Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: Monkeying-Around


Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist)

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” (h/t y-origins.com)

* * *

Hoyle, an atheist at the time, reached this conclusion while studying the nuclear reaction required to make carbon, one which required a very specific energy to work.

The discovery reportedly left him "greatly shaken."

14 comments:

Balbulican said...

Did you know that if you toss a dart at the earth from space, the odds against it landing on any given square millimeter are approximately 510,065,600,000,000,000,000 to one?

And yet it will most assuredly land on one of those square millimeters.

Pointing out the improbability of the outcome of a series of random and complex events doesn't really mean anything, I'm afraid. ANY given outcome is nearly impossible: and yet somehow an outcome is achieved.

RkBall said...

Incoming...

Balbulican - you posit implicitly the weak anthropic principle*, which, for it to have any substance as legitimate argument, requires accepting an "infinite number of universes" hypothesis. There is no evidential or logical requirement for a "many words" solution - it is purely philosophical.

Your argument is invalid.

*WAP - existence is its own argument; that things ARE, is sufficient evidence for their uncritical acceptance.

Regards,

Tenebris

RkBall said...

Balbulican,

Your logic is faulty. If the ocean washes against the seashore, it is entirely likely that it will leave some kind of markings on the sand on the beach. What is improbable is that it will create a sandcastle city.

To help fix your analogy, imagine you have eight different darts, each a distinct color, and eight correspondingly colored squares in the universe, one inch square. The eight darts are thrown blind-folded and with no aim (if you will excuse the pun).

There's a 100% probability, assuming the universe consists entirely of one-inch squares, that the darts will hit "something"; the odds of them hitting the right-colored "just-so" squares, astronomically low.

And that is the evidence that is now staring scientists in the face.

Balbulican said...

I'm afraid your grabbing the point from exactly the wrong end. Let me help you.

Your argument can be summarized as follows: "I observe the current state of the universe. I conclude that the odds of a universe having precisely this configuration as the consequence of undirected events are inconceivable remote. Ergo, direction, purpose, divinity."

You are assuming that we occupy some kind of desired state that could not have been achieved by chance. That's wrong for two reasons. It COULD have been achieved by chance (and in fact, many of us believe that it was.) The improbability of it is of precisely the same order as the improbability of any other outcome as a output of the same number of random events.

And yes, given enough sand, time and waves, you WILL see a sandcastle city. Not to mention a self-replicating molecule.

RkBall said...

"And yes, given enough sand, time and waves, you WILL see a sandcastle city"

A rational mind, when coming across a sandcastle city, will rationally conclude that it was the product of intelligence and design.

The fact that your position necessitates that you believe that time and waves could and will create a sandcastle city confirms the weakness of your position and its roots in irrational skepticism.

Balbulican said...

I understand how difficult it is to grasp probabilities when dealing with numbers of this magnitude. That incapacity may very well be inherent in our species; our awareness (gained, of course, through science) of such concepts as Deep Time and the staggering size of the universe is relatively new.

So I sympathize. But you are aware, I hope, that dozens of mathematical models illustrate a very comfortable margin allowing for the formation of an oxygen based planet and the evolution of organisms just like us?

And you do understand, don't you, my previous point about the irrelevance of looking BACKWARD at one specific outcome and declaring its improbability, given that ANY potential outcome is equally improbable, but that one WILL be achieved nonetheless?

RkBall said...

"And you do understand, don't you, my previous point about the irrelevance of looking BACKWARD at one specific outcome and declaring its improbability, given that ANY potential outcome is equally improbable, but that one WILL be achieved nonetheless?"

Yes, and I also understand the fallaciousness of it. Lots of sand on seashore. Lots of wave patterns left by the tides. Still no sandcastles.

RkBall said...

"ANY potential outcome is equally improbable"

If 1 trillion billion outcomes will result in a void, and one dozen will result in life, are the chances for life and non-life equal, or is non-life more likely?

And, how many chances do you think the universe got before it got lucky, or was it one lucky shot?

Balbulican said...

"Yes, and I also understand the fallaciousness of it. Lots of sand on seashore. Lots of wave patterns left by the tides. Still no sandcastles."

Nope. You still don't quite get the point.

If you defined a "sandcastle" as a structure with specific features that COULD be produced through the action natural phenomena, then permit enough time, sand, wind and waves, you WILL find a sandcastle on one of those billion beaches on one of those millions of planets, just as you find thousands of "Indian Head Rocks" on cliff faces around the world. Sorry, but the random production of a silhouette consisting of a certain number of planes and surfaces, in a face-lake relationship with each other, is not only NOT proof of divine agency...it's statistically inevitable.

