Posted by: gcarkner | August 22, 2014

Mind Expanding Quotes on a Fine-Tuned Universe & Biosphere

Scholarly Reflections on the Fine-Tuned Universe & Biosphere

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Dr William Lane Craig’s talk at UBC on March 6, 2013:

Noted Physicist Paul Davies asserts: “There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life.”  Astronomer and mathematician Sir Fred Hoyle at Cambridge University was in complete astonishment when he discovered the resonance in the carbon atom, a basic building block of the biological life, and also discovered that carbon along with other heavy elements were made in the nuclear furnace of stars.

Barrow, John and Tipler, Frank. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986. Classic book dealing with almost all aspects of the Anthropic Principle, with extensive calculations regarding fine-tuning.

Carr, B. J., and Rees, M. J. (April, 1979). “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle and the Structure of the Physical World.” Nature, Vol. 278, 12 April 1979, pp. 605 -612. This is the first major article extensively discussing the way in which the constants of nature are set just right for life to occur.

Paul Davies (Physicist and Philosopher, Professor at Arizona State University): “Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient “coincidences” and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs (of which there are 40) must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile. Example: neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn’t exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleus and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life.”

Amazing Facts  200 billion stars in our Milky Way home galaxy alone; 100 billion galaxies; 13.8 billion years of cosmic history. Cosmology fuels the bigger questions.

George Ellis (British Astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.”

Arno Penzias (Nobel Prize in Physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

Stephen Hawking (Cambridge Astrophysicist): “Then we shall … be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”

Carl Woese (Microbiologist from the University of Illinois) “Life in Universe – rare or unique? I walk both sides of that street. One day I can say that given the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 100 billion or more galaxies, there have to be some planets that formed and evolved in ways very, very like the Earth has, and so would contain microbial life at least. There are other days when I say that the anthropic principal, which makes this universe a special one out of an uncountably large number of universes, may not apply only to that aspect of nature we define in the realm of physics, but may extend to chemistry and biology. In that case life on Earth could be entirely unique.”

Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose (The Nature of Space and Time) “Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again  and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately. If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been less by one part in 10 to the power of 10, the universe would have collapsed after a few million years. If it had been greater by one part in 10 to the power of 10, the universe would have been essentially empty after a few million years. In neither case would it have lasted long enough for life to develop. Thus one either has to appeal to the anthropic principle or find the physical explanation of why the universe is the way it is.”

Sir John Polkinghorne (Cambridge micro-physicist and theologian, the Einstein of dialogue on Science & Religion) “When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.” See also his brilliant essay called “God & Physics” in God is Great; God is Good: why believing in God is reasonable and responsible (eds. William Lane Craig and Chad Meister) IVP.

Sir Fred Hoyle, Cambridge Astrophysicist (“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections”): “From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 Mev energy level in the nucleus of Carbon 12 to the 7.12 Mev level in Oxygen 16. if you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? Following the above argument, I am inclined to think so.  A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

Alister McGrath Specialist in Science & Theology (A Fine-Tuned Universe. p. 141-2): “Our attention focuses on one critical aspect of the biochemical processes that are thought to have led to life. The fundamental properties of the chemical elements, which are exploited but not created by biological processes, have to be such that these metabolic pathways are possible in the first place. Equally, if Darwinian evolution is to take place and to be regarded as essential to a definition of life, the chemistry of nature must be such that replication is possible–in other words, such that DNA or its functional equivalent can exist…. The origins of life are thus unquestionably anthropic…. On the basis of the know biochemical systems, biological evolution remains dependent upon chemical processes which were ultimately determined  in the primordial state of the universe.”

McGrath (A Fine-Tuned Universe, p. 164): “Chemical reality constrains evolution: these processes can occur only because the chemistry of certian metals, predetermined by quantum mechanical parameters, permits them to do so. If this were not the case, evolution could not have found its way to such solutions as photsynthesis, nitrogen fixing, or oxygen transport. Evolution can only fine-tune itself because of the predetermined properties of chemical elements. Had they been significantly different, this fine-tuning within nature could not take place.”

Dag Hammarskjold  (Swedish diplomat, economist and author, second Secretary-General of the United Nations) “The dizziness in the face of les espaces infinis–only overcome if we dare to gaze into them without any protection, and accept them as the reality before which we must justify our existence. For this is the truth we must reach to live, that everything is and we are just in it.”

Martin Rees’ Canonical Statement of the importance of the fine balancing of the fundamental constants of the universe (Just Six Numbers):

1. The ratio of the electromagnetic force to the force of gravity, which can also be expressed in terms of electrical (coulomb) force between two protons divided by the gravitational force between them. This measures the strength of the electrical forces that hold atoms together, divided by the force of gravity between them. If this were slightly smaller than its observed value, only a short-lived miniature universe could exist; no creature could grow larger than insects, and there would be no time for biological evolution.

2. The strong nuclear force, which defines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together. This force, which has a value of 0.007, controls the power from the Sun and, more sensitively, how stars transmute hydrogen into all atoms of the periodic table. Once more, the value of this constant turns out to be of critical importance. If it were 0.006 or 0.008, we could not exist.

3. The amount of matter in the universe. The cosmic number Ω (omega) is a measure of the amount of material in our universe–such as galaxies, diffuse gas, and the so-called “dark matter” and “dark energy”. Thus Ω tells us the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the universe. If this ratio were too high relative to a particular ‘critical’ value, the universe would have collapsed long ago; had it been too low, no galaxies or stars would have formed. The initial expansion speed seems to have been finely tuned.

4. Cosmic repulsion. In 1998, cosmologists became aware of the importance of cosmic antigravity in controlling the expansion of the universe, and in particular its increasing importance as our universe becomes ever darker and emptier. Fortunately for us (and very surprising to theorists), λ is very small. Otherwise its effect would have stopped galaxies and and stars from forming, and cosmic evolution would have been stifled before it could even begin.

5. The ratio of gravitational binding  force to rest-mass energy, Q, is of fundamental  importance in determining the “texture” of the universe. If Q were even smaller, the universe would be inert and structureless; if Q were much larger, it would be a violent place, in which no stars or solar systems survive, dominated by vast black holes.

6. The number of spacial dimensions, D, which is three. String theory argues that, of the 10 or 11 original dimensions at the origins of the universe, all but three were compactified. Time, of course, is to be treated as a fourth dimension. Life couldn’t exist if D were two or four.

Freeman John Dyson FRS is a British-American theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering (Disturbing the Universe): “The more I examine  the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe  in some sense must have known that we were coming.”

Dr Ed Larson, Law Professor at Pepperdine University, claims that 40% of scientists believe in God (many more than some of us imagine).  New York Times article

(This is a response to one comment that claimed that 93% of scientists were atheists; this does not seem to be true)

The lecture with Dr William Lane Craig on Wednesday March 6, 12:00 noon in Norm Theatre in the SUB @ UBC went very well with some excellent questions. Link:   Does a fine-tuned universe point to a cosmic designer?

Also see Alister McGrath sophisticated treatment of the subject in his Gifford Lectures: A Fine-Tuned Universe: the Search for God in Science & Theology.

Follow through on these ideas in the new book The Great Escape from Nihilism by Gordon E. Carkner

Watch the new Cosmos Series on Netflix. It is really impressive!

Pinwheel galaxy

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