Is Our Universe “the Ultimate Artifact”?

April 1987 ANALOG

I first encountered the scientific case for the existence of God in the April 1987 issue of Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact. Sandwiched among the science fiction stories was a fact article by Richard D. Meisner with the intriguing title “Universe—the Ultimate Artifact?” I began reading—and what I read was startling. Meisner gave a guided tour of a number of startling cosmic coincidences.

Meisner’s conclusion: The universe appears to be an artifact—an object designed by an intelligent entity for a specific purpose. Meisner went on to quote cosmologist Paul Davies: “It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.” Then Meisner offered his own impression:

One may feel inclined to apply the word “God” in this context. This is justifiable, although I tend to avoid the word simply because I’ve found almost without exception that it triggers an immediate positive or negative emotional response in the listener—most inconducive to good scientific thinking. Naturally, the artifact hypothesis is most attractive when stripped of its unfortunate historical trappings of superstition and dogma. . . . Personally, if the artifact inference proved true, I would be most interested not in how the universe was fabricated, but why.

A year after I encountered Meisner’s article in Analog, I discovered a book by Dr. George Greenstein with the intriguing title The Symbiotic Universe. It’s a book-length treatment of the cosmological case for God. It explores the body of evidence Meisner wrote about, but in much greater depth and detail.

Dr. Greenstein is a Yale-educated astrophysicist who currently teaches at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In the early 1980s, Greenstein became fascinated by the scientific case for God, and he began examining the list of “cosmic coincidences” purely as a matter of personal amusement. As the list of “coincidences” kept growing, Greenstein found the results disturbing.

“The more I read,” Greenstein wrote, “the more I became convinced that such ‘coincidences’ could hardly have happened by chance.” Why did he find the “cosmic coincidences” disturbing? Because they appeared to be evidence for a Cosmic Designer—that is, evidence for God—and Greenstein was a confirmed atheist.

The possibility that God or a Godlike super-intelligence might have actually designed the universe made Greenstein almost physically sick. He recalls experiencing “an intense revulsion, and at times it was almost physical in nature. I would positively squirm with discomfort. … I found it difficult to entertain the notion without grimacing in disgust, and well-nigh impossible to mention it to friends without apology.”

What is the scientific evidence that caused Dr. Greenstein to “squirm with discomfort”? It is often referred to as the evidence for a “fine-tuned universe.” The universe, we now know, is incredibly precision-balanced (or “fine-tuned”) to produce life. Take, for example, the Big Bang.

At the moment the Big Bang began, everything that exists—matter, energy, the three dimensions of space, and the fourth dimension of time—emerged from a single geometric point, expanding at the speed of light. The Big Bang actually created space and time.

Scientists are amazed that the explosive violence of the creation event was as delicately balanced as it was. Cosmologist Paul Davies observes:

Had the Big Bang been weaker, the cosmos would have soon fallen back on itself in a big crunch. On the other hand, had it been stronger, the cosmic material would have dispersed so rapidly that galaxies would not have formed. … Had the explosion differed in strength at the outset by only one part in 1060, the universe we now perceive would not exist. To give some meaning to these numbers, suppose you wanted to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light-years away. Your aim would have to be accurate to that same part in 1060…. Channeling the explosive violence into such a regular and organized pattern of motion seems like a miracle.

If the explosive force of the Big Bang not been perfectly balanced and incredibly fine-tuned, life would be impossible and you and I could not exist.

At first, the laws and constants of the universe were simply accepted as a matter of fact—no one wondered why this or that force or constant of physics was not slightly stronger or weaker than it is. Eventually, physicists began to realize (as George Greenstein observes in The Symbiotic Universe) that the “laws of nature could have been laid down only in the very instant of the creation of the universe, if not before.”

Paul Davies recalls that when he was a student, the question of where the laws of physics come from was off-limits. A scientist was supposed to simply apply those laws, not inquire into their origin. They would say, “There’s no reason the laws of physics are what they are—they just are.” Davies concluded, “The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. … It makes a mockery of science.”

