Intelligent Design

Professor Krauss Objects

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Professor Krauss, author of “A Universe from Nothing,” has responded to Eric Metaxas’s Wall Street Journal article, Science Increasingly makes the case for God with a rebuttal titled, No, Astrobiology has not made the case for God (New Yorker, January 24, 2015). Having read Krauss’s rebuttal, I found it to be utterly devoid of quantitative reasoning, scientific predictions or novel arguments. That should tell you something: it’s a polemic masquerading as science.

A question of bias

Let me note for the record that Krauss is not merely an atheist, but a self-described antitheist. On the subject of God, he does not pretend to write as a disinterested scholar: he openly admits that he has an ideological axe to grind. As he declared in an interview with New Atheist Sam Harris, which was aptly titled, “Everything and Nothing” (January 3, 2012):

“I cannot hide my own intellectual bias here. As I state in the first sentence of the book, I have never been sympathetic to the notion that creation requires a creator. And like our late friend, Christopher Hitchens, I find the possibility of living in a universe that was not created for my existence, in which my actions and thoughts need not bend to the whims of a creator, far more enriching and meaningful than the other alternative. In that sense, I view myself as an anti-theist rather than an atheist.”

Not only does Krauss not believe in God: he doesn’t want there to be a God. One could hardly expect such a man to assess the scientific evidence for a Creator in a detached manner, if there were any evidence.

“Don’t know much about biology…”

I should note also that Professor Krauss’s Ph.D. is in physics, and that he has no qualifications whatsoever in the field of biology. Thus when he disparages author Eric Metaxas on the grounds that he is not a scientist, and then proceeds to write 2,000 words on the subject of how he thinks life could have originated even in a universe unlike our own, it’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Indeed, Professor Krauss’s astonishing ignorance of biology is the biggest problem with his article. Take this passage, for instance:

…[W]hen we consider the evolution of life on Earth, we have to ask what factors could have been different and still allowed for intelligent life. Consider a wild example, involving the asteroid that hit Earth sixty-five million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and a host of other species, and probably allowing an evolutionary niche for mammals to begin to flourish. This was a bad thing for life in general, but a good thing for us. Had that not happened, however, maybe giant intelligent reptiles would be arguing about the existence of God today.

Unfortunately, Krauss’s argument fails on two counts. First, nowhere in Eric Metaxas’s article does the author argue for fine-tuning on the grounds that human beings wouldn’t be here if the parameters of the universe were even slightly different. Rather, Metaxas’s argument is that these parameters are finely-tuned for life – and more specifically, intelligent life. Indeed, Metaxas explicitly acknowledges the possibility of other intelligent life-forms in his discussion of the (so far unsuccessful) Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Second, Krauss reveals his ignorance of biology when he casually asserts that the dinosaurs were wiped out sixty-five million years ago. Krauss appears to be unaware that evolutionary biologists currently classify birds as dinosaurs, leading paleontologist Simon Conway-Morris of the University of Cambridge to quip: “As far as dinosaurs becoming intelligent is concerned the experiment has been done and we call them crows.” And crows – especially the New Caledonian crow, pictured above – are undeniably pretty smart animals – although strictly speaking, I wouldn’t call them intelligent, since they’re incapable of justifying their choices – a feat which requires language. But I digress.

Problems with the origin of life

Krauss is also appallingly naive regarding the massive problems confronting scientific theories about the origin of life. He blithely asserts that non-random chemical processes make the emergence of life inevitable:

An even more severe problem in Metaxas’s argument is the assumption of randomness, namely that physical processes do not naturally drive a system toward a certain state. This is the most common error among those who argue that, given the complexity of life on Earth, evolution is as implausible as a tornado ravaging a junkyard and producing a 747. The latter event is, indeed, essentially statistically impossible. However, we now understand that the process of natural selection implies that evolution is anything but random… Natural selection drives systems in a specific direction, and the remarkable diversity of species on Earth today, each evolved for evolutionary success in a different environment, is one result.

Non-randomness is now understood to have a likely impact on the first appearance of life. For example, new insights into geophysical and chemical processes in extreme environments suggest that early Earth naturally favored the production of relatively large organic molecules. Moreover, we have continued to find in space the more sophisticated components associated with the evolution of life on Earth. The build-up of these complex precursors of life is, therefore, far from purely random. Furthermore, a recent interesting, if speculative, proposal suggests that, when driven by an external source of energy, matter will rearrange itself to dissipate this energy most efficiently. Living systems allow greater dissipation, which means that the laws of physics might suggest that life is, in some sense, inevitable.

I note in passing that even if living systems allow “greater dissipation of energy,” what the paper’s authors need to show is that these systems allow the most efficient dissipation of energy of any physical system, which is a very tall claim indeed.

Krauss’s smug put-down of Fred Hoyle’s famous “tornado in a junkyard” argument is over thirty years out of date. We’ve all read about Hoyle’s fallacy, thank you very much. However, Professor Krauss appears to be blissfully unaware of the work of Dr. Eugene V. Koonin, who is a Senior Investigator at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Dr. Koonin is also a recognized authority in the field of evolutionary and computational biology. Recently, he authored a book, titled, “The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution” (Upper Saddle River: FT Press, 2011). I think we can fairly assume that when it comes to origin-of-life scenarios, he knows what he’s talking about.

