Jan 12, 2009

London Bus: "Probably No God"

The sides of London buses currently have this sign, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The distinguished religious affairs commentator Clifford Longley has argued to the UK Advertising Standards Authority that the sign is deceitful based on evidence from physics that there very probably is a God.

Until late last spring, I had never heard of the Anthropic Principle and the Cosmological argument for God. The Anthropic Principle relates to intelligent design and contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing intelligent observers.

Physicist Carl Frederick’s article, “The Challenge of the Anthropic Universe,” has a good summary to explain how improbable the existence of our universe is, causing scientists to entertain thoughts of an Intelligent Designer. Here's the opening paragraph of Frederick's Science Fact article in the July/August 2008 double issue of Analog SF and Fact:
In the early 1990s, a creeping realization swept through the theoretical physics community that the probability for the universe to even exist was vanishingly small. Indeed, the only "theory" around that seemed able to explain the universe's existence was Intelligent Design. This was not something physicists and cosmologists liked to talk about.
Our exceptionally rare "fine-tuned universe" is uniquely designed to support the existence of intelligent observers. The approximately 20 fundamental constants of physics and chemistry are exactly what are absolutely required to allow our universe and intelligent life to exist. Examples include the gravitational constant; the masses of the proton, neutron, and electron; the charge on the electron; and the strong nuclear force.

Frederick also notes that theoretical physicist, John Wheeler (who coined the term "black hole"), claimed that modern quantum theory implies that the strong anthropic universe seems designed for intelligent observers within it. Wheeler maintained that observations by beings living billions of years after the Big Bang actually caused the Big Bang. [I am reminded that the Catholic Church once claimed that God created mankind on earth as the center of the universe.]

Frederick is a well-established theoretical physicist and science-fiction author who jokes about his (non-)religion: "Physics is not so much a field of employ as a way of life and perhaps even a religion. As for religion itself however, I am an observant but non-proselytizing vegetarian."

Frederick discusses the most tightly tuned Cosmological Constant, "a small pure number... a provider of a cosmic scale universal repulsion (or attraction)....the manifestation of the universe's zero-point energy." Frederick points out the measured values of the Cosmological Constant and other physical constants means that the probability of our universe to exist is less than 1 chance in 10^229 (as estimated by well-known physicist Lee Smolin).

Even though Frederick's article searches for and finds "possible solutions" to the "problem" of Intelligent Design, he seems not to be happy with any of them and ends his article with a quote from Einstein, "'Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not.'....I wonder."

2 comments:

Ken said...

The so-called fine tuning of the cosmological constant is a big mistake (as I have pointed out in Fiddling with “fine-tuning”). The usually quoted value of 10^120 refers to the discrepancy between the measured and theoretical values. Tyson pointed out that the constant could have taken a "value between zero and a few times its actual value"

Dust I Am said...

Dear Ken,
Your blog seems devoted solely to arguments against an intelligent designer--understandable after I see your listed "Atheist Blogroll". In other words, you have a serious bias.

You attempt to discredit the probability value of 1 in 10^120, yet I used the value of 1 in 10^129--which comes from the emminent physicist Lee Smolen and is referenced by well-known physicist Carl Frederick. Truck your dissatisfied comments over to Smolen and Frederick--you have a problem with them, not with me.