Posted by: 15shekels | August 28, 2009

“It’s Science.”

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”  -Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist), The Universe, Past and Present Reflections

“When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” -Tony Rothman (physicist)

“It’s science.” -Ron Burgandy

After alluding in several posts to the scientific, historical and archaeological evidence for God and Christianity, I thought it was time to discuss one such topic. My favorite form of God-evidence-from-the-world-around-us (also known as teleological arguments for God) involves the beauty, free will, and emotional depth that we observe in life. I am convinced that these aspects of the world point to a more complex and intentional origin than chance and a more orchestrated development process than blind macro-evolution.

However, since these arguments are somewhat subjective and I feel the need to talk science, here I will summarize a more technical form of the teleological argument  — the fine-tuning argument. Lately Francis Collins (a scientist, head of the human genome project, and author of “The Language of God”) has gotten the most press in this area. I will discuss Francis Collins’ views as soon as I get around to reading his book (light honeymoon reading?). Until then, in this post, I will present the view of another Collins — namely, Robin Collins. Robin is a philosopher, so he speaks my language, but roots his argument in scientific evidence that I find compelling. He begins, however, with a helpful illustration:

“Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for example, was set around 70 degrees F and the humidity was at 50%; moreover, there was an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole system for the production of food. Put simply, the domed structure appeared to be a fully functioning biosphere. 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. That is, the only alternative explanation we can think of–that the structure was formed by some natural process–seems extremely unlikely. Of course, it is possible that, for example, through some volcanic eruption various metals and other compounds could have formed, and then separated out in just the right way to produce the “biosphere,” but such a scenario strikes us as extraordinarily unlikely, thus making this alternative explanation unbelievable.

The universe is analogous to such a “biosphere,” according to recent findings in physics. Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe–for example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial distribution of matter and energy–is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur.” -Robin Collins, “A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God.” Reason for the Hope Within.

Here is his full article:

http://www.discovery.org/a/91

Collins elaborates upon William Paley’s famous presentation of the argument –  “The Watch and the Watchmaker,” from 1802: (http://philosophy.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/1philreadingpaley.pdf), in which Paley points out that were we to discover a watch in the desert, we would assume it had been created by a designer. Similarly, the intricacy and complexity of nature (i.e. the human eye) is far greater than that of a watch, and so we should similarly consider that nature may point to a designer.

Collins takes this argument further by offering examples of the fine-tuned factors without which life on earth could not have occurred:

“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.

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. (for sourcing on these facts, view Collins’ whole article).

These are only two of many such factors. Collins likens this fine-tuning to many radio dials that would need to be set exactly right, or to a one-foot target that would have to be hit by a dart fired randomly from across the universe. Hoyle calculated the chances of life being the result of random chance as 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power.

The most popular atheist comeback is that there may be billions or trillions of other universes, and this just happened to be the one in which those odds came up (Dawkins argues this case in The God Delusion). Collins brilliantly responds to this theory in his article. He speaks of what such a “multi-universe generator” (such as a vacuum fluctuation model or a oscillating big bang model) would entail. In either case — whether there are billions of universes extending outwards at once, or billions created through time as the universe collapses back on itself and begins with another big bang— this “multi-universe generator” finds itself facing the same problem as complex natural processes on earth: it seems too intricate to not be designed:

“The ‘generator’ itself is governed by a complex set of physical laws that allow it to produce the universes. It stands to reason, therefore, that if these laws were slightly different the generator probably would not be able to produce any universes that could sustain life. After all, even my bread machine has to be made just right in order to work properly, and it only produces loaves of bread, not universes!…It is doubtful, therefore, whether the atheistic many-universe theory can entirely eliminate the problem of design the atheist faces; rather, at least to some extent, it seems simply to move the problem of design up one level.” -Collins

Why are we so afraid to believe in God that we cling to that 1 in 10^40,000 chance?  In no other area of life would someone rationally choose those odds. Looks like scientific progress hasn’t quite made religion obsolete yet…

“”Let’s be scientifically honest. The probability of life arising to greater and greater complexity by chance through evolution is the same probability as having a tornado tear through a junkyard and form a Boeing 747 jetliner.” -Sir Fred Hoyle, in an address to the British Academy of Science.

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