Why the universe wasn’t fine-tuned for life

By | June 15, 2011

the-fallacy-of-fine-tuning.jpg

In The Fallacy of Fine-tuning, Victor Stenger dismantles arguments that the laws of physics in our universe were “”fine-tuned” to foster life

IF THE force of gravity were a few per cent weaker, it would not squeeze and heat the centre of the sun enough to ignite the nuclear reactions that generate the sunlight necessary for life on Earth. But if it were a few per cent stronger, the temperature of the solar core would have been boosted so much the sun would have burned out in less than a billion years – not enough time for the evolution of complex life like us.

In recent years many such examples of how the laws of physics have been “fine-tuned” for us to be here have been reported. Some religious people claim these “cosmic coincidences” are evidence of a grand design by a Supreme Being. In The Fallacy of Fine-tuning, physicist Victor Stenger makes a devastating demolition of such arguments.

A general mistake made in search of fine-tuning, he points out, is to vary just one physical parameter while keeping all the others constant. Yet a “theory of everything” – which alas we do not yet have – is bound to reveal intimate links between physical parameters. A change in one may be compensated by a change in another, says Stenger.

In addition to general mistakes, Stenger deals with specifics. For instance, British astronomer Fred Hoyle discovered that vital heavy elements can be built inside stars only because a carbon-12 nucleus can be made from the fusion of three helium nuclei. For the reaction to proceed, carbon-12 must have an energy level equal to the combined energy of the three helium nuclei, at the typical temperature inside a red giant. This has been touted as an example of fine-tuning. But, as Stenger points out, in 1989, astrophysicist Mario Livio showed that the carbon-12 energy level could actually have been significantly different and still resulted in a universe with the heavy elements needed for life.

The most striking example of fine-tuning appears to be the dark energy – or energy of the vacuum – that is speeding up the expansion of the universe. Calculations show it to be 10120 bigger than quantum theory predicts. But Stenger stresses that this prediction is made in the absence of a quantum theory of gravity, when gravity is known to orchestrate the universe.

Even if some parameters turn out to be fine-tuned, Stenger argues this could be explained if ours is just one universe in a “multiverse” – an infinite number of universes, each with different physical parameters. We would then have ended up in the one where the laws of physics are fine-tuned to life because, well, how could we not have?

Religious people say that, by invoking a multiverse, physicists are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid God. But physicists have to go where the data lead them. And, currently, there are strong hints from string theory, the standard picture of cosmology and fine-tuning itself to suggest that the universe we can see with our biggest telescopes is only a small part of all that is there. …

via CultureLab: Why the universe wasn’t fine-tuned for life.

74 thoughts on “Why the universe wasn’t fine-tuned for life

  1. Alex Dalton

    Stenger is a crank. He recycles the same arguments against fine-tuning that have been answered for years. See here where a real cosmologist, George Ellis, exposes Stenger:

    http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/ArticleDetail/tabid/68/id/3051/Default.aspx

    The “Theory of Everything” explanation for fine-tuning fails because a) it is an act of sheer faith to posit that there even will be unification of all the forces; there are many scientists who think there never even will be a GUT; M-Theory is the closest and has completely failed to do so, b) even if we had such unification, we would still be stuck with the fact that the only possible unified laws governing the entire universe also just happen to allow for the existence of life. Physicist Paul Davies and Martin Rees have also pointed this out. Some think this might even be better evidence for the existence of God as it is a more elegant anthropic solution. Cosmologist Luke Barnes writes:

    “It would be the mother of all coincidences that the only universe permitted by the laws of nature would happen to permit intelligent life. In their classic paper on fine-tuning in 1979, Carr and Rees comment that ‚Äúeven if all apparently anthropic coincidences could be explained [by deeper physical law], it would still be remarkable that the relationships dictated by physical theory happened also to be those propitious for life.‚Äù”

    Stenger’s example of the carbon resonance inside stars, is barely even mentioned by physicists studying the anthropic coincidences, and there are dozens more examples; that’s the real issue – the sheer multitude of fine-tuned parameters. Invoking the multiverse also fails as a) there is no evidence of separate space-time universes, and this is completely unfalsifiable and faith-based b) if you can use this to explain fine-tuning, you can use it to explain everything and anything, thus it destroys induction and science itself. c) it is the most flagrant violation of Ockam’s razor imaginable, and d) all proposed explanations for generating the multiverse require fine-tuning themselves. See Robin Collins on this:

    http://www.lastseminary.com/teleological-cosmology-physics/Design%20and%20the%20Many-Worlds%20Hypothesis.pdf

    You can see another refutation of Stenger by Barnes here:

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/what-chances-me-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-victor-stenger-part-1/

    and part 2. here:

    http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/no-faith-in-monkeygod-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-victor-stenger-part-2/

    Alex

    1. Xeno Post author

      Intelligent life is not an amazing coincidence, it is an unavoidable consequence of the way the universe is. So what? This is not justification for a leap into the belief that the whole thing was set in motion by an eternal sky daddy.

      No one assembles snowflakes. These large organized and complicated structures, each one unique, are the result of small local interactions of atoms. The rules governing the behavior of atoms are not pre-designed by an intelligent mind in order to create snowflakes.

      Similarly, we are the result of the conditions that exist. There is no evidence for a designer.

      The beauty of the universe is not evidence of god. Perception of beauty is a brain function, the result of a significant amount of activation in the anterior cingulate and parietal cortex.

    2. Xeno Post author

      “Stenger is a crank.” Gee, and I thought he was an Emeritus Professor of physics. There are just so many university particle physicists who are cranks these days, Alex. I doubt you could swing a bible without hitting one.