"If 1 trillion billion outcomes will result in a void, and one dozen will result in life, are the chances for life and non-life equal, or is non-life more likely?"

The chances for non-life are vastly more likely. And just as those odds predict, we find non-life (to the extent we can tell) on most of the planets, asteroids, moons and other bodies in our solar system.

Not sure what your point is.

"And, how many chances do you think the universe got before it got lucky, or was it one lucky shot?"

I have no idea. There are, as I noted, literally dozens of mathematical models that try to assess the probability of life emerging, but of course, they're just models. And I personally don't know how many times the universe got "lucky" - i.e., what other lives are out there.

RkBall said...

Hi Balbulican,

"The chances for non-life are vastly more likely. And just as those odds predict, we find non-life (to the extent we can tell) on most of the planets, asteroids, moons and other bodies in our solar system.

Not sure what your point is."

We've been arguing at cross-purposes, at least a bit.

I've been arguing, not against the chance possibility of life popping into place in our universe, but against the probability of a life-supporting universe such as ours popping into place by pure chance -- that's the luck I was referring to.

I assumed that you believed in some kind of multiverse reality, since the odds of a universe like ours that supports life just popping into place are astronomically small -- the odds against it happening by an uncaused, undirected, chance explosion are astronomically huge, beyond our comprehension, really.

It is this observation that is causing current defections from the atheist to the theist camps; one of most notable recent ones being Anthony Flew, a leading philosopher and atheist apologist for over 50 years.

Another is the scientist Fred Hoyle, the source of this post's quote.

I will look forward to hearing from you again -- I'm planning a daily quote for the next several days.

Balbulican said...

"I assumed that you believed in some kind of multiverse reality, since the odds of a universe like ours that supports life just popping into place are astronomically small."

Nope - as noted above, there are several mathematical models that provide a comfortable window of likelihood for the emergence of our universe. There's no need to assume a multiverse - or a God.

Yup, the odds are astronomically small. However, the playing field is cosmoligically big, with the potential outcomes nearly infinite.

And since Fred Hoyle has been dead for several years, and argued against Darwinism in the seventies, I don't think I'll worry too much about the "current defection" from atheist to theist camps.

RkBall said...

"Yup, the odds are astronomically small. However, the playing field is cosmoligically big, with the potential outcomes nearly infinite."

It is because the potential outcomes are nearly infinite that the one-shot chance of a universe popping into place that supports life are so astronomically small - and this is what is causing defections to the theist camp.

Just take one factor -- the Big Bang -- the odds are astronomically in favor of an undirected Big Bang causing the universe to either explode out or in on itself; the range that will allow things to proceed is extremely small. And that's just one factor. There are many like it.

Balbulican said...

"It is because the potential outcomes are nearly infinite that the one-shot chance of a universe popping into place that supports life are so astronomically small - and this is what is causing defections to the theist camp."

Sigh. Once again, the odds against any specific set of parameters emerging in a random universe are astronomically small. And yet one of them WILL be the outcome.

As for "defections to the theist camp"...heh. Review the numbers of atheism over a longer term, my son...let's say a century. Sorry...the defections are running the other direction.

RkBall said...

"Once again, the odds against any specific set of parameters emerging in a random universe are astronomically small. And yet one of them WILL be the outcome."

You have greater problems than this. First, the Big Bang was a one-off, not directly observable by science, and not subject to experiment. What scientific foundation is there for saying that it was, as a fact of science, random? There is none. It is a philosophical assumption, based on an apriori commitment to materialism.

Secondly, you combine this hypothetical randomness with the universe itself. By analogy, it is like you are saying, given a board game and some dice, and a dice-thrower (except you deny the dice-thrower, so let's say the dice are self-throwing), some outcome is inevitable.

Some. Outcome. Is. Inevitable.

Except, it isn't.

Try this. There's no game board, and there's no dice.

Now what are the odds?

"As for "defections to the theist camp"..."

I agree that many have lost their faith due to darwinism -- I'll talk more about that later.

But my point here is the fine-tuning of the universe. I do not know of a single theist or Christian who has stared the fine-tuning numbers in the face and abandoned belief in God. So far I have quoted two prominent and committed former-atheists who looked at the numbers in front of them and concluded that there was an intelligence behind them.

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