In Appendix B of his book, “The Logic of Chance<", Dr. Koonin argues that the origin of life is such a remarkable event that we need to postulate a multiverse, containing a very large (and perhaps infinite) number of universes, in order to explain the emergence of life on Earth. The reason why Dr. Koonin believes we need to postulate a multiverse in order to solve the riddle of the origin of life on Earth is that all life is dependent on replication and translation systems which are fiendishly complex. As Koonin puts it:

The origin of the translation system is, arguably, the central and the hardest problem in the study of the origin of life, and one of the hardest in all evolutionary biology. The problem has a clear catch-22 aspect: high translation fidelity hardly can be achieved without a complex, highly evolved set of RNAs and proteins but an elaborate protein machinery could not evolve without an accurate translation system.

Dr. Koonin provides what he calls “a rough, toy calculation, of the upper bound of the probability of the emergence of a coupled replication-translation system in an O-region.” (By an “O-region,” Dr. Koonin means an observable universe, such as the one we live in.) The calculations on pages 434-435 in Appendix B of Dr. Koonin’s book, “The Logic of Chance,” are adapted from his peer-reviewed article, The Cosmological Model of Eternal Inflation and the Transition from Chance to Biological Evolution in the History of Life, Biology Direct 2 (2007): 15, doi:10.1186/1745-6150-2-15. The model itself is not intended to be realistic one – that’s why it’s called a toy model – but it makes some very generous assumptions about the availability of RNA on the primordial Earth. After performing what he calls “a back-of-the-envelope calculation” of the odds of the emergence of “a primitive, coupled replication-translation system,” which requires, at a minimum, the formation of “two rRNAs with a total size of at least 1000 nucleotides,” “10 primitive adaptors of about 30 nucleotides each,” and “one RNA encoding a replicase” with “about 500 nucleotides”, Dr. Koonin calculates:

In other words, even in this toy model that assumes a deliberately inflated rate of RNA production, the probability that a coupled translation-replication emerges by chance in a single O-region is P < 10-1018. Obviously, this version of the breakthrough stage can be considered only in the context of a universe with an infinite (or, at the very least, extremely vast) number of O-regions.

Krauss waxes lyrical about the large number of planets in our universe on which life could have originated. The best current estimate for the number of planets in the universe is 1024. Even if we multiply that number by Koonin’s calculated odds of 1 in 101,018, they’re still fantastically long odds. So when Krauss writes that “we have discovered a surprisingly diverse group of new solar systems,” and that “even in our solar system, there are a host of possible sites where life might have evolved,” he is overlooking a very simple mathematical point. The total number of atoms in the universe is just 1080. That number is still dwarfed by the figure of 101,018, calculated by Koonin.

Krauss is fond of quoting Carl Sagan’s dictum that extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence. I have to ask: if this is not extraordinary evidence, then what is?

I should add that Dr. Koonin’s 2007 paper, which contained the calculations listed above, passed a panel of four reviewers, including one from Harvard University, who wrote:

In this work, Eugene Koonin estimates the probability of arriving at a system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution and comes to a cosmologically small number

The context of this article is framed by the current lack of a complete and plausible scenario for the origin of life. Koonin specifically addresses the front-runner model, that of the RNA-world, where self-replicating RNA molecules precede a translation system. He notes that in addition to the difficulties involved in achieving such a system is the paradox of attaining a translation system through Darwinian selection. That this is indeed a bona-fide paradox is appreciated by the fact that, without a shortage [of] effort, a plausible scenario for translation evolution has not been proposed to date. There have been other models for the origin of life, including the ground-breaking Lipid-world model advanced by Segrè, Lancet and colleagues (reviewed in EMBO Reports (2000), 1(3), 217–222), but despite much ingenuity and effort, it is fair to say that all origin of life models suffer from astoundingly low probabilities of actually occurring

…[F]uture work may show that starting from just a simple assembly of molecules, non-anthropic principles can account for each step along the rise to the threshold of Darwinian evolution. Based upon the new perspective afforded to us by Koonin this now appears unlikely. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

Think about that. A leading evolutionary biologist has calculated that the odds of even a very basic life-form – a coupled replication-translation system – emerging in the observable universe are 1 in 1 followed by 1,018 zeroes. To overcome those astronomical odds, he posits a multiverse containing a vast number of universes. But there are several reasons why the multiverse solution won’t work, as we’ll see below.

Multiverse madness

But for all its ingenuity, Dr. Koonin’s multiverse won’t work. The multiverse hypothesis faces five formidable problems: first, it merely shifts the fine-tuning problem up one level, as a multiverse capable of generating even one life-supporting universe would still need to be fine-tuned; second, the multiverse hypothesis itself implies that a sizable proportion of universes (including perhaps our own) were intelligently designed; third, the multiverse hypothesis predicts that most of the intelligent life-forms that exist should be “Boltzmann brains” that momentarily fluctuate into and out of existence; fourth, the multiverse hypothesis predicts that a universe containing intelligent life should be much smaller than the one we live in; and fifth, the multiverse hypothesis cannot account for the fact that the laws of physics are not only life-permitting, but also mathematically elegant – a fact acknowledged even by physicists with no religious beliefs.

