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Posts Tagged ‘designed for life’

ITS TIME TO REVISIT why I’m writing these articles — and why you are reading them.

Every one of us lives by faith! The question is — is the faith we live by sensible?

Each of us navigate the decisions in life in a framework of beliefs. Each of us, even the most accomplished scholars, face life with many solid, testable facts at his/her command and an even larger inventory of things we don’t know. So how do we handle life when it hinges on factors we don’t understand? Now resist self-defensiveness for a moment. Pull together the pieces of your answer fairly, objectively. Criticism is not intended here.

Don’t we decide by drawing from the sum total of our life experiences everything that bears on the issue at hand and make reasonable guesses at what we don’t know? For the scientist, the guessing part is one or more hypotheses. For the businessman, maybe a hunch or a risk/reward calculation. For the engineer, it’s a probability. For others perhaps intuition is the right word. But for all of us, we have to acknowledge we act on faith, faith in our guesses. For each of us, we conduct our science, run our businesses, build, invest, and care for our families on, what is to us, sensible thinking — sensible faith. It may be very difficult to admit to ourselves (no one else is looking right now) but consciously or unconsciously, every single one of us is a person controlled by faith!

So, why is this and the other articles numbered “#3x” seemingly about the so-called “war” between science and religion? Why am I writing these, as well as all the articles I have in mind for the future?

Because I’d like to persuade you, the reader, to be certain your faith is sensible! I’d like to persuade the scientist and the engineer that maybe science and religion are not really in conflict. I’d like to persuade the theologian that perhaps some doctrines, while not in error, maybe we’re not thinking about them as was intended. I’d like to persuade every reader to consciously think about what’s guiding his/her life — rejecting subconscious servitude to self-indulgence, peer pressure, and partial/misunderstandings.

I’ve just waded into a hornets’ nest. What intellectual arrogance! What vitriolic personal attacks on others for no reason other than they offer different thoughts!! That’s what made me stop and rethink this whole undertaking from which you are reading the early articles, and caused me to express the opening thoughts above.

This particular article is about the amazing uniqueness – or apparent uniqueness – of planet Earth. It’s about how “finely tuned” it and, in fact, the whole universe (see previous article) seems to be for life. In my research, those of you who know this subject know it was inevitable that I would run into two important principles: The Anthropic Principle and The Copernican Principle.

The Anthropic Principle – the idea that the physical, chemical, and biological laws of nature are so fine tuned that they could not have happened by chance — Random House Unabridged Dictionary

The Copernican Principle – in physical cosmology, the Copernican Principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the earth is not in a central, specially favored position. More recently the principle has been generalized to the relativistic concept that humans are not privileged observers of the universe. In this sense it is equivalent to the mediocrity principle, with important implications for the philosophy of science. — Wikipedia Encyclopedia

As I always try to do, I looked for other than one source on any given topic. That’s when it happened. The Wikipedia information on The Anthropic Principle carries the note that its “neutrality” had been “questioned,” and offers a link to the “talk” section. I encourage you to go there if you wish. I found it interesting and informative, but I can’t recall when I have read anything that disappointed me more about our human condition.

So, there are many critics of religion who have placed their faith in the belief that natural cause-and-effect relationships will be found in the future to explain this incredible “fine tuning” of the universe and this planet for life without the need for a transcendent super-intellect to “design” it all. There are also many who are convinced that — although circumstantial — this fine tuning is unbelievably improbable unless guided/designed supernaturally.

Interestingly, one side of the debate is science — the other philosophy. How these intelligent, highly educated people can think that science will ever settle a philosophy (metaphysical) issue, or philosophy can ever settle a science question strains my comprehension.

If you, the reader, would like to peruse samples of the “fine tuning” all this intellectual tempest swirls around, please go to Appendix B to this article, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[1]. A similar sampling regarding the fine tuning of the universe is provided at Appendix A.

About this fine tuning, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, astronomy and physics, who coauthored the highly rigorous book, The Privileged Planet, said in an interview with Lee Strobel:[2]

When I took this together with all the various “serendipitous” circumstances involving our privileged location in the universe, I was left without a vocabulary to describe my sense of wonder. The suggestion that all of this was based on fortuitous chance had become absurd to me. The tell-tale signs of design are evident from the far reaches of the Milky Way down to the inner core of our planet.

