God vs The Multiverse

Click here for God vs The Multiverse: a rational argument for the Existence of One God who intelligently designed one universe.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

God vs The Multiverse (Part 4: The Initial Conditions)

There is another example of fine tuning in the universe we want to highlight because it is of a very different conceptual nature than the constants, and provides an independent proof of an Intelligent Designer.  (For an elaboration of this point, see the first comment below.)  This is regarding the initial conditions of the universe, which were set at the big bang.

We've never seen anyone (which doesn't mean they don't exist) propose either the Master Mathematical Equation theory or the Necessary Existences theory, to explain the fine tuning of the initial conditions.  It's not even clear how such an explanation would even be formulated, as it seems of a qualitatively different character than our current understanding of physical law.  (It would seem at this point, that the only alternative explanation to an Intelligent Agent is the multiverse.)

The big bang is the widely accepted model for the emergence and evolution of the universe as we know it. The arrangement of the matter and other conditions at the big bang were perfectly tuned so that the universe we see today would naturally emerge. This arrangement was highly specialized, in the sense that variations in the initial conditions would have resulted in disorder (a universe filled with black holes) instead of the ordered universe we witness today. The probability of obtaining such a state by random chance is staggeringly low.

(For those afraid of the physics, you can skip to the paragraphs after the video below and you will still follow the main point of this post.  This post will be our last post that contains this much physics and math.  For those interested, the following will provide a good opportunity to review or learn some physics and mathematics, and thereby have a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of this proof.)

Someone may ask that although it is highly unlikely that the arrangement of matter at the big bang would be exactly as it was, any one arrangement of matter would have an equally low probability. However, it had to have one arrangement.  How do you know the initial conditions were so special? 

The critical distinction we need to make in order to understand this question is between: 
1) the specific arrangement of the individual parts of a system. (A collection of particles.)
2) the state of a system as a whole.

The relationship between the whole and it's parts is the key concept.  Some states of the whole object are contingent on a unique arrangement.  For example, the meaning of this very sentence (we're treating this whole sentence as a system, with the letters as its parts) is contingent on all the letters and spaces being arranged in approximately this order.  If we jumble up all the letters, the sentence as a whole, loses this state (of making intelligible sense).  Other states, like a meaningless jumble of letters, are independent of how the letters are arranged.  Almost every random ordering of the letters will be in this state of meaninglessness.

If we randomly scramble an object's parts, entropy is the measure of how probable a particular state of the whole object is.  A state that can come about through many different arrangements is called a state of high entropy.  A state that can only come about through very few different arrangements is called a state of low entropy.  Entropy is thus a number which measures the likelihood of any particular state of the whole object if we randomly shuffle its individual parts.  (The fact that a state of lower entropy is less probable is a direct consequence of the fundamental postulate in statistical mechanics.) We'll illustrate with an example.

If we toss 2 individual coins, we consider all the possible ways they could land (H - heads, T - tails):
(1) HH  (2) TT  (3) HT  (4) TH.

The probability of each of these 4 outcomes is 1/4.  Upon consideration we notice that outcomes (3) and (4) will appear exactly the same in terms of the whole system; 1 head and 1 tail. Thus a better way to describe the probabilities is as follows: P(0 heads)=1/4, P(1 head)=2/4, P(2 heads)=1/4. One head is more likely to occur then 0 or 2 heads because it can happen in 2 ways, while 0 or 2 heads can only occur in one way each.

We can generalize this idea to flipping 10 coins. In total, there are  210 =1024 possible outcomes. Thus, the probability of obtaining any particular outcome (say, HHHHHHHHHH or HTHTHTHTHT) is 1/1024. However, there is only 1 way to get 10 heads, while there are 252 (for those mathematically inclined, 10 choose 5) ways of getting 5 heads (some examples are HHHHHTTTTT, TTTTTHHHHH, THTHTHTHTH, HTHHHTTTHT). Thus the probability of obtaining 10 heads is 1/1024, while the probability of obtaining 5 heads is the much more likely value of 252/1024, which is approximately 1/4.  

Because it can only occur in 1 way, we consider the outcome of 10 heads to be highly unlikely (which counter-intuitively is called a low entropy state).  Conversely, since 5 heads can occur in many ways, we consider it to be fairly probable (or a high entropy state).  The outcome of eight heads would be somewhere in between in terms of likelihood and entropy. 

In general, one can think of a low entropy state as being highly ordered and a high entropy state as being disordered.  This is because there many ways to randomly bring about a state of disordered nonsense, but there are only a few ways to bring about a state of meaning and order.

The second law of thermodynamics states that all physical processes move an object from lower states of entropy to higher states of entropy.  This means that over time, all objects end up in the state that has the highest number of arrangements that can bring that particular state about.  Meaning if you start with 8 out of the 10 coins on heads, and you give them enough time and let them interact (i.e., you shake the container), you'll end up with a state of about 5 heads. While it is not theoretically impossible for the second law (which is essentially a statistical law based on probabilities) to be violated in a particular instance (i.e., the red sea splitting in half for a few hours), a violation of this law has never been observed (without the observers claiming they have witnessed a miracle).  

When you apply this reasoning to the universe going forward in time (towards the future), you end up with a conclusion that the universe will, at a point far in the future, end up being in its most likely state (which is a very boring, meaningless state).  This is known as the heat death of the universe which is the state of highest entropy and the least amount of order.

The universe is currently in a state of much lower entropy than heat death.  We have things in this universe with a lot of order, such as galaxies, stars, planets, life, etc.; things that are very unlikely to be attained by a random arrangement.  If we extrapolate backwards in time to the big bang, we realize that based on the second law of thermodynamics, the universe must have been in an even lower state of entropy (an even more ordered, highly improbable, state than it is now).

Another way to see this point is based the idea of meaningful states.  The number of possible arrangements of all of the particles in the universe at the big bang was very, very high.  Therefore, the probability of any particular arrangement occurring by chance is very, very low.  However, we can divide all arrangements into two distinguishable classes: (a) those which eventually unfold to an ordered universe; (b) those which eventually unfold to a universe of total nonsense. There are very, very few arrangements in (a) and therefore these states have a low entropy and a very low probability of occurring by chance. There are many, many arrangements in (b) and therefore these states have a high entropy and a very high probability of occurring by chance.

The fact that at the big bang the universe had such a low state of entropy is like tossing up trillions of letters and having them randomly fall in the arrangement of all the Wikipedia articles.  If the universe did not start off in this special, highly unlikely, low entropy state, then even if we had the same qualitative laws of physics and the same fine tuned constants of nature, we would never get a beautiful, ordered, complex universe.  This is what is meant by the fine tuning of the initial conditions of the big bang.

As an aside, this is why the infinitely cyclic universe model of big bang/big crunch was rejected in 1934, as entropy would be infinitely increasing.  There is an arrow of time and it had a beginning.  There are a few modern day approaches that attempt to reincarnate the theory, but as of yet they are still entirely speculative with no experimental support.  In any event, the essential point (that the initial state of our current universe had an incredibly low entropy) is independent of the cyclic universe issue. (This is an old problem, first recognized by Ludwig Boltzmann in 1895, that even a genuine multiverse theory has great difficulties solving. More on this in later posts.)

Roger Penrose derives the probability for this initial state in his book The Emperor’s New Mind (1989).  We highly encourage the more advanced reader to try to read through his basic derivation which is only a few pages that are mostly English We have included the 4 minute video below, where Penrose briefly explains just how special the initial conditions were.


The likelihood of the initial conditions of the universe (the arrangement of matter for the big bang) to occur by chance alone, is the biggest number (or smallest probability) we have ever seen with regards to fine tuning, less than 1 out of 1010123.  It is a double exponent.  For those who are mathematically inclined, try to fathom how big this number really is.  It makes the cosmological constant ("trillion, trillion, trillion....") seem minuscule. If you tried to write the number using every single particle in the universe to represent a zero, you run out of particles! It's not even close. 

There are a few amazing things about this result.  Firstly, that physics, mathematics and computer science have come to the point where we can actually calculate such a probability.  Second, that the probability here is so amazingly small.  Lastly, that such a fine tuned arrangement was "built in" to the big bang in order to naturally unfold to our universe.  It's astounding!

We are going be moving forward in these posts with the assumption that we have sufficiently established the fact of  fine tuning, both in the constants of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.  We want to expressly mention that there is a very small minority of scientists who deny the fact of fine tuning altogether.  Their view is largely rejected by the scientific community as a whole, and the mistakes in their thinking are fairly easy to see.

We encourage you look at this 76 page article by Luke Barnes that thoroughly examines and rejects the opinion of Victor Stenger.  It also does an excellent job of explaining a lot of the details of fine tuning. (See pages 23-26 in particular for this post, where the author exposes the fallacies in Stenger's attack on Roger Penrose, and concludes "that Stenger has not only failed to solve the entropy problem; he has failed to comprehend it.  He has presented the problem itself as its solution.")

82 comments:

  1. We wanted to highlight some of the unique aspects of the proof in the post above (the fine tuning in the initial conditions), in contrast to the way we presented the fine tuning of the constants of nature in posts 2 and 3.

