February 12, 2006

SIC TRANSIT GALILEO:

The Fine Tuning of the Universe (Rabbi Mordechai Steinman with Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Aish.com)

An amazing array of scientists are bewildered by the design of the universe and admit a possibility of a designer.

According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so "finely-tuned," and so many "coincidences" have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.

In fact, this "fine-tuning" is so pronounced, and the "coincidences" are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse The Anthropic Principle, which contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind.

Even those who do not accept The Anthropic Principle admit to the "fine-tuning" and conclude that the universe is "too contrived" to be a chance event.

In a BBC science documentary, "The Anthropic Principle," some of the greatest scientific minds of our day describe the recent findings which compel this conclusion.

Dr. Dennis Scania, the distinguished head of Cambridge University Observatories:

If you change a little bit the laws of nature, or you change a little bit the constants of nature -- like the charge on the electron -- then the way the universe develops is so changed, it is very likely that intelligent life would not have been able to develop.

Dr. David D. Deutsch, Institute of Mathematics, Oxford University:

If we nudge one of these constants just a few percent in one direction, stars burn out within a million years of their formation, and there is no time for evolution. If we nudge it a few percent in the other direction, then no elements heavier than helium form. No carbon, no life. Not even any chemistry. No complexity at all.

Dr. Paul Davies, noted author and professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University:

"The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural 'constants' were off even slightly. You see," Davies adds, "even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life -- almost contrived -- you might say a 'put-up job'."

According to the latest scientific thinking, the matter of the universe originated in a huge explosion of energy called "The Big Bang." At first, the universe was only hydrogen and helium, which congealed into stars. Subsequently, all the other elements were manufactured inside the stars. The four most abundant elements in the universe are: hydrogen, helium, oxygen and carbon.

When Sir Fred Hoyle was researching how carbon came to be, in the "blast-furnaces" of the stars, his calculations indicated that it is very difficult to explain how the stars generated the necessary quantity of carbon upon which life on earth depends. Hoyle found that there were numerous "fortunate" one-time occurrences which seemed to indicate that purposeful "adjustments" had been made in the laws of physics and chemistry in order to produce the necessary carbon.

Hoyle sums up his findings as follows:

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintendent has monkeyed with the physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars.


Well, you know the old saying: if you want an atheist, try the Biology Department; there are none in the Physics Department.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2006 7:58 AM
Comments

The Hubble Deep Field photos. The density of matter has to be exactly right to see anything on the other side of the universe: a tiny nudge either way and the HST would photograph either fog or blackness.

Posted by: Gideon at February 12, 2006 2:01 PM

Another example of scientists being extremely bad philosophers. Starting with the observations that:
1) If things* were different, then Things** would be different, and
2) We can't explain why things* are as they are,
the humble logical conclusion would be that our theories are incomplete, and there is much scientific work yet to be done. Instead, the theories are assumed complete and we are told either that there is a multiverse, an extravagant scientific non-sequitur, or that someone/something designed it all this way, a non-scientific surrender. Any argument from ignorance should always be suspect, and to presume we can enumerate all other possibilities in the midsts of our ignorance is preposterous.

* things (lower case) being the laws and fundamental constants involved
** Things (upper case) being the macroscopic objects resulting from the interaction of things*

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 12, 2006 2:46 PM

I remain amazed by atheists who insist that all is randomly predetermined, who observe the patterns of the inner and outer universes, and who nonetheless conclude that there is no universal organizing principle. Is there a psychological term for that sort of willful disbelief? Ah, yes: denial.

Posted by: ghostcat at February 12, 2006 2:52 PM

Given the multiplicity of extreme fine tuning of the basic physical constants necessary for matter and life to form in this universe I'v come across three possible responses:

1. Merely accept the fine tuning as a given brute fact for which further inquiry is meaningless. Personally I can't accept that because it requires a lack of curiosity and dumb acceptance which borders on the bovine - and provides no "answer". To simply say we are here because we live in a universe that would allow observers in the first place is a tautology which explains nothing. Which leaves us with either:

2. God did it since the fine tuning is evidence of cosmic design, or

3. There is a near infinite number of parallel universe each with its own set of physical laws and constants, only a tiny percentage of which happen to be capable of supporting life. We are just lucky enough to be in one that does.

Now for another universe to be truely parallel, we could never visit or observe it. If we could, it would merely be another region of the same space time. God and multiple universes are therfore eqully metaphysical and unscientific, but of the two God is the simpler explanation.

Parallel universes, Option #3, by definition can never be observed or visited and will forever remain non-falsifiable and therfore meaningless under the strict rules of Logical positivism as defined by Popper. As such, it is an explanation equivalent to "evidence for divine design". If a "parallel" universe could be visited or observed, it wouldn't be a separate universe at all but a different region of the same space-time. From the point of view of being non-falsifiable, "God" and "parallel universes" are equally valid explanations (even Schermer admitted as much in "Why We Believe").

Furthermore, multiple universes cannot in themselves provide an explanation for the fine tuning of the forces (Martin Rees' "Six Numbers") that make life in this universe possible. When the universe splits with each "quantum decision" made by an elementary particle both new universes are virtually identical to each other except for this single quantum difference that caused the split, all other attributes would be the same. As such, they would share the same physical laws, constants, etc. The quantum multiplication of universes would not result in changes in physical properties.

