Saturday, March 25, 2017

Argument for God from Mathematics

“In physics, we see an uncanny degree of harmony, symmetry, and proportionality.  And we see something that I call “discoverability.” By that, I mean that the laws of nature seem to have been carefully arranged so that they can be discovered by beings with our level of intelligence.  That not only fits the idea of design, but it also suggests a providential purpose for humankind-that is to learn about our habitat and develop science and technology.”[1]

It’s been 30 years since I learned quantum mechanics in college, so I set out to relearn it this week.  Armed with YouTube videos and a couple books, I started at the “beginning” by reviewing some linear algebra and vector spaces, along with Hilbert Spaces and Dirac notation. It is coming back slowly; but in doing this review, I am again awestruck that something we invent in our minds (math) matches up perfectly with what we observe in the universe.  Why is this the case? The answer that makes the most sense to me is that God created the universe with regular and discoverable laws.

“The important point is not merely that there are regularities in nature, but that these regularities are mathematically precise, universal, and “tied together.”  Einstein spoke of them as “reason incarnate.”  The question we should ask is how nature came packaged in this fashion.  This is certainly the question that scientists from Newton to Einstein to Heisenberg have asked – and answered.  Their answer was the Mind of God.”[2]

To do science at all, one must assume that you can observe and know the material world; which would be impossible if nature wasn’t orderly.  Christians see God as a Lawgiver, as a rational mind, and as the Creator. Because of this, the world must be rational, must follow prescribed laws, and must have a reason for its existence. Science is the way we study the world, the laws, and the reasons. Christian theology also teaches that man was created in the image of God, so we also have the ability to comprehend God’s laws and reasons.

“Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as His personal creation, thus having a rational stable structure, awaiting human comprehension. Christians developed science because they believed it could be done and they thought it should be done.”[3]

To use math to do science, you must assume that numbers (and maybe other mathematical concepts) and logic both exist and that they can’t be discovered through the scientific method. You also must assume that the human mind is able to describe and explain the physical universe.

“There is a deep-seated congruence between the rationality present in our minds, and the rationality – the orderedness – which we observe as present in the world. Thus, the abstract structures of pure mathematics – a free creation of the human mind – provide important clues to the understanding of the world.”[4]

A classic example of this is Mendeleev’s organization of the periodic table; done solely by investigating the properties of the elements and first described in the 1860’s, 30 years before anyone knew about electrons and 60 years before quantum mechanics.  Why would physical observations about elements match exactly with discoveries about electrons and then match the mathematics developed solely in someone’s mind?  Being able to use mathematics to describe the natural world is reasonably and rationally explained by the universe being a product of an intelligent designer. It should not be a surprise when mathematical theories created in the minds of humans made in the image of God apply to a universe created by the same God.

[1] Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, Zondervan, 2004.  Quote on page 147, attributed to Robin Collins, PHD.
[2] Anthony Flew, There Is A God, page 96, HarperOne, 2007
[3] Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God, Princeton University Press, 2003, page 147
[4] Alister McGrath, Science and Religion, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Fine-Tuning Argument

Anthony Flew ends chapter six of his book by stating, “So multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature.  And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind.”[1]  To Dr. Flew, the fine-tuning of the laws of nature was one of the main reasons he switched from being an atheist to believing that there is a God.  From the moment the universe began, physical laws and the structure of the universe have been perfectly set up for life to exist now on earth.  There are too many “coincidences” for this to have happened by accident; the only explanation is that “a super-intellect monkeyed with physics.”[2] The more we study the universe, the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system, and our planet from plate tectonics all the way down to the building blocks of life, the more it appears as if someone or something designed and perfectly arranged everything for life to exist on Earth.  It is a reasonable conclusion from all this fine-tuning to conclude that God designed the whole thing.  Here is a good 6 minute introduction video from Reasonable Faith:
An example of this fine tuning is found in the most basic of fundamental forces and constants. If the ratio of the nuclear strong force compared to the electromagnetic force had been different by one part in 1016, no stars could have formed.  The ratio of the electromagnetic force constant compared to the gravitational force constant must not vary more than 1 part in 1040 while the energy density of empty space could not vary by more than one part in 1054 for life to have been possible in the universe. When the universe was 10-43 seconds old, the total mass density of the universe could not have varied by 1 part in 1060.  This means that if the entire mass of the universe had been heavier by about the mass of 1 dime, the universe “would have expanded too slowly, resulting in unstable orbits and too much radiation.”[3] Had the mass of the universe been 1 dime lighter, it would have expanded too quickly for any stars like our sun to form.
One objection to these fine-tuned constants is that they have to be the way they are because they are actual different manifestations of the same force.  A Grand Unified Theory may solve the fine-tuning “problem.”  There is some justification for this as we have found that as we go back in time and the universe gets hotter, we have been able to unify electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force.  However, if we do ever find a theory of everything, it will just move the fine tuning up one level and be even a better example of fine tuning requiring a mind to perfect the initial value. 

“As difficult as it would be to fine-tune the universe by adjusting all of the individual dials, it would be even more difficult to create an underlying law of nature that then forced all the dials into those specific positions. All that would do would be to make me even more in awe of the Creator.”[4]

The fine tuning doesn’t end with the laws and physical constants!  Once the dials for our universal laws are perfectly set, there are still many conditions that must be met perfectly for a planet like earth to form where advanced life can exist.  These include a just right galaxy, a just right placement in the galaxy, a just right solar system, and a just right sun – to name only a few of the over 90 restrictions required for life to exist on a planet in our universe.[5]  In fact, there are so many parameters that have to be perfect for advanced life to exist that physicist Hugh Ross has calculated that the chance of even one planet like ours existing in our universe is less than 1 in 10144.  This would be equivalent to winning the Powerball lottery jackpot 18 times in row, purchasing just one ticket each time.  These parameters are in addition to the fine-tuning necessary for our universe to even exist in the first place with life permitting laws and constants!

One escape from this fine-tuning for the naturalist is Multiverse Theory.  This can be stated one of two ways.  Either there is some kind of universe generator that controls the parameters that each universe can have, thus restricting the values of the constants to life-permitting ones, or there are infinite universes – meaning that every possible universe exists and we happen to be in one that permits life.  Both of these naturalistic solutions have problems.  The “restricted universe hypothesis” still requires that the universe generator be fine-tuned, while the “infinite number of universes hypothesis” explains too much.  In fact, if every possible universe exists, then there exists a universe where anything you can imagine is possible and everything is just a product of chance; including multiverse theories!

Most scientists agree that there is overwhelming scientific evidence for the design of the universe and this design’s benefit for life and humans.  A prominent atheist reminds us that since the evidence for design is so prevalent, we must keep telling ourselves that the universe is not designed!  The only debate now is over who or what does the designing!  At this point, the Christian answer to this question (God) and the secular answer to this question (Multiverse) are pretty much equivalent in terms of “scientific” evidence.  It is a reasonable conclusion that a mind designed and created the universe, fine-tuning all the constants, laws, and conditions so that humans would be possible on planet earth.

[1] Anthony Flew, There Is A God, page 121, HarperOne, 2007
[2] quote attributed to Frederick Hoyle
[3] Hugh Ross, The Creator and Cosmos, NavPress, 2001.
[4] Attributed to Robin Collins, PHD in physics.  Quoted in The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel, on page 137