Talk:Junkyard tornado

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Why it isn't a fallacy[edit]

This article is not helpful How is it a fallacy or misrepresentation? -Justin (koavf)·T·C·M 15:28, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

There's a good treatment of the fallacy over at weasel program. In short it's a fallacy because Hoyle was only calculating the probability of this particular outcome, when in fact there are many workable outcomes (i.e., many valid combinations of amino acids) and the probability that at least one would emerge is much higher. siafu 13:25, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

If you understand the sharpshooter's fallacy, I don't see the difficulty. (talk) 19:31, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

If the odds stated by Hoyle are incorrect, what then are the correct odds of life coming into existence in the way posited by Dawkins? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:23, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

The odds you would like canNOT be calculated for the reasons presented in this article. Honest scientists are willing to say "I don't know" or "that cannot be known". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:36, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Assuming a cyclic universe, the probability is 1, as you get infinite tries at it. 13:33, 1 December 2007 (UTC)
that is a hell of an assumption. (talk) 14:53, 25 July 2008 (UTC)ten
And not a necessary one to make to prove its being a fallacy. I am not a dog (talk) 17:00, 25 July 2008 (UTC)

In a broader sense, Hoyle was engaging in a fallacy because he was trying to calculate odds for an event that isn't well-defined. We can calculate the odds of rolling a fair die and getting a "6" perfectly, that is one out of six; for a poorly defined event, any probability calculation does no more than echo the assumptions on which it was made. Hoyle's assumption was effectively saying that a complete cell just somehow self-assembled, which actually resembles creationist thinking, or at least a creationist strawman, much more than it does abiogenetic research. On the basis of other assumptions -- such as envisioning the Earth as a planet-spanning geologically active "bioreactor" with a range of environments operating for at least hundreds of millions of years to produce a primitive self-reproducing chemical system that could lead to "improved" derivatives and ultimately to life as we know it now -- the probability can be assumed to be ONE.

Either way, the calculation represents nothing more than a prejudice, though I would say the second one takes a much more valid view of what we actually know than the first. Hoyle performed his calculation strictly on the basis of the elaboration of the cell without any consideration of processes that might have produced it.

To get an honest appreciation of the probabilities would require that we take a set of Earthlike planets more than, say, a few billion years old and determine the proportion on which life emerged. Since we have a sample size of ONE, there's no way to perform a useful calculation of probabilities. Hoyle's fallacy is an example of "pseudomath", a close relative of pseudoscience, nothing more than a game of presenting a partisan opinion under a false front of mathematical precision. Hoyle's fallacy was more a misuse of probability than of abiogenesis theory. He may have been right, the spontaneous origins of life may be unbelievably improbable, but we have no useful way of calculating such a probability. MrG (talk) 17:48, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

But we do have a useful way of calculating a VERY APPROXIMATE ORDER OF MAGNITUDE for such a probablity. If the answer had been "only" 10^400 it would still be a major problem for molecular biology. (There does seem to be a confrontation between evolutionary biologists, with the extreme confidence in Darwinism generally associated with those who are not biochemists - see e.g. the entrenched opposition of Coyne v Shapiro at Chicago. Hoyle's great strength was he ability to make an engineering style approximation and see where it led. Not a fallacy. Dickballantine (talk) 13:25, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Also, Hoyle would have to admit that intelligent life emerging on ANY ONE planet in the Universe would be enough for some entity to ask the question he has, and be none the wiser that they didn't form on another planet instead. Therefore, all places in the Universe even remotely suitable for life would have to be included in his calculations as well.
Assume a hundred billion galaxies each of a hundred billion stars each with a habitable planet. That shaves off only 22 of the 40,000 zeroes in Hoyle's calculation. 10^39,978 is effectively 10^40,000 - this was always a rough order-of-magnitude calculation, and using the respurces of an entire universe harly makes a dent. Dickballantine (talk) 13:36, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

That's because it's not a fallacy. This article is not NPOV; it has no counter arguments but yet prejudices by stating Hoyle's "fallacy" is a mainstay of critics of evolution. In other words, if you must go against the current scientific consensus to accept Hoyle conclusion; as if consensus equals being correct. Among the anti evolution crowd, according to this article, are intelligent design proponents, many of whom, Michael Behe, for example, accept evolution. Notice too that this article's main source is talk origins, more specifically an article by Musgrave. What makes him such an authority on this issue that he should be paraphrased and quoted at length? Ultimately, Hoye's fallacy is a fallacy because those who have labeled it as such disagree with the conclusion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:46, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Hoyle used fallacious reasoning. It is obvious.

The assignment of the term of "fallacy" is correct. However, the specific relation to Hoyle is unnecessary. This argument is easily classified into a certain type of common logical fallacies, perhaps essentially the Post hoc fallacy. If one looks at, for instance, a Markov chain, there are many paths to a certain outcome (see concept of degeneracy and entropy.) However, the odds of a PARTICULAR path, the path that was actually taken, are vanishingly small. Outcomes which enter a huge phase space in an equally likely manner, are each hugely unlikely. "Hoyle's fallacy" is one of a broad set of retrospective fallacies of this kind. (talk) 17:45, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Actually, it's proper to link this type of fallacy with the "Texas Sharpshooter's Fallacy," which involves retrospective assertions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:13, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Francis Crick was similarly concerned about the combinatorial explosion. "Life Itself" was a partial response. (See also my note next section.) Not a falacy as such. Dickballantine (talk) 13:08, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

This article lacks objectivity[edit]

There is considerably scholarly criticism of the so-called naming of Hoyle's fallacy; the article simply assumes that there is indeed a fallacy on the strenght of claims by atheistic evolutionist Dawkins, et al. In fact, the christening of Hoyle's analogy is somewhat specious. In the first place, a fallacy is a classification of a type of error in a categorical or other argument. As such, fallacies are either material/informal or formal, relating to either ambiguity in content or error in structure. All arguments rely on assumptions that are either true or false. Statements themselves are not fallacies. An error in a math puzzle, for exmaple, is not a fallacy: it is an error. If little Tommy got his sum of 230 + 340 wrong, his wrong answer is not a fallacy, but simply a wrong answer. The debate between Hoyle and others is a debate relating to a specific biological interpretation on a specified problem. One may feel that Hoyle has made an error in his conclusion, or argue that he has committed a falalcy of analogy, but to christen an opponenets argument a fallacy on account of a disagreement with the conclusion as though it were somehow characteristic of a class of informal or formal errors may be seen to be intellectually mendacious. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:53, 24 October 2008 (UTC)

He not only got his conclusion wrong. He indulged in faulty fallacious reasoning.

Do you know the sharpshooter's fallacy? That's what he did, among other things.

