How to Lose Faith In Atheism with 10 Quintillion Coin Tosses.

Dollar Photo Club.

The late astronomer Fred Hoyle (who coined the term “Big Bang”) said his atheism was “greatly shaken” by these developments. The late Christopher Hitchens, one of atheism’s strongest proponents, conceded that this argument was “the most powerful argument of the other side”.

What were they talking about?

Take a look at this short 5 minute video to find out:

This video is a summary of an article entitled ‘Science increasingly makes the case for God‘,  written by the author of the video, Eric Metaxas, which appeared in the Wall St Journal last year.

Here are 3 Reflections on this issue of Science and Atheism:

1) The Case Against Atheism has Grown Stronger, Not Weaker, as Science has Progressed. 

The interesting thing about the above video is that it shows how an accidental beginning to the universe is looking less probable, the more that science has progressed.  In other words, this case against a key tenant of Atheism (i.e. that the universe is here merely by accident) is not some ‘God of the gaps’ argument, where our knowledge is very lacking: rather, it’s a case of modern science showing us just how improbable an accidental universe (and thus Atheism) really is.

Indeed, science is at the point where to believe in an accidental beginning to our universe is  a very large leap of faith, against astronomical odds, i.e. the odds of tossing a coin 10 quintillion times (i.e. 10 with 18 zeros’s after it), and expecting it to come up as ‘heads’ every single time. That just defies rationality.

2) From One Leap of Faith to Another.

Many an Atheist Scientist readily admits that the universe does appear to be fine tuned. For example, Sir Martin Rees, an eminent astronomer and a former head of the Royal Society in the UK, wrote a book entitled  ‘Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe‘. In his book he outlines the same thing that Metaxas does in the above video: that these forces are so finely ‘tuned’, that even the most minutest change would have made the universe’s existence impossible.

However, he doesn’t merely believe that our universe just happened by accident: presumably that would be too much of a leap of faith. Instead, he opts for another leap of faith: the notion of parallel universes.

Interestingly enough, there is no scientific evidence for parallel universes: it’s nothing more than a leap of faith: a mere guess at why we exist, in light of the astronomical odds stacked against us.

Now let’s be clear:  people are allowed to believe in whatever leap of faith they want to believe in. However, we must be clear that such a leap of faith is not science: the last time I checked, having a completely evidence-less hypothesis does not qualify as scientific fact.

3) No Intelligence Allowed: The Closing of The Atheistic Mind. 

When coming face to face with the apparent design of our universe, it surprises me that eminent (Atheist) scientists instinctively take a leap of faith and believe in parallel universes, rather than even admit the possibility that we are designed to be here. After all, we are all familiar with intelligent beings that design complex systems: us!

And yet, when it comes to something so sophisticated and mind boggling as the existence of the universe (and the very apparent design that it contains), many an Atheist would not even allow an explanation that involved some form of Divine Intelligence designing our universe.

But why is that? Why can’t they admit that maybe, just maybe, we were designed to be here by a higher power: that apparent design is due to actual design? Surely that’s a much more feasible answer than the wild guess of parallel universes?

One of the most intellectually honest answers to this question comes from Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin, himself an Atheist,  in an article he wrote for the New York Review of Books:

‘[W]e have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’ (emphasis added). 

In other words, even if God turned up on Lewontin’s doorstep, and shook Lewontin’s hand,  then Lewontin would not be willing to admit God’s existence, because Lewontin has already closed his mind off to even the possibility of God’s existence.

That doesn’t sound very scientific.

Note carefully: the closing of his mind to God’s existence isn’t a result of scientific enquiry: it’s a philosophical belief. It’s a faith commitment, not a scientific conclusion. This faith commitment leads to un-provable evidence-less claims like parallel universes, which have as much scientific evidence for their existence as fairies do.

Conclusion.

Lest I be misunderstood, to make Atheism less probable through the above scientific evidence does not in and of itself make Christianity (or any other particular religion) more probable: much more evidence is required for such a claim.

However, the aim of the above video, and this blog post, is much more modest: merely to show that scientifically speaking, it is no longer rational to believe that our universe appeared out of nowhere, by mere chance: the probabilities of that happening render such a view a wild leap of faith of astronomical proportions.

And, as a Christian, I for one cannot hold to such wild leaps of faith.

 

 

 

Photo: Dollarphoto club.

Leave a Reply

8 thoughts on “How to Lose Faith In Atheism with 10 Quintillion Coin Tosses.

