Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Universe: Made Just for Us



One of the most remarkable things about the universe is that life is able to exist in it at all. In order for living things of any type to exist, there must be stars and planets. However in order for stars and planets to exist, the universe must possess a long list of natural properties.

Cosmologist Martin Rees in his book “Our Cosmic Habitat” (Princeton University Press, 2001, page 162) compares our universe having, by chance, all the properties needed for life to exist to the case of a prisoner standing in front of a firing squad of 50 marksmen and all of them taking aim, firing and all missing. He would naturally wonder why this happened.

We don’t know of any scientific reason why the universe must possess any of these properties, let alone all of them, so why does it?

The obvious answer is that God made the universe for the sake of man, so of course He made it hospitable for life. Just like a builder builds a home with a roof, ceiling, insulation, a kitchen, wiring, plumbing, windows, heating, air conditioning, etc. everything designed perfectly for the future occupants, so God built our world with all the properties needed to make life possible.

For those who refuse to believe in God, the only alternative is to believe that the observable universe is in fact merely one bubble within a vastly larger universe which includes many bubbles, each of which has different properties and some of which, just by chance, are capable of supporting life. There is no evidence to support this, however. [This is a fundamental principle of atheism: “Yes, of course, this or that APPEARS to be intelligently designed, however given enough time and space anything can happen by chance.”]

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

>For those who refuse to believe in God, the only alternative is to believe that the observable universe is in fact merely one bubble within a vastly larger universe which includes many bubbles, each of which has different properties and some of which, just by chance, are capable of supporting life. There is no evidence to support this, however.<

Just as there is no evidence to support the existence of a god.

jewish philosopher said...

Sure there is - His revelation at Mt. Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments.

My main point was that atheists make a big deal about being hard headed rationalists, who believe that nature is all there is, who don't believe in anything which they cannot see. However in this case they are quite comfortable about claiming the existence of infinite unseen and unseeable bubble universes. Anything, so long as it doesn't involve God.

Anonymous said...

>Sure there is - His revelation at Mt. Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments.


There's no physical evidence for that either. And the only logical evidence is the faulty Kuzari aurgument.

jewish philosopher said...

The Kuzari argument is as solid as a rock.

Also, I think some evidence is better than no evidence.

jack said...

Notice how Anonymous doesn't answer why his/her belief in infinite bubble universes is more rational than belief in God. Oh well.

jewish philosopher said...

If atheists could only start making sense, I'd be on the next plane to Manila for two weeks of partying.

Anonymous said...

I thought you were chareidi.
A chareidi doesn't go partying in Manila!

jewish philosopher said...

I am and will be chareidi, partying with my wife and three kids, until atheists can come up with a better explanation for life than "Blind chance did it".

Actually I want to fly to Manila, but party in Angeles City. You get more bang for your buck.

jack said...

'There's no physical evidence for that either. And the only logical evidence is the faulty Kuzari aurgument. '

I'm not sure what kind of physical evidence you would expect. Anyway, the lack of physical evidence in the fossil record for evolution, both with regard to there being no evidence for the theory that higher life forms were formed gradually as Darwin propsed, (in fact the fossil record shows the opposite), and to the fact that we have not found any of these so called missing links even though the fossil record should be full of them, apparently doesn't bother you either.

Cameron said...

JP: Reading the text and looking at the beautiful illustrations, made me wonder: What would it take to prove evolution to me? [Note incidentally that in my opinion proving evolution true implicitly proves monotheism false, since the Bible, Genesis 1, explicitly states that all species were created separately.]

CH: This hits at the nub of your problem, you have a Manichean dualist view of reality; if Darwin's account of evolution is true, you feel the efficacy of your biblical faith is threatened. And so you futiley rail against Darwin. A simpler solution is to adopt a less rigid proposition with regards your faith. If the order of creatures created in the bible is falsified by evolution, does that mean that Jesus words in the Gospels are invalidated? No. No more than finding inconsistencies and errors in dating, lineages, etc. render the Bible meaningless. Science has no interest in religion, and as a result, it frequently reveals a picture of the world that contradicts the bible. It seems to me you have several choices;

- abandon your faith as an anachronistic falsehood (my personal prefference)
- adjust your faith to reflect reality (i.e. review Genesis for lessons other than what order did the creatures of the world arrive)
- deny the reality of the world.


