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Science's Alternative To an Intelligent Creator 683

Posted by kdawson
from the theory-of-anything dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Discover magazine has an interesting article on the multiverse theory — a synthesis of string theory and the anthropic principle that explains why our universe seems perfectly tailored for life without invoking an intelligent creator. Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. While most of those universes are barren, some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life. The idea that the universe was made just for us — known as the anthropic principle — debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter proposed that a purely random assortment of laws would have left the universe dead and dark, and that life limits the values that physical constants can have. The anthropic principle languished on the fringes of science for years, but in 2000, new theoretical work threatened to unravel string theory when researchers calculated that the basic equations of string theory have an astronomical number of different possible solutions, perhaps as many as 101,000, with each solution representing a unique way to describe the universe. The latest iteration of string theory provides a natural explanation for the anthropic principle. If there are vast numbers of other universes, all with different properties, at least one of them ought to have the right combination of conditions to bring forth stars, planets, and living things." So far xkcd is simulating just one single universe.
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Science's Alternative To an Intelligent Creator

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  • This is news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anmida (1276756) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:14AM (#25784643)
    This is news? I thought that this idea has been around for a while, or at least it was the logical conclusion of having a multiverse. A livable universe doesn't exist "just for us," it just so happens that out of all of them, at least one of them would end up hospitable. Kind of like planets and solar systems.
  • My brane hurts. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:15AM (#25784651)
    Is that really "101,000," which is hardly an "astronomical" number, or is it supposed to be 10^1000? The article was correctly quoted, and with a quick search I couldn't find another source for the number of possible multiverses.
  • Again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:17AM (#25784669) Homepage
    I could swear that this has got to be the third time Discover has run almost this exact same story, but I unfortunately recycled about ten years of the magazine this summer.
  • Comic Book Science (Score:0, Insightful)

    by s1283134 (660354) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:17AM (#25784671)
    This sounds more like a comic book than science. Does any of this "theory" have any facts behind it? Or is it like my theory that the marshmallow man is really the creator of it all? I know they put a lot of fancy math with it, but remeber math is just a language. It tries to express what is there, but it doesn't have to. I can write a story of truth(non-fiction) with English, or I can write a story of fiction with English. The same can be said for math. We clearly have the latter here.
  • by dintlu (1171159) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:19AM (#25784691)

    It's extremely disingenuous to call a hypothesis a principle, especially when the hypothesis is as controversial as this one.

    I lack the credentials to argue whether or not the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life is a valid one, but overbearing terminology like this makes me extremely wary of people arguing in favor of the hypothesis.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:20AM (#25784703) Journal

    I prefer my own Weak Myopic Principle: We think the Universe is perfectly suited to life, because we're unable to imagine forms of life that would develop in other conditions. :)
  • by bihoy (100694) * on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:22AM (#25784725)

    In my view science can explain only what we can observe, directly or indirectly. Is it ever possible for mankind to discern the true nature of God from our limited vantage point? Where did this multiverse come from? Is the mutliverse itself some part or aspect of God?

  • by Cynic9 (842597) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:25AM (#25784741)
    I think science is what you end up with if you don't accept "it just is" as an answer.
  • Just Two Things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dprovine (140134) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:29AM (#25784789)

    First, I'm not sure I agree that the universe seems perfectly tailored for life. 99.99% of the universe is empty space in which no life as we know it can survive. It seems to me that "perfectly tailored" would mean something other than "99.99% unusable".

    Second, I don't know how this solves any God-related problems. The question is "Why is there anything?" The God-related answers usually hinge on the idea that, as we understand it now, the physical universe we can observe does not have within it the ability to create itself. (Hence lots of arguments about "First Cause" and such.) So, it is posited, something outside our physically observable universe must exist which is subject to different rules and created our universe (and with it, us).

