Saturday, October 14, 2006

Goldilocks and the riddle of the perfect universe

Goldilocks and the riddle of the perfect universe, The Sunday Times, October 08, 2006, Stuart Wavell ...

[Graphic: "The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?" (my emphasis)]

Why is the universe, like the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, "just right" for life? HT again to Kevin Miller at DesignWatch. Even cosmologists have said it looks like a fix or a put-up job. Is it a fluke or providence that it appears set up expressly for the purpose of spawning sentient beings? This shows that science is perfectly capable of making a design inference about the origin of the Universe, i.e. inferring from the evidence of nature that it is the result of either "a fluke" (unintelligent cause) or "providence" (intelligent cause).

Until recently the Goldilocks question was almost completely ignored by scientists. But dramatic developments in our understanding are propelling the issue to the forefront of the agenda, according to the acclaimed British physicist and bestselling author Paul Davies. ... This is a good example how ID is not an argument from ignorance because it is the advance of science which is driving it, i.e. the more science learns about the Universe, the more it appears to be "a fix or a put-up job", i.e. the result of Intelligent Design!

Anyone expecting Davies to recant his non-religious views and join the intelligent design lobby will be disappointed.Note the pejorative "lobby" as though ID is merely, or primarily, a political movement (it is not ID which depends on the full power of the State to enforce its "judicially sanctioned monopoly in the classroom"). Whether Davies ever joins the ID movement, makes no difference to the fact that he is, by writing about the evidence for design in nature (even if only to dismiss it) is doing good scientific research for the cause of ID!

"We can't dump all this in the lap of an arbitrary god and say we can't inquire any further," he says. "The universe looks ingenious, it looks like a fix, and words like meaning and purpose come to mind. But it doesn't mean that we're going to have a miracle-working cosmic magician meddling with events." This is a Fallacy of False Alternative that the only available choice is between Materialism/Naturalism (matter/nature is all there is) and "an arbitrary god" a "miracle-working cosmic magician meddling with events"! As Davies surely must know, at some point all human thinking must end with one of three ultimate explanations for the origin of the Universe: 1) It has always existed in some form; 2) it popped into existence from absolutely nothing; or 3) it was created from out of nothing by a Creator who has always existed. And being ultimate explanations, by definition "we can't inquire any further." What really is "arbitrary" is to rule out in advance the last of the three possible explanations, just because Davies (and his ilk) does not like the idea of there being a God to whom he might be personally accountable (Rom. 1:18-20).

What concerns him in his new book The Goldilocks Enigma is science and the universe's stringent conditions for existence, so finely tuned that even the slightest twiddle of the dials would wreck any hope of life emerging in the universe. This would only be a "concern" to those who hold "A Darwinian View of Life" that "at bottom" there is "no design, no purpose ... nothing but blind, pitiless indifference":

"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." (Dawkins, R., "River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life," Phoenix: London, 1996, p.155)

"No scientific explanation of the universe can be deemed complete unless it accounts for this appearance of judicious design," he says. So why then is the attempt to "account... for this appearance of judicious design" (my emphasis) not a "scientific explanation" if it proposes that this appearance of judicious design" actually is the result of judicious design"? If the answer is that science is inherently materialistic/naturalistic, then that makes science merely a branch of applied materialist/naturalist philosophy:

"The realization that life is about information completely turns older arguments about evolution on their head. Why? Because information is independent of the material medium used to store and transmit it. In a book, the words are printed with ink on paper, but they could also be written with crayon or paint or chalk, or even scratched into sand with a stick. The message remains the same, no matter what you use to write it. And the obvious implication is that the message was not created by the matter used to write it. The words in a book were not created by chemical forces within the ink and paper. ... What does this mean for the origin of life? It means the message in DNA was not created by the chemical forces within the molecule itself. This explains why all the experiments to create life have failed - because they all try to build a living form from the bottom up, by assembling the right materials. But the material medium does not write the message. As astrophysicist Paul Davies says, `Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won't work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.' [Davies, P.C.W., "How we could create life," The Guardian, December 11, 2002] This is a devastating critique. To suggest that matter could give rise to life is not just mistaken; it addresses the question `at the wrong conceptual level.' It is beginning to look like the best key to interpreting the organic world is not natural selection but John 1:1, `In the beginning was the Word,' the Logos -- language, information. ... Why don't these arguments get a hearing in the typical science textbook? The answer is that science has been redefined as applied naturalism or materialism. Consider this quotation from Richard Dawkins: `Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory ... we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.' [Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," Norton: New York, 1986, p.287] Why? Because it is naturalistic. In a letter published in Nature, another scientist says the same thing from the opposite direction: `Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.' [Todd, S. C., "A view from Kansas on that evolution debate," Nature, Vol. 401, 30 September 1999, p.423] Let that sink in for a moment. Even if there is no evidence for Darwinism, and if all the data point to a designer, still that theory would not be permissible in science. Obviously, it is not ultimately a matter of evidence at all. What this tells us is that science itself has been redefined as applied naturalistic philosophy, so that only naturalistic theories are even considered. That's why we have to deal with the issue on two levels - not only the scientific evidence, but also the philosophy." (Pearcey, N.R., "Creation vs. Evolution: What Our Children Need to Know," The Pearcey Report, January, 2006).

and represents a corruption of science's original search for the truth about how things really are, by "follow[ing] the empirical evidence wherever it leads" (my emphasis):

"At the heart of the problem of scientific authority is the fact that there are two distinct definitions of science in our culture. On the one hand, science is devoted to unbiased empirical investigation. According to this definition, scientists should follow the empirical evidence wherever it leads--even if it leads to recognition of the presence of intelligent causes in biology. According to the other definition, science is devoted to providing explanations for all phenomena that employ only natural or material causes. According to the second definition, scientists must ignore evidence pointing to the presence of intelligent causes in biology, and must affirm the sufficiency of natural (unintelligent) causes regardless of the evidence." ("What is `The Wedge of Truth'?" Publisher's review of "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism," by Phillip E. Johnson.)

