Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Dennis Prager’s report from the recent conference on cosmic fine-tuning

My favorite national radio show host Dennis Prager in the National Review. This is a MUST-READ. (H/T Chris S.)

Full text:

Last week, in Nice, France, I was privileged to participate along with 30 scholars, mostly scientists and mathematicians, in a conference on the question of whether the universe was designed, or at least fine-tuned, to make life, especially intelligent life. Participants — from Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Berkeley, and Columbia, among other American and European universities — included believers in God, agonistics, and atheists.

It was clear that the scientific consensus was that, at the very least, the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned to allow for the possibility of life. It appears that we live in a “Goldilocks universe,” in which both the arrangement of matter at the cosmic beginning and the values of various physical parameters — such as the speed of light, the strength of gravitational attraction, and the expansion rate of the universe — are just right for life. And unless one is frightened of the term, it also appears the universe is designed for biogenesis and human life.

Regarding fine-tuning, one could write a book just citing the arguments for it made by some of the most distinguished scientists in the world. Here is just a tiny sample, collated by physicist Gerald Schroeder, who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he later taught physics.

Michael Turner, astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab: “The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bullseye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.”

Paul Davies, professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University: “The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural ‘constants’ were off even slightly.

Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes that the likelihood of the universe having usable energy (low entropy) at its creation is “one part out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123.” That is “a million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion zeros.

Steven Weinberg, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and an anti-religious agnostic, notes that “the existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places.”

Life of any kind. Not just life as we know it, but life of any conceivable kind.

So the fine-tuning is real. It’s mainstream science.

But then how do militant atheists like Weinberg respond to this scientific data?

Unless one is a closed-minded atheist (there are open-minded atheists), it is not valid on a purely scientific basis to deny that the universe is improbably fine-tuned to create life, let alone intelligent life.

Additionally, it is atheistic dogma, not science, to dismiss design as unscientific. The argument that science cannot suggest that intelligence comes from intelligence or design from an intelligent designer is simply a tautology. It is dogma masquerading as science.

And now, many atheist scientists have inadvertently provided logical proof of this.

They have put forward the notion of a multiverse — the idea that there are many, perhaps an infinite number of, other universes. This idea renders meaningless the fine-tuning and, of course, the design arguments. After all, with an infinite number of universes, a universe with parameters friendly to intelligent life is more likely to arise somewhere by chance.

But there is not a shred of evidence of the existence of these other universes — nor could there be, since contact with another universe is impossible.

Therefore, only one conclusion can be drawn: The fact that atheists have resorted to the multiverse argument constitutes a tacit admission that they have lost the argument about design in this universe. The evidence in this universe for design — or, if you will, the fine-tuning that cannot be explained by chance or by “enough time” — is so compelling that the only way around it is to suggest that our universe is only one of an infinite number of universes.

Honest atheists — scientists and lay people — must now acknowledge that science itself argues overwhelmingly for a Designing Intelligence.

This is the same cosmic fine-tuning argument that is used by William Lane Craig in all of his debates. Are you surprised to learn that the top scientists from across the ideological spectrum agree with the fine-tuning? There is a reason why William Lane Craig can stand up in academic debates and make these arguments with confidence. The Big Bang cosmology and the fine-tuning of the Big Bang are two pieces of evidences for God’s existence that are as solid as any piece of science can be. To deny that the universe came into being out of nothing requires a leap of faith. To deny the cosmic fine-tuning also requires a leap of faith.

The simple fact of the matter is that God, in his infinite wisdom, left us this evidence which we have now discovered so that anyone who denies his existence and intelligence is without excuse. If atheists were making the decision about whether to believe in God solely based on science, then they would have to agree that the existence of God is beyond a reasonable doubt. We now know that God exists and created the universe for life for certain. The only reason to persist in unbelief now is because of non-rational concerns, e.g. – the desire to escape from moral obligations, childhood trauma, weak or absent father, etc.

You can read about some of the specific evidence for the origin of the universe out of nothing in this post, and you can read about some of the specific evidence for fine-tuning in this post.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Deep Strength says:

    Aside from fine tuning the other biggest chink in the atheist argument is not evolution itself but abiogenesis — when life came from non-life.

