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Winner: Contest Question 1 winner: Does the multiverse help science make sense – or simply destroy science?

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This contest was posted 6 May 2009, and closed today.

The Uncommon Descent Contest Question 1 winner is #27:

To claim the prize, a free copy of Expelled, #27 John A Designer must send me a snail address at dodesignorchance@gmail.com Here is the entry:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason“, wrote NASA astronomer Robert Jastrow in his book, God and the Astronomers, “the story ends like a bad dream.” Jastrow was talking about the impact of the Big Bang Theory, which by 1978 had virtually eliminated the competing “steady state hypothesis”, which had argued that the universe was eternal and self existent.

But why should the idea that the universe has a beginning be such a nightmare to some scientists?

It is because the big bang itself presents a metaphysical road block to both empirical science and worldviews, like materialism and naturalism, that pretend to be based on empirical natural science. Natural science requires some degree of causal continuity. The big bang presents an absolute dead end to any kind of natural causal continuity.

So what caused the universe to explode into existence?

I think there are logically three possibilities:

1. The universe was uncaused. It just happened.
2. Our universe was caused by some primordial universe (or universes) that preceded it.
3. Our universe was caused by an eternally existing, or self existing intelligence that ontologically transcends it.

How can we decide among these three options? While there are probably some people that believe in number one, I think most serious thinkers put their money on number 2 or 3, so I‘ll concentrate there.

#3 appeals to people who are predisposed to some kind of theistic worldview.

#2, on the other hand, has an appeal to people who prefer scientific or empirical explanations. #2 is the logical basis for the so called multiverse hypothesis. But how does one empirically prove such an idea? If one universe is the cause of another, how does that happen? Will our universe cause another universe? What evidence do presently have of that? Are these other universes observable?

Furthermore, the multiverse idea appears to lead to an infinite regress. How can one empirically prove the existence of an infinite regress? How does one empirically prove the existence of anything that is infinite?

The only thing that #2 seems to have going for it, is that it superficially appears to be scientific. But regrettably, at least for its proponents, it is only a matter of appearances.

In my opinion, the only thing that gives #2 any life is that is simply unthinkable to some people that the explanation is #3.

What I liked about this entry is its clear communication with lay people.

I also especially commend 41, #45, # 48, #51, and # 52

If you did not win, relax. There are 24 more prizes and another contest (#4) will be posted shortly. And if lots of people enter, I am certain to be offered more prizes. So remember, no more than 400 words, and the contest is judged two weeks after the question is posted. For more rules info (not that there is a lot of it), go here.

None of my statements were tongue in cheek. Re Dembski and 150 bits of information, Dr. Dembski states that 150 bits of information can be arranged in more ways than there are sub-atomic particles in this universe. He calls that the UPB or Upper Probability Bound and states that anything less likely than the UPB is effectively impossible. This isn't strictly true if there is a multi-verse and infinite other universes, but it'll do for me. As far as intelligence being information, what else do you think your knowledge consists of? You speak English, right? I assume you do since you're reading this. Basic english is a stripped down, minimal subset of English (no verbs!) and consists of about 850 words. Assume four letters for each word and six bits per letter, that's 850 x 4 x 6 = 20,400 bits of info just for the words alone. If you're missing some of those bits, you don't understand some of those words. And if they're not carefully arranged, some of those wrods get scrambled. And that's not even mentioning what those words mean, which will take tens of thousands of other bits of information. But maybe you're a caveman without language. How many bits does it take to distinguish between bears and bunny rabbits and to know which ones can safely be petted? And if those bits aren't carefully arranged, you may well try to pet a bear, with probably disasterous results. Now how many bits of information would it take to make a designer's mind which is capable of constructing a living thing? Remember that the finest minds alive today are currently unable to do that. Bottom line: if your Designer is intelligent enough to converse in Hebrew from a burning bush, He has megabits of carefully arranged information in His mind. Where did that information come from and what are the odds? djmullen
Intelligence, on the other hand, is now known to consist of huge amounts of carefully arranged information, at least hundreds of thousands of bits and probably millions.
Huh? Someone knows what intelligence is made of / from? Do you have a source for this knowledge? I'll guarantee you one thing. If there is anyone out there who is even claiming that intelligence "consists of" carefully arranged bits ("...carefully arranged information?" What does that even mean? Use of filing cabinets?) they are much more likely to be a materialist than a supporter of ID. Maybe we should do a poll. Who here would make the claim that intelligence (not information) is complex?
Dr. Dembski has proven to my satisfaction that any amount of specified information over 150 bits is hopelessly unlikely, whether you’re trying to generate it randomly or whether it is “eternally existing” or “self existing”.
Where exactly has Dr. Dembski even addressed whether it is likely or not that "eternally existing" or "self existing" anything can generate 150 bits of specified information? Perhaps things are too easily proven to your satisfaction. Yes, I realize that some of your statements were given tongue-in-cheek, but your parody is so nonsensical that it only serves to undermine whatever point you were trying to make. Phinehas
Number 2 doesn't actually lead to an infinite regress if you rewrite it like this: 2a Our universe was caused by an eternally existing, or self existing metaverse that ontologically transcends it. Now what's more likely, #2a or #3? This used to be easy to answer, since our universe is extremely complex while "informed opinion" once held that intelligence, at least god-like intelligence, was utterly simple. Unfortunately for theory #3, we know a lot more about both our universe and intelligence today than we used to even fifty years ago. Our universe was extraordinarily simple at time zero. It was basically a huge amount of energy squeezed into a very tiny volume and a small handful of physical laws. In fact, there may have been only one law, with the other laws "freezing" out of it randomly as the universe expanded and cooled. We now know that the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force merge together at the high energies we can generate in accellerators, for instance, and it's widely thought that the other basic forces will merge together at still higher energies that existed just after the Big Bang. Intelligence, on the other hand, is now known to consist of huge amounts of carefully arranged information, at least hundreds of thousands of bits and probably millions. (And that's just for a human quality intelligence.) Dr. Dembski has proven to my satisfaction that any amount of specified information over 150 bits is hopelessly unlikely, whether you're trying to generate it randomly or whether it is "eternally existing" or "self existing". (For instance, why have the God of Abraham always exist when Odin or Thor are considerably simpler and thus much more likely. And chaos is much much more likely than Odin, Thor or the God of Abraham.) Astronomers and physicists are looking for ways to test the multiverse theory. Is ID looking for ways to test the "eternal intelligence" theory? djmullen

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