1. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 07:58
    Does the fact that science works strike anyone here as remarkable? Why, or why not?

    For further background on this question consider the following:

    __________

    "The success of the scientific method at unlocking the secrets of nature is so dazzling it can blind us to the greatest scientific miracle of all: science works. Scientists themselves normally take it for granted that we live in a rational, ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why this should be so remains a tantalizing mystery. Why should human beings have the ability to discover and understand the principles on which the universe runs?"

    "Is our success in explaining the world using science and mathematics just a lucky fluke, or is it inevitable that biological organisms that have emerged from the cosmic order should reflect that order in their cognitive capabilities? Is the spectacular progress of our science just an incidental quirk of history, or does it point to a deep and meaningful resonance between the human mind and the underlying organization of the natural world?"

    "Our mental processes have evolved as they have precisely because they reflect something of the nature of the physical world we inhabit. What is a surprise is that human reasoning is so successful in framing an understanding of those parts of the world our perceptions can't directly reach. It may be no surprise that human minds can deduce the laws of falling objects, because the brain has evolved to devise strategies for dodging them. But do we have any right to expect extensions of such reasoning to work when it comes to nuclear physics, or astrophysics, for example? The fact that it does work, and works "unreasonably" well, is one of the great mysteries of the universe..."

    "If human reasoning reflects something of the structure of the physical world, would it be true to say that the world is a manifestation of reason? We use the word "rational" to mean "in conformity with reason," so my question is whether, or to what extent, the world is rational."

    ~ Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World

    __________

    Care to comment?
  2. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    16 Jun '08 09:09
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Does the fact that science works strike anyone here as remarkable? Why, or why not?

    For further background on this question consider the following:

    __________

    "The success of the scientific method at unlocking the secrets of nature is so dazzling it can blind us to the greatest scientific miracle of all: science works. Scientists ...[text shortened]... : The Scientific Basis for a Rational World[/i]

    __________

    Care to comment?
    If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here.

    So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.
  3. round and round
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    16 Jun '08 16:43
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here.

    So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.
    Hmmm ..., good point. I wonder where those certain rules (and logic) come from? Just chance? Hmmm ..., do we have a self-ordering universe? Entropy and the 2nd law of thermodynamics just weren't in effect? Hmmm ..., what other rules do we have to suspend to believe what we want to believe? Hmmm ...
  4. Standard memberPBE6
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    16 Jun '08 17:29
    I don't think the universe is as completely ordered, and definitely not as "rational", as the quote suggests. Obviously some laws seems to operate the same no matter where or when we've been in the universe, but there's no guarantee that this is the case everywhere or everywhen (although we have to have some working assumptions, and universality hasn't been a bad one so far...). Also, on the quantum scale the universe seems to be in a constant random flux that only takes predictable shape in the aggregate.

    But as to the matter of human understanding, I don't think it's that unbelievable. As the quote says, the majority (if not entirety) of our mental faculties were developed in concert with a mean, mean world. Those organisms that developed mental acuity in, say, estimating the path of falling objects and working out the beneficial consequences in avoiding said objects, had a comparative advantage over others like them and eventually flourished. In fact, it's astonishing to read about human vision and human hearing, two problems that involve creating an accurate picture of the world based input that could have been generated identically any number of ways, AND WE STIL GET IT RIGHT!! (Most of the time, anyway... 😉)

    Human understanding borrows from these faculties, and employs them in different ways to come up with new working models of the universe. Ever notice how useful analogies are in science? That's because they relate more directly to the faculties that were used to produce the equation/description in the first place, things that are more familiar to our caveman underpinnings.

    However, I think the most illustrative point has been left out of the quote: other methods of developing reliable world models DON'T work! Science isn't the only thing we use to understand the world. Up until recently, superstition, magic, and religion were the keys to understanding the universe (and in some places, they still are, to their users' detriment). Science happens to have a better track record because it's based on results - verifiable, predictable, and repeatable results - as opposed to superstition and dogma, which are based on unfalsifiable claims (can neither be proved nor disproved based on evidence, although "proof" is often claimed in the face of positive evidence). Science provides rigour in focusing our ideas and demands verifiable proof in the results, which in turn has led to more and better results. It's very similar to the evolution of our mental faculties in that regard - what works works, and what doesn't gets left behind.

    You might say, science is the evolution of the idea. 🙂
  5. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 19:241 edit
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here.

    So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.
    If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here. So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.

    How about if I rephrase the question: does the fact that the universe has certain rules that we can describe and explain logically strike you as remarkable in any way? Why, or why not?

    Furthermore, are you saying that a rationally incomprehensible universe cannot support conscious beings? Only a rational universe can give rise to life? We know certain facets of our universe are rational, but how do we know that our universe is ultimately rational? Perhaps there are facets of our universe which aren't.
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    16 Jun '08 19:35
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here. So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.