As it became clear that the laws of nature might have been different than they are—that they appeared to have been deliberately selected to produce life—scientists began to look at these forces, laws, and constants with new sense of awe. The entire universe seemed to be constructed out of an incredibly unlikely series of cosmic coincidences. Some examples:

There are four forces governing the structure and behavior of subatomic particles—the electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. These forces determine everything from how an electron orbits the nucleus of an atom to how stars and galaxies are formed. Each force has a specific mathematical value called a constant (because its value never varies).

The gravitational force constant is finely tuned to permit life. Slightly greater, and stars would burn too hot, too quickly, and too unevenly to produce life-giving elements. Slightly smaller, and stars would be too cool, so that nuclear fusion could not take place and there would be no life-giving heavier elements.

The electromagnetic force is also fine-tuned. If its constant were slightly larger or smaller, the chemical bonding required for making living things could not take place.

There is a fine-tuned balance between the gravitational and electromagnetic forces. If the constant of the ratio between these two forces were larger, there would be no stars smaller than 1.4 solar masses, and the lifetime of stars would be too short to generate life-giving elements. If the constant were smaller, there would be no stars larger than 0.8 solar masses—and again, no production of life-giving heavier elements.

If the strong nuclear force constant were slightly larger, there would be no hydrogen in the universe and no stars. If this constant were smaller, the universe would consist of nothing but hydrogen.

If the weak force constant were larger, most of the hydrogen in the universe would have converted to helium during the Big Bang. If it were smaller, there’d be too little hydrogen converted to helium—a roadblock to the production of life-giving heavier elements such as carbon and oxygen.

The proton-to-electron mass ratio: A proton is 1,836 times more massive than an electron; if this ratio varied slightly in either direction, molecules could not form and life could not exist. The ratio of the number of protons to the number of electrons is also finely balanced to permit the electromagnetic force to dominate the gravitational force, allowing the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.

The unusual properties of water are also a fine-tuned condition for life. Water plays an essential role in almost every biological function. It is necessary to photosynthesis, the foundation of the food chain. In photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar, giving off oxygen as a “waste product.”

Water is one of the few liquids that expands when it freezes. Most substances contract and become more dense when they freeze, but frozen water is actually 9 percent less dense than liquid water. This is because, at freezing temperatures, the hydrogen bonds that connect water molecules make an adjustment to keep negatively charged oxygen atoms apart. This adjustment creates the crystal lattice that enables ice to float in liquid water.

If water didn’t have this extraordinary property, ice would sink, which would cause lakes and rivers to freeze solid. If ice did not float, observes George Greenstein, life on Earth “would be confined to a narrow strip lying close to the equator.”

And the list goes on: the proton decay rate, the neutron-proton mass difference, the matter-antimatter ratio, and on and on—it’s as if dozens of completely unrelated laws of nature plotted together in a vast cosmic conspiracy to produce life. As Paul Davies observes:

It is tempting to believe, therefore, that a complex universe will emerge only if the laws of physics are very close to what they are. … The laws, which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously, seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.

And physicist Fred Hoyle adds, “I do not believe that any scientist who examines the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed.”

Is our life-giving universe the result of an inconceivably improbable series of cosmic accidents? Or is it the product of calculated, deliberate design?

Is the universe evidence—even proof—of the existence of God? Is our universe “the Ultimate Artifact” of the mind and hand of an intelligent Creator?

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32 Comments

  1. So where did god come from? Who or what created him (or her or it?) the sciences of astrophysics and cosmology have offered evidence that the universe we see could have just happened. Religion has not even tried to suggest how god could have just hapened.

    Reply
  2. Hi, Mark. Many thanks for the comment and question. I covered this question (“Who Made God?”) in my book GOD AND SOUL, so I just posted a lengthy excerpt from the book that answers your question in detail. I think you’ll find a lot to ponder. I hope to hear from you again after you’ve read it. I truly appreciate your thoughtful reply. All the best!

