Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Bruce Gordon: problems with inflationary multiverse cosmologies

From Evolution News. Dr. Bruce Gordon reflects on whether the new BICEP2 results offer any support for the multiverse.

First, quick review of the Big Bang so we’re clear on the challenge that poses for naturalism:

Now, Big Bang theory has its theoretical basis in general relativity, which predicts that the universe is spatiotemporally expanding in the future direction and thus would be contracting if we were to reverse the direction of time. As Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking showed in the late 1960s, no matter which general-relativistic model of our universe is chosen, this contraction leads to a beginning point in the finite past — a singularity, to use the technical term — from which not just matter and energy, but spacetime itself, emerged. This coming into existence of the universe from nothing (no space, no time, no matter, no energy, and hence no physical laws either) is what is known as the Big Bang. It is, as the agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow once observed, startling evidence for the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. He famously put it this way:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason [editorial aside: Jastrow might better have said "faith in the sufficiency of materialist explanations" because the inference from the ex nihilo generation of the universe to a transcendent intelligent cause is eminently reasonable], the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

This having been established, as the physicist George Gamow demonstrated in 1948, one of the predictions of Big Bang theory is the existence of gravitational ripples and cosmic background radiation (CBR) that are an “echo of Creation,” as it were, throughout the whole observable universe. This cosmic background electromagnetic radiation was discovered in 1965 by Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, a discovery for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize. In this regard, the alleged detection of gravitational waves would serve as further confirmation of the correctness of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and of the nature of the Big Bang itself. If corroborated by the scientific community, it would be a hugely important discovery, not just because of the evidence it provides for gravitational waves, but also because of the way this discovery is linked to another theory, namely, inflationary cosmology.

Inflationary cosmology is an enhancement to the standard Big Bang cosmology, and some models of inflationary theory can create additional universes. Some people are hoping that this will address the fine-tuning argument.

But Dr. Gordon is having none of that:

Of course, the inflationary mechanism is often regarded as generative of an unending and rapid succession of universes with the idea that, if enough universes are produced by such means, the improbabilities just mentioned don’t matter. Several things need to be said about this “inflationary multiverse” proposal:

(1) First of all, as pointed out by one of the physicists involved in the BICEP2 project, Kent Irwin at Stanford University, the BICEP2 results do not address the truth or falsity of inflationary multiverse theories.

(2) Secondly, attempting to swamp the improbabilities intrinsic to inflation by multiplying the number of universes it generates to the point of compensation has consequences that undermine scientific rationality. In a materialist multiverse resting on the hypothesis of an undirected and irreducibly probabilistic quantum inflationary mechanism that lacks any principle of sufficient material causality, anything can happen for no reason at all. What is more, quantum-mechanically speaking, everything that can happen, no matter how improbable, does happen, and it happens with unlimited frequency. In this environment we can have no confidence that the future will resemble the past in a way that legitimates uniformitarian assumptions and the very inductive inferences that make science possible. In short, taken seriously, the inflationary multiverse proposal completely undermines scientific rationality.

(3) Thirdly, at least two paradoxes result from the inflationary multiverse proposal that suggest our place in such a multiverse must be very special: the “Boltzmann Brain Paradox” and the “Youngness Paradox.” In brief, if the inflationary mechanism is autonomously operative in a way that generates a multiverse, then with probability indistinguishable from one (i.e., virtual necessity) the typical observer in such a multiverse is an evanescent thermal fluctuation with memories of a past that never existed (a Boltzmann brain) rather than an observer of the sort we take ourselves to be. Alternatively, by a second measure, post-inflationary universes should overwhelmingly have just been formed, which means that our existence in an old universe like our own has a probability that is effectively zero (i.e., it’s nigh impossible). So if our universe existed as part of such a multiverse, it would not be at all typical, but rather infinitely improbable (fine-tuned) with respect to its age and compatibility with stable life-forms.

