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After 40 years of silence Analog magazine finally tackles Intelligent Design


As I was catching up on reading back issues of Analog: Science Fiction and Fact I noted, for the first time in nearly 40 years of reading the magazine, not one but a pair of articles (one fact, one fiction) addressed the Intelligent Design controversy.

Both articles were written by physicist Carl Frederick.

The first (non-fiction) titled The Challenge of the Anthropic Universe is about the so-far fruitless quest by physicists to find an explanation for the fine tuning of the universe (basis of Cosmological ID) that doesn’t involve intelligent design. The article begins:

In the early 1990’s, a creeping realization swept through the theoretical physics community that the probability for the universe to even exist was vanishingly small. Indeed, the only “theory” around that seemed able to explain the universe’s existence was Intelligent Design. This was not something physicists and cosmologists liked to talk about.

Later on, after describing the “problem” in detail, he quotes what Lee Smolin considers the four possible solutions:

Which Way Out?

Lee Smolin considers that there are four solutions to the problem, schemas if you will.

[below are truncated for brevity -ds]

1) God tuned the parameters for our benefit.
2) There are a very large number of universes each of which has random parameters.
3) There is a “unique mathematically consistent theory of the whole universe”.
4) The parameters evolve in time – in the Darwinian sense.

[end truncation -ds]

A good number of very intelligent people have argued for schemas two, three, and four above. At the moment there is nothing resembling a consensus among physicists.

Interesting that Frederick fails to mention very intelligent people arguing for schema one. Maybe that’s so self-evident it hurts him to repeat it. 🙂

The second (fiction) story is titled The Exoanthrophic Principle centers around a creationist mathematician just starting to work in a futuristic SETI laboratory with a group of atheist physicists and technicians where a message is just received from an ET believed to be in a “pocket universe” outside our own (Frederick describes the pocket universe hypothesis in the non-fiction article). The message arrives via tachyon modulated gravity waves (no light speed barrier) and they are about to start up a real-time conversation with ET. The message contains no information except for a string of prime numbers. I haven’t finished reading the second article so this is as much as I can describe right now.

What I found really amazing about this was that this is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that Analog has published any fact OR fiction article which explicitely uses the phrase “Intelligent Design” (capitalized no less). What a delightful breath of fresh air. The editor must have felt like he was letting Pandora out of her box. Let’s hope there’s much more to come.

We could use more literature on the anthropic principle and universal fine-tuning. Though the detail in "The Privileged Planet" is pretty good, I think we need to expand upon this area a little more instead of appearing strictly like an anti-evolution movement. F2XL
Stuart, Or, perhaps it follows that the universe must necessarily correlate to who God is; in which case, it isn't God who is bound in his options, but the universe which is bound in its attributes, to reflect God in some way. I think this squares much better with omniscience, omnipotence, and free choice. kbombbilly
Schema 6: 6. It follows from schema 5 that God had no choice in how He created (or tuned) the Universe. Einstein said something along these lines. It might be hard to square it with omniscience, omnipotence and free choice though. StuartHarris
By the way, this was a recent issue JULY/AUGUST double issue (so the editorial staff can take the summer off I presume). I can hardly wait to see the letters to the editors that come out of this. The outrage will be so thick you'll be able to cut it with a knife. DaveScot
Stuart One of the hypotheses that Frederick discusses is, I think solutions to some sort of derivative of string theory. At first the number of known solutions was just a single one and that solution resulted in a universe that could not support life. Then a dozen solutions were found. Still no joy. Then a million solutions were found and still none of them matched our universe or anything close to habitable. Then someone managed to show that there were 10^500 possible solutions and this meta-universe was imagined where most of all of those universes were instantiated and where each individual universe is called a "pocket universe". We are in one of those pocket universes that just happened to be tuned so that stars could shine and atoms could form. They're basically calling upon an infinity of universes to solve the fine tuning problem. No one is really swallowing it but the only viable alternative is Intelligent Design and by doctrine they can't give that any lip service. It's kind of funny. The truth will come out and seeing Intelligent Design by name for the first time in this particular science magazine is noteworthy in that regard. DaveScot
I'd add a schema 5: 5. The concept of irreducible complexity applies not to just certain features of life, but the Universe as a whole. The Privileged Planet film gave the imagery of a universe making machine. There are dials and switches on the machine that can tune all the laws and constants for a universe. Once set, a button is pushed and out comes a universe. The idea is that only one combination of settings will result in a universe fit for life – our universe. It may be that the settings that result in our universe are the only settings that would result in any universe at all. If one of the dials were changed slightly you wouldn’t end up with some different “not as good universe”, but rather non-existence. Our universe, the Universe, is irreducibly complex. All the pieces (laws, constants) must be in place as they are or they won’t work together at all. Our Universe is somehow logically complete. It isn’t a fine tuning, but the only possible tuning. StuartHarris
Eric As far as I know Bill takes the prime number example from the same place everyone else does - Carl Sagan's novel "Contact" which is more widely known from the 1997 movie it was made into by the same name starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. DaveScot
Anyone see the brief but infuriating article in the recent New Scientist, where the writer co-opts Einstein to deliver his atheist agenda? Apparently it's a "simple truth" that God is nothing but "the expression and product of human weaknesses." Of course he neglected to mention the beliefs of other highly esteemed intellectuals (i.e. Newton, Dostoevsky, etc.) I really should stop even glancing at this magazine. Berceuse
"a string of prime numbers" No doubt many people have used that example, but sure reminds me of Dembski's writings . . . Eric Anderson

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