    Reply
  3. God chaser

     /  September 12, 2012

    I think Christopher Hitchen’s shocking comments speaks volumes on just how much atheists are in denial

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/05/hitchens_answer059871.html

    Reply
    • Thanks, God Chaser, for these links and remarks. Yes, the Hitchens video is very shocking. In GOD IS NOT GREAT, he titled Chapter 6 “Arguments From Design,” YET HE COMPLETELY OMITTED ANY MENTION of the anthropic fine-tuning evidence which he admits in the video is “not trivial” and must be considered. Why did he omit it the very evidence he said deserved consideration? Yes, DENIAL is the only word that fits.

      I also have the Hitchens video linked on this blog at https://thetruthwillmakeyoumad.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/151/.

      Reply
  4. God chaser

     /  September 12, 2012

    I have been reading up on Alexander Vilenkin and the BGV therom as it states that even multiverse’s have a beginning, and therefore there is an ultimate beginning. Does this mean that science is essentially now looking for some mysterious force that created time, space, matter, energy and this mysterious energy was very powerful because it brought our universe forth out of nothing?

    Reply
  5. God chaser

     /  September 12, 2012

    another great resource

    Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant
    In their paper “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant” two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term would have required a miracle… “An unknown agent” intervened in cosmic history “for reasons of its own.”
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0208013v3.pdf

    Reply
  6. Fascinating paper. “Disturbing implications” indeed. Got it and will read soon. Many thanks, God Chaser!

    Reply
  7. God chaser

     /  September 13, 2012

    You have great articles, is there a home page for access to all of them?

    Re: Laws of Nature…

    “Eventually, physicists began to realize (as George Greenstein observes in The Symbiotic Universe) that the “laws of nature could have been laid down only in the very instant of the creation of the universe, if not before.”

    On that note, I thought Hawking’s was so cocky sure that M-theory had no boundary’s and would dispense with God that he didn’t care about stating the implications of an actual point of creation….

    “the actual point of creation lies outside the scope of presently known laws of physics” – Hawkings

    So if the point of creation lies outside the scope of the laws of physics, then in your opinion, what materialistic theory can they put forth other than it all came from absolutely nothing: Def: What rocks think about! : ) …which seem to me is also a supernatural event because it would seem to be outside nature, or outside materialism, thus outside the scope of science.

    Are scientist then going to posit a theory with properties that as Tim Ranford put it (For multiverse):

    … ….It invokes: “a transcendent origin, a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. What made the laws of physics cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it’s a big mystery…. … Remind you of Anybody?”

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  8. God chaser

     /  September 13, 2012

    Did you know that Edward Witten, the scientist who first proposed M-Theory wrote a paper, “Magic, Mystery, or Matrix”

    where he states,

    “M-theory, where M stands for magic, mystery, or matrix, according to
    taste. The magic and mystery are clear enough, while “matrix” refers to a new noncommutativity”
    http://www.sns.ias.edu/~witten/papers/mmm.pdf

    Atheists gag when its brought up : )

    .

    Reply
    • Sorry about the delay in replying to you, God Chaser! It’s been a busy time. You’ve posted many intriguing insights and fascinating links and sources, and I will get back to you soon with some thoughts. Many thanks, my friend. All the best!

      Reply
  9. Again, God Chaser, many thanks for the links and the comments. I apologize for the delay in getting back to you (due to a combination of deadlines and travel). The materials you sent were truly fascinating.

    You asked about a homepage for access to all of the articles posted on the blog. I don’t have a web site per se, just this blog, The Truth Will Make You Mad (which deals with religion, science, and politics), and a related blog, God and Soul, which leaves out the politics. The God and Soul blog site is designed to support my recently published book, God and Soul: The Truth and the Proof, which explores these ideas in greater depth. In fact, much of the material I have posted at the two blogs is adapted or excerpted from that book, and I intend to post more.

    The papers you linked me to are amazing, especially “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant” by Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind. The opening statement is a shocker:

    “As emphasized by Penrose many years ago, cosmology can only make sense if the world started in a state of exceptionally low entropy. The low entropy starting point is the ultimate reason that the universe has an arrow of time, without which the second law would not make sense. However, there is no universally accepted explanation of how the universe got into such a special state. In this paper we would like to sharpen the question by making two assumptions which we feel are well motivated from observation and recent theory. Far from providing a solution to the problem, we will be led to a disturbing crisis.”

    A disturbing crisis indeed!

