Physics and Religion
The Anthropic Coincidences: A Natural Explanation (1999) (Off Site) by Victor J. Stenger
Stenger argues that the fine-tuning argument is flawed because it assumes that only one kind of life, ours, is possible in every configuration of universes. Stenger also provides a naturalistic explanation for the anthropic coincidences.
“Some believe that evidence for the big bang is evidence for the existence of god. Who else, they ask, could have caused such a thing? In this paper, I evaluate the big bang argument, compare it with the traditional first-cause argument, and consider the relative plausibility of various natural explanations of the big bang.”
Smith argues that it is unreasonable to believe that God created the big bang.
Muslim Fundamentalists are fond of claiming that the Koran miraculously predicted the findings of modern science, and that all of its factual scientific claims are flawless. There are two important objections to this claim that I will make, one pointing to a general problem, the other a specific example of the failure of the claim.
Cosmythology: Is the Universe Fine-Tuned to Produce Us? (1996) (Off Site) by Victor J. Stenger
“Undoubtedly, if the universe were to start again from scratch with random parameters it would not look at all the way it does today. However, it can be shown that the conditions necessary for the evolution of some form of life would have arisen from a wide variation in physical constants.”
A Designer Universe? (1999) (Off Site) by Steven Weinberg
“The question that seems to me to be worth answering, and perhaps not impossible to answer, is whether the universe shows signs of having been designed by a deity more or less like those of traditional monotheistic religions. It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. Above all, today we understand that even human beings are the result of natural selection acting over millions of years of breeding and eating.”
A survey of what entropy really is, and how it is often misunderstood or misused in theist literature.
Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder insists both science and the Bible are right. He argues that the six days of creation are measured in a “cosmic time” that is blueshifted from the present, and claims that the events described in Genesis corresponds to what is understood from paleontology and other sciences.
In addressing well-known atheist Antony Flew’s recent “conversion” to a form of deism, ostensibly based on recent scientific discoveries, Stenger takes a look at such works as The Science of God, by Gerald Schroeder, Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe, and The Design Inference, by William Dembski–works that were, in part, responsible for Flew’s change of heart.
This is a critical rebuttal to Mark Steiner’s book The Applicability of Mathematics as a Philosophical Problem (1998). Steiner argues that naturalism appears to be false because nature is fundamentally mathematical. Carrier argues otherwise.
The Internet Infidels have long been interested in publishing theistic defenses of the fine-tuning argument against our criticisms, which are collected among our many essays on the Design Argument in general. James Hannam is the first to oblige, and the following essay is his defense of the Fine Tuning Argument for a creator. He argues that atheists have yet to refute the Fine Tuning argument to Design, and therefore we may have reason to believe there was a divine creator.
Response to James Hannam’s defense of the Fine Tuning Argument for a Creator. Lists and discusses several sweeping problems with even carefully-stated versions of the argument like Hannam’s.
Is God in the Details? (1999) (Off Site) by Kenneth Silber
Surveys some of the natural explanations for apparent “fine-tuning” in the laws of physics and evaluates claims that science points to the existence of God.
Mystical Physics: Has Science Found a Path to the Ultimate? (1995) (Off Site; PDF) by Victor J. Stenger
Properly understood, quantum mechanics does not provide “a basis for mystical fantasies.”
A rebuttal to Robert Lanza’s claim that, according to the current quantum mechanical view of reality, “We are all the ephemeral forms of a consciousness greater than ourselves.”
Not a Very Big Bang About Genesis (2001) (Off Site) by Mark Perakh
This article critically discusses three books by Gerald L. Schroeder, books which have gained a substantial popularity and have often been acclaimed as very successful clarifications of how to reconcile biblical stories with scientific data: Big Bang and Genesis : The discovery of the harmony between modern science and the Bible, The Science of God : The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, and The Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth.
Short essay by physicist Victor Stenger in which it is shown that the universe need not have had a beginning.
