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How Contemporary Physics Points to God

Universe

Does modern physics provide evidence for the existence of God? This article presents a general overview of the answer to that question (a more thorough treatment may be found in my recent book, New Proofs for the Existence of God). I will divide the topic into three parts:

1. Can Science Give Evidence of Creation and Supernatural Design?
2. What is the Evidence for a Beginning and What are the Implications for Creation?
3. What is the Evidence of Supernatural Intelligence from Anthropic Fine-Tuning?

Can Science Give Evidence of a Creation and Supernatural Design?

 
We should begin by clarifying what science can really tell us about a beginning of the universe and supernatural causation. First, unlike philosophy and metaphysics, science cannot deductively prove a creation or God. This is because natural science deals with the physical universe and with the regularities which we call “laws of nature” that are obeyed by the phenomena within that universe. But God is not an object or phenomenon or regularity within the physical universe, so science cannot say anything about God. Moreover, science is an empirical and inductive discipline. As such, science cannot be certain that it has considered all possible data that would be relevant to a complete explanation of particular physical phenomena or the universe itself. It is always open to new data and discoveries which could alter its explanation of particular phenomena and the universe. This can be seen quite clearly in revisions made to the Big Bang model.

So what can science tell us? It can identify, aggregate, and synthesize evidence indicating that the finitude of past time in the universe as we currently know it to be and conceive it could be. Science can also identify the exceedingly high improbability of the random occurrence of conditions necessary to sustain life in the universe as we currently know it to be and conceive it could be.

Even though scientific conclusions are subject to modification in the light of new data, we should not let this possibility cause us to unnecessarily discount the validity of long-standing, persistent, rigorously established theories. If we did this, we might discount the majority of our scientific theories. Thus, it is reasonable and responsible to attribute qualified truth value to such theories until such time as new data requires them to be modified.

What is The Evidence for a Beginning and what are the Implications for Creation?

 
The arguments that suggest the finitude of past time (i.e. that time had a beginning) are basically of two types: (a) arguments about the possible geometries of spacetime and (b) arguments based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy). Though the arguments we shall give may conceivably have loopholes, in the sense that cosmological models or scenarios may be found in the future to which these arguments don’t apply, their persistence and applicability to a large number of existing cosmological models gives them respectable probative force. Until such time as they are shown to be invalid or inapplicable to empirically verifiable characteristics of our universe, they should be considered as justifying the conclusion that it is at least probable that the universe had a beginning.

A Beginning in Physics Implies A Creation of the Universe

 
Before examining this evidence, it is essential to discuss the implications of a beginning (in physics) for a creation of our universe. In physics, time is something real, and it has real effects on other physical phenomena. Thus, the point at which the universe comes into existence is also the point at which physical time comes into existence.

How does this imply a Creator? First, in physics, nothing physical could exist prior to the beginning point (indeed there is no “prior to the beginning point” because there is no physical time).

Secondly, if the physical universe (and its physical time) did not exist prior to the beginning, then it was literally nothing. It is important to note that “nothing” means “nothing.” It does not mean a “vacuum” or “a low energy state of a quantum field,” “empty space,” or other real things. Vacuums, empty space, and low energy states in quantum fields are dimensional and orientable – they have specific characteristics and parameters, but "nothing" is not dimensional or orientable, and it does not have any specific characteristics or parameters because it is nothing. For example, you can have more or less of a vacuum or empty space, but you cannot have more or less of nothing because nothing is nothing.

Thirdly, nothing can do only nothing, because it is nothing. To imply the contrary is to make nothing into something. The classical expression is right: “from nothing, only nothing comes.”

Fourthly, if nothing can’t do anything, then it certainly cannot create anything. Thus, when the universe was nothing, it could not have created itself (made itself into something) when it was nothing, because when it was nothing, it could only do nothing.

Finally, if the universe could not have made itself into something when it was nothing, then something else would have had to have made the universe into something when it was nothing, and that “something else” would have to be completely transcendent (completely independent of the universe and beyond it). This transcendent (and independent) creative force beyond our universe (and its space-time asymmetry) is generally termed “a Creator.” Therefore, a beginning in physics implies a transcendent powerful creative force (i.e., a “Creator”).

Was the Big Bang the Beginning?

 
In view of the fact that a beginning in physics implies a Creator, many physicists with a naturalistic orientation would like to avoid the necessity of such a beginning. For this reason, they have proposed that the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe. Before we can assess this hypothesis, we will want to get a few facts about the contemporary Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory was proposed originally by a Belgium priest by the name of Fr. George Lemaitre who used it to resolve a problem (the radial velocities of extra galactic nebulae) connected with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Though Einstein did not at first affirm the idea of an expanding universe, he later believed it because of its overwhelming verification. Indeed, it is one of the most rigorously established theories in physics today.

Essentially, the contemporary Big Bang Theory holds that a big bang occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago (plus or minus 200 million years). It may be analogized to a balloon blowing up where the elastic on the balloon is like the space-time field (in general relativity, space-time can actually stretch, expand as a whole, warp, vibrate, and change its coordinate structure according to the density of mass-energy in it).

Now, going back to our analogy, suppose there are paint spots all over the balloon. Notice that as the balloon expands (i.e. as space-time stretches and expands as a whole), all the paint dots (which may be likened to galaxies) move away from each other. Our universe has been doing something like this for 13.7 billion years.

Our observable universe seems to have a finite amount of mass-energy. It has approximately 4.6% visible matter (matter-energy that can emit light, electromagnetic fields, etc.), 23% dark matter (which interacts with gravity, but does not seem to have luminescent or electromagnetic activity), and 72.4% dark energy (which seems to be like a field attached to a space-time field causing space-time to accelerate in its expansion). The visible matter in our universe seems to be approximately 10^55 kilograms which is approximately 1,080 baryons (protons and neutrons – particles with significant rest mass).

Since the time of Fr. Lemaitre, the Big Bang Theory has been confirmed by multiple, distinct data sets which come together around a similar set of numbers and values: Edwin Hubble’s’ Redshifts (which shows that all galaxies are moving away from each other); Arno Penzias’ and Robert Wilson’s discovery of the 2.7 degree Kelvin uniformly distributed radiation which is the remnant of the Big Bang; evidence from the cosmic background explorer satellite (COBE); and further evidence from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). This is why most physicists consider the Big Bang to be a rigorously established physical theory.

Was the Big Bang the beginning of the universe? Many physicists think that it was because the Big Bang was the moment at which space-time came into existence and because there is no physical evidence for a period prior to the big bang.

However, some physicists believe that the Big Bang was not the beginning of our universe which opens the possibility for a pre-Big-Bang period of indefinite length (perhaps avoiding a beginning and all of its implications for a creation). This hypothetical pre-Big-Bang period is made possible through quantum cosmology (which allows the universe to operate in a space-time smaller than the minimums required by general relativity). Currently, string theory is one hypothetical candidate for quantum cosmology in which some physicists (including Stephen Hawking) have placed considerable hope. (Those of you interested in additional detail on quantum cosmology and string theory will want to read the Postscript to Part One in New Proofs for the Existence to God).

String Theory allows for the possibility of higher-dimensional space, which in turn, allows for two possible pre-Big-Bang periods:

1. A multiverse (a mega universe which coughs out multiple bubble universes, one of which is our universe)
2. An oscillating universe in higher dimensional space (e.g. two three-dimensional membranes interacting and colliding through a four-dimensional bulk space-time).

It is not important to know all the details of a multiverse or an oscillating universe in higher dimensional space, because there is only one relevant question: Do these speculative scenarios themselves require a beginning or can they go indefinitely back into the past?

It so happens that a considerable amount of work has been done in the area of space-time geometry proofs which conclude that all inflationary model universes, multiverses (which must be inflationary in order to exist), and oscillating universes in higher dimensional space must have a beginning. These extraordinary proofs suggest the probability that our universe (or any multiverse in which it might be situated) must have a beginning, which implies a transcendent Creator. So what are these proofs?

Evidence of a Beginning from Space-Time Geometry Proofs

 
There are three pieces of evidence arising out of space-time geometry proofs which indicate a beginning of our universe or any speculative multiverse in which our universe might be situated. It also indicates a beginning of oscillating universes – even oscillating universes in higher dimensional space. These proofs are so widely applicable that they establish a beginning of virtually every hypothetical pre-Big-Bang condition which can be connected to our universe. They, therefore, indicate the probability of an absolute beginning of physical reality which implies the probability of a Creator outside of our universe (or any multiverse in which it might be situated).

Since 1994, three proofs or models have been developed that show that not only our universe, but any multiverse and inflationary bouncing universe must have a beginning: 1) The 1994 Borde-Vilenkin Proof, 2) The modeling of inflationary universes by Alan Guth and others, and 3) The 2003 Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem (the BVG Theorem).

The 1994 Borde-Vilenkin Proof

 
Arvin Borde (Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California Santa Barbara) and Alexander Vilenkin (Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University) formulated a proof in 1994 that every inflationary universe meeting five assumptions would have to have a singularity (a beginning of the universe/multiverse in a finite proper time)1. Our universe meets all the conditions in this proof. In 1997 they published a paper on their discovery of a possible exception to one of their assumptions (concerning weak energy conditions) which was very, very unlikely within our universe. Physicists, including Alan Guth (the Victor Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and father of inflationary theory) did not consider this exception to be relevant: “...the technical assumption questioned in the 1997 Borde-Vilenkin paper does not seem important enough to me to change the conclusion [that the 1994 proof of a beginning of inflationary model universes is required].”2 Therefore, the 1994 proof still has general validity today.

Alan Guth’s 1999 Analysis of Expanding Pre-Big-Bang Models

 
Guth concluded this study as follows: “In my own opinion, it looks like eternally inflating models necessarily have a beginning...As hard as physicists have worked to try to construct an alternative, so far all the models that we construct have a beginning; they are eternal into the future, but not into the past.”3

The 2003 Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem (the BVG Theorem)

 
Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth joined together to formulate an elegant and vastly applicable demonstration of a beginning of expanding universes (in a famous article in Physical Review Letters). Alexander Vilenkin explains it as follows:

“Suppose, for example, that [a] space traveler has just zoomed by the earth at the speed of 100,000 kilometers per second and is now headed toward a distant galaxy, about a billion light years away. [Because of the expansion of the universe as a whole], that galaxy is moving away from us at a speed of 20,000 kilometers per second, so when the space traveler catches up with it, the observers there will see him moving at 80,000 kilometers per second. [As the universe continues to expand, the relative velocity of the space traveler will get smaller and smaller into the future]. If the velocity of the space traveler relative to the spectators gets smaller and smaller into the future, then it follows that his velocity should get larger and larger as we follow his history into the past. In the limit, his velocity should get arbitrarily close to the speed of light [the maximum velocity attainable by mass energy in the universe].”4

The point where relative velocities become arbitrarily close to the speed of light constitutes a boundary to past time in any expanding universe or multiverse. Though the conclusion of Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth is somewhat technical for non-physicists, its importance makes their precise words worth mentioning:

"Our argument shows that null and time like geodesics are, in general, past-incomplete [requiring a boundary to past time] in inflationary models, whether or not energy conditions hold, provided only that the averaged expansion condition Hav > 0 hold along these past-directed geodesics. This is a stronger conclusion than the one arrived at in previous work in that we have shown under reasonable assumptions that almost all causal geodesics, when extended to the past of an arbitrary point, reach the boundary of the inflating region of space-time in a finite proper time."5

This proof is vastly applicable to just about any model universe or multiverse that could be connected with our universe. Alexander Vilenkin put it this way in 2006:

"We made no assumptions about the material content of the universe. We did not even assume that gravity is described by Einstein’s equations. So, if Einstein’s gravity requires some modification, our conclusion will still hold. The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value, no matter how small. This assumption should certainly be satisfied in the inflating false vacuum. The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation without a beginning is impossible." 6

Physicists do not use the word “impossible” very often. So, Vilenkin’s claim here is quite strong. The reason he is able to make it is that there is only one condition that must be fulfilled – an expansion rate of the universe greater than zero (no matter how small).

It is important to note that Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth applied their theorem to the string multiverse as well as to higher dimensional oscillating universes. I present their own words here (which might be quite difficult for non-physicists) because they give a sense of the authors' own appreciation of the vast applicability of their theorem:

"Our argument can be straightforwardly extended to cosmology in higher dimensions [arising out of string theory/M Theory]. For example, [1] in [some models of a string multiverse], brane worlds are created in collisions of bubbles nucleating in an inflating higher-dimensional bulk space-time. Our analysis implies that the inflating bulk cannot be past-complete [i.e. must have a boundary to past time]. [2] We finally comment on the cyclic Universe model [in the higher dimensional space of string theory] in which a bulk of four spatial dimensions is sandwiched between two three-dimensional branes...In some versions of the cyclic model the brane space-times’ are everywhere expanding, so our theorem immediately implies the existence of a past boundary at which boundary conditions must be imposed. In other versions, there are brief periods of contraction, but the net result of each cycle is an expansion...Thus, as long as Hav > 0 for a null geodesic when averaged over one cycle, then Hav > 0 for any number of cycles, and our theorem would imply that the geodesic is incomplete [i.e. must have a boundary to past time].7

The boundary to past time (required in the BVG theorem) could indicate an absolute beginning of the universe or a pre-pre-Big-Bang era with a completely different physics. If it is the latter, then the pre-pre-Big-Bang period would also have to have had a boundary to its past time (because it would have a rate of expansion greater than zero). Eventually, one will reach an absolute beginning when there are no more pre-pre-pre-Big-Bang eras.

This is an extraordinary conclusion, because it shows that a beginning is required in virtually every conceivable pre-Big-Bang scenario—including the string multiverse and oscillating universes in higher dimensional space. By implication, then, even if there were multiple pre-Big-Bang eras, it is likely that these eras would have to have an expansion rate greater than zero, which means that they too would have to have a beginning, which would make an absolute beginning virtually unavoidable. This absolute beginning would be the point at which the universe came into existence. Prior to that point the universe (and its physical time) would have been nothing, which as we saw above, implies a Creator.

Exceptions to this theorem are very difficult to formulate and are quite tenuous because they require either a universe with an average Hubble expansion less than or equal to zero (which is difficult to connect to our inflationary universe) or a deconstruction of time which is physically unrealistic. (For an extended discussion of these exceptions, you may consult Chapter One, Section III.D-E of New Proofs for the Existence of God). For this reason all attempts to get around the BVG Theorem to date have been unsuccessful. Even if physicists in the future are able to formulate a hypothetical model which could get around the BVG Theorem, it would not mean that this hypothetical model is true for our universe. It is likely to be only a testimony to human ingenuity. Therefore, it is probable that our universe (or any multiverse in which it might be situated) had an absolute beginning. This implies a creation of the universe by a Power transcending our universe.

There is another impressive set of data which corroborates the above three space-time geometry proofs, namely, the Second Law of Thermodynamics (i.e. entropy). The constraints of time and space here will not permit me to address this topic, however, those interested in explication of it may consult Chapter One (Section III A-C) of New Proofs for the Existence of God.

In conclusion, the evidence from physics (from both space-time geometry proofs and the second law of thermodynamics) indicates the probability of a beginning of our universe. In as much as a beginning indicates a point at which our universe came into existence, and prior to that point that the universe was nothing, then it is probable that the universe (and any hypothetical multiverse in which it might be situated) was created by a transcendent power outside of physical space and time.

What is the Evidence of Supernatural Intelligence from Anthropic Fine-tuning?

 
There are several conditions of our universe necessary for the emergence of any complex life form. Many of these conditions are so exceedingly improbable that it is not reasonable to expect that they could have occurred by pure chance. For this reason many physicists attribute their occurrence to supernatural design. However, some other physicists prefer to believe instead in trillions upon trillions of “other universes” (which are unobserved and likely unobservable).

Before discussing which explanation is more probative, we need to explore some specific instances of this highly improbable fine-tuning. We may break the discussion into two parts:

1. The exceedingly high improbability of our low entropy universe, and
2. The exceedingly high improbability of the anthropic values of our universe’s constants.

We will discuss each in turn.

The High Improbability of a Pure Chance Occurrence of Our Low-Entropy Universe

 
A low-entropy universe is necessary for the emergence, development, and complexification of life forms (because a high entropy universe would be too run down to allow for such development). Roger Penrose has calculated the exceedingly small probability of a pure chance occurrence of our low–entropy universe as 10^10^123 to one. How can we understand this number? It is like a ten raised to an exponent of:

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

This number is so large, that if every zero were 10 point type, our solar system would not be able to hold it! Currently, there is no natural explanation for the occurrence of this number, and if none is found, then we are left with the words of Roger Penrose himself:

“In order to produce a universe resembling the one in which we live, the Creator would have to aim for an absurdly tiny volume of the phase space of possible universes—about 1/10^10^123 of the entire volume, for the situation under consideration.”

What Penrose is saying here is that this occurrence cannot be explained by a random, pure chance occurrence. Therefore, one will have to make recourse either to a multiverse (composed of bubble universes, each having different values of constants) or as Penrose implies, a Creator (with a super-intellect).

The High Improbability of Five Other Anthropic Conditions (Based on Cosmological Constants)

 
A cosmological constant is a number which controls the equations of physics, and the equations of physics, in turn, describe the laws of nature. Therefore, these numbers control the laws of nature (and whether these laws of nature will be hospitable or hostile to any life form). Some examples of constants are: the speed of light constant (c= 300,000 km per second), Planck’s constant (ℏ = 6.6 x 10-34 joule seconds), the gravitational attraction constant (G = 6.67 x 10-11 ), the strong nuclear force constant (gs = 15), the weak force constant (gw = 1.43 x 10-62), the mass of the proton (mp = 1.67 x 10-27 kg), rest mass of an electron (me = 9.11 x 10-31 kg), and charge of an electron proton (e = 1.6 x 10-19 coulombs). There are several other constants, but these pertain to the following anthropic coincidences (highly improbable conditions required for life):

(i) If the gravitational constant (G) or weak force constant (gw) varied from their values by an exceedingly small fraction (higher or lower)—even just one part in 10^50 (.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001)—then either the universe would have suffered a catastrophic collapse or would have exploded throughout its expansion, both options of which would have prevented the emergence and development of any life form. This cannot be reasonably explained by pure chance.

(ii) If the strong nuclear force constant were higher than its value (15) by only 2%, there would be no hydrogen in the universe (and therefore no nuclear fuel or water—this would have prohibited life). If, on the other hand, the strong nuclear force constant had been 2% lower than its value then no element heavier than hydrogen could have emerged in the universe (helium, carbon, etc). This would have been equally detrimental to the development of life. This “anthropic coincidence” also seems to lie beyond the boundaries of pure chance.

(iii) If the gravitational constant, electromagnetism, or the “proton mass relative to the electron mass” varied from their values by only a tiny fraction (higher or lower), then all stars would be either blue giants or red dwarfs. These kinds of stars would not emit the proper kind of heat and light for a long enough period to allow for the emergence, development, and complexification of life forms. Again, these “anthropic coincidences” are beyond pure chance occurrence.

(iv) If the weak force constant had been slightly smaller or larger than its value, then supernovae explosions would never have occurred. If these explosions had not occurred, there would be no carbon, iron, or earth-like planets.

(v) Fred Hoyle and William Fowler discovered the exceedingly high improbability of oxygen, carbon, helium, and beryllium having the precise values to allow for both carbon abundance and carbon bonding (necessary for life). This “anthropic coincidence” was so striking that it caused Hoyle to abandon his previous atheism and declare:

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

The odds against all five of the anthropic coincidences happening randomly is exceedingly and almost unimaginably improbable. Most reasonable and responsible individuals would not attribute this to random occurrence (because the odds are so overwhelmingly against it), and so, they look for another explanation which is more reasonable and responsible.

For this reason, almost no respectable physicist (including Stephen Hawking), believes that these anthropic coincidences can be explained by pure chance. In view of the fact that no natural explanation has been found for them, most physicists have made recourse to one of two trans-universal explanations:

1. A multiverse (a naturalistic explanation) and
2. A super intellectual Creator (a supernatural explanation).

Is the naturalistic explanation more reasonable and responsible? Not necessarily because the other universes (and the multiverse itself) are in principle unobservable. Furthermore, it violates the principle of parsimony (Ockham’s Razor)—the explanation with the least number of assumptions, conditions, and requirements is to be preferred. As physicist Paul Davies notes:

"Another weakness of the anthropic argument is that it seems the very antithesis of Ockham’s razor, according to which the most plausible of a possible set of explanations is that which contains the simplest ideas and least number of assumptions. To invoke an infinity of other universes just to explain one is surely carrying excess baggage to cosmic extremes...It is hard to see how such a purely theoretical construct can ever be used as an explanation, in the scientific sense, of a feature of nature. Of course, one might find it easier to believe in an infinite array of universes than in an infinite Deity, but such a belief must rest on faith rather than observation."8

In addition, one more problem is that all known multiverse theories have significant fine-tuning requirements. Linde’s chaotic inflationary multiverse cannot randomly cough out bubble universes because they would collide and make both universes inhospitable to life; the bubble universes must be spaced out in a slow roll which requires considerable fine-tuning in the multiverses initial parameters.9 Similarly, Susskind’s String Theory landscape requires considerable meta-level fine-tuning to explain its “anthropic" tendencies.10

Conclusions

 
Given these problems, is the multiverse a more reasonable and responsible explanation of our universe’s anthropic coincidences? Many physicists believe that it is not, not only because of the above three problems, but also because of the likelihood of a Creator. When the evidence for a beginning is combined with the exceedingly high improbability of the above anthropic coincidences, a super intellect seems to be the best explanation because it avoids all the problems of a hypothetical multiverse. Thus, it is both reasonable and responsible to believe on the basis of physics, that there is a very powerful and intelligent being that caused our universe to exist as a whole. While contemporary physics does not prove the fullness of God, it certainly points to him.
 
 
Originally posted by the Magis Center for Faith and Reason. © Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. Ph.D./Magis Institute July 2011. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Cradio)

Notes:

  1. See Borde and Vilenkin 1994
  2. Guth 1999 pg. 1.
  3. Guth 1999 pg. 1.
  4. Vilenkin 2006 p. 173.,
  5. Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin 2003 p. 3
  6. Vilenkin 2006 p.175.
  7. Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin 2003 p. 4.
  8. Davies 1983, pp. 173-174.
  9. See Alabidi and Lyth 2006.
  10. See Gordon 2010 pp. 100-102.
Fr. Robert Spitzer

Written by

Fr. Robert Spitzer, PhD is a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order, and is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and from 1998 to 2009 was President of Gonzaga University. Fr. Spitzer has made multiple media appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” and a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth." Fr. Spitzer is the author of five books including New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Eerdmans, 2010); Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011); and Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011). Follow Fr. Spitzer's work at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

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  • We make virtually all inferences based on induction. This means we extrapolate the likelihood of some state of affairs being the case because it would be consistent with patterns we have observed. We can never be certain and in fact there is no proof that past patterns do imply a similar pattern will continue. We can only say it seems this way. We cannot have any observations about the origin of space-time or what "preceded" it. As the author agrees even saying there was a "before" the big bang doesn't make sense.

    Accordingly, even if we accept that space-time had a beginning, we can reach no inferences about the nature of what or whether any thing "preceded" it. Our physics, language and ability to conceive break down in the early moments of time. I think it is arguing from this ignorance to say we can know anything about causes of it. Much less that this cause was a mind.

    • bbrown

      "....We cannot have any observations.....'; "...we can reach no inferences ....'.
      This is a remarkable degree of dogmatism.
      "....in fact there is no proof that past patterns do imply a similar pattern will continue..."
      Please tell me the "facts" that support such a statement.
      This is psychobabble.

      • David Nickol

        Please tell me the "facts" that support such a statement.

        It seems to me Brian Green Adams is merely restating the Problem of Induction, with which you seem unfamiliar. The statement, "We can never be certain and in fact there is no proof that past patterns do imply a similar pattern will continue," is philosophically quite respectable." To oversimplify somewhat, the only way to prove that inductive reasoning yields truth is to offer an inductive proof, which means you are trying to use induction to prove the reliability of induction.

        This is psychobabble.

        As understand the word, psychobabble is vague, dubious, or meaningless language employing, in an obfuscating rather than clarifying manner, concepts from psychology or psychotherapy.

      • Geena Safire

        With respect, even were it babble, it is not psychobabble. Brian is not psychoanalyzing the universe.

        Were it babble, would be technobabble.

        "Psychobabble (a portmanteau of "psychology" or "psychoanalysis" and "babble") is a form of speech or writing that uses psychological jargon, buzzwords, and esoteric language to create an impression of truth or plausibility."

        "Technobabble (a portmanteau of technology and babble), also called technospeak, is a form of jargon that uses buzzwords, esoteric language, specialized technical terms, or technical slang that is incomprehensible to the listener. ... The difference between technobabble and jargon lies with the intent of the user and the audience."

        youtube dot com slash watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

        (Using this formatting so the video does not appear in the window.)

        • Michael Murray

          There is definitely room for a word like "quantababble" to describe Deepak Chopra's utterances.

        • bbrown

          Geena, Brian, David,

          Hah, these are good points you bring up. I'll read up and do a little refresher in the use of induction in logic. Until then, I'll just go with Michael's suggested neologism, and call it "quantababble" :)

          • josh

            Brian isn't misrepresenting quantum physics either. At worst he is engaging in 'philosobabble', but if you are going to balk at the problem of induction then the philosobabble of the OP will put you into a coma.

  • David Nickol

    In conclusion, the evidence from physics (from both space-time geometry
    proofs and the second law of thermodynamics) indicates the probability
    of a beginning of our universe.

    One Edge.org, there are over 170 responses to this year's annual question, "What scientific idea is ready for retirement?" I mentioned this in another message, but I will call attention to it again here. Some of the responses are from philosophers and scientists whose names have come up on discussions on Strange Notions or who might otherwise be familiar to the "science buffs" who post here. Here's sample of some of the names and the ideas they believe are "ready for retirement:"

    Sean Carroll "Falsifiability"
    Patricia Churchland "Brain Modules"
    Richard Dawkins "Essentialism"
    David Deutsch "Quantum Jumps"
    Freeman Dyson "The Collapse of the Wave Function"
    Alan Guth "The Universe Began In A State Of Extraordinarily Low Entropy"
    Lee Smolin "The Big Bang Was The First Moment Of Time"
    Peter Woit "The 'Naturalness' Argument"

    Of very special relevance is Lee Smolin's response, since he maintains that the big bang was not the beginning of time, and science quite possibly can determine what happened before the big bang and leading up to it, which in turn will explain why the observable universe has the laws of nature we have discovered. If Smolin is right, then he refutes a very large chunk of what Fr. Spitzer says above. Smolin observes:

    The hypothesis that there was a first moment of time turns out to be remarkably generic and unconstraining as it is consistent with an infinite number of possible states in which the universe might have started out. This is due to a theorem proved by Hawking and Penrose, that almost any expanding universe described by general relativity has such a first moment of time. Compared to almost all of these, our own early universe was extraordinarily homogeneous and symmetric. Why? If the big bang was the first moment of time there can be no scientific answer because there was no before on which to base an explanation. At this point theologians see their opening and indeed have been lining up at the gates of science to impose their kind of explanation—that god made the universe and made it so.

