StarFormation

Many Changes to the Laws of Physics Would be Life-Prohibiting

In my previous blog, I discussed how the initial conditions of our universe had to be extremely finely-tuned to support life of any kind anywhere in the universe. As part of my ongoing series on how fine-tuning provides evidence for the existence of God, I now turn to the laws of physics themselves. It turns out that life seems to require all 4 fundamental forces of physics. Let’s do a quick survey of some of the many ways that alternate physics could have been life-prohibiting:

1)      Gravity is essential in the formation of stars and planets. As I discussed in a previous blog, life needs something like stars as a long-lived stable energy source. Also, as cosmologist Luke Barnes has pointed out: “if gravity were repulsive rather than attractive, then matter wouldn’t clump into complex structures. Remember: your density, thank gravity, is 1030 times greater than the average density of the universe.”

2)      The strong nuclear force is necessary to hold together the protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Without this fundamental force, no atoms would exist beyond hydrogen and thus there would be no meaningful chemistry and thus no possibility for intelligent life. The positively charged protons in the nucleus repel each other but thankfully the strong nuclear force is sufficiently stronger than electromagnetic repulsion. If the strong force acted at long ranges like gravity or electromagnetism, then no atoms would exist because it would dominate over the other forces. Barnes notes that “any structures that formed would be uniform, spherical, undifferentiated lumps, of arbitrary size and incapable of complexity.[1]”

3)      The electromagnetic force accounts for chemical bonding and for why electrons orbit the nucleus of atoms. Without chemistry, there is no plausible way to store and replicate information such as would be necessary for life. Light supplied by stars is also of critical importance to life in overcoming the tendency towards disorder, as dictated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Barnes points out that without electromagnetism, “all matter would be like dark matter, which can only form large, diffuse, roughly spherical haloes.[2]” Suppose like charges attracted and opposites repelled (in contrast with the behavior in our universe), there would be no atoms.

4)      The weak nuclear force plays a key role during core-collapse supernova[3] in the expulsion of key heavier elements, making them available for life rather than just entombed forever in dying stars. Also, the weak force enables the key proton-proton reaction which powers stars in our universe. There is a clever paper by Harnik[4] that attempts to find a life-permitting universe without the weak force but only at the expense of a “judicious parameter adjustment.” See this discussion of the additional finely-tuned constants that were necessary to compensate for the lack of a weak force.[5] Also, some physicists think that the weak force is necessary for there to be matter in our universe.[6]

A region of star formation in a small nearby dwarf galaxy (N90) as captured by the Hubble telescope:
StarFormation

The existence of matter in our universe relies on some asymmetries in physics that are not yet precisely understood. Most physical reactions produce matter and antimatter in equal proportions and these products would simply annihilate each other upon contact, resulting in a matter-less (and therefore lifeless) universe consisting solely of radiation. We’re fortunate that the laws are such that this asymmetry produces a slight excess of matter over antimatter (about 1 part in ten billion)[7]! It would be premature to try to make a numerical claim that a constant has to be finely-tuned to permit this phenomenon but this unusual asymmetry provides yet another example of how different physics could have been catastrophic for life.

Another key physics principle that is critical for life is quantization. Values are defined as being ‘quantized’ if they can only take on discrete rather than continuous possibilities. Without quantized orbits electrons would be sucked into the nucleus and no chemistry would be possible. This quantization also leads to stable orbitals and consistent chemical properties. If electrons could orbit the nucleus anywhere such as is permissible for planets orbiting a star, then a given chemical element would have properties which are too variable for information storage of the type needed for intelligent life. Consider how the DNA in your genome would become cancerous within a day if its properties/information content were constantly varying. Also, consider how a breath of oxygen could conceivably become poisonous if its properties had no consistency.

Some other aspects of quantum mechanics are also very important to life. We need the Pauli Exclusion Principle so that all electrons don’t just reside in the lowest energy-level orbital. The multiple levels of orbitals contribute greatly to the richness and diversity of chemistry. Not all types of particles follow the Pauli Exclusion Principle – if electrons were bosons rather than fermions they wouldn’t be restricted by this principle. The Pauli Exclusion Principle coupled with the quantization of electron orbitals is responsible for giving matter its rigidity, which is important for the existence of stable structures. Moreover, without quantum mechanics, atoms would decay in about 10-13 seconds as Earnshaw’s theorem demonstrates based on classical mechanics.

