Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Universe designed for us

The most recent issue of Discovery Magazine, a secular scientific publication, has a fascinating article which concludes that the universe is adapted for us, not the other way around.

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.
This causes a real problem for scientists who want to explain the inescapable fact that the laws of the universe are "fine tuned" to support life. In the past, this observation was explained by the "anthropic principle" which was first set forth by Brandon Carter in 1973. It says that we should not be surprised that conditions where we live are suitable for life: if they were not, we would not be here to observe them. Based on this principle, life will only exist in those regions of the universe where conditions are right for life.

However, scientists are now coming to the conclusion that the very laws of physics and the particular properties of the fabric of space and time are "custom tailored" to allow life to exist.

According to physicist Andrei Linde of Palo Alto, California, if the laws of physics were tweaked in just about any way, life could not exist.

For instance, if protons were 0.2 percent more massive than they are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms would not exist, and neither would we.

If gravity were slightly stronger, the results would be nearly as grave -- stars would compress more tightly, causing them to burn hotter and faster, exhausting their fuel supply much too fast to support life.

Stars produce energy by fusing two hydrogen atoms into a single helium atom, converting 0.007% of the hydrogen's mass into energy. But if that percentage were 0.006 or 0.008, the Universe would not support life. The lower number would result in a universe filled only with hydrogen, and the higher number would lead to a universe with no hydrogen, no water, and no stars like our sun.

The universe is delicately balanced between runaway expansion and terminal collapse. If the universe contained much more matter, additional gravity would have caused it to implode. If it contained less matter, the universe would have expanded too quickly for galaxies to form.

Had the matter in the universe been more evenly distributed, it would not have clumped together to form galaxies. Had matter been clumpier, it would have condensed into black holes.

If the strong nuclear force which bonds atomic nuclei together were slightly more powerful, all the protons in the universe would have paired off and there would be no hydrogen, which fuels stars. There would be no water, and life would not exist.

A universe with four-dimensional space would not support stable planetary orbits which allow for solar systems. Two-dimensional space would not permit life. Only three-dimensional space allows for planets with life.

Physicists believe that some kind of unseen "dark energy" is driving the continued expansion of the universe. But Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind says "If dark energy had been any bigger, there would have been enough repulsion from it to overwhelm the gravity that drew the galaxies together, drew the stars together, and drew Earth together. It’s one of the greatest mysteries in physics. All we know is that if it were much bigger we wouldn’t be here to ask about it.” Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, agrees: “This is the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident.”

The scientific evidence points clearly to one conclusion: the universe was created by God according to His design for the purpose of containing life.

However, scientists, dedicated to the pursuit of truth through the scientific method of creating postulates and theories and then proving, disproving or refining them using observation and empirical data, immediately reject one possible explanation which can not be proven or disproven in favor of another explanation which also can not be proven or disproven.

As the article explains, Linde has developed a theory to explain the observations that our universe is ideally designed for life. He suggests that there are many "universes" each with different properties and laws of physics. He uses 11-dimensional super-string theory to suggest how different universes could have completely different characteristics. He even has a pretty picture of a "multiverse" produced by a computer simulation, with a caption explaining that "each colored ray is another expanding cosmos". If a computer simulated it, it must be real!

Scientists Poe Polchinski at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Raphael Bousso at the University of California at Berkley calculated that the basic string theory equations have an astronomical number of possible solutions, each representing a unique way to describe the universe. This meant that almost any experimental result would be consistent with string theory. Hence the theory can never be proved right or wrong.

Linde's multiverse intends to solve the problem by suggesting that there are boundless numbers of "universes" and then applying the anthropic principle to say that we exist in this universe because it has conditions suitable for life to develop. Of course we can't see these other universes or detect them or demonstrate their existence in any way. That leaves only one option: to predict how our universe would behave if this theory was true and then compare those predictions with experimental results.

John Polkinghorne, a theoretical particle physicist from Cambridge University pointed out the flaw in this thinking. “If you allow yourself to hypothesize an almost unlimited portfolio of different worlds, you can explain anything. If a theory allows anything to be possible, it explains nothing; a theory of anything is not the same as a theory of everything."

When Linde was asked whether physicists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, he answered, “Nothing else fits the data. We don’t have any alternative explanation for the dark energy; we don’t have any alternative explanation for the smallness of the mass of the electron; we don’t have any alternative explanation for many properties of particles. What I am saying is, look at it with open eyes. These are experimental facts, and these facts fit one theory: the multiverse theory. They do not fit any other theory so far. I’m not saying these properties necessarily imply the multiverse theory is right, but you asked me if there is any experimental evidence, and the answer is yes. It was Arthur Conan Doyle who said, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’”

Linde admits that only evidence for his multiverse theory is that he can't find any other explanation for his observation that the universe shows evidence of design for the purpose of supporting life. The fact is that there is a very good explanation: God made it that way. But Linde discounted that explanation without giving it any examination or consideration, not based on data or evidence, but because he refuses to allow for the possibility that there is a God who made us and has the moral authority to define absolute standards for right and wrong according to His own character. But tell me how it is scientific to reject one possibility just because they don't like it and then claim that another possibility, equally unprovable by science, is supported not by empirical evidence, but because they have arbitrarily ignored every other option?


The Donald said...

I just heard of this article on Paul Harvey news this morning.

>>It was Arthur Conan Doyle who said, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’<<

"Elementary" (sans 'my dear Watson', as Holmes did not utter those words).

The Donald said...

I have elsewhere established that I'm not necessarily on top of things cinematic.

Yesterday I rented a DVD at the Wal-Mart (Walmarts for RTB) RedBox. Entitled "EXPELLED - No Intelligence Allowed", with a picture of Ben Stein modeling Angus Young (of AC/DC) and a PG rating, I surmised it was some sort of comedy. With three kids, ranging from 7-16, it's a struggle to find fare for everyone.

Anyway, it was not a comedy, but a semi-documentary questioning why academia, the bastion of free thought, will not allow for even the discussion of intelligent design. Unanswered questions of Darwinism were asked, and the foundations of Nazi-ism and eugenics discussed.

In the end, it was much more satisfying as a thought- and discussion provoking piece than it could possibly have been had it been a comedy DVD.

The Donald said...

As concerns string theory, you can put me in the column (I think this reference comes from a 'Highlights' comic 35+ years ago) that firmly believes it's easier to pull a string than to push one.