    Entropy is a very special property of a system as it is statistical by its very nature. This allows you to make concrete calculations of probabilities for the fine tuning in the initial conditions of the big bang, which yield an incredibly low probability by chance alone.

    We did not attempt, as many people do, to present the fine tuning of the constants based on probabilities. Rather, we grounded the fine tuning of post 3, with what Feynman (in post 2) described as the mystery that all good theoretical physicists worried about for 50 years.

    The reason we did this was twofold. First, it shows how the teleological explanation of fine tuning naturally arose as the solution to one of the greatest mysteries in physics.

    Secondly, it is not at all clear how you even define a sample space for any particular constant. If you don't know how the probabilities for each value varies in the sample space, you can not present a rigorous mathematical probability function, as you can not determine the probability distribution.

    (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_space and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_distribution)

    As we will see in future posts, multiverse theorists are forced to try to define a sample space, in so far as their theory is one that makes use of a random selection for the values of each constant. A random number selecting mechanism only makes mathematical sense if you have a clear set of numbers with a known distribution for it to choose from.

    Accepting the multiverse scientists' calculations actually helps the argument for fine tuning in the constants, and as we explained in the introduction, many of the leading physicists do believe in the multiverse and do accept these methods of deriving probabilities. You end up with an incredibly unlikely probability by chance alone of getting the fine tuned values for the constants. The probabilities they come up with for the cosmological constant alone are incredible small. The probabilities for all the constants being fine tuned, ends up being staggeringly low.

    While it is legitimate to appeal to an intuitive sense that it is highly improbable to end up with a number like the cosmological constant (122 decimal places) by chance alone, there is a significant difference between an intuitive sense and mathematical rigor. Since we felt that multiverse scientists make recourse to questionable arguments in order to define the sample space, especially the assumption of a specific probability distribution over the sample space, we did not want to have to rely on such calculations in establishing the proof from the fine tuning of the constants.

    (We do not use this problem of defining a distribution function in a sample space as one of our main objections with multiverse theory. You can see the end note to chapter 3 of Lee Smolin's book, "The Life of the Cosmos" (1999) for more information on how they try to calculate the probabilities for the constants by introducing constraints.)

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  2. did you address the first words if the YAD that the foundation and pillar of all knowledge rests on the reality of a primary existence? i think this statement must be verified to be true before a discussion of physics. if this proposition is true then one would be inlined to see GOD from the arguments of fine tuning and if this statement is not true then one would be inclined to be skeptical (and i dont mean that as a philsophy). so, MUST that statement be true?

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    1. We are not delving into that question in this post. We are starting from physics and seeing where that leads. Perhaps you will be able to understand better the reason and meaning behind the Rambam's first words, after we draw out the logical consequences of multiverse theory in later posts.

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  3. funny that the ramabam did it in the opposite order. as i read the posts and comments it is clear that those who believe believe and those who dont dont. what is your objctive here?

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    1. I used to believe, but then changed my mind, based (in part) on better understanding of science and philosophy. There is nothing wrong with the authors trying to convince people with arguments; admiteddly it rarely works.

      Dr_Manhattan

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  4. very dishonest to delete posts that are aimed at exposing the dangers of this blog

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    1. We're not quite sure what you're referring too. We have not, and will not, delete a comment someone makes that raises a substantive issue with the proof. We can not hide from genuine problems, as someone else will raise the issue outside the context of these blog posts. We hope that every genuine difficulty is mentioned by our readers. We will deal with them as best as we can. We have not, nor will we in the future, cover up any holes in our argument. We will keep refining and clarifying the proof based upon questions, which is a tremendous help for us, and helps us ensure that we have not overlooked any issues.

      That being said, we will delete any blatantly inappropriate comments that distract from the main purpose of this blog which is to allow the genuinely motivated reader to pursue the knowledge of God's existence in an honest fashion. As you can see from the comments by many anonymous readers that we have not deleted, we have very low standard of appropriateness.

      Try to stick to the science in your comments. Any further questions you have about the mitzva and halacha, please leave on the first post.

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    2. Just to make this clear:

      > genuinely motivated reader to pursue the knowledge of God's existence in an honest fashion

      You are accepting all the possibilities, right? Including possibly non-existence and the epistemic stance that it cannot be clearly decided either way (with available resources)? As someone said, and I think it applies to finding unbiased conclusions in this area "It's not a crisis of faith unless it could as well have gone the other way", or the standard of "empty mind" if you prefer.

      As far as appropriateness is concerned I hope I'm well in the clear, despite my aggressive stance towards the presentation in parts 1-3. I am not (well, trying, and having no reason to) make this personal, other than in the sense where qualifications required for accepting second-hand knowledge from someone come into play.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    3. You're in the clear. We appreciate clear, concise, insightful questions as it helps us refine the proof. However, we find the extra curricular trash talking to be distracting from the many good points you do make.

      In answer to your question, an honest inquiry demands an open mind. If you can not prove something legitimately, then it is not proven. If you are asking whether science can disprove the Existence of God, there is a lot of philosophy written about that question. It would seem that it would be impossible to prove that God does not exists, much as it is impossible to prove that ghosts do not exist, or the multiverse does not exist.

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  5. I have to admit, I have some liking for this argument - even if it's wrong it has some cleverness in bringing back a version of the anciant "things can't go on forever" idea.

    On the other hand, there are serious issues with the way you are presenting this argument, again highlighting the fact that everyone is out of their depth here, and you were either not careful to read the sources you're quoting or (I hope not) intentionally omitted the other alternative.

    I quote from above

    > (As an aside, this is why the infinitely cyclic universe model of big bang/big crunch was rejected in 1934, as entropy would be infinitely increasing. There is an arrow of time and it had a beginning.)

    Just requoting from your wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_Universe:
    "In the 1920s, theoretical physicists, most notably Albert Einstein, considered the possibility of a cyclic model for the universe as an (everlasting) alternative to the model of an expanding universe. However, work by Richard C. Tolman in 1934 showed that these early attempts failed because of the cyclic problem: according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy can only increase."

    This is, in layman's terms, a fair restatement of Tolman's objection to Einsten's cyclic model.

    But... This is only top 1/3 of the article!! The rest of it goes on to much more recent reformulations of the cyclic model, **that haven't been rejected**. The problem with stating Tolman's argument in layman's terms is that you're losing it's mathematical precision, which was good enough to disprove Einstin's specific formulation of the cyclic model, but does not apply to the later formulations. I have no way to judge their mathematical merit (and dare again I say, neither do the authors, unless one of them switched professions from Rabbinics to Physics). Physics is a mix of intuition and extremely rigorous formulation, and while I grant a farily intelligent person can gain some intuition about something as obstruse as cosmology, you cannot take these intuitions too seriously, because at the bottom it depends on math which no layman will understand.

    To the Batmobile!

    Dr_Manhattan

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    1. We don't read every article we link to in Wikipedia, though we did read the particular one you quoted on the infinitely cyclic universe. The reason we did not quote the recent attempts to propose such a theory is that we want to stick to well accepted science.

      The four recent theories we reject below are entirely speculative theories held by only a few individuals each. They are hypothetical theories, not well accepted science. The theories are not aren't worked out, and some of them aren't even proven to be self consistent.

      1)Conformal Cyclic Cosmology: (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEIj9zcLzp0)

      Roger Penrose expressly states that his theory is "a crazy theory". "It is crazy enough to have a chance as opposed to the other theories which are not crazy enough to have a chance."

      We happen to think that the other theories are pretty crazy too, but we agree that they don't have a chance.

      2) (From the wiki link) The Steinhardt–Turok model is a cyclic model where two parallel orbifold planes or M-branes collide periodically in a higher dimensional space. However, there are major problems with the model. Foremost among them is that colliding branes are not understood by string theorists.

      We will discuss string theory in a later post about the multiverse as there has been a fairly recent marriage between string theory and the multiverse.

      3) (From the wiki link) The Baum–Frampton model makes a different technical assumption concerning the equation of state of the dark energy. Nevertheless, many technical back up calculations are necessary to confirm consistency of the approach. Although the model borrows ideas from string theory, it is not necessarily committed to strings, or to higher dimensions, yet such speculative devices may provide the most expeditious methods to investigate the internal consistency.

      The punch line is that they're not even sure its self consistent.

      4) Loop Quantum Cosmology: (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_quantum_gravity#Problems)

      As of now there is no experimental observation for which loop quantum gravity makes a prediction not made by the Standard Model or general relativity (a problem that plagues all current theories of quantum gravity). Because of the above mentioned lack of a semiclassical limit, LQG cannot even reproduce the predictions made by the Standard Model. Making predictions from the theory of LQG has been extremely difficult computationally, also a recurring problem with modern theories in physics.

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    2. No one claims that you're expected to read every article. I asked about a specific article that you linked from your post and used for support. Fair?

      I'm interested in hearing how you decide what the scientific consensus is on a specific issue. Since we're relying on it in many point of this discussion, it's important to have some (understandably loose) criteria. What are yours? This is a very important methodological thingy.