    So, there's a mind-bogglingly huge multiverse; fine. But why is it there? Why is any of the universes there? The one we live in doesn't seem to have been capable of creating itself, and the ones that arose in parallel with it can't have created it either, since they didn't exist at the time it didn't exist.

    And third, unless you have an observation, which for the moment I'll describe as "a number and a unit of measure which can (at least in theory) be independently checked by someone else", you're not doing science. As this "theory" of multiverses proposes (infinitely?) many parallel worlds which we cannot observe in any way, it's not a science at all. It's just another religion made up by people who want to avoid using that word.

  • by niktemadur (793971) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:30AM (#25784791)

    The idea that the universe was made just for us â" known as the anthropic principle â" debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter...

    That's not the way I've always heard it, it's more along the lines of:

    Question: Why is the universe the way it is?
    Answer: Because if it were any other way, we wouldn't be here to observe it and pose the question.

    Sort of like Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" on a cosmic level.

  • by WiglyWorm (1139035) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:35AM (#25784847) Homepage

    Every time you run in to a roadblock, just tweak your calculations until they fit what you see. Shouldn't our formulas be based off of our observations, and not the other way around?

    I'm personally a big fan of relative gravity, but touching einsteins theory of relativity seems to be anathema. A ridiculous notion since relativity itself debunked newton's theories, theories come and go as our ability to observe grows. Scientists shouldn't be afraid of it.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:37AM (#25784857)
    This whole multiverse thing is as far from physics as is theology. Like the "proofs" of the existence of God, it's just an infinite regress. The fact is, that we observe one universe. Our existence is unexplained. So the theist says "ah well, we're here because God created us." So we say "Fine, now you have to explain not only our existence but that of God as well".

    The String Theorist says "hey, I just found this really cool mathematical technique which allows me to express the observed laws of Nature in a different way." We say "Ah, but now you have to explain why your theory fails to predict the existence of only one type of Universe". The String Theorist waves his hands a bit and says "perhaps all of the possible types of Universe exist, it's just that we can only see this one." So then we ask, where did this multiverse come from?

    In both cases the gorilla in the room is Bill Ockham's shaving instrument - in order to explain what is, something much bigger and more complicated has to be postulated which is not observable.

    Personally, I think String Theory is going to be another Phlogiston or Ptolemaic Epicycles - both of these required observed behaviour to be explained by the unobservable, whether it was the negative mass phlogiston that left heated materials, or the invisible angels needed to keep the Sun and all the planets revolving around the Earth. Both were "scientific" orthodoxy for some time.

    The fundamental mystery is still "Why is there anything at all?", and none of the current "explanations" actually have any explanatory power. We should recognise this. (And perhaps put more physics effort into cheap, safe nuclear power and solar energy? But that's just applied physics, even if it is far more likely to keep physics departments open for the next fifty years or so.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:37AM (#25784867)

    Caroline Miller is simply wrong. The anthropic principle does not say this. It says that, given that we exist, our universe must be the way it is. That fits Occam's razor just fine.

    Multiverses, OTOH, are just bollocks. I'm with you on that. Although ... Occam's razor says one should not "multiply" possibilities without reason, and here we are exponentiating them :)

  • by MindKata (957167) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:40AM (#25784885) Journal
    "the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life"

    ... And if there are multiple parallel universes, then in all universes that are not suited to life, there will be no life to ask, "why isn't this universe suited to life". So only in the universes that are suited to life, could there be lifeforms asking, why is this universe suited to life.

    Asking therefore "that the universe was made just for us", is clearly totally wrong. Its not about us at all. Its just that life can survive and exist in this universe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:46AM (#25784939)

    Before trying to discern the "true nature of god", we need to discern whether this god exists.
    If this god is going to have any sort of interaction with this universe, then it should be observable.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:47AM (#25784951) Journal

    Religion is the "answer" to the question of origin.

    It doesn't provide an answer at all - I presume this is what you mean by the quotes.

    as a human being I find people who think that science can explain everything rather arrogant.

