The only thing left was the big planetarium show. I managed to hook up with my posse on line, and together we went inside. Alas, we ended up sitting in the front row. This meant that even when we took advantage of the tilt back feature of the chairs, it was difficult to see some of what was going on.

Having visited the Hayden Planetarium in New York, this one looked a bit cheesy. The domed ceiling was a bit lower than you would normally expect for a show of this kind. On the other hand, the presentation itself certainly had a professional feel to it.

The show was called “The Created Cosmos.” Let’s have a look.

The show opened with some familiar sentiments:

As we learn more about the universe, we are continually amazed at the astonishing diversity and intricacy we find. Though marred by the curse, the universe still exhibits the handiwork of the Lord. By learning more about the intricacies of its celestial realm, we gain an infinitesimal glimpse at the infinite mind of God.

One of the themes of the show was a consideration of different scales that are found in pondering the universe. For example, the Moon orbits the Earth at an average distance of 240,000 miles, but the distance of the Earth to the Sun is 400 times greater. All of our satellites and manned space flights barely penetrate at all into space. Neptune orbits 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth does. You get the idea. Lot’s of “Gee whiz!” stuff here.

Next up was a long discourse on different stars (they’re even farther from the Sun than the furthest planets in our Solar System.) We got a pleasant reading of facts about Alpha Centauri, Sirius and the like. Some talk about constellations. The first interesting thing arose just near the seven minute mark:

The center star of Orion’s belt is called Alnilam. It is a blue, super-giant. Twenty-five Suns could be lined-up across its disk. Blue stars like Alnilam are very luminous. They expend their fuel quickly, and can not last billions of years. So blue stars remind us that the universe is much younger than is generally claimed. Secular astronomers are forced to assume that stars like Alnilam have spontaneously formed in the recent past. However, star formation is riddled with theoretical problems, and has never been observed.

This was a throwaway line. The narrator was quickly on to the next star.

This is rather like arguing that since you saw a two year old at the mall, all of the other people you saw who looked really old actually are not old. The process of star formation is believed to take very long periods of time, on the order of millions of years. That notwithstanding, astronomers have some very well-developed theories about how stars form. These theories predict that stars should go through several distinct stages during their formation. When astronomers subsequently observe stars in every one of the predicted stages, they gain confidence in the correctness of their theories.

I see an anlogy here with creationist views on the evolution of complex strucutres. An evolutionist will discover many plausible precursor structures to a given complex system and conclude that that, coupled with all of the other evidence for evolution by natural selection, makes it reasonable to infer that complex systems evolve gradually. But a creationist wil say, “Fie! You have a bunch of individual functional systems. The evolutionary trajectory linking them is only in your head!”

Likewise here. Of course no one has witnessed the entire process of star formation. But seeing stars in various stages of development coupled with a decent understanding of the principles of the relevant physics make it reasonable to infer that stars form naturally and are continuing to do so. Unfounded extrapolation, cry the creationists. So much easier to assume all stars were created at once, presumably on day four of creation week.

Okay, back to the show. Betelgeuse, Rigel, the Plaedes star cluster, Orion’s belt. Looking back at our solar system from this vantage point some four hundred light years away, the Sun is not visible to the naked eye. A humbling thought. A rare point of agreement between me and the narrator.

Stars give way to planets. The narrator manages to give a reasonable discussion of detecting extra-solar planets by noting wobbles in their host stars.

After several minutes of raw facts about various oddities in the universe, it was time to get back to business. The narrator says:

In some rare cases, the planet passes directly in front of its star, as seen from Earth. The star V376 Pegasi has a planet that crosses its disc precisely every 3.52 days. Astronomers can measure the drop of the star’s brightness and determine the size of the planet. Of course, this techinique is only possible for the handful of star systems that are nearly edge-on relative to us. This planet is larger than Jupiter, but it is extremely close to the star. It orbits twenty times closer to its star than Earth orbits the Sun. This so-called “hot Jupiter” is a serious problem for secular models of planet formation. These scenarios have predicted that gas giants can only form far away from their parent star. Yet the vast majority of extra-solar planets so far detected are hot Jupiters. It’s a difficult problem for secular notions, but not for Biblical creation. Such diversity is what we would expect from the Biblical God.

Since the creationists are fond of pointing out that scientists base many of their conclusions on assumptions, allow me to point out that our friend the narrator is simply assuming that these planets formed in their current orbit. If they formed further away from their star and then migrated to their present location then the problem vanishes. Indeed, planetary migration is a well-developed idea in astronomy, and is the commonly accepted explanation for hot Jupters.

As for such diversity being what we expect from the Biblical God, I fail to see where the Bible says this. It looks to me like the Bible puts the emphasis on God’s creation of humanity and the planet we inhabit. All of that empty astronomical vastness sure looks like a waste of space from that perspective.

There followed some more talk about extra solar planets. I got a kick out of this:

Since current technology is not able to observe these worlds directly, we can only speculate what they look like. But we can be certain that their richness declares the majesty of their maker.

The narrator now launched into a discussion of basic facts about nebulae, globular clusters, pulsars, the Milky Way and galaxies. I smelled another challenge to “secular science” coming. Actually, though, it never came.

Instead the narrator fell into a rut of pointing to some impressive feature of the universe, and saying something about how its beauty testifies to God’s greatness. After five minutes of this, the narrator says:

Critics of the Bible have suggested that it is impossible for the light from these galaxies to reach Earth in only six thousand years. They claim that these galaxies prove the universe is billions of years old. But, in fact, there are several different ways to get light to travel these distances in a short period of time. These include, gravitational time dilation, altered synchrony conventions and others. In fact, spiral galaxies are a serious problem for the notion of billions of years. Their spiral arms contain vast numbers of blue stars which can not last billions of years. Also, spiral galaxies rotate differentially, meaning the inner portions rotate faster than the outer portions. So the spiral arms can not last billions of years. They would be twisted beyond recognition! But it’s not a problem for the Biblical timescale.

