Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

Here’s Peter Atkins again, on why only science can answer all the big questions

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Cover for 

Conjuring the Universe

He is perhaps best known for he world-renowned textbook Atkins’ Physical Chemistry (11th edition, 2017) and Conjuring the Universe (2018). Here, he argues against the universe having a purpose, among other things and identifies the big questions as follows:

The first class of questions, the inventions, commonly but not invariably begin with Why. The second class properly begin with How but, to avoid a lot of clumsy language, are often packaged as Why questions for convenience of discourse. Thus, Why is there something rather than nothing? (which is coloured by hints of purpose) is actually a disguised form of How is it that something emerged from nothing? Such Why questions can always be deconstructed into concatenations of How questions, and are in principle worthy of consideration with an expectation of being answered.

I accept that some will criticise me along the lines that I am using a circular argument: that the real big questions are the ones that can be answered scientifically, and therefore only science can in principle elucidate such questions, leaving aside the invented questions as intellectual weeds. That might be so. Publicly accessible evidence, after all, is surely an excellent sieve for distinguishing the two classes of question, and the foundation of science is evidence…

I consider that there is nothing that the scientific method cannot elucidate. Indeed, we should delight in the journey of the collective human mind in the enterprise we call science.

Peter Atkins, “Why it’s only science that can answer all the big questions” at Aeon

Readers may wish to evaluate this in the light of the debate between atheist chemist Peter Atkins apologist Jonathan McLatchie.

Peter Atkins vs Jonathan McLatchie debate: “Is there a God?” A friend writes to comment on Atkins’s “smarmy condescension.” Indeed. In an age when serious scientists wonder whether the universe itself is conscious—because they cannot otherwise account for intelligence in nature— it’s not clear what smarmy condescension would achieve.

10 Replies to “Here’s Peter Atkins again, on why only science can answer all the big questions

  1. 1
    Truthfreedom says:

    I consider that there is nothing that the scientific method cannot elucidate.

    So weird boy is equating the “scientific” method with omniscience (God).
    Interesting.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    1.)Science is done only by humans

    2.)science can only be done as good as the humans doing it

    3.) science’s capacity to answer questions is only as good as the scientists answering the questions they asked

    4.) scientists are human

    5.) humans are limited

    6.) science is only as good as the humans doing it

    7.) science is limited

    8.) humans can’t answer everything do to their limits

    9.) science can’t answer everything because humans are limited.

    10.) science CANNOT elucidate everything!

    And if it does it’s because the human saying that is to deluded to see their limits

  3. 3
    martin_r says:

    Peter Atkins, “Why it’s only science that can answer all the big questions”

    Mr. Atkins, perhaps you have not noticed,

    but science already answered the biggest question – the origin of life.

    Life was created/ designed/ engineered…. WITHOUT ANY DOUBTS….

    Only very insane people can deny this fact – CONFIRMED BY MODERN 21st CENTURY SCIENCE !!!

    Dear scientists-atheists…. you did great job… MANY THANKS !!!

  4. 4
    polistra says:

    Publicly accessible evidence is indeed a good filter. Unfortunately modern Big Science specializes in closing off access to evidence. This is most egregious among the climate emergencyologists. In other fields, government secrecy and NDAs keep the data inside authorized circles where heterodox thinkers can’t reach it.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Atkins claims that, “Thus, as there is no evidence for the Universe having a purpose, there is no point in trying to establish its purpose or to explore the consequences of that purported purpose. As there is no evidence for the existence of a soul (except in a metaphorical sense), there is no point in spending time wondering what the properties of that soul might be,,,”

    Why it’s only science that can answer all the big questions –
    Excerpt: One class consists of invented questions that are often based on unwarranted extrapolations of human experience. They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self, such as Why are we here? and What are the attributes of the soul? They are not real questions, because they are not based on evidence. Thus, as there is no evidence for the Universe having a purpose, there is no point in trying to establish its purpose or to explore the consequences of that purported purpose. As there is no evidence for the existence of a soul (except in a metaphorical sense), there is no point in spending time wondering what the properties of that soul might be should the concept ever be substantiated. Most questions of this class are a waste of time; and because they are not open to rational discourse, at worst they are resolved only by resort to the sword, the bomb or the flame.
    https://aeon.co/ideas/why-its-only-science-that-can-answer-all-the-big-questions