Commenting on just one of these “serendipitous” factors, astronomer and applied theologian Gerald Schroeder, PhD, says:[3]

“A just-right Earth with just the needed gravity, radioactivity, magnetic field, and volcanic activity to support life is located at just the right distance from the Sun to nurture the inception and development of life. But Earth should not be where it is. Among the planets circling the Sun, Earth is the oddball. The distribution of matter initially spiraling in toward a central attractor may reach an equilibrium that clusters along what is known as an exponential curve. In this curve, each successive swirl is a given factor farther out than its predecessor. The distances of the planets from the Sun fall on an exponential distribution. Each planet is approximately two times farther from the Sun than the preceding planet, except for Earth. Earth should not be where it is. . . . Yet here we are in all our life-giving splendor and awe. A miracle, perhaps, or just a fortunate quirk of nature.

So what are we, the ordinary introspective skeptic or religious believer, to conclude about is our faith sensible? Is this undeniable “fine tuning” an accident of natural processes or has it happened by Divine design? Perhaps Timothy Keller, pastor of the 6,000 member Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, NY, has some helpful thoughts:[4]

“It is the conflict model [science vs. religion], however, that gets the most publicity. Fortunately, this view is losing credibility with a growing number of scholars. The history of the secularization of American institutions is treated in an important and influential book edited by Christian Smith.[5] In it Smith argues that the conflict model of the relationship of science to religion was a deliberate exaggeration used by both scientists and education leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power. The absolute warfare model of science and reason was the product not so much of intellectual necessity but rather of a particular cultural strategy. Many scientists see no incompatibility between faith in God and their work.”

This is a lot to think about. So until next time …

W

Appendix B, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[6]

Next: article #3f “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” – THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS (pending)

W

End Notes


[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

[2] Lee Strobel, (2004), The Case For A Creator, (184-185), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan

[3] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (185-186), New York, NY, Double Dell Publishing.

[4] Timothy Keller, (2009), The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, (92), New York, NY, Riverhead Books.

[5] Christian Smith, ed, (2003), The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life, (1-12), University of California Press

[6] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

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The following are 26 of the estimated 50 constants and quantities, which, had there been any variation in their primordial values, our universe – at least as we know it – would not exist (ref 1: The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh Ross, PhD, astronomy, p 118-119)

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1. Strong nuclear force constant
if larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life would be unstable
if smaller: no elements other than hydrogen

2. Weak nuclear force constant
if larger: too much hydrogen converted to helium in big bang, hence too much heavy element material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars
if smaller: too little helium produced from big bang, hence too little heavy material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars

3. Gravitational force constant
if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn up too quickly and too unevenly
if smaller: stars would remain so cool that nuclear fusion would never ignite, hence no heavy element production

4. Electromagnetic force constant
if larger: insufficient chemical bonding; elements more massive than boron would be too unstable for fission
if smaller: insufficient chemical bonding

5. Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
if larger: no stars less than 1.4 solar masses, hence short stellar life spans and uneven stellar luminosities
if smaller: no stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production

6. Ratio of electron to proton mass
if larger: insufficient chemical bonding
if smaller: insufficient chemical bonding

7. Ratio of number of protons to electrons
if larger: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation
if smaller: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation

8. Expansion rate of the universe
if larger: no galaxy formation
if smaller: universe would collapse prior to star formation

9. Entropy level of the universe
if larger: no proto-galaxy formation
if smaller: no star condensation within the proto-galaxies

10. Mass density of the universe
if larger: too much deuterium from big bang, hence stars burn too rapidly
if smaller: insufficient helium from big bang, hence too few heavy elements forming

11. Velocity of light
if faster: stars would be too luminous
if slower: stars would not be luminous enough

12. Age of the universe
if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of galaxies
if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

13. Initial uniformity of radiation
if smoother: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
if coarser: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space

14. Fine structure constant (a number used to describe the fine structural splitting of spectral lines)
if larger: DNA would be unable to function; no stars more than 0.7 solar masses
if smaller: DNA would be unable to function; no stars more than 1.8 solar masses

15. Average distance between galaxies
if larger: insufficient gas would be infused into our galaxy to sustain star formation over an adequate time span
if smaller: the sun’s orbit would be too radically disturbed

16. Average distance between stars
if larger; heavy element density too thin for rocky planets to form
if smaller: planetary orbits would become destabilized

17. Decay rate of the proton
if larger: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
if smaller: insufficient matter in the universe for life