He made a post-hoc analysis of patterns that were specified a priori. (talk) 19:38, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

I have done some re-writing of the article to minimize POV. Chaparral2J (talk) 17:01, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the comment - I've wandered in that direction above with the Sharpshooter's Fallacy. Steve (talk) 02:06, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

The article is not appropriately quantitative, but needs to be. For example, if there are 10^153 possible proteins of a certain type, allowing 2 or 10 or 100 to be functionally acceptable still leaves a major "Mount Improbable" to climb. It is therefore far from clear that Hoyle's reasoning was fallacious. This is equally true of technical sources such as "Taming Combinatorial Explosion" (Peter Schuster). Dickballantine (talk) 12:58, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

this article violates Wikipedia's policy of no original research[edit]

There is no such thing as Hoyle's Fallacy. It was a concept invented by Richard Dawkins and has not been accepted by mainstream philosophical discourse. This article cites an unscholarly web article by Ian Musgave as evidence. This article violates Wikipedia's policy of neutrality and was written with the goal in mind of making a point. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kylefoley76 (talkcontribs) 02:03, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree with you only in the sense that Hoyle's Fallacy belongs in a broad category of post-hoc analysis. Such things as sampling bias belong in this broad category. There is no merit to the objection that it has "not been accepted by mainstream philosophical discourse." This particular error is an error in reason and logic, and can be seen in many places throughout history. It takes little effort to find bad reasoning which resurfaces over and over again. Steve (talk) 02:16, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree, although there are two issues. First, Hoyle's exact reasoning and motivations are essentially unknowable, and his conclusions may have been more plausible at the time they were made (so "fallacy" may be unfair). Second, it is true that creationists have used what is known as "Hoyle's fallacy" to claim that evolution ("by blind chance"—showing ignorance of natural selection) is impossible. Johnuniq (talk) 03:32, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I tend to go with "Fallacy" nevertheless, as Hoyle's reasoning may be unclear, but his error is easily considered objectively. It is the sharpshooter's error in "post-hoc" analysis. (talk) 21:13, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

wow that sentence does not flow well[edit]

In evolutionary biology, Hoyle's fallacy is a common misrepresentation of Darwinian theory, colloquially named, among evolutionary biologists, after the astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle, although it has been current almost since the time of Darwin himself

This does not flow well at all. In fact I'm having a difficult time trying to determine what the original author even meant which is making it impossible to try and improve it. I'll think about it some more and see if I can make it clearer. Angry Christian (talk) 23:04, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Seems perfectly clear to me. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Title not appropriate[edit]

While I do find the subject of this article notable, I think the title is not appropriate. The article begins with Hoyle's fallacy is a term for the statistical analysis of Sir Fred Hoyle.[1]' The source that is provided does not mention the term 'Hoyle's fallacy' at all. The only person known to have called specifically Hoyle's argument a fallacy is Richard Dawkins, who alone represents neither the scientific community nor the general public. In fact, a google search for 'Hoyle's fallacy' results mostly in mirrors of this Wikipedia page and in forum posts using the term (probably copied from Wikipedia). A google scholar search give zero results. I get the idea that that the term is not commonly used. I propose to change the title of the article to 'Hoyle's Argument' or something with a similar meaning.

I also find the article to have a non-neutral POV. Hoyle's statistical analysis itself is not explained. In fact, the article contains nothing but counter-arguments, omitting Hoyle's original analysis. I will try to improve the article as soon as I have done the required research to do so.Lindert (talk) 12:07, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

This article is unhelpful and manipulative[edit]

Readers are told what to believe by this text. The current contents of it should be relegated to a section called "Criticism" while the body of the article should contain a description of the analysis itself. Furthermore, a more appropriate title might be Hoyle's Conjecture or theory rather than fallacy. (talk) 23:46, 6 June 2009 (UTC)

Do you have a reliable source (a scientific one please because this is about science) that asserts the truth of Hoyle's conjecture/theory? Johnuniq (talk) 01:59, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

Do you have a source that proves/asserts the truth of Memes or the Extended Phenotype? I don't see either one of them labeled as "Dawkins' Fallacy" on Wiki.

This isn't about science at all. This is mainly about Richard Dawkins' opinion and some "computer program" he wrote. Not every unproved or debunked claim is a "fallacy".

Where is the actual science? There is one source for this article and it is biased and not a very prominent or respectable site.

Savagedjeff (talk) 07:48, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

It is not just about Dawkin's opinion -- Hoyle's fallacy is widely (and correctly, IMO) regarded as complete garbage. Why did Hoyle (whom I respect as an astronomer and free-thinker) believe such rot, that's what I want to know, and would like to see this explored more and reported here.
BTW don't get hung up over "truth" -- we just report what is reported elsewhere. --Michael C. Price talk 09:36, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

ummm source?? Where is the evidence and why is it not presented on this page? You have a single source that is copied word for word. That isn't enough. "Hoyle's fallacy is rejected by all evolutionary biologists." There is no way of knowing that. That is an unsubstantiated claim.

You are selectively "reporting what is reported elsewhere".

Savagedjeff (talk) 20:53, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Copied word for word because otherwise we would be accused of WP:OR.
And I don't think it is selective. Do you know of any evolutionary biologist that accepts Hoyle's argument? --Michael C. Price talk 21:01, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Whoa Whoa.. This has nothing to do with natural selection or evolution. Dawkins misrepresented Hoyle's argument. It is about spontanteous origin of life. Both creationists and Dawkins have it wrong.

An evolutionary biologist:

"Few writers about the origin of life fail to mention Hoyle's Boeing-747 analogy. However, Hoyle is absent from university textbooks on evolution. All creationists accept the Boeing-747 argument as a disproof of the natural origin of life, and evolutionists reject it as such. Yockey is the only writer who improves the argument. A definitive answer to the Boeing-747 argument is not yet possible. Just as Maxwell's demon has set a puzzle that is still not fully resolved. A convincing rebut is nothing less than the solution of the problem of the origin of life. As long as science doesn't have a satisfactory and complete theory of the origin of life, science cannot answer Hoyle's Boeing-argument. "


So there goes the "all evolutionary biologists" argument.

The guy goes on:

" Hoyle's Boeing-747 is an anti-spontaneous-origin-of-life-argument. The argument uses logic and probability."

Finally Richard Dawkins (2003) uses the argument again: "Creationists love sir Fred Hoyle's vivid metaphor for his own misunderstanding of natural selection. It is as if a hurricane, blowing through a junkyard, had the good fortune to assemble a Boeing 747. Hoyle's point is about statistical improbability. () My answer is that natural selection is cumulative. () Small improvements are added bit by bit." Indeed, once you have life, it can be improved in a Darwinian fashion. But can Darwinian processes create the first living cell? That's another question. Philosopher Philip Kitcher (2007) in his Living with Darwin writes: "To use an argument much beloved by ealier creationists, Darwinian claims about selection and the organization of life are equivalent to the idea that a hurricane in a junkyard could assemble a functioning airplane". Two deletion mutations occurred in the argument: 'Hoyle' and 'Boeing-747'.

Read the whole thing. It totally smashes the bulk of this article.

Hoyle believed in evolution. Dawkins set up a strawman:

""We are inescapably the result of a long heritage of learning, adaptation, mutation and evolution, the product of a history which predates our birth as a biological species and stretches back over many thousand millennia.... Going further back, we share a common ancestry with our fellow primates; and going still further back, we share a common ancestry with all other living creatures and plants down to the simplest microbe. The further back we go, the greater the difference from external appearances and behavior patterns which we observe today.... Darwin's theory, which is now accepted without dissent, is the cornerstone of modern biology. Our own links with the simplest forms of microbial life are well-nigh proven."

---Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Lifecloud: The Origin of Life in the Universe (1978), p.15-16

This article needs drastic changes.

Savagedjeff (talk) 08:18, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I must have missed something.
  1. Where is the statement by an evolutionary biologist that Hoyle's argument is correct?
  2. Where does the article say Hoyle didn't believe in evolution? Not the same as understanding it....
  3. The fallacy has everything do with evolution and natural selection. And it has to do with the origin of life. Compatible since even simple molecules can be naturally selected.
--Michael C. Price talk 08:45, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Nice sleight of hand to try to move the goal posts. This article says "rejected by all evolutionary biologists." Clearly, that link shows evolutionary biologists who have not rejected it, who are debating it, and see it as an open question.

Look up Robert Shapiro's work on it. He shows the odds are astronomical.