Physicist Leonard Susskind points out yet another way that physics could have been life-prohibiting:

‘The photon is very exceptional. It is the only elementary particle, other than the graviton, that has no mass… Were the photon mass even a tiny fraction of the electron mass, instead of being a long-range force, electric interactions would become short-range “flypaper forces,” totally incapable of holding on to the distant valence electrons. Atoms, molecules and life are entirely dependent on the curious fact that the photon has no mass.[8]’

The trend in physics is that the number of cases of fine-tuning is growing over time. For example, physicist Joel Primack recently discovered an important link between the existence of dark matter and galaxy formation. Primack showed that “galaxies form only at high peaks of the dark matter density.“ Galaxies are generally thought to be necessary for life because they are critical for star formation. Thus, even aspects of physics which might seem pointless, such as dark matter, turn out to play an important role in making the universe more bio-friendly. I’ve also referenced an article in a previous blog that discusses how black holes “may actually account for Earth’s existence and habitability.[9]”

Any one of these facts by itself might just be seen as fortunate coincidences but there are enough of them to provide at least modest support for my fine-tuning claim:

“In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits rational conscious life is very small.”

The support is not as strong as what I documented based on our universe’s initial conditions nor as strong as what I will document concerning the fine-tuning of the constants of nature but it adds to the overall case. Moreover, this evidence has some bearing in the consideration of the multiverse[10] as an explanation of fine-tuning because it deals with physics at the level that most multiverse proposals cannot explain. In most multiverse scenarios the laws of physics are the same – what changes are the constants in the equations representing those laws. If you want to explore more about various multiverse alternatives, here is one useful perspective that was referenced in comments of a previous blog. Max Tegmark has proposed what he calls a level 4 multiverse in which all mathematical possibilities are realized somewhere in the multiverse. If we lived in such a multiverse, Occam’s Razor would not be a fruitful heuristic and we wouldn’t have Nobel laureates[11] talking about how simple, elegant theories led them to discoveries. There would be infinitely more equations with lots of complicated terms and expressions than there would be simple equations with minimal terms. Colombia professor Peter Woit provides a powerful critique of Tegmark’s highly speculative metaphysical proposal. These multiverse scenarios in which fundamental laws are different are not widely accepted among physicists.

In summary, life needs all of the 4 fundamental forces of nature and several principles from quantum mechanics. These facts about the laws support my fine-tuning claim that life-permitting physics is rare among possibilities. Standford physicist Leonard Susskind summarizes the physics well:

“It is gradually becoming accepted, by many theoretical physicists, that the Laws of Physics may not only be variable but are almost always deadly. In a sense the laws of nature are like East Coast weather: tremendously variable, almost always awful, but on rare occasions, perfectly lovely.[12]”

 


[1] Barnes, Luke. The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, p. 18. http://arxiv.org/abs/1112.4647

[2] Ibid., p, 18.

[3] A supernova is an exploding star and is the key way heavy elements are distributed throughout the universe.

[4]Harnik R., Kribs G., Perez G., 2006, Physical Review D, 74, 035006

[5]Barnes, p. 46-7.

[6] Fermilab website. DOE. http://lbne.fnal.gov/why-neutrinos.shtml

[7] Here is a website if you want to explore this further: http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/cosmo/lectures/lec22.html

[8] Susskind, Leonard. The Cosmic Landscape, p. 174-5.

[9] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-black-holes-shape-galaxies-stars-planets-around-them/

[10] If you missed my other blogs and are wondering what a ‘multiverse’ is, a multiverse is simply a collection of universes. If there is a vast ensemble of other universes with widely varying laws this might be a candidate explanation of the fine-tuning. Here was my blog on that topic: http://crossexamined.org/god-or-multiverse/

[11] For example, Eugene Wigner’s famous essay on The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html. Also, see how Weinberg regards beauty as a guide to finding the correct physical theories: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/view-weinberg.html. Or refer to this essay for a historical review: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-h-bailey/why-mathematics-matters_b_4794617.html

[12] Susskind, p. 90.

19 replies
  1. Robert says:

    Creationists don’t understand that the Laws of Physics are nothing more that human observations of the way things happen in the universe. The Laws of Physics don’t control anything. We don’t know why things hurled skyward fall back to Earth or why large objects attract and distort space-time. The creationist will say it’s “The laws of physics.” However that explains nothing. The creationist wants the Laws of Physics to have come from God so God can be the Lawgiver. But that is not the case. We humans make the observations and so we humans are the Lawgivers, not any God.

    Reply
  2. Allen Hainline says:

    My argument doesn’t depend upon a creationist-only understanding for how to define “Laws of Physics” and I’m certainly well aware that what we call laws are just the best current human understandings of how to mathematically model the regularities of nature. I wouldn’t call humans “Lawgivers” though since there is an underlying ontology for the forces of nature that is entirely independent of humans – even though yes there is an epistemological sense in which we’re imperfect law-discerners.

