Tag Archives: Fine Tuning

MUST-LISTEN: J.P. Moreland lecture on Christianity and science

I found the lectures here at Apologetics 315. These are GOOD. He covers a lot and you’ll get a lot of interesting stuff to think about. This is actually a great lecture – the old J.P. Moreland back in fine form. He’s going over a ton of arguments for theism from science. I’ve counted SIX so far, so this is a really good lecture, and perfect for beginners.

    • The full MP3 audio is here.

      He doesn’t talk about habitability at the galactic, stellar, or planetary level, though.

      I am a little busy mailing out everyone’s gifts today! I apologize for the light blogging. Please go and read just a few chapters of that Dalrymple book that I posted yesterday if you need something to read, or check out these round-ups:

      More from Neil Simpson: Another reason it is hard to stay in the Methodist church

      Neil Simpson is a methodist??? How is that even possible?

      Mailing these gifts will only take a few hours, and then I’m on vacation until January 4th!!! I promise I will write a ton then. I’m also working on an application for the Droid platform, but it’s a secret.

      I’m giving away this stuff to people this year:

      • Unlocking the Mystery of Life DVD
      • Icons of Evolution DVD
      • The Privileged Planet DVD
      • Darwin’s Dilemma DVD
      • Signature in the Cell book
      • The William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate DVD
      • Money, Greed and God book
      • Greer-Heard Forums from 2005 and 2009
      • and other specific things they asked for

      If you guys are giving away apologetics gifts, please write your ideas in the comments. I did gift exchanges with atheists, so now I have atheist books to read! Bleh! I only want to read atheists in debates, because listening to them blab without rebuttal is very annoying.

      Does God exist? Is there any scientific evidence to prove that God exists?

      Since I haven’t talked about science in a while, I thought that now would be a good time to list some of the more common arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe and/or intelligent life. I like to use arguments drawn from mainstream science that do not assume the Bible or inerrancy or anything specifically religious. The arguments below all show that the reality we live in exhibits effects in nature that are not explained by particles in motion, chance and the operation of natural laws.

      First, here’s the list of a few of the better-known arguments:

      The average knuckle-dragging atheist will not be familiar with any of these arguments, will have never seen them used in academic debates, and will not even click through to read about them. That’s atheism these days – it’s non-cognitive. Atheism is all about escaping from moral values and moral obligations, which are not even rationally grounded by atheism.

      The point of being familiar with these arguments is to show that religion and science are virtually identical. Both are trying to explain the external world. Both are bound by the laws of logic. Both use evidence to verify and falsify claims. For example, the discovery of the origin of the universe falsifies Hinduism, Buddhism and Mormonism, but it leaves Christianity, Islam and Judaism unscathed. All religions make truth claims and those claims can be tested against what science tells us about the world.

      What is the significance of scientific progress for Christians?

      Some general points to know when presenting these arguments.

      1. You need to emphasize that atheism is in full flight away from the progress of science. Each of these arguments has gotten stronger as the evidence grew and grew. For example, scientists had to be forced to turn away from the eternal universe as new discoveries arrived, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation measurements. Scientists had to turn away from the view that the cosmological constants are nothing special, as more and more fine-tuned quantities were discovered.

      2. Christians need to pay attention in school and score top grades in mathematics and experimental sciences. Science is God-friendly, and we need to have Christians doing cutting edge research in the best labs at the universities. Think of the work done by Doug Axe at Cambridge University in which he was able to publish research showing that very few sequences of amino acids have biological function, so getting functional sequences at random is virtually impossible. One of Doug’s papers is here. We need more people like him.

      3. Each of these arguments needs to be studied in the context of polemics and debates. The best way to present each of these arguments is by presenting them as a struggle against opposing forces. For example, when talking about the big bang, emphasize how atheists kept trying to come up with eternal universe speculations. When talking about the fine-tuning, talk about the unobservable multiverse. When talking about irreducible complexity, talk about the co-option fallacy. Don’t preach – teach the controversy.

      4. Don’t make lazy excuses about how scientific evidence doesn’t persuade non-Christians. Science is absolutely the core of any argument for Christianity, along with the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Christianity is about knowledge. Christians who refuse to subject their faith to science are probably just trying to make sure that Christianity isn’t so true that it dictates how they should live. They like the uncertainty of blind faith, because it preserves their autonomy to disregard Christian moral teachings when it suits them.

      5. The purpose of linking your Christian faith to scientific arguments is to demonstrate to non-Christians that Christianity is real. It is not a personal preference. It is not something you grew up with. It is not something you inherited from your parents. When you link your Christian faith with scientific facts in the external world, you are declaring to non-Christians that Christianity is testable and binding on everyone who shares the objective reality we live in. You can’t expect people to act Christianly without showing that Christianity is objectively true.

