Thursday, July 10, 2008

Are You Feeling Lucky?

Somewhere between Toronto and Montreal there is a dime on the side of the road (you are not told which side and you only get to drive the course once). Your mission is to stop the car you are driving so that the right-rear tire completely covers the dime.

There's a great prize: If you win, you get to exist.

Are you feeling lucky?

There's more. In order to "win", the car you drive must be the right model, year, color and style (unknown to you) selected from the entire universe of cars and models. It must have exactly the right number of kilometers on it (to 1/10th of a km.) at the moment it covers the dime. In addition, you must cover the dime with your tire at the exact prescribed moment in time -- year, month, day, hour, minute, second (unknown to you). This moment in time covers all the moments in time of recorded history. Yes, you may not even be born yet, and the car you must drive may not have been developed yet.

If you drive off the road, it's game over. If you get hit by another car, it's game over.

One more thing. You are blind-folded.

What do you think your blind-chance chances are?

Whatever you answered, the odds of you covering the dime are much better than the universe we live in just popping into existence and then creating and sustaining life.

This brings us to the argument from fine-tuning (or, "the anthropic principle") for the existence of God.

In the past 40 years it has been discovered by scientists that several parameters in our physical universe must be "just so" for the universe to exist and to support life.

A few examples, cited by Robin Collins, are:

1. If the initial explosion of the Big Bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 10-to-the-60th, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10-to-the-60th can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)


2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible.


3. Calculations by Brandon Carter show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10-to-the-40th, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible. (Davies, 1984, p. 242.)


4. If the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible. (Leslie, 1989, pp. 39-40 )


5. If the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life would be impossible, for a variety of different reasons. (Leslie, 1988, p. 299.)


* * *

Recently, scientists have proposed a multiverse to get around the vast improbabilities of our universe popping into place by chance. The idea here is either that reality actually consists of a multitude of coinciding universes, one-in-a-gazillion of which might support life (and we're the lucky ones), or, reality consists of an infinite succession of Big Bangs followed by Big Crunches followed by another Big Bang, and, lucky us, our Big Bang just happens to be the one, or one of the ones, that supports life, and, here we are.

But there's a problem with even this. You will hear it stated, "and thus, the highly improbable becomes highly likely, to the point where it actually becomes inevitable". Except, it doesn't. Probability theorists will tell you that the highly improbable remains highly improbable no matter how many chances you get.

Now, what evidence do scientists offer us, what "physical proof" as some would put it, that multiverses exist?

None. Nada. Zip.

The theory of multiverses was developed not because there is an iota of scientific evidence for them -- there is NONE -- it was developed out of panicked necessity to get around the obvious and more likely inference that, with odds this astronomically huge, the parameters of the universe were deliberately set the way they are by Someone or Something in order to make sustainable life possible.

The one and only reason that the multiverse theory was developed was to keep the door closed to the possibility that this universe, and we ourselves, might be the product of a Creator.

More than this, there's an additional side to the anthropic principle: humans have been given the capacity for observing the universe and discovering its secrets, like these fined-tuned characteristics. By what or by whom?

Those of us on the theist side of the aisle can praise God, while those on the the other side can praise blind chance (which didn't know how to drive, didn't know the dime was there, and wasn't trying to either drive or stop on the dime) that stopped on a dime one sunny day on the road to Montreal.

The only question which remains to be asked is: which viewpoint requires greater faith?

Robin Collins develops the argument much further. A non-technical version may be read at: http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/finetlay.htm

* * *

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge."

19 comments:

Lore_Weaver said...

Not quite.

Probabilities don't factor into it. The chance that the universe came into being such that life would be possible is exactly 100%, because we're here to debate it.

What you ascribe to blind chance isn't really blind chance, but inevitable. The past is always inevitable. :D Does that imply a creator? The directionless past looks like decisive action from the point of view of the future. This is how Nostradamus looks accurate. You ascribe creation to postdiction.