Gravitational time dilation? Altered synchrony conventions? Of course! That explains everything.

They seem to be really fond of that argument about the blue stars. Too bad it’s nonsense, as we’ve already discussed.

As for the bit about the spiral arms twisting themselves up, the basic problem here is that the narrator assumes the differential rotation of different parts of the spiral arms is the only fact of physical significance about them. Actually, the physics of these structures is very complicated. One thing the narrator ignores is the gravitational force exerted by the other stars and gas in the galaxy. This force tends to mitigate the twisting effect of the differential rotation. Go here for a farily detailed discussion of this issue. As that discussion makes clear, there is much that is mysterious about the formation and maintenence of these spiral arms, but what we know is enough to say that no fundamental challenge to basic physics is being presented.

After some more gushing about the awesomeness of the one who created all this, we began the long trip back to our Solar System. The narrator closes with:

The Earth may seem an insignificant speck compared to all that God created. Yet this tiny world is where God placed the crowining jewels of His creation. Of all that the Lord created, human beings alone have the privelege of being made in God’s holy image. And though we have reblled against our creator, he’s paid the penalty for our treason. It was on this small planet where the creator of the universe became a man and died our death. He then rose again, and has offered forgiveness for all who call upon his name. It is fitting that we should honor God for who He is, and for what he has done.

Very inspiring. In a post for the fundamentalist web site OneNewsNow, we find this news brief about the planetarium:

Dr. Jason Lisle is a speaker and researcher with Answers in Genesis (AIG) who designed the planetarium. He says the Stargazer’s Room makes the case for a young universe.

“We start from the Bible, and that’s what makes it a little bit different than so many other planetarium shows that you’ve seen before,” Lisle explains. “And we’re going to deal with age indicators, things like blue stars, which even my secular colleagues say can’t last billions of years,” he says.

Man, they’re really crazy about those blue stars. As for the show being “a little bit different” from other planetarium shows, I’d say that’s an understatement.

Coming Up: The Big Finale

Comments

  1. #1 Warren
    June 29, 2007

    Wait. Wait.

    How can they concede the distances in astronomy — yet reject the reality of evolution?

  2. #2 David D.G.
    June 29, 2007

    The stupefying level of willful ignorance, dishonesty, abuse of science, and general fraudulence overwhelms me and leaves me perilously close to nausea — and I’m only having a second-hand reaction from reading your account of that place. Were I to have been there myself, I probably would have spontaneously combusted in outrage at some point.

    Congratulations, Jason, on demonstrating the patience of a (secular) saint.

    ~David D.G.

  3. #3 Science Avenger
    June 29, 2007

    An evolutionist will discover many plausible precursor structures to a given complex system and conclude that that, coupled with all of the other evidence for evolution by natural selection, makes it reasonable to infer that complex systems evolve gradually. But a creationist wil say, �Fie! You have a bunch of individual functional systems. The evolutionary trajectory linking them is only in your head!�

    It is a common creationist tactic to claim that the only kind of verifiable science is one where the entire process can be observed by one person in one sitting. For everything that can’t be done with, it all falls into that big dismissable vat of what they call “speculation”. Thus you get statements like this

    Since current technology is not able to observe these worlds directly, we can only speculate what they look like.

    They just don’t get the scientific process of verification at all.

    Of all that the Lord created, human beings alone have the privelege of being made in God’s holy image.

    I sure hope I live to see the day we make bona fide contact with an intelligent alien culture. If we think Ham and his ilk spazz over evolution, we’d be in for a lot of “you ain’t seen nuttin yet”.

  4. #4 Dave Gill
    June 29, 2007

    Usually I read the accounts of fundy stupidity with a little detachment – I haven’t formally studied biology and consider myself a layman.

    But now they’re treading on my turf – I’ve been a planetarium educator and amateur astronomer for a very long time. All I can say is….

    THE STOOOOPID!!! IT BURNS!!!!!!!!

    What a waste of a fine planetarium instrument and facility!

  5. #5 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 29, 2007

    Phil Plait would be proud!

  6. #6 PC2
    June 29, 2007

    I just don’t understand how you can justify your belief in evolution because of the YEC falacy. Evolutionists point similarities in biological sequences as proof. Yet the real proof would be in proving the genome is flexible to random mutations. The fact is that the genome is not flexible to random mutations and that sub-species suffer a degrading of genetic information from the parent species. If the genome is proven to be not flexible to random mutations the the theory of evolution goes the way of alchemy. That is just plain simple science whether you like the philosophical implications or not.

  7. #7 Stanton
    June 30, 2007

    PC2, how exactly does “genomic degradation” tie into Young Earth Astronomy, and what report says this?

  8. #8 Kevin
    June 30, 2007

    “fact is that the genome is not flexible to random mutations and that sub-species suffer a degrading of genetic information from the parent species”

    please define or show as defined in normal usage

    flexible
    degrading
    genetic information

    if you said that the DNA in animals changes over time and therefor different types of animals come and go and we can relate the changes in DNA to the differences in animals…

    well then I would say you made sense. but you didn’t say that did you?

  9. #9 Stanton
    June 30, 2007

    Perhaps PC2 can explain how the appearance of the London Underground Mosquito, Culex molestans and the Honey Suckle Maggot Fly constitute the “suffer(ing) [of] degrading of genetic information from the parent species”?

  10. #10 Fred
    June 30, 2007

    Wait a second. They’re saying the scientists are completely wrong except about the life span of blue stars? I love how cut and dried it is to them that, literally, scientists are only right when they agree with (or can be warped into a semblance of agreeing with) their particular interpretation of the Bible. Amazing.

