Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

John Lennox and Paul Davies discuss aliens and the origin of life

An amazing debate about the origin of life and the cosmic fine-tuning between a Christian and a materialist agnostic. John Lennox is AWESOME in this debate, and he only talks for a tiny part of the debate. He’s very gracious, and focused the discussion on the areas that we care about. Paul Davies is an EXCELLENT scientist and well aware of what Christians believe. This is a great debate, very easy to listen to. Justin, the moderator, does a great job controlling a fantastic discussion.

The MP3 file is here.

Details

What does it take for life to get going in our universe? Is there intelligence in the stars or right under our nose? Renowned astrophysicist Paul Davies chats to Oxford Professor of Mathematics John Lennox.

A popular science author, Davies is also the Chair of the SETI post detection task force. His latest book “The Eerie Silence” which marks SETI’s 50th anniversary examines the likelihood of the universe producing life elsewhere.

John Lennox is a Christian Mathematician and philosopher. He is the author of “God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?” and has debated Richard Dawkins on several occasions.

Davies’ work on the fine tuning of the universe for life has been sympathetic to theism. In this programme Lennox challenges Davies to look to design not just in cosmology but in the cell. They also chat about what the discovery of ET would mean for Christian theology.

Summary

Justin:

  • Is there meaning in the universe?

Paul:

  • We have no evidence for or against intelligent life elsewhere in the universe
  • The vastness of the universe makes me think there is life elsewhere
  • Humans are capable of observing and understanding the universe
  • It seems the universe has the ability to create observers to understand it
  • If one species has this ability, then we should expect others to do it

John:

  • The fact that we can observe the universe and do science has cosmic significance
  • Our rare habitable planet and our ability to do science is suggestive of purpose
  • So science itself points to an extra-terrestrial intelligence: GOD
  • The complexity of life and consciousness itself points away from atheism
  • Monotheism gave birth to science
  • Human minds capable of doing science are not compatible with atheistic materialism

Justin:

  • Why do you say that either we are the only life or there are many different kinds of life?

Paul:

  • There are lots of factors that have to be met to have a site for simple life
  • These are related to the fine-tuning of cosmic constants, e.g. gravitational force
  • But there are also factors that have to be met for originating intelligent life
  • Things like convergence, self-organization, etc.
  • So the cosmic requirements and evolutionary requirements are different
  • Darwinian evolution doesn’t solve the problem of the origin of life
  • 50 years ago, skepticism about alien life existing anywhere was excessive
  • Today, credulity about alien life exiting everywhere is excessive
  • The naturalist is searching for a process that creates life easily

John:

  • Paul agrees that there is no theory for a naturalistic origin of life
  • This is fatal for the idea that life can emerge elsewhere in the universe
  • We have not discovered any law that produces life without an intelligence
  • Consider the method used by SETI used to detect an alien intelligence
  • Why can’t this method be applied to the origin of life on Earth?
  • Why can’t an intelligence created specified complexity (functional information)?
  • Why can’t an intelligence created epigenetics and protein folding?

Paul:

  • Darwinian evolution can add new biological information after life begins

John:

  • Darwinian evolution assumes a mutating replicating life form to act on

Paul:

  • You can’t generate specified complexity by using physical laws
  • You can’t generate specified complexity by chance
  • At this point we are guessing as to how life might have formed

John:

  • Why do we have to rule out an intelligent cause a priori
  • If you can recognize an intelligence in outer space, why not in living systems?

Paul:

  • I don’t mind the word “intelligence”, it’s the word “signal”
  • I oppose the idea that God or aliens manipulated physical stuff to create life
  • It’s an “ugly explanation and very unappealing both theologically and scientifically”
  • I prefer the idea that the universe has processes to self-organize and create complexity
  • When it comes to supernatural meddling by God, “I don’t want that”
  • If I were God, I would create the universe so that I would not have to intervene
  • I think God would be more clever if he did not have to intervene
  • My preferences about what is “clever” determines what scientific conclusions are allowed

John:

  • Humans already have experience with their non-material minds to move atoms (matter)
  • If God is a mind, then there is no reason why he cannot move atoms (matter)

Paul:

  • My mind is physical, so are you saying that God is physical?
  • If God intervenes in the universe, then what is he doing now?

John:

  • There is a distinction between acts of creation and providential upholding the universe
  • God is also speaking to people and drawing humans toward him
  • God is spirit, not material

Paul:

  • How can a non-physical entity cause effects on the physical world?

