CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

First, I apologize to everyone for my disappearing act. I am in the midst of a project at work that is taking all of my time. So, in place of my own work, I did want to point out the following resource for those interested in the cosmological argument for the existence of the universe.

In my research, I came across two interesting essays by Dr. Taeil Albert Bai. Dr. Bai is the president elect of the Association of Korean Physicists in America, and is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics, Wilcox Solar Observatory, Stanford University.

The first essay is entitled "The Universe Fine-Tuned for Life". The second is entitled "Accident or Design". The first essay sets forth some of the evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe to support life, and the second looks at three common arguments used to explain the fine-tuning. According to the notes on the papers themselves, "[t]his article is adapted from a section of the book entitled The Creative Universe and the Creating God being written by the author."

In the paper "Accident or Design", Dr. Bai discusses the multi-universe theory which seeks to explain the apparent fine-tuning by arguing that there may be many universes out there, and that this universe may be one of billions of universes that have been created. Dr. Bai notes that the many-universe theory has a major flaw: it violates Ockham's Razor.

I have previously discussed Ockham's Razor in a post I wrote concerning Rene Descartes famous "I think therefore I am" logic. In that post, I wrote:

Occam's Razor, sometimes called "Ockham's Razor" (by Sir William of Occam or Ockham, another Christian with a few interesting variations in this theology), says: "Don't multiply entities beyond necessity." Roughly translated, this means that we shouldn't posit the existence of causes if there is other simpler explanation for the matter being explained.

Does the multi-universe explanation for the existence of the fine-tuned universe violate Ockham's Razor? Oh, yes, most certainly. Dr. Bai, in his four page essay, first observes a problem that exists in the view that the multi-universe theory makes God weak or non-existent, but then points out how it almost certainly violates Ockham's Razor.

Some scientists are more willing to accept the existence of a large number of universes than the existence of God because they want to go as far as possible without invoking God. Can the many-universe interpretations be a firm basis for atheism? According to Ian Barbour,[6] the atheistic interpretation of the many-universe hypothesis relies on the interpretation of chance as antithetical to providence. However, according to Charles Hartshorne[7], chance is not antithetical to providence but is God’s way of fully exploring the potential of the universe (or universes). One may reason that the God who creates a very large number of universes in order to get a few habitable universes is not very powerful. But isn’t the ability to create a large number of universes as powerful as, if not more powerful than, the ability to create one and only habitable universe? One may regard creating a very large number of universes to get a few habitable universes as wasteful. However, is it not more wasteful, if God has abilities He does not use?

In selecting between God’s design and the many universes theory, one may use the criterion of Ockham’s razor. According to it, the simplest explanation that is compatible with the observed facts is the best one. Which is simpler: the existence of a large number of universes that can neither be detected nor proven or the existence of an omniscient God’s foresight and design in the creation of our universe? Many people, including me, think that God’s omniscience is a simpler explanation than the hypothesis of a large number of universes.[8,9]


Dr. Bai has been gracious to make three chapters from the upcoming book available through his home page. They are Chapter 1: Why Me?", "Chapter 2: Changing Images of God", and "Chapter 11: A New Perspective".

Given Dr. Bai's standing as a professor at Stanford and his apparent good standing in the scientific community, I find it interesting that I don't find the usual litany of evolution(ism) hate-literature directed at him such as is directed at William Dembski, Michael Behe, and other scientists who find evidence of divine intervention in the universe. After all, according to the apostles of evolution(ism), only us scientifically uneducated bumpkins could believe in God. Is it because his views about the fine-tuning of the universe are unknown or is there some other reason for the silence?

19 comments:

"After all, according to the apostles of evolution(ism), only us scientifically uneducated bumpkins could believe in God."


And Dawn Treader said I had a snippy, superior tone.


I'll agree, a multi-universe model is not very Occam friendly. Neither is the God model.


As to the good Doctor, I think his finely tuned universe is without a scientific control. He posits that a universe differently formed would not support life.

He assumes without observation that he knows all the possible universes under which all the possible forms of life could form.

That's an assumption of knowlege as large or larger than the knowlege of God himself.

To assume something larger than God as a way to prove God.... what would Occam say?

Could you post a link to where William Dembski claims to find evidence of divine intervention in the universe please?

Is there scientific evidence that this universe is all that exists?

Hi BK,

Firstly, Occam wasn't a knight, he was a Franciscan Friar. Not sure that he ever got a doctorate either, Bruce, although he is referred to as a doctor in some later sources.

Also, fine tuning does not postulate 'intervention' by God after the universe was created. Thus it is wholly compatible with Deism. I'd also say that it is wholly compatible with neo-Darwinism. Indeed, it seems to me that ID (by requiring God to intervene after creation) demeans his creative act. But that is another story.

