THINK Christian! A Graphic Depiction of the Scale of the Universe

Are Christians kidding me that this universe is fine tuned for life when so much of it is lifeless? Vast areas of this universe cannot support life, probably 99.9999% of it. And are they also kidding me that the whole purpose of creation was to test human souls for entrance into heaven? Why couldn't an omnipotent God who created the laws of the universe and who could also do perpetual miracles need this vast universe? All he needed to do was create a flat earth with human beings on it!


55 comments:

Laughing Boy said...

Are Christians kidding me that this universe is fine tuned for life when so much of it is lifeless?

The anthropomorphic principle states that the entire universe is fine-tuned to allow for life on Earth, not everywhere in the universe. So, no they're not kidding you, you're just missing the point.

James F. McGrath said...

It seems to me that this is a bit like saying "If God were responsible for atoms, wouldn't he have made them in such a way that they wouldn't be mostly empty space?" And I don't see how that argument is anything other than idle speculation about what is or isn't optimal in matter or for a life-inhabiting universe. I'm certainly not about to make the opposite case, and claim that we know that we need precisely this proportion of habitable to non-habitable locations for an optimal universe. But I don't see that, in the absence of other universes to compare ours with, we can discuss the matter of fine tuning in a well-informed manner at all.

I will offer one observation, however. It sounds like you agree with fundamentalists in preferring the God of the Bible understood literally, creating a flat earth with a dome over it. They accept it (or as much of it as they can) and you reject it. But it remains a third option to rethink religious concepts in light of our expanding knowledge about the apparently expanding universe!

Sometimes, however, an idea may simply need to be discarded altogether. One example of this is perhaps one that you mentioned, the notion of creation as a test for entry to heaven. It is obviously nonsensical, isn't it? Either humans have free will now and will have it in an afterlife, in which case the whole cycle of fall and redemption may start over; or free will will be revoked in eternity, in which case what was the point of giving it in the first place?; or we aren't free now, in which case it isn't much of a test!

Rob R said...

hmmm, this is like one of those arguments like there's so much quantity to space that there must not be a God and we must not be special.

I'm going to chalk this one up to arguments that just don't qualify as real arguments.

christophermencken said...

When I see videos like this or read up on the vastness of the universe, I wonder how in the world Christians can come to believe that some poorly documented historical Jewish faith healer named Jesus who died a couple thousand years was really the guy with enough oomph to pop this universe into existence.

I mean, do Christians really watch this video and go, "Yup, yup....I'm totally sure after reading the New Testament that Jesus was the guy that cranked this universe out!"

Rob R said...

So where's the inconsistency Christophermenken?

What I find absurd is that people don't realize that even if there isn't a God, the most important and amazing part of the universe is the persons that evolved here with awareness, wonder, and passion. Huge unbelievably large quantities of space and stars just isn't as important. It's dead, unaware and worth nothing without entities that can even conceive of worth.

So if there is a personal God, why wouldn't this God value other persons.

Nothing in our experience is more important. Nothing. It just goes to show that only in theism can true humanism find solid root.

christophermencken said...

Rob R---Because there's a friggin' difference in the legendary water to wine trick and the reality of the Crab Nebula.

Don't pull a switch on a vague "God" concept. Tell me the evidence that you've amassed reading Mark, Luke, and John that this old dead Jewish sage created that pulsar on the other side of the universe.

John W. Loftus said...

Laughing Boy, and Rob R.(the answer man), what kind of God do you believe in? I mean really? What kind of God do you really believe in? Answer me this, and so far I have never heard an even remotely good answer: Can your God do perpetual miracles or not? Yes or no? If so he does not need any physical laws to abide by at all...at all! If not, then why not? And if not then why would you think your God can do miracles at all?

Now if the purpose of creation was to test human souls when God had the power to do perpetual miracles he could've created a flat disk for this purpose. Think about it. Then there would be no way in hell I would ever be making this kind of argument in the first place. And science could never explain why there is a flat earth. For you to respond that God did this to hide himself from us, seems absolutely ridiculous to me because people DID believe there was a flat earth prior to modern science and such a belief DID NOT reveal God in creation too much to over-ride free will.

Hi James. I plan on beating you in rankings this month! ;-)

James F. McGrath said...

So you do believe in miracles after all... ;-)

Houx said...

