Friday, July 27, 2012

Challenges from Atheists: Did the Universe Begin to Exist?

Continuing on in the series Challenges from Atheists, the difference between the theistic view and the atheistic view for the origin of the universe are diametrically opposed to one another.  The former (the theist) believes that the universe was created by an infinite, personal, moral, all powerful Creator, called God.  The latter (the atheist or naturalistic) holds that the universe is either infinite or if it did have a beginning, we cannot know where it came from.  Although I am not a scientist, I do know that those who argue from a naturalistic view for the origin of the universe at a "table talk" level, right where we live day in and day out, are not scientists either.  But they mimic their heroes like Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins or P.Z. Meyers; all of whom neglect the truth and are blinded by their philosophical underpinnings.  The scope of this posting will deal with those f-a-c-t-s (facts) that have to do with what we know from the general scientific perspective.

It was the well known mathematician and physicist, Stephen Hawking who made the statement in his most recent book, The Grand Design, that "philosophy is dead." Anyone believing Hawking in this statement is already in some logical peril in two major ways.  The first is that the statement, "philosophy is dead," is a philosophical statement.   The second, one must do some philosophical inquiry using the scientific method.

What I am going to do here is deal with straight hard cold case facts and then make a philosophical conclusion from those facts.  First some preamble.  Let's deal with what the scientific method is all about.

Scientific method.

I like how the Physics department from the University of California Riverside describes the scientific method on a link from their physics site, as  "the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion.[1]   UC Riverside then follows up with a simple version of the scientific method looking something like the following:  The simple version looks something like this: 
  • Observe some aspect of the universe.  [Comment:  One makes this observation how?  Asking questions?  Using one's five senses of sight, taste, tough, smell, and hearing; natural senses. Interpreting all these questions takes them to creating a hypothesis.] 
  • Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed. [Comment: The scientist needs to ask a question to get the ball rolling.  The problem is whether or not the question come from a sound philosophical framework..By inventing a tentative hypothesis, the one doing the experiment will be using philosophy or allowing their philosophical underpinnings to rule the hypothesis.  Science does not say anything, but scientists do say, and many times their philosophy gets in the way of the empirical facts.]
  • Use the hypothesis to make predictions.  [Comment:  Again, that hypothesis is under-girded by the philosophical underpinnings or world view of the one making the predictions.]
  • Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.  [Comment:  The testing can be through the use of the five senses or by any means of apparatus where the five senses can assist in making the deductions for reporting the experiment.]
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.
Much more could be discussed within this part, but we can leave that for a later discussion.

What is the Anthropic Principle?

The word, "anthropic" means relating to human beings or human existence.   The word principle means "law."  The anthropic principle points to and depends upon numerous cosmological constraints and parameters within the laws of physics and the natural sciences whose numerical values must fall within a very narrow (restricted) range of values.  If even a single variable were off even slightly, we would cease to exist.  The extreme improbability that so many variables would align "so auspiciously in our favor merely by chance has led some scientists and philosophers to propose instead that it was God who providentially engineered the universe to our our specific needs" for our survival."[2]

Simply stated, the anthropic principle is the "law" that the universe (cosmos) and the general revelation appears to have been finely tuned for our very existence.  I have added the general revelation to deal with the biological realm within the cosmos.

The Anthropic Principle Manifested in the Scientific Findings

Whenever a conversation stirs up with an atheist or someone of the evolutionary bent, one does not need to fear.  Science and religion are not enemies.  Again, science does not say anything but scientists do.  So what have we found from good science that might show some sort of interest for the anthropic evidence?

"Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth - the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient "coincidences" and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal. Fred Hoyle, the distinguished cosmologist, once said it was as if "a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics."[3]

To see the problem, imagine playing God with the cosmos. Before you is a designer machine that lets you tinker with the basics of physics. Twiddle this knob and you make all electrons a bit lighter, twiddle that one and you make gravity a bit stronger, and so on. It happens that you need to set thirty-something knobs to fully describe the world about us. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile.

To give an example of this, scientist, Paul Davies tells us

"that neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn't exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life. Like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks, the universe seems to be just right for life."


So if there is all of this evidence for design in the natural world in which we live, how can one conclude that it was all brought about by random causation?  Is all that we see around us an accident? 

I am not a scientist, but I enjoy science using a sound scientific method.  If you and I look around us, we can see that there is a vast amount of information available to show the design of the cosmos.  At the same time, 
we need not fear scientific data that is pointing to the grand design to the universe in which we live. 

And even though we cannot prove God's existence with indubitable certainty, there is one thing that we do know. That is if we can even delve deep into the biological and examine the many facets of the DNA, the "inner space frontier."   We look to the stars and we look within the biological systems and we see DESIGN and the thumbprints of a Creator.

Folks, faith and science are not enemies. We can use science to point to the evidence that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by an intelligent Creator, who has given us purpose and the capability to know that He is there and that He is not silent.


[1]   Before anyone starts getting excited, as a theist, I like science... good, genuine, bona fide scientific methodology is not harmful to the Christian worldview.


[3] Things like the Earth's distance from the Sun (93 million miles), the speed of the rotation of the earth (mid-latitudes of the U.S. and Europe speed along at 700 to 900 mph), the angle of the axis of the Earth (approximately 23.5 but some say it is changing), the speed of the revolutions around the sun (30 kilometers a second or 67,000 mph), that placement of Jupiter to deflect and keep objects from crashing into the Earth, and other factors are all for a reason that is transcendent to accidental random causations.   

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