What is Cosmological Fine-Tuning Evidence For?

| 49 Comments

With the Smithsonian Institute/Privileged Planet brouhaha, the subject of cosmological ID has been buzzing about the blogosphere lately. In particular, as noted by other PT contributors, physicist William Jeffreys has written this excellent, scathing reivew of the book version of The Privileged Planet. But David Heddle, author of the blog He Lives, was less impressed. He vents his spleen here.

Over at EvolutionBlog I have offered these thoughts on the matter. I argue, among other things, that cosmological fine-tuning is more plausibly interpreted as evidence for multiple universes than it is for ID. And in this entry I offer some thoughts on Heddle's arguments regarding the falsifiability, or lack thereof, of cosmological ID. Enjoy!

49 Comments

It seems cosmological fine-tuning is evidence designers first designed carbon based life forms that don’t last very long, and then they fine-tuned some “allow for the existence of of carbon based life forms” parameters into about 20 pounds of matter they inflated into a universe that allows for the existence of carbon based life forms in about zero percent of it’s volume.

Really though, doesn’t fine-tuning for cosmological ID require the designers designing carbon based life forms first so there would be some fine-tuning to do?

Yes. It also presupposes a frightfully limited God, actually. An entity who can bring a physical body back from death while reversing decay apparently was restrained by the laws of physics while designing the universe…

But as Heddle always states when people point out the absurdity of his arguments, he never argues that cosmological ID is science. Oh, he attempts to shore up his points with scientific arguments, but he never comes out and says that ID is science…

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Um, Salvador, you’re confusing the Many Worlds Hypothesis of the cosmological theory of chaotic inflation with the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. From Dr. Jefferys’ exposition, it doesn’t look like Gonzalez and Richards made that mistake in their book …

I am glad to hear that Salvador considers the multiverse to be open to falsification. Of course the ID claims hardly ever tend to be scientifically relevant. Sal also ‘knows’ just enough to get him into trouble…

On a different note Denyse O’Leary, cheerleader for ID, reports

Other planets such as Mars and Uranus are shown, and the narrator points out that among the approximately 70 known planets and moons (that are not just a lop-sided rock), Earth is the only one whose atmosphere can sustain complex life and the only one whose atmosphere is transparent.

Now again, here’s a great chance to prove Richards and Gonzalez wrong. Can someone falsify this observation?

It’s a trivial observation but hardly relevant to the thesis of Gonzalez and Richards. They are still relying on a single datapoint to draw a conclusion not warranted by the evidence.

If Denyse were to familiarize herself with the rebuttals by Kyler Kuehn, who is also a Christian, she could save herself some embarassments.

Comment #34530

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on June 9, 2005 09:08 PM (e) (s)

The idea of multiple universes may have been experimentally refuted by the demonstration of an inconsistency between Schrodinger’s equations and the multiverse interpretation.

(Smacks head) O, this is painfully stupid. Schrodinger’s Eqn is a piece of theory. The multiverse interpretation is a piece of theory. Any contradiction between those two is not, not, not, not, not, therefore, experimentally refuted. There’s no experiment.

I swear, these creationist arguments are so ridiculously wrong-headed that my comments will probably get more and more bitter and angry, until finally I get banned like GWW.

BTW, is there a single ID argument which isn’t based on flawed statistics? Can’t they come up with something based on flawed group theory, or flawed DiffyQ, or something different?

Hi Sal.

Last time you were here, you ran away without answering any of my four simple questions.

As promised, I will ask again. And again and again and again. As many times as I need to, until you answer.

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

Salvador T. Cordova wrote:

The idea of multiple universes may have been experimentally refuted by the demonstration of an inconsistency between Schrodinger’s equations and the multiverse interpretation.

You are trying to get a way with a bogus claim that a problem with one multiple universe hypothesis refutes any multiple universe hyopthesis . You might be able to get away with this bs in ID clubs, but do you actually think you can get away with it here?

Somewhat like in human legal affairs, we have laws, and then interpretations of laws. In physics, we have a similar situation, EXCEPT one can argue there is only one right interpretation of those laws. The most far reaching interpretation is one which led Frank Tipler and renowned cosmologist John Barrow to conclude the reasonable possibility God’s exisitence. Ironically, they offered support of both Multiverse and ID where the multiverses converged into God.

Of course they did. When anybody claims designers created a universe, they are claiming the existence of at least two universes.

However, Multiverse may have been demonstrated to be an inconsistent (therefore wrong) interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. With the scientific belief in the experimental method as a means of demonstrating one theory as more favorable than another, Multiverse may have been experimentally falsified in favor of the Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. (The Transactional Interpreation is my personal favorite) as recently as April 2004.

