Pierre Lecomte du Noüy

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Pierre Lecomte du Noüy (18831947) was a French biophysicist and philosopher.


  • Let us admit that no matter how small the chance it could happen, one molecule could be created by such astronomical odds of chance. However, one molecule is of no use. Hundreds of millions of identical ones are necessary. Thus we either admit the miracle or doubt the absolute truth of science.
    • Human Destiny, 1947, p. 33
      • Commenting on Charles-Eugene Guye's calculation that the odds against the random formation of a particular protein molecule would be about 1 in 10 to the 243rd.


  • One of the funniest examples of these kinds of statistics comes from Evolution: Possible or Impossible by James F. Coppedge [who] cites an article by Ulric Jelinek … which claims that the odds are 1 in 10^243 against "two thousand atoms" (the size of one particular protein molecule) ending up in precisely that particular order "by accident." Where did Jelenik get that figure? From Pierre Lecompte du Nouy... who in turn got it from Charles-Eugene Guye, a physicist who died in 1942. Guye had merely calculated the odds of these atoms lining up by accident if "a volume" of atoms the size of the Earth were "shaken at the speed of light." In other words, ignoring all the laws of chemistry, which create preferences for the formation and behavior of molecules, and ignoring that there are millions if not billions of different possible proteins--and of course the result has no bearing on the origin of life, which may have begun from an even simpler protein. This calculation is thus useless for all these reasons, and is typical in that it comes to Coppedge third-hand (and thus to us fourth-hand), and is hugely outdated (it was calculated before 1942, even before the discovery of DNA), and thus fails to account for over half a century of scientific progress.

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