Savagedjeff (talk) 19:03, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Clearly we can read the same text and come to different conclusions. Again, I ask, where are the evolutionary biologists that accept Hoyle's fallacy? Name them. I don't see them in the link. --Michael C. Price talk 19:30, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
PS Please explain to me what "All creationists accept the Boeing-747 argument as a disproof of the natural origin of life, and evolutionists reject it as such." means! --Michael C. Price talk 19:39, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Saying that all evolutionary biologists reject it is a different statement than naming those who accept it. Or saying that any accept it. You're setting up a false dichotomy on top of a strawman and red herring. To not reject it does not mean that you have to accept it. It means it is an open question in need of more research. A little something called agnosticism. So again, not all evolutionary biologists reject it. Stop setting up a strawman/red herring to dodge this point. The statement that all evolutionary biologists reject it inaccurate and sourced. That link was written by a Dutch evolutionary biologist.

Also, the entire claim, "rejected by all evolutionary biologists" is sourced back to, and only sourced back to, Richard Dawkins. In popular science books no less.

Savagedjeff (talk) 21:10, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

It is not a false dichotomy. The claim is that all evolutionary biologists reject the argument. The implication (which is not spelt out in the article, since that would be my OR) is that those that haven't rejected it, would if it were presented to them. Finding a single counter example requires finding someone who has accepted the argument. Since this claim is sourced and you've twice refused to actually name any evolutionary biologist as a counter-example I think it has the right to stay.

BTW the claim is not sourced back to just Dawkins. It now has John Maynard Smith as well.

I'm not sure what you think the relevance of the link author's profession is, since he gives no indication of accepting Hoyle's argument. Indeed I would say he rejects it, although I don't doubt you have interpreted it differently. --Michael C. Price talk 21:42, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

No, the author clearly states that is scientifically unanswerable at this point. That is why it can't be answered. Not because nobody saw the argument. There is no implication of that or anything else you are claiming. You are throwing assumption on top of assumption. He said a "definitive answer" is "not possible". Stop making up stories.

It is relevant because this article explicitly says ALL evolutionary biologists. And again, stop bringing up the acceptance argument to try and muddy the waters. Here is one that explicitly says it is unanswered. How could you possibly claim that as a rejection? Show me the rejection in that piece. That is not a neutral point of view. It is your point of view. And then you stretch this quote "What is wrong with it? Essentially, it is that no biologist imagines that complex structures arise in a single step." to fit under the umbrella of the Dawkins statement. That statement is not the same as saying all evolutionary biologists reject it. It needs much more context at least. You are playing fast and loose with words and using subjective interpretations. I can only assume you are being dishonest at this point by repeating the same fallacies and if you continue I will appeal to a higher authority.

Savagedjeff (talk) 22:22, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

The author states that the origin of life is mysterious -- NOT that he accepts Hoyle's argument.

And I'm still waiting for your explanation of his statement:

"All creationists accept the Boeing-747 argument as a disproof of the natural origin of life, and evolutionists reject it as such."

--Michael C. Price talk 22:51, 3 September 2009 (UTC)


This article shows only the POV of Dawkins and his minions. What sourcing is there for it being rejected by the majority of biochemists? This is absolute propaganda. (talk) 07:02, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

The idiotic insult "Dawkins and his minions" tells us all we need to know about where you are coming from, mate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:46, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

You need to present some sort of reason to justify keeping the {{POV}} tag. Do you have a reference (see WP:RS and WP:UNDUE) to an alternative POV that has been omitted from the article? Is there a statement in the article that you think is verifiably incorrect? Is there a statement that should be removed (and briefly why)? Johnuniq (talk) 07:32, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Exactly. The rejection by all evolutionary biologists is sourced. Who cares what biochemists think, anymore than, say, accountants. --Michael C. Price talk 07:46, 10 August 2009 (UTC)--Michael C. Price talk 07:46, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I recommend changing this "all evolutionary biologists..." to in-text attribution of the cited sources (i.e., "Gatherer and Smith state that all evolutionary biologists..."). I don't support using Wikipedia voice for this statement for the reason that the citations are themselves not well-substantiated in fact (Gatherer just cites Dawkins for this statement and Smith provides an analytical justification) and the statement's verifiability has been vehemently challenged in this discussion. Please see WP:YESPOV for my basis in policy. I also echo the concerns of the unsigned writer in Talk:Hoyle's_fallacy#This_article_lacks_objectivity, which in my opinion has not yet received an adequate reply. I'd also have to agree with Savagedjeff that this article is not as helpful or neutral as it could be. All it really needs to be more helpful is for a more detailed explanation of the statistical analysis that Hoyle did, particularly the variables he based it on (considering that I have no clue what they were); what's there right now just seems threadbare. As for the POV issue, Michael, you've some provided citation for the "all evolutionary biologists..." statement; good, it's not original research then. But without some factual basis, I think these citations are still just POV and I think you're still stuck with the burden of proof of whether or not this is a fact that can be expressed in WP voice. Till then, I think this article still deserves the tag. (talk) 14:15, 27 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand what you mean by the lack of verifiability. What statements in particular require more verification? I don't understand what you mean by "factual basis"? Do you mean we should explain things (such as Hoyle's arguments and those of his critics) in more detail? --Michael C. Price talk 20:52, 27 April 2010 (UTC)
By lack of verifiability, I mean the statement appears to be an unqualified assertion. Gatherer says "All evolutionary biologists, however, concur that such reasoning is merely a trivial error," but is he even referring to Hoyle's fallacy, to Davies or Ellassar's work, or all of the above? And how does he support the assertion anyway? He cites two other sources (Dawkins and Radner), and provides analysis that points out Hoyle's assumptions, but the statement is not sourced to any query or survey of all evolutionary biologists, so how can it be verified? Countering this question by asking, "tell me what evolutionary biologist supports it" is essentially an argument from ignorance and an attempt to manipulate the burden of proof. Similarly, Smith states, "What is wrong with it? Essentially, it is that no biologist imagines that complex structures arise in a single step," again an assertion with only the writer's analysis to justify it. I'm not saying I disagree with the statement, only that I don't think it's proven as a fact such that it can go without in-text attribution. This is a pretty small, not to mention justifiable (vis a vis NPOV policy) compromise to ask for. I'm not asking for the statement to be stricken all together, only to be attributed properly, much as outline of errors in this article was attributed to Musgrave.
As for making it more helpful, let me explain: the section titled "Hoyle's statement" tells me the "event" of concern (cellular life evolving) the concluding statistic Hoyle figured out (one in 10^40000) and the resulting analogy he wrote for it. It tells me NOTHING about how he developed that statistic, what were the variables he factored into it (amount of cells, amount of time available, etc.), and what might have motivated him to study it in the first place. I'm not an evolutionary biologist, I'm not a scientist of any kind. I'm interested in learning about these things, but the description of the "fallacy" is cursory and instead the article focuses on its criticism. This is neither helpful nor fair. (talk) 03:52, 30 April 2010 (UTC)
I read Gatherer as referring to Hoyle's Fallacy itself, as presented by other authors, especially Elsasser.
"verifiability" does not refer to testing the truth of a statement, but only as to whether the statement has been accurately reported. We do not have to prove the statement true, nor to justify the basis the source has for claiming its truth.
As for Hoyle's motivation, that is a mystery to me. I wish I knew. --Michael C. Price talk 07:10, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

