Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Heavens Declare (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

One of the commonly invoked arguments in any discussion of natural theology and the evidence for God is the Anthropic Principle – or put simply, the fact that the universe in which we live is incredibly finely tuned to support the existence of life as we know it.  Karl Giberson recently posted on this at Science and the Sacred and I was asked by a reader in an e-mail if, given my rather skeptical attitude toward Intelligent Design (capital I capital D) in biology, I was equally skeptical here and thought that the anthropic principle was an expression of bad science.  The short answer, simply, is no. It isn’t bad science, it is one piece of evidence for the existence of God, it is not proof for the existence of God.

Stephen Hawking (a highly respected theoretical physicist and not a religious person) put it like this in his 1988 book A Brief History of Time (link is to the updated 1998 edition – I have and quote from the 1988 original):

hst_pillars_m16 cropped.JPG

The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and electron. We cannot, at the moment at least, predict the values of these numbers from theory – we have to find them by observation. It may be that one day we shall discover a complete unified theory that predicts them all, but it is also possible that some or all of them vary from universe to universe or within a single universe. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. For example if the electric charge of the electron hes been only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded. Of course, there might be other forms of intelligent life, not dreamed of even by writers of science fiction, that did not require the light of a star like the sun or the heavier elements that are made in stars and are flung back in space when the stars explode. Never the less it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of numbers would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty. One can either take this as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science or as support for the strong anthropic principle. (p. 125)

Does the fine tuning of the universe impress you as evidence of divine purpose in Creation?

Image: Star-Birth Clouds in M16. This eerie, dark structure
is a column of cool molecular hydrogen gas and dust that is an
incubator for new stars.  The color image is constructed from three
separate images. Red shows emission from singly-ionized sulfur atoms,
green from hydrogen,  blue from doubly- ionized oxygen atoms. Credit:
Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University), and NASA
(public domain)
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/photo_gallery/photogallery-astro-nebula.html

The nature of the universe alone – the fine tuning for life – will not convince anyone of purpose or design. Richard Dawkins – while admitting that the fine tuning exists – finds the evidence for creation absent:

The theist says that God, when setting up the universe, tuned the fundamental constants of the universe so that each one lay in its Goldilocks zone for the production of life. It is as though God had six knobs that he could twiddle, and he carefully tuned each knob to its Goldilocks value. As ever, the theist’s answer is deeply unsatisfying, because it leaves the existence of God unexplained. A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself, and that’s very improbable indeed – which is indeed the premise of the whole discussion we are having. It follows that the theist’s answer has utterly failed to make any headway towards solving the problem at hand. I see no alternative but to dismiss it, while at the same time marvelling at the number of people who can’t see the problem and seem genuinely satisfied by the ‘Divine Knob-Twiddler’ argument. (p. 143 The God Delusion)

Dawkins goes on to describe how biologists have had their consciousness raised and suggests that a form of  natural selection may even explain the fine tuning of the universe – taking a cue from a theoretical physicist Lee Smolin (p. 146).

Owen Gingerich, Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University, in his excellent, readable little book God’s Universe says:

To believe in a designed universe requires accepting teleology and purpose. And if that purpose includes contemplative intelligent life that can admire the universe and can search out its secrets, then the cosmos must have properties congenial to life. For me part of the coherency of the universe is that it is purposeful – though it probably takes the eyes of faith to accept that idea. But if a person accepts that understanding, the principle that our universe must be well suited to life also becomes the evidence of design. (p. 77)

John Polkinghorne (a theoretical physicist and one time Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge – he resigned to become an Anglican Priest) also comments at length on the anthropic principle and the evidence for design in the fine tuning of the universe in his book Quarks, Chaos & Christianity – another readable short book. He ends his chapter Is Anyone There? as follows:

Asking and answering the questions, “Why can we do science at all?” and “Why is the universe so special?” have given us a nudge in the direction of religious belief. The answers we’ve found do suggest that there’s a Someone there. I’ve already agreed that it doesn’t amount to proof, but I think that there aren’t many really important things that can be established in this kind of logical and necessary way. (p. 47)

In The Language of God Francis Collins suggests that the fine tuning of the universe leads to one of three possibilities: (p. 74-75)

  1. There are many universes (essentially an infinite number) and we (of course) happen to be in the one capable of developing and supporting intelligent life.
  2. There is only one universe – and it just happened to be right.
  3. There is only one universe – but it is right because it was designed to support intelligent life and reflects the action and purpose of the creator.

He goes on to say:

One must leave the door open to the possibility that future investigation in theoretical physics will demonstrate that some of the fifteen physical constants that so far are simply determined by experimental observation may be limited in their potential numerical value by something more profound, but such a revelation is not currently on the horizon. Furthermore, as with the other arguments in this chapter and those that precede and follow it, no scientific observation can reach the level of absolute proof of the existence of God. But for those willing to consider a theistic perspective, the Anthropic Principle certainly provides an interesting argument in favor of a creator. (p. 78)

Polkinghorne, in response to a suggestion by Paul Davies that science can provide a surer path to God than religion can, puts it quite well:

Well I think that this really is bizarre for, although we can learn something of God from the pattern and development of creation, there are many other things we shall only learn about God if we take the risk and accept the insight of a more personal form of encounter. Meanwhile let’s note that, although the scientific detail of this chapter would have surprised (and I’m sure interested) St. Paul, its general thrust would not have seemed unfamiliar to him. He once wrote, “Ever since the creation of the world God’s invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). (p. 47-48)

As I think about this – even if the constants are determined by a new unified theory to be exactly those required for the formation of life – would this “natural” explanation negate the significance of design and purpose? I don’t think it would – we would still have the wonder and grandeur of a creation designed for our existence.

What do you think? Is the the fine tuning of the universe for the development of life evidence for the existence of a creator? Do you think it should be avoided as a God of the gaps type reasoning?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.



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MatthewS

posted May 14, 2009 at 8:11 am


I like Polkinghorne’s statement about Paul.
A lot of thoughts that are hard to put into words. God of the gaps: some are too quick to latch on to something that will eventually be explained away and so discredit themselves. But doesn’t it also mean something that in spite of the new discoveries, new gaps have never run out? The individual gaps may have natural explanations, but does the host of gaps together, including ones yet to be discovered, not have some voice? What if we knew there would always be gaps? How do we know there won’t be?
Not sure what role emotions or personal opinion have in a discussion like this. But I am personally deeply affected by three things (among others): the heavens, the creatures of the sea, and the creativity of humans. All of these move me and often leave me feeling that there is something “more” or “other” behind what is visible. I think most people have an internal reaction to at least some part of nature that causes them to say “wow.” “Wow” may not prove the God of the Bible, but at least at a personal affect level neither is it useless.



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Scott Morizot

posted May 14, 2009 at 8:12 am


I’ve always loved A Brief History of Time. Personally, I’ve never found the finely tuned nature of the universe much evidence for anything other than that is how our universe works. The argument that it’s mathematically extremely unlikely for a universe that’s tuned in such a way that it allows us to exist doesn’t sway me either way. Lots of things are unlikely. We exist. This is how the universe works. If it didn’t work this way, we wouldn’t be here to debate it. The simple fact that something is statistically unlikely is only really useful if you are trying to predict the likelihood of something occurring which has not already occurred. Once it happens, it’s an event. It’s likelihood of having occurred is 100%.
Moreover, from a Christian perspective, this avenue largely strikes me as a waste of time. There is nothing really that naturally connects this cosmic designer God to the personally intimate Jesus of Nazareth. I suppose it might nudge someone somewhere from atheism to some form of loose deism, though I have a hard time imagining even that. But ours is not a God you can rationally deduce or whom you can prove. The Christian God is a wild God whom you know through his utter self-sacrificing love in the middle of the gritty reality of the Incarnation, who gives himself for us to consume that we might have life.



