Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Video: Guillermo Gonzalez on the Fine-tuning of the Universe to Support Life


Guillermo Gonzalez, Grove City College, PA
On Guard, July 27-28, 2012


Other posts on this subject can found in the Cosmology section of my Articles and Links Arranged by Subject page. In particular, a list of fine-tuned parameters can be found at The Fine-Tuning of the Universe to one part in 10^10^123 is best explained by an intelligent designer and creator, aka. God.

Below are some of the slides from the lecture by Dr. Gonzalez. I have (with permission) included some of the commentary from the lecture with the slides and edited the text for clarity and readability. Any transcription errors or typographical errors are my own. Please see the video for the original content.

Contents


1:18


What is fine-tuning?
  • Over the past century, scientists have discovered that if certain properties of the universe were changed very slightly from what they are, life could not exist in the universe. These properties have to be within a very narrow range for our universe to be life-permitting (habitable). This sensitivity of the habitability of the universe to small changes in its properties is called fine-tuning.

  • This was recognized about 60 years ago by Fred Hoyle, who was not a religious person. Paul Davies, Martin Rees, Max Tegmark, Bernard Carr, Frank Tipler, John Barrow, and Stephen Hawking also believe in fine-tuning.

2:37
A fine-tuned universe

"The possibility of life as we know it depends on the values of a few basic physical constants and is, in some respects remarkably sensitive to their numerical values. Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences."
- Martin Rees

"The present arrangement of matter indicates a very special choice of initial conditions."
- Paul Davies

"The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life."
- Stephen Hawking


3:35
Three types of fine tuning
  1. Fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

    Existence and forms of physical laws (forces, types of particles, quantum principles, dimensionality of space-time).

    Examples:

    • FG= Gm1m2/r2

      The force of gravity is proportional to the product of two masses and inversely proportional to the square of their separation.

    • The Pauli Exclusion principle dictates how electrons are arranged in atoms and pretty much determines the whole structure of the periodic table and therefore all of chemistry.

    • The Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

  2. Fine-tuning of the constants of physics.

    Masses of fundamental particles, force strengths, cosmological constant value.

    Constants: In Gm1m2 (above), G is a constant. Other constants are:masses of fundamental particles, electron, proton, quarks, constants for electromagnetic force, strong force, weak force, cosmological constant.

  3. Fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe.

    Initial entropy, initial expansion rate, initial density fluctuations, inflation, matter/antimatter ratio.
Contents
10:10
Possible objection 1

Q: How can you assign a probability when the sample size is precisely one (universe)? You can't say, for example, that 1 in 100 universes are habitable.

A: Run a hypothetical universe creating machine with different settings for the fine-tuning parameters and place a black dot on a chart of the results if it makes a non-habitable universe. Place a white dot when it is habitable. You will get a white dot is in a sea of black dots.


12:12
Possible objection 2

Q: What about universes governed by different laws of nature that allow radically different forms of life than those in our universe? Maybe constants and initial conditions in those universes aren't fine-tuned.

A: The answer to the question is not relevant to explaining the fine-tuning of our universe.


13:59
Possible objection 3

Q: If the constants and initial conditions had been different, we wouldn't exist, but maybe other forms of life would have been possible given the same laws.

A: Several of the examples of fine-tuning would prevent even the precursors to life. No planets, no galaxies, no chemistry! Slight changes in some parameters would result in a universe that is all black holes, all hydrogen, or it would collapse back on itself immediately.

Contents
How do you define fine-tuning?

A 10 cm ruler with an accuracy of 1 mm would have a relative error of 1%. In analogy to fine-tuning, 1% corresponds to the amount of fine-tuning (one part in 102), and 10 cm is called the comparison range.

Similarly, for fine-tuning, you need to define a suitable comparison range. It could be theoretical or empirical. A physical property of the universe is usually considered fine-tuned if the life-permitting range is < 10% of the comparison range.

18:25
A sense of big numbers
  • There are about 1013 cells in the human body.

  • The number of seconds in the entire history of the universe = 1017

  • Number of subatomic particles in the known universe = 1080


  • Having a precision of one part in 1030 is like firing a bullet and hitting an amoeba at the edge of the observable universe.

  • Some examples of fine-tuning require greater precision than this!

20:05
One- and two-sided fine-tuning

  • Some cases of fine-tuning are one-sided, meaning that a parameter falls near the edge of the life-permitting region.

  • Some cases of fine-tuning are two-sided:
In one sided fine-tuning, there is either a minimum or a maximum value of the parameter beyond which the universe would be uninhabitable. In two sided fine-tuning there is both a minimum and a maximum value and if the parameter was outside this range, the universe would be uninhabitable.
Example: How a comparison range is calculated to determine the fine-tuning of the forces of nature:

21:24

G0=Strength of gravity

Strength of weak force: 1031G0

Strength of electromagnetism: 1037G0

Strength of strong nuclear force: 1040G0

The natural range of forces in the universe spans 40 orders of magnitude. Therefore 1040 is an empirical comparison range. It is a lower limit because theoretically it could be greater.


23:12
Examples of fine-tuning
  • Fr. Robert Spitzer notes that there are at least 20 independent constants and factors that are fine-tuned to a high degree of precision for life to be possible in the universe.