I have attempted to fix this article several times by giving references and counter arguments while not removing any of the atheist's arguments, but each time my edits have been over-written. Obviously, the article is hopelessly biased and the overwriting of any attempt at balance is agenda driven -- DFP —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:47, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Any source which opens with the fraudulent creationist argument that "Philosophical naturalists claim macroevolution shows order emerging by pure chance. This claim is incompatible with accepted physical and biological principles. The present state of the universe is implicit in its initial state and the laws of nature. Logical principles essential to science require these laws to be maintained by a self-conserving reality identifiable as God." is not a reliable source for science. Your edits contradict mainstream views and clearly promote a fringe pseudoscientific view. By the way, the arguments you oppose are secular, which is not the same as "atheistic". . . dave souza, talk 21:40, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
I've reverted the latest addition -- it was incoherent nonsense. --Michael C. Price talk 21:49, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Ian Musgrave explanation[edit]

The text that follows "According to Ian Musgrave...", although well sourced, does not seem that helpful. Comments?--Michael C. Price talk 13:52, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree, with reservations. You have made great progress in fixing the article, but I think it is still rather inaccessible to the general reader. I agree that Musgrave's quote doesn't help much (it's impenetrable unless you already understand it), but I think the points belong in the article. I don't know how to fix the readability issue (without a bunch of WP:OR), but I would like the article to spell out what Hoyle's calculation is about, and briefly outline the fallacies (as per the Musgrave quote). Hoyle's original argument is now almost irrelevant, but the article needs to say exactly what Hoyle meant, and how the concept is (mis)used by creationists these days. I haven't seen Hoyle's text (BTW the article needs a citation for "Hoyle's statement"), but I see that Ebon Musings points to Hoyle's 1983 book The Intelligent Universe and states that Hoyle was specifically referring to the likelihood of abiogenesis (presumably this lays the foundation for Hoyle's panspermia claim?). I see the same reference in Fred Hoyle. I think the article should make these points: Hoyle estimated that abiogenesis (creating a self-replicating molecule) is extremely unlikely. However, Hoyle's estimation is mistaken because a much simpler molecule is sufficient to start the process, and an extremely large number of parallel trials occurred (not sequential), and it is not true that the target molecule has to be exactly "correct". Johnuniq (talk) 00:49, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that was my feeling about Musgrave's points. Inaccessible.
Also, whilst creationists do make all of Musgrave's errors, I don't think they all apply to Hoyle. For instance there is no evidence, as far I can see, that Hoyle assumed sequential processing; the probability he gets is so small that it doesn't matter whether parallel trials are available. Hoyle's main mistake seems to be that he doesn't allow natural selection to operate on the precursor molecules (which I tried to allude to in the article).
I couldn't find a good source (i.e. non-creationist) for Hoyle's exact statement. There was a pointer to a Nature ref from a creationist site, but I'd like to see for myself. And I would like to see Hoyle's own calculations, but haven't come across them either, yet.
Thanks for correcting my spellings (my spellchecker is broken at the moment).--Michael C. Price talk 02:55, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Who is Ian Musgrave? What is his credibility? His calculations in the referred article are plain wrong. He calculates early Earth oceans volume as 1 x 10e24 litres which is wrong. Indeed it could be no more than 1 x 10e20 liters. His calculations are way off by a magnitude of 10,000. 1 x 10e24 is volume of the Earth, not its oceans! I suggest to remove all references to him and his article. Having something published in "" doesn't make it scientific. SirGalahad (talk) 22:31, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

I would be fine with removing him from the text, but still worth retaining as an external link. Let's see what others think. --Michael C. Price talk 22:48, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
<ec> Ian Musgrave. And your source is? . . dave souza, talk 22:50, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
Anyone can check the volume of the Earth and see that Ian screwed up. You don't need a source for that. Anyway, I never thought his explanation pasted to the article was that helpful. --Michael C. Price talk 22:53, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
Do please provide a source, and if you're right it looks to me like nitpicking over a typo in a figure that doesn't affect his overall argument. Looking over the points listed from him, they look clear and informative to me, and well worth keeping. What's the problem? . . dave souza, talk 22:59, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
As I said, you don't need a source. IM's 2nd point is the only one worth keeping, IMO. --Michael C. Price talk 23:16, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
From looking around, a figure of 1x10e21 looks more acceptable, and that should be corrected but it's not something we cite. IM's first point, as expanded in his argument, is that modern abiogenisis theory doesn't expect life to start with something as complex as a yeast cell, so Hoyle begins with a false premise. As IM correctly points out, the creationists tend to assume one giant random step: it should also be pointed out here that once natural selection begins, the steps are not random. The second you accept, so that confirms the premise that Hoyle gets at least one wrong. The third issue of misuse of sequential odds rather than massively parallel odds, with the refinement that mutations don't have to follow a strict sequence, is an argument I've seen covered elsewhere, though can't recall the source right now. That's another part of the issue. Right, it's my bedtime now, but at the least IM covers issues which our article should deal with. Will come back on this. . . dave souza, talk 00:22, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
Upon reconsideration, all IM's points are valid and need inclusion, I just think they need a bit more explanation to be comprehensible to someone who doesn't "get it". I've tried expanding the explanation slightly elsewhere in the article.
One thing I've pondering is that breaking a search space up with n evenly "spaced" parallel intermediate steps reduces the evolutionary search time from S to S1/n. I think this is what the IP editor doesn't get. Not sure how to explain it (or source it). --Michael C. Price talk 00:36, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
All IM's calculations are based on wrong value of 1x10e24. If you follow the calculations you'll see that it is not a simple typo. If you replace 1x10e24 with 1x10e20 or 1x10e21, all of his results will dramatically change. Though he has a point, as a result of wrong calculations, he is unable to prove it mathematically. Main point here is that this article is not a valid scientific source. Scientific articles doesn't contain such big calculation errors. From IM's article: "Then the Ghadiri ligase could be generated in one week, and any cytochrome C sequence could be generated in a bit over a million years". Since his prebiotic soup is 1000-10.000 times larger than the real one, the correct value will be projected to over 1-10 billion years which is in contradiction with his original point. I don't want to start a discussion regarding this and other details, just to let you know that IM's article doesn't meet the scientific criteria required for an encyclopedia.SirGalahad (talk) 01:46, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
Your point is accepted. We're just trying to decide what to do about it. His arithmetical flaw occurs in what he admits is a straw man argument - his two other main points are valid, namely that (1) creationists assume natural selection doesn't start until a single working cell is created and that (2) they assume no other viable constructs exist apart from those that actually occured.--Michael C. Price talk 07:31, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

Do not remove POV tag.[edit]

You had no standing to remove the tag I placed. The whole article is a POV joke. ALL evolutionary biologists disagree with Hoyle? This is an extreme claim to make and is NOT sourced. If you remove the tag again I'm taking this to ArbCom. (talk) 04:11, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Please respond to the comments at #Ridiculous above. Johnuniq (talk) 04:22, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Search for "all evolutionary biologists" in the 3rd ref (i.e. the one that sources the claim) and see what you find :-) --Michael C. Price talk 08:54, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

NPOV dispute[edit]

The article presupposes that the "fallacy" is in fact a fallacy. This is a clear bias in violation of Wikipedia's neutrality rules. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Lucidology (talkcontribs) 01:52, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Please see #Ridiculous above and respond to the comments there. Johnuniq (talk) 02:05, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

NPOV dispute[edit]

This article states "Hoyle's fallacy is rejected by all evolutionary biologists." which is flat out a lie. There are a great many biologists who dissent against the idea that random mutation leads to evolution. For instance:

“No matter how numerous they may be, mutations do not produce any kind of Evolution.” Pierre-Paul Grasse, - Evolutionist

“It is good to keep in mind ... that nobody has ever succeeded in producing even one new species by the accumulation of micromutations. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has never had any proof, yet it has been universally accepted.” Prof. R. Goldschmidt, - PhD, DSc Prof. Zoology, University of Calif. In Material Basis of Evolution Yale Univ. Press

"A growing number of respectable scientists are defecting from the evolutionist camp ... moreover, for the most part these 'experts' have abandoned Darwinism, not on the basis of religious faith or biblical persuasions, but on scientific grounds, and in some instances, regretfully." - Wolfgang Smith, Ph.D., physicist and mathematician —Preceding unsigned comment added by Lucidology (talkcontribs) 10:43, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Please review WP:TALK so you can see how to sign your messages and how to reply to previous discussions (do not start a new section with each message). Are you aware that the quotes you just gave have no relevance to the statement about Hoyle's fallacy? Also, the article is talking about all current biologists (not those who died some decades ago, and not physicists), and the statement in the article has a reliable source. Johnuniq (talk) 11:26, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

POV tagging[edit]

At WP:NPOV dispute we read "Drive-by tagging is strongly discouraged. The editor who adds the tag must address the issues on the talk page, pointing to specific issues that are actionable within the content policies... Simply being of the opinion that a page is not neutral is not sufficient to justify the addition of the tag."