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Brian

posted May 14, 2009 at 8:43 am


The fine tuning carries little weight with me because the time window in which the tuning allows physical life to occur is proportionately small and will eventually close.



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 8:49 am


Brian,
Why does the idea of a relatively small window in time come into play? It seems to me that we are talking about no window versus a window with possibility.



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Doug Allen

posted May 14, 2009 at 9:00 am


My most spiritual experiences (or what Maslow would call peak experiences) have occurred when I’m alone and alive to the awe and beauty and mystery and sadness of nature all around me. These experiences have occurred infrequently, but are far more memorable and profound than any sermon, any prayer, any church experience. Does my experience impress me as evidence of divine purpose in creation? Here, most would say that I hedge or waffle, but I think it’s something different. Yes, the experience does so impress me, but the interpretation of the experience does not. Using the interpretive tools of science and rational thought, I know that the fine tuning is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for evidense of divine purpose. Evolutionary theory itself, I think you’ll agree RJS, explains the fine tuning of organic life. The sheer enormity of possibility in billions of galaxies each with billions of stars with probably an equal or greater number of planets creates the strong probability that many such planets will occur in a “life zone.”
So my ground of being is the experience of awe and connectedness and beauty and sadness as part of the dust that became the dance of life. More about the awe and sadness and connectedness part later because without it, a militant atheism is one logical outcome, but with it, personal humility and some religious structure (and especially the Jesus Creed) seems a requirement.
Doug



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island

posted May 14, 2009 at 9:31 am


This is for the numerous people who don’t seem to have a clue why physicists say that the universe is fine-tuned for life, over a specific region and time in the history of the observed universe:
http://knol.google.com/k/richard-ryals/the-anthropic-principle/1cb34nnchgkl5/2#
Now you can actually comment intelligently… for a change.



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Jim Marks

posted May 14, 2009 at 9:56 am


This may be changing the subject a bit, but I “love” how Dawkins endlessly operates on the (incorrect) assumption that religious persons (or even simply persons who believe in a creative god) have both a desire and an obligation to prove that god’s existence as part of their scientific understanding and then takes great glee in so easily toppling straw man.
We see the ultimate danger in this highly individualistic, highly anthropomorphic god that Americans have embraced and spread around the world when we see how easily this god is toppled out of hand as absurd. Which, of course, it is.
The concept that the creation of the universe by G-d involved -a being- “sitting around” conducting experiments until all the values were just right is completely foolish.
The concept that boundless Love and infinite Being would bring about the incarnation of a universe in which life was inevitable is a completely different conversation and one that I suspect Dawkins is not willing to engage.



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Brian

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:04 am


RJS,
From the standpoint of naturalism, the end game appears to be a vast, cold expanse. The window becomes a blip in terms of proportion. Like it says in Ecclesiastes, “even his memory is forgotten.”
So for fine tuning to carry weight, I have to begin somewhere else. And when I start with theism I have much less need for the fine tuning to carry weight.



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Doug Allen

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:08 am


No man is an island. Intelligence, as they say here in the south, is apenty here. Knowledge less so because none of us can be experts (or close to it) in all fields. For instance, scientific theory is a concept poorly understood by many. Newton observed and described the law of gravity, but he had no concept of the theory of gravity which upset him immensely. It was not until Eistein that we had a theory of gravity (as part of a greater theory). Like gravity, evolution is a fact and has an elegant theory to explain it. Those who don’t understand what scientific theory is can’t really take part in the intelligent conversation about it, but that’s lack of knowledge, not lack of intelligence.
My overview about science and religion- the conflict is not between the one and the other, but a conflict between scientific method and any other method that promises absolute truth. We all long for absolute truth. Nature doesn’t provide it. I don’t think scripture or anything else provides absolute truth, but they provide stories, many of them true, that are as important as science. I like the way RJS phrases the question because it allows for different and even conflicting views that are equally based on knowledge and human intelligence.
Doug



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PDS

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:10 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
RJS- Great post, collecting lots of different peoples’ thoughts.
Is it “God of Gaps” reasoning? As I mentioned before, it is how you put the argument. If you say “Science can’t explain “x”, so God must have done it,” then I think you have some logical problems.
But if you observe aspects of the natural world and ask, “Which is more probable based on what we know now: 1. that this happened by chance and known natural mechanisms or 2. that this was designed?” To conclude that design is the more probable inference is not a logical error.
If you add lots of design inferences together, you have some pretty strong “clues,” as Tim Keller would put it.
If you look at the history of science, new discoveries generally have not defeated the design arguments. They have just led to different design inferences. In the case of the fine-tuning discoveries, they have made the design argument much, much stronger.



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ChrisB

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:20 am


Is the the fine tuning of the universe for the development of life evidence for the existence of a creator?
I’ve read quite a bit on this topic — not just in Christian books but reading the journal articles in Science, Nature, Phys Rev, etc. It’s hard to express in terms that make sense to people just how unlikely life is.
The odds aren’t just low. They’re astronomically against our being here. One skeptical scientist wrote that if an “impossible’ event — one with odds ~10^-40 (iirc) — occurs he’d be more justified in believing in demons than in a natural occurance. Our being here is far, far smaller: something like 10^10^100. The impossible happened many, many times.
Gotta love Dawkins: “A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself”
He never defends or even explains these statements. He obviously thinks it’s intuitively obvious. The only thing obvious in that book is his deranged hatred for theism.



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tscott

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:31 am


Yes #2 Scott Morizot…….life, and that more
abundantly
It seems some science isn’t really science, and
I know about religion…I don’t like it, but
Christianity isn’t religion to me.



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Travis Greene

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:34 am


“One can either take this as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science or as support for the strong anthropic principle.”
Why is this an either/or?



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PDS

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:38 am


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
ChrisB- I could go on and on about the problems with Dawkins’ logic. But many others have done so already. Here he is stating that the fine-tuning design argument is defeated because you can’t then explain how the designer came to exist. What??
As Alvin Plantinga put it:
“Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying.”



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dopderbeck

posted May 14, 2009 at 10:59 am


Alister McGrath has was looks to be a fascinating new book out on this: “A Fine Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology.”. I vote we cover this one next!



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Clint

posted May 14, 2009 at 11:58 am


For a creative take on the fine tuning of the universe as evidence of divine purpose, see Rob Bell’s lecture in the film Everything Is Spiritual.



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Glenn

posted May 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm


I have heard supporters of Intelligent Design ask why students of astronomy learn the Anthropic Principle and we are able to have open debates in the field of astronomy about the fine tuning of the universe for the development of life which may point to evidence for the existence of a creator but we want to exclude ID and not allow an open debate in the classroom which allows for fine tuning in biology for the development of life which may point to evidence for the existence of a creator! In fact one of the criticisms of The Language of God was Francis Collins allows for the Anthropic Principle in astronomy but excludes similar principles in chemistry, biology, etc!