Also, what you're having trouble with, again, is that time isn't linear.

As for extra dimensional 'evidence', there are theories of p-branes but no direct evidence for them yet. However, there is the mysterious Dark Matter, which, according to string theory, gravitons (which also remain undiscovered) could be exerting their force on all nearby p-branes.

That's just an idea though, it's got some basis to it, but we need to discover Dark Matter or Gravitons before we can say more on this subject.

RkBall said...

"Probabilities don't factor into it. The chance that the universe came into being such that life would be possible is exactly 100%, because we're here to debate it."

DNF.

The chance that it came into being by chance is not 100% -- anymore than the chance that you would win the lottery was 100% just because you won it.

"What you ascribe to blind chance isn't really blind chance, but inevitable. The past is always inevitable."

Nonsense. Darwinianist insist that our outcome is completely non-inevitable, and if you ran the tape again, the outcome might be vastly different. Maybe unchangeable, but not inevitable.

Plus, the concept of inevitability is getting perilously close to a metaphysical concept.

RkBall said...

"Posts like yours remind me how privileged I am to live in such an exquisitely beautiful universe. The other day I found out that not only do galaxies have gravitational pull on each other; massive galaxy clusters have gravitational pull and orbit one another. That's amazing. I have this picture in my mind of everything gracefully orbiting one another: from the electrons orbiting protons and neutrons to the moon around our earth to the earth and planets and other matter around our sun to our sun and zillions of stars majestically moving around our galactic core to our galaxy in a dance with others in the our local group (the name of our galactic cluster) to galaxy clusters moving slowly around one another in a beautiful dance of stars, nebulas, black holes, pulsars, quasars of light bound by light and gravity to equally (if not more) amazing dark matter while the universe keeps expanding at a perfectly "flat" rate that is almost impossible but allows it to exist forever without dying in a "big freeze" or reversing in a big crunch"... all in the mystical fabric of space-time. The perfect, elegant universe that God created."

-- May

MgS said...

More argument by credulity.

There's an old saying - millions to one odds happen nine times out of ten.

As a software specialist, I've seen more bugs happen that literally required a coincidence only explanable by one in a million set of circumstances. Do not be so fast to discount things because you find them "improbable".

RkBall said...

"More argument by credulity."

My friend, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the credulity argument. The more we raise the credulity bar, the more we lower the bar for the probability of God as a more reasonable, more likely, more satisfying explanation.

"There's an old saying - millions to one odds happen nine times out of ten."

This is neither logic nor science.

If you have a lottery, the odds of a specific individual winning are very low, but the odds that someone is going to win -- there's a 100% probability that someone will win at some point. The universe popping into place is like someone winning the lottery when there is no lottery, there is no ticket, and there is no someone -- what are the odds of that?!

Stare that one in the face for a minute -- because that is a much closer analogy to what you have in the origins of an inhabitable universe.

"As a software specialist, I've seen more bugs happen that literally required a coincidence only explanable by one in a million set of circumstances. Do not be so fast to discount things because you find them "improbable"."

One in a million is a cake-walk, my friend, when it comes to the universe popping into place.

The question would be more like, what are the odds of getting meaningful, useful code by running a random-number/letter generator ONCE?

* * *

On a personal note --

As a software guy, I am grateful to God who has taken me around the world teaching software engineering seminars -- North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Australia -- it's a wonderful world!

May God bless you in your creative endeavors.

RkBall said...

"time isn't linear."

What do you mean by this?

Lore_Weaver said...

Time isn't linear. One second on when one second elapses on Earth, more than one second elapses on Jupiter, and even more seconds on the Sun.

When you approach a Black Hole, time stops just past the event horizon. It's not impossible for time to even loop back on itself, but this zany idea is just an apple in Stephen Hawking's eye.

What's critical to remember is that time isn't linear.

"The chance that it came into being by chance is not 100% -- anymore than the chance that you would win the lottery was 100% just because you won it."