    I’ve reread the Dyson-Kleban-Susskind paper a couple of times, and because I’m a nonscientist, I’m having to familiarize myself with a number of concepts like ergodic theory and Poincare recurrence. But the implications are huge, both for science and for atheism. Quoting again the line you cited (bottom of page 19 of the paper):

    “Another possibility is an unknown agent intervened in the evolution, and for reasons
    of its own restarted the universe in the state of low entropy characterizing inflation.”

    This line is reminiscent of the question posed by George Greenstein in The Symbiotic Universe (from the Prologue, p. 27):

    “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”

    Greenstein, an atheist, answers his own question: No, the agency was not God. And the rest of the book is an explanation of his symbiotic universe idea. Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind would undoubtedly reject the God hypothesis as well. Like Greenstein, they are intellectually honest enough to raise the unnamed “agency” as a possibility and to admit that, as yet, there is no way to explain the low-entropy initial state and the arrow of time.

    I think I may incorporate some of the insights from this paper in the 2nd edition of God and Soul, so many thanks for that valuable link, my friend!

    I’ve also read “Magic, Mystery, or Matrix?” by Edward Witten (again, thanks for the link, God Chaser). Witten has been called “the world’s greatest living theoretical physicist.” He’s also an excellent communicator of difficult-to-understand scientific ideas. I’ll need to give that paper some additional readings as well! Witten does an excellent job of explaining the history and implications of relativity and quantum mechanics, and his “mountain range” metaphor gives us a good picture of the current state of our understanding.

    I like that Tim Ranford quote you cited, which says that the laws of physics invoke “a transcendent origin, a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. What made the laws of physics cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it’s a big mystery.”

    Any idea what the source of that quote is? I’ve tried to Google and Amazon-search “Tim Ranford” without success, though I did find an ebook by Tim Radford (with a “d”) called The Address Book: Our Place in the Scheme of Things which seems a likely source for that statement. There’s an excerpt on Amazon but the book isn’t searchable.

    My Googling did lead me to a fascinating piece from New Scientist at http://www.scribd.com/doc/77980709/Why-Physicists-Can-t-Avoid-a-Creation-Event, which opens with the line, “The big bang may not have been the beginning of everything—but new calculations suggest we still need a cosmic starter gun,” along with references to the Alexander Vilenkin statements you cited.

    Again, many thanks for giving me much more to think about (and write about!) Very helpful and informative. Please keep in touch, God Chaser. All the best! —Jim D.

    Reply
  10. God chaser

     /  September 23, 2012

    Hi Jim,

    Its a great paper to cite regarding the exquusite unfolding of the universe as apposed to the chaotic Big bang!

    Also, I want to make sure you knew that in the same paper, Susskind showed that the Anthropic Principle is not a valid alternative explanation. Here is a great article that simplified it for me. It kills the argument “But Here we are”

    Cosmologists have a rejoinder to this kind of argument, called the Anthropic principle. This says that, no matter how unlikely the Universe seems, the very fact that we are here to ask such questions resolves the paradox. If things were otherwise, life wouldn’t exist and the question would never arise.
    In that case, we’d have to conclude that we are in the first unfolding of this carefully crafted Universe. This all seems too much like special pleading, the researchers say.

    But Susskind’s team show that the Anthropic principle won’t help, because a vast number of Universes would permit life and yet look quite different from this one. All of these habitable Universes would result from ‘miraculous’ statistical events. But there are so many of them that they would vastly overwhelm a cosmos like ours.
    http://www.nature.com/news/2002/020812/full/news020812-2.html

    Reply
  11. God chaser

     /  September 23, 2012

    P.S – What are your thoughts that Laurence Krauss has now publicly announced in scientific American that he never claimed to have proposed a “Universe from Nothing”!
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/…y-a-bored-god/,

    “Last spring, I offered a harsh assessment of A Universe from Nothing (Free Press, 2012), in which physicist Lawrence Krauss proposed that physicists have finally, probably, maybe, sort of, answered The Question of All Questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? I add the qualifications because Krauss, responding to my post, commented”

    “I didn’t make any definitive claims… and I get offended when people claim I make such.” -Laurence Krauss

    “And yet Krauss was presumably not offended by the afterward of his own book, in which religion-bashing biologist Richard Dawkins declares, “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages.” Sounds pretty definitive to me.