  • The number continues to increase at a rate near one per year.
Contents
24:16
One-sided example 1

The maximum value of the electromagnetic force that allows a periodic table of sufficient length is 14 x 1037G0. Its degree of fine-tuning is:

(14-1)x1037G0/1040G0 ~ 1%.


26:04
One-sided example 2

The maximum value of the gravitational force that allows stars to last at least 109 years = 3000G0. Its degree of fine-tuning is 3000G0/1040 ~ 1/1036.

But that is just one effect of gravity. When you consider other effects, the possible values are fewer. If gravity is stronger, a planet must be smaller so that complex life is not crushed, but then the planet will cool too fast if it is small. These multiple constraints put tighter limits on the strength of gravity.


27:37
Fine-tuning analogy

Radio dial stretched across the universe

WKLF ("K-Life"): You better tune your dial to the first Angstrom if you want to tune gravity for life!


28:35
One-sided example 3

If the weak force is decreased by a factor of 30, the initial neutron/proton ratio would be ~0.90, leading to nearly pure helium universe.

The degree of fine-tuning is ~ 1/109.

The weak force is also involved in supernova explosions which distribute heavy elements throughout the galaxy. Heavy elements are needed for rocky planets and biological organisms. The weak force also determined the relative numbers of protons and neutrons in the early universe which determined the amount of helium in the universe. The weak force also controls radioactive decay which is responsible for most of the heat in the earth's interior. All three effects of weak the force, geophysical heat, amount of helium in early universe, and supernovae limit the values of the weak force that would permit the universe to be habitable.
Contents
31:20 Carbon production


  • Life-essential 12C is formed inside stars via the nuclear reaction:

    3α ---> 12C

    (The symbol α represents an alpha particle, a helium nucleus containing two protons and two neutrons.)

  • In the early 1950s, physicists did not think this reaction could operate in stars. Fred Hoyle made a prediction. We're here, as carbon based intelligent life, so somehow 12C must get produced. What would enhance the rate was a then unknown excited state of 12C at 7.7 MeV above the ground state.

  • The state was discovered by subsequent experiment.

32:32
Carbon production is fine-tuned
  • The production of carbon via the 3α process is an example of fine-tuning.

  • Oberhummer et al. (2000, Science) studied the relative production of C and O in stars. They showed that a 0.5% change in the strong nuclear force or a 4% change in the electromagnetic force would lead to large changes in the C/O ratio in the universe (due to changes in the energy of the 12C resonance level).

  • But wait, there's more...

34:19
Carbon production is fine-tuned


  • A collision of two α particles
    produces
    8Be
    which has a short lifetime of
    10-16sec. This short lifetime prevents runaway fusion that would result in early stellar explosions (before life-essential heavy elements are formed). The instability of 8Be leads to stellar stability. But, its lifetime could not be much shorter, or the reaction to produce carbon could not proceed.

  • There is another fine-tuning with 16O, which lacks a resonance level near the typical α particle energy in a star. If such a resonance level existed, most of the carbon would be converted to oxygen.

  • Fourthly, a conservation law prevents most of the 16O from being converted to 20Ne (via α-capture), which has a resonance at the right energy.
Because of the fine-tuning, there are comparable amounts of carbon and oxygen in the universe instead of mostly carbon or mostly oxygen. Both are needed to support life. Oxygen is needed for water and energy metabolism for complex intelligent life.
Contents
36:50
The cosmological constant (dark energy)
"Our current understanding of gravity and quantum mechanics says that empty space should have about 120 orders of magnitude more energy than the amount we measure it to have. That is 1 with 120 zeroes after it! How to reduce the amount it has by such a huge magnitude, without making it precisely zero, is a complete mystery. Among physicists, this is considered the worst fine-tuning problem in physics."
- Lawrence Krauss, (Scientific American, Aug. 2004, pp. 83-84)

38:38
The initial entropy of the universe

  • The initial state of the space-time (and thus gravity fields) of the early universe were very smooth and homogeneous (very low entropy).

  • Present entropy of the universe is much greater than the initial entropy.

  • Initially low entropy is required for a habitable universe in which high-entropy structures like stars form out of the surrounding low entropy space-time.

  • Roger Penrose estimated that the amount of fine-tuning required of the initial entropy to allow for a habitable universe is 1 part in 1010123!

Contents
43:10
Multidimensional fine-tuning

  • To be precise, you cannot just change one parameter while holding all others constant. Changing another parameter might compensate for the life-inhibiting effects of a particular parameter change.

  • Example: reducing the weak force can be compensated by reducing the mass difference between the proton and neutron in the early universe.

  • However, it is usually the case that changing a parameter has multiple different effects. Reducing the weak force also affects the explosion of massive star supernovae and radioactive decay.

46:31
Local fine-tuning

  • Each instance of global fine-tuning must be evaluated by its effects on habitability at the "local" level. By local, we mean structures within the universe that are relevant to life. These include galaxies, stars, and planets.

  • Knowing the number and ranges of properties of galaxies, stars, and planets will allow us to determine if a change to a particular global parameter will have life-inhibiting effects.

