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PAUL DAVIES and the self-made universe

Why does the universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life – including intelligent life capable of asking that “why” question?

Paul Davies of Arizona State University in his new book “Cosmic Jackpot” argues that the cosmos has made itself the way it is, stretching backward in time to the very beginning to focus in on “bio-friendliness.”

When asked by Alan Boyle why the universe is bio-friendly? Is it intelligent design, or blind chance, or none of the above?

Davies replies: “There are three popular responses; the intelligent-design argument; the idea that if we had a final theory of physics, then all of the undetermined parameters in the laws would be fixed by that theory; and the third is the multiverse.

What I find lacking in the conventional intelligent-design argument, is that they appeal to something outside the universe that has to be accepted as given and cannot be proved. I’d like to try to explain as much of the universe, including its bio-friendly laws of physics, from within the universe – and in a way that doesn’t appeal to something outside of it.

Even standard physics says the laws of physics are friendly for no reason, but have just been imprinted upon the universe at the time of the big bang from without, by some unknown mechanism. Again, the argument makes an appeal to something outside the universe, instead of something intrinsic to it.

For most people, the first interpretation is, “Well, God did it.” What I’m saying is that that gets us nowhere at all. It just shoves the problem off to some other realm. But saying “God did it” is no worse than saying “the laws of physics did it.” They both basically appeal to something outside the universe.

The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off. But to say that the laws of physics just happen to permit life is no explanation either.”

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23 Responses to PAUL DAVIES and the self-made universe

  1. One thing experience has taught us-

    It matters a great deal to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose by agency involvement or nature, operating freely.

    (And we know that nature, operating freely cannot give rise to nature.)

  2. “The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off.”

    How many times do people need to answer this asinine argument before these amazing physicists et al. get the point? Do they even listen?

    It just amazes me – the ability of someone like Davies to throw off reasonable arguments on grounds such as this, and instead to come up with some entirely illogical argument about creation causing itself. But hey, who needs logic when you’ve got Science.

  3. 3
    William J. Murray

    Intelligent design doesn’t require any outside source for the design of the universe. The universe can be entirely ordered via internal intelligences through quantum collapse, including that which we perceive to be “in the past”.

    ID doesn’t necessarily appeal to anything we don’t already empirically observe, and it doesn’t necessarily require anything other than what we already know exists – i.e., intelligence and intentionality, and the ability to collapse ambiguous phenomena into quantitative states.

    It’s often argued that I.D. has provided no mechanism for the intelligent, or intentional, or mindful interface with the physical; untrue. The first observer-collapse experiment provided that interface; intentional observation collapses physical potentials into physical actualities.

  4. Leslie:

    But hey, who needs logic when you’ve got Science.

    Ha! Very good point and sadly very true these days.

    I like what C.S. Lewis said,

    “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared – the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true. We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age.”
    M. D. Aeschliman, C. S. Lewis on Mere Science 1998 First Things 86 (October, 1998): 16-18.

    End of the scientific age? Whenever the true scientific mindset disappears under denial of basic realities and absolutes, the barbaric mindset ensues.

    True science is perhaps most exemplified by searching for empirical evidence through experiment; following the evidence where it leads; being wary of a priori exclusions based on metaphysical preference; an objective as possible examination of data; respect of the rules of logic and mathematics; and honesty in humility.

    Davies’ et al. ideas illustrate Lewis’ comment quite literally. But these determined materialists cannot see clearly because they have adopted the lenses of post modernism and it’s denial of “true truth”.

    Yet, curiously, they continue to say things that belie their belief in their own opinion as truth.

    A self-made universe is as logical as self-made pile of s**t.

  5. How can the universe’s laws be a physical object themselves?

    Is the law of inertia itself composed of matter? If so we could “find” it and alter this law? so I think not.

    Therefore, which side is looking for the the origins and “woof and warp” of these laws?

    Only ID.

