The Future of NASA
Michael Griffin is gearin...
More Features
Looking to apply for a Discover Credit Card? Members/Subscribers Log In      
Farewell
My Problem with Big Pharma
Has Newsweek Sold Out to Big Pharma?
Dark Side of Green, Continued
The Dark Side of Green
The Green Bandwagon
Green Book Award: Nominations Wanted
Wilson Wins “Green Book Award”
The End of Total War?
Does the Desire for Peace Cause War?
[ Full Blog Archives ]
[ Who is John Horgan? ]
[ What is Horganism? ]
Mind & Brain
Medicine
Space
Technology
Ancient Life
Environment
All Newsletters
   
Discover Magazine  Blog  Archives
Horganism

« The AAAS and Spoonbending | Main | Dawkins and Delusion, Continued »



Richard Dawkins's Cosmology Delusion

Being a shallow, self-absorbed sort, I ran out to buy The God Delusion yesterday after someone told me that Richard Dawkins mentions me in it. In a section titled “An Interlude at Cambridge,” Dawkins recalls his participation as a speaker in the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship for Science and Religion in the summer of 2005. He notes that I was a participant too, and that I later wrote an “endearingly ambivalent” article for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the fellowship, which is funded by the pro-religion Templeton Foundation.

First, a correction: Dawkins quotes my recollection that the faith of one Christian journalist “was wavering as a result of Dawkins’s dissection of religion.” After my article was published, that journalist informed me that I had misunderstood him; his doubts really stemmed from an ongoing internal process and had nothing to do with remarks by Dawkins. In an email, the journalist said: “I find [Dawkins] to be completely unconvincing in terms of argument, because his initial standpoint is so harshly fundamentalist as to strip his points of all merit.” Ironically, during the fellowship Dawkins listened sympathetically—without a hint of condescension--as this journalist attempted to explain a religious experience that involved paranormal phenomena.

I left the fellowship mightily impressed by the intelligence, courage, passion and integrity of Dawkins’s assault on religion. I have intellectual disagreements with him, though. In The God Delusion, Dawkins embraces the tautological anthropic principle and untestable multi-universe theories as potential explanations of the riddle of existence.

Richard, substituting pseudo-scientific creation theories for religious ones is not a step forward! Better to accept that some mysteries may lie forever beyond our ken.

Comments

nigel cook

"In The God Delusion, Dawkins embraces the tautological anthropic principle and untestable multi-universe theories as potential explanations of the riddle of existence.

"Richard, substituting pseudo-scientific creation theories for religious ones is not a step forward! Better to accept that some mysteries may lie forever beyond our ken."

That's the big problem: EVERYONE can use multiverse scenarios, which lack any evidence and are completely subjective, to support ANTHING.

Some claim that the anthropic 'selection principle' is the way God works, while others claim it debunks God.

This is what is wrong with the anthropic principle. When a kid, any question I asked was generally 'answered' with a reply like: 'because it is'.

Why is the sky blue? Because it is. Etc. It is not a lie to say we exist because if the universe was slightly different, we would not exist. But it makes me bitter, because it doesn't convey the sort of deep explanation you expect of physics.

Take the quantitative predictions. Sir Fred Hoyle claimed to predict that there is a specially large cross-section for the fusion of three alpha particles (in stars) to create carbon-12.

He was right. He knew he was right because he was 18% carbon by mass and carbon can't be formed efficiently by other fusion processes. Hence by elimination of other processes, he was able to predict the triple alpha mechanism for creating C-12.

He never got a Nobel. (He claimed in his autobiography that he never got it because he upset the Nobel committee for attacking them when they gave a Nobel to Bell's PhD advisor Hewish for her discovery of pulsars, and not including her in the prize! I don't know whether this was true, but I think it was very good of Hoyle to do that. People who make discoveries deserve win. Not just the guy who manages to get the paper published.)

The logic of the quantitative prediction from the anthropic principle is like this. You see a road 3 m wide on a planet. You then make a prediction that the cars using the road must be approximately that width in size, and because the road is smooth, you can also estimate how good the suspension system of the car must be, and so on. So you deduce loads of approximate predictions, but you still don't have a theory of what powers the car, the dynamics, or anything physical.

In the case of Dawkin's using the multiverse landscape to defend religion, he is crackpot, because that isn't even falsifiable, in addition to missing any dynamical mechanism. He should stay out of physics and stick to birds and bees. ;-)

J. S. Johnson

JH: "Richard, substituting pseudo-scientific creation theories for religious ones is not a step forward! Better to accept that some mysteries may lie forever beyond our ken."

NC: “That's the big problem: EVERYONE can use multiverse scenarios, which lack any evidence and are completely subjective, to support ANTHING”

No evidence of the multiverse? No evidence of enfolded dimensions, etc.? Process Physics (Cahill, Reginald T., “Process Physics” at http://www.mountainman.com.au/process_physics/index_of_papers.htm) describes earliest process as pre-geometric substratum of self-organizing self-referential semantic information evolving in fractal patterning. Then suppose we view time and space from the narrowest possible perspective, i.e. relative to say, three scales within indefinite fractal (self-similar) scales in space and time. This would suggest not only that phenomena and structures at atomic, stellar, and galactic scales are self-similar repeats, but that such scales of both time and space have no finite largest or smallest scales.