  • This involves details of star and planet formation, climate stability, orbital dynamics, stellar nucleosynthesis, etc.

Contents
51:33
Some history
"[Evidence for God comes] from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the Mind which ordered the universe."
- Plato (Laws 12.966e)

"...when the night had darkened the lands and they should behold the whole sky spangled and adorned with stars; and when they should see ... the rising and settings of all these celestial bodies, ... when they should behold all these things, most certainly they would have judged ... that all these marvelous works are the handiworks of the gods."
- Aristotle (On Philosophy)


52:59

Reconstructing historical events

The universe is an artifact. How do you reconstruct a historical event?

Not all science is laboratory based. Some science is historical. Geology, archeology, cosmology, astronomy are all historical sciences. There is a type of reasoning that is appropriate to historical sciences called abductive reasoning or inference to the best explanation. It's the way causal explanations are reached in the historical sciences. Abductive reasoning infers unseen causes in the past from facts in the present. If you discover an artifact or a pattern, and you want to determine a causal explanation for it, you apply the principle of uniformitarianism: apply the same kinds of causal explanations we use in everyday life to infer the best explanation for past unobserved events. If an artifact or pattern could be the result of several causes, you set up competing hypotheses based on mutually exhaustive possible explanations and choose the best one. The list of mutually exhaustive possible explanations is: necessity, chance, or design.


If you can rule out chance and necessity you can conclude the cause is design.

A meaningful pattern is improbable and rules out chance.

If you can infer a purpose it gives stronger evidence of design.


59:55
Chance

The conditions that allow for a life-permitting universe are highly improbable.


1:00:24
Necessity

The properties of the universe we observe are not logically necessary. They could have been otherwise.

M-theory explains how you could have other universes with different properties.

(There is a distinction between physical necessity and logical necessity.)


1:01:28
A meaningful pattern

The correlation of the conditions that allow for life and the fine-tuned parameter values of the universe we observe forms a meaningful pattern.


1:01:50
Summary of design argument

We can make a design argument:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to logical necessity, chance or design.

  2. It is not due to logical necessity or chance.

  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Contents
1:02:47
What is the Anthropic Principle?

  • The Anthropic Principle is the recognition that our very existence constrains the properties of the universe we observe to be those that allow our existence. We can only observe a habitable universe!

  • It is merely a reminder that we have to take into account observer self-selection bias in interpreting our observations. Our sample of universes is necessarily biased.

  • The Anthropic Principle does not explain why there exists a universe fine-tuned for life in the first place.

1:03:30
Why can't the Anthropic Principle explain us?

Illustration:

  • Quasars were discovered to be very distant in 1963 from their large redshifts.

  • Why are they so luminous?

  • Wong answer: because if they weren't, we wouldn't be able to see them. If we see an object in the distant universe, then it must be very luminous.

  • Right answer: Quasars are powered by the gravitational energy released by matter falling into a supermassive black hole.
The anthropic principle is stating a necessary condition to make the observation. It is not explaining the cause of the observed phenomenon.
Contents
1:05:04
What about the multiverse objection?

  • If there exists a vast multiverse, the probabilistic resources available to account for our finely tuned universe by chance are increased. Then, we could appeal to the Anthropic Principle.

  • Some cosmologists try to make the case that a multiverse actually exists.

  • Chaotic eternal inflation - popular universe generator. Assume for the sake of argument.

Contents
1:10:12
Problem 1: Why such a large universe?
"... do we really need the whole observable universe, in order that sentient life can come about? This seems unlikely ... Let us be generous and ask that a region of radius one tenth of the ... observable universe must resemble the universe that we know, but we do not care about what happens outside that radius ... we can estimate how much more frequently the Creator comes across the smaller than the larger regions. The figure is no better than 1010123. You see what an incredible extravagance it was (in terms of probability) for the Creator to bother to produce this extra distant part of the universe, that we don't actually need .. for our existence."
- Roger Penrose
If we live in a multiverse generated by a process like chaotic inflation, then for every observer who observes a universe of our size there are 1010123 who observe a universe that is just 10 times smaller. That means if the universe really did arise from chaotic inflation, from just a quantum fluctuation of a vacuum, then the universe that we see beyond our region of space, say the nearest few hundred million light years, is not really there its an illusion, if you take this to the extreme ...

Contents
[Shortly after 1:05:04]
Boltzmann Brains

"One argument that the universe had a beginning is that it hasn't reached thermal equilibrium or "heat death" yet. If the universe was infinite in age, it would have reached thermal equilibrium an infinity of time ago - so that is evidence of a beginning of time. Ludwig Boltzmann in the 19th century said the whole vast universe could be at thermal equilibrium except we only observe this tiny little patch. This patch is not in thermal equilibrium just by chance ... we have reached heat death but not in this tiny little patch. The bigger the patch is, the more improbable it is so the universe is much vaster than it needs to be to account for our existence. If you just have a solar system pop out of a statistical fluctuation its much more probable than to have this big vast universe pop out of a statistical fluctuation. Then if we see this big vast universe and just our solar system popped out of a statistical fluctuation, then it must be an illusion, The stars that we see are really not there, everything beyond the solar system is an illusion, you have to believe in illusionism so it was rejected."

