NOT ACCORDING TO HOYLE -
by John W. Oller, Jr., Ph.D.
University of New Mexico
Darwinism is the game and Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-present), the
distinguished astronomer, is the odds maker. He says, no. Just
It couldn't happen without intelligence. His reasoning
slams like a steel door against ANY kind of accidental evolution,
and several have recently proposed in one form or another to plug
the holes in neo-Darwinism--especially the gaps in the fossil
Now that evolutionists admit openly that the fossil record never
did support the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy after all, they need a
substitute. Stephen Jay GOuld has proposed reviving the despised
view of Goldschmidt who believed in "hopeful monsters"", the idea
that something like a dog, say, might just hatch from, say a
chicken's egg once in a great while. Another idea, a less popular
one, is Jean Piaget's recommendation to reinstate the long
rejected Lamarckism--the view that learned or acquired traits
might be passed on from one generation to the next. And still
another is Hoyle's own proposal, a remarkable mutation of
In his well-illustrated and impressive book, THE INTELLIGENT
UNIVERSE (London: Michael Joseph, 1983, 256 pp), Hoyle says:
"...as biochemists discover more and more about the
awesome complexity of life, it is apparent that it's
chances of originating by accident are so minute that
they can be completely ruled out. Life cannot have risen
by chance (pp.11-12).
Does this mean that Hoyle has become a creationist? Well, not
exactly, and he doesn't expect to either. to forestall any
speculation about his apparent "conversion," he says bluntly: "I
am not a Christian, nor am I likely to become one as far as I can
tell (p. 251)." Still, Hoyle argues that there must have been
some "intelligence" behind the emergence of life on Earth. Setting
aside the questions of what sort of intelligence, he offers an
interesting line of argument.
The probability that the simplest life-form could just
accidentally arrange itself from particles floating in an ideally
prepared primordial soup is very slim.
To appreciate just how
slim, Hoyle proposes an analogy. He asks how long it would take a
blindfolded person to solve a Rubik Cube. Suppose he worked very
fast; say, a move a second without resting. According to Hoyle's
figuring it would take approximately 67.5 times the estimated age
of the universe (allowing the generous figure of 15 billion years
since the big bang), for him to reach a solution--about 1.35
Judging from the life expectancy of human beings
we could say that a solution of the Rubik Cube could not be
achieved at all by a blindfolded person. Yet this is just about
the same difficulty as the accidental formation of just ONE of
the chains of the amino acids necessary to living cells. In the
human cell, Hoyle points out, there are about 200,000 such
proteins. the chance of getting all 200,000 by accident is really
In fact, eve if an ideal primordial soup existed, and if
it were repeatedly jolted by electrical charges (as in the famous
Miller-Ulrey experiment), the time required for the formation of
any one of the requisite 200,000 proteins would be roughly
equivalent to 293.5 times the estimated age of the Earth (set at
the standard 4.6 billion years).
Yet the odds against the accidental formation of a living
organism are considerably worse than the odds against a
blindfolded solution of the rubik Cube--the later being
estimated by Hoyle to be about 50 billion trillion to 1. The
trouble is that even a simple protozoan, or a bacterium requires prior
information of about 2,000 enzymes, themselves also complex proteins,
which are critical to the successful formation of all the other 190,000
or so requisite proteins. the odds in favor of the accidental formation
of all 2000 by accident (never mind the 198,000), without which no
living organism could have come into existence, approaches a truly
The odds would be similar to those 2000
BLINDFOLDED persons working the Rubik Cubes independently and just
accidentally coming to perfect solutions simultaneously--according to
Hoyle, roughly 10^400000 to 1. Or, to give a more graspable notion of
the improbability, Hoyle says, it would be roughly comparable to rolling
double-sixes 50,000 times in a row with unloaded dice.
Looking at it
from the point of view from the expected time lapse before reaching a
solution, the predicted heat death of our solar system would have occurred
early on, and our Milky way galaxy would have rolled itself up like a
scroll long before a solution could be hoped for.
In the next phase of his argument, the British scholar gets down to bare
knuckles. He says that anyone foolish enough to believe that the
solution to the life-problem might just come about by accident is guilty
of "junkyard mentality." The basis for this phrase is another analogy of
Hoyle's own creation. (Unfortunately, it seems to fit his own proposed
solution too, but more about that below).
He asked somewhat earlier, and
asks again in his 1983 book, what are the chances that a tornado might
blow through a junkyard containing the parts of a 747 and just
accidentally assemble it so as to leave it sitting there all set for
take-off. "So small as to be negligible, " he says, "even if a tornado
were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe."