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Eric

posted May 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm


Like ChrisB, I’ve read some of the non-religious stuff in support of this fine tuning argument, and echo ChrisB’s comment that the evidence makes the odds of such accidental fine tuning astronomically low . . .
Except if you assume an infinite number of universes (as RJS’s post notes), which nobody above has commented on. At first glance that may sound far-fetched, or require just as much faith as belief in God. But isn’t there now some evidence and models in support of this idea of numerous universes? I’m obviously no expert, but what about inflationary theory, Alan Guth and all that stuff? Do you have any views on that RJS? Its not proven, but its more than possible, as I understand it.



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Curt Cameron

posted May 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm


I agree that the Fine Tuning Argument is the very best evidence in favor of the existence of god. However, it’s very poor evidence.
David Hume was right, along with Dawkins. An explanation that relies solely on nature, even if it seems unlikely, is still vastly preferable to an explanation that requires a miracle.



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Doug Allen

posted May 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm


You don’t need an infinite number of universes, just the untold billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, many of which may well have many planets as our sun does. If even one in a million stars has planets, then it’s reasonable to think that there are millions of planets, and some will be in a similar “life zone” to our Earth where water exists as a liquid, and life will develope. So Chris B, I don’t think the odds of hospitable planets is low at all. The odds that any one species or individual of that species is here is both mathamatically incredibly improbable and at the same time, as Scot Morizot (#2)says, here we are! Again, as he says, “the simple fact that something is statistically unlikely is only really useful if you are trying to predict the likelihood of something occurring which has not already occurred.” What we infer the existence of life and intelligence and the fine tuning that it required is, for me, at least, a spiritual response.
Doug



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm


Doug,
The thinking begins at a much more fundamental level than number of planets available. Why is matter constructed to make life possible in the first place?
I don’t like thinking about it in terms of probability – but still find the design impressive.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 1:45 pm


I find it VERY convincing. I think taken together with the cosmological and teleological arguments make very convincing arguments for the existence of God. William Lane Craig usually uses the classical arguments in debates with atheists, and to be honest, I’ve never seen any of them counter them with any measure of success.
I am a supporter of Intelligent Design (both small and big letter). I’m not a biologist, but I’ve found most of the counter arguments by anti-ID people to be very unconvincing.



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Eric

posted May 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Doug,
Ditto what RJS said. You really do need separate *universes*, based on the evidence — not separate planets (check out the evidence — its very interesting stuff).
RJS,
What about the numerous universes theory? Aren’t the Alan Guth inflation theory and similar models that suggest we may indeed have numerous universes fairly well supportable (even if the jury is still out as to the ultimate conclusion)?



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ChrisB

posted May 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Eric,
The problem with the multiverse hypothesis is that it is completely untestable. We cannot know anything about whatever exists outside of our universe.
It also assumes that the parameters will vary from one universe to the next. Among many other assumptions.
Doug,
That’s not the odds of finding a habitable planet. That’s a habitable universe.
But planets are hard too. You’ve got to have a star in the galactic habitable zone. Of the right type (e.g., mass, luminosity, singleness), with a rocky planet in its habitable zone. Of the right mass. With the right kind of atmosphere. With a satellite of sufficient size. And on it goes. Star Trek aside, I’ll be shocked if we ever find a planet like ours. Ever.



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PDS

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm


Glenn (#17) –
Great question. I don’t think Collins is being consistent. I would love to see someone try to answer your question.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:19 pm


PDS & Glenn,
It’s because, unfortunately, the ID debate in biology has become politicized. It’s seen as anti-science and anti-evolution. Which is funny, because I believe Behe (a major ID proponent) accepts common descent. It’s labeled by its critics and the media as creationism (linking it to Young Earth creationism).
But what’s interesting, is the ID movement isn’t strictly in the realm of biology. Guillermo Gonzalez’s The Privileged Planet is basically the anthropomorpic principle — the argument for the fine-tuning of the universe — and many think he was denied tenure because of his associations with ID.
I’m not sure why we aren’t allowed to have open discussions about the apparent design in biology. And I’m not sure why the fine tuning of the universe is more convincing to RJS than say, the complexity of DNA.



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Your Name

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:20 pm


RJS,
Yes, you’re right, right down to the sub-atomic level. So from that perspective, the comments of Chris B’s and others have merit. But thinking of all the possibilities that would not have resulted in an ordered process and state of matter and energy boggles my mind too much to feel anything but some awe and mainly numbness. And Eistein didn’t like thinking in terms of probability either. His phrase, “God does not throw dice” in reaction to quantum theory is famous. I wish it weren’t so, too. And I wish my understanding were greater. My Buddhist leaning wife often quotes this, “Things are as they are if you do underdstand. Things are as they are if you do not understand. Things are as they are.”
Doug



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm


PDS and Glen,
Well I enter this with some trepidation – because I find it a topic that requires more space than simple comments provide. But I will attempt a short start.
1. Neither Collins nor I nor any Christian I know deny that God intelligently designed the world with meaning and purpose with contemplative intelligent life as an important part of the plan.
2. The anthropic principle is ultimately a statement that the universe is exactly right to make carbon based intelligent life possible – this may mean designer (although many don’t see it that way). And the search for a unified theory of everything continues.
3. The Intelligent Design hypothesis in biology says that natural selection combined with random mutation isn’t enough to get us from the first self-replicating molecule to the present diversity of life. And – more importantly – that we can determine this from the evidence scientifically. I don’t think that this is true – rather, the role played by God in the design of life is not one that we are going to be able to determine scientifically – he used natural means.



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm


Actually let me modify the third point a bit:
3. The Intelligent Design hypothesis in biology says that natural selection combined with random mutation isn’t enough to get us from the first self-replicating molecule to the present diversity of life. And – more importantly – that we can determine this from the evidence scientifically.
I don’t think that this is true. But if it is true we should be looking for other plausible natural mechanisms, not simply stating “designer.” The role played by God in the design of life is not one that we are going to be able to determine scientifically – he used natural means.



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Eric

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:54 pm


Chris B,
Agreed that the ultimate conclusion (multiple universes) is untestable, but as I understand it Guth’s inflationary theory itself is supported by the evidence. In fact, from what I understand, it is more accepted (based on more evidence) than the alternatives. And the result of the theory is that there are multiple universes, with different characteristics.
And that’s how scientific models work. Take relativity — we haven’t proven every single aspect of the theory, but we’ve proven so many of its predictions that its now generally accepted. Inflationary and similar models haven’t reached that stage, obviously, but there is much to support them (again, based on my limited knowledge).
Have you done any reading about Guth’s work?



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm


RJS,
“1. Neither Collins nor I nor any Christian I know deny that God intelligently designed the world with meaning and purpose with contemplative intelligent life as an important part of the plan.”
How do you come to that conclusion? How do you know that there is a God who created the universe?