I use to have the belief that life's hardships were a series of cosmic tests designed to teach me something. This belief was apparent when something traumatic happened and I would say, "My God is testing me!"

I don't believe that way anymore. I don't believe that a loving God would test my character or faith. The way I see it, life just happens and sometimes it hurts. Life can be terrible painful at times, but I don't believe that pain is inflicted on me by God. Rather She is constantly by my side, ready to carry me through it. Today I have faith that God's will for me is good, and that I am loved.

christophermencken said...

Rather She is constantly by my side, ready to carry me through it. Today I have faith that God's will for me is good, and that I am loved.

Sounds like a poorly designed welfare system, Houx. Down on your luck? Just get a loan from the government. Having a tough time? Just ask God for a handout.

Brad Haggard said...

John,

This is a coool video, thanks for posting it.
I don't see why God can't create the universe because He enjoys it. The awe and wonder of that video could be an end of itself. And your contention still doesn't explain the constants, or their wonder.

Just enjoy this amazing video.

Rob R said...

Rob R---Because there's a friggin' difference in the legendary water to wine trick and the reality of the Crab Nebula.

yes. yes their is a difference. I suppose it would take much more energy to create a crab nebula than to turn a few Jars of water into wine. Also, one requires interacting with nature on a level that is currently far beyond our abilities (and may always be so).

Don't pull a switch on a vague "God" concept.

huh?

Tell me the evidence that you've amassed reading Mark, Luke, and John that this old dead Jewish sage created that pulsar on the other side of the universe.

Why? Do you all of the sudden distain the topic that you want to trail away from it and change it? That is the thin to do for some people when they advance irrational non-arguments.

Laughing Boy said...

I purposefully did not respond to your other questions, choosing to limit myself to correcting your misunderstanding of the anthropomorphic principle. If you admit your error on that question I'll consider addressing the others. If not, I won't waste my time.

christophermencken said...

yes. yes their is a difference. I suppose it would take much more energy to create a crab nebula than to turn a few Jars of water into wine.

Rob R---You think?

Gods came cheap in such a superstitious era. That video shows gods aren't so cheap here in the 21st century. Great claims take great evidence.

So you think the info in the New Testament gives you the evidence to say Jesus created the Crab Nebula?

Rob R said...

John,

Can your God do perpetual miracles or not? Yes or no? If so he does not need any physical laws to abide by at all...at all! If not, then why not? And if not then why would you think your God can do miracles at all?

Well in virtue of what would it be a miracle? If God establishes something that is perpetual, then it is ever after the norm and by definition, not a miracle. It seems to me most objections to miracles are semantic anyhow. That's kind of important, but not hugely.

Furthermore, for all we know, our scientific knowledge may already be at the end of it's ability to explain in some directions, particularly a theory to unite the four forces of the universe or to reconcile qm with reletivity. So what's the difference here and your scenario? The atheist can still conclude the same thing, that we just haven't found the absolute materialistic explanation.

Now if the purpose of creation was to test human souls

i don't believe that was the purpose. I think tests are a means to an end.

Then there would be no way in hell I would ever be making this kind of argument in the first place.

Well, I don't know why that should be a divine priority. There are more serious arguments even by yourself, like so many of the ones about scripture that require delving into interpretation but furthermore how we should approach history and truth itself.

For you to respond that God did this to hide himself from us,

I don't believe God gave us scientifically capable minds to hide himself from us. The developement of human understanding has it's own aesthetic worth in the creation. You think God should've made a flat earth. I think "how boring". It's so much more interesting and gives God so much more glory that his world involves incredible layers upon layers under first appearances that have a profoundly sophisticated ordering that reveals itself to our careful calculated manipulation.

So if this adds one more challenge to the context of redemption in which we find ourselves in, it doesn't seem to me like we have an objective measure to determine how many challenges such a context should entail.

By the way, it seems James Mcgrath is echoing a sentiment that's going around, that atheists and fundamentalists are cut from the same cloth. Nancy Murphy Also makes a similar case about fundamentalists and liberals.

Rob R said...

Hey James Macgrath. As you can see, John will vouch for me that I am the answer man (but hey, I won't claim it for myself) and if you look at John's recent post on free will and heaven, I answered that issue.

Rob R said...

Christopher,

Gods came cheap in such a superstitious era. That video shows gods aren't so cheap here in the 21st century.

uh, okay. God isn't cheap. That's fine with me. I never thought he was.