    How about if I rephrase the question: does the fact that the universe has certain rules that we can describe and explain logically strike you as remarkable in any way? Why, or why not?
    ...[text shortened]... verse is ultimately rational? Perhaps there are facets of our universe which aren't.[/b]
    If the universe didn't have properties that could give raise to life, what would you have said then...?
  7. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 19:43
    Originally posted by PBE6
    I don't think the universe is as completely ordered, and definitely not as "rational", as the quote suggests. Obviously some laws seems to operate the same no matter where or when we've been in the universe, but there's no guarantee that this is the case everywhere or everywhen (although we have to have some working assumptions, and universality hasn't been a ...[text shortened]... t gets left behind.

    You might say, science is the evolution of the idea. 🙂
    Also, on the quantum scale the universe seems to be in a constant random flux that only takes predictable shape in the aggregate.

    But uncertainty doesn't necessarily entail that the behavior of quantum systems is irrational, does it? Can't the relative probabilities of different possible states still be statistically determined? Doesn't this suggest that, regardless of whether we can accurately predict the behavior of quantum systems, there are nevertheless laws and forces at work? After all, there must be a difference between the role of chance within quantum systems and a truly lawless (irrational) universe.
  8. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 19:53
    Originally posted by FabianFnas
    If the universe didn't have properties that could give raise to life, what would you have said then...?
    Good point.
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    16 Jun '08 20:575 edits
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]If the universe didn't have certain rules (that we can describe and explain logically) then we wouldn't be here. So, no. I don't find it surprising at all.

    How about if I rephrase the question: does the fact that the universe has certain rules that we can describe and explain logically strike you as remarkable in any way? Why, or why not?
    ...[text shortened]... verse is ultimately rational? Perhaps there are facets of our universe which aren't.[/b]
    If I may step in here?

    No life like our own can survive in a completely irrational environment. All
    life on earth require some kind of environmental consistency in order to
    survive. If the living conditions change too rapidly, all larger lifeforms are
    threatened. And we live on this tiny little ball in a solar system where no
    other planet has the required conditions for our specific form of life.

    We must ask ourselves if it's at all possible that this "perfection" can
    come from random chance, should the basic material we can observe in
    cold space come together under certain conditions. And the logical answer
    would be yes. Why?

    Because if you think about it. If we're all ultimately made of the same
    basic building blocks found in abundance in the universe around us, then
    given a certain level of disarray and movement between those tiny
    building blocks over millions and millions of years, they're sooner or later
    bound to make the "right" connections.

    The reason this line of thinking works for me is because if we take an
    imaginary step backwards in time, to when earth would have been quite
    uninhabitable to our own species and look at those random combinations
    of the most basic molecular structures, there's really nothing saying it
    must peak with a species like our own; with a world like our own. If you
    think about all the ways that life could exist given the right conditions it's
    not at all impossible to imagine that we are the product of billions of
    successive, small and random changes over a to us unimaginable
    amount of time; both well adapted to the environment and changing the
    environment at the same time.

    If all humans die out, would the world be any less miraculous in a
    universal sense? Is it easier to imagine bacteria arising from random
    events than humans? Why? Because a human is more complex in its
    physical structure? Complex to whom? We die quite easily and the world
    is far, far from perfect. If we're intelligently designed, why wasn't the world
    made perfect for us? Could be a test I suppose, but the very imperfection
    of our world (and ourselves), can also easily be seen as an indication that
    we're not really meant to be in a divine and more meaningful
    sense, but just came to be over time as changes in the
    environments favoured previous forms of life that eventually led to us.

    I don't find the world remarkable as in unexplainable, as much as
    remarkable in how well adapted I am to it, still with all the constant
    changes going on around me. My very imperfection as a human allows
    me to adapt to changes in the environment if they're not too extreme,
    and that tells me that I'm perfectly suited for an ever changing,
    unforseable future. Exactly the kind of world that would come to be from
    random happenings, rather than a thought through construction. It takes
    so little for me to die, yet I manage to survive by keeping away from the
    dangers that I know (sometimes instinctively) would cost my life.

    Oh, and I don't find the thought of our existence being the result of an
    ultimately random chain of events discouraging, but quite exciting. Who
    knows what the future has in store for our and other species here on
    earth?
  10. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 22:281 edit
    Originally posted by Jigtie
    If I may step in here?

    No life like our own can survive in a completely irrational environment. All
    life on earth require some kind of environmental consistency in order to
    survive. If the living conditions change too rapidly, all larger lifeforms are
    threatened. And we live on this tiny little ball in a solar system where no
    other planet has the r
    knows what the future has in store for our and other species here on
    earth?
    Indeed it is possible that we are accidental. It is also possible that the laws of nature make conscious beings such as ourselves an inevitability, i.e., perhaps we were meant to be here (science certainly doesn't rule out the possibility of inherent meaning). The question is, which is more probable?
    __________

    "Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them."