1:11:31

"The Boltzmann argument is relevant to the multiverse argument today."

"Taken to the extreme we can have a universe pop out of a quantum fluctuation that contains one brain. Boltzmann's brains are by far the most common observers in the multiverse given their small size. The smaller the universe the more probable it is. Its far more probable for a Boltzmann's brain to occur in a multiverse than our vast fine-tuned universe with its long history. And so you're more likely to be a free floating brain than a person with a real history living in a 13.7 billion year old universe. The world we observe then is an illusion. You're the only person who actually exists. All your memories are false. The probability of forming our universe out of a quantum fluctuation at its present state with the appearance of age is more likely than forming it with its finely tuned initial conditions and its long history and so this is called the attack of the Boltzmann brains and its a real conundrum for the multiverse advocates. They basically have to give up realism and the whole world around them is an illusion if they want to believe in multiverse because the most common observer in the multiverse is a Boltzmann's brain."

[Q&A 1:27:00]

If the multiverse theory is true then the most probable reality is that there is no fine-tuning, the universe arose as a quantum fluctuation consisting only of your brain, and everything else is an illusion. To believe in the multiverse is to believe in illusionism.

Contents


1:12:50
Problem 2: The rejection of rationality

  • Anything that can happen, no matter how improbable, does happen countless many times in the multiverse.

  • Anything can be attributed just as readily to human design or to chance fluctuations of the quantum vacuum of the inflaton field.

  • Renders all scientific reasoning and explanations unreliable. Must believe in random miracles!

Multiverse cosmology can explain the origin of all events no matter how improbable, as long as they're not impossible, by reference to chance because of the infinite probabilistic resources it provides. Events we explain in terms of known causes based on ordinary experience are just as readily explained in multiverse cosmology as chance occurrences without any causal antecedent.

There is no way to attribute events to causal physical laws. All causes as seen to be related to effects really aren't. They're just chance fluctuations. Chance events. So you do away with the possibility of all scientific reasoning because scientific explanation and reasoning are unreliable. You must believe in random miracles. The scientific method is dead if you believe in the multiverse.


Contents
1:14:24
The best explanation

  • Design is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.

  • From our uniform and repeated experience, objects we know are designed are always associated with minds and never otherwise.

  • Multiverse cosmologies invoke causes we have no experience with and Anthropic explanations fail on our universe. But, we do have direct experience with minds.

  • The cause of the universe is a transcendent, immaterial, timeless Mind.

"You can think of the universe as a kind of artifact and that artifact points to a designer. If you add to this the evidence for a beginning to the universe from another session, the cosmological argument, then you have a cause of the design already available to you. So if you already accept the cosmological argument there's a cause waiting in the wings to employ in explaining the design of our universe ... the fine tuning. The cause of the universe must be a designer who is transcendent, immaterial and a mind that exists in a timeless eternity and I think that is quite consonant with the Christian idea of God."


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Belief in religion and spirituality gives meaning to life in a way that atheism cannot.


Contents

Introduction

Atheists say the universe is meaningless. Here is how atheist Richard Dawkins describes it:

Richard Dawkins

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.
- Out of Eden, page 133.

Some atheists claim that they can find meaning in life without religion. But, personal experience and empirical evidence suggests that spirituality and religion give meaning to life in a way that atheism cannot.

Contents

My Experiences

Spiritual beliefs give meaning to my life in a way that atheistic beliefs which I once held did not. Spiritual development is an eternal process. In the afterlife, you go to a place and have things to do that are appropriate for your level of development. Life on the earth is about developing yourself so that you can progress in the afterlife and go to new places and have new things to do. This means learning to be a better person, being more loving, tolerant, forgiving, less selfish, less egotistical because those qualities are what make you fit for a higher level in the afterlife.

During a period in my life when I was an atheist, I read that if you treat others badly, if you act disreputably, then you will think of yourself as disreputable. To have self respect you must treat others honorably. This is a better reason to act ethically than fear of punishment in the afterlife or fear of karmic retribution. It had a major influence on me and I still consider it a valuable lesson that I could not have learned without being an atheist. So I think there can be a spiritual purpose in being an atheist. But ultimately that lesson was based on self interest not on concern for others.

Knowledge of the afterlife makes a huge difference in life and it is not remotely comparable to being an atheist. When you know the universe is benevolent, that you are loved by God and your spirit friends who are rooting for you and helping and guiding you to meet life's challenges, life means something different than if you are just trying to be a good person until you die at which point everything is over. You know there is an eternity in which you can have fun and be happy together with your loved ones so any sacrifices, losses, or unpleasantness in this life are mere bumps in the road, lessons to learn from. Suffering teaches you compassion for others who are suffering. Doing wrong teaches you forgiveness for those who may wrong you. These lessons have value to you throughout eternity. When you are a materialist, every second that is not pleasant is a second you are cheated out of from your short life. When you are a materialist any character development that occurs because of hardship is useless after you die. As a believer in the afterlife, you want do what is right because you understand we are all in this together, some are less advanced some more, you want to help others to be part of the system that brings help to you. You know you will have to live with the knowledge your decisions for eternity. There is also the prospect of a life review where you will experience how you influenced people from their perspective.

