Hoyle's fallacy

Hoyle's fallacy

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Hoyle's Fallacy, sometimes called the junkyard tornado, is a term for Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer and mathematician noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term originally...

's flawed statistical analysis applied to evolutionary origins, in which he compares the probability of cellular life evolving to the chance of a tornado "sweeping through a junkyard" and assembling a functional aeroplane. Similar observations predate Hoyle, and have been found all the way back to Darwin's time.

Hoyle's statement


According to Hoyle's analysis, the probability of cellular life evolving were about one-in-1040000. He commented:
which is a reflection of his stance reported elsewhere:

Details


Hoyle's Fallacy derives from arguments most popular in the 1920s, prior to the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, which are rejected by evolutionary biologists. A preliminary step is to establish that the phase space
Phase space
In mathematics and physics, a phase space, introduced by Willard Gibbs in 1901, is a space in which all possible states of a system are represented, with each possible state of the system corresponding to one unique point in the phase space...

 containing some biological entity (e.g. humans, working cells, the eye) is enormous — something which is not contentious. Hoyle's Fallacy is to infer from the huge size of the phase space that the probability that evolution yielded the entity is exceedingly low. Sometimes arguments exhibiting Hoyle's Fallacy also invoke Borel's Law, which claims incorrectly that highly improbable events do not occur. (If all possible outcomes of a natural process are highly improbable, then a highly improbable outcome is certain.)

Hoyle's Fallacy is comparable to the older infinite monkey theorem
Infinite monkey theorem
The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare....

, but applied to cellular biochemistry instead of the works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. The fallacy claims that the probability that a protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 molecule could achieve a functional
Function (biology)
A function is part of an answer to a question about why some object or process occurred in a system that evolved through a process of selection. Thus, function refers forward from the object or process, along some chain of causation, to the goal or success...

 sequence of amino acids is too low to be realised by chance alone. Hoyle calculated this as being comparable to the probability that a tornado could sweep through a junkyard and randomly assemble a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

.

The argument conflates the difference between the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves (and as such may change to become more complex over time) with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes (such as the multitude of parts manufactured in Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

), the comparison breaks down because of this important distinction.

According to Ian Musgrave in Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations:

Analysis


Hoyle's fallacy derives from disregarding everything about sequence space
Sequence space
In functional analysis and related areas of mathematics, a sequence space is a vector space whose elements are infinite sequences of real or complex numbers. Equivalently, it is a function space whose elements are functions from the natural numbers to the field K of real or complex numbers...

 other than its size. Two factors are conflated: the probability of getting a 'first sequence' (abiogenesis or novel function), and the probability of going anywhere else (evolution). This may be illustrated by dissection of Hoyle's argument made in relation to myoglobin
Myoglobin
Myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates in general and in almost all mammals. It is related to hemoglobin, which is the iron- and oxygen-binding protein in blood, specifically in the red blood cells. The only time myoglobin is found in the...

. Any sequence of repeated elements – for example, DNA or protein – generates a sequence space for n positions and v different values at each position of vn possibilities. Therefore myoglobin, a protein of 153 amino acids, has a probability, in a 'random-amino-acid machine', of 20−153 of occurring in one step. For this to have any evolutionary significance, the number of useful myoglobins in that sequence space would have to be exactly 1. Further, any space of vn elements includes all lower-order spaces:
{{Expert-subject|date=March 2011}}

Hoyle's Fallacy, sometimes called the junkyard tornado, is a term for Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer and mathematician noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term originally...

's flawed statistical analysis applied to evolutionary origins, in which he compares the probability of cellular life evolving to the chance of a tornado "sweeping through a junkyard" and assembling a functional aeroplane. Similar observations predate Hoyle, and have been found all the way back to Darwin's time.

Hoyle's statement


According to Hoyle's analysis, the probability of cellular life evolving were about one-in-1040000. He commented:
{{quote|The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable to the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 from the materials therein.}}

which is a reflection of his stance reported elsewhere:
{{quote|Life as we know it is, among other things, dependent on at least 2000 different enzymes. How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?}}

Details


Hoyle's Fallacy derives from arguments most popular in the 1920s, prior to the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, which are rejected by evolutionary biologists. A preliminary step is to establish that the phase space
Phase space
In mathematics and physics, a phase space, introduced by Willard Gibbs in 1901, is a space in which all possible states of a system are represented, with each possible state of the system corresponding to one unique point in the phase space...

 containing some biological entity (e.g. humans, working cells, the eye) is enormous — something which is not contentious. Hoyle's Fallacy is to infer from the huge size of the phase space that the probability that evolution yielded the entity is exceedingly low. Sometimes arguments exhibiting Hoyle's Fallacy also invoke Borel's Law, which claims incorrectly that highly improbable events do not occur. (If all possible outcomes of a natural process are highly improbable, then a highly improbable outcome is certain.)

