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Improbable Coincidences

by Geoffrey Simmons, M.D. – Excerpted from Billions of Missing Links

[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.


The blue whale is the largest mammal on earth. The adult weighs up to 180 tons and reaches a length of 100 feet (roughly one third the length of a football field), yet the origin of all whales remains blurred. No one truly knows what animal or animals preceded them or how any of their unique capabilities came about.

Darwin once wrote that whales were the result of bears going out to sea with their mouths held wide open to catch insects, who, then needing to survive in the oceans, slowly changed—evolved—into these massive mammals. He was forced to retract that theory in subsequent editions of The Origin of Species, but this statement remains a typical example of his nineteenth-century thinking.

In olden days whales were only known to dive beneath the surface for variable lengths of time, breathe through blowholes, travel in herds, and be a good source of blubber. We have since learned that whales can dive many thousands of feet, make segmental, pressure changes at different parts of their bodies as they dive, withstand enormous temperature changes, communicate over thousands of miles, use their huge, triangular tail to accentuate propulsion downward, adjust spermaceti in their heads to regulate buoyancy, carry a large blood volume for extra oxygen, store additional oxygen in muscle tissues, carry nitrogen internally to prevent the bends, make use of flexible ribs to collapse their lungs at excessive pressures, maintain a filter in their bloodstream to keep gas bubbles from reaching their brain, shunt blood away from noncritical organs when oxygen concentration is low, vocalize without moving air, hunt by blowing a circular wall of bubbles to trap krill, and defecate from an anus in the lower front (rather than the bear’s rear location). The deepest recorded dive of a sperm whale was 6560 feet, and the longest time underwater was 112 minutes, but unofficial records suggest they can go down 10,000 feet or more. Animals with a blowhole on top and the anus up front are not found in the fossil records.

Toothed whales use rapid clicks for echolocation, each lasting 1/1000th of a second. They emanate from the spermaceti organ, a mound on the forehead, named after its opaque fluid, which reminded Nantucket fishermen of semen. Many issue clicks at a frequency that is too high for us to hear, but some can deafen a person. This organ can also stun a passing fish for a quick meal. It lacks an evolutionary explanation.


The giraffe is another animal that lacks clear-cut predecessors. Its blood pressure of 280/180 and heart rate of 170 beats per minute are double a person’s, yet it has a sponge-like organ at the base of the brain that absorbs all the extra blood that flows forward when the animal bends to drink. When satiated and the animal raises its head, it transfuses the brain so the animal will not pass out. That way it can deal with any pressing dangers and even take off running. According to Lynn Sheer, author of Tall Blondes, a plumber could not have designed it better.

Some theorists feel that the giraffe’s long neck evolved to eat leaves that were higher up, but the late Professor Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard, who authored many scholarly pro-evolution books wrote that “this is a perfectly plausible idea for which there is no evidence.” One would think that many species would have evolved a long neck through the same survival of the fittest mechanism. They have not. Also, younger giraffes eat from lower limbs. So what’s the point of a long neck? Perhaps it’s there to match the long legs, otherwise they couldn’t reach to drink water. Why not have shorter legs so they can have shorter necks? Or, are those long necks actually weapons? The longer, the stronger? We know that male giraffes will battle for a female by slamming their necks together, and unfortunately, this can be a fatal encounter for one of them.

A six-foot-tall baby giraffe drops seven feet at birth, head first. They have softer horns that fold down as they pass through the birth canal and a gelatinous covering on their four hooves so they don’t tear their mother’s womb. They can walk within 30 minutes, run within an hour as fast as 52 mph, and nurse within two to four hours.


The illuminated netdevil is a fish that lives at a depth of three-and-a-half kilometers (over two miles) in the ocean. It has brightly lit branching appendages that have led some to calling it an oceangoing Christmas tree. It also has an unprecedented quirk of its anatomy. Its anus opens along the left side of its body while it’s young and then it migrates to midline later in life. The male netdevil, which is much smaller than the female, attaches to her side and lives off of her blood.

Another unexplained anatomy quirk is the migrating eye of a flounder. These are bottom fish who swim upright and have eyes on both sides like any fish. Later, when they bury themselves in the sand, the downside eye migrates around so that they will have binocular vision.

The Komodo dragon from the island of Komodo in Indonesia can reach a length of 15 feet and stand 3 feet high. Its family, called varanids, are the only reptiles that chew their food with teeth. Turtles "cut up their prey"—use scales at the entrance to their mouth—and all other reptiles do a tear-and-gulp number. The Komodo dragon is a scavenger that is known for having the worst breath on the planet. It prefers its food dead for a few days (and not refrigerated), but it will also charge a deer, goat, cow, and even a human. Its mouth carries a particularly virulent bacteria, which it injects with a deep bite. It then stalks the victim by the smell of infected flesh. When the animal is weakened, it will move in for the kill. It will swallow horns, bones, and skull entirely with different chomps. It also has a third eye on top of its head, probably to regulate activity based on availability of sunlight.

Certain microbes in the ocean feed on other microbes that possess chloroplasts, which are microscopic organelles that make food by photosynthesis. Before they devour them, they suck out the chloroplasts and enslave them for their own internal food manufacturing. The much larger sea slug elysia grazes on seaweed called dead-man’s fingers. Instead of eating the lobes, however, it sucks out the chloroplasts and also uses them to make food.

Every year in May during a full moon and high tide for 300 million years, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore in Delaware Bay to breed. In fact, nothing has changed for 300 million years in these gentle creatures, which are related more to scorpions than crabs. They have multiple, specialized legs and nine eyes. They can swim upside down with flapping gills; they are well designed to flip over if stuck on their back and to dig in the sand. They may be the oldest living species—and not one of them, as best as we can tell, has changed to walking erect, reciting poetry, or sending spacecraft to Pluto.

No obvious predecessors known.


When one looks closely at visual functions, the number of missing links is figuratively blinding. Presumably, the ability to see has changed from a light-sensitive chemical on a single-celled organism to the extremely complex human eye over three billion years. To get a good idea how many separate steps would be needed (or bases covered), add up the number of colors (seven figures) and multiply each color by every possible intensity. Then, multiply this figure by every possible shape and size, combination, distance, and movement. At least double that figure to coordinate both eyes. And make it happen repeatedly in 200 femtoseconds.

Evolution theory has not identified 99 percent of the intermediate steps between the eyes of an ancient fish and the eyes of a human. It gets even muddier as one goes back to microorganisms. They also cannot explain the very sophisticated eyes of an octopus which descended from a snail-like creature. Or the multifaceted lenses of the dragonfly, the superposition eye of the lobster, or the scanning eye of crabs.

Indeed, there is no proof that most of the required intermediate steps ever existed. Only wishful thinking?

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