(4) Fourthly, a mechanism that generates universes ad infinitum must have stable characteristics that constrain its operation if it is to avoid breaking down and sputtering to a halt. In short, universe-generators have finely tuned design parameters that themselves require explanation. So postulating a universe-generator to explain away the appearance of first-order design in a single universe does not obviate the inference to design, it merely bumps it up to the next level. Avoiding an infinite regress of explanatory demands leads to the recognition of actual design terminating in an Intelligence that transcends spacetime, matter and energy, and which, existing timelessly logically prior to creating any universe or multiverse, must also therefore exist necessarily, and therefore require no further explanation of its own existence.

(5) Fifthly and finally, as demonstrated by Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin in 2003 (see further reading suggestions below), any inflationary multiverse has a beginning in the finite past: while inflationary models can, in theory, be eternal into the future, it is mathematically impossible for them to be eternal into the past. This means that the inflationary multiverse entails creation ex nihilo in precisely the same manner as the Big Bang. The universe thus manifests dependence on a transcendent reality in respect of its origin, but what is more, in virtue of the manifest absence of sufficient material causation in many aspects of its persistence as a quantum-mechanical phenomenon, the material universe also manifests dependence on a transcendent reality in respect of its operation (for an extended argument to this effect, see my article on quantum-theoretic challenges to philosophical naturalism referenced in the suggested readings).

What all of this reveals, of course, is that it’s intelligent design all the way through and all the way down and that theophobic scientific materialists, once they get past knee-jerk denials, must come to terms with what is, for them, a worldview-defeating fact.

The Boltzmann Brain paradox in point 3) came up as a problem with inflationary multiverse cosmologies in the recent Craig-Carroll debate.

I bolded part 4) because as Dr. Robin Collins has argued before, the multiverse-generation mechanism does not get rid of the fine-tuning, it just pushes it up one level. And I bolded part 5) because Dr. Gordon is alluding to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin (BGV) theorem there, which always comes up in debates on cosmology. The theory applies to inflationary cosmologies: they still require an absolute beginning. These are serious problems that we should not gloss over when people push a speculative model like the multiverse in order to escape the fine-tuning argument.

I always thought of Dr. Gordon as kind of a moderate Canadian guy, but I love that last line, don’t you? :) Don’t fear the reaper, naturalists.

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Lawrence Krauss debates “A Universe From Nothing” with an astrophysicist

Dina sent me news of Saturday’s episode of Unbelievable, which features Lawrence Krauss, who debated William Lane Craig. Krauss’ book was also reviewed in the New York Times.

The MP3 file is here.

Details:

Lawrence Krauss is a Cosmologist at Arizona State University who describes himself as an “anti-theist”. His latest book “A Universe From Nothing” has received both acclaim and criticism for its attempt to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Debating the issue with Krauss is Rodney Holder, Course director at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. An astrophysicist and priest by background. In a lively exchange they debate whether Krauss’ “nothing” is “nothing”, fine tuning and multiverses, scientific knowledge, miracles and the usefulness of theology and philosophy.

This debate is quite entertaining, and do not be intimidated if your don’t understand science. You can understand pretty easily who is arguing based on facts and who is speculating about unobservable, untestable entities. At one point, Krauss actually denies that there is any fine-tuning in the universe, so please see this link to refute that claim as well as this podcast which explains some examples of fine-tuning. Krauss gets a bit angry at the beginning, but calms down.

Quotation marks are for direct quotes, italics is for made-up snark. See below the summary for more posts that are related to this one.

Summary of the discussion: (picked up at 9:30 when they start talking about the book)

Brierley:

  • explain your theory of how the universe can come into being from nothing

Krauss:

  • the nothing that preceded the universe is “no space, no time, no universe”
  • theists say that God is responsible for creating the universe out of this nothing
  • but the laws of nature can create the universe uncaused out of nothing

Holder:

  • Krauss sometimes writes that the nothing is really a quantum vacuum, but that is not nothing
  • He even acknowledges in his book that a quantum vacuum is not nothing
  • He thinks that the nothing has properties, even though it has no being
  • It has the property of being unstable
  • It has the property of being acted on by quantum fields
  • It has the property of being acted on by gravity

Krauss:

  • But nothing can have the potential to do things inside it
  • For example suppose you have an electron, which is not nothing
  • If it jumps from one level to another, it emits light
  • There was no potential for the light in the electron, but it was there as part of atomic structure

Holder:

  • But in cases like that, there is something physical that has the potential
Krauss:
  • Well, how did God makes the universe then if it had no potential?