Hoyle's Fallacy is comparable to the older infinite monkey theorem
Infinite monkey theorem
The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare....

, but applied to cellular biochemistry instead of the works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. The fallacy claims that the probability that a protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 molecule could achieve a functional
Function (biology)
A function is part of an answer to a question about why some object or process occurred in a system that evolved through a process of selection. Thus, function refers forward from the object or process, along some chain of causation, to the goal or success...

 sequence of amino acids is too low to be realised by chance alone. Hoyle calculated this as being comparable to the probability that a tornado could sweep through a junkyard and randomly assemble a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

.

The argument conflates the difference between the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves (and as such may change to become more complex over time) with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes (such as the multitude of parts manufactured in Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

), the comparison breaks down because of this important distinction.

According to Ian Musgrave in Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations:
{{quote|These people, including Fred, have committed one or more of the following errors.
  1. They calculate the probability of the formation of a "modern" protein, or even a complete bacterium with all "modern" proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis
    Abiogenesis
    Abiogenesis or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes, and the method by which life on Earth arose...

     theory at all.
  2. They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.
  3. They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials.
  4. They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.
  5. They underestimate the number of functional enzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences.}}

Analysis


Hoyle's fallacy derives from disregarding everything about sequence space
Sequence space
In functional analysis and related areas of mathematics, a sequence space is a vector space whose elements are infinite sequences of real or complex numbers. Equivalently, it is a function space whose elements are functions from the natural numbers to the field K of real or complex numbers...

 other than its size. Two factors are conflated: the probability of getting a 'first sequence' (abiogenesis or novel function), and the probability of going anywhere else (evolution). This may be illustrated by dissection of Hoyle's argument made in relation to myoglobin
Myoglobin
Myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates in general and in almost all mammals. It is related to hemoglobin, which is the iron- and oxygen-binding protein in blood, specifically in the red blood cells. The only time myoglobin is found in the...

. Any sequence of repeated elements – for example, DNA or protein – generates a sequence space for n positions and v different values at each position of vn possibilities. Therefore myoglobin, a protein of 153 amino acids, has a probability, in a 'random-amino-acid machine', of 20−153 of occurring in one step. For this to have any evolutionary significance, the number of useful myoglobins in that sequence space would have to be exactly 1. Further, any space of vn elements includes all lower-order spaces:
{{Expert-subject|date=March 2011}}

Hoyle's Fallacy, sometimes called the junkyard tornado, is a term for Fred Hoyle
Fred Hoyle
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS was an English astronomer and mathematician noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term originally...

's flawed statistical analysis applied to evolutionary origins, in which he compares the probability of cellular life evolving to the chance of a tornado "sweeping through a junkyard" and assembling a functional aeroplane. Similar observations predate Hoyle, and have been found all the way back to Darwin's time.

Hoyle's statement


According to Hoyle's analysis, the probability of cellular life evolving were about one-in-1040000. He commented:
{{quote|The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable to the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 from the materials therein.}}

which is a reflection of his stance reported elsewhere:
{{quote|Life as we know it is, among other things, dependent on at least 2000 different enzymes. How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?}}

Details


Hoyle's Fallacy derives from arguments most popular in the 1920s, prior to the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

, which are rejected by evolutionary biologists. A preliminary step is to establish that the phase space
Phase space
In mathematics and physics, a phase space, introduced by Willard Gibbs in 1901, is a space in which all possible states of a system are represented, with each possible state of the system corresponding to one unique point in the phase space...

 containing some biological entity (e.g. humans, working cells, the eye) is enormous — something which is not contentious. Hoyle's Fallacy is to infer from the huge size of the phase space that the probability that evolution yielded the entity is exceedingly low. Sometimes arguments exhibiting Hoyle's Fallacy also invoke Borel's Law, which claims incorrectly that highly improbable events do not occur. (If all possible outcomes of a natural process are highly improbable, then a highly improbable outcome is certain.)

Hoyle's Fallacy is comparable to the older infinite monkey theorem
Infinite monkey theorem
The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare....