      I personally have not seen a poll of Nobel-winning physicists regarding cyclical models, but who knows. They're not the hot thing right now, but John Wheeler (PhD advisor to Feynman and Everett) held his despite Tolman's objection. So I don't know.

      And let me here make another methodological point: when we reject a scientific theory based on some difficulties (but not a showstopper, like Tolman did no Einstein) or based on scientific consensus, let's keep a count. Because these are not binary decisions, and rejected theories are basically "well, probably not", which means "95% not and 5% yes or something like this. For example Luke Barnes, whom you quoted in regards to Stenger, has clearly stated that "multiverse is definitely a possible explanation", for example in the comment section of this highly recommended and entertaining interview http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8697 and elsewhere on his blog. So let's just state how strong the scientific consensus is on issues you're choosing reject based the consensus, and keep count of the corpses. They'll be important in the end game.

      And as always I will mention that no layman in their honest mind will pretend understand what the heck "orbifold planes or M-branes" are. I don't, and I impressed that you do (unless you're just quoting).

      Lastly, I do not believe you adressed at all the methodological point about requirement of being able to back up intuition with math in this area that I pointed out above.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    3. Sorry, wrong link to Luke Barne's interview. see here http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8109 instead.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    4. We have no official poll for taking a consensus, nor are we aware of any official polling being done on these questions. Nevertheless, there is any idea of consensus on certain issues.

      We arrive at these based on our reading of books (some of which we list), articles (some of which we quote), wiki links (wikipedia is an excellent source as the major articles are updated fairly constantly by the entire scientific community), videos of the major scientists in their field, as well as reading certain authors who themselves try to evaluate the consensus on these issues (like Greene and Smolin).

      It is not a rigorous method and we would be happy to hear a better suggestion for polling physicists. Ultimately, should you decide not to trust our opinion about what the consensus is, you are certainly free to do so. In fact, we encourage you to investigate these issues as much as you can and not rely on us for anything.

      True scientific theories do not live or die by consensus, but rather by prediction and observation. Our main reason in rejecting the infinitely cyclic universe theory is because they are all entirely speculative. (Read the excerpts from Wikipedia about them). You don't have to know what M-Branes are. It is sufficient to know that colliding branes are not understood by string theorists either.

      We are not relying upon a rejection of the infinitely cyclic universe in our proof. (In fact, the multiverse theory allows for the infinitely cyclic universe, by answering the entropy problem, so we still have to deal with the multiverse.) We thought it was an interesting aside. Had it been an essential part of the proof, we would have explained more why we thought the proposed solutions are inadequate.

      To answer your questions about our credentials, please see the end of the introduction in part 1.

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    5. We just wanted to explain what we mean by "We are not relying upon a rejection of the infinitely cyclic universe in our proof. (In fact, the multiverse theory allows for the infinitely cyclic universe, by answering the entropy problem, so we still have to deal with the multiverse.)"

      The cyclic universe that Einstein rejected because of the second law of thermodynamics is a model in which each expansion of the universe has galaxies, stars, planets, life, etc. That can not be, because entropy would increase from each expansion to the next.

      A multiverse theory of an cyclic universe (which Einstein in theory could have held, but he did not), it a theory where 99.9% of the universes are meaningless disorder, but one universe out the infinitely many, has order simply by chance. (It happens after an infinite number of tries.)

      If this seems confusing, it's because we haven't really explained multiverse theory yet. Once we do in later posts, it will be very clear what a reasonable model of a cyclic universe would have been (but is not allowed by the second law), and what a multiverse theory of a cyclic multiverse is.

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    6. There are infinitely many "totally speculative", "possibly inconsistent", "not fully understood", and "crazy" scientific theories out there which are rejected based upon the scientific method. If we would give each of these a %5 chance, there are no percents left for good theories.

      We are not keeping a count of the corpses. When and if the corpses are resurrected, then we will have to weigh the evidence and reassess. Until then, they no longer have a part in this investigation.

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    7. That is incorrect, at least according to some popular scientific methodologies. A Bayesian assigns some credence to many theories under uncertainty. I did not say that every one deserves 5% (I said "or something like that", sorry if that was misleading), some will might get 5%, some might get 0.00000000000005%. There is an art to that (decision analysis, basically). But I wouldn't throw out everything as non-consequential. Ask yourself: would I risk a life of a loved to $1 one playing a game of guessing with Zorg about the question of cyclical universes? If the answer is "no", you're not completely sure. Ok, if something is below 0.01% it's probably not important to the argument, but otherwise score should be kept.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    8. How do you propose evaluating these probabilities?

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    9. We would like to add a specific example to the excellent anonymous question of "How do you propose evaluating these probabilities?"

      Dr Manhattan, would you care to tell us the probability that the theory of ghosts is true?

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    10. My reply to the below from yesterday disappeared, unfortunately. So I'll try again.
      > How do you propose evaluating these probabilities?

      There is some science to this: you can google "probability elicitation decision analysis" to get an idea. But roughly, think of it as "the art of betting". Ask your self, if you're going to the "physics betting parlor", what is the maximum you be willing to bet on assertion "X is true" if the bet pays, say $100. Then you can do the math
      X*100+(1-X)*(-"your bet") = 0 (this equality is basically saying "I do not want to loose on average")
      solving for X gives
      100*X - "your bet" + X*"your bet" = 0
      X = "your bet"/(100+"your bet")

      e.g. if you're willing to bet $100 on a coin flip:
      100/(100+100) = 0.5, or your implicit probability is 50%.

      Two additional points:
      - you have some control over your estimate (can make it better) if you can increase your knowledge in the area. But at any specific point you can use the above method for "where am I now"
      - you can also improve your estimate without increasing knowledge! You can achive this trick by measuring your ignorance. Open a textbook in the relevant area, to to the exercises and see how many you get right. This lets you calibrate your abilities in the area.


      > RAZ/REFJune 27, 2012 6:07 PM
      > Dr Manhattan, would you care to tell us the probability that the theory of ghosts is true?

      I cannot estimate this at all without specific definition of ghosts.

      FYI what you're doing here is comparing "theory of ghosts" to "cyclic universe models", which I suggested remains with some probability worth considering despite good arguments and majority consensus against it. Do you think Wheeler (Feynman's and Everett's PhD advisor, who as far as I know maintained a version of cyclic model after Tolman's objection) gave significant credence to "theory of ghosts". This is childish rhetoric, but in style, I'll dish out some of my own:

      http://ohr.edu/this_week/ask_the_rabbi/1678


      Since you asked, I would peg "cyclic universe theories" within 1% or so, given my current knowledge, and "theories fo ghosts" (for all definitions I can think of, cumulatively) about 1 in 1,00,000, though I'd like to know what what specific version you have in mind.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    11. For whatever reason, only your comments are not being posted. We only get an email when you send it, and we have to post it ourselves later. Maybe you can figure out why it is happening to you.

      An infinite number of bad theories does not amount to one good theory. In fact, the opposite is true. The more bad theories you see proposed for a serious problem (like the entropy problem), the more doubt you should have that anyone of them is true. As the number of bad theories goes to infinity, the probability of any one of them being true goes to zero.

      By the way, what are the odds that you are incorrectly using a quantitative mathematical model to assign highly contrived probabilities to qualitative theories? Meaning, what probability of being true, does the model assign itself?

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    12. Is your model (your quantitative decision making model) capable of evaluating the probability that it is a valid model for evaluation other models?

      What probability does it assign itself?

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    13. (trying second time with a different browser)
      > For whatever reason, only your comments are not being posted. We only get an email when you send it, and we have to post it ourselves later. Maybe you can figure out why it is happening to you.
      No idea, I am not Blogger.com.

      > An infinite number of bad theories does not amount to one good theory. In fact, the opposite is true. The more bad theories you see proposed for a serious problem (like the entropy problem), the more doubt you should have that anyone of them is true. As the number of bad theories goes to infinity, the probability of any one of them being true goes to zero.
      Did I suggest "an infinite number of bad theories"? Can you show me where I suggested that? Because I only suggested giving some credence to theories proposed and maintened by reputable scientists, even in minority, unless you have a showstopper argument against it (like Tolmans argument against Eistein's formulation).
      The second problem is your qualitative language of "bad". Are all the cyclic theories bad? Well, there are arguments against them, and consensus, but OTOH there are reputable scientists still working on versions that largely avoid these arguments. Is the theory "bad" or "good" is the wrong question, the right question is how credible it is.
      The third problem is your assertion that "the probability of any of the (I shall paraphrase here to avoid your language) slightly-credible theories goes to zero". While this is true, so does the probability of the theories of higher credibility that you like to call "good", since theories of low credibility will take some probability mass (except for the special case where they're versions of the same theory, where they will take mass mostly from each other).

      for example (and this is only an analogy), you have a program that outputs

      2 4 6 8

      what was the program?

      most obvious explanation is
      i = 2
      while i <= 8
      print i
      i = i + 2

      but that is not the only explanation, the program could have been
      i = 2
      while i <= 8
      if not is_prime(i)
      print i
      i = i + 1

      This is a less intuitive program, it is longer (requires definition of is_prime), but still possible. (and the programs have different predictions - first one will print 10, second one, 9). Solomonoff suggested using the length of the program as indication of it's "improbability", but every explanation is theoretically possible, if it fits the data (http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Algorithmic_probability). The analogy I'm making is that theories that fit the existing data have some credence.
      (This is a technical point, but I might as well mention it since it is interesting: in Solomonoff's model it seems you can bound how much probability longer programs will take from the shorter ones under some conditions. I can't prove it, but feels right. Not sure if that translates to physics, in a practical sense)

      > By the way, what are the odds that you are incorrectly using a quantitative mathematical model to assign highly contrived probabilities to qualitative theories? Meaning, what probability of being true, does the model assign itself?