18. 12Carbon (12C) to 16Oxygen (16O) energy level ratio
if larger: insufficient oxygen
if smaller: insufficient  carbon

19. Ground state energy level for 4Helium (4He)
if larger: insufficient carbon and oxygen
if smaller: insufficient carbon and oxygen

20. Decay rate of 8Beryllium (8Be)
if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic in all the stars
if faster: no element production beyond beryllium and, hence, no life chemistry possible

21. Mass excess of the neutron over the proton
if greater: neutron decay would leave too few neutrons to form the heavy elements essential for life
if smaller: proton decay would cause all stars to collapse rapidly into neutron stars or black holes

22. Initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
if greater: too much radiation for planets to form
if smaller: not enough matter for galaxies or stars to form

23. Polarity of the water molecule
if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist
if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too small for life’s existence; liquid water would become too inferior a solvent for life chemistry to proceed; ice would not float, leading to a runaway freeze-up

24. Supernovae eruptions
if too close: radiation would eliminate life on the planet
if too far: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

if too frequent: life on the planet would be exterminated
if too infrequent: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

if too late: life on the planet would be exterminated by radiation
if too soon: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

25. White dwarf binaries
if too few: insufficient fluorine produced for life chemistry to proceed
if too many: disruption of planetary orbits from stellar density; life on the planet would be exterminated

if too soon: not enough heavy elements made for efficient fluorine production
if too late: fluorine made too late for incorporation in proto-planet

26. Ratio of exotic to ordinary matter
if smaller: galaxies would not form
if larger: universe would collapse before solar type stars could form

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Billions of stars in each galaxy. Billions of galaxies. Therefore, many billions of planets. There must be millions of civilizations scattered through the universe. This was widely accepted as a reasonable conclusion throughout the 1900s by science and laypersons alike. Later in that period astronomers and astrophysicists began getting data showing that, for the most part, the universe is a violent, unfriendly place. Yet there seemed to be “safe zones” …

The hot big bang model says that the entire physical universe — all the matter and energy, and even the four dimensions of space and time — burst forth from a state of infinite, or near infinite, density, temperature, and pressure. The universe expanded from a volume very much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, and it continues to expand[1]. But how did the galaxies form? According to the physical laws galaxies should not have happened. Indeed galaxies, stars, planets, life, would not exist – at least as we know them – if there had been any variation in the primordial values of an estimated 50 constants and quantities, 26 of which are shown in Appendix A (click here). For example, renown physicist and mathematician Dr Stephen Hawking calculated that if just one of these constants, the universe’s expansion rate, one second after the big bang had been smaller than one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have collapsed into a fireball[2]. If the expansion rate had been any larger, matter would have dispersed so efficiently that none of it would clump enough to form galaxies, and therefore no stars, no planets, and no life[3].

The COBE satellite (Cosmic Background Explorer) provided the data that established that there is, throughout the universe, very small amounts of residual heat/radiation from the big bang. Not only so, but in later refinements it was shown that its distribution is splotchy – precisely what must happen for galaxies to form. The COBE findings were extolled across the science community with superlatives. Stephen Hawking, usually a master of understatement, said “it is the discovery of the century, if not of all time”[4].

Initially, the big bang consisted of nothing but energy; extreme temperatures. In the first four minutes there was enough cooling for the universe’s first matter to form: hydrogen (in the form of deuterium) and helium. Practically all that exists today of these elements formed then.

What does all this have to do with sensible faith and “safe zones for life?” First of all, the extraordinary, extraordinary odds against the occurrence of these events by natural processes would hopefully lead the atheistic or skeptical reader to wonder if his faith in chance happenings is sensible. Maybe the existence of a transcendent intelligence designing and guiding these incredible events is more likely and more sensible (in all fairness impossible odds, by themselves, is technically not conclusive. More about this in a couple of articles hence).

Secondly, safe zones for earth-like planets depend upon the foregoing galaxy-building events. For example, the heavier elements essential to form rocks, planets, and life have to come from stars which “burn” that hydrogen (fuse hydrogen atoms into heavier atoms), and eventually explode (supernovae) scattering their heavy material through space where gravity can draw it together into new stars and their orbiting planets. While this cycle can happen almost anywhere, earth-like planets can exist only if:

There has been enough supernovae cycles to provide a rich environment of the life-essential elements. For example, a very young galactic region cannot have had enough star cycles to provide sufficient planet-building material.

