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Old 27 Nov 2017, 11:42 AM   #681188 / #1
Michel
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Default Debunk Intelligent Design

Hello friends. As a newcomer, I have a question for you.

Some years ago, someone sent me a link to an Intelligent Design video that said that, the chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, is one in a number so big that it would require 55 digits to write it down. Hence, it can't be the result of a coincidence.

That, immediately made me think of Jansenism and pre-determinism: Of course, if the universe is designed, my writing this right now is also designed, right?

Oh no, answer the supporters of ID, it was designed to the least detail all the way to ... er ... the time humans were created.

My answer then is: but by saying that, you "make" a story, you invent what a creator wants, do, think, etc. You have left the pseudo-scientific argument of the Intelligent Design! You can make any story.

To me, this sounds like a good argumentation but when I explain it to theists and atheists, nobody seem to understand what I mean. My question to you then is ... am I very stupid? Why is this so obvious to me and not to others?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

PS: bear in mind that I am 69 years old, a bit senile and English is not my mother tongue.
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 12:15 PM   #681190 / #2
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I'll be first to admit that I really don't know what you mean by your answer, so maybe I am in the same camp as those you have already spoken to.

However, let me give my view on ID.

Firstly, you will never be able to debunk ID, because it is actually a hypothesis that can be made to fit any observable data. The universe existed in a particular state, say, 6000 years ago, and if an omnipotent being (living in some external medium for example) were able to construct an identical universe in situ then we would never be able to tell the difference. This is really the crux of the ID argument.

However, even if this were actually true, it would not be reason to abandon Big Bang cosmology or the study of fundamental science because that would still be the principle way of making predictions. Indeed, it would be pointless to hold the ID view at all (even if it were true!) because it is not useful scientifically. On the one hand, you have a beautiful elegant theory with amazing predictive power through mathematics, while on the other you have an unfounded and unsupported supposition that an omnipotent being is out to con us. I know what is more aesthetically pleasing, but even leaving that aside ID is not actually useful.

Indeed, I don't even see why ID-supporters would cling to this view even acknowledging their desire for religious belief. Why not just assert that "God" took 13.8 billion years to construct his "intelligently designed" world using the tool of Big Bang Cosmology (which presumably He made himself). After all, isn't this exactly how an omnipotent God, unconstrained by time, would do things?
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 01:55 PM   #681201 / #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michel View Post
Some years ago, someone sent me a link to an Intelligent Design video that said that, the chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, is one in a number so big that it would require 55 digits to write it down. Hence, it can't be the result of a coincidence.
This seems like a version of fine tuning. It is that only a tiny fraction of the possible range of our Universe's parameters can allow us to come into existence into it.

I'm not impressed with that argument, since nearly all of our Universe is just plain hostile to us. We would die very quickly in just about all of it.
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 01:58 PM   #681202 / #4
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Even so, there is a way out: the multiverse hypothesis. Especially if different universes have different low-energy parameters. That would nicely account for how hostile our Universe is. If the large majority of universes are uninhabitable, then one can reasonably expect the habitable ones to be be only borderline habitable.

That is the kind of Universe that we inhabit, not some "terrarium Universe" carefully designed for us.
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 02:04 PM   #681203 / #5
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Thank you for your answer, Ozymandias. You then confirm why, when explaining this, all my interlocutors look like question marks!

But, from what I understand, Intelligent Design is not objecting the 13.8 billion years of the universe. Only the so-called Young Earth Creationists do. And that is why I find ID dangerous.

Actually, last year, as a Humanist-Ethic Confirmation leader (an alternative we give to the Lutheran Confirmation) I used the ID argument with those 14/15 years old kids under the subject: "Critical thinking." But none got my point.

The thing is, from what I read, ID supporters don't even use the theist argument. That is what I react to. They only say: The universe can't be a coincidence, and let you come to the theist conclusion by yourself. Furthermore, the use the scientific "fine-tuned universe" argument in their favour.

For me, the "fine-tuned universe" is simply a conclusion of the Anthropic Principle: we observe the universe as we do simply because it is possible!