    1. Xeno Post author

      I didn’t know you taught physics. That’s great. Good for you.

      I’ve read a few articles at the site and not one gives any reasonable reason to make the absurd logical leap from “This allows us to be” to “This was done for us to be”.

  2. Alex Dalton

    And another thing to note is that of the hundreds of articles that have come out regarding fine-tuning, many of them pointing in a theistic direction, notice that Xeno only takes note of the one on a book by an atheist who felt the need to write an entire book trying to explain away the evidence. Funny that this is how a scientist has to spend his time nowadays – writing popular level works aimed at explaining away what some have called the best evidence for God ever to come out of science.

    Xeno’s bias is ridiculous.

    1. Xeno Post author

      One day I expect I will be just one more decomposing composer… Unless science can cure aging… And they are working on that… Go science go!

  3. Sam

    Actually, science is not very interested in whether or not there are gods or a God. Philosophers and theologians, yes. Scientists are simply in the job of “knowing,” and sometimes a scientist decides he want to make conclusions outside his field based on the knowledge that comes from inside his field. Let the philosophers and theologians decide if there are gods or a God. There’s really no hard science in support of God, but that is only proof that God’s not found in science. Despite not believing in things like “Intelligent Design,” or in a God that fits in the shoe-box of any particular religion, I really hate when a scientist tries to address the question of God, because we are not in that business. We are in the business of describing the way the Universe works. Whether or not there’s a God is not part of our mandate, we just figure out the rules. We are about “knowing,” not “believing.”

    1. Xeno Post author

      Well, I’ll respectfully disagree. Psychology is a real science, and it is, therefore, certainly within the realm of science to understand what and why people believe. Haven’t we all moved past the point where the brain and the mind are considered unconnected? If brain studies and other research shows biological, sociological, historical and evolutionary foundations for faith and belief in gods, and if there is no evidence beyond this for any actual god, then it is my view that science is within it’s charter to say that the best evidence is that God is a mental defense mechanism, an adaptive blind spot in our logic.

      1. Alex Dalton

        Xeno – why haven’t you approved my post yet? I sent through a post awaiting moderation with several links, refuting Stenger’s arguments.

        1. Xeno Post author

          I only check the spam box once per day. Sometimes not every day.

      2. Alex Dalton

        And Xeno – again you show your ignorance. Firstly, not all theists are dualists. Secondly, you commit the genetic fallacy when you suppose that accounts of the origins of religious belief show theism to be false. We evolved to understand mathematics as well. Does that refute 2+2=4? No. Thirdly, God could just as well have created us so that we evolved with such a belief-instinct. There’s plenty of evidence for God and fine-tuning is only one aspect.

        1. Xeno Post author

          There is no evidence. “Because there are coincidences I can’t explain” and “because someone said so” are not evidence. You can’t even describe God. God is your word for the unknown.

      3. Sam

        Ah, well, yes, psychology. Sure, I can see what you mean by that. But psychology cannot prove or disprove the existence of God; it can only prove or disprove, and perhaps explain, humanity’s propensity to believe in one. When I wrote the words “hard science,” I meant “Physics” and “Geology” and so on. Science that deals with human perception can only makes conclusions about just that. In fact, even though it is in all likelihood true that “God is a mental defense mechanism, an adaptive blind spot in our logic,” that is still not proof that there is no God.

        When refuting God, I like to get specific, and frankly the Christian God is the one I know most about refuting (although, since It is a rip-off of so many previous Ones, I tend to think refuting the Christian God does well to refute them all). Have you noticed how apologetic Christian belief has become? The burden of Science is overwhelming them. It seems that so many of them are willing to admit things that, only ten or twenty years ago, they would have wasted an hour refuting. //Now// evolution is a tool of God. //Now// the World wasn’t made in seven days. “Fine-tuning.” Ha! What a joke! Just a new compromise, some way to reconcile their beliefs with the abundance of hard science that now faces us daily.

        Alex Dalton, respectfully, you are not making sense. Math (“2+2=4”) is a language we developed to describe matter, not some magical thing we “evolved to understand.” We didn’t “evolve to understand” spoken languages; we evolved a need for, and created, spoken languages. Math is like that. BTW, what is the proof of God of which you speak? I would be most interested in a list of these obvious things that the greatest minds on the planet have totally missed.

    1. Xeno Post author

      You can call everything an act of god, but naming is not proof. God, then, is just an artifact of our mind’s behavior of attribution of the unknown to an all powerful entity. Gorthuis, God, Gilligan and George Washington: What is the strength of evidence for the existence of each?

      1. Alex Dalton

        You can call everything an act of God, but I don’t do that. Any evidence presented for God, you will call a coincidence. Doesn’t matter to me though. The evidence has been presented to you on this thread:

        http://xenophilius.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/the-pagan-origin-of-the-biblical-rib-story/

        And all your attempts to argue it down, just like Stenger’s, fail. Your main problem is that you don’t understand reason. Just in this post above, your argument runs like this 1. Anything can be called God 2. this is not proof of God 3. therefore God does not actually exist and is only in our minds. See if you can find the flaws in your own arguments. HINT: its best to do that before you post them.

  4. Alex Dalton

    Sam wrote “Scientists are simply in the job of ‚Äúknowing,‚Äù and sometimes a scientist decides he want to make conclusions outside his field based on the knowledge that comes from inside his field.”