    All responses are on one long web page. To view them all, use this link. To find the Smolin piece or any of the others, use the link and use your browser's Find or Search function to search the page.

    • Thanks for the link! Second referral to this this week, I am going to geek out on it. Be interested to know your take on my ramblings below.

    • lioner mars

      I'm not sure why Smolin's statement goes against anything in the article. He seems to agree with Spitzer when he says "It turns out that our universe has to have started off in an
      extraordinarily special state for the universe to evolve to anything
      like our universe." The following sentence quoted above, "The hypothesis that there was a first moment of time
      turns out to be remarkably generic and unconstraining as it is
      consistent with an infinite number of possible states in which the
      universe might have started out" seems only to confirm that a first moment of time existing is widely applicable - which I think is something Spitzer agrees with.

      As far as I can tell (not being an expert of course), is that Smolin just doesn't like the idea of the Big Bang being the "real" beginning, in which case that pre-Big Bang state would also have to have a beginning according to Spitzer? (Sorry if I'm misunderstanding the article.)

      It's definitely an interesting read either way.

    • Vasco Gama

      Thanks David, it looks interesting.

      I gave a look at Guth's contribution. Really not impressed by it, but I will give it a more attemptive observation.

      somewhere he states:
      «Any movie of a collision could be played backwards, and it would also show a valid picture of a collision.» I see that it is valid, but only in a movie. The fact is that we never observe that to occur (arrow-of-time-symmetry apart from time-symmetric physical laws) .

      • Geena Safire

        Vasco,

        You might want to be a bit more circumspect about challenging something a world-class physicist says. This is not to say that he couldn't be wrong. But common sense has very little to offer us with respect to quantum mechanics.

        Guth was likely referring to collisions of subatomic particles. At that scale, there actually is no arrow-of-time, as Guth says. These collisions do happen in both directions, completely ignoring time.

        • Vasco Gama

          Geena,

          I don't have to be circumspect about challenging anyone (although you might find reasonable not to do so). Particularly if I disagree with whatever that person might say. The fact that the laws of physics are time symmetric doesn't imply that reality as to conform to that (and in fact it doesn't). It is not at all like the reality as to conform to the laws of physic but the other way around. Apparently we don't fully understand the nature of space time, and that is still a problem for contemporary physics.

          • Geena Safire

            I didn't say you had to be circumspect; I suggested you might want to. That was a subtle way of saying in English that what you said was blatantly in error which made you appear foolish. Apparently, it was too subtle and lost in translation..

            You are absolutely correct, however, regarding the laws of physics. The laws of physics are not proscriptive but descriptive. Therefore, they are developed via our efforts to describe reality, not in order to police it.

            However, although we don't understand everything about the nature of space-time, we do understand a great deal. Many of the theories match reality to a very, very high degree, and there is no problem with these.

            One of these areas is, within quantum physics, the nature of subatomic particle collisions. It is actually true that subatomic particle collisions are completely reversible. Both directions are valid.

          • Vasco Gama

            I think I understood you, my remark is not meaningful, but the fact that Alan Guth (as Krauss or Carroll for that matter) makes a statement doesn't imply that I have to agree with him even if it concerns with particle colision, in spite of a movie going backward might be an interesting alegory if we were dealing with elastic colisions (where only occur momentum transfers in the colisions), but unfortunately inelastic colisions are much more common (in this case the allegory is completely inadequate).

            The problem of time arrow is not a minor thing (is something that is missing in our current basic account of space time understanding). Which didn't avoid that in fact the theories had success in explaining a variety of things (I am not disputing that).

          • Geena Safire

            (1) As I wrote in my initial comment, "This is not to say that he couldn't be wrong."

            (2) I think you meant 'analogy' rather than 'allegory.'

            (3) Virtually all sub-atomic particle scattering interactions are nearly perfectly elastic.

            (4) This is why the 'movie going backwards' analogy is completely adequate.

          • Vasco Gama

            «This is why the 'movie going backwards' analogy is completely adequate.»

            Not really adequate in any sense, as it just describes a conceptualised situation, not reality. And this conceptualization looks reasonable as we might consider that there is no entropy change in elastic collisions, it is also consistent with the fact that we can’t account time irreversibility in the laws of physics (but this is a limitation of our understanding of time in what concerns to the laws). That doesn’t entail that there this conceptualization adequately describes reality. The fact that we are able to conceptualize situations that are completely absurd doesn’t imply there they are reasonable.

            «sub-atomic particles don't care about time»

            This is funny, but unfortunately meaningless.

          • Geena Safire

            It doesn't describe a conceptualized situation. It does describe reality. The information about these interactions has been known for more than 70 years. It is the most elementary of facts about particle physics. Your continuing denial of this fundamental fact is equivalent to saying you don't believe that two objects of different weights bur the same shape will fall at the same rate. Look up Feynman diagrams. Experimental evidence long ago and ever since has supported this model of interaction to an extremely high degree of accuracy. I know that quantum mechanics is weird. Even Feynman said that if anyone says they understand quantum mechanics, they don't understand quantum mechanics. It doesn't matter how unreasonable and absurd you find the facts to be, Vasco -- and even most people I the field will agree with you that quantum mechanics seems unreasonable and absurd. And yet, that is how quantum mechanics -- absurd, unreasonable, and true nonetheless. Weird yet demonstrably true for decades. And it is funny that subatomic particles are immune to the 'rules' of time that apply to the universe at larger scales, and yet it is true and very meaningful to most of modern technology including cell phones and GPS.

          • Vasco Gama

            What does QM has to do with anything that was previously discussed (it might even lead to further unecessary complicatins). QM is not intuitive (actually, besides idiots, no one says that QM «seems unreasonable and absurd», that is a complete mystification, only that sometimes it is counter intuitive and leads to unexpected results, but it is no mystery that our intuition might fail us), but it is not magical (or misterious as you seem to irrationaly to suppose), it has meaning, we can understand what it predicts or describes.

            No thing in existence is imune to time, or exists out of time (even less particles).

            I am not denying anything or any fundamental fact or valid assumption that has been shown toi be correct by physics or QM, and your suggestion that it is the case is absurd.

          • Geena Safire

            What QM has to do with it is that Guth was talking about collisions between subatomic particles, and their behavior is described by QM. This entire subthread started with you disagreeing with what Guth said about these collisions.

            And yes, subatomic particle movements and interactions actually are immune to time. Another weird feature of QM.

          • Vasco Gama

            The fact that collisions between particles are described by QM, doesn't change anything (QM is irrelevant to this point). It is still collisions between particles (which doesn't occur out of time). Whatever is described by QM only has existence as occurring in time, in spite of the problems with quantum uncertainty; we are talking about particles that actually interact in time and space, that have mass and momentum.

            The fact that one may describe something (such as a collision, or a train crash, or whatever) not considering time, is not really meaningful, we can accept that as a description (in fact we may represent just the transfer of momentum that occurs during the collision), where we choose to ignore time, it is not because time is irrelevant.

            There are many weird things on QM that concern the descriptions we may obtain that are probabilistic, which leads to a large amount of peculiarities, not detected in macroscopic systems (where our descriptions are no longer probabilistic).

          • Geena Safire

            Vasco, This conversation has become tedious. Just look it up. Subatomic particle collisions happen in a universe where time is happening, but they are really unaffected by it. Look it up.

          • Vasco Gama

            I will look it up

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Spitzer has provided an evidenced argument for an absolute beginning of time and it seems that you are simply offering an argument from authority: Smolin says so.

      • David Nickol

        . . . . it seems that you are simply offering an argument from authority: Smolin says so.

        If I had said, "Fr. Spitzer is wrong because Lee Smolin says so," that would have been an argument from authority. However, pointing out that Smolin believes the big bang was not the beginning of time, presenting part of what he says, and linking to the rest is providing information, not arguing from authority. Plus I thought anyone interested in cutting-edge science, no matter where they stood in this debate, would be interested in the Edge.org question and all the responses, so I was sharing.

      • Geena Safire

        Just because Spitzer can mention a proposed physical theory that supports his point does not mean that said theory (BGV) is a generally-accepted theory. The BGV theory is respected, but it is not generally accepted as 'how things must have been.' The BGV theory says that if classical gravity is sufficient to describe conditions at the Big Bang, then this necessitates a beginning.

        But most cosmologists don't believe classical gravity is sufficient, mainly because it is not adequate to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. This is why cosmologists are working so hard to develop a theory of quantum gravity, that is, a theory that does reconcile them.

        Vilenkin himself says that, if classical gravity is not sufficient to explain the conditions at the Big Bang, then "we don't even know what the questions are" to ask about beginnings.

        TL;DR: Spitzer's use of an idea from a respected phycicist is no different from David Nikol's refutation from another respected phycicist. The issue with which these and other physicists are grappling is not yet a settled subject in physics.

  • In terms of the teleological argument, ("fine tuning" is a label to per-supposes a mind-cause). What is known is that these constants are very specific. We know nothing of their origin or the likelihood that they be what they are. To know this we would need to have some experience of universes originating to compare it to.

    There are three possibilities: the constants were designed by a mind, they arose by chance, they arose by necessity. We do know that if the multiverse theory WERE true, it would be necessity. But we don't.

    It could be due to a mind, but if that mind is of a supernatural nature that can create destroy and modify the universe at will, then are not the arrangement of these constants arbitrary? An omnipotent god could have made it work with different constants and changed the laws of physics to suit. He violates the laws of physics all the time.

    • Geena Safire

      ...they arose by chance, they arose by necessity...

      Or there was some combination of chance and necessity.

  • The flaw in the argument based on the beginning of time is that time as a mathematical variable is not a reality. A conclusion about existence cannot be drawn from analyzing a purely human mental concept. Time, as having extension, is the mental comparison of one motion with another. Motion is real. Time as a mathematical variable is a logical concept. The anthropic argument implies that some values of probability are explanatory of existence. If so, then all valid values of probability, however close to zero, must be explanatory. The defined limits of probability are zero and one. There can be no objective justification for defining a lower limit of probability greater than zero.

    • Geena Safire

      There's actually significant debate within the physics community as to whether time is a fundamental property or is an emergent property of other phenomena.

      • One need not be a physicist to recognize that quantified time is a human concept, the measurement of one motion in terms of another. I glimpsed someone walking up the driveway. The rap on the door followed in 43 twiddles of my thumbs. However, useful in the measurement of the characteristics of material reality, the quantification of time is conceptual. In contrast, real time is the unextended now of mutability.

        • Geena Safire

          I wasn't talking about quantified time nor about the common usage/meaning of time. I was discussing the scientific understanding of time with respect to physics, which is what this article is discussing.

          If you are interested, I recommend "From Eternity to Here." by theoretical physicist Sean Carroll.

          • Carroll affirms time as quantified in its scientific and common usage/meaning, as do I. What he objects to is the distinction I acknowledge between time as a valid ‘concept’ and time as
            a ‘reality’. He states, “For concepts like ‘time’, which are unambiguously part of a useful vocabulary we have for describing the world, talking about ‘reality’ is just a bit of harmless gassing.” (http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/10/18/is-time-real/)

          • Michael Murray

            I thought the issue was that the arrow of time, i.e. knowing which way is going forwards in time rather than backwards, which is so clear to us humans appears to be a property of macroscopic systems related to entropy rather than microscopic systems, where time appears to be reversible.

          • I thought the issue
            was whether one can draw conclusions of existence based on the analysis of concepts.
            Whether the concept of time, as a reversible vector is useful or not, becomes
            irrelevant, if one agrees with a cosmologist such as Sean Carroll, who
            dismisses all questions of reality as hot air, preferring the criterion of
            utility.

          • Geena Safire

            As Carroll writes in the same blog post you linked, regarding the issue I raised earlier, "The question of whether time is fundamental or emergent is, on the other hand, crucially important. I have no idea what the answer is (and neither does anybody else)."

            That is, as you say, we measure time, but on the other hand we don't know with certainty what time is.

            Note: Your link will work if you remove the closing parenthesis from your hyperlink reference.

          • Thank you, I removed the (). I agree with Carroll that time, quantified as a vector, is a concept. We do know that.

  • Steven Dillon

    Science may have shown that the universe had an initial state, but it has not shown that this initial state came into being. And how could it? To come into being is to transition from a point of not existing to a point of existing, and there was no point before the universe existed for that transition to occur.

    • That's an excellent point. I suppose Fr Spitzer might be able to salvage the argument by extending it from "there was almost certainly an initial state" to also include "and that initial state was almost certainly not a logical necessity". As an atheist I think that is plausible, but it certainly hasn't been demonstrated yet. If it were demonstrated, then we could reasonably suppose there must be an external explanation for the universe.

      • Steven Dillon

        Often times the discussion focuses on whether the initial state of the universe is necessary or contingent. This operates on the assumption that if the initial state is necessary, then it is uncaused. But, if a god were to cause this state to exist in every possible world, then it will not only be necessary, but also caused to exist. Thus, it wouldn't be enough to show that the initial state is necessary, we'd have to ask why it is necessary.

        The only way the initial state can be necessary and uncaused is for it to have aseity, or iow to exist a se. This is just for it to depend on nothing whatsoever in order to exist. But, for reasons that you may find entirely boring, I don't think the universe could possibly exist a se. Thus, whether it is necessary or contingent, I think it has an external cause.

        • Hm, yes, I can see and I concede that "the existence of the universe's initial state was logically necessary but nevertheless it happened to be caused to exist by an external reality" is a genuine possibility or at least looks like one. However, I don't see how then one would argue in favor of that versus the alternative, "the existence of the universe's initial state was logically necessary, and it was not caused to exist by any external reality". The two necessarily have a likelihood ratio of unity, and the latter option is more parsimonious, so FWIW there is more justification to believe the latter, at least until other reasons are brought in. The creating force in the first case has been rendered irrelevant, which makes me wonder in what possible sense it might be said to cause a logical necessity.

          As for your second paragraph conjecture, please do tell. If the reasons are indeed boring then I just won't have much of a response.

          • Steven Dillon

            Kewl, well let's start by distinguishing between what a thing most fundamentally is or would be call this its essence), and whether it is (call this its existence).

            For pretty much everything you can imagine, its essence will not be identical with its existence. Rather, it will be something like a horse, human or quark, etc.

            All such things need their essence to be conjoined with an act of existence in order for them to be. This will be true whether the conjoining happens out of necessity or merely contingently.

            The only thing that wouldn't need any such conjoining would be that in which essence is identical to its existence: conjoining such an essence to an act of existing would be superfluous.

            Such a thing has been traditionally identified as a god by Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan philosophers. But, whether it exists, and whether it'd be a god is irrelevant to my point.

            My point is simply this: anything whose essence is not identical with its existence needs its essence conjoined to an act of existing in order for it to be. And if something has that need, that dependence, it cannot -- by definition -- have aseity. Since the essence of the universe (&/or every physical substance) is not identical with its existence, then it cannot be a se, regardless of whether it's necessary or contingent.

            needs its essence conjoined to an act of existing in order to be. Since the essence of the universe (&/or every physical substance) is not identical with its existence,

          • Steven Dillon

            Sorry for the repeat sentence, sodding phone won't let me edit :P

          • The only thing that wouldn't need any such conjoining would be that in which essence is identical to its existence

            What about a thing for which its existence is a proper subset of its essence? Or a thing for which its essence implies its existence?

            Since the essence of the universe (&/or every physical substance) is not identical with its existence, then it cannot be a se, regardless of whether it's necessary or contingent.

            How do you know that no state (first, last, or any in between) or part of the universe has an essence that is identical to (or contains, or implies) its existence? If some such state or part did, then the contingency of all other states and parts could be grounded in it.

          • Steven Dillon

            If a thing's existence was a proper subset of its essence, then its essence would have to involve something that needed to be conjoined with an act of existing in order to be. Otherwise, its existence would exhaust its essence, failing to be a *proper* subset thereof.

            No state of the universe could have an essence that was identical to its existence because a state of the universe is just a sum of the space, time, matter & energy that exists at a point in time, and what it is to be a sum of the space, time, matter and energy at a point in time is not identical with the existence of that space, time, matter and energy. This is why, for example, the initial state no longer exists.

          • Steven Dillon

            I f what it is to be the initial state were identical with the existence of that initial state, then the initial state would still exist. But, it's 2014, not t=0.

          • If a thing's existence was a proper subset of its essence, then its essence would have to involve something that needed to be conjoined with an act of existing in order to be.

            If the act of existence was something separate that needed to be conjoined, then it wasn't already contained in the essence, so the description above is inconsistent. Try again? Also address the case of an essence that implies existence.

            what it is to be a sum of the space, time, matter and energy at a point in time is not identical with the existence of that space, time, matter and energy.

            But how do you *know* there are no circumstances under any physical laws that have essences identical to (or containing, or implying) their existences?

            This is why, for example, the initial state no longer exists.

            I don't assume that the A theory of time must be correct. The B theory (block time) is also commonly accepted and seems a bit more plausible to me due to how our universe's spacetime lacks a uniquely correct order of events. And if the B theory is true, then the initial state does still exist; if the B theory might be true, then we can't assume the initial state no longer exists.

          • Steven Dillon

            If the act of existence was something separate that needed to be conjoined, then it wasn't already contained in the essence, so the description above is inconsistent. Try again? Also address the case of an essence that implies existence.

            If any part of a thing's essence is unconjoined to an act of existence, then that thing does not exist. This is because an essence just is what a thing most fundamentally is. Thus, you can't have an act of existence that's only a proper subset of an essence, because then not all of the essence would exist, and it's all or none.

            As far as the case of an essence that implies existence, I can only imagine one such case: that in which essence is identical with existence.

            But how do you *know* there are no circumstances under any physical laws that have essences identical to (or containing, or implying) their existences?

            Well, think of it like this. If something's essence is identical to its act of existence, it is absolutely simple. If it is composed of any parts or division, then it would depend on those parts holding together/being organized in order to exist.This also means it couldn't have potential, because that would require that it have unactualized aspects. But, *necessarily*, every constituent of the universe will have potential, at least in so far as it exists in time.

            And if the B theory is true, then the initial state does still exist; if the B theory might be true, then we can't assume the initial state no longer exists.

            On B-theory, the initial state would exist, but it would not exist *now*. Its existence would be before now, further back in the block. In order for the initial state to exist a se, it'd have to exist in every slice of the block, and it doesn't. At best, it'd exist before now.

          • If any part of a thing's essence is unconjoined to an act of existence, then that thing does not exist.

            So are you saying that every part of the essence must be conjoined either to an act of existence or to an act of nonexistence, and that there is no neutral ground? That would be a consistent position I'd have to think about a while. Otherwise, though, the conclusion of your paragraph does not follow.

            As far as the case of an essence that implies existence, I can only imagine one such case: that in which essence is identical with existence.

            I don't share your imagination, so I'll remain uncommitted to the possibility or impossibility of that case pending some demonstration. How about a set containing the ZFC axioms, the Peano axioms, and the set of integers. That implies but does not contain its own existence. Now that of course that's a Platonic sort of existence rather than a physical sort of existence, so maybe it's not what you were talking about.

            If something's essence is identical to its act of existence, it is absolutely simple. If it is composed of any parts or division, then it would depend on those parts holding together/being organized in order to exist.

            Er, you didn't quite hit on a reason that explains. Why can't the holding-together-ness be part of its essence?

            But more importantly, why suppose that a physical reality must be composite? Take for example the Vilenkin model of a universe that began with a "sphere" of spacetime having zero radius, zero volume, zero mass, zero energy, etc. It would be physical but there's nothing there that can be divided.

            In order for the initial state to exist a se, it'd have to exist in every slice of the block

            Why? BTW, due to relativistic effects there aren't any uniquely correct time slices, and there are some spacetime slices that include both the present moment here on earth and the initial state. But even if we consider some other, more Newtonian physics, then it's not clear why the initial state couldn't include its coordinate time of 0 as part of its essence.

            (Not bored yet. Keep it comin' :)

          • Steven Dillon

            Yeah, Platonism is weird territory for me, I can't figure out what they'd amount to or whether they'd exist :P So, I can't comment much there.

            As far as Vilekin's model goes, I'd try to respond like this: in order for something to exist a se, it must not depend upon anything in order to exist. Thus, an a se object cannot be the whole of any parts, lest it depend on their arrangement or persistence. Now, as you point out, there are candidates for partless physical things, like 'spheres'. But, aseity demands more than physical partlessness. There couldn't be any composition of any sort, lest there be dependence. In so far as an object is physical, it will have potential. At least to change in some respect (e.g. It could change the amount of time slices it exists in). That potential counts as composition, because there must be unrealized aspects in order for there to be potential its being must be divided. Thus, physical objects can't satisfy the demanding simplicity of aseity.

            Hm, if time slices could overlap like such as to contain t=0 and 2014, how could time slices be demarcated?

          • David Nickol

            Kewl, well let's start by distinguishing between what a thing most fundamentally is or would be call this its essence), and whether it is (call this its existence).

            I am not sure what essence/existence and aseity have to do with contemporary physics and how it allegedly points to God. You seem to be talking about metaphysics, not physics.

          • Steven Dillon

            Yeah, we're talking about metaphysics at this point. But, every cosmological argument has a metaphysical component, such as claiming that the universe is contingent, or that if the universe has an explanation, it's a god etc.

          • Geena Safire

            Steven wrote earlier: [F]or reasons that you may find entirely boring, I don't think the universe could possibly exist a se.

            With all respect, Steven, I don't think the universe cares about what you think it could possibly do or be.

  • Octavo

    All intellects we have encountered are made up of, or are at least dependent on highly organized matter and energy. Because of this, arguments that the originator of all matter and energy is a super intellect are unconvincing without some evidence that minds can exist that are not based on complex arrangements of matter and energy.

    ~Jesse Webster

  • There's a weird typo - What is that part about the visible matter in the universe being 1055 kg supposed to say? 10^55?

    • Paul Boillot

      I'm pretty sure he's missing a verb here:

      "It can identify, aggregate, and synthesize evidence indicating that the finitude of past time in the universe as we currently know it to be and conceive it could be."

      • Geena Safire

        Or perhaps he meant to remove "that" between "indicating" and "the."

    • Geena Safire

      Yes, it supposed to be 10^55. But different character/effect codes are used in different environments. So what the article source contains may generate a valid superscript in its original context. (Of course, as webmaster, Brandon might could check for such things prior to posting...)

      Hey, y'all wanna learn how to generate superscripts on Disqus? Come on down!

      Using Superscripts on Disqus

      Disqus allows the use of a very limited number of HTML special characters. Superscripts are one of these.

      There are at least two codes for each digit - digital and hexadecimal. There are also named codes for one, two, and three. (If you have a multi-digit superscript, use one code for each digit.)

      Zero
      HTML Entity (decimal)     ⁰     10⁰
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁰     10⁰

      One
      HTML Entity (decimal) &nbsp  ¹     10¹
      HTML Entity (hex)           ¹     10¹
      HTML Entity (named)     ¹     10¹

      Two
      HTML Entity (decimal)     ²     10²
      HTML Entity (hex)             ²     10²
      HTML Entity (named)       ²     10²

      Three
      HTML entity (decimal):    ³     10³
      HTML entity (hex):           ³     10³
      HTML entity (named):     ³     10³

      Four
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁴     10⁴
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁴   10⁴

      Five
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁵     10⁵
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁵   10⁵

      Six
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁶     10⁶
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁶   10⁶

      Seven
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁷     10⁷
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁷   10⁷

      Eight
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁸     10⁸
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁹   10⁸

      Nine
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ⁹     10⁹
      HTML Entity (hex)           ⁹   10⁹

      How About Subscripts?
      Yeah, Disqus allows them too. But you can look the rest of these up yourself.

      Nine - Subscript
      HTML Entity (decimal)    ₉     888₉
      HTML Entity (hex)           ₉     888₉

      NOTE: The character 10 is used above just to make the superscript character more visible. It's not part of the code.

      .

      • Geena Safire

        How Did You Get Those Dang Columns to Line Up?
        OR The HTML Non-Breaking SPace Tag:           The   tag allows one to generate more than a single space between words or add spaces at the beginning of a line. (HTML, by default, reduces any number of consecutive blank spaces to a single space, and removes all spaces at the beginning of a line.)

        One can use several of these in a series. As with other HTML tags, no spaces are needed between adjacent tags. However, if your goal is to add more spaces, placing a blank space between each of these will double their usefulness.

        One can also generate a blank line if   is placed by itself on a blank line.

        From its name, one can correctly surmise that this tag can also be used as a space between two or more words that shouldn't be broken into different lines or different pages. As may be obvious, in this context there should be no regular blank spaces between the words and the   tag.

        Comparison using one, three, five, and seven consecutive   tags:
        word lots-of-spaces-are-ignored
        word   one
        word       three
        word           five
        word               seven
        word         seven - without space between each tag.

        How do you make the ampersand (&) appear instead of being interpreted as the beginning of a character entity?

        Use the HTML code for the ampersand (&) in place of the 'bare' character.

        .

      • Thanks for the head up, Geena! I was especially eager to hear your feedback on this article since you're our resident scientific atheist. Did you find it interesting, compelling, flawed, etc.?

        • Geena Safire

          Ummm... Yes, no, yes, and several servings of 'not exactly.'. Let's just say...

          ...I'm taking the time to include some supporting documentation and sources -- and the time to let other folks have their say -- and the time to adjust the temperature -- before I trigger my avalanche. It may take a few days.

          I will say, as I have said regarding other similar articles: If someone writes a piece that is outside their field, especially a long article, and especially an article that addresses the fundamentals and the leading edge of the other field, they might be well advised to have it reviewed by someone in said field before publishing.

          In addition, I'm not opposed to polemics as such, but I don't like outright, ah, misstatements and false dichotomies. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they aren't entitiled to their own facts.

          • Argon

            The late philosopher of science David Hull once wrote: "Evolution is so simple, almost anyone can misunderstand it”

            I think a collary is needed for physics.. Perhaps: "It's so technical, any simplified view or metaphysics derived from it will probably be wrong?"

  • Many of these conditions are so exceedingly improbable that it is not reasonable to expect that they could have occurred by pure chance. For this reason many physicists attribute their occurrence to supernatural design.

    It's inessential, but I'd like to see a source suggesting that the "many physicists" is true.

    Currently, there is no natural explanation for the occurrence of this number, and if none is found...

    There's a difficulty there, which I'm sure Fr Spitzer recognizes, that there is no cut-off date for this, unless perhaps all possible natural explanations are ruled out by another mathematical proof. Until we know either way, it can't be evidence in either direction.