, but applied to cellular biochemistry instead of the works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

. The fallacy claims that the probability that a protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 molecule could achieve a functional
Function (biology)
A function is part of an answer to a question about why some object or process occurred in a system that evolved through a process of selection. Thus, function refers forward from the object or process, along some chain of causation, to the goal or success...

 sequence of amino acids is too low to be realised by chance alone. Hoyle calculated this as being comparable to the probability that a tornado could sweep through a junkyard and randomly assemble a Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

.

The argument conflates the difference between the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves (and as such may change to become more complex over time) with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes (such as the multitude of parts manufactured in Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

), the comparison breaks down because of this important distinction.

According to Ian Musgrave in Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations:
{{quote|These people, including Fred, have committed one or more of the following errors.
  1. They calculate the probability of the formation of a "modern" protein, or even a complete bacterium with all "modern" proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis
    Abiogenesis
    Abiogenesis or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes, and the method by which life on Earth arose...

     theory at all.
  2. They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.
  3. They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials.
  4. They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.
  5. They underestimate the number of functional enzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences.}}

Analysis


Hoyle's fallacy derives from disregarding everything about sequence space
Sequence space
In functional analysis and related areas of mathematics, a sequence space is a vector space whose elements are infinite sequences of real or complex numbers. Equivalently, it is a function space whose elements are functions from the natural numbers to the field K of real or complex numbers...

 other than its size. Two factors are conflated: the probability of getting a 'first sequence' (abiogenesis or novel function), and the probability of going anywhere else (evolution). This may be illustrated by dissection of Hoyle's argument made in relation to myoglobin
Myoglobin
Myoglobin is an iron- and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates in general and in almost all mammals. It is related to hemoglobin, which is the iron- and oxygen-binding protein in blood, specifically in the red blood cells. The only time myoglobin is found in the...

. Any sequence of repeated elements – for example, DNA or protein – generates a sequence space for n positions and v different values at each position of vn possibilities. Therefore myoglobin, a protein of 153 amino acids, has a probability, in a 'random-amino-acid machine', of 20−153 of occurring in one step. For this to have any evolutionary significance, the number of useful myoglobins in that sequence space would have to be exactly 1. Further, any space of vn elements includes all lower-order spaces: {{vn-1, n-2, n-3 ...},{(v-1)n, n-1 ...} ... }. A probabilistic analysis must consider the smallest such space that contains a functional myoglobin. Neither n=153 nor v=20 can be accepted as minimal requirements, a priori.

Myoglobin function is in fact a property of the folded protein, not the amino acid sequence, per se. Protein folding is indeed determined by its amino acids, but activity is determined within a three-dimensional space. Certain key functional groups require suspension in a tightly-specified spatial orientation, but many different sequences may perform the scaffolding task of holding these in place. Even an imperfect arrangement may be superior to its predecessor, while adaptive evolution has the capacity to channel random processes along paths of optimization. If multiple functional sequences and adaptive gradients exist, then the total size of a sequence space delimited by a single modern instance does not set an upper bound on the probability of achieving a functional arrangement.

The minimum sequence of a functional myglobin, the distributions of functional sequence within the total space, and the adaptive benefit of variant sequences within organisms are all unknown. Without such information, the probability of generating a functional myoglobin cannot be calculated.

Reception


Hoyle's Fallacy is rejected by evolutionary biologists, since, as the late John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith,His surname was Maynard Smith, not Smith, nor was it hyphenated. F.R.S. was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J.B.S....

 pointed out, "no biologist imagines that complex structures arise in a single step." The modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

 explains how complex cellular
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

 structures evolved by analysing the intermediate steps required for precellular life. It is these intermediate steps that are omitted in creationist arguments, which is the cause of their over-estimating of the improbability of the entire process.

Hoyle's argument is a mainstay of creationist, intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

, orthogenetic and other criticisms of evolution. It has been labeled a fallacy
Fallacy
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an incorrect argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor , or take advantage of social relationships between people...

 by Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 in his two books The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

and Climbing Mount Improbable
Climbing Mount Improbable
Climbing Mount Improbable is a 1996 popular science book by Richard Dawkins. The book is about probability and how it applies to the theory of evolution, and is specifically designed to debunk claims by creationists about the probability of naturalistic mechanisms like natural selection.The main...

. Dawkins argues that the existence of God, who under theistic uses of Hoyle's argument is implicitly responsible for the origin of life, defies probability far more than does the spontaneous origin of life even given Hoyle's assumptions, with Dawkins detailing his counter-argument in The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...

, describing God as the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit
Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit
The Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit is a counter-argument to the modern form of the argument from design. It was introduced by Richard Dawkins in chapter 4 "Why there almost certainly is no God" of his 2006 book The God Delusion.- Context and history :...

.

External links



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