    It seems to me evolution has cut it’s own legs off by insisting the laws themselves are physical objects. Even in a multiverse scenario, (near infinite combinations of universes, and ours is the one in which it all clicks to make life) nowhere is it postulated that laws are make by matter itself. But are the necessary laws postulated at all?

    So correct me if I’m wrong, but materialists find themselves in a position of acknowledging another force involved. And so physics does, with their “sponge of possibility”. However they’d have to imbue physical universe laws analagous to our physical universe laws, for this other universe; in order to remain materialists. The laws maker for our universe, in this other universe, must be matter/energy etc based (of maybe a different kind but nevertheless matter based) for a materialist theory to hold true. Because the only other option is intelligence.

  6. “… the cosmos has made itself the way it is, stretching backward in time to the very beginning to focus in on “bio-friendliness.””

    Davies is determined to hold to the Western Creed of Scientism at all costs, even logic. Charles Tart came up with the following chilling exposure of the dominant underlying indoctrinated belief system of our culture in his new book, The End of Materialism. He based it on the formal structure of the Nicene Creed, not as a comment on Christianity but to show the basic religious nature of this mindset.

    The Western Creed

    I BELIEVE in the material universe as the only and ultimate reality, a universe controlled by fixed physical laws and blind chance,

    I BELIEVE that the universe has no creator, no objective purpose, and no objective meaning or destiny,

    I MAINTAIN that all ideas about God or gods, enlightened beings, prophets and saviors, or nonphysical beings or forces are superstitions and illusions. Life and consciousness are totally identical to physical processes and arose from chance interactions of blind physical forces Like the rest of life, MY life and MY consciousness have no objective purpose, meaning or destiny.

    I BELIEVE that all judgments, values, and moralities, whether my own or others’ are subjective, arising solely from biological determinants, personal history, and chance. Free will is an illusion. Therefore, the most rational values I can personally live by must be based on the knowledge that for me what pleases me is good, what pains me is bad. Those who please or help me avoid pain are my friends, those who pain me or keep me from my pleasure are my enemies. Rationality requires that friends and enemies be used in ways that maximize my pleasure and minimize my pain.

    I AFFIRM that churches have no real use other than social support, that there are no objective sins to commit or be forgiven for, that there is no retribution for sin or reward for virtue other than that which I can arrange, directly or indirectly through others. Virtue for me is getting what I want, without being caught and being punished by others.

    I MAINTAIN that the death of the body is the death of the mind. There is no afterlife and all hope of such is nonsense.

  7. I am extremely reluctant to condemn Davies, because unlike most materialists, he fully recognizes the shortcomings and failures of the materialistic paradigm (with the surprising exception that he still uncritically accepts Darwinism as valid).

    His statement that saying “God did it.” explains nothing is simply not true. It explains that the source of the Universe and its laws was God. If I ever got the chance to have a face to face conversation with him, I would ask him, “What if the actual truth is that God did create the Universe? Then what? Your insistence on finding some explanation from ‘within the Universe’ will prevent you from ever discovering the truth.”

    When he says, “The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained,” this is not really true either. There is a wealth of material, volumes and volumes, written by numerous people exploring the nature of the deity and how He/She/It operates in the world. However, such explorations take us out of science and into the realms of metaphysics, philosophy, and theology. One is thrown much more onto one’s own capacity to sift wheat from chaff and to wrestle with questions such as “How do we really know anything?” But for a spiritualist like myself, this is not at all a bad thing.

  8. 8

    Bruce David,

    Well put Bruce. IMO, concentrating solely on science as the only method of attaining all knowledge is as wrongheaded as concentrating only on philosophy and metaphysics as the only method attaining all knowledge. They need each other. Science is based on philosophy, and philosophy needs something to think about. The problem comes when people make their one methodology absolute. The problem is seen easily enough concerning methodological naturalism, which is based not on methodological naturalism, but on philosophical naturalism, but philosophical naturalism cannot be reached as a conclusion by methodological naturalism.