Actually it is. Knowing what I know now gives me 100% probability of the past. It's a bit complicated, but there are some mathey computer sciency stuff that relies on it, like belief networks and bayesian computing. You get there from doing causality calculations, and then can graduate into predictive computing, but if you apply that on a solved space, the prediction gives you an action that is 100% probable to produce success.

A good example of this is an AI agent that plays tic-tac-toe. It can be programmed as such to never lose, based on a belief network, you actually have a 100% probability of not losing before the match started.

The math is pretty solid, but we can't do predictive analytics because there is nothing that exists that "solves" the human condition or environment.

MgS said...

One in a million is a cake-walk, my friend, when it comes to the universe popping into place.

The systems I work on a fairly large, and at the very least moderately complex in nature, but still comparatively trivial alongside the world and universe in which we exist.

I have seen events happen in that microcosm where the probability is about "1 in a million executions", and based on the system in question, the problem manifested almost like clockwork around the "millionth execution" of that code. (oh yes, these are very real-world systems with massive numbers of inputs which the computer has no control over, not closed deterministic systems)

If, in such a finite circumstance, extremely rare probability can manifest, then in the context of something much less bounded by the limits of human invention, it is hardly unreasonable to expect the extremely rare to manifest.

With respect to what Lore_Weaver is asserting, I'd suggest spending some time reading either Greene's "The Elegant Universe" or Parallel Worlds by Kaku - both books do a very good job of discussing how Relativity plays into modern day physics - and in particular Kaku does a very good job of describing some of the more recent understandings of time that have emerged.

RkBall said...

When you say, "time isn't linear", are you referring to:

1. time varying based on the spatial reference frame of the observer, or,

2. time dilation, or, ??

Let me ask you this: is time a material or immaterial entity?

RkBall said...

"Knowing what I know now gives me 100% probability of the past.... You get there from doing causality calculations, and then can graduate into predictive computing, but if you apply that on a solved space, the prediction gives you an action that is 100% probable to produce success.

1. It would be difficult doing a causality calculation on an uncaused Big Bang.

2. We are not talking about probability of the past after the event occurs, we are talking about probability calculations before an action is launched.

"A good example of this is an AI agent that plays tic-tac-toe. It can be programmed as such to never lose, based on a belief network, you actually have a 100% probability of not losing before the match started."

Thanks for bringing intelligence and design into the discussion again.

How about a tic-tac-toe game where there is no board, there are no players and there are no "rules". Can you predict the outcome of this game in advance?

RkBall said...

Mgs "I have seen events happen in that microcosm where the probability is about "1 in a million executions", "

But, the only physical evidence available to us is that the Big Bang occurred exactly once, and the odds of it "just happening" to set each dial precisely to the point that, collectively, will support life are 'way beyond 1,000,000 to one -- the odds are so remote they are beyond our comprehension.

"If, in such a finite circumstance, extremely rare probability can manifest, then in the context of something much less bounded by the limits of human invention, it is hardly unreasonable to expect the extremely rare to manifest."

There is no "reason" to "expect" the extremely rare to occur in a universe in which neither reason nor expectation played a part in its creation. An ordered universe, like reason and expectation, is totally unexpected and extremely, extremely unlikely -- which is why the multiverse theory has been developed.

You can throw cans of paint at at wall, but, really, what reason do you have to expect that the wall will produce a Mona Lisa? And, it doesn't depend on how many "tries" you get -- the probability remains very, very low.

You just don't get an ordered, intelligent universe (and by that I mean both the laws of physics, mathematics, and human intelligence) from an unintelligent, unordered cause.

Thanks for the suggestions on reading.

Lore_Weaver said...

"1. It would be difficult doing a causality calculation on an uncaused Big Bang."

Kind of tough when there's no time. What happened before time? Well, nothing. Not even an eternity of nothing, because there was no eternity.

Now, imagine nothing, absolutely nothing. That's what there would be without the big bang. In a sense consciousness must be inevitable, because we're here to observe it.

