Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Duality of God and Science in Creation

Let me begin by saying as to the premise of this posting, even as a theist, I cannot say with absolute certainty that God exists any more than any atheist can prove with certainty that He doesn't. At least I know that I was unable to do so. That said, I find that science and faith are not necessarily a dichotomy but rather are a duality.  In other words science and faith in a God-creator are absolutely compatible and indeed hard to fathom as separate in the creation of the universe and life as we have come to know it.

As a somewhat precocious teenager, after witnessing the horrible death of my father to cancer, I set out to try and muddle through much research in the attempt to prove to myself that God was the very myth many folks proposed Him to be.  The funny thing is that over the course of the next decade, the more I read and researched the more I found minds far more brilliant than mine will ever be that made very compelling cases for the existence of God.

How is it that all of the known (and unknown) creation of our universe came into being?  What was the genesis of it all, if you atheists will pardon the term?  How can such an incomprehensibly complex universe that supports life as we know it come into being simply by untold quadrillions of fortunate results of random chance?

In my past research I came across a certain Nobel Laureate and high energy physicist by the name of Professor Steven Weinberg, an admitted skeptic, who wrote, "Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values... One constant does seem to require fine tuning."  This constant to which he was referring has to do with the energy of the big bang.  Weinberg quantifies the tuning to one part in 10 to the 120th power.  In other words if the energy of the big bang were different by one part out of 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 there would be no life anywhere in our universe.  That is an amazingly tuned degree of energy that was the catalyst for this universe.  Uncannily so, I'd say. 

Further, there are many other factors at play in the formation and existence of our universe that have such a remarkable degree of precision that if changed even minutely would necessarily negate the chance for life in the universe as we now know it.  Just a few of these items include the following:

1.) The strength of the electromagnetic force (which encourages atoms to form molecules)
2.) The strength of the nuclear force which holds atomic nuclei together.  (If it were even a minute bit stronger, the di-proton and not hydrogen would be the major component of the universe, hence no burning stars.)
3.) Gravity
4.) The very mass and energy of the big bang
5.) The temperature of the big bang
6.) The rate of expansion of the universe

If, during the formation of the universe, myriads of factors were left to pure random chance, as many atheists claim was the case,  then we evidently have "won the lottery” trillions and quadrillions of times by defying mind boggling odds on any one of these few properties. 

Further, let’s look at the stupendous appeals to chance in the building of life from the other perspective regarding carbon based life forms.  The likelihood for amino acids to form by chance, which are the building blocks of proteins, and thus the building blocks of our life is astronomical.  This process being replicated repeatedly by random chance in order to form intelligent life is so miniscule as to approach impossibility.

Life as we know it is based on the element carbon.  It is the sixth element in the periodic table and the only element that is capable of forming the long and complex chains necessary for life.  Now the very formation of carbon is quite remarkable in its unlikelihood.  To form carbon, a radioactive beryllium (number four on the periodic table) must absorb the nucleus of helium (number two) and thus form the number six element of carbon.  (4+2=6 ….simple!)  The issue is that beryllium is very short lived.  Indeed the mean life of radioactive beryllium atom is 10 to the minus 16th seconds.  In other words, its mean life span is 0.0000000000000001 seconds.  In that exceptionally brief period of time, the helium nucleus must find, collide with, and be absorbed by the beryllium nucleus to create carbon… the building block of life.  The ONLY way that the helium nucleus can be absorbed by the beryllium atom in that sliver of time before the beryllium atom decays is if the energies of these two nuclei are exactly matched to the necessary levels of excitation.  And they are indeed matched precisely.  If this reaction were prevented by a mismatch in energies, then the universe would not contain hardly anything other than hydrogen and helium, and certainly not any life.  It is uncanny the precision of this, if not done by intended design.

Even something as simple as the earth being 93 million miles away from the sun instead of 92 million or 94 million miles determines whether life on earth comes into being.  Either of the former or the latter would doom our very existence as the temperature on earth would be too hot or too cold to support life. 