  9. Clive,

    I hear what you say, but can you put some flesh on the bones of your comment? How has philosophy contributed to scientific progress recently?

  10. 10

    Clive,

    I couldn’t agree more. Science provides us with vast amounts of information, but we can only really make sense of it by putting it in the context of a metaphysical and/or theological paradigm. Whatever paradigm we choose, and for whatever reason, it will not follow logically from the scientific data. It must be chosen for reasons independent of the scientific data.

    Of course, the paradigm of methodological naturalism is usually materialism, and the really annoying characteristic of most materialists (Davies being a refreshing exception) is their ceretainty that their materialism is “objective” and derived from “the evidence”, and that anyone who even entertains the possibility of a reality beyond the physical is ignorant, stupid, or incredulous.

  11. Science provides us with vast amounts of information, but we can only really make sense of it by putting it in the context of a metaphysical and/or theological paradigm.

    So science only makes sense in a religious context? Don’t agree.

  12. “The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off.”

    And of course the actual existence of such a Being, one purported to offer the possibility of raising us to an eternal glory, the existence of whom would mean that life actually has some sort of ultimate meaning would just be the worse kind of nightmare because…uhh…

  13. 13

    Alan Fox:

    Read the rest of my post. A metaphysical paradigm is not necessarily a religious one. materialism also qualifies, for example, as do many, many other philosophical positions that are not religious, per se.

  14. Re 7

    When he says, “The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained,” this is not really true either. There is a wealth of material, volumes and volumes, written by numerous people exploring the nature of the deity and how He/She/It operates in the world. However, such explorations take us out of science and into the realms of metaphysics, philosophy, and theology.

    Why is the supernatural allowed as a scientific explanation – but the study of how a supernatural being operates is not science?

  15. Paul Davies argument sounds a lot like pantheism because it gives nature creative power over itself. I am not sure that Davies intends to go down that route, but it just goes to show that it is impossible to do science without religious foundations.

  16. “The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer.”

    Davies has been criticized for saying these words, but I can understand his frustration. He is, after all, a physicist, and he would of course tend to favor a hypothesis that enables him to do some fruitful scientific research. Just saying that God made the universe doesn’t, by itself, seem to suggest any promising lines of research. So here’s my proposal, based on my understanding of what Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards are getting at in The Privileged Planet. I haven’t actually read the book, but I’ve read Lee Strobel’s outline of its key claims in his book, The Case for a Creator.

    Gonzalez and Richards point out that as well as being extremely bio-friendly, the universe seems to be designed for discovery. Not only that, but the best place for life to exist in the Milky Way Galaxy is also the best place to observe the Galaxy and make scientific observations of the universe. So here’s my tentative proposal. Call it the Bio-Info hypothesis, if you will. I make no claim to originality in what follows; I’ve probably cobbled it together from something I read, somewhere on the Net.

    Let P1, P2, P3, … Pn be the set of parameters that have to be fine-tuned for intelligent life to emerge in the universe. Let Q1, Q2, Q3, … Qn be the set of parameters that have to be fine-tuned in order for the universe to preserve as much information about its past and present as possible, in a way that intelligent observers can detect and measure. Then according to the hypothesis, P1, P2, P3, … Pn = Q1, Q2, Q3, … Qn. That is, not only are the parameters the same, but their values should be the same too.

    In other words, every one of the finely-tuned bio-friendly parameters should also turn out to be an info-friendly parameter, and the values should coincide. What’s more, the converse should hold as well.

    Just a thought. Anyway, this is at least a concrete proposal for Davies to sink his teeth into.

  17. Simple question……

    What if, just what if, God actually DID create the universe.

    Then can Davies ever arrive at this truth, even in theory?

  18. “What if, just what if, God actually DID create the universe.

    Then can Davies ever arrive at this truth, even in theory?”

    People are not interested in truth if it contradicts their world view. Davies’ logic is absurd. What he says may be true but there is no logic to back it. What they do not want is for individuals to make their own judgments on this issue but to essentially to be told that a God is the one answer that has been ruled out.