The first problem with the multiverse hypothesis is that the multiverse itself requires fine-tuning – a point which has been demonstrated by Dr. Robin Collins, a Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Dr. Collins also spent two years in a Ph.D. program in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin before transferring to the University of Notre Dame where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1993. In an influential essay entitled, The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe (in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, 2009, Blackwell Publishing Ltd.), Dr. Robin Collins offers a scientific explanation of why even a “multiverse-generator” would still fail to eliminate the need for fine-tuning:

In sum, even if an inflationary-superstring multiverse generator exists, it must have just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different, such as Einstein’s equation or the Pauli Exclusion Principle, it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced. Consequently, at most, this highly speculative scenario would explain the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, but at the cost of postulating additional fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

A second problem with the multiverse hypothesis, which has been pointed out by physicist Paul Davies, is that the multiverse hypothesis is every bit as “theological” as the theistic hypothesis that the universe was made by God, since it, too, implies the existence of intelligently designed universes:

Among the myriad universes similar to ours will be some in which technological civilizations advance to the point of being able to simulate consciousness. Eventually, entire virtual worlds will be created inside computers, their conscious inhabitants unaware that they are the simulated products of somebody else’s technology. For every original world, there will be a stupendous number of available virtual worlds – some of which would even include machines simulating virtual worlds of their own, and so on ad infinitum.

Taking the multiverse theory at face value, therefore, means accepting that virtual worlds are more numerous than “real” ones. There is no reason to expect our world – the one in which you are reading this right now – to be real as opposed to a simulation. And the simulated inhabitants of a virtual world stand in the same relationship to the simulating system as human beings stand in relation to the traditional Creator.

Far from doing away with a transcendent Creator, the multiverse theory actually injects that very concept at almost every level of its logical structure. Gods and worlds, creators and creatures, lie embedded in each other, forming an infinite regress in unbounded space.

— Paul Davies, A Brief History of the Multiverse, New York Times, 12 April 2003.

A third problem with the multiverse hypothesis is that if we live in a multiverse, then we would expect biological life-forms like ourselves to be vastly outnumbered by “Boltzmann brains.” Cosmologist Luke Barnes helpfully explains in his essay, The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life:

We should be wary of any multiverse which allows for single brains, imprinted with memories, to fluctuate into existence. The worry is that, for every observer who really is a carbon-based life form who evolved on a planet orbiting a star in a galaxy, there are vastly more for whom this is all a passing dream, the few, fleeting fancies of a phantom fluctuation. This could be a problem in our universe – if the current, accelerating phase of the universe persists arbitrarily into the future, then our universe will become vacuum dominated. Observers like us will die out, and eventually Boltzmann brains, dreaming that they are us, will outnumber us. The most serious problem is that, unlike biologically evolved life like ourselves, Boltzmann brains do not require a fi ne-tuned universe. If we condition on observers, rather than biological evolved life, then the multiverse may fail to predict a universe like ours. The multiverse would not explain why our universe is fi ne-tuned for biological life (R.Collins, forthcoming). (p. 61)

Fourth, if we live in a multiverse, then we would expect our universe to be much, much smaller than it actually is. To quote Dr. Luke Barnes again:

Another argument against the multiverse is given by Penrose (2004, pg. 763 ). As with the Boltzmann multiverse, the problem is that this universe seems uncomfortably roomy… In other words, if we live in a multiverse generated by a process like chaotic inflation, then for every observer who observes a universe of our size, there are 1010123 who observe a universe that is just 10 times smaller. This particular multiverse dies the same death as the Boltzmann multiverse. (p. 62)

Fifth and finally, the multiverse hypothesis fails to explain the striking mathematical elegance of the laws of nature, since there’s absolutely no reason, from a purely naturalistic standpoint, why life-permitting laws should have to be mathematically elegant as well. In his 1753 classic, The Analysis of Beauty, the English painter William Hogarth argued that simplicity with variety is the defining feature of beauty or elegance. The elegance of the laws of Nature has been remarked on by many scientists, including physicist Paul Davies, the author of the best-selling book, Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster):

A common reaction among physicists to remarkable discoveries of the sort discussed above is a mixture of delight at the subtlety and elegance of nature, and of stupefaction: ‘I would never have thought of doing it that way.’ If nature is so ‘clever’ that it can exploit mechanisms that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the physical universe? (1984, pp. 235-36.)

Fine-tuning expert Dr. Robin Collins argues in his 2009 essay, Universe or Multiverse? A Theistic Perspective (in B. Carr, ed., Universe or Multiverse?, Cambridge University Press) that theism offers the only good explanation for the fact that the laws of physics are not only life-permitting, but also mathematically beautiful:

… [A]lthough the observable phenomena have an incredible variety and much seeming chaos, they can be organized via a relatively few simple laws governing postulated unobservable processes and entities. What is more amazing, however, is that these simple laws can in turn be organized under a few higher-level principles … and form part of a simple and elegant mathematical framework…

Atheism seems to offer no explanation for the apparent fine-tuning of the laws of nature for beauty and elegance (or simplicity with variety). Theism, on the other hand, seems to offer such a natural explanation: for example, given the classical theistic conception of God as the greatest possible being, and hence a being with a perfect aesthetic sensibility, it is not surprising that such a God would create a world of great subtlety and beauty at the fundamental level. Given the rule of inference that, everything else being equal, a natural non-ad hoc explanation of a phenomenon x is always better than no explanation at all, it follows that everything else being equal, we should prefer the theistic explanation to the claim that the elegance and beauty of the laws of nature is just a brute fact.

Putting the cart before the horse

And what is Professor Krauss’s response to the evidence of fine-tuning? Remarkably, he resurrects an old argument put forward by Science fiction writer Douglas Adams in a speech at Cambridge in 1998.
Here’s how Adams wittily phrased it:

Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, may have been made to have me in it!”