  11. #11 kai
    June 30, 2007

    I think these arguments about blue stars, dissolving spiral arms, rings around Saturn and others that are brought forth are really based on a single underlying concept: The Universe cannot have been and cannot become different from what it is exactly now.

    I don’t know if it is based in a genuine lack of imagination or if the idea is that since God created the Universe with a purpose and that purpose is tied to humans, an even slightly different universe from what we experience right now would belie that purpose.

    Considering that, I suspect that arguments about “water canopies”, coconut-eating dinosaurs etc are not really taken seriously even by their proponents, they are just ad hoc responses to shut up critics, that there actually would have been a difference between the world then and the world now is fundamentally inconceivable.

  12. #12 AJS
    June 30, 2007

    Kai wrote:

    I suspect that arguments about “water canopies”, coconut-eating dinosaurs etc are not really taken seriously even by their proponents, they are just ad hoc responses to shut up critics

    Hah! I’d love to trip the fundies up over something like that ….. dinosaurs eating coconuts and assorted, related sh*t.

    Do you suppose they have secret meetings, where rational people are carefully excluded, and where they dream up this nonsense in such a way as to be able to fit the undeniable facts which might be raised by some smart-alec to their own warped worldview?

    * “So, Ken, how can we reconcile the fact that rainbows are caused by refractive dispersion due to water having a refractive index which depends on wavelength with the myth that the first rainbow appeared after the flood?”
    * “Well, one way could be for there to have been no such thing as refraction before the flood.”
    * “No, that would mean we wouldn’t have been able to see at all before the flood — eyes depend on refraction!”
    * “Alright, then, how about if all wavelengths of light were refracted equally before the flood?”
    * “But then the sky would have been white, not blue, before the flood. I’m sure the Bible mentions the colour of the sky somewhere before the flood.”
    * “OK then, how about if there was no such thing as rain before the flood?”

  13. #13 Rules For
    June 30, 2007

    PC2, you must be a genius! All those poor, confused biologists working with the theory of evolution for all these years, when it is as easily disproved as alchemy with “plain simple science.” You’re a fool whether you like the implications or not.

  14. #14 Stanton
    June 30, 2007

    You’re a fool whether you like the implications or not.

    Thank you for that spectacular newsflash.

  15. #15 Valhar2000
    June 30, 2007

    PC2, what did your paragraph mean? Flexibility to random mutations? What is that? What are all the other concepts you mentioned? What do you accept as a good definition of DNA Information?

  16. #16 MartinM
    June 30, 2007

    altered synchrony conventions

    Presumably the official name for John Hartnett’s revolutionary ‘time was magically slower during the creation week’ hypothesis.

  17. #17 AJS
    July 1, 2007

    I think you’ll find greater genetic diversity in domestic dogs than in grey wolves, of which they are generally acknowledged to be a subspecies. Things that don’t help in the wild are not actively selected against in a centrally-heated home with regular meals and safe exercise laid on, thus allowing more of the possible diversity to express itself.

    It might actually be an interesting experiment to attempt to reproduce different dog breeds, starting from wolves. What you’re basically doing is removing most of the environmental selection pressures, allowing mutants to flourish. A lightly-built puppy that might not ordinarily survive in the wild because it has different food and exercise requirements from its siblings, would get to pass on its “thin gene” in the safe environment we have created, and over a few generations its offspring end up becoming some sort of proto-greyhound.

    This probably still won’t satisfy the ID crowd, though, as you are not actually creating distinct species.

  18. #18 Bunjo
    July 1, 2007

    AJS:

    You may be interested in the experimental taming of silver foxes which resulted in some dog-like features alongside tameness. A good starting point is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tame_Silver_Fox.

    It would be interesting to continue this experiment to see if it results in reproductive isolation and the formation of a new species (although by artificial rather than natural selection).

  19. #19 Peter Henderson
    July 1, 2007

    Excellent reports Jason, and a thoroughly enjoyable read, just like the ones from the mega-conference two years ago.

    As a Christian who has sucessfully completed at least one degree level astronomy course, much of what AiG are telling Christians is just pure lies.

    For example, the distant starlight problem doesn’t even seem to phase them, and I’ve watched Jason Lisle talking nonsense about gravitational time dilation etc. as well.

    Also, one his favourite statements:”A light year is merely a measure of distance, not time” really makes me angry as it’s just misleading Christians into thinking this is unimportant. In science you can infer certain things from the evidence presented. In astronomy, the fact that galaxies are at great distances from the earth (even our closest neighbour, Andromeda, is 2.2 million light years away) means we are seeing these as they were long ago (billions of years in mant cases). Even the sun appears as it was some 20 minutes ago. How Jason Lisle can deny this fact and then tell other Christians that “a light year isn’t a measurement of time” is beyond me. In Lisle’s talks he does admit that the distances are real but not once does he even talk about “standard candles” and I’m sure the museum doesn’t either.

    The blue stars argument is just nonsense. The fact that more massive stars the sun live very short lives is irrelevent. It’s reckoned that the most common type of star in the Universe is actually the Red Dwarf. These stars are less massive and not as hot as the sun, and they have life spans which are much longer. Lisle should go and learn a bit about cosmic recycling. Since he’s a qualified astro-physicist he probably already has, but he doesn’t impart these facts to his audience.

    Also, I’ll bet the cosmic microwave background radiation wasn’t mentioned either ! Indisputable evidence that the big bang actually happened. I haven’t heard their interpitation of this yet !

