Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Universe by Design: God and Cosmological Constants

Perhaps the most compelling arguments for design in the universe are found in what are known as cosmological constants. These facts are commonly referred to as arguments from the fine-tuning of the universe.

When scientists speak of the fine-tuning of the universe, they are generally referring to the extraordinary balancing of the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe. The result of these constants is that the universe has just the right conditions to sustain life. The coincidence of all of these constants being so life permitting are too amazing to have been the result of happenstance. These cosmological constants all work together to keep the universe perfectly dialed in order to make life possible. In his article titled God, Design, and Fine-Tuning, physicist Robin Collins gave the following illustration to help explain these constants:

"I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago. At the control panel they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life. The oxygen ratio is perfect; the temperature is seventy degrees; the humidity is fifty percent; theres a system for replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of wastes. Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure."

According to recent findings in physics, the universe is analogous to this "biosphere" that Collins illustrates. Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razors edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation. The dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident. Somebody, as Fred Hoyle quipped, "has been monkeying with the physics." The point is that when scientists look at the universe from an objective perspective, every knob in the discipline of physics seems to be intelligently dialed to a perfect degree in order to permit life in our universe. It is this evidence that leads to the conclusion that there is an Intelligent Designer behind these harmonious scientific facts. The following are some amazing examples of the finely tuned cosmological constants that balance the universe:

1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10-60 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)

2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5% life would be impossible.

3. Calculations show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10-40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.

4. Further calculations show that if the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.

5. In the formation of the universe, the balance of matter to antimatter had to be accurate to one part in ten billion for the universe to arise.
6. Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 186,282 miles per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.

7. For the universe to exist as it does requires that hydrogen be converted to helium in a precise but comparatively stately mannerspecifically, in a way that converts seven one thousandths of its mass to energy. Lower that value very slightlyfrom 0.007 percent to 0.006 percent, sayand no transformation could take place: the universe would consist of hydrogen and nothing else. Raise the value very slightlyto 0.008 percentand bonding would be so widely prolific that the hydrogen would long since have been exhausted. In either case, with the slightest tweaking of the numbers the universe as we know and need it would not be here.

These examples are just some of the many amazing constants that are present in the universe in which we live. The astronomical amount of fine-tuning that we see in these constants weighs heavily in favor of a Great Designer of the universe. There must have been a Super Intelligence who set the dials perfectly in order for galaxies, stars, and planets to be positioned just right in order for life to be possible here on earth. To put it in terms harmonious with William Paleys argument, the incredible amount of design in the universe leads to the conclusion that there is an incredible Designer of the universe.

13 Comments:

Blogger Doctor Logic said...

Sal,

I'm afraid that your conclusion does not follow.

First, while it's clear that even minute changes in the physical constants make human life impossible, it's not obvious how much of the space of constants is habitable by radically alien life.

More importantly, you're not actually proposing an explanation for these constants. What you have done is create a designer who is at least as fine-tuned as the constants themselves. Indeed, the designer is even more fine-tuned than the constants because the designer apparently makes the whole creation look purposeless and naturalistic.

An explanation has to be more than just consistent with your observations, it has to predict them. The problem is that your designer theory predicts nothing whatsoever. No matter how much we observe, your designer theory never predicts anything about the universe.

Imagine that you are drawing a curve through points on a graph. This curve is an explanation of the points. Based on a subset of points, you can predict other points you know about, or interpolate and extrapolate for new points. There may be an infinite number of explanations for any finite set of points, but each curve predicts the points it was intended to, and more.

Now, what you are doing is analogous to drawing dots over the points you already have instead of drawing a curve. When you get another point, you just draw a dot over that point, too. No observation can ever contradict your points, and no future prediction is ever made. Well, this is just restating the data, not explaining the data. No one should feel satisfaction in having done this trivial procedure.

Can multiverse theories explain the data? Only if they predict some cosmological constants in terms of others. Today, multiverse theories are largely mathematical toys with little or no explanatory power.

However, even predictive multiverse models are beside the point. Let's suppose that a unified theory of everything explains why the various constants have their special values, and that the unified theory has just one constant, the speed of light. Then we will ask, why does the speed of light have the value that it has? Why are the laws of physics the way they are? There can be no answer to these questions. For that would require that we have yet deeper physics to explain the fundamental physics, and this is either impossible by definition, or leads to an infinite regression. Even if we showed that our physics is the only possible consistent physics, we would have to ask why our universe is consistent, and there can be no logical prior for logical consistency.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Fort said...

