Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Ultimate Coincidence

Here is one of the most pro-ID quotes I have seen (broken into three parts for clarity),

[Left: Beyond Coincidence, by Martin Plimmer and Brian King, Amazon.com]

from a second- hand book I bought the other day, which I had never heard of, by two authors, Martin Plimmer a journalist and broadcaster, and Brian King a producer for BBC Radio 4, who as far as I am aware are not otherwise pro-ID.

The book (apart from this quote on the fine-tunedness of the Universe, which comprises its last two pages) is a collection of amazing coincidences drawn from everyday life, which I tend to agree with this critical review that (apart from this fine-tuning of the Universe evidence-which the reviewer just ignores) they are just that: coincidences.

The first part of the quote notes that, "the most important coincidence in ... everybody's life" is "the fundamental physical laws pertaining to the day-to-day running of the Universe" are "finely balanced ... One flip of a decimal point either way and ... the Universe as we know it wouldn't exist and ... nor would we" (my emphasis):

"The Ultimate Coincidence Perhaps we should call it the First Coincidence. Or the Last Coincidence. Either would suit, but 'Ultimate' most fits its superlative significance. It's the most important coincidence in our life, in everybody's life; in the life of our planet, our Solar System and our Universe. To begin with, it brought us all together. It's the reason we are. And if ever its felicitous consonance should alter, we won't be around to speculate whether it was a happy accident or part of a grand unified design. Nothing will be around. We're talking about fundamental here; the fundamental physical laws pertaining to the day-to-day running of the Universe. Physicists call them the fundamental constants - things like the masses of atomic particles, the speed of light, the electric charges of electrons, the strength of gravitational force ... They're beginning to realise just how finely balanced they are. One flip of a decimal point either way and things would start to go seriously wrong. Matter wouldn't form, stars wouldn't twinkle, the Universe as we know it wouldn't exist and, if we insist on taking the selfish point of view in the face of such epic, almighty destruction, nor would we." (Plimmer, M. & King, B., "Beyond Coincidence: Stories of Amazing Coincidences and the Mystery and Mathematics that Lie Behind Them," [2004], Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest NSW, Australia, Extended Edition, 2005, p.303. Emphasis & ellipses original)

Plimmer and King ask, "Who or what decided at the time of the Big Bang that the number of particles created would be one-in-a-billion more than the number of anti-particles, thus rescuing us by the width of a whisker from annihilation long before we even existed" and ensuring that "the number of matter particles left ... would be exactly the right number to create a gravitational force that balanced the force of expansion and didn't collapse the Universe", etc (my emphasis):

"The cosmic harmony that made life possible exists at the mercy of what appear, on the face of it, to be unlikely odds. Who or what decided at the time of the Big Bang that the number of particles created would be one-in-a-billion more than the number of anti-particles, thus rescuing us by the width of a whisker from annihilation long before we even existed (because when matter and anti-matter meet, they cancel each other out)? Who or what decided that the number of matter particles left behind after this oversized game of cosmic swapsy would be exactly the right number to create a gravitational force that balanced the force of expansion and didn't collapse the Universe like a popped balloon? Who decided that the mass of the neutron should be just enough to make the formation of atoms possible? That the nuclear force that holds atomic nuclei together, in the face of their natural electromagnetic desire to repulse each other, should be just strong enough to achieve this, thus enabling the Universe to move beyond a state of almost pure hydrogen? Who made the charge on the proton exactly right for the stars to turn into supernovae? Who fine-tuned the nuclear resonance level for carbon to just delicate enough a degree that it could form, making life, all of which is built on a framework of carbon, possible?" (Plimmer & King, 2005, pp.303-304)

The authors note that, "The list goes on" of these fine-tuned cosmic coincidences, which "in spite of billions of alternative possibilities, combines exquisitely, in the right time sequence, at the right speed, weight, mass and ratio, ... precisely equivalent to a stable universe in which life can exist at all."

This leaves "the human mind" only one of "two antithetical philosophies it chooses to follow" - "The first philosophy says ... that the Universe ... is designed and tuned ... by some supreme intelligence, especially for the purpose of supporting life" or "The other says it's a one in a trillion coincidence" (my emphasis):

"The list goes on. And on. And as it goes on - as each particularly arrayed and significantly defined property, against all the odds, and in spite of billions of alternative possibilities, combines exquisitely, in the right time sequence, at the right speed, weight, mass and ratio, and with every mathematical quality precisely equivalent to a stable universe in which life can exist at all - it adds incrementally in the human mind to a growing sense, depending on which of two antithetical philosophies it chooses to follow, of either supreme and buoyant confidence, or humble terror. The first philosophy says this perfect pattern shows that the Universe is not random; that it is designed and tuned, from the atom up, by some supreme intelligence, especially for the purpose of supporting life. The other says it's a one in a trillion coincidence." (Plimmer & King, 2005, p.304. Emphasis original).

So if in St. Paul's day, humans were "without excuse" for attempting to "suppress the truth" of what is "plain to them" that there is a God whose "eternal power and divine nature" are "clearly seen, being understood from what has been made":

Rom 1:18-32. "18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (my emphasis)

then how much more are they "without excuse" who, given all this further scientific evidence for the fine-tunedness of the Universe, still prefer to say "it's a one in a trillion" [or far, far, worse indeed effectively "zero chance - see `tagline' below] coincidence"!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).