Lastly, the many worlds hypothesis is is not "elegant", as most successful physical theories are. Its a crude blunderbuss approach requiring a near infinity of universes to explain a few basic forces and characteristics, epistemological over kill. God is a much simpler explanation. Oddly enough, in this case, Occam's Razor works in God's favor.

Going back to Option #1, The Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP) basicly says "We are here because we are here." It's a tautology which solves nothing and provides no answers. If I am facing a firing squad and all 21 guns misfire (against astronomical odds) I have every right to wonder why. My amazement at being alive would be justified. To *not* wonder at my good fortune would show a lack of curiosity bordering on the bovine. Which violates at least the *spirit* of scientific inquirery.

By default,that leaves us with Optin #2, God did it.

(I highly recommend Martin Gardner's essay "Universes and Blackberrys" for a more detailed examination of this issue)


Posted by: bplus at February 12, 2006 3:44 PM

Unless I'm mistaken, Hoyle's atheism was severely challenged, but never overcome, by the research described above.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 12, 2006 7:48 PM

Matt:

Yes, Hoyle didn't rule in God, just demonstrated that sxcience couldn't rule Him out and that Darwinism is obvious nonsense.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2006 7:57 PM

bplus;

One does not need multiple universes, meaning you left out option #4:

4) The universe could have had various different initial conditions but they happened to be as they are. Had they not been as they are, we would not exist to observe them.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 12, 2006 9:35 PM

Except that if there's no observer there are no conditions.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2006 9:51 PM

I remain amazed by atheists who insist that all is randomly predetermined, who observe the patterns of the inner and outer universes, and who nonetheless conclude that there is no universal organizing principle.

ghostcat, what is the universe organized for? What does it do? As we all know, in a few trillion years it will all devolve into entropy and death. People use religion to console themselves in the belief that the universe isn't all that there is, because if it were they wouldn't want to live in it. So what's your understanding of it's purpose?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 12, 2006 9:53 PM

Robert:

Not according to physics.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2006 10:38 PM

Robert Duquette:

It produced you, didn't it? At least on this planet, there are creatures sophisticated enough to have something called "consciousness" and to plumb the depths of the world around them.

You're free to conclude there's no higher authority, but that seems pretty significant to me, and it would at least seem to suggest that you can't throw the God hypothesis out the window.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 13, 2006 1:40 AM

The only answer to the question is that, at present, it is unanswerable.

Theists are just as wrong as atheists.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 13, 2006 7:57 AM

Jeff:

Ah, the reasoning that leads to European multiculti.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 8:08 AM

AOG, your #4 is a version of #1, dumb acceptance of these initial conditions as a brute fact, since there is no way of examining whether or not things could have been different.

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 11:41 AM

Jeff Guinn:

Any theory of the world is dependent on a few bedrock beliefs that aren't subject to argument. Theism clearly makes sense using the faith-based premises it lays out. Standard-issue atheism, meanwhile, uses a faith-based rationale to claim the nonexistence of a deity whose existence can't be detected either way by scientific instruments (I don't think it's equivalent to the certain disbelief one has in Santa Claus or the Easter bunny -- the existence of human consciousness seems much more significant to me than presents under a tree).

Atheism doesn't make much sense to me and I think skeptics should just call themselves agnostics -- at least agnosticism is internally coherent.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 13, 2006 5:57 PM

Denying revealed truth is just another dogmatism.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 8:06 PM

I don't understand this argument that the universe is "fine tuned" to produce life. If the laws of nature were slightly different, it could be that there would be no life on earth, and instead there would be, say, silicon-based life on Mars, culminating in intelligent green leprechauns. And those leprechauns would today say that "there must be God because the universe is fine-tuned to produce green leprechauns on Mars." Similarly, a still slightly different set of laws of nature could lead to there being life nowhere in the universe.

Either (i) God created the universe, or (ii) there is no God, and the universe just happened to have certain initial conditions, which resulted in life on Earth and perhaps some other planets. Which is a more probable scenario? I'd say (ii), because

- God is by definition more complex (and thus less probable) than his supposed creation, the universe, and because

- the empirical evidence in support of the existence of the physical universe and its inherent laws is overwhelming, whereas there is no strong evidence to support the hypothesis that God exists.

Posted by: Mörkö at February 14, 2006 6:17 PM

Actually, there's no evidence whatsoever to support the idea of a physical universe and if we just assume that there is one the best science suggests that it only exists when observed. It requires God.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2006 8:00 PM

oj: That reminds me of the old story where Jonathan Swift meets Bishop Berkeley and urges him to walk straight through a closed door. Even the most ardent idealist like Berkeley or you cannot ignore the laws of the material world, whereas ignoring God has no consequences. Reality is what will not go away when you stop believing in it.

Posted by: Mörkö at February 15, 2006 3:18 AM

Morko:

Science contends that it does go away if we (or God) don't look at it. But note that your argument isn't a scientific one.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2006 7:16 AM

Nonsense. Science is based on the idea that there exists an objective physical world, where God has no role. Empirical and logical evidence supports this contention strongly, while other explanation models are purely hypothetical.

Posted by: Mörkö at February 15, 2006 9:36 AM

Morko:

You were correct this far, "Science is based on the idea..." After that you've departed the realm of Reason for pure faith.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2006 10:17 AM
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