Great claims take great evidence.

what evidence do you provide for this claim? Course virtually all knowledge entails epistemic risk (and confidence in light of epistemic risk is what faith basically is... (though not biblically speaking, faith involves more than knowledge there) and there is no objective measure as to how much risk we shouldn't embrace.

christophermencken said...

and there is no objective measure as to how much risk we shouldn't embrace.

Oh Rob, I so call B.S. on you. Are you telling me in life that you take great risk on so little evidence? So in the rest of life you make big decisions on little corroborating information?

No, what I find with the evangelical crowd it's just this god delusion where claims the size of "Hey he did water into wine so yeah it's possible he did the Crab Nebula" rule their lives.

(But thank you for the discussion...it's late...I gotta sleep.)

Rob R said...

Are you telling me in life that you take great risk on so little evidence?

The greatness of the epistemic risk is a reflection of your education and subjective judgment.

As there is no objective means to assess how much epistemic risk is reasonable, often their is no objective means to determine how great the risk is as well.

From my perspective, while the epistemic risk is greater than that of sciences (which itself has a greater risk than logic and math, which has a greater risk that the proposition that thinking is taking place), it is still less than the idea that there is no God and that he is not Yahweh who has come to us as Jesus. Why would I ignore the corroborating evidence?

By the way let us note that you have abandoned the topic because it was a poor argument. Again, it's better for you to change topic since you cannot handle this one.

No, what I find with the evangelical crowd it's just this god delusion

I see an irrelevent assertion. But you don't give me a reason to agree with you.

John W. Loftus said...

Laughing Boy, yes, I know the argument well. I used it myself as a former Christian. But now it doesn't work for me. Apart from human life not found in 99.9999% of the universe, even on this planet there are vast areas where human beings cannot live, plenty of them. (Think oceans for one).

I'm arguing that if there's an omnipotent God then this vast universe (and vast areas on the earth) are unnecessary. This earth is no more fine tuned for life than is the planet Mercury. The operative word is "tuned," as in "fine-tuned," since you believe there must be a tuner.

James McGrath's comment was on target to this argument of mine. But I think there are reasons to conclude what I do despite not having other universes to compare ours to. (Think: Problem of intense suffering).

Now, want to waste your time by answering my questions better than Rob "the answer man" did?

Cheers.

FYI: James, a miracle, eh? You've got me in a bind now. For if I win then I must believe.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R.

A few questions for you:

1. Can I assume that you are fairly certain that the origins of the universe should be assigned to the powers of the Judeo-Christian god?

2. How certain of this are you?

3. How does this belief motivate work that can benefit the common good? Do you have any examples of this work?

4. What objective test might you offer someone who doubts both your premise and your conclusion so that they might independently examine both and come to their own conclusion?

5. Do you expect others to agree with you?

6. What happens if others find your "epistemic risk" nothing more than superstition?

Thanks

Rob R said...

With all due respect John, you don't even understand the fine tuning argument. The fine tuning is in the physical constants that had to be so extremely unfathomably precisely honed to make it physically possible at all for us to exist. That it's made so much else possible that is irrelevant and unnecessary to life is beside the point.

And atheist scientist who recognize the problem don't try to make it go away with your strategy because it doesn't do anything whatsoever against what they understand about these precise physical laws and constants. They prefer to decrease the improbablity of it by conjecturing the origins of infinite to near infinite multiple universes. That is the only reasonable argument against the teleological conclusion of the fine tuning argument unless you want to argue that the fine tuning of the universe wasn't so fine and wasn't so necessary. But the validity of that would be way over our non-physicist non-mathematician heads and beyond our ability to judge.

Again, that the finely tuned universe lead to immense vast expanses irrelevent to life doesn't really touch these considerations in the slightest. The physical constants still are finely tuned and still could not have been any other way if physical life was to be possible.

John W. Loftus said...

And with an equal amount of respect Rob I did answer the question. What is there that you don't understand about my explanation? I do understand the argument. Why is it that unless I accept an argument I must not understand it? This is a huge non-sequitur that many people use.

In any case you can check this video out.

Cheers.

Laughing Boy said...

I know the argument well.