"The extent of the universe's fine-tuning makes the Anthropic Principle perhaps the most powerful argument for the existence of God. It's not that there are just a few broadly defined constants that may have resulted by chance. No, there are more than 100 very narrowly defined constants that strongly point to an intelligent Designer. [Ross, H.N., "Why I Believe in Divine Creation," in Geisler, N.L. & Hoffman, P., eds., "Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 2001] We've already identified five of them. Here are ten more: 1. If the centrifugal force of planetary movements did not precisely balance the gravitational forces, nothing could be held in orbit around the sun. 2. If the universe had expanded at a rate one millionth more slowly than it did, expansion would have stopped, and the universe would have collapsed on itself before any stars had formed. If it had expanded faster, then no galaxies would have formed. 3. Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 299,792,458 meters per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth. 4. If water vapor levels in the atmosphere were greater than they are now, a runaway greenhouse effect would cause temperatures to rise too high for human life; if they were less, an insufficient greenhouse effect would make the earth too cold to support human life. 5. If Jupiter were not in its current orbit, the earth would be bombarded with space material. Jupiter's gravitational field acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner, attracting asteroids and comets that might otherwise strike earth. 6. If the thickness of the earth's crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life. If it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life impossible. 7. If the rotation of the earth took longer than twenty-four hours, temperature differences would be too great between night and day. If the rotation period were shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great. 8. The 23-degree axil [sic] tilt of the earth is just right. If the tilt were altered slightly, surface temperatures would be too extreme on earth. 9. If the atmospheric discharge (lightning) rate were greater, there would be too much fire destruction; if it were less, there would be too little nitrogen fixing in the soil. 10. If there were more seismic activity, much more life would be lost; if there was less, nutrients on the ocean floors and in river runoff would not be cycled back to the continents through tectonic uplift. (Yes, even earthquakes are necessary to sustain life as we know it!) Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has calculated the probability that these and other constants-122 in all-would exist today for any planet in the universe by chance (i.e., without divine design). Assuming there are 1022 planets in the universe (a very large number: 1 with 22 zeros following it), his answer is shocking: one chance in 10138-that's one chance in one with 138 zeros after it! There are only 1070 atoms in the entire universe. In effect, there is zero chance that any planet in the universe would have the life-supporting conditions we have, unless there is an intelligent Designer behind it all." (Geisler, N.L. & Turek; F., "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist," Crossway Books: Wheaton IL, 2004, pp.104-106. Emphasis original)

4 comments:

Stuart said...

The line:

>“Plimmer and King ask, "Who or what decided at the time of the Big Bang that the number of particles created would be one-in-a-billion more than the number of anti-particles”

indicates that a prejudice is already in play. Regardless of what other arguments might be made, it is assumed that a person or object capable of making decisions is at work here.


>“This leaves "the human mind" only one of "two antithetical philosophies it chooses to follow" - "The first philosophy says ... that the Universe ... is designed and tuned ... by some supreme intelligence, especially for the purpose of supporting life" or "The other says it's a one in a trillion coincidence"”

The customary religious bait-and-switch: the science (for which there is quite good evidence) is just too unlikely/unimaginable/inconcievable/unscriptural therefore a supernatural being (for which there is no evidence whatsoever) did it. Why are there only two options? Paucity of imagination?

I'd go with the one in a trillion as being infinitely more likely than the god hypothesis.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Stuart

>I'd go with the one in a trillion as being infinitely more likely than the god hypothesis.

That's your Pascal's Wager (see my "What I believe about Creation, Evolution and Design: Pascal's Wager"):

Pascal's Wager My simplified form of Pascal's Wager that I employed in debates with atheists is:

Since neither the atheist, nor the Christian, can absolutely prove that his position is true, nevertheless the consequences for either the atheist or the Christian being right (or wrong) is clear. If atheism is true, then both the atheist and Christian will die and neither will know that the atheist was right. On the other hand, if Christianity is true, then the atheist and Christian will die (or Jesus will return) and both will know that the Christian was right. Morever, if the atheist was right, he would have gained nothing and the Christian would have lost nothing. But if the Christian was right, the atheist would have lost infinitely and the Christian would have gained infinitely!

Stephen E. Jones

Fred said...

There is another "constant", or example of fine tuning. Most higher life forms on earth live by instinct. Humans though, have the reasoning ability to discern the fine-tuning of the Universe, AND the free will to decide for themselves how to interpret that fine tuning.

For me, I'm with Hoyle. The whole shebang is a "put-up-job." I dunno what Hoyle thought about Jesus, but in my opinion, He was the Son and Image of the one who did all that fine-tuning.

"All to know and see the look in His eyes."

--(Favorite Yes lyrics from the Relayer album.)

Fred

Stephen E. Jones said...

Fred

>There is another "constant", or example of fine tuning. Most higher life forms on earth live by instinct. Humans though, have the reasoning ability to discern the fine-tuning of the Universe, AND the free will to decide for themselves how to interpret that fine tuning.