      I take objection to "highly contrived". The only probability I stated is my personal 1% for cyclical theories, based on their current development and support by some serious scientists.

      > Is your model (your quantitative decision making model) capable of evaluating the probability that it is a valid model for evaluation other models?
      > What probability does it assign itself?
      1, of course - it's my brain :). Ok, I might be insane and hallucinating, but close to 1, and the possible insanity does not provide me much of an action plan other than periodically check my predictions.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    14. Ultimately, what it comes down to, is that we feel you don't actually have a rigorous system for determining mathematical probabilities. It seems to us that you are saying that you are 99% sure that the cyclic universe is wrong, but since your not absolutely sure, you want to keep all these 99% wrong theories (you called them dead bodies), so that in the end you will have something to fall back on.

      We reiterate, One good theory is worth an infinite number of bad theories. If you want to choose a really big pile of dead bodies over God, that's your choice.

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    15. >Ultimately, what it comes down to, is that we feel you don't actually have a rigorous system for determining mathematical probabilities.

      I have a reasonably rigorous system for making decisions under uncertainty, it is based on decision analysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_analysis). This kind of system is taught at Stanford, Harvard and other places.

      > It seems to us that you are saying that you are 99% sure that the cyclic universe is wrong, but since your not absolutely sure, you want to keep all these 99% wrong theories (you called them dead bodies)

      Dead is how you treated the theory, I just used the term for reference. I don't think the theory is scientifically dead.

      > so that in the end you will have something to fall back on.

      If you are implying that I have a preference for a certain outcome of this investigation, I can very much claim this on your part. But this is unimportant; I give you arguments and listen to your responses. Claiming bias is weak, address the questions. If you feel that cyclics have no weight at all you should go tell the scientists to not waste their time - if your prior for something is 0 no amount of updating with overcome it, right?

      > We reiterate, One good theory is worth an infinite number of bad theories. If you want to choose a really big pile of dead bodies over God, that's your choice.

      This is **very** weak and is a clearly emotional appeal. I already made a point about the trick of calling things of low credibility "bad". You're falling right back into it. Having a proof of god from science requires being unbiased, at least have the courage to mentally say "I don't care if there is a proof, I will just look at the evidence".
      In general if your purpose is to provide MLE or "most likely explanation" I suppose you can throw out theories of low credence (assuming you can really show yours is of a high credence, when you get to it). But do not call it a "proof", or even a "major argument" if it does not clearly take up most of the probability mass.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    16. It also seems that you are ignoring Occam's Razor as a valid tool. Though there may be infinite explanations to a given Observation, invariably, one assumes the least.

      The Prime number theory may have been the actual model, but given the observed facts it would be illogical to rely upon it as it assumes more than the even number theory.

      This is a fundamental problem with your methodology, I feel. You see numerous possibilities (as is always the case), and thus refrain from concluding on a theory regardless of how persuasive it may be.

      If you were to truly follow this theory, you could doubt the reality of gravity, mathematics, or even yourself. After all, your reliance on each of those as real is dependent upon mere past experiences you have had - they speak little of the future unless you allow for the acceptance of a "good" theory.

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    17. > It also seems that you are ignoring Occam's Razor as a valid tool. Though there may be infinite explanations to a given Observation, invariably, one assumes the least.

      No exactly (or, exacly not :). This could be a larger philosophical discussion, but what I described is Solomonoff's version of inductive inference, decribed (here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductive_inference) as
      "Around 1960, Ray Solomonoff founded the theory of universal inductive inference, the theory of prediction based on observations; for example, predicting the next symbol based upon a given series of symbols. The only assumption is that the environment follows some unknown but computable probability distribution.
      It is a mathematically formalized Occam's razor"

      > The Prime number theory may have been the actual model, but given the observed facts it would be illogical to rely upon it as it assumes more than the even number theory.

      Between two theories I would bet on the simpler one, but not eliminate the more complicated one from consideration. This is actually done every day in practice, e.g. a mammogram, even if it's positive is most likely a false alarm, still we send people for biopsy. See here http://betterexplained.com/articles/an-intuitive-and-short-explanation-of-bayes-theorem/.

      > This is a fundamental problem with your methodology, I feel. You see numerous possibilities (as is always the case), and thus refrain from concluding on a theory regardless of how persuasive it may be.

      Yes, I refrain from concluding, and consider this merit. I act based on probabilities, and more often than not minor probabilities can be ignored. Approximately it's this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expected_utility_hypothesis

      > If you were to truly follow this theory, you could doubt the reality of gravity, mathematics, or even yourself. After all, your reliance on each of those as real is dependent upon mere past experiences you have had - they speak little of the future unless you allow for the acceptance of a "good" theory.

      If probability is strong enough, I will act on it. Gravity is case in point. I cannot doubt myself due to cogito ergo sum, but living in the matrix is not a dead possibility. http://www.simulation-argument.com/. Call me crazy, but don't call me incosistent. Despite all this I'm certainly practical enough (you'll have to take my word on it).

      Dr_Manhattan.

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    18. So then the question becomes: What's your number?

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    19. > So then the question becomes: What's your number?

      My number is unlisted :). Assuming you're asking about my probability estimate I already mentioned that I'm an agtheist elsewhere.

      Life's exercise is to have your own number, you can't borrow others' unless you're using scientists as indirect evidence source (I am not a scientist). Good luck - it's a fun project!

      Dr_Manhattan

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    20. Does it not make sense for the number to be 51%, or more likely than not?

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    21. Why do you think 51 is it? (to be clear, we're talking about existence of a designer, right?
      Dr_Manhattan

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    22. I don't think that 51 is the number - I was merely using it as an illustration. 'More likely than not' is the "number".

      We are talking about how one chooses between competing theories. I find it strange to be talking about logical proofs in terms of a "number" but you persistently reference probability so I thought "51" would convey to you my approach.

      'More likely than not' is the standard by which I choose one theory over another. I consider this to be the logical approach. I think that you may disagree with this approach so I ask: What's your number?

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    23. "There is no spoon".

      I do not have a magical number to "choose" between competing theories. If I cannot logically disprove one I act as it it exists, weighted by the probability.

      Some medical statisticians have the treat of 95% as important, pretending anything less than 5% is ignorable. It might be an ok convention in some cases (they sort of need something for the lawyers to cling to I'm guessing), though less than ideal. I prefer to keep all the numbers that are large enough to affect my decisions around in my mind. E.g. small chance of a car accident (less than one in 10K I'm guessing) is not ignorable when it comes to buckling in my child. This is basically "maximizing expected utility" - great cost or benefit makes you pay attention to smaller probabilities.

      While the above is a practical example it feels like I behave similarly where pure knowledge is concerned. Specifically I give low but non-zero credence to designer, with many orders of magnitude smaller credence for the specific designer as described in the Bible.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    24. Firstly, to apply any level of credence to the designer theory, you must be aware of some logical theory for it (by which I mean an inferred conclusion which explains observations). To say "I give low but non-zero credence" you would need to

      1) Identify observations;
      2) Acknowledge that the designer theory explained the observations; and
      3) Have an alternative theory that explained the observation better - given your extreme language, significantly better.

      If any of those elements were missing it would be illogical to assume anything about the designer theory and it would make more sense to reserve judgment until a theory was presented (meaning that the designer theory is exactly as likely as it is unlikely - 50/50). This would be the reserved intelligence you referenced from Socrates in my opinion.

      It seems that you are weighing theories against each other as probabilities. I don't know how this is possible. It makes sense to me to compare one theory against it's opposite such as G exists or not because the determination of one is tied to the other. To compare the theory of "He took main street" to "He took maple lane" would be ridiculous without a meaningful relationship between the two possibilities. Neither is more likely than the other unless you make recourse to Occam's razor and an understanding of the environment.

      In this vein, I feel that you misapply the inductive inference theory. Though I am not personally familiar with the theory, it makes sense to me to apply the rule you quoted from Wikipedia "The only assumption is that the environment follows some unknown but computable probability distribution." Without this point you are almost literally comparing apples and oranges. Unless you can measure that environment and come to a conclusive probability distribution you are just making up numbers and comparing them to each other.

      I have asked you repeatedly for a solid number that would convince you or even a solid number as to your current position - you have not or cannot offer one. This, in my opinion, demonstrates that you are not applying the inductive inference approach.