Holder:

  • God existed, and the potential for creating the universe in himself

Brierley:

Krauss:
  • It was written by a philosopher, so I dismissed it

Brierley:

Krauss:
  • These book reviewers have not even read my book!

Krauss:

  • Science will be able to figure out how to make something from nothing in the future
  • We are even now speculating about interesting questions, like is there a multiverse?

Brierley:

  • Consider the critical review of your book in the New York Times
  • The author of the review claims that you equivocate on the term “nothing”
  • In order to get things to pop into being, you have to make “nothing” mean “something”
  • Reviewer: none of Krauss’ theories explain how something can come from actual nothingness

Krauss:

  • In physics, something and nothing are not that different
  • The reviewer doesn’t understand the physics
  • He doesn’t understand quantum field theory
  • You could call a quantum vacuum “nothing”, (this is the vacuum fluctuation model, refuted by William Lane Craig in a peer-reviewed publication in an astrophysics journal - get the full text of the article here)
  • Maybe there is an eternally existing multiverse that we can’t observe or test scientifically
  • Maybe it has laws that we don’t know about which allow our universe to pop into being
  • Maybe this popping into being is uncaused
  • (alarmed) Who made God? Who made God?

Holder:

  • God is eternal and necessary

Krauss:

  • (interrupting, angry) What does it mean for something to be necessary?

Holder:

  • Basically, you have to decide whether there is more evidence that the necessary being God or a multiverse

Brierley:

  • So Dr. Krauss are you willing to say that the universe is a brute fact, in some sense, and requires no explanation

Krauss:

  • (angry) Religious people are stupid because they just assume brute facts, not like me and my unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • (angry) Religious people are against the progress of science, they don’t want to figure out how things work

Brierley:

  • But isn’t it possible that naturalists can be opposed to the progress of science?
  • What about the way the Fred Hoyle opposed the Big Bang because he wanted an eternal universe

Krauss:

  • (angry) But naturalists like me let the facts determine our beliefs, like the facts about the eternal unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • (angry, shouting) Philosophers are stupid, they know nothing!

=== Break ===

Brierley:

  • Do you see any evidence of purpose in the universe?

Krauss:

  • Well maybe I would believe if the stars lined up to spell out a message from God

Brierley:

  • Actually no, that wouldn’t be evidence for God on your multiverse view
  • if there an infinite number of universes existing for an infinite amount of time, then anything can happen no matter how unlikely it is
  • therefore, no evidence could convince you that God exists, since the unobservable, untestable, eternal multiverse can make anything it wants

Krauss:

  • That’s a true statement, and very convenient for atheists who don’t want to be accountable to God, don’t you think?
Brierley:
  • Back to the multiverse, how does it solve the fine-tuning?

Krauss:

  • “We have no idea if the universe is fine-tuned for life”, even though the atheist Martin Rees who endorsed Krauss’ book wrote his own book about the fine-tuning of the universe called “Just Six Numbers”
  • Inflationary theory does suggest a way to create multiple universes, (this is the chaotic inflationary model, refuted by William Lane Craig in a peer-reviewed publication in an astrophysics journal – get the full text of the article here)

Brierley:

  • But this theory is still very much a hypothesis, isn’t it? We can’t observe or test this hypothesis can we?

Krauss:

  • “No, and that is really important to state”
  • “I’m an empiricist, so if you can’t falsify it and if you can’t test it then it’s not science”
  • In my book, I speculate about a way that we could test the multiverse theory

Holder:

  • Yes, in principle, the multiverse would be scientific if you could test it through other theories like inflationary theory
  • There are a lot of speculations about multiverse theory, but no evidence from predictions that were validated in the lab

Krauss:

  • “I agree completely with everything you just said”

Brierley:

  • Roger Penrose agrees with Holder that the multiverse theory is too speculative
  • (To Holder) Isn’t the multiverse theory better than positing a completely different kind of being, which is God?