My objection to ID is simply that, if designed then me writing these words is also designed. To what ID supporters object: Ah no, God stopped designing when Adam and Eve were created. Now we are on our own! ... and that is where I answer: "okay, you then make your own story and leave the domain of science."

Does it make sense?
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 02:14 PM   #681207 / #6
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Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
This seems like a version of fine tuning. It is that only a tiny fraction of the possible range of our Universe's parameters can allow us to come into existence into it.
I agree with you, Ipetrich. I am also thinking of the third type of "multiverse," that of the Quantum's Many Worlds Interpretation. We only experience the one that is possible.

But, if in this "multiverse" I type those words, right now, on my computer, it is because my father met my mother and everything else from the past, made it possible, right?

Hence, if we follow the Intelligent Design line of thoughts, even me typing this is ... designed, right? If you use the argument that the process of design was stopped after the "invention" of the humans, then you interpret a story. You make your own story and you leave the sphere of science, right?
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 02:46 PM   #681211 / #7
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“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.” - Douglas Adams
The first part is often quoted as an argument against intelligent design, and it is effective, IMO, but I like the entire quote.

Michel, I spent the better part of 7 years fighting against the religious whackamuffins in the state of Kansas that were trying to get creationism/ID taught as an 'alternative' theory to the well established and scientifically supported theory of evolution and all the science behind it. Make no mistake, those who push ID are using it as a wedge for their religious creationism. Many who support ID do it grudgingly, and are in fact YEC.

I was on the board of directors, and served 2 years as Vice President, of the Kansas Citizens for Science, a citizen watchdog group that monitored the school board, schools, and political machinations in the state of Kansas. It was one of several (I think Michigan started the 'trend') similar groups through the US, many of which are still quite active.

If you read the history of ID, it is, quite literally, creationism re-branded. See The Wedge Strategy. The good news is that the Discovery Institute has been wholly unsuccessful in convincing the US courts that ID is anything other than religion in scientific sounding trappings.

I've actually had the honor of meeting Nick Matzke, who discovered the smoking gun (aka 'missing link' ) that showed quite clearly that ID was simply creationism. His research was instrumental during the "Dover Case " in showing the link, and demonstrating that ID was religious based. The transcripts of that case are actually quite amusing to read. I wrote a summary of the case back in early 2006, but I can't access the old 'Freethought Forums' archives. Maybe Jobar could dig that up for me and post it here.

Last edited by Worldtraveller; 27 Nov 2017 at 02:47 PM. Reason: bloody typos
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 05:38 PM   #681217 / #8
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Hello Worldtraveller,
Gosh, a quote from the Hitchhiker's Guide, I must have come in good company. I just love this book!

Yes, I can imagine that ID supporters are YEC too. But they try to deny that when online; trying to make it appear as a "scientific fact" and that is why I find it dangerous. If one has an imaginary friend with a lot of fairy tales, why not? But to use pseudo-science to control our mind, no thank you.

But, to come back to my poor explanation or, my total lack of intelligence: you know Cornelius Jansen'a thought that, if God is omnipotent and omnipresent, he already knows if we will die in grace or sin and we can't do anything about it.

Isn't the Intelligent Design the same idea taken to the point when humans are created and pre-determinism stops?

Incidentally, I have been told some years ago, on another forum, the danger of introducing Creationism at school in the USA. This is not close to happen here in Norway.
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 06:19 PM   #681219 / #9
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One of the really dishonest aspects of ID is that they don't have a 'hard' cutoff of when ID stops and evolution begins. Many of the 'big names' at the Discotute that came up with this claptrap pretend that they are mostly happy with evolution for 'small changes'. Of course, they can't quantify that difference in any scientific way, but they like to point at seemingly complicated things and say "See, that's too complicated for evolution." They are then shown to be wrong, time after time, as the scientific advances are made (or in some cases, had already been done and published for years, see the Dover transcripts about the flagellum).