    There may well be some things that are fundamentally unknowable - which is true is a matter of opinion, and I'm not sure that either viewpoint is "arrogant".

    What I found arrogant however is the idea that "science can't explain everything", but that there somehow exists some other method by which we could explain it. E.g., people who say "Religion explains the 'why' which science can't do", or people who try to give extra credibility to alternative medicine and other hocus pocus by claiming "science isn't the only way to find answers".

  • by the_womble (580291) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:48AM (#25784973) Homepage Journal
    If we did not exists, we would not be able to debate the question - we are a biased sample.

    I do not think anyone has the credentials to argue whether this universe is particularly suited to life - who knows what life forms might exist if the universe were different?

    The science vs religion headline is not useful. scientific knowledge of ultimate origins may possibly eventually shed some light on God, but not right now. The argument for God's existence from the anthropic principle is a "God of the gaps" (a phrase I found in one of Russell Stannard's books on the subject) argument.

    Is this testable in any way? If so, is it science?

  • Douglas Adams (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Kendig (1959) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:50AM (#25784999) Homepage

    "Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

  • by joelholdsworth (1095165) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:50AM (#25785001)

    As others have mentioned, this is an age old idea. Here are some questions that I've yet to hear sensible answers to:

    So your idea is that the universe is actually part of a multiverse. Fine. But then why does that exist, as opposed to nothing? and how did this multiverse come to be a place so fineley tuned as to be an environment conducive to the spawning of hospitable universes? Do you see that while you've expanded the idea, you havn't come to a more fundamental answer? And what is it that makes the universe "work"? Say the multiverse is goverened by string theory, what is it that breathes life into all these mathematical equations, rather than them being simply lifeless abstract formulae?

    And where's the payoff in believing in a multiverse? Doesn't your Occam's Razor alarm bell begin ringing like crazy? To accept it, I'd have to put faith in an unseen (perhaps even permanently undetectible) world of parallel universes for which we have not even a single shred of hard evidence (and possibly never will), and for which the theory behind it is so embryonic that it's equations have not even been completely written down, much less solved; a theory which is so tenuous that many physicists regard it's status as "Not even wrong" (Peter Woit). What possible good reason could there be to find this a more appealing "explanation" for the origin of the universe? Not only is there no substantial evidence whatsoever, but also it fails to deal with the design/creator problem. As an explanation it does nothing but expand our idea of the scope of everything-that-exists by a step. So it seems to me that it would take much more faith to believe in this over the idea of a creator God.

    Sometimes it seems people are so eager to believe in anything - any idea at all - just so long as it doesn't have God in it.

    It feels strange to me the way Atheists always want to claim the Scientific high ground over Christians. It's strange that the headline of this article sets Science and belief in a creator God up as opposed to each other, which they're clearly not. I grow weary of Atheists pointing to this theory or that experiment as a way of proving that God cannot exist. The reason I grow weary is that Science (aka the Natural/Physical Sciences) is the ordered study of the natural/physcial world, but God must by definition be in some ways metaphysical. So discussion regarding God has to be grounded in Philosophy and Metaphysics rather than Physics of the Natural Sciences.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) * on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:51AM (#25785011)

    ... the whole idea that there are multi-verses goes right against the grain of science itself, multiplying entities needlessly.

    The two general explanations are:

    Universe is eternal
    Universe is not eternal (eternal something else exists "outside" the universe that caused our universe)

    Out of those two, you have a few options:

    1) Universe is eternal, the universe is godless
    a) Universe is eternal, the universe is god (i.e. reality/god = same thing)

    2) Universe is not eternal, the universe is godless
    a) Universe is not eternal, the universe has a god "outside" the universe (which is a misnomer, technically the universe would be 'inside' god, or made out of god, god being the substance of all existence, in this case).

    Those are the most parsimonious explanations, if you want to be honest with yourself.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:54AM (#25785053)

    Religion replaces "it just is" with "God did it" which means about the same thing: "No idea."

