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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 12: Can Darwinism beat the odds?

Here's the latest UD Contest Question, so use this link to enter.

Addressing the Inbox, I discovered this most interesting tale about lotteries in Bulgaria, a tale that reminds me of a similar suspicious lotto in my own Canadian province of Ontario.

In Money Matters, at Australia's, we learn that "Lottery numbers the same in consecutive draws in Bulgaria" (correspondents in Sofia, Agence France-Presse, September 16, 2009)

Here are the bullet points, and you can read the rest yourself.

- The numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, and 42 were drawn two weeks in a row / File
- Same numbers picked in consecutive draws
- Review of the national lottery is ordered
- Probability is 4.2 million to one

Hmmmm. If these charges are true, I'm glad I am not in charge of that investigation. I would hardly want to hear all the lies people would probably try to tell me. Our Ontario premier, faced with a similar situation, fired the chair and the whole board of the lottery corporation and decided to start fixing the problem from scratch. I would recommend looking for statisticians and tough cops, not just anyone with the "power from behind" to sit through an endless board meeting.*

But here's the question that this and other questionable lottery stories leaves me with: The intelligent design theorists emphasize probability issues. Their chief knock against Darwinism is that it appears improbable. In the same way, an accidental origin of the fine-tuned values of our universe appears improbable. If I understand the matter correctly, the universe is assumed to be over 13 billion years old, or so, and Earth over 4 billion years old. (I assume these values for convenience as I believe them to be generally accepted.) So we can assume a basis for computing probability.

So, for a free copy of the Privileged Planet DVD, which addresses the fine tuning of the universe:

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 12: Can Darwinism beat the odds. If not, why not? If so, how?

You might want to look at Bill Dembski's No Free Lunch.

(Note: Thanks to Ilion Troas for alerting me to this story.)

*One alternative: Don't have a lottery at all. Lotteries attract vast moral hazard and corruption because they look like free money. I never supported the idea and don't buy tickets, and think that worthy causes should be funded in the usual ways, through taxes, donations, memberships, sponsorships, premiums, etc. But this mini-editorial is unrelated to the point of the contest question.

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