You must think you’re a really good bs artist. Dude, get a clue, you’re not. You need to at least throw in some mumbo-jumbo about how multiple universes are inconsistent with chaotic inflation, string theory and any other hypothesis that will ever come along.

It is amazing that PT denizens still spend time and effort replying to the mumbo-jumbo by Salvador Cordova. The guy is illiterate (just look at the nonsense he wrote about Schroedinger equation, etc).

One failure of the good PTers is they can’t resist beating the riders of dead horses.

What amazes me still is the “bass ackwards” approach of this particular ID claim:

“The universe appears uniquely suited for us to do certain things and for us to exist at all, therefore it must have been designed for us by some external/higher intelligence.”

The arrogant anthropocentrism is so blatant. Does it never occur to them that the universe would appear to be just as suited to our existence and activities if we had developed to fit it, rather than if it had been developed to fit us?

For all the wittering around the anthropomorphic principles these guys try, they are still overlooking the key arguments in those principles.

Add to that the fact that we have yet to have a proposal for how the “Intelligent Designer” has influenced/designed/tampered with the material universe (for that is precisely what he/she/it/they has done/is doing). We also have no explanation of how this intelligent designer (itself a complex entity) arose (this is another missed argument, where did said entity come from). We also have no evidence of design other than “oooh that’s complicated”, manglings of information theory that have been refuted don’t count.

Gee, if I were cynical I would think that this wasn’t a real scientific endeavour at all. Just a thinly veiled attempt to shoehorn certain anthropocentric ideas into the public domain. If I were being really cynical I might note how conveniently similar those ideas were to other ideas of a more overtly religious nature.

Argh it’s so frustrating.

I just wanted to de-lurk for a while to say that I’m currently reading “The Collapse of Chaos” by Cohen and Stewart. In that, they point out that the physical constants also appear to be fine-tuned for the formation of black holes. Perhaps that’s what it’s really about and life is just an accidental side-effect.

Right, that’s it, back to lurking. Carry on.

Who was it, when asked what nature revealed about God, replied “An inordinate fondness for beetles”?

To this layperson, that is the simplest, most elegant response to “cosmological fine-tuning”. If the world was designed, it was designed for li’l six-legged critters.

Who was it, when asked what nature revealed about God, replied “An inordinate fondness for beetles”?

The quote is attributed to J.B.S. Haldane.

Those or the micro-organisms or even just the prokaryotes (which have other things outnumbered and could mostly carry on without them).

AR wrote:

It is amazing that PT denizens still spend time and effort replying to the mumbo-jumbo by Salvador Cordova. The guy is illiterate (just look at the nonsense he wrote about Schroedinger equation, etc).

The clown managed to get himself in the journal Nature:

“Twenty or so fresh-faced college students are gathered together in a room in the student union at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the state’s largest public university. They are there for the first meeting of Salvador Cordova’s Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) club.”

“Since high school, Cordova had been a devout Christian, but as he studied science and engineering at George Mason, he found his faith was being eroded. “The critical thinking and precision of science began to really affect my ability to just believe something without any tangible evidence,” he says.”

We need to continue to expose him for the pseudoscientific bs artist he is so that college students and science writers will also know a con man when they see one.

At the risk of being simplistic, can’t the whole issue be summed up by the statement “We are the way we are because the universe is the way it is, and not the other way around”? There is plenty of evidence for the former, and none (as I see it) for the latter.

Amazingly, the ground happens to be located with excruciating precision at the end of my legs. Moreover, it’s always been like that, even though my legs have grown! There must have been an Intelligent Designer putting in some serious overtime here…

I find Heddle’s review of the review to be just so much gibberish. I’m left to wonder if such true believers can even see the logical flaws in what they write. For the first three questions he outlines (something rather than nothing; galaxies and stars; planets supporting complex life), I can easily substitute questions about a god. Why would there be a god rather than no god? Given that time is necessary for personality, which is composed of time-bound elements such as memory, intention, and reaction, how could humans, whose primary characteristic is personhood, be created in the image of this out-of-time entity? But I think the most devestating rejoinder to the argument for a “fine tuner” is articulated very well by Richard Dawkins:

The alternative hypothesis, that [the cosmos] was all started by a supernatural creator, is not only superfluous, it is also highly improbable. It falls foul of the very argument that was originally put forward in its favour. This is because any God worthy of the name must have been a being of colossal intelligence, a supermind, an entity of extremely low probability – a very improbable being indeed.

Even if the postulation of such an entity explained anything (and we don’t need it to), it still wouldn’t help because it raises a bigger mystery than it solves.

Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that. We cannot prove that there is no God, but we can safely conclude the He is very, very improbable indeed.

There are at least a couple of views for multiple universes.

1. Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics 2. Smolin’s Multiverse

The work of Cramer and Afshar deals with #1. Smolin’s Mulitiverse may or may not be subject to testability. If it is not testable, then it falls out formally out of scientific inquiry.

Salvador

Anyone seen this story? How many other teachers like this are out there?

Teacher told to revise creationism lesson plan For 15 years, Va. teacher had offered bonus work on creationism

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8169240/

Excerpt:

No complaints thus far Booher’s source book, which he distributed at his own expense to classes ranging from 25 to 40 students, included nine chapters with titles such as “In the beginning” and “Evidence for a young Earth.”

Not sure where to begin with this. What “evidence for a young Earth” could possibly be presented. Just what is the argument? Despite all of the evidence for an “old Earth”, this creationist, er, teacher has evidence for a young Earth? I really want to see this.

If it is not testable, then it falls out formally out of scientific inquiry.

I am glad that Sal thus rejects Intelligent Design? or are there different standards?

Sal:

The critical thinking and precision of science began to really affect my ability to just believe something without any tangible evidence.

I think this essentially sums up Sal’s entire raison d’etre: he is clearly stating that he rejects critical thinking and the precision of science in order to retain his religious opinions.

Given that, his extraordinarily silly pseudo-scientific blather makes perfect sense.

What I fail to understand is why, having explicity rejected science, he continues to try to use it to support his beliefs? Isn’t this a simple case of cognitive dissonance?

As with Dembski, I seriously wonder whether Sal is actually aware of how he comes across.

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Greg Peterson Wrote:

This is because any God worthy of the name must have been a being of colossal intelligence, a supermind, an entity of extremely low probability — a very improbable being indeed.

Anyone else find this argument disturbingly similar to the ID fine-tuning one? Slapping a probability, or even an estimate of one, on the existence of God would require knowledge of the number of scenarios with a God and without. I can imagine right now that there are an infinite number of events (universes) with God as designer/creater/whatever. What does that prove? Nothing. Considering that the supernatural isn’t accessible to science anyway, this feels a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black. It seems to me that every one of the (egregious) flaws in cosmological fine-tuning arguments can also be found in this argument for the absence of God.

Tim, maybe it’s only me, but I think that that was exactly Greg’s point.

I.e., if you accept as valid Heddle’s reasoning, there’s no reason not to apply the same reasoning to this “God” thingie and conclude that it must be very, very improbable.

Nothing new, I know, but absolutely correct.

I agree. Dawkins’s argument is projective: “if we accept the advanced argument that life is improbable and this improbability implies design, than the designer of that life is even more improbable.” In other words, the argument FOR god is self-refuting, and requires no probabilistic argument AGAINST god. The ol’ multiplication of cheloniidae…

Yeah, sometimes I’m a little slow. My bad.

Of topic for Sal-

You were quoted in the Nature article as saying:

“I would love to see an intelligent-design class on one of these campuses,” [Cordova] says. “I don’t want to indoctrinate the students; I would just like them to get to know the theory.”

I am very interested in this, and was wondering if you could tell me what the actual theory of intelligent-design is. Can you offer any help?

I once shared a grad dorm with an exchange student suffering from a classic case of paranoia. The expereince was literally maddening for the inhabitants of the building because dealing with the guy’s crazy ideas eventually bogged everybody down in elaborate discussions of the reality of evil spirits and the ethics of thought control. Theological reasoning is similarly contagious. Even refutations of ID advertise it as a realistic hypothesis when it is has no place in a sensible discussion since the notion of a creator God is not a legitimate candidate explanation. It shouldn’t be in the election since it can’t survive the primaries.

Taking psychotic delusions seriously can infect the mentation of the shrink—psychiatrists who specialize in schizophrenia end up sounding like schizophrenics. The polemical opponents of ID should beware of an analogous fate.

You might want to post that in the Zoo thread too Jim.

ANFCD, thanks, yes, that’s what I was (by stealing liberally from Dawkins) trying to communicate.

Arguments from complexity fail for me on two grounds. First, the necessary complexity of the intelligent designer is then left without explanation–unless one were to posit an infinite regress of increasingly complex creators.

And second, complexity is a damn poor emblem of intelligent design. Of items that I KNOW were intelligently designed, because they have human inventors, the more complex they seem, the more complex they are to use, the less intelligently I find their design to be. The Rube-Goldberg systems we find in nature inspire awe and wonder, but they seldom resemble robust, elegant designs.

Improvisation is impressive, but it’s quite the same as fine-tuning.

The ID folk have stumbled onto something that can be falsified. As I was discussing with Bill Jefferys on another thread there are two competing topologies that predict different Omegas. The MWH, a.k.a. chaotic inflation, predicts Omega of exactly one. The competing topology the Poincare Dodecahedral Space predicts Omega to be 1.01 or greater. Right now both are within the error bars (1.02 plus or minus .02). As the precision increases then one theory (or both) can be falsified.