  • by hobbit (5915) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:00AM (#25785103)

    Unfortunately it is not possible to discern the true nature of God. He is much too clever with his noodly appendages for that.

  • by Zarf (5735) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:01AM (#25785107) Journal

    I require some kind of empirical evidence or some kind of experiment I can perform to reproduce these results. So far I have been unable to prove the existence of an alternate reality as I only have this one to work with. I would like very much to believe in alternate realities except for the fact that I have no satisfactory evidence proving that they exist.

    Similarly, I have no empirical evidence that intelligent aliens exist only smug retorts on how conceded I must be to believe that they do not. I merely lack any evidence that they exist. It would be insane for me to behave as if something I had no proof of was real.

    I can only act upon the reality I see in front of me. I can't really be expected to act on imaginary things can I? The multiverse is beyond my experience so far so I can't be expected to react to it.

  • by TranceThrust (1391831) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:02AM (#25785113)
    They aren't afraid. That's why if they encounter some new observation, they update theories to allow for those observations. If this is not reasonably possible, the theory goes down the toilet. In other words: theories, including string theory, are indeed based off of our observations, and not the other way around.
  • We Are Perfect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:07AM (#25785171) Homepage Journal

    Once something has happened, however improbable it was, its probability of happening turned out to be 100.0%.

    Probability isn't about "luck". It's about the unknown certainty that something will have happened once it did, even if many other things could have happened instead.

    We do indeed live in a universe that is improbable because it's one of the very few, of all that could exist, that can and does make sense to us. That's because we evolved in it, as part of it. We were selected by the universe's laws and materials to have bodies that include organs which can hold information modeling the universe. But that doesn't mean anything miraculous occurred to us. It just means that we're the parts of the universe that generated the mechanisms to have the model. Mars' many rocks were also generated, but don't have the hardware to notice, or at least to replay an accurate rendition to their parts that can notice. Likewise, something like 15 billion years have passed until now, when we're noticing that we're noticing - until now, we weren't "miraculous", and what has changed is simply our interaction with ourselves, nothing "divine".

    Every lottery winner can think they've received a miracle, because the odds were so slim, they have to think "why me?" But someone was certain to win, eventually, even in lotteries where the chances of even one winner are tiny - if the game goes on long enough.

    What is at work with these "divine selection" delusions is not metaphysics, or even determinism. It's ignorance of math, of the mechanics of consciousness, of the basics of selection. "God" does indeed play dice with the universe: all "god" does is roll dice, in every quantum event, and probably on an even finer scale. We're just dice that eventually rolled unp parts that notice what's showing on the other die. We're just getting started, and many of us have yet to make the lucky guess that that's all we are, which is special enough without having to invent a roller.

  • by mbrod (19122) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:09AM (#25785199) Homepage Journal
    to disprove the unseen. Why am I not surprised?
  • Perfectly tailored (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:16AM (#25785269) Journal

    They have it backwards. The universe is not perfectly tailored for life. Life is perfectly tailored for this universe because life evolved in this universe.

    This whole article comes from the false belief that life is somehow special and that the universe exists to support life. Well, that is false. Life is a side-effect of the universe. If all life ceased, the universe would carry on and not care.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jafiwam (310805) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:19AM (#25785297) Homepage Journal

    Newton was not "debunked".

    His theory had a scope that doesn't conflict with relativity under most of the conditions that appear within the human experience.

    If you use numbers and values that apply within the scope of the theory, it works great and has tremendous predictive value. Whole industries are built on using just his stuff.

    Yes, it doesn't apply to some values (that's where Relativity comes in) but it isn't wrong. It just isn't complete enough. Being "not complete" is not "debunked".