      This is why I propose 51%. If you reduce a theory to itself and its opposite then one is invariably more likely than the other and it is logical to follow it over the other. To compare one theory to another when neither theory directly relates to the other, such as a probability distribution would, is nothing more than making up numbers.

      G is not likely or unlikely. He exists or He doesn't. Yes or no. To say that theories which you deem unlikely are more likely than the possibility of a Designer is illogical unless you have some other reason to conclude that the existence of G is for some reason unlikely.

      For example, if the theory that the universe arrived through sheer randomness assumes less than its opposite then it should be treated as true. Randomness and Designer are tied in this case because they are exact opposites of each other. Randomness and Not-randomness. Designer and Not-Designer. The proof of one removes proof of the other.

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    25. Matt,
      > If any of those elements were missing it would be illogical to assume anything about the designer theory and it would make more sense to reserve judgment until a theory was presented (meaning that the designer theory is exactly as likely as it is unlikely - 50/50). This would be the reserved intelligence you referenced from Socrates in my opinion.

      Let me throw back at you. I am going to turn my head and look at a window on my right. Am I going to see a fly climbing on it? You have very little to go on here, certainly no observations. Are the chances 50/50, bacause you cannot logically disprove either possibility? I suspect you will use various pieces of your existing knowledge to come to some answer, which will remain uncertain, but highly likely you will be inclined in one direction, without dismissing the other. You might think about how often you see flies land on windows, my Dr_Manhattan handle, which might make it likely that I work there (or maybe I'm just a huge fan of the comic book?) the fact that this is work hours (oops), the fact that most people working in Manhattan in who are technically inclined work for big companies, in tall buildings, where most flies stay close to the street level, you might check the wind factor, whether it's raining, etc.


      > Unless you can measure that environment and come to a conclusive probability distribution you are just making up numbers and comparing them to each other.

      Just as I asked you in the fly gedanken experiment above, I will incorporate several factors coming up with my 'number', and much uncertainty or 'variance' is likely to remain.

      > I have asked you repeatedly for a solid number that would convince you or even a solid number as to your current position - you have not or cannot offer one. This, in my opinion, demonstrates that you are not applying the inductive inference approach.

      I did not give you a number because it's largely meaningless to you, as I am not a qualified scientist. You have to come up with your own. Besides coming up with a number precisely is work, and I'm lazy. But since you insist I'd say that for some definitions of "designer" my number is 2-3% (this definition does not imply god of the Bible in my mind, just to make it clear, large problems need to be surmounted to make the two identical).
      Basically multiverse is very likely to be be true, I ballpark it around 80% (unfortunately) based on second-hand knowledge; fine-tuning is explained away by it. I give serious weight to the possibility that fine-tuning is not even a valid question, based on Bostrom's writing on anthropic principle. I deviate from consensus here because it feels like Bostrom is a better philosopher of science than most scientists (that's sort of his job) and this is a philosophical question. That gets 12% at this point. 2% goes to cyclic models, it seems like they're not dead and good people are working on them. I give 3-4% to "things I haven't thought of that answer fine-tuning without multiverse" (common practice in decision analysis). Here we go, 2-3% left for an intelligent designer.

      > This is why I propose 51%. If you reduce a theory to itself and its opposite then one is invariably more likely than the other and it is logical to follow it over the other. To compare one theory to another when neither theory directly relates to the other, such as a probability distribution would, is nothing more than making up numbers.

      (Continued below due to f*g Blogger morons - Dr_Manhattan)

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    26. (Continued from above)
      Seriously? I assert that you make decisions every day based on less than 51% chance. Seatbelt (there is clearly less than 51% chance of an accident) and other safety stuff comes to mind. What reason do you have to dismiss the other theories? If you can logically or scientifically disprove them, of course you eliminate them. Do not give into the desire to make world simpler than it is.

      > G is not likely or unlikely. He exists or He doesn't. Yes or no. To say that theories which you deem unlikely are more likely than the possibility of a Designer is illogical unless you have some other reason to conclude that the existence of G is for some reason unlikely.

      Of course reality is one way or another. But I'm not omnipotent. Probability was invented to deal with uncertainty, giving you a way to deal with things you do not completely know, but have legitimate intuitions about. "Probability theory is nothing but common sense reduced to calculation" - Laplace.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    27. The calculations you are referring to are linked to possible outcomes. The chances that you will get into a car accident may be relatively low (this happens to not be the case) but the damage cause by not wearing a seat belt is extremely high - the reasoning is more like "1/1000 chance accident causing 5000 damage, seat belt has power to reduce damage to 10, inconvenience of wearing a seat belt (possibly annoying) 4." (1/1000)*(500) = 5; meaning that if the cost of the seat belt precaution is greater than the likelihood of damage converted to present value it would be illogical to use it. Obviously these aren't actual numbers but you could look up statistics for reference. To use a simpler example if I will pay you $10 for a coin flip if it is heads and nothing if it is tails, the flip is worth $5.

      These calculations don't strike me as relevant to this discussion. There is no statistical evidence to support the probability or improbability of a Designer.

      You could say that you haven't heard a good theory for it one way or the other and maintain a 50/50 position, waiting to see it one way or the other as more likely.

      You could even take it as more likely from inception that there is no Designer because the burden of proof is on the one making an assertion. If one were to disprove RAZ/REF's arguments, there would be no proof of G and the easier explanation would be one of randomness. But when you say that it is a very small probability that G exists, you are entering the discussion with a bias.

      If your position is that you have gone through the multi-verse theory yourself and have found it to be more persuasive than the G theory, explain to us all why you find it so convincing and it is entirely possible that you will convince us.

      But to assert that no one can arrive at any conclusion and that the conclusion is unlikely without explaining what makes it so unlikely is just throwing up smokescreens that help prevent you from thinking critically.

      As to Dr_Manhattan, I had personally assumed that it was a double entendre and that you were referencing both.

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    28. > The calculations you are referring to are linked to possible outcomes. The chances that you will get into a car accident may be relatively low (this happens to not be the case) but the damage cause by not wearing a seat belt is extremely high - the reasoning is more like "1/1000 chance accident causing 5000 damage, seat belt has power to reduce damage to 10, inconvenience of wearing a seat belt (possibly annoying) 4." (1/1000)*(500) = 5; meaning that if the cost of the seat belt precaution is greater than the likelihood of damage converted to present value it would be illogical to use it. Obviously these aren't actual numbers but you could look up statistics for reference.

      I brought in utility theory only to point out that you make decisions all the time regarding things you do not have complete knowledge of. If I do this is practical sense, what is wrong using the same algorithm in my epistemic stance?

      > To use a simpler example if I will pay you $10 for a coin flip if it is heads and nothing if it is tails, the flip is worth $5.

      The flip is worth $10, if I understood you correctly.

      > These calculations don't strike me as relevant to this discussion. There is no statistical evidence to support the probability or improbability of a Designer.

      I did disclaim that these are my own estimates, and you have no reason to take them, I'm explicitly disclaiming any authority. But, they are relevant to me and I used them to illustrate my cognitive process, and you did ask for a number a few times. At the same time, are you saying scientific consensus on relevant points is irrelevant to the probability that Designer theory is correct? RAF/RAZ certainly relied on it a few times so far.

      > But when you say that it is a very small probability that G exists, you are entering the discussion with a bias.

      I might have a bias, everyone does. I have less to defend than the authors. What's biased about my method though? I look at possible explanations, weight them, and come to probabilistic conclusions. Most atheists would call me generous :), but I aim to be in line with what's real. This is very similar to what Richard Dawkins **actually** believes - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html. His estimate is about 1.5% IIRC.

      > If your position is that you have gone through the multi-verse theory yourself and have found it to be more persuasive than the G theory, explain to us all why you find it so convincing and it is entirely possible that you will convince us.

      No, not myself, that is not in my capability as things stand now. But I do look at what the experts say, same way as the authors.

      > But to assert that no one can arrive at any conclusion and that the conclusion is unlikely without explaining what makes it so unlikely is just throwing up smokescreens that help prevent you from thinking critically.

      This is not fair, I broke down in pretty fine detail why I think what I do. This IS my conclusion, subject to change as I learn more.

      > As to Dr_Manhattan, I had personally assumed that it was a double entendre and that you were referencing both.

      5 points for Griffindoor :)

      Dr_Manhattan

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    29. Regarding Dr Manhattan's statement above:
      "I give serious weight to the possibility that fine-tuning is not even a valid question, based on Bostrom's writing on anthropic principle. I deviate from consensus here because it feels like Bostrom is a better philosopher of science than most scientists (that's sort of his job) and this is a philosophical question. That gets 12% at this point. "

      A quote from Bostrom:

      "Leaving fine-tuning unexplained is epistemically unsatisfactory to the extent that it involves accepting complicated, inelegant theories with many free parameters. If a neater theory can account for available data, it is to be preferred. This is just an instance of the general methodological principle that one should prefer simpler theories..." - pg 39

      Again, if there are other parts of the book which you think support your assertion, please reference them.