    It is the same with evolution. We have been inundated with anti ID people here in the last few months giving all their various speculations on how life arose and how life changed over time. They want no alternatives to be considered that are not naturalistic so we see lots of speculation provided as the alternatives and one or all can be accepted but not ID. ID is verboten.

    The mentality is the same. Show me anti ID person anywhere that doesn’t exhibit it.

    As an aside suppose Davies admitted that a God is a valid logical answer, do you think he would get one cent for his new center at Arizona State? Something about snow balls in some places hotter than Phoenix in the summer comes to mind.

  19. What would the Universe look like if it were only a little fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life, instead of so fine-tuned that you can’t go half a lightyear without running into a planetary civilization? Would it be like our universe, but with occasional events where an entire species died out (were “extinguished”, as it were)?

    OK, obviously those are snarky questions, but I guess I’m just saying that if we’re going to be honest here, we’re talking about fine-tuned-ness as a binary thing (“Hey, looks like life exists as opposed to not existing”), not a continuum (“Whoa, get a load of this bio-friendliness!”). We and our fellow Earthlings are still the only instances of life we know for certain to exist, here in a pretty darn big Universe that often seems more fine-tuned for stars than anything else.

    Additional question: How can we know that, had the Universe been given a different set of initial constants, it wouldn’t have something that wasn’t life but was just as interesting/beautiful?

  20. Lenoxus

    You wrote:

    How can we know that, had the Universe been given a different set of initial constants, it wouldn’t have something that wasn’t life but was just as interesting/beautiful?

    Interesting and beautiful to whom?

  21. Lenoxus

    What would the universe be like if it were “so fine-tuned that you can’t go half a lightyear without running into a planetary civilization?”

    A very dangerous place, if you ask me. Didn’t you read War of the Worlds as a kid?

  22. vjtorley:

    Interesting and beautiful to whom?

    Excellent point!

    A very dangerous place, if you ask me. Didn’t you read War of the Worlds as a kid?

    Perhaps it would — but then, isn’t that sort of like the situation we have here on our life-packed planet, where everything keeps eating everything else in order to survive? What was the designer’s motivation for that, I wonder?

  23. 23
    CannuckianYankee

    Mark Frank,

    (sorry for such a long post, but I thoght your question requred as thorough an answer as I could give – even though you didn’t ask me directly).

    “Why is the supernatural allowed as a scientific explanation – but the study of how a supernatural being operates is not science?”

    It’s an excellent question. First I think that nobody is defining what is meant by “supernatural,” and that is a major problem. I think nobody is defining it because it really is a term that finds no example in reality. I think many theists do not find there’s a division between natural and supernatural – even though they accept and use the term. But we use the term out of habit, and I think that it stems from the history of religion and the development of science within a nominally religious paradigm.

    If the God that theists believe in is not in fact supernatural, then perhaps your answer could better be worded: “well why not use science to determine how the designer designed?” I don’t think that’s an illegitimate question, but we have to resolve other issues first. One of the issues is whether evidence shows design or natural selection acting on its own. If the evidence predominantly and overwhelmingly shows natural selection, then what’s the point of even considering design – never mind the “how” of design? I realize that you could argue this as the point of your position, but I’m mentioning this because this is the way design theorists seem to view it.

    I don’t think the ID theorists are wrong in separating these two aspects, even though it appears to be an arbitrary and artificial separation out of necessity perhaps, because we are dealing with observational unknowns vs material knowns.

    ID is not at this point concerned with how the designer designed, but whether there is evidence for design. I don’t think the “how” is pertinent to the “is” of design, and indeed. we see this dynamic in archeology. The “hows” will come later once the “is” determination is made and settled in the scientific community.

    I think the design theorists are making headway in showing the inconguencies of natural selection acting on its own, with the evidence at hand.

