This page has moved to a new address.

Peter Says Stuff | Come for the Banter; Stay for the Bullshit

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Fate cannot exist

A common thing that is mentioned among the religious sort is that when an undesirable event happens, they claim it is "God's will" or "It's fate" as a way to justify things. Fate is also used to explain improbable occurrences. During the course of this post I will be attempting to debunk the myth of fate. Before we disprove fate we must understand it. Princeton.edu defines fate as "the ultimate agency regarded as predetermining the course of events"1 In short this means that the course of events that one will take is already laid out in an X, Y, and Z fashion. But the problem with this is that if fate were existent wouldn't it stand to reason that we could not change it? If X set of events in our life is already planed out (usually by a God) then we, as measly humans, should not be able to change it. But this is just not the case. One characteristic of all humans proves that fate, according to this as well as most if not all other definitions, cannot exist. That characteristic is the ability to change our mind. If it was fated that I would write this piece then the set of events regarding writing this are set in stone. I cannot change them simply by taking my hands off the keyboard and hitting the power button. This simple quality of all humans clearly shows that since we can change our fate makes it so it is not predetermined and thus is not fate. Here one could make the argument that if I changed my mind about writing this that that too was fated to happen yet this leads to an infinite regression of "What if X was fated" and it proves nothing. We could just continue this line of reasoning ad nauseam without showing anything.

But now we come to the next part of the fatists argument. The argument of improbability. Let me tell you a tale of Kid X and Kid Y. Kid X and Kid Y both go to the same school of 500 people. This school is in session for 6hrs and has 10 hallways. One day Kid X and Kid Y both leave their respective classes (both far apart) and they begin walking (not together mind you, separately) yet after a few minutes they accidentally bump into each other. After this freak encounter they happen to be the best of friends and eventually get married. One could argue that it is so statistically improbable that it could not have happened by chance. But let us look at this another way. Through the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle is mainly used, as was devised, as a way to rationalize the amazing configuration of the physical constants in our universe (I discuss this in depth in a previous post) but it can also be applied to the scenario of Kid X and Kid Y. Let's let our imaginations run wild for a moment. What would we see or think if Kid X and Kid Y had never bumped into each other? We would think nothing of it simply because it would not have happened. For us to even argue that their meeting was fated, it must have happened thus meaning that the statistical improbability must have been overcome at least once for the event to occur thus crushing the claim that it is too improbable to happen. Let me put it another way in the form of an equation.
F=Us pondering what E means
E=Event where Kid X and Kid Y meet
In order for F to occur E must occur first thus showing that E can happen regardless of the improbability. Thus we see that a perfectly natural explanation for fate arises and there is no need for any sort of fater.

~~Peter

Friday, March 11, 2011

Debunking the Fine-Tuning argument...again



      So it has come to my attention that my previous post in which I debunked the fine-tuning argument was apparently not enough. The claim that was made is as follows: "You listed four fundamental forces, which there are, but there any tons of more constants and ratios that need to be perfectly in place for this universe to operate how it does. Here they are. 34 of them." And the list can be found here. I suggest you read it because I will be making references to it quite a few times during this post.

      But without further ado let's get started. In case you do not know what the fine-tuning argument is, here is a brief summary. The physical constants of the universe (ie. the charge of an electron, the strength of gravity etc.) seem too finely tuned for life to exist that it is utterly improbable that they could just be the way they are by chance thus there MUST be an intelligent designer, a fine tuner, a God. This sounds somewhat compelling until you actually examine the true nature of things. The first point that I will make is that it is fallacious to assume that one constant can be changed whilst the others remain intact. Essentially what is being said is that we will keep all the others the same while only changing one. The problem with that is that they all balance each other and if you disrupt one while not changing the others of course there will be problems.



      But let's put that aside and assume that there can be any other random set of constants as this argument necessitates. The odd thing about our set of physical constants and their values is that this universe is the best possible one for making black holes as Richard Carrier says.1 With this in mind it begs the question, does God care about black holes just a little more?

      Furthermore, if we still make the assumption that all the constants can be randomized life can still arise. With the randomization of the gravitational constant, the fine-structure constant and the nuclear reaction rate 25% of the time universes that can sustain life arise, a study by Fred Adams suggests.2 Again, all of this rests on
a) the assumption that the constants can be randomized and
b) the assumption that all life is similar to the life we find on Earth. But that is irrelevant as of now so let's move on.
  
      What was found when simulations were run by Roni Harnick and his colleagues, was that in a universe without weak interactions, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, stars can still form and life can still arise.3

      But here is where we diverge from my previous post and jump into the unknown! Let us first take a moment to imagine something. What would we see in a universe that didn't allow human life, or life in general for that matter, to exist? We would see nothing. Why? Because we would not exist. In a universe in which the constants of nature did not allow life to evolve we would not exist and thus not be pondering this question of fine-tuning at all. My friends, meet the anthropic principle. The simplest definition I can provide you with is as follows: "the cosmological theory that the presence of life in the universe limits the ways in which the very early universe could have evolved."4 This is a simple way to rationalize the supposed fine-tuning of the physical constants seeing as they must have occurred this way by chance for us to even be pondering why they are the way they are. So here we can see that even if the constants are supposedly fine-tuned for life to exist use even being here shows that it could happen by chance. Another way to put is it is like this: even if we can accurately say the probability of the constants being the way they are, and even if that probability is exceedingly low, the fact that we are here means it must have happened at least once in the past thus nullifying god. This is the best explanation because it makes logical sense and if follows Occam's razor perfectly. Here we are using probability and logic whereas the god hypothesis is supposing a creator that is more complex than his creation has always existed.