    ...[if such a proof were found] one will have to make recourse either to a multiverse (composed of bubble universes, each having different values of constants) or as Penrose implies, a Creator (with a super-intellect).

    No, that's a false dichotomy. Even if we concluded that some supernatural explanation had to be correct, that in itself doesn't tell us what sort of supernatural explanation is right. A super-intelligent Creator is only one of infinitely many imaginable supernatural explanations for the universe. We could imagine a Lawgiving Designer God, or we could imagine a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours, or an insensate pantheistic biocentric force that brings forth universes containing life, and so on.

    In view of the fact that no natural explanation has [yet] been found for them, most physicists have made recourse to one of two trans-universal explanations:
    1. A multiverse (a naturalistic explanation) and
    2. A super intellectual Creator (a supernatural explanation).

    Is there any reason to omit the third major recourse, which is likely more common than the second? That is: there is a natural explanation that just hasn't been found yet, because physicists aren't done.

    Not necessarily because the other universes (and the multiverse itself) are in principle unobservable. Furthermore, it violates the principle of parsimony (Ockham’s Razor)

    I agree that, if the other universes in a multiverse are in principle unobservable, then that would be a major strike against the scientific credibility of the multiverse theory. In a sense, Fr Spitzer is right that that unfalsifiability by experiment renders the multiverse idea just as scientifically useless as the supernatural Creator idea. The multiverse still does have theoretical advantage, however, by being formalizable, whereas Creator ideas are (currently) couched in purely non-rigorous qualitative terms.

    Fr Spitzer is wrong that the multiverse violates parsimony. Parsimony isn't affected by the number of things, but by the number of kinds of things; e.g. once we agree that there are bosons with certain properties, explaining phenomena by invoking lots of bosons doesn't have a complexity penalty, whereas invoking bosons plus a new unknown particle does have a complexity penalty. If we already suppose that some process is making universes, then supposing it made more universes than ours doesn't affect parsimony. And more importantly, the information content of a multiverse is actually much lower than the information content of a finely tuned universe, so there really is less there in need of explanation. For instance, you can run a Universal Dovetailer program which, in just a few lines of code, simulates every possible universe with every possible physics.

    • Steve Law

      "A super-intelligent Creator is only one of infinitely many imaginable supernatural explanations for the universe. We could imagine a Lawgiving Designer God, or we could imagine a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours, or an insensate pantheistic biocentric force that brings forth universes containing life, and so on."

      The extreme fine-tuning required to produce a universe with the stability and capability to produce complex chemistry, like this one, very strongly suggests a designer, an intelligence. An intelligent Cosmic Owl might do it, but not an 'insensate pantheistic biocentric force'. Whatever it is, it is intelligent and a creator.

      "Is there any reason to omit the third major recourse, which is likely more common than the second? That is: there is a natural explanation that just hasn't been found yet, because physicists aren't done."

      This is promissory materialism: "We'll definitely find a naturalistic explanation quite soon, don't you worry". So there is a reason to reject it: no evidence.

      • Paul Boillot

        When I flip a quarter 50 times, the sequence of H/T that is produced by chaos is extremely unlikely.

        • Steve Law

          "When I flip a quarter 50 times, the sequence of H/T that is produced by chaos is extremely unlikely."

          Any random sequence is unlikely, but that doesn't undermine the fine-tuning hypothesis. The question is: given a randomly-generated universe, what are the odds of it being able to support life (where "supporting life" means a stable universe that doesn't either immediately collapse back into itself or disperse forever in a cold cloud of hydrogen and helium, and is capable of producing the heavier elements required for complex chemistry)? The odds are INSANELY, ABSURDLY low, so low that to get a life-supporting universe first time - and we only have the one example - cannot be down to chance.

          Your example does not state what the target is, and therefore has no significance. The difference is, by analogy, the same as between two archers who shoot at a wall 500 meters away. The first archer draws a small circle on the wall, retires 500m, draws an arrow and hits the small circle dead center, while the second archer fires an arrow then walks over to the wall and draws a circle round it. The first archers result is significant, the second isn't.

          • Paul Boillot

            "given a randomly-generated universe, what are the odds of it being able to support life...The odds are INSANELY, ABSURDLY low"

            This is a very odd assertion, to my mind; what do you mean by "randomly-generated"?

            Is an anthropic universe as unlikely as all that? Are there obscure factors which restrict the range of allowed universes?

            Using the phrase "to get _____ the first time" is playing off an English idiom which has folded into it a cultural understanding of the probability of a human intelligence achieving a specific goal without practice. It is meaningless if there are *not* other universes, it adds superfluous and inappropriate meaning because potential multiverses have little overlap with human scales or intention.

            My example does not state a target because there is none. The hypothetical 'random' universe producing us by 'chance' that you are arguing against also has no target.

            Any event is unlikely. Every event is unlikely. We know too little about the physical processes which resulted in our existence for me to take seriously your assertion that it simply "cannot be down to chance."

          • Steve Law

            If any event is unlikely, how do we calculate probaility at all? Your denial of the significance of the fine-tuning data makes estimating any probability improbable.
            If you're right, what's also improbable is the number of famous and eminent physicists and cosmologists who accept the data and acknowledge the validity of fine-tuning (without necessarily accepting the Goddidit explanation), given that, by your account, they plainly don't understand probability.

            Anyway, the target is "a life-supporting universe", as I clearly stated.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Anyway, the target is "a life-supporting universe", as I clearly stated."

            I think that our universe does tend to seem stable, and our current location "life-supporting", but I think this has much more to do with our sense of scale and time. On the cosmic level, things seem much less stable (galaxies destined to crash into each other), and we have reason to believe the one place we know supports life will do so for only the briefest of moments (relatively speaking).

          • Steve Law

            It is not subjective though. Compared to the overwhelming majority of possible universes, this one is intensely life-friendly.

          • Paul Boillot

            "Overwhelming majority of possible universes."

            If there are infinite universes, there are infinite life-friendly universes.

          • Steve Law

            I don't think anyone has claimed there are an infinite number of universes. Now that would be the ultimate violation of Ockham's Razor....

          • Paul Boillot

            "the subsequent modelling of potential universes based on varying those values"

          • Geena Safire

            I don't think anyone has claimed there are an infinite number of universes. Now that would be the ultimate violation of Ockham's Razor....

            Techically, Steve, there is no such thing as "an infinite number," but rather "an infinity of universes" or "infinite universes."

            And, yes, there are several theories that posit infinite universes. Separately, string theory / M-theory mathematics, when I last checked, strongly implied on the order of 10¹⁰⁰ ⁰ universes...

            ...which, as the British would say, is as near to infinite as makes no never mind.

            Ockham's Razor is a guideline, not a rule, so one does not technically 'violate' Ockham's Razor.

            Separately, a theory becomes more complex the greater the number of separate ideas it contains or assertions it makes. The air in a room, for example, does not become more complicated or more unlikely the larger the room gets because of the vastly greater number of air molecules. Along the same lines, a very, very large number of universes is not more extravagent than merely a large numbe of universes.

          • Andre Boillot

            I think you are again being provincial, this time with regards to what could constitute life.

          • Ben Posin

            I would love to know the basis for this statement. How many other types of universes are "possible," and what portion of them are less "life-friendly" than this one? And how do you know this?

            From my perspective, this universe is hardly that life friendly. It took about 10 billion years after the big bang for any life that we know of to develop, and we have unfortunate reasons to believe that, as discussed by Andre, life may only be around for a pretty brief period of comsmic time. And as far as we know life only happened in one mind blowingly tiny speck and corner of the universe, with the bulk of the universe being quite hostile to life (even a lot of Earth is hostile to life!).

          • Steve Law

            This is SCIENCE. Read up on it! It is acknowledged as fact by a long list of the great and good in physics and cosmology, many/most of them atheists or agnostics.
            The following have published papers on it: Barrow & Tipler (1986), Carr & Rees (1979), Carter (1974), Davies (2006), Dawkins (2006), Redfern (2006), Ellis (1993), Greene (2011), Guth (2007), Harrison (2003), Hawking & Mlodinow (2010, pg. 161), Linde (2008), Page (2011b), Penrose (2004, pg. 758), Polkinghorne & Beale (2009), Rees (1999), Smolin (2007), Susskind (2005), Tegmark et al. (2006), Vilenkin (2006), Weinberg (1994), Wheeler (1996).

            Note I am not saying that all these luminaries accept that 'God' is the explanation, but that they acknowledge the validity of the science and the enigmatic questions it poses.

            This is not a question of "extremophiles" - life that exists in places we might consider inhospitable - but something far more fundamental. Life-friendliness equates to a universe which is capable of complex chemistry. The huge majority of potential universes either collapse upon themselves very quickly or disperse into infinity, generating only thin and frozen clouds of hydrogen and helium. A small minority produce suns, but only a tiny minority of those have suns that endure long enough to produce the heavier elements - iron, carbon etc - required for complex chemical compounds to form.

          • Andre Boillot

            "This is SCIENCE."

            Whoops! I thought this was Sparta. Sorry for my egregious error.

          • Paul Boillot

            Numbers are not discrete: if each parameter were only variable between 1 and 1.5 %, there would still be an infinity of values in each one-half of one-percent.

            You cannot logically speak of a majority or a minority of infinities; and that's all contained within ONE universe.

          • Steve Law

            This is no objection. To take a real-world example, let's say you have a big target painted on a wall and a blindfolded person throwing knifes at it. The bullseye covers 20% of the whole target area. There are of course an infinite number of places the knife could land, both in the bullseye and outside of it. But assuming the knife-throwing is random we can still precisely define the odds of the knife-thrower and confidently predict that the knife-thrower will only hit the bullseye 20% (1:5) of the time.

          • Geena Safire

            What you say is true if we were talking about many universes and many random throws of the knife. (However, the likelihood of getting exactly 1 throw in the target out of exactly 5 throws is surprisingly unlikely. The confidence increases as the multiples of 5 throws increases.)

            But that's not what we are talking about here. Therefore, your analogy is wrong. We are not talking about many throws of the knife, rather only one.

            We are talking about this one universe and a single random throw of a knife. For any single random throw of the knife, every point on the wall is exactly as likely to get hit as any other, every single point. It's like a fair lottery -- any ticket holder is as likely as any other to win. The target is not relevant for a single random throw. Another similar analogy would be a box filled with identical balls, where 20% are yellow. In any single draw from the box, the ball will not be 20% yellow.

          • Steve Law

            "What you say is true if we were talking about many universes and many random throws of the knife. (However, the likelihood of getting exactly 1 throw in the target out of exactly 5 throws is surprisingly unlikely. The confidence increases as the multiples of 5 throws increases."

            Surely not. If the bullseye is 20% of the total target area and knifes are thrown randomly at the target (assuming that all knives hit the target somewhere), then the odds are exactly 1 in 5 of hitting the bullseye. No more, no less.

            "But that's not what we are talking about here. Therefore, your analogy is wrong. We are not talking about many throws of the knife, rather only one."

            One throw of the knife has 1 in 5 chance of hitting the bullseye. One roll of the universe dice has a 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123 of producing a life-friendly universe. I can't make this any simpler.

            "We are talking about this one universe and a single random throw of a knife. For any single random throw of the knife, every point on the wall is exactly as likely to get hit as any other, every single point. It's like a fair lottery -- any ticket holder is as likely as any other to win. "

            We've covered this before. If what you say is true then it destroys all probability theory and we can never say that any event is less or more probable than any other.

            You need to explain all this to the guys below - they all acknowledge the validity of the science behind the fine-tuning hypothesis and that it poses a valid question that must be addressed. They'll all look silly and you'll be famous:

            Leonard Susskind, the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University

            Lee Smolin, American theoretical physicist, faculty member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Waterloo and a

            member of the graduate faculty of the philosophy department at the University of Toronto.

            Sir Martin John Rees, British cosmologist and astrophysicist, Astronomer Royal since 1995 and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge

            Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.

            Frank Anthony Wilczek, American theoretical physicist, mathematician and a Nobel laureate, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

            Steven Weinberg, American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics, holder of the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin

          • Andre Boillot

            You need to explain all this to the guys below - they all acknowledge the validity of the science behind the fine-tuning hypothesis and that it poses a valid question that must be addressed. They'll all look silly and you'll be famous: [...]

            I'm not sure I've ever seen a better example of arguing from authority than this. Would you be able to briefly summarize for us the relevant arguments each of these gentleman make that you believe support the point you're trying to make?

          • Geena Safire

            Actually, all these folks do consider the fine-tuning situation to be a complex issue and a valid question to be considered. However, they do not leap, as Steve has done, that since science hasn't yet got an explanation for it, therefore goddidit.

            Another difficult question -- and one up much longer standing -- is a good theory of gravity, even in classical terms, much less quantum gravity. Hundreds of the greatest minds of science have been grappling with this problem for many, many years -- some for their entire careers -- generating serious hypothesis after hypothesis which explain some of the data but fail on one one count or another.

            But despite these decades of failure, I don't see Steve claiming that, since science hasn't yet got an answer to this very thorny question, it must be legions of angels holding each of us down to the ground and the awesomeness of God's creation that makes matter attractive to other matter, thus causing suns, planets and galaxies to form.

            That's the same kind of logic he is employing to leap from the apparently strangeness and challenge of the question of fine-tuning to goddidit, despite the fact that science has only been pondering this question for a relatively short time.

            As someone else has suggested, it may be that, even though there seem to be many other possible options, that the laws of physics in our universe is the only way that they can be set (necessity). Or it may be that whatever dark energy turns out to be will explain much of the mystery, or render it moot -- and we've only known about dark energy for about a decade.

            Steve also seems not to understand that the multiverse idea isn't something physicists have pulled out of thin air. Our challenges with understanding gravity, for example, may imply a multiverse. Also, the math of string theory points to a multiverse. There are other arrows pointing in that direction.

            Finally, he doesn't seem to understand that, even if at some point science were to throw up its collective hands and say that nothing in nature could ever explain fine-tuning, that still leaves him a long, long way from proving that this non-natural explanation is any kind of deity.

          • Andre Boillot

            Geena,

            I don't doubt that the people he lists grapple with the question, I was just curious to see if he could summarize the way each does, and how he thinks their conclusions help his point. Steve seems to think that the mere listing of names constitutes an argument.

            Edited for 'ize' not 'y'

          • Geena Safire

            Ah, I see. Sorry for butting in on your Socratic process. I hope he will answer, because I am interested also.

          • Andre Boillot

            What's a 'Socratic'?

            Just.
            Kidding.

          • Geena Safire
          • Ben Posin

            Just so. I would still appreciate follow up from Steve as to whether he believes SCIENCE (as he puts it) shows

            a) that there are or have been other universes which are unfriendly to life; or

            b) that we only know of this universe, but have reason to believe that this universe could have had different physical constants which would not have been life friendly; or, in a much weaker claim

            c) that if this universe had different physical constants, life as we know it couldn't exist..

            I don't think anyone here is going to dispute c (though I wouldn't concede that no sort of life could evolve in a different universe), but c doesn't really get us very far as far as thinking the world has been "fine-tuned" towards a life related purpose. A, if anything, demolishes the fine tuning argument. It's only b that would seem to have some teeth in it, if it could be demonstrated.

          • nowornever

            I would dispute c). Since we have such a difficult time modeling what a universe with different physical constants would like like, I'm uncomfortable making any strong claims about what could or couldn't happen in it, though I guess that's somewhat dependent on how strictly we're defining the 'as we know it' clause.

          • nowornever

            Steve, I hope you realize that your embrace of the anthropic fallacy leads to the inevitable conclusion the world is going to end pretty soon: http://www.anthropic-principle.com/?q=anthropic_principle/doomsday_argument

          • Paul Boillot

            Others have addressed their concerns to your statement, let me share with you mine.

            "This is no objection." - All due respect, it is. I think it would be harder for you to offer such a strong and declamatory statement dismissing my argument if you could re-formulate it in your own words, ie. I'm not sure you understand what I'm arguing.

            To begin with, your example in does not offer "an infinite number of places the knife could land." The knife has a given number of atoms and molecules in a specific pattern. The wall has a given number of atoms and molecules in a specific pattern; these are both finite quantities. "Atoms" are so-called because they are discrete units of matter. The particles of the knife and wall do not touch, they do not cut each other...as the knife embeds itself into the wall, it breaks molecular bonds, not atomic bonds. The physical structure of the wall changes, not the chemical or atomic.

            The possible permutations of knife-in-wall are huge, no doubt, but they are not "infinite." Calling them infinite shows a lack of appreciation for just how weird a concept infinity is, even a bounded infinity. Have you ever seen an interactive Mandelbrot set? It's pretty weird.

            You're having trouble getting past your intuitive, human-scale knowledge of discrete events.

            If I have a deck of cards, and I'm going to pull one out of it at random, there's a 1/52 chance of it being the 7 of diamonds before I pull it.

            If I repeat this experiment, maximally shuffling the deck every time, ensuring complete randomness, every repetition will have the same 1/52 chance of being the 7 of diamonds.

            We could build a system of robots to perpetually self-maintain whose only purpose is to do that experiment, and the results would converge on a 1/52th chance of being-pulled-randomly for every card....infinitely, without end.

            That is, extending the time infinitely in the time-direction does not change the possibility space for any given card draw.

            But that's not what we're talking about here: we're talking about a half-dozen, precisely measured, non-integer variables in the mathematical equations which describe our universe.

            Non-integer numbers are not discrete: How many numbers are there between .856 and .857?

            You've been offering authoritative evidence of "models" of all the "possible" and "potential" universes, and then talking about majorities and minorities in an attempt to maximize emotional and intuitive discomfort with the result we have today.

            If the range of values possible for a life-viable cosmological constant, for instance, is only 1% variant from what we find, there are no end of values in that range.

            How meaningful is it to talk about how rarely a universe like ours would be randomly-generated, if it would be randomly generated endlessly by slightly varying these numbers.

            Incidentally, earlier I asked you what 6 x infinity was, I've been doing some more perusing and it seems like there are up to 80 different parameters which have been identified as 'finely tuned.' I don't know to what degree they interact/inter-depend, but I think we can all agree that the different of X(infinity) isn't huge whether X is 6 or 80.

          • Ben Posin

            Before I start trying to track down these papers (if you have a link to one you think is good, I'd appreciate it), let me make sure I understand what you're saying is shown by these papers. I'm getting a bit thrown by your use of the word "potential." Are you suggesting that these papers show that it is known that there have been other universes than ours, which either "collapse[d] upon themselves very quickly" or "disperse[d] into infinity"??? Or do these papers show that, if there was a universe with slightly different physical constants/laws, this is what would happen? If it's the former, that would be exciting news for me, and I appreciate being educated on this subject!!! The latter is what I'd understood the thinking on this issue to be, however. Let me know, and I'll address this further.

          • Geena Safire

            I would also like to get more info on this from Steve. My sense is that the papers he is mentioning are ones in which various physicists grapple with the fine tuning idea.

          • Geena Safire

            Compared to the overwhelming majority of possible universes, this one is intensely life-friendly.

            I guess you could kinda say that in the sense that, since most possible universes recollapse immediately or never form atoms or complex atoms, and thus are impossible environments for life to form, then ours is relatively life-friendly -- but only in the sense of being life-possible.

            On the other hand, considering our universe in itself, it could be interpreted that the universe created life to use for target practice. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of discussing how poor our 'design' is and how intently most of the universe is incessantly trying to kill us.

          • Paul Boillot

            Did I assert that any/every event is equally unlikely.....no I did not.

            Does every bowling ball smash eggs? No. Does every bowling ball I hold above a carton of eggs and then release smash eggs? Almost all.

            Does every conceivable universe eventually spawn life? I don't know, but probably not.

            Does every conceivable universe, which had the same starting conditions ours did, spawn life?

            You talked about abiogensis being extremely unlikely the "first time." What evidence do we have that there are any other tries? That there aren't a lot of other tries?

            We can't accurately model our own planet's....anything. Weather, animal populations, economics...one planet out of 8 in our solar system, which is one of hundreds of billions in our galaxy, which is one of hundreds of billions in the observerable universe, which is ?one? of ?many?

            We can't model discrete systems here at home, but you want me to believe that we have iron-clad computer simulations which have completely explored the range of possible initial conditions, which have ruled out any potential subtle causal relationships between QM/early universe conditions and the birth of consciousness 14 billion years later.

            The bottom line, from my point of view, is that claims like

            The odds are INSANELY, ABSURDLY low, so low that to get a life-supporting universe first time - and we only have the one example - cannot be down to chance.

            are unconvincing.

          • Steve Law

            This isn't any kind of argument. It is rhetoric: a list of broad, vague questions and unpredictable phenomena and the suggestion that the science of fine-tuning is, somehow, like them.

          • Paul Boillot

            "The science of fine-tuning"

            vs.

            " the fine-tuning hypothesis is based on measurements of the physical constants and the subsequent modelling of potential universes based on varying those values."

            You're conflating two things: "the science of fine tuning," which is simply the measurement of values for various parameters (A), and the acknowledgement that our universe would be much different if they were not in a small range (B); and "the fine-tuning hypothesis," based on those observations, that therefore an intelligence is necessary (C).

            1) We don't know that our specific recorded values were in-determinate; there might well be something fundamental about singularities which would force A, and preclude B.
            2) We don't know what is possible and impossible for life. We don't know if life can be silicone-based, if methane seas are viable environments, etc...
            3) We don't know how many 'universes' there are. We don't know how old ours is.

            I'm sorry that these questions about reality are too 'broad' and 'vague' for your liking, but the discoveries of the science of fine tuning have raised more questions than they answered.

            In any case, the gut-feeling, common-sense argument you provide "the odds are too huge against..." for it not to be god, (C) feel a whole lot like the theistic arguments against fossil records and evolution which got play in the late 19th/early 20th century.

            The fact that it boggles/bends/stupifies/etc. your mind how it could happen without a god is not a convincing argument for me.

          • Steve Law

            "1) We don't know that our specific recorded values were in-determinate; there might well be something fundamental about singularities which would force A, and preclude B."

            if there's something that forces the values of the constants to fall into the tiny band that is life-friendly, then that is just as weird and unlikely as fine-tuning. In fact it is fine-tuning. All you've done there is push the question back a step.

            "2) We don't know what is possible and impossible for life. We don't know if life can be silicone-based, if methane seas are viable environments, etc..."

            Life in sterile, frozen, monotonous universes incapable of complex chemistry? Or within the singularity that collapses back into itself almost immediately, as in a huge range of possible universes? That's not science, it's science fiction. You can't just imagine stuff and then claim it debunks established scientific fact.

            3) We don't know how many 'universes' there are. We don't know how old ours is.

          • Paul Boillot

            "if there's something that forces the values of the constants to fall into the tiny band that is life-friendly.... All you've done there is push the question back a step."

            No no no, we won't have any of this. If all 80 of the, hotly debated I might add, proposed fine-tuning parameters were tomorrow found to be the result of subtle, but measurable and understandable, fluctuations in __xyz__, I won't have people like you claiming "Aha! More evidence of design!!!"

            Either the (per current observations) utterly lifeless, devoid, barren, deadly, hostile, life-on-a-knife's-edge universe, and the physical systems which gave it it's shape, is probabilistic evidence of a God finely tweaking all the hundreds of universe-dials, or it is not.

            If we find out that it's all much simpler than we perceive it today (as Feynman, and many others, often described the reality/status-quo relationship of complex and diverse theoretical physics), if the probabilities get better because we've taken out a number of variables, we have not just "pushed the question back."

            You're relying on mind-boggling complexity to show GOD, if we reduce that complexity, you've got less room to shove that hypothesis in.

            "You can't just imagine stuff and then claim it debunks established scientific fact."

            Where did I do so?

            Am I anywhere claiming to be contradicting the prevailing scientific consensus, much less debunking established scientific fact.

            You're talking about hypothetical changes to the constants in physical equations, and the results that would arise out of them.

            Why not change the equations too, while we're at it?

            What is it about the apparent-randomness, the apparent knife-edge which points to god, and not natural processes?

            What would we expect a naturalistic, evolved, huge, random universe to look like?

            What would we expect a designed, intentioned, life-centered universe to look like?

            Which does our universe more resemble?

          • nowornever

            I honestly don't get why we're still talking about this. If life didn't exist, we couldn't be here to wonder at how unlikely it is that life exists. Ergo, in all cases where someone wonders at the unlikelihood of life existing, life already exists, and in all cases where life doesn't exist, nobody wonders at said non-existence.

            This entire set of arguments is a tautology.

          • David Nickol

            If any event is unlikely, how do we calculate probaility at all?

            I think one of the grave problems with the anthropic argument is that there is no way to calculate the "probabilities" that are claimed to be so incredibly small.

            How do you calculate the probability that the strong nuclear force, for example, is what it is rather than 2% stronger or 2% weaker? It would seem that the only way is to examine a representative sample of universes and see how the strong nuclear force varies from one universe to another. The problem, of course, is that we have no sample to measure against. And if we did have a sample of, say, a thousand universes, what is to say the strong nuclear force would not be exactly the same in all of those universes as it is in ours?

            What we know is that the fundamental constants are what they are (presuming our measurements are correct). It is relatively meaningless to calculate probabilities of events after they occur. If you are playing Bridge, the probability that you will be dealt any particular hand is one in 635,013,559,600. Those are staggering odds, but they are quite meaningless once the hand is dealt.

            I do not pretend to have grappled fully with the anthropic principle, but of course it has often been pointed out that being amazed that the universe may be just right for our existence is perhaps not amazing at all, since the fact is that we are here, and if the universe could have been different and had been different, we wouldn't be around to marvel at how well suited the universe is to our existence. If there are millions or billions or trillions of universes, all of them different, and all but ours inhospitable for life, there is nobody in those other universes to say, "If the mass of the electron had been 2% heavier, intelligent life would have arisen, and isn't it amazing that that one tiny variation has kept us from existing!" The multiverse is a very real possibility, and it was not dreamed up solely as an answer to the anthropic principle.

          • Steve Law

            "I think one of the grave problems with the anthropic argument is that there is no way to calculate the "probabilities" that are claimed to be so incredibly small."

            Many of the most eminent scientists of the day disagree with you here.

            "How do you calculate the probability that the strong nuclear force, for example, is what it is rather than 2% stronger or 2% weaker? It would seem that the only way is to examine a representative sample of universes and see how the strong nuclear force varies from one universe to another. The problem, of course, is that we have no sample to measure against."

            They 'model' universes. They are confident enough in their models to have published many hundreds of papers on the subject. There are very few dissenters, mainly just Victor Stenger. Against Hawking, Penrose, Smolin, Susskind, Rees, Davies etc etc etc.

            "If you are playing Bridge, the probability that you will be dealt any particular hand is one in 635,013,559,600. Those are staggering odds, but they are quite meaningless once the hand is dealt."

            Then how can we know whether any event is are probable or improbable? Scientists say we can. If it seems like I am using an Argument from Authority here, that because I am, and I've got a really good hand.

