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Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists - Comments

APPlet's Avatar Comment 1 by APPlet

I think my journey as an amateur astronomer certainly didn't hinder my conversion to atheism.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:00:00 UTC | #105303

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 2 by Thomas Byrne

So..skip to the conclusion. 'I am therefore led to conclude that adding God (to cosmological theorie) would just make things more complicated.' So. Nothing new there. Dosen't (he) make everything more complicated? You'll have to forgive me for not reading the whole article because i find it hard to read long passages on computer screens and I've no ink to print it but a scan of it suggests it's not saying anything I don't know.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:05:00 UTC | #105304

SomeDanGuy's Avatar Comment 3 by SomeDanGuy

Animavore: You're right, nothing new, but he warned at the beginning that would be the case.
It is certainly...thorough. A very rigorous account of typical scientist beliefs

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:46:00 UTC | #105310

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 4 by Chris Roberts

Nice article.
Makes a lot of sense after you have talked to a young-earth creationist who really believes that the stars were put there by god for our viewing pleasure. Obviously, such an attitude smacks of a severe lack of any scientific knowledge, and is the breeding ground for fundamentalists.
I hope one day that more young people will leave our schools with a greater understanding of science, and will be better armed to reject this religious nonsense.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:47:00 UTC | #105312

jonjermey's Avatar Comment 5 by jonjermey

A third argument against the 'fine-tuning' of physical laws by God, aka the anthropomorphic argument, is that no matter how unlikely you estimate these conditions to be, all you have to do is allow enough time (or enough space) for diverse universes to occur naturally, and it becomes inevitable that this particular combination will come up sooner or later. Just as 'Fred won the lottery!' sounds surprising -- until you discover that Fred bought a million lottery tickets.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 11:55:00 UTC | #105313

_J_'s Avatar Comment 6 by _J_

Just as 'Fred won the lottery!' sounds surprising -- until you discover that Fred bought a million lottery tickets.

Or that, since you've never met Fred, the sentence merely amounts to 'Someone won the lottery!'. Golly, slay the fatted calf.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:25:00 UTC | #105328

Quine's Avatar Comment 7 by Quine

In other words, it might turn out to be that the constants of nature really couldn't have had any other values. I don't think that, if we discovered this to be the case, it would count as evidence against the existence of God, only because I don't think that our present understanding of these parameters counts as evidence in favor of God.


This is a very nice refutation of the so called "fine-tuning" argument. Even if it is the case that we cannot (now) account for the observations that we make, that is no evidence that something supernatural "made" them that way. The whole "fine-tuning" debate boils down to an argument from ignorance.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:28:00 UTC | #105331

Donald's Avatar Comment 8 by Donald

It is important from the outset to distinguish between two related but ultimately distinct concepts: a picture of how the world works, and a methodology for deciding between competing pictures. - Sean Carroll
This illustrates a common error amongst non-scientists. They often see science as primarily providing explanations, or stories, or descriptions of the world. This is a far-reaching conceptual error. Science is about predictions. Explanations, narratives and descriptions are useless to science, and are not scientific, unless they supply testable predictions. This error (of overlooking the need for testable predictions) is so pervasive that I think scientists need to mention predictions every time they offer a scientific explanation or description for consumption by non-scientists.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:31:00 UTC | #105332

Donald's Avatar Comment 9 by Donald

You might be tempted to say that the particular state at the first time ''caused'' the state to be what it was at the second time; but it would be just as correct to say that the second state caused the first. - Sean Carroll
The second half of that sentence is rubbish. It is true that many of the regularities that physics has uncovered in the last century are symmetric in time, and thus could be regarded as operating in either direction, but others are not, e.g. second law of thermodynamics. Mainstream scientists do not believe that it is "just as correct to say that the second state caused the first".