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AHH

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm


In some sense Collins and Gingerich are inconsistent in making this kind of “design” argument (which one could consider a weak form of ID) while rejecting “design” arguments in biology. Of course a relevant difference is that the fine-tuning arguments are well-supported by science (to the point where unbelieving scientists recognize the issue — even though quoted probability numbers are ridiculously wild guesses they must be pretty small), while the biological “design” arguments are mostly scientifically bogus.
But there are two other significant (related) differences between the approaches, not necessarily inherent to each area but realities of the way the arguments are pursued:
1) Whereas the “ID movement” is out to “prove” God, most of the people RJS mentions are using this more as a plausibility argument.
2) Whereas the ID movement tends to take the approach that the truth of theism depends on them being right about alleged “gaps” in nature, the fine-tuning people tend to have more humility about this.
And it is those two things that distinguish the “god of the gaps” fallacy, which at its core is the metaphysical assumption that lack of gaps equals lack of God (that having a “natural” explanation for something rules out God). If you say or imply (as the ID movement typically does) “We are showing that God isn’t absent after all because we are finding these gaps,” that is the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy that harms the church. If it instead is “These look like gaps that suggest God, but our faith doesn’t depend on finding gaps in nature because our God is sovereign over the whole fabric of creation, not just the gaps,” the fallacy is avoided.
Finally, of course, we should remember that these arguments in isolation are worthless. A believer in an anonymous Designer is just as lost as an atheist (or as a Moonie, like the main biologist of the ID movement). I think the focus of our efforts can’t be on proving theism, rather it must be on Jesus, with these plausibility arguments to be used as needed if obstacles arise.



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm


Kenny,
I can’t give you proof – and I don’t think anyone can. The first quote from Polkinghorne in the post above reflects my thinking right now. There are reasons why I believe in God and in the Christian story, there is no objective proof and in fact there aren’t many really important things that can be established by objective proof in a logical and necessary way.
I am in agreement with Tim Keller here as well – we have reasons, not proof; and both belief and disbelief require leaps of faith. Have you read Keller’s book The Reason for God?



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pds

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm


peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com
RJS- Like I said above (#10), the design argument goes like this:
If you observe aspects of the natural world and ask, “Which is more probable based on what we know now: 1. that this happened by chance and known natural mechanisms or 2. that this was designed?” To conclude that design is the more probable inference is not a logical error.
You said:
“But if it is true we should be looking for other plausible natural mechanisms, not simply stating “designer.” The role played by God in the design of life is not one that we are going to be able to determine scientifically – he used natural means.”
The first part applies to the fine-tuning of the universe as well. I think you are simply being inconsistent. Your second statement simply begs the question.
Nobody, nobody, nobody in the ID movement says we should stop looking for natural explanations. We should keep looking, and at the same time, we should never stop asking, is the natural explanation plausible? probable? convincing? It is really bad science to stop asking these questions.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm


RJS,
I haven’t read Keller’s book, but it’s on my Amazon Wishlist (as well as hundreds of other books).
I agree that there is no absolute proof, but I think we go where the evidence leads. To me, the reasons HAVE to be tied to some kind of logic or evidence. If not, then what makes your faith different? Is it because of your experience? Certainly those of other faiths will claim experiences too. Is it because of “just faith” — well then why not “just faith” in Islam?
If I didn’t feel that the evidence pointed to Christianity as true, then I wouldn’t be a Christian.. no matter what experiences, or feelings, or hope I had.



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm


PDS,
I said with respect to number 2 that the search for a unified theory continues.
If the proponents of ID actually were united behind the kind of stand you suggest it would not be such a big problem, because what you say in #34 is basically reasonable.
Except that what we ask in science is “Is this natural explanation plausible? probable? convincing?” It is bad science to stop asking these questions.
In science as science we do not ask “Is there a natural explanation?” with respect to biology or with respect to the fine-tuning of the universe.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm


RJS,
Also, if you applied the same methodological naturalism to history — and specifically to the New Testament, wouldn’t you have to argue that there had to be a natural, non-miraculous cause for either the resurrection. the ‘miracles’ of Jesus, etc? That Jesus either didn’t rise from the dead (hallucination, myth, etc) or that he wasn’t really dead.
So why is methodological naturalism only for biology?



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 4:06 pm


Kenny,
It seems to me that there is no such thing as methodological naturalism in the practice of history, there is only ontological naturalism or an acceptance that there may be more than the natural world.
As a historian, if one accepts the possibility of God then one has to ask whether the evidence is in agreement with the hypothesis that God acted in 1st century Palestine in the fashion described in the NT.
In science as science it is a little different. Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God – but it can look for the structure and function of his universe. Science only makes progress under the assumption that the universe is “rational.”



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Scott Morizot

posted May 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm


Kenny, the central ‘proof’ of Christianity is the same today as it has been for 20 centuries – the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s the center of the story and the linchpin on which everything hangs. It’s what the claims of Jesus stand or fall on (at least from what his closest followers traditioned orally and later in writing). Without any doubt, it’s what the claims and faith of the apostles was based on.
And still in practical experience today, if you find you do believe the resurrection, for whatever reason, you tend to move toward the faith. If you disbelieve the resurrection, you tend to begin to drift away, even if its your native faith. At the very least, your faith tends to become rather muddled. The reasons people believe or disbelieve the Resurrection seem to be legion. But that’s nothing new. It’s an incredible claim. It has always been an incredible claim. And yet many believe and many have believed.
I don’t remember the name of the famous aged philosopher who recently shifted from atheism to theism. But I did catch a public discussion with him and several others. He did not shift to Christianity. He made that clear. But he also saw clearly that the difference between some sort of theism and Christianity is the historical claim of the Resurrection. If it’s true, then everything else follows.
The most that anything in what we call the ‘natural’ realm can accomplish is perhaps to show that some sort of theistic belief is reasonable and perhaps (though I’m unconvinced) maybe a little more reasonable than an atheistic belief. I don’t tend to believe that ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ are either accurate or helpful categories. I also don’t believe that the acceptance of some sort of reasonableness in some sort of theistic perspective does much at all to move someone toward Christianity. The majority of the population holds some sort of non-atheistic view already. We seem to spend a lot of time discussing atheism in our society. I’m not sure why. For as people disbelieve or reject the version of the Christian God they’re shown (or have never much been exposed to at all), by and large they don’t become atheistic in our society. They become something else or even pluralistic.
At best, the anthropic principle and the messier god-of-the-gaps approach of biological ID, even if ‘proven’ (which I don’t believe is possible) would simply demonstrate some sort of theism. Personally, I’m not sure I see much practical difference between, say, an atheist and a deist. Ultimately, I don’t see how we can ‘prove’ a creator from the creation. We can’t go beyond the singularity of the Big Bang. We don’t have concepts or language to speak of any ‘before’ to that event.
Of the many, many spiritual paths I’ve followed, I’ve never felt any attraction toward atheism. I did firmly reject a number of versions of the Christian God I encountered along the way (and thought they represented the actual reality). So I have a lot of sympathy for those who also do not believe in those pictures of God. I guess if you need to rationalize the reasonableness of the existence of some sort of creator God, the anthropic principle is a pretty decent approach. But I think that’s about as far as it gets you. Like RJS, I’m pretty unimpressed with most of what I’ve seen of the ID stuff intending to show divine ‘intervention’ along the way.