Beyond the obvious prerequisites such as water, the sun's energy and the various chemical elements (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc) needed to make biomass, there's the tricky stuff. Those "obvious prerequisites"of life alone, i.e. the "Fitness of the Environment," is an argument from design that Darwinian evolution itself depends on. If protons were a tiny bit heavier they would decay into neutrons, and atoms would disintegrate. No carbon would have been formed by nuclear reactions inside stars if the nuclear force varied by more than a scintilla. ... Indeed! To paraphrase the story of the little old lady and the turtles, it looks like it is design all the way down!

So how did compatible life and mind come into being? Davies's explanation, involving quantum mechanics and something called backwards causation, is impossible to compress without sounding "ludicrous", he confesses. Sounds like yet another "patent absurdity" that a scientific materialist must believe in, so as to not "allow a Divine Foot in the door":

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." (Lewontin, R.C., "Billions and Billions of Demons." Review of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," by Carl Sagan. The New York Times Review of Books, January 9, 1997, pp.28-32, p.31. Emphasis original)

He's right: it's impenetrable. But this scenario requires an act of faith as great as that of any religious believer. Actually a greater "act of faith"! Billions people have no problem believing in "God" as "a superbeing who intervenes in events" (see below), especially when there is conclusive evidence of it, but only a small minority who have allowed their minds to be taken captive by a "hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world" (Col. 2:8), namely Materialism-Naturalism, can believe in such "ludicrous" things as "something called backwards causation" ("Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" - Rom. 1:22)!

So hasn't he sidestepped the God question? Science can meet religion on middle ground, he says, but a superbeing who intervenes in events is anathema to most scientists. That is, as long as it is a naturalistic "religion," its OK! But again, Davies deludes himself into thinking that "scientists" have somehow gained the power to determine what reality is, rather than merely discover and study it!

"You have to understand that science deals with hypotheses that can be tested, and religion proceeds from acts of faith that can't be tested." This is the usual "science" = objective fact versus "religion" = subjective belief false dichotomy, to which scientific materialists like Davies have become victims of their own propaganda. Whatever may be true of "religion" generally, the Christian "religion" is grounded on "faith that" can "be tested" namely the empirical facts of Jesus' resurrection from death. The New Testament goes to great lengths to show that Jesus really had been raised from the dead (e.g. Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:26-29; 1 Cor. 15:3-7) and St Paul wrote that "if Christ has not been raised" then the Christian "faith is futile" (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

So Davies is another example of what Phil Johnson noted in the case of the late physicist Heinz Pagels, "Naturalistic philosophy controls his mind so completely that" he "can stare straight at evidence of intelligent design, describe it as such, and still not see it"!:

"I am not implying that scientific naturalists do any of this with an intent to deceive. On the contrary, they are as a rule so steeped in naturalistic assumptions that they are blind to the arbitrary elements in their thinking. For example, examine carefully the following passage from The Dreams of Reason, a book about scientific reasoning, by Heinz Pagels:
... What they [scientists] find is that the architecture of the universe is indeed built according to invisible universal rules, what I call the cosmic code-the building code of the Demiurge. .... Scientists in discovering this code are deciphering the Demiurge's hidden message, the tricks he used in creating the universe. No human mind could have arranged for any message so flawlessly coherent, so strangely imaginative, and sometimes downright bizarre. It must be the work of an Alien Intelligence!
... Whether God is the message, wrote the message, or whether it wrote itself is unimportant in our lives. We can safely drop the traditional idea of the Demiurge, for there is no scientific evidence for a Creator of the natural world, no evidence for a will or purpose that goes beyond the known laws of nature. Even the evidence of life on earth, which promoted the compelling `argument from design' for a Creator, can be accounted for by evolution. ... So we have a message without a sender.
The first paragraph of that passage tells us that the presence of intelligent design in the cosmos is so obvious that even an atheist like Pagels cannot help noticing it, and rhapsodizing about it, dubbing the Creator `the Demiurge.' The second paragraph offhandedly remarks that there is no scientific evidence for a Creator. What makes the passage a good illustration of the scientific naturalist mentality is that Pagels assumes all the critical points. What seemed to be evidence of a Creator turned out to be no evidence at all, because scientific evidence for something that goes beyond the laws of nature would be a contradiction in terms. On the other hand, evidence of `evolution' (which may mean no more than microevolution plus the existence of natural relationships) automatically excludes the possibility of design. Naturalistic philosophy controls his mind so completely that Pagels can stare straight at evidence of intelligent design, describe it as such, and still not see it." (Johnson, P.E., "Darwin on Trial," [1991], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, pp.118-119, 202n).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Genesis 6:1-4. 1When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

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