Monday, April 09, 2007

`The building of carbon depends on a moustache ... of oxygen on a mole, and ... of ... dysprosium... on a slight scar over the right eye' (Hoyle) #3

Continuing from part #2 with the 1957 address of late cosmologist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001)

[Above: Stellar nucleosynthesis: the synthesis of elements from hydrogen to iron in red giant star immediately prior to its explosion as a supernova]

at University Church, Cambridge, on the topic of "Religion and the Scientists."

Hoyle, had concluded from the "apparently random quirks" of resonance energies necessary for the stellar nucleosynthesis of carbon-12 from helium-4 via beryllium-8, without which neither we, nor any carbon-based life in the entire Universe, could exist, was "part of a deep laid scheme":

"Yet this is just the case for the building of many complex atoms inside stars. The building of carbon depends on a moustache, the building of oxygen on a mole, and if you prefer a less well known case, the building of the atom dysprosium depends on a slight scar over the right eye. If this were a purely scientific question and not one that touched on the religious problem, 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 become part of a deep laid scheme. If not, then we are back again to a monstrous sequence of accidents." (Hoyle, F., in Stockwood, M., ed., "Religion and the Scientists: Addresses Delivered in the University Church, Cambridge," Lent Term, 1957, SCM Press: London, 1959, p.64).

Hoyle observes that "it may well emerge, as more becomes known, that the laws seem" of physics and chemistry "have also been deliberately designed to promote the origin of life" (my emphasis):

"There is an interesting similarity between this whole inorganic problem of the origin of the complex atoms and the problem of the origin of life. In my last few moments I would like to give a little consideration to this similarity. In both cases we have matter evolving from simpler to more complex forms in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry. ... The similarity between the origin of life and of complex atoms has other extensions. Just as it is now emerging that the laws of nuclear physics are designed to promote the origin of the complex atoms, so it may well emerge, as more becomes known, that the laws seem as if they have also been deliberately designed to promote the origin of life." (Hoyle, Ibid., pp.64-65).

As can be seen above, the problem is not lack of scientific evidence for design, since as Hoyle observed, "If this were a purely scientific question and not one that touched on the religious problem" no "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" (my emphasis)!

The "religious problem" being that scientists, like all human beings, know that there is a Creator from the evidence of nature, but again, like all human beings, scientists are guilty sinners who try to suppress that truth:

"When people see evidence of design, they automatically think of a designer. ... By the way, the atheist knows this too. Richard Dawkins says that biology is the study of complex things that look as if they were designed for a purpose. He sees it. Francis Crick, another arch-materialist, says that biologists have to remind themselves constantly that what they study was not created; it evolved. You see, if they didn't remind themselves constantly that there is no Designer, then the facts that stare them in the face might get their attention. This is exactly what Paul says in Romans 1:18. He tells us that God's eternal, invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and majesty, have always been visible in the things that are made. I think this is just plain common-sense that everybody recognises. That's why Paul goes on to say we are without excuse. [Rom 1:19-20] The fact is that people know that God is there; they just don't want to honour Him as such. And so their foolish minds are darkened. [Rom 1:21] And that's exactly what happens when you refuse to acknowledge design in the creation. So what the scientific naturalists have to do is keep design, or intelligent design, off the table; Because, once it is on the table, it will inevitably triumph. And the more you look at the Darwinian mechanism that's supposed to fill the role of a Creator, the more obvious it is that it doesn't have what it takes." (Johnson, P.E., "Designer genes," Australian Presbyterian, October 2001, pp.4-8, p.8. Emphasis in original).

The late atheist Bertrand Russell (1872 -1970) claimed that the reason he did not believe in God was (apart from the fact that he was "a geriatric employer who regularly sexually preyed upon his young female employees") that there was "Not enough evidence":

"Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician and author of, among other works, Why I Am Not a Christian, was once asked how he would respond if upon dying he found himself in the presence of God and was asked why he hadn't believed in God's existence during his stay on earth. Russell's response was summed up in three words: Not enough evidence! Now I submit that most persons on hearing of this response would conclude that in Russell we have a careful thinker who won't let himself be swayed by bogus or equivocal evidence. In other words, most people nowadays would regard Russell's skepticism as sober and measured. Atheism is regarded as a reasonable position these days because God, if he exists, has been too lazy or secretive to furnish us with convincing proofs of his existence. It's worth noting that this attitude is of recent vintage. In other epochs atheism has been considered perverse and unreasonable. Thus the apostle Paul could write, `What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse' (Romans 1:19-20 NRSV)." (Dembski, W.A., "On the Very Possibility of Intelligent Design,," in Moreland, J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1994, p.130. Emphasis original).

but as William Dembski noted, "this attitude is of recent vintage" and in "other epochs atheism has been considered perverse and unreasonable."