Professor Krauss makes a similar observation in his article. After acknowledging that “a small change in the strength of the four known forces (but nowhere near as small as Metaxas argues) would imply that stable protons and neutrons, the basis of atomic nuclei, might not exist,” he goes on to airily dismisses this as “old news” and adds: “while it’s an interesting fact, it certainly does not require a deity.” Krauss then provides his own alternative explanation:

Once again, it likely confuses cause and effect. The constants of the universe indeed allow the existence of life as we know it. However, it is much more likely that life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around.

The fallacy in this argument should be obvious. The notion that life has adapted to the constants of this universe presupposes the very fact that Krauss needs to explain: namely that life exists in the first place. But as Krauss admits, relatively small changes in the constants of our universe would render the existence of atoms – and hence life – impossible. And if we bear in mind the awkward fact that the emergence of life even within a life-friendly universe like our own is fantastically improbable (as we’ve seen above), it should be apparent to the unbiased reader that Krauss’s solution explains nothing at all.

But Professor Krauss wants to have a little fun at the expense of fine-tuning proponents like Eric Metaxas, so he invents a humorous analogy to drive home his point:

We survive on Earth in part because Earth’s gravity keeps us from floating off. But the strength of gravity selects a planet like Earth, among the variety of planets, to be habitable for life forms like us. Reversing the sense of cause and effect in this statement, as Metaxas does in cosmology, is like saying that it’s a miracle that everyone’s legs are exactly long enough to reach the ground.

Unfortunately, Krauss’s analogy is completely inept. For gravity presupposes the existence of massive objects, such as planets. No mass, no gravity. The physical constants of the universe, on the other hand, do not presuppose the existence of life; rather, the existence of life presupposes the fact that these constants have life-permitting values. Krauss is putting the cart before the horse.

It is a trivial fact that if you live in a planet whose gravity is strong enough to keep you from floating away, then of course your legs will be long enough to reach the ground. But the fact that if the constants of Nature were varied even slightly, life of any sort would be impossible, is a far from trivial fact. It’s a pity that Professor Krauss can’t see the difference.

Bad physics, too: Krauss’s fine-tuning fallacies

It gets worse. Although Professor Krauss is a physicist who has written extensively on fine-tuning, he doesn’t appear to be up-to-date with the scientific literature on the subject. Don’t take my word for it; that’s the verdict of cosmologist Dr. Luke Barnes of the Sydney Institute of Astronomy (University of Sydney), who, in a blog article titled, Comment on “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God”, excoriates Krauss’s letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal (December 26, 2014), which was written in reply to Eric Metaxas’ article in the same journal. (Krauss’s more recent article in the New Yorker is a lengthier re-hash of .) Commenting on Krauss’s claim that “We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe,” Barnes comments:

[Krauss] [c]onflates “we don’t know everything” with “we don’t know anything”. There are clear fine-tuning cases. With a relatively small tweak to the cosmological constant or the quark masses, we can make universes with no atoms, or one hydrogen atom per observable universe, or that last only a fraction of a second before recollapsing. In these cases, the details of which chemical reactions first formed life on Earth aren’t particularly relevant. We know enough, even if there is a lot more we’d like to know about life.

In his article in the New Yorker, Professor Krauss ridicules Eric Metaxas for his claim that there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life. Krauss also argues that the fine-tuning of the strength of the four forces of Nature is nowhere near as precise as Metaxas claims it is. But when one reads Dr. Barnes’s review, it becomes apparent that Krauss is failing to see the wood for the trees.

In his 2015 blog article, Comment on “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God”, Dr. Barnes scathingly observes:

… Krauss’s statement that the force strengths could be “vastly different” contradicts most of the literature and is completely indefensible.

In the same article, Dr. Barnes points out some factually incorrect claims made by Eric Metaxas, including his list of 200 fine-tuning parameters – which appears to be derived from the work of astrophysicist Hugh Ross, who listed 154 parameters back in 2004. Dr. Barnes goes on to observe that Hugh Ross makes no attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff in his list, and he suggests that Eric Metaxas could have made a much better case if he had chosen to concentrate on just six parameters for which we do have really good evidence of fine-tuning, as fine-tuning expert Dr. Robin Collins does in his online essay, The Teleological Argument. .

Dr. Barnes also corrects Eric Metaxas’s claim that if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000, then no stars could have ever formed. But at the same time, Barnes adds that physicist Paul Davies has stated that the weak force is fine-tuned to one part in 1040 – or one followed by forty zeroes – which is even more impressive.

And that’s not all. In an Arxiv paper titled, The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life (which was later published in abridged form the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia), Dr. Barnes skillfully dismantles frequently-heard criticisms of the fine-tuning argument. So how low are the odds of a fine-tuned universe? Barnes helpfully supplies from numbers in an blog article titled, In Defence of The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life.

…[T]he cosmological constant alone gives 10-120. The Higgs vev is fine-tuned to 10-17. The triple alpha process plausibly puts constraints of order 10-5 on the fine-structure constant. The “famous fine-tuning problem” of inflation is 10^-11 (Turok, 2002). The fine-tuning implied by entropy is 1 in 1010123 according to Penrose.

I have to say that those numbers sounds pretty impressive to me.

Finally, in response to Krauss’s claim that the fine-tuning we observe “is more likely an example of life being fine-tuned for the universe in which it evolved, rather than the other way around,” Dr. Barnes acidly remarks:

Again, a statement without justification in the scientific literature, unless Krauss is referring to a multiverse.

Delivering his verdict on the articles by Metaxas and Krauss on fine-tuning, Barnes comments:

It’s annoying that both “sides” get the science wrong. Someone should set them straight.