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Dan Martin

posted May 14, 2009 at 4:44 pm


The heavens declare the glory of God, but they do not tell us his name.
Scott #2 has it solid. Even assuming that ID or the anthropic principal or any other collection of theories and observations were to “prove” a designer, we’d be no closer to the Father of Jesus Christ than poor Mr. Dawkins is. The problem with most ID is that it’s really a stalking horse to try and establish the veracity of the Christian faith. It can’t do that, even if it’s all correct.
Believers, and I am one, can take the existence of the anthropic principal, the incredible improbabilities of life, and all its diversity, and use it validly as a tool to enhance our wonder toward our God. So, for that matter, can believers in any other creator. The sooner we stop trying to hang our faith on other disciplines, the better for our faith AND those disciplines.
In the meantime, this quote by Dawkins is a hoot:
A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself, and that’s very improbable indeed – which is indeed the premise of the whole discussion we are having. It follows that the theist’s answer has utterly failed to make any headway towards solving the problem at hand. I see no alternative but to dismiss it. . .
What but an extremely improbable explanation, can possibly justify an extremely improbable observation? If it had a clear natural explanation, it wouldn’t be improbable, would it?



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm


Dan Martin,
But isn’t our faith hanging on these other disciplines? I can’t speak for you, but mine is. History, philosophy, science.
I asked RJS the same thing… Why do you believe there is a God? Why do you believe the Christianity is correct?



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island

posted May 14, 2009 at 5:06 pm


It isn’t as simple as “orderly” or “rational”. It is the highly pointed nature of said order and rationality that causes reputable agnostic and atheist physicists to say that the universe “appears to be designed” or “it looks like a fix”.
It’s interpretations like hard atheist physicist Lenny Susskind, who says stuff like… ‘We will be hard pressed to answer the IDists if the Landscape fails, (The landscape is Lenny’s controversial and theoretically speculative multiverse.) because the appearance of design is undeniable’.
It is the pointed nature of completely unexpected physics that gives IDists the right to laugh straight in the face of “skeptics” who would argue without a complete theory of quantum gravity or a final theory, that these unobservable and speculative “ideas” are more plausible than exactly what it looks like to scientists.
Atheists are lucky that I know the rules of science better than string theorists, who’d rather throw them out when it is convenient… ;)



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RJS

posted May 14, 2009 at 5:12 pm


Kenny,
I believe that there is a God because I believe that meaning and purpose, love, morality, beauty, and conscious creative thought are all real – not illusion, not merely the byproduct of survival of the selfish gene, not relative.
I believe in the God of the bible because this is the story of God interacting with his creation for a purpose with a mission. God made himself known. Ultimately I trust that the Bible is reliable (a looser term than inerrant) and inspired. We are rooted in history.
I cannot prove it, I can only argue plausibility.
But ultimately what we have is relationship not rational proof.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm


RJS,
But why do you believe that? You believe in God because of you perceive meaning, purpose, love, morality, etc are real. But why?
Why do you believe that the Bible is God’s story? Why isn’t the Koran? Why isn’t The Book of Mormon?
I never said anything about proof. I’m talking about weighing the evidence.
Is this a modernist vs post-modernist thing? Are we not talking the same language here?



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John L

posted May 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm


RJS, at this level we enter the realm of poetic metaphor. The boundless, existential, “all that is” reality triggers something of great primal awe, wonder, and mystery. Call it God. Or a still-small-voice calling us home. A pantheist could still be within the realm of NT thinking by characterizing it as the “universe waking up.”
For those that have given up on religion, this deeply-felt recognition of an awesome and mysteriously fine-tuned universe is what keeps the fires burning – keeps the possibility of Jesus alive. Freeman Dyson reminds us of this in the context of Job,
“Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?… Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding… Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”
And in a beautiful expression of the scientific mindset at work in the religious heart, Isaac Newton expresses similar sentiment,
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”



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Eric

posted May 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm


So I fear that reliance on this argument (cosmological fine tuning) is going to take us in the wrong direction, kind of like the folks who spent their time arguing against evolution, and making their faith hinge on a literal reading of Genesis. When that turns out to be incorrect, they lose faith.
I fear we’ve got the same situation here. As I’ve suggested above, from what I undestand, the best model of the Big Bang is Guth’s inflationary model. It has made some predictions that turned out to be correct, and if it is true then we’ve likely got innumerable universes. (I’m not an expert on this stuff, though; I’d be happy to be corrected, but this is how I’ve seen it described in multiple reputable places). If that is correct, the key assumption behind the argument for cosmological fine tuning is likely wrong.
And if that is correct, then some folks are basing their faith on an argument for God that is likely wrong. That’s very dangerous (from either the theistic or atheistic perspective), and we shouldn’t encourage it.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted May 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm


Very helpful and interesting, RJS. As all these posts are. Good comments along the way, as well.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 15, 2009 at 12:28 am


Eric,
But I’d hope that we’re basing our faith in God on something? Right? I agree that it’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket, but I think it’s equally unwise to just have some kind of blind faith.
While I’m not a physicist, and I’m able to debate the finer points of the multi-verse theory.. I think 1) it’s absolute trash and 2) will never be proven.
But I made my points already. For me (personally), I need my faith to be grounded in some amount of logic & reason. My faith does depend on things like the knowledge of the universe (science), philosophy, history, etc.
You may call that unwise, but I think it’s more unwise to place your faith in God from experience or feelings.
I’m said this before and I’ll say it once more. It’s important for me to know not just what I believe but why. Why am I not a Muslim? Or a Jew? Or a Hindu? I’d hope it’s not just because I like Christianity. That I think it’s nice.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 15, 2009 at 12:29 am


that should read “unable to debate”



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PDS

posted May 15, 2009 at 6:32 am


I put up an extended quote from Dallas Willard on the importance of design arguments. In a footnote, he has positive words for Michael Behe and his book Darwin’s Black Box, and “intelligent design.”
http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/dallas-willard-on-design-arguments/
There is also a link in that post to a paper Willard wrote on the three stages of theistic evidence, with an extensive discussion of design arguments.



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RJS

posted May 15, 2009 at 6:39 am


Kenny (#44),
On the first point, why God at all? – I think that we can trust the evidence of our senses – that there is more to life than a meaningless accidental aggregation of particles according to physical laws.
The second question – why Christianity not Islam, Judaism, Mormonism or Hinduism, …? This is harder. It isn’t “just because I like Christianity” – it has more to do with the nature of Christianity and the vision of the mission of God in the world.
But it is a question that deserves a fuller response … I am thinking about ways to come back on this question.
I think that you’d find Keller’s The Reason for God helpful if you can get a hold of it. We ran a series on the book about a year ago titled Our Reasonable Faith. If you type the title in the search box (with quotes “Our Reasonable Faith”) you will see all 16 posts. I don’t say this answers your questions – but it is pointing in the right direction.