  1. As scientists have discovered more about us and our creation, the more evidence there is now that creation was created by a highly intelligent Creator, and the more evidence there is that the theory of evolution has fatal flaws in it. In 2014 CMI completed a milestone book, and a 96-minute DVD documentary, both called Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. the Achilles’ heels of evolution are often in the very areas widely considered to be impregnable strongholds of this belief system. These areas are the topics systematically covered in both the book and documentary. They are:

    Natural Selection
    Genetics and DNA
    The Origin of Life
    The Fossil Record
    The Geologic Record
    Radiometric Dating
    Cosmology
    Ethics and Morality

    CMI believes evolution theory has no answer to these weaknesses, once properly explained and understood. The book is authored exclusively by 9 Ph.D. scientists. The documentary involves even more PhD scientists, 15 in all. All of these scientists received their doctorates from similar, secular universities as their evolutionary counterparts. Each is a specialist in various relevant fields.

    I recently bought this DVD and book, and would be happy to lend it to others if they are interested. You can see the official movie trailer and more info at http://creation.com/evolutions-achilles-heels

  2. “…a key tenant of Atheism…”
    There is one, and only one tenant of Atheism: there are no gods.
    That’s it. It says nothing about the specific way the Universe was created.

    Why is conflation of totally unrelated concepts so common with conservative debaters? But I digress…

    “…improbable an accidental universe…”
    This guy is trying to use probability, the mathematics of a large numbers of things, when talking about the Universe, of which we have exactly one example. Until he can find me at least a couple of thousand lifeless universes to compare ours to, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    “10 quintillion times”
    The presenter pulled this number out of his ass. This comes from the Drake Equation, which, just to illuminate you, multiplies together 7 numbers to come up with the number of expected galactic civilizations. The hiccup is that out of those 7 numbers, we have good information for just one(!), and it’s only in the last decade or so that we’re starting to get some preliminary hints for the values of two more (thanks to advances in extra-solar planet detection). That’s 3 out of 7. The other four are totally unknown. We have zero information. Nothing.

    The idea of the Drake Equation is not to come up with a number as its output (because we don’t have the inputs!), but to do the reverse: we know the output already: we have contacted zero alien civilizations. To have the equation output zero, one of the 6 unknown numbers must be close to zero. We now have good estimates for 3 of those numbers, whittling down the unknowns to 4. Either civilizations are short-lived (scary, but plausible), don’t develop intelligence often (plausible, it took 4 billion years here), or don’t send strong signals into space (very plausible, because we don’t). All of these are likely.

    Also, we can just *barely* detect an extremely powerful radio beacon at a relatively short range, so saying that we’ve somehow “failed” to detect an “expected” signal is also rubbish.

    In other words, the entire core argument this guy is making is just ridiculous.

    “…forces are so finely ‘tuned’…”
    Garbage. We don’t even know which parameters are “tunable”, and which ones are actually fixed by some relationship to other numbers or equations. Some apparently arbitrary numbers may only have one possible value, like the constant pi. If this guy knows better, he should go collect his Nobel Prize right now.

    “the notion of parallel universes”
    There are good reasons to think this a plausible explanation. First, it fits well with the anthropic principle, but that’s just philosophy, not physics. The real reason this seems likely is because the equations of Quantum Mechanics look an *awful* lot like the interactions you would expect between “nearby” parallel universes.

    Parallel universes are a very *simple* model that would explain a *lot*, and has at least some support from physical evidence. Strong hints, at any rate. Introducing a sentient, thinking, feeling deity is an *extremely* complex model. You’d need a truckload more evidence to establish his/her/its numerous attributes. No such evidence exists, not even a hint.

    “… design …”
    Scientists do not dismiss intelligent design, it was the leading notion for millennia, after all. However, all evidence thus far has been to the contrary, so there is a point where a rational person will abandon this model.

  3. Hey Pete,

    Thanks for the comment!

    My thoughts:

    1) ‘There is one, and only one tenant of Atheism: there are no gods.
    That’s it. It says nothing about the specific way the Universe was created.’

    My point was simply to say that the Atheistic worldview (as I have heard it expressed by the likes of Dawkins) takes the view that this universe is here by accident, and not by any expressed purpose of any Intelligent being.

    Or does the Atheistic worldview take another stance other than ‘we’re here by accident’?

    2) ‘This comes from the Drake Equation, which, just to illuminate you, multiplies together 7 numbers to come up with the number of expected galactic civilizations.’

    Dude, the 10 quintillion coin tosses isn’t referring to how many expected galactic civilisations there may or may not be…it’s about the chances of our universe existing, considering how ‘finely tuned’ the various physical constants need to be. Or have I missed something?

    3) ‘Garbage. We don’t even know which parameters are “tunable”, and which ones are actually fixed by some relationship to other numbers or equations. Some apparently arbitrary numbers may only have one possible value, like the constant pi. If this guy knows better, he should go collect his Nobel Prize right now.’