Holder:

  • The multiverse theory is extremely speculative
  • Even if the multiverse were true, you would still need to explain the multiverse

Krauss:

  • People don’t oppose my book because it’s full of self-contradictory speculations
  • People oppose my book because they are stupid and ignorant

Holder:

  • There are things that exist that science cannot measure, like objective morality
  • It’s possible to give explanations for moral behavior by appealing to evolution
  • But that does not ground self-sacrificial morality, such as what occurs in the Christian life

Brierley:

  • Dawkins says there is no purpose or morality in in the universe, do you agree?

Krauss:

  • “There is certainly no evidence of any of that”

Brierley:

  • In the book, you talk about how we live in a special time in the universe’s history to be able to do science, (i.e. – The Privileged Planet hypothesis)
  • You also write about how all the discoveries were are making will not be communicated to anyone in other places in the universe
  • So what is the meaning of doing science on your view? And why are you sad at the knowledge that will not be available to people in the future?
  • Are you longing for some kind of purpose?

Krauss:

  • No, I just get enjoyment from studying the universe with science to gain understanding

Holder:

  • What do you make of Einstein’s statement about the unexpected comprehensibility of the universe
  • Theists would say that this is because God wanted us to study and understand and gain knowledge

Krauss:

  • “It is remarkable that the universe is comprehensible”

Brierley:

  • Why is the universe comprehensible?

Krauss:

  • Well, maybe the universe just has to be that way

Brierley:

  • What do you make of the heat death of the universe, when all life in the universe will die out?

Krauss:

  • That’s the way the universe is
=== BREAK ===

Krauss:

  • I wouldn’t want to live in a universe where there was a God
  • God is a cosmic Saddam Hussein
  • “Religious people turn their minds off” and believe in God for consolation

Holder:

  • First, Jesus is the revelation of God and he is no Saddam Hussein
  • Second, the Christian life is anything but easy, we are facing some persecution already in the UK
  • Third, there is also the problem of being accountable to God when we die
  • It’s very much like science – Christianity is the way it is, not the way we want it to be

Krauss:

  • “If you don’t believe in him, you don’t get any of the benefits, so you have to believe”
  • “And then if you’ve done something wrong, you’re going to be judged for it”
  • “So I don’t want to be judged by God, I want to be… that’s the bottom line”

Holder:

  • Well, Jesus has died to pay the price for those things we’ve done wrong
  • Although we will have to face the charges for what we’ve done, believers will ultimately be forgiven

UPDATE: Peter Sean Bradley note that Krauss is now walking back his rhetoric in response to criticisms from people like atheist John Horgan.

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William Lane Craig debates Lawrence Krauss in North Carolina: Does God Exist?

Would you like to hear a debate featuring the least intelligent atheist ever? Well, this is a good candidate.

The full transcript of the debate is here at the Reasonable Faith web site.

Audio of the William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate at North Carolina State University has now been posted at Apologetics 315. The people who recorded it did not do a good job, though.

And I also posted some background information on Craig’s arguments.

And now for one of my snarkiest summaries, which is fitting for Lawrence Krauss. A less snarky summary is at J.W. Wartick’s blog. And if you want to see a summary of a debate with a smart atheist, then here is the Craig-Millican debate summary.

William Lane Craig’s case

William Lane Craig made 5 arguments for the existence of God:

  • the contingency argument
  • theargument from the origin of the universe (kalam)
  • the argument from cosmic fine-tuning
  • the moral argument
  • the argument from the miracle of the resurrection

These arguments went unrefuted during the debate.

Lawrence Krauss’s case

Lawrence Krauss made the following arguments in his first speech:

  • Dr. Craig is a professional debater
  • Dr. Craig is not a scientist
  • Dr. Craig is a philosopher
  • Disproving God’s is a waste of my valuable time
  • Dr. Craig has the burden of proof to show evidence
  • My job is not to present any evidence
  • I think that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a nice slogan, but I have no evidence for it
  • I don’t like that God doesn’t appear on Youtube, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that God didn’t appear to humans until recently, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that the stars didn’t come together to spell “I am here”, therefore God doesn’t exist
  • Dr. Craig has to supply extraordinary evidence, because my favorite slogan says he has to
  • Dr. Craig talks about logic, but the universe is not logical
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t have any arguments, just things he doesn’t like
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, and that’s why he believes in cosmic fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like rape, and that’s why he believes in the ontological foundations of morality
  • If people believe in logic, then they can’t do science
  • The things that science discovers contradict the laws of logic
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, so he believes in the experimental measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, so he believes in the fine-tuning of the gravitational constant for the formation of stable stars
  • Quantum mechanics shows that the universe is stranger than you think, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • My t-shirt says 2 + 2 = 5, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • Atheism may look ridiculous, but it’s true, and if you don’t like it, too bad – because the universe is very strange
  • Accidents happen all the time, so that explains the cosmic fine-tuning
  • We all have to convince ourselves of 10 impossible things before breakfast, and atheism is impossible, so you need to convince yourself of it
  • I don’t know about the Big Bang, so Dr. Craig cannot use the Big Bang to to prove the universe began to exist
  • I don’t know about the cosmic fine-tuning, so Dr. Craig cannot use the fine-tuning of cosmological constants to prove the fine-tuning
  • I don’t know anything about science, so Dr. Craig cannot use science in his arguments
  • Dr. Craig says that the universe is contingent because it began to exist 13.7 billion years ago based on the state-of-the-art scientific evidence for the Big Bang creation out of nothing from 1) red-shift of light from distant galaxies, 2) cosmic microwave background radiation, 3) helium-hydrogen abundances, 4) experimental confirmation of general relativity, 5) the second law of thermodynamics, 6) radioactive element abundances, etc., but how does he know that? I don’t know that
  • It’s fine not to know the answer to scientific questions like whether the universe began to exist, it’s more exciting
  • Thinking that the universe began to exist based on 6 pieces of scientific evidence is the “God-of-the-Gaps” fallacy, it’s intellectual laziness
  • But all kidding aside, the universe actually did begin to exist 13.72 billion years ago, exactly like Craig says in his argument
  • I could argue that God created the universe 4.5 seconds ago with all of us sitting believing that we heard Dr. Craig, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s not falsifiable
  • Universes can spontaneously appear out of nothing, and in fact they have to appear out of nothing
  • Nothing is unstable, and space and time can come into existence out of nothing, so that’s not a problem
  • Our universe could have appeared out of a multiverse, an unobservable, untestable multiverse that I have no way of observing or testing
  • The universe is not fine-tuned for life, and no scientist says so, especially not Martin Rees, the atheist Astronomer Royal, and every other scientist
  • What if God decided that rape was OK, would it be OK? God can change his moral nature arbitrarily, can’t he?

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ second speech:

  • We don’t understand the beginning of the universe
  • We don’t understand whether the universe had a cause
  • Steven Weinberg says that science makes it possible to be an atheist, so therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • It’s just intellectual laziness to say that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago, and that things that come into being of nothing have a cause
  • Dr. Craig is an expert on nothing, ha ha ha!
  • There are multiple versions of nothing, there’s nothing, and then there is something, which is also nothing if I want it to be
  • There was no space, there was no time, and then the space create the empty space
  • I’m going to give Dr. Craig a break
  • At least in the nothing there were laws like F=ma, and those laws created the empty space, because descriptions of matter that does not even exist yet can create space out of nothing
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin are good friends of mine and I talk to them all the time, unlike Dr. Craig
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin don’t mention God in their scientific papers, therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • Maybe there is a multiverse that cannot be observed or tested? And my unscientific speculations are a refutation of Craig’s scientific evidence for the fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig just doesn’t like my speculations about the unobservable, untestable multiverse, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • And if you let me speculate about an unobservable, untestable multiverse, then maybe the inanimate invisible universes reproduce and compete for food and mutate like animals and then there is natural selection so that the finely-tuned universes survive and now we’re in one!
  • My cool animation of blue goo mutating proves that the multiverse is real! Empty space is not empty!
  • Darwinism, which is a theory about the origin of species, explains the cosmic fine-tuning that occurred at the moment of creation
  • The unobservable, untestable multiverse universes all have different laws, I believe
  • We don’t know what the right answer is, but we are willing to look at any possibility, as long as the possibilities we look at are not supernatural possibilities
  • The discovery of the origin of the universe could be an accident, I don’t know if the universe began to exist or not, maybe all the six scientific evidences are wrong because if I don’t like the evidence we have, so I’ll just wait for new evidence to overturn the evidence we have which I don’t like
  • Maybe there are other forms of life that are unobservable and untestable that are compatible with a universe that has no stable stars, no planets, no elements heavier than hydrogen, no hydrogen, no carbon, etc.