Now, it is hardly surprising that Eric Metaxas – who, as Krauss reminds us, is an author, not a scientist – should have made a couple of scientific errors in his article for the Wall Street Journal. But Professor Lawrence Krauss is a scientist – and a physicist, to boot. In fact, he’s the only physicist to have received awards from all three major American physics societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics. In 2012, he was awarded the National Science Board’s Public Service Medal for his contributions to public education in science and engineering in the United States. For a physicist of Krauss’s stature to be rebuked by a cosmologist for getting his facts wrong is embarrassing, to say the least.

Krauss’s irrelevant objection to the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant

At one point in his article, Krauss acknowledges the existence of fine-tuning in the cosmos, only to discount its significance:

In fact, one of the most severe apparent fine tunings often referred to by creationists like Metaxas is that of the so-called cosmological constant, the energy of empty space that has recently been discovered to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate over time. It remains one of the biggest mysteries in physics, as it appears to be over a hundred and twenty orders of magnitude smaller than our theories suggest it could be. And if it were as large as the theories suggest it should be, then galaxies, stars, and planets would never have formed.

Is this a clear example of design? Of course not. If it were zero, which would be “natural” from a theoretical perspective, the universe would in fact be more hospitable to life. If the cosmological constant were different, perhaps vastly different kinds of life might have arisen. Moreover, arguing that God exists because many cosmic mysteries remain is intellectually lazy in the extreme.

Let’s put this in perspective. We’re talking about a physical constant whose value would preclude the existence of galaxies, stars, and planets – let alone life – over a vast range of magnitudes. Indeed, the value of this life-permitting constant is “a hundred and twenty orders of magnitude smaller than our theories suggest it could be.” And what does Krauss do? Complain, because it is not exactly zero. Apparently he thinks a Deity would have made it exactly zero, but it isn’t, so there isn’t a Deity. That’s what I call straining at gnats and swallowing camels. But in any case, Krauss’s objection is based on faulty science.

Krauss claims that if the value of the cosmological constant were exactly zero, the universe would be more hospitable to life. The basis for this claim appears to be the fact that in the absence of dark energy, a flat universe (like our own) would expand forever but at an ever slower rate which approaches but never quite reaches zero. But with dark energy, the expansion rate of the Universe initially slows down, due to the effect of gravity, but eventually increases. What that means is that our universe will fly apart much faster than it would if the cosmological constant were zero, giving life less time to evolve.

Is this an argument against fine-tuning? Not at all. If the sole objective of the Designer were to make a life-friendly cosmos, then the very small positive value of the cosmological constant might be puzzling. But if the Designer additionally wants the intelligent life-forms in the cosmos to be able to infer His existence, then a very long-lived cosmos might actually hinder that inference, because it would weaken the argument – put forward by evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin above – that the probability of life evolving in our universe within the time available is vanishingly low. Unless there is a multiverse, this argument would imply that the first living thing was created. But in a very old universe, this argument would be much harder for scientists to make.

Additionally, further evidence is becoming available which suggests that the small non-zero value of the cosmological constant might be the maximum value which is compatible with the existence of life. Consider the following facts. Back in the 1980s, physicist Steve Weinberg predicted that the cosmological constant would have a value of less than a hundred times the currently accepted value. In 1992, Weinberg refined this prediction of the cosmological constant to 5 to 10 times the matter density. In 1995, Weinberg’s argument was refined by Alexander Vilenkin to predict a value for the cosmological constant that was only ten times the matter density, which is about three times the current value since determined. Judge for yourself. Which way does the evidence seem to be pointing?

Summary

I have examined Professor Krauss’s objections to the fine-tuning argument and found them wanting. I conclude that belief in the existence of an Intelligent Designer Who fine-tuned the universe for life and discoverability remains scientifically reasonable.

26 Replies to “Professor Krauss Objects

  1. 1
    humbled says:

    “Having read Krauss’s rebuttal, I found it to be utterly devoid of quantitative reasoning, scientific predictions or novel arguments. That should tell you something: it’s a polemic masquerading as science.”

    Given that his “A Universe from Nothing” suffered from the same weak and at times insane arguments, is it any surprise his latest work was lacking as well?

    I agree totally with vjtorley that “…belief in the existence of an Intelligent Designer Who fine-tuned the universe for life and discoverability remains scientifically reasonable.”

  2. 2
    Me_Think says:

    I think this para sums up Krauss’s rebuttal nicely :

    The first is a familiar mistake of elaborating all the factors responsible for some specific event and calculating all the probabilities as if they were independent. In order for me to be writing this piece at this precise instant on this airplane, having done all the things I’ve done today, consider all the factors that had to be “just right”: I had to find myself in San Francisco, among all the cities in the world; the sequence of stoplights that my taxi had to traverse had to be just right, in order to get me to the airport when I did; the airport security screener had to experience a similar set of coincidences in order to be there when I needed her; same goes for the pilot. It would be easy for me to derive a set of probabilities that, when multiplied together, would produce a number so small that it would be statistically impossible for me to be here now writing.

    This approach, of course, involves many fallacies. It is clear that many routes could have led to the same result.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT, again, well thought through. Eventually, the cumulative force will tell. KF

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    Me Think’s response demonstrates the innate senility of our opponents.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: Congratulations Dr. Torley. You made it on ID The Future

    podcast: “Vincent Torley: Can Science Point to the Existence of God?” (part 1_
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_36-08_00
    Casey Luskin talks with Dr. Vincent Torley about his defense of Eric Metaxas’ recent WSJ op-ed, which argued that modern science points towards theism, rather than against it.