    Alex: this is one of the silliest things I have ever heard. Do you even know what the study of what knowledge is, and how knowledge is acquired, is called? Have you studied it? Scientists do not study this. They work within a very limited framework, employing epistemological methods largely determined by philosophers of science. Explain to me the conditions for *knowing* that a proposition is true, please, and do so in a scientific manner.

    1. Xeno Post author

      I mean no insult to you personally in saying this, but Alex, why are you so hung up on your scheme of naming? If it worked, you could tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Even animals without language know things. Knowing is the use of memory to interact effectively with the environment. A monkey knows if you have a banana. He saw you put it behind your back last week.

      1. Alex Dalton

        Really – that is all that is sufficient for knowledge? Seeing something? What if the monkey didn’t see you drop it into a garbage disposal you were standing in front of? He still believes you have it, but he doesn’t have knowledge does he? He wouldn’t be *justified* in his belief. Further, what if you simply had a toy banana? His belief that you even had a real banana in the first place wasn’t a true belief was it? This is why there are conditions for knowledge – and why the tripartite conditions of knowledge have been pretty standard since Plato – that knowledge be a justified (1), true (2), belief (3). But you wouldn’t really know anything about all that because you haven’t actually studied the study of knowledge – which would be epistemology.

        1. Xeno Post author

          No, you completely missed what I said. Knowing is an act of memory, (which includes memory of reasoning which gets applied to stored memory.) Seeing is one method of getting information into memory storage.

          Knowing is independent of veracity. How could it be otherwise? Some things you know are correct, others are not.

          You demonstrate only one word “knowing” for both memory storage (map of reality) and also for the correctness of memory (degree the map fits the real territory). This confusion is causing your wrong assumptions and faulty arguments.

          The map is not the territory. A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. Knowing in error is still knowing. Do you know that?

      2. Alex Dalton

        LOL – “knowing in error is still knowing.” !!!! Well, Xeno, that pretty much shows it is a fact that you are not familiar with epistemology or any serious study of knowledge and its conditions. Every internalist and externalist account of the criteria for knowledge and justification entail the *truth* of the propositions known.

        It also betrays your lack of reasoning ability. We only say someone *knows* a false proposition in a very loose non-literal sense. And this is really to represent their degree of psychological confidence in their false proposition, not to literally call such false propositions knowledge. When referring to literal knowledge, we never say “Jim knows X” when X is known to be false. We say “Jim believes X”. Saying vague things like “knowing is an act of memory” do absolutely NOTHING to unpack the conditions for knowledge. “Knowing is an act of the brain and certain brain processes”. Yeah, we *know*, which tells us nothing about how we assess what is and is not knowledge. Read a book, Xeno. Get off the internet and stop frantically and obsessively recycling blog news for a couple days, and crack a book. You are way out of your depth here.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Alex, Such absurd myopic hubris.

          Welcome to the age of neuroscience. My serious study of knowledge and its conditions is more serious than yours. I recommend you add knowledge of biology to your understanding. Human knowing is a function of human memory, which is the result of changes in the brain.

          Epistmology (AFAIK) ignores the device doing the thinking, because it is a system developed before we knew anything about neurobiology. The brain creates virtual maps to represent everything inside and outside of us about which we think. Thus, our truth is always only an approximation of reality. Some eastern religions clue into this (see samsara) without knowing why “everything is an illusion.” Reality exists, we just don’t experience it directly. We experience or maps of it. The maps change as we learn, to better fit the territory. Did people once “know” the world was flat? No, because it was never true… Follow me? Epistemology is brain blind as well as time blind.

          In case you want to join us in the year 2011, you may be interested to learn that “the internet” is a good place to read what your generation used to call “books”, even epistemology textbooks. (Example here.)

          I do try to read every day to learn something new about the world. What you call recycling I call communicating and my blogging being somehow “frantic” is laughable. For me blogging is relaxing and educational.

      3. Alex Dalton

        Xeno – incorrect. The Brain and neuroplasticity, in particular, is one of my major areas of study. I have over 50 books on the neuroscience of cognition. Further, MANY modern externalist accounts of justification are based on neuroscientific research. If you knew any epistemology, you’d know this. More ignorance on your part. Thx for reiterating about “virtual maps”, but knowledge is not merely a *function* of memory; the inferential process involves much more than memory, though memory is incorporated. Generalization and prediction are not solely functions of memory (you are also talking more about *learning* than knowledge, which are two different categories). But even with learning, neuroscientists do not chalk it all up to memory. As Ralf Herbrich and Robert C. Williamson write in _The Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks_, p. 619, “The fundamental difference between a system that learns and one that merely memorizes is that the learning system generalizes to unseen examples.” Thx for the link to Cambridge University Press, but I have almost every book they’ve published on Epistemology, as well as those by Oxford and MIT, and most in e-book format. Stop making assumptions.

        Anyway, I’ll leave you with this. If knowledge is a function of memory, then you’re in alot of trouble with regards to knowledge, because you cannot even remember your own arguments. You recently write: “Did people once ‚Äúknow‚Äù the world was flat? No, because it was never true‚Ķ Follow me?”. So here we see that you accept that people who thought they knew something, but were IN ERROR, did not possess *actual* knowledge. Thus they did not *know*, because knowledge is dependent on veracity. One post earlier you wrote: “Knowing is independent of veracity. How could it be otherwise? Some things you know are correct, others are not.” LOL, see if you can unpack your own inconsistencies. Maybe you should go back and edit your old posts like you do constantly. Stay away from Amsterdam, Xeno.

        1. Xeno Post author

          This is all very funny to me. You really don’t comprehend yourself, or what I am telling you. If you discount things which are edited, you can throw away all of your books, including the bible, Alex.