  20. #20 PC2
    July 1, 2007

    The YEC position is easily defeatable in astronomy. Yet when astronomy as a whole is looked at, the problem for materialists becomes severe. For example the Anthropic Principle that has recently come to light provides many unexplained problems for the materialists.
    The numerical values of the universal constants in physics that are found for gravity which holds planets, stars and galaxies together; for the weak nuclear force which holds neutrons together; for electromagnetism which allows chemical bonds to form; for the strong nuclear force which holds protons together; for the cosmological constant of space/energy density which accounts for the universe’s expansion; and for several dozen other constants (a total of 77 as of 2005) which are universal in their scope, “happen” to be the exact numerical values they need to be in order for life, as we know it, to be possible at all. A more than slight variance in the value of any individual universal constant, over the entire age of the universe, would have undermined the ability of the entire universe to have life as we know it. On and on through each universal constant scientists analyze, they find such unchanging precision from the universe’s creation. There are many web sites that give the complete list, as well as explanations, of each universal constant. Search under anthropic principle. One of the best web sites for this is found on Dr. Hugh Ross’s web site (reasonstobelieve.org). There are no apparent reasons why the value of each individual universal constant could not have been very different than what they actually are. In fact, the presumption of any naturalistic theory based on blind chance would have expected a fair amount of flexibility in any underlying natural laws for the universe. They “just so happen” to be at the precise unchanging values necessary to enable carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Some individual constants are of such a high degree of precision as to defy human comprehension. For example, the individual cosmological constant is balanced to 1 part in 1060 and The individual gravity constant is balanced to 1 part to 1040. Although 1 part in 1060 and 1 part in 1040 far exceeds any tolerances achieved in any manmade machines, according to the esteemed British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose (1931-present), the odds of one particular individual constant, the “original phase-space volume” constant required such precision that the “Creator’s aim must have been to an accuracy of 1 part in 1010^123”. If this number were written out in its entirety, 1 with 10123 zeros to the right, it could not be written on a piece of paper the size of the entire visible universe, EVEN IF a number were written down on each atomic particle in the entire universe, since the universe only has 1080 atomic particles in it. This staggering level of precision is exactly why many theoretical physicists have suggested the existence of a “super-calculating intellect” to account for this fine-tuning. This is precisely why the anthropic hypothesis has gained such a strong foothold in many scientific circles. American geneticist Robert Griffiths jokingly remarked about these recent developments “If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use anymore.” The only other theory possible for the universe’s creation, other than a God-centered hypothesis, is a naturalistic theory based on blind chance. Naturalistic blind chance only escapes being completely crushed, by the overwhelming evidence for design, by appealing to an infinite number of other “un-testable” universes in which all other possibilities have been played out. Naturalism also tries to find a place for blind chance to hide by proposing a universe that expands and contracts (recycles) infinitely. Yet there is no hard physical evidence to support either of these blind chance conjectures. In fact, the “infinite universes” conjecture suffers from some serious flaws of logic. For instance, exactly which laws of physics are telling all the other natural laws in physics what, how and when to do the many precise unchanging things they do in these other universes? Plus, if an infinite number of other possible universes exist then why is it not also infinitely possible for God to exist? As well, the “recycling universe” conjecture suffers so many questions from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) as to render it effectively implausible as a serious theory. The only hard evidence there is, the stunning precision found in the universal constants, points overwhelmingly to intelligent design by an infinitely powerful and transcendent Creator who originally established what the unchanging universal constants of physics could and would do at the creation of the universe. The hard evidence left no room for the blind chance of natural laws in this universe. Thus, naturalism was forced into appealing to an infinity of other “un-testable” universes for it was left with no footing in this universe. These developments in science make it seem like naturalism was cast into the abyss of nothingness so far as explaining the fine-tuning of the universe.

  21. #21 Stanton
    July 1, 2007

    And yet, we also notice that PC2 has cleverly neglected to include in his long and vacuous post an explanation of what genomic deterioration has to do with blue stars disproving evolution, or even how the Anthropomorphic Principle is allegedly science.

    I swear, these IDiots must undergo a ritualized self-lobotomy.

  22. #22 Paul Lurquin
    July 1, 2007

    Hi folks,

    Co-author Linda Stone and I wrote a book “Evolution and Religious Creation Myths: How Scientists Respond” that just got released by Oxford University Press. Our aim is to provide user-friendly ammunition to combat creationism and ID.

    Thanks for your attention.

  23. #23 Heleen
    July 1, 2007

    PC2,
    please explain how we could observe the universe if those universal constants in physics didn’t happen to be right for life.
    Actually, this fine tuning is a well-know creationist canard. It should already have been dealt with in TalkOrigins somewhere.

    Some New Scientist reading about physics might be healthy

  24. #24 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 1, 2007

    Sally Thomason on creationist linguistics:

    This just in: the new Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, claims that language families are a recent phenomenon, and cites linguists as authorities for this claim. Its display shows language families as rays radiating from a sun labeled BABEL, a reference to the Babel story of Genesis 11. [...] Actually, the Bible is rather confusing on the question of when human languages diversified, at Babel or a bit earlier. The quotation “according to their families” in the Creation Museum’s text comes from Genesis 10, verse 20 (not from the King James version, but with the same meaning): “They were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their tongues, in their lands, in their nations” (and similar text in verse 5). I am not a Biblical scholar, and I don’t read either Hebrew or Aramaic, but it seems that the apparent contradiction between Genesis 10, which clearly posits numerous languages and even language families already in existence, and the (supposedly?) later events at Babel in Genesis 11, has bothered at least some devout interpreters (see [link in original], for instance). In any case, the time depth available for the diversification of a single original human language, under a literal interpretation of Genesis, would be no more than a few thousand years.

    So who are these modern linguists who “recognize” that languages “fall into distinct ‘families’ of recent origin”? The Creation Museum doesn’t say, of course.

    I recommend reading the whole thing; it’s interesting and not too long.

