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Message On The Beach: Is It Intelligent Design Or Not?

- by Rhett R. Totten (c)2018

One beautiful sunny morning --let's say-- a college student goes out of the family cottage for walk on the beach. But as soon as she reaches the smoothed out sand left behind during low tide, she suddenly notices an arrangement of about 300 red pebbles of coral on the sand, which quite clearly spell out: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZOEY!"

Despite never knowing of anyone by the name of "Zoey" along the beach, the student still concludes that someone must have come out earlier on the beach and arranged the pebbles into this birthday greeting. So, she goes in and brings out her husband to look ...but since he also saw no one arrange the pebbles, and they both know of nobody by this name, he supposes that the pebbles must have gotten arranged this way by random by natural forces such as the wind and waves --and perhaps the crabs moved some pebbles randomly around.

So, which conclusion sounds more reasonable and likely to be correct? --Besides being just a hunch or a matter of opinion, is there a rigorous, logical --perhaps mathematical-- method to demonstrate who is probably correct?

--It turns out that there is a logical, mathematical method to calculate which view is more reasonable and likely to be correct. It is a probability analysis to determine whether there is most probably an intelligent designer who made the letters. --This is a test for "Intelligent Design" (ID).

Beach Message

Complex Specified Information

In order to show that the grouping and arrangement of parts (pebbles) probably qualifies as being a likely product of "Intelligent Design," it must be an instance of "complex, specified, functional information" and to show that, the grouping must have three attributes (in required order of importance):

- #1.) It must be functional as information... and this qualifies as such, because it gives a coherent concept or message: "Happy Birthday Zoey;"
- #2.) The parts (pebbles) must be specified as to their order, sequence and position... which this message also qualifies as, because the pebbles are lined up in specified particular positions (lines and arcs) necessary to convey the information, and the open spaces between the letters also lack pebbles, appropriately; ...and
- #3.) the group of parts must be complex and extensive (numerous) enough such that the quantity of parts are not such a tiny number, that their arrangement is easily explained by natural forces: in this case, there are more than 300 coral pebbles (not just 3 or 4) which are lined up in these properly specific spots. If there were any clearly demonstrable natural (non-intelligent) forces to explain this arrangement of parts, then we probably do not have an instance of intelligent design... but (in the case of this beach message) there are no such forces clearly known: eg. waves, wind, etc.

Next, we can crunch the numbers to see whether the grouping of 300+ pebbles has a reasonable chance of being ordered totally by random arrangement, or whether that chance is too slim, and an intelligent designer is more likely.

The Chances

1.) The observer notes that for each letter of the message, the red pebbles are arranged in a little rectangular grid which is basically 7 spots high and 5 spots wide. So for each letter, there are 35 spots, and each spot either has a pebble or it does not.

2.) It is one chance out of 2, whether a spot correctly has a pebble or does not have one.

3.) The chance that a letter would be correct by randomly filling (or leaving blank) all the 35 spots of the rectangle, is one chance out of two ...multiplied 35 times. --That comes to: one chance out of 6.87 X 1010 ...(1 out of 68 billion)... that an entire letter would be correct by randomly filling (or not filling) in all the 35 spots.

4.) The message: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZOEY" is comprised of 17 letters. --So, we multiply the chance in point #3 times itself 17 times. --That comes out to: one chance out of 1.69 X 10184 ...that all 17 letters (formed by pebbles) could be correctly assembled at random to contain the message (or any coherent message, actually). ---But if the chance is too small (in the extreme), then random assembly is virtually ruled out, and the message being set up by an Intelligent Designer makes more sense.

A Standard for Evaluating The Probabilities

As explained in my article "A Mathematical Proof of Intelligent Design in Nature," if the probability of something happening by random processes is vanishingly small enough, such a random chance explanation for that event's occurrence is virtually ruled out as a reasonable possibility, and is considered to be zero chance. That vanishingly small chance is called the "Universal Probability Boundary" of chance occurrence. Here is how we arrive at that number: There are 1084 particles (i.e. neutrons, protons & electrons) in the physical cosmos; and there are a maximum of 1045 interactions per second that can occur between any two of those sub-atomic particles; and there are 1020 seconds in the approximate age of the cosmos (about 15 billion yrs); therefore the total number of possible interactions of all the particles in all the age in the universe is: 10149 interactions. --Therefore, the "Universal Probability Boundary" on chance occurrences means that anything less likely than one chance out of 10150, must reasonably be statistically considered to be zero chance of happening in the history of the known universe.

Analysis

The chance that the 17-letter message "Happy Birthday Zoey" could have been properly assembled (out of 300 pebbles) by random forces (such as water, etc.), was one chance out of 1.69 X 10184. This number is 34 orders of magnitude less likely than the "Universal Probability Boundary," and therefore, is it highly more reasonable to figure that the message was not a result of random forces (waves, etc.), but it is most reasonable to conclude --rather-- that a thinking person came along and lined up the pebbles to form the message. This is an instance of I.D. being the best conclusion.

Identity of The Designer

In light of the above considerations, we therefore have a virtual "proof" that the message on the beach was intentionally designed by the purposeful work of a designer --regardless of the message designer's identity being unknown. Random ordering would be expected to virtually always produce a random jumble in every 7 X 5 rectangle, and to extremely rarely produce a coherent, clean letter (from any language in the world) in even one of the rectangles. However, even though the specific identity of the designer may not be known by the analysts, it doesn't matter; the conclusion of intelligent design still seems to be the best and most reasonable conclusion, and random forces seem most reasonably totally incapable of producing anything like this message --even in all the age of the universe.

An Analogy

This story of the message on the beach is obviously usable as a scenario comparative to something more important:

On this website, you may read about a similar analysis which describes the chances that functional "biological information" in living things (esp. proteins and DNA) could come about by random assembly; see Intelligent Design in Nature. A mid to small-sized protein is even more unlikely the above message on the beach to have assembled by random arrangement of parts, so we can very conservatively conclude that the initial appearance and existence of thousands of proteins in living things could not reasonably be due to random assembly, but must be due to Intelligent Design. This should be easily obvious to the unbiased observer.

You may also read about a similar sort of study, in which Hugh Ross has put together a list of factors to give an estimate of the Probability for a Life Support Body arising in the universe without the purposeful work of an intelligent designer.

Identity of Nature's Designer

--If you will read further in this website, you may agree that there is an excellent body of evidence (eg. from predictions) which indicates that the Bible is a supernaturally produced piece of literature, the true Word of God. ...and the Bible claims to identify the living God (and Jesus Christ) who did the intelligent designing of all things. If you want to read about such evidence concerning the Bible, click on this link: "Prophecy Proves the Bible's Authority."

---Concerning Jesus Christ, the Bible says: "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:3). Similarly, it says: "by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible" (Colossians 1:16).


YOU, dear reader are loved by God, and that's why Jesus Christ came!


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