Accordingly, would anyone who believes the article conflicts with WP:NPOV please point to specific issues in the article, and explain why those issues conflict with content policies. The {{POV}} tag should be removed if no justification for it is provided. Johnuniq (talk) 00:35, 3 February 2010 (UTC)


The sources all seem to call it "Hoyle's Fallacy" not "Hoyle's fallacy". I suggest we rename the article to reflect this. --Michael C. Price talk 08:20, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

If no one objects I'll raise a move request... --Michael C. Price talk 19:47, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

I object. Look here. It would behove us to follow some measure of consistency as it is our very goal to develop and maintain an encyclopaedia, and to capitalize "fallacy" for the article title would more than likely bring the whole thing crashing down. Please consider spitting on the sources in this case! (If I'm too late, then let me know.)—αrgumziωϝ 01:30, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
Sources are sources. Hoyle's Fallacy is how it is referred to. The Wikipedia decapitalisation policy is stupid - but at least it has enough sense to say that we should go with the sources where appropriate. --Michael C. Price talk 06:49, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
Nice tautology. And it isn't a policy. Strict English standards could also be applied. But it is such an egregious fallacy that perhaps some feel entitled to capitalize on it. :-) What happens when we begin to find sources that don't care for the upper-case letter? Will we have to pick and choose which sources to follow, then? Whoa, slippery slope there (and not a fabricated one).—αrgumziΩϝ 16:21, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
Surprise, surprise, if such sources exist then we will have use our judgement shock horror gasp. And BTW capitalising Fallacy is not a violation of strict English. --Michael C. Price talk 18:58, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
Michael, why are you wasting time, then? Move the article to "Hoyle's Fallacy". I see that "Loki's Wager" (notice the upper-case W) hasn't been undermined (yet). Needless to say, "judgment" doesn't sound like a justification for anything. Thanks for the circularities, though. Oh, and before I forget, this might help you recognize your poor grasp of English. (The Devil's in the details.) I won't bother spelling it out for you, though. Best of luck!—αrgumziΩϝ 21:44, 6 May 2010 (UTC)
You misunderstand, but since you don't seem interested in correcting your ignorance, good luck to you. --Michael C. Price talk 00:54, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
Please. Inform me with your enlightened expertise. I'm willing to learn. But more importantly, I'm interested in improving the article. Are you?—αrgumziΩϝ 01:07, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
The article's revision history answers your last question. --Michael C. Price talk 01:15, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
That one was rhetorical. ;-) —αrgumziΩϝ 01:16, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Okay, if anyone, and I mean anyone, thinks that a stylistic change is in order and that sources on this monstrously pedantic note don't matter, then please, let us know. It is my opinion that an upper-case F is too reminiscent of Flibbertigibbets, Obtuseness, Obliquity, Languidness, and Senselessness. Since the other party can come up with no other suitable justification besides "it's in dem der sources", this will take a number of voices to have the lower-case f prevail. I'll be here 'till the end of time, so there's no hurry.—αrgumziΩϝ 01:28, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

Contesting "search space" and "solution"[edit]

To explain biological evolution in terms of a search for a solution is a hideous error. (In fact, it is Hoyle's most egregious error.) This amounts to building teleology into evolution. Engineers first applied programs mimicking biological evolution to search problems about 50 years ago, and referred to "evolutionary search." The term never should have made its way into biological usage. If you say that biological evolution is engaged in search, you might as well give the creationists their invisible engineer of the Universe. ThomHImself (talk) 01:21, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Evolutionary biologists use teleological terminology all the time. They do that because evolution works. --Michael C. Price talk 02:03, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Michael, the use of teleological language took off sometime after 1980, as best I can tell. I believe that it's a symptom of computational metaphor run amok. Massimo Pigliucci is an example of a biologist who agrees that biologists need to clean up their act. You might want to have a look at Concepts of Biology (1958), available in full at Google Books. It is a report on a 1955 "invitation only" conference sponsored by the National Academy of Science, the objective of which was to lay out the concepts of biology. Participants included Ernst Mayr, George Gaylord Simpson, and Sewall Wright. There are transcripts of discussions, and you can see for yourself the absence of teleology, even in off-the-cuff remarks.
No one can specify in advance what evolution "works" at achieving. (Stuart Kauffman's twist on this, of late, is to say that we cannot identify "pre-adaptations.") Teleological language is illogical and misleading with post hoc framing of processes and outcomes. Hoyle's fallacy is rooted in treating something that HAS happened as though it HAD to happen. Thus there is a strong argument to be made against casual use of teleological language in this particular article, even if you believe that it is generally OK. ThomHImself (talk) 20:37, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
I think this issue should be taken up at Wikipedia:WikiProject Evolutionary biology; it needs more eyes on it than just ours.--Michael C. Price talk 22:04, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
What is the problem with the article? It is not very satisfying to say that because proteins exist, we know that they have happened, and no explanation is required. Of course biological processes have never "searched" for a solution, but it is still valid to talk about a search space consisting of all possible ways molecules might have been assembled by natural processes. We do that from the belief that the proteins were not designed, and the assembly requires an explanation (which is outlined in the article, although very briefly because full details would require a dense and long book). Johnuniq (talk) 01:08, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. --Michael C. Price talk 14:38, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
If you believe that biological processes have never searched, then it makes no sense to speak of a search space. The alternative that comes to my mind is phase space, but Gatherer uses the term "protein state space" in reference 3. Google Scholar gives 2.5 times as many hits for "protein phase space" as for "protein state space," and so I'm going with "phase space." Referring to biological entities as "solutions" also does not make sense. There is no problem. Some I'm making some changes related to that as well. ThomHImself (talk) 11:05, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Deleting plagiarized sentence[edit]

In reference 3, Gatherer writes,

Hoyle’s Fallacy is a surprisingly easy mistake to make when one has not quite grasped how powerful a force selection can be.

The second sentence of the introductory paragraph presently reads,

Hoyle’s fallacy is a surprisingly easy mistake to make when one has not quite grasped how powerful a force natural selection can be.

Such editorializing does not belong in the introduction, and it's revealing that someone should plagiarize to put it there. ThomHImself (talk) 12:37, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

And if we don't cite verbatim it will be denounced as unsourced original research. --cheers, Michael C. Price talk 21:26, 19 December 2010 (UTC)


For goodness sake, do you ever stop to think that this guy wasn't necessarily being quite so literal when he used the rather abstract allusion of the tornado and the aeroplane? -- (talk) 05:09, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, that's a good point. However, the metaphor is interpreted literally by many who, while relying on science in their everyday lives, reject science's conclusions. That's why the article treats the matter at its face value. Johnuniq (talk) 05:25, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

"Close to zero" chance of life getting started?[edit]

"Hoyle's fallacy" as the intro says, "predates Hoyle". Indeed, Fred Hoyle is far from the first to have argued that emergence of life out of non-life is a highly improbable event.

