In my quest for philosophically induced breakdowns of cherished beliefs, motivated perhaps by the sheer challenge of confronting my own biases, I sought to identify cornerstones of ideological waves of thought, and then attempt to unleash the force of unsettling chaotic skepticism upon them. Because, beyond overdramatic flamboyant writing styles (such as my own), nothing does a greater disservice to a position than a bad argument. One such thought experiment was my skeptical analysis of the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem.
The ‘infinite monkey’ theorem asserts the hypothetical notion that a monkey typing randomly and unintelligibly for eternity could end up producing, to the exact detail, all the works of Shakespeare, given enough time (meaning, infinite time). This thought experiment is a basic argument for Darwinian evolution, as it supports the plausibility of randomly created complexity and order without purpose.
Even though the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem is widely accepted as logically sound, I will boldly (perhaps foolishly, who knows?) attempt to question its validity.
Let us re-examine the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem. It is the idea that infinite randomness will end up with infinite possibilities. I respectfully disagree, and here’s why: this theorem is based on the assumption that a monkey’s keystrokes are ‘sufficiently randomized’, and this rule is not random.
I don’t question Darwinian evolution here, but rather, I am simply skeptical (and cynical) of this theorem’s value as a valid argument for Darwinian evolution. The ‘infinite monkey’ theorem is a bad analogy because random monkeys do not type perfectly randomly. They type in the quite limiting manner which their clumsy thick fingers allow them. Therefore, given infinite time, we’d get infinite letter combinations of adjacent keys, and perhaps zero combinations of letters whose keys are of a certain distance apart on the keyboard (or old-fashioned typewriter — I miss those…). To perform otherwise would mean that we’re not dealing with a monkey but with a computer program that is ‘programmed’ to produce ‘sufficiently randomized’ letter combinations to ensure the creation of any and all sequences possible. However, this requires the setting of a rule, which in itself is not random. Infinite time does not guarantee infinite possible results. An easy way to see this is by picturing the infinite points on a ruler between 0 and 1. There are infinite possibilities of points on that line, but none of those infinite points will ever be point 1.01. Infinity, it seems, is finite.
To assume perfect randomization is to assume a purpose, which makes the ‘infinite monkey’ theorem self-defeating. Therefore, to end up with infinite random possibilities in infinite time, we require a rule, which in itself is not a random thing. This realization, like most of philosophy, serves to further confuse us in our search for the truth. But it makes the journey towards truth while sailing on the boat of philosophy much more interesting! :)
Article originally posted on Medium.