After examining Gerald Schroeder’s academic credentials, Scott Oser critiques his arguments from Big Bang cosmology, quantum mechanics, and alleged “fine-tuning” for the existence of the biblical God in The Hidden Face of God. Oser tours such perennial issues as what, if anything, came before the Big Bang, various interpretations of quantum mechanics and whether it requires us to believe that atoms are literally “aware” and “make choices,” whether entangled states indicate a universe underpinned by Mind, and whether purported fine-tuning is grounded on solid probability calculations or would even require a grand “tuner” if real given the possibility of a cosmic lottery playing out across a hypothetical multiverse. Niall Shanks turns to Schroeder’s discussion of origin-of-life studies and purported “intelligent design” on the cellular level, noting that current biochemistry actually reveals substantial evidence of unintelligent design by mindless, trial-and-error processes such as self-organization. Moreover, good scientific hypotheses for such “mysteries” as the origin of sexual reproduction exist but simply lack confirmation at this stage, undermining the need to postulate any guiding supernatural agents. Oser and Shanks conclude that if the history of science is any guide, Schroeder’s God of the gaps will be supplanted by natural explanations as our current scientific understanding advances.
Smith argues that quantum cosmology implies atheism.
The dualists’ theory of the quantum mind “will get nowhere until it makes some prediction that can be tested empirically. In the meantime, it must be rejected as non-parsimonious.”
“Quantum physics is claimed to support the mystical notion that the mind creates reality. However, an objective reality, with no special role for consciousness, human or cosmic, is consistent with all observations.”
There are two familiar responses to the question, “Why does the universe exist?” One is that “God created it.” The other is, “For no reason–its existence is a brute fact.” In this essay, Smith explores a third alternative, that the reason for the the existence of the universe lies within the universe itself.
In his book, Beyond the Cosmos, Hugh Ross argues that science proves the existence of the God of the Bible. But does it? In his review of Beyond the Cosmos, Michael Hurben considers two questions. First, does Ross successfully present the relevant evidence so that laymen can understand it? Second, does extra-dimensionality solve theological dilemmas like the problems of divine foreknowledge and evil?
Physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne cannot accept the possibility that mindless chance operates in the universe. So he joins those who seek evidence for top-down causality in a scientific system where bottom-up causality continues to rule.
Smith defends his atheistic cosmological argument which claims that big bang cosmology is evidence for atheism over theism.
Time Was Created by a Timeless Point: An Atheist Explanation of Spacetime (2000) (Off Site) by Quentin Smith
Smith agrees with theism that there is a cause of spacetime’s beginning to exist and that this cause is a timeless, uncaused, simple, independent, necessary and transcendent being. Smith argues, however, that this being is not God but a spatially zero-dimensional point.
Those who closely study the origin, development, and structure of the universe tend to disbelieve in any spiritual dimension to it. Science has inadvertently discovered that religious pictures of the world are false; when speaking to the same questions, science and religion invariably get different answers. Cosmology has no need for a First Cause since the Big Bang might simply be a transitional phase in an infinitely old universe or, alternatively, there may be no “before” the Big Bang anymore than there is a “north” of the North Pole. Appeals to alleged fine-tuning are presumptuous: physicists extrapolating from the earliest well-understood moment after the Big Bang using the laws of physics alone would erroneously deem our universe inhospitable to life. How, then, can we reliably anticipate the likelihood of life arising in hypothetical universes with different laws? Even supposing that physical constants are in fact “tunable” (which they may not be), constants might take on different values in other universes; and as Carroll puts it, “intelligent observers will only measure the values which obtain in those regions which are consistent with the existence of such observers.” Finally, cosmology betrays unintelligent design: entire classes of fundamental particles exist that would have no impact on life if they had never existed. Evidently, a simple materialist formalism could offer a complete description of the universe.
In this explanation of why he is not a Christian, Richard Carrier outlines the top four reasons why he rejects Christianity: God’s silence, God’s inactivity, lack of evidence, and the overt conflict between discovered reality and Christian theory. Though a lay exposition geared at a general audience, the essay appeals to a variety of atheistic arguments, including the argument from religious confusion, an evidential argument from evil, divine hiddenness, the argument from biological evolution, and the argument from physical minds. In an interesting twist on the argument from design, Carrier turns the fine-tuning argument on its head, noting that several features of our universe–features predicted by naturalism–are highly improbable if Christian theism is true.