JP: The answer is: fossils.

Evolution makes an extraordinary claim: that different species are all descended from a common ancestor. This is extraordinary because we know from everyday experience that like always begets like; humans have human babies, fish have fish offspring, cats give birth to kittens and so on. Therefore it seems incredible that apes could somehow produce humans or fish could produce reptiles.

CH: Evolution doesn't make the claim that apes produce fish, or humans. What it claims is that we are relatives of the apes (very, very distant cousins) with whom we share a common ancestor. We have to go much further back in time to find any relatives of ours that are related to reptiles (but we are), and even further still before we reach a point where we are related to the banana. The discovery of DNA's double helix, and that it was present in all living things, is evidence of common ancestory. As I understand the bible, God didn't make any commentary about how he built everything living from the remnants of supernovae, using self replicating molecules like RNA and DNA to accomplish the goal. Perhaps I missed that section.


JP: This doesn’t mean evolution is impossible; many extraordinary things can and do happen. However it means that a huge burden of proof rests on evolutionists to make their case. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

What the fossil evidence should show is gradual, seamless development, in millions of tiny steps, from microbes to advanced life such as eagles, oak trees, salmon, horses and humans.

CH: False. There are all manner of forces at work that prevent fossilization of every creature that ever reproduced; geological forces, erosion, predation on corpses, or the simple fact that microbes don't fossilze in a readily visible way (being both very, very small, and lacking in hard body parts that are subject to fossilization), all lead one to conclude that the creatures that are fossilized did so under specific conditions. I grew up in Alberta Canada, a province that was at one time the bottom of a giant in-land sea. Creatures caught in the silt, mud, at the borders, and tributaries have been preserved, dated, and examined in awesome detail - all of which you can see as a visitor to the Tyrell museum in Drumheller (ironically, buckle of Alberta's bible-belt). The wealth of fossils in Drumheller is a result of the unique circumstances that allowed a wide range of bones to be preserved. The fact that we find fossils at all is extraordinary, but to suggest we should have fossils of everything that ever lived is absurd. That all said, the fact of fossils of ancient creatures no longer alive, as well as the timeline on their existence supports theories of evolution. Whether or not they undermine your faith is up to you.


JP: Just like a child develops from a single cell to an embryo, fetus, infant, toddler, adolescent and adult, gradually, seamlessly, each day progressing slightly further, so, Darwinism teaches, life developed and continues developing on earth.

CH: Your example of how you think evolution moves is decieving. A child develops from one 'stage' to another in a progression from birth to death. Evolution has no such 'direction' other than creatures with genes that enhance survival are more likely to pass them on to offspring. Up to 65M years ago, life on earth looked very, very different than it does now. Slam a large meteor or two into the planet, and catastrophic change occurred. Entire species went extinct as their environments changed, and the survivors of this catastrophe flourished. The creatures that survived and flourished were different (early mammalians, etc). In other words, the 'direction' is a falsity - it has no direction. Without a meteor strike 65M years ago, mammals wouldn't have had the same opportunity to flourish, and this shows the contingency rather than the progress of evolution.

JP: This is comparable to a child remaining a newborn for 5 years, then suddenly, the next day, appearing as a toddler for 10 years, then waking up one morning as a teenager. This simply doesn’t make sense.


CH: Agreed - it doesn't make sense because your analogy is false. Evolution doesn't predict the 'sudden' appearance of creatures, and an intermittent fossil record wouldn't support that conclusion either.

JP: If I would come into my 7 month old daughter’s bedroom tomorrow morning and find a five year old girl in the crib I would know that this is not a new developmental stage, this is a different child. This is basically what paleontologists find in the fossil record. The alleged transitional fossils or “missing links” which are occasionally reported with huge publicity still do not provide anything resembling a seamless spectrum of development from microbes to advanced modern life.