Dr. Logic,

I think a certain amount of time when people ask the question "Why?," they really mean "How?" It's a significant distinction. For example:

Why is the sky blue?

One may proceed to explain the various absorption and reflection characteristics from a variety of different physical standpoints to answer the question. Of course, none of these actually addresses the question of "Why?," but merely "How?".

Physics, like the other physical sciences, seems to be concerned with the "How" rather than the "Why". This is not to diminish the importance of any of the physical sciences, but rather to bring about a measure of perspective. The physical sciences (and indeed, many of the other sciences) seek predictive theories. But a prediction is only useful in answering "How?" rather than "Why?" questions. "Why is the sky blue?" is considerably different in topic and nature than "How is the sky blue?"

That is, a question of "Why?" is associated with purpose and reason, but a question of "How?" is associated with mechanics and determinism.

I agree that Sal's conclusion does not follow from the premises laid out before him, but then, the question he asks is not one of "How did the universe come to be?", but "Why did the universe come to be?". Mere probabilities illuminated by physicists can only aid the latter study, rather than be integral to it, such as in the former study.

Sal's theory is not predictive because it is an answer to "Why?" rather than "How?". That is precisely why his dots merely overlap the points on the figurative chart. Indeed, his answer comes from metaphysics, not from physics. Still, metaphysics is merely "beyond physics," not divorced from it. It is useful to line up the dots every now and then to make sure metaphysics still corresponds with this world and not an imaginary one.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...

fort,

I don't think there's any difference between "how" and "why."

If you ask why Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against civilians, any answer to this question becomes statistically predictive of his other actions. If he had purpose, we can expect his other actions to be consistent with achieving that purpose.

On the other hand, if Hussein used chemical weapons for no reason at all (or for inscrutable reasons), then we haven't really answered the question of why he did so. In fact, we would be admitting that we have no idea why he did what he did.

So, in the case of ID, what is the question being asked?

We are not asking "what is the purpose and reason for life" (or the cosmos) because that would be begging the question on the claim that there is an intelligence behind it.

What we're asking is, "is there any sign of purpose?" To answer this, we have to have some prediction based on purpose and utility, and on what methods can be employed by the intelligence to realize that purpose. Without predictions, there can be no tests of any kind (scientific or otherwise).

You would think that a model of ID would be deeply concerned with purpose and utility, but that isn't the case. IDists avoid questions of purpose like the plague. How can they seriously claim that an observation is evidence for purpose when they refuse to talk about what that purpose is? How can evidence meet a test when there is no prediction about which test result is confirmatory? They can't, and that's why Dembski et al are frauds. Prediction is simply necessary for one claim to support another.

If folks want to believe "God did it" without reasons for believing so, that's their right. However, I object to the baseless assertion that science somehow supports this sort of blind faith. It does no such thing.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is a great subject and discussion. Personally, I'm not satisfied with either the arguments or the response. The argument works to some degree if these properties truly are contingent, but how do we know that they really are contingent? Though it has not been proven, it at least seems plausible to hold that at some deeper level the material universe is the way it is because its constituents, i.e. matter, energy, space, time, are necessarily the way they are. So, unless it can somehow be shown that the various constants really are contingent, then it doesn't seem to me that the fine-tuning argument works. That does not mean that there is no fine-tuning, but it does mean that more work has to be done to show that there has been some fine-tuning.

Dr. Logic makes interesting points, but I'm not persuaded by them. First, even if the designer is "fine-tuned," that does not follow that inference to a designer is illegitimate. To be sure, a finely-tuned designer would presumably require an explanation in terms of an even more finely-tuned designer, but what is wrong with? Second, the classical theistic response is that God is not finely-tuned at all. He is intelligent, but metaphysically simple. Unless there is some reason to reject the concept of a metaphysically simple intelligence, that remains a viable option.