I've not met a ID proponent except online, and they sometimes claim that the 'intelligent designer' wink-wink-nudge-nudge is still at work in some ways. Again, though, it is all vague handwavey 'I know it when I see it' kind of BS. Always, though, if you scratch the surface, it's creationism. Sometimes it's old-earth/universe style, but not often.
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 06:33 PM   #681222 / #10
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You can't solve the fine tuning problem using an anthropic principle unless you invoke the multiverse, which in my opinion is even more henious than intelligent design. However, the fine tuning problem should not be seen as a problem at all - it is an opportunity to point us towards new physics discoveries (since I is an indication that new physics is required and give hints on where to find it).
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 07:14 PM   #681229 / #11
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"Cdesign Proponentsists" | NCSE -- the textual missing link between "creationists" and "design proponents":

c(reation)ists -> c(design proponents)ists

There are further problems with the ID movement. IDers make analogies with human designers, but human designers are multiple, they have finite capabilities, and they are fallible.

So any designers involved with the evolution of our planet's biota must therefore be multiple, finite, and fallible.

Yet the IDers ignore that.

Evolution: Darwin: Darwin's Diary About Australia,
Quote:
"An unbeliever in everything beyond his own reason might exclaim 'Surely two distinct Creators must have been [at] work.'"
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 07:39 PM   #681232 / #12
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Indeed, Richard Hoppe's (RBH of the former IIDB) Multiple Designer Hypothesis makes a lot more sense, but for some reason, the ID(iots) don't seem to like it....
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 09:34 PM   #681241 / #13
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You can't solve the fine tuning problem using an anthropic principle unless you invoke the multiverse, which in my opinion is even more henious than intelligent design.
Very good point, Ozymandias. The anthropic principle requires the notion of multiverse in order to say that, this "universe" exists because it is possible. And those who can't exist ... don't. Hence, multiple universes, as in the Many Worlds Interpretation of Heisenberg's Quantum Uncertainty.

I also agree that the word "multiverses" is misused. In places like Quora, I meet often people asking e.g. "do you believe in multiverses?" ... as if it was a question of faith. Or "can we move to another parallel universe?" I am sure it makes great science-fiction stories but it is only that: fiction.

However, if we refuse the possibility of various outcome of an event, we must accept predetermination. What is your opinion about a an "already written" universe?
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Old 27 Nov 2017, 09:52 PM   #681242 / #14
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Recipe for the Universe - Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees, who wrote a book: "Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe". Here are his numbers:

D = 3
The number of space dimensions. It's at the maximum value that allows stable bound states. Less than that and it would be difficult to have our Universe's complexity.

I should also mention that the Universe has one time dimension. That gives it a well-defined direction of time. More than one, and particles can go in circles in time.

Ω ~= 1 (1.0023+0.0056−0.0054)
The fraction of Universe mass relative to the amount necessary for borderline-open expansion. This extreme flatness is likely a result of inflation, a phase of exponential expansion early in the Universe's history. Much greater, and the Universe would have collapsed long ago, and much less, and it would have been too thin for galaxies to form.

Λ ~= 0.7
The fraction of Universe mass that is in "dark energy", something very mysterious with a large negative pressure:
(pressure) = - (mass density) * c2

If it was much larger, then it would have been hard for galaxies to form. But it could be much smaller, and we have no idea why it has become prominent at the present.

Q ~= 10-5
This is the amount of primordial fluctuation in the recent Universe. Too small and galaxies would not have formed. Too large and it would have become dominated by giant black holes.

N ~= 1036
This is the ratio of the electromagnetic and the gravitational interactions for two protons, ignoring their spins. Its size enables the Earth's size. If it was much smaller, then the Earth could not be as large as it is.

ε ~= 0.007
This is the relative amount of energy released by 4H -> He4 nuclear fusion, relative to the original atoms' rest masses. That in itself is not very fine tuned, but other nuclear-reaction-related parameters do seems to be.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 01:18 AM   #681252 / #15
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Originally Posted by Michel View Post
Some years ago, someone sent me a link to an Intelligent Design video that said that, the chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, is one in a number so big that it would require 55 digits to write it down. Hence, it can't be the result of a coincidence.
How can we tell where, when and why the improbable becomes the impossible? I mean, no matter how much improbability increases, it only ever approaches impossibility. So add as many zeros to one in a number of chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, as you like; you will not arrive at the point where design becomes a necessity. Infinity? Fine. Let me know when you get there.