Now I know all of these scientific facts don't specifically point to a Christian deity, (and in the interest of keeping this posting shorter than a Tolstoy novel, I will breach that subject in a future posting) but even just these few items I have mentioned are so significant that, to me, it takes more faith to believe that ALL of these things happened by the amazing luck of random chance coming to benevolent fruition a googolplex number of times rather than by the hand of a divine creator.

It has been said by Sir Fred Hoyle, the British Astronomer, that the spontaneous emergence of a single cell organism from random couplings of chemicals is about as likely as the assemblage of a Boeing 747 by a tornado whirling through a junkyard. 

How much more complex is a fern, or a dog, or human than such a single cell organism?

No, I feel far more confident in the science that supports my faith in a creator than the possibility that life exists because it won the lottery a googolplex number of times.  When something becomes so infinitesimally small of a likelihood of happening that it approaches zero, then I would say that logic would dictate that the possibility of God must be the only true answer.

16 comments:

Annie said...

Well said. Ever read anything by Behe? Fascinating reading.

T. Paine said...

Isn't he a biologist or chemist that argued pretty eloquently for intelligent design? (I think he is also a Catholic, if I am not mistaken.)

John Myste said...

I wrote a response to this, but it is greater than 4096 characters. I am going to try to reduce the size of it. It may not be today. I tried to keep it small and it ended up being 5264 characters. Your writing is far too provocative to have a site with this restriction. You have outgrown blogger.

John Myste said...

One more thing: It is too bad you do not have the blogspot url hidden under a domain name. Had you done that, you could move to something else without breaking everyone's link to your site. You would just re-point to the new site.

You could get that now. If you did, your site would be down for as much as five days or something, but once you had the domain name, so long as it was wired up through blogger, any attempt to access the blogspot address would be forwarded to your URL.

The Heathen Republican said...

Science always seeks to explain, and scientists don't claim to have all the answers. In contrast, religion does try to provide every answer.

Mankind has been doing the same thing for centuries. We get to a point where we can't explain something (i.e. thunder, an eclipse, birth defects) and we assign a supernatural cause to it. It's no different with the universe. We explain what we can, and then we assign a supernatural cause to what we can't.

I don't find the extraordinary odds that something happened to be a good argument for a divine creator. Isn't that the black swan argument? It's so rare so we assume it's impossible. Until it happens.

And you misconstrue the argument that it's all about random chance. Opponents of evolution often mischaracterize the process as an accident or random chance. In fact, it's the culmination of a lot of experiments, most of which fail, going down multiple paths until a valid result comes up. It only looks like an accident because you're looking at the one result from its end state instead of the trillions of experiments and all the failures.

I don't think atheism requires any faith on my part. I'm simply living and accepting of the universe around me. I don't have some faith in the Big Bang the way you would have in a creator. Science isn't something that I need to have faith in either; it's simply a methodology for explaining the natural world. I've never seen something that is supernatural (e.g. can't be explained by natural causes) so I don't need a methodology for explaining the supernatural.

I don't know the answer, either; I don't know if there is a god. I agree that the odds of producing life are miniscule and the configuration of the universe and our solar system appear to be astronimically rare. For me that's just a clear indication that life is precious and needs to be protected. Long odds aren't a proof for a creator.

What I know is that if there is one, he doesn't interfere with our daily lives, and that's in essence the same as not existing. If he doesn't interfere, why is he relevant to me? So I live life as though there is no god.

Anyway, good post and great exposition on the intelligent design/creationist arguments.

John Myste said...

Assuming they were valid, none of your arguments imply that God created anything. They do support the idea of intelligent design and intelligent control. If we accept the concept intelligent design, we cannot therefore also conclude that the designer is omnipotent or omniscient, as that would be illogical. I will address the arguments that are weakest first and the more powerful one last.