The occurrence of supernovae, new star births, collisions with other galaxies, black holes, white dwarf binaries, gamma bursts, and other violence has quieted enough so as to not disrupt/destroy planets and life.

The density of neighborhood stars, other bodies, and even other planets is sparse enough to provide low enough gravity fields to permit stable, near circular orbits of potential earth-like planets around their parent star.

The luminosity (brightness) of the parent star has to be sufficient to provide hospitable levels of stable heating.

Candidate earth-like planets have to orbit their parent star at the right distance and have a gas-giant type of planet in orbit close enough to attract planet-killing asteroids and comets, but far enough away to allow the earth-like planet to have a stable orbit with manageable tides.

These are just a few of the “neighborhood factors” narrowing the galactic zones safe for life-sustaining planets to exist. Carl Sagan (of Cosmos fame) and Iosef Shklovskii were the first astronomers to provide evidence of these intricacies[5]. In 1966 they had determined it takes a certain kind of star [size, brightness, stability] with a planet located just the right distance from that star to provide the minimal conditions for life[6]. Working with just these two [of many] parameters, they estimated that only 0.001% of all stars could have a planet capable of supporting advanced life[7].

With the foregoing as background let’s look at the universe where the stars are — in either globular clusters or in the three basic types of galaxies — together with a few of their life-sustaining characteristics, or absence thereof.

Globular clusters are one of the worst places to expect life because of, first, the low abundance of life sustaining heavy elements due to the young age of its stars. Secondly, globular clusters are so densely packed with stars that stable, circular orbits of planets would be impossible – assuming planets could even form. Zero “safe zones” here.

Galaxies are of three basic types: elliptical, irregular, and spiral.

Most galaxies are elliptical and less massive having mostly young stars in random orbits, like bees swarming a beehive. Consequently, the stars visit every region of the galaxy including the denser, inner regions where a black hole is likely[8]. Under these conditions, star formation ceases before the interstellar medium becomes enriched enough with heavy elements. Without these heavy elements earth-like planets cannot form nor, if formed, could they support life[9]. Again, zero safe zones.

Irregular galaxies exhibit worse conditions for life than elliptical galaxies. They’re distorted and ripped apart with supernovae going off throughout their volume. There are no safe places where there are fewer supernovae exploding, such as Earth enjoys resting as it does between two of the arms in our  spiral galaxy[10].

Spiral galaxies are the least common in the universe comprising only 5% of all the galaxies[11]. Spiral galaxies also tend to be the most massive and luminous – the Milky Way being in the top one or two percent of all massive galaxies. This makes for an abundance of the heavy elements needed for life. Galaxies have varying degrees of star formation where gases coalesce to form stars, which then super novae at a fairly high rate[12]. In a spiral galaxy these “star nurseries” are primarily in the spiral arms – well away from our planet which is situated safely on an edge between two arms. The inner regions of the spiral disc are also inhospitable to life with high levels of radiation, supernovae and almost certainly a black hole.

So where are the “safe zones for life in the universe”? In the narrow regions on the edge of the arms of spiral galaxies, not too far out toward the perimeter of the galaxy disk where the heavy elements are thin, and not to far toward the center of the disk where violence is more common. How common are these safe zones in the universe? Very rare. The vast majority of galaxies are eliminated from contention, and the vast majority of the stars in the few remaining galaxies are also eliminated[13].

What do you suppose is a sensible estimate of the number of “safe zones” occurring by accident in the universe?

More next time . . .

Appendix A, A Universe Fine Tuned For Life

Next: article #3e “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” – FINE TUNED FOR LIFE: PLANET EARTH


[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress

[2] Stephen W. Hawking, (1988), A Brief History of Time, New York, NY, Bantam Books

[3] ibid, Ross, (114)

[4] ibid, (19)

[5] ibid, (131)

[6] Iosef S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan, (1966), Intelligent Life In The Universe, (343-350), San Francisco, CA, Holden-Day.

[7] Ibid, (413)

[8] Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, summa cum laude astronomy and physics, University of Arizona; masters and doctorate, University of Washington, interview, Lee Strobel , (2004), The Case For A Creator, (170), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan,

[9] ibid, Ross, (132)

[10] ibid, Gonzalez, Strobel, (171)

[11] ibid, Ross, (132)

[12] ibid, Gonzalez, Strobel,, (166-172)

[13] ibid, Ross, (133)

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