            "I do not pretend to have grappled fully with the anthropic principle, but of course it has often been pointed out that being amazed that the universe may be just right for our existence is perhaps not amazing at all, since the fact is that we are here, and if the universe could have been different and had been different, we wouldn't be around to marvel at how well suited the universe is to our existence."

            The Anthropic principle is something related but different. Nevertheless the anthropic answer that "If the universe wasn't life-friendly we wouldn't be here to comment on it" is no kind of *explanation* of anything. It is only trivially true. It answers any question: why is lead heavier than copper? Well, if the universe wasn't life-friendly we wouldn't be here to ask that question!

          • David Nickol

            Then how can we know whether any event is are probable or improbable? Scientists say we can.

            Interpreting the meaning of probability is not as simple as it may seem. I recently read something excellent on the topic, and if I can find it, I will answer in more detail.

          • Geena Safire

            If any event is unlikely, how do we calculate probaility at all?

            That is a very good question. It is a complicated problem. There are many different ways the problem has been approached, and many of them are flawed.

            In any case, the usual number calculated is quite a large number of possible combinations of 'settings' of which ours has one set.

            But that doesn't really imply our universe has a very low "probability" as it is generally understood. It's more like the lottery. Although it is highly unlikely that any specific person will win a lottery, it is extremely likely that someone will win the lottery. Every ticket (if the lottery is honest) has an equal chance of being selected.

            The high "unlikelihood" is only relevant if there is a target, that is, if the lottery is rigged. The only relevance to us being here to be aware of it may be that our universe was that which 'won the lottery.'

            Also, our universe is full of unlikely things. For example, how unlikely is quantum mechanics? Man, that is so weird, so unimaginable to our tiny brains. And yet, there it is.

            [T]he target is "a life-supporting universe"...

            Again, there is no "target." All we know is that at least one universe exists, and it has a certain combination of constant values, and at least one tiny bit has life in it.

          • Geena Safire

            If any event is unlikely, how do we calculate probaility at all?

            That is a very good question, Steve, And a more difficult question than it would first appear. Most efforts at such a calculation are flawed, some fundamentally.

            One of the more common flaws is to assume that one variable, such as the mass of the electron, could be changed with all of the others remaining constant.

            Further, some flawed approaches try to vary certain properties of space-time -- conservation of energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum -- which have been known for nearly 100 years to be automatically present in any model of the universe. Not much later, special relativity joined these as part of any system emerging from any initial state.

            Although there are a wide range of theoretical values that can be assigned to the variables, it is also possible that our specific laws of physics in our universe may be those that naturally emerge when the earliest symmetry breaks.

            I'll address your "target" concern as a separate comment.

          • Geena Safire

            ...given a randomly-generated universe...

            How do you know the universe was randomly generated (if not deity-generated)? How do you know anything about the nature of the context from which our universe emerged?

            Your example does not state what the target is, and therefore has no significance.

            How do you justify claiming a "target"? If the universe exist sans purpose, then there would be no target. Your analogy is fundamentally flawed. The non-deity-generated universe, by definition, would also not have an archer, nor an arrow. in addition to not having a target.

          • Steve Law

            Again, this is vague, woolly, self-serving "how do we know anything really?" scepticism. Yet atheists never seem to tire of beating theists with the "You are denying scientific evidence" stick. You can't have it both ways.

            "How do you justify claiming a "target"? If the universe exist sanspurpose, then there would be no target. Your analogy is fundamentally flawed. The non-deity-generated universe, by definition, would also not have an archer, nor an arrow. in addition to not having a target."

            Physicists and cosmologists can model the properties and behaviour of a universe that has different values to the fundamental constants than our own. The question then is: of the possible variations of the constants, how many - or if you like what percentage - of possible universes would enable complex chemistry? That is the target. It is a mind-experiment, but one based on scientific data and models that reflect our scientific knowledge. The answer is that the percentage of life-supporting universes is absurdly small, so incredibly small that to assume that the only real universe, the one we live in, was generated by chance is similarly absurd. A far more likely explanation is design.

      • The extreme fine-tuning required to produce a universe with the
        stability and capability to produce complex chemistry, like this one,
        very strongly suggests a designer, an intelligence. An intelligent
        Cosmic Owl might do it, but not an 'insensate pantheistic biocentric
        force'. Whatever it is, it is intelligent and a creator.

        Why do you think it suggests a designer or intelligence? It doesn't suggest that to me, since there are so many possible supernatural accounts.

        This is promissory materialism: "We'll definitely find a naturalistic explanation quite soon, don't you worry". So there is a reason to reject it: no evidence.

        No, that's a special pleading fallacy. There's no evidence in favor of the other two recourses either, so on the basis of the evidence all three must have equal likelihood.

        • Steve Law

          "Why do you think it suggests a designer or intelligence? It doesn't suggest that to me, since there are so many possible supernatural accounts."

          Simply because the values of the laws of physics have to be so exactly and precisely right to produce a life-supporting universe that the odds aginst them being set so by a random process are mind-bendingly staggering.

          "No, that's a special pleading fallacy. There's no evidence in favor of the other two recourses either, so on the basis of the evidence all three must have equal likelihood."

          But there is evidence in favour of design: the fine-tuning hypothesis is based on measurements of the physical constants and the subsequent modelling of potential universes based on varying those values. What's the naturalistic explanation based on?

          • Argon

            Given the choice between concluding that something so far beyond our experience (e.g. periods earlier that 10E-12 sec into the Big Bang), suggests 'intelligence' vs. some other lawlike but 'non-intelligent' mechanism, I tend to favor the conclusion: "I don't know".

            The arguments are otherwise pretty unimpressive for me as far as proofs or 'hints' go. I'd really hate to use this as any basis for an extended metaphysics.

          • "I tend to favor the conclusion: "I don't know"."

            Although I think the cosmic evidence points in one direction, I respect your agnosticism. But would you agree that it's certainly *possible* (and arguably likely)that a transcendent, intelligent Creator caused the universe?

            "The arguments are otherwise pretty unimpressive for me as far as proofs or 'hints' go. I'd really hate to use this as any basis for an extended metaphysics."

            I respect that you might personally find these arguments unconvincing, but you should at least have good reasons *why*. Why do you think Fr. Spitzer's article and reasoning is "pretty unimpressive"?

          • Argon

            Metaphysics:Creators are always possible: intelligent, unintelligent or of average IQ. We're rarely in a position to disprove a negative. Personally, the God of philosophers and the God of First Causes don't interest me, even if either existed. Such Gods are pretty remote and untouchable. If one wishes to stick to physics I really suspect one will have to strongly revisit one's understanding about miracles and providence. Personally, I've got questions about whether causality actually operates at the extreme limits -- It's possible we've got it wrong, but that's a pure, unsupported guess from a non-physicist. However, if we presume that an uncaused cause created the universe then causality certainly must break down somewhere in that chain.

            Reasons why I don't find the arguments convincing:
            I'm a scientist and familiar with uncertainty and the need to keep faith in some 'hunches' or hopes about how the outcome of research will pan out. I'm OK with people maintaining, developing and arguing about their hunches about what gave rise to this universe. However, the physics is at the cutting edge of what we know today. Our models break down at the densities and energies we're considering. We can play with our models but that's really it; there's nothing near a definitive conclusion. Fine tuning and other cosmological arguments has been argued for some time by better mind than me. If they were anywhere near solid justification, we wouldn't be having this discussion. It remains ungrounded metaphysics.

          • Simply because the values of the laws of physics have to be so exactly and precisely right to produce a life-supporting universe that the odds aginst them being set so by a random process are mind-bendingly staggering.

            That's a premise, not a full argument. To get from there to the desired conclusion ("and that suggests an intelligent designer"), you need two additional premises. First, that "the universe was intended to be life-supporting". Second, that "intelligence is the only way to beat the odds". Would you like to give reasons for those?

            But there is evidence in favour of design: the fine-tuning hypothesis is based on measurements of the physical constants and the subsequent modelling of potential universes based on varying those values. What's the naturalistic explanation based on?

            No, that's just a restatement of the special pleading fallacy. The apparent fine-tuning is the evidence. The three common recourses are multiverse, necessity, and design. Under the assumption of any of those three, the likelihood of fine-tuning approaches one. Thus the likelihood ratio of the three recourses is 1:1:1, i.e. unity. Therefore there is no evidence specially in favor of any of the three recourses.

          • Steve Law

            "That's a premise, not a full argument. To get from there to the desired conclusion ("and that suggests an intelligent designer"), you need two additional premises. First, that "the universe was intended to be life-supporting". Second, that "intelligence is the only way to beat the odds". Would you like to give reasons for those?"

            I've already given reasons. "The universe was intended to be life-supporting" is the conclusion not the premise. "Intelligence is the only way of beating the odds" because what else could achieve this effect other than chance?

            Necessity is no explanation, just a claim that things "had to be this way" without any reasons given as to why.

            "No, that's just a restatement of the special pleading fallacy. The apparent fine-tuning is the evidence. The three common recourses are multiverse, necessity, and design. Under the assumption of any of those three, the likelihood of fine-tuning approaches one. Thus the likelihood ratio of the three recourses is 1:1:1, i.e. unity. Therefore there is no evidence specially in favor of any of the three recourses."

            Eh???? The improbability of a life-friendly universe makes a 'pure chance' naturalistic explanation highly unlikely. Necessity is not an explanation at all, and the multiverse idea is highly theoretical, unobservable and with no evidence to support it. How then do you calculate that design, necessity and multiverse are all equally likely?

          • "The universe was intended to be life-supporting" is the conclusion not the premise.

            No, the conclusion was that "fine-tuning ... very strongly suggests a designer, an intelligence".

            "Intelligence is the only way of beating the odds" because what else could achieve this effect other than chance?

            That sentence is what gets called an "appeal to ignorance" fallacy. It's not intended to say that you're ignorant. It just means that the "X, because what else?" form of argument is not valid.

            Necessity is no explanation, just a claim that things "had to be this way" without any reasons given as to why.

            But recall that "necessity" was being used as shorthand for the idea that "there is a natural explanation that just hasn't been found yet, because physicists aren't done." Long ago, we used to need finely-tuned epicycles to describe the orderly orbits of the planets. Then later, a new idea, "universal gravitation", was discovered, and we reinterpreted the orbits as a matter of mathematical necessity. We used to need finely-tuned lists of the properties of elements. Then later, a new idea, "the periodic table", allowed accurate prediction of the properties of new elements, and even later more new ideas, "the standard model", gave us the ability to derive the properties from mathematical rules. Those are 2.5 examples to illustrate the idea that many physicists have about how there could be an as-yet-undiscovered physics idea that explains fine-tuning.

            The improbability of a life-friendly universe makes a 'pure chance' naturalistic explanation highly unlikely.

            Quite right. That's why none of the three recourses, which I abbreviated as "multiverse", "necessity", and "design", invoke chance alone. (Some but not all forms of the "multiverse" category of ideas do invoke chance-plus-many-samples.)

            How then do you calculate that design, necessity and multiverse are all equally likely?

            Technically I didn't; I calculated that their likelihood ratios are the same, which means that the evidence supports them to the same degree. To do that you use an important formula in probability called Bayes' Theorem, which tells you how to convert from "the likelihood of getting your evidence if you assume a theory is true" to "the probability that the theory is true based on your evidence". The formula makes clear is that there are two important and distinct factors: there's the likelihood ratio (which describes the strength of the evidence), and there's also the prior probability ratio (which describes any a priori reasons you may have to favor one theory).

            There's an excellent tutorial here: http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes which aims to dramatically clarify and sharpen the natural fuzzy intuitive sense humans have of how to handle evidence. I highly recommend it. If you read through it, you'll see how and why an effective way to argue against my conclusion above is to argue in favor of the prior probabilities being skewed, which I fully admit is a possibility.

          • Avel

            This may be of some help. I complete agree with your analysis. It is very apparent that you have studied informal logic and have made good use it. Here is a conversation, which you may find helpful.

            You wrote: Science doesn’t presuppose order and coherence, that’s the position of Intelligent Design proponents.

            We reply: The coherence that science presupposes is not the same as what is argued by proponents of intelligent design. Theygo farther than what is warranted. The coherence being discussed here is this simple recognition that natural law is there to be discovered. And “law” in this sense is not being used to snag you into admitting a “law-giver.” It just means that we can know *how* things work, and when we do then the workings of things describable by natural law are ***predictable***. You can’t do science without that belief in the external world and the concomitant belief in the “givenness” that it can be productively investigated by the mind. Further presuppositions abound:

            1) Scientific activity presupposes the existence of minds outside one’s own mind. Such a belief cannot be proven scientifically. It is simply taken as a given. At least it is by those scientists who publish peer-reviewed papers.

            2) Scientific activity presupposes that math works. Mathematical truth is not discoverable by scientific method, and scientific inquiry cannot take place apart from measurement and quantification.

            3) Scientific activity presupposes the laws of logic. The laws of logic are assumed in any kind of conceptual reasoning process. If you say otherwise, you are simply wrong. If you say that you are not wrong, we say “You’re both are wrong and not wrong.”

            4) Science presupposes intuition and creativity in human beings. The whole scientific method depends on new (scientifically unsupported) hypotheses being generated in attempts to explain observed phenomena. Science *tests* these hypotheses by finding ways of publicly and repeatably supporting or falsifying them. However, the hypotheses themselves are not generated by any scientific method. It is creativity and intuition that causes ingenious hypotheses to be formed.

            You wrote:
            Your view that there would be no basis for science isn’t the logical conclusion from your first sentence. The Universe doesn’t start out orderly or coherent, we use science to gain a coherent understanding of it and categorize things into some measure of order.

            We reply:
            Necessarily, we can have a “coherent understanding of it” (as you say) on one of two conditions. Either:

            1) There is something that can be coherently understood, and we *discover* the nature of the thing in question [This assumes that predictable and lawful order exists outside the mind to be discovered]

            2) The “coherence” is simply an illusory projection of the mind on an incoherent external reality.

            Which one of the above is true in your opinion?

            Nobody in the world can agree with your belief about science without also becoming a total laughingstock among any set of people who actually *do* science.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            With regard to these:

            . Further presuppositions abound:

            1) Scientific activity presupposes the existence of minds outside one’s own mind. Such a belief cannot be proven scientifically. It is simply taken as a given. At least it is by those scientists who publish peer-reviewed papers.

            2) Scientific activity presupposes that math works. Mathematical truth is not discoverable by scientific method, and scientific inquiry cannot take place apart from measurement and quantification.

            3) Scientific activity presupposes the laws of logic. The laws of logic are assumed in any kind of conceptual reasoning process. If you say otherwise, you are simply wrong. If you say that you are not wrong, we say “You’re both are wrong and not wrong.”

            4) Science presupposes intuition and creativity in human beings. The whole scientific method depends on new (scientifically unsupported) hypotheses being generated in attempts to explain observed phenomena. Science *tests* these hypotheses by finding ways of publicly and repeatably supporting or falsifying them. However, the hypotheses themselves are not generated by any scientific method. It is creativity and intuition that causes ingenious hypotheses to be formed.

            It is blatantly obvious that you are not a scientist. NONE of these are "presuppostions" for science. A few are observations; and mathematics is a logic that can and is internally checked.

            I suggest checking with a few scientists or at least reading about the history of science before making statements that silly.

          • Avel

            In this context, we are using “presuppose” as follows:
            1) Require as a precondition of possibility or coherence.
            2) Tacitly assume at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action that something is the case.

            We are not saying that science is unreasonable for its presuppositions. We *agree* with them. The presuppositions of science are not simply baseless assumptions, but are basic beliefs that make most reasoning and discovery possible.

            The coherence that science presupposes is not the same as what is argued by proponents of intelligent design. They go farther than what is warranted. The coherence being discussed here is this simple recognition that natural law is there to be discovered. And “law” in this sense is not being used to snag you into admitting a “law-giver.” It just means that we can know *how* things work, and when we do then the workings of things describable by natural law are ***predictable***. You can’t do science without that belief in the external world and the concomitant belief in the “givenness” that it can be productively investigated by the mind. Further presuppositions abound:

          • Francis Choudhury

            So how come "the natural law is there to be discovered"? How could the universe be observed, studied and measured - how could any science actually be conducted - if the universe was there randomly or dumbly, i.e., if it were not intelligible? And how is something intelli-gible unless it is created by an intelli-gence?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Snowflakes, sharks, and Saturn's Rings are all intelligible, yet they were not created by an intelligence.

          • Francis Choudhury

            Something from nothing. Intelligibility from mindlessness. Riiiight! :)

          • Guest

            Here is article with reading! Let me know what you think.
            http://newapologetics.com/a-refutation-of-the-kalam-cosmological-argument

          • Avel

            Here is an article worth reading. Let me know what you think.

            http://newapologetics.com/a-refutation-of-the-kalam-cosmological-argument

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's an interesting refutation of the Kalaam that I wasn't familiar with. Thanks.

          • Avel

            It is a new refutation and the best one I have seen so far.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            My own personal favorite is that Kalaam is a bait-n-switch. It's trying to apply an abstract philosophical concept of "cause" in a purely physical "causal chain". I.e.
            P1: All things which begin to exist have a physical cause.
            P2: The universe began to exist.
            C1: Therefore... the Universe had a physical cause.
            But C1 is impossible.

          • Francis Choudhury
          • Ignorant Amos

            So you didn't read the link Avel provided then?

            At this point, while QMT seems to be a coherent account of origins, there is no clear reason to prefer it to the theistic interpretation of the KCA. We grant that the mere possibility of there being multiple efficient causes responsible for ultimate origins faces problems from Ockham’s Razor. Contra the generic “multiple efficient cause” objection to the KCA, William Lane Craig writes:

            “…it seems to me that the proponent of the kalam argument will justifiably appeal to Ockham’s Razor: one should not multiply causes beyond necessity. One is justified in positing only such causes as are necessary to explain the effect. In the case of the universe’s origin, only one ultra-mundane Personal Creator is needed, so it would be gratuitous to postulate more.”
            (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam-and-multiple-cosmic-causes)

            Craig’s response is quite appropriate against any critic of the KCA who happens to be arbitrarily positing multiple deities as the efficient cause of the universe. One ought to avoid baselessly multiplying causes when one cause suitably explains the data.
            However, our critique is based on something more than the mere “multiple efficient causes” objection. Our contention is that QMT accounts for the origin of the physical universe and many other phenomena typically attributed to God, but it does so while cleanly circumnavigating the known problems that accompany traditional theism. If QMT, when looked at dispassionately, overshadows theism in terms of explanatory power, then questions of parsimony are no longer applicable. It is of little use, for example (from an Ockham’s Razor standpoint) to conclude that the damage caused in World War II was the work of a lone vandal if the hypothesis of multiple warring nations clashing for a period of years suits the data so much more elegantly.

          • Francis Choudhury

            I did read the article which Avel provided. While I'd concede that the Ockham's Razor objection doesn't necessarily apply to the QMT argument, my main problem with that argument is that there is no good evidence to prefer multiple, quantum minds over one creative, disembodied mind. The QMT proposal is merely an exercise in supposal, not a refutation of the Christian narrative of a personal, benevolent God - for which there is a ton of evidence, and not just circumstantial either.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It matters not to me whether you agree or not. The argument directly addresses WLC exception. As the argument poses, you are free to put forward a revised version of Kalam.

            The QMT proposal is merely an exercise in supposal, not a refutation of the Christian narrative of a personal, benevolent God - for which there is a ton of evidence, and not just circumstantial either.

            Who says it is a refutation of a particular god? The KCA isn't an argument in support of a particular god in the first place. That is an unsupported leap from a faulty conclusion. What the article shows is that the KCA is unsound in its present form.

            If you have a ton of evidence for your particular god, lets have it then?

          • Francis Choudhury

            Evidence? Look around you. Really look. Inspect everything. Really inspect. God's existence is amply clear in His creation! Switch from clutching at a thousand suppositions to being amazed by beauty and order and the just direction in reality!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I have a Bellmer etching on my wall. It's beautiful. Why does mean god exists? Be precise.

          • Ben Posin

            Is his existence clear in the loa loa "eye worm"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Or Harlequin babies.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The list of suffering is extensive. Obviously Francis Choudhury has not heard about the world we live in being red in tooth and claw. Ignorance is bliss.

            I thought his ton of evidence was going to be some sort of an epiphany moment,...well, not really, but I expected something better than that creationist diatribe.

          • Francis Choudhury

            Yes. Just as it is also in His cure of the blind man.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So god is the author of unspeakable horrors, terror, pain, suffering, and agony - most of which will never be relieved or changed.
            And that's supposed to be evidence...how, exactly? Seriously, how is a harlequin baby evidence for god?

          • Francis Choudhury

            God is not the author of unspeakable horrors, terror, pain, suffering and agony. The author of those things is, unfortunately, man/nature gone awry.
            Why does a good God allow man/nature to perpetrate such terrible evils? Because He has created man in His own image and likeness, which necessarily includes a free will and creative/procreative power. He has also (according to the Christian narrative) placed man in stewardship of nature - which, without a free will of its own, takes its cue from either the order or the chaos, the constructiveness or destructiveness of man's own decisions. (I contend, for example, that man does contribute to climate change, but not in just an uncaring, purely physical way, as most imagine. Our density/nonchalance in ecological matters is actually part of a greater - spiritual - malaise.)
            According to the Christian narrative (and quite plainly too), right from the beginning, man has been given to understand that "the day you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil)" - i.e., the day you try to fabricate your own (subjective vs absolute) morality - "you will surely die" (Gen 2:16). This is also why "whoever would save his life (live solely by his own will/selfish passions) will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake (surrenders his ego to the revealed, beneficial, will of God) will find it" (Matt 16:25.

            The good and the bad in this life both have to be part of a whole, else we are neither truly free nor God like. Much is screwed up in humanity and in nature since the fall of man from grace, but that doesn't amount to evidence that a Creator God does not exist. Rather, it is proof that we often do prefer to live without God - precisely by deciding for ourselves what is good/expedient and what is evil/burdensome. Think of the many things man (collectively) has gotten wrong in history, and, indeed, how many things you and I still get wrong personally - to our detriment. You'll find on examination that in every instance it is because we've chosen to do something that goes against the created order of things or, to use another expression, the "natural law" - which Christian theology credits to an infinitely wise and benevolent Creator God.

            If all this bad stuff can never be relieved or changed as you (rather pessimistically) opine, then why shouldn't we give up on the million ways in which we're ever striving to improve things? And, given that we are always striving to improve things, what are our most sustainable, successful and sober efforts invariably (even if unknowingly) directed at? Why, the joys of Christian perfection, of course! "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10)." Our most reliable systems, unalienable rights, healthy cultures, democratic politics, just laws - and even our amazing sciences - have grown precisely out of this basic (Christian) premise that we (each of us) are made to enjoy "fullness" of life. (Note: Christian belief is that even though we should try and can improve our lot in all manner of ways, the ultimate fruition of our efforts will occur only when Jesus Christ returns to rule directly over creation and to renew all things to a state of perfection).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            None of which answers the question of how any of these things are evidence of god.

            And inasmuch as god is ground if all being and sustains the universe from moment to moment, it necessarily follows that everything - every act of horror, terror. 0psin, and suffering exists BECAUSE god wills it to exist.

          • Francis Choudhury

            I will to have a stove in the house. I warn my little daughter not to touch it or play with it, for on the day she does, it might well burn her. If she does (because she is endowed with freedom), have I been a bad father? Should I not have willed to have a stove in the first place? Is not every wrongdoing/evil/sin a deprivation, distortion, misuse, or abuse of something that in and of itself is essentially good?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you also WILL thst your daughter have pre-natal cancer and die in unspeakable agony an hour before being born, also WILLING that your wife of the pregnancy complications.

            How is that evidence for god?

          • Francis Choudhury

            That isn't evidence for God - nor is it evidence against His existence. It is evidence that nature has been corrupted by sin. Pain and suffering and death and decay have entered history by the sin of man - by His turning away from God - exactly as God had warned right at the beginning. And yet we seek healing and justice from the rotten consequences of our own (individual and collective) faults - precisely because we believe in the existence, ultimately, of a benevolent and redeeming power: God. If we truly didn't have any reasoned hope that one day "all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well" (Julian of Norwich), I guess we would all simply put up or shut up or (understandably) kill ourselves.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That us not evidence of the consequences if the the fall, unless you're going to claim validity for circular arguments.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is evidence that nature has been corrupted by sin. Pain and suffering and death and decay have entered history by the sin of man - by His turning away from God - exactly as God had warned right at the beginning.

            So everything suffers because of mans ignorance at the beginning of some ancient stories composed by even more ignorant folk who didn't know any better, but should have if the main character in the stories was not fictional. That those stories are now interpreted as metaphor and allegorical? You don't find that idea the least bit suspect?

            And yet we seek healing and justice from the rotten consequences of our own (individual and collective) faults - precisely because we believe in the existence, ultimately, of a benevolent and redeeming power:

            Who is this "we" you refer to? I don't. And I can't understand why you and your fellow Christians do either, given that you have it all figured out and there is not a thing you or anyone else can do about it. This is what intrigues me about the 1 in a 1000 that are deemed the result of a miracle. Glory be to God for intervening and saving said individual. Surely that is ass backwards? Those not saved are the ones going on to a better place according to Christian thought? Come to think of it, it should be Abrahamic thought. This gift of life you all waffle on about is just an embuggerance. The time spent on Earth is the real purgatory. Paying penance for a chance at the never never...it is all about the self con, no one really believes it, otherwise why do folk who are diagnosed with a deadly ailment try to circumvent Gods will by looking to science in order to extend onset of the enevitable?

            God. If we truly didn't have any reasoned hope that one day "all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well" (Julian of Norwich), I guess we would all simply put up or shut up or (understandably) kill ourselves.

            Quite the contrary. Given that one day all will be well, it only makes sense to make that one day nearer. It should be the goal of everyone to be in a better place asap. What we find is the opposition, most people are afraid. Most people do all that they can to wring every little drop out of their existence here in the real world. The Catholic Church encourages such. Including the caveat that suicide is a sin that gets you eternal damnation ex com with God. All very clever if one wants bums on pews and the money to keep rolling in. At least Islam has a more honest approach to the religious edifice of paradise and the best way to attain it. Still nonsense though.

          • Max Driffill

            "It is evidence that nature has been corrupted by sin. "

            No it isn't. That is just wild speculation. We have evidence that things die, often horribly and from all manner of biological causes from very nearly our earliest records of life on earth. Certainly, there has never been a time in the existence of Homo sapiens, where nature hasn't been massively indifferent to the plight of poor, miserable humanity (or any other lineage).

            " Pain and suffering and death and decay have entered history by the sin of man - by His turning away from God - exactly as God had warned right at the beginning."

            When was this and where can we find evidence of this glorious time prior to a single human couple doing what God must have known they were going to do the very instant they were created by him? Hmmmm?