Basically, though, fine-tuning is nothing to do with ID. That is why evolutionists don't touch it - it isn't their department.

Best wishes

James

If the fine-tuned universe is "without scientific control," as Bruce said, it is also virtually without scientific dissent. That the universe is fine-tuned for life is broadly agreed; the controversy is only in what that implies.

Bai violates the dictum that ID theories are all about American political religion; he's Asian. That may be part of the reason he is not getting the strong backlash of other ID people. More likely, though, it's because his work is in cosmology rather than biology; cosmology has been more open to this kind of thinking for some time.

Bede and Tom G completely catch this canard I missed:

...I find it interesting that I don't find the usual litany of evolution(ism) hate-literature directed at him...


Ummm.... could it be because cosmology is a different field than biology? BK, when writing a science article, it would help your credibility if you could keep these things straight.


I find the fine-tuned universe somewhat logicically unsound though. A truely all-powerful God could create life in any universe.... fine-tuned or not. If this universe has to be fine-tuned for there to be life, then God obviously can't make His own physical laws, and merely has to follow physical laws set elsewhere.

So, in essence, theists who champion a fine-tuned universe assume that God doesn't set the parameters for fine-tuning, he's merely following a design written elsewhere and elsewhen.

And we all know, design implies a Designer. So who designed the laws for the universe that God had to follow in order to fine-tune it for life?







P.S. Bede, I called Dr. Bai "Doctor," Not Occam..... hmm..... "Doc Occ"?

Dr. Bai does have a point in that even if there were said number of universes, none of this sweeps away providence, meaning, or a creating force like God behind it all.

Trying to find some scientific argument against God is just a subjective interpretation of the evidence, the implications taken further than the evidence (if there were indeed many universes).

I would be fine if there were numerous universes, but the fact is where we are right now scientifically can't support it. It is not falsifiable at this moment.

The point is one universe with one cause is simpler than billions of universes with whatever number of causes....or still one cause - God?

"I find the fine-tuned universe somewhat logicically unsound though. A truely all-powerful God could create life in any universe.... fine-tuned or not. If this universe has to be fine-tuned for there to be life, then God obviously can't make His own physical laws, and merely has to follow physical laws set elsewhere."

Well, that assumes God hasn't created life in any other universe under different conditions or in our own universe in a patch with different conditions, assuming there are other universes, and that the only reason God creates is for life.

Studying the universe I think most could agree that there are so many other things going on than just life that perhaps life is not the only reason God creates, creation is magnificent as well.

Plus God, at his own choosing, could decide what conditions in each universe could produce life. Most Theists would agree God is the origin of the conditions of the universe, or if it were somehow proven there were others universes, those conditions as well. So perhaps an all-powerful God created our patch of the universe to have these conditions to support life, while in another universe or part of our universe there are different conditions to support a different kind of life there too, if God even wanted to create life there at all.

Oh yeah, one more thing I don't think I said anything about...

"And we all know, design implies a Designer. So who designed the laws for the universe that God had to follow in order to fine-tune it for life?"

I'm pretty sure Theists would usually respond to this that God is the designer that chose the laws in our part of the universe for life to be successful. Perhaps God could have used opposite conditions for life to flourish. Whatever conditions God chose for this universe or another to create whatever life or not, it would still be in God's choice to lay out the parameters for any type of existence he chooses. After all, saying anything different would be putting limitations on an infinite being.

"I'm pretty sure Theists would usually respond to this that God is the designer that chose the laws in our part of the universe for life to be successful. Perhaps God could have used opposite conditions for life to flourish. "

Exactly. Which destroys the "fine tuned universe" assertion.

One cannot simultaneously argue:

life cannot exist in different types of universes, ergo God
God exists, ergo life can exist in universes with opposite conditions

Hmmm touche.


Maybe it destroys fine-tuning in the sense that life cannot exist in different types of universes therefore God, but maybe not fine-tuning in the sense that creatures exactly like us on a planet exactly like ours happened an exact way because of the conditions in our unique universe set by God? Assuming God or existence would have different conditions for different kinds of life, God or existence has done so, and a multiverse.

Either way, many universes or not, the question of if we are here for a reason or not or if we are created or not would still not be answered on scientific grounds.

The overall point of the post was that a universe with a cause is more simple than many unobserved universes with cause or causes and that if there were many universes with or without life this does not rule out providence.

I had to type this fast because I have to go to work, perhaps I will come back later to actually read what I'm typing :).

If the value of gravity was a little bit stronger, it would be a miracle if we were alive.