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ third speech:

  • Dr. Craig is stupid
  • Why should we even care about Dr. Craig’s arguments and evidence, we can just count the number of scientists who are atheists and decide whether God exists that way – I decided everything based on what my teachers told me to believe
  • I actually know general relativity, not like Dr. Craig who co-wrote a book on general relativity published by Oxford University Press
  • What quantum mechanics shows is that virtual particles come into being in a quantum vacuum, and then go out of existence almost immediately – and that is exactly like how a 13.7 billion year old universe came into being in a quantum vacuum, and we’re going to disappear very soon
  • Space and the laws of physics can be created, possibly, if you accept my speculations about an unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • I don’t like the God of the Old Testament, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • Groups of people can decide what they think is good and evil, like the Nazis and slave-owners did, and then that becomes good for them in that time and place, and that’s what I mean by morality
  • Here’s something I studied that wasn’t fine-tuned, therefore there is no fine-tuning of the universe
  • Not knowing things is really exciting! Dr. Craig is not really exciting because he knows things – phooey!

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ fourth speech:

  • If you will just grant me an observable, untestable multiverse, then there must be some universe where intelligent life exists
  • Infinite numbers of things exist everywhere in nature, you can see lots of infinite collections of things, like jelly beans and bumblebees and invisible pink unicorns
  • I don’t like the fine-tuning, but if my speculations about the multiverse are proven true, then I won’t have to learn to live with the fine-tuning
  • Inflation, the rapid expansion of the universe which occurs at some time after the the origin of the universe (t = 0), explains the absolute origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing that occurred at t = 0
  • Physical processes that develop subsequent to the creation of the universe at t > 0 can explain the fine-tuning of quantities that are set at t = 0
  • Morality is just a bunch of arbitrary conventions decided by groups of people in different times and places by an accidental process of biological and social evolution, but that practice over there by those people is objectively wrong!
  • 1 Cor 15:3-7, which most scholars, even atheists like James Crossley, admit is dated to within 3 years of the death of Jesus, is actually dated to 50 years after the death of Jesus
  • The historical case for the resurrection made by people like N.T. Wright in their multi-volume academic works is on par with the story of Mohammed ascending to Heaven on a horse

If you liked this, please check out my snarky summary of Christopher Hitchens’ speeches in the Craig-Hitchens debate.

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MIT physicist explains the challenge of cosmic fine-tuning for naturalism

Here’s the article from Harper’s magazine. The MIT physicist says that the fine-tuning is real, and is best explained by positing the existence of an infinite number of universes that are not fine-tuned – the so-called multiverse.

Excerpt:

While challenging the Platonic dream of theoretical physicists, the multiverse idea does explain one aspect of our universe that has unsettled some scientists for years: according to various calculations, if the values of some of the fundamental parameters of our universe were a little larger or a little smaller, life could not have arisen. For example, if the nuclear force were a few percentage points stronger than it actually is, then all the hydrogen atoms in the infant universe would have fused with other hydrogen atoms to make helium, and there would be no hydrogen left. No hydrogen means no water. Although we are far from certain about what conditions are necessary for life, most biologists believe that water is necessary. On the other hand, if the nuclear force were substantially weaker than what it actually is, then the complex atoms needed for biology could not hold together. As another example, if the relationship between the strengths of the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force were not close to what it is, then the cosmos would not harbor any stars that explode and spew out life-supporting chemical elements into space or any other stars that form planets. Both kinds of stars are required for the emergence of life. The strengths of the basic forces and certain other fundamental parameters in our universe appear to be “fine-tuned” to allow the existence of life. The recognition of this fine­tuning led British physicist Brandon Carter to articulate what he called the anthropic principle, which states that the universe must have the parameters it does because we are here to observe it. Actually, the word anthropic, from the Greek for “man,” is a misnomer: if these fundamental parameters were much different from what they are, it is not only human beings who would not exist. No life of any kind would exist.