    You seem to be raising a similar objection to what Vic Stenger raised to a fine-tuning claim that the universe has to have 3 spatial dimensions to support life. Stenger raised this objection in his The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning book on p. 51:
    “Martin Rees proposes that the dimensionality of the universe is one of six parameters that appear particularly adjusted to enable life … Clearly Rees regards the dimensionality of space as a property of objective reality. But is it? I think not. Since the space-time model is a human invention, so must be the dimensionality of space-time. We choose it to be three because it fits the data. In the string model, we choose it to be ten. We use whatever works, but that does not mean that reality is exactly that way.”

    Cosmologist Luke Barnes had this to say in response to this failed objection in his review article I’ve previously linked to:
    “In response, we do not need to think of dimensionality as a property of objective reality. We just rephrase the claim: instead of “if space were not three dimensional, then life would not exist”, we instead claim “if whatever exists were not such that it is accurately described on macroscopic scales by a model with three space dimensions, then life would not exist”.This (admittedly inelegant sentence) makes no claims about the universe being really three-dimensional. If “whatever works” was four dimensional, then life would not exist, whether the number of dimensions is simply a human invention or an objective fact about the universe. We can still use the dimensionality of space in counterfactual statements about how the universe could have been.
    String theory is actually an excellent counterexample to Stenger’s claims. String theorists are not content to posit ten dimensions and leave it at that. They must compactify all but 3+1 of the extra dimensions for the theory to have a chance of describing our universe. This fine-tuning case refers to the number of macroscopic or `large’ space dimensions, which both string theory and classical physics agree to be three. The possible existence of small, compact dimensions is irrelevant.”

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  3. Robert says:

    The Fine Tuning Argument fails because it says that God had to fine tune the universe in order to permit a certain kind of life. So your God is tossed about by circumstance just like the rest of us. Not much of a God if you ask me. But what can we expect from a God whose only modern miracle is a light show for some people in a field? Oh what an awesome God you worship! God could have made life to exist in a vacuum which is what most of the universe is. But he didn’t. I’d ask why but Christians have never been introduced to the possibility of asking such questions themselves. Have you?

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    • Allen Hainline says:

      The fine-tuning argument doesn’t say that God had to fine tune the universe in order to permit life but that it’s a reasonable expectation that God would want to leave evidence. The fine-tuning makes it seem incredibly improbable that a life-permitting universe would have ever existed if the constants of nature and initial conditions were set at random or by processes that didn’t have life in mind.

      I don’t necessarily think God is performing sign miracles today – these happened at select times to validate new testimony (e.g. miracles in the Old Testament are clustered in certain key time frames). That being said, I do think that God probably still does miracles today – I think I’ve seen him intervene a few times myself but my trust in God is based on evidence I can verify more objectively. I refer you to the 2-volume set by Duke PhD scholar Craig Keener entitled Miracles for some documented examples of miracles in the modern day.

      Why do you think God should have created a world in which life exists in a vacuum? Isn’t a world with oceans and mountains etc. a better world? Also, science would not be possible unless we lived in a world which operated based on natural laws. I love science and think that a world in which one can do science is a better world than alternatives. There is no shortage of questions by Christians and I appreciate interacting with others like yourself to stimulate more questions. Not knowing the answers to all questions doesn’t necessarily mean there is no God just as it is inappropriate to posit God just to fill in gaps for our knowledge. My fine-tuning arguments are based on what we know rather than ignorance.

      Reply
  4. Robert says:

    “The fine-tuning argument doesn’t say that God had to fine tune the universe in order to permit life but that it’s a reasonable expectation that God would want to leave evidence.”

    > If God wanted us to believe he exists he could show himself. But he must want to trick us with this cosmic shell game. So the best thing to do is not play the game.

    “The fine-tuning makes it seem incredibly improbable that a life-permitting universe would have ever existed if the constants of nature and initial conditions were set at random or by processes that didn’t have life in mind.”

    > You are truly a backward thinker. If things had been different things would be different. Duh. But they weren’t. You know when people win the lottery they have a hard time not thinking it was all meant to be. But they were just one in a billion or so. So are we. The chances of life forming under these conditions was 1 out of 1. Life formed naturally to bridge the gap between the cold of space and the heat of the sun. So our purpose is to move heat. I’m having a lot of fun doing that. If you really loved science you would embrace this fact and want to learn more. But you don’t so you won’t.

    I don’t necessarily think God is performing sign miracles today – these happened at select times to validate new testimony (e.g. miracles in the Old Testament are clustered in certain key time frames).

    > In other words God stopped performing miracles at the same time we humans figured out how to record actual events. Sure.

    “That being said, I do think that God probably still does miracles today – I think I’ve seen him intervene a few times myself but my trust in God is based on evidence I can verify more objectively. I refer you to the 2-volume set by Duke PhD scholar Craig Keener entitled Miracles for some documented examples of miracles in the modern day.”