Based on what you are saying I don't think you do. Let me make a simple analogy:

Cars are designed to transport people from one place to another, yet there are vast areas of a car where people can't or are not intended to sit. This includes the engine compartment where you'll find many components required for the car to fulfill it's purpose. If the designers designed a car with nothing but seats it would not be a properly functioning car. They purposefully set aside space for other components so the finished work could move, steer, stop, etc.

Would you say a car with nothing but seats was fine-tuned for people-transportation? It seems you would, because you say the oceans count against the Earth's being fine-tuned because they take up space in which people could be living. Think optimum, not maximum. Oceans are required for life on Earth. The same goes for every bit of matter in the universe. The high percentage of humanly uninhabitable space in the universe is filled with elements that are absolutely required to allow for the development and sustainment of an optimal (not maximal) amount human life on Earth for a determined period of time.

Your point seems to be that God, having control over the the laws of physics, could have altered them in such a way as to be able to create an earth with no space allocated for supporting systems so that people could be crammed like sardines into every available space, since His goal (you insist) should be to simply maximize units of humanity, like some cosmic corporate chicken farmer. Well, I for one am thankful He was not as concerned with maximizing output this as you would have been if you were God.

As for addressing your other questions, my requirement is that you admit that you either misunderstood the anthropomorphic principle or that you purposefully misrepresented it in order to make your case. If you can't admit that you are wrong, as you clearly are here, then it is a waste of my time to attempt to engage you on the other questions.

All the best.

Rob R said...

Chuck, I don't conclude from the fine tuning of the universe that the Judeo Christian God exists. I conclude that the fine tuning of the universe is one of the many reasons why the Judeo Christian God makes sense.

Certainty is an ambiguous term. I am very confidant that the Judeo Christian God exists and is most likely the explanation for the fine tuning of the universe (as I believe that Yahweh created ex nihilo, but that is not a view I absolutely would not compromise on).

If by certainty, you mean the level of provability, then no, I am not fully certain as I believe in light of the lack of absolute provability of the theistic picture.

I don't offer any objective tests for someone who doubts. I challenge someone who insists on an objective test to objectively prove that objectivity is necessary for rational epistemically responsible belief. If several hundred years of philosophy hasn't produced that since Descarte, I don't expect it to come along any time soon.

I think people should agree with me about my conclusions but I expect they won't. We all have free will, different abilities to reason and we are in different contexts such that what might lead us to God will be different. It often takes more than rational arguments but takes prayer and lives of love.

epistemic risk is not superstition. It is the level to which some belief cannot be proven. Superstition entails a high level of epistemic risk. I would define superstition as an irrational poorly substantiated belief in specific supernatural claims. As to what constitutes that is virtually the subject of whole blogs like this one or on the other side, a blog dedicated to Christian apologetics. Then again, an atheistic philosopher is completely capable of concluding that Christianity is not irrational or poorly substantiated to the point that it deserves to be called superstition though it isn't substantiated well enough to be believed. And some of them do see things this way.

As to the good outcomes motivated by belief in a creator, the usual observations will do. Social improvement such as the Wesleys brought about, lives saved from addiction, marriages saved, political upheavals from the falling of the berlin wall and apartheid and so on. And of course we know lots of bad things happened in the name of religion, lots of bad things happened due to the anti-religious, it's a complicated issue and I don't know why we'd thrash it out here and convolute the discussion.

Laughing Boy said...

Of course I mean the Anthropic Principle, not the Anthropomorphic Principle. I got my terms confused. I was wrong. See how easy it is?

Rob R said...

Why is it that unless I accept an argument I must not understand it?

I can't stand this when it's leveled against me either. But the bottom line here is that the fine tuning argument has nothing to do with how efficiently God is supposed to use the quantities of space and rock of the universe. And the idea that there is so much unused space and rock is very consistent with a more naturalistic theistic evolutionary view.

Fine tuning is about the mathematical quality of physics, not the quantity of physical entities. it's not even about whether life will be produced at all. It's that physics must be honed for for the just the possibility itself.

I certainly don't equate disagreement with misunderstanding. I already described a legitimate way in which the theistic conclusion of the fine tuning argument may be disagreed with.

Your considerations just aren't on the same level. Neil deGrasse's objections aren't even on the same level. Many of his objections can be handled at an entirely different level. Our finely tuned universe, which is still finely tuned is nevertheless broken. His argument is good against folk theology that suggests everything is the way God intended it. But it doesn't say much against against Christian theism when the narrative indicates the opposite.

Grendel said...