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:45:00 UTC | #105344

Storeo's Avatar Comment 10 by Storeo

very good article. A good refutation to the 'fine turning argument' may be to say, that given the singularity which formed our universe produced what it did, a marvellous array of elements, bosons, leptons etc, it shouldnt come as any suprise then, that intelligent life has come to evolve in the way that it has. Maybe when this universe collapses in on itself a new universe will be formed with a different set of natural laws as the result of the new singularity pruducing a different array of chemicals etc, perhaps this process continues ad infinitum, if so, it wouldnt be improbable that intelligent life would form at somewhere along this infinite chain of cyclic universes and inifinite singualrities.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:53:00 UTC | #105346

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 11 by Steve Zara

Donald:

The second half of that sentence is rubbish. It is true that many of the regularities that physics has uncovered in the last century are symmetric in time, and thus could be regarded as operating in either direction, but others are not, e.g. second law of thermodynamics. Mainstream scientists do not believe that it is "just as correct to say that the second state caused the first".


Yes, absolutely. And it doesn't even work forwards:

If we know the state of a system at one time, and the laws governing its dynamics, we can calculate the state of the system at some later time.


This is not true, as a result of quantum mechanics. And even if QM were not true, any "granularity" in spacetime would result in a problem due to chaos.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 12:55:00 UTC | #105347

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 12 by Friend Giskard

Donald and Steve Zara you are both talking out of your arses. Do you know anything about differential equations? (BTW the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not a fundamental law.)

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:04:00 UTC | #105349

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

Donald and Steve Zara you are both talking out of your arses. Do you know anything about differential equations?


If you solve such equations for a general 3-body system, I would be interested.

(BTW the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not a fundamental law.)


I would classify it as such. I have not (yet) seen it derived from simpler principles.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:10:00 UTC | #105351

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 14 by Friend Giskard

If you solve such equations for a general 3-body system, I would be interested.


I can solve them numerically. But this is irrelevant. And how you would classify the second law is also irrelevant.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:14:00 UTC | #105353

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 15 by Friend Giskard

I have not (yet) seen it derived from simpler principles.


You should read a book on statistical physics.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:20:00 UTC | #105355

Donald's Avatar Comment 16 by Donald

Donald and Steve Zara you are both talking out of your arses. - Friend Giskard
Presumably you mean that I said something incorrect. What do you think was incorrect?
Do you know anything about differential equations? - Friend Giskard
Yes. One of my degrees is in Mathematics. Your point is?
(BTW the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not a fundamental law.) - Friend Giskard
I agree that it isn't a fundamental law in the sense of describing particle motions and interactions. That is why I referred to it using the terminology: "regularity uncovered by physicists". Do you have a point other than criticising the entrenched terminology of "second law"?

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:21:00 UTC | #105356

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 17 by Steve Zara

I can solve them numerically. But this is irrelevant.


I think it is relevant, as they can't be solved in this case with any kind of accuracy, even numerically, beyond a certain time. Which was one of the points I was making.

And how you would classify the second law is also irrelevant.


Sure, but where would you say that the second law of thermodynamics comes from? Surely it is a mathematical construct. Fundamental laws tend to be based on mathematical constructs. Newtons's laws are based on symmetries.

One of the most fundamental properties of a pretty fundamental object in our universe, a black hole, is its entropy.

I would claim it is pretty much as fundamental a principle as anything, such as convervation of energy.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:22:00 UTC | #105357

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 18 by Steve Zara

You should read a book on statistcical physics.


I have published postdoctoral work on statistical mechanics (close enough). I believe I have some knowledge of this.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:24:00 UTC | #105359

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 19 by Don_Quix

A third argument against the 'fine-tuning' of physical laws by God, aka the anthropomorphic argument, is that no matter how unlikely you estimate these conditions to be, all you have to do is allow enough time (or enough space) for diverse universes to occur naturally, and it becomes inevitable that this particular combination will come up sooner or later.

And a fourth argument could be that, since no one really knows what the Universe actually is, who is to say that it is even physically possible for the seemingly "fine-tuned" constants to have values different from what they are. It could be that the Universe is the way it is because it is impossible for it to be any other way, for reasons that we are as yet unable to objectively discern.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:25:00 UTC | #105360

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 20 by Friend Giskard

Presumably you mean that I said something incorrect. What do you think was incorrect?

