Sunday, July 30, 2006

Quote of the Day: Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or ...

In this Quote of the Day, astrophysicist Marcus Chown wrote of the fine-tuning of the Universe, [Graphic: Triple alpha process - the nucleosynthesis of three helium nuclei into carbon, Wikipedia] "Only if the nuclei of beryllium-8, carbon-12 and oxygen-16 exist in particular energy states can hydrogen be built up into the elements of life such as calcium, magnesium and iron), that "This fine-tuning has two possible explanations. Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or there is a multitude of universes--a `multiverse'." (my emphasis):

"But the main reason for believing in an ensemble of universes is that it could explain why the laws governing our Universe appear to be so finely tuned for our existence. In the 1950s, for instance, Fred Hoyle discovered that the step-by-step build-up of heavy elements inside stars depends on a series of spectacular coincidences. Only if the nuclei of beryllium-8, carbon-12 and oxygen-16 exist in particular energy states can hydrogen be built up into the elements of life such as calcium, magnesium and iron. This fine-tuning has two possible explanations. Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or there is a multitude of universes--a `multiverse'. Only in those universes in which the properties of beryllium-8, carbon-12 and oxygen-16 are right for life would any life arise to notice any fine-tuning." (Chown, M., "Anything Goes," New Scientist, 6 June 1998, Vol. 158, pp.26-30, p.28)

Note that Chown says that "the main reason for believing in an ensemble of universes is that it could explain [naturalistically] why the laws governing our Universe appear to be so finely tuned for our existence" (my emphasis). That is, it is primarily religious (i.e. anti-God) not scientific!

The fallacy of special pleading (double standard) is implicit in the above, i.e. the "no" answer to the question, "is the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator"? is "science" but the "yes" answer to the same question is "religion":"

PJ: Clearly if you have a question, the answer yes and the answer no to the question are still in the same subject area. So if the affirmation `Yes, natural selection can create as much as is needed,' is science, then the no answer -- `No, the evidence does not support that' -- is science, too. I vigorously assert that this is not two subjects but one subject: what does the evidence show and not show about natural processes? David Von Drehle: `I think there are two subjects. There is a scientific debate about what the evidence shows or doesn't show. And there is a religious debate, with two different religions making claims about a topic they can't fully understand.' PJ: `I wouldn't fight you if you wanted to say that there is only one subject on both sides, and it is religion. They should either teach evolution in religion class and not in science, or teach it in science and present both sides. It can't be that the yes answer is science and the no answer is religion.'" (Johnson, P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Center Conversations No. 4, September 1999, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington DC).

This fallacy is explicit in the following quote by Maynard Smith and Szathm√°ry, where they ruled that it was "outside science" to even consider "The simplest interpretation" (which according to Occam's razor or the Principle of Parsimony is what science normally accepts) for why "the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life," is "that the Universe was designed by a creator" (my emphasis):

"The idea that the world is peculiarly adapted to the appearance of life is not a new one. In 1913, the biochemist L.J. Henderson pointed out that many substances such as water have precisely those properties required if life is to exist. Most biologists rejected his views, arguing that organisms are adapted to their environments by natural selection, not the other way around. But the questions he raised have surfaced again recently in a new form. It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life. The 'cosmological anthropic principle' has been suggested as an explanation for this puzzling fact. The principle takes several forms. The weak anthropic principle merely states that certain universes, with unfortunate lists of physical constants, would not be observable by us, simply because we would not be there. The weak principle is not a theory: it merely acknowledges a peculiar situation. The strong principle, proposed by Brandon Carter, is more radical. It states that the Universe must have those properties that allow life to develop in it at some stage of its life history. How can this curious claim be understood? The simplest interpretation is that the Universe was designed by a creator who intended that intelligent life should evolve. This interpretation lies outside science." (Maynard Smith, J. & Szathm√°ry, E., "On the likelihood of habitable worlds," Nature, Vol. 384, 14 November 1996, p.107).

Here are some other examples of fine-tuning from Chown's article:

"Many other examples of fine-tuning have been found. For instance, if the strong nuclear force, which glues nuclei together, were only about 1 per cent stronger, two protons would stick to make a `di-proton'. In our Universe, protons are welded in the Sun via the weak nuclear force, which first converts one of the protons to a neutron, and is extremely slow. It takes about 10 billion years for two protons to combine, ensuring that the Sun burns its fuel slowly over the billions of years needed for life to evolve. If the di-proton were stable, the strong force would snap protons together so fast that the Sun would burn its fuel in less than a second and explode. If the strong force had always been stronger, all hydrogen nuclei would have been processed into di-protons in the big bang and there would be no hydrogen for stars to burn. The weak nuclear force also appears to be finely balanced to permit our existence. During the catastrophic collapse of a star, the matter in its dense core is transformed into neutrons and a vast number of neutrinos. The neutrinos fly outwards and in the process blow away the star's `envelope', triggering a supernova. Yet neutrinos interact with matter in the envelope only via the weak force. If the weak interaction were slightly stronger, the neutrinos would be trapped in the heart of the star and the explosion would stall. If it were slightly weaker, they would escape from the star without interacting with matter. Either way, the heavy elements forged in massive stars which are essential for life would not be catapulted into space to be incorporated into new stars and planets. There are yet more examples. For instance, Tegmark and Martin Rees of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, have found that stars and galaxies could not have arisen if the initial clumpiness of the matter emerging from the big bang had been slightly different (This Week, 29 November 1997, p 11). And Tegmark has found that only with three dimensions of space and one of time is physics both predictable enough and complex enough for the evolution of life, while yielding stable structures such as atoms and planets (This Week, 13 September 1997, p 11). `Wherever physicists look, they see examples of fine-tuning,' says Rees." (Chown, M., "Anything Goes," New Scientist, 6 June 1998, Vol. 158, pp.26-30, pp.28-29. My emphasis)

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

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