I'm also not sure what to make of Dr. Logic's demand that intelligent design involve predictions. As a scientific theory it is fine to ask for that, and IDists have, pace Dr. Logic, shown concern with testability (see here for an example: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/01/intelligent_design_is_empirica.html). However, on a philosophical level it seems to be unnecessary. There is a clear difference between purposive and non-purposive explanations, just as there are usually obvious differences between purposive events and unguided ones, even if we do not know what specific purposes are involved. If, when strolling through the park one day, I stumble upon a curious arrangement of sticks and stones in the woods that spells the word "HELP", it is perfectly rational to conclude that it was purposefully arranged even if I can locate no evidence which allows me to determine what the purpose is. Similarly, if I can find evidence of purposive activity in the universe, then a purposive explanation is reasonable even if I can only speculate about possible motives.

Cheers,

Dave

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Those are a lot of big words. I may not be as educated as the rest of you, but I would like to add my two-cents. I do not believe that one can scentifically prove the existence of God. You also cannot prove that evolution ever happened, because it is not observable or repeatable. Those are theories. We can only use science to determine which of the theories is most likely. Personally, I believe in creation. I have been raised in a Christian home and gone to a Christian school all my life, so I know all the arguments for creation. I'm actually on this sight right now to do research for my Theology class. I think we should all stop getting so temperamental about trying to prove things that cannot be proven. In the end, all religions (which include evolution, big bang theory, etc. because in the end you have no clear evidence to support them) have to taken by faith.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous John Heininger said...

Speculate as some will, the bottom line is that our universe is fine tuned for human life, with natural laws and a mathematic predictability and regularity that necessitates a natural law giver and a divine mathematician. Moreover, there is no empirical based naturalistic answer as to how a dependent universe could derive the necessary cosmological fine tuning for life. All of which calls for an intelligent transcendent non-dependent self existing first cause beyond the universe. In short, an intelligent effect always demands an intelligent cause.

Everything ever observed in the universe is dependent on something external to explain its existence, Including Dawkins himself. This is also true of the dependent dying Cosmos itself, which is running down towards heat death, and will ultimately have no usable energy to do anything, including wind itself up. And as all parallel universes are supposedly comparable to this one, they too would likewise be equally dependent and running down towards heat death. If the external cause of any of this is likewise dependent, we have an infinite regression of dependent causes, which are forever dependent on something else, in which case we have absolutely no basis for existence, not ever. The only remaining option is the existence of a non-dependent self-existing first cause, however complex. There is ultimately no other philosophical or scientific alternative. In short, we are back to the necessary self-existing God of Galileo, Paley, and Newton.

Nor will Dawkin’s dependent Darwinian earthly deity do. Natural selection is a blind and mindless deity. It is simply a biological process mechanism. It has absolutely no way of knowing where anything, or everything, is evolving to, or why. As such, this "blind watchmaker" would not have the necessary overall perspective or intelligence to evolve different life forms, at different rates, at different times, or not at all (stasis), in order to ultimately produce a finely tuned symbiotic living environment, containing finely balanced co-dependent ecosystems. That would require a truly divine perspective and effort.

John Heininger
www.thegodreality.com

1:39 PM  
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7:32 PM  
Blogger Gary H. said...

Great blog you have here, love the name.

For anonymous who said: "I do not believe that one can scentifically prove the existence of God."

This is debatable.

Proof may be too strong a word, but logical inference based on volumes of evidence can amount to proof in the end.

This is how proof is determined in courts of law.
Evidence is presented. The quality of evidence and the number of items of quality evidence can amount to proof, even if there is no way of providing direct eye-witness accounts, for ex.

So, if we consider the evidence for God, we would be justified in calling it proof.

View the items (short list):
- The cosmological arg. based on scientific observation and reason
- The moral argument based on observation, self-knowledge and reason
- The fine-tuning arg based on scientific facts and reason
- The complete absence of any other viable explanation
- The humongous contradictions internal to atheism
- The existence of beauty
- The existence of good
- The existence of evil
- The biological information argument
- Multitudes of corroborated NDE's
- The innate teleological sense in all humans

etc etc

All of these provide a quality of evidence that when put together make a sufficient amount of evidence warranting the term "proof"

12:10 PM  
Blogger Gary H. said...

To continue...

Atheism holds that "nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter)" and that "thought is a property or function of matter".

But this is clearly false and even ridiculously bad thinking.

C.S. Lewis refuted this codswallop in just a couple of sentences:
"If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes...it cuts its own throat."