If such conclusions are correct, the great question, of course, is why these fundamental parameters happen to lie within the range needed for life. Does the universe care about life? Intelligent design is one answer. Indeed, a fair number of theologians, philosophers, and even some scientists have used fine-tuning and the anthropic principle as evidence of the existence of God. For example, at the 2011 Christian Scholars’ Conference at Pepperdine University, Francis Collins, a leading geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, said, “To get our universe, with all of its potential for complexities or any kind of potential for any kind of life-form, everything has to be precisely defined on this knife edge of improbability…. [Y]ou have to see the hands of a creator who set the parameters to be just so because the creator was interested in something a little more complicated than random particles.”

Intelligent design, however, is an answer to fine-tuning that does not appeal to most scientists. The multiverse offers another explanation. If there are countless different universes with different properties—for example, some with nuclear forces much stronger than in our universe and some with nuclear forces much weaker—then some of those universes will allow the emergence of life and some will not. Some of those universes will be dead, lifeless hulks of matter and energy, and others will permit the emergence of cells, plants and animals, minds. From the huge range of possible universes predicted by the theories, the fraction of universes with life is undoubtedly small. But that doesn’t matter. We live in one of the universes that permits life because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.

I thought I was going to have to go outside this article to refute the multiverse, but Lightman is honest enough to refute it himself:

The… conjecture that there are many other worlds… [T]here is no way they can prove this conjecture. That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

The multiverse is not pure nonsense, it is theoretically possible. The problem is that the multiverse generator itself would require fine-tuning, so the multiverse doesn’t get rid of the problem. And, as Lightman indicates, we have no independent experimental evidence for the existence of the multiverse in any case. Atheists just have to take it on faith, and hope that their speculations will be proved right. Meanwhile, the fine-tuning is just as easily explained by postulating God, and we have independent evidence for God’s existence, like the the origin of biological information, the sudden appearance of animal body plans, the argument from consciousness, and so on. Even if the naturalists could explain the fine-tuning, they would still have a lot of explaining to do. Theism (intelligent causation) is the simplest explanation for all of the things we learn from the progress of science.

We need to be frank about atheists and their objections to the progress of science. Within the last 100 years, we have discovered that the physical universe came into being out of nothing 15 billion years ago, and we have discovered that this one universe is fine-tuned for intelligent life. I don’t think it’s like that the last 100 years of scientific progress on the origins question are going to be overturned so that science once again affirms what atheists believe about the universe. Things are going the wrong way for atheists – at least with respect to science.

See it in action

To see these arguments examined in a debate with a famous atheist, simply watch the debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, and judge which debater is willing to form his beliefs on scientific progress, and which debater is forming his beliefs against the science we have today, and hoping that the good science we have today based on experiments will be overturned by speculative theories at some point in the future. When you watch that debate, it becomes very clear that Christian theists are interested in conforming their beliefs to science, and atheists are very interested in speculating against what science has shown in order to maintain their current pre-scientific view. That’s not what rational people ought to do when confronted with evidence.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

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William Lane Craig and atheist Daniel Dennett discuss cosmology and fine-tuning

This audio records a part of the Greer-Heard debate in 2007, between prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and lame theistic evolutionist Alister McGrath. Craig was one of the respondents, and this was the best part of the event. It is a little bit advanced, but I have found that if you listen to things like this over and over with your friends and family, and then try to explain it to non-Christians, you’ll get it.

By the way, this is mostly original material from Craig, dated 2007, and he delivers the speech perfectly, so it’s entertaining to listen to.

Craig presents three arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe:

  • the contingency argument
  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the teleological argument

He also discusses Dennett’s published responses to these arguments.

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (this is very snarky, because Dennett was just awful)

  • Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.
  • I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when I go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.
  • But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.
  • The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.
  • Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.
  • “Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7″. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)
  • The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.
  • I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.
  • Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.
  • If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism. (This part is correct, but Craig believes that God enters into time at the moment of creation – so that it is not a deistic God)
  • If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.
  • I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus based on minimal facts, that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet in public debates and in prestigous books and research journals.

This is a very careful treatment of the arguments that Dr. Craig goes over briefly during his debates. Recommended.

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