Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Hoyle (with updates from Walker and Davies) on Cosmological Fine Tuning: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature”


Sometimes, it is important to go back to key sources, if we are to break through deep misconceptions.  This is particularly relevant for the design view of science, including on cosmological fine tuning.

So, first Sir Fred (a key discoverer of the phenomenon):

>>[Sir Fred Hoyle, In a talk at Caltech c 1981 (nb. this longstanding UD post):] From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]>>

. . . also, in the same talk at Caltech:

>>The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. [ –> 20^200 = 1.6 * 10^260] This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix. >>

. . . and again:

>> I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the [–> nuclear synthesis] consequences they produce within stars. [“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]>>

Then also, Walker-Davies in a recent remark:

>>In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

[–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]>>

Let us now ponder the import of these remarks. END

PS: Let us also observe Robin Collins’ remarks, here.

Seversky, I beg to remind you that an inference to best, empirically grounded explanation -- agents exist, they act and they often leave traces that point to their intelligent action -- is NOT an argument from incredulity. Mislabelling prejudicially and dismissively is a species of question-begging fallacy. One, that turns on first creating a strawman caricature. KF kairosfocus
Sev states: "They’re both just placeholders for an explanation we don’t have yet." Sev's argument here is also known as 'the argument from ignorance' or 'materialism of the gaps': But alas for Seversky and other Darwinian diehards, we are not arguing from what we don't know, i.e. our ignorance, but we are instead arguing from what we do know:
The Evolutionary Argument from Ignorance - Cornelius Hunter - December 1, 2016 Excerpt: The authors argue that the underlying patterns of the genetic code are not likely to be due to "chance coupled with presumable evolutionary pathways" (P-value < 10^-13), and conclude that they are "essentially irreducible to any natural origin." A common response from evolutionists, when presented with evidence such as this, is that we still don't understand biology very well. This argument from ignorance goes all the way back to Darwin. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/12/the_evolutionar_1103329.html An intelligent defense of Intelligent Design: An interview with Stephen Meyer By Jonathan Merritt | August 20, 2013 Excerpt: Instead, I argued that Intelligent Design (ID) best explains the origin of that necessary information in part because of what we know from our uniform and repeated experience of what it takes (namely, intelligence) to generate new information—especially information that is encoded in a digital form. http://religionnews.com/2013/08/20/an-intelligent-defense-of-intelligent-design-an-interview-with-stephen-meyer/
This is still essentially the argument from incredulity: I cannot imagine how this came about through natural processes so somebody or something must have "monkeyed" with it. Maybe Hoyle was right but his belief doesn't make it true any more then my disbelief makes it untrue. "Monkeyed with" is no more a theory of how it happened than is the "Word of God". They're both just placeholders for an explanation we don't have yet. The only difference seems to be that science will try to find out how the "monkeying" was done whereas believers seem to be satisfied with "Word of God" as the final answer and aren't interested in further inquiries into "how". Seversky
Notice the lack of interest of objectors in the actual science issues, key underlying observations and foundational principles of ID? Despite many professions to the contrary and attempted projection of lack of interest in technical matters to us? What does this tell us about the nature of debates surrounding ID? Especially, given the implications of lab coat clad evolutionary materialism for our civilisation? kairosfocus
Trying to explain how this "monkeyed" happened has inspired the "Multiverse" and "Simulation" and "Alien" creation theories. That's entertainment:) But "Word of God" is awesome. Truly Awesome. ppolish
Excellent post. Here's another good one today at EvolutionNews: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/12/the_evolutionar_1103329.html Truth Will Set You Free
Very timely and refreshing OP. Thank you. Dionisio
Hoyle, Walker and Davies on monkeying with physics. kairosfocus

Leave a Reply