    That is very different to what prominent astrophysicists like Martin Rees seem to be saying. Can you give me some solid sources on this?

    4) ‘Introducing a sentient, thinking, feeling deity is an *extremely* complex model.’

    Why? I would think a thinking deity would be the simplest explanation of apparent design (which even Dawkins’ admits exists).

    ‘You’d need a truckload more evidence to establish his/her/its numerous attributes.’

    Why would you need attributes? All you need to establish is that nothing else can account for the apparent design that we see. If you’re walking along, and you see a watch on the ground, are you really going to immediately assume it was made by random natural forces? Of course not. It’s quite obvious that random natural forces cannot make such a watch.

    Do you NEED to establish ANY attributes of the designer to come to that conclusion? Of course not. All you need to establish is that no known physical process can make such a thing AND that it exhibits evidence of design: who/what/when/how it was made is not necessary to show, in order to show that the watch was indeed designed.

    • 1) “or does the Atheistic worldview take another stance other than ‘we’re here by accident”

      It doesn’t take any particular view! Remember my spiel about neutral positions vs biased ones? At this point in time, a typical atheist would say: we just don’t know. This is not an atheistic position per-se, it’s just the current state of scientific knowledge.

      2) “Dude, the 10 quintillion coin tosses isn’t referring to how many expected galactic civilisations”

      The text doesn’t, but the video does.

      Either way, the number was pulled out of some dude’s ass. Where’s the equation? I don’t see one anywhere!

      3) Just look up Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

      Fundamentally, we just don’t know that much about the dimensionless constants. Keep in mind there is no current “theory of everything” that explains ANY of the fundamental physical constants. Anyone trying to derive a proof of a creator from “we don’t know yet” is barking up the wrong tree.

      4) “I would think a thinking deity would be the simplest explanation of apparent design”

      You’re not understanding the concept of “complex”. A human being can use his or her intelligence to make something into a conical shape, right? Easy enough for even a half-way intelligent person to do!

      Meanwhile, completely mindless sand does this automatically through incredibly simple equations of motion, that can be jotted down in a couple of lines of equations.

      The human brain on the other hand is a staggeringly complex thing made up of trillions of active components.

      There is no comparison between the two!

      This is the difference I am alluding to: explaining something through an equation such as “F=ma”, which is a trivial thing, or trying to explain motion through saying “well, there are these invisible gnomes that push with exactly the right force to make things seem like… “. Then the question automatically becomes: What do the gnomes eat? Do they get bored? How do they procreate? What size are they? Even if they are invisible, can they be detected by other means? Etc… etc…

      A “creator” is an *incredibly* complex concept, trans-human in scope virtually by definition (certainly, the Bible makes this claim), and generally an open-ended thing with an unbounded number of parameters, none of which are known.

      Lets say, for a second, that the universe was created by a thinking being. This is not so outlandish! There are physical theories that make sense if we think of the universe as a simulation being run on a computer, for example. In that case, the “simulation programmer” would be the equivalent of “God”, in effect.

      Even if that were the case, and I’m not saying it isn’t, the very last place you’d look for insight into the nature of such a creator being is a two-thousand year old book written by goat herders in the middle east.

  4. Peter, my one and a half cents,
    r.e. 1 – As you’ve said, the key tenant of atheism is “there is no gods”.
    But, if we are not “here by accident”, then surely we must have been intelligently created – yes?
    r.e. 2, 3 – I’m no quantum physicist (or any scientist really), but biologically, and chemically, from what I know living organisms, and increases in complexity of ditto, does not naturally occur (cf http://creation.com/life-in-a-test-tube).
    r.e. 4 – i. Yes, the human mind is much more complex than a conical shape – I think this means it must have a more complex cause.
    Most importantly, ii. Said goat herders, it seems, were willing to lose everything in Jesus’ name, after having the opportunity to see whether Jesus’ *resurrection* was false or not – moreover, themselves and their story was sane enough to persuade many people to believe them, and follow them – and Rome could not stop it. This seems a historically valid reason to look to their writings as authority on God.

    Sorry for any dodge grammer, hope it makes sense, what do you think?

  5. Mitchell:

    1) Be very careful with the use of words such as “design”, “random”, or “accident”. There is a tendency in theistic circles to mis-use those words in ways that can be deceptive to those unfamiliar with the precise philosophical or physical definitions.

    The opposite of “intelligently created” is not “random”. It’s “undirected by intelligence”, which is not the same thing! For example, physical laws direct all ordinary real world processes. Chemistry, planet formation, biology, you name it. The laws are not random for the most part, but not intelligent either.

