Ed Brayton posted Entry 730 on January 11, 2005 02:37 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/728

Feddie from Southern Appeal sent me a link to NRO for a post by John Derbyshire weighing in against ID, much to my surprise. Derbyshire writes:

(1) If scientist X passes a remark about the universe sure being a mysterious place, he has not thereby placed himself in the ID camp. ID is a specific set of arguments about specific scientific topics. Of those arguments I have seen, none struck me as very convincing.

(2) None of the ID people I have encountered (in person or books) is an open-minded inquirer trying to uncover facts about the world. Every one I know of is a Christian looking to justify his faith. This naturally inclines me to think that they are grinding axes, not conducting dispassionate science. This is, in my opinion, not only a path to bad science, but also a path to bad theology.

And in another post on the same subject, he pointed out the "god of the gaps" nature of ID reasoning, as I often have:

Since the entire history of science displays innumerable instances of hitherto inexplicable phenomena yielding to natural explanations (and, in fact, innumerable instances of "intelligent design" notions to explain natural phenomena being scrapped when more obvious natural explanations were worked out), the whole ID outlook has very little appeal to well-informed scientists. A scientist who knows his history sees the region of understanfing as a gradually enlarging circle of light in a general darkness. If someone comes along and tells him: "This particular region of darkness HERE will never be illuminated by methods like yours," then he is naturally skeptical. "How can you possibly know that?" he will say, very reasonably...

By contrast with these meta-topics about which we know nothing -- the questions about which may not even have meaning -- we know a great deal about the actual mechanisms of natural selection, gene function, inheritance, matter-energy systems, and the early history of the universe; but there are many things we do not fully understand, and the ID-ers wish to plug those gaps by invoking the intervention of a higher intelligence. Working scientists in these fields are much, much more likely to say: "Well, let's wait and see what a couple more generations of scientific inquiry turn up before we leap to conclusions like that."

Interesting stuff from an unexpected source. William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, was an enthusiastic supporter of ID who gave a huge boost to ID advocates a few years ago when he captained their team (which included Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe and the ever-irritating David Berlinski) in a Firing Line debate on television against a team consisting of Barry Lynn, Genie Scott, Michael Ruse and Ken Miller.

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Comment #13339

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on January 11, 2005 3:02 PM (e)

Derbyshire has criticized ID before, for which I praised him here.

Comment #13343

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

Derbyshire’s comments are not intelligently designed. I have posted on this here

Comment #13347

Posted by Ed Brayton on January 11, 2005 3:51 PM (e)

David, your post focuses on cosmological claims, which interest me as little as the biological aspects interest you. Personally, as a deist, I have no problem with the notion that the universe was created, or was created with conditions that could allow the formation of life (WAP is fine by me, SAP seems a major stretch). But that has little to do with the ID and evolution, which focuses on biology and the biodiversity of life on earth, not with the universe as a whole.

Comment #13358

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 4:01 PM (e)

Ed,

You are correct. It’s a pet peeve of mine that ID is almost always viewed as an attack on evolution. I take all opportunities to point out that there is an even more fundamental cosmological ID question. If ID in cosmology cannot be satisfactorily refuted, then I view the evolution debate as “in the noise.”

Comment #13360

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 11, 2005 4:04 PM (e)

2) None of the ID people I have encountered (in person or books) is an open-minded inquirer trying to uncover facts about the world. Every one I know of is a Christian looking to justify his faith.

It appears he doesn’t know any Raelians

Comment #13362

Posted by Ed Brayton on January 11, 2005 4:08 PM (e)

David-

Perhaps you should take that up with the Discovery Institute. 99% of their efforts focus exclusively on poking holes in evolution. It’s almost always viewed as an attack on evolution because it almost always IS an attack on evolution.

Comment #13363

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 4:10 PM (e)

Nice try Heddle. By the way, as I recall last time you ran away from this blog without providing satisfactory answers to some questions about the “evolution” of your thinking with respect to evolutionary biology. Like, what was the scientific thinking which led you to conclude in high school that the entire field was a fraud?

In any event, Derbyshire is correct and you remain a dissembler.

You write

Now I limit myself to ID as it applies to cosmology.

And I limit myself to “ID” as it applies to wristwatches.

Does that mean Derbyshire is mistaken?

Of course not.

We all know what we’re talking about when we talk about “ID theory”, Mr. Heddle. Except some of us (you) apparently like to pretend that we don’t.

Derbyshire makes a theologically incorrect statement, at the very beginning of his post:

It is possible to believe in God and not believe in ID;
theologically incorrect statement, at the very beginning of his post:

It is possible to believe in God and not believe in ID

Theologically incorrect? What the hell does that mean? I recall you claiming that you weren’t a fundamentalist. I suggest you “try again.” Of course, it’s clear that “ID” means whatever you want it to mean, David Dumpty. So maybe it’s just impossible for you to be proven wrong about anything. I guess that would be consistent with your ability to rebuke a century’s worth of scientific research before you reached twenty.

Why is there a universe at all? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Wow, that is so deep, man. My bong isn’t long enough to inhale such deep thoughts. If such deep questions were relevant to determining whether science teachers should instruct children that mysterious alien beings created all the earth’s life forms, I might reach for my bong and take you on. For better or worse, that isn’t necessary.

He has, of course, relegated me to the category of uninformed scientist.

Misinformed and willfully deluded is more accurate.

Contrary to what Derbyshire implied, a great deal of research is conducted to answer the questions uncovered by ID research.

Oops. Instead of “uncovered by ID research” you meant to write “theologians and pop science cosmologists”.

Derbyshire confirms my speculation in his latest post in which he writes:

“None of the ID people I have encountered (in person or books) is an open-minded inquirer trying to uncover facts about the world. Every one I know of is a Christian looking to justify his faith.”

Were you really speculating about whether you were a Christian, Mr. Heddle? Gee, I could have helped you out with that one. I also have some advice on how to become a better Christian: stop dissembling on behalf of the ID peddling charlatans. You are turning your religion into a joke.

Comment #13364

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 4:10 PM (e)

Ed,

My point exactly. Perhaps I wasn’t clear on one thing: I don’t blame the biologists.

Comment #13365

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 4:13 PM (e)

Ahh GWW, I missed you! You have such a way with words.

Comment #13366

Posted by Barron on January 11, 2005 4:16 PM (e)

NR is rather confused on this as they named “Darwin’s Black Box” one of the Top 100 Books of the 20th Century!

http://www.nationalreview.com/100best/100_books.html

With the priceless quote:
George Gilder: “Overthrows Darwin at the end of the 20th century in the same way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning.”

Comment #13368

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 11, 2005 4:36 PM (e)

NR is rather confused on this as they named “Darwin’s Black Box” one of the Top 100 Books of the 20th Century!

http://www.nationalreview.com/100best/100_books.html …

Must be some mistake - they have it listed in the ‘nonfiction’ section.

Comment #13372

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 4:39 PM (e)

Ahh GWW, I missed you! You have such a way with words.

I missed you, too. I figured you’d have been raptured up by now.

Comment #13373

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 11, 2005 4:45 PM (e)

http://www.nationalreview.com/100best/100_books.html …

#33 The Double Helix by James Watson

Herman: “Deeply hated by feminists because Watson dares to suggest that the male-female distinction originated in nature, in the DNA code itself.”

I don’t think that’s the reason, and I disagree that this is one of the best 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century. Perhaps they confused it with his Nature articles on the double helical model for DNA.

#17: Sociobiology by Edward O. Wilson

Lind: “Darwin put humanity in its proper place in the animal kingdom. Wilson put human society there, too.”

Seems a bit inconsistent with listing Behe’s book, which only came in at #92.

Comment #13375

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 11, 2005 4:53 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

t’s a pet peeve of mine that ID is almost always viewed as an attack on evolution. I take all opportunities to point out that there is an even more fundamental cosmological ID question. If ID in cosmology cannot be satisfactorily refuted, then I view the evolution debate as “in the noise.”

Part of the problem is that the anti-evolution ID arguments (which as Ed points out, are by far the majority) are at best completely unrelated to the cosmological ID arguments. In some respects, they’re actually contradictory. The anti-evolution arguments rely on rarity to infer design. Yet the cosmological arguments rely on regularity. Surely, if the universe were not conducive to life, and yet here we are anyway, that would be an even better reason to infer design, no? On the flip side, if it turns out that the origin of life is a virtual certainty given the laws of the universe, then this fits right in with the cosmological fine-tuning arguments. Hey, the laws of the unvierse were “fine-tuned” to create life! Yet it would be the precise opposite of what the IDists are currently arguing.

Comment #13384

Posted by CrystalCowboy on January 11, 2005 5:14 PM (e)

Surely, if the universe were not conducive to life, and yet here we are anyway, that would be an even better reason to infer design, no? On the flip side, if it turns out that the origin of life is a virtual certainty given the laws of the universe, then this fits right in with the cosmological fine-tuning arguments. Hey, the laws of the unvierse were “fine-tuned” to create life!

Precisely this “heads I win, tails you lose” argument is used by John Polkinghorne, Templeton Prize winner, in support of his version of the Anthropic fallacy.

The Templeton Foundation should demand more for their $1.4 million.

Comment #13392

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 6:36 PM (e)

Steve and CC,

No, I do not agree that it is a heads I win tails you lose argument. In a nutshell, cosmological ID says: the chance of starting with nothing, and then there was a big-bang that ultimately produced a universe with even a single earth, is nil.

This is perfectly consistent with saying God created the universe for the purpose of placing life on earth, therefore the chance of an earth is unity.

Probability is always like that. A fair coin toss leading to a heads is, in one way of looking at it, 50-50. On the other hand, any coin toss is deterministic—given enough info I can calculate whether heads or tails will result. So in that sense the probability is unity.

Likewise for evolution. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, it is self-consistent to say that the probability that humans evolved from singled celled organisms is zero, unless God did it, in which case its one.

I don’t see the problem.

Comment #13394

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

On the other hand, any coin toss is deterministic—given enough info I can calculate whether heads or tails will result.

Enough info about what, David?

Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, it is self-consistent to say that the probability that humans evolved from singled celled organisms is zero, unless God did it, in which case its one.

What did your deity do, exactly?

This is kindergarent level philosophical rubbish, inarticulately worded, incoherent and a compleat waste of time (as Bob and Ray would say). Because David’s logic stinks, his deity just fell apart into an ash heap. Time to sweep the floor.

Funny how that works. Silly Johnsonite Christians. Always sticking their deity where it doesn’t belong.

Comment #13401

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 7:33 PM (e)

News flash! Historians now realize: da Vinci was not a human being, but a deity.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/01/11/davinci.designs.reut/index.html

“It is impossible to say how he managed to imagine these things, he was too great a mind to comprehend, but what you can see from the drawings is the process of his thought, filling every inch of paper with ideas,” Barbieri said.

“Even the bicycle, is … exactly like our modern version.”

I heard through the grapevine that da Vinci’s remains will be exumed tomorrow and analyzed to confirm Johnsonite Christian predictions that he was not a DNA-based organism.

Comment #13402

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

GWW, on point one: given enough details about the coin, how the coin is flipped, as well as the ambient conditions, one can (in principle) calculate how the toss will result. There is nothing random about it. Still, it makes sesne to say it’s 50-50.

On point two, it does not surprise me that you are incapable of enagaing in a discussion that is one level of abstraction away from whether ID is true or false. Let me try it in baby steps:

REGARDLESS of whether or not you agree with ID. If someone does agree with ID, then, from THEIR point of view, which may of course be FLAWED, then one can, given the aforementioned caveats, NEVERTHELESS understand how it is not unreasonable for them to say, although they be religious fanatics, that the probability of earth by random processes is zero, therefore God must have created the earth, while at the same time saying that since the sovereign omnipotent GOD decided to create the earth, it was in truth a “done deal.”

Comment #13404

Posted by plunge on January 11, 2005 8:06 PM (e)

“In a nutshell, cosmological ID says: the chance of starting with nothing, and then there was a big-bang that ultimately produced a universe with even a single earth, is nil.”

I’ve never even really understood the sort of mind that could make an argument like this. Isn’t it self-evident that probability is a meaningless concept without having knowledge of all possible options and their likihood (or, even better, a hold on exactly what process determines the outcome of each “toss”?)? We don’t for the universe, and perhaps never will. Any calculation of probability is thus plain goofy. We don’t even know WHAT can vary universe to universe. Perhaps there are principles, constants, regularities, and so on… of most universes that we have never seen. The cosmological ID argument basically emasculates itself.

Comment #13405

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 8:19 PM (e)

Plunge,

Bullshit.

First of all, galaxy formation requires a tight constraint on the expansion rate. Since the expansion rate, in no known theory, is a fundamental constant, it implies something about the probability of our universe. So much so that multiverse alternatives are proposed. In fact, if it wern’t so clear that we are extremely lucky (i.e. small probability) to exist at all, then the zealous appeal for the multiverse alternative would wane considerably.

You wrote:

of most universes that we have never seen

What do you mean “most universes we have never seen? Newsflash: we have only seen one and exactly one. The other universes conveniently cannot communicate with ours. According to non IDers we have to accept that they (other universes) exist on faith. And that we happen to live in one of the rare, fertile universes. Most reasonable people would call such a view a “religion.”

Comment #13406

Posted by WyldPirate on January 11, 2005 8:25 PM (e)

First time reading this blog and I can tell two things right off the bat.

1.) The focus on debunking the fundie creationist trojan horse of ID is an extremely important, but under-the-radar topic, is something that as a scientist I love to see. The fundamentalists pushing this stuff are the biggest danger to our country today. They are trying to extend their brainwashing and indoctrination out of the church and into the public arena. This is a dire threat to America and must be stopped.

2.) Little difference in other similar evolution/science-focused forums I’ve seen for years. There’s always fundies dropping by pretending to be what they aren’t.

Mr. Heddle is one and he doesn’t even know enough to realize that GWW performed the rhetorical equivalent of ripping his head off and defecating into his thoracic cavity. Moreover, Mr Heddle screws his head back in place and merrily proceeds to make a bigger fool of himself.

“Same as it ever was.”– David Byrne, “Once in a Lifetime”

Comment #13407

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 8:37 PM (e)

WyldPirate,

I can be wrong in many ways, but anyone who calls me a fundie is an idiot. My blog is noted for its anti-fundie viewpoint. Fundies HATE cosmological ID, because it only makes sense if the universe is old. Fundies only jump on the evolution-ID debate, because they believe they do so while retaining thier belief in a 6000 year old earth.

Pretending to be what they aren’t? I have more than 40 papers in peer reviewed physics journals. (I’ll provide you with a vita if you like) I’d wager my scientific bone fides can hold their own with most of the readers of this blog.

Why don’t you enlighten me, in a impassioned cogent analysis, as to how GWW ripped me a new one?

Comment #13408

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 8:42 PM (e)

Heddle

“One can understand” many things if one is willing to pretend that words have no meanings.

But if words have meanings – which is something we should be able to agree on – then I can not understand how it is reasonable for smoeone to say that “the probability of earth by random processes is zero, therefore God must have created the earth, while at the same time saying that since the sovereign omnipotent GOD decided to create the earth, it was in truth a “done deal.””

Such statements are not “reasonable”, whether a person “agrees” with “ID” or not. They are expressions of religious faith with no more substance than the tongues spoken by Pentecostals (the fastest growing religion in the US, if I understood the NYT correctly).

And every discussion about deities is “one level of abstraction” away from whether the deities created all of the life forms on earth.

The membrane which separates my lack of a belief in deities from religious faith is infinitely thin. POP. I believe in deities. POP. No I don’t because there is no evidence for them. See?

Nothing is simpler than that and that’s all there is to it, no matter how many bells and whistles you want to attach to your religious beliefs. In nearly every other respect, we go about our lives in precisely the same way: eating food when we are hungry, sleeping when we are tired, communicating with our mouths and facial expressions and gestures.

But for some people, popping over to the religious side is not enough. For some people, the fact that they popped over while others (like me) remain uninterested in popping over is a real problem. Indeed, the unpopped people are the source of all the world’s problems according to some members of this self-proclaimed enlighted class of popped over people (e.g., Johnsonite Christians). And so they start pretending that the people who didn’t pop over are “stubborn” and “amoral” and they start smearing the good works of people who refuse to admit that popping over is the greatest thing that can happen to anyone.

All that is permitted, of course, but when some of the most extreme elements in society attempt to redefine science in public schools to include popping over, well, that’s just crazy talk. And so the legal machinery needs to be cranked up to provide legal proof that popping over isn’t science. Will the Johnsonite Christians be convinced? Of course not. They’ll read their script on page 3 where they are instructed to, “Whine about activist judges.”

Anyway, enough of my irrefutable and infallible predictions.

given enough details about the coin, how the coin is flipped, as well as the ambient conditions, one can (in principle) calculate how the toss will result.

Ah, yes, “in principle.” Let us be honest and note that as a practical matter, no one can predict at time x with greater than 50% accuracy how the coin I toss into the air at time x+1 will land. Are you imagining that “in principle” you can read my mind and know beforehand with certainty how I’m going to snap my thumb?

Please. This sort of schoolyard “logic” leads to the abuse of the English language and little else.

You have no evidence to suggest that your deity or anyone else’s deities ever created anything. Invoking “mysterious” alien beings to explain phenomena you don’t understand (and likely don’t want to understand) is childish fantasizing. It is not science and there aren’t any logical exercise which allow Johnsonite Christians to escape from this conclusion.

Comment #13409

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 8:49 PM (e)

GWW,

I really don’t understand you.

I toss a coin and it lands “heads”.

If you do NOT believe that at some level the coin toss was deterministic, then what do you suppose caused to land “heads”? Was it supernatural?

Deterministic does not require I read you mind. If I know: the intertia tensor of the coin, the position and orientation when it leaves your hand, the humidy and temperature, etc, then i can use Newton’s laws to calculate how it will land.

Comment #13410

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 8:53 PM (e)

David Heddle writes

Fundies HATE cosmological ID, because it only makes sense if the universe is old.

I’ve never seen any creationists mention the phrase “cosmological ID” before so if they really do hate it, they must hate it a lot less than evolutionary biology.

Fundies only jump on the evolution-ID debate, because they believe they do so while retaining thier belief in a 6000 year old earth.

Good Lord – then Flint is right!!!!

Comment #13411

Posted by plunge on January 11, 2005 8:56 PM (e)

“First of all, galaxy formation requires a tight constraint on the expansion rate. Since the expansion rate, in no known theory, is a fundamental constant, it implies something about the probability of our universe.”

No, because it is still determined by whatever fundamental character the universe had to begin with. Which again, is something no one can with a straight face or at least a decent understanding of math, claim to know the “probability” of. Again, if you think we can know this, then what are the various outcomes and what are the likihoods of each of them? Or, alternatively, how is the character of a universe determined.

“What do you mean “most universes we have never seen? Newsflash: we have only seen one and exactly one.”

You are a very confused person. First you try to bring up an argument about probability, which makes _necessary_ a discussion about other _possible_ universes. I’m not saying that any universes other than our own exist, but if you are going to claim that there is any probability attached to our universe being the way it is, you MUST be able to discuss what the other possibilities are. If you concede that there is only one universe for which we have any experience, then you must also concede that we have no way to speak about what goes into determining the original character of the universe. We cannot use regularities and observations taken from within the context of the universe to conclude things about the cause of the universe, which if there is one, would be outside of that context!

“The other universes conveniently cannot communicate with ours. According to non IDers we have to accept that they (other universes) exist on faith. And that we happen to live in one of the rare, fertile universes. Most reasonable people would call such a view a “religion.””

Most people seem to call a person that drones on and on down a blind alley of a point no one even made… a fool.

Again: YOU raised the concept of proability. If you think we are talking about something akin to a coin flip, then YOU must be talking about multiple possible universes. Otherwise you are just pulling our legs. So don’t spin around and get all huffy about a subject YOU raised.

Comment #13412

Posted by plunge on January 11, 2005 9:00 PM (e)

“Deterministic does not require I read you mind. If I know: the intertia tensor of the coin, the position and orientation when it leaves your hand, the humidy and temperature, etc, then i can use Newton’s laws to calculate how it will land.”

And you know anything even approaching any of this in the case of the universe… how?

Comment #13413

Posted by David Heddle on January 11, 2005 9:02 PM (e)

GWW,

It is my term as far as I know. My point is, On my blog I have been attacked by fundamentalists for posting on the cosmological aspects of ID. Fundies are not amused that there is a fortuitous set of energy levels that allows the process of stellar evolution to produce heavy elements that then seed the surrounding space following a super nova. It actually hurts their view that God created the earth in situ 6000 years ago. For if he did so, why would he so fine-tune the nuclear chemistry? It makes no sense.

The physics/cosmology/astronomy ID arguments only make sense (if they make sense to you at all) if you believe in an old universe. That’s why it’s dumb to call me a fundie, unless you just use fundie to mean Christian.

Even on purely theological matters, I am decidedly non-fundamentalist.

Comment #13414

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 9:06 PM (e)

If I know: the intertia tensor of the coin, the position and orientation when it leaves your hand, the humidy and temperature, etc, then i can use Newton’s laws to calculate how it will land.

There aren’t enough “etc.” in your statement and this page isn’t big enough to hold them all. And that’s granting you the “late start” where you get to see the coin as it leaves it my hand. Why not make the prediction before it leaves my hand? And tell me what you predict. What is the difference “in principle”? Hmmm???

My point is that relying on a logical argument about determinism to establish the likelihood that your deity created all the earth’s life forms (or the universe or that little fluffy cloud in the sky) is a very very silly occupation and, frankly, a boring hobby unless you choose to use the argument to badger biologists, in which case it’s boring and annoying. I don’t understand why anyone would choose to trivialize their religious beliefs by engaging in such low-falootin’ exercises, but I’m not a psychologist.

I’ve nothing more to say, really. I’m 100% confident that your argument will remain equally silly 500 years from now and that some form of it will inspire several bad Hollywood movies.

Comment #13415

Posted by WyldPirate on January 11, 2005 9:07 PM (e)

Mr. Heddle,

You’re not worth my time. I’ve seen hundreds of your type before.

I say this because I had read several threads and gathered from them that GWW is a straight-up fellow that knows what he is talking about. Additionally, I perused your blog for a bit and see that you are obsessed with Xianity.

You may well not be a “fundie” in the standard understanding of the term, but you have taken Luther’s urging to heart to “tell helpful lies” for the advancement of the imaginary Invisible Sky Daddy you so desperately wish to believe in despite the fact that you lack a shred of evidence for said Invisible Sky Daddy’s existence. From these multiple threads of evidence, I’ve concluded that you are: a.) quite likely intellectually dishonest, b.) have the ever handy movable goalposts that many theists carry and hence c.) you are not worth wasting much thought on in refuting the drivel you would like reply with.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve toyed with your type for years. I’ll just pull up my seat and a big bag of popcorn and watch you dissemble and others wipe the floor with you. This sort of thing is an interesting spectator sport. ;)

Comment #13417

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 11, 2005 9:13 PM (e)

David

That’s why it’s dumb to call me a fundie, unless you just use fundie to mean Christian.

Definitely not.

Even on purely theological matters, I am decidedly non-fundamentalist.

Okay. Message received. Loud and clear.

I wonder if there any Christians these days who would admit to being a fundamentalist? That Osama guy kinda tainted the term.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Christianity

Comment #13419

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 11, 2005 9:24 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Likewise for evolution. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, it is self-consistent to say that the probability that humans evolved from singled celled organisms is zero, unless God did it, in which case its one.

I don’t see the problem.

The problem is, one argument says that the probability that humans evolved is zero because it’s too unlikely given the laws of the universe. So therefore, God must have invervened to circumvent those laws. The other argument says that the probability that humans evolved was near unity given the laws of the universe, and because it’s unlikely that a random set of laws could produce this outcome, then God must have designed those laws.

The two arguments are obviously incompatible. It’s not the conclusions that are incompatible (I certainly wouldn’t expect the “cultural renewal” team to reach different conclusions), it’s the arguments put forth.

Of course, you can always say that God designed the laws of the universe just so that He’d eventually have to come back and violate His own laws in order to make life. But that’s pretty damned contrived. You can take any phenomenon and claim that God both designed laws to make it possible for it to happen but at the same time had to violate those laws in order to make it happen. No matter what the facts are, you can find support for this hybrid scenario. If there is regularity involved, then it supports the first part. If there’s rarity involved, then it’s supports the second part. Any imaginable set of data works equally well.

If this be the case, then the actual science means very little, since it can always be spun to support the irrefutable theory that things are the way they are, and that they could only be this way as long as it’s possible for things to be the way things happen to be.

Comment #13421

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 11, 2005 9:27 PM (e)

While I’m at it…

No, I do not agree that it is a heads I win tails you lose argument. In a nutshell, cosmological ID says: the chance of starting with nothing, and then there was a big-bang that ultimately produced a universe with even a single earth, is nil.

If by “nil” you mean, “wildly unlikely”, then I suppose this may be the case. (With the caveat that I’m not well versed in the fine-tuning arguments, so I don’t know how unlikely it really is.)

But it’s equally the case that any given set of outcomes is extremely unlikely. You have to assume that our current outcome was the intended goal of God or whatever before it becomes amazing that we have the outcome that we have. But that’s basically a case of circular reasoning.

As an analogy, consider various hands in poker. Any specific 5-card hand is equally likely. Some hands, like the royal flush, are considered to be very special. So when we see them, we say, “Wow, a royal flush! What are the odds!” The answer is, about 4 times better than for any 5 specific cards, no matter how worthless they are. (There are 4 ways to make a royal flush, but only 1 way to make 5 specific cards.) What makes the royal flush special? Because we say so – those are the rules we adhere to in most poker games. In some poker games, the royal flush isn’t worth anything.

Unfortunately, the universe as we know it, with at least one Earth crawling with apes, is not something that we can say is “special” without assuming your conclusion. We can’t say if we’re living in a royal flush or a piece of junk hand, precisely because we have no idea what the ranking should be. All we can say is that the likelihood of hitting our exact hand is pretty damned low, but that’s true no matter what, and it says exactly nothing about the value of our hand. Who says that having Earth-like planets with living things on it is the intended outcome? Unless you start out with the assumption that God exists and that he wants there to be Earth with humans, there’s no reason to assume this. What if God prefers a universe without atoms? In that case, we’re a draw hand that missed. If you’re going to believe a priori that we are the intended consequence of whatever caused the universe to come into being, then what’s the point of calculating the odds anyway? You’ve already assumed your answer. Just believe it and be done with it.