Most people are myopic cretins.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 01:46 AM   #681254 / #16
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I will continue with nuclear-physics fine tuning.

The main Standard-Model parameters involved in nucleon structure and reactions are the energy scale of the QCD interaction, the masses of the up and down quarks, and the strength of the electromagnetic interaction.

For some curious reason, the down quark is more massive than the up quark, contrary to what one finds for the other two generations of quarks. It is less massive enough to compensate for electromagnetic interactions, making the proton (up-up-down) less massive than the neutron (up-down-down). If it was more massive, then that would lead to atomic nuclei that are largely neutrons with only a few protons.

The masses of the up and down quarks are also involved in the strength of the long-range nucleon-nucleon interaction, because that part of it is due to virtual pions. The lower these quarks' masses, the lower the pion masses, and the longer-range and stronger the force.

A rather curious circumstance was pointed out by Fred Hoyle in the 1950's, as he tried to work out nucleosynthesis. Getting past helium has two problems.

He4 + He4 -> Be8 + γ

Be8 is unstable, and it tends to turn into two He4's again. But if another He4 arrives just in time, then this can happen:

Be8 + He4 -> C12 + γ

But he found that it happened too slowly, so he proposed that carbon-12 nuclei have an excited state at the right energy for this reaction. Such a state was eventually found: the "Hoyle resonance".

-

Let's look more broadly at the Standard Model's parameter values.

The elementary fermions have a wide range of masses. Sticking to charged ones, the electron has a mass of 511 keV and the top quark a mass of 172 GeV, a range of around 337,000. The top quark's mass is close to the Higgs-particle vacuum field strength of 250 GeV, while the electron's is half a million times less than that.

For some strange reason, the QCD interaction becomes superstrong at a few hundred MeV. This is what gives protons and neutrons their masses -- their quarks are made to orbit at relativistic speeds.

If the QCD interaction became superstrong at much lower energies, then quarks would be nonrelativistic inside of hadrons. But if it became superstrong at much higher energies, then hadrons' mass differences would mainly be due to their quarks' electroweak interactions.

-

The next question is why the Standard Model? Why not some other possible configuration of elementary particles? It's hard to say about that.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 09:04 AM   #681276 / #17
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Most people are myopic cretins.
My dear Hermit, I beg to differ. I would rather say that those who insist in the Intelligent Design, meet cognitive dissonance then choose confirmation bias. But if "cretin" means for you, the same as it does in French, my mother tongue, then I try to avoid it at all cost.

I only try to find what is wrong in my reasoning that, a "designed" universe must lead to a pre-deterministic one. It makes sense in my mind but, so far, nobody else understand my point. I must then conclude that I am wrong, without understanding why.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 09:10 AM   #681277 / #18
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I will continue with nuclear-physics fine tuning.
Thank you, Ipetrich, but my knowledge of science is very much limited. I am a retired graphic designer, not a scientist.
Yes, I have heard of the Standard Model, but I can't say anything about it. My thinking is purely logical, often using Occam's razor to welcome the simplest solution.

The Anthropic Principle simply says that we observed the universe as we do simply because it is possible. Could it be simpler than that?

It's a bit like the tree that falls in the forest where nobody lives. Does it make a noise?
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 09:52 AM   #681279 / #19
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My answer then is: but by saying that, you "make" a story, you invent what a creator wants, do, think, etc. You have left the pseudo-scientific argument of the Intelligent Design! You can make any story.

To me, this sounds like a good argumentation but when I explain it to theists and atheists, nobody seem to understand what I mean. My question to you then is ... am I very stupid? Why is this so obvious to me and not to others?
I think it's unnecessarily convoluted. It's a version of God-is-omnipotent-so-can-do-anything argument. The answer to the question "yeah, but can God do that?" will always be "yes".