    I once sent Akos one possible way a Universe such as ours could have started without needing randomness or an intelligent creator. In fact, several such possible mechanisms have been proposed, but we have no idea which is the actual case, and we may never know. There simply isn’t enough information available to talk intelligently about the first moment of creation.

    2 & 3) Of course systems can become more complex! This happens *all the time*, in quite ordinary everyday circumstances. Ask yourself this: Is a single cell more or less complex than an entire human being? I assume you’d answer “simpler”. If simple things cannot become more complex, then you believe that no woman can ever give birth, since a fertilised egg cannot turn into the much more complex baby! However, clearly, this happens pretty regularly. 8)

    Information theory and how it interacts with physical (or biological) systems is a tricky topic, but the general rule is: things get more disordered, unless there is an external source of energy. In biological systems, that source of energy is food (or sunlight for plants). Not exactly the same concept as “complex”, but you get the idea: biology turns food energy into complexity.

    4) Okay, so a bunch of primitive middle-easterners started believing in a new religion, which quickly spread. That is a fact we can both agree is true!

    However, it is *also* true of *other* religions. Scientology and Islam have both had fairly rapid starts, and Muslims now almost outnumber Christians! Buddhism was also started by one man, and spread relatively quickly to encompass a decent chunk of a continent.

    A religion can be true and have few followers, at least in principle. A religion can be false and have many followers — this is obvious, since there are many large religions that are mutually contradictory. At most one of them can be “true”, the rest must be false.

    Hence, even if we agree that Jesus’ followers rapidly spread Christianity, this is all that we can agree on. Nothing else follows from this regarding the truth of the religion.

    Moreover, why is it that after *two thousand years*, Christians still represent a minority fraction of the human race!? If it really is the “true word of God”, and his will is that it should spread to all people, why hasn’t it succeeded yet? Why has it *failed*?

  6. Hey Peter,
    As far as I know, you’re right that we can’t scientifically test initial creation. But, can scientific laws operating by themselves produce life – and can we confirm this through testing? In your example of childbirth, isn’t all the information for the person already contained in the zygote?

    In regards to 4, my point isn’t that the disciples/apostles (or whatever you want to call them) and people around them became christians – it’s that they became christians after having a good opportunity to see for themselves whether the basic premise of Christianity (Jesus’ resurrection) was true or not. If Christianity is false, the disciples must have been very well duped, to first believe Jesus dead and buried, and then believe him alive; or else, the disciples must have been very convincing liars…but:
    – If they were lying, would they be willing to die for it?
    – If they were crazy, couldn’t someone have produced Jesus’ body?
    I don’t know that Scientology, Islam, and Buddhism had such testable basic premises – not that I’m particularly knowledgeable about any of them.

    And lastly, for your question – if you like, please have a read of Romans chapter 9 (particularly verses 14-18, 27-29), One Corinthians chapter 1 (particularly verses 18-31) – the bible doesn’t promise that the majority of people will become christians – rather, the Bible claims it’s only those whose heart God (undeservedly) works in who will believe. And,since some people (from all sorts of backgrounds) are still becoming Christians, I don’t see a reason to doubt Christianity there.

    Thanks for listening and debating honestly!

  7. “As far as I know, you’re right that we can’t scientifically test initial creation.”

    There is no reason we couldn’t, in principle. In practice, the information — evidence — just isn’t available to the human race, right now. It might never be available. Just like we don’t know what some random egyptian in the time of the Pharoes had for breakfast one morning, a lot of information may just be lost to the mysts of time.

    “But, can scientific laws operating by themselves produce life”

    The laws of nature aren’t “scientific”! Science is a method humans use to disover laws that have always been there in the world, with or without science — or even people.

    If you mean “natural law operating by itself” (a somewhat different concept), then yes. We have at least one example fo this: life on Earth. Hopefully we’ll add more planets to this list within our lifetime, but unfortunately, NASA has been woefully underfunded for decades. 8(

    “and can we confirm this through testing?”

    In principle yes, in practice this is very difficult. The problem was that the “first time” it happened on Earth (probably the only time), it took *a billion years*. Not exactly a bench-top experiment!

    The best we can practically do is determine how it likely happened, and show that there is nothing that stops that theory being plausible.

    “In your example of childbirth, isn’t all the information for the person already contained in the zygote?”

    Of course not. If this were true, then every baby would have all of the knowledge it would gain as an adult already, before being born. That’s clearly nonsense. An adult being necessarily contains “more information” than the zygote, otherwise there would be no need for schools!

    Similarly, it would mean that a single cell could be used to not just biologically clone a human, but also to copy all of their memories, experiences, and skills as well. Also nonsense. Cloning has been performed on animals, and there is zero evidence that any skills or memories transfer, which is not a surprise, as there is no plausible mechanism for this to occur.