    Interesting claim. And a patently false claim. In an article where Atkins argues that “it’s only science that can answer all the big questions” and on the basis of no scientific evidence whatsoever, he claims, with apparently no sense of irony, that the universe has no purpose and that we have no souls. Yet very much contrary to his claim that “there is no evidence for the Universe having a purpose” and that “there is no evidence for the existence of a soul” the scientific evidence itself, which he claims does not exist, argues very differently from what he assumes on the basis of no scientific evidence.

    “If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”
    John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA) “The Theological Impact of the New Cosmology,” in Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992), 118.

    “If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly that the purpose includes us.”
    – Paul Davies – Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory – pg 243
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Bna5p4vJtucC&pg=PA243

    In fact, besides fine-tuning, the very fact that we can even ‘do physics’ in the first place is ‘miraculous’ evidence that the universe must have been purposely designed with man in mind:

    On the Rational Order of the World: a Letter to Maurice Solovine – Albert Einstein – March 30, 1952
    Excerpt: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way .. the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if a man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.”
    -Albert Einstein
    http://inters.org/Einstein-Letter-Solovine

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    In his article, which claims that “it’s only science that can answer all the big questions”, Atkins believes that someday “Maybe we shall find that the cosmos is just mathematics rendered substantial.”

    Yet, Gödel proved that mathematics is ‘incomplete’. Moreover, Winston Ewert and Robert Marks have shown “through application of Gödelian reasoning, there can be, at most, one being in the universe omniscient over all other beings.”

    A Mono-Theism Theorem: Gödelian Consistency in the Hierarchy of Inference – Winston Ewert and Robert J. Marks II – June 2014
    Abstract: Logic is foundational in the assessment of philosophy and the validation of theology. In 1931 Kurt Gödel derailed Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica by showing logically that any set of consistent axioms will eventually yield unknowable propositions. Gödel did so by showing that, otherwise, the formal system would be inconsistent. Turing, in the first celebrated application of Gödelian ideas, demonstrated the impossibility of writing a computer program capable of examining another arbitrary program and announcing whether or not that program would halt or run forever. He did so by showing that the existence of a halting program can lead to self-refuting propositions. We propose that, through application of Gödelian reasoning, there can be, at most, one being in the universe omniscient over all other beings. This Supreme Being must by necessity exist or have existed outside of time and space. The conclusion results simply from the requirement of a logical consistency of one being having the ability to answer questions about another. The existence of any question that generates a self refuting response is assumed to invalidate the ability of a being to be all-knowing about the being who was the subject of the question.
    http://robertmarks.org/REPRINT.....heorem.pdf

    In short, Atkins’ claim that the universe, and humans in it, have no purpose for their existence is refuted by the very fact that humans can ‘miraculously’ do physics in the first place. Moreover, the mathematics that lay behind our ‘miraculous’ ability to ‘do physics’ is incomplete and thus cannot explain its own existence. and, via “Gödelian reasoning”, necessitates the existence of God.

    Atkins’ own phrase “Maybe we shall find that the cosmos is just mathematics rendered substantial”, is proof in and of itself for God in that God is the explanation that “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.”

    As Bruce Gordon explains, “the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.”

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    As to Atkins’ claim that there is no scientific evidence for a soul that is capable of living beyond the death of our material bodies, well, that claim is false also,

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – Part II – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSig2CsjKbg

    As Stuart Hameroff states in the following article, the quantum information,,, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed.,,, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”

    Leading Scientists Say Consciousness Cannot Die It Goes Back To The Universe – Oct. 19, 2017 – Spiritual
    Excerpt: “Let’s say the heart stops beating. The blood stops flowing. The microtubules lose their quantum state. But the quantum information, which is in the microtubules, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed. It just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If a patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says, “I had a near death experience. I saw a white light. I saw a tunnel. I saw my dead relatives.,,” Now if they’re not revived and the patient dies, then it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
    – Stuart Hameroff – Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – video (5:00 minute mark)
    https://www.disclose.tv/leading-scientists-say-consciousness-cannot-die-it-goes-back-to-the-universe-315604

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, on top of all that, allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned,,,, (Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Max Planck, to name a few of the Christian founders),,, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands (with the closing of the free will loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), rightly allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides an empirically backed reconciliation, via the Shroud of Turin, between quantum mechanics and general relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”.