            There is no point in the history of life on earth that has not been characterized by death and decay. Suffering had to wait until a bit after the Cambrian, and the evolution of central nervous systems capable of at least some forward thinking and reflection. But at least some minimal suffering has been with the biota for a couple hundred million years at least. That is, if you were wondering, ages before "His" turning away from God.

            So tell me again how the occasional horrible death is evidence of any kind for a pillar of theological reasoning?

          • Francis Choudhury

            From the beginning, man has freely chosen death (for himself and for others), and still does to this day. There's no point blaming or denying a benevolent God for it. Think about this the next time you or someone you know lights up a cigarette or pops some ice or drives drunk or has unprotected sex or does one of a myriad of other self destructive things. Blaming God is a) a cop out for mankind's own foolish actions and b) a counterproductive denial of one's own weaknesses. There is ample evidence for the existence of God for those with eyes to see - just as there is for the perennial sources of our collective suffering. Only today I was reading a salutary tale about a man who said that when he died, he'd ask God (if indeed God existed) why He'd allowed so much suffering on earth. Replied his friend, "I'd be careful if I were you. What if He asked you the same thing?"

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You keep talking about this evidence, but you never present it. Feel free to show this extensive evidence, since you've just claimed that all the tragedies and horrors of the world aren't evidence. And by the way, atheists don't blame god, because we don't think god exists. Atheists have perfectly sound answers to the problems if evil and suffering; Christians don't.

            So. Your evidence. What is it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Solange, waste her time no more on this one...there are far bigger fish to fry. There is only so many times the same bilge can be presented before tedium sets in.

          • Francis Choudhury

            The existence of everything. And the intelligibility of everything.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And how are these evidence of god?

          • Francis Choudhury

            Because God is, by definition:
            a) the essence of being ("I Am") and
            b) Logos (the Greek term for "logical word" that presupposes intelligibility).

          • Ignorant Amos

            But if you were a god with omnipotent power, it would be just as easy to make stoves that don't burn. Or daughter's that don't burn. Or both. See how easy it would be to avoid the suffering?

          • Francis Choudhury

            Yes, it would be easy for God to do anything at all, for - by definition - He is omnipotent. But God is also - again, by definition - omniscient, knowing all things perfectly and acting in this perfect knowledge, which you and I aren't privy to (or we'd be "like unto God" ourselves). Christianity does not try to explain suffering - it is accepted as being, ultimately, a mystery. What is more profound however is that the Christian God suffers with man - unlike any other. And, because He overcomes suffering (death even) we too can hope that the same will eventually apply to us as well. For Christians, the cross (suffering) and the crown (resurrection to eternal life) are all of a piece - they can't be addressed separately. The human drama is what it is. As long as we are who we are (fallible, mortal creatures), we will never eradicate suffering in every shape or form, nor discover the elixir of life, outside of the supernatural power of God - for which there is ample evidence everywhere, including within ourselves. I find it a good exercise to contemplate all my own urges and dreams in this regard - e.g. to be loved perfectly, to be able to fly, to know all things, to travel back and forth in time, to bilocate, too see perfect justice in the world, to explore the very edges of the universe, to have unassailable peace, and so much more. Why do we all - persistently - share these "crazy" desires and dreams? Are they really crazy? Or do they exist in us precisely because we are made in the image and likeness of God and intuitively seek life, as Jesus said, "to the full"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So theism has no answer to the problem of suffering - but atheism does. And if your entire commenting policy is to offer unsupported and logically incoherent assertions, we're not going to make much headway.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And if you have "ample evidence for god", feel free to present it. No other theist on SN has ever managed to do so, so you could be the first.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Christianity does not try to explain suffering - it is accepted as being, ultimately, a mystery.

            And that is the point of the whole conversation. Christians have no reasonable answer after that. It is all Gods will, it is part of a plan mere mortals cannot possibly be privy to, God works in mysterious ways, etc., but then the apologist goes into a lot of word salad in an attempt to explain what they claim can't be known instead of leaving it at that. Sorry, but those that are not impressed by statements like we can't possibly know the unknowable, therefore God, are not obliged to buy into the nonsense...you don't for other faiths.

            What is more profound however is that the Christian God suffers with man - unlike any other. And, because He overcomes suffering (death even) we too can hope that the same will eventually apply to us as well. For Christians, the cross (suffering) and the crown (resurrection to eternal life) are all of a piece - they can't be addressed separately

            Like I said, word salad attempting to explain the mystery, the unknown. Not a shred of evidence in support of such conjecture, never mind a ton.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What is more profound however is that the Christian God suffers with man - unlike any other. And, because He overcomes suffering (death even) we too can hope that the same will eventually apply to us as well. For Christians, the cross (suffering) and the crown (resurrection to eternal life) are all of a piece - they can't be addressed separately.

            Does God suffer with all life that suffers? If not, why do they need to suffer? Can all life attain salvation? No? So suffering is apart from any need from a state of redemption? There is nothing I find profound in anything you say, given you just say it like it is an understood given. It is not, hence this site.

          • Francis Choudhury

            I'll say no more then. I'd assumed you were here to sincerely engage, instead of just spewing old polemics.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Engage in what? You are spewing the same old conjectured assertions with no substance...as usual.

            And where is this ton of evidence you promised us all?

            Oh that's right...your saying no more, Croydon is it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The human drama is what it is. As long as we are who we are (fallible, mortal creatures), we will never eradicate suffering in every shape or form, nor discover the elixir of life, outside of the supernatural power of God - for which there is ample evidence everywhere, including within ourselves.

            It's just a pity that the most religious of the Catholic faith could at least try a bit of eradication and a bit less adding to the issue...

            http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/Galway-historian-reveals-truth-behind-800-orphans-in-mass-grave.html

            ...it might go some way to give your argument some credence, not much, just a bit.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            We are still waiting for your ton of evidence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not a meaningful reply. I gave you examples of things that have pattern and order and complexity, and yet are the result of simple, basic algorithms.

            If you're simply trying to back the problem up, then that fails to help: there is no data to conclude that the Universe "began" - at every moment in time, the Universe existed. The Big Bang is simply a boundary condition. Even if we hypothesize that the Universe is a four-dimensional manifold embedded in a more complex Hilbert space, it tells us nothing about either that space or the "causality" of the Universe.

            I might point out that we have evidence of acausal events, so the entire "argument from First Cause" is pretty much toast.

            Do you have any actually meaningful reply?

          • Francis Choudhury

            1. So why are there simple, basic algorithms (and complex ones) instead of nothing? Why is there logic instead of nonsense, pattern, symmetry in snow flakes, shapes and intelligibility and overarching laws instead of mere chaos and cosmic gobbledy gook? Indeed, to once again pose the old basic question, "Why is there something/anything rather than nothing?" That might be viewed at times as a merely philosophical or "nice to know" question, but I do contend it's a valid (even if ultimate) scientific question too.

            2. I'm not sure what exactly you mean by the statement "At every moment in time, the Universe existed."
            Time a) is an emergent feature of the universe and b) the universe itself had a beginning. Therefore I'd imagine that it's more (scientifically) accurate to say that time exists in the universe, rather than to say that the universe exists "in time". But I'll wait to hear the intent of that comment of yours first...
            Stephen Hawking declares that he certainly hasn't come across any evidence that the universe has existed forever. He therefore concludes that the universe (and, consequently, time) had a beginning:
            http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

            3. Tell me more about acausal events, thanks. I know nothing of them.

          • Avel

            I need more information on your evidence on acausal events? Once, this is answered we can continue, that's if you like.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Look up quantum fluctuations and radioactive decay. The Wikipedia entries (gah!) aren't bad; they're not great, but they're not bad.

          • Avel

            Thanks. I have read about this in the book!
            The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe
            by John D. Barrow

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm not familiar withe specific work, but Barrow is sound.

          • Avel

            Yes.

      • Geena Safire

        Umm, Steve, I'm not quite sure how you can "reject" the statement "We don't know of an explanation yet."

        How, exactly, could there be either "evidence" or "no evidence" for "We don't know." There is no explanation against which to compare any evidence.

        I haven't read of any scientists promising that we can assuredly discover a naturalistic explanation. If there were, I would join you in your skepticism. Can you cite any scientists that have actually made such a claim?

        Whatever it is, it is intelligent and a creator.

        Interesting. You sound quite confident. And your evidence, please?

        That is, scientific evidence, not philosophical or metaphysical or theological conjecture.

        Throughout human history, many supernatural explanations
        have been supplanted by naturalistic explanations. I am not aware of any
        phenomenon for which we have replaced a naturalistic
        explanation with a widely-accepted supernatural one. That is not to say that fine tuning must therefore have a naturalistic explanation, if one can be found. But that is the safer bet.

        • Steve Law

          "Umm, Steve, I'm not quite sure how you can "reject" the statement "We don't know of an explanation yet."

          How, exactly, could there be either "evidence" or "no evidence" for "We don't know." There is no explanation against which to compare any evidence."

          Fine-tuning is based on scientific evidence. There is so far no naturalistic explanation for the appearance of fine-tuning - the favoured explanation so far is the Multiverse, for which there is not only no evidence but no possibility of evidence even in principle.
          Saying "But We don't really know" is merely scepticism being applied very selectively.

          "Interesting. You sound quite confident. And your evidence, please?
          That is, scientific evidence, not philosophical or metaphysical or theological conjecture."

          That's just plain old reasoning. The universe appears to have been designed to ane xtraordinary degree of precision. The odds against this appearance having been caused by random naturalistic processes are absurdly high. Another poster claimed the designer wasn't necessarily God but could be caused by a Cosmic Owl or an 'insensate bio-force' (or something like that). My point was that design necessarily requires intelligence. If the Cosmic Owl created and designed the universe then the Cosmic Owl has all the attributes of God (as conceived in the classical tradition).

          "Throughout human history, many supernatural explanations have been supplanted by naturalistic explanations. I am not aware of any phenomenon for which we have replaced a naturalistic explanation with a widely-accepted supernatural one. That is not to say that fine tuning must therefore have a naturalistic explanation, if one can be found. But that is the safer bet."

          I agree that one should be cautious, and assuming a naturalistic explanation is sensible where no other evidence exists. But the evidence here points strongly towards intelligent design. Many posters in this discussion are sceptical towards fine-tuning, preferring an unevidenced multiverse explanation rather than the evidence for design. Seems to me to be an example of how scepticism is just as effective for denying the truth as it is for revealing it.

          • Argon

            Fine-tuning is based on scientific evidence. There is so far no naturalistic explanation for the appearance of fine-tuning - the favoured explanation so far is the Multiverse, for which there is not only no evidence but no possibility of evidence even in principle.

            Saying "But We don't really know" is merely scepticism being applied very selectively.

            You just answered it yourself.

            There is so far no conclusive evidence of a God within or beyond the universe. We're not sure whether this universe truly benefits from directed fine tuning or iteration. There is so far no conclusive naturalistic explanation. It's not exactly applying skepticism selectively to say: We simply don't know. What is being argued is personal, metaphysical bias toward a preferred explanation.

            Compare this to biological evolution vs. the origin of life: Not all the complex interactions between mechanisms are understood but there are multiple, independent, intersecting lines of observation that evolution occurred. The origin of life? Not well understood. We've got a dataset consisting of probably one example that seems to originate around 3-4 billion years ago. Did God magic the first cell into being? Did nature? Did aliens? We can't tell at this point but again, there is no independent evidence that some supernatural or extraterrestrial intelligences exist (or existed around that time). But I can point you to any number of philosophical papers and books were it is claimed that the current lack of a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life is evidence for God(s).

      • josh

        "Whatever it is, it is intelligent and a creator."

        This is about as wrong as one can be. Intelligence, and the even more nebulous term 'creation' by an intelligent thing, take place within the universe. They cannot explain it. You are making the fundamental error of thinking that the effects (life as we know it exists) are the explanation for the cause (the universe has certain general properties, like the strength of coupling constants).

        Scientists actually do think about so-called fine-tuning problems, but they have nothing to do with the existence of life in particular and the explanations being explored don't have anything to do with an intelligent creator, they have to do with finding a deeper and more general structure to the equations of physics.

    • A super-intelligent Creator is only one of infinitely many imaginable supernatural explanations for the universe. We could imagine a Lawgiving Designer God, or we could imagine a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours, or an insensate pantheistic biocentric force that brings forth universes containing life, and so on."

      Thanks for the comment! A few things in reply:

      First, I'm not sure what you mean by a "Lawgiving Designer God", but at first glance it doesn't seem to conflict with the transcendent, intelligent Creator suggested by Fr. Spitzer.

      Second, I'm not sure if your serious or sarcastic, but a "a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours" is impossible because owls are material beings and the cause of the universe--the cause of all space, time, energy, and matter--would necessarily transcend the universe. It would necessarily be immaterial.

      Third, you propose "an insensate pantheistic biocentric force" as a possible cause of the universe, but the cause of the universe cannot be something *in* the universe (i.e. something pantheistic) since universe would first need to exists before the pantheistic god created it--a logical impossibility.

      Therefore, despite claiming there are "infinitely...imaginable supernatural explanations for the universe," you have yet to provide one that is necessarily different than the explanation Fr. Spitzer proposed.

      "Is there any reason to omit the third major recourse, which is likely more common than the second? That is: there is a natural explanation that just hasn't been found yet, because physicists aren't done."

      Yes, there is a good reason: a natural explanation would necessarily exist *in* the universe (or multiverse), which means that explanation would cause its own existence. But this is a metaphysical impossibility. Something *in* the universe cannot cause the universe to exist any more than my arm could have caused *me* to exist. My arm is causally dependent on my own existence. Therefore, it's logically impossible for the universe to have a natural cause. It's not that science *won't* find a natural cause of the universe--they *can't*.

      • Geena Safire

        I'm not sure if your serious or sarcastic, but a "a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours" is impossible

        He's being allegorical. Famed theoretical physicist Sean Carroll often uses a similar fowl analogy, positing a possible chicken universe that lays egg universes such as ours.

        Yes, there is a good reason: a natural explanation would necessarily exist *in* the universe (or multiverse)

        Not necessarily. There could be a nature outside of the nature of our universe. Also, there could be an eternal material cause instead of an eternal efficient cause. Further, at the universal level, there is no reason why your metaphysics should apply -- that's a composition fallacy .

        Plus: "you're" not "your"

      • I'm not sure what you mean by a "Lawgiving Designer God", but at first glance it doesn't seem to conflict with the transcendent, intelligent Creator suggested by Fr. Spitzer.

        Yup yup, I was giving a more precise description of what Fr Spitzer was aiming at.

        I'm not sure if your serious or sarcastic, but a "a Cosmic Owl that molts universes like ours" is impossible because owls are material beings and the cause of the universe--the cause of all space, time, energy, and matter--would necessarily transcend the universe.

        I gave a silly-sounding instance with serious purpose. It's an informal reductio ad absurdum intended to highlight the difficulties of working with supernatural explanations by using a case that can't sneak past your rational objections by ringing familiarity-bells in your head. So let me answer your objection in traditional style: The Cosmic Owl is made of a spiritual substance that does transcend the universe. Thus the objection does not apply.

        you propose "an insensate pantheistic biocentric force" as a possible cause of the universe, but the cause of the universe cannot be something *in* the universe

        That force is in the universe and also beyond it. Just like Jesus. So the objection does not apply.

        a natural explanation would necessarily exist *in* the universe (or multiverse), which means that explanation would cause its own existence. But this is a metaphysical impossibility.

        The explanation as dialectic would necessarily exist in the universe; it's not at all obvious that the behavior or characteristics described in the explanation must also exist in the universe. If you think they must, I'm interested in the reasons.

        Perhaps more importantly, why suppose it is an impossibility that whatever feature of reality is described by the explanation might exist necessarily? (You wrote "cause its own existence", assuming that it must have a causal relationship to itself, but if you intended that as an assumption it needs some reasons in favor. I'm unaware of any reason a non-multiverse naturalist explanation of fine tuning must necessarily be a causal explanation. If it was just a catch-all phrasing, then feel free to ignore this parenthetical.) After all, you already think that some things (God) can exist necessarily.

      • MichaelNewsham

        He's speaking literally, not literalistically.

    • Geena Safire

      It's inessential, but I'd like to see a source suggesting that the "many physicists" is true.

      I'm with you on this. It is true that many physicists find what is called 'fine tuning' to be a complex issue. The field not have a widely-accepted, well-developed theory to describe natural reasons why our universe is so, apart from the multiverse or the many-worlds hypothesis,

      But "not yet having a natural explanation of fine-tuning" is quite different from "attributing fine-tuning to supernatural design." That is "I don't know" ≠ "God did it."

  • MichaelNewsham

    Just clicked on the link to the Edge, and the first article was by Andrei Linde arguing against the idea of a uniform and unique universe i.e. against Father Spitzer's use of the fine-tuning argument above.

    • Oh my, check out the one by Amanda Gefter, giving reasons for a radical modification of physics in which observers which we describe as being in different reference frames are best described as being in different universes. If it turned out to be true, that would explode the "Argument From Design" variants in an entirely different way.

  • Susan

    It is important to note that “nothing” means “nothing.

    The old switcheroo. Please stop.

    Thirdly, nothing can do only nothing, because it is nothing

    Welcome to apologetics.

    It is important to note that the one physicist who was a catholic interviewed on this site stated in BV's interview that he didn't think Yahweh could be found through physics.

    This is not physics. It is cherry-picking and equivocation. This is what apologists bash Lawrence Krauss for, on the one hand, when he addresses the "nothingness" and then they cherrypick Vilenkin and Hawking (among others) in order to claim that the universe came from "nothing".

    There is so much more wrong with this article. It is recycled cosmological goo.

    But there's not much point in going any further.

    The trouble is not what physicists mean when they say "nothing". They are consistent and trying to put the baffling questions of cosmology into layperson's terms.

    The trouble is that apologists cheat like crazy because they know most of their audience are not interested in cosmology but are looking for smart sounding justification of their beliefs. So, Spitzer can make a living saying ridiculous things like "It is important to note that nothing means nothing."

    Spitzer would be eaten alive if he tried to sell this in a cosmology lecture. But he makes a good living doing it here.

    • Steve Law

      "The trouble is not what physicists mean when they say "nothing". They are consistent and trying to put the baffling questions of cosmology into layperson's terms."

      The trouble is that when specific physicists say "nothing" they actually mean "something". Krauss has been lambasted everywhere for claiming that something can come from nothing but then claiming that "nothing" has energy, potentiality, probability and various other properties. For example see the review by the agnostic cosmologist Luke Barnes - http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/a-universe-from-nothing-what-you-should-know-before-you-hear-the-krauss-craig-debate/

      The rest of your post is pure ad hom. It is not the theists who are cheating here. Krauss' "nothing" is a sky-hook and nothing (and I really mean nothing) more.

      • Paul Boillot

        I agree that Krauss should've used a different word.

        The philosophical definition of 'nothing' is unsupported and evidenced and, if nothing else, using it the way he did engendered confusion.

    • "It is important to note that “nothing” means “nothing.

      The old switcheroo. Please stop."

      Care to explain? I don't see a switcheroo. In both uses of the word, Fr. Spitzer is trying to reinforce than "nothing" really means "not anything"--it doesn't mean "something."

      "This is not physics. It is cherry-picking and equivocation. This is what apologists bash Lawrence Krauss for, on the one hand, when he addresses the "nothingness" and then they cherrypick Vilenkin and Hawking (among others) in order to claim that the universe came from "nothing"."

      While I appreciate your assertion that "this is..cherry-picking and equivocation", the rest of your paragraph does nothing (no pun intended) to bolster this assertion. Therefore, unless you explain *why* you believe these accusations, they are baseless. Please show how Fr. Spitzer uses the word "nothing" (or any other important term) equivocally.

      "There is so much more wrong with this article. It is recycled cosmological goo."

      This comment is sophomoric and unhelpful. There's no need for it. Disagreement is welcome, but we require it be respectfully issued.

      • Susan

        Please show how Fr. Spitzer uses the word "nothing" (or any other important term) equivocally.

        Show me a model from physics that says that "nothing" means the philosopher's "nothing". I thought I made it clear in my first sentence that was where the equivocation lies.

        I agree with your "sophomoric and unhelpful" assessment on that particular sentence. It was out of frustration but does not contribute to the conversation.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I would love to see you write a real rebuttal to this OP to post on SN as a column.

      • Andre Boillot

        Kevin,

        Recently, in response to Brandon's claim that it's very difficult to attract atheist submissions, several questions concerning his selection process have been asked, and to my knowledge none of them answered. We've had rather coyly worded claims that Brandon is "still waiting for a single submission from our most vocal critics", meanwhile I can recall at least one well-respected, frequently posting, critic (other than Mr. Dillon) on this site wondering aloud when his submission would be posted.

        So, while I would also enjoy any submission that Susan may choose to make, your comment comes off as a challenge, and it would seem unfair to hold this against Susan given the mysteries surrounding how atheist content is chosen for this site.

        http://strangenotions.com/faith-reason-and-god-a-socratic-dialogue/#comment-1198671668

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I know Paul Rimmer has written an excellent OP, because he's let me read it, and Paul has read the one I've submitted and even helped me get valuable feedback.

          It is a lot easier to criticize someone else's column that to go through the hard work making a claim, doing your best to support it (and never quite succeeding), and then opening up yourself for comments.

          What would be particularly good about having submissions from the SN "community" is that the writers can stick around and respond to comments. It's frustrating to read OP's that are reprints that are years (and even decades) old and not written for where we are today.

          • Andre Boillot

            I agree whole-heartedly. It had initially sounded like you were challenging Susan to 'put up or shut up' (re: "real rebuttal"), and given that we've seen so few original pieces here at SN, it seemed only fair to point out that submission was no guarantee of publication. Thanks for clearing things up, Kevin. Enjoy the weekend!

      • Susan

        I would love to see you write a real rebuttal to this OP to post on SN as a column.

        Thanks Kevin, but I don't see what could be contributed by me. Apologists provide "x" to which sceptics reply "y" and then apologists repeat "x" as though "y" was never brought up. Why do you want me to write a refutation to Spitzer's series of weak arguments that do not support themselves? I'm not trying to squeak out of this but you have not addressed one of the problems inherent in Spiter's repetition of aplogetical (is that a word? ) musings.

        There are real problems here in terms of physics and philosophy.

        The first is that Spitzer Gish Gallops all over the map. (Forgive me for providing such a crass definition but I sincerely think it's appropriate..)

        http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gish+Gallop

        He is trying to stack a number of weak arguments together to pretend he has a strong argument.

        This has been done before ad nauseum.

        Also, he makes fast and loose with eqiuivocation, something that as a teacher of philosophy, he should have learned in year 1 as a student. It's fundamental. What do you mean by every term you use? How does that pan out in reality? "Beginning", "universe" "cause" "nothing" "physical" "intelligence" "mind"? You are talking about absolute claims so you can't play fast and easy with any of these terms.

        So, there is not one rebuttal that can address his strategy. What he has are a pile of bad arguments that he's trying to make into one good argument. Neither philosophy nor physics works like that. One has to make one's argument.

        That's why I fixated on this:

        Secondly, if the physical universe (and its physical time) did not exist prior to the beginning, then it was literally nothing. It is important to note that “nothing” means “nothing.”

        I could have fixated on anything but I chose to fixate on this. None of the science he links to gets him there. None. Pick your poison. I'd rather make stuff up out of the physicists "nothing" than out of the philosopher's "nothing". But I'd be silly doing the former and I would have no justification for the latter.

        Note that he never defines "physical", "universe", "time", "exist", "beginning" but he insists on the philosopher's definition of "nothing". He appeals to the laypersons' intuitive ideas about all the previous terms but emphasizes the philosophers' "nothing". He goes out of his way to copy and paste very difficult concepts in physics and without showing his math insists that it points to the philosophers' "nothing" which it clearly doesn't do.

        As a philosophy teacher, he should understand "equivocation" and he should also understand that no models in physics point to philosophical "nothing". What model can?

        These arguments have been addressed and addressed (and addressed very well) for a very long time now. They have been addressed all over the internet. Before the internet, they were addressed on paper and through verbal discussion. They have been addressed very well by many commenters here (including by physicists... REAL physicists) and some very thoughtful commenters who have asked solid questions about the terms.

        What Spitzer has done is to pretend they haven't been and to throw multiple fallacious arguments at the topic as though cumulative fallacies make for a good argument. As a philosophy teacher, he should know better. But this is what theologians do. I would be less cynical sceptical about things if they addressed the problems with their arguments. One by one. But they don't.

        All I am asking (for starters) is that you show that any of the physics models that Spitzer produces gives us metaphysical nothingness, which is what he claims they do.

        If they don't, nothing Spitzer argues can follow, physically or metaphysically.

        So, let's start with that. Show me a model in cosmology that "means" (as Spitzer puts it, without showing his work) philosophical "nothingness" out of which "something" (this) came.

        It's fundamental.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          This is precisely the kind of thing you should write up and publish on Strange Notions so that Fr. Spitzer and others can respond to it.

          As it is, practically no one is going to see this but me.

          If Fr. Spitzer is as ignorant of science and as bad a philosopher as you claim, this is your opportunity to prove it to the world by making your claims and supporting them.

          • Susan

            This is precisely the kind of thing you should write up and publish on Strange Notions so that Fr. Spitzer and others can respond to it

            I'm confused Kevin. He has had every opportunity to respond to the comments on this article here as well as the opportunity to respond to the many refutations that are all over the internet. Instead, he hit the reset button. Why me writing an article conjure up Spitzer?

            If Fr. Spitzer is as ignorant of science and as bad a philosopher as you claim

            I said that he cherry picked specific arguments in physics to get to language like "beginning" and "nothing" in order to equivocate those terms. He is trying to say that scientific models, specifically models in theoretical physics point to a "universe" (another term he doesn't define and which can have more than one meaning) mean that "something" came from the philosopher's "nothing".

            Neither you nor the many catholics here nor apologists have addressed this point.

            He is making the claim and the burden is his.

            What use is an article (countless have been written) if you, Robert Spitzer and other theists won't respond to this key claim that apologists make?

            They have not shown their work. They are making an assertion and the burden is theirs.

            IF one of the models Robert Spitzer copies and pastes demonstrates that "something" came from the philosopher's "nothing", then please show me where it demonstrates that.

            Otherwise, it is just a repetition of a very old argument that pretends its flaws haven't been pointed out.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "He has had every opportunity to respond to the comments on this article."

            I don't think Fr. Spitzer wrote this for SN and I seriously doubts he reads the comments here.

          • Susan

            I don't think Fr. Spitzer wrote this for SN and I seriously doubts he reads the comments here.

            I'm beginning to think that Andre was right in his original assessment.

            I'm not sure why you're interested in communication between Spitzer and me, when you've chosen to ignore most of the discussion that has ensued here.