A quote from biochemist Norman Horowitz, which I found in Stephen J. Dick's book The Biological Universe:

"It is assumed by some biologists, and in my experience, by most astronomers who consider the matter, that the probability of the origin of life given favorable conditions – ie., conditions resembling those of the primitive Earth – is practically unity. I think that this optimistic estimate may be far from the mark... an objective estimate, based on known chemistry and known biology, would lead to a probability for the origin of life of close to zero." (itals added)

This is from an article written in 1967, with the title "Biological Significance of the Search for Extraterrestrial Life". Horowitz wasn't arguing for panspermia or creationism, but for a low chance of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. And Horowitz was a biochemist of some eminence. He was involved with the Viking mission to Mars, and saw its results as confirming his view that we Earth organisms have no interplanetary neighbors within light-years.

My point is not that Horowitz was right about all this. Simply that the probability or improbability or life emerging from non-life (abiogenesis) has been a matter of serious scientific discussion through the twentieth century. As mentioned on the WP page Life on Titan, it has recently been suggested that if and when organisms are found on Saturn's moon, that would do a lot to answer the question of whether emergence of life is a high-probability or a low-probability occurrence… Kalidasa 777 (talk) 01:38, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

The probability of life emerging being close to zero is a perfectly reasonable view. What makes Hoyle's view a fallacy is the bogus logic used to support it. -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 05:24, 26 July 2011 (UTC)


'We Don't Know'

The two alternatives which seem to be proposed amongst the science community for biogenesis are Earth-based and Space-based. Hoyle is obviously in the second camp, but so are others:

In their 1981 book 'Life Itself' Crick and Orgel expanded on their idea of Panspermia: Coming full circle to his groundbreaking discovery of DNA's structure, Crick wondered, if life began in the great "primeval soup" suggested by the Miller/Urey experiment, why there wouldn't be a multitude of genetic materials among the different life forms. Instead, all life on Earth shares the same basic DNA structure.

Crick and Orgel wrote... "an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going." ('Life Itself)

Miller and Cairns-Smith are also agnostic: [Stanley] Miller, who after almost four decades is still in hard pursuit of life’s biggest secret, agrees that the field needs a dramatic finding to constrain the rampant speculation. “I come up with a dozen ideas a day, and I usually discard” — he reflects for a moment — “the whole dozen”…Unlike some origin-of-life theorists, Cairns-Smith cheerfully admits the failings of his pet hypothesis: no one has been able to coax clay into something resembling evolution in a laboratory; nor has anyone found anything resembling a clay-based organism in nature. Yet he argues that no theory requiring organic compounds to organize and replicate without assistance is likely to fare any better... There is one other way out of this frustrating theoretical impasse. If neither the atmosphere nor vents provide a likely locale for the synthesis of complex organic compounds, maybe they were imported from somewhere else: outer space Joan Uro of the University of Houston raised this possibility as early as the 1960s... (Horgan, 1991, p 125-126).

...Manfred Schidlowski, of the Otto Hahn Institute in Mainz, West Germany, made the case that the emergence of life on Earth some four billion years ago, scarcely 500 million years after the Solar System formed, can best be explained “if the ancient Earth had been inoculated by extraterrestrial protobionts”. This does not require the guiding hand of intelligence, but suggests that prebiotic molecules arise naturally in space and infect all suitable planets with life... --Vortexengineer (talk) 12:57, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

                           (New Sci, July 23, 1987)

Richard Dawkins in “The Blind Watchmaker” discusses Cairns-Smith’s clay theory of Abiogenesis: “...This is science fiction, and it probably sounds far-fetched. That doesn’t matter. Of more immediate moment is that Cairns-Smith’s own theory, and indeed all other theories of the origin of Life, may sound far-fetched to you and hard to believe. Do you find both Cairns-Smith’s clay theory, and the more orthodox organic primeval-soup theory, wildly improbable? Does it sound to you as though it would take a miracle to make randomly jostling atoms join together into a self-replicating molecule? Well, at times it does for me too. But let’s look more deeply into this matter of miracles and improbability. By doing so, I shall demonstrate a point which is paradoxical but all the more interesting for that. That is that we should, as scientists, be even a little worried if the origin of Life did not seem miraculous to our own human consciousness...”

I’m very sorry, Mr. Dawkins, but the most charitable assessment which can be allowed of all this is that it would sound suspiciously like an attempt to “make a virtue out of necessity.” It’s been held by those who characterise themselves as the so-called modern Skeptics that “extraordinary claims must be backed by extraordinary evidence.” Well, rightly so, and I can just imagine these Skeptics falling about laughing at Cairns-Smith’s and Dawkins’ thesis. There is not one iota of evidence to support these very extraordinary claims. The Origin of Life is still a profound mystery [And the capitalisation here is intentional]. This is far more the case now, with our increased knowledge of Life’s complexity, than in Darwin’s time, when in his ignorance he could be forgiven to some extent for trivializing it. — comment added by (talkcontribs) 02:59, 6 May 2012 Vortexengineer (talk) 09:01, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

What is the point of this thread? The article is about Hoyle,s Fallacy, not about the probability of abiogenesis. Seems completely off topic.--Charles (talk) 13:41, 6 May 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Moved to Junkyard tornado Nathan Johnson (talk) 16:37, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

Hoyle's fallacyHoyle's argument – I apologize for bringing this up again, but I believe that the title "Hoyle's fallacy" is non-neutral since not everyone agrees that Hoyle's argument was fallacious. Here is my evidence:

For these reasons, it seems to me that some people accept Hoyle's line of reasoning, and so we should choose a more neutral title for this article. For what its worth, I also object to the statement "Who cares what biochemists think" made by User:Michael C Price on this talk page - biochemistry is actually quite relevant to the study of abiogenesis. Cerebellum (talk) 19:57, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

  • Oppose. Lots of people accept fallacious reasoning. That doesn't make it any less fallacious. Powers T 21:02, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
What Wikipedia policy supports the current title? There is no common name for this argument - "Hoyle's Fallacy" appears in only one reliable source (Gatherer), and I am not sure that Dawkins himself ever uses the term. So, per WP:POVTITLE, we should select a "non-judgmental descriptive title"; is not the word "fallacy" judgmental? --Cerebellum (talk) 22:49, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Nicely put as per Powers. -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 21:20, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Confused editor has a comment: is the argument neutrally viewable as fallacious, or do some sources simply say that it's wrong? That ngram is also interesting. Red Slash 23:45, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Of the sources cited in the article, two call it a fallacy: Gatherer and this NY Times article. Other sources call it an error, and others (specifically the two I linked above) imply that it is a sound argument. --Cerebellum (talk) 00:42, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Then I support as per Cerebellum and the sources posted by In inctu oculi. It is a BAD THING when Wikipedia's name for something starts showing up in Google books! Anyone remember this xkcd? [2] Red Slash 00:39, 15 May 2013 (UTC) EDIT: I think junkyard tornado is a GREAT title, and probably better overall than the move request proposed. Red Slash 22:30, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

The'Spirit of Evolution'Reconsidered F Visser - "... steps. It has even been honored with the expression "Hoyle's Fallacy" (Wikipedia): Hoyle's fallacy, sometimes called the junkyard tornado, is a term for Fred Hoyle's flawed statistical analysis applied to evolutionary origins."