      But putting that aside let us take a look at the actual constants themselves shall we? (I will not being going through the entire list of 34 but I will be pointing out some of the more outlandish ones) The first one we will be examining is the force of gravity, G. What is claimed regarding gravity is the following: 

1. Gravitational force constant
if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life chemistry
if smaller: stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion; thus, many of the elements needed for life chemistry would never form.

    Well, there are a few flaws and I intend to point them out. The first is that no mention is made as to how much larger or smaller the force could be, all that is said is larger or smaller. We will take them at their word, so if we change the gravitational constant ever so slightly to make it somewhat larger it is true that stars would burn more rapidly because there would be more pressure fusing hydrogen into helium and it is true they would be hotter but life could still exist. All stars regardless of their temperature have a habitable zone, an area in which liquid water can form and if they were hotter the habitable zone would just be further away, not non-existent. Conversely, if the force were smaller stars could still ignite (unless the force was very minuscule as to almost be non-existent) and thus still have a habitable zone, it would just be closer to the star itself.

2: Entropy level of the universe
if larger: stars would not form within proto-galaxies
if smaller: no proto-galaxies would form

     First off, again they make no mention of specific numbers but that is completely irrelevant in this instance because entropy is not a fixed number. Entropy is merely the tendency for things to get more disorganized. So saying that if the level or fixed number were larger or smaller makes no sense because there is no fixed number.

3. Age of the universe
if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would exist in the right (for life) part of the galaxy
if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

     This is the one that makes the least sense. First off there would most likely still be stable burning stars in the correct section of the galaxy seeing as there over 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone. But even if we ignore that and assume that if the universe were older there would be no stable stars in the correct part of the galaxy there are over 200 billion other galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars each. Saying that none of them would be in the right spot is just special pleading.
      
      It is the same for most if not all of the 34. They either
a) give no specific increase/decrease amounts or are
b) so outlandish that just thinking for a moment about what is being said refutes them.

      But let's ignore everything I have said and all the evidence I have presented and assume that the universe really is fine tuned for life which many physicists agree with one of which being Stephen Hawking in his new book The Grand Design. (Which might I add is fantastic) There is an alternative explanation. The multiverse. The multiverse theory basically says that there are many universes, up to an infinite amount, each with their own values for the constants of nature. What is the implication of this one may ask, simple. Each of these universe will have different values for all the fine tuned constants and this means that, regardless of how improbable our livable universe is, with an infinite number of universes there will always be one that we can live in. To put it another way, say our universe has a 1 in 1 million chance of being "just right". According to the multiverse theory there will always be a universe that is just like ours. This does away with any need for fine tuning whatsoever. Here one would logically ask, what is the evidence for the multiverse? Well, if M-Theory turns out to be correct it means is a multivese out there. Also, if one looks at the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (the radiation left over from the big bang) a series of "statistically unlikely circular patterns" can be seen which, as proposed by Stephen Feeney et al, might be caused by other universes banging into ours!5 Another thing that has been found is that there appears to be something that is pulling at our universe from the outside which also suggests a multiverse of sorts.6

     So if we keep in mind that if 3 key constants were randomized, 25% of the time life would still arise AND if we keep in mind that without the weak nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, life can still arise AND if we keep in mind what we know about the anthropic principle/the fact that our universe is the perfect universe for black holes, not humans, and the multiverse argument, God seems to be out of a job.

~~Peter

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Videos:
What astrophysicist Neil Tyson has to say
CDK007's take

Footnotes:
1: Gravitationalist., & Carrier, R. (n.d.). Fine-tuned universe? - YouTube . YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6FQdyHUXwc
2: Adams, F. (n.d.). Stars In Other Universes: Stellar structure with different fundamental constants.Common Sense Atheism . Retrieved August 11, 2011, from commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Adams-Stars-in-Other-Universes.pdf
3: Harnik, R., Kribs, G., & Perez, G. (n.d.). A Universe Without Weak Interactions. arXiv. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-ph/pdf/0604/0604027v1.pdf
4: Anthropic Principle . (n.d.).dictionary.com. Retrieved August 11, 2011, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anthropic+principle
5: Scientists find first evidence that many universes exist. (n.d.). PhysOrg.com - Science News, Technology, Physics, Nanotechnology, Space Science, Earth Science, Medicine. Retrieved August 12, 2011, from http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html
6: New Proof Unknown "Structures" Tug at Our Universe. (n.d.). Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. Retrieved August 12, 2011, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100322-dark-flow-matter-outside-universe-multiverse/


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A revelation

Today I made a shocking revelation during my English class when we were talking about citing sources. I realized that the "Tab" keys usage is changing dramatically. Just 5 years ago this magnificent key was used to make indentations in all text input forms regardless of the site but now, it is changing. The key itself was designed to move the cursor over X amount of spaces1 but in our modern society it plays a much more dastardly role. The "Tab" key today is used to move the cursor to next form that can be interacted with. For example here is a picture of the 'Blogger Text Editor'.



















As we can see above the cursor is in the normal position but once we hit the tab key, this is shown:



















Notice that the cursor has now selected the 'Post Options' button thus making a perfect example of what is happening. Ultimately this must be stopped and the key must be returned to it's former glory if it is to flourish as part of our beloved keyboard. 

Dedicated to Marlana because she made me pinky promise to write this. 

~~Peter