I’m not saying it’s not a proper thing to believe, it’s just that it’s silly, IMO, to believe it on the basis of probability calculations that are meaningless unless you already believe.

Comment #13426

Posted by Flint on January 11, 2005 10:04 PM (e)

I’m not saying it’s not a proper thing to believe, it’s just that it’s silly, IMO, to believe it on the basis of probability calculations that are meaningless unless you already believe.

Maybe this argument is too sophisticated? It seems pretty obvious. Many contests of chance guarantee a winner. The odds against any specific person winning are tiny. The chance of a winner is unity. To that individual, it will seem like a miracle, in defiance of the odds. To everyone else, even though their ‘unlucky number’ was no less likely than anyone else’s and thus equally in defiance of the odds, it won’t be anything special. The odds haven’t changed for anyone. All defied them the same!

And so the optimist thinks we’re living in the best of all possible universes, and the pessimist fears this is true.

Comment #13427

Posted by Tim Brandt on January 11, 2005 11:40 PM (e)

David:

Unfortunately, plunge is right and your probability argument is meaningless. The fact that we know nothing about the conditions that brought our universe into being, be they natural or supernatural, means that we can’t talk about probability. In other words, if you don’t know what you’re tossing up in the air, you can’t talk about the probability of it coming up heads, since you don’t know if it has a “heads” side.

As you may know, this “fine-tuning” problem (we live in a universe just the right density to have not collapsed or blown apart by now, etc, etc.) is a very active area of physics research. Alan Guth’s inflationary theory and its variants seem to be a pretty good explanation. Some variants of this actually propose that there is a sort of “foam” of false vacuum, a very energetic and unstable vacuum, which is expanding relentlessly, and that there are regions collapsing into lower energy vacuums all the time, which would release tremendous amounts of energy. These would actually be universes, infinitely many “big-bangs.” In this case, since there are infinitely many possible values of the physical constants, the probability of there being a universe just like ours is unity.

However, the problem remains that this is not testable experimentally at the moment, and may never be. In that case, you can argue whether it is science or philosophy. However, the fact is, we do not have anything approaching the amount of information necessary to do a probability calculation for the existence of a universe like ours.

On a side note, you do have a point about the coin flip being deterministic. If you were to somehow (divine inspiration?) be told the quantum wave functions of all of the particles in the room, you could calculate whether the coin would come up heads or tails. Pratically, of course, it is impossible, but in principle, you can calculate the outcome to a very high degree of probability using quantum mechanics. Which brings a last little note: if something is not deterministic, as quantum mechanics may very well not be as far as observable quantities like position go, what determines the outcome? If there is no way to test different possibilities (the atom decided to go there, or God put it there, or it is simply random), then science has nothing to say on the matter.

Comment #13428

Posted by steve on January 12, 2005 12:21 AM (e)

The other day I won a game of poker. So I calculated the odds of my getting that exact winning hand. They were ridiculously low! 1:2,598,960 against! Clearly, god stacked the deck in my favor!

Ugh.

If anyone wants to take a break from this discussion of nonsense cosmology, and check out some real cosmology, the NYT has a good article up today about the fresh detection of remnants of sound waves from the big bang.

http://nytimes.com/2005/01/12/science/space/12cosmos.html

Comment #13433

Posted by DaveScot on January 12, 2005 3:57 AM (e)

With an as yet undetermined appendage WyldPirate writes:

1.) The focus on debunking the fundie creationist trojan horse of ID is an extremely important, but under-the-radar topic, is something that as a scientist I love to see. The fundamentalists pushing this stuff are the biggest danger to our country today. They are trying to extend their brainwashing and indoctrination out of the church and into the public arena. This is a dire threat to America and must be stopped.

What a load of drama queen nonsense.

Comment #13436

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 4:56 AM (e)

Sorry guys, but your probability skills are in error. (but you biology types are never very strong in math, are you?)

If all possible universes are equally likely then it is true that, in a random draw, the probability of ours is the same as any other. So in that case we have no right to be surprised in our universe.

However, if only very few of those universes can support life, then we have to chose one of two alternatives (1) we see design or (2) of course we are lucky, or we wouldn’t be here talking about it.

Your poker analogy is more like this: suppose of all poker hands represent universes, but only a royal flush of hearts represents a fertile universe. It is true that the royal flush is no less likely than any other hand, but I would expect cheating (i.e. design) if it was the only hand that meant life and it was the hand I drew.

The non-Iders in physics recognize this too (even if you bio types don’t) which is why multiverse theories are popular. After all, they allow you to pick option number (2) above, for if all possiblle poker hands are dealt, somebody VERY LUCKY gets the royal flush, and they alone will be alive to ponder their good fortune, even though no design was involved.

Many, many really smart non-ID scientists believe in the paragraph above, or some variation thereof. That’s fine, obviously, but it acknowledges that the probablibility of not just our but ANY life supporting universe is tiny.

See the point: that fact that our universe is “lucky” is model independent. It is not only for IDers. Maybe what you are trying to argue is that, for example, we just don’t know the science deep enough, and that all possible big-bangs will, from fundamental principles, lead to just the right expansion rates tha we get galaxies. (and that is just one restrictive parameter) Maybe, but nobody I know of is even persuing such a theory.

Comment #13437

Posted by Michael on January 12, 2005 6:05 AM (e)

In fact, the observation that the universe is “life friendly” CANNOT be evidence for design under any circumstances.

Given the observation that life exists in the universe and the assumption that the universe is completely naturalistic, then it is an absolute consequence that the natural laws of the universe must be “life friendly”, that is, must be consistent with the existence of life.

A sufficiently powerful designer (deity) could easily sustain life in a universe that was not “life friendly”. Thus, the observation that the universe is “life friendly” can not be evidence for a designer (deity) and is only neutral under strong restrictions on the intent of the designer (deity).

For more details see this page by Bill Jefferies and myself.

Comment #13439

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 6:43 AM (e)

Michael,

I would agree with the statement that the observation of life and/or fine-tuning to any degree cannot be used to prove God. But your statement, variations on which I have heard many times, is no more than this: “Given that life exists, and given that nothing supernatural happened, then it must be that the natural laws produced a life-friendly universe.”

You have built into your assumption that nothing supernatural occurred. To me, it renders your argument a rather meaningless tautology. The same as saying:

If you believe that something supernatural might have occurred, then of course ANYTHING that looks like fine tuning (e.g., ice floats) can, rightly or wrongly, be placed in evidence for design.

But, as I said, I agree you’ll never prove it.

We also will never prove that parallel universes exist.

The other ramification of your argument, as I understand it, is the only evidence for a deity would be that, sort of as a vulgar display of power, he placed us in a universe that was not life friendly.

Comment #13440

Posted by euan on January 12, 2005 6:50 AM (e)

Mr Heddle: There is no such thing as a ‘model independent’ probability. Concluding that the existence of life is fortunate or not depends completely on the model you choose. Also without an explicit probability calculation you are simply talking nonsense. No one knows how to make such a calculation, so you are simply making up values and choosing the ones you like.

One further thing: using statistical probability only makes sense if your ideas are entirely based on naturalism. In a supernatural world there is no such thing as probability because the mapping between the natural order and the order in mathematics does not exist.

Comment #13441

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 7:04 AM (e)

euan,

Geez Louise. I NEVER said there was a model independent probability – did I write that no matter what your model is the probability of our universe is 4.56x10-69?

No, I made a much weaker statement, which you are free to critcize, but please criticize what I said. Here it is is again:

The fact that our universe is fortunate is MODEL INDEPENDENT. No physicsist that I know denies that, to name just a few things, the expansion rate, the relative strengths of the fundamental forces, the number of expanding dimensions, and the energy levels of obscure isotopes ocurring inside stars are highly constrained in order for our universe to have galaxies, stars, and rocky planets. That is ABSOLUTELY model independent.

From here, you can invoke design, sheer random luck, or multiple universes to explain how we are here. But you cannot deny the underlying “luck.”

As for the actual value of the probability, I would agree with all of you that it is not possible to calculate without huge error bars, not in the mantissa but in the exponent. However, whatever the number is, the constraints point to it being small.

Comment #13443

Posted by Michael on January 12, 2005 8:31 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

(begin quote)

But your statement, variations on which I have heard many times, is no more than this: “Given that life exists, and given that nothing supernatural happened, then it must be that the natural laws produced a life-friendly universe.”

(end quote)

You have completely misinterpreted my statement. My statement is that “Given that nothing supernatural happened and that life exists then we MUST observe a life-friendly universe. However, given that something supernatural happened and that life exists we may or may not observe a life-friendly universe. Therefore the observation of a life-friendly universe can not be evidence for something supernatural.”

Comment #13445

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 12, 2005 9:10 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Sorry guys, but your probability skills are in error. (but you biology types are never very strong in math, are you?)

That looks like the ‘Penrose strategy’ of mocking your opponent as you embarrass yourself.

I would jump in here, but it looks like all the good arguments have already been made and you’re in the repetition cycle.

Comment #13446

Posted by Smokey on January 12, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Your poker analogy is more like this: suppose of all poker hands represent universes, but only a royal flush of hearts represents a fertile universe. It is true that the royal flush is no less likely than any other hand, but I would expect cheating (i.e. design) if it was the only hand that meant life and it was the hand I drew.

To draw out (no pun intended) the poker analogy some more, are you saying that, in any given hand, if someone is dealt a royal flush the default assumption should be that they are cheating (i.e., they stacked or “designed” the deck)? This seems a very questionable assumption. If someone were dealt several royal flushes in a row, then it would perhaps be fair to conclude something was up, but it seems that as we have only been dealt a single hand in this metaphorical poker game of life, your conclusion is unwarranted.

Comment #13449

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 12, 2005 10:21 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

However, if only very few of those universes can support life, then we have to chose one of two alternatives (1) we see design or (2) of course we are lucky, or we wouldn’t be here talking about it.

Your poker analogy is more like this: suppose of all poker hands represent universes, but only a royal flush of hearts represents a fertile universe. It is true that the royal flush is no less likely than any other hand, but I would expect cheating (i.e. design) if it was the only hand that meant life and it was the hand I drew.

But you’re missing my point completely. You are assuming, a priori, that a “fertile” universe was the goal. In other words, you’re presupposing teleology. But that’s exactly the question we’re trying to answer. What if a “fertile” universe was not the goal at all, but was instead one of a vast number of possibilites, any of which would have pleased the deity? If our current universe wasn’t the telos, then we weren’t lucky at all. We exist simply because the universe allows it, which makes the argument a tautology.

On the other hand, if our universe was the telos, then we’ve already assumed design. What’s the point of coming up with probabilities? Let’s say that almost any universe could have created life as we know it. Starting with an assumption of teleology, as you have, this would seem to be far superior design to what we currently have. The IDists would simply say that the high probability of having a life-conducive universe is evidence of design, because a high probability of producing life nicely fits the assumed goal of producing life.

Life-conducing universe likely: Design!

Life-conducing universe unlikely: Design!

Assume that our current state of affairs was meant to be, and any causal scenario can be claimed as evidence of design.

The non-Iders in physics recognize this too (even if you bio types don’t) which is why multiverse theories are popular.

This is not a scientific issue I’m bringing up here, it’s a philosophical issue. It’s a matter of logic. Appealing to the superiority of physicists, or insulting my math skills, will not help your case.

See the point: that fact that our universe is “lucky” is model independent.

But the “fact” that our universe is “lucky” is not a fact at all, it’s a value judgement. It requires the panglossian view that the universe was meant to be this way. Like drawing a royal flush, you must have some prior reason to think that it’s special. Absent that reason, it’s just another hand, one out of many.

Maybe what you are trying to argue is that, for example, we just don’t know the science deep enough, and that all possible big-bangs will, from fundamental principles, lead to just the right expansion rates tha we get galaxies. (and that is just one restrictive parameter) Maybe, but nobody I know of is even persuing such a theory.

I would say it’s an absolute certainty that we don’t know the science deep enough, and I do believe that string theorists, among others, have come up with possible scearios in which the laws of our universe are more or less deterministic rather than being picked out of a hat. I don’t doubt that future discoveries will dramatically change our current understanding, and it’s highly naive to think otherwise. It wasn’t long ago that our galaxy was thought to be the only galaxy there was. Go back just a bit further, and it was believed that there was only one sun.

But the fact that our scientific knowledge is incomplete is not my argument, my argument is that our scientific knowledge is irrelevant to cosmological ID, because no matter what the state of affairs, assuming teleology gives you teleology. It was once believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. When that was proven wrong, it didn’t stop the teleologists, and neither will any future discoveries.

Comment #13450

Posted by Flint on January 12, 2005 10:24 AM (e)

I might as well chip in here that the arguments are being presented backwards. We aren’t deducing God because our universe would be impossibly unlikely with Him, but rather we are assuming God, and searching for some reason, ANY reason, in support of this assumption. And so we presume our universe was very unlikely not because we have any conceivable basis for comparison or computation, but because by making this claim, we are rationalizing our conviction that God exists, and must have done something.

Comment #13454

Posted by frank schmidt on January 12, 2005 11:10 AM (e)

A couple of points:

1. A key goal of the Religious right is in making common cause on the basis of politics rather than doctrine, hence the endorsement of ID creationism by a certain wingnut group of Catholics (Santorum, Schlafly, etc.). They don’t necessarily endorse creationism so much as want to get in the same tent with the fundies. The same tendency is seen in the Religious Right’s endorsement of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank. They believe that Jesus will return when Israel is restored, so they want to “support Israel” (i.e., the most rabid expansionists). This is notwithstanding their prediction that unconverted Jews will go straight to hell at the Last Judgement. It’s all tribalism, really.

2. As has been pointed out many times on this and other fora, the probabilistic arguments of the kind presented by David Heddle are fatuous at best and dishonest at worst. Evolution by natural selection is a cumulative probability, not an independent one. This likely applies to physical evolution (e.g., planetary accretion) as well as to biological evolution. Such silliness as “10(69) possible universes that can’t support life” is as insupportable as other creationist arguments.

Comment #13456

Posted by steve c. on January 12, 2005 11:23 AM (e)

BTW, National Review Online’s “The Corner” is a group blog, in which posters speak for themselves rather than for the magazine. Derbyshire is in the minority there on ID.

Comment #13466

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 1:38 PM (e)

Smokey,

Your point is valid. Remember that we are dealt ONLY one hand. If I sat down at a poker game, and on the first deal my opponent got a royal flush, then the assumption of a fix is a very good one.

Steve,

OK, I think I see your argument–either a hospitable universe or an inhospitable one would be used to support design, given that life exists – am I getting close?

Frank,

Your comments are meaningless. It is a fact of science and not an invention of ID that if the expansion rate were slightly different there would be no galaxies. Non-IDers agree. And I have never said anything about 1069 possible universes. Nor did I assign a probability to our universe. I only pointed out the uncontested and incontrovertible fact that many fortunate things have happened to give us a universe capable of supporting life. So …

Is that WRONG?

If the four fundamental forces did not have their relative strengths, then would the universe exist? Could it exist if the electromagnetic force were, say, 5% stronger?

If the universe had a different number of expanding dimensions, would there be an inverse square law to provide for stable orbits? If so, please explain how.

If you messed around just a tad with the energy levels (which would happen if the strength of the forces changed) then stars wouldn’t evolve, explode, and blast elements into space—so where would the heavy elements needed for life come from?

I can list many more.

And please, please explain how, as you said,

Evolution by natural selection is a cumulative probability, not an independent one. This likely applies to physical evolution …

I would love to learn how the universe evolved by natural selection.

Also, what is the point of your comment about Israel? Are you aware that there are many conservative Christians (such as myself) who do NOT believe that Israel plays any role in the end times? You refer to one particular (in my opinion highly flawed) view called dispensationalism. What the hell does it have to do with this discussion?

Comment #13468

Posted by Smokey on January 12, 2005 2:11 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Your point is valid. Remember that we are dealt ONLY one hand. If I sat down at a poker game, and on the first deal my opponent got a royal flush, then the assumption of a fix is a very good one.

I disagree. It seems to me that it would be incumbent upon you to show that there is reason to believe that the fix is in, other than the fact that the outcome of the hand was highly unlikely. You could only base such a judgement on other factors, such as the stakes, the behavior of your opponent, etc… Most importantly, it would depend on who the dealer was. It is only by positing that the dealer has an incentive to stack the deck against you that your assumption of cheating becomes plausible. In light of that, I think you should re-read Steve’s post, as it seems not to have made much impression on you the first time.

If you think that your opponent must be cheating anytime he hits a statistically unlikely hand, I don’t think I ever want to play poker with you.

Comment #13470

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 12, 2005 2:16 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

OK, I think I see your argument—either a hospitable universe or an inhospitable one would be used to support design, given that life exists – am I getting close?

Yes, that’s pretty much what I’m getting at.

Comment #13471

Posted by TTT on January 12, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

Re: the Frontline debate between ID and science, with William F. Buckley on the ID team:

I watched it and found it very sad to see a man of Buckley’s intellect paint himself into so many of the unreasoning corners of ID cultism.

During the course of the debate, Buckley accepted the extremely well filled-out sequence of radiation and descent among therapsids or “mammal-like reptiles” as legitimate evidence of naturalistic evolution. However, he immediately demanded that Team Evolution produce another sequence with an equal number of known specimens. Of course they didn’t have one on-hand, but it doesn’t matter; if they did have one, Buckley would have just asked for *another*, and so on, ad infinitum.

Buckley also justified teaching ID because it makes kids feel better about themselves–that it makes them out as akin to angels, not monkeys. The happy lie vs the sad truth…. I guess someone’s a fan of “Miracle on 34th Street”…..

Comment #13473

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 2:25 PM (e)

Smokey wrote

I disagree. It seems to me that it would be incumbent upon you to show that there is reason to believe that the fix is in, other than the fact that the outcome of the hand was highly unlikely.

No, as has been pointed out here, all hands are equally unlikely. It’s that particular hand, which has the same a priori probablility as the one I am holding, that makes me suspicious, because it is the best possible hand.

As to whether you would suspect a cheat (I would), I guess we have to agree to disagree.

Comment #13475

Posted by plunge on January 12, 2005 2:40 PM (e)

“If all possible universes are equally likely then it is true that, in a random draw, the probability of ours is the same as any other. So in that case we have no right to be surprised in our universe.”

Here you again jump over the key issue. How can we know a) the number of possible universes or b) what the likihood of each of them is.

“However, if only very few of those universes can support life, then we have to chose one of two alternatives (1) we see design or (2) of course we are lucky, or we wouldn’t be here talking about it.”

Again, you’ve jumped ahead. There is no way we can know how many in the set of all possible universes could support life, because we don’t know what the set of possible universes contains. Period. Without that, the idea of “lucky” is pure nonsense.

“As for the actual value of the probability, I would agree with all of you that it is not possible to calculate without huge error bars, not in the mantissa but in the exponent. However, whatever the number is, the constraints point to it being small.”

It is not possible to write out AT ALL. You cannot do probability backwards from one example.

As an example, pretend I tell you that on one die roll, your roll came up with an H, an 0 and a 2. Now, that’s three “constraints” on what you must roll, right? So, tell me the probability of your roll. Show me how you’ll be doing the calculation.

Actually, don’t, because to anyone that’s actually DONE a real probability calculation, you’ll know how laughable the request is. You can’t do it _because you don’t know what else is on the die_. For all you know, the same thing could be on every side. You also don’t know how many sides there even are: it could be two, it could be a million, or it could be some sort of bizarre mobius die that only has one side. Likewise, the idea of “constraints” is nonsense because you don’t actually know if they were indepedantly determined, or how. That’s exactly the situation we face with the universe. Even contingent constraits are contingent on deterministic original “rolls.” But since we don’t know what the “roll” is like: what sort of die was used, so to speak, it’s madness to speak of probability.

Comment #13476

Posted by Emily on January 12, 2005 2:44 PM (e)

Re: Frontline debate. None other than the ethically challenged House Majority Whip Tom Delay proclaimed loudly on “This Week” (ABC) a few years back that the reason kids take guns to school and kill other kids is because we teach evolution and not creationism.

To get back to the discussion at hand, it doesn’t matter where you start in the chain of events. Creationism is creationism. ID is ID.

Comment #13484

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 12, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

David Heddle,

No, as has been pointed out here, all hands are equally unlikely. It’s that particular hand, which has the same a priori probablility as the one I am holding, that makes me suspicious, because it is the best possible hand.

And has been pointed out to you many times before, your statement is completely invalid. You do not know how likely or unlikely your ‘hand’ is.

If you believe this to be invalid, it is simple to demonstrate that you are right: show the probability calculation for our current universe. Show the actual probability of the… Fine-Structure Constant being what it is. Show the actual probability of the ratio of mass between the electron and the proton being what it is.

If you cannot do this, then you cannot make any statements about the ‘probability’ of our universe.

Emily,

To get back to the discussion at hand, it doesn’t matter where you start in the chain of events. Creationism is creationism. ID is ID.

Agreed; but the problem is that the folks in the ID movement are, without exception, creationists of some sort. It’s the pushing of ID without any supporting science behind it that bothers people.

The concept of ID is being hijacked to serve the ends of a small number of religious fundamentalists. That’s the problem.

Comment #13485

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 3:52 PM (e)

The number of possible universes, in multiverse theories, is assumed to be infinite.

You can make some estimates about probablility–we are not without some knowledge. For example, it is fairly easy to estimate the probability that the planet has the right kind of orbit, around the right kind of star, in the right kind of galaxy, without too much radiation, etc.

As for things like the expansion rate, I agree that you cannot assign a probability for us to get the correct expansion rate.However, consider the following two statements:

1) Any expansion rate within two orders of magnitude of the one we have would do

2) Any expansion rate not differing from ours by one part in 108 would do

say quite different things about the “luck” we have received. (Note: these are just two examples pulled out of the air.) I think most would agree that if (2) is correct, even though we cannot assign the probability, that whatever it is it is lower than in case (1).

Unless of course some fundamental theory can predict the expansion rate from first principles.

Comment #13487

Posted by plunge on January 12, 2005 4:24 PM (e)

“The number of possible universes, in multiverse theories, is assumed to be infinite.”

First of all, that assumption isn’t based on anything: it’s simply the filter we use because we have no means by which to limit the possibilities.

You keep citing the fact that some speculate about multiverses as if it were evidence that the basic issues of HOW the characteristics of universes are determined, if at all, and even if there is a single set of fundamental characteristics, had been settled or even had some evidence to help us out. They haven’t been settled, and there is no such evidence. The best few have is the hope that we may someday be able to test some of the pretty darn modest ideas about the possibility of multiple universes.

“You can make some estimates about probablility—we are not without some knowledge. For example, it is fairly easy to estimate the probability that the planet has the right kind of orbit, around the right kind of star, in the right kind of galaxy, without too much radiation, etc.”

But only _within_ our universe, which is the whole point. And, more importantly, we simply do not know whether these different elements are truly indepedant, or whether they are all the way they are because of more fundamental character of the universe that determine them all. All the constants we know of could boil down to one in the end for all we know.

Comment #13488

Posted by Flint on January 12, 2005 4:25 PM (e)

I’m reminded of a wonderful story by the late R. A. Lafferty, in which some scientists invented a ‘time pendulum’, in the form of a large ball that swung deep into the past, then far into the future. The (human) scientists could watch each transit through the present, and stop it at any such transit.

The story is told from the ‘objective third person’ perspective for excellent reason: Each time the ball passed through the present, the conditions were totally different. The scientists varied from lizards to colony intelligences to slime molds. Finally, they stopped the experiment, concluded that their time pendulum probably had never travelled into the past at all because nothing was any different, and they all slithered away.

Imaginative SF authors have entirely consistent life forms living inside stars, inside black holes, in conditions where liquid helium is common, where radiation is fierce, etc. There is no inherent reason why any of these life forms could not exist. Fred Hoyle himself wrote a novel called ‘The Black Cloud’ about a creature native to open space, and astounded that life could possibly arise on a planet. I recommend any books by Baxter, Clement, and a cast of many.

What David Heddle is doing is dealing himself a poker hand, noting the extremely bad odds of getting that exact hand, *declaring* that it’s the most valuable hand possible (regardless of what’s in it), and thus rationalizing his preconceptions.

Comment #13490

Posted by David Heddle on January 12, 2005 4:54 PM (e)

Ok diminishing returns has set in. This is my last post. As always, feel free to declare victory.

Plunge wrote:

All the constants we know of could boil down to one in the end for all we know.

I have been careful to acknowledge that some super theory could render our “luck” inevitable. However, no such theory is on the horizon so believing in it is no different than believing in God.

Flint wrote:

What David Heddle is doing is dealing himself a poker hand, noting the extremely bad odds of getting that exact hand, *declaring* that it’s the most valuable hand possible (regardless of what’s in it), and thus rationalizing his preconceptions.

Fair enough. The poker hands are all the possible universes. I am declaring that it is extremely valuable to be dealt the royal flush–i.e., a universe that supports life. Guilty as charged.

Comment #13491

Posted by Bob Maurus on January 12, 2005 4:57 PM (e)

Flint,

I used to run into Lafferty and chat with him at Science Fiction conventions. He always seemed to be on the edge of passing out drunk. I remember him at a WorldCon one year hanging on to a lamppost and signing program books in a sweeping scrawl. Definitely one of a kind.

Comment #13492

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 12, 2005 5:20 PM (e)

I used to run into Lafferty and chat with him at Science Fiction conventions.

Ever attend any such conventions in Madison WI in the 80s, Bob?

Comment #13495

Posted by Flint on January 12, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

David Heddle:

OK, I agree, most days I’m glad to be alive myself. I regard the odds for or against this as imponderable and irrelevant, but life is mostly good while it lasts.

Comment #13500

Posted by Steve on January 12, 2005 6:13 PM (e)

Probability is always like that. A fair coin toss leading to a heads is, in one way of looking at it, 50-50. On the other hand, any coin toss is deterministic—given enough info I can calculate whether heads or tails will result. So in that sense the probability is unity.

Uhhmmm no. The probability is either zero or one. Lets assume that there is enough info for David to do is calculation. He does it and the probability of it coming up heads is zero. We try it again, this time due to some change in the information (rotation, wind, etc.) the probability is 1.

Also, consider the notion that the coin toss is a random event, not that two probabilities are given–{0.5,0.5}. This also has to be the case even if we have enough information to calculate perfectly the coin toss coming up heads. In this case, the probabilities are no {0,1} the degenerate case.

Comment #13508

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 12, 2005 8:57 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #13509

Posted by Gregory Gay on January 12, 2005 9:17 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Your poker analogy is more like this: suppose of all poker hands represent universes, but only a royal flush of hearts represents a fertile universe. It is true that the royal flush is no less likely than any other hand, but I would expect cheating (i.e. design) if it was the only hand that meant life and it was the hand I drew.