What was that about citogenesis? Though actually another of the 5 hits shows with small "f" it comes from Richard Dawkins:

F Hoyle - ... 5 Some of Hoyle's thoughts in this area have been referred to as "Hoyle's fallacy" by detractors. ... Mainstream evolutionary biology rejects Hoyle's interpretation of statistics, and supporters of

modern evolutionary theory, such as Richard Dawkins, refer to this as "Hoyle's fallacy". ...

Obviously anyone who questions evolution should be pilloried, ridiculed and driven from academic employment, but it isn't Wikipedia's job to do that; we aren't here as Richard Dawkin's representatives. "Hoyle's argument" gets 30 results in Google Scholar so per the WP:Five Pillars, support. In ictu oculi (talk) 02:46, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

  • Move to "Junkyard tornado". Plenty of people have heard of the tornado tearing through a junkyard to assemble a 747 argument; few people associate it with Hoyle, or know it was him, or even know who not-the-card-games-one Hoyle is, especially considering that Hoyle was an atheist and the people who most like to cite the argument are theists. "Hoyle's argument" is vague and sounds as if it could refer to any old proposition Hoyle made; if it was clearly the common name for this argument, then fine, but 30 Google Scholar hits which may or may not be on point are still pretty puny. SnowFire (talk) 18:52, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Created redirects from Junkyard tornado and Junkyard Tornado. Searching on those terms will now bring up this page. --Guy Macon (talk) 19:21, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Prefer the clever title junkyard tornado. Red Slash 22:30, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Agree, makes sense. --Cerebellum (talk) 23:09, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Support - would go some way to removing the simplistic POV-pushing in this childish article. In ictu oculi (talk) 22:53, 25 May 2013 (UTC)
Strong Support. Great name! A fair number of hits on Google scholar when you try the various permutations (Hurricane in a junkyard, tornado going through a junkyard, junkyard hit by a tornado, etc.) I once heard it said that fortune tellers and psychics exist so that fundamentalist Christians and skeptical Atheists have something they can agree on. I think that "Junkyard Tornado" is another. It really doesn't directly support either position, which is a Good Thing. Article titles on controversial fringe topics should be neutral and descriptive, even when the fringe view has very little support; that's why we have an article on Aum Shinrikyo, not Aum Shinrikyo cult. BTW, as a name for something as opposed to a description, I think it should be "Junkyard Tornado", not "Junkyard tornado". Plus, "Junkyard Tornado" would be an excellent name for a country-rock band. I'm just saying. :) --Guy Macon (talk) 01:08, 26 May 2013 (UTC)
Capital T "Tornado" is fine by me too, since it isn't actually a tornado. (But either works.) SnowFire (talk) 04:00, 26 May 2013 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.


I propose that the section "analysis" be removed or rewritten, for three reasons:

1) It is unsourced.

2) It is off topic. Hoyle's Boeing 747 argument was about "the chance of life arising on earth" (source - Fred Hoyle's Universe, p. 296). The "analysis" section discusses the chances of the myoglobin protein developing from amino acids, which is a different topic; certainly a myoglobin protein is not life. Hoyle did discuss myoglobin, but his 747 argument has little to do with myoglobin. The whole discussion seems almost spurious since an isolated myoglobin protein, outside of a living organism, would serve little purpose.

3) It contains a questionable statement. The section says that, "Biological mechanisms provide for extension of initially short peptides"; In the context of abiogenesis, which is what this article is about, I am not sure that this has been observed. Our article says that, "The spontaneous formation of complex polymers from abiotically generated monomers under the conditions posited by the "soup" theory is not at all a straightforward process....The Miller experiment, for example, produces many substances that would undergo cross-reactions with the amino acids or terminate the peptide chain." Wächtershäuser's experiment "produced a relatively small yield of dipeptides (0.4% to 12.4%) and a smaller yield of tripeptides (0.10%) but the authors also noted that: 'under these same conditions dipeptides hydrolysed rapidly.'" It is true that some people think polyphosphates could fuel polymerization, but even this is problematic since calcium reacts with phosphate to form calcium phosphate, which is insoluble.

I will remove this section after seven days if no one objects. --Cerebellum (talk) 15:59, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

 Done --Cerebellum (talk) 21:48, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

I won't fight you over it, but I feel that carping about myoglobin's irrelevance to abiogenesis is somewhat to miss the point. Hoyle himself brought up that particular protein, so that is one among many proteins we could have used to illustrate the difficulties with assumptions re: 20-acid/x-mer protein spaces. His 'junkyard' analysis involved taking 2,000 such proteins and imagining them all produced by a random shake. Dissecting the flaws in that view on one protein is certainly relevant to discussion of that view. Simply remove the word 'myoglobin', and replace by a generic x-acid polymer.
And the fact that you personally appear to favour the view that abiogenesis was indeed a protein-manufacturing system (and not, for example, a matter for nucleic acids) is neither here nor there, yet your edit (particularly justification via point 3) appears based solely upon on that personal PoV. Hoyle's reasoning was fallacious because he argued back from modern proteins; mechanisms that operate to lead to the modern protein, particularly those that inflate permutation space, are relevant to a probabilistic analysis based on permutation spaces delimited by modern instances. Nothing in abiogenesis has 'been observed'! Hoyle was not arguing on chemistry, but on probability. Allangmiller (talk) 12:22, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

Undue Weight[edit]

I tagged this article as having undue weight, because there is no mention of specific sources that support Hoyle's statement and their reasons for doing so. Proud Novice (talk) 19:35, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

Fine, but a little more than that explanation is required for a tag to be retained in the article. What sources? What reasons? Is there some proposed alteration to the article? Johnuniq (talk) 01:19, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's worth a tag, but a bit more elaboration from the pro-tornado crowd about why evolution is unlikely probably wouldn't hurt; that material is pretty sketchy at the moment, limited to some small quotes from Hoyle. Unfortunately, Criticism of evolution#Improbability is no help, as there isn't much there either, as that section is rather snidely dismissive of anti-evolution arguments ("this is fundamentally an argument from lack of imagination", etc. - did they just call anti-evolutionists stupid?). SnowFire (talk) 17:24, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
"Argument from lack of imagination" is actually another name for the informal fallacy known as argument from ignorance. A wikilink would might be a good idea over there so as not to look like wikipedia is calling people stupid, though... siafu (talk) 18:54, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Given the lack of support for the tag, I've removed it. Unfortunately Empiric seems to have thought it was an invitation to add original research in support of Hoyle's view, which is clearly a minority or WP:FRINGE view and should not be given undue weight: the article as it stands gives a reasonable balance, and care has to be taken if using primary sources to show minority claims. . dave souza, talk 10:20, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Dave's argument here is ludicrous. My post is an obvious, purely-logical, self-contained response requiring no external citation. One may as well claim that restating an aggregate set of probabilities as its internal individual probabilities requires citation, or that elaborating on 2+2=4 as implying 4+4=8 requires citation. It is an obvious display of the same egregious bias that the page in general flagged, and which I attempted to address. Given my experience in returning to Wikipedia is one of absurd levels of absence of basic integrity as Dave has displayed, I leave the issue to as Wikipedia sees fit. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Empiric (talkcontribs) 12:42, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

No, your post was undue weight and original research. Dave is correct. Dbrodbeck (talk) 13:06, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