Since we exist, it seems less remarkable to me to find that in our tiny corner of the cosmos things are "tuned" for our existence. That is exactly what we would expect to find. Wouldn't it be more remarkable if we existed in spite of the tuning of the universe? It seems to me that an omnipotent personal creator would be much more evident from life created with no apparent connection to the laws of nature.

Laughing Boy said...

John, I'm OK with you not accepting the Anthropic Principle, and I agree that not accepting an argument is not the same as not understanding it. But to say, "A fine-tuned universe? What's up with all that lifeless space?", indicates that you don't understand the Anthropic Principle since it is a meta-statement regarding the many discoveries in physics that point to the conclusion that everything in the universe is where it is, when it is, and in the amount it is, to allow for life on Earth.

If I say, "Darwinian Evolution? What's up with all that diversity?", I bet you would say that I don't understand the theory, and not be satisfied with my contention that I do but I simply don't accept it.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Thanks for answering my questions.

I wasn't asking in general what good outcomes a theistic belief could generate. I was asking in particular what efforts you enjoy motivated by your theistic beliefs? What good do they provide (or what do you expect)? What do you do within your epistemic risk that an atheist could not equally do? How is your epistymology superior as evidenced by your actions and would an atheist or agnostic be incapable of taking the same action?

Additionally, thanks for the correction on my desire for an ojective test for your conclusions. I should have asked that differently. Can you provide an external data set that could be examined independently as a means for corroborating both your conclusion towards fine-tuning and a creator god?

Thanks.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob,

Where did you study physics?

Rob R said...

What do you do within your epistemic risk that an atheist could not equally do?

I'm not sure that the concept of epistemic risk is clearly relevant here.

But anyway, my beliefs motivate the selfish oaf that I am to give of myself in a way that atheism and atheists couldn't. Atheists often try to invalidate the social benefits of Christian motivation by noting that there are atheists who have a social conscience without those religious beliefs. Well that's all good and well for alleged saints like them, but it doesn't do much for the rest of selfish humanity (including other atheists who act exactly as Christians say they would in accordance with nihilism and selfishness).

Can you provide an external data set that could be examined independently as a means for corroborating both your conclusion towards fine-tuning and a creator god?

I'll answer this and your next question and refer to something I've already said. Fine-tuning for me is only one reason to believe in God but there are more important ones and better ones. After all, this one has a response which, even if speculative, still demonstrates that fine tuning doesn't require a creator, and that is the idea of an infinite number of universes. And my understanding of it is based on a non-fallacious appeal to authority and not because I've done the calculations myself. I have been formally trained in basic physics and basic nuclear physics for a nuclear medicine certification.

If you want to talk about coroborating evidence though, I assume I've already discussed the need to trust the transcendence and sacredness implied by our existential senses, the sense of individual worth, the worth of community, the worth of beauty and our spirituality and so on. And with that, I believe that the Christian narrative compliments and explains these best which itself can be studied on several grounds, historically and psychologically. Those are far from non-controversial and yet I believe an elegant case can be made on those grounds.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob you said,

"But anyway, my beliefs motivate the selfish oaf that I am to give of myself in a way that atheism and atheists couldn't."

In what way? You still haven't given me any specifics.

For example. I consider myself agnostic (as you know) and I volunteer my time assisting families damaged by alcoholism because it is a relevant cause to me. I don't do this for personal glory nor do I make money on it but, I do it because it is a good thing to do. I do this alongside many people who share your beliefs. Are you saying that their actions within this effort are somehow more valuable than mine because they believe in Christian orthodoxy and I don't?

Again I will ask. What do you do personally to make this world a better place based on your assertions of absolute truth? What does your theology do to help people Rob?

Rob R said...

ah nuts. I answered your question and I must've typed it somewhere. I don't think I posted it anywhere though.

I am involved at church in leading study groups. I have given a significant and undisclosed amount of my money to cheritable organizations and I have involved myself in time and effort in helping the poor. And I've already told you why this cannot be duplicated by atheists.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob R,

You said, " . . . And I've already told you why this cannot be duplicated by atheists."

I understand how the bible study couldn't be duplicated but I must have missed why the other stuff isn't possible.

So, why?

And you didn't answer my question in regards to my experience. Is my effort in helping the families I help less valuable than the believers who do the same thing? Thanks.

Rob R said...