The problem with this argument, as I see it, David, is that we didn’t draw the hand; it drew us. Life developed in the universe as it is, and it is only natural that the life that has developed therefore ‘fits’ in our univeerse.

It is quite possible that in a hypothetical different universe, silicon-based life forms would be arguing the same kinds of issues, and declaring that their universe was the ‘lucky’ one.

Comment #13510

Posted by Bob Maurus on January 12, 2005 9:27 PM (e)

GWW,

No, although I did spend a year and a half in Lake Geneva, sculpting D&D figures for TSR. The furthest west I ever got for a con was Chicago and St.Louis I think (I’m in Atlanta.)

Comment #13520

Posted by plunge on January 13, 2005 2:11 AM (e)

Anyone else feel they wasted their time? The guy just does not get what we are saying. It would be one thing if he disagreed, but basic concepts… they just dont’ seem to register. Did I explain it badly? Is it really that hard to understand that you cannot judge probability based on a single observation?

Comment #13530

Posted by David Heddle on January 13, 2005 8:48 AM (e)

Okay, just one more round.

Steve wrote something regarding my coin toss argument, which I know was taking exception to my analysis, but I can’t tell if it was just loose wording on my part that he critiqued. Let me say it again, more carefully.

In principle, we can calculate whether a coin, for a given toss, would land heads or tails. So a coin toss is not really random. In effect, it is a good random number generator. So, without appreciable bias, it can be treated as generating a random string of heads and tails.

In reaction to my writing:

but you biology types are never very strong in math, are you?

Wayne Francis wrote

This shows how much you are out of touch. You think biologists don’t know math? Biology has strong requirement of mathematics, chemistry physic, statistics, geology and many other areas. Please tell us your background in mathematics?! I may have missed it but what exactly are your qualifications?

First, if anyone was actually offended by this, then (a) you’ll need a thicker skin in academia and (b) I apologize—it was meant tongue in cheek.

As to my qualifications, I have a Ph.D. in physics—nuclear theory. Math is our language.

Wayne was also upset with my contention that “We will never prove that parallel universes exist” and wrote:

This type of statement amazes me. Why would you say such a thing? Just because we don’t have the understanding and technology now why would you think we would never have the understanding and technology?

If it were only a technological question, I would agree. (Actually not without limits. If a theory could be proved but required an accelerator the size of the known universe I would still classify it as unfalsifiable—but that is subject to debate.) But to observe parallel universes would require an overthrow of General Relativity. Maybe that will happen, but until it does the multiverse theories remain, even in principle, unfalsifiable.

Wayne also wrote

For your information there is already experiments going with the goals of being able to look back at what happened before the “big bang” kind of like we just peer out into space to look at what happened back in normal space/time.

Please reference said experiments.

Wayne also addressed my request for clarification about how evolution played a role in the creation of the universe with a comment on proteins—painting me with the creationist brush. I want to know how evolution played a role in galaxy formation.

Wayne also wrote, criticizing my royal-flush analogy:

What if the player got a full house? Would you say they stacked the deck there? I’d equate our Universe more to a full house then a Royal straight flush. Are you saying our universe is the best it could be for life? Sheeesh if you are then you’ve got low standards.

No I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion of design if a player got a full-house. Am I saying that the universe is the best that it can be for life? Interesting question—theologically of course the answer is no, because of the fall.

Wayne wrote:

There is nothing saying life could exist out at Jupiter. Just because WE can’t live there natively doesn’t mean all life would be domed out there.

Sorry, your argument is the outdated one. Chemistry can’t be ignored. Water is the universal solvent. Without it, complex chemistry is impossible. I think biologists of all stripes more or less agree that without water life would not be possible. I also think, as evolutionists, you had better hope that’s the case, otherwise if life is free to develop anywhere, regardless of the conditions, then you’ll be left explaining why there’s none on Jupiter.

Gregory wrote:

The problem with this argument, as I see it, David, is that we didn’t draw the hand; it drew us. Life developed in the universe as it is, and it is only natural that the life that has developed therefore ‘fits’ in our univeerse.
It is quite possible that in a hypothetical different universe, silicon-based life forms would be arguing the same kinds of issues, and declaring that their universe was the ‘lucky’ one.

No, this is similar to Wayne’s point above. Life requires complex chemistry, and complex chemistry is not a given. It requires, in addition to water, either Carbon, Silicon, or Boron as its basis (with Carbon being the best). It also requires minerals. These things all come from the remnants of super novae. They, in turn, depend on many delicate factors. (Actually, I think you should say another planet might support silicon based life, and they might consider their planet lucky. Another universe would have a different chemistry altogether.)

Plunge wrote:

Anyone else feel they wasted their time? The guy just does not get what we are saying. It would be one thing if he disagreed, but basic concepts … they just dont’ seem to register. Did I explain it badly? Is it really that hard to understand that you cannot judge probability based on a single observation?

Yes, at least one other person feels the waste of time. In a way I get your point, that we only get to observe one universe, so how can we judge its probability to exist? Is that a fair assessment? The way we can judge it, at least qualitatively, is to study it. If we find things that, had they been slightly different would have left us with no universe, then we begin to appreciate our fortune. Then we ask, what is the source of that fortune? Is it “ignorant luck”, meaning that its not luck at all, but appears so because we lack a fundamental theory? Maybe. Is it blind luck, meaning there is only one universe and somehow everything came out right? Nobody likes that answer. Is it because there are an infinite number of universes and if we weren’t in one of the lucky ones we wouldn’t be here talking about it? A lot of folks like that answer. Or is it by design? I like that answer. But in all cases, only one of which is ID, there is al least tacit acknowledgement that many things had to be “just right” for our universe to exist.

Two unrelated comments.

First, whoever developed the kwickCode you guys use is a genius, and has done his great93745 single-celled grandmother proud.

Second, so you can really flame me, you should buy my novel which is autobiographical in the sense that the protagonist, a grad student, is evangelized via ID arguments. Think of the fun you could have laughing at my stupidity!

Comment #13533

Posted by DaveScot on January 13, 2005 10:03 AM (e)

If there’s an infinite number of universes then ID has to be right in a subset of them. Not only that, it has to be right while a vast majority of scientists are convinced that it is not right.

Such is the nature of infinities.

Move over water, infinity is the universal solvent.

Comment #13537

Posted by WyldPirate on January 13, 2005 11:21 AM (e)

Above in this post, DaveScot accused me of being a “drama queen”.

Sorry, Mr. Scot, but my point–which I didn’t take the time to expand upon–is that the religious whackjobs in this country discard facts and evidence that contradict their “just so” stories. They have grown bolder in recent years and, as Martin Luther once urged, “tell lies for God” to extend their cultural brainwashing into society in general instead of keeping in their stinking churches.

Its working as well. Look at what is going on. Most americans believe “goddit” when it comes to the debate between evolution and creationism. Kids in America’s schools don’t compare well with other industrialized countries when it comes to math and science in part because most Americans lend as much (or more) creedence to hocus-pocus pseudoscience as they do actual science The Bush administration defies reality on a daily basis in their “faith-based” administration by suppressing scientific data and ignoring facts and evidence that refute their pre-conceived notions.

Religion is dangerous. It makes people stupid and afraid. Once people are stupid and afraid, it is much easier to manipulate them. Consciously choosing to inject religion into science makes students become confused and stupid. Then you end up with a scientifically illiterate soceity.

Marx was right. Religion is the opiate of the masses.

Comment #13550

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 13, 2005 12:24 PM (e)

DaveScot wrote:

If there’s an infinite number of universes then ID has to be right in a subset of them. Not only that, it has to be right while a vast majority of scientists are convinced that it is not right.

Such is the nature of infinities.

Move over water, infinity is the universal solvent.

I cower in the face of such logic. If there are an infinite number of triangles, then some of them must have four sides.

Comment #13551

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on January 13, 2005 12:28 PM (e)

plunge wrote:

Anyone else feel they wasted their time? The guy just does not get what we are saying. It would be one thing if he disagreed, but basic concepts … they just dont’ seem to register. Did I explain it badly? Is it really that hard to understand that you cannot judge probability based on a single observation?

It seemed clear enough to me.

But then, I’m just a biologist.

Comment #13557

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 13, 2005 12:40 PM (e)

David, this point

If we find things that, had they been slightly different would have left us with no universe, then we begin to appreciate our fortune.

appears to be the heart of the controversy. The use of the word ‘fortune’ in this context is essentially meaningless. If I roll a ball down a rough hill, it lands in a particular spot. Is that spot ‘fortunate’? No. It’s simply where the ball landed. You assign ‘fortune’ to a specific outcome out of fundamental bias - you are biased in favor of the actual position that the ball landed.

Then we ask, what is the source of that fortune?

But fortune is the sense of ‘favored’ is not a rational statement; to return to the ball analogy, all positions in which the ball lands are ‘fortunate’. All.

Is it “ignorant luck”, meaning that its not luck at all, but appears so because we lack a fundamental theory? Maybe. Is it blind luck, meaning there is only one universe and somehow everything came out right? Nobody likes that answer.

Incorrect. This answer is, in fact, perfectly acceptable; we represent the end result of series of stochastic processes - given that we exist the probability of our existing in 1.

Is it because there are an infinite number of universes and if we weren’t in one of the lucky ones we wouldn’t be here talking about it? A lot of folks like that answer.

It’s possible. But there is, by definition, no evidence for those other universes. It’s an intellectually sloppy solution in my mind.

Or is it by design? I like that answer.

Great. But your ‘liking’ an answer doesn’t make it right or wrong. Clearly you like that answer emotionally; but until there is supporting evidence for it, your liking has no intellectual basis.

But in all cases, only one of which is ID, there is al least tacit acknowledgement that many things had to be “just right” for our universe to exist.

Back to your fundamental misconception.

We are the timewise result of the fundamental laws and constants of the universe. Thing aren’t “just right”; things “just are.”

appears to be the heart of the controversy.

Comment #13565

Posted by David Heddle on January 13, 2005 1:22 PM (e)

Rilkes Grand Daughter,

No the word “fortunate” has real meaning. This is easy for physicists to accept, but darn near impossible for biologists, because they fear it open’s a Pandora’s box.

One more try:

Virtually ALL physicists, even FLAMING atheists, agree that our universe is “fortunate”. They then emply various methods to explain the “fortune”, generally one of the four I described above, only one of which invokes God.

But, and I know I’ve said it a thousand times, “we just are” is not acceptable to ALL STRIPES, because the conditions for our universe are too delicate.

The “fortunate” part per se is not controversial in physics, but crediting God for the fortune is. Crediting multiverses is orthodox.

Do you see my point? You don’t like the word “fortunate”, but physicists have no trouble with it, in fact they find it exciting and fascinating (the point Derbyshire really blew).

As I said, biologists seem to fear that if our universe appears priviliged/fortunate in any way, manaatory Christianity is aroud the corner.

This is why the ID debate in physics is so much more enjoyable than in biology. You guys have a mean streak!

Comment #13573

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 13, 2005 1:44 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

I have been careful to acknowledge that some super theory could render our “luck” inevitable. However, no such theory is on the horizon so believing in it is no different than believing in God.

Which is to say, the rationale for believing that God caused cosmological fine-tuining is no more warranted than believing in a still-to-be discovered super-theory that actually explains things.

Maybe now you’ll see why most of us aren’t impressed by the fine-tuning argument. Since any theory that actually has evidence is superior to “design”, then design is no better than ignorance.

Comment #13600

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 13, 2005 3:32 PM (e)

As I said, biologists seem to fear that if our universe appears priviliged/fortunate in any way, manaatory Christianity is aroud the corner.

Actually, I’m just afraid of encountering more and more people who accept your silly arguments and a lot of other equally dumb ones because their preachers say that such arguments prove that their “worldview” is the only “logically consistent” one. I’m especially afraid of encountering such people who wield political power.

Fyi, it’s not just biologists that are afraid of these people. But biologists have some experience dealing with some of the most vocal examples of such people, i.e., the “ID theory” peddlers.

And fyi, my fear doesn’t force me to tell lies. So in that sense, I’m not nearly as afraid as the silly people I referred to above (or not nearly as morally bankrupt, whichever you prefer).

Comment #13659

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 13, 2005 8:07 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

Sorry, your argument is the outdated one. Chemistry can’t be ignored. Water is the universal solvent. Without it, complex chemistry is impossible. I think biologists of all stripes more or less agree that without water life would not be possible. I also think, as evolutionists, you had better hope that’s the case, otherwise if life is free to develop anywhere, regardless of the conditions, then you’ll be left explaining why there’s none on Jupiter.

David Europa is suspected of having more water then earth does. I never said life on Jupiter, but I wouldn’t discount that either. I said “There is nothing saying life could exist out at Jupiter”…. sorry my original quote should have said.
“There is nothing saying life could not exist out at Jupiter”
Water is not a rare resource in the universe.

David Heddle wrote:

I also think, as evolutionists, you had better hope that’s the case, otherwise if life is free to develop anywhere, regardless of the conditions, then you’ll be left explaining why there’s none on Jupiter.

Thanks for twisting my words for one.
So you’ve been to Jupiter and its moons with a microscope, or in the case of Europa maybe just a big drill and net, and found there is no life out there? I for one don’t claim to say life does or does not exist there. I say there is more and more indications that life COULD be out there because we can see similar or more extreme conditions here on earth where life occurs. So the argument of “We are just the right distance from the sun” “We don’t have the to much radiation” etc as useless since we’ve proven those argument useless here on Earth.

Again you claiming there is no life out near Jupiter just shows you like the “gaps” and where ever there is a gap in our knowledge it proves your “God”

David Heddle wrote:

If it were only a technological question, I would agree. (Actually not without limits. If a theory could be proved but required an accelerator the size of the known universe I would still classify it as unfalsifiable—but that is subject to debate.) But to observe parallel universes would require an overthrow of General Relativity. Maybe that will happen, but until it does the multiverse theories remain, even in principle, unfalsifiable

I’ve heard the talk that it would take a accelerator the size of the galaxy in my reading. But even then I agree that at that size it is not feasible. But again we are considering technology that we can conceive of now. Not technology that is here in 1000 years that would boggle our minds.

David Heddle wrote:

Please reference said experiments.

Ummm Superstring theory has a nice chunk of it that may lead to answering these questions. I never implied that the experiments CAN look back now. What I said was “there is already experiments going with the goals of being able to look back at what happened before the “big bang”

This is of course not the only goal string theory but it is one of the goals. Are you ready to go on record of saying that string theory is a load of crap and is useless in cosmology?

David Heddle wrote:

(Actually, I think you should say another planet might support silicon based life, and they might consider their planet lucky. Another universe would have a different chemistry altogether.)

So you are going on record saying that in a multi-verse every universe must have totally unique chemistry?

DaveScot wrote:

If there’s an infinite number of universes then ID has to be right in a subset of them. Not only that, it has to be right while a vast majority of scientists are convinced that it is not right.

Actually Dave you are right. Even great minds like Sir Martin Rees would agree with you there. But lets not extrapolate out to much. Just because a universe is “designed” doesn’t mean everything in that universe is designed. There are many designed systems out there that have emergent properties. While we may be “designed” there is no proof of it and seems to be more proof that we are just “emergent properties” of our universe. Like others have pointed out humans don’t have to be the end goal of the universe with respect to a “God”

David Heddle wrote:

No I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion of design if a player got a full-house. Am I saying that the universe is the best that it can be for life? Interesting question—theologically of course the answer is no, because of the fall.

I’ll take it from your occupation that you are a OEC and from your statement you’re a believe in a literal reading of genesis in regards to Adam and Eve?

Comment #13664

Posted by David Heddle on January 13, 2005 8:28 PM (e)

Wayne,

I would think that primitive life on Jupiter would be an even more severe blow to evolution. After all, you guys have the crutch of being able to say abiogenesis is rare. But once life starts, then it should evolve in complexity.

Liquid water is rare in the universe.

Too much radiation does preclude life–for it is not something life can build an immunity against–it breaks down matter. Much of the universe is bathed in radiation higher the “high radiation” environments on earth in which some organisms survive. There is a limit.

Bottom line: there are no such experiments.

I like superstring theory, though I’m no expert, not being a particle physicist. To the level I understand it, I find it beautiful. However your question is posed like a test of orthodoxy. String theory has it detractors among non ID scientists.That is, its not hard to find competent non_ID scientists who thing SST is “crap” as you put it.

In lieu of a theory that predicts that every universe will have the same relative strengths among the strong, weak, and E&M force, and the same masses of elementary particles, I would go on record as saying that it then follows that every universe would have its own chemistry.

I believe in an old-earth and a historic Adam and Eve. Whether that fits with your definition of an OEC and a literal reading of Genesis visa vis Adam and Eve, I couldn’t say.

Comment #13685

Posted by Ruthless on January 13, 2005 10:27 PM (e)

Ok, I’ll give this a shot, for no particular reason:

David:
“As to my qualifications, I have a Ph.D. in physics—nuclear theory. Math is our language.”

I find this hard to believe. Even as a non-scientist (I’m an engineer), I find it hard to understand how a PhD in physics could totally misunderstand what science is, but there ya go; I’m not going to call you a liar, I just think it is difficult to believe…much like you having trouble accepting that our universe could bring forth life without divine intervention. Of course, I’m not suggesting my belief should be taught in school, as ID proponents are…

Allow me to explain. You are making the mistake that what you find in science books is reality. It isn’t. It is a contrived model that humans have come up with to describe observed behaviors in the universe. For example, Newton described gravity as a force between masses, proportional to the masses and the distance between them. Newton was right, but then Einstein comes along and describes gravity as the warping of space-time. So what gives? It’s simple. They are just models. Newton wasn’t wrong; his model is just more human-scale. Two different models describing observations about the universe.

What we call “science” is just a bunch of models and observations which either support or contradict the models (the latter would cause the model to be refined.) Something as fundamental as “gravity” doesn’t really exist. It’s merely a label for a behavior of the universe. “Mass” doesn’t really exist either; it is simply a label we’ve constructed to describe “stuff” that we can observe directly/indirectly, and we have observed that things with “mass” have a certain behavior (they have a gravitational force.) Water doesn’t freeze at 0 C…we defined 0 C to be the freezing point of water.

Ok, several times, you mentioned that if we changed the constants (the fundamental force constants, for example) or the somesuch, then galaxies could not form or what-not…do you not see that you have imposed an artificial constraint? You are assuming that the mathematical equations that describe the behavior of the galaxy would remain the same. But there is no reason for this constraint.

The universe doesn’t behave perfectly; the universe only has to “make sense” (as in it cannot contradict itself…though this is a philosophical point) and we observe it and try to come up with a model for it.

You mention that if we changed constants, galaxies and stars would not form. That’s true, but only if you keep the rest of the universe’s behavior the same as our current model (and I don’t need to tell you that if the universe followed a model that _didn’t_ support human existence, there would be no human-derived model for the universe’s behavior.)

For example, we refer to “electrons” as these “negatively charged particles”…only they aren’t really “negatively charged.” It’s simply an arbitrary convention we made up. And there’s no special reason why electrons have to exist. They have to exist to make the laws of our universe work out…but only because we made up the laws, which in part are based on the existence of electrons…

Now, even if there were some way to conclude that it is highly unlikely for our universe to exist in its present state (which there isn’t and you still haven’t shown how you come to that conclusion…should be a trivial matter for a nuclear physicist to compute, don’t you think?), there is still another problem with what you are proposing: Even if we accept that it is highly unlikely that our universe would exist, how do you go from that to “it was designed”? What logic bridges the first conclusion with the second? I mean, it’s highly highly unlikely for a human to be struck by lightning, but it has happened. Why not assume that it was god’s will? Why not assume everything is god’s will?

And how do you conclude that the universe was designed for us? Why not cockroaches? Why not simply for quarks? SOS pads? Girls named “Cindi”?

Comment #13693

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 12:16 AM (e)

David,
Just wanted to add:
IIRC, above you mentioned that speculating about infinitely many universes was little different than talking about god creating the universe.

And that’s true.

And that’s the point.

All the following ideas (and many, many more) are equally supported by the data, equally likely, and equally testable (not at all):
(1) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it has always existed
(2) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it spontaneously came into existence at some point.
(3) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it was created by some intelligent agent.
(4) There are infinitely many universes
(5) There is no reality; what I call reality is simply a dream from my own consciousness and none of you are real, either…
(6) There are exactly 3 universes, 2 of which are composed entirely of Spam and Cheese Wiz.

In other words, there is no particular reason to believe anything about the origin of the universe. If you wish to believe the universe was created by some intelligent agent (presumably for our benefit), then go ahead, we won’t stop you. But don’t try to argue that you belief is anything more than that.

I don’t necessarily believe that there are infinitely many universes, but I think that that is equally likely given the information we have. Thus, I do not believe it; I simply recognize that we have NO idea.

Comment #13694

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 14, 2005 12:19 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #13698

Posted by plunge on January 14, 2005 12:39 AM (e)

“In a way I get your point, that we only get to observe one universe, so how can we judge its probability to exist? Is that a fair assessment? The way we can judge it, at least qualitatively, is to study it. If we find things that, had they been slightly different would have left us with no universe, then we begin to appreciate our fortune.”

Then you’ve again completely missed the point. The universe is a card in the deck (well, maybe, if a deck cna potentially contain one card). But nothing we observe about the universe within the context of the universe can tell us what the rest of the deck contains: how many cards, what they all have on them, how any suits there are, how these suits can be combined, etc.

In other words, not only can we not know IF things could have been different, but we don’t know how they could have been different. You’d see this immediately if you had actually tried to start putting together a standard probability equation to describe what you are saying. That you haven’t makes me suspect that you’ve either never actually done one, not in the proper way anyway. It becomes immediately apparent that you are missing all the key elements necessary to put it together.

Comment #13699

Posted by plunge on January 14, 2005 12:43 AM (e)

“In a way I get your point, that we only get to observe one universe, so how can we judge its probability to exist? Is that a fair assessment? The way we can judge it, at least qualitatively, is to study it. If we find things that, had they been slightly different would have left us with no universe, then we begin to appreciate our fortune.”

Then you’ve again completely missed the point. The universe is a card in the deck (well, maybe, if a deck cna potentially contain one card). But nothing we observe about the universe within the context of the universe can tell us what the rest of the deck contains: how many cards, what they all have on them, how any suits there are, how these suits can be combined, etc.

In other words, not only can we not know IF things could have been different, but we don’t know how they could have been different. You’d see this immediately if you had actually tried to start putting together a standard probability equation to describe what you are saying. That you haven’t makes me suspect that you’ve either never actually done one, not in the proper way anyway. It becomes immediately apparent that you are missing all the key elements necessary to put it together.

Comment #13700

Posted by plunge on January 14, 2005 12:45 AM (e)

“In a way I get your point, that we only get to observe one universe, so how can we judge its probability to exist? Is that a fair assessment? The way we can judge it, at least qualitatively, is to study it. If we find things that, had they been slightly different would have left us with no universe, then we begin to appreciate our fortune.”

Then you’ve again completely missed the point. The universe is a card in the deck (well, maybe, if a deck cna potentially contain one card). But nothing we observe about the universe within the context of the universe can tell us what the rest of the deck contains: how many cards, what they all have on them, how any suits there are, how these suits can be combined, etc.

In other words, not only can we not know IF things could have been different, but we don’t know how they could have been different. You’d see this immediately if you had actually tried to start putting together a standard probability equation to describe what you are saying. That you haven’t makes me suspect that you’ve either never actually done one, not in the proper way anyway. It becomes immediately apparent that you are missing all the key elements necessary to put it together.

Comment #13726

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 12:04 PM (e)

Ruthless I have no clue what you are talking about in regards to my having a Ph.D. But I guess I’m glad you weren’t on the Ph.D. committee. You could contact Carnegie Mellon and tell them they should revoke it.

Ruthless wrote

Allow me to explain. You are making the mistake that what you find in science books is reality. It isn’t. It is a contrived model that humans have come up with to describe observed behaviors in the universe. For example, Newton described gravity as a force between masses, proportional to the masses and the distance between them. Newton was right, but then Einstein comes along and describes gravity as the warping of space-time. So what gives? It’s simple. They are just models. Newton wasn’t wrong; his model is just more human-scale. Two different models describing observations about the universe.

I won’t bother to correct your mangled description of Newtonian Gravitation. I don’t have too much difficulty with your point. However, the models do not have equal standing, one being an approximation of the other. Does your quote apply to evolution? Is evolution “not reality, just a model?” PLEASE answer that question.

The rest of your post has crossed the threshold from physics to metaphysics, a place I avoid.

Oh, except for

Now, even if there were some way to conclude that it is highly unlikely for our universe to exist in its present state (which there isn’t and you still haven’t shown how you come to that conclusion … should be a trivial matter for a nuclear physicist to compute, don’t you think?

But I’m a dummy, so why don’t you ask the Node-ID anti-theist cosmologists, who should be on your side of the debate, why they also conclude that our universe is unlikely? With me it is clearly a matter of religious fanaticism and stupidity. But what about Hawking? Jastrow? etc, etc, etc?

As a reminder, here are some quotes I posted the last time I was follish enough to venture in here.
Now don’t deflect things by saying that I claim they believe in ID. Actually, they don’t, and that’s the point. They see improbability in the universe—so are they all stupid too?

Ruthless wrote:

All the following ideas (and many, many more) are equally supported by the data, equally likely, and equally testable (not at all):
(1) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it has always existed
(2) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it spontaneously came into existence at some point.
(3) There is only 1 universe (this one) and it was created by some intelligent agent.
(4) There are infinitely many universes
(5) There is no reality; what I call reality is simply a dream from my own consciousness and none of you are real, either …
(6) There are exactly 3 universes, 2 of which are composed entirely of Spam and Cheese Wiz.

The value of most of this statement speaks for itself. However, only (2), (3), and (4) really fit the data, for the idea of a steady-state universe is almost dead—almost everyone agrees in the big bang or something like it.

Wayne wrote:

Who says it [abiogenesis] is rare? Who says it can only occur once?

Why, I’ve been told that on this blog! By your side of the aisle! As a possible reason why life isn’t abundant in the universe. That statement is on your side of the debate. The argument goes something like this: evolution is a powerful mechanism for creating complexity/functionality/species etc. If life isn’t everywhere, it’s not evolution’s fault, it’s probably because abiogenesis is rare. Abiogenesis is evolution’s scapegoat.

As for water, point taken that it seems pretty clear now that it existed on Mars.