          If you have every one of those texts in electronic format, why on gods green earth would you tell me to get off of the Internet (you incorrectly used the lowercase btw) and read a book?

          Let me type it more slowly so you will understand my point … There is no absolute truth. All truth is an approximation, a map, and all truth is changing because the universe is changing. Truth is only a probability.

          You see inconsistency because your model of reality is faulty.

          I’m saying there is no “actual” knowledge. Every single thing you “know” today has some probability of being wrong.

          Your entire worldview lacks this basic understanding, or so it seems to me.

      4. Alex Dalton

        Xeno – I’m not discounting things that are edited. It just confusing and is not very ethical to go back and rewrite your posts in a THREAD of continuous conversation. It misrepresents the conversation to the public. If you want to edit what you said, do it in a new post so people can follow along.

        You need to read, period. You can’t get alot of up-to-date book-length resources for *free* online on alot of the subjects you discuss here. If you *buy* an e-book, I’m ok with that.

        Now you venture off topic to absolute truth (which I was hardly discussing). Here, I’ll just ask: is “there is no absolute truth” an absolute truth? But who cares anyway? Who is talking about absolutes? Notice my mention of inductive logic/reasoning? I’m fine with probabilistic knowledge. It is your friend Sam who was talking about *proofs*. Most reasoning is inductive and probabilistic. I have NO PROBLEM with this whatsoever, nor does something being probabilistically known mean it is not *actual* knowledge. We can know things to a degree. So again, strawman.

        And I see inconsistency because you are not a consistent person. You contradicted yourself really bad on a major subject from one post to the next. Be honest and own up to it.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Unethical to edit my own words? I don’t follow you. Sorry if it is confusing. I recommend you give it a day before you reply. I don’t usually edit things beyond a day, unless I go back and see that I had bad manners, then I tone it down. I do have a bit of a hot head at times, but a cold heart, so it all works out… wait a minute… Anyway, I don’t edit YOUR words. Now that would be unethical.

        2. Xeno Post author

          Wrong, I was giving an example and you didn’t understand my point.

  5. Alex Dalton

    Sam wrote: Alex Dalton, respectfully, you are not making sense. Math (“2+2=4″) is a language we developed to describe matter, not some magical thing we “evolved to understand.” We didn’t “evolve to understand” spoken languages; we evolved a need for, and created, spoken languages.

    Alex: Thanks for begging the question. Some of the greatest mathematical physicists are mathematical Platonists, as are multitudes of mathematicians. See Roger Penrose’s tour de force _The Road to Reality_ for instance. He spends a good portion of the beginning of the book arguing for Platonism in mathematics. Anyway, aside from noting your unargued assertion, you are correct that I’m not making sense to you because you are not grasping my point. If you understood logic, you would be familiar with my example, and familiar with the genetic fallacy in general. A belief is not refuted by pointing to its origins. All beliefs are beliefs that we evolved the capacity to form; that does NOTHING to refute said beliefs. So pointing out that we evolved to have theistic beliefs does not undercut them. We evolved to have scientific beliefs as well.

    Sam: Math is like that. BTW, what is the proof of God of which you speak? I would be most interested in a list of these obvious things that the greatest minds on the planet have totally missed.

    Alex: Firstly, who are the greatest minds on the planet? LOL – let’s see your list. Secondly, what the greatest minds on the planet have to say about God is irrelevant if they do not specialize in a field that actually addresses the question of whether or not God exists (like philosophy). And within that field, yes indeed, some of the greatest philosophers have believed in God throughout history, and many still do. You can see their arguments here:

    http://www.lastseminary.com/philosophy-of-religion-article/

    1. Sam

      I’m not interested in what a philosopher believes. Philosophy is just logistic masturbation. And I think you are missing the point altogether… notice that I’ve already said that Science does not address the existence of God. And my statement, which you quoted, “Scientists are simply in the job of ‚Äúknowing,‚Äù and sometimes a scientist decides he want to make conclusions outside his field based on the knowledge that comes from inside his field,‚Äù is my lament for times when Scientists make assertions about things which clearly cannot be determined by Science (at least for now). Why that could be “one of the silliest things” you’ve ever heard is difficult to understand, as it seems to support your view, anyway. You also seemed to miss my words to Xeno, which also support your view: “In fact, even though it is in all likelihood true that ‚ÄúGod is a mental defense mechanism, an adaptive blind spot in our logic,‚Äù that is still not proof that there is no God.” Science can not prove or disprove God’s existence. (At least not yet.) If you can’t even tell when you’ve been agreed with, I’m not sure there’s anything left to say.

      I asked first — what is your proof of God? We — WE — have banged Xeno over the head with “Science doesn’t prove God’s absence,” now come on and beat me over the head with some proof that He does. If you bring up philosophy again, this conversation is over. Philosophy proves nothing at all; at least Science produced electricity, antibiotics, air-conditioning and birth control. I just think that if there were a God, at least in the way most people mean when they refer to Him, it wouldn’t be so hard to prove. Proof for the Creator of Everything should be one of the easiest things to find in the Universe, yet all I ever seem to find are excuses for why He’s so elusive.

      On the other hand, if you whittle Him down a bit — say, take away omnipotence, or maybe omniscience (well, lookathere… “all-knowing”) — it starts seeming reasonable why we can’t find Him. But then He wouldn’t really live up to the pedigree anymore, either.

      1. Alex Dalton

        Sam wrote: I’m not interested in what a philosopher believes.