If no miracle has happened, God must exist.

I still would like to see where BK got his claim that Dembski has argued that science shows a divine intelligence at work.

That would be of great interest to certain people, and would make any future court-cases about ID in schools very interesting indeed.

I think I will let the philosophical issues between fine-tuning and the multiverse settle in my brain for a while, but until it is shown that there are other universes and that there are different conditions than ours which can produce life in those universes, fine-tuning in the sense "life cannot exist in different types of universes, ergo God" can still be debated.

Back to the implications of the multiverse: if there are other universes that don't have life, it will still be the same argument. One side claims something like us was bound to happen while the other says life is here specifically for a reason, that we are unique.

And if there is another universe with life, perhaps they are fine-tuned in a different way to be created as something different than us because of God's creativity.

But, yet again, a multiverse and life being created under much different conditions has yet to be shown.

Lurchling wrote:

"Either way, many universes or not, the question of if we are here for a reason or not or if we are created or not would still not be answered on scientific grounds."

No, and I don't expect that "ultimate cause" reason to be found by science anytime soon, if ever.

I just think the fine-tuned universe argument is a non-starter, because it limits God to a laboratory scientist, forced to work within the constraints of a natural world. I can see why a scientist like Dr Bai would gravitate (!) toward it.


In essense his idea, like Steven points out is this:

This universe seems built to support life, ergo God
However, if the universe looked like it could not support life, and we still existed, well then REALLY ergo God!

So there's no possible structure of the universe that could falsify Dr. Bai's premise, so long as we existed.


Which means his statement is scientifically vaccuous, since all propositions point to the same conclusion:

"We exist, therefore God exists."

Which is a faith position. Outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

Now I realize that I'm no Doctorate of physics. I'm not a cosmologist at Stanford. I further assume that Dr. Bai is doing useful science in his position. But I think that in his theological writing he's taking that faith position and dressing it up in cosmology.

If he were a Christian psychologist, I'm sure his book would involve his faith and his experience with psychology, and how those intersected.

But I don't presume that his "science" proves his "faith position." In fact, it neither proves nor disproves it.

Lurchling wrote:

"One side claims something like us was bound to happen while the other says life is here specifically for a reason, that we are unique. "

That's why I'm wary of anyone advancing either argument. They are aguing likelihood based on a known dataset of exactly one.

"I still would like to see where BK got his claim that Dembski has argued that science shows a divine intelligence at work.

That would be of great interest to certain people, and would make any future court-cases about ID in schools very interesting indeed."(Steven Carr)

I'm not sure if we're thinking about the same thing, but the establishment clause in the United States Constitution forbids an establishment of a particular religion, and theism doesn't equal religion. Thus, if a cogent, supported scientific theory existed that had a god as an hypothesis, it wouldn't be an issue for teaching in schools(other than people falsely associating theism with religion, it's quite possible to be an irreligious theist(like Deism) or vice versa, to be a religious atheist(like Buddhism). I'm not saying that Dembski's ID is cogent or supported, but there's no problem, constitutionally speaking.

"But I don't presume that his "science" proves his "faith position." In fact, it neither proves nor disproves it."

I completely agree. Sometimes I lose track of my original point (as you certainly know Bruce :)).

"Trying to find some scientific argument against God is just a subjective interpretation of the evidence, the implications taken further than the evidence"

I quoted myself just to note that this goes both ways, for or against God.

Lurchling made a good point here:

"The overall point of the post was that a universe with a cause is more simple than many unobserved universes with cause or causes and that if there were many universes with or without life this does not rule out providence."

I agree with that statement.

If there are multiple universes and life in all of them, then it doesn't rule out providence. Likewise if there are multiple universes and life in none but ours, it similarly doesn't rule out providence.

This is very interesting discussion in a field where I've read little. The most interesting comments here, for me, are Bede's. But then I believe Bede is fully ready to embrace evolution and Christianity. I am as well.

While the Razor is a fascinating tool, I'm curious about exceptions. How is it applied to the intricacies of biology or the oddness of quantum? In short, how reliable is it as a tool to examine/explain/critique all known causes and systems in reality. I like the Razor, sure, but in the inductive world how has it played out? I don't know.

The most intriguing thing to me about the universe, or what pathetically little we know of it, is that we're all sitting here typing out this conversation, thinking, that our critical thought processs are real. Also, that humans are quite complex emotionally, even spiritually (in a general sense). At the core of human need, Christian or skeptic, is love, surely, and the fact that Christianity realized that in the ancient world, described a God of self-sacrifical love, is impressive. In short, I have placed faith in Christ for many reasons, the intricacies of matter and biology are low on my personal list though they're on there. It's a different list for others, of course.

To (drift) back onto the topic at hand: I do agree that sometimes science/scientists will posit extraordinary explanations which are comfortably materialistic but completely speculative. If there are multi-universes out there and they're somehow deficient compared to ours, so? Maybe those other universes are like failed species in Earth's history: steps to where we are now, universe-evolutions which have led to the life-producing one we live in. And if they're equal or superior to what we live in, as balanced and life-positive, that does nothing to undermine a Creator. Of course, science can't observe these multi-verses and probably never will. Not in my lifetime.

t

Yo y'all. I've been busy, but let me respond to some things here.

First, with respect to Steven Carr's twice stated question: I overstated what Dembski shows but I did so because I was adopting the viewpoint of his detractors without saying so. His argument is that there is evidence of design without identifying the designer because we don't have sufficient evidence at this point to know who the designer is. I agree with that. The statement that I was making about Dembski finding evidence for a creator was my restatement of how skeptics see Dembski's argument.

Bruce, I sometimes adopt a snippy tone, but it is in reaction to the nastiness that I am constantly reading directed at those who hold a theistic viewpoint. I apologize. However, the God model is very in line with Ockham's Razor. Sure, it takes an additional entity, but there is evidence for that entity independent of the existence of the universe and so it is merly employing the God that we have other reasons to believe exists to fill in the holes that naturalism cannot fill without positing universes that they have no reason to believe in.

Oh, and BTW, I find it interesting that you should chastise me for what you view as confusing biology and astronomy. If one has evidence of design and pointing that out is reason for the naturalistic attack dogs to launch their attack, why isn't the other?

Bede, just to be clear: I do agree that theistic evolution is a valid approach. As we have discussed before, I simply believe that the evidence shows that God did intervene, and it is hardly demeaning to God to do so. So, to the extent that you want to stay with theistic evolution, I will not argue with you -- just disagree. :)

BK wrote: " However, the God model is very in line with Ockham's Razor. Sure, it takes an additional entity, but there is evidence for that entity independent of the existence of the universe and so it is merly employing the God that we have other reasons to believe exists to fill in the holes that naturalism cannot fill without positing universes that they have no reason to believe in."

If we're discussing physics and the evidence that can be brought to bear on physics, it does not advance physics or follow Ockham to bring "other reasons" from outside the realm of physics. Using theology to prove a point in physics doesn't add up. You may have "other reasons" for believing in God. I may have "other reasons" for believing that the sun goes around the earth, including divine revelation, but no matter how you push, you cannot shoehorn it into a physics argument, as the set of axiomatic assumptions in theology are totally different. If you're having a physics discussion, posit the "God force" and then we'll see if there's evidence in physics for such a thing, or if you're violating Ockham. Doing an end-run to another realm outside of physics to make a physical argument is an implicit statement that "physics isn't the appropriate forum for discussing physics". A nonsensical assertion if there ever was one.

"Oh, and BTW, I find it interesting that you should chastise me for what you view as confusing biology and astronomy. If one has evidence of design and pointing that out is reason for the naturalistic attack dogs to launch their attack, why isn't the other?"

Again, "naturalistic attack dogs?" Good purple prose there. You mean "Darwin's Rottweiller", Dawkins? He's a biologist. Most practiced anti-intelligent design/anti-creationists are.


Cosmologists are asleep to the threat that theocratic pseudo-science poses to public education. Biologists know from experience where this leads. The day that Christians start taking over school boards and inserting their own astronomy textbooks where they simply make stuff up, I'm sure you'll have a whole new set of "naturalistic cosmological attack dogs."


"Bede, just to be clear: I do agree that theistic evolution is a valid approach. As we have discussed before, I simply believe that the evidence shows that God did intervene, and it is hardly demeaning to God to do so."

Here's what I can't get, and I wish someone would explain it.

The "Fine-tuned" universe idea (at least Bai's version) states that the universe was finely-tuned to bring about life, ergo God.
The "Intelligent design" idea (Demski's version) states that the universe cannot bring about life, so God intervened, ergo God.


And then, BK, what do you think of my idea that Dr. Bai's argument is nonsensical, since all possible universes (both mundane and exotic) which contain humans point to God in his model?


Also, what do you think about the point of the "pre-designer" that set the laws that God had to follow?

Dr. Bai argues in his paper "The Universe Fine-Tuned for Life ":

Yes, God would have had many choices if He had wanted to create a barren universe. However, in order to create a universe where life is possible, with the same set of natural laws as ours, it seems that He had only limited choices.

Which begs the question: "Who designed the natural laws that constrained God's choices when He fine-tuned the universe?"

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