Since Cosmological ID has set itself opposed to the Weak Anthropic Principle it has in effect established a falsification criterion. Thus, a falsification criterion for cosmological ID is:

Omega less than 1.01.

Stay tuned.

Ooh, exciting (or perhaps I should say “interesting times”). I don’t expect the IDists to agree in any coherent/comprehending manner that that was their position though - especially not if the results of further measurements go the other way.

author Wrote:

There are at least a couple of views for multiple universes.

1. Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics 2. Smolin’s Multiverse

The work of Cramer and Afshar deals with #1. Smolin’s Mulitiverse may or may not be subject to testability. If it is not testable, then it falls out formally out of scientific inquiry.

Salvador

But the subject here is cosmological fine-tuning. #1 has nothing to do with cosmological fine-tuning. What is more relevant is multiverse in the context of cosmology, which you probably mean by #2 (although I don’t think Smolin is the first to propose. Maybe Linde?).

Cosmological fine-tuning is not something that can be tested anyway, and it doesn’t make sense that you make that a ground to object if you want to discuss about cosmological fine-tuning at all.

The post above was a comment to Salvador, of course.

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The “proof” that Heddle cites is refuted in Appendix I of our document

The basic problem is that the ratio P(N&F&L) / P(~N&F&L) can ONLY be small if the ratio P(N|L) / P(~N|L) is small. That is, if we have a prior assumption against naturalism.

However, regardless of what our prior assumption is, P(N|L) / P(~N|L)

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Hi Sal.

Last time you were here, you ran away without answering any of my four simple questions.

As promised, I will ask again. And again and again and again. As many times as I need to, until you answer.

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

Sometimes I think what really bothers me is that these sorts of insisting “believers” demand EVERYONE salve their entirely selfish fear and uncertainty in the face of the facts of mortality. If they don’t wish to grow up (and, often I wonder, who would if given a choice not offered, and yet oddly conceivable?) emotionally, I have no problem with it. It’s none of my business. However, this (large) faction actually demands I spend my time here on earth to praise what I have deeply determined to be very silly and feeble distractions from the very interesting and unanswerable. Now, ANY system, even a very childish one, has the possibility to create interesting. even insightful, work. The most damning indictments of fundamentalism and its parasites is how useless and boring the products of their creativity are, and how violently they clothe their cowardice and insipidness.

I’m left to wonder if such true believers can even see the logical flaws in what they write.

My guess is, in most cases, no. People can “forget” about commiting child molestation and murder. Not just pretend that it didn’t happen, but honestly believe that it didn’t. I think that being a “true believer” is similar : the emotional pain of admitting that your beliefs are, in fact, false is far too painful to consider.

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Sal,

Looks like you don’t get the message. After your last post was shredded up when it was found that your “scientific refutation” was nothing more than a hastily scrawled post based on a few hours on the web; you have decided to do it all over again. Despite all that your great/dear leader tells you science doesn’t quite work that way.

OK let’s imagine this scenario. Two research groups in a cutting edge field publish a theory that departs from well established thinking on the subject. The new theory not only answers all questions about itself but also explains the prevailing theory and its shortcomings. Holding your breath Sal? Worst of all this theory finds parallels in religious and philosophical theories of the centuries past. What do you think happened to the poor scientists?

In case you think the orthodoxy about the universe is keeping a chokehold on the Big Bang view check out these guys Steinhardt and Turok and their theory of the cyclic universe. Warning this is scientific stuff and not about “Bigbangian conspiracy to silence dissent” and other such hogwash.

http://wwwphy.princeton.edu/~steinh/ http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/ngt1000/

This is a minority view and in fact has very striking parallels in Hindu and Jain cosmology. Of course I am not for a moment equating ancient Indic thinking on cosmology with modern cosmology. I am not even claiming that modern science finds echoes in ancient Indic thought. Far, far from it.

I haven’t heard any calls for Turok’s or Steinhardt’s head. No conferences are being organised to counter “pseudocosmology”. Why is it that such “heresy” is accepted while Gonzalez and Richards are drawing critical comment. Forget IDoC which has by now proven itself to be the most dishonest and empty (yes it can be both) rhetoric of our times. What about Pri.Planet? What science have these two accomplished. IS there any material published by these two writers that can be scientifically discussed? I can understand DI not producig scientific stuff as Phil J is not a scientist and Bill D, J Wells have long since abandoned the ways of science. But Gonzalez?

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I should have added this:

If P(~N&F&L)= 0, then P(N|F&L)=0.0008/0.0008 + P(~N&F&L)= 0.0008/0.0008= 1. This just helps to see the progression.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on June 9, 2005 5:44 PM.

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