If you are dealing with laws that are time symmetric you can just as easily calculate what happened before your boundary conditions as after. So there is no justification for saying that the "after" case was caused by the boundary conditions, but that the conditions before were not. All Carroll is saying is that the arrow of time does not appear in the physics at this level of description, and therefore neither do cause and effect.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:32:00 UTC | #105361

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

If you are dealing with laws that are time symmetric you can just as easily calculate what happened before your boundary conditions as after.


Apart from the issue of "easily" calculating, quantum mechanics is not time symmetric in any given universe because of the collapse of the state vector. There is also the issue of possible information loss in black holes.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:37:00 UTC | #105363

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 22 by Friend Giskard

quantum mechanics is not time symmetric in any given universe because of the collapse of the state vector.

True. All who believe in state vector collapse must concede this. Sean Carroll here is obviously talking only about the deterministic part of QM. Perhaps he is one of those who are betting that ultimately QM will turn out to be wholly deterministic. (I am agnostic about the correct interpretation of QM.)

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:44:00 UTC | #105365

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

True. All who believe in state vector collapse must concede this. Sean Carroll here is obviously talking only about the deterministic part of QM. Perhaps he is one of those who are betting that ultimately QM will turn out to be wholly deterministic. (I am agnostic about the correct interpretation of QM.)


Even deterministic versions of QM don't help much for any given universe. Any individual's history will seem random (and hence can't be predicted in advance) even if the whole ensemble is deterministic.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:52:00 UTC | #105368

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 24 by Friend Giskard

Even deterministic versions of QM don't help much for any given universe. Any individual's history will seem random (and hence can't be predicted in advance) even if the whole ensemble is deterministic.

wtf?

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:53:00 UTC | #105370

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

wtf?


Determinstic versions of QM (such as Many Worlds) imply that the state vector does not collapse, instead all possibilities are real. Reality splits, so that there are multiple copies of an individual; one for each quantum possibility (to put it simply). The entire system is entirely deterministic, but for any single copy of an individual, it appears like state vectors have collapsed.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:56:00 UTC | #105373

IaninPA's Avatar Comment 26 by IaninPA

Steve Zara, Friend Giskard, Donald.


Hi guys. Can you start posting in English again.

Your dispute is making me feel very dumb.

;-P

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:56:00 UTC | #105374

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

Hi guys. Can you start posting in English again.


Heh. Sorry. My argument is:

Caroll is wrong that you can calculate the past from the future because quantum mechanics means random things happen.

Better? :)

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:59:00 UTC | #105375

Donald's Avatar Comment 28 by Donald

If you are dealing with laws that are time symmetric you can just as easily calculate what happened before your boundary conditions as after. So there is no justification for saying that the "after" case was caused by the boundary conditions, but that the conditions before were not. - Friend Giskard
Only if time-symmetric laws are a complete physical description. It is clear from QM that current laws of physics are not a complete description, even though they make stunningly accurate predictions. It is a matter of practical experience that time is asymmetric, and although there is no consensus on why practical experience and the second law do not derive from current physics alone, mainstream science does not assume that it is equally correct to say current states cause previous states. What has this got to do with differential equations?

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 14:01:00 UTC | #105378

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 30 by Friend Giskard

Determinstic versions of QM (such as Many Worlds) imply that the state vector does not collapse, instead all possibilities are real. Reality splits, so that there are multiple copies of an individual; one for each quantum possibility (to put it simply). The entire system is entirely deterministic, but for any single copy of an individual, it appears like state vectors have collapsed.


You have something there. Carroll is obviously talking about the whole ensemble.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 14:04:00 UTC | #105380

D'Arcy's Avatar Comment 29 by D'Arcy

Sean Carroll takes rather too many words to say what Laplace, the French scientist, said, when asked by Napolean where God fitted into his cosmology. Laplace's response was along the lines of: "God? I have no need of this hypothesis".

Exactly right! It's an idea that is uncalled for.

We non believers really don't have to chase all the will o' the wisps thrown up by the believers in their theological smokescreen. It's up to them to provide evidence for their beliefs.

Fri, 11 Jan 2008 14:04:00 UTC | #105379