    ‘Sounds like Krauss is offended by atheists who misrepresent his theory as definitive scientific explanation for the origin of the Universe, and wants them to shut up!

    …And it looks like Krauss’s “Universe from Nothing” theory is shriveling up before our eye’s!

    Reply
  12. God chaser

     /  September 24, 2012

    Article: Water’s quantum weirdness makes life possible

    “WATER’S life-giving properties exist on a knife-edge. It turns out that life as we know it relies on a fortuitous, but incredibly delicate, balance of quantum forces.”

    “We are used to the idea that the cosmos’s physical constants are fine-tuned for life. Now it seems water’s quantum forces can be added to this “just right” list.”
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.900-waters-quantum-weirdness-makes-life-possible.html

    Reply
  13. More fascinating stuff, God Chaser!

    The story on water’s life-giving quantum weirdness is FASCINATING. These insights definitely belong in the 2nd ed. of GOD AND SOUL. Deeply appreciated!

    And yes, I’ve been seeing that quoting Krauss has become a thing among atheists on Twitter, along with God-bashing jargon like “imaginary sky daddy.” What a herd mentality those folks have. Interesting that Krauss himself is getting a bit annoyed by it all.

    These are great insights, my friend, and the evidence keeps mounting on the theistic side of the scale. Thanks for bringing these articles to my attention!

    —Jim D.

    P.S. The link on the Krauss piece was broken in your post for some reason. Here’s the complete link:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2012/09/21/is-cosmos-a-piece-of-light-verse-tossed-off-by-a-bored-god/

    Reply
  14. God chaser

     /  September 26, 2012

    Thanks Jim,
    Of course I am now having a wonderful time debating with atheists that DNA is a digital code that is isomorphic but far superior to man made codes, especially since science has now actually re-coded a DNA molecule to store an entire biology book!
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444233104577593291643488120.html

    The argument is that since a code is information, it is immaterial in that it cant be touched or felt, measured, or weighed, it has no mass, charge, or length. Most of all, it always requires a mind to create it!

    “Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter. I address this problem in my 1992 book, Natural Selection: Domains, Levels, and Challenges. These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term “reductionism.” You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms, because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can’t do that with information and matter. Information doesn’t have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn’t have bytes. You can’t measure so much gold in so many bytes. It doesn’t have redundancy, or fidelity, or any of the other descriptors we apply to information. This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms.

    The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it’s not the message. Maintaining this distinction between the medium and the message is absolutely indispensable to clarity of thought about evolution.

    Just the fact that fifteen years ago I started using a computer may have had something to do with my ideas here. The constant process of transferring information from one physical medium to another and then being able to recover that same information in the original medium brings home the separability of information and matter. In biology, when you’re talking about things like genes and genotypes and gene pools, you’re talking about information, not physical objective reality. They’re patterns.”
    The third culture; George Williams
    http://www.edge.org/documents/ThirdCulture/h-Ch.1.html

    So if information is separate from the medium, who or what inserted the DNA code into that molecule?

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  15. You offer still more fascinating ideas and links, God Chaser. A million thanks!

    My thoughts: Not only is our DNA encoded with digital information, but all of reality appears to be encoded with information. In my 2001 book ANSWERS TO SATISFY THE SOUL (which will soon be re-released in ebook format), I wrote about this very concept. Here’s an excerpt (this excerpt,incidentally, also appears in my 2012 book GOD AND SOUL: THE TRUTH AND THE PROOF:
    __________________________

    “Everything we think of as ‘solid matter’ is mostly nothing. Matter is composed of atoms. Atoms are composed of electrons, neutrons, protons, and lots and lots of empty space. What are electrons, neutrons, and protons? They are not hard little objects, like tiny marbles. No, they are probabilities, they are tendencies to exist. … In short, they are bits of information.