    > Oh please! I have a problem with Keener’s source material especially using the testimony of Pat Robertson of all people! God can’t heal amputees and if he can’t do that then there is no reason to believe your God can do anything. He can’t even pull off the miracle of existing.

    “Why do you think God should have created a world in which life exists in a vacuum?

    > Uh, most of the universe is a vacuum.

    “Isn’t a world with oceans and mountains etc. a better world? ”

    > A world in which about 30,000 small children didn’t suffer and die every day from starvation and other poverty related issues would be a better world too, would it not? But apparently your God didn’t want such a world. He purposely created a world where there would be much suffering. So there is no benevolent God. However your God is far from benevolent and is instead about as nasty as one can imagine. Why is that, may I ask?

    “Also, science would not be possible unless we lived in a world which operated based on natural laws. I love science and think that a world in which one can do science is a better world than alternatives.”

    > Boy are you confused! You want science based on naturalism yet you want it to accept your supernatural explanations for things. Well science will never accept Christian bogey magic. So saying you love science is not true and you know it.

    “There is no shortage of questions by Christians and I appreciate interacting with others like yourself to stimulate more questions.”

    > Not true. There are plenty of questions you people are afraid to ask, many questions that it is considered to be evil just for asking them. Unbelief is the unpardonable sin. There’s a reason your evil religion enforces that rule. It keeps you in line does it not?

    “Not knowing the answers to all questions doesn’t necessarily mean there is no God just as it is inappropriate to posit God just to fill in gaps for our knowledge. My fine-tuning arguments are based on what we know rather than ignorance.”

    > The Fine Tuning Hoax is a classic example of an argument from ignorance. You can’t figure out why the universe appears to be fine tuned “so God musta did it.” How come Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll and many other cosmologists have written papers and books explaining just how and why the Fine Tuning Argument fails? Obviously they are much more qualified to make this call than you are and they see none of this “evidence” you imagine.

    You can’t one the one hand claim to love science and then posit your own nutty ideas that conflict with science. That is being intellectually dishonest. That is something your religion will always force you to do. Dump it. Now.

    Reply
  5. Allen Hainline says:

    You raise many issues here that aren’t really on the topic of the blog but here are some responses:

    Robert: “You are truly a backward thinker. If things had been different things would be different. Duh. But they weren’t.”
    Are you really saying we can never infer anything from considering what happened relative to other possibilities? Scientists routinely make inferences based on what happened vs. what could have happened. Consider the example of plate tectonics/continental drift as an explanation of certain geological features. Scientists don’t just say “things had been different things would be different.” Rather, despite initial skepticism we now understand that shapes of continents and similarities of rock formations are the result not of unlikely coincidence but of continental drift. In Bayesian terms, the probability of finding evidence that just happens to be consistent with Continental Drift in multiple ways is improbable under the chance hypothesis but is predicted by the hypothesis of Continental Drift.
    Similarly, the probability of finding out that various initial conditions and parameters settings just happened by chance to be life-supporting is extraordinarily improbable but is predicted by the God hypothesis. Of course many scientists are uncomfortable even considering the possibility of the God hypothesis but if you’re really seeking truth why not consider it as being possible and follow the evidence where it leads without definitional boundaries.

    Robert: “You want science based on naturalism yet you want it to accept your supernatural explanations for things. Well science will never accept Christian bogey magic. So saying you love science is not true and you know it.”
    Science can be done without assuming philosophical naturalism is true – indeed about 40+% of practitioners do think that God exists. The extrapolation from learning about nature to saying there is nothing beyond nature is not scientific but philosophical. If you define science as assuming nothing exists beyond nature then you cannot prove that is the case without being circular.

    Robert: “You can’t on the one hand claim to love science and then posit your own nutty ideas that conflict with science.”
    Since you’ve offered nothing substantive to refute the scientific aspect of my fine-tuning claim, the most generous interpretation of your comment would be that anything that claims to connect science with the supernatural is “nutty.” Your comments seem consistent with a notion of just defining science such that the supernatural is impossible.
    You’re free to define science however you want but don’t expect everyone to adhere to that definition or think that you’ve provided a rational basis for your claims. The science I appeal to in these arguments is well-established, mainstream science. The philosophical implications are obviously resisted by many who are skeptical about God but Hawking and others agree with the scientific aspect my fine-tuning claim. I would be questioning my fine-tuning claim if Hawking disagreed about the science but he has no particular training or expertise in philosophy. Indeed many, if not most atheist scientists, would strongly disagree with Hawking’s anti-realism philosophy.
    If you’re familiar with the history of science, you know that modern science and the scientific method arose within the Christian culture and how many secular thinkers have argued that this is not coincidental. (Joseph Needham and Whitehead come to mind)

