20 comments on “Bad Book Blues.

  1. Great post! You bring up fantastic points, especially #5.

    I haven’t heard of this Davies fellow before, and I’ll take a hint and steer clear for the most part.

  2. Yes, I’d definitely advise avoiding him, Steve. If I’d read the biography at the front of the book before buying (via Amazon, so couldn’t), which mentions his being awarded the Templeton Prize, or if I’d recalled Dawkins mentioning Davies’ theism, I certainly would have.

    I like #5, I have to admit — though #4 needs some, er, fine-tuning 😉

  3. I see you have questions and/or thoughts. But where are your answers, then?

    Where is your proof that he is wrong?

    It is scientifically impossible to prove that something or someone does not exist.

  4. The onus of proof is on the individual claiming that something exists, not the other way round — especially when he’s a scientist. I don’t have to prove him wrong, in the same way that I don’t have to prove Santa doesn’t exist.

    Afraid you’ll have to do better than that, timm84.

  5. Interesting stuff, and some very good questions.
    I wonder if people think things through before they announce them as their belief.

    timm84 – ever heard of “burden of proof”? Obviously not.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Hayley — good of you to “drop by” 🙂

    What I think is especially scary is that Davies works in a world of science, where proofs and replicatable results are so highly thought of! How on earth does he even begin to reconcile the two?

  7. I’m going to quote myself here, Gary; from another article, which I shall be blogging in the near future.

    The Anthropic Principle
    The Universe is so hospitable to life, it must have been designed with life in mind.
    Right… Please excuse me while I laugh…

    This implies that life is somehow apart from the Universe, that it consists of some kind of special matter which only forms stable bonds in this Universe. Besides, are there any examples of Universes which were specifically designed with the intention of hostility to life?

    Just as you would expect to find ashes and cinders in a fire but not in the dregs of a shot glass (a possible origin for this argument?), you expect to find life which is adaptive and reflective of the environment it resides in. If it isn’t adapted to its environment, it dies.

    The Anthropic Principle is essentially saying that water is so easy to swim through that it was designed with swimming in mind.

    It’s so circular you could roll it down a hill.

    Subsection: The Improbability Argument
    It is improbable that the complexity of life occurred by accident. If the probability of something happening is less than about 1e-15 (or 0.000000000000001) it is considered to be impossible. The probability of life occurring ‘by accident’ is far less than this, therefore there must have been a Creator.
    This argument ignores the size of the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, any of which might have planets capable of supporting life. Even an impossibly improbable event is almost a certainty – and we already know of one planet that supports life.

    This also falls into the same trap as the Design Argument and Anthropic Principle: there are no other Universes to compare it with. It is impossible to see how the probability of existence can be measured, with or without a deity, given the lack of comparative material. It could be said that the Universe in any form is impossible by this standard, given the innumerable possible permutations; its actual form is no more improbable than any of the other possibilities. It is only the fact that humans are around to look at it, combined with small-minded humanocentrism, that makes the Universe seem so special.

    This argument also ignores an important fact: if something has a probability, no matter how small, it can happen. Impossibility comes when there is no degree of probability.

  8. If probabilities had anything to do with it, that is, but this argument only rears its ugly head once you abandon the most natural and causality-responsible expectation for a cosmological principle that defines the otherwise unexpected configuration that is observed from first principles.

    The problem that people don’t consider here is the fact that we *do* have a most natural expectation for what the universe should look like, *that is not observed*.

    What is observed instead has biocentrically oriented features that are also directly relevant to the structuring of the universe itself, so it is only ideologically predispositioned dogma that gets in the way of equal time by scientists for the most natural expectation for a biocentrically oriented cosmological principle that explains the structure of the universe from biocentrically oriented first principles.

    Do that, and ALL debate ends without unprovable speculations about multiverses and other “bolder explanations” for otherwise unexpected physics.

    Reference this, and my blog:
    Is Our Universe Natural?
    http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0512148

  9. PS: Paul Davies is a self-professed atheist and John Wheeler is a highly respected physicist, not to mention, Brandon Carter.

    “god” has nothing to do with it without an unfounded leap of faith, in other words.

  10. Well, Paul Davies mentions “god” existing before the Big Bang not “making good theological sense” and prefering a god that came along with the Universe in the documentary Testing God… he certainly didn’t sound like an atheist.

    ““god” has nothing to do with it without an unfounded leap of faith, in other words.”

    That’s reassuring. Thanks

  11. You might be right, I suppose, but it doesn’t matter as long as Paul sticks to the quantum physics of John Wheeler to account for anthropic structuring.

    I’ve talked to Paul via email, but I never pushed that question and I won’t.

