An experimental particle physicist answers speculations about creation and fine-tuning

I was corresponding with Dr. Michael G. Strauss recently regarding some comments that my previous articles on the kalam, fine-tuning and habitability arguments had drawn. Dr. Strauss is a tenured professor but he also does research on particle physics.

I wanted to draw your attention to a lecture given by Dr. Strauss to the students at Stanford University. In the lecture, he gives 3 arguments from the progress of science that support the conclusion that the universe was created and designed by an intelligent agent of immense power.

I highly recommend this lecture, entitled “Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God”.

Dr. Strauss is not a Christian philosopher or debater – he is a practicing physicist with a stack of publications, who is excited by scientific discoveries that confirm the existence of God.

Here is an outline of the lecture:

What does science tell us about God?
– the discoveries of Copernicus made humans less significant in the universe
– the discoveries of Darwin should that humans are an accident
– but this all pre-modern science
– what do the latest findings of science say about God?

Evidence #1: the origin of the universe
– the steady state model supports atheism, but was disproved by the latest discoveries
– the oscillating model supports atheism, but was disproved by the latest discoveries
– the big bang model supports theism, and it is supported by multiple recent discoveries
– the quantum gravity model supports atheism, but it pure theory and has never been tested or confirmed by experiment and observation

Evidence #2: the fine-tuning of physical constants for life
– there are over 100 examples of constants that must be selected within a narrow range in order for the universe to support the minimal requirements for life
– example: mass density
– example: strong nuclear force (what he studies)
– example: carbon formation

Evidence #3: the fine-tuning of our planet for habitability
– the type of galaxy and our location in it
– our solar system and our star
– our planet
– our moon

What Dr. Strauss thinks about science

As you listen to the lecture, pay close attention to the fact that it is the progress of science that has disproved atheism and given support to theism. Atheism is based on old science. And people who continue to cling to atheism against the new evidence must resort to speculations that are either not testable at all, or not confirmed by experimental testing.

Let’s take a look at two of the speculations that sound scientific, but aren’t confirmed by any research. The first is quantum mechanics (i.e. – vacuum fluctuation model). It argues that the universe is an event without a cause, because there is an unobservable hyper-universe that spawned our universe. The second is a response to the fine-tuning. It argues that there are an infinite number of unobservable universes that are not fine-tuned, and we just happen to be in the fine-tuned one.

Notice that both responses are theoretical speculations that take refuge in unobservable entities in order to escape the good experimental science that proves that there is a Creator and Designer. It’s atheism-of-the-gaps!

Vacuum fluctuation:
– offered as a response to the big bang
– what can QM do: explain how particles appear in a vacuum when the vacuum is sparked
– speculation is that this same process may explain the origin of the universe
– in order to test it, our universe would have to be contained within a larger universe, with similar laws of physics
– but there is no evidence that this unobservable hyper-universe exists

Chaotic inflationary model:
– offered as a response to the fine-tuning
– speculates that inflation may cause other universes to come into being, with different constants
– no experimental verification has been offered
– no evidence of any of these other universes

So, what we have here is a clear cut case of logical arguments and evidence for theism, vs atheist faith and wish-fulfillment. All the data we have today is for theism, but all the untestable speculating is on the part of the atheists, who have faith and hope that the progress of science will overturn what we know and replace it with the what atheists hope for. (And I haven’t even talked about the origin of life and molecular machines, etc.!)

In fact I e-mailed Dr. Strauss about these two speculations, and this was his response:

Wintery Knight,

Quantum mechanics works within the laws of physics. So if you postulate that this universe was created from QM then you must also postulate that a previous universe with similar laws existed previously.

There are a number of theories that would allow multiple universes, though none have any experimental verification. Have you read Jeff’s “Who’s Afraid of a Multiverse?” It is very good.

-Mike

I think that we need to be careful when we explore these issues of faith and science. This is not a game. We need make decisions about what is true today, not hold out hope that some discovery will be made later that validates what we want to believe.

Further study

Dr. Strauss gave a similar lecture more recently at the University of California (Santa Cruz) and in the Q&A, he actually faced questions regarding quantum mechanics and the chaotic inflationary model. You can hear him express his mistrust of theories that haven’t been proven as he urges the audience to go with the evidence, not with the self-serving speculations. Dr. Strauss takes part in a panel discussion on science and religion here.

Also on this topic is the debate between William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Victor Stenger, (audio here). Also, a lecture titled “Beyond the Big Bang”, was delivered at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in front of Victor Stenger and other physicists (audio here). There is a period of Q&A in which Bill must face challengers. These are both available on DVD. More Bill Craig debates are here.

In this published research paper from the journal Astrophysics and Space Science, William Lane Craig responds to the several naturalistic attempts to evade the implications of the kalam argument. Vacuum fluctuation, chatoric inflationary, steady state and quantum gravity models are all addressed.

6 thoughts on “An experimental particle physicist answers speculations about creation and fine-tuning”

  1. Professor Strauss is something of a rare breed: an avowedly Christian physicist. True, Isaac Newton was a Bible believing Christian and the most important physicist ever. But his religious attitudes were very much a product of his era. Throughout the 20th century, there has been a sharp and apparently irreversible shift among scientists toward atheism/agnosticism. Strauss is the exception which proves the rule.

    Some relevant statistics may be found in the recent study, “Religion among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics.” by E. H. Ecklund and C. P. Scheitle, [i]Social Problems[/i] [b]54[/b], 289 (2007). The authors analyzed data from a survey of academic scientists at 21 elite U.S. research universities and compared religious belief and practice of natural and social scientists across disciplines and also to the general population.

    ES found that while 13.6% of the general population identifies as evangelical/fundamentalist, only 1.5% of elite academic scientists do. For mainline Protestants, the numbers are 9.5% (US pop) versus 2.9% (scientists). Only for liberal Protestants are the numbers comparable: 9.9% (US pop) versus 10.8% (scientists).

    For Catholics it is pretty much the same story. 6.9% of the general US population identifies as traditional Catholic, but this group accounts for only 0.7% of elite academic scientists. For moderate Catholics, the figures are 7.4% (US pop) versus 1.7% (scientists). The figures for liberal Catholics recapitulate the relative parity for liberal Protestants: 7.0% (US pop) versus 6.2% (scientists).

    As might be expected, the two groups which are dramatically overrepresented among elite academic scientists are Jews and “no religious affiliation.” Jews account for 1.8% of the US population and 15.3% of elite academic scientists, while the numbers for “no affiliation” are 14.2% (US pop) versus 51.8% (scientists).

    When asked which statement comes closest to expressing what the scientists believe about God, 40.8% of physicists affirmed “I do not believe in God” and 29.4% of physicists affirmed “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out.” Only 6.2% affirmed “I have no doubts about God’s existence.” Among biologists, the percentages affirming these statements were 41.0%, 29.9%, and 7.4%, respectively.

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  2. “True, Isaac Newton was a Bible believing Christian and the most important physicist ever. But his religious attitudes were very much a product of his era.”

    In other word, the Christian era produced the most important physicist ever.

    It’s not surprising that there’re fewer Christian scientists today. Universities (that Christians founded) have been hijacked by atheism.

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  3. “You can hear him express his mistrust of theories that haven’t been proven as he urges the audience to go with the evidence, not with the self-serving speculations.”

    A method highly recommended by a Christian by the name of Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism (scientific method), which is a fundamental to natural philosophy.

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  4. Sam Meyerson, why does any of that matter? Are you just talking to yourself or something? Because none of that has to do with the article. Why don’t you argue against his claims, instead of attacking his character or whatever it is your point is.

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  5. Out of curiosity, if several scientific theories, that as you say, “support atheism” were validated and considered true, would that in your mind be strong proof then that god is not real or would you focus in on something else as proof he does exist?

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  6. @Jerry
    The problem is you are speculating that if , the big IF there are several scientific theories that will support atheism.
    Your problem is to show those several scientific theories not just speculating.

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