John:

  • What science reveals that there is information needed for the origin of life
  • Information requires an intelligence to create it, just as with human who write books
  • That’s not God of the gaps – it’s an inference based on what we know today

Paul:

  • We may be able to explain the origin of life later, using matter, law and chance
  • What you’re saying is that God tinkers with the genome
  • If you say that God intervened once, then he intervenes all the time, everywhere!
  • I don’t want a God who tinkers in the genome
  • if God could intervene in the universe that would remove its intelligibility

John:

  • Look at the cover of this book – when I read words, I infer an intelligence
  • There are bad gaps that the progress of science closes
  • There are good gaps that science opens, showing the need for intelligence
  • On the one hand, you say we have no theory of the origin of life
  • On the other hand, you know that an intelligent designer wasn’t involved
  • If we don’t know how life began, why do you rule God out a priori?

Paul:

  • What scientists want to do is to explain the universe without involving God
  • naturalists want to use science to discover only materialist explanations
  • The purpose of SETI is to prove that there is other life in the universe
  • This would then show that there is a naturalistic way of making life
  • I agree that information in living systems is real hard to explain materialistically
  • I believe in the power of emergence
  • We might discover laws that prove that complexity can emerge without intelligence
  • The discovery of alien life would help to show that no intelligence is needed to make life

Justin:

  • What sort of cosmic fine-tuning is needed at the Big Bang for life to occur?

Paul:

  • It’s true that the universe appears extremely fine-tuned for life to exist
  • The typical answer from naturalists is that there is a multiverse
  • But the multiverse “falls far short” of providing a good answer to the fine-tuning
  • It’s irrational to appeal to massive numbers of unseen universes to explain fine-tuning
  • The design and purpose seen in the universe may be due to God or it may be emergent

John:

  • The fine-tuning is real and the multiverse is a desperate attempt to evade the creator
  • Sir Martin Rees (an atheist) says he “prefers” the multiverse to a designer
  • Scientists are not supposed to prefer anything except what is true

Justin:

  • Would the discovery of aliens hurt Christianity, because of the belief in the uniqueness of humans?

Paul:

  • Christians believe that Jesus came to save HUMANS specifically, not animals or aliens
  • If we were to discover intelligent aliens, it would challenge traditional religions
  • What will God do with alien races? Multiple incarnations? Or just preach the gospel to them?

John:

  • We don’t know if the aliens exist, first of all – it’s speculative
  • The Bible teaches that humans bear the image of God
  • We just don’t know whether alien species are also made in God’s image

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dave Coppedge was fired by NASA for distributing intelligent design DVDs

Evolution News explains.

Excerpt:

Before Coppedge was fired, he was demoted and punished — and this happened precisely because he was talking with colleagues about intelligent design. The evidence in the case is unmistakable on that point. Consider this exchange between Coppedge and his supervisor at JPL, Clark Burgess, on April 15 and 16, 2009:

Query from David Coppedge to Clark Burgess: “Per our meeting this afternoon, I just wanted to be sure I didn’t misconstrue what you told me. Is it correct to say that the allegation of harassment was limited to the activity of my handing out DVDs on intelligent design to coworkers, and that if I had not done that as to anyone here in the building, I would still be in good standing? (i.e., I would not have been investigated or gotten the written warning)? Or would you word it some other way? I just want to be crystal clear I was not being investigated/reprimanded for some other activity, personal flaw or deficiency in job performance.” (See Declaration of William J. Becker, Jr. Re: Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion in Limine #1, Exhibits, p. 13)

Reply from Clark Burgess: “I believe the investigation was triggered by the discussion you had with Greg [Chin] on April 13th, when he demanded you stop passing out DVDs and discussing them in the workplace. When I first conversed with HR, they mentioned they were going to conduct an investigation based on that encounter. Whatever else they may have found, I do not believe entered into their decision to generate the written warning. It’s my belief, if that incidence had not happened HR would not have been contacted and the written warning would not have been generated.” (See Declaration of William J. Becker, Jr. Re: Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion in Limine #1, Exhibits, p. 13)

(Burgess accidentally gives the wrong date for when Greg Chin “demanded you stop passing out DVDs.” The actual date was March 2, 2009.)

This clearly shows that Coppedge’s demotion and punishment had everything to do with his lending intelligent design DVDs to co-workers, and in fact had nothing to do with anything else.

Even JPL admits that the demotion had to do with Coppedge’s conversations at work. The AP story reports:

In an emailed statement, JPL dismissed Coppedge’s claims. In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment. They also said Coppedge lost his “team lead” status because of ongoing conflicts with others.

[...]Indeed, as we expect Coppedge’s case will show, no one at JPL had complained of “harassment” against him until after Coppedge himself filed a harassment claim. Coppedge filed that harassment claim because on March 2, 2009, a JPL mid-level manager named Greg Chin yelled at Coppedge, ordered him to stop “pushing religion,” and told him to stop talking about intelligent design. No one ever stepped forward and proactively filed a harassment complaint against Coppedge for his conversations about ID. Rather, he was targeted by administrators who disliked his pro-ID views.