Regarding pre-big bang experiments, Wayne wrote:

I’m sure that U. Danielsson et al will be interested to note that their experiments that say “it was found that in these cases, the theory does … do not, in you great opinion, qualify as science

Wayne, Danielsson is a theoretical physicist not an experimentalist. You are using a description of a theory as if it is an experiment.

I don’t know what your point about universes with the same constants is.

Wayne wrote:

I’m wondering why your belief of an old earth does not conflict with Genesis but evolution does. You obviously are not literally interpreting the bible with your belief of an old Earth. Can I presume that with your background you would point of the inaccuracies of creationist claims that radiometric dating and the like being unreliable?

Well, that’s a fair point. Many have said that I do not take the bible literally. I think there is wiggle room where the Hebrew word yom is used (for day.) And yes, I have argued many times that if you don’t believe in radiometric dating you shouldn’t believe that your computer works either, because they both ultimately depend on the same laws of quantum mechanics.

Plunge: you win, I’m exhausted.

Comment #13731

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 14, 2005 12:26 PM (e)

Mr. Heddle,

Is evolution “not reality, just a model?” PLEASE answer that question.

Pretty much any scientist can answer this question for you: that the process of evolution has and is occuring - the change is allele frequency over time producing biodiversification - is a fact verifiable from the current bioforms and from the fossil record.

The theory of evolution is a model of how that occured.

The problem comes from the tendency to confuse the two uses of the term; it would be more precise if we simply referred to the “Modern Synthesis”.

Comment #13734

Posted by freddy on January 14, 2005 12:33 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #13736

Posted by freddy on January 14, 2005 12:36 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #13741

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 12:41 PM (e)

Many have said that I do not take the bible literally. I think there is wiggle room where the Hebrew word yom is used (for day.)

Ah, yes. Now there’s some real scientific thinking for you.

Comment #13742

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 12:45 PM (e)

You corrected Ruthless’s statement on Newtonian gravitation–no point beating a dead horse.

I disagree with your statement

If another model comes along that makes better predictions and more accurate computations of the natural world, then that model is the one that becomes accepted, but there is no need for scientists to change their world-view to accept the rightness of one model over another.

A model that makes “better predictions and more accurate computations” (that’s the same thing, I suppose) is, in mind, superior. That doesn’t detract from the achievement of the superseded model, for the replacement surely depended on the experience garnered with the older model.

Poll: is there general agreement with grand daughter’s statement:

The theory of evolution is a model of how that occured.

Comment #13763

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 2:01 PM (e)

You corrected Ruthless’s statement on Newtonian gravitation—no point beating a dead horse.

This is quite a statement considering the statements you’ve made about probability…and then accused biologists of being poor mathematicians. And Freddy’s point was that other than being slightly (though insignificantly) vague, the description I gave was correct.

A model that makes “better predictions and more accurate computations” (that’s the same thing, I suppose) is, in mind, superior. That doesn’t detract from the achievement of the superseded model, for the replacement surely depended on the experience garnered with the older model.

But the observed behaviors in both cases was the same. Do you get it? The behavior of “gravity” most likely existed well before humans documented it and probably well before humans existed. But we’ve come up with various models to describe that behavior. However, the point remains, that, for example, your idea about the universe being “lucky” requires that the universe be constrained by its current behavior and there is no reason to assume so. Do you agree or disagree with this?

However, the models do not have equal standing, one being an approximation of the other. Does your quote apply to evolution? Is evolution “not reality, just a model?” PLEASE answer that question.

Yes, “evolution” is just a label for a model humans have constructed to describe various observations and processes. The theory of evolution is just a description humans have come up with for a natural behavior. That does not mean that gravity or evolution don’t occur, it just means that these are terms we’ve assigned to describe our observations. The universe simply is.

But I’m a dummy, so why don’t you ask the Node-ID anti-theist cosmologists, who should be on your side of the debate, why they also conclude that our universe is unlikely? With me it is clearly a matter of religious fanaticism and stupidity. But what about Hawking? Jastrow? etc, etc, etc?

As a reminder, here are some quotes I posted the last time I was follish enough to venture in here.
Now don’t deflect things by saying that I claim they believe in ID. Actually, they don’t, and that’s the point. They see improbability in the universe—so are they all stupid too?

Again, you missed the point. You can believe the universe was designed all you want. But it isn’t a scientific belief. It is a philosophical one. And one with no evidence behind it.

I’ll ask again: Why is the occurrence of an unlikely event reason to believe it was the work of an intelligence? Do you believe that a person being struck by lightning is god’s work?

Now if Hawking and others think that it is “unlikely” that the universe could have been made as it is, then they are just as wrong as you are; though I think that if they were presented with the arguments made already, they’d admit they were wrong.

As has been said repeatedly: Please present us with a calculation of the probability of the universe forming under its current behavior. Otherwise, the argument about probability is meaningless.

The value of most of this statement speaks for itself.

Meaning you aren’t going to refute it?

However, only (2), (3), and (4) really fit the data, for the idea of a steady-state universe is almost dead—almost everyone agrees in the big bang or something like it.

Why does the big bang have to be the beginning? Why not an endless cycle of creation and destruction?
If you are saying you know what happened before the big bang, then please present it. The scientific community would be thrilled to hear this.

No one really even knows if the big bang occurred. Again, it’s simply a theory; a model which fits some data. It can be tested somewhat, however; the “theory” that the universe was designed cannot be.

Now, just so you can’t dodge the question again:
What data do you have to eliminate any of the possibilities I presented? What data do you have to suggest 1 is more likely than the others?

Comment #13765

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 2:07 PM (e)

Why, I’ve been told that on this blog! By your side of the aisle! As a possible reason why life isn’t abundant in the universe. That statement is on your side of the debate. The argument goes something like this: evolution is a powerful mechanism for creating complexity/functionality/species etc. If life isn’t everywhere, it’s not evolution’s fault, it’s probably because abiogenesis is rare. Abiogenesis is evolution’s scapegoat.

Ummm, we’ve found life on 1 out of 9 planets, and we haven’t even explored all 9 very much yet. If you count the moons, the figure goes way down. However, so far, we have little idea how rare life is since we’ve barely explored other planets and have virtually no way of knowing outside our own solar system.

So the abiogenesis being evolution’s scapegoat statement is meaningless.
We have no idea if it is rare. We only know that life exists on our planet now and did in the past. We think that at some point it did not.
And that’s all.

Comment #13771

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 2:27 PM (e)

We have no idea if it is rare. We only know that life exists on our planet now and did in the past. We think that at some point it did not.

My personal opinion is that abiogenesis is occuring all the time somewhere on earth but we haven’t figured out a way to detect it’s occurence. Maybe sometime in the next billion years a new type of non-nucleic acid based life will show up on earth that somehow did not get immediately eaten by bacteria.

What are the odds of that happening, Heddle, assuming no dramatic changes in earth climate? Now what are the odds if the earth’s climate changes to approximate that when the first self-replicating life forms are postulated to have arisen on earth? Are they greater or less than the odds that Hindus are right and Christians are wrong?

Note that my theory has the advantage of spurring genuine scientific research, unlike Heddle’s bong-loaded musings about the yom-to-yom activities of his personal deity.

Comment #13772

Posted by freddy on January 14, 2005 2:29 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #13788

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 2:58 PM (e)

Ruthless wrote:

However, the point remains, that, for example, your idea about the universe being “lucky” requires that the universe be constrained by its current behavior and there is no reason to assume so. Do you agree or disagree with this?

I couldn’t say, because I don’t know what you mean.

Ruthless wrote

Again, you missed the point. You can believe the universe was designed all you want. But it isn’t a scientific belief. It is a philosophical one. And one with no evidence behind it.

I don’t care about whether you call it science or philosophy. And what do you mean by no evidence? Why there are tons of evidence that the universe is designed. Why else would the great scientist and god hater Hoyle, who hated the idea of the big bang because it pointed to a displeasing “start” of the universe, write: “A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.” Is it not obvious that he is acknowledging evidence for design, even though he did not accept the conclusion of design? Of course there is evidence.

Ruthless wrote

I’ll ask again: Why is the occurrence of an unlikely event reason to believe it was the work of an intelligence? Do you believe that a person being struck by lightning is god’s work?

Actually, yes I do, at least in a certain sense, but that is another question. From probability it is clear that we would expect a certain number of people to be struck by lightening. If there was only one lightening bolt in history, and it struck Osama Bin Laden, then we might reasonably infer design—as Hoyle does above. And Penzias. And Hawking. And Jastrow. And …

Meaning you aren’t going to refute it?

Correct. I’m not going to refute “There is no reality; what I call reality is simply a dream from my own consciousness and none of you are real, either …

As has been said repeatedly: Please present us with a calculation of the probability of the universe forming under its current behavior. Otherwise, the argument about probability is meaningless.

Sigh. For the hundredth time I have never made a statement about the numerical probability of the universe, nor did I say I could calculate it. I said the universe is finely tuned from which you can infer design (and low probability.) Joining me in expressing surprise at the improbability of our universe are Hoyle, Penzias, Hawking, Jastrow, … Are you prepared to tell them that their statements are meaningless unless that can calculate the probability of the universe?

Now, just so you can’t dodge the question again:
What data do you have to eliminate any of the possibilities I presented? What data do you have to suggest 1 is more likely than the others?

Huh? (1) was the steady state universe—the measured expansion pretty much killed that, and the recent data that shows the acceleration is expanding kills the oscillating universe as well. If it’s not clear, then the fact that the universe is expanding means, if you run tape backwards, the universe had a beginning. That is what scared the pants off Einstein (who introduced his cosmological constant in an ill-advised attempt to restore steady state)and Hoyle.

We have no idea if it is rare.

Well some of your colleagues have told me its probably rare. So flame them, not me.

Of your six options, only (4) and (5) make any sense to me, although you’ll still find supporters of (3) and a few scattered holdouts of some variant of (1).

Comment #13792

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 3:03 PM (e)

freddy wrote:

This is because, in science, there is no right or wrong when it comes to models, it is just a question of how useful the model is for describing the situation you are examining.

I disagree. You have described not science but engineering, in my mind. But I won’t debate the point further.

As to your correction with regard to better predictions, computations: I see your point and concede.

Comment #13796

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 3:10 PM (e)

Big David Heddle, all puffed out, cites the names of some bigwigs and asks

Are you prepared to tell them that their statements are meaningless unless that can calculate the probability of the universe?

I am. They are meaningless. Please forward my email to your idols and then all of you can take your “finely tuned” universe crud to your churches and stick it in the incense burner where it belongs.

If there was only one lightening bolt in history, and it struck Osama Bin Laden, then we might reasonably infer design

But instead something quite different happened. But Heddle nevertheless infers design. Why? Because he’s a Christian apologist. They tend to behave hypocritically.

I don’t care about whether you call it science or philosophy.

More accurately, David Heddle doesn’t care to admit that it’s not science but theology. Why? Because he’s a Christian apologist. They tend to behave hypocritically.

Comment #13798

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

GWW’s post reminds me of the weird logic that first brought me to this blog:

(1) IDers are not real scientists, because they do not publish in refereed journals

(2) Their papers should be rejected because they are not real scientists

(3) If (2) is violated, it is because either

(i) The journal, upon review, is not reputable, or
(ii) The editor was not properly vetted and has latent ID sympathies

(4) There is no bias.

Actually, I can except (2) – it’s the fact that there was a claim of a “level playing field” that is laughable. You guys should toss the level playing field sham and just be honest and say ID papers not welcome.

Comment #13800

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 3:31 PM (e)

ID papers are welcome. I don’t see why those papers shouldn’t be up for criticism though. Just like everyone else’s papers.

Comment #13801

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 3:34 PM (e)

I still can’t seriously believe you wrote that. What do you think peer review is? GLad handing and back slapping? It;s critical review to find errors. Why is it mainstreams science’s fault that ID papers (if there have been any outside of that Myers fiasco) are full of problems? Both logically, and scientifically.

Comment #13802

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 3:36 PM (e)

You guys should toss the level playing field sham and just be honest and say ID papers not welcome.

They aren’t welcome because it’s not science. Which part of that don’t you understand?

You believe in a deity – that’s great. Wonderful for you. I hope you avoid eternal torment because of your beliefs.

But beyond that, invoking your deity as as an explanation of a phenomenon in the context of a scientific discussion is absurd, a waste of time, and frankly, rather arrogant.

When you start talking about Ploink Ploink’s role in fine tuning the universe, I’ll pay attention. That will show at least that you are now paying attention to truly interesting deities and not the tired old deities peddled by ancient Hebrews. I wonder why you are so uninterested in Ploink Ploink? You do recall the relationship between Ploink Ploink and your deity, don’t you? I’d think that would be a matter of some concern to someone like you.

The playing field is very level, David. Perhaps it doesn’t seem that way when you’re looking at it from the bottom of a deep hole that you dug yourself into.

Comment #13804

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 3:51 PM (e)

Mike, I don’t criticize you (the discipline) for not publishing ID papers. I criticize the self-congratulatory sham that there is a level playing field.

The position is, if ID does science we’ll publish it, but that’s not possible, because ID is not science.

There is a bias–an understandable one from your perspective–but a silly pretense that it does not exist.

Comment #13806

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 3:53 PM (e)

I think GWW sums it up pretty well.

Comment #13808

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 3:58 PM (e)

Then I don’t understand your argument at all David. If ID wants to be treated as science, it needs to play by science’s level (not a sham) playing field. It is a level playing field. no one is barred from submitting papers. If it doesn’t want to be treated as science, there’s no argument from me. It doesn’t need to be brought up in scientific discussions. You’re wildly ranging from science into philosophy though.

Comment #13809

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 4:08 PM (e)

Mike,

First of all, no editor/reviewer is without bias, which is why journals usually allow you to request a change.

You see I tend to agree that ID is not science, and so should not publish in scientific journals.

The playing field may be level, but only if you pass the orthodoxy test, which ID never will. My guess is that even within the discipline there are some non-ID areas that are fringe for one reason or another–perhaps non-ID anti-evolutionists (I seem to recall there are some of those, am I wrong?) Anyway, there is always someone on the fringe who would also dispute the level playing field.

So to say that ID faces a level playing field in biological journals is like saying “rugby articles” face a level playing field. It only means that you’ll accept them and then summarily reject them, which may be what they deserve.

Comment #13812

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 4:24 PM (e)

Alright, maybe it’s because my brain hasn’t fully evolved yet, but I can’t get my head around what we’re talking about.

You’ve been using words like improbable to argue for a designer…well, that word tends to bring those who understand high school probability out of the wood work to point out that you’re mistaken. We’d like you to quantify your beliefs if you want to convince anyone of what you’re saying. You can certainly believe whatever you want, but when you start talking about how certain things “prove” other things, you need to back that up. That’s where peer review comes in. It doesn’t matter what biases you think exist, if a paper has merit, it can and will get published by some journal.

If you seriously think that the first ID paper that shows any merit wouldn’t get published in Nature, you’re nuts. If you think that ID can’t get into a journal because it’s not science (as you’ve said) then don’t expect any scientists to take it seriously. Without proof, there is no proof.

Obviously, I’m confused though. This post made my head hurt.

Comment #13813

Posted by freddy on January 14, 2005 4:29 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #13816

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 4:36 PM (e)

David Heddle writes

There is a bias—an understandable one from your perspective—but a silly pretense that it does not exist.

The bias is merely can we please not invoke mysterious ultrapowerful “intelligent” beings to explain phenomenon until such beings have been scientifically established.

Sometimes it appears, David, that you believe that you have established the existence of such a being scientifically. Let me tell you something: you haven’t succeeded. When you succeed, I’ll read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Scientists tell “ID theorists” to do some science and “come back” out of a misguided sense of courtesy. I say the courtesy is misguided because the behavior of the “ID theory” peddlers is, in my opinion, so foul that such courtesy is unwarranted and will only be thrown back in scientists faces (just as you have done, David).

In the meantime, if you insist on dragging your deity into the scientific arena, then I’m bringing all of my deities, and everyone else’s. After all, we wouldn’t want the “playing field” to appear less than “level” would we? Of course, Ploink Ploink doesn’t get along well with all of the other deities, as you surely recall.

Comment #13817

Posted by Flint on January 14, 2005 4:37 PM (e)

So to say that ID faces a level playing field in biological journals is like saying “rugby articles” face a level playing field

This seems fair enough. Biological papers won’t pass the cut in rugby magazines, and vice versa. Biological journals exist to publish material about biology. ID has nothing to do with biology. Scientific journals generally exist to publish material related to scientific investigation. ID is not science, and investigates nothing using any scientific method.

But this does NOT make either science or biology a sham. The decision not to publish rugby articles in biology journals is not ‘bias’ as Heddle uses the term.

So let’s go back to Heddle’s rather slanted whine:

(1) IDers are not real scientists, because they do not publish in refereed journals

No, IDers are not scientists because they do no science. Their entire budget (all of which comes from religious sources) is spent on lobbying and public relations. This is not science. Not publishing in refereed journals is simply a side-effect of not doing any research.

(2) Their papers should be rejected because they are not real scientists

Not even close. Some of them ARE real scientists. Their ID papers are not rejected, either, because they do not WRITE any ID papers. They write no ID papers because they do no research. They do no research because research examines evidence, and there is no ID evidence to examine. Please note that some of these ID scientists DO publish papers in refereed journals, documenting their research within their specialty. None of these papers has anything to do with ID, of course.

(3) If (2) is violated, it is because either
(i) The journal, upon review, is not reputable, or
(ii) The editor was not properly vetted and has latent ID sympathies

As a matter of fact, two journals were established to publish the results of ID research. One quietly closed its doors because no results were presented (because no research was done, etc.) The other is still waiting.

(4) There is no bias.

In the sense you mean, this is essentially true. I would be willing to bet a goodly sum that most reputable journals would quite desperately LOVE to publish any scientific paper documenting valid ID research, if only any IDist would ever come up with a testable hypothesis suggesting any research to document.

Comment #13818

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 4:42 PM (e)

What’s confusing Mike, I have been consistent: It’s fine not to publish ID papers, and it’s silly to talk of a level playing field. Journals never have a level playing field. I bet most scientists perceive that certain journals are more favorable to his research.

freddy, what evidence would you acceptfor ID? Really? Whatever they claim as evidence, apart from a video of special creation, would be refuted.

You’ve been using words like improbable to argue for a designer … well, that word tends to bring those who understand high school probability out of the wood work to point out that you’re mistaken. We’d like you to quantify your beliefs if you want to convince anyone of what you’re saying.

Unbelievable. Can you guys come up with something new? I have said a gazillion times I can’t compute the probability of the universe but that doesn’t mean I am not surprised at its unlikelyhood. Just like, once again, the non IDers by the familiar names of Hoyle, Penzias, Hawking, Jastrow… Are they dummies that do not understand high school statistics–hey Penzias, give back that Nobel Prize!

Comment #13822

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 4:47 PM (e)

I couldn’t say, because I don’t know what you mean.

Simple. Your idea seems to me to be that the universe’s current state is improbable.
When asked to show why this is so, rather than do so, you said that, for example, if you changed one of the fundamental forces of the universe, then bad things would happen, humans wouldn’t exist, etc.

However, your argument assumes that when changing that constant (which humans have derived to fit the formulae we have created to fit observations we’ve made…), we are leaving the rest of the behavior of the universe as it is. That is, you assume that by changing the gravitational constant, humans could not exist. But this assumes that the rest of the behavior of the universe otherwise agrees with our current models. And there is no reason to make this assumption.

I don’t care about whether you call it science or philosophy.

There’s a big difference between the two and you are trying (it seems) to argue that the universe was designed, and you can prove it, rather than you simply “believe” it was designed.

And what do you mean by no evidence? Why there are tons of evidence that the universe is designed.

Then please present even one piece of evidence.

Why else would the great scientist and god hater Hoyle, who hated the idea of the big bang because it pointed to a displeasing “start” of the universe, write: “A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.” Is it not obvious that he is acknowledging evidence for design, even though he did not accept the conclusion of design?

I am not a psychologist, nor a telepath, so I do not know why Hoyle thinks what he does. For that matter, I am not even familiar with what he has said on the matter.

Of course there is evidence.

Then please present it. This should be a trivial matter for you, since apparently numerous highly-respected scientists have done the work already…

Actually, yes I do, at least in a certain sense, but that is another question. From probability it is clear that we would expect a certain number of people to be struck by lightening. If there was only one lightening bolt in history,

Here is your error: You used the term “history”. We know from observations that there have been numerous lightning strikes throughout history. We do not have any knowledge of what happened before the Big Bang (assuming that even occurred.) Thus, we can draw no conclusions about how likely our universe is to have come to be in it’s current form. There is no historical data from which to construct the likelihood of our universe occurring. Understand?

and it struck Osama Bin Laden, then we might reasonably infer design

Why?
How is this any different than assuming that a person with a mysterious illness is possessed by a demon?
You are arguing that because we observe something happening once, and it did something that has meaning to some humans, then we should infer that the event was designed?

as Hoyle does above. And Penzias. And Hawking. And Jastrow. And …

Argument by authority? Ok, present THEIR arguments then, if you have none to offer of your own. At least that would give us something to talk about.

Correct. I’m not going to refute “There is no reality; what I call reality is simply a dream from my own consciousness and none of you are real, either …

You changed the terms of what you needed to refute; you need to refute why that is more or less likely to be correct than the idea you are offering. Please do so.

Just so there’s no mistake: Show why your belief that the universe was designed by an intelligence is more likely (or it fits the observations better) than any of the alternatives I posted.

Sigh. For the hundredth time I have never made a statement about the numerical probability of the universe, nor did I say I could calculate it. I said the universe is finely tuned

But, as I said, you HAVEN’T shown that the universe is finely tuned. To do so, and I don’t know why I’m helping you, you must show some reason that the behavior of the universe, as it is, is somehow special, or at very least show that the current behavior of the universe is required for intelligent life to exist. I contend that I could construct a universe (if I had such powers) with ANY rules I’d like.

from which you can infer design

Again: How do you get from “the universe is special (to us)” to “it was designed”? There is a gap in the reasoning there. You may as well say, “Since the universe is finely tuned, I deduce that invisible unicorns exist.” You are merely rationalizing what you wish to believe. That’s fine to believe it, but it is hardly a belief based upon observation, and definitely not a testable model you’ve come up with.

(and low probability.)

Ok, so first you say that you didn’t say that the universe has a low probability of being as it is, then you explain that it does. You’ll understand if I roll my eyes.

Either the universe has a low probability of occurring (in its current form) or it does not; or we don’t know. Which of those 3 (or you could add your own) are you arguing?

Joining me in expressing surprise at the improbability of our universe are Hoyle, Penzias, Hawking, Jastrow, … Are you prepared to tell them that their statements are meaningless unless that can calculate the probability of the universe?

At present, yes.
Invite them to participate in this debate. Alternatively, you can post their arguments and we will examine them.

However, just because they are big names in science, doesn’t mean they are right (as a scientist, you should know that.) Hawking, for example, said that life could not exist in a 2-D universe because an organism would not be able to digest its food (because it would not be able to form a digestive tract in 2-D.) However, he was/is mistaken: His analysis assumes that the lifeforms in his hypothetical 2-D universe require digestion to live. And there is no reason to assume that.

Huh? (1) was the steady state universe—the measured expansion pretty much killed that, and the recent data that shows the acceleration is expanding kills the oscillating universe as well. If it’s not clear, then the fact that the universe is expanding means, if you run tape backwards, the universe had a beginning. That is what scared the pants off Einstein (who introduced his cosmological constant in an ill-advised attempt to restore steady state)and Hoyle.

I believe that somehow the word “one” ended up as the number 1, hence the confusion.

The universe expanding into infinity is simply one theory, and it is hardly the definitive one.

As for the Big Bang: (1) It is just a model. As you might say of evolution, no one observed it. (2) Assuming the Big Bang occurred, we have no information as to what happened before then. The Big Bang does not necessarily mean the beginning of the universe. It simply means a beginning. The universe may have experienced infinitely many big bangs. (3) The universe expanding is just a model. No one knows if this is really true. It is simply a theory that attempts to explain observations.

Note: I’m not arguing that the Big Bang did not occur. I’m arguing that we have no idea what happened before then, so any speculation about it being “the beginning” is just speculation.

Now, even if we assume that the universe came into existence precisely 1 time with the rules of the universe setup very favorably to human life, how do you derive that means it was designed?
You are adding an additional assumption: That human life is special. Well, human life is special…to humans.

Well some of your colleagues have told me its probably rare. So flame them, not me.

However, you were the one who used it. Also, although I don’t know for certain, I highly suspect that they only posted it as an alternative idea in refutation of something else (as the multiple-universes has been offered here; no one is necessarily advocating that, it is simply being shown to be an equally likely explanation.)

Of your six options, only (4) and (5) make any sense to me, although you’ll still find supporters of (3) and a few scattered holdouts of some variant of (1).

Please show that your idea is more or less supported by the data than others.
Bear in mind: To show that the universe came spontaneously into existence at some finite time in our past, you must show that nothing could have preceeded the big bang. To show that other universes don’t exist, you will have to show that, well, other universes don’t exist (including one made entirely of Spam and Cheese Wiz.)

Comment #13823

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 4:47 PM (e)

Flint,

I did not say either science or biology was a sham. I said pretending that ID could ever get published, if only it “met our standards” is a sham, because built into the standards is the dogma that ID is not science.

Comment #13824

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 4:49 PM (e)

You can be surprised all you want Dave, but it means nothing. It proves nothing, tests nothing, predicts nothing, and brings nothing to the table. Welcome to the ID movement.

Comment #13825

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 4:52 PM (e)

So to say that ID faces a level playing field in biological journals is like saying “rugby articles” face a level playing field. It only means that you’ll accept them and then summarily reject them, which may be what they deserve.

This has been discussed previously, but Maddox, the previous editor of Nature, had a fun little habit of allowing pseudoscience to be published on occasion. The results were not pretty.

The additional problem with the “ID theory” peddlers is that regardless of what happens after publication, they will trumpet from coast to coast the fact of the publication as evidence that there is scientific merit to their work, even if the post-publication analysis was damning to any objective observer, in their efforts to get their religious views validated as science by the Federal government.

Uri Geller and the homeopaths, on the other hand, are content to indoctrinate people using only misleading advertising (which is not to say that conservative evangelicals don’t rely on that tool as well to spread the “Good News”).