            You've responded to none of my points nor to my main question, which can be stated:

            "What model in physics in Robert Spitzer's argument is an example of the philosopher's "nothing"? Note that Spitzer claims that that's what they all do. Please respond to that very basic question.

            R.S. should be well aware of the refutations of each of the arguments that he piles up in this article. No one trained in philosophy can be unaware of problems in their own arguments that have been addressed countless times. They must address them. Philosophers must. Apologists don't have to.

            Did you check out the Gish Gallop link that I provided?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop#Debates

            What Spitzer has done is a classic example. You can't chase seven rabbits at once.

            Here is a video that covers things nicely:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO1DdWeK5XM&hd=1

            And on the more specific Kalam Cosmological Argument:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE&hd=1

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KvZGauAmo8

            There are lots more where that came from.

            Apologists are making ultimate claims. They fail to meet their burden. When they are shown repeatedly where they have failed to meet their burden, they continue with their original arguments as though no one has brought up the problems with them. If they addressed the problems, there would be progress. But they don't.

            Which is why I'm asking you to address what is a key assertiion by apologists, which is that there are cosmological models from "nothing" that mean the philosopher's "nothing".

            There are many more problems but that's the Gish Gallop and we can't deal with all the fallacies at once. .

            Let's start there.

            Please stop asking me to deal with Spitzer and step up and deal with Spitzer's assertions. That's what everyone else here has been doing. Dealing with arguments, not personalities.

          • Susan

            this is your opportunity to prove it to the world by making your claims and supporting them.

            You're missing something fundamental. I am not making claims. Robert Spitzer is. Ultimate claims, actually. He has not justified them in either the field of philosophy or the field of cosmology.

            I don't accept Spitzer's claims. He has given me no reason to do so, nor have you.

  • To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "I refuse to prove that I exist" says God, "for proof denies faith and I require you to believe in me through faith". But "the Universe is fine tuned" says man "It proves you exist, therefore by your own argument, faith is redundant."

    I don't think the fine tuning argument proves the existence of any deities, but if it did it would mean God would have no problem proving his existence in ways that did not require a post secondary education in physics to understand. He wants us to believe in him and would appear physically, cure amputees and so on, wouldn't he?

    • Mike

      I'd agree with much of what you said. But I think Catholics do believe that God did appear physically, cure the sick, rise from the dead.

      There are even miracles investigated in a standard (ish) manner today by the Vatican and scientists/medical doctors.

      • Andre Boillot

        "There are even miracles investigated in a standard (ish) manner today by the Vatican and scientists/medical doctors."

        Mike, that you've already had to qualify your claim that these cases are subject to open, scientific scrutiny speaks volumes.

        • Mike

          I placed the qualifier in there because I don't know exactly how they are examined. I'm not sure if anyone really does, but I keep hoping that an article will be posted here by someone who does. But I wonder what criteria would others accept (if any) to believe that an cure was miraculous.

          • The most recent claim I am aware of was that a statue of Mary that was, dripping, in India. A skeptic investigated it and showed not only that the water was not miraculous but came from a leaking sewer pipe. He was accused of blasphemy and had to leave the country and seek asylum.

            http://boingboing.net/2012/04/13/indian-skeptic-charged-with.html

          • Vasco Gama

            seriously? you believe to be possible that some one had to leave India, on account of blasphemy of questioning a miracle?

            Does it seem (even remotely) plausible?

          • John Cocktosen

            Not only is it plausible, it's true. He moved to Finland to avoid arrrest.

          • Vasco Gama

            Did he?

            He was going to be arrested for the blasphemy of questioning a miracle?

            The strange thing is that even Catholics do not have to recognize this type of miracles. I am sorry but to find this completely absurd. That makes me a sort of sceptic, I guess.

          • John Cocktosen

            Keep at it, eventually you'll find it all absurd.

          • Vasco Gama

            You should believe anything you ear, a little scepticism is actually quite healthy.

          • Andre Boillot

            I dunno, there's this:

            "Meanwhile, MCYF president Agnelo Fernandes was quoted as saying, “He has made many allegations against the catholic community, the church, the bishop the Pope, catholic people that is why we have filed the FIR. We will withdraw the case only if he tenders an apology to the community otherwise we will strongly recommend his arrest."

            http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/rationalist-in-forced-exile-over-jesus-miracle_814520.html

            Relevant Indian Penal Code under which he was charged: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/indianpenalcode/indianpenalcode.html#Section_295_Injuring_or_defiling_place_of_worship_with_intent_to_insult_the_religion_of_any_class

            More background: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/sanal-edamaruku-indian-rationalist-weeping-christ-miracle-hoax-faces-jail_n_2201897.html

          • Vasco Gama

            The peculiar thing is that the Church never acnowledge that to be a miracle.

            So, in the first place, at most what could originaly be questioned was that that (the not so misterious driping) could be a miracle. Which is a reasonable alegation and can't be a basis to condemn anyone, unless one pretends that as this took place in India, it has to be uterly exotic and irrational. Second, India is not a Catholic country in fact Catholics are a small minority, and it makes no sense that India law must have any particular consideration for the existence of miracles, or not.

            This is too absurd, to be taken seriously. Unless one is particularly naif.

          • Andre Boillot

            First, according to the articles, it's not the Catholic Church per se that filed charges, but two Catholic organizations.

            Second, if the reference is correct, the law has to do with intentionally offending religious classes:

            Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.— Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 2[citizens of India], 3[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to4[three years], or with fine, or with both.

            http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/indianpenalcode/indianpenalcode.html#Section_295_Injuring_or_defiling_place_of_worship_with_intent_to_insult_the_religion_of_any_class

            Third, I'm regretting breaking my vow of silence towards you. You voiced your incredulity regarding the possibility of somebody being arrested for questioning a miracle. You've been given evidence to the contrary. You're free to remain incredulous, but you might be better served to offer up counter evidence, instead of just calling people names.

            Fourth, I renew my vows.

          • Vasco Gama

            The case against this individual was based on his unsupported allegations against the “the catholic community, the church, the bishop the Pope" that were accused of fabricating a mystification.

            Apparently the law prevents the possibility that anyone might feel free to produce defamatory acusations against other people (without evidence). This as nothing to do with the miraculous nature of any event.

            What is so strange about that?

          • The church though maybe not the vatcan was more than happy to accept this miracle and the attention and money it brought in. The skeptic did have evidence and showed them.

          • Vasco Gama

            He didn't have evidence that it was a mystification, he only had evidence that it wasn't a miracle (no problem with that).

          • Andre Boillot

            Mike, I'm not trying to pick on you here, but you're claiming that miracles are investigated in a standard(ish) way by scientists, and yet admitting neither you or most people know exactly how they are examined. That most people don't know how miracles are examined, what criteria is used, who is doing the investigation, etc. is probably my biggest concern when people try to promote the idea that miracles should serve as physical or scientific proof of God.

            My criteria would be to try to mimic academic / scientific studies and publications: open, transparent investigations, publishing of all findings and methods for peer review, disclosures of and attempts to limit bias, etc.

          • Mike

            Hi Andre,

            I don't feel picked on by you (at least not yet). My understanding is that a miraculous event needs to be instant, lasting, and with no medical explanation, with the person praying to only one deceased person. That is the standard I am aware of, but like you said I don't know enough to defend it as well as I'd like.

            I think if one is able to replicate a miraculous event enough it would become part of regular medicine (which in face may be what is really going on, but I can't say definitively). I'm open enough to change my mind about most things, including this topic, and my belief in God. I like to think that I'm honest enough to admit that I could be wrong, and genuinely pursue truth.

            My real intention is to get the attention of the administrator and see if there is interest from others in what the Church says about miracles, how they are investigated, rigors, procedure, etc. I figure if I can stir enough interest from others perhaps we could get the attention of Brandon and see if he can address the topic in a more robust way with someone who is an expert on the topic. I'm just a humble physical chemist, I don't know how to evaluate these claims adequately any more than I could evaluate particle physics.

            Sometimes I feel like this topic is taboo for Catholics, and it should be discussed in a robust way in the same manner we discuss the problem of suffering, contingency, Catholics interpretation of the Bible, etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have written such an OP, which if SN decides to publish it, you will have the opportunity to rip to shreds.

            However, I don't see how this subject is relevant to Fr. Spitzer's essay.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin, perhaps you did not bother to follow the thread to it's genesis. If you have an issue with people bringing up miracles, you might direct your comments to somebody else.

          • Kevin, did you already send me this one? If so, it's slipped my disjointed mind. Can you send it again?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Done.

      • Why do you say standard"ish"? There are thousands and thousands of miracle claims and none that have been accepted by anyone other than those who claim it proves their god or supernatural claim. What we find is most are fakes, the rest are unfalsifiable claims, this is how god reveals himself? Why not just show up like he did with Thomas and let me poke his wound!

        • Mike

          Perhaps he will! but if he does can you grab it on a camera phone and post it on youtube! (meant to be playful) I also agree that there are many reported miracles that turn out not to be so, and they are worthy of scrutiny. I'm not at all proposing that we take someone at their word. I'm just wondering what evidence would a skeptic seek to accept that something was miraculous.

          • John Cocktosen

            Miracles don't happen.

          • Mike

            Yes, we all like XKCD. My personal favorite is the James Bond one! But the question stands, what would a skeptic accept or demand to believe something is miraculous. Hypothetically.

          • Octavo

            If all Catholic priests gained the ability to resurrect people who have been dead for any length of time, and they were not shy about letting non-believers watch, that would be something. Hypothetically.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • John Cocktosen

            One of my dad's best friends lost one of his legs this winter. Have a priest or some other religious guy come, say a prayer or something over his stump, regrow that leg and I'll call that a miracle. And, I'll even be willing to give a deity credit.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What the heck is this and what does it have to do with disproving miracles?

          • Andre Boillot

            I think the point is that, in the past, before the advent of the near-universal ability to photographically document most things that happen around you, it was much easier to believe that the lack of evidence for the phenomena listed was down to lack of opportunity.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Both statements you attribute to Adams would be rejected by Catholic thinkers because they distort the meaning of faith and reason. The teaching office of the Church claims the existence of God can be known by reason. Faith is the assent of the mind to what God has supernaturally revealed. Reason and faith are complementary from the Catholic perspective.

    • "I don't think the fine tuning argument proves the existence of any deities"

      Again, as I said above, nobody--including Fr. Spitzer--has claimed that the fine tuning of the universe *proves* that God exists. But it does provide strong evidence for a transcedent, intelligent Creator. In light of this evidence, the existence of God provides a far more plausible explanation than almost unimaginable chance.

      "God would have no problem proving his existence in ways that did not require a post secondary education in physics to understand."

      Once more, and I ask this genuinely, who claimed this? Fr. Spitzer certainly hasn't maintained that you need an advanced physics degree to know God exists, for there are many other ways--outside of contemporary physics--to know God exists. God reveals himself most often, to the large majority of theists, through their own personal experience. This article was simply to highlight *another* way that leads to God, namely modern cosmology.

      "He wants us to believe in him and would appear physically, cure amputees and so on, wouldn't he?"

      Please correct me if I'm wrong, but your logic seems to be this:

      1. If God exists, he would miraculous cure some or all amputees.
      2. God has not miraculously cured any amputees.
      3. Therefore, God does not exist.

      If you'd like to make this argument, you need to provide strong evidence for believing that premise 1 is more plausibly true than not--I think that's your most difficult task--but then you must all show that premise 2 is most likely true. I'd welcome your evidence, but I think you'll have great difficulty providing any.

      • In terms of the teleological argument, we need to know which is more likely, a material accounting for the specificity of cosmological constants or a supernatural one. We would need to know something about how the constants came about before we can draw conclusions about the likelihood of the cause. We don't, so we should not draw these inferences.

        I am least taking it on authority that the cosmological constants are so specific and why this is significant.

        Of course you're right on the last point, but if you believe in a god that answers prayers and heals people, and that this god has the power to heal amputees, the lack of healed (re-grown) amputated limbs, the lack of this phenomena implies the god does not exist.

        The point here is that contrary to the position that providing strong evidence for his existence is not something god does, usually phrased because to do so would vitiate free will, we are being presented with the argument here that strong evidence does exist. Even healing amputees and appearing physically to every human at once would not deductively prove god either, like the position advanced by Spitzer it would be strong evidence supporting God. If allowing strong inductive evidence is not a problem for God, and he wants me to believe in him, I would like him to provide the strongest evidence he can of his existence, then let me decide to let him into my heart.

  • Physics can't prove God, in fact it cannot even address the supernatural. So here is an article about how physics addresses the supernatural and proves God.

    • Steve Law

      Article doesn't say physics proves God, it only offers evidence for design. Anyway, if physics cannot address the supernatural how come so many atheists claim science disproves God?

      • Ben Posin

        Steve,

        Brian is not making his own argument, but noting that, immediately prior to this article, strangenotions posted an article saying god couldn't be approached through science. Many atheists have argued that any God that interacts with the world should in principle be considered within the realm of science.

        • Actually I say he says in the opening paragraphs that this is not a subject science can address, then addresses the subject through science.

          • Brian, what Fr. Spitzer actually says is:

            "Science cannot deductively prove a creation or God....[But] it can identify, aggregate, and synthesize evidence indicating [...] the finitude of past time...Thus, it is both reasonable and responsible to believe on the basis of physics, that there is a very powerful and intelligent being that caused our universe to exist as a whole. While contemporary physics does not prove the fullness of God, it certainly points to him."

          • Right he is actually just saying science does not prove god deductively, it proves it inductively.

        • Steve Law

          Ok, thanks Ben. was it the Socratic dialogue? To me it seemd to be saying that one can't 'know' God in a personal relationship through science, because unlike a relationship science is objective and unemotional. It seemed very much to be that sort of knowing.

      • Okay he is saying science doesn't imply God, but here is a bunch of science that implies God.

      • Paul Boillot

        The human eye provides evidence for design.

        The fact that the most pleasing color to the human eye is green, and green is the color of most foliage on earth provides evidence for design.

    • Ben Posin

      I don't know how this wasn't my first reaction.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This article is a philosopher's use of evidence from physics as part of a philosophical argument about God. The addressing is being done by philosophy not physics.

      • This is right, although I do take issue with some of his evidence from physics.

      • But all the philosophy is doing is explaining that the science implies a God exists.

    • Brian, nobody claimed that physics can prove God, so please don't attack a straw man.

      The title of the article (and the last sentence) clearly state that contemporary physics *points* to God, not proves him. By revealing a universe that seems more plausibly designed by a transcendent, supremely intelligent Creator than a random, eternally existent cosmos, it provides good reason to believe God exists.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Did Fr. Fetzer write this specially for SN?

      • Well adducing evidence to demonstrate a point is what I meant by proving. I accept that it is fair to say that the argument here is that science establishes certain facts that are here being used to establish the existence of a creator to some standard that is lower than than science requires. I do not agree that he has succeeded.

        • "Well adducing evidence to demonstrate a point is what I meant by proving."

          Just so I'm clear, you believe that merely citing evidence that points to something is akin to proving it?

          • Geena Safire

            It can be noted that, in this article, Spitzer said both that (a) science cannot say anything about a God and (b) science points to a God. Those two statements are in conflict.

            Science isn't pointing to anything non-scientific.

            Theologians may interpret certain scientific findings to support their preconceived ideas, that is, theologians may point to a God. But science isn't doing it.

            Spitzer and other theologians could heed well the advice that LeMaître gave to the Pope when the latter was inclined to claim that the Big Bang proved Genesis and therefore should become dogma. "You may be infallible, your holiness, but you're wrong."

            That advice is particularly true in such a wild and wooly area such as fine-tuning.

            By Bayesian logic, if the lack of a natural explanation (yet) for the fine-tuning phenomenon should be taken as evidence for a deity...

            ...then if science develops a well-supported natural explanation for fine-tuning, by the same token that should be taken as evidence against a deity.

  • Loreen Lee

    I believe that Hegel begins his logic with the triad: BEING, Nothing, Becoming.

  • The BGV does not require a beginning to the universe in the way Robert Spitzer uses the term (an absolute beginning to time). All it requires is new physics: either a state in which the average value of the Hubble constant is equal to or less than zero or a state through which the Hubble constant cannot be defined. One possible cosmology that satisfies BGV while not having an absolute beginning is Carroll and Chen (2004, http://arxiv.org/abs/hepth/0410270 ); see also the response by Vilenkin (2013, http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3836 ).

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Fr. Spitzer explained what he meant to a lay audience (us). Could you do the same?

      • josh

        Translation for lay audience: Fr. Spitzer either doesn't know what he is talking about or is deliberately misrepresenting physics to a lay audience. The argument of the BGV paper is not nearly as broad as he implies.

      • Here's my translation. "Vilenkin's beginning" is to "actual beginning" as "Krauss's nothing" is to "actual nothing."

        In the beginning, nothing became the entire universe, because it turns out that nothing is actually something and the beginning isn't where it started.

        One moral of the story: Physicists need to get a better vocabulary.

        • It's hard to determine whether your analogy holds if you don't show how Vilenkin's beginning differs from the common meaning of beginning.

          For example, when Dr. Krauss comments on "nothing" he's referring to "something"--the diametric opposite to "nothing." Therefore for your analogy to hold, when Vilenkin says "beginning" he really means "end" (or some other "anti-beginning.")

          I'm not sure why we should believe that. Can you explain?

          • Vilenkin means any boundary through which Hubble's constant either changes signs or is not well-defined. The Carroll-Chen cosmology is a good example of Vilenkin's beginning with an infinite amount of time before that beginning and after.

            And it's not something for me to show. It's something Vilenkin has himself already shown, in the 2013 article I linked to above.

          • But as far as I can tell, as an mildly educated laymen, Vilenkin never defines "any boundary through which Hubble's constant either changes signs or is not well-defined" as the "beginning." The impossibility of a past-eternal universe (i.e. a universe with a beginning) is something he *concludes* based on either 1) whether a particular cosmological system corresponds to the BGV theorem or 2) whether a cosmological system is impossible for other reasons.

          • Geena Safire

            In a written exchange with Lawrence Krauss, Alexander
            Vilenkin
            notes that his model presupposes classical gravity, which might not
            apply to certain posited conditions, in which case his conclusions
            regarding beginnings based on his model would not apply:

            "[If ]quantum fluctuations in the structure of spacetime
            [are] so large that these classical concepts become totally inapplicable[,
            t]hen we do not really have a language to describe what is happening. ... [W]e
            do not even know what the right questions are."

          • The second scenario, proposed by Carroll and Chen, assumes some generic initial conditions on an infinite spacelike Cauchy surface. They argue that the resulting spacetime will be non-singular, apart from black holes that could be formed as the initial data is evolved, and will exhibit eternal inflation in both time directions. Here I show, assuming the null convergence condition, that the Cauchy surface in a non-singular (apart from black holes) universe with two asymptotically inflating regions must necessarily be compact. I also argue that the size of the universe at the bounce between the two asymptotic regions cannot much exceed the de Sitter horizon. The spacetime structure is then very similar to that in the Aguirre-Gratton scenario and does require special boundary conditions at the bounce. If cosmological singularities are allowed, then an infinite Cauchy surface with `random' initial data will generally produce inflating regions in both time directions. These regions, however, will be surrounded by singularities and will have singularities in their past or future.

            From Vilenkin (2013), the abstract, emphasis added.

          • josh

            It might be worth noting that we already have singularities in the present and future, they are called black holes. They are places where geodesics end, i.e. time effectively ends for particles entering the singular region. I think most theists are smart enough not to argue that God must be out there annihilating particles that enter a black hole, but for some reason they think that he must be creating things if a similar topology happens in the past.

          • It's a good point, although one I decided not to emphasize, because Vilenkin claims that non-cosmological singularities, like black holes, don't satisfy the theorem, and Carroll claims that they do. As far as I can tell there's no consensus on who is right.

          • josh

            Yeah, it's not my area of expertise so I won't weigh in on who is right about whether or not a theorem applies. But while I think it is fun to discuss the minutiae of what modern physics actually does and doesn't say, it's the attempt to draw unsupported 'metaphysical' conclusions (not you, the OP) that bugs me. As far as I can tell, the universe we live in may or may not have a finite length into the past as defined in a certain way. Either way, it's not a jot of evidence or argument for God.

          • I agree about the metaphysical conclusions. Maybe that's why I try to take people down rabbit trails of technical physics. Doing so can only improve the conversation. ;)

          • "As far as I can tell, the universe we live in may or may not have a finite length into the past as defined in a certain way. Either way, it's not a jot of evidence or argument for God."

            Sure it is, as many philosophers and scientists have shown. If the universe has a finite past--which all evidence seems to support--then it would not have have eternally existed. And if it did not eternally exist, it would have come *into* existence at some point (roughly 13.7 billion years ago), which would have required a cause extrinsic to itself (since nothing can cause itself to come into existence.) Therefore, the scientific evidence (both the origins and fine-tuning data) suggests a transcendent, immaterial, spaceless, timeless, supremely intelligent being. That's precisely what every serious theist describes as "God."

            That's a short, simple explanation of how a finite-past universe points to God. You might argue that the universe *didn't* begin at a finite time in the past (Thomas Aquinas was neutral on the question), but it's wrong to argue that the universe's beginning is inconsequential to the existence of God.

          • All the evidence indicates that the universe may or may not have a definite beginning. At least, as far as I can tell. It doesn't say one way or the other. Maybe some day we will know, although I agree with Josh that a beginning says nothing for or against God. Maybe the universe started itself (you already know what I think about this).

          • Paul Boillot

            "If the universe has a finite past--which all evidence seems to support"

            If it seems that way to you, then this is true by definition. However the evidence does not point to a finite past, the evidence points to a point in time at which all models break down.

            We don't know if our universe popped out of the open-end of another universe's black-hole-spigot. We don't know if it bounced. We don't know if that singularity was the result of quantum fluctuations in a mostly-empty verse.

            We. Don't. Know.

            "Since nothing can cause itself to come into existence."

            What proof do you have of this? What experience do any of us have with philosophical nothingness? None. It very well might not be a logical phrase.

            "Therefore, the scientific evidence (both the origins and fine-tuning data) suggests a transcendent, immaterial, spaceless, timeless, supremely intelligent being."

            If the data suggest that to you, than this is true by definition.

            If you start with the assumption that God exists, you can squeeze the data into alignment with your premise.

            Top-down vs bottom-up.

            (The first couple minutes of this are unnecessary and annoying, arguments start at 1:30)

          • Geena Safire

            This! I love how Scott Clifton (aka Theoretical Bullshit) makes his case.

            Even if Craig's argument is true, the hot,dense,smooth pre-expansion state, for example, could have been past eternal as a material cause instead of a deity or some alternative efficient cause.

          • Geena Safire

            Sure it is [evidence or argument for God], as many philosophers and scientists have shown.

            So, Brandon, if it turns out, after the technical dust settles, that the Big Bang is not actually the beginning of our universe...

            -- that is, that the hot, dense, smooth state was past eternal prior to inflation, OR Hawking's 'no boundary" is true, OR the data proves the multiverse which is past eternal --

            ...are you willing to commit that you would accept this as evidence or argument against the existence of God?

            Or would you, instead, change to the refrain on the next page and find it to be not incompatible with God's existence because Genesis and so forth can be interpreted to be more metaphorical, and yet still is completely infallible?

          • Mike A

            I don't actually expect you to respond to this, since as far as I can tell your MO is to assert things and then not engage with the rebuttals, but here goes.

            "A: If the universe has a finite past--which all evidence seems to support--then it would not have have eternally existed." Granted, since this is a tautology.

            "B: And if it did not eternally exist, it would have come *into* existence at some point" Careful here. The universe includes spacetime. So it's not accurate to suggest it came into existence 'at some point' as if this point falls somewhere on a timeline; time didn't exist before the universe existed.

            "C: which would have required a cause extrinsic to itself." I see no evidence of this assertion. Furthermore, if you're prepared to argue that everything that exists has a cause, you need to figure out what caused God.

            "D: Therefore, the scientific evidence suggests a transcendent, immaterial, spaceless, timeless, supremely intelligent being." Uh, what? This isn't how logic works- even if I granted your axioms A, B, and C, they do not- emphatically do NOT- lead to D. You either need more axioms or to adjust your conclusion.

            This isn't a matter of atheism vs. theism, your post empirically doesn't function as an exercise in deductive reasoning.

          • Paul, thanks for the excerpt, but I don't see where Vilenkin defines "beginning" differently than Fr. Spitzer. That's what you originally claimed (in fact, you analogized that Vilenkin uses it in the exact opposite way that Fr. Spitzer does) but still haven't clearly evidenced that claim.

          • Vilenkin acknowledges that Carroll and Chen's cosmology allows for "an infinite Cauchy surface with `random' initial data will generally produce inflating regions in both time directions. These regions, however, will be surrounded by singularities and will have singularities in their past or future." The initial data is Vilenkin's beginning, and from that beginning you can have regions that go into the past, the future, or both. He says it also in the conclusions:

            With generic initial data on this surface, there will be some regions that will inflate towards the future and some regions that will inflate towards the past. However, regions inflating toward the future will have singularities in their past and vice versa. There will also be regions with singularities in both time directions; see Fig. 3. The inflating regions will become sites of eternal inflation, with the thermodynamic arrow of time pointing away from the Cauchy surface.

            The Cauchy surface is Vilenkin's beginning. There are events occurring both before and after this beginning.

          • Paul Boillot

            Taken from Debunking Williams Lane Craig

            Craig, however, often cites the work of physicist Alexander Vilenkin to buttress his claim that “the whole of material reality” began to exist. So I emailed Dr. Vilenkin the following question:

            Dr. Vilenkin,
            Could you briefly define your use of the term “universe,” as you use it in the context of your work on the beginning of the universe? I’m just curious to know whether you use the term in the traditional sense, “all of physical reality,” or if you use it in the more modern sense of “those parts of ‘everything’ that we could, in principle, have access to.”

            His response:

            Hi,
            It is certainly more than what we can have access to. Regions beyond our cosmic horizon are included. But if there are other universes whose space and time are completely disconnected from ours, those are not included. So, by “universe” I mean the entire connected spacetime region.
            Alex V.

            So, it seems to me that there is some equivocation going on between Craig’s definition of the word “universe” and that of the physicists he uses to support his claim.

          • josh

            Krauss is referring to a common sense of the word 'nothing': the absence of all the things we normally call the universe (atoms, galaxies, cosmic structure). Vilenkin is referring to a rather rarefied sense of the word beginning: the fact that in some universe models we can define an affine parameter for light worldlines (null geodesics) that has a finite length from the infinite past to the present.

        • Geena Safire

          This is beautiful ! Priceless !

    • Paul, thanks for the comment. Your first sentence is confusing. The BGV *does* require a beginning of any universe that is, on average, expanding throughout its history. I'm not sure what you mean when you suggest that Fr. Spitzer uses the term "beginning" in some unconventional way. He simply means that matter, space, energy, and time do not extend infinitely into the past; in other words, there is a t=0.

