Design at many levels
|September 30, 2007||Posted by Granville Sewell under Intelligent Design|
In the popular media, the picture that we get of the ID controversy is this: primitive man attributed many phenomena in Nature to design, science has progressively removed the need for the design hypothesis from these phenomena one by one, and now a group of religious fanatics is trying to make a last stand in biological origins, where things are most difficult to explain. The true story is very different; in fact, we are discovering that primitive man was NOT wrong in attributing many phenomena to design, the design just dates back much futher than he imagined, to the origin of the universe. Science is discovering that not only life itself, but a wealth of chemical phenomena that makes life interesting, owes its existence to the astronomically improbable and finely tuned values of the basic constants of physics, such as Planck’s constant, the charge and mass of the electron, the speed of light, the gravitational constant and on and on. Michael Behe, in “The Edge of Evolution,” wisely devotes several pages to this topic, and quotes a National Academy of Science report which acknowledges that it is not unreasonable to see design in the “remarkable and inspiring character of the physical universe”.
But design in the universe can be seen at yet another level. Those who want to avoid the obvious conclusions from fine-tuning argue that there must be a large number of other universes with the same laws, but random values for the physical constants, and one was bound to get the values right. But even this truly unscientific hypothesis fails to address the question of why the basic laws of physics and mathematics are what they are. The assumption seems to be that the fundamental laws of mathematics, and even of physics, could not have been different and therefore need no explanation. But why, for example, are the effects of the fundamental forces of physics on the fundamental particles of physics given by solutions to a (complex-valued!!) eigenvalue partial differential equation, the Schrodinger equation? I can only see two possible “explanations”: 1) it produces the wealth of chemical phenomena (given the right values for the constants) that makes life possible and interesting and 2) it provides some very interesting mathematical problems to keep partial differential equations experts like me entertained. I don’t know of any alternative explanations, do you?