Comment #13826

Posted by freddy on January 14, 2005 4:57 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #13827

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 4:58 PM (e)

Ruthless, gotta run but some of the evidence is

(1) The tight constraint on the expansion rate
(2) ice floats!
(3) the consntraints of the decay rate of the proton
(4) the relative strengths of the fundamental forces
(5) the initial excess of matter over anti matter
(6) the delicacy of stellar evolution
(7) the right number of expanding dimensions
(8) our moon (which is highly fortuitous in many ways)
(9) Jupiter and Saturn (for a number of reasons)
(10) C12 O16 energy level ratios
(11) mass and energy densities of the universe

sorry have to run, the list goes on and on…

But the real evidence is the cumulative effect of all these things.

Comment #13830

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 5:07 PM (e)

…you really haven’t read anything in the post have you?

Comment #13831

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 5:09 PM (e)

freddy, what evidence would you acceptfor ID? Really? Whatever they claim as evidence, apart from a video of special creation, would be refuted.

Well, all of the “evidence” for the existence of “mysterious” superpowerful intelligent alien beings that has been presented thus far by the “ID theory” peddlers has been easily refuted.

Please bear in mind, Heddle, that we’re talking about a discovery that would dramatically reframe all previous discoveries. Is it surprising that we’d want to some extraordinary evidence?

A gigantic (say, ten miles across) golden cross-shaped spaceship that descended silently and majestically to earth and sucked up all the world leaders and turned them into crystals and deposited ten test tubes of non-DNA based organisms at the NIH would suffice to convince me. I wouldn’t need to see those organisms being created to surmise that the dudes in the spaceship did it from scratch.

I’m sure it would take a lot more to convince you, David, since you’re so skeptical.

Comment #13834

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 5:21 PM (e)

Heddle writes

(1) The tight constraint on the expansion rate
(2) ice floats!
(3) the consntraints of the decay rate of the proton
(4) the relative strengths of the fundamental forces
(5) the initial excess of matter over anti matter
(6) the delicacy of stellar evolution …

You forgot the poignant hue of the setting moon.

Comment #13842

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

Ruthless, gotta run but some of the evidence is

(1) The tight constraint on the expansion rate

Please elaborate.

(2) ice floats!

Why does that matter? Could we not have life without ice, particularly the floaty variety? Sure penguins might suffer, but humans…

I tend to think you are still thinking of this universe. In this universe, ice is pretty important–and so is water, but there is no reason to believe that this is an absolute requirement.

(3) the consntraints of the decay rate of the proton
(4) the relative strengths of the fundamental forces
(5) the initial excess of matter over anti matter
(6) the delicacy of stellar evolution
(7) the right number of expanding dimensions
(8) our moon (which is highly fortuitous in many ways)
(9) Jupiter and Saturn (for a number of reasons)
(10) C12 O16 energy level ratios
(11) mass and energy densities of the universe

sorry have to run, the list goes on and on …

But the real evidence is the cumulative effect of all these things.

Ok, let me see if I can make this plain as day:
To show that the universe is “fine-tuned”, you MUST show that the laws of the universe could not possibly be anything else for life to exist, then you must show that life existing is significant for some reason other than we humans like livin’ (we can get to the latter much later.)

Attempting to explain again:
Ok, let’s say scientists discover some behavior (they make observations of something.) They come up with a “force” model for it perhaps and come up with a number for it by experimentation.

Let’s say, for example, the “strong nuclear force”. Scientists note that protons repel each other and thus create a model that they all have the same charge and thus repel each other with some force. They test this and say, yep, those protons sure repel each other. Then they realize that atoms don’t all fly apart, so there must be some reason for that. So they come up with the “strong nuclear force” to explain how atoms stay together. Now, the fact that we have atoms, and they stay together simply is the way things are. It’d be a sorry state for us if the building blocks of us were atoms AND atoms did not stick together, but of course, then we wouldn’t exist to wonder about it (but then there’s no reason to suppose that we’d have to be built of atoms.) However, the fact that the “strong force” balances the proton force precisely is simply part of the model: Atoms exist, thus if there is a tendency for protons to repel each other then there must be something that keeps that from happening. Thus, WE balanced the equation, not nature.

In other words, there is no way for us to exist AND for you not to conclude that the universe is fine-tuned. If atoms _didn’t_ hold together, but we were made of, say, “Ruthless” particles (named after their discoverer, of course), you’d still conclude that some being had to have created the universe. You might even conclude, “Wow, glad we aren’t made out of atoms, we’d fly right apart.”

Comment #13845

Posted by Flint on January 14, 2005 6:16 PM (e)

I wrote:

I would be willing to bet a goodly sum that most reputable journals would quite desperately LOVE to publish any scientific paper documenting valid ID research, if only any IDist would ever come up with a testable hypothesis suggesting any research to document.

Heddle replies:

I did not say either science or biology was a sham. I said pretending that ID could ever get published, if only it “met our standards” is a sham, because built into the standards is the dogma that ID is not science.

I think creationists and humans are in Mark Twain’s phrase, separated by a common language!

Comment #13846

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 6:17 PM (e)

ruthless

In other words, there is no way for us to exist AND for you not to conclude that the universe is fine-tuned.

Oh, so wrong. If for example, someone came up with a super theory that showed all the things on the list are necessary consquences, then the evidence for design would vanish.

Ice floating is very important. I thought everyone knew that. First of all, that fact that it floats is very surprising: only water and bismouth have the property that their solid state has lower density than their liquid. If starting today ice sank, then here in New Hampshire all the lakes would freeze from the bottom up. The fish would all die. They would stay frozen longer, and would reflect more sunlight, causing the planet to cool–so the next time lakes would freeze farther south–the planet’s climate would radically change, all marine life would die, a runaway ice age would ensue, and the planet’s water would be locked up in ice. So you should be appreciative that water has this peculiar property.

Comment #13847

Posted by Flint on January 14, 2005 6:23 PM (e)

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.

Comment #13849

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 6:26 PM (e)

So you should be appreciative that water has this peculiar property.

How should we show our appreciation?

Comment #13852

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 6:34 PM (e)

Oh, so wrong. If for example, someone came up with a super theory that showed all the things on the list are necessary consquences, then the evidence for design would vanish.

But…and I know this is difficult…there is NO POSITIVE EVIDENCE FOR DESIGN.

I already laid out what you have to show to make your case, and I was pretty generous at that. You can either address that or accept that you have no case.

Ice floating is very important. I thought everyone knew that.

Again, you are dodging what I actually asked.
Why is it a necessity that water even exist for life to exist? You must show that the laws of a universe could only bring about life with water existing…and this includes ANY hypothetical universe.

First of all, that fact that it floats is very surprising: only water and bismouth have the property that their solid state has lower density than their liquid.

Irrelevant.
See my bolding above.

If starting today ice sank, then here in New Hampshire all the lakes would freeze from the bottom up. The fish would all die. They would stay frozen longer, and would reflect more sunlight, causing the planet to cool—so the next time lakes would freeze farther south—the planet’s climate would radically change, all marine life would die, a runaway ice age would ensue, and the planet’s water would be locked up in ice. So you should be appreciative that water has this peculiar property.

See my bolding above.
We are not discussing just THIS planet nor even just THIS universe; we are discussing any universe that we can imagine.

Please address this:

Let’s say, for example, the “strong nuclear force”. Scientists note that protons repel each other and thus create a model that they all have the same charge and thus repel each other with some force. They test this and say, yep, those protons sure repel each other. Then they realize that atoms don’t all fly apart, so there must be some reason for that. So they come up with the “strong nuclear force” to explain how atoms stay together. Now, the fact that we have atoms, and they stay together simply is the way things are. It’d be a sorry state for us if the building blocks of us were atoms AND atoms did not stick together, but of course, then we wouldn’t exist to wonder about it (but then there’s no reason to suppose that we’d have to be built of atoms.) However, the fact that the “strong force” balances the proton force precisely is simply part of the model: Atoms exist, thus if there is a tendency for protons to repel each other then there must be something that keeps that from happening. Thus, WE balanced the equation, not nature.

In other words, there is no way for us to exist AND for you not to conclude that the universe is fine-tuned. If atoms _didn’t_ hold together, but we were made of, say, “Ruthless” particles (named after their discoverer, of course), you’d still conclude that some being had to have created the universe. You might even conclude, “Wow, glad we aren’t made out of atoms, we’d fly right apart.”

Comment #13853

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

David:

Just wanted to add:
Even in our universe, you seem to be making a wild guess about the effects of ice sinking on our planet’s temperature.

Not to mention that life can exist at extreme temperatures.

But all this is way besides the point anyway.

Comment #13854

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 14, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

Heddle

So you should be appreciative that water has this peculiar property.

I’m too busy mating.

Comment #13855

Posted by DougT on January 14, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

On ice sinking. It’s pretty clear that, were this the case, life on Earth would have followed a very different course. Yet there would at least be the possibility of liquid water around volcanic vents and other geothermal features. Who knows what course evolution might have taken under such circumstances, even without postulating the kinds of radically different universes that Ruthless points to. I can envision the inhabitants of such a world being glad that they didn’t live in a severly inhospitable environment that included temperatures of, oh say 37C. Hmmm….might be the basis for a science fiction story. Icesinko World Rises Again

Comment #13856

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

But guys! All of this together has to be design! It just has to be! I can’t understand how it could have possibly happened naturally!

Comment #13865

Posted by David Heddle on January 14, 2005 9:12 PM (e)

It’s not a wild guess about the effect of ice sinking on the environment– its a fairly straightforward application of radiative cooling.

I gave evidence for design – i knew you wouldn’t accept it, but I’d rather be in the company of Penzias et. al. who at least recognize it as the appearance of design.

You keep saying how I would always conclude fine tuning or design and I gave you a very simple example of how design would be refuted. I’m not going to do that again. Plus, please stop saying the strong force holds atoms together. Its the electromagnetic force that does that. The strong force holds nuclei together.

Comment #13868

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 14, 2005 9:29 PM (e)

Mr. Heddle,

It’s not a wild guess about the effect of ice sinking on the environment— its a fairly straightforward application of radiative cooling.

I gave evidence for design — i knew you wouldn’t accept it, but I’d rather be in the company of Penzias et. al. who at least recognize it as the appearance of design.

What I am curious about is why you consider the ‘ice’ information as evidence of design?

Latitude determines the viability of various fungi; where the environment is hostile, certain fungi don’t grow. Would you consider that fact - the sensitivity of fungi to latitude - to be evidence of design? Why?

The earth would be an unlikely environment for the known biosphere if ice had different properties. So what? Other forms of life might not have this requirement; bioforms similar to those known might appear on a world which does not get cool enough for ice to form, etc.

Again, and I am asking an honest question here: why is this property evidence of design? The only answer that I can envision is that you presume that the present life on earth is a specific target goal.

Comment #13869

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 14, 2005 9:34 PM (e)

Mr. Heddle,

It’s not a wild guess about the effect of ice sinking on the environment— its a fairly straightforward application of radiative cooling.

I gave evidence for design — i knew you wouldn’t accept it, but I’d rather be in the company of Penzias et. al. who at least recognize it as the appearance of design.

What I am curious about is why you consider the ‘ice’ information as evidence of design?

Latitude determines the viability of various fungi; where the environment is hostile, certain fungi don’t grow. Would you consider that fact - the sensitivity of fungi to latitude - to be evidence of design? Why?

The earth would be an unlikely environment for the known biosphere if ice had different properties. So what? Other forms of life might not have this requirement; bioforms similar to those known might appear on a world which does not get cool enough for ice to form, etc.

Again, and I am asking an honest question here: why is this property evidence of design? The only answer that I can envision is that you presume that the present life on earth is a specific target goal.

Comment #13877

Posted by Ruthless on January 14, 2005 10:46 PM (e)

David:

I gave evidence for design — i knew you wouldn’t accept it, but I’d rather be in the company of Penzias et. al. who at least recognize it as the appearance of design.

No, actually you didn’t.
You didn’t even respond to my post in any meaningful way.

What you HAVE shown is that the laws of the universe are a certain way and we exist. You have not shown: That that is the only way that life could exist. You have also not shown: How we can assume that the universe being setup in its current form yields “design” as the reason.
These are kindof both the basis for your argument, so I think you need to answer them in some meaningful way.

Ok, I’ll try this one last time, then if you don’t respond meaningfully I’ll ignore you since you are simply ignoring questions you don’t want to answer:
To show that the universe is “fine-tuned”, you must demonstrate that the behavior of our universe is absolutely required for intelligent life to exist. To do this, you must explain how this behavior–AND ONLY THIS BEHAVIOR–could bring about life. To do that, you must consider infinitely many possible behaviors (on a finite-sized forum, no less.)

Thus, I conclude it is highly unlikely that you will make your case.

You keep saying how I would always conclude fine tuning or design and I gave you a very simple example of how design would be refuted.

But you can never logically eliminate design.
You personally may be satisfied by some evidence, but a mysterious undetectable designer could ALWAYS exist no matter what.

And, this is much more important, it is YOU who must derive the existence of the designer. Currently, the universe needs no such explanation. Most of us (well, here at least) are of the position that we simply do not know; we have no data to suggest how the universe came into existence (if at all.) YOU must make YOUR case. I’ve told you the minimum that you must do to show you are correct…and I dare say the task is impossible. Which is why most of us think your certainty of design is unfounded; you have no way to make your case.

Plus, please stop saying the strong force holds atoms together. Its the electromagnetic force that does that. The strong force holds nuclei together.

Pardon me, Mr. Wizard, for again being imprecise. Nonetheless, that is hardly a reason to ignore the substance of what I said. Failure to address it tells me that you are avoiding to as it may prove you wrong.

I’ll post it again, this time when you read it, just mentally substitute “nucleus of atoms” for “atoms” and see if that helps:

Let’s say, for example, the “strong nuclear force”. Scientists note that protons repel each other and thus create a model that they all have the same charge and thus repel each other with some force. They test this and say, yep, those protons sure repel each other. Then they realize that atoms don’t all fly apart, so there must be some reason for that. So they come up with the “strong nuclear force” to explain how atoms stay together. Now, the fact that we have atoms, and they stay together simply is the way things are. It’d be a sorry state for us if the building blocks of us were atoms AND atoms did not stick together, but of course, then we wouldn’t exist to wonder about it (but then there’s no reason to suppose that we’d have to be built of atoms.) However, the fact that the “strong force” balances the proton force precisely is simply part of the model: Atoms exist, thus if there is a tendency for protons to repel each other then there must be something that keeps that from happening. Thus, WE balanced the equation, not nature.

In other words, there is no way for us to exist AND for you not to conclude that the universe is fine-tuned. If atoms _didn’t_ hold together, but we were made of, say, “Ruthless” particles (named after their discoverer, of course), you’d still conclude that some being had to have created the universe. You might even conclude, “Wow, glad we aren’t made out of atoms, we’d fly right apart.”

And, of course, you did not address this yet:
Why is your belief about the universe superior to the alternatives I gave?

And, I’ll throw in another question, just out of curiosity:
Totally hypothetical situation:
{Assumes you are an impartial observer unaffected by the situation, obviously}
If our universe existed precisely as it is now, except that life never came to be, would you still conclude that the universe was designed? I mean, it would still be finely-tuned as you say, but there’s no reason why life EVER had to form, AFAIK.

Comment #13881

Posted by David Heddle on January 15, 2005 4:28 AM (e)

Ruthless,

I am not trying to avoid your questions, I truly don’t understand them. For example:

To show that the universe is “fine-tuned”, you must demonstrate that the behavior of our universe is absolutely required for intelligent life to exist. To do this, you must explain how this behavior—AND ONLY THIS BEHAVIOR—could bring about life. To do that, you must consider infinitely many possible behaviors (on a finite-sized forum, no less.)

You and some others on here like to state definitive tests and say unless I “calculate this or that” everything is meaningless–well there is no basis for the “unless” other than you’ve constructed a sentence with it. It would be like me saying “unless you show me species X evolving into species Y then evolution is meaningless.”

But I’ll try: unless the expansion rate was what it is there would be no life because (a) a little bit smaller and the universe would have recollapsed into a big clump or (b) a little bigger and the universe would have expanded to fast to produce galaxies.

Granddaughter,

The fact that ice floats is one piece of the evidence for design is the combination of two things: (a) it is highly surprising and (b) it is highly advantageous for life. You example of fungi is neither, as far as I know. Large bodies of liquid water are so important in so many ways – from the mere fact that any complex chemistry required for life will need liquid water (probably) to the fact that they are vital in regulating the weather patterns.

Still, if it were the only surprise I agree that it would be little more than a curiosity. However, as I said, there is a long list such things, and it is the accumulation of many happy coincidences that constitute the evidence, not a this or that one in isolation.

Ruthless, I really don’t understand your question about the strong force. It seems to be this, let me paraphrase and tell me if I am wrong:

(1) nuclei should fly apart because protons, from the coulomb force repel one another

(2) we create the nuclear force and, in effect, “adjust it” so that nuclei stay together

(3) idiots like David Heddle and Hoyle express amazement that the strong force “Is so fine tuned as to EXACTLY balance the Coulomb repusion!!!”

Is that it?

If so, it is hard to believe you could make such a claim. If the strong force was just a potential that did nothing but model how nuclei are bound you might have a point. But the strong force is understood on a microscopic level (quarks exchanging gluons) and makes many confirmed predictions at the microscopic level that have nothing to do with “just inventing something that balances the Coulomb force”.

Another anology might be termodynamics and statistical mechanics. It seems to me you have likened the strong force to thermo–in the sense that it is sort of an emprical model that fits the phenomena. But actually it is like stat mech; stat mech is a microscopic theory that (a) in certain limits yields thermo (effectively deriving it) (b)unlike thermo is understood at the microscopic level as interactions among particles and © makes many more predictions than thermo

You have in effect said the strong force is a potential that was invented to balance the coulomb force, so there is no surprise at is fine tuning, but

(a) The strong force (QCD) explains your potential in certain limits (b) is understood at the microscopic (quarks and gluons) level © makes so many more predictions about nature than the parameterized potential model you seem to think it is.

Do you think physics is just turning knobs in parameterized models to get things right?

If our universe existed precisely as it is now, except that life never came to be, would you still conclude that the universe was designed? I mean, it would still be finely-tuned as you say, but there’s no reason why life EVER had to form, AFAIK.

Yes, because my version of ID stops at the point: it is amazing that the universe can support life. It’s the IDers you usually argue with on here who pick it up here and argue their version of ID vs evolution.

Comment #13887

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 15, 2005 9:41 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

You are using a description of a theory as if it is an experiment.

But string theory (scientific term) has had experiments done on it. Mostly mathematical experiments but they are still tests are they not?

David Heddle wrote:

However, only (2), (3), and (4) really fit the data, for the idea of a steady-state universe is almost dead—almost everyone agrees in the big bang or something like it.

This is a misleading statement. The big bang means different things to different people. Theory like M Theory are resolving some of the problems with the singularity issues that would occur in some cosmological. As for “almost everyone agrees” I think you’ve forgotten how many of your creationist friends do not believe in any “big bang” and still believe that Noah’s flood actually occurred despite there being no evidence for it, on a global scale. Heck creationist like DaveScot deny programs written by GAs yet I was looking at one today. Denial is a powerful thing.

David Heddle wrote:

Why else would the great scientist and god hater Hoyle, who hated the idea of the big bang because it pointed to a displeasing “start” of the universe, write: “A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.” Is it not obvious that he is acknowledging evidence for design, even though he did not accept the conclusion of design?

And again we come to M Theory which is starting to explain some of these problems like Hoyle wrestle with. So we have scientist saying in the past “This model fits nicely most of the time but this area here seems to be a bit of a problem as I see it.” then later on other scientists, or even that scientist, makes a breakthrough and formulates a hypothesis and tests it (with may other scientists confirming or refuting said test and creating tests of their own) and maybe it becomes a possible theory.

M Theory might not be the answer but it is starting to show how we can get past the problems of the singularity. As far as these scientist go let it be known that they are willing to change their position based on new evidence. I’m still waiting for Hawking to put his new paper on black holes out. Creationist on the other hand hardly ever change their position based on the evidence because they can’t without bringing into question their beliefs.

David Heddle wrote:

Ice floating is very important. I thought everyone knew that. First of all, that fact that it floats is very surprising: only water and bismouth have the property that their solid state has lower density than their liquid

besides you spelling bismuth wrong there is a problem I have with the logic “Ice floats” their for “design”. Why is bismuth designed this way? Surely an intelligent designer would have a equally compelling reason to make bismuth’s solid state is less dense then its liquid state. Also note that from memory germanium and gallium both also have this property, anyone know of any others? So that is 3 elements that have this property. Note these are elements not molecules like H20. I’m not sure but I haven’t tried all molecules but have you gone through all possible molecules and tested their solid and liquid states and compared their densities to come up with the incredible deduction that since H20’s solid state is less dense then its liquid state that it must be designed that way?

Comment #13888

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 15, 2005 9:45 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

You are using a description of a theory as if it is an experiment.

But string theory (scientific term) has had experiments done on it. Mostly mathematical experiments but they are still tests are they not?

David Heddle wrote:

However, only (2), (3), and (4) really fit the data, for the idea of a steady-state universe is almost dead—almost everyone agrees in the big bang or something like it.

This is a misleading statement. The big bang means different things to different people. Theory like M Theory are resolving some of the problems with the singularity issues that would occur in some cosmological. As for “almost everyone agrees” I think you’ve forgotten how many of your creationist friends do not believe in any “big bang” and still believe that Noah’s flood actually occurred despite there being no evidence for it, on a global scale. Heck creationist like DaveScot deny programs written by GAs yet I was looking at one today. Denial is a powerful thing.

David Heddle wrote:

Why else would the great scientist and god hater Hoyle, who hated the idea of the big bang because it pointed to a displeasing “start” of the universe, write: “A superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology.” Is it not obvious that he is acknowledging evidence for design, even though he did not accept the conclusion of design?

And again we come to M Theory which is starting to explain some of these problems like Hoyle wrestle with. So we have scientist saying in the past “This model fits nicely most of the time but this area here seems to be a bit of a problem as I see it.” then later on other scientists, or even that scientist, makes a breakthrough and formulates a hypothesis and tests it (with may other scientists confirming or refuting said test and creating tests of their own) and maybe it becomes a possible theory.

M Theory might not be the answer but it is starting to show how we can get past the problems of the singularity. As far as these scientist go let it be known that they are willing to change their position based on new evidence. I’m still waiting for Hawking to put his new paper on black holes out. Creationist on the other hand hardly ever change their position based on the evidence because they can’t without bringing into question their beliefs.

David Heddle wrote:

Ice floating is very important. I thought everyone knew that. First of all, that fact that it floats is very surprising: only water and bismouth have the property that their solid state has lower density than their liquid

besides you spelling bismuth wrong there is a problem I have with the logic “Ice floats” their for “design”. Why is bismuth designed this way? Surely an intelligent designer would have a equally compelling reason to make bismuth’s solid state is less dense then its liquid state. Also note that from memory germanium and gallium both also have this property, anyone know of any others? So that is 3 elements that have this property. I’m not sure but I haven’t tried all molecules but have you gone through all possible molecules and tested their solid and liquid states and compared their densities to come up with the incredible deduction that since H20’s solid state is less dense then its liquid state that it must be designed that way?

Comment #13897

Posted by Ruthless on January 15, 2005 11:24 AM (e)

You and some others on here like to state definitive tests and say unless I “calculate this or that” everything is meaningless—well there is no basis for the “unless” other than you’ve constructed a sentence with it. It would be like me saying “unless you show me species X evolving into species Y then evolution is meaningless.”

No, the requirements I gave you are the bare minimum to support your argument. You are arguing that something must be so. For something to HAVE to be true to make something else true you must show that all else is false. To show that your idea is, as in science (such as evolution), a better “model” than anything else (including “I don’t know”), you must show that your model fits the data better.

But I’ll try: unless the expansion rate was what it is there would be no life because (a) a little bit smaller and the universe would have recollapsed into a big clump or (b) a little bigger and the universe would have expanded to fast to produce galaxies.

As explained: What you are describing is only true if the behavior of the universe otherwise stays exactly the same as we’ve observed. You are adding an additional and arbitrary constraint.

Granddaughter,

I’d be surprised if you had a granddaughter named “Ruthless”.

The fact that ice floats is one piece of the evidence for design is the combination of two things: (a) it is highly surprising and

Why is it surprising?
We know ice floats, so this should not be surprising.
Stated alternatively: Why is it not instead surprising that for other things, their solid state is more dense than their liquid state?
You are adding an arbitrary interpretation of what is “normal” and then claiming that what is not normal is evidence for design.

(b) it is highly advantageous for life. You example of fungi is neither, as far as I know. Large bodies of liquid water are so important in so many ways — from the mere fact that any complex chemistry required for life will need liquid water (probably) to the fact that they are vital in regulating the weather patterns.

Again, this is only the case for OUR universe. To show that this is necessary for us to exist, you must exclude all other options.

Ruthless, I really don’t understand your question about the strong force. It seems to be this, let me paraphrase and tell me if I am wrong:

(1) nuclei should fly apart because protons, from the coulomb force repel one another

(2) we create the nuclear force and, in effect, “adjust it” so that nuclei stay together

(3) idiots like David Heddle and Hoyle express amazement that the strong force “Is so fine tuned as to EXACTLY balance the Coulomb repusion!!!”

Is that it?

Pretty close. More precisely, humans did not invent the behavior exibited (that protons do not fly apart), but humans invented a model for it.

If so, it is hard to believe you could make such a claim. If the strong force was just a potential that did nothing but model how nuclei are bound you might have a point. But the strong force is understood on a microscopic level (quarks exchanging gluons) and makes many confirmed predictions at the microscopic level that have nothing to do with “just inventing something that balances the Coulomb force”.

Again, there HAS to be something that keeps protons from flying apart because protons don’t fly apart. We should not be surprised that protons do not fly apart. Do you see what I’m getting at?

The strong force doesn’t really exist. The behaviors exist that we explain using a model known as the strong force.

Another anology might be termodynamics and statistical mechanics. It seems to me you have likened the strong force to thermo—in the sense that it is sort of an emprical model that fits the phenomena. But actually it is like stat mech; stat mech is a microscopic theory that (a) in certain limits yields thermo (effectively deriving it) (b)unlike thermo is understood at the microscopic level as interactions among particles and © makes many more predictions than thermo

I’m not suggesting that there doesn’t exist something that is modeled well by the strong force (and is explanatory in other models.) What I’m saying is that the strong force is a human-invented model to explain observed behaviors.