Indeed, this is what is actually found. It is called the Self-Similar Cosmological Paradigm, or SSCP. See R. L. Oldershaw’s work at http://www.amherst.edu/~rloldershaw/

The implication is that while the concept of multiverse becomes meaningful within the SSCP, the common interpretation that it implies a random order of nature fails (i.e. the anthropic principle: that we exist simply because the randomness of nature just happens to be coherent in our local corner of the universe). It fails because the fractal similitude at every scale supports Cahill’s premise that the origin of all natural order is/was non-local, i.e. pre-geometric. The inference is that all geometric expression must have the same very simple underlying order that repeats because of self-organizing criticality, and is anything but random.

Beyond objectivity: If natural law can be reduced to an objective TOE, this must imply cosmos is a closed system, and the second law of thermodynamics tells us that a closed system cannot be creative. But cosmos is infinitely creative, not least through its creative subject agent. Therefore, subjectivity is the more fundamental reality. Objectivity and its concepts is no more than a limited tool, a means by which the subject extends cosmic creativity within the realm of the subject’s limited sensory perception and access.

Moreover, human survival depends quite simply upon choices that have fractal similitude with the larger structure of natural order. The apparent complexities of cosmos and civilization are a wondrous illusion, a welcome diversion from nothingness, but survival depends on coherent response to conflicted subjective perspectives: in science it is the relativity problem with its symmetry solution: all laws must look the same from every perspective. In civil order it means equality under the law; in personal relations it means the Golden Rule. While our problems seem infinitely complex at every scale, the solution to all of them is little more than billions of choices at personal, national, and world scales, choices with the same very simple coherent principle as the Golden Rule.

hunter

100 years from now, when Dawkins is but a footnote in history, religion will still flourish. A thousand years from now, when Dawkins and his 'brights' are completely forgotten, religion will still exist. Dawkins exemplifies for me the idea that atheism is the easiest of the theisms, because it allows you to do whatever you want and to pretend that you know it all. There is no end to knowing. There will always be mystery. There will always be a yearning for an unknown country. Atheists have been yammering away in ridicule and derision and, all too often, in vicious oppression, against that yearning for generations. They have always failed, and they always will.

DT Strain

Philosophically and logically speaking, it isn't necessary for these cosmological hypotheses to be true or proven or "embraced" in order to serve the purpose Dawkins seems to be using them for.

When dealing with a people who claim that it is, beyond doubt, true that God exists, the MERE POSSIBILITY of any of the cosmological hypotheses being true, is enough to logically discredit the NECESSITY of the God hypothesis as being true.

In other words, all that's needed is to show there are other POSSIBILITIES of equal or greater evidence (even if that is zero evidence, on par with God), in order to conclude that absolute belief God's existence is irrational.

Reid

"When dealing with a people who claim that it is, beyond doubt, true that God exists, the MERE POSSIBILITY of any of the cosmological hypotheses being true, is enough to logically discredit the NECESSITY of the God hypothesis as being true."

Yeeees.... but Creationists are arguing the exact converse. In their eyes, the possibility of the God hypothesis being true discredits the necessity of evolution. Both sides appear to me to be primarily motivated by faith in things they do not, cannot know for certain.

The comments to this entry are closed.



   
Wishful Seeing
Shiny Happy People
20 Things You Didn't Know About... Sleep
Can New Neurons Teach an Old Mouse?
The Woman Who Never Forgets
Why We Get Diseases Other Primates Don't
Vital Signs: Trouble in the Nursery
Natural Selections: The Potential Pandemic You've Never Heard Of
20 Things You Didn't Know About... Death
Natural Selections: The Potential Pandemic You've Never Heard Of
Recently Covered in Discover: The Man Who Finds Planets
Sky Lights: The Dark Side of the Universe
20 Things You Didn't Know About... Meteors
Sky Lights: The Dark Side of the Universe
Islam Hits International Space Station
Neighborhood Watch Goes High Tech
Going Atomic... Again
Jaron's World: The Murder of Mystery
How to Make Anything Look Like a Toy, Round II
Raw Data: The Rigorous Study of the Ancient Mariners
Will We Ever Clone a Caveman?
This Month's Ask Discover
How Life Got a Leg Up
Mammals Stake Their Place in Jurassic Park
You Say "Ook Ook," I Say "Aak Aak"
Guilt-Free Gossip for Greens
A Greener Faith
Whatever Happened To... the Exxon Valdez?
Life After Oil
The Next Katrina
  Full access to all site content requires registration as a magazine subscriber.
© 2005 Discover Media LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights | Terms and Conditions | Educator's Guide | Subscribe Online Today | Online Media Kit
Customer Care | Contact Us