Saturday, January 10, 2009

Didn't I say it all hinges on "probably"?

According to Ruth Gledhill, religious correspondent at The Times, because more than 50 complaints have been made to the Advertising Standards Authority about the atheist bus, there will be an inquiry. According to her blog, one of the complainants is her predecessor at The Times, the greatly respected Clifford Longley.

I did say in yesterday's post that it all hinged on "probably." Longley agrees. He writes:
'The statement "There's probably no God", as currently seen on the side of London buses, is untrue and dishonest, in so far as the word "probably" completely fails to reflect the true state of the scientific argument. In fact it would be honest and true to say the opposite - "There probably is a God." A fair reading of the material below could lead to no other conclusion.

'I therefore call on the ASA to order the withdrawal of this advertising, as incompatible with its code of practice. According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so "finely-tuned," and so many "coincidences" have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence.

'In fact, this "fine-tuning" is so pronounced, and the "coincidences" are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse "The Anthropic Principle," which contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind. Even those who do not accept The Anthropic Principle admit to the "fine-tuning" and conclude that the universe is "too contrived" to be a chance event.

'Dr. Dennis Scania, head of Cambridge University Observatories, said in a BBC science documentary, The Anthropic Principle: "If you change a little bit the laws of nature, or you change a little bit the constants of nature - like the charge on the electron - then the way the universe develops is so changed, it is very likely that intelligent life would not have been able to develop."

'Dr. David D. Deutsch, Institute of Mathematics, Oxford University: observed: "If we nudge one of these constants just a few percent in one direction, stars burn out within a million years of their formation, and there is no time for evolution. If we nudge it a few percent in the other direction, then no elements heavier than helium form. No carbon, no life. Not even any chemistry. No complexity at all."

'Dr. Paul Davies, noted author and professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University, said: "The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural 'constants' were off even slightly."

'When the late Sir Fred Hoyle was researching how carbon came to be created in the "blast-furnaces" of the stars, his calculations indicated that it is very difficult to explain how the stars generated the necessary quantity of carbon upon which life on earth depends. Hoyle found that there were numerous "fortunate" one-time occurrences which seemed to indicate that purposeful "adjustments" had been made in the laws of physics and chemistry in order to produce the necessary carbon.

Hoyle summed up his findings as follows: "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintendent has monkeyed with the physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.

'I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars." Dr. David D. Deutch remarked: "If anyone claims not to be surprised by the special features that the universe has, he is hiding his head in the sand. These special features are surprising and unlikely."

'The August '97 issue of Science featured an article entitled Science and God: A Warming Trend? in which it stated: "The fact that the universe exhibits many features that foster organic life - such as precisely those physical constants that result in planets and long-lived stars - also has led some scientists to speculate that some divine influence may be present."

'In his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, Sir Stephen Hawking (perhaps the world's most famous cosmologist) stated: "The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers (i.e. the constants of physics) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life" (p. 125). "For example," Hawking wrote, "if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded... It seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers (for the constants) that would allow for development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty." Hawking said this was evidence of "a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science (by God)" (ibid. p. 125). If you would like further information regarding the science I would refer you to the Faraday Institute at St Edmund's College Cambridge (with which I have no connection.)'


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