      6. Scientific arguments are tremendously useful even for believing Christians, because sometimes it is difficult to act in a Christian way when your emotions are telling you not to. When your feelings make it hard for you to behave Christianly, that is when scientific evidence can come into play in order to rationally justify acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice. For example, scientific evidence for the existence of God is a helpful counterbalance to the problem of apparently gratuitous evil, which often discourages Christians.

      My complete index of arguments for and against Christian theism is here.

      UPDATE: I notice that in the popular culture, people are not really aware of these arguments, and are still arguing for religious faith based on pragmatism and personal experience, not on evidence. Using reason and evidence is much better, and it’s what the Bible teaches, too.

      Science News reports that habitable planets less common than previously thought

      Story from Science News. (H/T ECM)

      Excerpt:

      According to the most popular formation theory, planets coalesce from a swirling disk of gas and dust that surrounds young stars. Since the disk rotates in the same direction as the star, the planets spawned by the disk should revolve in the same direction. But in an overcrowded planetary system, where a gravitational game of billiards is all but inevitable, orbits can get scrambled. A close encounter between planetary siblings can push one body outward while flinging the other inward, elongating and tilting the inner planet’s orbit.

      In this scenario, the solar system may have been unusually lucky. Either it avoided catastrophic gravitational encounters between massive planets or it suffered such interactions so long ago that most of the planets had the chance to resettle into nearly circular orbits with little or no tilt, says Frédéric Pont of the University of Exeter in England.

      “The presence of advanced life on Earth may be contingent on our planetary system having avoided the brunt of planet-planet scatter,” keeping Earth on a circular, Goldilocks-style orbit—neither too hot nor too cold for life as we know it, he speculates.

      The circularity of the orbit is crucial for maintaining liquid water at the surface. If the the planet’s orbit is too eccentric, then the temperature variations will either freeze the water, or evaporate it into the atmosphere. Either condition is fatal to complex life.

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      What made the most famous atheist philosopher abandon atheism?

      I first heard about Anthony Flew while reading a book-debate between Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland and atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen. Flew was one of the respondents, and he impressed me with his honest weighing of the evidence. Things got even more interesting when Flew debated William Lane Craig in front of over 4000 students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Here’s the audio and video. You can also buy the book!

      During the Q&A, an angry atheist asked Dr. Flew why he had not appealed to the speculative oscillating model of the universe in order to escape the force of the kalam argument and the Big Bang. And that’s when Flew said a very strange thing. He said to the questioner that he could not appeal to the oscillating model of the universe because the big bang was the current best theory and the oscillating model was a speculation.

      And that’s when I first knew that Flew would abandon atheism. You see, he was not interested in appealing to idle speculations against the evidence in order to justify his atheism. He was willing to go where the evidence led. He was not willing to play games with speculative theories like the oscillating model, the multiverse theory, unobservable aliens seeding life, etc. in order to weasel out of the demands of the moral law.

      You can read all about his conversion to theism at Thinking Matters. (H/T MandM)

      Excerpt:

      Two of the most striking things about Antony Flew are his honesty and humility. He is prepared to admit where he has been wrong on a number of philosophical issues, not just on the existence of God. There is a humility and an openness to follow the evidence where it leads that is often lacking in the so-called “new atheists.” He is keenly aware of how easy it is to let preconceived ideas shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our ideas. Therein, he says, “lies the peculiar danger… of dogmatic atheism.”

      So, just what evidence has brought about this remarkable turn-around in Flew’s convictions? In his view, modern science spotlights three dimensions of the natural world that point to God. The first of these is the existence of the laws of nature. After spelling out their precision, symmetry, and regularity, he asks how did nature come packaged like this? The point is not just that these laws exist but that they are mathematical. That is, they are not found through direct observation, but are discovered through experiment and mathematical theory. The laws are “written in a cosmic code that scientists must crack.”

      […]The second area of recent scientific study that leads Flew to the God conclusion is the investigation of DNA and the life of the cell. For Flew the key philosophical question here is: how can a universe of mindless matter produce self-replicating life?

      […[The third area of evidence that leads Antony Flew to God is the consensus among scientists about the big-bang theory.

      And there are some gems in the article, such as Flew’s comments about atheists who embrace the unobservable multiverse as an alternative to the fine-tuning argument. If you would like to learn more about arguments that work, and responses to atheistic arguments that work, check out my index of Christian arguments and counter arguments, or the debate page for some academic debates.

      What Christians should take away from this

      Feminized-postmodern-relativist-universalist Christians need to understand what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. Any appeal to emotions and felt needs, parental authority, tradition and convention, or threats of eternal damnation do not result in authentic faith.