  25. #25 Paul Lurquin
    July 1, 2007

    These creationists are distorting the research of Luca Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford U. Cavalli has shown that human phylogenies and language trees overlap nicely. So far so good, right?

    BUT, Cavalli was one of the first geneticists to show that modern humans appeared well over 100,000 years ago. As usual, creationists are taking from genuine science whatever seems to support their lies and ignore or vilify what goes against them.

  26. #26 Susan
    July 1, 2007

    I’m from Canada and we have a similar creationist museum that opened up in Alberta. I am always puzzeled by the idea of “creation science”. Isn’t religion faith based? Why do you need a scientific explination for a God centered universe? Can’t you just believe that God did it and leave it at that?

  27. #27 Stanton
    July 1, 2007

    Probably because they have so little faith that carbon-films on limestone threaten their relationship with God.

  28. #28 Ginger Yellow
    July 2, 2007

    AJS: I had precisely that conversation with a YECist at Panda’s Thumb, including the “no rain” and “no refraction” excuses.

    Blake: I can’t find the feedback link at Language Log, but I was going to comment that Robert Pennock discusses creationist linguistics in depth in “Tower Of Babel: The Evidence Against The New Creationism”. While the book is a broad look at ID (albeit a somewhat out of date one), he draws an interesting parallel (one I’ve made myself) between linguistic evolution and biological evolution.

  29. #29 ZacharySmith
    July 2, 2007

    If I interpret the opening narration correctly, the ENTIRE universe is marred by the actions of two people on a small planet orbiting an unremarkable star in an unremarkable galaxy?

    Sounds a wee bit presumptuous to me.

    Then again, earth is the “crowning jewel” of all creation.

    Geeze. And they accuse the materialists of arrogance.

  30. #30 ZacharySmith
    July 2, 2007

    Oh, by the way there, PC2.

    You claim that materialism is bankrupt because of the fine-tuned natural constants.

    Yet the alternative you propose – god did it – is certainly no better.

    God did it. Really explains a lot there, doesn’t it?

    At least the materialistic approach doesn’t have to invent mythical sky faries.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 2, 2007

    Ginger Yellow:

    Thanks. I just discovered that Pennock’s Tower of Babel is ontube at Google Books.

  32. #32 David Heddle
    July 2, 2007

    Heleen,

    Actually, this fine tuning is a well-know creationist canard. It should already have been dealt with in TalkOrigins somewhere.

    No, it is not a well known canard, creationist or otherwise. The truth of the matter is:

    1) The appearance of fine tuning is real, and not many physicists deny it–although non scientists often improperly invoke Douglas Adams’s puddle analogy as an explanation.

    2) There is no, I repeat no, testable explanation for the fine tuning. All explanations: ID, multiple universes of one form or another, or blind luck are equally untestable.

    3) A fundamental theory that explains the constants without the need to invoke multiple universes would be a net victory for ID, because it would mean that habitability was built into the fabric of spacetime.

    If I am wrong, please offer an explanation for the fine tuning, one that can be tested.

    In short, fine tuning is real, and it is a fascinating puzzle for all physicists–believers or not.

  33. #33 Fred
    July 2, 2007

    The fine-tuning argument is just plain stupid.

    1) All of those constants need to be in place for life as we know it. Sure, great, but “life as we know it” does NOT mean “the only life possible.” If one or more of the constants were different it’s still quite possible that life of some kind could and would appear.

    2) More importantly, when you throw away the concept that the universe is 6000 years old, as any non-YEC person does, you open up the possibility that perhaps billions and billions of universes could have existed before this one. Give it enough tries and it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with a universe that has these constants.

    So these constants are NOT necessary for life, and any set of constants can end up in place given enough time. (There will even be more universes after ours ceases.)

    None of this can be tested, of course, but neither is it even remotely out of the realm of possibility or a breakdown of common sense. God, on the other hand, can not be tested and is not a fine example of common sense.

  34. #34 Fred
    July 2, 2007

    I should also point out that it’s absolutely NOT out of the question that the constants couldn’t be “right” on the first try. This combination has just as much a chance as any other. People do win lotteries or on slot machines on their first tries. Maybe the universe has beginner’s luck. :-)

  35. #35 David Heddle
    July 2, 2007

    Fred,

    None of this can be tested, of course, but neither is it even remotely out of the realm of possibility or a breakdown of common sense. God, on the other hand, can not be tested and is not a fine example of common sense.

    If it cannot be tested, it is no more science than “god did it”– even if it sounds or smells more like science or dosn’t offend “common sense.”

    That is why Susskind (an anti-IDer who invokes the multiverse to explain fine tuning) is willing to give up falsifiability as a requirement for science. That is tantamount, in my opinion, to declaring the end of science.

    Any theory that cannot be tested does not rank above ID on the science grading scale.

  36. #36 Owlmirror
    July 2, 2007

    The argument against the God of fine-tuning is just a variant of the basic argument against a creator God: If the universe required an external, intelligent, and powerful fine-tuner in order to exist at all, how could a creator powerful and clever enough to fine-tune the universe have ever come into existence?

    I’ll always be grateful to Carl Sagan for slipping that basic idea into the television show Cosmos.

    I’ll agree, of course, that fine-tuning is an interesting question. There are lots of interesting questions; they aren’t going to be answered by saying “God did it”.

  37. #37 llewelly
    July 2, 2007

    One of the themes of the show was a consideration of different scales that are found in pondering the universe. For example, the Moon orbits the Earth at an average distance of 240,000 miles, but the distance of the Earth to the Sun is 400 times greater. All of our satellites and manned space flights barely penetrate at all into space. Neptune orbits 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth does.

    In other words, most of the universe is hostile to human life. Do they explain why their ‘god’ created such a universe?