        Alex: And you’re not interested in what they argue either apparently. That’s a very *reasonable* approach. You *must* be a free*thinker*. Regardless, philosophers study logic and argumentation, and they also study the theory of knowledge itself and metaphysics, so they are the experts when it comes to the question of the existence of God. If you choose to not be interested you’re free to keep putting your ignorance on display. I won’t stop you. But no one should take you seriously when you make pronouncements about being able to refute the existence of any god.

        Sam: Philosophy is just logistic masturbation.

        Alex: LOL….You might want to know what the word “logistic” means before you use it. Look it up, science guy.

        Sam:And I think you are missing the point altogether… notice that I’ve already said that Science does not address the existence of God.

        Alex: Did I miss that point? Its so hard to pick which of your contradictory statements to focus on. You include yourself in the class of scientists (e.g. “we”), and you tell us “I really hate when a scientist tries to address the question of God”. Several paragraphs later you tell us “When refuting God, I like to get specific, and frankly the Christian God is the one I know most about refuting.” Well then, since you are a scientist addressing the question of God (even *refuting* the notion!), you must hate yourself. Further you tell us “let the philosophers and theologians decide whether or not there is a god.” But philosophy is just *logistic* masturbation, and you aren’t interested in that! But still, you can refute the existence of God! Let’s see you refute any one god. I am a Christian so I’d be most interested in your refutation there, but will entertain any attempt. I’ll have fun showing you how poorly you reason. You should really study logic (not *logistics*!) before you attempt to reason in public.

        Sam: And my statement, which you quoted, “Scientists are simply in the job of “knowing,” and sometimes a scientist decides he want to make conclusions outside his field based on the knowledge that comes from inside his field,” is my lament for times when Scientists make assertions about things which clearly cannot be determined by Science (at least for now). Why that could be “one of the silliest things” you’ve ever heard is difficult to understand, as it seems to support your view, anyway.

        Alex: Its silly because you obviously haven’t studied epistemology (the study of knowledge), and cannot even formulate the necessary or sufficient conditions for knowledge. You shouldn’t even mention it. Go ahead, tell me the methodology for acquiinge knowledge. Let’s hear it, Mr. Wizard.

        Sam: You also seemed to miss my words to Xeno, which also support your view: “In fact, even though it is in all likelihood true that “God is a mental defense mechanism, an adaptive blind spot in our logic,” that is still not proof that there is no God.” Science can not prove or disprove God’s existence. (At least not yet.) If you can’t even tell when you’ve been agreed with, I’m not sure there’s anything left to say.

        Alex: Um, did I disagree with that portion of your statement specifically?

        Sam: I asked first — what is your proof of God?

        Alex: I don’t think I mentioned a *proof*. Do you know the difference between a *proof* and evidence? Do you know the difference between inductive and deductive logic? Or what abduction is in reasoning? Do you have any methodology for acquiring knowledge other than shouting *Science (CAPITAL *S*!!!) gives us knowledge!!!*. You make me giggle, Sam. You can see the link I provided in my last response to Xeno for a long drawn out argument between the two of us, where I present evidence for God. Feel free to disagree with anything there and respond here.

        Sam: Philosophy proves nothing at all;

        Alex: LOL, you don’t even know what a proof is. If you DO, are you telling me there are no valid proofs in philosophy? Where do you think the syllogism even comes from, smart guy?

        Sam: at least Science produced electricity, antibiotics, air-conditioning and birth control.

        Alex: LOL – since philosophy produced science (first scientists being natural philosophers), Aristotle and Plato pretty much laying out the intellectual framework for the ensuing millennia of Western civilization, and since most of the criteria for theory adjudication come from philosophers of science, I’m not surprised. And philosophy isn’t in the business of tinkering with toys or inventing things so I’m not sure how technology is relevant to the discussion. You might as well say that cosmologists do not understand the universe because they do not know how to plunge toilet bowls efficiently.

        Alex: I just think that if there were a God, at least in the way most people mean when they refer to Him, it wouldn’t be so hard to prove.

        Sam: Any *proof* (or evidence) can be denied by simply denying one of the premises in the argument. Not hard at all really. And the fact that atheistic scientists are resorting to faith-based belief in a multitude of unobservable and unfalsifiable universes outside our spacetime continuum (major faith-based assumption #1, hereafter MFBA), that have varying physical constants (MFBA #2), generated somehow by a physical *mechanism* that somehow abides by laws that dictate this process (MFBA #3), is infinite in duration (MFBA#4), and exhaustive in its variety (MFBA #5), shows that atheists will simply go to any length to deny premises they do not want to concede. In the process, they have just undercut the entire scientific enterprise and become believers though. Oops! Not the intended result….Smolin frankly admits he is doing metaphysics with his cosmological model. If the evidence for God was so elusive, atheistic physicists like Hawking and Stenger wouldn’t have to waste so much time writing books to refute it.

        Alex

      2. Alex Dalton

        In the above exchange, “Alex” and “Sam” should be switched as speakers of the last two paragraphs. So, it should read:

        Sam: I just think that if there were a God, at least in the way most people mean when they refer to Him, it wouldn’t be so hard to prove.

        Alex: Any *proof* (or evidence) can be denied by simply denying one of the premises in the argument. Not hard at all really. And the fact that atheistic scientists are resorting to faith-based belief in a multitude of unobservable and unfalsifiable universes outside our spacetime continuum (major faith-based assumption #1, hereafter MFBA), that have varying physical constants (MFBA #2), generated somehow by a physical *mechanism* that somehow abides by laws that dictate this process (MFBA #3), is infinite in duration (MFBA#4), and exhaustive in its variety (MFBA #5), shows that atheists will simply go to any length to deny premises they do not want to concede. In the process, they have just undercut the entire scientific enterprise and become believers though. Oops! Not the intended result….Smolin frankly admits he is doing metaphysics with his cosmological model. If the evidence for God was so elusive, atheistic physicists like Hawking and Stenger wouldn’t have to waste so much time writing books to refute it.