No, Dave is not correct. There is nothing "research" about stating that the probability of a compound event implies probabilities of the events forming that end result. State the directly factually false as you like, it remains directly factually false. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Empiric (talkcontribs) 13:12, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Empiric, who says evolution has to be a compound event? Generally, it's seen as a cumulation of events, sifted by natural selection. The time and number of generations are so huge that the merely very improbable becomes likely. Which is why you have to show who has published your argument, one which is at most a fringe view in science as shown by the sources cited in the article. . dave souza, talk 19:05, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
I think Empiric's contribution is fine so long as it is strictly sourced. The pro-evolution side gets to cheat a bit since that's the scientific consensus anyway, so it is correct for Wikipedia not to need a "This specific biologist says" formula, they all mostly agree. The "counterargument" can't be phrased in Wikipedia's neutral voice, but it absolutely should be there; it just should be phrased along the lines of "Old Earth Creationist John Smith says..." SnowFire (talk) 22:02, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
Would that not be giving undue weight to a fringe view? Dbrodbeck (talk) 22:29, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
Per WP:FRINGE, it's okay to talk about fringe theories in articles on the fringe theories themselves - like this one. To put things another way, the article on astrology should not just say "it's wrong;" it should also present the beliefs of astrologists. In the same way, an article on claiming that evolution is impossibly improbable should have statements from adherents detailing exactly why they think so, and their responses to common counterarguments. There's a little of it in the article now, sure, but it could use more than just the brief Hoyle calculations, especially since people other than Hoyle picked up the torch afterward and ran with it. (Content should be limited to this specific line of argument, of course, not general "evolution is wrong" text.) SnowFire (talk) 23:09, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Okay, my involvement here is going to be brief, as it appears to be the case that either we are speaking a different language, or I'm chasing semantic red-herrings. My posting is not complex in its point, and I suspect it is made in some parallel form in -every single- objection to evolution ever written. Citation would therefore be trivial, though it will be difficult to discern an ideal citation, as it's literally everywhere. It is basically this conversation, which should be seen as absolutely commonplace (rather than "Fringe") in the debate: "I don't believe a complex system such as the eye can come into existence from a mutation." "Well, the reason that it can, is that we can have multiple mutations over time which construct the complex form of the eye, each step of which confers some adaptive advantage and is therefore selected for." Fair enough, and validly plausible. The presumed misunderstanding of the person making the argument against evolution here is that the transition need be made in one "leap", and this is duly corrected by the mainline counterargument. However, and as was the content of my original addition, ultimately those individual steps have their own probabilities, which ideally would be quantified. In many cases, we are not at the point in genetics to specify these probabilities, though this is exactly what the generation of cladistic trees is based upon. This is how Computational Genetics selects the "best fit" descendant given sets of sequenced genomes. The lineages are often probabilistic, not certain, at least at this point in our analysis. Given that, all transitions have a given probability associated with them--and my sole point was that it is insufficient to simply presume sufficiently low improbability of the individual cumulative mutations because you've specified these as distinct from the "compound" (how is this term not clear?) set of genetic modifications over time leading to the biological feature under contention. The probability, or improbability, of those do not go away due to not referencing them. This is, per Dave's objection, -not- to say that it isn't conceivable that a complex structure could form in a single large-scale, one-generation modification, but that will again have an attendant probability or improbability to it. However one addresses the change, it must be either addressed in terms of the probability of the single "large" step or the multiple "small" steps. "Changing the subject" to the other form of possible emergence does not exempt one from this. The original text of the Tornado argument suggested one, in fact, could ignore the probability or improbability merely by referencing an alternate conceptualization of how many steps were involved. This is not the case, and the argument won't be addressed until those probabilities are quantified, something that cladistics will move us toward being able to do directly. Then the broad, intuition-based argument here will move to hard numbers of known quantified probability for particular transitions. At that point, likely, some will say "easily plausible" and some "too improbable" (in terms of the calculated cladistic tree probability outliers)... and the debate will carry on, though more usefully with hard numbers for evaluation of the question. Incidentally, please point out where, in your view, cladistics is equivalent to "astrology". Empiric (talk) 03:33, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

Citations do not correspond to content[edit]

Regarding this second sentence:

It was used originally by Fred Hoyle's statistical analysis applied to evolutionary origins, but similar observations predate Hoyle and have been found all the way back to Darwin's time.[1][4]

The article linked to does not mention (much less provide any examples of) similar observations that date "all the way back to Darwin's time". I have no doubt that similar statements going back to Darwin's time could be found, but the citation do not provide any such examples (though the next citation does provide something similar from Cicero but which, since it was written in 45 B.C.E, addresses Epicureanism rather than Darwinism).

I'm posting this here because I do not know how to flag this on the page with "CITATIONS NEEDED" and so on. Hopefully someone can provide the citations; if not, I think the second half of the sentence should be deleted.

Irrelevant analogy[edit]

Hasn't any citable authority pointed out that there is something amiss in the energy levels? That it, macroscopic pieces in a junkyard have to overcome a substantial energy level in order to join together. While atoms and molecules do join together quite easily - some times even with a net production of energy. A screw does not fasten pieces together except by energy directed by a screwdriver, while oxygen and hydrogen join to make water in an exothermic reaction. That makes the analogy not apt, quite aside from the probability calculations. Surely this obvious problem has been pointed out. TomS TDotO (talk) 19:31, 30 September 2015 (UTC)

The point is that as implausible as the tornado screwing in fasteners and the like is, it's equally improbable/impossible to randomly attach arms to torsos in the right spot, connect blood vessels, make an eye, connect all of this to a spinal cord & brain, etc. Both are ludicrous.
Now, you're about to point out that evolutionary biologists don't claim that a pile of mice & mosquitos spontaneously merged into a bat or the like, and you're right, but that's besides the point. The junkyard tornado vs. evolution is arguing against the strawman that species have sudden discontinuous jumps from one form to another, and in that it's basically correct (except for the part where nobody holds this position). You seem to be angling at the junkyard tornado vs. the origin of life & cells, and that's something more legitimately debatable. You're basically saying that the low-level origin of 'life' is plausible, but there are a non-trivial number of people who would say it's actually really hard, and arguing over exactly how hard adjusts what kind of analogy is appropriate. SnowFire (talk) 20:41, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
That strawman actually was argued at one time, by the Epicurean philosophers. At one time, Epicurean philosophy was considered the only alternative to theism. And they actually proposed that there were body parts which were randomly making connections until there was one which was viable. I don't quite get what you are saying about my point: that it is worthwhile to point out that evolution is not like the junkyard analogy, in that the energy levels are significantly less. I don't care how difficult it is for origin of life, or for evolution within existing life, but it surely is not as hard as to make an independent arm attach to an armless body, or a airplane wing to attach to an airplane. Those scenarios are ruled out, but not by the improbability of it happening. TomS TDotO (talk) 21:59, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
Argued in modern times.
I don't know what to say other than "it's an analogy." Going back to the original point, I don't think citable sources take the tack you do, although if you can find one then feel free to bring it up. To hypothesize as to why, it's because that's too nitpicky. You *expect* analogies to not match up perfectly, so you have to argue against the general thrust. The junkyard tornado is less about the actual mechanics of arranging a 747 or even that of assembling a mammal, it's saying "evolution is driven by randomness, but randomness generating the world we can observe is hugely unlikely." It could just have easily been about monkeys typing the works of Shakespeare or fires tracing next week's lottery numbers or such. So the counterargument is to argue for why evolution is plausible. SnowFire (talk) 01:44, 1 October 2015 (UTC)
Obviously, I wouldn't attempt to bring this up without having a reliable source. And talk pages are not the place to argue the issue. So I'll just let it drop. Thank you for taking this in the spirit it was intended. TomS TDotO (talk) 02:21, 1 October 2015 (UTC)