a second, it is likely that any particular pattern is generated. In both cases the core of the objection is rotten.

IDers always specify the scenarios and the potential producer of the events they examine and about which they want to infer design. Example, before the bacterial flagellum, they say that it is improbable that natural laws acting on sparse atoms could produce it. The scenario is well defined. Therefore the false analogy between snowflakes and flagella implicit in the objection doesn’t apply at all. The snowflakes generated by the physical laws are highly probable, while the flagella generated by random natural forces operating on dispersed atoms are highly improbable.

In conclusion, when evolutionists, contra ID, repeat their ritornello “Improbable things do happen”, I suggest to reply asking to specify the context in details please, to see if the best explanation about the cause of the events is chance & necessity or intelligence.

9 Replies to “The Snowflake Objection

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    The SHAPE of a snowflake is randomly determined, and from the very earliest studies it was known that duplicate shapes are COMMON. The guy who took the first pictures simply took pictures of the ones that looked DIFFERENT.

    But this is like saying that humans are randomly created because their FACES look different. All snowflakes have the same composition (give or take some local pollution), and all snowflakes are formed in the same way. Humans can in fact MAKE as much snow as they like using relatively simple machines.

    At the same time, we have no idea how to make humans (from raw materials) and have only the foggiest ideas about what makes individual humans different.

    So I think anyone who proposes snowflakes as an argument in favor of random development of life is both grossly uninformed and desperately clutching at straws.

  2. 2
    R0bb says:

    niwrad:

    Second, in particular, also if evolutionists would mean a specific pattern of snowflake, since their producer is able to generate billions of them in a second, it is likely that any particular pattern is generated.

    Actually, the probability of a particular complex snowflake pattern occurring is essentially zero. This is easy to show mathematically.

    In conclusion, when evolutionists, contra ID, repeat their ritornello “Improbable things do happen”,

    I think you would have a hard time finding an evolutionist who says this as often as Dembski does.

  3. 3
    niwrad says:

    R0bb

    Your article says:

    “Nano-snowflakes can be exactly alike.”

    “Small snow crystals can look alike.”

    “Larger, complex snowflakes are all different.”

    In my post I didn’t specify if “nano” or “small” or “large”, so yes, you are right that it was better to do it. Anyway, I suppose that when it snows, we get a mix of all them.

  4. 4
    redwave says:

    Snow Crystals

    UD. Snowflake Objection: “Also snowflakes are highly improbable, yet it snows, then the ID arguments fail”.

    By common definition, snow is very many snowflakes. (“precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C)” Merriam-Webster). Physicist Kenneth Libbrecht, (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/.....180949243/), demonstrated in a laboratory that snowflakes are created by manipulation of temperature and humidity (a process of water crystallization).

    The snowflake objection is not a valid argument. Ceterus paribus, all things being equal, such as water droplets, atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity, snow is highly improbable, since snowflakes are highly improbable?

    Other links:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ru.....nowflakes/

    http://blogs.discovermagazine......GisR9tME0M

  5. 5
    goodusername says:

    snowflakes are highly probable.

    Considering that I’m watching them fall from the sky by the billions right now, there’s no arguing against that.

    But if we hadn’t seen them form naturally, and hadn’t painstakingly figured out how they form, would we still think it “highly probable” that they form in any conditions? (Over the years, btw, I’ve read probably a dozen articles in science journals on “breakthroughs” in our understanding of how snowflakes form, so we haven’t quite figured it out yet.)

    I do think snowflakes can serve as an example of how tricky it can be to determine how likely a chemical is to form naturally just by looking at it.

    Another example are amino acids. Until the 1953 Urey/Miller experiment, many saw the formation of amino acids as a statistical impossibility and the unlikelihood of such complex molecules forming was often used in arguments against abiogenesis. (Contrary to popular belief, Miller was not trying to create life, just some organic molecules, with maybe – just maybe – some amino acids, although even Miller wasn’t optimistic enough to think that that was a likely outcome.) Of course, we now know that amino acids form easily and abundantly in the right conditions.

    I also like the example of buckyballs. A configuration of C60 was proposed by a researcher in the 1970s to be stable, but this was roundly rejected by just about everyone, even his colleagues. Then a few researchers discovered how to create them in the 1980s (which later resulted in them receiving the nobel prize), but it was incredibly difficult and expensive to make them. I wonder how likely they seemed then? Then, in the 90s we found them in nature. In fact, they actually form easily. If you want to make your own, just light a standard candle.

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    “Also snowflakes are highly improbable, yet it snows, then the ID arguments fail”.

    Just about every event in nature is improbable. But few of these improbable events are related to an another event through and independent process.

    Every rock is improbable. But few rocks are related to another specific event through some independent process. So it is not improbability or complexity that is the issue but the independent process that relates one thing to another.

    This may not be said clearly so those with better verbal and technical skills take a crack at putting the language right.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    I don’t understand what R0bb’s problem is. Snowflakes are hardly uncommon.

    Take this:

    Thus the number of ways to make a complex snow crystal is absolutely huge.

    How do we know this?

    and this:

    And thus it’s unlikely that any two complex snow crystals, out of all those made over the entire history of the planet, have ever looked completely alike.

    How does that follow?

  8. 8
    Vishnu says:

    goodusername: Until the 1953 Urey/Miller experiment, many saw the formation of amino acids as a statistical impossibility and the unlikelihood of such complex molecules forming was often used in arguments against abiogenesis…. Of course, we now know that amino acids form easily and abundantly in the right conditions.

    Then by all means, please demonstrate how the stable, error-correcting, DNA/ribosome translation system emerged from all of them.

    Chemicals are one thing. Complex processes that utilize them are quite another, and the state of the art of OOL understanding based on chance/necessity is pathetic.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    “Thus the number of ways to make a complex snow crystal is absolutely huge.”

    A new law for every snowflake! Just like evolution. Amazing.

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