Improbable Coincidences

by Geoffrey Simmons, M.D.

[An] interesting story tells about male triplets who were adopted at birth by three separate and distant families. Years later, by mere happenstance, a college student began talking with another young man whom he presumed to be his best friend. This person, however, had no idea who the other was. After a few awkward moments, the uncanny error led to further introductions, whereupon the two look-alikes learned that they shared the same birthday, same birthmarks, and many of the same interests. A local newspaper carried a heartwarming story about adopted twins finding each other. The next day one of the boys received a phone call from another young man who was also identical in appearance, had the same birthday, and had the same interests.

We tend to celebrate our coincidences as being Providential and never notice the hundreds of opportunities that never happened. People who have had their cancers disappear with prayer think God intervened, but there are many others who have prayed and not been cured. The reasons for this remain unclear. Statisticians often say the chances of having a coincidence happen are relatively high given the billions of people on this planet. There’s “nothing Providential about it,” some have concluded. Also, our own personal thoughts, which may number in the thousands each day, are likely to coincide with something or someone that seems synchronous every once in a while.

So when does a coincidence leave the realm of a statistical probability and step into the world of improbabilities? Can coincidences in compatible function, physiology, and anatomy happen in pairs, dozens, or by the hundreds in Nature? Can two fins just change because they want or need to into two legs with realigned bones, ligaments, tendons, nerve supply, muscles, circulation, skin, and purposes? In one step? In ten steps? Where are the eight intermediate steps? Can a whale dive to a thousand feet below the ocean’s surface, pick a fight with a giant squid, and return safely to the surface without hundreds, if not thousands, of coincidental physiological changes occurring beforehand?

The bombardier beetle, for example, has many unexplained coincidences. This African insect can fire off two chemicals, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, from separate storage tanks and rear jets. When the chemicals combine, they form a new chemical that burns the predator. The beetle can shoot these chemicals with an uncanny accuracy, as well, to either side, backward, or even forward, by swinging its tail under its abdomen. Special nozzles blast predators at a rate of 500 bursts per second, each at a speed of 65 feet per second. These chemicals are potent enough to severely damage a mouse and injure the eyes of any animal. In fact, human victims get a red eye called the “Nairobi eye.” Yet these chemicals are entirely benign when stored separately at the back end of these beetles. How could this happen by accident? “Oops, those two chemicals didn’t work” (spoken by an intermediate species). “Mind if I try two others before you eat me?” Or “Could you stand a little taller so I can get you with my nozzles?”

Keep in mind there are hundreds of thousands of chemicals on this planet to choose from. And even if the combo turned out perfectly right the first time, the beetles still needed a way to make them, store them, and fire them off.

The real links seem to be missing…


Improbable Coincidences: Apologetics on

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