  38. #38 windy
    July 2, 2007

    The argument against the God of fine-tuning is just a variant of the basic argument against a creator God: If the universe required an external, intelligent, and powerful fine-tuner in order to exist at all, how could a creator powerful and clever enough to fine-tune the universe have ever come into existence?

    Exactly! To put that another way, since the argument assumes that the creator existed somewhere “before” creating our fine-tuned universe, it follows that our universe is not the only set of conditions conducive to the existence of intelligent beings.

    In other words, most of the universe is hostile to human life. Do they explain why their ‘god’ created such a universe?

    Also, in our universe, complex intelligent beings need to laboriously evolve almost from scratch to come into being. The argument is sometimes made that “somewhere else” conditions might be different, and thus we can’t assume that the designer or creator needed to evolve. But if in the Designer Dimension, complex intelligent beings can simply pop into existence, it seems that the Designer Dimension is much more conducive to such beings than our universe (its fine-tuning is better). This universe seems more like the designer’s attempt at a rock garden than a nursery, then.

  39. #39 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 2, 2007

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice how profoundly hypocritical the fine-tuning argument is. One the one hand, the creationists assert, “Look how carefully adjusted the fundamental constants of nature are! Look how hospitable this Universe is for the development of life. Surely, these numbers must have been chosen.” On the other hand, the same people will turn around and say, “The natural laws of mutation and selection could never produce life as we see it today. Therefore, life must have been designed.

    First, one claims that the Universe is ideal for life, and therefore God exists, and in the same breath, one declares that life is impossible, and therefore God exists.

    Turning the argument around, we see that the proposition “God exists” can be used to “prove” diametrically opposed conclusions. Imagine what would happen if this kind of reasoning were used in daily life. Your auto mechanic says, “If your car won’t start, it needs new spark plugs. Now, if your car does start, then it’s about to break down and it needs new spark plugs.” One would be forgiven for thinking the man has spark plugs to sell.

    Fred:

    The fine-tuning argument is just plain stupid.

    1) All of those constants need to be in place for life as we know it. Sure, great, but “life as we know it” does NOT mean “the only life possible.” If one or more of the constants were different it’s still quite possible that life of some kind could and would appear.

    2) More importantly, when you throw away the concept that the universe is 6000 years old, as any non-YEC person does, you open up the possibility that perhaps billions and billions of universes could have existed before this one. Give it enough tries and it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with a universe that has these constants.

    Don’t forget —

    3) It takes the same laws of physics to make a human being as it does to make a rock. Perhaps the Universe was finely-tuned so that rocks could come into existence.

    4) If you go by what is most prevalent in the Cosmos, it looks like the whole shebang was made to benefit the dark energy.

    5) As the state of learning advances, we discover that aspects of the Universe which we had thought to be independent are in fact consequences of the same underlying principles. It is, to say the least, jumping the gun to assume that all the knobs which must be adjusted to make a Universe like ours are independent of each other. Today, we might think that a hundred such knobs exist, but tomorrow’s discoveries might bring that number down to fifty, twenty or ten.

    6) Many aspects of natural law can be adjusted without, as far as we know, affecting the ability for life to arise — even life identical to our own. For example, the fundamental particles known as quarks and leptons come in three sets, or “generations”, yet all the familiar matter around us is comprised of particles from the first generation alone. A future theory may explain why the fundamental particles come in the families they do — perhaps there are three generations of quarks because there are three dimensions of space, or something — but it certainly seems that a parsimonious Creator could have done the job with fewer ingredients, if life were the target in mind.

    I have my own, somewhat obscene characterization of the fine-tuning argument, which may not be appropriate for a family-friendly weblog. Fortunately, on my own site I suffer no such compunctions! ;-)

  40. #40 David Heddle
    July 2, 2007

    Blake,

    I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice how profoundly hypocritical the fine-tuning argument is. One the one hand, the creationists assert, “Look how carefully adjusted the fundamental constants of nature are! Look how hospitable this Universe is for the development of life. Surely, these numbers must have been chosen.” On the other hand, the same people will turn around and say, “The natural laws of mutation and selection could never produce life as we see it today. Therefore, life must have been designed.”

    Wrong for at least two reasons. First of all there are a number of us that only argue the fine tuning and not the biological design. Second, in any case the two are not at all at odds.

    The fine tuning argument relates to the fact that things like planets and stars exist at all. The biological ID argument says: given that the planet is here (much like the evolutionist argues: given abiogenesis) live could not have arisen by natural causes. The two arguments may both be wrong, but they are not mutually exclusive It is not hypocritical to believe both.

    As for your points you added to Fred’s two:

    3) Perhaps the Universe was finely-tuned so that rocks could come into existence.

    There is no perhaps about it. Tweak the cosmological constant and there are no stars therefore no rocks–unless you can make rocks out of Hydrogen. There is even more: even given stars, tweak the fundamental forces and there is no synthesis, so no heavy elements, so no rocks.

    4) If you go by what is most prevalent in the Cosmos, it looks like the whole shebang was made to benefit the dark energy.

    The dark energy is the fine tuning–if indeed it comes from the cosmological constant. It is a critcal aspect of the fine tuning argument. Perhaps you meant dark matter?

    5) Today, we might think that a hundred such knobs exist, but tomorrow’s discoveries might bring that number down to fifty, twenty or ten.

    Let’s not stop at ten knobs. If the number of knobs is reduced to zero then you have the greatest possible argument for design. If the constants that lead to stars and planets and heavy elements are fixed by a fundamental theory then habitability was built into the fabric of spacetime. On that day, the theologians can declare victory. Instead some physicists (e.g., Susskind) are counting on no fundamental theory (lots of knobs) but a large sample space (multiple universes.)