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Doug Allen

posted May 15, 2009 at 9:12 am


RJS,
A fuller response would be very interesting to me because, besides my generally skeptical outlook, but spiritual attitude and desire to find common ground among my quarreling brothers and sisters, I have this problem about the exclusivist claims of Christianity. First, Jesus was radically inclusive. Second, it makes no sense to me that God would choose only to reveal himself to a small tribe (less than one per cent of the world’s population) and only thousands of years after mankind’s first recorded efforts to form a relationship to God. That makes no sense at all to me, and if you believe much of what Christians have written about the requirements for eternal life (I’m skeptical about most of that), it makes God into a monster whose favortism damns everyone before the Christian era and most everyone since then. I can not believe in that monster God so I am left with Jesus, his inclusiveness, and the probability that if the Christian story is true, then many of the other religious stories are also true and that they complement each other. I would find your response and the response of others interesting and helpful.
Doug



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 9:58 am


Kenny (#48) —
You say “My faith does depend on things like the knowledge of the universe (science) . . . .”
But then you criticize the predictions of the dominant scientific model of the Big Bang as “absolute trash,” and you do so apparently without investigating it, or the evidence in support of the inflationary model.
You are free to base your faith on whatever you want, but I’d suggest that if you are going to base it in part on science, you first investigate what science has to say. First understand the inflationary model, its predictions re: multi-verses, and the evidence in support of it.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:03 am


RJS,
It would be cool to hear. I’d have to remember to come back here to check. But just fyi. I have MY answers. I know why I believe. I was just curious where you (and some others) were coming from because of the apparent “poo-pooing” on the design/fine tuning arguments as a reason for believing in a God — and some even argued against using external evidences at all for our faith. Something I totally disagree with.
I said before that I think if the evidences didn’t fit together for me, I likely wouldn’t be a Christian.



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RJS

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:18 am


Kenny,
I don’t mean to dismiss design arguments – but I do mean to dismiss arguments that require an absence of potential “natural” explanation in order to demonstrate the existence of God. Such arguments are flawed. Perhaps there are instances where God did not work through his “natural” means in creation, but I won’t pin anything on any particular suggested example. I think we see the power and majesty of God in His use of “natural” means of the creation and sustenance of the Universe and life as well as in the miraculous nature of his direct interaction with his people, including in the incarnation.
AHH and John L and others here capture some of the direction of my thinking.
So why do you hold to Christianity and not Islam, Hinduism, etc.?



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:30 am


Eric,
Since when is the multi verse theory the dominant theory? And who said I deny it without investigating it? I merely said I can’t adequately debate it, but I have certainly read about it and understand it.
I am certainly no expert in science, but I have an interest in it. I’ve read Hawkings, Greene, etc.
If you’re going to insult me, maybe you should ask me what I know first.



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Kenny Johnson

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:36 am


“I think we see the power and majesty of God in His use of “natural” means of the creation and sustenance of the Universe and life”
But if you are seeing something majestic in nature and calling it God’s work, then aren’t you essentially using the design argument? You see something that not merely chance, but planned and purposeful. Isn’t that design inference?
“So why do you hold to Christianity and not Islam, Hinduism, etc.?”
I have several, but the big thing is the resurrection. I can’t see how a whole movement could have exploded like it did without the witness to the resurrection. I can’t believe these people die for a known lie.



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RJS

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:45 am


Kenny,
Yes it is a design argument. I am a Christian after all – I do think that there is design and purpose in the world.
But I also think that the Universe – including the evolution of life – is essentially rational because God created it. And that we will find “natural” explanations for most everything.
I think that the only exceptions may be (likely are) intentional interactions between God and humans – created in his image. Our faith is in its essence relational. God revealed himself to us and desires relationship with us.



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:54 am


Kenny (#56),
Inflation is the dominant model, as I understand it. It predicts multiple universes. Its not “total trash,” as you suggested.
Its not my intent to insult you; I’m responding to your “total trash” comment, which seems not well founded and overly aggressive. It is my intent to suggest you should be careful in calling a scientific theory “total trash,” and in basing faith on that sort of characterization.



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PDS

posted May 15, 2009 at 11:06 am


RJS-
With respect to your rejection of ID in biology, how much do you think you and other “older” (sorry) Christian scientists have been influenced by the social and academic pressures Willard describes? A partial quote:
“Now the pattern is almost exactly reversed. But just as the positive answers in earlier times were sometimes based more on readiness to believe then on accurate thinking ? though there was really no need for that ? so the negative ?answers? that now dominate our culture are mainly based on a socially enforced readiness to disbelieve. And those negative answers, which find no God in nature, really do need help from social conditioning.”
http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/dallas-willard-on-design-arguments/



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PDS

posted May 15, 2009 at 11:14 am


Eric,
Where do you get your assertion that the multiple universe theory is the “dominant theory” and is “predicted” by the Big Bang? Is the multiple universe theory falsifiable? It is unfalsifiable speculation, as far as I have read. Can you give citations?



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm


PDS,
I’m talking about Alan Guth’s inflation model. It has a lot of support, and it predicts multiple universes. It should be covered in just about any book on the Big Bang (I will try to post a link later tonight; I’m unable to get away to do that now). It is not proven, but it has made predictions that turned out to be correct, including related to the microwave background radiation project. Its certainly not “totally trash.”
Agreed that the ultimate conclusion (multiple universes) is untestable, but Guth’s inflationary theory, which predicts multiple universes, is itself supported. And that’s how scientific models work. Take relativity — we haven’t proven every single aspect of the theory, but we’ve proven so many of its predictions that its now generally accepted. Inflationary hasn’t reached that stage, obviously, but there is much to support it (again, based on what I understand).



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RJS

posted May 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm


PDS,
If you go back and read things I’ve written on this blog you will see that
(1) I am adamant that we need to fight against the assumption of randomness, insignificance, and purposelessness expressed in science and culture today. It is in the air we breathe and is insidious.
(2) I never ever said that there was no design in biology or that God did not play a role.
(3) Our arguments need to be well formulated and sound. Irreducible complexity as it is currently expressed was an interesting idea, but it is not standing the test – it is not showing itself to be well formulated or sound. Progressive creation of any sort fails the test – but we could discuss why. And as for any kind of Young Earth … there is no support at all for this view.
(4) I am convinced at this point that within the practice of science the only profitable course is to assume that the Universe and the Earth – including the evolution of life – is essentially rational, predictable, and discernable because God created it. We should look for and likely will find “natural” explanations for most everything (I think everything). But a “natural” explanation does not mean that God was absent from the process (especially true when many of the “natural” processes have an intrinsic element of randomness).
(5) Incursions of the supernatural – the realm of God – on earth as “miracles” are all instances of importance in establishing a relationship with human beings created in his image. This includes the miracles in the Gospels and the resurrection.



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AHH

posted May 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm


Eric and others,
I’m not an expert in this field [I have asked one, but he hasn’t answered my email yet], but I do know that it is wrong to equate Guth’s cosmic inflation model (which as you say is well-supported by data) with the sort of “multiverse” that does away with the anthropic issue.
The basic inflation model only predicts “multiverses” in the sense that there will be many regions of spacetime that cannot ever “see” each other, so in some sense they are separate “universes”. BUT, all these separate regions will have the SAME basic physical laws.
To do away with the anthropic issue requires multiple universes with DIFFERING physical laws (for example, sampling different values of the gravitational constant). There are versions of inflation models that do predict such multiverses, but they are highly speculative at this point, and I don’t believe there is any evidence favoring them over the basic inflation model.
So, in summary [subject to correction by a real expert], cosmic inflation is pretty well supported, but the sort of multiverses that affect the anthropic argument is just speculation at this point.
Having said that, I agree with Eric’s underlying point, that we should not make such arguments (or any gap-based arguments that science might later destroy) foundational to faith. In apologetics as in other things, the only sure foundation is Jesus. Science might suggest a Designer, but it can’t get us to the Triune God, and that’s the only destination that matters from a Christian perspective.