    “‘Matter is digital,’ observes physicist Stephen L. Gillett, ‘and it’s so because of quantum mechanics.’ Matter is digital, and so is energy. Even time is thought to be digital, existing as discrete quanta called ‘chronons.’ …

    “Our perception of reality is digital. ‘The human visual system has long been known to be digital,’ notes physicist Frank Tipler. He adds that for the human mind, ‘time comes in whole numbers,’ in discrete digital units, not a continuous flow. Mathematician and computer scientist Roger Penrose observes that the human brain and nervous system operate with ‘a digital computer-like aspect.’ The complex structure of a nerve fiber, Penrose explains, is not like an electric wire that carries a continuous current, but like an information gate that transmits digital signals, like the 1s and 0s of a computer.

    “Scientists have long recognized that the universe, at its most basic level, is made up not of solid ‘stuff,’ but of information and mathematical logic. In the 1930s, astronomer-physicist Sir Arthur Eddington said, ‘The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.’ More recently, physicist John Wheeler … called logic the ‘nuts and bolts, if you will, out of which the world is made.’ So reality is made of information, and our minds are designed to process that information in a digital way. In a very real sense, all reality is virtual reality.

    “So am I saying that reality is nothing but a vast computer simulation — that the world is nothing but an illusion? No. Let’s not trivialize our own existence. The universe is not a computer game, not an illusion. …

    “Computer programs are designed to perform operations with variables that can be modified. And so, it would seem, is our universe.

    “The cosmos is made of digital matter, digital energy, and digital time — a vast array of mathematical variables that can be changed and modified by the One who knows the ‘source code’ of the ‘program.’ … [The universe always operates] according to the rules of logic, even if the Programmer’s logic is deeper than our own.”

    End of excerpt.

    Thanks again, God Chaser! Mind-expanding insights, as always. —Jim Denney

    Reply
  16. God Chaser

     /  October 9, 2012

    Carl Woese: “Yes, I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1210/S00021/carl-woese-evolutions-golden-revolutionary.htm

    Hey Jim, this is a great article about how science cannot let go of antiquated theories like Darwinian evolution, and that…

    Carl Woese:” If I were to tell you what principles we were looking for, there would no longer be a question. We have to try to discover the dynamic of the process of evolution, of the evolutionary process. For this the biologist needs a lot of help, particularly from mathematicians and physicists who are used to dealing with complex systems. Systems so complex they *** iterate *** by themselves.”

    Reply
  17. God chaser

     /  November 1, 2012

    Hi Jim, just giving you the heads up! Seems Princeton University research finds evolution is “Far from Random”

    Far from random, evolution follows a predictable genetic pattern, Princeton researchers find
    Posted October 25, 2012; 12:00 p.m.

    “Evolution, often perceived as a series of random changes, might in fact be driven by a simple and repeated genetic solution to an environmental pressure that a broad range of species happen to share, according to new research.”

    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S35/06/74S40/

    Reply
  18. Wow, God Chaser, that is fascinating on so many levels. Stephen Jay Gould would be stunned. Whatever the pattern mechanism is, I wonder if it would help account for some odd evolutionary quirks, such as convergent evolution (parallel evolution of the eye in vertebrates and cephalopods, parallel evolution of caffeine production in coffee and tea plants, and parallel evolution of the sense of echolocation in bats and dolphins). This article is a keeper! Thanks again. I always love it when you come up with this terrific stuff! —Jim D.

    Reply
  19. This entire argument rests on the premise that it is unusual that we find ourselves in a universe that supports life. Can you see why that is ridiculous?

    What we would really be surprising is if we existed in a universe that did not support life, now *that* would be a miracle.

    In fact what we see around us is exactly what we would expect to see if the universe was entirely indifferent to us.

    Let alone the fact that the universe is almost exactly 100% hostile to life.

    This whole argument is specious nonsense, not surprising the theists are fooled by it, but rational honest people should not be.

    Reply
  20. To Joe’s World—

    Sorry about the delay in replying. (I was held up by deadlines and Thanksgiving.)

    Re: “This entire argument rests on the premise that it is unusual that we find ourselves in a universe that supports life. Can you see why that is ridiculous?”