Contents

Empirical Evidence

My experience is just one data point. However empirical research shows that belief in religion and spirituality do make life more meaningful:

Andrew Sims past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists explains:

The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land.

In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.

Knowledge of the afterlife deters suicide. Lessons From the Light by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser p.257-258:

As far as I know, the first clinician to make use of NDE material in this context was a New York psychologist named John McDonagh. In 1979, he presented a paper at a psychological convention that described his success with several suicidal patients using a device he called "NDE bibliotherapy." His "technique" was actually little more than having his patients read some relevant passages from Raymond Moody's book, Reflections on Life after Life, after which the therapist and his patient would discuss its implicatins for the latter's own situation. McDonagh reports that such an approach was generally quite successful not only in reducing suicidal thoughts but also in preventing the deed altogether.

...

Since McDonagh's pioneering efforts, other clinicians knowledgeable about the NDE who have had the opportunity to counsel suicidal patients have also reported similar success. Perhaps the most notable of these therapists is Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist now at the University of Virginia, whose specialty as a clinician has been suicidology. He is also the author of a classic paper on NDEs and suicide which the specialist may wish to consult for tis therapeutic implications. (14)

Quite apart form the clinicians who have developed this form of what we migh call "NDE-assisted therapy," I can draw upon my own personal experience here to provide additional evidence of how the NDE has helped to deter suicide. The following case

...

For more information on research that shows the benefits of religious and spiritual beliefs scroll down to the References section at Skepticism, The Big Lie. Activist Skeptics and Atheists are a Danger to the Health and Well Being of Believers.

Contents

Examples of Personal Transformation

I've never heard of an anyone saying that materialism, or "scientific ethics" or humanism, transformed his life. But many people who convert to religion do say that it transformed their life for the better. All the atheists' talk about rational ethics is just talk. But when you come to believe God, that is something completely different. It is not theoretical it is something practical that changes your life for the better.

Many people (examples below) find that while believing in atheism, life is bleak, lacks love, and is ultimately selfish. When they come to believe in God life is about love and caring for others and not about yourself and that makes people happier. Logically, an atheist could believe in unselfishness and love, but it seems that for practical reasons there is something about belief in God that makes it work where mere philosophy doesn't.

This is not just a psychological phenomenon. It is evidence that God exists. John Lennox pointed out that it would be strange if beings on a planet without water became thirsty, similarly it would be strange that people are drawn to God if God did not exist.

As I wrote above, I've never heard of atheism helping anyone to turn their life around the way religion has done for many people. Here are some other examples of how religion transforms lives:

Dan Conway

Neither of professional musician Dan Conway's parents were religious and he was an atheist until he felt his life was going in the wrong direction...

The relevant part of the video starts at 9:38

In some way's I guess things were going well. As you said I got to perform on Australia's Got Talent. ... I'm no stranger to the music business so ... I had a record deal when I was 16 with Sony and another one sometime later I think with EMI. So I was no stranger to all that. But, I was actually really unhappy. And I was only growing more unhappy. And I wasn't living well. The more time went on the more I was hurting myself and others. It wasn't pretty. I came to a place where I just want to think ... maybe there's something to this God thing and maybe I missed it. So I thought, I want to know. I want to know I don't really want to be into what feels good or what suits me I actually want to know what's the truth.
This was an from an atheist from birth, born to atheist parents being skeptical about atheism: "I don't really want to be into what feels good or what suits me. I actually want to know what's the truth".

And so I committed I'm going to figure it out. I'm going to commit to following the evidence wherever it leads. I became a regular debate viewer on line and read books on God and his existence. When I got real radical I'd listen to a sermon or two. All as an atheist. But the most crucial part of that was really when I examined my own heart and did that the very last. But when I saw what was in there and when I considered who Jesus might be that led me to believe in God. Everything changed at that point. I guess I had a really a change of being. Somewhere deep I don't even know where. And that changed my thinking my desires, my outlook, so I guess it was natural that my music changed with it.

I've heard and read a lot of stories like this and it is one of the reasons I have a generally favorable opinion of religion. This type of evidence shows that there is something good in religion and rather than rejecting all religion because some of it is bad, we should try to understand what is good in it and figure out how to use that in a practical way to improve people's well being.

Lee Strobel

Religion has also helped Lee Strobel.

Strobel is a journalist and his research into the authenticity of the Gospels transformed his life. He started out as an atheist skeptic but when he used his credentials as a reporter to get access to the worlds leading historians, the results of his research made a believer out of him.

"... [believing] began a transformational process for me where over time my philosophy and my attitudes, relationships, parenting, world-view, all of that began to change over time for good. Really for good."

"When Lee became a Christian his whole life started to change to the extent that our five year old daughter who also saw those changes went to her Sunday school teacher and told her that she wanted Jesus to do in her life what He had done in her Daddy's life."

Contents

Atheistic Meaning is Conflicted

Atheists may claim they find meaning in life but there are logical problems with such claims.