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ProfessorE

posted May 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm


Firstly, Dawkins admits that the finely-tuned numbers are improbable. But our ignorance of an explanation is no reason to invoke divine consciousness. We’ve filled the gap in our knowledge with God.
Is that what we’ve done or have we generated a hypothesis that would, if true, explain the relevant evidence in the most elegant and simple way (Ockham’s Razor)? (his is known as “abduction” and it is the primary way that theoretical physics and other sciences move forward.)
The physical universe (unlike biology) has no means to fine-tune that we know of. We do know that consciousness is capable of fine-tuning. God seems to be the most simple & elegant hypothesis until we discover non-biological physical universe creating order.
Dawkins claims that natural selection could explain the fine-tuning of the physical universe. Only if the physical universe can propogate, pass on it’s functional history, and mutate into potentially functional forms. No example of this exists in the universe. So, so far, natural selection is a less likely hypothesis. Perhaps a multiverse is as viable of a hypothesis as Divine Consciousness, but with current understanding these seem to be the only two viable candidates. And if you call that God in the Gaps, then you would have to call the multiverse theory in the gaps as well.
I think the reason Dawkins believes that chance is as viable as God is because he’s a biologist and not a physicist. Physicists are far more in touch with the mystery we call matter and how we may not even have the intellectual toolbox to discover the source of matter.



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RJS

posted May 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm


AHH,
Thanks – I think that helps put things in perspective.



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm


AHH,
Thanks for the response. Its my understanding that Guth himself believes that, although it is possible the various universes have the same relevant characteristics, that is likely not the case. I also understand that its not just a matter of us not being able to “see” the other universes, which you suggest; they are actually separate “bubbles.” I too am not an expert, and would be interested to hear what your expert friend has to say, but from what I understand you might be overstating the case just a bit.
In all events, if we are agreed that there are likely multiple universes, and it is at least possible they have different characteristics, then it takes a lot of the wind out of the sails of the “fine tuning” argument. As the science develops, if it proves Guth right on the different characteristics point, the argument for fine tuning would go away.
And I think you and I reach the same bottom line conclusion: We shouldn’t rely too heavily on this (or similar) arguments. The foundation is Christ.



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AHH

posted May 15, 2009 at 3:50 pm


Eric,
While I can’t vouch for it in all aspects, the Wikipedia article on “multiverse” gets at the distinction I was pointing out.
“Type I” there follows from *any* inflation model, but does not do anything about the anthropic issue.
“Type II” follows from *some* inflation models, and does produce multiverses with different physical constants, greatly weakening the anthropic argument. The article makes it sound like Guth now (as opposed to his original inflation proposal) likes a model that gives Type II behavior.
It is my understanding (but here I’m hoping to hear from my expert friend) that there is currently no physical evidence to say whether or not the “Type II” type of inflation is correct; the theories may be reasonable but they are speculative. Sometimes it is said that some physicists prefer the “Type II” multiverse models only because they dodge the anthropic issue, which otherwise would suggest something (a Creator) they don’t like.
But again, we are agreed that a faith built on such arguments may well prove to be built upon sand. The god of cosmic fine tuning and the ID movement’s god of DNA complexity can both be idols in a sense; we need to focus on the God revealed in Jesus.



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:34 pm


AHH,
Thanks. My understanding of Guth’s view is that he has always been suggesting type II; the wikipedia article re: multiverses also doesn’t seem to refer to him. To be sure, Type I is also a necessary implication of inflation (as the wikipedia suggests), but I don’t think its the only implication. I’m going to investigate some more, though, because you’ve raised my curiosity.
My concern is that we’ve got a “god of the gaps” situation here. People will put their faith in some fine tuning argument, which science will prove wrong. And some people promoting the idea aren’t familiar with the current state of the science re: the Big Bang and inflation. This sort of god of the gaps thing has been happening again, and again, and again . . . for hundreds of years. Its just the latest one, and our faith doesn’t depend on it.



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Eric

posted May 15, 2009 at 10:59 pm


The following article suggests (1) inflation is the dominant model (someone had asked about that earlier today), (2) the WMAP results from a couple years ago are consistent with inflation preductions, and (3) the WMAP results are consistent with what you are referring to as a “Type II” multi-verse (see near the end of the article).
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/3311206.html?page=1&c=y



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Eric

posted May 16, 2009 at 1:13 am


Here is another article re: inflation (a bit dated, but provides more of a summary) that suggests that what you call a Type II multi-verse is the dominant version of inflation — in other words, the version that debunks fine tuning is the dominant version. I.e., the standard view of inflation is that various universes are truly separate “bubbles.” This also makes reference to the fact that in this theory the universes can have different characteristics (which is the standard explanation for the anthropic principle).
http://www.lifesci.sussex.ac.uk/home/John_Gribbin/cosmo.htm



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RJS

posted May 16, 2009 at 6:54 am


Eric,
I don’t think that any “natural” explanation – and there may be one (but all of this has a necessary element of speculation) – actually changes the picture – we still have the wonder and grandeur of a creation designed for our existence.
I dislike the probability calculations in the discussion of fine tuning because I don’t think that we know enough to even begin to really estimate probabilities. The discussion of multiple universes or bubbles is a good example of not knowing enough to estimate.
Ultimately we are left with a question:
Are we here because of accident – and this is where “life” is possible? Or are we here because there is purpose and plan – and mankind is a key piece of the plan?



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PDS

posted May 16, 2009 at 7:44 am


http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/
RJS (63) –
As to no. 1 – I recognize that and appreciate it. We have lots of common ground.
As to no. 2 – I was talking about detectable design in biology. I still don’t understand why you are so sure a priori that we will not detect God’s design in biology like we detect it in cosmology.
As to no. 3 – You have still not explained why IC is not “standing the test.” You don’t have to type out your own critique. Somebody must have done it on the web already. I have read Ken Miller’s critique. The logical flaws in his reasoning are obvious and frankly pathetic. Is there a better one?
As to no. 4 – this reflects an assumption that could be considered a “naturalism of the gaps” error. Why predict that we will find a naturalistic explanation? Why “assume” anything? Why not just follow the evidence wherever it leads, and make design inferences wherever they are appropriate? No. 4 is getting at the point Dallas Willard is making. It involves a faith assumption that I do not believe is warranted by the evidence or the history of science or Christian theology.
As to no. 5 – Not sure what this is based on or what your point is.
And after all that, you did not answer my question.



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RJS

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:12 am


PDS,
# 5 is simply a statement that an assumption of naturalism in science does not mean an assumption that God never acts in discernible ways. But I think his actions are for a purpose in relationship with his creation. So Kenny asked (and it is a common question) why I don’t dismiss the miracles recorded in the gospels – and this is essentially why. I think that miracles and demonstrable design in creation are different issues altogether.
#4 because if in the practice of science we don’t assume that there will be a natural explanation and look for it we are done. There is nowhere to go. If I make a design inference the next step in order to advance is to set about to test the design inference, which in essence means look for ways in which the inference fails.
Behe put forward a hypothesis of irreducible complexity and thus design. Effort is now directed to thinking about why (or if) apparently irreducibly complex constructs are not actually irreducibly complex. In this case it involves proposing ways by which the structure may have evolved based on available evidence and new experiments and data.
My main complaints with irreducible complexity are (1) that it is not demonstrable true, only falsifiable, and (2) it sets us up for more “closing gap” crises. It is an interesting idea – but don’t pin your faith on such forms of demonstration.
Ultimately I am a Christian because I believe the story that God established relationship with his creation through the interaction with the people of Israel, the incarnation – including crucifixion and resurrection, and his ongoing interaction with his church through the power of the Spirit.
I think that it is dangerous to suggest that we will find objective, demonstrable, evidence of God’s design in creation.