    In defense of Hugh Ross’s work, Dr. Ross, in his papers, does ‘separate the wheat from the chafe’:

    Part 1: Fine-Tuning for Life in the Universe
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part1.pdf

    Part 2: Fine-Tuning for Intelligent Physical Life
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part2.pdf

    Part 3: Probability Estimates for Features Required by Various Life-Forms
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c.....3_ver2.pdf

    Part 4: Probability Estimates on Different Size Scales for the Features Required by Advanced Life
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c.....4_ver2.pdf

    Does the Probability for ETI = 1?
    Excerpt: On the Reasons To Believe website we document that the probability a randomly selected planet would possess all the characteristics intelligent life requires is less than 10^-304. A recent update that will be published with my next book, Hidden Purposes: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, puts that probability at 10^-1054.
    http://www.reasons.org/does-probability-eti-1

    Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross’s book, ‘Why the Universe Is the Way It Is’;
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. equals 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate approx. equals 10^324
    longevity requirements estimate approx. equals 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. equals 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. equals 10^22

    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part3.pdf

    Hugh Ross – Multiple Parameters Required For Earth To Support Life – video
    https://vimeo.com/118304005

    Moreover, although the defenses of Metaxas’s WSJ article have been excellent (as yours is Dr. Torley), my main gripe against the defenses of Metaxas’s WSJ article are that they, for the most part, focus solely on probabilities and forget the main point of the Privileged Planet video. The main point being that anyplace in the universe that is able to support life like human life will also be privileged to make scientific discoveries. Here is a short post to that effect:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-545275

  6. 6
    Box says:

    Thank you very much Vincent Torley, an excellent article.

    IMHO there is an apparent additional problem with the multiverse hypothesis: the environment of our universe becomes extremely unstable. Our universe would be exposed to collisions with an infinite number of in and out of existence plopping universes. To my understanding there is no explanation for the fact that our universe is untouched for such a vast period of time.

    I’m no physicist, so it’s very likely that I overlook something. Hopefully someone can set me straight on this matter.

  7. 7
    Zachriel says:

    vjtorley: Not only does Krauss not believe in God: he doesn’t want there to be a God. One could hardly expect such a man to assess the scientific evidence for a Creator in a detached manner, if there were any evidence.

    Not only does vjtorley believe in God: he wants there to be a God. One could hardly expect such a man to assess the scientific evidence for a Creator in a detached manner, if there were any evidence.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Not only is Zachriel an insipid troll, it is proud to be an insipid troll. As for assessing evidence, Zachriel hasn’t the slightest idea how to do that.

  9. 9
    awstar says:

    Me_Think #2

    I think this para sums up Krauss’s rebuttal nicely :

    The first is a familiar mistake of elaborating all the factors responsible for some specific event and calculating all the probabilities as if they were independent. In order for me to be writing this piece at this precise instant on this airplane, having done all the things I’ve done today, consider all the factors that had to be “just right”: I had to find myself in San Francisco, among all the cities in the world; the sequence of stoplights that my taxi had to traverse had to be just right, in order to get me to the airport when I did; the airport security screener had to experience a similar set of coincidences in order to be there when I needed her; same goes for the pilot. It would be easy for me to derive a set of probabilities that, when multiplied together, would produce a number so small that it would be statistically impossible for me to be here now writing.

    This approach, of course, involves many fallacies. It is clear that many routes could have led to the same result.

    I don’t suppose you noticed that all the routes and factors responsible of his statistically impossible specific event are steeped in intelligence: airplane, city of SF, stoplights, taxi, airport, security screener, pilot. He also imagined going to SF, and made it so, using all the intelligent agents he referenced.

    Kind of supports the notion of humans being made in the “image” of God, doesn’t it?

  10. 10
    Me_Think says:

    I don’t suppose you noticed that all the routes and factors responsible of his statistically impossible specific event are steeped in intelligence: airplane, city of SF, stoplights, taxi, airport, security screener, pilot. He also imagined going to SF, and made it so, using all the intelligent agents he referenced.
    Kind of supports the notion of humans being made in the “image” of God, doesn’t it?

    So ID agent is just us? We built the universe before we were born?
    How does engineering and flying plane support ‘human beings are made in the “image” of God’ ? Sorry I don’t get it.

  11. 11
    awstar says:

    Me_Think #10

    So ID agent is just us? We built the universe before we were born?
    How does engineering and flying plane support ‘human beings are made in the “image” of God’ ? Sorry I don’t get it.

    ID agent is NOT just us, but like us. Someone (not us) built the universe before we were born, and created us in His image so that he could tell us about it. Krauss’ example demonstrates how intelligence cuts to the quick and makes events that would otherwise be highly improbable, just a matter of thinking through the alternative routes in the mind’s eye, and choosing a workable path.

  12. 12
    Box says:

    // On Adams’ “puddle” and Krauss’ “life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around.” //

    Krauss and Adams do not address the fine-tuning argument. Allow me to explain why:
    Life can only adapt to a life-permitting universe. IOW not only do Adams and Krauss presuppose the existence of life, as Torley rightly points out, but also a life-permitting universe for life to adapt to.
    This presupposition of a life-permitting universe is totally(!) out of place when arguing against fine-tuning – words fail me here.
    Fine-tuning compares the set of life-permitting laws with the set of possible laws. And we are talking fundamental life-permitting stuff like “atoms or no atoms” and “stars or no stars” etc.

    Krauss: “We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe”.