      1. Alex Dalton

        We can use a working definition of God as an eternal mind who created the universe. Not very hard, Xeno.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Is this a mind without a brain? That would be a first. Nothing hard about it, you are right there. As in Imaginary.

        2. Xeno Post author

          Why couldn’t a lawnmower create the universe? I think you imagine god is a mind because you are a mind, and that you imagine god is an eternal mind because the transitory nature of human existence is so heavy. I have more faith in a solution from science (10,000 years from now?) than I do in an afterlife. See SENS.

  6. Alex Dalton

    Xeno: Why couldn’t a lawnmower create the universe?

    Alex: Because it obviously doesn’t have the capacity to do any such thing.

    Xeno: I think you imagine god is a mind because you are a mind, and that you imagine god is an eternal mind because the transitory nature of human existence is so heavy.

    Alex: Thanks for speculating about my reasons but all you have to do is ask and I’ll tell you. I imagine God is a mind because the nature of the universe, to me, points in that direction with its law-like regularity manifesting itself in comprehensive mathematical elegance, with the fine-tuning of its constants and boundary conditions that allows for the emergence of forms so complex that they become consciously aware of their own existence (and the sheer beauty and awe-inspiring magnitude of such a scenario), with the entirety of this cosmos all coming into existence at a single point in the past and unfolding these capacities. The nature of existence itself speaks to me of intelligence – indeed existence CREATES intelligence because of pre-existing information inherent in its very structure. Beyond that, there is the sheer beauty of it all. I see God’s hand in a flower, and in a nebula.

    Xeno: I have more faith in a solution from science (10,000 years from now?) than I do in an afterlife. See SENS.

    Alex: Well, keep the faith. I like you, Xeno, but I think you prefer to hope there is no God because it suits you. Ask yourself honestly if you want God to exist. Ask yourself honestly if you really think you are open to the evidence. And suppose science does extend life in an artificial manner indefinitely (probably not in your lifetime btw, though I’m sure lifespans will extend significantly). Let’s really suppose science is our savior one day and we learn to eliminate all pain, death, and sorrow. We colonize the universe, populating seemingly endless worlds with pleasure-seeking cybernetic humanoids and so hone our eternal lives to the point at which that old notion of the celestial bliss of an afterlife is realized in physical reality. Could that happen, Xeno? Could we manifest such a utopia, in principle? Well, I’d say it is broadly possible. Indeed, this is a universe pregnant with great potential. We are moral agents all thrust upon the stage of existence with a great potential for benevolence towards one another and all of existence, even on a truly massive scale. As time goes on, we contrive more technological novelties, harnessing the energies of the universe more efficiently, unlock more secrets of health and well-being, revealing an ever-increasing complexity the farther down the rabbit hole we go, and even seemingly grow more compassionate and globally aware with regards to both our own kind, the other inhabitants of the biosphere, and indeed our cosmic habitat itself (well, maybe not, but play along, here). Think about it. What an amazing vision. This very circumstance even being a possibility born from expanding light 15 or so billion years ago, were you not so much a part of it that the very miracle of it all eludes you due to familiarity, should cause the mind to literally burst at the seams. Wouldn’t it be odd, Xeno, if the universe itself gave birth to such a scenario, especially since we know that the guidelines for such a development were written into its very fabric since its inception in the form of the laws of physics? Wouldn’t that just be a little strange that such a universe orchestrated its own happy ending? From the blackness of space comes…..the living joyful universe. Oops…look what the universe made – happiness.

    Wouldn’t it be humbling if you communicated with God one day, and all your arrogant posturing about science was revealed to be a capacity of reason that God intentionally endowed man with, matched with an intentionally designed predictable and comprehensible cosmos, swarming with resources that we were enabled to use in order to exercise our own creativity and freedom? Yes, wouldn’t it be just odd to find out that this was actually part of God creating us in His image? And all the while you thought it was the other way around? Won’t it be quite humbling?

    Isn’t our circumstance right now a little odd? Hi, Xeno. My name is Alex. I am a part of the universe. I come from the universe. I’m here talking to you about the universe and where it comes from. The universe made me. I’m pretty amazing. I have all these organ systems and stuff that keep me alive. Skeletal system to give me a bulwark in the face of gravity, muscular system to help me navigate, endocrine system, digestive system, reproductive system (yes, I make copies of myself that I really love! They are just like me except their code is scrambled a little, mixed with another person I love!). I live on a spherical blue biosphere that orbits a giant ball of intense light (lol) to fuel it so I can pick tasty fruits from the trees. Hahahahah…Hi Xeno…Nice to meet you. Oh yeah – btw, I’m supposed to tell you you’re wrong about God. He exists, and even more important, He loves you. You won’t have 10,000 years to figure it out though. Stop lying to yourself. Open your eyes, and think about things a little more in-depth. Go look in the mirror for a couple minutes and say to yourself “Hi, I’m Xeno. I came from the universe.” Look around you. Look at all of the information in this text I’m writing to you. Think about what I’m doing right now – literally reaching into your brain and altering your neurological structure by adding information through these symbols projected onto the screen in front of you, all via the electromagnetic spectrum really – harnessed by both the technology that gets it before your eyes, and the neurons conveying electrical impulses that carry it to the various structures of your brain. RESIST! By all means….lol…Protect the worldview! Its ok – I just plant the seed. Couldn’t be any cooler if I walked up to you and shot beams of light out of my eyes into your skull though. We’re just so familiar with the miracle; we’re blind to it. Existence itself is a miracle. If you ever open your eyes even for a second, you’ll see that.

