The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

The Blind Lockmaker

September 29, 2006 | 31 Comments

Explaining in The God Delusion where he stands on the spectrum of God-belief (see post below for numbered options) Richard Dawkins says “I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 — I am agnostic only to the extent I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.” He later states that “my name for the statistical demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist is the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit.” In the ensuing discussion, he seeks refute the well-known argument that the probability of life developing by chance is no greater than the odds of a hurricane sweeping through a scrapyard and creating a Boeing 747. He states that “the candidate solutions to the riddle of the improbability [of life] are not, as is falsely implied, design and chance.” Natural selection, he concludes, is the key, which he illustrates with another example:

[A] favourite metaphor for extreme improbability is the combination lock on a bank vault. Theoretically, a bank robber could get lucky and hit upon the right combination of numbers by chance. In practice, the bank’s combination lock is designed with enough improbability to make this tantamount to impossible — almost as unlikely as [the] Boeing 747. But imagine a badly designed combination lock that gave out little hints progressively — the equivalent of the “getting-warmer” of children playing Hunt the Slipper. Suppose that when each one of the dials approaches its correct setting, the vault door opens another chink, and a dribble of money trickles out. The burglar would hone in on the jackpot in no time.

Like Dawkins’ lock, I am badly DESIGNED. So rather than tell you straight out why I think Dawkin’s’ analogy is also badly DESIGNED, I am going to give you little HINTS regarding my THINKING on the matter. It has something to do with the odds of a THINKING lock naturally SELECTING HINTS to give the burglar, rather than letting him dial numbers at random forever.

P.S. The Raving Atheist didn’t write this — this is just his computer spewing out combinations of letters to hint at what he might say.


31 Responses to “The Blind Lockmaker”

  1. VertexShader
    September 29th, 2006 @ 9:43 am

    what the hell are you talking about?

  2. hagiograph
    September 29th, 2006 @ 10:09 am

    Are you on about the “mind” thing again??? This would seem to have nothing to do with Dawkins’ example, which itself is quite well constructed (IMHO).

    This is getting surreal now. We are no longer provided the fun part of “Raving”, just the Raving part of “Raving”.

    Please give us a hint, provide us with a little dribble of “money” to whet our appetites….how exactly does anything about the “mind” indicate an intelligent design to anything?

  3. Tom
    September 29th, 2006 @ 10:48 am

    The biggest problem I’ve always had with the “hurricane sweeping through a scrapyard and creating a Boeing 747″ analogy is the fact that pieces of macroscopic scrap metal do not react to each other in the same way that microscopic atoms and molecules do. Also, the scrap metal in the junkyard is expected to assemble itself into a pre-existing (man-made) form. We wouldn’t expect evolution to follow the same biological progress it took elsewhere.

    Dawkins’ analogy is a little better, as far as it goes, but I think he flubs when he calls the lock “badly designed.”

  4. Erik
    September 29th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    The reason he says the lock is badly designed is because it is. If you set out to design a human being, you wouldn’t have kidney stones, lower back problems from walking erect and an optic nerve that interferes with light passing through the eye.

    In any event, analogies are only good for illumination. The real question is what explains the origin and diversity of life better: abiogenesis and evolution or special creation? It’s not even a contest, is it? Special creation isn’t actually an explanation at all.

  5. Choobus
    September 29th, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    oooh what fun! Trying to figure out what RA is thinking. It’s like poking around in a cat litter box hoping to find an ossified turd.

  6. severalspeciesof
    September 29th, 2006 @ 11:44 am

    Hagiograph is on target with the comment about RA and his
    “mind” obsession, but I’ll agree Dawkin’s analogy is badly DESIGHNED (misspelling on purpose). But it’s because the 747 analogy, which is what I think Dawkin is actually trying to disprove (and not an analogy of what actually happens through evolution), is so very, very badly designed, he’s stuck with bringing up an analogy that splits the difference between what really happens through evolution, and the bald faced lie about the probability of life being the same as the hurricane sweepiing through, etc.

  7. Joel
    September 29th, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    This website is complete shit now. What a shame.

  8. f
    September 29th, 2006 @ 12:59 pm

    It has something to do with the odds of a THINKING lock naturally SELECTING HINTS to give the burglar, rather than letting him dial numbers at random forever.

    Are you implying that a THINKING lock would have a purpose of frustrating the burglar?