But many evolutionists may easily persuaded by the argument against the
junkyard mentality. they may be inclined to believe that the analogy of a
747 is quite interesting since there are conceivably multiplied billions
of possible aircraft designs, not to mention designs for other vehicles
yet to be imagined.
That is to say, some evolutionists might well be
inclined to suppose that there are many billions of possible solutions
inevitable as the shape of a totally new snowflake. But Hoyle has
anticipated their rebuttal and rejects it. He contends that in the
universe as we know it thee are uncountable "anthropic"
For instance, he sites the
approximate balance of oxygen and carbon atoms. Both are critical to
living organisms, and must be present in approximately equal quantities.
Otherwise, "a great excess of carbon would prevent the formation of many
materials on which life is dependent, rock and soil for example, while a
great oxygen excess would simply burn up any carbon-bearing bio chemicals
that happened to be around" (p.218).
Or, for another lucky coincidence, take the delicate balance inside the
hydrogen atom. Hoyle says:
"If the combined masses of the proton and electron were suddenly to
become a little more rather than a little less than the mass of the
neutron, the effect would be devastating. The hydrogen atom would become
Throughout the universe all the hydrogen atom would
immediately break down to form neutrons and neutrinos. Robbed of its
nuclear fuel, the Sun would fade and collapse. Across the whole of
space, stars like the Sun would contract in their billions, releasing a
deadly flood of X-rays as they burned out. By that time life on earth,
needless to say, would already have been extinguished (pp 219-220).
These peculiar coincidences, the balance of oxygen and carbon and of
particles in the hydrogen atom (not to mention countless others), Hoyle
refers to as "anthropic--almost human, as if Someone were speaking to
us. He points out that there is no reason to suppose that such
coincidences are inevitable since there is no end to other imaginable
arrangements which would be fatal not only to life but to the very
structure of the universe as we know it.
Hoyle concludes that it takes a certain credulity to believe that such
coincidences are just so many inevitable accidents. According tohim,
life together with the whole universe dangles precariously from an
infinitesimal thread of improbability held by some sort of intelligence,
while beneath yawns a chasm of nearly infinite and fatal probabilities.
It is interesting that Hoyle is willing to go along with neo-Darwinism
in its rejection of the miracle of creation, yet he complains that the
model requires miracles of its own:
..as for instance the miracle of the formation of galaxies after the
big bang and the miricle of the origin of life in a feeble brew of
organic soup, which the credulous believe to have happened in the early
history of the earth (p. 237).
So what does Hoyle propose to put in the place of the less and less
plausible neo-Darwinian orthodoxy?
Briefly, skipping over many
interesting details of his argument, he suggests that cosmic dust
actually consists of the remains of countless bacteria which now
populate, and have populated for a long time, the whole universe. He
figures that life first originated elsewhere and was transported to
Earth, perhaps in the dust of some wide-ranging comet. But the
"life-seeds" (his term) brought to Earth, by whatever means, were not
accidents in the neo-Darwinian sense, they were sent by some prior, or
perhpas subsequent intelligence which is guiding, pushing and\or pulling
us into the future.
The reason for this ambivalence is that in Hoyle's
system tiem runs both forward and backward. He can't think of any
mathematical reason why time couldn't run both ways, so he assumes it
Somehow the life-seeds got safely to Earth, having been sent out in all
directions by a previous and\or subsequent intelligence. He says,
somewhat enigmatically, "we are the intelligence that preceded us" (p.
Afterward, neo-Darwinian evolution took over, but with a peculiar
twist. Hoyle belives that the billions and billions of mutations
necessary to the viral infections which modified the DNA of parent
organisms. These viruses, he calims, wre guided by some "cosmic
intelligence," which eventually gave rise to the great variety of
organisms that we see on Earth today.
Further, in some yet to be
imagained way, intelligent beings, perhaps much smarter than we are, but
not as smart as the infinite Judeo-Christian God (whom Hoyle discards)
planned the whole scenario.
Having demolished any hope for new-Darwinism, Hoyle alludes to his own
Although the thought may seem rahter fanciful, the surface of Mars
looks very much like a failed attempt at seeding from space, failed
"experiment" of a kind which eventually succeeded in the case of
earth (p. 105).
He says that "genes"...arrived on the Earth from the oustide" (p. 109),
but he acknowledges that his idea merely postpones consideration of the
An explanation of the amazing complexity of life must still
eventually be given, even in a cosmic theory (p. 109).
Really. And, by the way, if Hoyle's substitute for the discredited
neo-Darwinian othodoxy seems plausible, I've got an incredible bargain
for you on a used diesel import. Otherwise, in view of the fact that
evolution cannot occur, what is so unscientific about the creation
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