    November 2019 – despite the fact that virtually everyone, including the vast majority of Christians, hold that the Copernican Principle is unquestionably true, the fact of the matter is that the Copernican Principle is now empirically shown, (via quantum mechanics and general relativity, etc..), to be a false assumption.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/so-then-maybe-we-are-privileged-observers/#comment-688855

    (February 19, 2019) To support Isabel Piczek’s claim that the Shroud of Turin does indeed reveal a true ‘event horizon’, the following study states that ‘The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image.’,,,
    Moreover, besides gravity being dealt with, the shroud also gives us evidence that Quantum Mechanics was dealt with. In the following paper, it was found that it was not possible to describe the image formation on the Shroud in classical terms but they found it necessary to describe the formation of the image on the Shroud in discrete quantum terms.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673178

    The evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity keeps growing. (Timeline of facts) – November 08, 2019
    What Is the Shroud of Turin? Facts & History Everyone Should Know – Myra Adams and Russ Breault
    https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/what-is-the-shroud-of-turin.html

    To give us a small glimpse of the power that was involved in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the following recent article found that, ”it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology.”

    Astonishing discovery at Christ’s tomb supports Turin Shroud – NOV 26TH 2016
    Excerpt: The first attempts made to reproduce the face on the Shroud by radiation, used a CO2 laser which produced an image on a linen fabric that is similar at a macroscopic level. However, microscopic analysis showed a coloring that is too deep and many charred linen threads, features that are incompatible with the Shroud image. Instead, the results of ENEA “show that a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin, including shades of color, the surface color of the fibrils of the outer linen fabric, and the absence of fluorescence”.
    ‘However, Enea scientists warn, “it should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, body surface area equal to = 2000 MW/cm2 17000 cm2 = 34 thousand billion watts makes it impractical today to reproduce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market come to several billion watts )”.
    Comment
    The ENEA study of the Holy Shroud of Turin concluded that it would take 34 Thousand Billion Watts of VUV radiations to make the image on the shroud. This output of electromagnetic energy remains beyond human technology.
    http://westvirginianews.blogsp.....in-is.html

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  7. 7
    Truthfreedom says:

    @2 AaronS1978

    1.)Science is done only by humans

    Soon we’ll be reading some crap about gorillas, wasps or bacterias “doing science”.

    2.)science can only be done as good as the humans doing it

    Well, a/materialists violate (again) the LNC: ” We are limited but we are omniscient.”

    4.) scientists are human

    Soon gorillas, wasps and bacterias will be “scientists”. Wait and see. Their dogma is way too powerful.

    5.) humans are limited

    Except when we are not. Peter Atkin’s above statement. LNC violated (again).

    6.) science is only as good as the humans doing it

    According to a/materialists, we are stupid primates. Therefore, science is stupid.

    8.) humans can’t answer everything do to their limits

    A/materialists rely on wishful thinking / magic.

    And if it does it’s because the human saying that is to deluded to see their limits

    He certainly is. And irrational.

  8. 8
    Truthfreedom says:

    More Atkin’s drivel:

    They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self,

    The “self” you materialists say DO not exist? (It is an “illusion”?)
    How can a non-existent (“illusory”) entity fear “annihilation”?

  9. 9
    AnimatedDust says:

    Atkins needs to debate James Tour. That would be must-see TV.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Critical analysis of worldviews is a matter of philosophy using comparative difficulties. From this aspect, theology is an allied discipline. Science can be a part of the story, but only a part, e.g. credibility of logic, warrant of knowledge claims [especially inductive ones], the question of significant human freedom so we are credible as thinkers, are all philosophical questions. KF

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