  9. Axolotl
    September 29th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    OK RA, these little cutsey-poo teasers of yours are getting tiresome. Since you are apparently neither raving nor an atheist any longer, I suggest you give the RavingAtheist site over to someone who will live up to the name …

  10. Rocketman
    September 29th, 2006 @ 2:12 pm


  11. Kevin
    September 29th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    David Mills addresses this issue in his book “Atheist Universe.” As an example, he compares the chance of hitting the lottery in one playing (very low odds) versus accumulating numbers over a series of weeks and months – eventually you will end up with the 6 proper numbers. He compares natural selection to a cumulative lottery game.

  12. jerk store
    September 29th, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

    Ahhh, the plot thickens….

    RA’s thinking, so I think, is that the analogy fails because Dawkins gives natural selection a telic component which it obvious does not have. Hints, preferences or non-randomness of any kind imply that the end-game is known right from the very beginning. Maybe RA thinks the blind lockmaker is not so blind. Hmmmm.

    September 29th, 2006 @ 6:57 pm

    OH GREAT! So this is where all that mumbo-jumbo on randomness was leading to – hints of a belief in design? what next – formal creationsim?

    Well Raving Abortionist was right about one thing: Dawkins’ analogy is a poor one.

    A thinking lock and money to boot …. a designer and a final plan. Natural selection is neither.

    Abiogenisis theory is quite plausible – certainly more so than some know-it-all getting bored one day and suddenly having the notion to create life (and of course some pathetic creatures to worship his royal ass).

    Come on Raving Antiabortionist — quite with all the cryptic bullshit. Spill the beans will ya!

  14. Gordonliv
    September 29th, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

    I see what Dawkins is getting at. I think I see what RA is getting at. Neither of these analogies is particularly good. You don’t really [i]need[/i] an analogy to explain evolution and/or natural selection. Just read Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and you’ll find it succinctly and easily explained in there.

    If I can understand it, anyone can.

  15. Gordonliv
    September 29th, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

    And why didn’t my HTML italics work?

  16. Kamikaze189
    September 29th, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

    Looks like it’s time for RA to take the Jesus Existence Test.

  17. Cthu
    September 29th, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

    One of the things I’ve always valued in the writings of atheists is their clarity. They don’t beat around the bush, they don’t leave clues and HINTS, they say what they mean as clearly and concisely as possible (at least, the ones worth reading do).

    Your writings smack of egotism. Why beat around the bush? Why not simply state your point(s)? I’m not one of those willing to sit around and wait for you to reveal your HINTS based on your obscure THINKING. This blog is a far sight from any atheist writings I’m accustomed to, and I guess I stumbled upon you hoping for something better–hoping for honesty and clarity.

    I am outta here. There are better atheist writings on offer upon the Web. Wallow in your ego all you want, be as obscure as you like. Dole out your egotistical HINTS based upon your THINKING to your heart’s delight. What you write smacks of waffling fear and delibirate obfuscation to me. It is neither honest nor courageous, and it has nothing to offer me. I’m moving on to something more TANGIBLE and RATIONAL. Sorry I’ll miss your relevatory HINTS.

    Think on this: Dawkins didn’t need to lead his readers on with HINTS. He states his views and his case as clearly, completely and concisely as possible. I think the difference is based in ego, and I think Dawkins is the one worth reading–infinitely more so.

    Why read for what is deliberately obscured, what is intentionally hidden and withheld? I’d get as much from any mystery religion.

  18. Jordan
    September 29th, 2006 @ 11:40 pm

    Pretentious? Check.
    Condescending? Check.
    Cryptic? Check.
    Fatuously smug? Check.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the conversion process is now complete. TRA is now a frothing-at-the-mouth, raving theist.

    P.S. Do you really not understand Dawkins’ analogy, RA? Here’s my more charitable take: Just as it would be nearly impossible for a bank robber to hit upon the correct combination if he had no feeback, it would also be nearly impossible for random mutations to accumulate adaptively without the feedback of natural selection. With feeback, however, all of the robber’s tiny, plausible successes, where he brings one of the dials a bit closer to its correct setting, accumulate until he has the entire combination. Thus a giant improbability is broken down into a series of cumulative, individually-surmountable improbabilities.

  19. Godthorn
    September 30th, 2006 @ 2:22 am

    A good assessment, Jordan.

    Like Yahweh, RA is toying with us. “But helpless pieces of the game he plays/ Upon this checkerboard of nights and days/ Hither and thither moves and checks and slays–/ And one by one back in the closet lays.”