  • 10^122 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <> on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:24AM (#25785355) Homepage
    This joins the 10^122 [] article published some time ago about strange coincidences between basic physics constants. Very interesting... almost in a numerological point of view !
  • by PiSkyHi (1049584) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:27AM (#25785393)

    If only most scientists actually stopped and checked even their most basic concepts for paradoxes, people wouldn't spend so long debating such obvious statements.

    Time is another one. Follow the paradoxes in that one and having time travel ends up proving that such a universe universe would be incapable of remembering your relative position and velocity at all.

    There was a thread about philisophy last week. A general lack of it is exactly why so much of science has gaping holes that people stare far too long into.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:35AM (#25785473)

    Any cosmology that assumes an intelligence within its framework is unacceptable to the modern mind because such would acknowledge that which transcends man. If one were to acknowledge that which transcends man then one must face the possibility that such an entity may include within its framework a moral perspective. Aldous Huxley finishes the thought "We objected to morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."

    Truth told, downmodding expected.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:35AM (#25785479) Journal

    Religion replaces "it just is" with "God did it" which means about the same thing: "No idea."

    Or you could look at this way:

    Religion seeks to answer why. Science seek to answer how.

  • by Speare (84249) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:45AM (#25785625) Homepage Journal

    I find preachy Creationists to be highly annoying. But I also find shrill atheists to be highly annoying. Not all scientists are atheists, and not all theists are anti-science. Religion and Science are both a part of this world just as much as politics and money. Get over it, they're not going away in the next couple millennia.

    For those who must say that God exists, try this: science is for understanding how we exist, spirituality is for understanding why . It's far more mind-boggling for a God to have worked out the delicacy of our whole existence in advance by designing the laws of physics that would play out Correctly all the way from Big Bang to Big Crunch, than it would have been if we were just modeled directly in clay and moved around like puppets at the slightest whim. For those of you who must take the "seven days" literal view of Genesis, then consider this: since God's view of time is not the same as ours (Psalm 90:), we may indeed still be in His Sixth Day (day of Man), awaiting His Seventh Day (day of Rest) (Revelations 20:).

    For those who must say that God does not exist, try this: your position is just as unprovable as theirs, and yet raising your voice to argue your point is just as pointless as theirs. There is no arguing with religion. It's not that they are right, it's that the whole exercise is just as bad for the blood pressures of everyone involved. Yes, continue to fight for equality of position and separation of Church and State, as this is important. Quibbling over scriptures (as I admit I am doing above) will not change many minds. Both the Priest and the Atheist are fond of telling someone that they are Wrong, without any way of proving the point once and for all. The fact is, science doesn't know everything and will never know everything. Stick to proving negatives with observations; teaching axioms and laws and theories and hypotheses built from observations; and showing how science, unlike faith, can be proven wrong with evidence and this is a good thing. If they want to pray to their flying spaghetti monster, until it's impinging on your personal rights, just leave them to it.

  • by EllisDees (268037) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:55AM (#25785767)

    If the universe is perfectly tailored for anything, it sure as hell isn't life. Maybe empty space or black holes, but seeing how, as far as we know, life only has appeared as a thin film covering the surface of one tiny planet revolving around one insignificant star, maybe we're a little biased in our views of what is common or uncommon in the universe.

  • by MaxwellEdison (1368785) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:05AM (#25785887)
    This is like a two brook trout debating whether or not deserts exist.
  • I think I'm about to puke. The Anthropic Principle in its purest form does nothing but make the observation that our surroundings obviously support lifeforms such as ourselves who in turn are able to make observations about their surroundings.

    It really, really does not matter how many universes are out there. This is ours, and it exists without any need for justification. Sure, theoretically a vast number of universes could have parameters that make life impossible (like, say, because they have no temporal dimension), and just as unprovably many universes could exist that do support life in some form.

    There is no discrepancy, there is no need for an explanation - at least scientifically speaking. Only religion demands an explanation, because it introduces the concept of "meaning".