    ~ Sir Fred Hoyle

    "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe that was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan."

    ~ Arno Penzias

    "The scientific community is prepared to consider the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis today than at any time in the last 100 years."

    ~ Frederic B. Burnham
    __________

    Antony Flew, a life-long atheist, changed his mind and became a deist due to scientific evidence:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6688917/
  11. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    16 Jun '08 22:471 edit
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Indeed it is possible that we are accidental. It is also possible that the laws of nature make conscious beings such as ourselves an inevitability, i.e., perhaps we were meant to be here (science certainly doesn't rule out the possibility of inherent meaning). The question is, which is more probable?
    __________

    "Such properties seem t became a deist due to scientific evidence:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6688917/
    Hoyle was basically swayed the the Anthropic argument (which is fallacious, and which you are battering out here). Hoyle had little apparent understanding of evolution, and misused the argument from big numbers to delude himself and others about the true nature of the universe. As a young man, he did some good work. As an older man, he obfuscated more than he educated.

    As for Flew, well, that book was written by two theists. Flew apparently signed off on it, but when he has been questioned about the book, seems almost entirely ignorant of its contents.

    To be honest before a theist here brought him up recently, I had never heard of this guy. The book title claims him to be "world's most notorious atheist", well, if that were true, some of us might have heard of him, don't ya think?


    [Edit; Burnman's quote is a simple lie. The Scientific community cannot consider God as an explanation for anything, since that idea is consistent with any state of being.

    Penzas one is equally lacking in meaning. He presupposes that the purpose of the universe is to contain life. He gives no reason for us to believe that assertion, he just asserts.]
  12. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    16 Jun '08 22:51
    Originally posted by dizzyfingers
    Hmmm ..., good point. I wonder where those certain rules (and logic) come from? Just chance? Hmmm ..., do we have a self-ordering universe? Entropy and the 2nd law of thermodynamics just weren't in effect? Hmmm ..., what other rules do we have to suspend to believe what we want to believe? Hmmm ...
    If the universe were substantively different, you wouldn't be asking these questions. The fact that we are here in no way supposes that the universe was made for us - it only tells us that the universe can support us. Indeed, it seems unbelievably narcassistic to believe that the universe, 27 billion light years across, a hundred billion billion stars, was created solely for the benefit of a single species, out of some 10 million, on a backwater planet in a relatively obscure part of space.

    There is no reason to suspect we were anything but lucky.
  13. Illinois
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    16 Jun '08 23:041 edit
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    If the universe were substantively different, you wouldn't be asking these questions. The fact that we are here in no way supposes that the universe was made for us - it only tells us that the universe can support us. Indeed, it seems unbelievably narcassistic to believe that the universe, 27 billion light years across, a hundred billion billion stars ...[text shortened]... relatively obscure part of space.

    There is no reason to suspect we were anything but lucky.
    There is no reason to suspect we were anything but lucky.

    No reason to suspect we were anything but lucky? None? So every scientist who feels impelled by the scientific evidence to consider that the world was created purposefully for life has absolutely no reason to consider that possibility? I think not. 🙂
    __________

    BTW, what reasons do you have to back up your idea that we are merely accidental?
  14. Standard memberscottishinnz
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    17 Jun '08 01:32
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]There is no reason to suspect we were anything but lucky.

    No reason to suspect we were anything but lucky? None? So every scientist who feels impelled by the scientific evidence to consider that the world was created purposefully for life has absolutely no reason to consider that possibility? I think not. 🙂
    __________

    BTW, what reasons do you have to back up your idea that we are merely accidental?[/b]
    So every scientist who feels impelled by the scientific evidence to consider that the world was created purposefully for life has absolutely no reason to consider that possibility? I think not.

    What scientific evidence would that be? There is no scientific evidence that the world was created "purposefully for life" as you put it.


    BTW, what reasons do you have to back up your idea that we are merely accidental?

    What reason is there to suspect we are not? YOU are making the positive claim (the universe was specifically designed for life), it's up to you to back that statement up.
  15. Illinois
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    17 Jun '08 02:45
    Originally posted by scottishinnz
    [b]So every scientist who feels impelled by the scientific evidence to consider that the world was created purposefully for life has absolutely no reason to consider that possibility? I think not.

    What scientific evidence would that be? There is no scientific evidence that the world was created "purposefully for life" as you put it.

    ...[text shortened]... was specifically designed for life), it's up to you to back that statement up.[/b]
    What reason is there to suspect we are not? YOU are making the positive claim (the universe was specifically designed for life), it's up to you to back that statement up.

