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Random Probability or Intelligent Design?

A Face On a Cheese Sandwich

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Universal probability bound is a numerical value that gauges the likelihood that a given event could have occurred by chance in nature, or whether it occurred by intelligent design (i.e. by a natural or supernatural intelligence). It was proposed by mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski, author of The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998) and No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence (Roman & Littlefield, 2001).

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Dembski's original value for universal probability bound is 1 in 10150, derived as the inverse of the product of the following quantities: 1080 (the number of subatomic particles in the known physical universe), 1045 (the maximum rate per second at which transitions in physical states can occur, or the inverse of "Planck time"), and 1025 (a billion times longer than the estimated age of the universe in seconds). Thus, 10150 = 1080 x 1045 x 1025. Hence, this value corresponds to an upper limit on the number of physical events that could possibly have occurred since the "Big Bang."

The staff at Wayne's Word decided to test Dembski's universal probability bound on a recently discovered 10-year-old toasted cheese sandwich, which some people believe contains the image of the Virgin Mary or Michael Jackson. With some imagination, there is a faint facial pattern, but does it fit Dembski's universal probability bound for intelligent design?

The half-sandwich image (left) has an approximate surface area of 6,452 mm2. The facial area surrounded by a red border contains millions of organic molecules, including carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, not to mention the nucleic acids of bacteria and possibly fungi. [According to the original owner of this sandwich, it never went moldy after 10 years.] The configuration and possible arrangements of this large number of molecules is astronomical. Light waves reflected off the specific surface pattern of these molecules produce the image that some perceive as a face. The total number of pixels in this image is 60,768, including 6,059 within the facial region. Even if you reduce the image to 32 colors, the exact arrangement of the facial pixels is 1 in 326059 or roughly 1 in 109119. According to Dembski's universal probability bound, the face is an example of intelligent design rather than random probability.

This piece of toast was sold on eBay to Casino in 2004 for $28,000.

Our attempt to show whether a natural phenomenon is the result of random probability or intelligent design is a futile argument. Dembski's probability bound is a cutoff point between probability and a "creator." It is based on a very improbable number derived from the inverse of the product of several astronomical numbers. As shown in the above cheese sandwich description, the probability of a relatively simple natural phenomenon is far less likely than Dembski's number.

In conclusion, we can say the following regarding this page: Based solely on random probability, the "face" on a cheese sandwich is an improbable event, and Dembski has certainly proposed an improbable number. Whether this number is the cutoff point between random probability and a creator is impossible to prove.

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