Shuffle a deck of cards. The odds are greater than the miracle you mentioned that they will not be sorted exactly as they are. Another blogger somewhere listed the exact mathematical odds and compared them to the speculative odds Hoyle provided. It turns out that if you use Hoyle’s math, that the shuffled cards will be sorted in any specific order was less likely than the assembling of the 747 by the tornado. Unfortunately, it was long ago and I no longer remember where his article is.

Statistics used for prediction make sense, but they do not work as a retroactive refutation of what we empirically see already.

The problem with Hoyle’s reasoning is twofold.

1. It does not consider the number of possibilities that were left to amazing chance, where one of these miracles would have to happen. If one must happen, it is not miraculous that one does, but is rather, the anticipated result.

2. All things that happen were just as likely not to have happened as any other. These include the order of the shuffled deck of cards or stepping outside and seeing a specific beetle or the evolution of humankind, if that happened. In honor of its author the study of critical thinking sometimes refers to this understanding of statistics as "Hoyle's Fallacy." That something statistically unlikely happened is evident and needs no further proof.

3. This does not refute Hoyle directly, but does refute the use of his argument to support the theory of the existence of God. There is a false choice people make: Did God create us or did we evolve through the process of evolution? The question is illogical, and one we cannot legitimately beg. Here are the reasons why:

A. God could have created us through the process of evolution. There is no reason to regard the two theories as mutually exclusive.

B. There is no reason to believe either of these happened. Both are theories to consider. Evolution is far more logical than Christians admit and far less logical than the scientific community admits. Christians and scientists both make the same error. They assume that they have to answer the question. There is not enough data currently present to answer the question, so to assume we have the answer is not logical. That is the honest answer. Science and pseudo-science are both now entertaining a third option, that something more advanced than humans may have seeded the planet with something greater than apes. That is a third option. A fourth more likely possibility is that the answer is something we have yet to consider.

The flaw in each sides reasoning is ultimately the same. They think they have to answer the question, even without the sufficient supporting evidence. It is like if I instruct you to draw a card from a deck of 52 and you inform me that you will draw the Ace of Spades. I say unlikely, and you counter with “then what card do you say I will draw.”

That what happened was one of many utterly improbably possibilities offers evidence of nothing.

I consider the theory that an omnipotent, omniscient force as the answer to be utterly untenable, as assuming such a being exists makes no logical sense, and certainly defies science as we know it. Concepts requiring extremes of knowing, or doing, defy all natural laws we currently embrace or can even dream up.

I am bumping up against the 4096 character limit.

[Continued in next post. … ]

John Myste said...

[Continuation of previous comment …]

Finally, your best argument:

"There are many other factors at play in the formation and existence of our universe that have such a remarkable degree of precision that if changed even minutely would necessarily negate the chance for life in the universe as we now know it."

I would suggest that perhaps your awe at how things don't self-destruct notwithstanding, recorded history is young and a millionth of an eon may be all we get. That seems like a long time to a human who lives a short time. Granted, there is plenty of time for things to go horribly wrong. Your awe at the continued existence of the universe does not imply intelligent control. Your lifetime is but an instance. This is my short answer. I do not claim that is better than your question, but I must avoid getting really wordy.

T. Paine said...

Heathen Republican and John Myste, I appreciate the comments from both of you very much. I am struck by the fact of a common argument you both make in that the odds of life having happened as being astronomical and therefore seemingly nearly impossible until the fact that life did indeed come into being. I can very much understand and even assume that one of these events occurring to fruition is indeed possible. I would even say that the possibility of half a dozen of the necessary elements coming into focus in order to produce the environment for life as we know it is possible, although the odds really do become stretched at that point. What I cannot fathom, however, is the literally incalculable number of aspects that had to come together precisely as they did, in the order that they did, with precise timing, temperatures, energies, and places in relation to each other throughout time and space in our universe for life to develop on earth.

