All posts by Wintery Knight

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The production of carbon from lighter elements is fine-tuned to an amazing degree

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

If there is one thing that science fiction is good for, it’s for popularizing the phrase “carbon-based life”. Everyone has heard that carbon is essential for life. But do you know why carbon is so important? And did you know that the reaction that produced the carbon in our universe is actually fine-tuned, and therefore evidence for a Creator and Designer of the universe?

Hugh Ross has a new article up in Salvo magazine, which I found thanks to a post at Uncommon Descent.

Now he starts off with a discussion of how the mass density of the universe needed to be fine-tuned in order to produce elements heavier than hydrogen from the (only) hydrogen that was present at the creation event. I’ve talked about that reaction previously, but I won’t repeat that here. Nucleosynthesis is one of the most important chemical reactions in science, and something every Christian should know and understand well enough to explain it.

You can’t make complex embodied intelligent creatures such as ourselves out of only hydrogen and helium, but you can’t make a life permitting universe without some hydrogen and helium. For one thing, you can’t have liquid water without some hydrogen.

But the element carbon is the center hub of all of the molecules inside of us that allow for the storage and processing of information necessary for life.  And it turns out that the reaction that creates carbon from elements lighter than carbon is fine-tuned to an amazing degree.

Excerpt:

But cosmic mass density is not the only thing that must have been exquisitely fine-tuned for the universe to contain any carbon. The nuclear resonance (or energy) levels for helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen also had to be exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon to exist. Here’s how that happens.

Stars fuse carbon and oxygen from helium through a series of reactions known as the triple-alpha process, in which three helium nuclei are combined to make one carbon nucleus. In the first step in this process, two helium nuclei (with 2 protons each) fuse together to make beryllium (which has 4 protons). Next, a helium nucleus fuses with a beryllium nucleus to make carbon (which has 6 protons). Then, some carbon nuclei fuse with helium nuclei to make oxygen (which has 8 protons).

The only reason that the triple-alpha process produces any carbon or oxygen at all is because in the first step, the ground state energy level (i.e., the state of an atom when all of its electrons are at their lowest energy levels) of the beryllium-8 nucleus (containing 4 protons and 4 neutrons) almost exactly equals the ground state energy level of two helium-4 nuclei (2 protons and 2 neutrons each). In the second step, the ground state energy level of a beryllium-8 nucleus plus a helium-4 nucleus almost exactly equals the energy level of an excited state of a carbon-12 nucleus (6 protons and 6 neutrons). In the third step, the ground state energy level of a carbon-12 nucleus at 7.65 million electron volts is just slightly larger than the ground state energy level of an oxygen-16 nucleus (8 protons and 8 neutrons) at 7.12 million electron volts.1

If it were not for the near equivalences or resonances of the nuclear energy levels of two helium nuclei relative to a beryllium nucleus, and of a beryllium nucleus plus a helium nucleus relative to a carbon nucleus, the universe would contain very little or no carbon and very little or no elements heavier than carbon. Life would be impossible.

Furthermore, unless the difference in the nuclear energy levels between a carbon nucleus and an oxygen nucleus were precisely 0.53 million electron volts, the universe would contain either a lot of carbon and no oxygen or a lot of oxygen and no carbon. Either way, physical life would be impossible in the universe.

In the early 1950s, astronomer Fred Hoyle and physicist Willy Fowler were the first to understand how critical the relative nuclear energy levels of helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen were for making life possible in the universe. Commenting on the highly fine-tuned nature of these nuclear energy levels, Hoyle wrote in an article he published in Engineering & Science,

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the 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 beyond question.2

The article continues to explain that there is an additional problem of carbon fine-tuning related to habitability.

The carbon formation problem is one of the best examples of fine-tuning, and as you can see, it’s even admitted by atheists. It’s not the easiest one to explain (because resonance levels are not familiar in every day life), but it’s worth knowing about all three of the fine-tuning topics in the post.

Keep in mind that the more science has made progress, the more fine-tuning problems we have discovered. The trend is very bad if you are a naturalist. But very good if you are a theist. Evidence matters, and scientific evidence is the best kind of evidence.

UK’s government-run NHS healthcare system wants to kill a child against parents’ wishes

Every day in the UK, the government-run health care system kills patients so they can pay their unionized work force lavish salaries and benefits. As with any government-run system, waste and inefficiency is rampant. Far-left politicians spend taxpayer money on elective / cosmetic treatment and call it “health care” in order to buy votes from the reckless and irresponsible voters.

You can get sex-reassignment surgery, breast enlargements, in-vitro fertilization, etc. for free, but if you get cancer, they’ll put you on a waiting list until you die. All the better to give themselves 30-year pensions at taxpayer expense.

Here’s a story from the Daily Wire that shows how things work when secular leftists run health care:

Parents are fighting to keep their two-year-old daughter alive after a United Kingdom judge ruled in May against the family, stating it’s in the girl’s “best interests” to allow the hospital to remove her life support.

The parents of Alta Fixsler, 2, contend that their Jewish faith bars them from allowing the hospital to remove their baby from life support and that they are trying to have Alta relocated to a hospital in Israel or the U.S. at no charge to the government-run National Health Service (NHS).

“There is no reason to kill my daughter like this,” the baby’s American father Abraham Fixsler told the New York Post.

The Jerusalem Post reported on the case, Sunday:

Alta Fixsler is a two-year-old girl who was born prematurely and sustained a severe brain injury. She and her parents are Israeli citizens and hassidic Jews. The hospital decided that Alta was “experiencing pain” and has no quality of life and therefore petitioned the British High Court for permission to remove her life support. Numerous pediatric neurologists contest the hospital’s position and insist that Alta does not feel pain. Still, the court gave the hospital the unilateral decision-making power over the girl’s life.

Motivated by the Jewish outlook on the unconditional worthiness of every human life, Alta’s parents have made every effort to save her life and vigorously oppose the hospital’s intentions. Removing life support is prohibited by Alta’s Jewish religion, and is against Israeli Law.

Hospitals in Israel and the U.S. have offered to take Alta into their care, the report noted. United Hatzalah Air, too, has offered to fly the baby to any destination needed without charge.

“The life-saving effort would not cost the UK National Health Service a penny, yet in scenario that can only be described as Kafkaesque, the doctors in the UK are not willing to release the child to the parents’ family, determined to kill the child instead,” The Jerusalem Post argued. “The entreaties of dozens of politicians, hundreds of clergymen, and numerous human rights activists from around the globe have fallen on deaf ears.”

“There are a lot of places around the world where I can take care of my daughter and they would be happy to take care of her long term,” 28-year-old Fixsler said. “Let me go. That’s all I am saying.”

“The doctors don’t think she has quality of life. But I think she has quality of life,” the father argued. “This is something very, very painful.”

Family spokesman Yossi Gestetner told the New York Post, “Our value of life is built into our religious upbringing. Orthodox Judaism encourages the continuation of life until all means are exhausted.”

This sort of thing happens all the time in the UK, and if anyone speaks out about it, the police are there to monitor their dissenting speech, and take action.

UK Police enforces the decrees of the government-run NHS
UK Police enforces the decrees of the government-run NHS

Remember the Alfie Evans story from a few months ago? They would not release a sick child back to the parents, but instead chose to guard the hospital with armed police to keep the parents out.

The NHS killed the (born) child through asphyxiationstarvation and dehydration. And it was done against the will of the parents.

The parents wanted the child back so that they can take the child to a country that has modern private-sector healthcare facilities and skilled, moral medical personnel. Italy volunteered to provide these things, and has even sent an air ambulance to transport the child. But the NHS insteadkilled the child, because they have decreed that the child is unfit to live, i.e. – “life unworthy of life“. This is not surprising, as the NHS also kills millions of unborn children as well.

The judge who initially ruled against the parents of little Alfie previously ruled that a patient in a minimally conscious state be starved to death, according to Life Site News. The appeals court judge also ruled against the child because the parents were hostile to the NHS. So, the NHS can’t release the child because his parents are “hostile to the NHS” after the NHS kidnapped and starved their child. This is the kind of legal reasoning that you can expect from the judges in the UK.

Still think that government-run health care is a good idea? It’s never a good idea to pay unionized thugs money up front, and then beg them for goods and services later. Keep your money in your pocket so that you can get what you need when you need it. You cannot trust secular leftists to act morally. There is no rationally-grounded concept of objective morality in the atheistic worldview.

William Lane Craig debates Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: evil, suffering and God

Two bears fight it out, and may the best bear win!
Two bears fight it out, and may the best bear win!

This is one of the top 4 best debates that William Lane Craig has ever done in my opinion. (The other three are Craig-Millican debate and the first and second Craig-Dacey debates). If you’ve never seen Dr. Craig in a debate with a non-Christian, this one is probably the best introductory one out there. Dr. Craig is the foremost defender of Christian theism on the planet, and probably of all time.

Sinnott-Armstrong is very courteous, respectful and intelligent scholar and he is very good at defending his side. This is a very cordial and engaging debate, and because it was held in front of a church audience, it was targeted to laymen and not academics. So if you are looking for a good first debate to watch, this is it! Normally, Dr. Craig debates at major universities in front of students and faculty.

There is also a book based on this debate, published by Oxford University Press. I was actually able to find a PDF of it online. I should also remind people that you can get the wonderful Craig-Hitchens debate DVD from Amazon.com if you are looking for a debate to watch, or show in your church, this is the one to start with.

The debaters:

The format:

  • WSA: 15 minutes
  • WLC: 15 minutes
  • Debaters discussion: 6 minutes
  • Moderated discussion: 10 minutes
  • Audience Q&A: 18 minutes
  • WSA: 5 minutes
  • WLC: 5 minutes

SUMMARY:

WSA opening speech:

Evil is incompatible with the concept of God (three features all-powerful, all-god, all-knowing)

God’s additional attributes: eternal, effective and personal (a person)

He will be debating against the Christian God in this debate, specifically

Contention: no being has all of the three features of the concept of God

His argument: is not a deductive argument, but an inductive/probabilistic argument

Examples of pointless, unjustified suffering: a sick child who dies, earthquakes, famines

The inductive argument from evil:

  1.  If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for some adequately compensating good.
  2.  There is evil in the world.
  3.  Some of that evil is not logically necessary for some adequately compensating good.
  4. Therefore, there can’t be a God who is all-powerful and all-good.

Defining terms:

  • Evil: anything that all rational people avoid for themselves, unless they have some adequate reason to want that evil for themselves (e.g. – pain, disability, death)
  • Adequate reason: some evils do have an adequate reason, like going to the dentist – you avoid a worse evil by having a filling

God could prevent tooth decay with no pain

God can even change the laws of physics in order to make people not suffer

Responses by Christians:

  • Evil as a punishment for sin: but evil is not distributed in accordance with sin, like babies
  • Children who suffer will go straight to Heaven: but it would be better to go to Heaven and not suffer
  • Free will: this response doesn’t account for natural evil, like disease, earthquakes, lightning
  • Character formation theodicy: there are other ways for God to form character, by showing movies
  • Character formation theodicy: it’s not fair to let X suffer so that Y will know God
  • God allows evil to turn people towards him: God would be an egomaniac to do that
  • We are not in a position to know that any particular evil is pointless: if we don’t see a reason then there is no reason
  • Inductive evil is minor compared to the evidences for God: arguments for a Creator do not prove that God is good

WLC opening speech:

Summarizing Walter’s argument

  1. If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
  2. Gratuitous evil exists.
  3. Therefore, God does not exist.

Gratuitous evil means evil that God has no morally sufficient reason to permit. WSA doesn’t think that all evil is incompatible with God’s existence, just gratuitous evil.

Everyone admits that there are instances of evil and suffering such that we cannot see the morally sufficient reason why God would allow it to occur.

The claim of the atheist is that if they cannot see that there is a moral justification for allowing some instance evil, then there is no moral justification for that instance of evil.

Here are three reasons why we should not expect to know the morally sufficient reasons why God permits apparently pointless evil.

  1. the ripple effect: the morally sufficient reason for allowing some instance of evil may only be seen in another place or another time
  2. Three Christian doctrines undermine the claim that specific evils really are gratuitous
  3. Walter’s own premise 1 allows us to argue for God’s existence, which means that evil is not gratuitous

Christian doctrines from 2.:

  • The purpose of life is not happiness, and it is not God’s job to make us happy – we are here to know God. Many evils are gratuitous if we are concerned about being happy, but they are not gratuitous for producing the knowledge of God. What WSA has to show is that God could reduce the amount of suffering in the world while still retaining the same amount of knowledge of God’s existence and character.
  • Man is in rebellion, and many of the evils we see are caused by humans misusing their free will to harm others and cause suffering
  • For those who accept Christ, suffering is redeemed by eternal life with God, which is a benefit that far outweighs any sufferings and evils we experience in our earthly lives

Arguing for God in 3.

  1. If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist.
  2. God exists
  3. Therefore, gratuitous evil does not exist.

Four reasons to think that God exists (premise 2 from above):

  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the fine-tuning argument
  • the moral argument
  • the argument from evil