    To make a more earth-bound analogy: assume, somewhere in the desert, there is a volcanically heated pond of slime. The conditions in this pond are unique: it has a water temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and only a few uncommon amino acids can be found in the slime, making it a hostile environment for most known forms of life. However, in time, a type of cyano bacteria evolves that can handle the heat and live off the odd amino mixture.

    Now, suppose that, by some freakish accident, the cyano bacteria were intelligent. They ask questions like "why is this pond so superbly designed to support us?". Of course, we as humans looking into the slimey pond, recognize the absurdity of the question right away, but the bacteria remain ignorant as to the stupidity of their premise.

    They go on to ask "surely there must be an omnipotent creator who made this pond just for us". Again, looking from the outside in, we know better, but for the bacteria it's a huge deal. Next, they discover secularism and say "well, if there is indeed no creator, we must find another explanation why this pond is exactly the right kind of pond, because it is so exquisitly tailored to our needs!"

    Then it dawns on the bacteria: "hey, maybe there is an infinite number of pools with different environments! So the explanation for the Bacteric Principle lies in the fact that one out of infinity has exactly the features we need!" At this point, we as outside observes realize the futility. The bacteria will never understand that the number of pools does not matter, because it was them who evolved to live there, it was never the pool that had to be adapted to them...

    This is where we are now. And, just like the outside observer looking in, I realize the futility. But it nevertheless frustrates me immensely.

  • To be more exact: god may be a good fit for what we observe, but not a useful fit. You can always adjust religion to fit new facts (and even make the adjustment an expected part of the religion) so you don't have any unexplained bits dangling about, but that says nothing about the predictive nature of the explanation. Science isn't about explaining history, it just happens to use history and therefore also explains it -- it's about usefully predicting the future, for our own betterment. In the end, science really only cares about showing that the planets move in a precisely predictable manner, not about proving that it is or isn't God doing it: nobody cares. And really, that's not a "how" so much as a very, very precise "what". What's going on out there, exactly? What can we use it for?

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:25AM (#25786185) Journal

    For those who must say that God exists, try this: science is for understanding how we exist, spirituality is for understanding why.

    I hear this a lot but I have not found it to be true. No religion gives a real understanding of the why, or even goes more than one or two trivial steps through an answer -- "Why do we exist?" "Because God made us this way" "Why?" "Uh...". The Munchausen Trilemma still holds.

    I am also unconvinced that it's impossible to make a good argument for atheism. "Is there a god?" is not directly answerable, but it would be possible to show evidence that religions and religious beliefs are best explained as the products of human nature and human history, not divine influence.

    I'm not militant or anything, but just telling people to shut up and leave the questions alone isn't going to fly.

  • by wild_quinine (998562) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:31AM (#25786259) Homepage

    In both cases the gorilla in the room is Bill Ockham's shaving instrument - in order to explain what is, something much bigger and more complicated has to be postulated which is not observable.

    Occam's razor is not called Occam's law, other than by those that don't understand the concept. There is no law here, just a sensible rule of thumb.

    It is sensible not to postulate a complex explanation, when a simple one will do.

    In the case of a universal theory, or an understanding of the beginnings of the Universe, or in the existence of God, it is likely that any definitive answer will be quite complex.

    Furthermore, no simple explanation has so far sufficed.

    Ergo, Occam's Razor does not (yet) apply.

  • Re:Just Two Things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AlXtreme (223728) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:39AM (#25786377) Homepage Journal

    But why is it there? Why is any of the universes there?


    Personally I find the idea of an oscillating universe (Big bang -> expansion -> contraction -> Big crunch) to be appealing. At least that's a theory that might be proven given enough time. And then it would be possible to have a universe that creates (and destroys) itself.

    Furthermore, science can postulate theories that can't be observed/proven at this time. It doesn't become religion, because there might be a time when these theories can be tested (for example, a breakthrough in physics that allows extra-universe travel). Science theorized about black holes, quantum mechanics and genetics before those theories were provable. Indeed, theories that can't be proven or discarded is one of the means science moves on as it does: because we want to know.

