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.

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