The extremely rare occurrence of HR’s Black Swan is indeed a wonderful anomaly, but the genetic components coming together for that unlikelihood to occur are as nothing when compared to the grand list of things that must have happened just to provide the planet, atmosphere, environment, etc for the fruition of the DNA of that swan to come into being. I can accept beating the odds and winning the lottery once, or indeed even a dozen times, but certainly not trillions. Again, the likelihood of this happening by sure chance is so slight as to approach impossibility.

HR posits that, “religion does try to provide every answer.” I don’t know about other religions, but in my Catholic tradition, there are many brilliant theologians that explicitly do not try to provide an answer for every question and indeed in many of the greater questions often refer to our “mystery of faith”. As Myste stated, there are many things we simply do not have enough information yet with which to logically deduce what the true answer is. I would concur and am satisfied in my ignorance on some issues which it is currently impossible to know.

T. Paine said...

(cont.)

HR next stated, “What I know is that if there is one, (God) he doesn't interfere with our daily lives, and that's in essence the same as not existing.”

I, through my eyes of faith, would dispute this assertion, sir. I see and attribute God’s presence in my life every day, even though I often overlook or fail to acknowledge Him. This very week, my wife had become very ill and had an enzyme in her body that is typically around a marker count of 300 spike up to 11,000. It started breaking down her muscle tissue and had the potential to affect her organs. The doctors in the hospital tried their typical treatments, but through my faith and prayer and those of many friends and family, the outcome finally turned around like the flipping of a switch. Where these enzyme levels were dangerously high and not quickly subsiding to the point where my wife was coherent and improving, all of a sudden from one night to the next morning the improvement was inexplicable. Science, when they don’t have the understanding for a rational explanation in something would call that “an insufficiently caused event”. In my faith, we call that a miracle and give thanks and praise to God for it.

Next, Myste writes, “Assuming they were valid, none of your arguments imply that God created anything. They do support the idea of intelligent design and intelligent control.”
Indeed, I must concur with you on this, and even said that my arguments don’t imply the existence of a Christian Deity at least. You are correct that my arguments don’t conclusively provide for the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient God in any form. This is a topic I hope to develop in a later posting, after further research.

For my limited mind though, the odds of life in our universe occurring are so infinitesimally small in probability that to have beaten those odds suggests to me that there was indeed an intelligent design behind life. I choose to believe through what science and my own faith has teaches me, that the explanation for this is indeed the handiwork of my God.

Finally, I acknowledge that God could have used the tool of MICRO-evolution in His development of the species. The science against macro-evolution, however, is pretty damning. It is interesting to note though that even Charles Darwin acknowledged the existence of God. In his Origin of Species, including the sixth edition in 1872, (the last edition in Darwin’s life) he wrote the following, “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

The Heathen Republican said...

Discussions on belief and non-belief can become contentious quickly, so let me say at the outset I'm not trying to challenge what you know and believe.

I think religion tries to explain everything through blanket statements like, "It's God's will," or "have faith." I agree that theologians don't try to investigate every aspect of humanity and provide an answer; just that there is a lot that has to be taken on faith, which itself is an explanation for the unknown.

I apologize for not expanding on the Black Swan argument; I assumed you would recognize the reference. I wasn't trying to argue about the DNA needed to produce a black swan, only the story that scientists convinced themselves during the age of exploration that black swans did not, and could not exist. That their existence was an impossibility. Until one day, a black swan was discovered. The point I was trying to make was that we believe something to be exceedingly rare or even impossible, until we learn that it isn't. In other words, the long odds or the lack of evidence is not enough to draw a conclusion from.

Next, you say "I see and attribute God's presence in my life every day." I have no doubt that you do. I spent many years doing the very same thing. But would an objective observer also attribute the every day occurrences in your life to God? Better yet, just because you attribute them to God, does that mean there is not a perfectly natural explanation for the event, or is God the only possible attribution?