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    30. maybe now down to .12% or 10^10^-123

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    31. Dr_Manhattan

      I don't see how you decided on the probability. For example what makes you give 0.0001% probability for ghosts and not 0.001% or or 0.00001 or even 0.0000000001% all of the above mean that it is very unlikely and will not affect my decision making almost at all, but mathematically are very different.
      similarly how did you arrive at the numbers for the possibilities of the multiverse? For example, why 80% and not 82% or 76% or 79.3%? And why 12% (or .12% or 10^10^-123) for finetuning and not something else? if this is more than short hand for a qualitative evaluation how did you determine the precise quantity? If this is only short hand for a qualitative sense than how is the numerical value beneficial?

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  6. Do you think that your response to Dr_Manhattan demonstrates his point?

    He seems adamant that only an expert should delve into this area and that we are not capable of properly comprehending the arguments and theories discussed. Though, you have clearly demonstrated your ability to understand the theories, you have revealed several theories and concepts that I would agree with Dr_Manhattan about regarding complexity.

    I find the main multi-verse arguments and cosmological points to be approachable and understandable especially when guided, but your response has made clear to me that there are numerous fringe arguments I cannot rightly say I have the understanding of.

    This means that I am inherently relying upon your chosen excerpts. Do you view this as a problem? Do you rely (suggest I rely) upon the validity of second-hand sources (such as yourselves)?

    Even though I may follow all of the arguments and understand them and arrive at the same conclusions, I can't help but think there is a large potential for bias.

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    1. The proof is not contingent on the rejection of the cyclic universe. That is why we stated "as an aside". If we were trying to disprove the cyclic universe, you would be correct that would have to explain it more or present major scientists rejecting it. We will clarify that in the post itself.

      We do not think there is a reasonable theory for a cyclic universe for the same reason it was rejected in 1934. Should you think that any of these theories really are good theories, it does not effect the proof at all.

      We did not refrain from stating that the cyclic universe model does not work for the well established reason of the second law of thermodynamics. That is not a problem you can speculate away. You need a genuine answer. The fact that someone claims they have an solution to a problem that they admit is totally speculative is good reason to think that it does not solve one of the biggest problem in cosmology for the last 80 years.

      If you can not see that a major problem with a theory of higher dimensional M-Branes colliding, is M-Branes colliding are not understood, then forget the point about the cyclic universe.

      Has there been any points essential to the proof that you feel you did not understand or was not well supported by major scientists?

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    2. No. I feel that I have understood every post so far and that each has been backed up by prominent scientific minds.

      If I feel that a cyclic theory poses a question once you have gone into multi-verse theory in the blog I will reassert my question then.

      Considering your response it seems premature to ask it as the understanding of the theory is directly tied to its applicability which may be irrelevant; as you say it will be.

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  7. I do not fully understand why it is valid to speak of the constants in terms of probabilities or other possible values. The constants are the way that the are; to say that things in the Universe would have been different were there different values for the constants implicitly assumes that different values are theoretically possible. I do no understand why this should be so. To elaborate further, I see that the values we have for the constants are the exact ones needed for our "complex" Universe, and in this sense, they are not arbitrary. But I fail to see how this sheds light on the mechanism that is responsible for the constants.

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    1. If you understand that the values for the constants are not arbitrary, then you also understand that the purpose of the constants is to bring about an ordered, complex universe.

      Creating something that has a purpose is the very essence of how an Intelligent Agent acts. To say it crudely: an unintelligent cause doesn't know what its doing (its activities are purposeless), but an intelligent cause is doing something for a purpose.

      We are not giving any further explanation for the "mechanism" that is responsible for the constants, other than to say it is ultimately attributable to the action of an Intelligent agent. That is the one thing we know about the cause of the constants at this point.

      Does that answer your question?

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    2. Yes but it raises another as well. I'd like to know exactly what is meant here by "purposeful", or as you said in a previous post, "meaningful". I fail to see why the 'complexity' of our Universe or the small range of constants that produce it give any special sense of "meaning" as opposed to some other possible configuration of the Universe. "Meaning" seems to be an inherently human idea; how can we project such an argument onto the Cosmos?

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    3. Are you saying that you fail to see a difference between an ordered car, and a heap of parts randomly ordered?

      Do you also not see the difference between a living animal, and a random arrangement of the animal particles?

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    4. I understand that there is a difference in those two examples; but that is only due to their being "after-the-fact" in the sense that they utilize the already known laws of nature. Here we are discussing the origin of nature itself. As such, we cannot compare the case of the living animal to the Universe.

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    5. We are discussing the universe that would result from different values in the laws of nature.

      Please see the introduction of post 1. Specifically the paragraph that begins "The proof is predicated".

      If that still does not satisfy you, please post further questions on post 1, as we are trying to keep the later posts for science, and keep epistemological issues to post 1.

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    6. We found a better way to say it based only on entropy.

      Entropy is a statistical measure of order and disorder which has a precise mathematical definition. It is highly improbable that the initial conditions of the big bang should have such low entropy (a lot of order in the statistical sense of the term.)

      Maybe that will help you understand.

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  8. unlike MZ i cannot follow all this with a real understanding. i am intelligent (at least in the range of average). I do not mean this to attack you but i must say the more i read this BLOG the more in doubt i become. if religion demands that i follow its word b/c it is divine and i have to follow all this to believe in the divine then i think maybe it is not divine due to the sheer complexity of it all.

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    1. Do you understand what it means that there is fine tuning in the constants of nature? (Meaning, if the values were a little different, there would be a meaningless, chaotic universe.)

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    1. we're not sure which anonymous you are. Please either use a pseudonym or reply in the same comment thread as you started the question.

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  10. Apparently unbeknownst to those here, Prof. Stenger actually wrote a rebuttal early this year to Barnes' article critical of his fallacy of fine tuning argument. (See also comments in the previous Part 3: The Solution).

    I actually have, but have not read Stenger's book, nor Barnes' nor Stenger's articles. But I'm putting the info here - let's see if it stimulates discussion.

    Defending The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning - Victor J. Stenger, January 28, 2012

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1202/1202.4359.pdf

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    1. You can read Barne's reply to Stenger's reply to Barne's criticisms of Stenger's book on Barne's blog:

      http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/in-defence-of-the-fine-tuning-of-the-universe-for-intelligent-life/

      You can read all of the particulars of their arguments there. We're going to just quote one part from Barne's postscript, where he quotes some of the top physicists and cosmologists in the world talking about the fine tuning problem. The last quote of "Guess who?" is from Stenger. You can try to evaluate for yourself whether it really makes sense that Stenger is answering some of the most difficult problems in physics (that go back over 100 years), just using basic physics that no other highly qualified physicists seem to understand. The following is from Barne's postscript:

      "In any case, if you’d rather decide this issue by a show of hands rather than good arguments, then let’s play pick the odd one out of these non-theist scientists.

      Wilczek: life appears to depend upon delicate coincidences that we have not been able to explain. The broad outlines of that situation have been apparent for many decades. When less was known, it seemed reasonable to hope that better understanding of symmetry and dynamics would clear things up. Now that hope seems much less reasonable. The happy coincidences between life’s requirements and nature’s choices of parameter values might be just a series of flukes, but one could be forgiven for beginning to suspect that something deeper is at work.

      Hawking: “Most of the fundamental constants in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. … The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned, and very little in physical law can be altered without destroying the possibility of the development of life as we know it.”

      Rees: Any universe hospitable to life – what we might call a biophilic universe – has to be ‘adjusted’ in a particular way. The prerequisites for any life of the kind we know about — long-lived stable stars, stable atoms such as carbon, oxygen and silicon, able to combine into complex molecules, etc — are sensitive to the physical laws and to the size, expansion rate and contents of the universe. Indeed, even for the most open-minded science fiction writer, ‘life’ or ‘intelligence’ requires the emergence of some generic complex structures: it can’t exist in a homogeneous universe, not in a universe containing only a few dozen particles. Many recipes would lead to stillborn universes with no atoms, no chemistry, and no planets; or to universes too short-lived or too empty to allow anything to evolve beyond sterile uniformity.

      Linde: the existence of an amazingly strong correlation between our own properties and the values of many parameters of our world, such as the masses and charges of electron and proton, the value of the gravitational constant, the amplitude of spontaneous symmetry breaking in the electroweak theory, the value of the vacuum energy, and the dimensionality of our world, is an experimental fact requiring an explanation.

      Susskind: The Laws of Physics … are almost always deadly. In a sense the laws of nature are like East Coast weather: tremendously variable, almost always awful, but on rare occasions, perfectly lovely. … [O]ur own universe is an extraordinary place that appears to be fantastically well designed for our own existence. This specialness is not something that we can attribute to lucky accidents, which is far too unlikely. The apparent coincidences cry out for an explanation."

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    2. "Guth: in the multiverse, life will evolve only in very rare regions where the local laws of physics just happen to have the properties needed for life, giving a simple explanation for why the observed universe appears to have just the right properties for the evolution of life. The incredibly small value of the cosmological constant is a telling example of a feature that seems to be needed for life, but for which an explanation from fundamental physics is painfully lacking.