Think about it another way: If the strong force were a theory, then later on it _didn’t_ fit with other observations, then the strong force would be overturned by some other explanatory model. The observations that protons don’t fly apart wouldn’t change, but our model of the universe would change to fit the observations. Thus, we should not be surprised that things are balanced so perfectly. No matter what system described us, it would have to be balanced in some fashion.

Again: Protons repel each other and we could measure that repulsion (and we create a model of force based upon that.) However, atomic nuclei do not fly apart, therefore, there must be some rule that atomic nuclei do not fly apart all the time. We come up with a model for it, which, not coincidentally, balances protonic repulsion. We then delve deeper into the atom and we construct yet more models, which work well with the strong force model. So it seems to be a good model. Had we made other observations that contradicted the strong force model, it would have been overturned or refined to something else. However, that wouldn’t change the behavior of the universe at any point.

You have in effect said the strong force is a potential that was invented to balance the coulomb force, so there is no surprise at is fine tuning, but

correct.

(a) The strong force (QCD) explains your potential in certain limits (b) is understood at the microscopic (quarks and gluons) level © makes so many more predictions about nature than the parameterized potential model you seem to think it is.

which makes it a good model. Again, this is irrelevant to the point.

Do you think physics is just turning knobs in parameterized models to get things right?

Yes. Actually, that’s it precisely.
Physicists make observations. They then come up with a model to try to explain them (and make predictions.) They see if their model fits the observations. If it does, good. If not, it gets refined or replaced. Later on, if new observations contradict the model, physicists refine or replace their model.

Science is not ultimate reality. It is merely a way for us to explain observations of (what we consider) reality in a useful way.

You’ll note that the changing of the model of the atom hasn’t caused the universe to change (as far as I can tell.)

Yes, because my version of ID stops at the point: it is amazing that the universe can support life. It’s the IDers you usually argue with on here who pick it up here and argue their version of ID vs evolution.

Fair enough.

Ok, I’ll try to explain again why your idea is not gaining traction here:
Your idea is that the universe is designed (presumably by some intelligence.)
To show why it must be designed, you can either provide positive proof, you can eliminate all other explanations, or you can show that (in the tradition of science) your model is the best one to fit the data.
Do you agree with that assessment or do you wish to modify it?

Now, you are certainly not going to be able to provide observations of the designer.
You can try to provide evidence of design. However, to provide evidence of design, you must have some evidence that there is a designer who creates things like universes. Do you see what I’m getting at? When an archeologist finds an old arrowhead, he/she can theorize that it was designed by humans. Because we have observations that humans exist, we have observations that indicate humans existed in the past. We have observations that humans build things like arrowheads.

However, in the case of the universe, we have no observations of a designer. Therefore, we cannot conclude design simply based on experience. We have no historical information indicating that there existed entities with the ability to create universes.

Now, you could try to eliminate all other explanations. To do this, as I said, you’d have to show that it is impossible for the rules of the universe to be different and for intelligent life to have not arisen. Since this would require the analysis of infinite possibilities, you are not going to be able to satisfy this method, either. (You express amazement that the universe is so finely-tuned that we could exist, but as I’ve shown you, it HAS to be this way. You could not exist AND not have the universe appear to be finely tuned.)

That leaves one option that I can see: You can show that your model is superior to others. Given that I’ve listed about half a dozen competing explanations that fit the data as close as your explanation does, I don’t think you will satisfy this one, either.

Comment #13899

Posted by Jim Harrison on January 15, 2005 11:50 AM (e)

If the universe is improbable, then its creator would be similarly improbable. Positing a creator, therefore, at least doubles the improbability without explaining a damn thing. You can’t patch up the scandal of one miracle by fabricating others.

Comment #13903

Posted by qetzal on January 15, 2005 12:51 PM (e)

As far as I’m concerned, ID’s ability to fit the data is completely irrelevant.

If anything, ID will always fit the data better, if “better” is equivalent to “more precisely.” As long as ID posits a sufficiently omnipotent designer, it can explain any observation perfectly, simply by arguing “that’s how the designer planned it.”

The only way ID can ever be treated scientifically, is if it makes testable and falsifiable predictions.

Otherwise, it’s not scientifically useful. It may be explanatory, it may even be true, but it’s not a scientific theory.

Comment #13909

Posted by frank schmidt on January 15, 2005 1:39 PM (e)

Elliott Sober has called ID a “theory of shirts,” as in “You have a green shirt on, you have a blue one, you have a white one,”… on and on through all the people in the room.

Completely accurate. Totally useless.

Comment #13910

Posted by freddy on January 15, 2005 2:29 PM (e)

I think Ruthless has done a pretty good job of explaining things, for me at least. Hey, there’s a lot about science I didn’t know… You mean ice doesn’t have to float for there to be life…

Anyway, I want to be the dead horse of scientific models are not reality one more time. Something that seems to be mentioned a lot is the evidence (or lack thereof) for ID. This seems to be a vast misunderstanding of science, in my mind. Let’s say there are two major things that science deals with - facts and models. This is an oversimplification I’m sure, but let’s go with it. Some facts are fairly self-evident - heavy things tend to fall down, ice floats in water, grass is green. Some facts need evidence to prove them - the age of a fossil, that the Earth goes around the Sun, that like charges always repel. Models, on the other hand, give the evidence for themselves. And this is because, I’ll say it once again, scientific models are not reality. There is no evidence out there that gravity really exists. It is just that the gravitational model explains/predicts data exceptionally well. The reason a model exists, or that a model is scientific, is not any evidence for it, it’s just how well the model explains what’s going on. So, it seems to me that if ID is a model, then asking us to consider all of the evidence for it is a nonsensical question. If ID is a good model, that will be self-evident, because it will do a good job of explaining what it is trying to explain. If ID is a fact, then it is not in competition with evolution (or cosmological theories), at least evolution as a model (As Gould once said, evolution is both a theory and a fact). Evolution would have to incorporate ID, if ID is a fact, or at least it would have to be accepted that evolution is incomplete, if it can’t incorporate ID… But it seems to me that ID proponents are trying to make the nonsensical case that ID is a good scientific model and that scientists refuse to accept all of the evidence for ID. This argument is an oxymoron.

Comment #13912

Posted by David Heddle on January 15, 2005 2:59 PM (e)

You know, I’m going to try one more time. And then give up. Because, as a scientist, I don’t really know how to address statements like:

If anything, ID will always fit the data better, if “better” is equivalent to “more precisely.” As long as ID posits a sufficiently omnipotent designer, it can explain any observation perfectly, simply by arguing “that’s how the designer planned it.”

True, but irrelevant, and besides the criticism applies directly to Ruthless as well, for the argument “that’s just the way it is” is just as good at perfectly fitting the data as saying “that’s the way God made it.” If the universe didn’t look fine-tuned, then the argument “that’s how God made it” would be quite weak. It’s on the strength of the evidence that the properties of the universe are fortuitous that one then, right or wrong, invokes design.

Elliott Sober has called ID a “theory of shirts,” as in “You have a green shirt on, you have a blue one, you have a white one,” … on and on through all the people in the room. Completely accurate. Totally useless.

The comment is what is totally useless.

If the universe is improbable, then its creator would be similarly improbable

Meaningless statement, and by the way, why would it be true? Because you say so? What law of science or philosophy is this argument appealing to?

Okay, I’m going to try one more approach, again using the strong force and electromagnetic force balance as an example, but better that I did last time.

I think we all claim to be scientists on here. At least most of us. I want to ask, if possible, you can have an open mind, not to accept ID, but to ponder this question:

How is it that antitheists see, at the very least, the appearance of design or fine-tuning?. Just think for a second: you want to deny even the appearance of design in cosmology, but many of the most brilliant cosmologists acknowledge at least “apparent” fine tuning. Doesn’t your scientific curiosity cause you to ask why, rather than just ignore that fact an keep on pretending that you only have to prove David Heddle wrong?

So, I want to try to show how ,in just one case, fine tuning is seen and recognized by IDers and non-IDers, who then of course go on to different conclusions about the source of the fine tuning.

At the fundamental level, both the strong force and the electromagnetic force are expressed as relativistic quantum field theories. (I’ll simplify a bit, but not in a way that affects the argument, and I think there is a anti-ID physicist about who can verify) In a sense, each has a free parameter that gives the overall strength of the interaction. From these field theories a lot of predictions have been made and verified to a high precision.

Now, Ruthless has a point. The parameters were fit to at least one piece of data, so no big deal that they work perfectly. Lets accept that, although it could be debated.

So we have two models, and since they have been tuned by man it is not fair to use them as examples of “unexpected” fine tuning.

That is all very true. I agree with that.

The first stage of the fine-tuning come in here. It is not the relative strengths of the forces that is so incredible (maybe I’ve been sloppy on my language), it is the sensitivity to the ratio. Make either force a little bit bigger or smaller, and you don’t get a universe just a little different, you get a sterile universe. For example, no supernovae

Okay, so its not so much the precise values that is intriguing, it’s the sensitivity of those values. So now we ask, where do those values come from? For us they are parameters, but how did nature pick their values?

They come from details in the way the universe cooled just after the big bang. At the early stages, the forces were are “unified”, that is there was just one force. As the universe cooled (we are still talking tiny fractions of a second after the big bang) the force decomposed into what we now call the fundamental forces of nature. It is sort of analogous to annealing: if you cool liquid metal then as it solidifies certain structures appear, those structures are like the strong and electromagnetic forces. But cooling slightly differently results in different structures. So physics basically says:

(1) The universe cooled, and the strong and electromagnetic forces coalesced from the unified force.

(2) The values of the strength parameters of the forces are highly dependent on the details of how the universe cooled.

(3) Our universe as we know it is highly sensitive to the values of these force parameters.

(4) Thus, there appears to be some fine tuning.

This is, I think, a fair summary of the state of things. Only from here do the two camps diverge. One side says that there are many universes and we are in a lucky one, and the other invokes ID. But both sides realize they have to explain the fine tuning. The fine tuning acknowledgment is not only made by IDers

So please, don’t argue the physics, or get metaphysical. And don’t try to show why I am wrong in proclaiming fine tuning and ID, we all know you think I am wrong.

Please try to explain just one thing: why are the non-ID physicists wrong when they reach point (4)? What is the flaw in their reasoning when they conclude that multiverses are needed to explain the apparent fine tuning?

And, if possible, lets talk like scientists.

Comment #13915

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 15, 2005 3:56 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #13916

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 15, 2005 4:40 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #13917

Posted by David Heddle on January 15, 2005 5:07 PM (e)

You know, I’m going to try one more time. And then give up. Because, as a scientist, I don’t really know how to address statements like:

If anything, ID will always fit the data better, if “better” is equivalent to “more precisely.” As long as ID posits a sufficiently omnipotent designer, it can explain any observation perfectly, simply by arguing “that’s how the designer planned it.”

True, but irrelevant, and besides the criticism applies directly to Ruthless as well, for the argument “that’s just the way it is” is just as good at perfectly fitting the data as saying “that’s the way God made it.” If the universe didn’t look fine-tuned, then the argument “that’s how God made it” would be quite weak. It’s on the strength of the evidence that the properties of the universe are fortuitous that one then, right or wrong, invokes design.

Elliott Sober has called ID a “theory of shirts,” as in “You have a green shirt on, you have a blue one, you have a white one,” … on and on through all the people in the room. Completely accurate. Totally useless.

The comment is what is totally useless.

If the universe is improbable, then its creator would be similarly improbable

Meaningless statement, and by the way, why would it be true? Because you say so? What law of science or philosophy is this argument appealing to?

Okay, I’m going to try one more approach, again using the strong force and electromagnetic force balance as an example, but better that I did last time.

I think we all claim to be scientists on here. At least most of us. I want to ask, if possible, you can have an open mind, not to accept ID, but to ponder this question:

How is it that antitheists see, at the very least, the appearance of design or fine-tuning?. Just think for a second: you want to deny even the appearance of design in cosmology, but many of the most brilliant cosmologists acknowledge at least “apparent” fine tuning. Doesn’t your scientific curiosity cause you to ask why, rather than just ignore that fact an keep on pretending that you only have to prove David Heddle wrong?

So, I want to try to show how ,in just one case, fine tuning is seen and recognized by IDers and non-IDers, who then of course go on to different conclusions about the source of the fine tuning.

At the fundamental level, both the strong force and the electromagnetic force are expressed as relativistic quantum field theories. (I’ll simplify a bit, but not in a way that affects the argument, and I think there is a anti-ID physicist about who can verify) In a sense, each has a free parameter that gives the overall strength of the interaction. From these field theories a lot of predictions have been made and verified to a high precision.

Now, Ruthless has a point. The parameters were fit to at least one piece of data, so no big deal that they work perfectly. Lets accept that, although it could be debated.

So we have two models, and since they have been tuned by man it is not fair to use them as examples of “unexpected” fine tuning.

That is all very true. I agree with that.

The first stage of the fine-tuning come in here. It is not the relative strengths of the forces that is so incredible (maybe I’ve been sloppy on my language), it is the sensitivity to the ratio. Make either force a little bit bigger or smaller, and you don’t get a universe just a little different, you get a sterile universe. For example, no supernovae

Okay, so its not so much the precise values that is intriguing, it’s the sensitivity of those values. So now we ask, where do those values come from? For us they are parameters, but how did nature pick their values?

They come from details in the way the universe cooled just after the big bang. At the early stages, the forces were are “unified”, that is there was just one force. As the universe cooled (we are still talking tiny fractions of a second after the big bang) the force decomposed into what we now call the fundamental forces of nature. It is sort of analogous to annealing: if you cool liquid metal then as it solidifies certain structures appear, those structures are like the strong and electromagnetic forces. But cooling slightly differently results in different structures. So physics basically says:

(1) The universe cooled, and the strong and electromagnetic forces coalesced from the unified force.

(2) The values of the strength parameters of the forces are highly dependent on the details of how the universe cooled.

(3) Our universe as we know it is highly sensitive to the values of these force parameters.

(4) Thus, there appears to be some fine tuning.

This is, I think, a fair summary of the state of things. Only from here do the two camps diverge. One side says that there are many universes and we are in a lucky one, and the other invokes ID. But both sides realize they have to explain the fine tuning. The fine tuning acknowledgment is not only made by IDers

So please, don’t argue the physics, or get metaphysical. And don’t try to show why I am wrong in proclaiming fine tuning and ID, we all know you think I am wrong.

Please try to explain just one thing: why are the non-ID physicists wrong when they reach point (4)? What is the flaw in their reasoning when they conclude that multiverses are needed to explain the apparent fine tuning?

And, if possible, let’s talk like scientists.

Comment #13934

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 15, 2005 11:33 PM (e)

Frank Schmidt wrote:

The only way ID can ever be treated scientifically, is if it makes testable and falsifiable predictions.

And here comes the problem theologically. If they start saying “X is the only way that ‘God’ could have done it” then they they start limiting the all powerful “God” which of coarse make their all powerful “God” not so “all powerful”. David and others don’t realise that by saying “Evolution can’t be the answer” are basically saying “God could not have done it that way” and the only reason they have for saying that is a set of stories writen by man to try to explain their exsistance six thousand years ago. Forgive me if I don’t take 6,000 year old poetry as the devine word of God just because those that read the stories years or generations later claim that the story really came from “God”.

The Roman Cathlic church, and if you concider Jesus message, has come to realise that religion should not try to interfer with areas that are not really directly tied to religion.

Mathew 22:22 wrote:

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s

Let science explain what is natural and let religion explain that which is not. Every indication is that the physical world is natural. Even if one day they fully explain love or even faith via chemical processes in the brain and how that evolved that still won’t nullify someones faith. For “God” could easily have used that mechanism to achive that outcome. Theologically this is not at odds with religions that say we have free will.

Comment #13945

Posted by Jim Harrison on January 16, 2005 3:48 AM (e)

One last try.

If the universe is surprising beause of its fitness for life, which some folks hereabouts seem to think, it is obviously just as surprising that its postulated creator is fit to create it. If the order of the world depends upon the order of the ideas in God’s mind, what explains that order? And if the order of ideas in God’s mind doesn’t require an explanation, why does the order of the world need one eithert?

If existence is a miracle, you might as well leave it at that.

Religious explanations have the peculiarity that they don’t explain anything. When the boy at Passover asks, “Why is this night different from all others?,” the answer he receives is just another part of the ritual. Since we have no non theological knowledge of Gods or their possible mode of action, claiming that a creative god is a explanation of the universe is just an article of faith, part of the folklore of the tribe. Which is perfectly OK by me, but its odd to think of this sort of thing as philosophy, let alone astrophysics.

Comment #13947

Posted by David Heddle on January 16, 2005 6:58 AM (e)

Grandaughter:

The property that ice floats is both surprising and beneficial. That’s the key. There has been some assertion on here that its not so rare, so I did some quick research and stand by my statement that only water and bismuth have this property. (There was also some inanity about “so why does bismuth have that property?” I don’t know why-maybe it’s a curiosity. Maybe ice floating is just a curiosity. The ID argument does not depend on one but many findings.) And “large bodies of water” is not changing the subject, how could you even assert that? If ice doesn’t float there would be no large bodies of water on earth, so it is very much the same subject.

Do you really see “temperature is beneficial for fungi” as a rational counter argument? Temperature is not a surprise. Food is not a surprise, so “food is beneficial and we have food” is not put forth as an ID plank. “We need large bodies of water and we have them because ice floats and it is surprising that ice floats” is not an equivalent statement of type.

So far none of you has answered my question:

Why do non-ID physicists acknowledge the appearance of design?

You either latched on the ice-floats, as if it were the issue upon which the who debate was hinged, or have gone back to “ID isn’t science” which is really sad , because I never claimed it was.

My hypothesis is that you cannot offer a cogent, impassioned, reasoned response to the question concerning non-ID physicists because you think it opens the door to ID. It violates your world-view. It is impossible for you to say what these world-class non-ID scientists say, which is Hey, look at this fine tuning. Is that remarkable or what? Now I don’t believe in God, but this sure demands an explanation. Let’s investigate.

In giving that response, they are thinking like scientists. In covering your ears and saying “I don’t see fine tuning, I don’t see fine tuning, I don’t see fine tuning” you are thinking like religious fundamentalists.

Comment #13948

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 16, 2005 7:14 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

But both sides realize they have to explain the fine tuning. The fine tuning acknowledgment is not only made by IDers

While they call it “fine tuning” many don’t concider it that way. Hawkings in 2003 at the Kavli-CERCA Conference talked about this. He basically called our constants mathametically ugly and we could easily have pick “a better neighborhood” refering to our universe and its “fine tuned” parameters. So you have scientist saying yes its fined tuned but its fine tuned for what we see. Just like turning your radio to 107.6 is fine tuned for chanel 107.6 but it wouldn’t be “fine tuned” for 92.3 on the FM dial.

Hawking also points out just because there is a large possible set and we are a small probablity to come out of the entire set doesn’t mean anything. He put it in terms of race. Even if the odds are that most people are Chinese he is not surprised that he is British.

Don’t confuse the A.P. as needing a designer.

Comment #13955

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 16, 2005 9:24 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

The property that ice floats is both surprising and beneficial. That’s the key. There has been some assertion on here that its not so rare, so I did some quick research and stand by my statement that only water and bismuth have this property.

Ummm David so you refute the physics of germanium and gallium? Man that is a new one. A physicist denying known properties of basic elements. You can be king of the IDers now.

Germanium and Gallium both have a solid state that, like bismuth, does not pack like neat spheres. So we have 3 elements that do what you say is “rare”. Your definition of “Rare” is that ~3% is “rare” good to know.

David Heddle wrote:

(There was also some inanity about “so why does bismuth have that property?” I don’t know why-maybe it’s a curiosity. Maybe ice floating is just a curiosity. The ID argument does not depend on one but many findings.)

But you say its a sign of design in ice….but just a “curiosity” in Bismuth? You’d think a property that is so “rare” it has to be a sign of design would surely be a sign of design everywhere it is found. The panel that discussed Hawkings AP session touched on the “ice floats” issue and didn’t seem to think it was that special.

David Heddle wrote:

And “large bodies of water” is not changing the subject, how could you even assert that? If ice doesn’t float there would be no large bodies of water on earth, so it is very much the same subject.

Please back this up with some type of model/paper that talks about this. I’m not convinced that if ice didn’t float the earth would be a solid frozen block. I believe that the lake my grandparents summer place was on would not be that effected if ice sank. In fact I think you’d find that there would be less ice over all. The bottom of the lake never gets below freezing because of the temperature of the lake bed. The only reason the top freezes is contact with the air. Even in Massachusetts the summers easily get hot enough to counteract this. The earth has gone through many ice ages and the masses of ice you talk about never are global in size and they always recede. Please point me to a paper that talks about our planet becoming a nice -20 block of ice and dirt if ice sank.

David Heddle wrote:

Do you really see “temperature is beneficial for fungi” as a rational counter argument? Temperature is not a surprise. Food is not a surprise, so “food is beneficial and we have food” is not put forth as an ID plank. “We need large bodies of water and we have them because ice floats and it is surprising that ice floats” is not an equivalent statement of type.

Again you make it sound that life needs nice comfortable 18-36c degrees to live. Life can be found living in conditions of 121 Celsius ~250 Fahrenheit and we know of life that lives in waters -20 Celsius and colder. Not all of these extreme condition organisms are singled celled either. Worms and forms of plants have been found in these conditions too.

David Heddle wrote:

So far none of you has answered my question:

Why do non-ID physicists acknowledge the appearance of design?

Sorry but theist aside I think you are misunderstanding what they are saying. Especially when you try to say Hawkings says it.

David Heddle wrote:

My hypothesis is that you cannot offer a cogent, impassioned, reasoned response to the question concerning non-ID physicists because you think it opens the door to ID. It violates your world-view. It is impossible for you to say what these world-class non-ID scientists say, which is Hey, look at this fine tuning. Is that remarkable or what? Now I don’t believe in God, but this sure demands an explanation. Let’s investigate.

Wrong! ID, in its present form, has no positive effect. It does not try to explain things in a way that would further science. ID, in its current form, says “We can’t explain this to well, it must be designed” which leaves us with ZERO because the ID research doesn’t provide any positive benefits. Its a “God of the gaps” argument that provides an easy way out instead of trying to find out why something happens.

Imagine if the question on how the nucleus of an atom was left up to IDers.
IDers “We are not sure how the atomic nucleus says together, Therefore it must be designed”
We would know about quarks and q-q-q/q-q-qbar
Just like saying “Oh we don’t know 100% how all live evolved therefore is must be designed….stop your research”

David Heddle wrote:

In giving that response, they are thinking like scientists. In covering your ears and saying “I don’t see fine tuning, I don’t see fine tuning, I don’t see fine tuning” you are thinking like religious fundamentalists.

Read Cosmology from the top down

it is basically a superset of his talk at the Kavli-CERCA Conference 2003

In short many leading scientists don’t like the anthropic principal of those that do they have a different view, one for every scientist it seems, what that means. The “Fine Tuning” you mention is not in the terms of a designer, in fact most now explicitly say otherwise because creationist take their comments out of context. At the conference they specifically addressed this too.

ID cosmology and anthropic principal is defeatist and ahistorical. It is based on what we don’t know not what we know. It is a explanation to explain gaps but these gaps keep getting filled in the need for ID and AP are useless.

Comment #13956

Posted by qetzal on January 16, 2005 9:56 AM (e)

Mr. Heddle,

For myself, at least, I will happily acknowledge that the universe seems “fine-tuned” in a way that is “fortunate” for us. I’m not a cosmologist or physicist, but I accept that as far as we can tell, a very slight change in any of a number of apparently fundamental properties would seem to result in a universe incompatible with life.

I’m throwing a lot of weasle words in here, because I consider that this is merely our current level of understanding. But for now, I will grant the above as the best we can do.

I will also happily acknowledge that design by an intelligence is a plausible explanation for the above. In fact, as I pointed out previously, a strong version of ID is the “best” explanation for the above, in the sense that it can fit our observations better than any other conceivable explanation.

But you ask that we discuss it as scientists, and that’s the key issue. If you just want to hold out ID as an explanation, I have no problem with that. You can have your opinion, I can have mine, and we can both be happy.

But it seems that you want to hold out ID as a competing scientific theory (or maybe just a hypothesis). I say “seems” because I’m not sure you’ve ever been quite that specific in your language.

This is what I’m objecting to. ID has no scientific value, no utility, unless it makes testable predictions. Dose it do so? You have dodged this question before. Will you answer it now? Please describe at least one scientific prediction made by ID.

More specifically (as you surely realize as a practicing physicist), I’m asking for a prediction that is testable (at least conceivably), where ID says the outcome of the test should be one way and not another.

If there is one such test, then ID can be treated scientifically as a hypothesis. Even if the test is beyond our current ability to perform, someone could be working toward that ability.

If there is no such test, then ID cannot be treated scientifically. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that it doesn’t say anything scientifically useful. And again, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful philosophically, spiritually, etc. It just isn’t science.

That’s the point I was trying to make earlier, which you dismissed as irrelevant. Perhaps it’s not relevant to your point(s), but it’s exactly relevant to whether ID is science, which is my point.

And you’re perfectly correct that this point applies equally well to the “that’s just the way it is” argument. That’s part of the point!

You want an answer to why the universe has the properties it does. My answer is “we don’t know.” Maybe it was designed that way. Maybe it’s just chance. Maybe it had to be this way, and we just don’t know enough to understand why. More importantly, there is no objective, scientific reason to prefer one explanation over another. There are only non-scientific reasons.

Comment #13969

Posted by David Heddle on January 16, 2005 12:14 PM (e)

Don’t confuse the A.P. as needing a designer

I’m out of this thread for real this time, offering the gem above. There is nowhere you can find that I said AP or even the fine tuning “needed a designer.” I said over and over that, for example, multiverse theories are a way to explain it.

I’m through talking with you anti-science dogmatists.

An qetzal:

But it seems that you want to hold out ID as a competing scientific theory (or maybe just a hypothesis). I say “seems” because I’m not sure you’ve ever been quite that specific in your language.

Actually I have been quite clear in saying that ID is not science, that it should not be taught in schools (at least as a scientific theory–as food for thought I think it would be fine) and that evolution should be taught. (Although I am not sure I said all that on this thread, I have been suffering abuse from anti-science types on other threads too.)

Go read Hawking’s quote in A brief history of time, chapter 8. The best spin that you can put on it is that: His theory of a finite universe with no beginning has an advantage over the big-bang model accepted by most physicists is that the big bang model has the problem of fine tuning.

So, the best spin still demonstrates that the accepted models in physics has fine tuning. (some of Hawking’s objections to the big bang model have been resolved.)

Wayne:

Ummm David so you refute the physics of germanium and gallium? Man that is a new one. A physicist denying known properties of basic elements. You can be king of the IDers now.