Chuck, in the post before my last, I mentioned that the thing that atheists can't do is motivate me personally towards these goals. I don't deny that they can act virtuously, I deny that they can thoroughly promote virtue to just anyone. It's not that anyone can, but the fact that religion plays that role for the selfish is definitely a strength.

As for whatever you do for other families, Not just any kind of help is truely ethical. And we wouldn't necessarily agree on what that meant. You might not agree that my compassion that involves spiritual guidance is a good thing and I wouldn't agree with any secular humanist that help say with the liberal end of family planning is ethical compassion.

But let me grant that you're a person who's assistance cannot be faulted. That's great, but humanly speaking, it is half measures. From my perspective, human compassion is only one half of the human equation. We are made for God and to think we can only follow one of the two greatest commandments as Jesus described is ultimately short cited. The love that you can offer for example cannot sustain someone as the love of God can, so by not assisting them to recieve that love, you are missing their most important need. Again, that doesn't say the good things you do aren't good (I'm not one of those "all our good works are as filthy rags" sorts). They just aren't complete.

John W. Loftus said...

Laughing Boy, it is YOU who fails to understand my counter-argument. Sorry I can't help you any further.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Thanks Rob.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

John wrote, "Are Christians kidding me that this universe is fine tuned for life when so much of it is lifeless? Vast areas of this universe cannot support life, probably 99.9999% of it."

When I look to the night sky and witness the vastness of the universe, I am wholly impressed and overwhelmed, in the midst of infinite creative potential, by how incomparably rare and valuable the life on this planet is! This one planet, amidst an infinite number of yet-to-be-developed properties inspires my sense of wonder and humanity.

Then this, "All he needed to do was create a flat earth with human beings on it!"

I don't know for certain, but perhaps a flat world might be in the works for the future - sounds kind of fun.

3M

Rob R said...

You're welcome

Piero said...

Much like the Babel fish in The Hitchkiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the fine tuning argument is actually a powerful argument against the existence of God. If God was compelled to choose a given set of values for the fundamental constants in order to ensure our existence, this shows that he/she/it is not omnipotent. In other words, God is limited by the laws of the universe he/she/it created. If God was all-powerful, we shoul be able to exist even in a universe which does not allow us to.

Laughing Boy said...

John said: Sorry I can't help you any further.

I wouldn't say that you can't help. First, you could help by showing me exactly where your "counter-argument" is. Your original statement is that you don't think the universe can be considered "fine-tuned" given so much of it is uninhabited. Is that correct?

In response to my initial reply you said,

"I'm arguing that if there's an omnipotent God then this vast universe (and vast areas on the earth) are unnecessary."

Is that your counter-argument? If it is, then can I rephrase it as follows without distorting your meaning: "An omnipotent God would not need vast areas dedicated to "natural" support systems and would have created an environment that allowed for a significantly higher human unit-to-square mile ratio."?

If I missed your point I apologize.

To the other commenters: If John can't (or won't) help my see where I've failed to understand, can someone else point it out to me?

Laughing Boy said...

Piero said: If God was all-powerful, we should be able to exist even in a universe which does not allow us to.

Are you saying that if God was all-powerful He would necessarily have placed humans in a system in which we could not naturally survive?

Are you saying that if God was all-powerful He logically could not choose to work primarily within a system of His own devising. In other words God may have set the physical laws to be a certain way, but then, in order to be omnipotent, He must necessarily break them at every opportunity?

Is this what you are saying?

Piero said...

Laughingboy:
Nope. What I'm saying is that you cannot derive the existence of a being outside the universe from the laws of that universe. An all-powerful God does not have to do anything; hence, its is a non-argument to claim that we couldn't exist in any other universe, and therefore our existence proves God's existence. That would be tantamount to saying that God had no choice but to twiddle the knobs the way he/she/it did, or else we could not hav existed.
In short, it is silly to argue from natural laws in order to prove the existence of a non-natural entity.

Laughing Boy said...

Perhaps, but observing the physical universe can lead one to ponder the metaphysics. Are "why" questions meaningless, unknowable, or otherwise invalid?

Piero said...

Yes.

Al Moritz said...

Theology has held since ancient time that God is infinite. The revelation by science how vast our universe, God's creation, really is (and it may be even much larger than what we can observe) provides a limited glimpse what God's infinity really may mean.