The quote by Richard Dawkins in the introduction to this article explains the atheist view of the universe as having "... no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference."

The section Materialism is not a Rational Philosophy in my web page on Skeptical Fallacies explains why materialism is incoherent and no materialist can trust his power of reason and so under materialism any meaning a materialist might find in life cannot be considered rational.

Science cannot explain how the brain might produce the subjective experiences of consciousness. In order to avoid the conclusion that consciousness is non-physical and not produced by the brain, many atheists say that consciousness is an illusion. In that case any meaning an atheist might find in life would have to be considered an illusion too and how can any one have meaning in life if they believe their feelings of meaning are illusions?

Materialists may say they can create meaning from nothing but that doesn't mean they do.

John Lennox on the problem of evil and suffering.

John Lennox points out that according to materialism the 9/11 terrorists, Stalin, or Hitler, cannot be blamed because they were "dancing to their DNA", so it is inconsistent to believe in materialism and then to criticize God or anything else on moral grounds. But materialists do recognize morality despite their philosophical views that good and evil do not exist. When materialists claim that there are scientific grounds or humanistic reasons for morality, it is just another example of materialist incoherence, another weird thing people believe. If you believe there is no good and no evil, but you believe some things are good and others are evil, then how can you trust your faculties of reason and believe anything?

Richard Taylor

The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are morally wrong, and they imagine that they have said something true and significant. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion. He concludes, Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.
...

Dennis Prager

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, "Do not murder," murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins's reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church's teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That's why we have the word "rationalize" -- to use reason to argue for what is wrong.

...

In that regard, let's go to the empirical argument. Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners' lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, "Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?"

Without hesitation, he said, "a Polish priest."

Lecture by John Lennox Explains why Atheism is a Delusion Incompatible with Science.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”
Viktor Frankl
... “If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. “I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers

Because materialism is incoherent you can't trust the reliability of any belief such as "meaning":

Francis Crick

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.

John Polkinghorne

If Crick's thesis is true we could never know it. For, not only does it relegate our experiences of beauty, moral obligation, and religious encounter to the epiphenomenal scrap-heap. It also destroys rationality. Thought is replaced by electro-chemical neural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong. The simply happen ... The very assertions of the reductionist himself are nothing but blips in the neural network of his brain. The world of rational discourse dissolves into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly, that cannot be right and none of us believes it to be so. "
Lecture by John Lennox Explains Some of the Scientific Evidence for God.

Albert Einstein
You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.
Nietzsche
Indeed, only if we assume a God who is morally our like can “truth” and the search for truth be at all something meaningful and promising of success. This God left aside, the question is permitted whether being deceived is not one of the conditions of life.

Contents

Theoretical Knowledge is not the Same as Experience

The difference between meaning contrived by atheists and the meaning that comes from religious belief is like the difference between book learning and experience. You can't really internalize spiritual love without feeling that the universe is ultimately benevolent and that you are loved. The atheists can say what they like about meaning but unless they've had a religious or spiritual experience they don't understand what it is. Giving up a bad religion and becoming an atheist is not equivalent to finding a good religion and giving up atheism. And religion doesn't necessarily guarantee this experience. Some people go through the motions of religion out of habit but it doesn't mean much to them in daily life. It's a sad fact that bad religion drives many people to atheism. But some people do have a transforming experience, either by learning about religion or from a personal experience like an NDE, where they recognize that God exists, He loves us even though we may be flawed, and God is for us not against us, and they live with that understanding every day and that seems to be central to this type of transformation. If we are made in God's image or if the stuff of our soul is the stuff of God, then if you don't love God you don't love yourself. Recognizing that God loves us releases something inside us, it helps to rid one of feelings of fear, self-hate, anger, and guilt. It's like having a great weight lifted off your shoulders, it is liberating. The truth sets you free, free to be happy and loving. You don't get that from ethical humanism. This is why organized religion, done right, can be beneficial - besides teaching about God, being able to go to the right kind of church once a week, being surrounded by like minded people, helps a person to maintain this understanding in the face of the many messages we are bombarded with many times a day encouraging us to be selfish. I know many people get this from some Christian churches, I know from my own experience you can also get this from some Spiritualist churches.

Contents


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Scientific Deceptions: How science is misused to promote atheism.


Sometimes atheists try to discredit people who believe in God by calling them "anti-science". However, belief in God does not conflict with science and it is the atheists who harm science because they misuse it to deceive the public about belief in God.

Here is a list of several scientific deceptions that atheists use to promote their metaphysical beliefs:

  • Methodological naturalism.
  • God of the gaps.
  • Only scientific explanations are valid.
  • The Multiverse
  • The universe came from nothing.
  • Promissory Materialism
  • Wish Fulfillment
  • Natural Evolution
  • There is a natural explanation for near-death experiences.
  • Methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism is the belief that science should only concern itself with natural causes for phenomenon. It is a deception because it allows atheist materialists to say science shows that there is no God, when by their definition of science, science cannot show there is a God. It is illogical and unscientific to limit explanations a priori based solely on metaphysical preferences. Science should be the search for the truth without restrictions.