Agreed. Paul Davies makes this point in echoing Einstein's observation that "the only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible" and that "biological evolution" cannot be the explanation, given that all it could produce is "brains ... to cope with survival in the jungle" which is "a far cry from describing the laws of electromagnetism or the structure of the atom":

"Another of Einstein's famous remarks is that the only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. The success of the scientific enterprise can often blind us to the astonishing fact that science works. Though it is usually taken for granted, it is both incredibly fortunate and deeply mysterious that we are able to fathom the workings of nature by use of the scientific method. The purpose of science is to uncover patterns and regularities in nature, but the raw data of observation rarely exhibit explicit regularities. Nature's order is hidden from us: the book of nature is written in a sort of code. To make progress in science we need to crack the cosmic code, to dig beneath the raw data, and uncover the hidden order. To return to the crossword analogy, the clues are highly cryptic, and require some considerable ingenuity to solve. What is so remarkable is that human beings can actually perform this code-breaking operation. Why has the human mind the capacity to `unlock the secrets of nature' and make a reasonable success at completing nature's cryptic crossword'? It is easy to imagine worlds in which the regularities of nature are transparent at a glance or impenetrably complicated or subtle, requiring far more brainpower than humans possess to decode them. In fact, the cosmic code seems almost attuned to human capabilities. This is all the more mysterious on account of the fact that human intellectual powers are presumably determined by biological evolution, and have absolutely no connection with doing science. Our brains have evolved to cope with survival in the jungle,' a far cry from describing the laws of electromagnetism or the structure of the atom." (Davies, P.C.W., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in Templeton, J.M., ed., "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator," Continuum: New York NY, 1994, p.54)

>For me, I'm with Hoyle. The whole shebang is a "put-up-job."

Agreed again. Here is another quote by Hoyle, which I recently found in a book, "The God Hypothesis" (2001) by Christian philosopher Michael A. Corey, that if "scientist ... examined the evidence" they *should* "draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars":

"Sir Fred Hoyle, the physicist who discovered the mechanism by which carbon is generated inside the stars, has even gone so far as to say that the existing physical evidence reveals the tinkering of a `Supercalculating Intellect,' who has clearly `monkeyed' with the basic features of chemistry and physics [Hoyle, F., "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections", in _Engineering and Science_, November 1981, p.12]. In fact, Hoyle believes that this conclusion is inescapable: `I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks have become part of a deep-laid scheme. If not then we are back again at a monstrous sequence of accidents.' [Hoyle, F. in Stockwood, M., ed., `Religion and the Scientists: Addresses Delivered in the University Church, Cambridge,' SCM Press: London, 1959, p.82] This confession is all the more remarkable because Hoyle was once a committed atheist who openly admitted that his Godless theories were designed to explain God away once and for all." (Corey, M.A., "The God Hypothesis: Discovering Design in Our `Just Right' Goldilocks Universe," Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham MD, 2001, p.23. Emphasis original)

>I dunno what Hoyle thought about Jesus, but in my opinion, He was the Son and Image of the one who did all that fine-tuning.

Again agreed. But as far as I know, Hoyle never became a Christian, or even a theist (in the sense of a personal God who was distinct from the Universe). Hoyle's last stated view was that "God is the universe" (i.e. pantheism):

"To avoid the ludicrous, we must write: ... ---> ????? ---> ???? ---> ??? ---> ??-? ---> man ---> ... The dilemma of religion is that the sequence is meaningless unless we attach explicit significance to at least one of its members (to the left of man) and yet attempts to do so have always led in the past to absurdities. The position of most scientists can, we think, be said to accord with one or other of the following three points of view: (1) there is no such sequence; (2) the correct sequence is the simplistic one, God-man; (3) there is such a sequence, but since we know nothing about it there is no point in discussing it. Our opinion is that all of these are wrong. The correct position we think is: there is such a sequence, and among the question marks to the left of man there is a term in the sequence, an intelligence, which designed the biochemicals and gave rise to the origin of carbonaceous life. Still further to the left there is another still higher level of intelligence that controlled the coupling constants of physics. This may seem a grey form of religion, not at all suited to the wearing of gaudy clothes or to parades in the streets on saints' days, but it is far better to be in with a chance of being modestly right, instead of being faced by the absolute certainty of being overwhelmingly wrong. Where does the sequence going to the left stop? It doesn't. It goes on and on and on, with ever-rising levels denoted by more and more question marks. But like a convergent mathematical sequence of functions it has an idealized limit, with the property that by going far enough to the left the terms differ by as little as one pleases from the idealized limit. It is this idealized limit that is *God*, and *God* is the universe: God = universe." (Hoyle, F. & Wickramasinghe, N.C., "Evolution from Space," [1981], Granada: London, Reprinted, 1983, p.158. Emphasis original).

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe are cases in point of the ID Movement's claim that one can draw the inference of intelligent design from the evidence of nature alone, and yet not be a Christian, or even religious in the sense of belief in a personal God.

>"All to know and see the look in His eyes."

Amen!

Stephen E. Jones