CH: If a 'seamless spectrum' is what you are looking, you will never find it for the reasons I gave above. What you will get are the discovery of ever more fossils to fill in the 'gaps' in the record. It will never be 'seamless'. What we can expect is the occasional discovery of a 'transitional' form like 'Tiktalik (which is form that shows transitional features that allow movement from shallow river beds development to dry land).

JP: The answer given is yes, all those tiny, incremental steps did happen; however the fossils sadly never formed or have been lost. Fair enough, however in that case evolutionists have no convincing proof. If a prosecutor would tell a jury that yes, there must have been evidence that the defendant is guilty, but it’s been lost, I don’t think he would get a conviction.

CH: The jury doesn't need 'seamless' evidence of a homicide to reach a conclusion of 'guilty'. A little DNA left behind, etc. can link a defendant to the victim, and one certainly needn't produce a 'seamless' video of the entire crime in order to establish guilt.

JP: All the other proofs of evolution, from vestigial organs, embryology, homologies and genetics, I personally don’t find convincing since they tell us nothing directly about what happened in the past

CH: Since we can't directly access the past without time travel, we are forced to rely on the evidence we have. Of course, science isn't perfect - only religions claim to be.


JP: ...and bizarrely they seem to be attempts by biologists to psychoanalyze God; to claim, for example, “If God created the ostrich, why did He make it with those useless little wings? So we see God didn’t do it.”

CH: It certainly indicates evidence of poor design.

JP: I don’t think we know enough about all of God’s possible intentions to jump to that conclusion.

CH: since only creatures that have a brain can form intentions, how exactly does God have intentions? Where does he do the neural processing? Yeah, I know, you can't answer. Something about the ineffable, yada yada handwaving.

JP This is what I call “Godlessness of the Gaps”

CH: Wow, thats catchy.

JP: any time we see something and we cannot explain why God would do it that proves that God does not exist.

CH: Works for me. If evidence contradicts God, I'll go with the evidence every time. Of course, there are those who deny all evidence if it conflicts with their faith....


JP: Of course, this may just be proof of our ignorance, not proof of atheism. Since Darwin, the vast majority of “useless” organs have been found to be quite useful.

CH: Oh yeah, these male nipples sure come in handy. And that vestigial tailbone has sure proven useful to my survival in the same way that my heart has. I'm simply amazed that you think vestigial organs have a 'purpose'. But then, you think everything has a 'purpose' and look to find it in all things.

JP: However, to psychoanalyze scientists a little, why does evolution remain so universally popular in the scientific world?

CH: Simply put, because Scientists pursue truth in nature, not through revelation.

JP: Because the vast majority of scientists are either atheists or something close to atheists and there is no other possible atheistic explanation for advanced life other than variation and natural selection. Therefore, they reason, evolution must be true. The few scientists who are religious believers know that in order to be successful professionally they must conform to the majority.

CH: I love how you think you can pretend to think like an atheist. It is quite amusing.

JP: I believe it’s obvious that if not for atheistic bias, Darwinian evolution would never have been considered seriously as a scientific theory. It’s not science; it’s baseless speculation.

CH: Sure, but you also believe that invisible entities control the fate of the universe in a grand schema pitting good against evil for our immortal souls, so its no wonder you have a problem with the truth.

JP: One of the most remarkable things about the universe is that life is able to exist in it at all. In order for living things of any type to exist, there must be stars and planets. However in order for stars and planets to exist, the universe must possess a long list of natural properties.

CH: I play a full hand of bridge with three of my friends, and we track the play of the cards as they occur throughout the game. At the end of the hand, we review the specific order that each card appeared in. Statistically, the result is a statistical improbability - therefore, someone must have intelligently designed the cards to fall in that order! I have proof of Gods existence, from a BRIDGE HAND.

JP: Cosmologist Martin Rees in his book “Our Cosmic Habitat” (Princeton University Press, 2001, page 162) compares our universe having, by chance, all the properties needed for life to exist to the case of a prisoner standing in front of a firing squad of 50 marksmen and all of them taking aim, firing and all missing. He would naturally wonder why this happened.

CH: You'll find the chance of specific things occurring will always be infintesimally small - yet, somehow like that bridge hand I discussed above, they still happen.