    Sure, but we do know that a universe must have some very fundamental life-permitting properties, which is what the fine-tuning argument is all about.

  13. 13
    Cross says:

    Me_Think @ 10

    “human beings are made in the “image” of God’ ? Sorry I don’t get it.”

    We know.

    God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
    reflecting our nature” Genesis 1:26 MSG

    “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NIV

    “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” Romans 1:25 NIV

  14. 14
    AnimatedDust says:

    I could not help but notice at the end of the Super Bowl and especially with regard to the Academy Awards that the amount of affection displayed for idols in the form of Super Bowl trophies or Oscar statuettes is exactly as scripture illustrated. Worshipping created things is de rigeur these days and has been throughout history.

    That no one notices is fascinating.

    Of course if the Bible is bronze age mythology who would?

    But if it’s not, the broad road will be elbow to elbow.

    And that is profoundly sad.

  15. 15
    Mung says:

    From the OP:

    Professor Krauss, author of “A Universe from Nothing,” has responded to Eric Metaxas’s Wall Street Journal article, Science Increasingly makes the case for God with a rebuttal titled, No, Astrobiology has not made the case for God (New Yorker, January 24, 2015).

    Anyone here think that the purpose of Astrobiology is to make the case for the existence of God?

    Anyone?

    Anyone here startled by a finding that Astrobiology fails to make the case for the existence of God?

    Anyone?

    Anyone here think that God is a form of life that exists on some planet somewhere in the universe?

    Anyone?

    Morons.

  16. 16
    Me_Think says:

    awstar @ 11,

    ID agent is NOT just us, but like us. Someone (not us) built the universe before we were born, and created us in His image

    You would need atleast million agents to serve (forget build!) the universe. Calculation from another thread:

    If you consider that just 30,000 process (against the actual billion process (in millions of organisms) – like protein folding, 2 point mutations, searching new functions, metabolism – pretty much everything which ID claims is improbable with unguided process), needs to be fixed in a given time frame, Binomial calculation shows:
    the minimum number of ID agents that can provide a 90% probability of getting service (attention to processes) for just 30,000 process is 3,069. IOW, Minimize the capacity required for Binomial Distribution with n = 30,000 p=0.1
    For a 99.9% ‘service’ probability, minimum 3,162 agents will be required. Imagine how much will be required for a billion process !

  17. 17
    awstar says:

    Me_Think #16

    If you consider that just 30,000 process (against the actual billion process (in millions of organisms) – like protein folding, 2 point mutations, searching new functions, metabolism – pretty much everything which ID claims is improbable with unguided process), needs to be fixed in a given time frame, Binomial calculation shows:
    the minimum number of ID agents that can provide a 90% probability of getting service (attention to processes) for just 30,000 process is 3,069. IOW, Minimize the capacity required for Binomial Distribution with n = 30,000 p=0.1
    For a 99.9% ‘service’ probability, minimum 3,162 agents will be required. Imagine how much will be required for a billion process !

    Gives new meaning to the age old question “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” doesn’t it.

  18. 18
    Lilly says:

    As a theist I have to agree with Krauss that the God he is describing is not real. I think he misses the point though, God is logically prior to the existence of any finite, contingent thing. Whether it’s a multiverse or one proton, neither have their cause of their own existence within themselve. And God is not a rival to scientific/secondary causes, but the fullness of being within which every contingent discrete thing exists. The fine tuning of the universe and the extraordinary teleology we see in biology do point to God and the exquisite harmony and unity of his eternal creative gift — for that matter so would the discovery of laws guiding the origin of life.

  19. 19
    Me_Think says:

    awstar @ 17

    Gives new meaning to the age old question “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” doesn’t it.

    Well actually it was on point of the needle 🙂 :

    And Schibler with others, maketh the difference of extension to be this, that Angels can contract their whole substance into one part of space, and therefore have not partes extra partes. Whereupon it is that the Schoolmen have questioned how many Angels may fit upon the point of a Needle?”
    — Richard Baxter

    but we can calculate the number of angels on head of pin – head of pin is about 1mm = .001 m. The smallest length is Planck length, so number of angels on pinhead (not dancing) is about: 0.001/10^-35 = 10^32 angels . Of course depending on the dance style ,the number of Angels on pin head will differ 🙂

  20. 20
    Box says:

    Science makes the case for God. We are in day 3 after Torley’s rebuttal of Krauss’ objections to the fine-tuning argument and no one has even attempted to put up a coherent defense of Krauss.

  21. 21
    hytham says:

    very well written indeed, very deep analysis. just a small remark, Hoyle did not commit any fallacy as Dr. Torley suggests. when Hoyle said this remark about the junk yard that turns into a Boeing 747 after a tornado he was only referring to the origin of life and not the evolution of life. He said in his book intelligent Design in 1983 describing what he calls the Junk Yard Mentality of people who think that life could be generated by natural means without intelligence ” “A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A Whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled.747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe.”p. 18 and 19. Hoyle never used his metaphor for the evolution of life but only to the origin of life. the person who let us have this impression is Dawkins in four of his books. However, in “the God Delusion” Dawkins confesses that Hoyle’s metaphor was only related to the origin of life saying ” “Hoyle said that the probability of life originating on Earth is no greater than the chance that a hurricane, sweeping through a scrapyard, would have the luck to assemble a Boeing 747.” P.114. Hoyle also compared the chance of life originating by chance to a blind man who wants to solve the Rubik Cube by chance and said that it would take that person three times the age of the Earth to solve it, while if a knowledgeable intelligent was guiding him, it would take him 2 hours only. thanks

  22. 22
    Box says:

    Lawrence Krauss, the last New Atheist still standing, takes a convincing beating by Vjtorley and no one has even attempted to put up a coherent defense. The case is settled then: science makes the case for God.