  • God of the gaps. Some atheist say that people who believe in God claim that anything that science can't explain is caused by God. This is a deception because as John Lennox explains theists believe God created the universe and the natural laws scientists are trying to understand. They believe this because of logical reasons and empirical evidence. They don't limit God's role to just those things science can't explain.

  • Only scientific explanations are valid. Atheists may try to discredit beliefs which have not been proved scientifically. This is a deception because science is not the only way to arrive at the truth. Philosophy, personal experience, witness testimony, legal rules of evidence, expert opinion, and empirical observation are all valid ways of obtaining information. John Lennox points out that atheists say scientific explanations should supplant theistic explanations for phenomena. This is a deception because there are different types of explanations and theist explanations do not conflict with scientific explanations any more than Henry Ford and mechanical engineering conflict as explanations for automobiles produced by Ford Motor Company. Furthermore, science is limited to certain fields of investigation, it cannot explain things that cannot be reduced to chemistry and physics such as mathematics, ethics, the meaning of life, information, and semiotics.

  • The Multiverse The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is so improbable that it is strong evidence that the universe was designed. In fact it has convinced some scientists to believe in God. Atheists say the multiverse theory can explain the existence of our universe because if there are an infinite number of universes each with different characteristics, then it becomes probable that one like ours will exist. This is a deception because the multiverse theory, for which no evidence exists, is unfalsifiable, leads to incredible absurdities, and does not eliminate the fine tuning problem.

  • The universe came from nothing. Some scientists say that the universe arose from nothing through the operation of natural laws. This is a deception because natural laws are something, they are not nothing.

  • Promissory Materialism Atheists claim science will eventually provide natural explanations for many phenomenon that science cannot currently explain. These phenomena include the results of parapsychological experiments, consciousness, the origin of life, and the origin of the universe. Atheists justify this claim because they say that over time science has always provided more and more support to the materialist position. This is a deception because there are many cases where new scientific discoveries undermined the materialist position.

  • Wish Fulfillment Atheists often claim belief in God is false because it is due to wish fulfillment - the psychological phenomenon of thoughts that satisfy a desire. This is a deception because satisfying a desire doesn't make a belief false. You have to determine the truth or falsity of a belief based on evidence. Belief in atheism satisfies a desire for those who would be afraid of punishment in the afterlife or who look forward to an end to suffering from extinction at death. But this is not why atheism is false.

  • Natural Evolution Atheists often claim that evolution can explain anything. For example, sometimes atheists say belief in the afterlife and belief in God evolved because these beliefs are beneficial. This is a deception because if we evolved to believe something, that doesn't prove the belief is false. You have to determine the truth or falsity of a belief based on evidence. There is enormous evidence that the afterlife is real and that God exists Furthermore, natural evolution is not supported by the scientific data.

  • There is a natural explanation for Near-death experiences. Atheists often try to discredit the evidence that near-death experiences are experiences of the afterlife. They do this by suggesting many different "natural" explanations for the phenomenon. This is a deception because when you look at the details of near-death experiences, none of these natural explanations actually explain the phenomenon.
Also see: Skeptical Fallacies and Skeptical Misdirection

Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Video: John Lennox on the problem of evil and suffering.



In this video, John Lennox points out that according to materialism the 9/11 terrorists, Stalin, or Hitler, cannot be blamed because they were, (paraphrasing Richard Dawkins below), "dancing to their DNA", so it is inconsistent to believe in materialism and then to criticize God or anything else on moral grounds. But materialists do recognize morality despite their philosophical views that good and evil do not exist. When materialists claim that there are scientific grounds or humanistic reasons for morality, it is just another example of materialist incoherence, another weird thing people believe. If you believe there is no good and no evil, but you believe some things are good and others are evil, then how can you trust your faculties of reason and believe anything?

Outline of the Lecture

  • There are two kinds of evil. Moral and natural.
  • There are two perspectives on the problem, the doctor trying to help, and the patient suffering. One must be sensitive to both perspectives.
  • Three worldviews: materialist, theist, pantheist.
  • If God exists why is there evil?
  • The suffering of others causes some people to believe there is no God.
  • Atheists claim to have solved the problem: according to materialism there is no good or evil, and the problem vanishes.
  • But materialists do recognize good and evil.
  • Atheism is not a solution it does nothing to alleviate suffering.
  • If there is objective morality there must be a God.
  • There is no objective morality without God.
  • Is belief in God part of the problem?
  • Jesus did not advocate religious violence and was acquitted by Pilate of stirring up violence.
  • Atheism doesn't solve suffering, it leaves you without hope.
  • Rather than a solution there is a way of looking at the problem.
  • God could have made a world without suffering.
  • But, if there was no suffering there would be no love because for love to be real people must have free will, and to have free will people must be free to do evil.
  • None of us is perfect, none of us would be in a perfect world.
  • Q&A

Quotes from the Video

David Hume paraphrasing Epicurus:
"Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

Richard Dawkins

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.
- Out of Eden, page 133.

J. L. Mackie

If ... there are ... objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have ... a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.