    That is the major difference between science and religion: Science offers theories that may or may not be true, after which all those geeks in labcoats get to work and might come up with an answer given enough time. Religion stamps its feet and tries to yell as loud as possible that their theories are the truth, without wanting to see the enormous evidence against their theories.

    Besides, when was the last time you saw two nations go to war because they disagreed upon the theory of multiverses?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:46AM (#25786491)

    ...and He is very observable.

    What is matter made of? Mostly empty space. If you look inside the atoms of the elements of the periodic table, you'll find mostly empty space, with a very tiny actual volume being occupied by the protons and neutrons in the nucleus, and the electrons in orbit. As nuclear physicists have discovered, the subatomic particles are also composed of mostly empty space themselves, and according to the standard model, string theory, and the m-theory, the atom's building blocks themselves can be further divided down (quarks, gluons, neutrinos, positrons, whatever...). The further down you try to divide matter into its tiniest constituent "parts", it is now believed that you eventually get down to strings or membranes - basically little bundles of energy, vibrating at some wavelength.

    That's pretty strange to try to wrap your brain around the concept of some little bundles of vibrating energy having substance and mass, isn't it? If you've ever listened to a large symphony orchestra live in a big concert hall, you may have noticed that certain complex musical chords played by all the wind and string instruments at once, sound so big and powerful that the combined sound starts to feel like it actually has mass, and occupies space. That effect gives you just a glimpse of how matter "works". Those little bundles of vibrating energy at the cores of the subatomic particles' innards are what ultimately gives matter it's mass and substantive existance. Now you must ask, just exactly what is the source of those little bundles of vibrating energy? I only know a very little bit about subatomic physics... just what I learned in schools, and by Googling a few websites this morning, but I know what the source of that energy is. It's God's Holy Spirit himself. Energy becomes matter thru His spoken word... or more in this case, he is basically humming a tune into matter.

    If you don't believe me, go pick up a nice chunk of solid granite rock that weighs about 10 kg. Examine it as far down into it's molecular, atomic, and then subatomic structure as you can. Even though it feels quite solid and dense, you'll find it is indeed mostly empty space, and at the very heart of the tiniest undividable "particles", that you're basically holding a very sophisticated musical chord that God is humming.

  • by phud (539476) <> on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:54AM (#25786617) Homepage
    Religion does not seek, it claims to know the answer. This is pure arrogance, as it offers little proof other than some text that it claims is written by god.
  • by locallyunscene (1000523) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:13PM (#25786909)
    But there are/were many volcanic pools, and in order for that particular cyano bacteria to arise the conditions had to be right for it.

    The way I understand it is not the "the pool was created for us", but rather "we were created from the pool" and are inextricably a part of it.

    The anthropic/bacteric principle does not imply that the pond was tailored to our needs, just that if the pond was different, we would not be there to see it. Nor does it imply we couldn't be killed off. The anthropic/bacteric principle makes no predictions for the future, just how we came to be.
  • by polar red (215081) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:28PM (#25787113)

    most of it has to do with history and moral/ethical guidelines. Jesus never discusses creationism, but he spends a lot of time suggesting that we help the poor, defend the defenseless, and be true and honest in all our relationships. This is really the goal of religion: defining our everyday actions.

    I act morally, without religion, & I have even seen animals behave morally ... ergo : religion is superfluous.

  • by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:36PM (#25787221)

    Jesus never discusses creationism, but he spends a lot of time suggesting that we help the poor, defend the defenseless, and be true and honest in all our relationships.

    But all these moral tenets can be built from utilitarian (or Kantian if you find that more appealing) philosophy, so there really is no need to appeal to the supernatural in order to build a moral framework.

    That's why I have no problem with the Gospels, but diverge strongly from the Pauline additions and the insistence on belief in an unknowable entity.