  23. 23
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Me_Think

    It is clear that many routes could have led to the same result.

    What Krauss is looking for is blind, unintelligent, unguided routes to the same result. He could calculate the probabilities on that.

    Instead, he cites a process that involved sophisticated intelligent design throughout. The fact that there are many possible intelligent designs to the same result refutes his argument against the kind of constant that he finds – he expects only one from an intelligent agent, and yet admits that there are several possible.

    So ID agent is just us? We built the universe before we were born?

    We observe evidence of intelligence at work and the impossibility of blind, random forces as the cause. As you rightly point out, it could not have been human intelligence.

    Now we draw an inference. An intelligence, but not a human intelligence … some possibilities should be considered.

  24. 24
    Jim Smith says:

    third, the multiverse hypothesis predicts that most of the intelligent life-forms that exist should be “Boltzmann brains” that momentarily fluctuate into and out of existence; fourth, the multiverse hypothesis predicts that a universe containing intelligent life should be much smaller than the one we live in;

    The multiverse has an lot of absurdities. An infinite number of universes where Carl Sagan has two heads is one of them. But by combining points 3 and 4 above you can arrive at the absolutely most hilarious absurdity of all which is that under the multiverse theory, instead of living in a vast 14 billion year old universe with hundreds of billions of galaxies, it is actually much more likely that the age and size of the universe is an illusion and our universe actually consists of just one star, our sun, and the earth is only 6000 years old.

    This is a big problem for materialists. To avoid the design implied in the fine tuning and the origin of life they need to posit a multiverse, but if they posit a multiverse then a small universe with a young earth is much more likely than the “scientific” view of the world.

    Naturalism is dead.

  25. 25
    Jim Smith says:

    Some additional problems with the multiverse:

    Bruce Gordon PhD:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQcFstKzgaA

    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/201.....n-our.html

    Problems with String Theory

    However, Gordon explains that, “The “mechanism” by which the string landscape produces universes is highly speculative and lacks justification.

    In order to work, the landscape has to start in its highest energy state and cascade downward – but there’s no reason to believe this is what would happen.”

    And, “If the landscape exists, there’s good reason to think we should see “supersymmetric” particles at low energy scales. We do not.”

    Although there are 10^500 possible different string universes we don’t know if any of them they exist except ours. No one knows if there are enough universes with the right properties to make the existence of our universe probable.

    Problems with the Multiverse Theory

    Gordon also pointed out that materialists are willing to accept several very unlikely conjectures in order to avoid accepting that the universe was designed and created. Those conjecture are:

    There is an inflaton field.

    A potentially infinite number of universes exist.

    Strings exist.

    There are six additional compactified spacial dimensions.

    “An infinite number of compactifications of the six additional spatial dimensions exist and each corresponds (via inflation) to a potential infinity of actual universes.” Absurdly, the consequence of this is a space infinitely larger than our own universe.

    It undermines scientific rationality.

    In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.

    In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as an explanatory principle.

    In a theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and thus are expressions of rational purpose.

    Scientific materialism is epistemically self-defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

    http://astrogeo.oxfordjournals...../2.33.full

    Opposing the multiverse by George Ellis:

    “Martin Gardner (2003) puts it this way: ‘There is not the slightest shred of reliable evidence that there is any universe other than the one we are in. No multiverse theory has so far provided a prediction that can be tested. As far as we can tell, universes are not as plentiful as even two blackberries.'”

  26. 26
    db says:

    Although this article and comments are nearly a year old, I found the article very enjoyable. Thank you for taking the time to post such a terrific article. As I was reading, I found myself mulling an idea.

    In a multiverse with 10^10^123 unique universes, perhaps 10 percent would be 10x smaller with a similar amount of density, in fact leading to a faster Crunch. Following that logic, there may be other universes even smaller with increasingly faster vanishing times. In a vast ‘bath’ where these universes communally rest, these crunched universes would likely succumb to the same demise from Hawking Radiation that dead stars experience, if leakage from nearby universes is tolerable. That leaves only universes our size or larger. What about the ones larger? Those would continue accelerating outward into a Freeze faster than ours may in a steady state.

    Quantum calculations often treat objects at extreme distances as particles. So, a star or galaxy becomes particle-like over a vast distance. When that body has consumed its fuel en route to a sparse region, it may eject it violently. The fragments decay into dust, leaving behind nothing after a long period. The volume and density have changed dramatically as a result. You may be wondering how the universe ‘deflates’. Space and time are unified. Therefore, with nothing left to decay and the dust spread out evenly, entropy is at its greatest value. Over a great interval, antimatter can flux into existence and annihilate the matter. Space, then, can return to a ground state by discharging the energy of the annihilated matter to the quantum plane to be purposed again in a convolution later.

    That leaves only one size left to discuss. What about the many universes that have the same volume and density as ours, but uniquely fine-tuned numbers? Because of our postulate of 1E123 universes of unique character, the other universes would begin to burn up their nuclear cores faster or not give rise to human life at all. Over time, every universe, expect ours, would be unable to sustain life.

    Naturally, my whole musing is predicated on the laws of the multiverse being ubiquitously defined for every bubble. Our universe is a very special place. Nowhere else can one find such handiwork.

    If you have disagreements with any portion of my post, please use logic not flames to argue.

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