Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Walter Bradley: three scientific evidences that point to a designed universe

Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor.

Here’s a bio:

Walter Bradley (B.S., Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) is Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor. He comes to Baylor from Texas A&M University where he helped develop a nationally recognized program in polymeric composite materials. At Texas A&M, he served as director of the Polymer Technology Center for 10 years and as Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, a department of 67 professors that was ranked as high as 12th nationally during his tenure. Bradley has authored over 150 refereed research publications including book chapters, articles in archival journals such as the Journal of Material Science, Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, Mechanics of Time-Dependent Materials, Journal of Composites Technology and Research, Composite Science and Technology, Journal of Metals, Polymer Engineering and Science, and Journal of Materials Science, and refereed conference proceedings.

Dr. Bradley has secured over $5.0 million in research funding from NSF grants (15 yrs.), AFOSR (10 years), NASA grants (10 years), and DOE (3 years). He has also received research grants or contracts from many Fortune 500 companies, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, DuPont, 3M, Shell, Exxon, Boeing, and Phillips.

He co-authored The Mystery of Life Origin: Reassessing Current Theories and has written 10 book chapters dealing with various faith science issues, a topic on which he speaks widely.

He has received 5 research awards at Texas A&M University and 1 national research award. He has also received two teaching awards. He is an Elected Fellow of the American Society for Materials and the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the largest organization of Christians in Science and Technology in the world. He is President elect of the ASA and will serve his term in 2008.

You can read more about his recent research in this article from Science Daily.

Below, I analyze a lecture entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?”. Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before.

The MP3 file is here.

Evidence #1: The design of the universe

1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law

  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.

2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would NOT be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet

  • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
  • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
  • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
  • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.

The best non-theistic response to this argument is to postulate a multiverse, but that is very speculative and there is no experimental evidence that supports it.

Evidence #2: The origin of the universe

1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.

  • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
  • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
  • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
  • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
  • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
  • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.

The best non-theistic response to this argument is to postulate a hyper-universe outside of ours, but that is very speculative and there is no experimental evidence that supports it.

Evidence #3: The origin of life

1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!

  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.

Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids

  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?

The best current non-theistic response to this is to speculate that aliens may have seeded the Earth with life at some point in the past.

The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

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7 Responses

  1. Oh, silly Knight! Don’t you know that the atheists have this all worked out. ;)

    #1 There’s a near infinite number of universes with different properties, and we’re just living in one of the lucky ones that only *appears* to be designed. Give ‘em time and they’ll surely prove it’s theoretically true (even if not observably so). Besides, look at how big the stupid cosmos is and how little our planet is. We can’t be anything special even if there IS a god.

    #2 There’s lots of possible explanations. Maybe something can actually come out of the quantum “nothing.” Or there was something *before* this bubble universe. Give ‘em time and they’ll surely prove something like this is theoretically true (even if not observably so). Besides, look at how old everything is. Doesn’t Genesis say something about 6 days?

    #3 There’s lots of different theories about where life might have come from (so many to choose from!). Why, they’ve found some of the bits that life is made of in space and in their test tubes. Surely it’s only a small little step to putting these all together into “complex” systems. Give ‘em time and they’ll surely prove that one of the many theories is viable (even if not observably so). Besides, look at some of the “messy” stuff found in biology. That’s not the way they’d do it if they were god.

    So, you see it’s all wrapped up and there’s no need to jump to the conclusion of design. Besides… science!

    • Josh says:

      @ Paul Scott Pruett

      #1 You can’t just rely on infinity that way. The multi-verse theory contradicts most popular origin theories with multiple paradoxes, some of which include the compression before the big bang requiring an infinite amount of matter to fill a limited amount of space, the infinite matter being spread throughout the universe during the explosion of the big bang which was a LIMITED amount of time. Not to mention the multi-verse theory relies on just as much of a supernatural origin as creationism, since you practically need to accept that natural laws are completely different in other areas of the universe, which would mean the original origin would have had to have occurred without being limited by our natural laws; ie: supernatural. The universe is big, yes, but claiming that it’s sheer bigness is proof against a creator is nonsensical.

      #2 There are two possible origins. Either the universe didn’t exist and then suddenly existed, or it has always existed for an infinite amount of time into the past. A natural origin of the former would make the most sense, as we see multiple evidences that point towards an actual origin; the universal expansion, infinite regress, etc. but that theory has a logical problem. In order for that theory to be correct, it requires that the universe prior the ‘big bang’ type event would have been 100% nothingness. Nothingness is a special kind of substance. It is nothing, it does nothing, it interacts with nothing, it causes nothing, it reacts to nothing, nothing can come out of it or cause it to change form, etc.. So since the original universe had to be 100% nothingness, a natural origin would be impossible, as quite literally nothing can come from nothingness. That is about as basic as you can get in terms of logic; stating that something is what it is and does what it does. The nature of nothingness shows a natural origin is impossible, if truly an origin and not merely an infinite existence into the past, which holds as many if not more problems. We don’t know how old everything is. Our so called dating methods are flawed and based on assumptions that if wrong would completely throw off the results. The age of the earth is complete theory right now and nothing more.

      #3 Finding the bits that life is made of is like finding a bunch of legos sprawled all out over the floor and theorizing that since you found them that that must mean the lego skyscraper on the table must have just constructed itself by chance. Or like claiming that since you found toothpicks and glue that that must mean that an intricate toothpick bridge must have been able to build itself. It is just a logical fallacy to assume that design can come from unguided randomness, and life is a whole lot more complicated than legos and toothpicks. The messy stuff in biology would largely be due to the curse, and most of the time even the messy stuff has a purpose; just because you might find it ‘messy’ doesn’t mean that God found it that way.

      Conclusion: Sorry, but you are merely relying on future theoriziations that have not been made, and future observations that have not been performed. Claiming that something must be true because we probably will prove it in the future is nothing but silliness and non-logic. In fact, most explanations for a natural origin don’t merely require more evidence, but actually contradict laws of nature that we already know! The first and second laws of thermodynamics are good examples.

      However, if you consider a creator, everything makes sense.

  2. […] via Walter Bradley: three scientific evidences that point to a designed universe | Wintery Knight. […]

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