    6) Many aspects of natural law can be adjusted without, as far as we know, affecting the ability for life to arise.– even life identical to our own. For example, the fundamental particles known as quarks and leptons come in three sets, or “generations”, yet all the familiar matter around us is comprised of particles from the first generation alone.

    Nobody has asserted otherwise–although our lack of understanding of three generations also leaves open the possibility that it will be important to habitability. (If it is tied to three dimensions, game over man, it is related to habitability, because three and only three expanding space dimensions is a habitability requirement for stable orbits.)

  41. #41 windy
    July 3, 2007

    If the number of knobs is reduced to zero then you have the greatest possible argument for design. If the constants that lead to stars and planets and heavy elements are fixed by a fundamental theory then habitability was built into the fabric of spacetime. On that day, the theologians can declare victory.

    You do realize that this renders the fine-tuning argument meaningless?

  42. #42 William Grogan
    July 3, 2007

    If anyone has difficulty accepting that we could not be here to have this conversation unless the Universe was fined tuned to create us, then consider that we do happen to be here to have this conversation at a point in time that only represents a tiny fraction of all the time that has existed. We can no more say, “Gee we are very lucky to live now”, then “Gee we are very lucky to live here”.

  43. #43 David Heddle
    July 3, 2007

    windy,

    You do realize that this renders the fine-tuning argument meaningless?

    No I don’t. Please explain why.

  44. #44 AJS
    July 3, 2007

    Why I think the “fine tuning” argument is bull:

    The constants are not necessarily independent. They might very well be connected to one another by some relationship that we haven’t discovered yet. (For instance, the permeability and magnetic permittivity of free space — or any medium, for that matter — are related to one another by the equation ε0 * μ0 = c-2 (at least in SI units; there exists a constant of proportionality in other systems). This wasn’t known when the CGS system was first standardised, so there ended up being two variants of every CGS electrical unit depending on what you assumed to be unity! It wasn’t just because the base units were so small [though that isn't too bad a reason in its own right] that we switched to MKS / SI! Centimetres and grammes are still quite legitimate fractional units, and not just within the contexts of clothing labels and kitchen scales.)

    I’d even go so far as to say that the very fact that if you changed one of the constants but not another things plain wouldn’t work, is good evidence against their mutual independence. We just haven’t worked out yet what the relationship is between them.

  45. #45 Owlmirror
    July 3, 2007

    If the number of knobs is reduced to zero then you have the greatest possible argument for design. If the constants that lead to stars and planets and heavy elements are fixed by a fundamental theory then habitability was built into the fabric of spacetime. On that day, the theologians can declare victory.

    Unwarranted assumption there. That’s the logical equivalent of “If I exist, then God made me; I exist, therefore God exists.”.

    Proving that fundamental physical constants cannot be anything other than what they are does not demonstrate that some higher-order-entity made them that way. Indeed, it demonstrates that the higher-order-entity is, once again, unnecessary as an explanation.

  46. #46 David Heddle
    July 3, 2007

    Owlmirror ,

    Proving that fundamental physical constants cannot be anything other than what they are does not demonstrate that some higher-order-entity made them that way. Indeed, it demonstrates that the higher-order-entity is, once again, unnecessary as an explanation.

    You have missed the boat. Deriving the fundamental constants does not, just as you asserted, demonstrate any design. However, if it also true (which it is) that those values are fine tuned–that is life (of any kind) could not exist if they are tweaked, then both facts together make the strongest possible case for design.

  47. #47 Owlmirror
    July 3, 2007

    However, if it also true (which it is) that those values are fine tuned–that is life (of any kind) could not exist if they are tweaked, then both facts together make the strongest possible case for design.

    Hm. No, there’s still something wrong with this argument.

    If it is proven that the fundamental constants can vary, that doesn’t mean that those that are associated with our particular universe were made that way — it simply means that we lucked out.

    It’s all very well to say that multiple universes — whether prior or parallel — are “hypothetical” and “unfalisfiable”, but they are logically more consistent and coherent than your even more hypothetical and unfalsifiable external creator/desginer.

    Now, IF it is proven that (a) the fundamental constants can vary from what they are for our universe, and (b) NO other universes have ever arisen with different fundamental constants (for paratemporal values of “have ever”), THEN I can see there being a somewhat stronger argument for design.

    BUT there still exists the problem of how an entity powerful and intelligent enough to create the universe can possibly have arisen.

    Ultimately, the problem can be reduced to this: A designer is always and necessarily a complex entity with resources that can be directed, and an intelligence that understands how to direct the preexisting resources to achieve the designed goal.

    If it is somehow possible for such an entity to come into existence spontaneously, then it is also possible, and far more probable (because it requires less initial complexity), that the (undesigned) universe itself can come into existence spontaneously, with all of its physical constants as they are, and eventually develop greater complexity (that is, give rise to intelligent species such as ourselves).

    So, even assuming that the physical constants can vary and there were/are no other universes, an explanation that would make better sense than an external creator is that the universe itself will eventually give rise to an evolved species that will gain the intelligence and power to affect space and time, and send power and information back in time to cause the universe to come into existence such that their own causality is preserved.

    I suppose such entities could be called the creator(s)/designer(s), but I rather think that those advocating for intelligent design would not be pleased with such a theory.

  48. #48 David Heddle
    July 3, 2007

    Owlmirror

    but they [multiple universes] are logically more consistent and coherent than your even more hypothetical and unfalsifiable external creator/desginer.

    Why? Are they more scientific? If so, why? What makes one untestable argument better than another? “Makes more sense,” in the absence of testability, is purely subjective.

    So, even assuming that the physical constants can vary and there were/are no other universes, an explanation that would make better sense than an external creator is that the universe itself will eventually give rise to an evolved species that will gain the intelligence and power to affect space and time, and send power and information back in time to cause the universe to come into existence such that their own causality is preserved.