    1. Sam

      Yeah, I’m out. Alex is exactly right, I was totally stupid to think that anything I believe with sincerity should have basis on observable evidence. The next time I have an abscessed tooth, I’m going to skip Science and talk about the bad tooth until it goes back to normal. Perhaps we could talk diabetes and cancer into oblivion in the same manner?

      Anyway, thanks for writing such a long response to Xeno. It explains a lot… but not about God or the Universe…

      I wish it were law that Science naysayers weren’t allowed to benefit from Science. I REALLY do.

    2. Xeno Post author

      It is obvious your obvious is oblivious. My lawnmower, as it turns out, is an eternal mind, The eternal mind, which choose to manifest momentarily as a lawnmower, (oh hell yes it can) and you have, thus, just denied god without bothering to investigate him. Prostrate yourself and beg forgiveness.

      Mysterious ways, Alex. Never forget.

      You could not identify the actual object of your loquacious zealotry if it came up and cut your grass.

      Boys and girls, stay tuned for my next movie: Godmower!

      You’ll go in skeptical, but by the time you walk out of the theater, you WILL believe that the creator of the universe appeared on earth in the year 2012 in mowerly form.

    3. Xeno Post author

      Alex fantasized: “Wouldn‚Äôt it be humbling if you communicated with God one day, and all your arrogant posturing about science was revealed to be a capacity of reason that God intentionally endowed man with, matched with an intentionally designed predictable and comprehensible cosmos, swarming with resources that we were enabled to use in order to exercise our own creativity and freedom? Yes, wouldn‚Äôt it be just odd to find out that this was actually part of God creating us in His image? And all the while you thought it was the other way around? Won‚Äôt it be quite humbling? ”

      Xeno responded (by typing “Xeno responded” and then the following): You are quite insane. Wishful thinking is not evidence. Over and over again, I have tried to help you see that you believe in something which you honestly don’t know jack about. You can’t describe god, so how can you believe? God is your word for the unknown. Admit it.

      1. Alex Dalton

        I’ve already given you a working definition for God, Xeno. You haven’t show me any problems with it. Give it a go.

        1. Xeno Post author

          You have only given the name “eternal mind” to the unknown. Where is this mind Alex?

        1. Xeno Post author

          Nice imagination, but you have no evidence for a mind that exists without a body even within space-time (of which, the time component may not exist.)… Do you?

          [edited to add “Do you?” as giving the benefit of the doubt is a reasonable thing to do.]

        1. Xeno Post author

          Okay, looks like a lot of reading. Could you summarize the evidence briefly for me?

          Addition: Thanks for the link. Any particular paper on there you recommend as the best one to make the case? I’m going to read “The Case for Dualism” and see if I learn anything…

      2. Alex Dalton

        Start here:

        http://www.lastseminary.com/dualism/Taking%20Consciousness%20Seriously%20-%20A%20Defense%20of%20Cartesian%20Dualism.pdf

        That will give you a good overview of how weak the standard objections are to the mind being non-physical. I’ve seen you rehash many of these objections so this should be interesting to you.

        For more positive arguments for dualism, next go here:

        http://www.lastseminary.com/dualism/Case%20for%20Dualism.pdf

        These are not long or difficult articles. Should take you very little time to read them. If you are truly interested in the issues, you should enjoy it.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Can’t figure out how to close the comments on a post. They seem to have removed that option. I can only have comments close after X number of days, but I don’t really want to do that since I still get some good comments on old posts from time to time.

        2. Xeno Post author

          Hey Alex,
          I’m curious about something. Do you believe that if I understood your points clearly and had access to the same information that you have used to reach your conclusions, that I would reach the same conclusions?

      3. Alex Dalton

        I just mean my post that is pending with links to articles. I think you should still leave the threads open if you can. My post from last night is just apparently still pending moderation.

        And nah, we are different people with different desires, different background beliefs, different experiences, etc. I don’t think conclusions are determined by information.

  7. Alex Dalton

    Sam,

    Peace out man. I have no problem with science. I love it and probably have a much broader and deeper view of it than you do. Science is a gift from God though, just like Bacon and Newton, and other luminaries who gave birth to science and nursed it, thought. You don’t even know what science is (and it is not any monolithic entity, but is as multi-faceted in its methodology as it is in its various fields), even as a self-professed scientist.

    1. Sam

      Whatever, man. You’re totally right, of course. Anyone would be insane to question your reasoning. I so apologize. The Universe is here, God must be real. I’m a believer, now.

      1. Alex Dalton

        Sam – please don’t build straw models of my arguments. They’re here for everyone to see. I’m arguing from very specific properties of the universe, not its bare existence. But go ahead; be along now….Go work on your “logistics” and build confidence. Don’t keep running away from theists who are educated though. It is scary but one day you’ll even learn to be a better atheist once you can muster up the courage to stand and fight.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Alex, You have only convinced us of your unshakable belief in your fantasy. I have more pity on your condition than Sam, but we both see that you are a zealot, so what is the point? Belief that a disembodied brainless eternal mind created the universe is silly. There is no evidence for that.