      Also, you propose the Carroll-Chen theorem as one example of a cosmology that satisfies the BGV while not having an absolute beginning. But as others have pointed out, the Carroll-Chen model, specifically addressed by name in Alexander Vilenkin's Cambridge paper, cannot be past eternal for other reasons (in regards to the Carroll-Chen model, Vilenkin specifically concluded that it "[could not] actually be past-eternal.”)

      Far from showing an eternal past, the Carroll-Chen model actually features a universe with a common beginning point for two arrows of time.

      • It really doesn't require a beginning even to a universe that on average is always expanding. Not in the sense of a beginning to space and time. Vilenkin's "beginning" is simply a boundary, and time can exist before the boundary, even infinitely long before the boundary.

        Vilenkin's argument that the Carroll-Chen model cannot be past-eternal (at least on one side) is that it passes through a boundary that meets Vilenkin's requirements for a beginning, but there is time before that beginning. Geodesics are then past-eternal or future-eternal, not both. That's the argument he makes in the paper I linked.

        If you disagree, show me a region in the Carroll-Chen model that doesn't have a before and an after. They all do (even if some instances don't clearly distinguish which is the before and which is the after).

        • Argon

          "Geodesics are then past-eternal or future-eternal, not both."

          Reminds me of a German idiom:
          Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.

          • Geena Safire

            That's the Wurst joke I've heard in a very long time.

  • David Nickol

    Here is a heading and a bit of text from Fr. Spitzer's post above:

    The High Improbability of Five Other Anthropic Conditions (Based on Cosmological Constants)

    A cosmological constant is a number which controls the equations of
    physics, and the equations of physics, in turn, describe the laws of
    nature. Therefore, these numbers control the laws of nature . . . .

    Isn't this at least slightly inaccurate? According to Wikipedia:

    In cosmology, the cosmological constant (usually denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda: Λ) is the value of the energy density of the vacuum of space.

    There is only one constant that is called the cosmological constant. As Fr. Spitzer has written the above, he appears to be calling all the physical constants (such as the speed of light, the mass of the electron, and Planck's constant) cosmological constants.

    • I think you understood what Fr. Spitzer meant, even if the terminology may be a little confusing. Agreed?

      • David Nickol

        I think you understood what Fr. Spitzer meant, even if the terminology may be a little confusing.

        I was sure I knew what he meant, but I was bending over backwards to be polite in pointing out his error. The terminology wasn't just "a little confusing"; it was wrong.

        • Geena Safire

          Yeah, I'm sorry to say, Brandon, this was not a misunderstanding; it was a very basic factual error. It's equivalent to saying that the Vatican is made up of all the churches in Italy. It's not the only error in this piece. The list I'm developing is not short. As I wrote before, this article would have benefited a great deal from a technical review.

      • Mike A

        No. He got the basic physics wrong. This isn't confusing terminology, it's one of many basic errors that illustrate just how little business Spitzer has in this arena. By way of analogy, it'd be like if I wrote "gravity is the force that binds atoms together into molecules."

        If I see you post again in response to David or me here, I'll be both shocked and very happy.

        Edit: sorry Geena, I basically just duplicated your post. Ninja'd!

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think this essay is strong contemporary support for what the First Vatican Council taught in the nineteenth century:

    God, the source and end of all things, can be known with
    certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of
    human reason: ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has
    been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Rom 1:20).

    • David Nickol

      God, the source and end of all things, can be known with
      certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of
      human reason . . . .

      I think that goes way beyond what Fr. Spitzer is claiming, as I understand it. He is talking only about the existence of God, not what God is like. The two are very different. Certainly St. Paul was saying the Romans should have known what God was like and honored and obeyed him. (In any case, that is how I have always understood him.)

      In any case, it does not seem true to a great many people that even the existence of God can be known by "the natural power of reason," let alone that the God Christians believe in can be known.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        It is "support."

        Fr. Spitzer builds a bridge between the attributes of the God of the philosophers and the God of Christianity in the same book he cites in the OP and in "Healing the Culture."

  • polymath123

    Great summary Fr. Spitzer. I really enjoyed reading your "New proofs" book, although it was very intense philosophically and metaphysically. Atheists always say that theists misrepresent the BVG theorem, however, Alexander Vilenkin himself commended Christian philosopher William Lane Craig for having "represented what I wrote about the BGV theorem in my papers and to you personally very accurately".

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It would be good if you expounded on that Craig/Vilenkin exchange, since people here are claiming Spitzer is either stupid or a liar.

      • David Nickol

        since people here are claiming Spitzer is either stupid or a liar . . .

        Is that really fair? I have read only one or two comments that I would regard as hostile to Spitzer personally.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Josh and Susan are people. Paul agrees with Josh and he's a people, too.

          • Paul Boillot

            You can take my life, but you'll never take my peoplenessssss!

        • Geena Safire

          I just made a comment along these lines that might annoy Kevin. But it's fully documented exactly why I hold the opinions I express.

          • nowornever

            I don't believe Spitzer is stupid, but I do believe he's suffering from a bad case of motivated cognition, and he does have a documented history of making things up.

            Edit- sorry, that was in response to David.

      • Andre Boillot

        You seem awfully touchy / defensive today Kevin, everything ok?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'm cool. The comment I most objected to (below) has been deleted.

      • polymath123

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem

        This is the link. If you type in "accurately" in the find box, you will find it quickly. Of course, the BVG theorem is not a proof for the existence of God, but Vilenkin does very much admit that "all the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning." If this is so, there may well be very strong metaphysical implications for this, which Vilenkin recognises he cannot comment on "since I have no special expertise to issue such judgements." Many things point but nothing proves in science.

        • Geena Safire

          Actually, Vilenkin says that under classical physics the evidence points to a beginning. But, under classical physics, conditions at the Big Bang reach untenable infinities.

          But Vilenkin also says, with respect to quantum gravity -- for which we do not have yet a satisfactory theory:

          "[If] quantum fluctuations in the structure of spacetime [are] so large [at the Big Bang] that these classical concepts become totally inapplicable[, t]hen we do not really have a language to describe what is happening. ... [W]e do not even know what the right questions are."

          • Argon

            I've read that Vilenkin is nonplussed about people using his work to justify God's existence.

          • "I've read that Vilenkin is nonplussed about people using his work to justify God's existence."

            That's understandable considering he is not a theist. Yet the philosophical or theological conclusions he arrives at based on the theories facts are independent of whether those scientific theories are valid.

            In other words, theists and atheists should turn to Vilenkin for his cosmological insights, not for his theological interpretation.

            In the article linked to elsewhere in this thread, William Lane Craig makes a similar point and offers further resources for the genuinely curious:

            "As for Vilenkin’s theological views, while I would never rejoice that someone is not a Christian, I find his agnosticism to be helpful in that no one can accuse him of having a theological axe to grind in his defense of the universe’s beginning. As for his proffered natural explanation of the universe’s beginning, I interact with it in Reasonable Faith, pp. 115-16, and in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pp. 183-4 (with Jim Sinclair)."

        • Paul Boillot

          In addition to what Geena says below, the meaning of the word "universe" in the quote you've pulled is not the philosopher's universe of "all reality," but of the region of contiguous space-time operating by the same laws we have here.

      • Lionel Nunez

        I agree, I'm curious as to what they have to say.

      • Geena Safire

        Kevin, I'm sorry if you're upset regarding people's characterization of Spitzer's article. However, Spitzer does make some statements that are ... um ... "highly opinionated" is my kindest way to describe them. (I get less kind after I make my argument, I must warn you.)

        As one example:

        In view of the fact that a beginning in physics implies a Creator, many physicists with a naturalistic orientation would like to avoid the necessity of such a beginning. For this reason, they have proposed that the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe.

        This is pure baseless apologetics, to put the nicest face on this assertion.

        First, regardless of whether a scientist is or is not a philosophical naturalist or is or is not a Catholic, she must act as a methodological naturalist in the laboratory. This is the reason that a scientist proposes methodologically naturalistic hypotheses.

        Why? Spitzer gave the answer himself earlier in this same
        article. "God is not an object or phenomenon or regularity within the physical universe, so science cannot say anything about God." This is why no scientist would ever propose, as a hypothesized scientific mechanism for an observed phenomenon, "God did it."

        Note that Spitzer first says science cannot say anything about God. And then, here, he claims that scientists develop their theories because they want to avoid saying anything about God or that implies God. Sheesh! With Spitzer, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

        Second, it is not true that all physicists claim the universe did not have a beginning. Regardless of their philosophical
        orientation, some physicists say that the Big Bang likely was a beginning, others say that it was not a beginning, and yet others say that the concept of "beginning" as it is commonly understood is an incoherent concept in the context of the Big Bang (such as Hawking's "no boundary" concept).

        Third, to a scientist, a universal beginning does not necessarily imply a creator. It may seem, to theists like Spitzer, that it points to a creator of the specific type and kind that they have already presupposed, and therefore it must seem so to scientists.. But unless he has evidence, it is pure conjecture on Spitzer's part that any scientist considers any view regarding the scientific evidence about the Big Bang holds any implication either way regarding any kind of deity.

        Fourth, it is an accusation of the strongest kind, attacking the professional and personal integrity of scientists, for Spitzer to claim that scientists develop their theories with the intent of avoiding the implication of a creator. I highly doubt that Spitzer has any evidence to back up his assertion regarding any physicist, let alone all the many physicists who do not hold the scientific opinion that our universe had a beginning.

        If Spitzer has no evidence for his assertion, then he is guilty of "making stuff up for Jesus" ™. If Spitzer had phrased it as his opinion or suspicion, that might be merely stupid and annoying on his part. But the way he worded it, sans evidence, is a lie.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I agree that Spitzer does not provide evidence for the following claim: "In view of the fact that a beginning in physics implies a Creator, many
          physicists with a naturalistic orientation would like to avoid the
          necessity of such a beginning. For this reason, they have proposed that
          the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe."

          I think it is reasonable to ask for evidence for this if you think it is important.

          However, it is peripheral to Spitzer's actual argument.

          • nowornever

            Um, accusing your peers of malfeasance is the sort of thing that requires evidence whether or not it is central to your argument or not.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He may be wrong or it may be something that goes without saying.

          • Andre Boillot

            However, it is peripheral to Spitzer's actual argument."

            If we must be constantly told what is or isn't grist for the mill, it would be nice if it were at least to come from a Mod. No offense. Also, I'm not sure that claiming "the fact that a beginning in physics implies a Creator" is at all peripheral to the argument.

            Edit: for "for" not "of"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Geena was objecting to Spitzer unsupported characterization that many physicists with a philosophically naturalistic outlook don't like the idea of a beginning of time.

          • nowornever

            That's mischaracterizing his argument. What he said was not that they didn't like the idea, but that they purposefully proposed theories with the intent of avoiding certain conclusions. In other words, he attacked their honesty and professional integrity. Please don't minimize the impact of such a statement.

          • Geena Safire

            Not quite far enough, Kevin. Not at all far enough.. I wouldn't care two whits (maybe one whit, though) if Spitzer only claimed that they "didn't like the idea."

            I object to Spitzer proclaiming that physicists FALSIFY THEIR SCIENTIFIC THEORIES IN ORDER TO AVOID WHAT SPITZER PRESUMES THEY 'KNOW' REGARDING WHAT SUCH A BEGINNING 'MUST' IMPLY.

            That is, I object to Spitzer impugning their reputations by accusing physicists of engaging in professional misconduct so that God doesn't leak out.

          • Mike A

            Don't you wish this format let us use italics/bolding?

            And yes to everything Geena said.

          • Geena Safire

            Ah, but it does, my dear Mike! Observe!

            You can use italics, bold, underlining, strikeout, and any combination thereof! These are basic HTML tags. (Disqus supports a very small range of tags.)

            Put the following in front of and behind the text you want to format:

            Italics     <i>    </i>

            Bold     <n>    </b>

            Underline     <u>    </u>

            Strkethru     <strike>    </strike>

            I was just using capital letters because I wanted to YELL at Kevin for misunderstanding me on this subthread several times today, minimizing my issue.

            .

          • Mike A

            You just keep showing me up, huh.

          • Paul Boillot

            Don't worry, she happens to us all from time to time.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your objection is unwarranted. I don't think Spitzer is saying that at all.

          • Geena Safire

            I agree that it is reasonable to ask for evidence. I would have appreciated it if Brandon had made the effort to ask Spitzer for his evidence or ask him to tone down his extraordinary claims before posting the piece.

            I disagree that this point is peripheral to Spitzer's argument. It is a significant and supporting argument. Spitzer is saying: "Fine tuning points to God and scientists are flat-out lying about it in order to escape from this awkward and inevitable conclusion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think Spitzer is saying this at all.

          • Mike A

            "many physicists with a naturalistic orientation would like to avoid the necessity of such a beginning. FOR THIS REASON, they have proposed that the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe."

            Yes, he is. He explicitly is. You can't possibly argue that he didn't claim scientists are purposefully proposing theories of the universe in order to reach the conclusion they want, given the quote above.

          • Geena Safire

            Since this seems to bear some repeating for Kevin's benefit:

            ...for this reason...
            ...for this reason...
            ...for this reason...

            Sorry, Kevin, I really like you and our conversations, but you seem to be having a difficult time with reading comprehension today.

            I'm not saying Spitzer is a bad man. I'm saying he really messed up here.

  • Argon

    Lesser miracles department:
    Human male: produces about 400 billion sperm in a lifetime
    Human female: produces about 400 thousand eggs in a lifetime

    Odds of specific combination of egg and sperm leading to you from your parents (approx):
    1.6E15.

    Odds of specific combination of eggs and sperm leading to you over ten generations (approx):
    1.6E15 to the 10th power = 1E172.

    Number of fundamental particles in the observable universe (approx):
    ~1E80 to 1E85.

    QED!

  • Argon

    Interesting take on fine tuning by Bradley Monton, Prof. Philosophy, U Colorado, Boulder.

    Similar in some ways to my earlier, missing (*sigh*) post, but less tongue in cheek about statistics and how one uses them in metaphysics.

  • Paul Boillot

    When the evidence for a beginning is combined with the exceedingly high improbability of the above anthropic coincidences, a super intellect seems to be the best explanation because it avoids all the problems of a hypothetical multiverse

    1) We have evidence of a singularity at the Big Bang, not a "beginning" of reality.
    2) "High improbability." Statistics and probability are tricky things, especially if constructed and manipulated without precision, and with an end-goal in mind.
    3) Humans have a tendency for pattern-recognition and self-aggrandizement that works over time for post-hoc ergo propter-hoc rationalization. "I got the job because I'm so awesome!" vs. "I got the job because I was the only marginally qualified candidate after Bob quit." We have evidence that the universe was so arranged at the beginning that it gave rise to us, not so that it would. Who knows what the opportunity cost was on this universe vis-a-vis a cooler form of life.
    4) What problems of multiverse theory are avoided by a supernatural intellect?

    • David Nickol

      What problems of multiverse theory are avoided by a supernatural intellect?

      Of course, concluding that a supernatural intellect created the universe in order to avoid the "problems of multiverse theory," whatever they may be, is not open to scientists in their capacity as scientists. I have mentioned several times on Strange Notions a particularly interesting thread on First Things by Dr. Stephen Barr about evidence for the multiverse. Someone asked him why the explanation couldn't just be that God fine-tuned the universe. He responded:

      In the above piece, I was careful to say, “the only PHYSICS idea” that would be left in the event all the conventional ones failed would be a multiverse scenario. Divine fine-tuning, while I think it quite possibly the correct explanation, is not a “physics explanation”.

      I am not sure Fr. Spitzer isolates his role as a scientist from his role as a believer, priest, and apologist.

  • Slocum Moe

    Religion is a cultural and emotional phenomenon, not a religious one. People do not decide whether or no they believe in God based on science or mathematics. Even if God's existence is disproven scientifically, religious will still haste undiminished faith.

    I use as an example Darwin's "Origin of the Species". It is evident to every reasonable person exposed to the specific that they are valid. They do not prove or disprove the existence of God bu directly call into question some fundamentalist, literalist Christian beliefs about the physical age of the World and the timeline for development of life on Earth. While there are no "young earth" atheists, half of Christians do not believe in evolution and even some who believe it are hostile to it.

    Even if science somehow did prove the existence of God someday, there is no way it will shed no light on his philosophical bent or expectations for us, among his creations or whether he means for us to be religious or to have organized religious activities. Whether or not God wants us to present us with an inflexible, monolithic, officially endorsed, World wide, Big Mac style, franchise operation, like the Catholic church is a question for marketing, business administration professionals and copywriter lawyers, not science. Most Catholic religious more closely resemble marketing and business executives or patent lawyers than individuals whose lives are guided by faith, love, hope and charity as well.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Religion is not a religious enterprise?
      The Catholic Church is Big Mac style enterprise?

      • cminca

        With a headquarters, a board of directors, a chairman, regional managers and branch managers.
        Finance and PR departments. Vast real estate holdings. And an extremely large corporate art collection.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          SM and your comments are specious is nonsense, off topic, and offensive to Catholics.

          • cminca

            Headquarters--Vatican City
            Board of Directors--College of Cardinals
            Chairman--The Pope
            Regional Managers--Bishops
            Branch Managers--Local Parish Priest
            Finance--Vatican Bank
            PR--Greg Burke, Ex-Fox News, Media Advisor

            Specious exactly how? Nonsense exactly how?

            My apologies. I didn't realize the truth was either off-topic or offensive to Catholics.

          • Lionel Nunez

            I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and point out how you can make the "corporate" analogy with countries, sports teams, military's, social clubs, and human society in general since the only necessary requirement seems to be having a functional hierarchy. And if you think that just because the RCC operates over a large scale, then that qualifies particularly for the "corporate" analogy then you're missing the whole point that trying to characterize the church as a bad thing in this way is just arbitrary and intellectually insolvent.

          • cminca

            Yes, but countries, sports teams, militaries, etc. aren't promoting themselves as God's representatives on earth.

            In addition, it becomes ironic when the institution in question seems to have become the embodiment of the exact opposite of the life and the teachings of the person they claim to follow.

            Which was SM point, I believe.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Don't forget the fictitious Logo(s) at the top.

          • Lionel Nunez

            I second that, I'd tell him how he's wrong but his statements seem to suggest that he has more of an emotional relationship with his ideas rather than an intellectual one and I'm just not in a position to be able to do anything about it.

  • Geena Safire

    It is important to note that "nothing" means “nothing." ... ["Nothing"] does not mean a "vacuum" or "a low energy state of a quantum field," "empty space," or other real things. "[N]othing" is not dimensional or orientable, and it does not have any specific characteristics or parameters because it is nothing. ... [Y]ou cannot have more or less of nothing because nothing is nothing.

    "Nothing" ain't what it used to be. ... Or not be.

     

    In the same way that the definition of "life" moved from philosophy to biology, the definition of "nothing" is now in the realm of physics. Philosophy can still contribute but it can no longer dictate.

    Why? Because physics is the field that defines what "something" is, at the various fundamental levels, and we've got a pretty good idea of what "something" is. Therefore, it naturally follows that the field that defines "something" is also the field that can describe what "nothing" can mean in the context of our
    universe.

    Physical "nothing" need not be the same as philosophical "nothing." In fact, it is likely to be quite different.

    Why? Because actual physical "something" – at various levels – has turned out to be quite different from any proposed philosophical "something."

    Also, since there are various flavors of physical "something," there will be various physically-relevant flavors of "nothing."

    Therefore, even though philosophers have pondered and argued over the centuries about "nothing" and postulated regarding the presence or absence of features or qualities of "nothing" or the capabilities or limitations of "nothing," that philosophical "nothing" may have never had – and may never have – any relevance with respect to our actual universe and its expansion.

    Philosophy: "Nothing" means "nothing."

    Physics:       It's not your place to define "nothing" anymore.

    Philosophy: From "nothing," "nothing" comes.

    Physics:       You've never had experience with "nothing." How do you know what can or cannot emerge from "nothing"?

    Philosophy: It's obvious, isn't it? It just has to be. That is in the nature of "nothing."

    Physics:       Nope, not obvious. Ah, I see! You're just sticking it in as part of your definition.

    Philosophy: Well, yeah, of course.

    Physics:       No, that's just tautology. We're interested in what the actual natural world tells us about what "nothing" is or what "nothing" can or cannot be or do.

    Billy Preston: "Nothing" from "nothing" leaves "nothing."

    Physics: Catchy number, but who let him in here?

    Sinéad O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2U (youtube dot com slash watch?v=iUiTQvT0W_0)

    Philosophy: How can you compare "nothing" with anything?

    Socrates: "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

    Physics: This is getting out of hand.

    Philosophy: No, wait. That's Socrates!

    Physics:: Who cares? Oh hey -- What does a grape say when it gets stepped on?

    Philosophy: Do tell.

    Physics: Nothing.

    Philosophy: Go on; I know there's more.

    Physics: It just lets out a little wine.

    Philosophy: I'm outa here!

    Physics: I thought she'd never leave!

     

    "Hey, Geena. What's got you so worked up?"

    "Oh, nothing..."

    • Michael Murray

      Billy Preston ? Strange I was thinking the other day how weird it is that Concert for Bangladesh has Billy Preston doing a wonderful rendition of "That's the way god planned it".

      Sorry back to nothing. I'll match Billy Preston with Julie Andrews singing the great line "Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could". And that's from a nun.

      • Geena Safire

        How could I have not included 'Something Good' !?

        Thank you for nothing ! In a good way.

        youtube dot com slash watch?v=RNdl-HIkDqQ

        The chorus begins at 1:03

        (ps. Krauss' first name has a 'w' rather than a 'u'.)

        • Michael Murray

          (ps. Krauss' first name has a 'w' rather than a 'u'.)

          Oops. Thanks. I hope he isn't lurking.

    • Lionel Nunez

      Your criticism literally consiststs of nothing but the claim that he's not allowed to use the word "nothing" the way he uses it. He defines a concept, then makes an assertion as to how that concept relates to our reality. Either disagree and say there was something(the way he described it; you can mentally substitute whatever word you feel would be more appropriate) before the beginning of the universe, agree and change your previous opinions, or admit to yourself that you need to think over and understand his claims better before you feel comfortable going either way.

      • Susan

        Your criticism literally consiststs of nothing but the claim that he's not allowed to use the word "nothing" the way he uses it

        None of the models he describes use "nothing" the way he uses it.

        He defines a concept, then makes an assertion as to how that concept relates to our reality

        Except that there are no models in reality for that concept and he is pretending there are, The old switcheroo.

        Either disagree and say there was something(the way he described it; you can mentally substitute whatever word you feel would be more appropriate) before the beginning of the universe,

        What does that mean?

        agree and change your previous opinions

        With what and to what?

        admit to yourself that you need to think over and understand his claims better before you feel comfortable going either way.

        Good idea.

        • Lionel Nunez

          Thank you, your objection has more substance than a simple dislike of the concept of complete nothingness, it's beyond me to address it though. And if that's true, then wouldn't it not really matter since the same could for all those unobservable universes and under the premise of your question, things that have no model in reality shouldn't be referenced? And that means that I think he should say there was "stuff" before universe "began" if that's what he believes and not that he doesn't like philosophical "nothingness". Also, if he feels he should agree, then he should change what he claims is true, otherwise he should give more reason for why it isn't a solvent argument. I'll be the first to admit I'm no physicist, but there's no need to be mean about, some of the criticisms presented just don't feel intellectually satisfying to me.

          • Geena Safire

            ...a simple dislike of the concept of complete nothingness...

            I don't dislike the philosophical concept of "nothing." I'm actually rather fond of it. How could I not? There's absolutely nothing to dislike about it!

            The issue is that philosophical "nothing" has become irrelevant -- with respect to physics and our actual physical universe.

            The kinds of "nothing" that might be relevant for our universe would have seemed completely acceptable to the ancient Greeks and to philosophers up until the last few hundred years. Why? Because the absence of all matter and radiation would seem like "nothing" to them. So would the absence of all matter, radiation, space and time. As would the absence of all matter, radiation, space, time, and laws of physics.

            However, they would be disappointed to discover, as are the philosophers of today, that either of the three variations of "nothing" listed above could plausibly give rise to our universe, vanquishing the "ex nihilo, nihil fit" idea. (Under the first scenario, it may even be inevitable.)

            If that third version of "nothing" is not philosophically satisfying to you, Lionel, then I have a question for you:

            What less do you want?

          • nowornever

            There's no such thing as your philosophical nothing. I'm not sure why we're talking about it.

      • Michael Murray

        Maybe I read it differently but it seems to me the heart of her claim is this

        In the same way that the definition of "life" moved from philosophy to biology, the definition of "nothing" is now in the realm of physics.

        So he can say what he likes. Mathematicians talk about the empty set all the time. But the really interesting thing is what physics says about nothing.

      • Geena Safire

        When knowledge advances to a certain point in any field, then the facts dictate the definitions rather than conceptual ideas, no matter how prized. Aristotle thought that two objects of different weights must fall at different rates. Since he was generally pretty smart about many other things, most folks believed him for a very long time. But the fact is that they fall at the same rate. It doesn't matter how obvious and intuitive Aristotle's idea seemed, and how very nicely it fit into a very attractive system of understanding how motion ought to operate. His system is wrong and his intuition is wrong and it would be inappropriate to keep claiming his ideas reflect reality. So we now refer to Aristotle's ideas not as 'how motion works' but instead as 'Aristotelian theories of motion,' and they are only of interest in a historical sense.

        In the same way, philosophers and theologians have long held certain ideas regarding the nature of "nothing" and what must be true about it. If the universe was created or came into being, most thought, then it had to have come from nothing, and out of this nothing, a "first cause, an uncaused cause" must have caused the universe to come into being." Further, they posited that it would be impossible for anything to come into existence from "nothing"absent a cause. But science knows much much more about the actual nature of "something" and "nothing", so the philosophical ideas have to retire from their position as the "best understanding" position they have long held and be relegated to the same position as Aristotilian motion, and the geocentric model, and phlogiston, and luminiferous ether, and the miasma theory of disease, retired from "what must be true about 'nothing'" to "how we used to think about 'nothing'."

        • Ignorant Amos

          ....don't forget the 4 humors Geena, I always laugh at humor..

  • nowornever

    I can't believe someone actually wrote an entire post based on the anthropic fallacy. I mean, it's a flat-out logical fallacy along the lines of the base rate or conjunction fallacy. Please read this: http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.6437 and then go to lesswrong and just search for 'anthropics.'

    • nowornever

      And if those sources are too technical, this might help: http://cedgray.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/the-anthropic-fallacy/

      Can I ask- and I'm being serious, not snarky- why none of the Catholic posts that are hosted on this site actually seem to deal with the real arguments of atheism or really science in general? There's so much material being posted at a level eight or nine steps behind what I'm finding in the discussions.

      • Michael Murray

        Thanks for those references.