Christian apologist William Lane Craig points out that even if "the evidence is equally balanced" for and against the existence of God, "The rational man ought to believe in God ... rather than the reverse":

"Most people would say that it's impossible to `prove' the existence of God and that therefore, if one is going to believe in God, he must `take it by faith' that God exists. I've heard many students say this as an excuse for not believing in God. `Nobody can prove that God exists and nobody can prove that he doesn't,' they say with a smile, `so I just don't believe in him.' I've already argued that such a blithe attitude fails to appreciate the depth of man's existential predicament in a universe without God. The rational man ought to believe in God even when the evidence is equally balanced, rather than the reverse. But is it in fact the case that there is no probatory evidence that a Supreme Being exists? This was not the opinion of the biblical writers. The Psalmist said, `The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands' (Ps 19:1), and the apostle Paul declared, `Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they [men] are without excuse' (Rom 1:20). Nor can it be said that this evidence is so ambiguous as to admit of equally plausible counter-explanations-for then people would not be `without excuse.' Thus, people are without excuse for not believing in God's existence, not only because of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, but also because of the external witness of nature." (Craig, W.L., "Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics," [1984], Crossway Books: Wheaton IL, Revised Edition, 1994, p.77)

But in fact the view of "the biblical writers" was that "because of the external witness of nature" to there being a Creator-God, "people are without excuse for not believing in God's existence" (my emphasis).

Of course an atheist can (like Bertrand Russell) just keep raising the bar of what evidence would be necessary for him to believe in God, so that he never has to believe it. But what counts is not whether the unbeliever considers the evidence for God's existence to be sufficient (by definition it never will be or they would not be an unbeliever), but whether God considers the evidence for His existence in nature to be sufficient. And the Bible says that "God himself regards the evidence" for His own existence as not merely sufficient but "conclusive" (my emphasis):

"To anyone who gives thoughtful consideration to the proofs for God's existence already advanced, the evidence appears conclusive. He can only exclaim, `Surely, there is a God!' God himself regards the evidence as conclusive. If he did not so regard it, he would have given us more evidence, but the evidence is sufficient (Acts 14:17; 17:23-29; Rom. 1:8-20). The Bible simply assumes the existence of God. To believe in the existence of God is, therefore, the normal and natural thing to do, and agnosticism and atheism are the abnormal and unnatural positions. Indeed, the latter are tantamount to saying that God has not furnished us with sufficient evidence of his existence. Such attitudes are a reflection on a benevolent and holy God and are sinful. Nevertheless, men as a whole have refused to have God in their knowledge (Rom. 1:28). Sin has so distorted their vision and corrupted their hearts as to make them reject the evidence and go on without a God or set up gods of their own creation." (Thiessen, H.C. & Doerksen, V.D., "Lectures in Systematic Theology," [1949], Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Revised, 1977, p.32). Emphasis original).

So how much more will the judgment of God be on the wilful unbelief of those who have the evidence that modern science has revealed, of this "fine-tuning" of the Universe "for our existence" (including "the step-by-step build-up of heavy elements inside stars" that "depends on a series of spectacular coincidences") which has only "two possible explanations. Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or there is a multitude of universes" (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)

and yet they do "not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God" (Rom 1:28) and would rather "exchange... the truth of God for a lie, and worship.. and served created things" (i.e. "a multitude of universes--a `multiverse'") "rather than the Creator" (Rom 1:25)?!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).

Exodus15:22-27. 22Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" 25Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." 27Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

1 comment:

Stephen E. Jones said...

I inadvertently deleted this comment by "Unguided" when I meant to publish it:

>Stephen I struggle to see how you and the various people you have quoted can say that the laws of physics and chemistry have been designed when you have nothing to compare them against.

As Dembski has shown in his "The Design Inference" (1998) and "Intelligent Design" (1999), humans intuitively and rightly make a design inference when there is a combination of: 1) very low probability and; 2) the fitting of an independent specification.

In the case of the fine-tuning of the initial conditions, constants and laws of the Universe, to permit life, both apply (to put it mildly).

Nevertheless, those who want to deny design (like someone who adopts as his pseudonym "Unguided") can.

But then the Bible in Romans 1:18-20 says that those who do supress that knowledge of God are "without excuse."

>There are plenty of things that look designed to some people but others with greater knowledge know are not. If you think something looks designed and I think it does not, what happens then? Why is your opinion any more valid than mine? If you want the laws of the universe to be evidence of design, don't you need to be able to demonstrate that these laws could have developed in a different manner but didn’t because the designer interfered like this? The default hypothesis from an active designer does not have to be a multitude of universes, there could just be one and it is what it is. Again if you have some evidence to show there are a multitude of universes that are all different because the designer did not intervene, or intervened in a different way, that would add weight to your argument.Similarly how something (i.e. atheism) may have been perceived in the past is also not really useful. Popular views have been disastrously wrong in the past and continue to be so. While God may well exist, the fact that the universe is the way it is, is of itself not evidence it has been designed by God to be that way. You could just as easily say I am doing what I am doing today because God designed it to be that way. If that were the case it would mean that we have no free will.

See above. I don't have the time, or inclination to debate this, as my 10+ years of debating with the likes of "Unguided" (if not with "Unguided" him/her self under a different name), proved it is a largely a waste of time.

Those who want to deny design can, since as per my Pascal quote, paraphrased:

"God has created the Universe with enough design that He can be rationally believed in; but not enough design to force belief in Him by the unwilling; but enough design that those who deny design are without excuse."

If Christianity is true (which it is), those who do deny design will have no one to blame but themselves when on the Day of Judgment they will stand before the Designer and try to give Bertrand Russell's excuse, "not enough evidence."

Stephen E. Jones