    Robert: “Fine Tuning Hoax is a classic example of an argument from ignorance”
    Go back 50 years or so and there was no argument from fine-tuning of the laws and initial conditions of the universe – scientists discovered more about the universe and how it started. The discipline of theoretical physics provided more insight into how the universe could have started and the details concerning how the laws could have been setup. Cosmologist Luke Barnes summarizes the current “I’ve published a review of the scientific literature, 200+ papers, and I can only think of a handful that oppose this conclusion, and piles and piles that support it.” The conclusion he refers to here is that life-permitting physics is a tiny subset among possibilities. This is anything but an argument from ignorance as it is based on extensive scientific data and theoretical considerations!

    Robert: “You know when people win the lottery they have a hard time not thinking it was all meant to be. But they were just one in a billion or so.”
    Someone is likely to win most lotteries because lots of tickets are sold but we only have evidence of 1 universe and the odds against the initial conditions and parameter choices happening to align with life-permitting physics is like winning a dozen or more lotteries in a row buying just 1 ticket each time. We can use math to make inferences as to whether or not it’s reasonable to expect improbable events to happen solely by chance – e.g. analyzing those who’ve won multiple lotteries to assess a likelihood of cheating:
    http://phys.org/news/2014-04-math-odds-suspicious-lottery.html
    As Frank would say – “I don’t have enough faith” to think that all of this fine-tuning just happened by chance. I wouldn’t be comfortable holding onto a worldview that relied on the equivalent of winning a lottery a dozen times in a row buying one ticket each time!

    You brought up miracles not me – my case is based on widely accepted physics. I referred to that Keener book as something you should look at before making broad claims that there are no miracles today – unless you’d examine in detail some of the better documented cases I don’t think such a claim would be justified. The mere reference to what you consider an untrusted source does nothing to prove other cases documented in the book might not have some merit. According to one study 73% of US doctor’s believe in miracles (http://www.wnd.com/2004/12/28152/) Modern-day miracles are not part of the evidence I used to discern God’s existence but I’m skeptical that those who assert that they’re sure no miracles happen today have sufficient warrant for such claims.

    You raise the problem of evil – note that this is independent of the fine-tuning case I’m making that I argue provides some evidence for God. I explained up front how a cumulative case is needed and I actually think that the problem of evil is a difficult issue but that would be worthy of its own blog series. You need to be interacting with the works of Plantiga and others.
    The problem of evil is not even an argument against the existence of God but rather against either His goodness or to His power. In order to discuss the problem of evil you inevitably get into issues far removed from science such as:
    Can God have morally sufficient reasons to permit suffering?
    Would we be expected to be able to know such reasons?
    Evil is also a problem for an atheistic worldview if you’re claiming that the way things are is objectively evil and not just a matter of personal opinion. But if we’re all just products of unguided natural forces, any beliefs we have about what is “evil” are just based on contingent natural processes.

    Reply
  6. Robert says:

    Similarly, the probability of finding out that various initial conditions and parameters settings just happened by chance to be life-supporting is extraordinarily improbable but is predicted by the God hypothesis. Of course many scientists are uncomfortable even considering the possibility of the God hypothesis but if you’re really seeking truth why not consider it as being possible and follow the evidence where it leads without definitional boundaries.

    > You also have to assume that the protein molecule formed by chance. However, biochemistry is not chance, making your estimate of “extraordinarily improbable” meaningless. Biochemistry produces complex products, and they interact in complex ways. You would know this if you weren’t getting misinformed by creationist writers. Now the only way we could ever accept a supernatural explanation for anything is by first eliminating all possible naturalistic explanations. However we could never be sure if we have eliminated all possible naturalistic explanations. Any supernatural explanation would be useless anyway. So no matter how hard you try to cram your magical explanations into science they will NEVER be accepted for the reasons I just gave and for others as well. By the way, God is a failed hypothesis.

    Science can be done without assuming philosophical naturalism is true – indeed about 40+% of practitioners do think that God exists.

    > But they never consider God in their work. They must leave that at the door.

    “The extrapolation from learning about nature to saying there is nothing beyond nature is not scientific but philosophical. If you define science as assuming nothing exists beyond nature then you cannot prove that is the case without being circular.”

    > Naturalism is a fundamental principle of science, not for philosophical but for sound practical reasons. If it were removed, science itself would be impossible. This is the goal that you Bible believers are striving for. Every fact that is discovered about the natural world argues against the supernatural.

    “Since you’ve offered nothing substantive to refute the scientific aspect of my fine-tuning claim, the most generous interpretation of your comment would be that anything that claims to connect science with the supernatural is “nutty.” Your comments seem consistent with a notion of just defining science such that the supernatural is impossible.”

    > The Fine Tuners have the burden of proving that no other form of life is possible, and not just on other planets in our universe but in every conceivable universe that has different physical parameters. They have provided no such proof and they aren’t going to. The possibility of other laws and constants is fatal to the Fine Tuning Argument. In “A Fatal Logical Flaw in Anthopic Design Principle Arguments” Gilbert Fulmer showed that fine tuning arguments are logically incoherent. See the fine tuning argument requires that the set of facts for our universe could have been a different set. But in that case we cannot use our universe, which is all we know about to say anything about another universe. Understand? You have to try not to understand to keep your faith.

    You’re free to define science however you want but don’t expect everyone to adhere to that definition or think that you’ve provided a rational basis for your claims. The science I appeal to in these arguments is well-established, mainstream science. The philosophical implications are obviously resisted by many who are skeptical about God but Hawking and others agree with the scientific aspect my fine-tuning claim.

    > They do not. Provide a quote please. And don’t take it out of context (a dirty trick most creationist writers use).

    I would be questioning my fine-tuning claim if Hawking disagreed about the science but he has no particular training or expertise in philosophy. Indeed many, if not most atheist scientists, would strongly disagree with Hawking’s anti-realism philosophy.

    > It isn’t anti-realism and name one.

    “If you’re familiar with the history of science, you know that modern science and the scientific method arose within the Christian culture and how many secular thinkers have argued that this is not coincidental. (Joseph Needham and Whitehead come to mind)”

    > That is one of the most disgusting and untrue lies ever told on this planet. In the West no science was done for almost 1500 years because your evil religion stood in its way. We would have cured cancer and been on the moon centuries ago if not for Christianity. We could not do autopsies because the priests of your religion insisted there was a boogy man inside the dead body. So we couldn’t figure out how people were dying. Then when medicine was invented Bible believers told us that was evil and people died in great numbers because of this Christian superstition. Millions of Christians still hold this belief. The list of scientists persecuted by Bible believers is a mile long and you know it. Today Bible believers deny evolutionary theory, the longest standing and best established and most explanatory theory there is. Bible believers deny climate change and if they get their way your air conditioner isn’t going to help you on your finely tuned planet.

    Go back 50 years or so and there was no argument from fine-tuning of the laws and initial conditions of the universe – scientists discovered more about the universe and how it started.

    > Wrong again. They discovered the universe had no beginning and has no end and no boundary. You need there to be a beginning or the first words of your holy book make it your hokey book. Well there wasn’t one.

    “As Frank would say – “I don’t have enough faith” to think that all of this fine-tuning just happened by chance. I wouldn’t be comfortable holding onto a worldview that relied on the equivalent of winning a lottery a dozen times in a row buying one ticket each time!”

    > This is because you are both backward thinkers. You have been brainwashed into believing that things are the way they were meant to be. So naturally you cannot get it out of your head that there is some goal [us] that was supposed to come about. You cannot figure out how this could be. But once you realize that things just are and nothing is meant to be you’ll be able to see what is and what ain’t.

    You brought up miracles not me – my case is based on widely accepted physics. I referred to that Keener book as something you should look at before making broad claims that there are no miracles today – unless you’d examine in detail some of the better documented cases I don’t think such a claim would be justified. The mere reference to what you consider an untrusted source does nothing to prove other cases documented in the book might not have some merit.

    > I don’t trust Keeener or any other Bible believer to tell the truth about anything. I’ve been lied to by Christians way too much. Christian literature is packed full of lies. Your whopper about Christianity being friendly to science proves you have a reckless disregard for the truth.

    According to one study 73% of US doctor’s believe in miracles (http://www.wnd.com/2004/12/28152/) Modern-day miracles are not part of the evidence I used to discern God’s existence but I’m skeptical that those who assert that they’re sure no miracles happen today have sufficient warrant for such claims.

    > Oh please with the stats. I studied statistics in college and found out 50% of the people who use statistics to prove a point are lying 90% of the time. Or something like that.

    You raise the problem of evil – note that this is independent of the fine-tuning case I’m making that I argue provides some evidence for God. I explained up front how a cumulative case is needed and I actually think that the problem of evil is a difficult issue but that would be worthy of its own blog series. You need to be interacting with the works of Plantiga and others.

    > Plantinga? Are you kidding? “If I can imagine a God there must be one!” That guy makes the silliest arguments I’ve ever seen or heard. You have to realize that the heroes of your faith are buffoons to any atheist. I mean we all know how to shoot down their ludicrous arguments just like I do to yours.

    The problem of evil is not even an argument against the existence of God but rather against either His goodness or to His power.

    > Yes let’s discuss God’s power by having you prove that omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience are really do exist and are not goofy human superstitions. Well you aren’t going to do that but now you know why I don’t believe in God: I don’t believe God’s supposed attributes exist or even could exist. You do believe they exist and without a shred of evidence that they do. And THAT is your problem. I don’t have such problems. There are a lot of ex-Christian sites and organizations that can help you with your problem.

    In order to discuss the problem of evil you inevitably get into issues far removed from science such as:
    Can God have morally sufficient reasons to permit suffering?
    Would we be expected to be able to know such reasons?

    > Oh yes, you Bible believers love to remove things from science. No dice. If science can’t tell us about something it ain’t worth knowing anyway.’

    Evil is also a problem for an atheistic worldview if you’re claiming that the way things are is objectively evil and not just a matter of personal opinion. But if we’re all just products of unguided natural forces, any beliefs we have about what is “evil” are just based on contingent natural processes.

    > We humans make the definitions. “Evil” is anything that harms or destroys human life and we say that which enhances and protects life is good. This beats your system of morals which is based on the whims of an imaginary deity that is not constrained in any manner as to the commands he gives to others. So when God orders the killing of women, children, prisoners of war and even animals this can be termed as good by believers. That morality is subjective to the extreme and is moral relativism one into orbit. I don’t see how evil is a problem for atheists but I just proved it is an insurmountable problem for you and your believing friends. If God ordered you to kill your children would you do it? Don’t avoid this question.

    Reply
    Thinker says:
    August 11, 2014 at 8:21 am
    Great responses Allen – I have learned a lot from you. Keep up the good work

    > Perhaps you’ll learn more after seeing the refutations of his arguments.

    Reply
  7. Thinker says:

    “Oh please with the stats. I studied statistics in college and found out 50% of the people who use statistics to prove a point are lying 90% of the time. Or something like that.”

    I’m not sure what to make of this. You harp about the importance of science and logical thinking, yet come up with something like this. I took several statistics classes in college and grad school as well, so I am well aware of the games that can be played with numbers. If you have some sort of logical issue with the link Allen provided, then let’s hear it. Other then that, your response really means nothing. I am disappointed, I have seen you jump all over other folks on this blog for logical errors not nearly as weak as this.”

    “We would have cured cancer and been on the moon centuries ago if not for Christianity.”

    The scientist who would eventually cure cancer may have also died in the killing fields of Cambodia at the hands of Pol Pot, in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, or starved as part of the “Great Leap Forward” started by Chairman Mao in China. As far as history has shown, “Christianity” was not behind these massacres of millions. I find it interesting how you only bring up one side of the coin on this.

    “There are a lot of ex-Christian sites and organizations that can help you with your problem.” – as for yours as well :)http://atheism-analyzed.blogspot.com/

    ” We humans make the definitions. “Evil” is anything that harms or destroys human life and we say that which enhances and protects life is good. This beats your system of morals which is based on the whims of an imaginary deity that is not constrained in any manner as to the commands he gives to others. ”

    So….from a logical perspective, what gives you the right to speak for “humans”? Why is your tenet that ” “Evil” is anything that harms or destroys human life and we say that which enhances and protects life is good.” any more valid then Hitler’s claim that Jews were “evil” and therefore justified the Holocaust? Obviously, as noted above, Stalin, Pol Pot and others felt justified in their atrocities. Is it a vote? 51%? 2/3?

    One last thought…..as much as I don’t like heading down rabbit trails, I just can’t help wonder about this. if your definition of evil for humans is ” “Evil” is anything that harms or destroys human life and we say that which enhances and protects life is good.”. Do you still support abortion then? If so, does that not violate your very own definition of evil?

    Thinker.

    Reply
  8. Thinker says:

    “> Perhaps you’ll learn more after seeing the refutations of his arguments.”

    Despite us obviously being on opposite sides of the fence on many of the issues discussed on this blog, I will say that your posts and questions have opened my mind to new ideas and ways of thinking about these topics. In that way, you (and others on this blog) have definitely helped me to become more well-rounded and thoughtful on these topics.

    Thinker

    Reply
  9. Robert says:

    The definitions of good and evil I gave are universal. We all live by this system whether you care to admit it or not. Abortion ends a potential life and so it could be defined as evil or wrong depending on the circumstances. However forcing parenthood on people who don’t want it, can’t afford it or are not ready for it is also evil and wrong. and harms a human life. Things just aren’t always black and white, there’s a huge gray area we live in and we have to think are way through these issues. Adopting ancient superstitions about souls and afterlifes just gets in the way of clear thinking and adult conversations. When you bring that stuff up you cannot be part of the discussion anymore.