JP: We don’t know of any scientific reason why the universe must possess any of these properties, let alone all of them, so why does it?

CH: I don't know. So what? How does God make the explanation any easier for the existence of the universe than for my bridge hand? Both required unlikely events to happen in a certain order, which statistically speaking, is a very small chance.

JP: The obvious answer is that God made the universe for the sake of man, so of course He made it hospitable for life.

CH: ...and filled that life with hunger, cancer, deprivation, poverty and despair. Because He LOVES us.

JP: Just like a builder builds a home with a roof, ceiling, insulation, a kitchen, wiring, plumbing, windows, heating, air conditioning, etc. everything designed perfectly for the future occupants, so God built our world with all the properties needed to make life possible.

CH: Hardly. But then you believe he 'created' the Earth in an act of supernatural prestidigitation rather than from the accrual of matter around a proto star formed from the end remains of a supernovae.

JP: For those who refuse to believe in God, the only alternative is to believe that the observable universe is in fact merely one bubble within a vastly larger universe which includes many bubbles, each of which has different properties and some of which, just by chance, are capable of supporting life.

CH: Hardly. Atheists can express agnosticism about the precise mechanisms for the universes origin ('at this point, we just don't know', is a thoroughly acceptable answer), without having their atheism threatened. The cosomoligcal claim you characterize above is a genuine (if unsubstantiable) theory for cosmic origins. Those universes where the weak force, or gravity, or the charge of an electron is slightly different than ours, wink out of existence. Only those universes with force variables close to those we experience would survive. Is it any wonder that our universe is a stable one rather than an unstable one that winks out?


JP This is a fundamental principle of atheism: “Yes, of course, this or that APPEARS to be intelligently designed, however given enough time and space anything can happen by chance.”

CH: I don't think anything in biology 'appears' to be intelligently designed, and would love to have an example of something you think is that evolution doesn't have a better answer for.

Cameron

jewish philosopher said...

The human eyes and legs don't appear to have been designed? So how about if we cut yours off; why would you mind?

I'm not sure if male nipples have no purpose. I have a feeling that women like they way they look. Would any men want them removed?

Cameron said...

JP: The human eyes and legs don't appear to have been designed? So how about if we cut yours off; why would you mind?

CH: There is a difference between 'useful' and 'designed'. My legs are useful for walking, skating, kicking a football, or a host of other activities. But it clearly wasn't 'designed' for any of those purposes. I'd mind the amputation as a violation of my physical integrity. I'm curious though, if I did have an arm amputated, would it have its own soul? Or would I keep the whole thing? How much of a person can you carve away before you say 'this last final piece has the soul and all of these I cut off before don't'?

JP: I'm not sure if male nipples have no purpose. I have a feeling that women like they way they look. Would any men want them removed?

CH: As I recall an entire generation of women were surprised that male nipples even existed thanks to the smooth chested Ken doll. And while I admire your attempt at an explanation (sexual selection!) I'd say the lack of any 'male-nipple-porn' sites for the ladies belies there being any natural affinity for them.

jewish philosopher said...

If a certain object is extremely useful for many purposes then I think we can say it appears to have been designed. That would include legs, eyes, hands, etc.

I have a strong suspicion that male nipples play a role in sexual attractiveness, similar to the coloring on certain birds. The male chest is attractive to many women, although few porn sites cater to women. Do you think that most men would not mind having their nipples surgically removed if it could be done painlessly and free of charge? Mammals which walk on four legs have no male nipples, because the female in any case doesn’t see them during sex.

By the way, regarding the fossils, my objection is not that there are just some links missing. The overall structure of the fossils indicates catastrophism rather than evolution.

Cameron said...

JP: If a certain object is extremely useful for many purposes then I think we can say it appears to have been designed. That would include legs, eyes, hands, etc.

CH: How convenient, run across an objection and simply redefine the terms to fit your definition. Usefulness is simply NOT the same as 'designed' - though I can understand why you would hope they could be.

jewish philosopher said...

Read carefully. I said "apparent design".

Richard Dawkins on the first page of his preface to "The Blind Watchmaker" writes "The complexity of living things is matched by the elegant efficiency of their apparent design."