      Smolin: Our universe is much more complex than most universes with the same laws but different values of the parameters of those laws. In particular, it has a complex astrophysics, including galaxies and long lived stars, and a complex chemistry, including carbon chemistry. These necessary conditions for life are present in our universe as a consequence of the complexity which is made possible by the special values of the parameters.

      Guess who?: The most commonly cited examples of apparent fine-tuning can be readily explained by the application of a little well-established physics and cosmology. . . . [S]ome form of life would have occurred in most universes that could be described by the same physical models as ours, with parameters whose ranges varied over ranges consistent with those models. … . My case against fine-tuning will not rely on speculations beyond well-established physics nor on the existence of multiple universes."

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    3. > You can read Barne's reply to Stenger's reply to Barne's criticisms of Stenger's book on Barne's blog:

      I guess now we'll have to look for Stenger's reply to Barnes' reply to... (BTW, his name is Barnes, not Barne; the "s" is part of the name, not a possessive suffix. And if there's already an "s" before the possessive apostrophe, no need to add the usual one afterwards).

      Looked for a response, found this:

      CPBD 040: Luke Barnes – 11 Responses to Fine-Tuning

      http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8109

      An interview with Barnes - 1-1/4 hours long! (how does anyone have time to read/listen to all this stuff?? I hope to get to it - just read Stenger's response, and started Barnes' critique. God, grant me more hours in the day!) "The 11 responses to fine-tuning" they discussed are listed under the video embed, as well as a lot of good looking links. Didn't watch the interview yet, and just skimmed the 149 comments. But some of them look really good - even at least one from Stenger, and Bill Maher (or at least people who call themselves those people).

      I wonder what the people on that imposing list of pro FT think specifically about Stenger, who says that nobody has disagreed with him.

      > You can try to evaluate for yourself whether it really makes sense that Stenger is answering some of the most difficult problems in physics (that go back over 100 years), just using basic physics that no other highly qualified physicists seem to understand.

      Remember - the majority isn't always right (who knows that better than the Jews?). Much of what is accepted as mainstream was once the idea of a lone maverick. Take Avraham for example. Stenger could be the modern era scientific Avraham.

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    4. He also claims, in his response and at his Web site, that:

      "No prominent physicist or cosmologist has disputed this book."

      Pretty amazing - I wonder why that's so.

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    5. Well you always have to follow what makes sense to your honest mind, but the drive to be a maverick for the sake of maverickness is not something worth praising, and there is a tendency in academia to try and go down in history as famous, brilliant mind, etc.

      So I don't know why that is so, and I don't know the man (or his arguments in detail) but the possibility of emotional motivation is always lurking.

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    6. Ron,

      The way I see it, there are two ways to go about rationally accepting an idea:

      1) You can think about it on your own and come to your own conclusions.

      2) You can rely upon the experts, whom you determine are the experts.

      In this case, I see three ideas:

      1) The question of fine tuning.

      2) The theory of the multiverse.

      3) The theory of G.

      1) is an underlying question and 2) and 3) seem to me to be the only reasonable answers.

      As to 1), you can either rely upon the experts or use your own mind. The evidence suggests that the great majority of experts find fine tuning to be a legitimate question. Stenger is an anomaly who disregards the opinions of the experts. It would only make sense to follow his conclusions if you were using your own mind to analyze, evaluate, and understand his ideas. Based upon this blog, my outside research, and my mind - his idea doesn't make a lot of sense to me. But you're entitled to follow your own mind and feel differently.

      2) is dependent upon what field of study you consider multiverse theory to rest. If it is scientific it is rational to either accept the majority of experts' conclusion of its probable truth or evaluate it with your own mind and arrive at whatever conclusions that leads you to. However, I personally find it to be a weak philosophical theory and (keeping in mind that I do not speak for the authors of this blog) I think that the authors agree. Regardless, I personally think that it has been demonstrated to be a weak theory. I base this again on this blog, my outside research, and my mind and you are free to disagree.

      As to 3), it is clearly a philosophical answer and we are in the midst of considering this possibility, as of this date, and all that it entails. Speaking to its veracity would be premature.

      Stay tuned.

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    7. Michael: very nice comment, without a tinge of snark!

      I would add at least 2 more ideas:

      4) the physical constants (Part 2: The Mystery)

      5) Simulation Theory (Part 15: Are We Real)

      4) is another underlying question - even farther under than 1), according to R&R. 5) seems to me to be another option besides 2) and 3). Don't want to go into that here - rather in Part 15, which as I mentioned is what brought me here.

      Stenger is an expert in his own right - don't get to be an emiretus professor of Physics for nothing! So he has the right to disagree with his peers, even if it's with all of them. Kind of like R. Eliezer vs the Chachamim re: lo bashamayim he. Was also encouraged in the Sanhedrin. Happens.

      I also agree that 2) MV seems very weak and stretching of the boundaries. Don't know enough to say, but that's my current intuition. Although if quantum fluctuations happen, they can happen lots and lots of times to make lots and lots of universes. Bolzman's Brain does seem to put a damper on that, though.


      3) God also seems a weak option to me at this point, even more so than MV, since He would be a non-quantumly fluctuated generated being on a magnitudinally higher level than anything we have experience of (at least we know what universes are). All intelligence that we know of evolved to be that way - not so the supposed God. Have to get to Stage 3.

      And G is possibly more than philisophical: Stenger (God: The Failed Hypothesis) and others claim that if God exists, we COULD discover indications of it. Lack of those indications imply absense of God.

      Staying tuned (after a little nappy!)


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    8. Ron, I did not read Stenger's book, but it appears that he is assuming a physical God. Otherwise, what kind of indications, besides logical inference, of God's existence could be discovered?

      Delete
    9. Also, Stenger himself is allowed to use his own mind as he pleases. The problem is that with regards to R' Eliezer, the other chachamim at least heard the argument, but thought he was wrong. He had a logical possibility. Here, the other physicists don't even know what he is talking about.

      However, for each of us, in coming to a conclusion about these areas, we have to either: a)investigate for ourselves (like Stenger) or b)consider the opinions of the experts (who in this case far outweigh Stenger's opinion).

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    10. I read some of his books last year. Just to clarify, in God: The Failed Hypothesis claims to find evidence against the "judeo-christian" God, but this has nothing to do with the Jewish God (Let alone Deism which he mentions in passing IIRC), I don't blame Stenger, the problem is the many "rabbis" and "Gedolim" who push shallow and foolish ideas of Judaism. For example, his 'evidence' against tefillah is targeting a false and shallow view of how tefillah works (a view unfortunately held by many).
      Also, I found His philosophy shallow (for example providing the "Can God create a rock He can't lift" as a valid philosophical argument against God.)
      I actually emailed him to ask some questions I had on the fine tuning book, he was very friendly, but I found some of his answers unconvincing (I was happy to see that my outstanding questions against Stenger were shared by Luke Barnes since that means I didn't just make a stupid mistake in not understanding his answers). You may be successful in asking him for clarification.

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    11. Yaakov, do you know what he is referring to when he says there should be some indication of God's existence?

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    12. some of the indications he claims we should expect, include:
      1. god answering prayer should create statistically significant results, but double blind 'prayer' tests have not found any results.
      2. If god is good and is able to do miracles he should stop bad things from happening (save babies etc.) which goes against experience
      3. god teaches in genesis how the world was created, we now know about evolution etc which contradicts it

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    13. Don't forget his other question:
      4. If humans have "souls", they should be able to perform "supernatural" feats.

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    14. < Ron, I did not read Stenger's book, but it appears that he is assuming a physical God. >

      Don't you think you should read the book before judging based on appearances?

      < Otherwise, what kind of indications, besides logical inference, of God's existence could be discovered? >

      Fallacy, Preface, pg 22:

      "As a physicist, I cannot go wherever I want to but wherever the data take me. If they take me to God, so be it. I have examined the data closely over many years and have come to the opposite conclusion: the observations of science and our naked senses not only show no evidence for God but also provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a God that plays such an important, everyday role in the universe such as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God does not exist."

      Then he refers to three of his previous books:

      Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe - 2003

      God: The Failed Hypothesis - How Science Shows that God Doesn't Exist - 2007

      The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason - 2009

      Maybe you should read some of that. Or at least look at favorable Amazon reviews.

      One can always use the reason/excuse that "we don't know God's ways". Just honestly consider what makes more sense: the really unknown God's unusual ways, or the ways of the world that we know.

      < Here, the other physicists don't even know what he is talking about. >

      Barnes and Collins - who else? He quotes many email correspondences with other physicists in "Fallacy", and many others that he's communicated with haven't objected to his arguments.

      < However, for each of us, in coming to a conclusion about these areas, we have to either: a)investigate for ourselves (like Stenger) or b)consider the opinions of the experts (who in this case far outweigh Stenger's opinion). >

      Will have to defer responding to that right now...