    Reply
  10. Thinker says:

    Wow Robert – are you confusing two different posts? Where in my discussion did I reference “ancient superstitions about souls and afterlifes” directly?

    “When you bring that stuff up you cannot be part of the discussion anymore” – Again – not brought up by me. I would appreciate if you would stop this deflection and actually directly address my comments above.

    I’m not sure if you might have missed it when writing your post, but I think even the casual observer can see the clear conflict in your statements:

    1.) The definitions of good and evil I gave are universal.
    2.) Things just aren’t always black and white, there’s a huge gray area we live in and we have to think are way through these issues.

    So is the definition you gave for evil “universal”, or more of a “gray area”?

    I know you have accused apologists on this blog before of “cut and run” when the questions get difficult, so I’m assuming you won’t do the same here. And just because you refuse to answer / back-up your statements above, does not automatically mean I don’t get to be “part of the discussion anymore”.

    Patiently awaiting your responses.

    Reply
  11. Luke says:

    Thinker said: “I think even the casual observer can see the clear conflict in your statements:”

    Robert’s statements that Thinker is referencing:
    1.) The definitions of good and evil I gave are universal.
    2.) Things just aren’t always black and white, there’s a huge gray area we live in and we have to think are way through these issues.

    I’m not sure this is a clear conflict.

    We can have clear guidelines, but get tripped up when they begin to conflict (and in real life, they often do). This is why ethics is full of discussions about things like the trolley problem (and it’s various variants, such as the transplant alternative). Much of ethics takes place in the area between competing universal claims (most academic philosophers are moral-realists).

    I’m not sure if this is what Robert meant, but at least this casual observer doesn’t see the conflict between the two statements you highlighted.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  12. Robert says:

    My posts weren’t just directed to you but all the believers on this blog. So while you didn’t mention any particular superstitions you still hold them. What do you want me to respond to exactly?

    Reply
  13. Jaime Hunter says:

    The “fine tuning” argument certainly contains lots of important physics observations, and I feel that futher study of this collection of physics laws merits study and investigation, regardless of religious beliefs (perhaps it will lead to even more scientific discoveries and deeper understanding of the universe).

    Given that you percieve “fine tuning” as evidence for a god, why would you settle on the Christian god? Suppose there was a smart person like you–with physics background, accomplished software guru, etc.–who happened to be Muslim. Equally impressed by collections of physics laws that appear condusive to (or required for) life, he/she makes the leap of faith that this amounts to divine fine tuning; thus Allah (the Islam god) must be real, and therefore the Koran is true and valid.

    Why would your Christian god-choice be correct, and your Muslim counterpart’s wrong?

    A broader way of asking this is: Supposing that your interpretation of “fine tuning” is correct in the sense that these physics laws were divinely crafted. Could it be the work of an “unaffiliated” god (e.g. non-Christain, non-Muslim), or gods? Who knows–maybe it took several gods to make it all work out?

    Reply
    • Allen Hainline says:

      Thanks for the excellent questions Jaime and for your interest in the fine-tuning. It’s certainly an interesting feature of our universe that raises very interesting questions!

      If all I had were the fine-tuning evidence, I admit I wouldn’t be able to distinguish between some religions on the basis of that data alone. Despite its modest claims, if fine-tuning provides strong evidence for theism over naturalism – but this alone is incredibly significant. It should motivate skeptics to examine religions consistent with such data.

      There are different kinds of evidence and arguments that can adjudicate between candidate religions but we shouldn’t expect science to answer these type of issues. For example, for the case in point, Islam claims that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross whereas we have very strong historical evidence from even Roman and Jewish sources that he did. Islam in its early days was spread partly by force whereas Christians were being persecuted intensely and yet the earliest witnesses such as Paul, Peter and James died for what they proclaimed – there is evidence therefore that they believed such claims. There is more abundant and clearer evidence for fulfilled prophecy in Christianity than in Islam. Getting into all of these reasons would involve many blogs/articles and is definitely off-topic for this blog. I don’t have the time right now to get into debates on this topic in this comments section. If you want to explore some of this evidence I recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Nabeel-Qureshi/e/B00GU59J92

      Also, Jonathan McLatchie blogs on this site and has been researching that topic in some detail.

      Reply
  14. toby says:

    ” have very strong historical evidence from even Roman and Jewish sources that he did.”

    Could you tell us what/who these sources are?

    ” Christians were being persecuted intensely and yet the earliest witnesses such as Paul, Peter and James died for what they proclaimed – there is evidence therefore that they believed such claims.”

    This his tradition, not historically based. No one can know for what reason Paul and Peter died.

    sorry I wrote this as I read your post so i didn’t see the comment thing until after having typed the above. No need to reply.

    Reply

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