A Mathematical Quote From Gerald Schroeder In “There Is A God”

There Is A GodAs I said in my book review of Anthony Flew’s There Is A God, the real value of this book is in the arguments which contributed to Flew’s shift from atheism to theism. You can read my full book review by clicking here.

Frankly, it’s hard to share a lot of the quotes because the context of the full argument would be lacking, but I’ve been sharing a few of them over several posts. To continue, here is an extensive quote from mathematician Gerald Schroeder, which is set up by a quote from Anthony Flew.

“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 not a single word. Schroeder noted that this was the case even though the shortest word 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 twenty-six letters and other symbols), then the likelihood of getting a one-letter word is 30 times 30 times 30, which is 27,000. The likelihood of getting a one-letter word is one chance out of 27,000. Schroeder then applied the probabilities to the sonnet analogy. ‘What’s the chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet?’ he asked. He continued:

‘All the sonnets are the same length. They are by definition fourteen lines long. I picked the one I knew the opening line for, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I counted the number of letters; there are 488 letters in that sonnet. What’s the likelihood of hammering away and getting 488 letters in the exact sequence as in “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” What you end up with is 26 multiplied by itself 488 times—or 26 to the 488th power. Or, in other words, in base 10, 10 to the 690th. 

‘Now the number of particles in the universe—not grains of sand, I am talking about protons, electrons, and neutrons—is 10 to the 80th. Ten to the 80th is one with 80 zeros after it. Ten to the 690 is one with 690 zeros after it. There are not enough particles in the universe to write down the trials; you’d be off by a factor of 10 to the 600th. 

‘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 488 trials at, say, one 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 600 times larger. Yet the world just thinks the monkeys can do it every time.’”

  • More quotes are forthcoming.
  • You can read some direct quotes from Anthony Flew by clicking here.
  • Some Albert Einstein quotes can be found by clicking here.

13 Responses to “A Mathematical Quote From Gerald Schroeder In “There Is A God””

  1. Atomic Mutant Says:

    Not a good quote, as it’s not a really good argument for anything, sorry. It’s the argument from the lottery…

    Let’s say you have the lottery. Now someone wins.

    Now you claim, that it cannot have happened by chance, as it is much to unlikely, so someone must have cheated.

    Ok, what are the problems with that statement:

    a) You assume, that because the lottery tickets are numbered and the highest number is, let’s say, 10 to the 90 millionth, that these are the chances. But you don’t know that. Perhaps many tickets don’t actually exist. In case of the universe, you don’t know many configurations are actually POSSIBLE. Just because there are so and so many particles, etc. does not mean that any permutation of these is actually possible. Perhaps there’s some inherent limit to what’s possible.

    b) You assume, that because the chances are so high, it’s impossible – WITHOUT knowing how often it was actually drawn. If the Big Bang happened more than once (actually likely, for all we know), chances that somewhere, some wins this lottery start getting bigger.

    c) As unlikely as an even may be, as soon as it happens, it’s certain. One event WILL happen, so in this case it was THIS universe. Claiming that it can’t be that universe, is like getting a royal flush at poker and then throwing the cards away, because they are so unlikely and you couldn’t have gotten them.

    d) And of course, assuming a creator behind it, simply shifts the problem one step further: Before the universe was so unlikely because of it’s configuration – now you have an even more unlikely creator with an even more specific configuration that enables him to create this universe and gives him the wish to do so. So, according to your own argument, that is too unlikely to happen, so there needs to be a creator-creator…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cole Says:

      Thanks for saving me 15 minutes.

      The author needs to take time to understand natural selection (vs. chance) and the anthropic principle, among other things.


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      The argument of a lottery winner isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. The odds that Schroeder calculated are so far beyond the odds of winning a lottery. Isn’t it more plausible for someone to “win” the perfect arrangement if the dealer stacks the deck, as opposed to hoping it happens by random chance?


      • Atomic Mutant Says:

        You are wrong. The actual numbers for the lottery don’t matter at all for this argument. i never claimed that it was likely or something like that.

        For the rest… I already answered that, ignoring it will not help you. Answer my points or let it go.


        • Craig T. Owens Says:

          Well as I read on someone’s cool blog, “You have to trust someone.”


        • Atomic Mutant Says:

          If you are discussing, ignoring arguments isn’t a good way of doing so. Very sad that you don’t seem to be interested in an actual discussion (or that you cannot admit that you don’t have any good counter arguments – which wouldn’t mean that mine are valid, btw.).


        • Craig T. Owens Says:

          I’m sorry if you inferred that I was saying your arguments aren’t valid; I never implied that (I hope). As you wrote on one of your blog posts “You have to trust someone,” so when I look at the mind-blowing complexity and order and precision of our universe at both the macro and micro levels, I find it hard to accept the arguments that chalk it all up to chance. I find the arguments for Intelligent Design far more compelling and plausible.


        • Atomic Mutant Says:

          I have no problem with the fact that you cannot refute the counter argument. We are not experts here and discussing on a pretty amateur level. That’s normal. Personally, I had hoped for a somewhat more substantial objection to my counter arguments than “Well, I think otherwise anyway”, but of course, outside a strictly regulated discussion, that’s a result we have to expect, too.
          Of course, you will understand that I cannot continue here, as there is nothing I can add, since you didn’t respond to any of my points in any way.


    • Dwayne Says:

      You have said, “one event will happen,” by which you mean “it happened JUST THE WAY I SAY it did.” But lotteries don’t have to have a winner, and nothing has to happen, the way you say or any way I may say, that it did. Like some Christians and many others, you have a controversy with some of WHAT COULD BE created, or is created. My hope is, we all know truth, and embrace it.


      • Craig T. Owens Says:

        Dwayne, just to be clear I didn’t say any of the above; I am merely quoting what others said in this book. However, that being said I still agree with the conclusion of this line of reasoning from Schroeder and Flew.


  2. robert Says:

    Let’s get to the real question… Why is their ANYTHING at all?


  3. Craig T. Owens Says:

    Love this quote … “But as it is not consequent that God followed chance rather than reason in placing the world’s frame where it now stands, and in no other place, though this place had no merit to give it preference over the infinite others (yet no man’s reason can comprehend why the divine will placed it so): even so no more is it consequent that we should think that it was any chance made God create this world then, rather than at any other time, whereas all times before had their equal course, and none was a more fitting time for the creation than another. But if they say men are foolish to think there is any place besides that wherein the world is: so are they (say we) to imagine any time for God to be idle in, since there was no time before the world’s creation.” —Augustine


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