    The arguments for abiogenesis are extremely weak and only a fool could believe them.

    Somehow a conglomerate of chemicals got together and started self replicating, using energy resources, put together a cellular membrane, DNA, RNA, and protein. And even singular cellular organisms are much, much, much more complex than that on the order of the the fine tuning impossibility statistically.

    • There are actually several chinks.

      Here are a few:

      1) The Big Bang cosmology
      2) The cosmic fine-tuning
      3) The origin of life
      4) The origin of phyla in the Cambrian explosion
      5) Galactic habitability
      6) Stellar habitability
      7) Irreducible complexity

      Etc. We have an embarassment of scientific evidence that puts atheism in serious trouble as a worldview. It’s just not rational to be an atheist, and the more you look at scientific evidence, the harder it is to keep believing it.

  2. Steve James says:

    Aside from the article by Prager, I can find – no – mention of this conference anywhere on the net. Very odd. Can you find any more details?

    In the meantime – you ask the rhetorical question “how do militant atheists like Weinberg respond to this scientific data?”

    Well, if you google fine tuning argument, you fin lots of counter arguments – various reasons atheists are unimpressed. A lot of them amount to one or more of the following:

    1) The universe is fine tuned, but despite the accuracy of the constants, nearly all of it is uninhabitable and hostile.

    2) The multiverse explains it. NB – the current buzz around multiverse ideas is not caused by a rush to explain away fine tuning so much as the fact that it is implied anyway by a lot of our best theories, eg inflationary cosmology and QM. Fine tuning is often used as supporting evidence for the multiverse, and multiverse supporters see no problem explaining fine tuning, but it is not a trick invented by physicists to explain fine tuning away.

    3) Fine tuning requires an explanation, but this does not necessarily imply design. A rainbow looks exquisitely designed until you know the underlying physical principles. Ditto life and evolution. In other words, a constant which looked fine tuned would be amazing if it arose by chance, but not so much if it had to be that way.

    Victor Stenger does a particularly good job on this one. He goes over the fine tuned constants one by one here:

    and shows why perhaps we shouldn’t be as surprised as you would first think.

  3. Steve James says:

    Deep Strength: We certainly understand abiogenesis far less well than evolution. However we do have much more of a clue than the caricature picture you present here. You are right – only a fool would believe that!

    We do know of many physical processes which create organic compounds and they are pretty common in space. Interestingly, we also know of processes which make lipid bubbles without needing any kind of life involved – in other words prototypical cell walls. There has also been some very interesting research done where non living pseudo cells have been manufactured which nonetheless show some spookily life like properties.

    Before you get too keen on criticising state of the art science, it may be wise to find out what the state of the art actually is.

  4. Steve James says:

    WK: There is a strong inverse correlation between scientific knowledge and religiosity.

    Few of the people who really understand the science the best believe any of it implies a creator.

    • I think there is an inverse correlation between winning arguments and making unsupported assertions.

    • “Few of the people who really understand the science the best believe any of it implies a creator.”

      That depends on how you determine the people “who really understand science the best.” Having a PhD doesn’t necessarily mean you understand science (either as a whole or in a broad field, like biology) well. A PhD just means that you’ve done research in a tiny little corner of a tiny little specialized field. A lot of these people (though not all of them) can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. They’re so specialized that they don’t see the big picture. And they’re invested in their research and views so much that they often don’t want to (or feel a need to) investigate their assumptions.

      Someone who takes science as a whole, however, and appeals to evidence from a broad range of fields is more likely to see the big picture. And when you look at the big picture, it doesn’t fit nearly so well in a naturalistic evolutionary framework as a lot of people think it does.

      • Arthur D. Hughes says:

        To a Bible-believing Christian there is the amazing realization confirmed by the universe’s fine-tuning that God has designed the universe by and for Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:15-17) And He is sustaining it now. (Hebrews 1:3) And that it was made out of that which is not visible. (Hebrews 11:3) There are other references for these things as I see them in the NIV and other modern versions of the Bible as well as the KJV.

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