I don’t necessarilty refute it, I am just unaware of it. And if not knowing it makes be a bad physicist, well I can live with that. Please provide references–and I’ll be happy to retract my statement that ice floating is rare.

Imagine if the question on how the nucleus of an atom was left up to IDers.
IDers “We are not sure how the atomic nucleus says together, Therefore it must be designed”

Yes that was my Ph.D. thesis in nuclear theory! One sentence: God designed the nucleus. And I passed, amazing!

I believe that the lake my grandparents summer place was on would not be that effected if ice sank. In fact I think you’d find that there would be less ice over all

Please ask anyone who has had junior high thermo. Ice would form on the surface then sink, then more ice would form on the surface then sink. Because of the property of ice floating, the lquid water at the bottom of the lake stays at 4C, the temperature at which the density versus temp plot takes its weird turn for ice.

Comment #13975

Posted by Koly on January 16, 2005 2:41 PM (e)

Some really strange thinking colleagues here… ;o)

David, I would like to ask you to not to speak in the name of other physicists, it’s quite annoying. I certainly don’t agree with the bulk of your arguments, so please speak for yourself only. AFAICT, “fine tuning” is not a problem of the universe, it’s the problem of the model. If a model requires very special values of it’s parameters to work, but does not constrain them in any significant way, then the model is not viewed as satisfactory. It does not say anything about the universe.

Freddy, your idea about how science works is a little strange. David is right, we are not engineers, our quest is the search for thruth, so consistency is extremely important. The value of a theory is not in how useful it is, but how close to the truth it is. Newton’s gravity law is most certainly inferior to GTR, precisely because it’s correct only in very limited cases. If TOE contradicted quantum theory, it would be in a very hard position, because at least one of them would have to be wrong. And because quantum theory deals with things on a much more fundamental level and is backed up with numerous experiments, I guess only few would accept such TOE.

Comment #13976

Posted by David Heddle on January 16, 2005 2:49 PM (e)

Koly wrote

If a model requires very special values of it’s parameters to work, but does not constrain them in any significant way, then the model is not viewed as satisfactory. It does not say anything about the universe.

I’m not sure what that means. Many things are model independent. For example the sensitivity to the relative strengths of the fundamental forces. How can this not say something about the universe?

Comment #13977

Posted by Koly on January 16, 2005 3:04 PM (e)

Wow, I am surprised how easily you all have accepted that nonsense about the “floating ice”.

1) World’s climate is certainly not a simple system, so it’s hard to be completely sure, but I would expect precisely the opposite than the “runaway ice age” effect. I always thought that the fact the ice floats really helps this, because the surface freezes first, thus reflecting the sunlight. If the bottom freezes first, the water above it will still absorb energy. In fact, there is evidence that in Earth’s history such runaway effect occured several times (google for “neoproterozoic snowball”). Taking “regular” ice ages into account one could argue that “ice floating” is slightly detrimental for life on Earth.

2) In either cases, this has nothing to do with life in general. Consider Earth was closer to sun - in this case “ice floating” cools the climate and helps life. However, if Earth was further away, it could cause the runaway effect and thus would be detrimental. And I am only talking about life as we know it on present Earth. Life in general - who knows what’s beneficial and what’s not.

Comment #13979

Posted by Koly on January 16, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

I’m not sure what that means. Many things are model independent. For example the sensitivity to the relative strengths of the fundamental forces. How can this not say something about the universe?

Very easily. The relative strengths of the coupling constants in the Standard model are completely arbitrary. That’s not a good sign that it is a really fundamental theory. That’s why people search for unifying theories which would have only one coupling constant. So what now appears to you as improbable would then be a simple consequence of the unified theory. The electroweak unification is a (at least partly) successful example of such a program.

Comment #13989

Posted by David Heddle on January 16, 2005 6:55 PM (e)

Koly wrote:

World’s climate is certainly not a simple system, so it’s hard to be completely sure, but I would expect precisely the opposite than the “runaway ice age” effect. I always thought that the fact the ice floats really helps this, because the surface freezes first, thus reflecting the sunlight. If the bottom freezes first, the water above it will still absorb energy. In fact, there is evidence that in Earth’s history such runaway effect occured several times (google for “neoproterozoic snowball”). Taking “regular” ice ages into account one could argue that “ice floating” is slightly detrimental for life on Earth.

There is much wrong with this argument, although I hesitate to continue this debate. The surface freezing first, as it does, protects the fish. If ice sank, then a simple thermo analysis says that not only would lakes freeze solid, the freezing would occur very quickly. At that point, the reflection of sunlight would be the same as it is now (but all the life in the lake, dead). But, it would take longer to melt a solid lake, reflecting sunlight longer, cooling the earth more. There can be no evidence of exactly this type of runaway iceage, because ice doesn’t sink. Since ice floats, it is nearly impossible to freeze any sizable body of water because the heat exchange between the warmer water under the ice at the cold air above has to take place through the surface ice, which is a good insulator.

In either cases, this has nothing to do with life in general. Consider Earth was closer to sun - in this case “ice floating” cools the climate and helps life. However, if Earth was further away, it could cause the runaway effect and thus would be detrimental. And I am only talking about life as we know it on present Earth. Life in general - who knows what’s beneficial and what’s not.

Large bodies of liquid water has much to do with life. If the earth were closer (by just how much is debatable, but 10% is probably more than enough) there also would be no large bodies of water because of evaporation.

(Have you ever asked why we don’t have an atmosphere like Venus? The best answer non-ID scientists have is rather surprising.)

Apart from the climate (which I agree is complicated), you are essentially arguing that sinking ice may not be detrimental, even though it would kill the life in the lake.

Very easily. The relative strengths of the coupling constants in the Standard model are completely arbitrary

What does that mean? They most certainly are not arbitrary. The electromagnetic strength is roughly 1/100 the strong force strength. Are you saying I can just decide to take the electromagnetic strength to be a thousand times smaller instead? You can’t be saying something that wrong so I must be missing something.

A unified theory may not necessarily help (this one piece of) the fine tuning problem, because the issue would still be how the unified theory breaks down at low energy into the separate forces.

Comment #14003

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 17, 2005 12:27 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

The property that ice floats is both surprising and beneficial. That’s the key. There has been some assertion on here that its not so rare, so I did some quick research and stand by my statement that only water and bismuth have this property

Your quick research was not that good…I’ve come up with another element that has this property. Silicon.

For your lack of ability to look through periodic charts here are some figures for you

 
Element      Liquid Density    Solid Density 
Bismuth      10.50 g/cm³       9.78 g/cm³ 
Gallium       6.08 g/cm³       5.90 g/cm³ 
Germanium     5.60 g/cm³       5.32 g/cm³ 
Silicon       2.57 g/cm³       2.33 g/cm³ 

David Heddle wrote:

(There was also some inanity about “so why does bismuth have that property?” I don’t know why-maybe it’s a curiosity. Maybe ice floating is just a curiosity. The ID argument does not depend on one but many findings.)

The point is you say property x for item y shows designed because it is “surprising and benefical”. The important bit is “Surprising” because there are lots of mundane things that er “beneficial” I’ve now listed 4 elements, this isn’t even going into molecules which by their nature will not pack as efficiently as atoms, that have the same “rare” property but you are saying there “There was also some inanity” I’ll assume you mean insanity in my logic. I’m not saying the anything to do with water has anything to do with the elements above. What I’m saying is your “sign of design” is in a number of other items that have no apparent need for said design. If you are going to argue that ice floating is a sign of design I think its logical to ask why other matter that has said “rare” property do not reflect the same sign of design.

We can muck with any matter’s property and say “Well if it didn’t do this then we’d be screwed” so its really a useless statement. You might say that we are lucky that oxygen has the properties it has. But yet we know other life does just fine without oxygen. Just because something might hurt our chances for living doesn’t mean it will hurt all organisms chances for living. I know I would not survive in 121ºC high pressure conditions but there damn sure is life at those conditions that if they have any awareness would probably say “Few you know its surprising that this hydrothermal vent was here for me to exist….it therefore must be designed” But its just there. Life adapted to it.

That said you’ve said you think evolution should be taught and that ID shouldn’t….why exactly are we arguing? Again I don’t have a problem with ID if it starts to do anything with positive implications. But to come up with a “theory” that’s only purpose is to try to destroy another, true scientific, theory is just stupid. It doesn’t really answer anything from the viewpoint of science.

Comment #14008

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 6:25 AM (e)

Wayne,

Ahh, now I see the problem,

For those elements, you need to show that their solid density is less than liquid density at their melting point. I found Silcon’s solid temperature, as you indicated, at 2.33 g/cm3 at 25C, but its melting point is ~1400C.

I could not find any data that gave the densities of solid/liquid silicon (I only looked for Silicon) at its melting point, which is the relevant number. You have just listed bulk properties.

Yes you will find MANY elements that if you just look up their density as solids and liquids at vastly different temperatures they have the property–but the ice floats property relies on their densities being so ordered at the melting point

In other words, in the plot of density vs. temp., you need to find substances with the property of water that, as you cool it to the freezing point it contracts, just as expected, but just before it freezes (at 4C) the plot density plot peaks – leaving ice less dense than water.

You may be right about those elements, but so far you have not demonstrated it.

Maybe I should have been specific that the magic property of water is that ice floats even when in thermodynamic equilibrium with liquid water.

About bismuth floating: I think the question “well why does bismuth float (from a design perspective)?” is a red herring It’s essentially “well if you can’t explain everything then everything you say is nonsense.” I am assuming there are some questions in evolution that are still unanswered? Even from an ID rather than a science perspective I would never claim that all rare properties are beneficial, but I would claim that all rare AND beneficial properties can be grouped, and the grouping taken as a whole is evidence for fine tuning.

A better example than bismuth floating is the total solar eclipse. I would love to put the fact that we have total solar eclipses in the ID evidence category, but I don’t know of any beneficial effect of solar eclipses. But they are suprising, and do not occur for any of the other planets. They rely on the fact that for a brief period in cosmic time the moon, which is 400 times smaller than the sun, is also 400 times closer, so they appear to be the same size. (This coincidence is enhanced by the fact that normal planetary formation models suggest that small inner planets like earth should not have large moons such as ours. The moon itself has enormous benefit for life, from cleaning the oceans to stabilizing our orbit, but I don’t see a benefit of the fact that it is “just right” for producing total solar eclipses.)

So bismuth floating – I see no benefit so I don’t include it as ID evidence
Total solar eclipses – same thing

Maybe someday someone will show how periodic solar eclipses have some benefit–perhaps on the earth’s magnetic field (just speculating)

(There is one possible way to put solar eclipses in the ID categeory–the so-called tie breaker. Get your flamethrowers ready!!!! The argument goes like this. What might be different between a universe that is fine tuned because it is one of an infinite number of parallel universes [most of which are not fine-tuned] and a single universe that was designed? At first, there would seem to be no way to distinguish. But it may be that the designer loves for man to study science and would like to make the universe not only hospitable but also observable. A few pieces of evidence of design not just for life but for science: (1) we are at the optimal time in cosmic history for viewing the universe–this is a general relativity horizon effect–at the present time most of the universe is observable – at other periods is cosmic time more of the universe was “beyond the horizon. Last year Scientific American had a cool plot that showed this. (2) We are in a very empty region of the galaxy (between spiral arms), which allows us see into deep space. Our “backwater” location means that there are not too many nearby stars obscuring our view. At most locations in the galaxy, we would not be able to see outside the galaxy, which would have severely limited the development of cosmology. (3) Because of total solar eclipses, we have learned a great deal about the sun and how stars work from studying the corona during the event.)

Why are we arguing? I don’t know–I guess I find the head in the sand attitude frustrating. In physics, the fine tuning is obvious and excites people of all stripes. Maybe it’s an artifact of the way you guys do battle with IDers in the biology realm, but I find it almost beyond reason that anyone who says they are scientists and not dogmatists denies even the appearance of fine tuning in cosmology.

Comment #14011

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 8:45 AM (e)

From this site

You have the description of some of the important properties of gallium just about right, although I would not have described it as ‘volatile’. Why are some considered unusual? Well, they are unusual simply because they are the sorts of property you do not often find. Well over 99% of solids that melt are more dense than their liquid state. There is only one other solid I know of that floats on its melt – water ice!

I don’t know how reliable this is, but it supports your claim. It also points out that that “well over 99% of solids that melt have the [usual property]”

So, I tenatively concede that it would be more accurate to say that ice has the rare (less than 1%) property of floating in equilibrium with its liquid melt.

Now, how many of those other substances also the polarity and ph properties of water that make them nature’s best solvent?

By the way, in searching for things like “ice floats” I came across many .edu (non-ID) sites that pointed out that it was critical for life on earth.

Comment #14016

Posted by freddy on January 17, 2005 11:26 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #14018

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 17, 2005 12:53 PM (e)

Heddle writes

I came across many .edu (non-ID) sites that pointed out that it was critical for life on earth.

Hey genius, did any of those .edu cites say that floating frozen water was critical for any life to arise anywhere?

Again, the impression is left: you’re sorta dumb or you’re sorta dishonest.

Just out of curiosity, do you have preference? Would you rather be known as an ignorant person or as a liar? Seriously.

Comment #14023

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 1:53 PM (e)

You know what’s curious about you GWW? Why they let you continue to post here. I wouldn’t permit someone whose only method of discourse was to insult. But maybe the regulators of this site enjoy having slavish attack dogs do their dirty work while they perpetuate myths of level playing fields.

Comment #14025

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 2:16 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

There is much wrong with this argument, although I hesitate to continue this debate. The surface freezing first, as it does, protects the fish. If ice sank, then a simple thermo analysis says that not only would lakes freeze solid, the freezing would occur very quickly.

You provide no such analysis, only hand waving, so I’ll do it for you. Let’s assume Earth is an isolated object in the sense that it exchanges energy with it’s surrounding, but not matter. Let’s assume it has some average temperature proportional to it’s inner energy and that it spontaneously looses energy and this lost is proportional to the temperature (radiation). Let there be a single constant source of energy (sun). The thermodynamical equilibrium is then at such average temperature that the absorption of the energy from the sun is equal to the radiation.

Scenario 1) Water freezes from the surface. As soon as it’s temperature somewhere locally reaches the freezing point, the ice reflects the sunlight and the energy absorption drops.

Scenario 2) Water freezes from the bottom. The energy absorption is the same until ALL of the water freezes and the ice gets to the surface.

So, the energy absorption is the same above the freezing point in both cases, it’s higher in 2) if not all water is frozen and the same again if all of it is frozen. The consequence is that the average temperature in equilibrium in 2) is higher or equal to that in 1).

At present earth not all of the water is frozen. That means that if “ice sanked”, energy absorption would increase, thus the inner energy and the avarage temperature too. In that case certainly LESS WATER SURFACE AREA would be covered by ice, maybe none. Extremely shortly: imagine the ice suddenly sanked - the consequency would be that thw Earth would get warmer. This is certainly a simplistic model, but you have none.

You haven’t reacted to the fact that in either cases, the “ice floating” is completely irrelevant for life in general. It depends on the energy income (i.e.the distance from the star and it’s magnitude) whether cooling or heating is beneficial.

The electromagnetic strength is roughly 1/100 the strong force strength. Are you saying I can just decide to take the electromagnetic strength to be a thousand times smaller instead? You can’t be saying something that wrong so I must be missing something.

Yes, you’re missing something. The point is that the model does not care which one is bigger or smaller. That’s what I mean when I say the coupling constants are arbitrary in the Standard model - we know that in reality only one specific set of numbers “works” and that’s the problem of fine tuning. In a unified theory the electroweak and strong interactions would be only low energy approximations of a more fundamental one, their characteristics would be determined by the theory itself, similarly to the electroweak case.

Comment #14036

Posted by freddy on January 17, 2005 3:09 PM (e)

Hmmm, rereading my last post I realize that I might have rather badly misspoke. Nobody called me on it, and maybe this thread has gotten so long that nobody is reading much of what people are writing anymore, but let me go ahead and clear up my argument a little bit. One of the strengths of a scientific theory or model is that it is consistent with other models. So, in the case of Newtonian gravity and general relativity, general relativity does reduce to Newtonian gravity in the situations where Newtonian gravity applies best. Similarly, quantum mechanics reduces to Newtonian mechanics in the macroscopic world. So, in that sense, those theories are not really inconsistent in the way that general relativity and quantum mechanics are. But, consistency with other theories is not a requirement of scientific models, it is just one of the tests we apply to differentiate weaker models from stronger models.

To take one more stab on why I think the argument about ID and all of the evidence for and against is just a bad argument for a scientist to get into, let me put forward what I think is the approach favored by myself and others who like to say that ID is not “scientific” regardless of if it is true. Let me also say that this seems to be an argument which is attempted by most anti-ID scientists, but then quickly gets drowned out by the red herring argument over evidence for or against ID. This red herring argument is conflating, in my mind, two separate arguments that are both worth talking about, but are not so much in favor of ID as simple arguments over evidence. The two arguments are:
1. What makes something science?
2. Why do we do science?
It is the first argument that I and, more eloquently, Ruthless and others have tried to put forward. The second argument is more metaphysical, and is generally what ID proponents are talking about when they talk about science being antagonistic towards religion and ID “theories”. I think #2 speaks to science’s search for truth, but regardless of the answer to #2, ID does not, in my mind, pass the test put forward by #1, which makes no assumptions about truth or evidence outside of rather narrow scientific definitions of such words. In other words, #1 goes back to my argument that gravity may or may not be real, but it certainly is scientific. As a scientist, I feel like the most honest argument I can make is that ID may or may not have worth, but, right now, it is not science, and, conversely, someone who disagrees with the findings of science need not accept the “truth” claims of all scientific theories while still accepting that science is a socially worthwhile pursuit. Of course, the logic is dicey, particularly in my second claim, but it seems to me that what the “civilian” (that is, people who don’t get paychecks from DI) advocates of ID are most uncomfortable with is science’s claim to absolute knowledge in areas where they much prefer there to be doubt. I know people like GWW would argue that this is dishonest, but it shifts it the debate from a fight over strongly-held beliefs to a discussion about the place of science in society, which I think is a much more interesting discussion to have.

Comment #14037

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

1) We have a lake
2) We have an outside air temperature below freezing.
3) We can assume that the air is an infinite heat bath at constant temperature (anything else complicates the calculation without really changing anything)

As it is, the lake will cool until it obtains the following profile: 4C at the bottom, 0C on top (since 4C is the max density)

the surface will then freeze. To first order that’s it, because it is hard for the heat of fusion to transfer from the water below the surface freeze to the surface because ice is an insulator. Only if the temperature is well below freezing will the ice gradually thicken.

Now if ice sank, the complete freezing of the lake would occur fairly rapidly (details depend on the size and the air temperature, of course) because then there is no insulation preventing the transfer of the heat of fusion. The ice would not grow from the bottom as slowly as it now descends from the top. The surface layer would constantly transfer the heat of fusion to the cold air, sink, and be replaced with another surface layer already primed to freeze. Such rapid freezing is familiar with other materials that are cooled down.

So except where the air temperature holds steady just below freezing for a long time, ice as it is today would not be better at reflecting heat. Only a small band of the earth would have ice that now has a surface freeze and yet would not have lakes that freze solid.

Now, what about when temperatures rise? As ice is, the surface ice melts fairly rapidly, since the surface ice just absorbs the latent heat from the air. But what if ice sank? Then the surface would melt, but now it becomes very diffcult to melt the ice under the surface melt, for once again you have to transfer the latent heat through an insulator (the surface liquid.) So it becomes very difficult to thaw the lake. It will continue to refelect light (although not as effectively as when the surface was frozen.) Here in New Hampshire, a moderate size pond like I have in my backyard would freeze solid very quickly and only a few inches of the surface would melt in the summer. (If you want to makes some assumptions about the size of my pond and use the avg. air temps of NH and the basic properties of wayer, I can back this up with a calculation.)

There would not be less but MORE ice surface area, for another reason. When the ice sank, the lakes would “grow” –i.e. overflow, from Archimedes (the sinking ice would displace its volume of liquid water which, if ice sank, would be greater than the volume of the ice, hence flooding, which is the same as saying the lakes grow in surface area.)

The bottom line is that in regions that never got much below freezing there may be a bit less reflection–but those regions don’t play a big role anyway. In colder regions, like New Hampshire, the lakes would freeze solid quickly (the cold air quickly absorbing the latent heat) and then reflect just the same (except with more area because of of Archimedes) and for a much longer time (because the ice would only melt slowly from the surface due to insulation) and would continue to refelect light (at a diminished but still appreciable level) much, much longer.

Over the years I believe this would lead to a cooling of the earth. I could be wrong, but it is not obvious where, and your “model” certainly would not be the explanation.

When you say the coupling constants are abitrary, do you really mean they are free parameters? That is a very different thing. Please clarify.

Comment #14041

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 3:31 PM (e)

freddy wrote:

I would argue, though, that, in that case, the situation would be more analogous to Newton’s gravitational theory and general relativity, where we recognize that one model provides a good explanation for certain data and another model provides a good explanation for other data.

I think this represents your misconception quite well. This is most certainly not true - GTR explains ALL of the data Newton’s Gravitational Law can and much more. Yes, engineers use Newton’s theory because it’s useful - it’s precise enough and simple enough. Yes, it’s taught in elementary courses - it gives a good basic understanding of how gravity works. But scientifically it’s dead. It’s a dead end similarly to all non-quantum and non-relativistic physics. It’s nothing else than a useful low energy simplification of GTR.

And GTR is in a similar trouble. It’s not a quantum theory, so it’s a known dead end too. That’s why people desperately search for a quantum theory of gravity, not really successfully yet. String theory may be a first guess in the right direction.

I should note that physicist use theories known not to be fundamentally right to explain various phenomena. E.g. I work in a field which tries to explain low energy behaviour of hadrons. There is an effective theory built for that which is derived from QCD. I am fully aware that this theory is (and QCD in fact too) wrong in principle, but it should be sufficiently good to describe what we want. The trick is that it is not an independent theory, it is rooted in the whole system. It is good enough to describe our field of interest and irrelevant otherwise, but IT CAN NO WAY CONTRADICT TO MORE FUNDAMENTAL THEORIES IN THE AREA IT’S ASSUMED TO BE CORRECT.

Comment #14044

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

freddy wrote:

Hmmm, rereading my last post I realize that I might have rather badly misspoke. Nobody called me on it, and maybe this thread has gotten so long that nobody is reading much of what people are writing anymore, but let me go ahead and clear up my argument a little bit. One of the strengths of a scientific theory or model is that it is consistent with other models. So, in the case of Newtonian gravity and general relativity, general relativity does reduce to Newtonian gravity in the situations where Newtonian gravity applies best. Similarly, quantum mechanics reduces to Newtonian mechanics in the macroscopic world. So, in that sense, those theories are not really inconsistent in the way that general relativity and quantum mechanics are. But, consistency with other theories is not a requirement of scientific models, it is just one of the tests we apply to differentiate weaker models from stronger models.

Now this is a different story, I can fully agree with that :o)

I can also see what you mean when you talk about theories not being reality. I agree, we should be aware that terms like “gravity”, “force”, “electron” are our inventions, they are something like stickers for parts of reality. We should never overestimate our knowledge and take it too seriously - history of science taught us some lessons. Nevertheless, we should not stop searching for better explanations and more consistency.

Comment #14048

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 4:36 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

1) We have a lake
2) We have an outside air temperature below freezing.
3) We can assume that the air is an infinite heat bath at constant temperature (anything else complicates the calculation without really changing anything)

I am glad you have come with something real :o) AFAICT, the conclusions you draw from this model are correct. The problem is that your assumptions are wrong, especially 3). The Earth’s climate most certainly does not work like that - most of the energy coming from the sun is absorbed by the surface of the Earth and not by the atmosphere. Moreover, the heat capacity of the atmosphere is negligible compared to that of the surface - the continents and oceans. Hence the temperature of the air is determined by that of the surface and not the other way round. The atmosphere has an important role in transfering heat across different areas, but that’s all. Also, the loss of heat to the outer space is mostly due to radiation of the surface, the atmosphere only works as a greenhouse by reflecting the radiation back and thus preventing the cooling of the surface.

I based the premises of my model on these observations, that’s why I neglected the atmosphere altogether and focused on the energy balance of absorption and radiation of the Earth’s surface. I hope you can see easily that in the big scale my model is much more correct and you can focus on defending the rest of your arguments for ID, while dropping this one, which was, IMHO, the weakest.

Comment #14049

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 4:44 PM (e)

Koly, you are wrong.

The air mass above a lake can well be approximated as a heat bath. As it absorbs heat from the lake the warmer air will circulate–so there is no static tempertature gradient developed. It is a very good approximation.

Anyway, I am weary of arguing this point. I am more interested in what kind of physics you do, and where you do it. What kind of low energy hadron physics?

Comment #14050

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 17, 2005 4:44 PM (e)

Heddle, several posts after promising that he was finished, writes

You know what’s curious about you GWW? Why they let you continue to post here. I wouldn’t permit someone whose only method of discourse was to insult. But maybe the regulators of this site enjoy having slavish attack dogs do their dirty work while they perpetuate myths of level playing fields.

You know what’s curious about you, Heddle? The way you refuse to answer straightforward questions. And the way you dissemble. And the way you refuse to acknowledge that your positions regarding “ID theory” as it applies to biology are complete garbage even after all of your arguments to the contrary have been destroyed. And the way that you refuse to acknowledge that your positions regarding “ID cosmology” are equally vapid from a scientific viewpoint.

I really pity you if you truly believe, as you seem to believe, that Stephen Hawkings or any of your other cosmology wonder boys know more about deities and their machinations than any one else. That’s a joke. I know far more about your deity than you know about the many much more powerful deities that I am intimately familar with. Consider that fact carefullly.

When you or anyone else catches me spreading lies about evolutionary theory or “ID theory” or dissembling in the face of clear articulate arguments which show that my position is untenable or that I have egregiously misrepresented the opinions of others, I look forward to being banned from posting here. That would be perfectly fair, in my opinion.

And why not answer my question, David? Would you rather be known as an ignorant person or as a liar, assuming that you could only choose between one or the other? Do you prefer to pretend that you know or understand something, or do you prefer to admit that you can not know or understand something?

Answer those questions and then articulate for me precisely why speculating that deities are responsible for presently inexplicable phenomena is a valid scientific hypothesis and not just idling religious gimcrackery.

If you aren’t up to the task, then for the love of jeebus just admit that you aren’t. Your personal version of Christianity that you keep dumping on us appears to preclude such an admission. Perhaps it’s time to try a new salad dressing.