  • by first_tracks (919961) on Monday November 17, 2008 @01:20PM (#25787885)
    The problem is that creationists, atheists, and agnostics are all missing the bigger picture and missing the point (but, if we must assign a winner, agnostics come closest.) The question as to whether there is a creator is nonsensical as far as we can fathom. Consider the two possible scenarios: 1) "There is a creator; call it god. Some entity created everything." 2) "There is no god. Nothing created the universe; it just came into existence." Neither of the only two possible scenarios makes any sense. They both fail in the same way: you can't have something come from nothing; whether that be the universe or the creator that made the universe. You don't need to be a philosopher or particularly logical to see this. In fact, you could argue that atheists are creationists since they believe the universe created itself. So, what are we left with? I can think of two things. But, first I'd like to point out that a true agnostic is one who sees the paradox and futility in taking a position on this. At least that is what I term an Agnostic; one who doesn't know (anything about the origin of the universe) and doesn't care (because they know its futile, not because they are apathetic). So what can we conclude if our two seeming scenarios are ludicrous? 1) The first is simplistic... there is an explanation and it is beyond any semblance of what we deem as logical. Or even asking the questions of why and how the universe exists is not even the right question. How else would you overcome a paradox? By changing the rules of the game. This means that our language, our thoughts, our logic, etc DO NOT APPLY. We are either too simplistic, lacking the proper whatever to understand what is going on. 2) The one I like the most is this: In a more philosophical bent, it can be argued that the universe (in the most encompassing definition of the word) can not be 'explained' since there can always be an explanation for the explanation; always a viewpoint from outside to that which you have just explained; similar in concept to the paradox that you can always divide something in half to get something smaller. The universe by its very definition of encompassing everything means nothing can be outside of it. It can't be explained or else it couldn't exist. Basically, its a paradox as far as we can see it.
  • Re:God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danse (1026) on Monday November 17, 2008 @03:04PM (#25789703)

    For me, it's weird and disturbing to think there's just this bunch of physical universes here for no reason. It almost feels more illogical that it would exist out of the blue than for there to be something that "made" it all.

    That doesn't help either, because then the question becomes, "well if there is some creator of our universe, then who or what created the creator?" Something must have come before this, and something before that, and something before that, ad infinitum. I think it's just one of those questions that will remain unanswered. I don't think the answer really matters. We'll learn as much as we can about our universe because it helps us in practical ways and because we're just naturally curious.

  • Re:God (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beckerist (985855) on Monday November 17, 2008 @04:13PM (#25790911) Homepage
    So Rob is Jesus 2.0?
  • Re:God (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @01:07AM (#25797777)
    Soon there will be more Muslims then Christians - does that mean that then Islam will be true?

    If you accept anything on faith then by definition you are not following logic and reason to a conclusion. No amount of awe or popularity or wonder is going to make it any more rational.

    The bible is scientifically inaccurate, it is even self-contradictory and full of things that make you wonder why anyone thinks this is the word of god - but if you take it on faith that its is the word of god then all that doesn't matter to you. However the flip side of this is that you cannot then pretend otherwise to people.
  • Re:God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @02:23AM (#25798223)

    Since when has truth ever depended on popularity?

    I was parodying your original post where you mentioned the continuing popularity of the bible, in what appears to me, as an argument for its validity.

    The deepest and most important questions can only be answered by faith.

    I think this a very sad sentiment. Faith answers nothing - why would it? Its just something you have accepted to be true without any good reason (by definition of faith). It is frankly very stupid to say that "what you feel in your heart" has some significance!! Why not just say "I don't know - no evidence has given me reason to move to any conclusion".

    The fact that the humanity is incurably religious, abundantly proves of this.

    This proves nothing - its one of many possible and (in my humble opinion) one unlikely explanation (i.e.: survival benefits as a rival explanation). Likewise humans have a tendency to assign human traits to inanimate objects. This, of course, proves nothing inherently true about the inanimate object!

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan