A REASONABLE CASE

A discussion about religion, reality and reason
CHOOSING AMONG THE EXPLANATIONS
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CHOOSING AMONG THE EXPLANATIONS
28th Sep 2014, 2:37 PM
Average Rating: 5 (2 votes)
Author Notes:
alschroeder
Continuing down the list of six possible explanations for the "anthropic" coincidences in nature which allow intelligent life to evolve...largely inspired and derived from George F.R. Ellis' brilliant brief book, BEFORE THE BEGINNING. He is NOT responsible, though, for the liberties I've taken with his logic or how I've chosen to illustrate it.


Well.


Believe me, I respect and acknowledge any who might disagree with my conclusions. I freely acknowledge that science cannot distinguish between pure chance and design that works within the laws of nature--nor can I claim this is rock-solid unassailable proof. It is, as I said on the outset--a reasonable case.


But any who might be new here, go back in the archives and look at the various coincidences mentioned under Coincidence One, Two, etc...and start to add them up.


The sextillion times a sextillion figure was taken from Smolin's estimate on the chances of stars forming. I deliberately didn't use the larger estimates such as Penrose's or the estimates about the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant. This was enough for my purposes.


In my opinion only, the universe doesn't explain itself. Chance is logically unassailable (I can't PROVE that it didn't just happen to fall that way) but the specific constraints on the developement of life and especially intelligent life cries out for a "special explanation".


Anyone who believes in pure chance as an explanation has much GREATER faith in chance than Thomas More, Mother Theresa, or C.S. Lewis had faith in God, in my opinion.


Many will have problems with the idea of an Originating Intelligence on the grounds that it is "Supernatural", an emotionally-laden word. "Overnatural" might be better--that the laws of physics are a matter of deliberate choice, intelligent choice--by SOMETHING over natural law.


Note that a Designer MIGHT elect to work through any explanation--many-worlds, the Hartle-Hawking model, etc. (St. Augustine realized a Creator might work through any method. Notso many modern physicists, who are better at physics than philosophy.) But, in the words of Martin Gardner in the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, no less...


"The stark truth is that there is not the slightest shred of reliable evidence that there is any universe other than the one we are in. No multiverse theory has so far provided a prediction that can be tested. In my layman’s opinion they are all frivolous fantasies. As far as we can tell, universes are not as plentiful as even two blackberries. Surely the conjecture that there is just one universe and its Creator is infinitely simpler and easier to believe than that there are countless billions upon billions of worlds, constantly increasing in number and created by nobody. I can only marvel at the low state to which today’s philosophy of science has fallen."


Next, we'll look at some objections to the Design theory--starting with Dawkins' recent "Ultimate 747" argument next week, and then go onto the problem of evil--and see if we can find additional confirmation for our (admittedly tentative and slight) argument in favor of Design--in explaining additional phenomena.


This strip isn't over. But it's downhill from here. Thanks for sticking with me to this, the 50th strip.

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User comments:
tom (Guest)
Al,

Thanks for the work you put into this project.

Really enjoyed the discussions in comments. Appreciate the opportunity to suggest there are reasonable alternatives to your case. (Occam's Razor, indeed).

Looking forward to the denouement.

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frettle
frettle
whilst I have no problem with the universe designing itself as it goes along, a separate design agency begs the question what designed that... and that is a never ending chain too....



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jamoecw
that is the crux of it, isn't it? a singular unique event is not very reproducible, is it. and then to say that an event by definition can't be observed with any real certainty on top of that sorta puts it in the faith realm of things. that's why i sorta feel the origin of the universe shouldn't be held as scientific fact. the big bang is a faith that is heavily ground in science. it inspires scientific discovery and thought, but it is still a faith of sorts.
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Al Schroeder (Guest)
Thanks, Tom. There are more factors to be added in; and there are always reasonable alternatives to most cases. I hope to nail it down a little further.
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Al Schroeder (Guest)
Frettle: well, I DO have problems with the universe designing itself as it goes along, since the main place we're seeing any possible design is in the initial conditions and laws. Imagine a baby picking out its own hair color, eye color, etc. before it's born...after that, there seems to be little "meddling" in what's existing.

You're right that a Designer's origin is mysterious, but that's true for ANY explanation---including even if the present universe is the only thing there is. (Even the Hartle/Hawking model doesn't really explain, but sort of sidesteps, how without TIME, the universe changed into a mode where it DID have a time dimension from a four-dimensional spatial entity. Seems like you'd have to have time to make the change...since change implies sequence, which implies time...)

The conditions we observe in the universe we SEE don't point to any self-design and self-correcting features when it comes to the natural laws. That's why I do hold the transcendent explanation as likely. Otherwise, I have to assume the universe just happened to have the values, constants, and boundary conditions to eventually evolve life, when it seems clear most combinations wouldn't evolve anything.
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frettle
frettle
:)

ok I'll put it another way - I don't see why whatever it is that designed the universe we see [if that is the case] should be thought of as something separate.. it will just be 'another layer up' into some 'area' we cannot see or understand that is all just part of one 'existence'

that is what I don't have a problem with

I don't actually know of course, one way or the other

keep up the good work, I love things that make me think...



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man in black
man in black
Great page
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