  20. Kreme
    September 30th, 2006 @ 5:38 am

    RA is now officially trying to justify his own brand of Scientology, whereby all future Thetans will someday meet on the tenth level of Donkey Kong in the RA mind-based afterlife. Such an excursion is much more happy goo goo than any physicalist reality, therefore mind-based afterliving MUST be true! Confounded smug RA posting is proof of this. Let us now continue to misappropriate Dawkins’ book. We must save the Thetans!

    September 30th, 2006 @ 7:40 am

    WOW — what Cthu said in #17 above !!! Right on the mark !

    It is funny to see the sniveling theists all happy pappy about Raving Antiabortionist’s about face though :)

    Is this still all about a “promise” he once made to someone in a moment of madness ???

    What a fucking joke …

  22. Joey D
    September 30th, 2006 @ 9:30 pm

    Man. Ravingtheist has really gone down hill.

  23. Marcus
    September 30th, 2006 @ 10:30 pm

    I think RA misses the point of the analogy, which isn’t to say that such a lock would exist, but simply to say that if it did exist, it would lead to somebody finding the combination, improbable as that seems by the numbers.

    That’s to say, he’s not trying to prove that there are mechanisms for natural selection to operate by in our environment, but simply showing the way such mechanisms could work. Actually, he’s probably taking one that’s not from our environment on purpose, in the hope that resistent people might then actually consider it.

    The point is, complex things evolve because they were rewarded with every step closer that they got (in this retroactive way of thinking). In the same way, the thief gets to the money, even though he’d never divine the code on his own, because he’s rewarded every step closer he gets. That’s all it shows, but it’s an important point.

  24. Interested Atheist
    October 1st, 2006 @ 2:57 am

    It seems clear that the Raving Atheist did not write this. His ghost did, or perhaps some evil demon that has possessed him. The clear and interesting arguments given by the R.A. of old are gone; now what we seem to have is someone who, as a former atheist, is trying to attack atheism from behind – taking out all the well-worn Christian criticisms and trying to give them a new spin.
    RA, from what I hear Dawkins seems to be exactly right. A safe that gives you clues as you home in on the right combination seems to be an excellent metaphor for the process of evolution except, as I’m sure Dawkins would tell you himself, evolution is not a process with a specific goal; the analogy, though, works perfectly to explain to Creationists what mutation and natural selection do. I intend to use it at my next opportunity.

  25. Evil_Mage_Ra
    October 1st, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

    Of course, if you really want to complete the analogy, you’d have not just one winning combination, but several, each giving out a different amount of “reward” money. Not only that, but the target combinations would change every now and then, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

  26. Marcus
    October 1st, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

    Personally, I can’t see how the RA has suddenly found Jesus. I do admit it’s a little silly arguing with him, though, when he’s apparently taken a blood oath never to concede the validity of atheism on this site again.

    Maybe the RA is trying to show the futility of arguing with somebody committed to something other than the truth?

  27. Brian Macker
    October 1st, 2006 @ 7:23 pm

    Actually those old dial locks for bicycles work like dawkins example. Just pull on the cable to put pressure on the lock, then turn the numbers. One will be tightest and will completely stick when it hits the right number. This will release the pressure on that dial and you can move on to the next and next. Takes more than a few minutes to pick such a lock but it can be done. You don’t have to try the 10000 combinations since there is a selective process to find better and better solutions.

  28. inkadu
    October 2nd, 2006 @ 7:10 pm

    I think I’m going to barf.

  29. Steven
    October 5th, 2006 @ 7:47 am

    The whole 747 analogy is bogus. Who worked out the odds of this and compared it to the probability of life. I want to see this persons math. Considering the billions of planets out in the universe which contain billions of stars, some of which have planets. Are we so naive to think that the earth is the only planet its kind?

    p.s. Dawkins is brilliant.

  30. Lucy Muff
    October 5th, 2006 @ 8:37 pm

    dawkings is evil man what has one idea and keep on saying again and again, but it still not a good or true one. he can look forward to hell where devil will laugh at him day and night.

  31. Anonymous Jerkoff
    October 9th, 2006 @ 7:15 pm

    Jesus Fucking Christ Lucy Muff, you have to be the most pathetic “human” on the planet! Are you seriously still trying to pull off this lame charade? Get a fucking life! (I guess this is cheaper than World of Warcraft)

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