    But the anti-design side is attempting to refute ID based on certain assumptions about this artificial separation, and also by attempting to break down the individual arguments for design, without seeing the larger picture of how these arguments all fit together.
    ___________________________

    (Forgive me if I’m not entirely accurate in my descriptions here) You can’t take Dr. Behe into consideration without also taking Dr. Dembski into consideration. Dr. Behe deals with the complexities, which point to and explain the appearance of design, while Dr. Dembski deals with the information required for complexity and the probabilities that negate the timing of Darwinian Evolution through RM + NS. That’s the negative aspect and only a part of the overall positive argument for design.

    What the Design argument is trying to do is to show overwhelmingly that: first of all, the current Darwinian paradigm is inadequate in explaining how the appearance of design arose out of RM + NS.

    I might add that Dr. Meyer’s contribution (among others – and again, forgive me if I don’t get this completely right – it is my understanding) is in showing the inconsistencies in Darwin’s predictions regarding gradual evolution required by natural selection, and the problems with the adjustment theories such as Punctuated Equilibrium. Dr. Hunter also appears to be involved in this, as well as pointing to other Darwinian prediction problems.

    But ID theorists deal with Darwin in the negative for one very important reason among others: Darwinists believe that there is the “appearance” of design in nature, but argue against “actual” design. In my reading of both the Darwinian literature and the ID literature, I find this to be an overwhelming fact. So it’s right for ID theorists to ask: “why is ‘apparent’ design not ‘actual’ design?” – and then to suggest that the Darwinists are mistaken in that aspect of the observational/inferrential task.

    All-in-all, The positive argument for ID is that these are issues for Darwinian Evolution because something other than or in addition to natural selection is going on. Thus, the positive arguments for irreducible complexity, complex specified information and fine tuning (among others).

    ____________________________

    But the best answers we currently have for questions regarding the “supernatural” are not found in science, rather, in philosophy and theology. It’s not so because science cannot possibley and eventually answer them, but because we have established an artificial barrier between the two disciplines, and as it stands now, we have to operate within these barriers so as not to confuse anyone. I think Gould attempted to resolve this issue, but his solution too was inadequate.

    We can’t rule out that one day we may have evidence for the hows.

    I would ask: “what causes us to arbitrarily assume that anything religious necessarily deals with
    things outside of nature that can never be known?” Why, when the beginning of the West’s fascination with scientific questions comes from a religious perspective that involved reasoning and logic?

    Do you think that this separation between science and religion came out of this dynamic? Or did it come out because several people involved in philosophy (and not science necessarily) mandated certain assumptions about science? I think the latter is true. I refer to Hume and others.

    Thus, we have a secular society arising out of “scientism” and in opposition to religion’s influence; when in fact religion created the scientific relevance to the very separation dynamic that we now see.

    I think it interesting as I was reviewing Dr. Behe’s testimony at the Dover trial, that one plaintiff lawyer was attempting to separate Dr. Behe’s knowledge of Biology from his knowledge of Astrophysics or Cosmology in an attempt to refute his argument regarding the Big Bang. Dr. Behe originally compaired BBT to ID in how it was accepted by the scientific community. The lawyer attempted to show that Dr. Behe’s analysis was not legitimate, since he is not an Astrophysicist. Dr. Behe stated that the issue of the Big Bang theory was a foundational point to his explanation for how ID is currently being percieved in the scientific community.

    The Judge sustained an objection to the lawyer’s point, and Dr. Behe was allowed to continue his comparison.

    It seems that our current understanding of science has become so specialized such that some think a Biologist ought to not look into issues pertaining to Astrophysics, and so on. Why? When if we are talking about design, would we not want to look for it everywhere it could possibly be found, rather than in one area of specialization? Thus, we also have Dr. Gonzalez involved in the debate.

    With the same level of reasoning, why would a scientist not want to ask philosophical and religious questions when dealing with issues of science, when philosophy and religion are a major part of Western thought?

    The only reason I can see as to why ID theorists believe that such questions are (currently) outside of science, is: We ain’t there yet. We have some preliminary issues to resolve.

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