This is from the blog Common Sense Atheism.
Atheist Luke Muehlhauser interviews well-respect cosmologist Luke Barnes about the fine-tuning argument, and the naturalistic response to it.
Luke M. did a good job explaining the outline of the podcast.
In one of my funniest and most useful episodes yet, I interview astronomer Luke Barnes about the plausibility of 11 responses to the fine-tuning of the universe. Frankly, once you listen to this episode you will be better equipped to discuss fine-tuning than 90% of the people who discuss it on the internet. This episode will help clarify the thinking of anyone – including and perhaps especially professional philosophers – about the fine-tuning of the universe.
The 11 responses to fine-tuning we discuss are:
- “It’s just a coincidence.”
- “We’ve only observed one universe, and it’s got life. So as far as we know, the probability that a universe will support life is one out of one!”
- “However the universe was configured, evolution would have eventually found a way.”
- “There could be other forms of life.”
- “It’s impossible for life to observe a universe not fine-tuned for life.”
- “Maybe there are deeper laws; the universe must be this way, even though it looks like it could be other ways.”
- “Maybe there are bajillions of universes, and we happen to be in one of the few that supports life.”
- “Maybe a physics student in another universe created our universe in an attempt to design a universe that would evolve intelligent life.”
- “This universe with intelligent life is just as unlikely as any other universe, so what’s the big deal?”
- “The universe doesn’t look like it was designed for life, but rather for empty space or maybe black holes.”
- “Fine-tuning shows there must be an intelligent designer beyond physical reality that tuned the universe so it would produce intelligent life.”
Download CPBD episode 040 with Luke Barnes. Total time is 1:16:31.
There is a very good explanation of some of the cases of fine-tuning that I talk about most on this blog – the force of gravity, the strong force, etc. as well as many other examples. Dr. Barnes is an expert, but he is also very very easy to listen to even when talking about difficult issues. Luke M. is very likeable as the interviewer.
The video is here:
I have read and listened and watched a lot of material on intelligent design, but I have never seen so much value packed into such a short lecture. I really hope you’ll watch this and that it’s helpful to you.
- the big question when discussing the origin of life: where did the information in living systems come from?
- Until 530 million years ago, the oceans were largely devoid of life
- In a 10 million year period, many new forms of animal life emerged
- New biological forms of life require new information
- the discovery of DNA shows that living systems work because cells have information that allows them to build the components of molecular machines: cell types, proteins, etc.
- can random mutation and natural selection create new functional information?
- normally, random mutations tend to degrade the functionality of information, e.g. – randomly changing symbols in an applications code does not usually introduce useful new functions, it usually renders what is there non-functional
- the majority of possible sequences will NOT have functions, so random mutations will more likely give you non-functional code, rather than functional code
- example: a bicycle lock with 4 numbers has many possible sequences for the 4 numbers, and only one of them has unlock functionality, the rest have no functionality
- if you have lots of time, then you might be able to guess the combination, but if the lock as has 10 billion numbers, and only one combination that unlocks, you can spend your whole life trying to unlock it and won’t succeed
- how likely is it to arrive at a functional protein or gene by chance? Is it more like the 4-dial lock (can be done with lots of time) or the 10 billion dial lock (amount of time required exceeds the time available)?
- the probability is LOW because there is only one sequence of numbers that has unlock function
- consider a short protein of 150 amino acids has 10 to the 195th power possible sequences
- if many of these sequences of amino acides had biological function, then it might be easier to get to one by random mutation and selection than it is with a lock that only unlocks for ONE sequence
- how many of the possible sequences have biological function?
- Thanks to research done by Douglas Axe, we now know that the number of functional amino acid sequences for even a short protein is incredibly small…
- Axe found that the odds of getting a functional sequence of amino acids that will fold and have biological function is 1 in 10 to the 77th power
- Is that number too improbable to reach by chance? well, there are 10 to 65th atoms in the entire Milky Way galaxy… so yes, this is a very improbable outcome
- can random genetic mutations search through all the sequences in order to find the one in 10 to the 77th power one that has biological function? It depends on how much guessers we have and how many guesses we get in the time available
- even with the entire 3.5 billion year history of life on Earth, only about 10 to the 40th organisms have ever lived, which far smaller fraction of the 10 to the 77th total sequences
- even with a very fast mutation rate, you would not be able to reach a functional protein even with all that time, and even with all those organisms
I was once having a discussion with a woman about the research that Axe did at the Cambridge University lab. He published four articles in the Journal of Molecular Biology. I held out one of the papers to her and showed her the numbers. She said over and over “I hate the Discovery Institute! I hate the Discovery Institute!” Well, yeah, but you can’t make the Journal of Molecular Biology go away with hating the Discovery Institute. JMB is peer-reviewed, and this was experimental evidence – not a theory, not a hypothesis.
We have been blessed by the Creator and Designer of the universe in this time and place with overwhelming evidence – an abundance of riches. For those who have an open mind, this is what you’ve been waiting for to make your decision. For the naturalists who struggle so mightily to block out the progress of experimental science, they’ll need to shout louder and shut their eyes tighter and push harder to block their ears. Maybe if they keep screaming “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” over and over to themselves, they will be able to ignore the real science a little longer.