    THIS you find makes better sense than a creator?

  49. #49 windy
    July 3, 2007
    You do realize that this renders the fine-tuning argument meaningless?

    No I don’t. Please explain why.

    If any number of knobs would be interpreted as evidence for it?

    THIS [backward causal stuff] you find makes better sense than a creator?

    Did you skip Owlmirror’s explanation? It may not make much sense, but it makes better sense than first saying that our universe is the only kind of place where complexity can develop, and then positing a complex creator outside it.

  50. #50 David Heddle
    July 3, 2007

    Windy, Owlmirror

    Why does is make better sense? Why is the scenario:

    1) The universe only exists because we (or some other species, somewhere) will (eventually) evolve to a point where we can send information back in time to create the universe.

    more sensible than

    2) A supernatural creator created our universe.

    I am genuinely curious as to how, to an atheist, one explanation does not appear just as absurd as the other. In fact–they are at some level indistinguishable. So stop saying why (1) is more sensible and start backing that assertion up with some reasoning. Please. I’d love to here your reasons.

  51. #51 Science Avenger
    July 3, 2007

    David Heddle wrote: Why? Are [multiple universes] more scientific?

    Well, for starters we already have one example of a universe, whereas with gods we haven’t even that. It is a lot more reasonable to hypothesize more of the same than it is to hypothesize something unlike anything we know.

  52. #52 Fred
    July 3, 2007

    David, to answer your most recent comment first, you say: the universe exists because we etc.

    You’re framing it wrong. We’re not talking about WHY. Talking about “why” implies will, which implies intelligence. We’re not saying the universe has a reason.

    Anyway, I find it easier to believe, as did Owlmirror, that somehow, for some reason or no reason, the universe came into existence and it was just energy, or energy and matter, than to believe that a super ultimate all-powerful being popped into existence. After all, aren’t you the one saying that it’s not possible for life, whether one tiny proto-cell or, especially, intelligent life, to appear on its own?

    I suspect that if you had a kid (maybe you do, I don’t know) and that kid got in trouble for fiftieth time for not turning in his homework and his excuse to you this time was that he did the homework but God appeared and took it, you would not believe him. Am I right? Or would you believe him completely, with no part of you feeling that it’s more likely that, knowing how fond he was of them, that he was playing video games instead of doing the homework? If you would choose to believe that God really took his homework, I’d be interested to know why.

    Now, as to your response to my original message (about why I think fine-tuning is nonsense)… You wrote that since I say it can’t be proven that is therefore not valid science. Fine, I never said it was; I just said it seemed far more plausible than what religion has to offer. But that’s beside the point; it’s the religious folks who are trying to make fine-tuning out to be a scientific reason to discredit evolution. If I agree not to say “what appears to be fine tuning is quite possibly the luck of billions of draws” because I can’t prove it, then the religious folks should also stop pointing to fine-tuning as being any kind of proof for anything. Fair? They can’t prove that fine-tuning is necessary or that it even exists any more than I can prove through testing that they’re wrong. So I never want to hear about it again.

  53. #53 Owlmirror
    July 3, 2007

    1) The universe only exists because we (or some other species, somewhere) will (eventually) evolve to a point where we can send information back in time to create the universe.

    more sensible than

    2) A supernatural creator created our universe.

    I am genuinely curious as to how, to an atheist, one explanation does not appear just as absurd as the other. In fact–they are at some level indistinguishable. So stop saying why (1) is more sensible and start backing that assertion up with some reasoning. Please. I’d love to here your reasons.

    Because explanation (1) is causally complete.

    Explanation (2) is not causally complete. The origin of the creator is open: Where did it come from? How did it come into existence? How did it get the power to create universes? How did it gain the knowledge to fine-tune universes such that life would arise? Why does it not interact with the universe in a detectable manner? What is its purpose in creating the universe?

    For explanation (1), all the questions are answerable: The creator(s) came from the universe itself. It/They evolved, as all life did, from lifeless matter over billions of years, eventually gaining intelligence equal to ours, and eventually surpassing our current understanding at the cosmological level. It/They got the power and knowledge to create universes and manipulate space-time from studying this universe (and possibly others), and since it knows that this universe’s cosmological constants are what is required for itself/themselves to evolve, that’s what would be used in creating the universe. The creator(s) would not interact with the universe (other than creating it) because it/they would not want to disrupt the causal chain that lead/will lead to its/their eventual existence. And finally, it/they simply want to bring about its/their own existence.

    It may not even be necessary for there to be an intelligence involved in a time-loop universe. I just recently stumbled on this:

      Can the Universe Create Itself?
    http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9712344

  54. #54 Leni
    July 4, 2007

    Jason Rosenhouse wrote:

    This is rather like arguing that since you saw a two year old at the mall, all of the other people you saw who looked really old actually are not old.

    This elicited an evil cackle from me that would have made Cruella DeVille proud. That is pretty much a dead on description of the quantity of stupid invoked for this argument.

    RE the fine tuning argument. I think Fred pretty much said it all with his number 1. We simply don’t know what the universe would look like if the constants were not as they are.

    We can’t use that ignorance to draw conclusions about anything. So it amounts to little more than an argument from ignorance.

    Aside form that, why the constants are as they are is an important question. I just don’t see any necessary or rationally justifiable connection with god. The insertion of the creator here seems like as good a place as any, to me.

  55. #55 Saros
    August 13, 2007

    David I reccomend “the goldilocks enigma” by paul davies. It may be called something different in the states. It hasa very good discussion of possibilites for the origin of the universe and the apparent “fine tuning”

  56. #56 Lamont Stewart
    October 22, 2007

    I thought the Planeterium show was fun. I saw it October 20, 2007. 10:30 AM

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