Richard Taylor

“The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are morally wrong, and they imagine that they have said something true and significant. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion. He concludes, Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

Manfred Lutz via Simon Wenham

The problem with these types of argument is that, as Manfred Lutz points out, Freud can provide an equally compelling reason for why someone might believe as to why they might disbelieve. Yet, crucially, when it comes to discerning the all-important matter of which position is actually true, he cannot help us.(5) As this suggests, just because you want to believe in something does not mean that it is true.

Czeslaw Milosz

“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”

This quote is not from the video but it is on the same subject so I include it here:

Dennis Prager

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, "Do not murder," murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins's reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church's teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That's why we have the word "rationalize" -- to use reason to argue for what is wrong. ...

In that regard, let's go to the empirical argument.?

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners' lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, "Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?"

Without hesitation, he said, "a Polish priest."

...


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Naturalism is an extraordinary claim.


Most people don't understand that naturalism is an extraordinary claim. The following should help to explain why it is:

The laws of nature seem to be relatively simple mathematical relationships. There are only four fundamental forces known by science. How is it that just by chance simple natural laws and a big bang would include or produce all the factors necessary for the universe to support life: 20 or 30 cosmological fine tuning parameters, at least 15 factors needed to produce habitable planets, at least 20 chemical factors needed for complex life? How is it possible that simple undesigned natural laws working alone could produce the complex machinery of cells and the information needed for simple life and macroevolution? How could such finely-tuned complexity arise at every scale from the atomic to the cosmic from simple undesigned unguided natural laws controlling chance interactions within the universe? The immensity of the problem is a compelling argument for design. If you wanted to design such a complicated thing from simple mathematical relationships, it would require a huge amount of intellectual effort. How could it happen just by chance? (The multiverse, for which there is no evidence, doesn't explain it.)

According to naturalism, undesigned natural laws caused stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang. Inside stars, undesigned natural laws allowed the nuclei of hydrogen atoms and helium atoms to be fused into stable heavier elements like carbon, oxygen, iron, and all the rest. Then undesigned natural laws caused these stars to form supernovae and explode distributing chemical elements throughout the galaxy. These undesigned natural laws ensured that there are not too many supernovae which would be dangerous to life or too few which would not provide enough elements to form planets or life. But the right amount of elements are distributed and planets form that can support life. The chemical elements, due to undesigned natural laws have just the right properties to form bonds that can be broken and reformed according to the chemical needs of biological life.

The cosmological fine-tuning parameters include: the expansion rate of the universe, the gravitational force constant, electromagnetic force constant, the initial entropy of the universe, the mass density of the universe, the strong nuclear force and many others. All these parameters have to have exactly the right values or life could not exist in the universe.

The factors needed for a planet to be habitable include: a location in the habitable zone around its star, its star's location in the galactic habitable zone, a main sequence G2 dwarf star, gas giant planets to protect inner habitable planets from comet impacts, a nearly circular orbit, an oxygen rich atmosphere, the right amount of water, a correct mass, a large moon, plate tectonics, a hot liquid iron interior, a moderate rate of rotation, and other factors.

The point here is not that the earth or the biological life on it is unique, there might be many planets in the universe like earth. The point is how lucky it is that all these factors needed for life, according to naturalism, arise from undesigned unguided natural laws. Given the complexity of the factors needed to support life and the improbability of life originating and evolving naturally, the more life we find in the universe the stronger the argument for design is. And there is plenty of evidence for life elsewhere in the universe. (Some skeptics may ask, if the universe was designed for life, why doesn't life form spontaneously? Consider a computer, a computer is designed but programs don't arise spontaneously, they have to be designed. Similarly, in a universe designed for life, life also has to be designed.)

The chemical factors needed for complex life include: Carbon's unique ability to form many different biological compounds. Water's properties as a solvent, its viscosity is just right, it has a high heat capacity which keeps temperatures on the planet and in organisms stable, it is extremely effective for evaporative cooling, it expands when it freezes so it floats providing insulation which keeps large bodies of water, oceans and lakes, from freezing solid which would make life impossible. Oxygen is used in energy metabolism in living organisms, it's produced by photosynthesis in plants, O2 is not a greenhouse gas.

The complex machinery in cells includes: DNA, RNA, enzymes to replicate DNA, enzymes to create mRNA from a DNA template, ribosomes to produce proteins from mRNA, a tRNA for each codon in the genetic code and as many enzymes to connect each tRNA with its amino acid, nuclear membranes, cell membranes, proteins in the membranes that control what goes in and out through the membrane, enzymes used in cellular metabolism, proteins that help other proteins fold, microtubules, etc, etc

The law of conservation of information and the no free lunch theorem indicate that biological information, the information in DNA, could not arise spontaneously from chance, mutation, and natural selection. The only known source of information is an intelligent mind.

Yet, according to naturalism, all the conditions needed for life and life itself are supposed to self-organize through the action of undesigned natural laws working by themselves? To paraphrase Fred Hoyle it seems more likely that a superintellect has monkeyed with the laws of chemistry and physics.


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm starting another blog.


I have started another blog, ncu9np, in which I will post links to articles, videos, and podcasts that I find interesting. It will include, but not be limited to, the subjects I write on in this blog. Posts on the new blog will not have much commentary, I will continue posting to this blog when I want to express my views on something.


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.