Already in the 15th century the Cardinal, theologian and astronomer Nicolas of Cusa claimed that only an infinite universe would be worthy of its Creator. He would have been delighted to see the pictures from the Hubble telescope.

***

You can also look at the issue from another angle. How about a smaller universe to "raise our significance"? It turns out that this does not work according to physics. As physicist Stephen Barr writes in his essay on Anthropic Coincidences about age and size of the universe:

"It turns out that the very age and vastness of the universe may have an ‘anthropic’ significance. Life emerged in our universe in a way that required great stretches of time [billions of years]. [...]

"Physics can also suggest why the universe has to be so large. The laws of gravity discovered by Einstein relate the size of the universe directly to its age. The fact that the universe is many billions of light-years across is related to the fact that it has lasted several billions of years. Perhaps we would be less daunted by a cozy little universe the size, say, of a continent. But such a universe would have lasted only a few milliseconds. Even a universe the size of the solar system would have lasted only a few hours. A universe constructed in such a way as to evolve life may well have had to extend widely in space as well as in time. It may well be that the frightening expanses that are so often said to be a sign of human insignificance may actually, like so many other features of our strange universe, point to man, as they also proclaim the glory of God."

(From:
http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/anthropic-coincidences-40 )

Rational analysis thus shows that the argument for the insignificance of humans based on size, in relation to the sheer vastness of the universe, is merely an emotional argument.

Al Moritz said...

Are Christians kidding me that this universe is fine tuned for life when so much of it is lifeless?

The fine-tuning argument holds in the relation to the universe as a whole, and is not meant to address the question of why you cannot live on the sun or breathe on the moon. Of course sources of energy (stars) are needed to drive life and evolution, and of course you cannot live on them. Nor can you live in the, by necessity, frighteningly large stretches of empty space between them and planets. So what is the point? Nobody would deny that the light bulb is an invention that greatly enhances modern life. But when you would try to hold your hand around a light bulb that is turned on, you would burn it to pieces. Is the light bulb then "hostile to life"? Certainly not. This modest example, however, indicates how utterly irrelevant the argument really is.

Rob R said...

Laughing boy, If I was John, I suppose I might say that one thing you fail to understand given your comment on the car analogy is that in your car analogy, everything is still useful even though humans are not meant to occupy every inch. Not so with 99.999... percent of space.

Course, for all I know, he may not think I undertand him either.

Rob R said...

Thanks for the further explanation of fine tuning Al Moritz

Laughing Boy said...

Piero said: In short, it is silly to argue from natural laws in order to prove the existence of a non-natural entity.

Piero said: ... the fine tuning argument is actually a powerful argument against the existence of God.

What I learned from Piero: It is silly to proceed from observations of the natural world to conclusions about the non-natural except when those conclusions are negative, then it's OK.

Rob R said:... in your car analogy, everything is still useful even though humans are not meant to occupy every inch.

According to the physics alluded to in the Anthropic Principle, every bit of matter in the universe is useful, even required, in order to allow life within a certain very small window of time and space (i.e. not every inch). John says the uninhabited space in the universe is wasted space, but, according to contemporary cosmology, he is wrong. I think my analogy is valid.

Piero said...

"What I learned from Piero: It is silly to proceed from observations of the natural world to conclusions about the non-natural except when those conclusions are negative, then it's OK."

You are getting the hang of it.

Laughing Boy said...

Yay!

Piero said...

LaughingBoy:

On a more serious note: suppose you are a virtual entity in a computer simulation. In time, you come to deduce how your virtual world is put together: you deduce the existence of memory locations, resident routines, interrupts, etc. From this you may want to jump to the conclusion that something or someone designed and made your world. And you would be right, of course. You would be absolutely wrong, however, if you attributed omnipotence to your creator: in fact, all the evidence you managed to gather would point to the precise opposite conclusion.

Our situation is similar: whatever we may believe about the existence of a creator, one thing is sure, namely that he/she/it is not omnipotent. An omnipotent being's creation would show no regularities, because regularities are constraints.

So your humorous version of what you've "learned" from me is in fact valid: from the natural world we can only derive negative conclusions about the supernatural world. We can deduce what the supernatural world cannot be, not what it is.

Rob R said...

According to the physics alluded to in the Anthropic Principle, every bit of matter in the universe is useful,

If you explained that earlier, I didn't see it and it seemed to me that al moritz was the first to explain things along those lines.