    But my point is about dogma, because it is quite plausibly possible to have purpose in nature without an intelligent agent, and this is the evidenced answer to the problem that gets ignored by scientists and the politicians of the culture war, as well, because they have been conditioned to believe what the creationists want them to believe…

    I must say, as things stand now, we will be hard-pressed to answer the IDists if the *landscape fails
    -Lenny Susskind

    *Leonard Susskind is the father of string theory, (also a hard-core atheist), and the “landscape” is multiverse rationale. The rationale of probabilities, uncaused causes, and the abandonment of scientific first principles, that is.

  12. *reads island’s post. Twice. Then blinks*

    Beyond the jargon, it seems like you’re defending the anthropic principle as sensible, which I find rather… unintelligible.

  13. I take your point, island. Before this conversation, I would have probably jumped to the conclusion that Anthropic Principle=science with a god-bias, to varying degrees. Now I’m far less likely to do that.

    However, on the specific issue of Mr. Davies, I would have to say that he possibly doesn’t help matters. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and I’ve already mentioned that I believe him to be an excellent scientist (my opinion isn’t really worth much on this, as I’m an admitted science thicko, but his credentials are certainly impressive), but, for example, accepting the Templeton Prize is always likely to feed the creationists and make people like me wary.

    But maybe that’s my problem. I find the whole Anthropic Principle as unintelligible as mek1980, but I’ll give Davies another go.

    My response to Susskind, incidentally, as a layman, would be, “Could that be because both ideas suck?” 😉

  14. Before this conversation, I would have probably jumped to the conclusion that Anthropic Principle=science with a god-bias, to varying degrees

    More like, science that includes the ***observed*** biocentric relevance to the structure of the universe, which isn’t an “idea” it is a direct observation that has most recently been supported and then verified by the WMAP data. The multiverse is an “idea” that seeks to answer the question of how this could be so without the most naturally expected dynamical structure principle.

    but, for example, accepting the Templeton Prize is always likely to feed the creationists and make people like me wary.

    Not really, (although your statement is, unfortunately, true), since Templeton openly denounces the intelligent design movement, but more to the point, Templeton is about the only foundation that funds research into the observed reality. Unfortunately, theory, rather than observation drives science, but that may change soon, since cutting-edge theory is falling apart with every new result that comes in from the particle accelerators.

    mek1980 said:
    Beyond the jargon, it seems like you’re defending the anthropic principle as sensible, which I find rather… unintelligible.

    Like saying… ‘I don’t understand the facts that you support your statements with, but I have an opinion anyway’… which I chalk-up to Brandon Carter’s ideological statement in Kracow Poland about the non-scientific predispositioning that afflicts scientists and “skeptics” alike.

  15. Island said: “[…] but that may change soon […]”

    Give me a shout if/when it does 😉 Seriously, my issue was essentially with Davies’ relationship (or not, depending on one’s interpretation — he shuns the words “atheist”, “deist” and “theist”, it seems, but occasionly talks like a theist) with god, not the Anthropic Principle, which I’m not qualified to talk about, so I’m going to step out of this discussion until I’ve done rather a lot more reading. I’ll leave the scientists to argue about which end of their soft-boiled eggs is the right end to lop off until I know a little more about eggs (although I hear they’re terribly binding, which may explain a lot.)

    Mek1980: — Sorry about that. The comments actually are in order, it’s merely that island’s comment was awaiting approval when you posted.

  16. so I’m going to step out of this discussion until I’ve done rather a lot more reading

    Be ***very*** careful here, because the same people that Carter was talking about in Poland are the ones that are the most motivated to write about the AP. Take this in the spirit that it is intended, because I realize that I expect too much when I say but you’d be better off to study the physics for yourself, (like I’ve done exclusively for the last 7 years), and then draw your own conclusions from the facts, rather than from motivated “variant interpretations” of the physics.

    I’ll leave you with this thought… All questions are resolved if the universe periodically “evolves” to higher orders of the same basic configuration, like we did, and for the exact same reason… to *more-efficiently* increase entropy. This makes the AP an energy conservation law that preserves the arrow of time, the second law of thermodynamics, and causality… indefinitely… … …

    See how ideological dogma prevents both creationists and skeptical neodawinians from ever arriving at this simple solution. The TOE is the ToE but we can’t get there from here… and I find that pathetic.

    Simple answers burried under a insurmountable pile of dog… ma.

  17. All questions are resolved if the universe periodically “evolves” to higher orders of the same basic configuration, like we did, and for the exact same reason… to *more-efficiently* increase entropy. This makes the AP an energy conservation law that preserves the arrow of time, the second law of thermodynamics, and causality… indefinitely… … …

    I’m sorry, but that’s just New Age toss.

  18. Doing the physics myself is, as I’m sure you understand, Island, rather mcre than the existing demands of my life will allow. I will, however, read critically. A good piece of advice.Thanks.

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