Comment #14054

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 4:53 PM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

When you say the coupling constants are abitrary, do you really mean they are free parameters? That is a very different thing. Please clarify.

That’s exactly what I mean. If you have a model with plenty of free parameters then the one set of “correct” ones which describe the world might appear miraculous, especially when they’re “fine tuned”. However, a deeper theory doesn’t have to contain them, they (and their value) might be explained as a consequence of the properties of the more fundamental theory. In fact, the history of science can be viewed as a constant and very successful effort towards lowering the number of the free parameters.

Comment #14059

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 5:47 PM (e)

David, I have done a simple calculation for you. I’ve looked after the heat capacities and this is what I have found: it is something like 4 kJ/kg C for water and 1 kJ/kg C for air (at some ordinary conditions). Let’s calculate the heat capacity of 1km^3 of ocean and 10km^3 of air above it (I hope you won’t argue about the bulk of the mass not being close to the surface). I’ll compensate for the rest of the mass of the atmosphere by taking the density of the air as if it was all under ground pressure, that is about 1.3 kg/m^3. Here it comes:

1km^3 of ocean: 4x10^12 kJ/C
10km^3 of air: 1.3x10^10 kJ/C

I hope you can agree that you can no longer assume that the air is an “infinite heat bath”. Even a 10m deep lake has probably more heat capacity than the air above it. Even if you took 100km of air so dense as it is close to the ground, it would still be less than that of a 100m deep lake. And who said 6000km of the Earth underneath doesn’t have any capacity. As I said, the atmosphere’s heat capacity is negligible compared to that of the surface, not the other way round. Please, try to be rational, the “floating ice” argument is really the silliest one you have presented here, you can throw it away.

I am (hopefully) finishing my PhD. thesis at IPNP MFF UK in Prague. Chiral Perturbation Theory is what I am struggling with :o)

Comment #14065

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 6:39 PM (e)

Koly, remember air moves, so the air mass above lake doesn’t stay there. Plus, when the air absorbs the heat from lake it rises, adiabatically expands, and cools. Plus there is radiative cooling into space.

Also, if your canonical lake is 10m deep, then your effective atmosphere is only 100m high. Even given the use of the surface density for air, I don’t know if that is a reasonable approximation.

The heat sink of the ground is an interesting effect and a fair point–presumably it would be another huge heat sink, probably just above freezing. That might melt some of the first ice that sank until thermodynamic equilibrium-that might be a big effect but off the top of my head I just don’t know.

My Ph.D. thesis was in a quark model of hypernuclear decay.

Comment #14069

Posted by Koly on January 17, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

David, you assume that the atmosphere is an infinite heat bath. My simple calculation shows that if anything, the opposite should be the case. What does have air moving do anything with that? Why are you mentioning “lake” all over again? There are oceans etc. You have not shown anything that would indicate that my calculation could be more than 5 orders wrong.

Simply, you have two options. Take the most simplistic book about climate or weather and read. Or go out in a hot sunny day and measure the temperature of the ground and that of the air. Do you really think that the air is heating the ground? You cannot be that ignorant.

Comment #14071

Posted by David Heddle on January 17, 2005 7:38 PM (e)

Koly,

The air moving has a lot to do with it, for it increases the effective volume of air above the lake/ocean (I was using your numbers! what’s the difference if I call it lake or ocean?)

Plus the adiabatic cooling is a huge effect, and it exchanges its heat with the upper atmosphere which you have ignored.

Plus the radiative cooling.

Since leaving nuclear physics I have worked in space weather and the physics of the atmosphere. I know a little more about it than you’d find in “the most simplistic book.”

Lets look above the big blue ocean. If the air above the ocean does not have a huge heat capacity, as you say, how can there ever be an air temperature over the ocean significantly different from the water temperature?

Damn, I thought I found one person on this site who wasn’t insulting.

Comment #14084

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 17, 2005 9:45 PM (e)

Heddle

Why do non-ID physicists acknowledge the appearance of design? ….

My hypothesis is that you cannot offer a cogent, impassioned, reasoned response to the question concerning non-ID physicists because you think it opens the door to ID.

Yeah, we’re all freakin’ out here about Stephen Hawking turning into an apologist for creationism.

The reason I cannot offer a cogent, impassioned, reasoned response to your question is that I can’t read minds.

There might be some self-proclaimed telepathists here who can do better than I. Most likely, they belong to the same group of cranks who promote similar sorts of junk science. You know, creationism, Sasquatch, holocaust denial, creationism, UFO abduction, lunar landing hoax, “ID theory,” etc., etc.

Comment #14087

Posted by Wayne Francis on January 17, 2005 10:03 PM (e)

David I know I’m missing something.

David Heddle wrote:

For those elements, you need to show that their solid density is less than liquid density at their melting point. I found Silcon’s solid temperature, as you indicated, at 2.33 g/cm3 at 25C, but its melting point is ~1400C.

Sorry David you are moving the goal post. Now you want me to find their exact density at melting points?!

Your original argument was

David Heddle wrote:

very surprising: only water and bismouth have the property that their solid state has lower density than their liquid.

Now how many density points along the phase transition from “Solid” to “Liquid” do you want? You as a physicist should know that “Solid” and “Liquid” are not hard and fast rules. They are just generalizations that we use. Even “Solid” rock has properties of “Liquid” if you look at it in geological time frames.

So exactly where do you want to move this goal post to David? The fact is that all 4 of those elements “Liquid” states are more dense then their “Solid” state.

Now one of the properties of Gallium, from my very basic understanding, has the largest liquid range of any metal. Its melting point is very low….let me look it up, ah here it is 29.76°C and its boiling point is 2204 °C making its liquid range 2174°C. This also puts Gallium very close to the solid/liquid transition point of water. Take a solid piece of Gallium at 20°C on a bowl of liquid Gallium at 30°C and the solid Gallium floats.

Now if you want to complain that the solid and liquid Gallium will change states depending on the transfer of heat more then ice/water I will not disagree. Ice takes alot of energy to to transition into water. But then should this be surprising given the molecular bonds that it actually has?

I concede because you’ve moved the goal post to a place I can’t reach. I don’t have the facility to get the measurements you want. I provided 4 examples of your “rare” property. Perhaps someone else has the time, money and facilities to get the melting point density of the 3 metals you question.

Oh …. one other thing I request …. please use living scientists to back up your claims about their quotes. It is much easier for members here to go directly to the source of the quote and asked them what they meant by it. We’ve had a number of people misquote scientists and have had those scientist explain to us that they where misquoted or misunderstood. Hoyle, Gould and others obviously can not be used unless your “God” want to bring them back for us to clarify things. I’m still looking for the source of

Fred Hoyle wrote:

A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.

Also I’m trying to find official information on Hoyle’s religious stance. Many religion site call him an atheist but that means squat. It sounds better for them to say and atheist said such a thing then a theist. Also the statement above doesn’t mean he believes it. Just that a “commonsense interpretation” would say that. But then there are lots of things that a “commonsense interpretation” would say that are just plain false in physics.

I can quote people like Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking wrote:

It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.

Now Hawking said that ….. but he didn’t mean that ….. he goes on to talk about other theories that remove that issue. Hawking is a good example to. He doesn’t put statements in a context of “this is the way it is” he puts them in the context of “this is the way it appears to be”. He admits “God” could be an answer but always follows up with explanations, that don’t disprove “God”, but remove the miracle that would be needed.

Let’s also look at that nature of physicists like Hawking and Hoyle. They are looking for answers about the beginning. When they look at the beginning of the universe they are looking into the realm of “we don’t know what happened before this point” lets compare this with biologists. We’d have to look at the material both scientist are trying to explain. Now if the physicists are looking at the beginning of the universe they are looking at things they can not yet explain. This is the equivalent to biologists looking at the beginning of life. The processes involved are not well understood. But the biologist in this case is looking at abiogenesis not evolution. Evolution is more like saying to a physicists “Why is the matter, in the universe, precisely arranged the way it is?” i.e. why is Jupiter the size and location it is (and all other matter). The physicist can explain pretty much everything using physics that does not call into the question anything that “God” would be needed for (note I’m talking that the universe has already expanded here). So to does biology explain pretty much everything using the theory of evolution once life is on the scene. Abiogenesis and the beginning of the universe right now overlap into theology because those are beginnings for which we can not fully explain. Can’t you see that we are inferring “God” where we don’t understand things? Those that don’t understand biology, or have a direct grudge against it, infer that evolution can’t work therefore “God”. Even Behe accepts common descent. He just tries to say all the genetic information has been there from the start.

The point is “God” is often used to describe parts of science we are unclear about. But all indications we have had to date point to natural causes. This isn’t to say that “God” isn’t responsible but that it appears that “God” works through the natural processes “God” created for our universe.

I tracked down Hoyle’s comment The Accidental Universe, Cambridge University Press, 1982 pg 118. I’ll have to go buy that book to see exactly what the context of it is because I do not have it in my collection of books.

Comment #14101

Posted by Koly on January 18, 2005 2:07 AM (e)

David, I am sorry if you think I am insulting you. I am a little surprised you deny some obvious basic facts you can read in elementary pop-science books or easily observe for yourself. You assume that the atmosphere is an “infinite heat bath”, so you should back up this premise at least a little. I have shown you that exactly the opposite is the case, your objections are completely irrelevant:

The air moving does not change it’s effective volume. It’s moving from one place to another - everywhere is surface underneath. The difference between a lake and an ocean is big - you are still thinking locally about a little lake and ignore it’s surrounding. Think about the whole planet and you won’t miss trivialities like this one about “moving air”.

I have not ignored the upper atmosphere, I have roughly estimated it’s mass by assuming constant density over 10kms. Still, in case you missed it, even if I took constant density over 100kms, which is an absolute nonsense, the heat capacity of the air would be still very small compared to that of the surface.

What do you mean by mentioning radiative cooling? You mean the radiative cooling of the surface, not the atmosphere I guess, because that is relevant.

You should look above the big blue ocean and you’ll see, that if you average over the fluctuations, the air CANNOT have significantly different temperature from the surface underneath.

Try to explain these simple observations, (which you can verify by yourself) based on your model, especially how are they consistent with the “infinite heat bath” premise:

1) In a sunny day, the temperature of the ground is higher than that of the air.

2) On a clear night the temperature drops more than on a cloudy one.

3) There is a huge difference between continental climate and that over the ocean. E.g. the average temperature in January is about 4C in London and -8C in Volgograd (Russia), which have about the same latitude. In July it is 17C in London and 24C in Volgograd. Explain how it is possible (see www.worldclimate.com if you need more data).

4) There is a huge difference in climate at different latitudes. Explain why the tropic climate is hot while the arctic is so cold.

Note that when talking about climate or weather, by temperature people mean the temperature of the air, not that of the ground.

Comment #14103

Posted by Koly on January 18, 2005 2:13 AM (e)

David, I have one more observation for you to explain:

5) The temperature is constant throughout the year only several meters under ground.

Comment #14110

Posted by David Wilson on January 18, 2005 6:19 AM (e)

David Heddle wrote:

1) We have a lake
2) We have an outside air temperature below freezing.
3) We can assume that the air is an infinite heat bath at constant temperature (anything else complicates the calculation without really changing anything)

As it is, the lake will cool until it obtains the following profile: 4C at the bottom, 0C on top (since 4C is the max density)

the surface will then freeze. To first order that’s it, because it is hard for the heat of fusion to transfer from the water below the surface freeze to the surface because ice is an insulator. Only if the temperature is well below freezing will the ice gradually thicken.

Now if ice sank, the complete freezing of the lake would occur fairly rapidly (details depend on the size and the air temperature, of course) because then there is no insulation preventing the transfer of the heat of fusion.

This seems much too glib to me. As Dr Heddle noted further down, liquid water is also an insulator. In fact, according to the figures given at this site, the thermal conductivity of ice at 0°C is about 4 times greater than that of water at the same temperature. So if ice sank (and all the other relevant properties of water remained the same) the layer of water at the surface would constitute an even better insulator than the ice would have been.

Even fairly simple models of ice formation on lakes (such as the one-dimensional Canadian Lake Ice Model (CLIMo), for instance require a much more detailed analysis of the heat exchange processes occurring at the surface than Dr Heddle has given here. Unless one actually sets up and solves a mathematical model at least as detailed as something like CLIMo, claims about what would happen in the counterfactual situation Dr Heddle has proposed would appear to me to be little more than idle speculation. Since part of Dr Heddle’s argument appears to rely on the false assumption that ice is a better thermal insulator than water, his speculation would appear to not even all that well-informed.

My speculation is that if ice were heavier than water, the heat transfer from lower to upper layers would occur mainly through convection rather than conduction. As Dr Heddle notes, when the surface reaches 0°C, but before it starts to freeze, the temperature will increase with depth. Since water is such a poor conductor of heat, I suspect the temperature gradient will be quite steep at the top, and the temperature itself will quickly approach 4°C as the depth increases.

If ice were denser than water, then as it started to form at the surface it would sink, as Dr Heddle says, into the warmer water below. But as it did so it would also start to melt, as heat were transferred by conduction from the surrounding warmer water through its surface. The melted water in immediate contact with the piece of ice would thus now be less dense than the surrounding warmer water and would therefore rise. It appears to me therefore that a convection layer should form, with a mixture of sinking, melting ice flakes, warmer water sinking more gradually, and rising colder water. Underneath this convection layer you would still have a body of water at 4°C, insulated even better from the thermal exchange activity going on at the air interface than it would be if the convection layer were solid ice.

I should think the rate at which the thickness of the convection layer increased would depend heavily on the rate at which heat is carried away by the exchange processes going on at the surface. As long as the temperature at the surface remained at 0°C in both cases, I can’t see any reason to believe that the nett rate of heat loss at the surface would be any greater in the heavy ice scenario than it is in fact. On the contrary, if anything, I suspect that the loss might be slightly less. As far as I can tell, the rate at which heat is conducted into the overlying layer of air and carried away by convection should be much the same in the two cases. And although the radiative emissivity of water is about 1-2% greater than that of ice, its albedo is also much less, so I should expect that the nett loss of heat by radiation would be somewhat less in the heavy ice scenario than it is in fact.

There are a couple of flies in all this ointment of speculation, however. First is the rate of heat loss through evaporation of water and sublimation of ice. Estimating these accurately would be extremely difficult (at least it would for me), and I have no idea how significant their contributions to the total heat loss would be. Second, the density of water at 4°C is only about 0.01% greater than it is at 0°C. With such a small difference in densities, it’s not at all clear how strong any convection currents would be, and it could well be true that the heat transfer by conduction would be more important.

Now, what about when temperatures rise? As ice is, the surface ice melts fairly rapidly, since the surface ice just absorbs the latent heat from the air. But what if ice sank? Then the surface would melt, but now it becomes very diffcult to melt the ice under the surface melt, for once again you have to transfer the latent heat through an insulator (the surface liquid.)

Here again, I expect convection would be more important than conduction. As the water at the surface heated above 0°C it would become more dense than that in immediate contact with the ice below and hence sink, and the colder water beneath it would rise, thus again setting up convection currents. Off the top of my head, I would guess that the convection currents in the water would be much weaker than those occurring in the air above a thawing ice sheet on the top of a real lake. So I suspect Dr Heddle is right that if ice were heavier than water, it would be more difficult to thaw a layer of such ice sitting at the bottom of a lake than it actually is to thaw real ice floating on the top. However, without seeing a proper calculation, I remain skeptical of such specific quantitative claims as that “only a few inches” on the surface of a fully frozen, moderately sized pond would melt in the summer.

There would not be less but MORE ice surface area, for another reason. When the ice sank, the lakes would “grow” –i.e. overflow, from Archimedes (the sinking ice would displace its volume of liquid water which, if ice sank, would be greater than the volume of the ice, hence flooding, which is the same as saying the lakes grow in surface area.)

This is complete nonsense. If the sinking ice were more dense than it was when it was liquid at the same temperature (which is what is being assumed) this means it would occupy less volume than it did as a liquid. This effect would therefore cause the depth and surface area of the lake to decrease, not increase. It is true that if all the liquid water in the lake were at a temperature of 0°C rather than 4°C it would occupy a slightly larger volume. This effect, however, is minuscule. As noted above, the density of water at 0°C is only a fraction of about one ten thousandth smaller than it is at 4°C. In a depth of 50m of liquid water, this would therefore make a difference of only about half a centimetre.

Finally, in order for all this freezing to work, the surface of the lake has to be cooled sufficienty for it to actually reach 0°C. The oceans themselves form a huge heat reservoir, and there are currently vast areas of the earth in tropical and temperate latitudes where the surfaces of even moderately sized bodies of water currently never get down close to this temperature at any time of year. Dr Heddle has so far said nothing to convince me that this would change much if ice were heavier than water.

Comment #14113

Posted by David Heddle on January 18, 2005 8:16 AM (e)

Now Hawking said that ….. but he didn’t mean that …..

I explained the context of Hawking’s quote–I NEVER said he was a creationist I nevers said he was and IDer –I ONLY said that he (like the others) acknowledged the appearance of design, and wanted to have another explantion. Most cosmologists go the multiverse route, Hawking went a different route (which has not proved successful.)

Hawking, in context, is EXACTLY what I meant–the appearance of design causes him to investigate alternatives to the current physics. In context, his statement does dispute my claim, but rather perfectly supports it. Unless you twist my claim into “Hawking is an creationist!”

Hawking’s quote, in context, is exactly what I claimed it to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

If, in context, Hawking said the current physics does NOT indicate fine tuning, you’d have something. But he clearly states that the current big bang model DOES have it, and he wants to avoid it–exactly what I said.

As for the elements, as I said, and it’s not moving the goalpost, the condition implied when one says “ice floats” is that it does so in equilibrium. Maybe those elements do that, but quoting properties at different temperatures is not the way to demonstrate it. If I want to know if ice floats, I need the density of water/ice at 0C–isn’t that obvious?

On to Koly,

The difference between the ground/air temperatures and ocean/air temperatures is complicated AND depends greatly on currents, both water currents and air currents, the later of which you claim have no effect.

Let me say it slightly differently. The atmosphere has many other heat exchange mechanisms so that it can absorb much more heat from a lake than you would expect from your model, which is an air mass above the water whose only available mechanism is heat exchange with the water. There are a multitude of processes by which the air can exchange the heat, thereby avoiding just a simple dQ/c temperature rise. From the point of view of the water, it sees something above which can absorb a lot of heat – exactly the characteristic of a heat bath.

That’s what makes “approximate as a infinite heat bath” so reasonable for 1st cut. If I know the volume of my pond and the air temperature, then by assuming the air temperature does not change as the pond freezes, I can make a decent estimate of how much ice will form.

Plus, since you keep harping on oceans, you will note that you were the first to being up oceans. I only said lakes would freeze. I’m just pointing that out, because eventually much of the oceans would freeze too. But the mechanism I described, ice forming on the surface and then sinking, does not apply to oceans because most of the oceans do not even form surface ice. But if ice sank, the polar caps would grow year by year, how much of the oceans would freeze, I don’t have a clue.

Note in all of this we are really addressing the wrong question, i.e., we are asking what if ice “suddenly” started sinking. The real question is, of course, what if ice always sank, what would the earth’s environment be like.

The atmosphere, by the way, does radiatively cool. It also cools through turbulence, and even through interaction with the magnetic field.

Comment #14115

Posted by David Heddle on January 18, 2005 9:10 AM (e)

David Wilson makes some very good points (esp. about overflowing, I blew that one, I wondered when I wrote it down why I had never heard that argument before, it seemed so clever, now I know–because it was so obviously wrong) There is no doubt that the processes are complex and that convection is important.

I think we cannot go much further unless we want to collaborate on some serious modeling–which I’m willing to do.

David Wilson Wrote:

This seems much too glib to me. As Dr Heddle noted further down, liquid water is also an insulator. In fact, according to the figures given at this site, the thermal conductivity of ice at 0°C is about 4 times greater than that of water at the same temperature. So if ice sank (and all the other relevant properties of water remained the same) the layer of water at the surface would constitute an even better insulator than the ice would have been.

Yes, this all works in my favor. In other words, as the world is, for surface ice to thicken heat must be transferred through ice. We already know that is fairly hard. But for lake frozen solid apart from melt, for additional ice to melt the latent heat must be transferred through liquid water, which, as you point out, is a BETTER insulator. So that makes it all the more difficult to melt the ice. The “few inches” comes from a hand waving – My pond gets about a foot of ice – so if the situation were flipped, with Ice covered by water, and water being a better insulator, then there would be less water (i.e., inches) than there was ice (~1 foot).

Now of course if ice did sink, then preumably its thermal properties would be much different, so this is probably a pointless direction.

Comment #14124

Posted by Koly on January 18, 2005 11:55 AM (e)

David, I am quite confused about what do you want to say. I thought your argument went something like this:

“ice floating” is an evidence for ID, because without that, the life would not exist or at least there would be much harder conditions for it.

That’s why I am talking about oceans and the planet - who cares if some more lakes in Canada or Finland would freeze completely or not, that’s totally irrelevant for life in general. I would admit that the “ice floating” argument is relevant for life if:

a) otherwise the majority of the Earth’s oceans freezed
b) the range of conditions under which liquid water exists would be severely limited

All the time I’ve thought you are talking about “a runaway ice age effect”, not literally about a lake. However, in that case you are wrong too - there is a heat bath, but the air is certainly not it, it’s heat capacity is just too low whatever hand-waving you do. The real heat bath is the ground around and under the lake. It’s temperature determines whether the lake freezes or not - and it’s the same in both cases. Couple od meters under the surface the ground temperature is stable - if it’s under zero the lake will freeze, “ice floating” or not. If it’s over zero, the lake may freeze seasonally only at the edges (“ice sinking”) or on the surface too (“ice floating”) but will never freeze to the bottom.

Comment #14126

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 18, 2005 12:21 PM (e)

Koly

David, I am quite confused about what do you want to say.

Search the archives re David Heddle for more information about this curious phenomenon.

‘Confused’ is exactly how David Heddle wants you to feel. How do you think he became an ID apologist?

The difference is that David became confused because he’s not too bright. You’re confused, Koly, because David is inarticulate and keeps changing the subject whenever his arguments are shown to be specious.

Comment #14131

Posted by Jim Harrison on January 18, 2005 1:05 PM (e)

I don’t agree with David Heddle about very much, but I don’t understand the point of making personal attacks on him.

Cool it.

Comment #14134

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 18, 2005 1:36 PM (e)

Jim Harrison writes

I don’t agree with David Heddle about very much, but I don’t understand the point of making personal attacks on him.

Personal attack or objective observation? You think it’s unfair to call Heddle call a dissembling flake but it’s fair for Heddle to go unchallenged when he dissembles and implies that biologists are clueless sheep wasting taxpayers money?

I’m confused, Jim.

I haven’t noticed you getting on Heddle’s case about his dishonest dissembling. Why is that? Why so quiet, Jim? Why do you sit back and let Heddle clog up this blog with inane discussions about the importance of floating ice for the evolution of life.

Same with DaveScot. I haven’t noticed you calling him out regularly and repeatedly on his utter and complete garbage. Maybe you agree with him.

I’d really be interested in finding out why you have chosen to remain silent while Heddle and DaveScot dissemble but come to their rescue when I devote my time to expose them for the dissembling rubes that they obviously are.

The reason I call Heddle on his garbage is plain as paint: failure to do so will give others the impression that all his quotes and figures show that the creationists apologetics have scientific merit and that Heddle is presenting “facts” which must be balanced against the facts presented by evolutionary biologists.

That impression would be false, don’t you agree? I hope you agree. Please convince me that you agree.

I respectfully suggest you consider the relevance of the following:

Conservatives try to implicate the left for “lowering the discourse.” They’re not worried about us lowering- or raising- the discourse. They’re worried that we might get a clue and stop engaging them in discourse.

We’ve raised Ann Coulter to new heights by trying to counter her. She doesn’t care. Michael Moore is delegitimized by the Right by means of sarcasm and humor. Dean was destroyed by jokes about the scream. If Crossfire opened every show with “and look what that crazy bitch said today,” followed by a shot of Paul and James laughing their asses off, Ann Coulter would be the leggiest assistant corporate attorney in Accounts Recieving right now.

The right-wing bloggers don’t want to hear our rebuttals. The President doesn’t want to hear the Democrats’ counter-proposals. History will never look back on this time and discuss how changes were made through the art of rational bipartisan discussion. But I’m damn sure history has a chance to look back on this era… and laugh.

http://haloscan.com/tb/atrios/110601902931173296

Comment #14136

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 18, 2005 1:58 PM (e)

Barbara Boxer shows how it’s done today, challenging one of the most egregious liars ever to soil the US congress floor:

California Sen. Barbara Boxer questioned Rice aggressively before the panel broke for lunch, suggesting that Rice’s loyalty to Bush and her mission to defend the war in Iraq “overwhelmed your respect for the truth.”

The truth hurts. Watch the conservatives whine about Boxer’s “personal” attack. Of course, the conservatives want us all to forget about a memo given to Rice and Bush entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” and Rice’s disgusting dissembling under oath regarding that memo.

I see parallels to the sort of dissembling engaged in by David Heddle and DaveScot and other creationist apologists? Am I alone?

Comment #14140

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 18, 2005 3:44 PM (e)

The great PZ Myers gets “personal” with Jim Black and Pat Robertson

This fellow Jim Black was introduced as a “distinguished scholar”, and he is being taken seriously enough that he’s being interviewed as an authority on the universities (by Robertson, I know … but there are millions of people who trust that smarmy twit). And look what he is doing.

He is lying.

He is flat-out slandering our profession and our institutions, and pandering to the stereotypes of the ignorant boobs who look up to Pat Robertson. He is making shit up. And there he is, regretfully declaring that the American university doesn’t teach science and has watered down the curriculum to a hateful fraud who wants to gut science and stuff it with the dogma of creationism. Oh, the irony of it all.

http://www.pharyngula.com/

PZ Myers understands that it doesn’t matter if you call creationist apologists dishonest dishonest dissembling frauds or if you say, gently, that they are only “confused” and “misinformed.”

The creationist apologists are still going to accuse scientists of being weak, sensitive “elitists” “suppressing challenges” to evolutionary “dogma” in an effort to “spread atheism” and attack Christianity, as they have for the past 150 years, while most scientists (and many so-called “liberals”) quietly pretend that “truth” will prevail and, if not, oh well, it’s not as if science itself is in danger.

Big mistake. Shining unforgiving bright lights on the roaches will help the ACLU conserve bug repellent.