On the long odds argument, someone else recently posted on this, but I can't find it in my history. He articulated the multi-verse argument, where there are multiple universes playing out, of which we are only one. The odds of life are so astronomical, but we live in the one that beat the odds. To us, as the only universe with everything correct, it appears like we won the lottery, but this is the only universe where life could develop to even understand the odds. And it wasn't trillions of universes, but 10 to the power of 500, or some such number. It's just a theory, but one that provides an adequate explanation for the long odds, in my opinion.

Regarding evolution, I've heard the micro-evolution vs. macro-evolution debate before, and there exists a rebuttal to your claims. Nonetheless, I'm not a paleontologist, so I don't try to defend evolution. It suits me as a perfectly natural explanation for much of the world around me, and doesn't require a supernatural explanation.

All the best to your wife. I'm sure no one was praying that she wouldn't get better, but today there will be a lot of people around the country praying for the Packers to win and a lot praying for the Steelers. As a firm believer in the power of prayer, how will God decide who he allows to win?

T. Paine said...

No worries, HR. I am not easily offended, even when my faith is challenged. Indeed if my faith was so fragile that it couldn't withstand questioning, then it would not be much of a faith. I appreciate your respectful demeanor nonetheless, sir.

I have heard the multi-verse theory too and while I suppose it is a possibility, there is absolutely no proof to substantiate it whatsoever to my knowledge.

I am not absolutely certain that the assertions I have presented are infallible; indeed I may be completely wrong on all accounts. I mereley am attempting to make sense of a universe with what data and knowledge and faith I currently posess, and offer it up as a potential explanation.

It is a means for a point of discussion for me to see if my ideas, knowledge, and faith can withstand scrutiny.

I humbly welcome your evaluations and contradictions always and on every topic I post accordingly. (Feel free to disagree and I promise I will not scourge you like we sometimes get over at Dubya's site, my friend!) :)

John Myste said...

I read an article in Scientific American that suggested that the multi-verse theory is gaining wide acceptance, though I find it questionable. Of course, I think it makes for more sense than an omnipotent being as the explanation of our existence.

I think what you said was really the crux of the biscuit. Your faith is not fragile and it cannot be challenged without proof to the contrary. The burden of proof is no burden when faith steps in. I could claim the origin of the universe is the product of a wish had by a unicorn’s horn, and you could never prove otherwise. As we cannot rely on chance as our explanation, I think the unicorn horn theory is pretty good.
As for Heathen, I greatly appreciate your lack of religion, which is rare for a conservative, but your tax theories just make me crazy.

The Heathen Republican said...

John, I can't wait to hear your critique of my stance on taxes. I need someone intelligent to challenge me, instead of the usual tax-the-rich crowd.

John Myste said...

Heathen,

There are two types of philosophical writing I attempt. The first is intelligent analysis. I usually fail at that one. The other is satire, in which I usually sacrifice intelligence for self-amusement. Unfortunately for you, I found your essay rife with satirical targets. I started writing what I thought was an intelligent response, then converted it to a satirical one, which was too damn long. I now have the task of trimming it.

I have been working all weekend and have not had time to complete that task, but it is next on the list. I keep a long list of responses because a few bloggers, namely, Burr Deming, Vincent (whatever his last name his), Arash, whatever his last name is and T. Paine, and Mad Mikes America keep me inspired constantly. I have a blog of my own, but I never have time to publish on it because all of my essays get published as comments on the sites that inspired them.

Anyway, I hope to deliver your request Monday. Keep in mind, it is all in good fun.

As for you, Mr. Paine. I respectfully accept your implied concession regarding the duality of God. I wrote a novel, actually a manuscript, as I never published it, which contained a misuse of the concept of a duality in the opening pages. It was, of course, satirical and the point I was making was that a the concept of a duality allows you to accept a great many contradictions.

The Heathen Republican said...

Here's the link I mentioned earlier: http://pleadignorance.blogspot.com/2011/02/thank-god-for-luck.html.

John Myste said...

That's a good site, Heathen. Got any more?