You've just added a couple of layers on top of it. So no, I don't think you'll convince anybody with this argument.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 11:26 AM   #681287 / #20
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Quote:
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Most people are myopic cretins.
My dear Hermit, I beg to differ.
Right or wrong, it was a mistake to append this irrelevant five word afterthought to what I wrote regarding the actual topic. I was kind of hoping to get a reaction to that. You mentioned a common argument in favour of god involving the equivocation of improbability with impossibility, so I thought I'd point out the obvious mistake creationists make when they invoke the former.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 11:36 AM   #681290 / #21
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermit View Post
Most people are myopic cretins.
I only try to find what is wrong in my reasoning that, a "designed" universe must lead to a pre-deterministic one. It makes sense in my mind but, so far, nobody else understand my point. I must then conclude that I am wrong, without understanding why.
This is a bit of a leap to me. After all, in basic science, we design experiments all the time, without necessarily knowing how they will turn out. I could design an ant colony for instance, but that doesn't mean I know how the ants will construct their habitat within it.

Also, if you had to deal with the culture of glorified ignorance in the US, you would probably agree about most people being cretins. It's a matter of perspective.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 12:09 PM   #681292 / #22
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The answer to the question "yeah, but can God do that?" will always be "yes".
"Can god make a rock that is so heavy that he can't lift it?" generates some interesting sophistry.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 12:15 PM   #681293 / #23
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The answer to the question "yeah, but can God do that?" will always be "yes".
"Can god make a rock that is so heavy that he can't lift it?" generates some interesting sophistry.
I've never come across a theist who understands why that disproves omnipotence. They all seem to think that it's a minor issue, or more likely, no issue.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 01:57 PM   #681306 / #24
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While there are many many problems with the IDiot nonsense, here are the two most annoying problems I’ve always had with ID:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michel
the chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, is one in a number so big that it would require 55 digits to write it down. Hence, it can't be the result of a coincidence.
1) In spite of the attempts to make it legitimate, this is an arbitrarily derived number.
2) It’s ultimately nothing more than an argument from incredulity.

Even if it were possible for us to somehow have a known baseline in order to properly derive any such mathematical “chance” occurrence (and we don’t), it still would not matter how incredible it may seem to us that such a small chance of something occurring obtained.

As I used to argue back in the IIDB days, the chances of my being hit by a female albino astrophysicist driving a stolen red clown car at precisely midnight in Berlin on Christmas night 2028 are incredibly small as to be effectively impossible. That doesn’t, however mean that I will not in fact be hit by a female albino astrophysicist....2028.

Just because something has a small chance of occurring does not in any way negate its occurrence.

But now let’s flip it. What are the chances that a logically impossible Omni-capable ineffable invisible non-corporeal being (that can nevertheless create and fashion matterenergy by non-corporeal “will” alone) magically blinked the universe into existence and/or was able to somehow just instantiate the universe in such a manner that it unfolded exactly as it is today and on purpose (or by design) it evolved the life we currently see?

I would say the chances of any of that having happened would be exactly zero. There is no chance at all that such a scenario could have ever obtained including in a multi-verse hypothesis as such a being cannnot exist in any possible universe. That’s what logically impossible necessarily entails.

So, while “natural” evolution may seem to some to have been an incredibly slim chance of occurring, there is zero chance of any “intelligent designer” scenario.
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Old 28 Nov 2017, 02:14 PM   #681309 / #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michel
the chances for the universe to be in such a way that life can exist, is one in a number so big that it would require 55 digits to write it down. Hence, it can't be the result of a coincidence.
1) In spite of the attempts to make it legitimate, this is an arbitrarily derived number.
2) It’s ultimately nothing more than an argument from incredulity.
That's not quite true. I am not sure where Michel's number is coming from, but the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant (which lpetrich mentioned earlier) is one part in 10^120. If we deviate from that even a little bit, the universe would look completely different (it would curl up on itself).

This is a pretty huge problem for cosmology and has never had a good answer. (Inflation might be an explanation though.)

Now, I would never say that this is evidence of intelligent design. In my view it is just evidence that our theory is incomplete and requires new physics to describe why the universe is as we see. But it is a legitimate problem, and it is legitimate to criticise our models for having this enormous deficiency.
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