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Eric

posted May 16, 2009 at 9:06 am


RJS,
I agree with much of what you say, except I don’t think it gives enough credibility to inflation and multiple universes to call it speculation. That’s what people had been saying about evolution for a long time, until the genetics evidence proved it fairly conclusively. They are not at that stage yet with inflation and multiple bubbles, but its more than speculative at this point. As I understand it, some of the fine-tuning versions of inflation have been ruled out by the WMAP results a few years ago, and the results are consistent with multiple bubbles. As the WMAP data gets refined (and there will be more refined data coming out), it looks like its headed in the direction of more and more confirmation.
For the reasons you give with respect to irreducible complexity — “My main complaints with irreducible complexity are (1) that it is not demonstrable true, only falsifiable, and (2) it sets us up for more ‘closing gap’ crises” — I also don’t think we should give much credibility to cosmological fine tuning.



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PDS

posted May 16, 2009 at 9:13 am


RJS-
There’s the rub- you said:
“#4 because if in the practice of science we don’t assume that there will be a natural explanation and look for it we are done.”
But you can look for a natural explanation without assuming it.
Methodological naturalism looks for a natural explanation, but does not assume it.
Philosophical naturalism assumes a natural explanation.
Some form of MN is fine. It lets the evidence speak.
PN is in part what Dallas Willard is talking about, I think. It is a faith-based worldview that is contrary to the Biblical worldview. It is not evidence based. It is bad science, because it will warp the scientist’s review and evaluation of the evidence.
Behe is making good logical arguments based on the evidence. Miller uses bad logic and claims that Behe’s argument “has failed.” I am frankly shocked at the bad logic and bad arguments of many in the scientific community. Miller is a professing Catholic who I think is treating Behe with contempt. He combines bad logic with ridicule. Not a good combination, in my mind.
Behe’s critics use straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks.
In your criticism of Behe, you speak in generalities, but won’t point me to good arguments using good logic.
I hope a younger generation of Christian scientists follow Willard, and see the errors in PN and can distinguish MN from PN. But sadly, they better keep quiet about it until they get tenure.



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RJS

posted May 16, 2009 at 10:16 am


PDS,
Here is my point – in the method of science, methodological naturalism – we are assuming that there is a natural explanation, there is no other way to proceed. If there is no natural explanation, none will be found. But that has never yet been shown to be the case.
Ontological naturalism, or what you call philosophical naturalism, is another beast altogether. I agree with you and Willard that we need to take a stand against this. Does it warp some interpretation – yes absolutely. If you go back to my first post on Darwin and the Bible I had no qualm about calling Cohen on his ontological naturalism.
Ad hominem and straw man attacks drive me crazy – they are inappropriate in any Christian discourse – whether on doctrine, theology, ethic, sin, or so on… An attack on a person tells me more about the attacker than the strength of the base argument.
Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say? I can try to structure some future posts around specific examples and we can discuss it in more detail.
I have no quarrel with inferences of design, except if they become “reasons to believe.” This is a perilous position.



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PDS

posted May 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm


RJS- We have a lot of common ground. I agree with much of your comment.
I agree that no one should bet their faith on a single design inference in nature. But taken together, they can provide helpful clues or pointers.
We disagree about whether the assumption of a natural explanation is a part of MN. I think it is not. MN involves looking for a natural explanation using natural methods.
I think the assumption is part of PN, or ontological naturalism, if you prefer that term.
You said:
“Irreducible complexity is best attacked by demonstrating that the supposed irreducibly complex systems are in fact not irreducibly complex. I think that this is rapidly being done. What more do you want me to say? I can try to structure some future posts around specific examples and we can discuss it in more detail.”
That would be great. I am curious to know why you think it is rapidly being done.
As a starting point, this seems to be a key point/counter-point:
Miller attacking IC:
http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html
Dembski defending IC:
http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm
I see serious logical errors in Miller. For example, he concludes:
“The existence of the TTSS in a wide variety of bacteria demonstrates that a small portion of the “irreducibly complex” flagellum can indeed carry out an important biological function. Since such a function is clearly favored by natural selection, the contention that the flagellum must be fully-assembled before any of its component parts can be useful is obviously incorrect. What this means is that the argument for intelligent design of the flagellum has failed.”
Showing independent functionality of a component does not defeat IC. Miller still has to show that the assembly of the rotary propulsion machine could have been accomplished by Darwinian mechanisms: step by step assembly with each step providing a survival advantage. He also has to show that each step does not involve too much survival disadvantage in the loss of the previous functionality of the components.
He seems to think that speculation as to a “possible” pathway is enough. He has to show that it is plausible.
His claim that the functionality of the TTSS defeats IC is so obviously wrong. I wonder who is convinced by bad logic like this?
Do you know of a better argument than Miller’s?



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AHH

posted May 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm


In case anybody is still reading this thread, I finally heard back from my semi-expert friend (who partly begged off as not being a true expert in this particular area).
It sounds like the current case is in between what Eric and I were saying, maybe closer to Eric. Paraphrasing:
1) While there is no physical confirmation of a multiverse model, the leading such models these days, meaning the ones that best agree with the evidence and also are self-consistent, etc., are models with multiple “bubble” universes having different physical constants.
2) This certainly weakens the fine-tuning anthropic argument, although it is not clear whether the variation among universes would be wide enough to completely negate it.
He also pointed me to a paper by a Christian astrophysicist who is a true expert in this field, Don Page, called “Does God so Love the Multiverse?”, which can be found here:
http://arxiv.org/abs/0801.0246
I just had time to skim it but it looks like an interesting (and accessible in large part) reflection on the issues, agreeing with those of us who are not fans of basing faith on “design” arguments.



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RJS

posted May 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm


AHH,
Interesting article, thanks. I’ll have to read – and perhaps come back to this issue again.



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Eric

posted May 18, 2009 at 8:44 pm


AHH — thanks for the link, I will check it out. Getting the perspective of a Chrisitian scientist who is familiar with this area (who may not have the same biases as an atheistic like Guth) will be interesting.
Here is a link to an article by Guth in 2007 about these issues: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-th/pdf/0702/0702178v1.pdf
He seems to be saying that multiple bubbles are an implication of any inflation theory (at least in his view; as you pointed out earlier others disagree), although some of the language he uses sounds more like what you described as a Type 1 multiverse. I’m not sure that I understand though.
He also seems to relate this to string theory, saying that it now seems to allow for numerious values for the cosmological constant, so that different universes could have different cosmological constants (which is one of the key characteristics of our universe that appears “fine tuned”).
He notes that this is a possible way to understand the anthropic point, although physicists would like to come up with a non-anthropic explanation (i.e., something other than the either/or between fine tuning and multiple universes with different characteristics). So far there aren’t any good non-anthropic type explanations though (i.e., the answers are anthropic — we either have fine tuning, or we have multiple universes).



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posted August 3, 2009 at 9:54 am


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