The reason I posted this is to just make it clear to everyone what is really going on here, as if there were any doubt about what happened. Darwinists, like global warmists, do not engage in debates. They exert power to coerce and silence dissent. Let’s be clear about that. They are the Spanish Inquisition and they smash anyone who dissents from their dogma.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trial begins for former NASA employee fired for belief in intelligent design

From Fox News.

Excerpt:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has landed robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, sent probes to outer planets and operates a worldwide network of antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft.

Its latest mission is defending itself in a workplace lawsuit filed by a former computer specialist who claims he was demoted — and then let go — for promoting his views on intelligent design.

[...]David Coppedge, who worked as a “team lead” on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, alleges that he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work. Coppedge lost his “team lead” title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court after two years of legal wrangling in a case that has generated interest among supporters of intelligent design. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group, and the Discovery Institute, a proponent of intelligent design, are both supporting Coppedge’s case.

“It’s part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we’ve seen that for several years,” said John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. “This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101.”

[...]Coppedge’s attorney, William Becker, says his client was singled out by his bosses because they perceived his belief in intelligent design to be religious.

 

If Darwinism was all it was cracked up to be, then why do they have to resort to silencing people who disagree with them, and ruining their careers? This is not an isolated occurrence.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , ,

JPL employee who was fired for loaning ID DVDs will get jury trial

From Evolution News. (H/T Uncommon Descent)

Excerpt:

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a jury will decide whether NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) unlawfully discriminated against a former employee for discussing the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) at work.

David Coppedge, a 14-year JPL veteran and team lead computer administrator on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, was demoted for lending ID-related DVDs to coworkers, behavior that one JPL complainant called “harassment,” and another branded “pushing religion.” After he filed suit to vindicate his free expression rights, JPL terminated Coppedge.

Evidence shows that JPL demoted and terminated Coppedge because he expressed a pro-ID scientific viewpoint disliked at JPL and labeled “religion” by JPL decision-makers.

“The court’s ruling allows a jury to vindicate David Coppedge’s rights,” said Joshua Youngkin, a legal affairs policy analyst with Discovery Institute. “California law forbids employers who view an employee’s expression as religion to punish or diminish the employee on that basis.”

“Although ID is not religion, it can’t be singled out by JPL or other employers in this way,” added Youngkin.

In its ruling, the court found there “are triable issues of fact as to whether Plaintiff’s demotion, written warning, negative performance evaluations, and ultimate termination were adverse employment actions” that involved discrimination.

Coppedge is represented by William J. Becker Jr. of the Becker Law Firm, who was supported in the case by Alliance Defense Fund.

So on the one hand, you have Richard Dawkins ducking out of debates, and on the other hand, you have taxpayer-funded government  employees firing people who offering to lend someone a DVD that questions the religion of naturalism – a religion that is flatly contradicted by the Big Bang, by the way.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study finds that cosmic rays and the sun cause global warming

Is ManBearPig to blame for global warming?

Is ManBearPig to blame for global warming?

From the Financial Post.

Excerpt:

The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from über-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories. CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.

In this chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done — demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space), the sun determines the temperature on Earth.

[...]Yet this spectacular success will be largely unrecognized by the general public for years — this column will be the first that most readers have heard of it — because CERN remains too afraid of offending its government masters to admit its success. Weeks ago, CERN formerly decided to muzzle Mr. Kirby and other members of his team to avoid “the highly political arena of the climate change debate,” telling them “to present the results clearly but not interpret them” and to downplay the results by “mak[ing] clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.” The CERN study and press release is written in bureaucratese and the version of Mr. Kirkby’s study that appears in the print edition of Nature censored the most eye-popping graph — only those who know where to look in an online supplement will see the striking potency of cosmic rays in creating the conditions for seeding clouds.

Well, this is no surprise to me. We’ve KNOWN that the planet was warmer in the Middle Ages than it is now. We’ve KNOWN that the surface temperatures on Mars increased when ours was increasing.

Why do secular socialists have to insist on believing what they want to believe against the scientific evidence, and then lie to everyone else, using taxpayer money? If they want to propagate their myths, why do they have to get the government involved? Why can’t they just have a global warming church and go to that, and leave government to serious people who don’t believe in myths and superstitions?

We really need to get leftist ideology out of the business of government. I don’t mind if they want to teach their flat-Earth myths to each other with their own money, but why do I have to pay for it?

If you are curious about this story, James Delingpole has more on it in the UK Telegraph.

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