    That is a misstatement of the fine tuning argument. You have restated the “weak anthropic principle,” a tautology which says, in effect, “The universe appears fine-tuned because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here to notice that the universe appears fine-tuned.”

    But the evidence for cosmic fine-tuning is really quite impressive, and I would urge you to study up on it. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler is an excellent book on the subject, but at times technical. One of my favorite books on the subject is actually written by an atheist physicist: The Symbiotic Universe by George Greenstein. Even though Greenstein does not believe the fine-tuned universe was created by an intelligence or a deity, he does a good job of explaining why the evidence does seem to point that way, and he offers an alternative theory to explain the evidence.

    If you would acquaint yourself with the evidence for fine-tuning, then you would at least know why the argument is not “ridiculous” as you claim. There are scientists like Greenstein who understand the evidence for fine-tuning who still reject a theistic explanation. But few would consider the theistic explanation “ridiculous.”

    Even atheist supreme Christopher Hitchens agreed that the fine-tuning evidence deserves serious consideration. See the video at: https://thetruthwillmakeyoumad.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/151/.

    Re: “Let alone the fact that the universe is almost exactly 100% hostile to life.”

    Michael Shermer makes a claim similar to this one in Why Darwin Matters, and I demolished that claim in my book God and Soul. He wrote: “The vast majority of the universe is empty space, and the vast majority of what little matter there is, is completely inhospitable to life, including most planets. . . . Only a minuscule portion of the universe is hospitable.”

    That’s an empty rationale, displaying a lack of awareness of what life is and how life is sustained in the universe. Both you and Shermer seem to think that a well-designed universe would contain no places that are hostile to life, but would be 100 percent life-friendly. Well, that isn’t rational. That’s magical thinking.

    It would be physically impossible to design a universe like the one you and Shermer wish for. In order for life to exist ANYWHERE in the universe, most of the universe MUST be hostile to life. That’s simply a fact of physics and biology.

    Life needs planets and stars. Red giant stars create the elements that living creatures need in order to live. No one can live inside a red giant star, it’s a hostile environment, but without red giant stars there would be no carbon, oxygen, or other elements that we need for life. So even the hostile environment of a red giant star is a necessary condition for life.

    No one can live in the empty space between the stars, because airless space is hostile to life. Yet that all of that hostile, empty space is necessary for life on planets. If there weren’t lots and lots of empty space, planets and stars would be in constant collision with each other before life had a chance to evolve. (That’s why human life is located way out on one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way instead of at the galactic core.)

    You live in a house. Can you occupy every cubic inch of that house? Of course not. There are parts of your house that are hostile to life. You cannot live inside your furnace, your oven, your freezer, your fireplace, your chimney, or inside your plumbing. Yet all of those features of your house enable you to live. The same is true of the universe. All the places in the universe that are hostile to life make life possible.

    To truly understand reality, you MUST have your consciousness raised by cosmic fine-tuning and the strong anthropic principle.

    All the best—
    J.D.

    Reply
  21. No problem thanks for the reply. Hope you had a good thanksgiving.

    I’d be interested in evidence for fine tuning, perhaps I will dig out those books. The only ‘evidence’ I’ve ever seen presented for fine tuning is that there are many variables that must adhere to a tight range. This being exactly what we’d see in a non-tuned universe it’s not really evidence for anything. Is the evidence substantially different from the above? I’m quite surprised at Hitchens for not spotting the flaws in this argument. Perhaps I’m missing some convincing evidence.

    It’s odd that you say the universe must obey the various physical laws as I think the same thing and I take the observation that it does as a good reason to doubt any miraculous intervention or supernatural design. The universe wouldn’t have to obey any laws if it was created by an omnipotent being, under such a circumstance it is under no restrictions at all. It could resemble any of the old conceptions, under a dome, standing on pillars, standing on turtles, an unbounded meadow, whatever. Only the deity’s imagination is the limit. If however the universe is entirely a product of natural laws then we would get what we see today. So I would take the observation that the universe must obey it’s physical laws as more in support of natural causation than supernatural intervention. We have a universe around us that is exactly what we would expect to see if un-designed, and not really what we would expect to see if designed, in my opinion.

