Panstupidity and Jumbo-Mumbo

Christopher Hitchens used (coined?) this delightful variant of "mumbo-jumbo" to denigrate Fred Hoyle's ridiculous panspermia argument that abiogenesis by chemical evolution is "as likely as a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and spontaneously assembling a Boeing 747 airplane".

Specifically, Hoyle asked:



A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there?*

Considering the clever twist for which his Jumbo-assembly, junky analogy set his argument up, Hoyle, who sarcastically coined the term "Big Bang", was doubly ridiculous in this irrelevant misrepresentation of the probabilistic realities of chemical evolution of life (biopoiesis).

Of course, chemicals actually self-assembled in accordance with simple, still operational, chemical reactions over an extensive period.

Although Hoyle presented the jumbo-junk argument to promote the notion of panspermia, intelligent-design creationists have eagerly misapplied this jumbo-mumbo as an argument against biological evolution by natural selection. Hoyle's remarks are particularly popular to creationists because they also provide for a fallacious appeal to authority based on Hoyle's reported atheism. The creationist fallacious appeal to authority runs: Hoyle was a brilliant atheist and he said something useful to the cause of creationist delusions.

Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe concocted the panspermia (exogenesis) theory to counter theories of chemical evolution of life (abiogenesis), and were responsible for another idiotic statement much loved by creationists:

"No matter how large an environment considers, life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the words of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the deposition of wrong attempts. The same is true for living material."

Hitchen's response to the jumbo-junk argument:

"We know the answer in all cases: these were painstaking inventions (also by trial and error) of mankind, and were the the work of many hands, and are still "evolving." This is what makes piffle out of the ignorant creationist sneer, which compares evolution to a whirlwind blowing through a junkyard of parts and coming up with a mumbo jet. For a start, there are no "parts" lying around waiting to be assembled. For another thing, the process of acquisition and discarding of "parts" (most especially wings) is as far from a whirlwind as could conceivably be. The time involved is more like that of a glacier than a storm. For still another thing, jumbo jets are not riddled with nonworking or superfluous "parts" lamely inherited from less successful aircraft. Why have we agreed so easily to call this exploded old nontheory by its cunningly chosen new disguise of "intelligent design"? There is nothing at all "intelligent" about it. It is the same old mumbo-jumbo (or in this instance, jumbo-mumbo)." ¬ Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, McClelland & Stewart, Toronto (2007), pp 85-87.

* F. Hoyle, The Intelligent Universe, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York (1983), p. 18.

For a video of a thought experiment that demonstrates that clock components could indeed self-assemble into clocks, provided only that they could mutate and undergo natural selection, see Tick Tock.

Elsewhere: Are IDiots Creationists?

Atheist Genius...DEBUNKED!



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