    I've merely alluded to the possibility that the universe was designed for life. Here are some evidences:

    1. strong nuclear force constant
    if larger: no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable; thus, no life chemistry
    if smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry

    2. weak nuclear force constant
    if larger: too much hydrogen would convert to helium in big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible
    if smaller: too little helium would be produced from big bang; hence, stars would convert too little matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible

    3. gravitational force constant
    if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry
    if smaller: stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus, many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form

    4. electromagnetic force constant
    if greater: chemical bonding would be disrupted; elements more massive than boron would be unstable to fission
    if lesser: chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry

    5. ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
    if larger: all stars would be at least 40% more massive than the sun; hence, stellar burning would be too brief and too uneven for life support
    if smaller: all stars would be at least 20% less massive than the sun, thus incapable of producing heavy elements

    6. ratio of electron to proton mass
    if larger: chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry
    if smaller: same as above

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

    8. expansion rate of the universe
    if larger: no galaxies would form
    if smaller: universe would collapse, even before stars formed

    9. entropy level of the universe
    if larger: stars would not form within proto-galaxies
    if smaller: no proto-galaxies would form

    10. mass density of the universe
    if larger: overabundance of deuterium from big bang would cause stars to burn rapidly, too rapidly for life to form
    if smaller: insufficient helium from big bang would result in a shortage of heavy elements

    11. velocity of light
    if faster: stars would be too luminous for life support if slower: stars would be insufficiently luminous for life support

    12. age of the universe
    if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would exist in the right (for life) part of the galaxy
    if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

    13. initial uniformity of radiation
    if more uniform: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
    if less uniform: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space

    14. average distance between galaxies
    if larger: star formation late enough in the history of the universe would be hampered by lack of material
    if smaller: gravitational tug-of-wars would destabilize the sun's orbit

    15. density of galaxy cluster
    if denser: galaxy collisions and mergers would disrupt the sun's orbit
    if less dense: star formation late enough in the history of the universe would be hampered by lack of material

    16. average distance between stars
    if larger: heavy element density would be too sparse for rocky planets to form
    if smaller: planetary orbits would be too unstable for life

    17. fine structure constant (describing the fine-structure splitting of spectral lines) if larger: all stars would be at least 30% less massive than the sun
    if larger than 0.06: matter would be unstable in large magnetic fields
    if smaller: all stars would be at least 80% more massive than the sun

    18. decay rate of protons
    if greater: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
    if smaller: universe would contain insufficient matter for life

    19. 12C to 16O nuclear energy level ratio
    if larger: universe would contain insufficient oxygen for life
    if smaller: universe would contain insufficient carbon for life

    20. ground state energy level for 4He
    if larger: universe would contain insufficient carbon and oxygen for life
    if smaller: same as above

    21. decay rate of 8Be
    if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars
    if faster: no element heavier than beryllium would form; thus, no life chemistry

    22. ratio of neutron mass to proton mass
    if higher: neutron decay would yield too few neutrons for the formation of many life-essential elements
    if lower: neutron decay would produce so many neutrons as to collapse all stars into neutron stars or black holes

    23. initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
    if greater: radiation would prohibit planet formation
    if lesser: matter would be insufficient for galaxy or star formation

    24. polarity of the water molecule
    if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too high for life
    if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too low for life; liquid water would not work as a solvent for life chemistry; ice would not float, and a runaway freeze-up would result

    25. supernovae eruptions
    if too close, too frequent, or too late: radiation would exterminate life on the planet
    if too distant, too infrequent, or too soon: heavy elements would be too sparse for rocky planets to form

    26. white dwarf binaries
    if too few: insufficient fluorine would exist for life chemistry
    if too many: planetary orbits would be too unstable for life
    if formed too soon: insufficient fluorine production
    if formed too late: fluorine would arrive too late for life chemistry

    27. ratio of exotic matter mass to ordinary matter mass
    if larger: universe would collapse before solar-type stars could form
    if smaller: no galaxies would form

    28. number of effective dimensions in the early universe
    if larger: quantum mechanics, gravity, and relativity could not coexist; thus, life would be impossible
    if smaller: same result

    29. number of effective dimensions in the present universe
    if smaller: electron, planet, and star orbits would become unstable
    if larger: same result

    30. mass of the neutrino
    if smaller: galaxy clusters, galaxies, and stars would not form
    if larger: galaxy clusters and galaxies would be too dense

    31. big bang ripples
    if smaller: galaxies would not form; universe would expand too rapidly
    if larger: galaxies/galaxy clusters would be too dense for life; black holes would dominate; universe would collapse before life-site could form

    32. size of the relativistic dilation factor
    if smaller: certain life-essential chemical reactions will not function properly
    if larger: same result

    33. uncertainty magnitude in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle
    if smaller: oxygen transport to body cells would be too small and certain life-essential elements would be unstable
    if larger: oxygen transport to body cells would be too great and certain life-essential elements would be unstable

    34. cosmological constant
    if larger: universe would expand too quickly to form solar-type stars
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