On Christmas Day 2014, the Wall Street Journal posted an online article titled, “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God." It quickly made the rounds on social media. Its author, Eric Metaxas, is known for writing a plethora of books on religious topics. In the WSJ article, he states that the origin of life is dependent upon a growing list of criteria and that the odds of finding life on one of the roughly octillion (1027) other planets in the universe is shrinking, to the point that some people are now pessimistic that the search will ever be successful. Just for good measure, he throws in some observations about the fragile balance of forces required for the universe itself to come into existence. He concludes this argument by asking: “Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?"
No, not really. Among the several mistakes Metaxas makes in jumping to this conclusion, perhaps the most significant is confusing a very small number with zero. If the chance of life arising naturally were actually zero, it would be logical to invoke miracles, but any number larger than zero allows science to continue on its mission of searching for natural explanations for the origin of life. Even though there is admittedly a huge gap between a 100 percent, perfect chance and a one-in-an-octillion chance, there is an infinite gap between one-in-an-octillion odds and odds of zero.