      • Peter

        The question is not whether the universe is adapted exclusively for human life, but whether it is adapted for life in general in whatever form. While some Christian churches believe that humans are unique in the universe - that the universe is configured exclusively for them - the Catholic Church does not hold that belief. It is enitrely possible that the billions of galaxies throughout the cosmos are populated by countless sentient species, each of whom have developed in their own unique way in the prevailing conditions.

        In fact, the widespread presence of sentient life across the cosmos would strengthen rather than weaken the notion of a Creator. Instead of mankind and life on earth being a freak event in an otherwise hostile meaningless universe, the abundance of intelligent species would show that the universe exists for a purpose which is transform itself from lesser to greater complexity culminating in the widespread formation of intelligent life.

        • Michael Murray

          In fact, the widespread presence of sentient life across the cosmos would strengthen rather than weaken the notion of a Creator. Instead of mankind and life on earth being a freak event in an otherwise hostile meaningless universe, the abundance of intelligent species would show that the universe exists for a purpose which is to transform itself from lesser to greater complexity culminating in the widespread formation of intelligent life.

          How do you get from abundance to purpose ? Does the abundance of stars mean the purpose of the universe is to create stars ?

          • Peter

            Stars are factories for producing the elements of life. You put hydrogen in and you get carbon, oxygen and nitrogen out. These element rich clouds are then irradiated by stars to form complex chemical compounds which are the building blocks of life. If the purpose of the universe is to create intelligent life, then stars are indeed a necessary part of that process.

          • Michael Murray

            OK let me try it another way. Humans create computers. Perhaps the purpose of the universe is to create computers and the humans are a necessary step along the way but not an endpoint.

          • Peter

            Humans choose to create computers. If they don't create computers, they will still be humans. Stars have no choice but to create the building blocks of life. If they don't create them they can't be stars. Therefore it is the purpose of stars to create the bulding blocks of life while it is not the purpose of humans to create computers.

          • Michael Murray

            You still aren't explaining how you get the word purpose in. All we know is that it is an inevitable consequence of the life of a star (all stars ??) that they end up producing heavier elements than hydrogen and helium that are ejected into space. I don't see any purpose.

            So if you don't like computers replace them with dandruff or something more earthy if you prefer that we cannot avoid producing. Maybe the universe has as purpose producing dandruff ?

          • Peter

            A prior generation of stars will die leaving element rich clouds from which a younger generation will form. This younger generation of element rich stars will in turn produce carbon, oxygen and hydrogen in greater quantities which when ejected into space will be further irradiated by an even younger generation of stars to create complex carbon based compounds which are the building blocks of amino acids and sugars. So, yes, all stars are involved right up to the bulding blocks of the bulding blocks of life.

            Our telescopes are not yet powerful enough or sophisticated enough to single out in detail the more complex compounds which no doubt exist out there. Perhaps when they do, which is only a matter of time, we will observe chemical compounds of such complexity that we may begin to understand the origins of life.

            Just as humans have a choice not to produce computers, they have a choice to prevent dandruff. Stars on the other hand have no choice but to create life.

          • Michael Murray

            So does this mean you are an advocate of some version of panspermia ?

            I choose dandruff in an effort to be polite. Replace it with some human waste product that we cannot avoid producing.

            You still haven't explained how purpose gets into the act. So far you are arguing inevitability of product of complex organic molecules. You haven't got to inevitability of life, inevitability of intelligence or inevitability of self-awareness. Then you still have to get from inevitability to purpose.

            At this point my purpose is to sleep.

          • Peter

            Panspermia? No. Life is not distributed between star systems. The widespread abundance of life-buliding chemicals throughout the galaxy suggests that life would originate and develop independently in each system when conditions permit it.

            Human waste is necessary to keep humans alive. The existence of humans is the purpose of human waste, not the other way round.

            If the universe is on a one-way mission towards greater complexity, from the first hydrogen nuclei just after the big bang to the superabundant complex compounds we observe today, it is not unreasonable to conclude that this process has continued, is continuing, and will continue throughout the cosmos, culminating in at least one instance in intelligent life - ourselves.

          • nowornever

            "If the universe is on a one-way mission towards greater complexity"

            This is literally as wrong as it's possible for a hypothesis about physics to be. Are you familiar with the laws of thermodynamics?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Human waste is necessary to keep humans alive. The existence of humans is the purpose of human waste, not the other way round.

            Let me fix this...

            "Star waste is necessary to keep stars alive. The existence of stars is the purpose of star waste, not the other way round.

            The elements that are produced by stars are as a result of the fusion reaction within the star. known as Stellar nucleosynthesis.

            "As stars cool and "die," they release the heavy elements into space. Ultimately, some of this material is incorporated into planets and even our bodies.

            Stars can just hold it in longer. Star dust, star s***e...same stuff.

            Something about laws and thermodynamics is ringing in my head.

          • Paul Boillot

            This is an interesting, if not convincing, way of looking at the cosmos.

          • Michael Murray

            You still haven't replied to any of my questions relating to how you deduce purpose.

          • Mike A

            I've seen a series of assertions (X is the purpose of Y, not Z) but not any reasoning. Could you provide a succinct set of criteria for determining whether X is the purpose of Y, which we could then apply to humans, stars, and other things to test?

            If you're not able to do that, I'd argue you don't actually understand your own concept of purposefulness.

          • Michael Murray

            Mike A are you asking me or Peter ? Thanks.

          • Mike A

            Sorry, Peter. I messed up the nesting.

          • Michael Murray

            No problem. I thought it looked like that. I second your question !

          • Geena Safire

            Just because some stars forge heavier elements doesn't mean that their purpose is to forge heavier elements. Perhaps their purpose is to help reduce the over abundance of helium in the universe, and they make the heavier elements as a hobby.

          • I have no choice but to host bacteria in my intestine: Some of them are vital to life, so if I don't host them, then I can't be human; I can just be a pile of dead flesh. Therefore, by your reasoning, it is "the" purpose of humans to host bacteria.

          • nowornever

            OK, maybe this will help. Can you describe, in as brief and simple terms as possible (and without resorting to analogy or metaphor), the criteria we should use to distinguish whether something is "the purpose" of something else?

            For example, you might say "Creating X is the purpose of Y is Y inevitably leads to X."

          • Geena Safire

            NowOrNever: I think you meant "if Y" rather than "is Y"

          • nowornever

            Fixed, thanks.

        • Geena Safire

          I'm asking this seriously here: Does Jesus have to die on each of these billions of worlds, according to Catholic thought?

          • Peter

            I suppose that depends on whether they committed Orignal Sin.

          • Geena Safire

            Since the deity pretty much created a situation where that is inevitable, I'd say the likelihood is pretty high.

          • David Nickol

            Does Jesus have to die on each of these billions of worlds, according to Catholic thought?

            According to Catholic thought, the answer is no, because the Incarnation could happen only once. Some years ago, the Vatican Astronomer speculated about the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe:

            "God became man in Jesus in order to save us. So if there are also other intelligent beings, it's not a given that they need redemption. They might have remained in full friendship with their creator," he said.

            Father Funes went on to say that Christ's incarnation and sacrifice was a unique and unrepeatable event. But he said he was sure that, if needed, God's mercy would be offered to aliens, as it was to humans.

            To the best of my knowledge, that's the most authoritative (and sensible) answer.

          • Geena Safire

            ... the Incarnation could only happen once...

            Well, that may be because we're made out of of meat* (carnis).

            Perhaps on another world, vegetables (vegetabilis) are the intelligent life form, in which case Jesus would have an invegetabilination.

            On another planet, intelligent life may be based on rocks (silicium). There, Jesus would have a insiliciuciation.

            In a further galaxy, meat-based life forms may never have fallen, but the computer-based life forms (apparatus) that they made and which supplanted them might have fallen. This would involve an inapparatutiation.

            That way, there could be many worlds, many forms of intelligent life, many falls, many redemptive sufferings and deaths, but only one incarnation.

            * youtube dot com slash watch?v=gaFZTAOb7IE

          • David Nickol

            I suppose that depends on whether they committed Orignal Sin.

            As I understand Catholic doctrine, Original Sin affected not just human nature, but all of creation. Of course, when the doctrine was formulated, it was believed that humans were the pinnacle of creation, and the idea that there might be other planets and other intelligent races was unknown.

            One of the problems, of course, is that if human Original Sin affected all of creation, and there existed (or now exists, or will exist) other intelligent races capable of Original Sin, does each transgression by an intelligent race affect all of creation?

            I think the idea that there were two "first" human beings who committed a sin, damaged human nature (and all of creation), and are the parents of the human race is untenable. And the idea that there could be many races, each of which might have committed their own "original sin" and required an Incarnation, death, and resurrection, seems to me grotesque. It's one thing for Jesus to sacrifice himself. It's another thing entirely to imagine such a thing repeated over and over.

          • Paul Boillot

            I think I read somewhere that the Church's teaching on Jesus is that he came once, and only once, to save us from our sins, and that if sentient life exists elsewhere it must be un-fallen.

        • nowornever

          Peter- you didn't read the links, did you?

          1) Please provide support for your assertions. If an abundance of intelligent species would suggest the 'purpose' of the universe was to create intelligent life, does the abundance of hydrogen suggest the purpose of the universe to to create hydrogen? Why or why not?

          2) Please define 'complexity,' because I don't think you're using the scientific or mathemtical definition

      • "Can I ask- and I'm being serious, not snarky- why none of the Catholic posts that are hosted on this site actually seem to deal with the real arguments of atheism or really science in general?"

        nowornever, thanks for the comment. I know you say you are being serious and not snarky, but I can't seem to read this question any other way. We've dealt with "real arguments of atheism" and "science in general" several times in the past, and continuing so. I can only assume you haven't read many articles here.

        • nowornever

          No, I'm sorry, that doesn't seem to be true. I read through the last 20 or 25 articles in chronological order, and found few to no articles that seriously represented atheist positions and dealt with their strongest arguments, and many articles that either a) attacked fictitious or weak atheist strawmen (for example, the insulting 'dialogue' between Sal and Chris) or b) were based on scientific/mathematical misunderstanding (this one) or c) restated arguments atheists have long ago responded to as if they were new and illuminating (If Atheism is True, Does Life Still Have Meaning).

          The stated purpose of this community is to foster dialogue between atheists and Catholics. As a result, if there's a long history of Catholics making claim X, and then atheists respond with counterargument Y, the useful thing to do is to provide a counter-counterargument Z, not to just keep posting X over and over (even if you still believe it's true)! Anthropic fine tuning has been ADDRESSED; if you want to convince atheists of anything, respond to the criticism of the idea, don't just restate the original argument. I don't see how you possibly think this could lead to a valuable dialogue.

          • nowornever

            I'm interested in your lack of response, since you've been active on the site for a while since I wrote this. Do you disagree with my assessment of the problems this site is having, or not? Are you interested in dialogue only up to the point where somebody questions you?

            I realize I sound hostile, perhaps even badgering. I'm sorry about that; I don't want to be a jerk to you or anyone else on my second day posting here. But these things are tremendously frustrating, as someone who values open, honest discussion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You claim that this article is based on "scientific/mathematical misunderstanding." Please provide an explanation.

          • nowornever

            I have. You can chose to disagree with it or not, but please don't pretend I haven't explained the mistake (I know you know better, because you already replied to that post).

            Since I try to assume good faith, I won't leap to accuse you of being disingenuous, but I'm struggling to see another option.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Where did you explain?

          • nowornever

            My very first comment on the thread, here: http://strangenotions.com/how-contemporary-physics-points-to-god/#comment-1205505610

            You responded to it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean the comment when you told us to look it up?

          • nowornever

            I'm concerned that you're trolling; it should be obvious which comment I mean, since I linked to it. Before we keep talking, could you explain to me where the confusion here is? I want to make sure I'm not wasting my time with someone more interested in scoring internet points than having a conversation.

            In any case, I identified the fallacy this article was based on, and then I provided some resources expanding on said fallacy. In a follow-up comment, I summarized said resources.

          • Geena Safire

            Hey Mike, I can tell this thread is frustrating to you. But I can assure you that Kevin is not a troll at SN. He wears the SN heavyweight champion belt -- i.e., he postest the mostest.

            He does seem to be in a bit of a mood today, though.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks, Geena for rescuing me.

          • Mike A

            I believe Kevin isn't a troll, but this specific comment:

            "You mean the comment when you told us to look it up?"

            seemed like an (perhaps isolated) instance of trolling, since I had just linked to the comment in question; I can't imagine Kevin didn't *actually* know which comment I meant.

            That said, it's probably not a huge deal, and I'll move on.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If we are talking about the same thing, you made a bare claim and then say we could go look up what you were talking about on the link and we would have to type in something in the search bar to find it.

          • Mike A

            .

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for the offer but I'll look it up on my own. I've come across it a hundred times but have never seen the validity of it. I'll look at it with new eyes now, I promise.

          • Geena Safire

            Bravo! Bravo! Huzzah! Our Kevin of old returneth!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here's a brilliant idea, Mike.

            Write an OP for Strange Notions making the case that Fr. Spitzer's argument for the existence of God is grounded in a fallacy. I'd be very interested in reading that and I bet lots of other SN readers would too. So would Fr. Spitzer, I'd wager.

    • Michael Murray

      To quote from the late Douglas Adams:

      “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'

      • nowornever

        Love that quote.

      • It's not like that at all. A puddle could conceivably survive in an infinite number of holes. Therefore it's not surprising for a puddle to exist.

        But for humans, there's an incredibly narrow range of life-permitting combinations of mathematical constants. The fact that this universe is fine-tuned for life is almost infinitely more improbable than that a puddle of water exist in a hole.

        • Ignorant Amos

          A puddle could conceivably survive in an infinite number of holes.

          Only a particular kind of puddle can survive in a particular kind of hole. When we get specific, we find only certain kinds of puddles are surviving the exactly the sort of holes we are likely to find them in, because they are there. how could it be otherwise?

          But for humans, there's an incredibly narrow range of life-permitting combinations of mathematical constants. The fact that this universe is fine-tuned for life is almost infinitely more improbable than that a puddle of water exist in a hole.

          Well Brandon, is it humans or life? It makes a deference..

          If it is humans, I agree with you. That is why the universe is inhospitable to human life.

          If it is life, I don't. There could be an infinite number of life permitting environments in the universe. We don't even know the extent of what kinds of life could be out there, we are only just getting to grips with the extremes in variation here on our own planet.

          I think Michael was referring to the later.

          There are

          • Geena Safire

            .

          • nowornever

            Hey Geena, I think you meant 'latter,' not 'tatter.'

            :)

          • Geena Safire

            Hey Now, (You don't mind if I just call you by your first name, do you?) Thanks for the spooling assistance. :-)

            I had erased the comment right after posting it, because of stupid, but your comment arrived too soon, so I had to repost it.

            If you erase yours then I'll erase mine and we can forget my sad grammar nazi moment. Your choice.

            Oh, since you're new here (and maybe new to Disqus), you might not know this: On Disqus, if you want a comment to go away, the wrong way to do it is to go to your dashboard on disqus dot com and "delete" it. Why? Because the comment actually stays in the combox; disqus simply changes the user name to Guest -- and you lose the ability to ever again make any changes to the comment. So the happier way to remove an unfortunate quote is to first edit the comment in the combox by replacing all text with some short thing like "oops" or just a period. A completely empty comment is not an allowable edit. Then you can go to your Disqus dashboard and "delete" it.

          • nowornever

            Working on it- fingers crossed.

            Sorry for yanking your chain just a little bit, couldn't help myself. All in good fun.

          • Geena Safire

            .

          • Geena Safire

            evidently I made this account with my e-mail years ago, so I'm stuck with it

            Achully, no, you're not. You can change your name in your profile at Disqus while keeping the same email address and access to all your previous posts.

            One consequence, however, is that your new name will replace your old one in every posting you have ever made with this Disqus account, not just future ones.

          • Mike A

            Oh, I didn't realize! I thought I'd lose said access. Thanks!

          • Mike A

            I've lost track of the comments, but I don't think I accused you of sarcasm- sorry if I did! Anyways, I've chucked at several things you've written (and in general, really appreciated your perspective).

          • Geena Safire

            .

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ta very much Geena...that was me without a glass in my hand too.

        • nowornever

          If the universe couldn't support life you wouldn't be here to wonder at how unlikely it was that you were here. In all cases where someone is wondering how likely life was to arise, life arose. Your argument is an empty tautology.

          Also, if you're going to be making such confident claims about mathematical truths, please be courteous enough to share the model you're using. I, for one, would be very interested to see your work.

        • Paul Boillot

          How narrow is the range, Brandon?

          What are the numbers?

          How many combinations of the mathematical constants allow for life?

        • Geena Safire

          Brandon, I know it is bad form to explain jokes. But the point of the puddle vignette is that it is noting that the puddle is mistaken regarding the nature of its existence vis à vis its environment. It thinks its environment was made to suit it while, in reality, its situation is that it has adapted itself to its environment.

          It's more an analogy to evolution, actually, versus the hubris of humans thinking that all this was made just for our emergence and benefit. But it also applies to the fine-tuning situation as well.

          The rest of Adam's puddle story:
          "This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

        • Michael Murray

          My point is only that the probability of self-aware life finding itself in a universe that supports self-aware life is one. Like a puddle finding itself in a hole. Or like the Mississippi River finding itself running under lots of bridges.

          • Mike A

            My point is only that the probability of self-aware life finding itself in a universe that supports self-aware life is one

            Exactly this.

          • Paul Boillot

            Michael, you're whole argument falls apart because the Mississippi will soon *not* be running under lots of bridges!!!!

            (or not the same ones)

            http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1987/02/23/1987_02_23_039_TNY_CARDS_000347146

          • Michael Murray

            Damn :-)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Rather than just declaring that a guy with a doctorate in philosophy who has also taught it for many years at the college level is as stupid as you think he is, and rather than sending us off to search through some link, why don't you take the time to make your case yourself?

      • nowornever

        I don't think he's stupid, just suffering from a combination of motivated cognition and inexpertise in his chosen subject matter. His PhD in philosophy doesn't do much to prepare him to deal with these questions.

        Anyways, the very, very short version: if the universe couldn't support life you wouldn't be here to wonder at how unlikely it was that you were here. In all cases where someone is wondering how likely life was to arise, life arose.

        Think about this; how likely is it that you and I are living in this exact instant? We might argue it's wildly unlikely; this is just one instant out of about 10^60 of instants that have existed. Clearly, there's some nonrandom explanation for how it is we happen to be alive right now.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I guess I'm suffering from the same unfortunate combinations.

          If probability is really irrelevant, why have some cosmologists posited the multiverse with a near infinite number of universes to account for the fact that ours has the conditions it does?

          • Geena Safire

            The multiverse isn't something scientists dreamed up as a nifty idea.

            It is strongly implied in the mathematics of string theory. It is also implied, according to some high-powered folk, by the application of quantum mechanics to cosmology.

            Plus, a hypothesis/theory does not become more complicated by the number of things it implies but by the number of kinds of things it implies.

            As an example, the interaction of air molecules does not become more complex in a large room because of the greater number of air molecules there than in a small room.

            So no matter how many universes are implied by a theory, the multiverse is still just one thing in a theory. That is, a gazillion universes is no more extravagant to posit than a few extra universes.

          • nowornever

            In regards to your first sentence, assuming it wasn't meant sarcastically, that's an awesome thing to admit; figuring out the cognitive biases that are affecting you (and literally everyone has them) is the first step to arriving at a better model of reality. So seriously, that one comment gives me more enthusiasm for this discussion, and the strangenotions project as a whole, than anything else I've read here.

            Can you link me to said cosmologists' work? My guess- and without seeing the papers, it's just a guess- is that you've misidentified the reasons they posit the multiverse, but I'm genuinely interested in finding out.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't remember where I read those things (the problem with internet surfing).

            One had to do with accounting for the fact that the amount of dark energy or dark matter is incredibly smaller that the amount that some theory expected there to be, the solution being an incredible number of other bubble universes all with different amounts so that the average over all universes would make sense.

            Another was the incredible number of combinations inherent in the supposed eleven dimensions in string theory would solve the fine tuning problem: we just happen to have gotten lucky in this universe.

          • Mike A

            Dark energy is definitely a major subject of ongoing research; that said, the theory you're describing to address it sounds deeply implausible to me (which is not the same thing as saying it's actually unreasonable, just that without seeing the actual work, that's my impression- my background is in particle physics and this isn't really my wheelhouse).

            This subset of the conversation probably won't go anywhere without us being able to refer to the actual work in question- it's not that I don't believe you, just that it's hard for me to evaluate a theory without more info.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Understood.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Only you mentioned stupid Kevin.

        And are you suggesting a teacher with a doctorate i philosophy, or any other doctorate for that matter, is beyond stupidity?

        Surely you are not suggesting Spitzer is ignorant of the arguments against the anthropic principle.

  • John Farrell

    I have one quibble with Fr. Spitzer's excellent essay. He writes, "The Big Bang Theory was proposed originally by a Belgium priest by the name of Fr. George Lemaitre who used it to resolve a problem (the radial velocities of extra galactic nebulae) connected with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity."

    While it's true that Lemaître developed the idea to resolve a problem--the problem was *not* the radial velocities of extra galactic nebulae. He had already solved that problem when he convinced Einstein, de Sitter and Eddington that the universe was dynamic --based on his use of the GRT equations with Slipher's and Hubble's data. That was the main topic of his 1927 paper. In 1931, he proposed his Primeval Atom hypothesis-- in essence, Big Bang v 1.0-- because he realized that a static Einstein model of the universe, which he took as the initial condition of his model for the 1927 paper, could not be sustained indefinitely into the past. So something more dramatic, condensed, if you will, had to be the starting point. Einstein and Eddington were decidedly cooler to this idea than they were his previous work.

  • Mike A

    OK, let's try this from another perspective.

    Imagine that God tosses a fair coin.

    If the coin comes up heads, he immediately creates 10 people, each in their own isolated room.

    If the coin comes up tails, he creates 1,000 people, also in each their own isolated room.

    The people in each room have no way of knowing how many other rooms there are. However, each room is numbered on the inside- either 1 through 10 (if the coin came up heads) or 1 through 1000 (if the coin came up tails).

    Imagine that, knowing all this, you discover you are in room number 1 (or any number 1 through 10). Given what you know, what do you believe the probability is that the coin came up heads?

    • Paul Boillot

      In case no one takes you up on this question, know that I read the original link you provided and found it interesting.

      Strange things happen when humans use semantics to play with concepts of probability and infinity.

      • Mike A

        Thanks! If you found that interesting, you'll probably like this: http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty_problem

        I disagree, however, that the problem is one of semantics- it's a legitimate question of statistical inference.

        Also, it seems like I might not get a response, but hopefully it's clear why this applies to the anthropic fine-tuning question.

  • Peter

    It is just a question of time before our telescopes reveal more and more complex carbon-based compounds within the giant molecular clouds and planetary nebulae of our galaxy, leading us ever nearer to discovering how life began. One thing is clear. There is an irreversible process going on in the universe from its very inception which is the organisation of matter from less complex to more compex arrangements, culminating in life-building compounds and ultimately life itself.

    The universe has no choice but to arrange matter into increasingly complex forms, and the forms of complexity which that matter takes have no choice but to constitute the buliding blocks of life.

    The universe is very young. The superabundance of raw materials such as hydrogen and helium will ensure that this process will continue for aeons to come, as more and more matter becomes transformed through successive generations of stars into complex life-building compounds.

    The fact that each generation of stars leaves behind a more complex arrangement of matter than its predecessor should by itself tell us that the purpose of the universe is to transform matter into life. The purpose of the universe is to create life.

  • James Phillips

    "The Principle" (http://youtu.be/p8cBvMCucTg), the serious scientific (yet extremely entertaining) movie long in the making and with the greatest of scientific implications, Has A Major Announcement To Make! See http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-principle-has-major-announcement-to.html

    • Ignorant Amos

      ...the serious scientific... with the greatest of scientific implications,...

      SERIOUSLY? Geocentrism?Or should that be egocentrism? You are having a laugh. You are aware that deceit is immoral and deemed an intrinsic evil within the Catholic faith don't you? Being a poster boy for Ricko will not show you in the best of light around here...he was regarded as somewhat of a fundamentalist on as far right s anyone could get, a bit of a kook, by both sides BTW, and got himself banned both here and on Outshine the Sun for his extremism. But any how, good luck in promoting that piece of crap, you'll need it, Ben Stein flopped trying the same lying tactics with Explelled and the movie was roundly condemned by critics as garbage.

  • Max Driffill

    So a PhD in philosophy and not any of the relevant science? Fascinating.

    • Ignorant Amos

      You seem somewhat surprised there Max?

      • Max Driffill

        Not really, I just thought I should point it out.

  • Ian Miller

    Arguments about the value of constants, etc have to be taken with a grain of salt because we don't know why the effects have the values they do. As an example, take the argument that the strong force had to have almost that value or else there would not be any elements. That is not necessarily true. In 1925, Volochine showed that you could construct the atoms with correct energies based on magnetic interactions (Volochine, F. E. 1925. C. R. des Séances de la Société Polonaise de Physique, Fasc V.: 61 – 73.) That turned out to be wrong because he had to assume the nuclei were a lot smaller than they are, but, wait, it may work for quarks. In 1994 I showed that you could construct approximately the relative energies of nuclei, and predict correctly that technetium, etc were not stable, based on electric fields of quarks, and the number of interactions, and also which nuclei had many isotopes and why (Miller, I. J. 1994. A quark model for the atomic nucleus. Spec. Sci & Tech. 17 : 11-14 ). That may or may not be right, but interestingly, as I showed in my ebook, "Guidance Waves", if you use the analytical relationship for the hydrogen molecule on deuterium, and add in a contribution from the magnetic effects as per Volochine, the binding energy is consistent with what is observed. In other words, the strong interaction may have nothing to do with nuclear binding. Again, it may. The point I am making is not so much that I am correct, but rather at this point we just don't know why, so you should not draw conclusions that claim proof based on grounds that are little better than assumptions or the output of models that may or may not be correct.

  • neil_ogi

    in the past, atheists believe that the universe is eternal, now they don't. and they believe now that the cause of the universe is 'unknown'... (they skipped it for a 'beginning') then, how about the first living cell (common ancestor) on earth? they just say, it's 'just there', if that's so, then they should not answer 'unknown' for the cause of the universe if they have answer for the arrival of first living cell on earth!

    • Andre Vlok

      Are you using Google Translate? From the original Albanian-khoiSan?

      • neil_ogi

        i can't understand you?? pls elaborate

  • disqus_xEFHDaxwEP

    The main problem of pseudo-geniuses.

  • Patrick Wiley

    Doesn't a "big bang/big crush" cyclical universe model serve as a potential third option? Suppose dark energy, which we know little about has its own rules of entropy. Couldn't it then run out, causing a reversal of the metric expansion of the universe as matter and space time are drawn by gravity back into a singularity which then erupts into another big bang?