    Reply
    • I’m baffled, Joe, that you don’t see the significance of the fine-tuned universe. You have to realize what the universe is fine-tuned for: it is precision-aligned and balanced to produce life. The odds against a life-friendly universe arising by sheer random chance are one in trillions and trillions. The evidence clearly suggests that there is a purpose behind the universe, and that the purpose is to produce life.

      If you had a friend who kept hitting the lottery week after week for millions of dollars, and he never ever failed to win, in complete defiance of the random-chance odds, would you simply shrug and say, “So what?” Of course not. You’d think he had found a way to rig the system in his favor. You’d think it was a put-up job, that it wasn’t a matter of random chance at all, but the result of a purposeful arrangement.

      The odds of a life-friendly universe arising by random chance are much less favorable than the odds of repeatedly hitting the lottery. Hitchens understood that, and that’s why he credited fine-tuning as an argument that had to be thoughtfully considered.

      You say: “The universe wouldn’t have to obey any laws if it was created by an omnipotent being, under such a circumstance it is under no restrictions at all. It could resemble any of the old conceptions, under a dome, standing on pillars, standing on turtles, an unbounded meadow, whatever. Only the deity’s imagination is the limit.” That’s a fairy-tale conception of God that I don’t happen to share. I don’t think of God as a magical being who has no restrictions at all.

      The Cosmic Designer revealed by the evidence of the fine-tuned universe is a rational God who operates logically, mathematically, and in an orderly fashion. A philosopher named George Tyrrel once observed, “What men deny is not God, but some preposterous idol of the imagination.” I think your notion of a God who could create a magical universe under a dome or standing on turtles is just such a preposterous idol of the imagination. Such a magical God bears no relation to the rational God of the fine-tuned universe.

      And the rational God of the fine-tuned universe is exactly the sort of God who would give us the refined and rational moral code of the The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7).

      A designed universe would not be chaotic and magical. It would be fine-tuned, mathematically precise, orderly, and purposeful. That is the kind of universe we live in. And it is inconceivable that such a rational and purposeful universe could have arisen by sheer random chance.

      Wishing you all the best.

      Reply
      • Well I’ll try and explain it like this; That life requires fairly specific values of the physical constants and laws is at best neutral towards the proposition that the universe was designed and less generously seems to be opposed by the hostility of the universe.

        Say we have two options un-designed and designed. In the former option what we see surrounding us is what we would expect to see. Life is only ever going to exist where it can so we were always going to see the universe around us as it is now. Now you could say the same for the latter option but is this universe what we would expect to see if it was created with us in mind? I would say not, it’s hostile and there are vast (and I mean really really cosmic-scale vast) portions of it we will never see and have never seen. I would say this goes against the latter.

        The universe fits exactly the un-designed hypothesis, and does not seem to fit at all the designed hypothesis.

        Those opposed to un-designed always seem to bring random chance into it. But what does this really mean? could the laws and constants really have had any value from zero to infinity? Given those odds our universe would seem unlikely, but the physical laws and constants appear to rest on deeper principles that rest on deeper principles (consider the attempts to develop grand unified theories wherein natural laws and values fall ‘naturally’ from the equations). And so they do not appear to be random at all. Does anything appear random in our universe? Everything appears to follow rules and reacts in the only way it can. (Full disclosure here I am a determinist and can find little room for randomness, whatever that is, in reality). This false dichotomy, design versus pure randomness, isn’t helping clarify the argument, in my opinion.

        It’s interesting that your god is not unrestricted. That’s pretty unusual. In the stories gods are regularly effecting miracles that go against the natural order (I’m sure that’s one of the definitions of a miracle) and as such aren’t bound by any physical laws. But what you seem to be arguing for here is a deistic god, or a god who looks exactly like nature. And if it walks like a duck…

        You say at the end there that a designed universe would be mathematically precise and orderly, but note that the same is true of an un-designed universe. By the necessary truth that something cannot contradict itself, all of reality logic and mathematics are born.

  1. Who Made God? « The Truth Will Make You Mad
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  3. Christopher Hitchens Makes a Startling Admission « The Truth Will Make You Mad
  4. Christopher Hitchens’ Startling Admission « godandsoul

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