      2. Sam

        Alex, there’s a difference between having courage to fight and shouting at a wall. If I thought for a minute you were interested in giving any consideration at all to the idea that the Universe may be different than you believe, I’d argue until I at least felt like I’d given it a shot. But no. You, Alex Dalton, completely insignificant, not even a fly-speck on the Universe, less detectable in the Universe than pee in a swimming pool — you’ve got it all figured out. You are able to see with perfect clarity what others miss entirely. So I humbly bow to your obviously superior powers of observation, critical thinking, and rhetoric.

        BTW, I did write “logistic” instead of “logical.” It was late. But my propensity to use capital “S” for Science is intentional deification just to flush out the people who will fixate on it.

      3. Alex Dalton

        Sam – when you muster the courage to argue, let me know. Regardless of whether or not you think I have enough cosmic significance to debate a big bad scientist like yourself, I will address any/all arguments you present, and I’ve done so thus far. You say you have refutations. Let me know when you’re ready to show them….I used to be an atheist, have read the best atheist thinkers (hint: you don’t even know who these guys are), and actually *enjoy* thinking about the universe from an atheistic POV. I just don’t think it is actually the correct point of view. So as far as consideration goes, I have probably given more consideration to the question than you have. You are a person, after all, who isn’t really interested in the question (its left to philosophers/theologians, and they are full of b.s., right?). Again, with regards to science, theism gave birth to science historically, and science is the study of God’s creation, so I have no problem with it.

        Xeno – keep reciting that mantra. You might actually get yourself to believe it.

      4. Xeno Post author

        Me: What’s the evidence?
        You: I’ve already told you. Read this web site.
        Me: I see no evidence there or in what you’ve said. You can’t describe god.
        You: I’ve given you a working definition.
        Me: Your definition of an eternal mind is not a description of god. It is only another label for the unknown.

        If I’m a broken record it is because nothing I’ve heard so far is credible evidence of a god outside of human imagination. I’m happy to consider any evidence you want to share. I’m listening.

        The evidence so far leads me to the view that ancient people invented gods to explain the universe. They passed on their imagined stories and that is why you believe in god.

      5. Alex Dalton

        Xeno – I presented several arguments in our original thread, which is posted in this thread. You do not accept them, but I saw your rebuttals, and they were, IMO, extremely weak, even failing basic tests of comprehension. Yes, I have provided a link to several arguments for the existence of God, by some of the greatest living philosophers of religion. I don’t have time to sit and summarize ground that you could cover on your own. If you aren’t interested, then fine, profess your willful ignorance. But if you are interested in the question of God’s existence then please take the time to read the case made by those professionals who specialize in this area.

        1. Xeno Post author

          Why do you insult instead of addressing the issues? Your opportunity has not passed. I believe you have said that only the exact way the way the universe is put together allows us to exist, and therefore, a disembodied eternal mind, which exists outside of space-time, is responsible. I find that idea preposterous as there is no evidence for it, even if the assumption that we could not exist in a different universe is correct.

          What am I missing? Show me the willful ignorance and lack of comprehension.

      6. Alex Dalton

        What are you missing? Well, reading comprehension for one. Go back and read my arguments in the original thread where we discussed anthropic fine-tuning. See if you can come up with a better summary of my argument.

        1. Xeno Post author

          No thanks. The onus is on you. Your accusation, your requirement for explanation. Or just admit that you’ve got nothing but hot air. No proof of god. Fail.

      7. Alex Dalton

        Speaking of proof, I actually did make a deductive argument in our original thread. You don’t know what that is though. Look it up.

      8. Xeno Post author

        You talk in circles and believe you are taking me somewhere. I’m still here. Deductive reasoning from faulty assumptions is a big fail. You know that. Um, I don’t have to look up deductive reasoning, Alex. Stop pretending that you know what I have and have not studied. Just ask.

  8. Patrick

    Xeno, I’d also like to know how you can possibly refute the existence of Santa Claus. Historical documents show that he existed, we’ve been believing in him for years, nearly everyone in this country evokes Him when giving gifts. It is impossible to be generous without believing in Santa Claus. You cannot prove that there is no Santa Claus. I have pity for you for not believing in Santa Claus.
    All the other 5 year olds believe in Santa Claus.

    1. Xeno Post author

      The evidence is clear: Both Santa and Gilligan wear red… and so does … the devil! Ah HA! You see, Satan and Santa are the same person and both are played by Bob Denver in costume. I have his confession right here and so, next year there will be NO CHRISTMAS. Every who down in whoville can sing all they want. Bob Denver is Santa, the fat man is gaunt!

  9. Patrick

    Boy. I sent an email to you about my own blog but now I’m not even sure I want one. These things are like bug lights.
    They seem to draw all the stupid, creepy things out of the darkness.

    1. Xeno Post author

      The world being smaller (easier communication), I think means we will eventually reach a consensus on our big differences, but it is a slow agonizing process.

      “My good man, every right thinking person knows the world to be flat.”

      “Why that is absurd, we in my group have long known it to be a cube.”

      “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear, and think you should both know that we are standing upon the back of a turtle of great size.”

    2. Alex Dalton

      Patrick – using the analogy of Santa Claus to critique religion, even in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, is so pass√©. And if I’m one of the “stupid, creepy things”, ask Xeno if that’s how he feels. He’s referred to me as brilliant in other threads, despite our disagreements. And if he prefers for me to leave, all he has to do is ask.

      1. Xeno Post author

        Are you kidding? Taking you to school is the most fun I’ve had all week, Alex. The bigger they are, the faster they fall into the sun.

        I welcome a vigorous debate about most anything, if I have the time. Great way to learn and to find any holes in your own reasoning. It is a time honored tradition.

Leave a Reply