*giggles* AI being designed intelligence. Just because I can design consciousness, doesn't mean consciousness can't occur on it's own through evolution. It did, and we're here to talk about it. Aren't ya glad :D *giggles*

Lore_Weaver said...

"You just don't get an ordered, intelligent universe (and by that I mean both the laws of physics, mathematics, and human intelligence) from an unintelligent, unordered cause."

Do, and did! :D

This text is 100% true, 'cause I said :D (sorta like the Bible)

RkBall said...

"Kind of tough when there's no time."

Even Stephen Hawkings does not assert this. The most we can say, from science, is we have no way of peeking at what's behind the Big Bang.

You have simply no way of knowing what you assert.

"Now, imagine nothing, absolutely nothing. That's what there would be without the big bang."

You can imagine this, but you cannot know this.

"Just because I can design consciousness"

You cannot design consciousness.

RkBall said...

"Time isn't linear".

I still want to understand what you mean by this. I understand the concept of relativistic time, but, you still believe in a past, present, and future, right? And that the past is precedes the present, and the future follows the present, right? That is my understanding of what is meant by linear time.

Perhaps what you mean to say is that time is not a fixed constant, it is relative to the position of the observer/participant.

Lore_Weaver said...

"You cannot design consciousness."

I kinda did :P Building it's a pain though! *giggles*

"Even Stephen Hawkings does not assert this. The most we can say, from science, is we have no way of peeking at what's behind the Big Bang."

Not directly, and I've been misleading you a bit. Time on our side of things ticks away, while inside the singularity time clicks so differently, that neither side (should you be able to send a message) would be able to comprehend the passage of time. Effectively, from our side, time appears to stop at the event horizon.

There's a Neil deGrasse Tyson video somewhere where he talks about "dying in a black hole" that explains this a bit. Give, I think it's chapter 3, of Universe in a Nutshell a second read :D

Been a while since I read that one, and I kind of read it non-linearly, as a tribute to the author.

Lets get back to probabilities.

Before I posted this entry, there was a 50% chance I was going to post it.

After, that chance was exactly 100%

The chance we would've come into existence *IS* exactly one, because it's happened.

The *WAS* is hard to calculate, because we don't know how the rules of the Universe started. It's possible that they fundamentally have to have the values they have (ugh, bad sentence, sorry).

RkBall said...

Lore Weaver last week: "Where in Science does a theory presently say there was nothing?

It NEVER DOES. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT.

The Big Bang wasn't an explosion of nothing, it was like an explosion of space itself."

Lore Weaver this week:

"Now, imagine nothing, absolutely nothing. That's what there would be without the big bang."

* * *

O-K. You've got both sides of the nothing/not nothing issue covered.

Lore_Weaver said...

*giggles*

That's consistent. If you don't get it, you don't understand it.

Look back in time, using Hubble, and see the universe a mere 100,000 years after the big bang. You see evidence for the explosion everywhere, no matter which direction you look. So there was clearly something. That teeny tiny spec of something blew. If it didn't, there would be "nothing". Our universe would be a dense spec of sub-atomic matter. Essentially, and philosophically 'nothing'.

:D

BTW, how do you explain Microwave Background Radiation, if you don't believe in the "Big Bang"?

(BTW, how old do you believe the Earth is?)

RkBall said...

Why should I doubt the Big Bang? It provides exquisite evidence for a beginning, and a First Cause of exquisite intelligence and power.

But, remember. Scientists cannot observe the past. The Big Bang is a mathematical equation, and I'm not sure that a singularity of infinite density and smallness is even possible -- certainly the laws of physics break down within it. So the singularity may be nothing more than a mathematical calculation that has no correspondence in reality, and, in fact there was nothing prior to the Bang.

In discovering the Big Bang, it's like scientists climbed up over a big hill, and found a band of theologians who had been there for thousands of years.

By stating that there was nothing in one post and not nothing in another, I question the sincerity of your exchanges with me. I suspect you think you are just having fun at my expense.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"