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    15. >Barnes and Collins - who else?
      For physicists who disagree with him see the 2 comments in this thread from RAZ/REF Aug 29 12:26pm

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    16. RW-1: Ron Wadiz here.

      Prof. Stenger has written a reply to his "critics" at his site:

      http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/VWeb/Home.html

      What Do Prominent Physicists and
      Cosmologists Say About Fine-Tuning?
      Vic Stenger

      http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/PromTune.htm

      Critics of my book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us have claimed that my views are at odds with those of the physics and cosmology community. Here I will report on my direct communications with several prominent physicists and cosmologists, which show that they and I have no basic disagreements.

      (RW: He must have found out about this series, because all of these "Prominents" are the very same ones mentioned here in the 2 comments from RAZ/REF Aug 29 12:26pm - almost in the same order. For the sake of referencible discussion here, I'm ready to quote his whole PromTune (Prominent(Fine-)Tuning) page. For now, just the beginning of it:)

      On September 1, 2012, I wrote to each:

      In 2011 I published a book titled "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us" (Prometheus Books) (note 1 - publishing details). If titles were allowed to be more descriptive, the main title would have been "The Fallacy of the Notion that the Parameters of Cosmology and Physics Are So Fine-Tuned for Life, Especially Human Life, that They Can Only Have Been the Result of Supernatural Design."

      In my initial emails, I asked them:

      Would you be kind enough to reply on whether you agree or disagree with the following two statements that summarize the position I develop in the book:

      1. The universe is not fine-tuned to us; we are fine-tuned to the universe.

      2. Based on existing knowledge, we cannot demonstrate that a natural explanation for the apparent fine-tuning is so unlikely as to provide a strong case for the existence of supernatural intelligent design in the universe.

      Here are the results...

      (RW: I think it would be a good idea to have the results here in a few posts, and I will do that. Is that OK?)

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    17. RW,
      I looked at the link and it is irrelevant. Everyone here already knew that these scientists don't think fine tuning points to god. The question on which Stenger differs fundamentally from them is: whether if multiverse is rejected whether fine tuning is a problem. (or as he puts it: "I have read Susskind’s book. In Fallacy I did not dismiss the multiverse scenario, which obviously solves the fine-tuning conundrum. I was simply trying to show that, based on well-established physics and cosmology (no speculations about strings, etc.), even for a single universe the constants of physics cannot be shown to be so tightly constrained that no natural explanation is viable." It is the second part on which those scientists he quotes differ (which Stenger admits)) they would accept it is god or the multiverse, stenger would not.

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    18. It does seem like Stenger is responding to our comment from August 29th, even though we were explicitly quoting from Barnes' post in May this year.

      Yaakov made the critical point above, but we want to add to it, as well as bring out another point of Stenger's that is a misunderstanding of how we are formulating the proof from the fine tuning of the constants and initial conditions.

      First, we are very clear in post 3 (and throughout this series, especially in Stage Three) that we are not claiming that the laws of nature are fine tuned exclusively for human life. Far from it. Ss we explicitly state in post 25, almost the exact opposite conclusion can be drawn about a human being's significance in the grand cosmic design. Please see the paragraph in post 3 which begins "We want to make it clear that we are not saying that the constants of nature were set for human existence exclusively..."

      Secondly, all the scientists that Stenger claims agree with him believe in the multiverse. Martin Rees in fact claims to have coined the very term "multiverse." See Rees' video embedded in post 15 where Rees explicitly states his position on the problem of fine tuning and his belief that multiverse solves it. See also the final chapter of Rees' famous book about fine tuning, "Just 6 numbers", which (and this baffles us) Stenger claims does not contradict him.

      Andrei Linde is the founder of eternal chaotic inflation, one of the most popular multiverse theories around. In fact in the email to Stenger, Linde wrote: "It is crucial though that our universe is in fact a multiverse." See post 12 and 13 for Linde's views, as well as the video embedded in post 7 which clearly presents his bubble multiverse theory.

      Lee Smolin was one of the first physicists to write about the fine tuning problem, and he too has his own multiverse theory called the fecund multiverse of black holes spawning new big bangs. See Smolin's book "Life of the Cosmos" for an excellent presentation of the fine tuning problem as well as his multiverse theory.

      Alan Guth is the originator of inflation theory and is also a proponent of multiverse theory. Again, in the email to Stenger, Guth wrote: "I would add that I find the explanations that you mention in your chapter on the subject, other than the multiverse explanation, to be very unconvincing. None of them comes close to having a solid mathematical formulation. Thus, I consider the cosmological constant problem to be a significant piece of evidence for the multiverse."

      See the Steinhardt article we linked to in posts 12 and 13 for Guth's views, as well as the video embedded in post 7 which shows Guth's views. Also, see Stage 3 of our proof where we explicitly deal with all of Guth's question's on God.

      In short, every single one of these major physicists and cosmologists disagrees with Stenger about whether the fine tuning of the universe is a problem that can only be solved by multiverse theory. If Stenger wants to claim that he agrees with them, and join the ranks of the multiverse faithful, then he has nothing new to contribute to this discussion.

      The bottom line is that everyone is saying that the fine tuning conundrum points to either God or the multiverse. We devote the entire Stage 2 (posts 7-17) to exposing the major fallacies with multiverse theory, and we devote the first 5 posts of Stage 3 (posts 18-22) to justifying the explanation of God.

      If Stenger wants to pretend that the universe is not fine tuned, and that it does not point to either God or the multiverse, he is going to have to live with the fact that almost every major scientists disagrees with him.

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    19. RW

      Thanks for the responses, Yaakov and R&R. Will respond when I can.

      Dr_M?

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  11. 1. He has a distorted notion of prayer.
    2. He has a distorted notion of God's justice.
    3. He thinks he can gain a complete understanding of Genesis by reading the King James Version of the Bible and doesn't consider the possibility that evolution does not contradict the Torah's account.

    I think you intimated earlier that his ideas are based upon a false philosophical framework. Seems that you are correct.

    Also, he is looking for God in the world of providence and using that to inform his opinions of God's existence from the universe. He is confusing the two worlds...

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    Replies
    1. Jeff:

      Maybe it's the believers in God that have the distorted notions.

      It's reasonable to expect that reasonable prayers - I think that the blind studies had to do with healing the sick - should be answered, at least in a minimally statistically significant amount.

      Same with God's justice. True, He might have His reasons to let bad things happen, but doesn't it make more sense that he wouldn't, and therefore doesn't exist?

      Regarding evolution: do you know how the Torah's account doesn't contradict evolution?

      He is using the absence of evidence for God's providence as evidence for His absence. The two worlds are very related.

      Thanks for the youtube link - I'll take a look. Am reading his Fallacy of FT book now. Good so far.

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    2. Ron, I think that if he understood the true idea of prayer (and perhaps you as well), he would understand why it is that most prayers are not answered in the affirmative. We can certainly continue that discussion in another forum if you are interested. If you want, I can give you my email address.

      Also, God's system of justice is very complex. Abraham, in his dialogue with God during his prophecy with regards to the destruction of Sodom, attempts to gain some insight into this system. At the very least, one should take the approach that he should investigate this area more fully, before deciding, superficially, that God should just prevent bad things from happening. It is certainly a good question, but not one that disproves God's existence.

      Finally, there are certainly ways to understand the Torah's view of creation without having to throw out the idea of evolution. Again, this is a large topic that could be discussed further as well.

      And, again, as you go through this blog, hopefully you will see that inferring God's existence through science can be accomplished without resorting to the idea of God's providence which is an entirely different matter. Just because one has questions with regards to providence does not mean that one cannot answer the problems with fine tuning and the initial conditions of the big bang with the concept of one absolutely necessary simple existence.

      Stenger, by his own admission, comes from a Christian background, although he has since rejected the idea of God. Perhaps, if he was exposed to correct notions of God, prayer and justice, he would not be so quick to dismiss it. I don't know. Unfortunately, many Jews also have incorrect notions in these areas as well (as Yaakov has mentioned before).

      Thanks again for your honest investigation, I look forward to many more informative discussions.

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    3. I have read the book, and agree with Jeff that Stenger disproves a false notion of God.
      For example, he treats prayer as magical wishing, an idea which naturally fits in Christianity, but is very distant from Judaism.
      These topics are not directly related to the issue of this blog, but if you are interested in any of these topics, there are some interesting explanations available online, or you can email me to discuss them.

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    4. Ron, it would be informative for you to read the latest post of the blog, which is relevant to our discussion here. The problem stems from an inappropriate notion of God that most people have (including Stenger here). I have been doing more firsthand exploration, first by watching Stenger's videos, and his distorted religious notions are clear.

      I agree with you that the answer of we don't know God's ways is insufficient, but the wish that God would just remove all bad things that happen to people is also distorted. Again, this is not directly relevant to the blog, but I am willing to discuss further as you wish (and Yaakov as well).

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  12. For those who are interested, there are a series of You Tube videos where Stenger discusses the ideas of his book. I have just started watching it and it is very interesting. Here's an early highlight: "God is the ultimate superstition".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yfnjDwERBs&feature=relmfu

    Enjoy.

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