      There are three reasons Christian use such subjective methods instead of the objective methods that worked on Flew. First, most Christians don’t know these arguments. Also, they don’t want to do any studying to learn these arguments. Finally, they are afraid of getting into public debates because they don’t want to be different from others and diminish their own comfort and happiness.

      How about we try something different? Something that actually works?

      This is all particularly distressing now that a new survey has come out indicating that America could be 25% atheist in 20 years.

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      New Scientist: the force of gravity is fine-tuned to permit life

      The article from the New Scientist is here. (H/T ECM)

      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.

      I know you guys look at my big list of objective evidence for Christianity, and you think “Wintery! Those evidences are not admitted by the majority of scientists!” I keep trying to tell you – my goal is to give you arguments and evidence that will work in the public square. These are mainstream evidences accepted by most or all non-Christian scientists as fact, and they used in public academic debates.

      When I tell you about evidences from the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, etc., I am telling you evidence that should compel anyone to deny atheism, so long as they are not irrational and emotional. These are not Christian tricks. They do not address felt needs. They are not there to help you to be happy. They are not optional, depending on how you feel about them.

      But there is another way to recommend Christianity to people, which is not rationally compelling, but instead relies on intuitions and experiences.

      A different approach to apologetics

      Some people offer Christian doctrines to others as a way of interpreting the human condition, etc. And it’s true that the Bible gives you an accurate description of your own inner life, and your rebellious attitude towards God. So these well-meaning Christians try to “persuade” non-Christians to consider whether the words of the Bible “ring true” with their intuitions and experiences.

      Consider this quote from G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”:

      And now we come to the crucial question which truly concludes the whole matter.  A reasonable agnostic, if he has happened to agree with me so far, may justly turn round and say, “You have found a practical philosophy in the doctrine of the Fall; very well…. If you see clearly the kernel of common-sense in the nut of Christian orthodoxy,why cannot you simply take the kernel and leave the nut? Why cannot you (to use that cant phrase of the newspapers which I, as a highly scholarly agnostic, am a little ashamed of using) why cannot you simply take what is good in Christianity, what you can define as valuable, what you can comprehend, and leave all the rest, all the absolute dogmas that are in their nature incomprehensible?” This is the real question; this is the last question; and it is a pleasure to try to answer it.

      The first answer is simply to say that I am a rationalist. I like to have some intellectual justification for my intuitions. If I am treating man as a fallen being it is an intellectual convenience to me to believe that he fell; and I find, for some odd psychological reason, that I can deal better with a man’s exercise of freewill if I believe that he has got it.  But I am in this matter yet more definitely a rationalist.  I do not propose to turn this book into one of ordinary Christian apologetics; I should be glad to meet at any other time the enemies of Christianity in that more obvious arena.  Here I am only giving an account of my own growth in spiritual certainty.  But I may pause to remark that the more I saw of the merely abstract arguments against the Christian cosmology the less I thought of them.  I mean that having found the moral atmosphere of the Incarnation to be common sense, I then looked at the established intellectual arguments against the Incarnation and found them to be common nonsense.  In case the argument should be thought to suffer from the absence of the ordinary apologetic I will here very briefly summarise my own arguments and conclusions on the purely objective or scientific truth of the matter.

      If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.”  I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence.  But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.  The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend.  The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.  Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences.  I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it.  For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flows the other way.

      The problem with Chesterton’s view is that it is not rationally compelling. It is apprehended in a subjective way, depending on whether the person likes it or not. This pragmatic approach is popular today because people want to have their felt needs met. But this approach doesn’t allow you to demonstrate the truth of Christianity in the public square, using objective evidence, as Chesterton admits.

      This rejection of objective apologetics has marginalized Christianity as subjective. I think we need to emphasize hard evidence. We need to have studied science, analytical philosophy, New Testament and history. We need to offer evidence that is objective, not subjective, like the fine-tuning of the gravitational force, so that our opponents are clear that Christianity is objectively true.

      I think that Chesterton is a bad example for Christians to follow. In the Bible, I see Jesus constantly providing physical evidence for this claims by employing  miracles. We can do something similar to Jesus today, by leveraging past miracles, such as the fine-tuning of the gravitational force, in our public debates. We don’t need to invent new ways of evangelizing based on intuitions and experiences.

      Further study

      You can read more about the fine-tuning of the gravitational force from Robin Collins, who is the best we have on the topic. Collins started a Ph.D in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin, but ended up completing a Ph.D in philosophy at Notre Dame, under Alvin Plantinga, the greatest living philosopher today, in my opinion. I heard Collins speak at the Baylor ID conference in 2000.

      Here is a textbook on physics and philosophy for high-schoolers written by David Snoke, a professor of Physics at University of Pittsburgh. He homeschools his own 4 children with this very book. The book contains Bible study and philosophy sections.