"The theory that thought is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense; for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction but of which it would be meaningless to use the words 'true' or 'false'".
-C.S. Lewis


Moreover the statement that nothing exists but natural..., is itself yet another unverifiable claim to impossible knowledge - and that according to their own rules!!

To put it simply, atheists are like blind men claiming that there is no such thing as light or color, because they can find no evidence for it.

No wonder, obviously they cannot.

Self-contradictions are everywhere in the atheist scheme but they never see them, precisely because they are blind, but worse, most are willfully blind.

Atheism being self-defeating creates much cognitive dissonance in the atheist's brain.
This hinders his ability to make proper logical connections, wherever it involves things that are already in, accepted but not admitted, intellectual contradiction in his mind.

That Satan has managed to deceive humans into atheist self-contradictory thought is a testimony to his power of deception and to the feeble nature of the human mind and nature without God.

They are indeed, "without excuse".

Nuff for now

1:39 PM  
Blogger Gary H. said...

Btw, yes I know, I'm many years late here, but its still highly pertinent.

"Doctor Logic" ?
Pretentious or what? A joke maybe?

Doc says, " it's not obvious ... habitable by radically alien life"

Sure. So? You'd still have to find a viable explanation for the origins of that life -Back to square one

Worse, if that radically alien life were DNA based, you'd have an even greater, if possible, insurmountable problem for Darwinian evolution.

"What you have done is create a designer who is at least as fine-tuned as the constants themselves."

Not really, what's been done is to use logical inference to explain the existence & origin of these constants.

"Indeed, the designer is even more fine-tuned ...makes the whole creation look purposeless and naturalistic."

This is just opinion based on the usual atheist assumptions on "purpose" in the cosmos.
What does fine-tuning have to do with your personal opinion on looking "purposeless"?
There's no link.
And what if the designer is more fine tuned (a very poor descriptor for perfection)? So?

Most humans, since the beginning and throughout history have NOT seen the universe as purposeless.

The purposeless, meaningless universe is a logical implication only of atheism. Yet, curiously, the atheist still thinks his life and especially his ideas (evident here), have purpose and meaning.
Atheism cannot be supported by any evidence whatsoever, so why should anyone believe it?

Here's where atheist comes in with the bogus "just lack of belief" claim, then the ubiquitous "burden of proof" claim

Naturalistic? Of course, what did you expect. The universe IS Nature.

"it has to predict them. The problem is that your designer theory predicts nothing whatsoever. "

Completely false. ID has made and makes clearly defined predictions.

"If folks want to believe "God did it" without reasons for believing so...I object to the baseless assertion that science somehow supports this sort of blind faith"

"Wow!?!", is all one might say to this baseless assertion of a "baseless assertion".
Darwinian predictions for example are constantly being proved false.
"Curiouser and curiouser", that never bothers the Darwinian fundamentalist. His theory is ever and always "true" in his own mind, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented.

Why? Because he has an a priori commitment to the religion of materialism, also called Metaphysical Naturalism.
Harvard geneticist R Lewontin said so in clearest of terms. Both creationists & IDists have always known and stated this.

Contrary to your overcooked swill Doc, the folks that believe in God, do so for the very best of reasons. Real faith must be based on evidence. Faith simply means trust, not blind belief.
Your statement is a parroting of standard "new atheist" tripe that any decent theologian would reject sans hesitation.

Of course here we are obliged to point out that atheism is the deepest sort of blind faith. Faith in nothing, and, absolutely zero support by science in any way whatsoever.

Worse, they even admit to this!
They themselves acknowledge that atheism cannot be proved, by reason or science, yet they hold it tightly! How? Pure blind faith.

The atheists persistently claim themselves to be logical, reasonable and scientific. Without having ANY of the above in their position!

Atheism has no other choice but to claim the universe created itself from nothing. Nothing, being the absence of anything & everything, has no properties. Therefore, to claim, as Hawking and other high profile atheists have done recently, that the universe created itself out of nothing is not only seriously unscientific but patently absurd and anti-science!

No offense intended here. Just trying to be clear & no holds barred. ;-)

1:52 PM  
Blogger Philip Maguire said...

If we redefined the word nothing to mean something what term could we use to describe what we formerly called nothing?

3:07 PM  

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