All posts by Wintery Knight

https://winteryknight.com/

Luke Barnes on the fine-tuning of the strong force and fine structure constant

By now, anyone who has had discussions about scientific evidence for the existence of God knows about the fine-tuning argument. In a nutshell, if the fundamental constants and quantities given in the Big Bang were even slightly other than they are, then the universe itself would not be hospitable for complex, embodied intelligent life.

Here is an article from The New Atlantis written by Australian cosmologist Luke Barnes.

Excerpt:

Today, our deepest understanding of the laws of nature is summarized in a set of equations. Using these equations, we can make very precise calculations of the most elementary physical phenomena, calculations that are confirmed by experimental evidence. But to make these predictions, we have to plug in some numbers that cannot themselves be calculated but are derived from measurements of some of the most basic features of the physical universe. These numbers specify such crucial quantities as the masses of fundamental particles and the strengths of their mutual interactions. After extensive experiments under all manner of conditions, physicists have found that these numbers appear not to change in different times and places, so they are called the fundamental constants of nature.

[…]A universe that has just small tweaks in the fundamental constants might not have any of the chemical bonds that give us molecules, so say farewell to DNA, and also to rocks, water, and planets. Other tweaks could make the formation of stars or even atoms impossible. And with some values for the physical constants, the universe would have flickered out of existence in a fraction of a second. That the constants are all arranged in what is, mathematically speaking, the very improbable combination that makes our grand, complex, life-bearing universe possible is what physicists mean when they talk about the “fine-tuning” of the universe for life.

Let’s look at an example – the strong force. Not only must the strong force be fine-tuned so we have both hydrogen and helium, but the ratio of the strong force must also be fine-tuned with the fine structure constant.

Barnes writes:

The strong nuclear force, for example, is the glue that holds protons and neutrons together in the nuclei of atoms. If, in a hypothetical universe, it is too weak, then nuclei are not stable and the periodic table disappears again. If it is too strong, then the intense heat of the early universe could convert all hydrogen into helium — meaning that there could be no water, and that 99.97 percent of the 24 million carbon compounds we have discovered would be impossible, too. And, as the chart to the right shows, the forces, like the masses, must be in the right balance. If the electromagnetic force, which is responsible for the attraction and repulsion of charged particles, is too strong or too weak compared to the strong nuclear force, anything from stars to chemical compounds would be impossible.

Here’s the chart he’s referencing:

Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant
Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant

As you can see from the chart, most of the values that the constants could take would make complex, embodied intelligent life impossible.

We need carbon (carbon-based life) because they form the basis of the components of life chemistry, e.g. proteins, sugars, etc. We need hydrogen for water. We need chemical reactions for obvious reasons. We need the light from the stars to support plant and animal life on the surface of a planet. And so on. In almost every case where you change the values of these constants and quantities and ratios from what they are, you will end up with a universe that does not support life. Not just life as we know it, but life of any conceivable kind under these laws of physics. And we don’t have any alternative laws of physics in this universe.

By the way, just to show you how mainstream these examples of fine-tuning are, I thought I would link to a source that you’re all going to be familiar with: The New Scientist.

The fine-tuning of the force of gravity

So here is an article from the New Scientist about a different constant that also has to be fine-tuned for life: the force of gravity.

Excerpt:

The feebleness of gravity is something we should be grateful for. If it were a tiny bit stronger, none of us would be here to scoff at its puny nature.

The moment of the universe‘s birth created both matter and an expanding space-time in which this matter could exist. While gravity pulled the matter together, the expansion of space drew particles of matter apart – and the further apart they drifted, the weaker their mutual attraction became.

It turns out that the struggle between these two was balanced on a knife-edge. If the expansion of space had overwhelmed the pull of gravity in the newborn universe, stars, galaxies and humans would never have been able to form. If, on the other hand, gravity had been much stronger, stars and galaxies might have formed, but they would have quickly collapsed in on themselves and each other. What’s more, the gravitational distortion of space-time would have folded up the universe in a big crunch. Our cosmic history could have been over by now.

Only the middle ground, where the expansion and the gravitational strength balance to within 1 part in 1015 at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

Notice how the article also mentioned “the universe’s birth”, which is part of mainstream science.

When I’m writing to you about things like the origin of the universe, or the cosmic fine-tuning, I’m not talking to you about things that pastors found in the Bible. These discoveries are known and accepted by mainstream scientists. It’s amazing that people are constructing their worldviews without having to account for the birth of the universe and this cosmic fine-tuning. We all, as rational individuals, have to bound our view of the universe with the findings of science. Right now, those findings support the existence of a Creator and a Designer. So why am I seeing so many atheists who are just plain ignorant about these facts? Maybe we should tell them about this evidence. Maybe we should ask them why they don’t account for scientific evidence when forming their beliefs.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

William Lane Craig lectures on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let's take a look at the facts
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: let’s take a look at the facts

Here is Dr. William Lane Craig giving a long-form argument for the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus, and taking questions from the audience.

The speaker introduction goes for 6 minutes, then Dr. Craig speaks for 35 minutes, then it’s a period of questions and answers with the audience. The total length is 93 minutes, so quite a long period of Q&A. The questions in the Q&A period are quite good.

Introduction:

  • Many people who are willing to accept God’s existence are not willing to accept the God of Christianity
  • Christians need to be ready to show that Jesus rose from the dead as a historical event
  • Private faith is fine for individuals, but when dealing with the public you have to have evidence
  • When making the case, you cannot assume that your audience accepts the Bible as inerrant
  • You must use the New Testament like any other ancient historical document
  • Most historians, Christian and not, accept the basic minimal facts supporting the resurrection of Jesus

Fact #1: the burial of Jesus following his crucifixion

  • Fact #1 is supported by the early creed found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15)
  • Fact #1 is supported by the early Passion narrative which was a source for Mark’s gospel
  • Fact #1 passes the criterion of enemy attestation, since it praises one of the Sanhedrin
  • Fact #1 is not opposed by any competing burial narratives

Fact #2: on the Sunday following his crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by some women

  • Fact #2 is supported by the early Passion narrative which was a source for Mark’s gospel
  • Fact #2 is implied by the early creed found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15)
  • Fact #2 is simple and lacks legendary embellishment, which argues for an early dating
  • Fact #2 passes the criterion of embarrassment, because it has female, not male, witnesses
  • Fact #2 passes the criterion of enemy attestation, since it is reported by the Jewish leaders

Fact #3: Jesus appeared to various people in various circumstances after his death

  • Fact #3 is supported by the early creed found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15)
  • Fact #3 is supported by multiple, independent reports of the events from all four gospels
  • Fact #3 explains other historical facts, like the conversion of Jesus’ skeptical brother James

Fact #4: the earliest Christians proclaimed their belief in the resurrection of Jesus

  • Fact #4 explains why the earliest Christians continued to identify Jesus as the Messiah
  • Fact #4 explains why the earliest Christians were suddenly so unconcerned about being killed

Dr. Craig then asks which hypothesis explains all four of these facts. He surveys a number of naturalistic hypotheses, such as the hallucination theory or various conspiracy theories. All of these theories deny one or more of the minimal facts that have been established and accepted by the broad spectrum of historians. In order to reject the resurrection hypothesis, a skeptic would have to deny one of the four facts or propose an explanation that explains those facts better than the resurrection hypothesis.

I listened to the Q&A period while doing housekeeping and I heard lots of good questions. Dr. Craig gives very long answers to the questions. One person asked why we should trust the claim that the Jewish leaders really did say that the disciples stole the body. Another one asked why we should take the resurrection as proof that Jesus was divine. Another asks about the earthquake in Matthewand whether it is intended to be historical or apocalyptic imagery. Dr. Craig is also asked about the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes, and how many of the minimal facts he accepts. Another questioner asked about the ascension.

If you are looking for a good book to read on this topic, the best introductory book on the resurrection is “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” and the best comprehensive book is “The Resurrection of Jesus“.

What can we learn about communist leaders from the record of history?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

The Democrats are running a lot of communist candidates in the 2020 election, so I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at what communist leaders have done in history. First, let’s see how the atheistic worldview of communist leaders affected religious people.

Here is what Josef Stalin did during his rule of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Library of Congress offers this in their “Soviet Archives exhibit”:

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.

The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. By 1939 only about 500 of over 50,000 churches remained open.

What’s the attitude of Democrat candidates to Bible-believing Christians? My read is that they think that Christian values need to be suppressed by the government lest they offend Democrat voters, who seem to be very easily offended these days. You can already see their animus towards Christians in their Equality Act, which eradicates conscience rights in order to protect (some) LGBT people from feeling offended.

The Ukraine Famine

Take a look at this UK Daily Mail article about Josef Stalin.

Excerpt:

Now, 75 years after one of the great forgotten crimes of modern times, Stalin’s man-made famine of 1932/3, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine is asking the world to classify it as a genocide.

The Ukrainians call it the Holodomor – the Hunger.

Millions starved as Soviet troops and secret policemen raided their villages, stole the harvest and all the food in villagers’ homes.

They dropped dead in the streets, lay dying and rotting in their houses, and some women became so desperate for food that they ate their own children.

If they managed to fend off starvation, they were deported and shot in their hundreds of thousands.

So terrible was the famine that Igor Yukhnovsky, director of the Institute of National Memory, the Ukrainian institution researching the Holodomor, believes as many as nine million may have died.

[…]Between four and five million died in Ukraine, a million died in Kazakhstan and another million in the north Caucasus and the Volga.

By 1933, 5.7 million households – somewhere between ten million and 15 million people – had vanished. They had been deported, shot or died of starvation.

The Holodomor is just one of the atrocities committed by Soviet Union communists. You may also have heard that they operated a system of labor camps for dissidents that killed millions more. The total number of people killed by Stalin is estimated at 20 to 40 million.

Stalin actually wasn’t very good at mass murder compared to another communist, Mao Zedong.

Can you name the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century? No, it wasn’t Hitler or Stalin. It was Mao Zedong.

According to the authoritative “Black Book of Communism,” an estimated 65 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s repeated, merciless attempts to create a new “socialist” China. Anyone who got in his way was done away with — by execution, imprisonment or forced famine.

For Mao, the No. 1 enemy was the intellectual. The so-called Great Helmsman reveled in his blood-letting, boasting, “What’s so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the China Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars.” Mao was referring to a major “accomplishment” of the Great Cultural Revolution, which from 1966-1976 transformed China into a great House of Fear.

The most inhumane example of Mao’s contempt for human life came when he ordered the collectivization of China’s agriculture under the ironic slogan, the “Great Leap Forward.” A deadly combination of lies about grain production, disastrous farming methods (profitable tea plantations, for example, were turned into rice fields), and misdistribution of food produced the worse famine in human history.

Deaths from hunger reached more than 50 percent in some Chinese villages. The total number of dead from 1959 to 1961 was between 30 million and 40 million — the population of California.

[…]Mao kept expanding the laogai, a system of 1,000 forced labor camps throughout China. Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in labor camps, has estimated that from the 1950s through the 1980s, 50 million Chinese passed through the Chinese version of the Soviet gulag. Twenty million died as a result of the primitive living conditions and 14-hour work days.

Whenever I bring up the historical record of communism to Democrats, they always tell me that their leaders have good intentions. But the communist leaders of the past aren’t any different from the communist leaders of today. Communist leaders all start out with noble ambitions of wanting to help the poor. The problem is that they don’t know anything about economics, so whatever they try doesn’t work. Communist policies like nationalizing private industries, printing money, purging wealthy people, imposing tariffs, and imposing price controls cause enormous poverty. And then they need someone to blame for their failure to produce the results they promise.

If we were serious about helping the poor, then we would elect leaders who had experience lifting the poor out of poverty. A business leader or a governor of a state. It’s not a popularity contest. We need to choose someone who has already had success at helping the poor. And the best way to help the poor is by helping them to find work so they can earn their own success and chart their own course. After all it’s not words that affect our lives. Or the feelings we have about words we like. What affects our lives is policies that produce results. Intentions and rhetoric don’t matter, ultimately.

How brief was the period in which the Cambrian phyla suddenly appeared?

Cambrian Explosion
Cambrian Explosion

The Cambrian explosion refers to the sudden appearance of new body plans in the fossil record. ID proponents think that the period is between 5-10 million years at the most. Naturalists want to stretch out the period in which the body plans appear to tens of millions of years. The two sides can’t both be right. What’s the truth?

Evolution News has the answer.

Excerpt:

To establish the length of the most explosive period of innovation within the Cambrian explosion itself, Meyer cites the work of MIT geochronologist Samuel Bowring and his colleagues as well the work of another group led by Smithsonian paleontologist Douglas Erwin. The Bowring-led study showed that (in their words) “the main period of exponential diversification” within the Cambrian lasted “only 5-6 million years” (emphasis added). Meyer explains:

An analysis by MIT geochronologist Samuel Bowring has shown that the main pulse of Cambrian morphological innovation occurred in a sedimentary sequence spanning no more than 6 million years. Yet during this time representatives of at least sixteen completely novel phyla and about thirty classes first appeared in the rock record. In a more recent paper using a slightly different dating scheme, Douglas Erwin and colleagues similarly show that thirteen new phyla appear in a roughly 6-million-year window. (p. 73)

[…][T]ake a look first at the following figure that Bowring and his colleagues included in their definitive 1993 article, published in the journal Science. They use radiometric methods to date the different stages of the Cambrian period, including the crucial Tommotian and Atdabanian stages in which the greatest number of new animal phyla and classes arise. Note that the so-called Manykaian stage of the Cambrian period lasts about 10-14 million years. Note also that the main pulse of morphological innovation didn’t begin during this stage but rather during the Tommotian and Atdabanian — a period that they describe as taking between “5 to 10 million years,” and in a more detailed passage as taking about 5-6 million years.

[…]In the figure above, the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages of the Cambrian period together span only about 5 million years, starting at about 530 and ending about 525 million years ago. Bowring’s figure also depicts the total number of classes and orders present at any given time during the Cambrian period. The biggest increases in morphological innovation occur during the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages. Indeed, during this period the number of known orders nearly quadruples. Moreover, Bowring and his colleagues also make clear that this period corresponds to the main pulse of Cambrian morphological innovation as measured by the number of new phyla and classes that first appear. They note that, while a few groups of animals do arise in the earliest Manykaian stage of the Cambrian, the most rapid period of “exponential increase of diversification,” corresponding to the Tommotian and Atdabanian stages, “lasted only 5 to 6 m.y.”

You can see the figure they are reference in the Evolution News article.

Also, check out these clips that explain the Cambrian explosion:

Part 1:

Part 2:

The first clip features James Valentine, a professor of biology at the University of California who just co-authored a new book on the Cambrian explosion and is not a proponent of intelligent design.

The consensus among scientists regarding the period of time in which the new body plans appear is 5-6 million years. Biologically speaking, that’s a blink of an eye. You aren’t going that kind of complexity and innovation in such a short period of time any more than you can expect to win the lottery by buying 5-6 million tickets when the odds of winning are 1 in a googol (10 to the 100th power – 1, followed by 100 zeroes). You don’t have enough lottery tickets to make winning the lottery likely. Similarly, 5-6 million years is not enough time for naturalistic mechanisms to code brand new body plans from scratch. It would be like trying to research and write a Ph.D thesis during a single lunch hour. It’s just not enough time to produce the amount of information that’s required.

Is Tim Keller right to say that New York City brings the gospel to Christians?

Can New York City can teach Christians about the gospel?
Can New York City teach Christians about the gospel?

(Source)

Here is a short guest post from my friend the software engineer.

Tim Keller dusted off an old pearl of wisdom of his and re-posted it on twitter. I discovered it on Facebook as many of my friends were making fun of it. One Twitter user remarked:

I think it’s been three years since the last time you tweeted this. I predict no misunderstanding this time.

To which Keller responded:

It happens every time. Hard to understand this–unless you realize how much the city can teach us and how much we learn about Christ through common grace, other Christians, the humbling that happens here. Oh well.

I can conjure up in my mind a way for this to not be meaningless tripe. It could be that Keller has in mind the number of ways men made in the image of god remind him of god’s grace and represent an opportunity to live out the sacrifice Jesus called us to.

But I have a hard time believing it doesn’t mean something else. That Keller has in mind here that we should allow the city and its emergent values to exert undue influence over us. I have a hard time believing this because I don’t see Keller’s church actively changing the culture around them and thereby setting an example for the rest of us to follow.

I would further submit that one of the reasons Tim Keller’s church has not been successful in changing the city is that they are too busy succumbing to the social justice influences that are popular today.

Why don’t people take churches like Keller’s seriously anymore? Perhaps it’s precisely because those churches have, as Keller tweeted, allowed the city to bring them the gospel.


OK That’s it for my friend’s post. I was supposed to add two of my beefs with Tim Keller. The first one is that he’s far left on questions of origins.

Here’s an article from Creation.com. I am not a young Earth creationist, I’m an old Earth creationist. Still, my YEC software engineer friend (a different software engineer) tells me that they are the best and largest YEC site.

They say:

Timothy Keller, author of The Reason for God (see our review), recently authored a paper for the theistic evolutionary organization Biologos (see Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos) titled “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (read the entire paper here). In this paper, he wrestles with how to present science to Christian laypeople in such a way that evolution and the Bible seem compatible.

[…]Keller devotes several pages to showing that believing that evolution happened as a biological process does not necessarily mean that one has to embrace the “Grand Theory of Evolution” involving naturalism and social Darwinism.

The young Earth creationists are concerned that evolution is not what God described in the Bible. Old Earth creationists think it’s worse than that. Not only does evolution not agree with the Bible, it doesn’t agree with good science either. The problem with Keller is his disagreement with what mainstream science shows about the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, irreducible complexity, etc.

But that’s not the only problem with Tim Keller.

Here is what he says about a statement signed by conservative Christians disagreeing with “social justice”:

A controversial statement signed by more than 9,000 evangelicals and Christian organizations deploring social justice as a dangerous concept to the Gospel, belittles Christians who talk about race and justice, says Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

[…]The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel was released early this month with initial signers including John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, who recently denounced evangelicalism’s “newfound obsession” with social justice.

Among other things, the statement notes that: “Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice.’

If you want to know what Tim Keller really thinks about moral issues, you can read his opinion / editorial in the far-left New York Times, where he has nothing to say about the traditional teachings of the Christian worldview (voluntary charity, chastity, pro-life, natural marriage, not coveting your neighbor’s wealth, limited government, people defined by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin).

Moderate conservative Doug Wilson notes:

So get the vantage of two hundred years from now, and have a doctoral student in American history examine Keller’s op-ed piece for any reference at all to abortion, or to the fact that Planned Parenthood, subsidized by our tax dollars, sells baby parts. It is not there.

[…]So why didn’t more churches apply what the Bible requires of slave-owners two hundred years ago? The answer is that back then it would have taken courage to do so, just as it would take courage today for Keller to denounce Planned Parenthood in The New York Times.

Keller does denounce sins in this piece. But he is still being careful because the sins he denounces are safe sins to denounce—we know this because they are all the sins that the secular world routinely uses to denounce the conservative Christian world. There is the sin of not working for “better public schools,” or not working for a “justice system weighted against the poor,” or “to end racial segregation,” or failing to “lift up the poor.” It is as though we found John the Baptist chiding the Israelites for failing to see the moral imperatives contained within Herod’s economic stimulus programs.

And that’s because the readers of the New York Times, and the residents of the city of New York are pro-abortion (which is the equivalent of slavery in our modern times).  In fact, New York is pro-infanticide – they have a law that allows infanticide. And this did not deserve a mention from Tim Keller in his New York Times editorial. Perhaps he thinks that infanticide is one of the things that New York city has to teach traditional Christians about the gospel.