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Cosmological Constant Not Fine Tuned For Life

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the random-is-random dept.

Education 536

eldavojohn writes "A common argument one might encounter in intelligent design or the arduous process of resolving science with religion is that the physical constants of our world are fine tuned for life by some creator or designer. A University of Alberta theoretical physicist claims quite the opposite when it comes to the cosmological constant. His paper says that our ever expanding universe has a positive cosmological constant and he explains that the optimum cosmological constant for maximizing the chances of life in the universe would be slightly negative: 'any positive value of the constant would tend to decrease the fraction of matter that forms into galaxies, reducing the amount available for life. Therefore the measured value of the cosmological constant, which is positive, is evidence against the idea that the constants have been fine-tuned for life.'"

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536 comments

ho! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917206)

frist psot!

Re:ho! (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917562)

oh, yes, the 'frist psot', also not fine tuned for life. Well, not fine tuned for intelligent life.

Any need for this? (3, Informative)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917216)

Doesn't the Anthropic Principle [wikipedia.org] adequately deal with this issue in any case?

Re:Any need for this? (1)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917268)

Yes. I can see the rebuttal now: "How can you say the universe is not fine-tuned for us? We're here, aren't we?"

Re:Any need for this? (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917338)

Or...

Since the universe is clearly *not* meant for us, our very existence *requires* divine intervention. Without it we would not be here!

Re:Any need for this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917356)

But, we are not here.

Re:Any need for this? (5, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917394)

So...our "loving" Creator/Father/God put us in a hostile environment where we are considered abominations and have no reason to exist other than because he went on a bender and thought it was a good idea?

Man...god can be such an asshole sometimes.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917648)

One mans' asshole is another mans Funny guy.

I prefer to think that God simply has a very sick sense of humor.

Honestly, Platypus... How is that animal NOT a joke?

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917714)

Yup...I'll laugh all the way to the grave when god gets bored with humans and decides to give sharks legs and functioning lungs ;)

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917914)

I can only see it one way. God and Devil got really drunk, God doodled it on a cocktail napkin, devil laughed his ass off and between giggles managed to squeeze out "dare ya!"

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917758)

I like what Hitchens says on this: "God created us sick and then commanded us to be well". So yes, he must be a bit of a sadist.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917408)

Perhaps a better argument would be that this "dark matter" that we still don't know what it is, also allows for life, and that therefore a balance between the two would be necessary, necessitating a very small positive constant.

Because his argument *is* dependent on the rather far-fetched assumption that this unknown matter can not possibly be alive (or pleasing to God in some other way).

Re:Any need for this? (1, Interesting)

Burnhard (1031106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917516)

Well, you can't prove a negative ("it wasn't designed"), can you? So the onus is on those who say it was to demonstrate that it must have been. Clearly in the space of all possible universes the anthropic principle rules.

Re:Any need for this? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917372)

Yes. I can see the rebuttal now: "How can you say the universe is not fine-tuned for us? We're here, aren't we?"

Consider that it might actually be the other way around: we evolved in this Universe, therefore we are fined tuned for it.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917390)

No, because it blatantly and desperately reverses cause-and-effect.

The odds of you winning the lottery is not made 1 by concluding that if you didn't win the lottery, you wouldn't be thinking about winning the lottery.

Re:Any need for this? (5, Insightful)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917478)

That's a terrible analogy. Consider instead: There is a lottery to determine whether or not the human race lives or dies. We wouldn't be around to comprehend any losing draws, so we make the (flawed) conclusion that we were always bound to have won.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917696)

And the odds of us living would be precisely what the were--though in the case of your analogy, more easily calculable.

That is the only question at hand in either argument. The results speak none whatsoever to those odds.

I find the Anthropic Principle argument literally astonishingly weak in this form, and find it difficult to believe anyone can give it a second thought unless overwhelmingly biased toward a particular worldview, to about the degree they'd deny 2+2=4 if it was similarly incompatible.

A much preferable form is the notion that either as a function of repeated "attempts" over time, or concurrent attempts through such a mechanism as an Everett Many-Worlds quantum interpretation, many attempts are actually made, of which we are only aware of the success--our own. For that variant, though, we lack strong evidence that is in fact the context of our universe, where many attempts can be and are made. And that is the only thing that would alter the odds, which is the only thing relevant to weighing the Fine-tuned Universe premise. Handwaving to "that's okay because the odds are actually determined by the outcome" is, IMHO, just absurd.

Re:Any need for this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917578)

i see it like this: i was born in a particular place at a particular time. the odds of me being born at that specific place at that specific time are astronomical, given the billions of people on earth. but from the point of view of my parents (or my mother at least), the odds of me being born at that place and that time are absolutely 100%, because that's where she WAS.

she might not have even planned to be where she was, but because she was where she was, THAT is where i was born.

the universe happened to be the way the universe is, and that's why we're here to ponder it, no matter how incredible the odds of us doing so may seem.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917456)

A new hypothesis that reinforces previous research is not invalid. In fact quite the opposite. It both reinforces the old, and is more accepted because it "fits" current knowledge.

Your argument would be like saying that subtraction is invalid because you can subtract two numbers and get the same result as you can obtain by adding two different numbers.

Re:Any need for this? (2)

xded (1046894) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917484)

Is the universe tuned to us or it's us tuned to the universe?...

Re:Any need for this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917534)

The universe is consistent with us existing to observe. It doesn't mean that the universe is one giant womb, which is what a fine-tuned universe would be like. The science here is that planet formation is more likely if the cosmological constant were negative, which isn't the case.

Yes, Falsifiability (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917582)

Doesn't the Anthropic Principle [wikipedia.org] adequately deal with this issue in any case?

From the paper I linked in the summary:

Perhaps a more common view among physicists today is the idea that there is a multiverse with a wide range of values for the constants of physics, and by the selection principle of observership (the weak anthropic principle), we find ourselves in the part of the multiverse where life is possible and/or relatively common (at least compared to other parts of the multiverse) [7]. However, there is still considerable controversy over whether such a multiverse that would be necessary for this explanation really exists.

And then later the author says (calling this the 'third view'):

The third view, of observer selection within a multiverse, is hard to prove or disprove directly, since it appears very difficult to obtain direct information about other possible parts of a multiverse. However, if a simple theory were developed that gives good statistical explanations for what we do observe and that also predicts a multiverse that we cannot directly observe, such a theory could become highly convincing (analogous to the prediction by general relativity of very high curvature in black-hole interior regions that cannot be directly observed).

I believe the intent of this paper was to directly address the claims instead of using the weak anthropic principle. More importantly, his argument is falsifiable (that coveted trait in the scientific process) whereby the other three views are not at this time. As other posters have pointed out [slashdot.org] we can now attempt to reason out this theory further.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917694)

No, it's a modus tollens argument.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917740)

Arg.. Can't believe I failed on the meaning of this. It's not modus tollens... I forget the name, but it's another logical fallacy. Basically the result (we exist) does follow from the proposition (ceiling cat created us), but it does not follow in reverse.. Thus our existence isn't proof of ceiling cat.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917734)

It does in both directions.

I agree that the fact that life exists under a set of conditions doesn't inherently prove they were created specifically for the life that observes those conditions.

Nor do I agree with Don Page's suggestion that it is definitively proven that a Creator didn't create the universe, because by his calculations, the universe isn't perfectly optimized for the maximum creation of galaxies.

If we could stand outside of the universe and definitively record whether or not the universe is expanding or not, as well as ascertain an increase or decrease in that expansion over a period of time, as well as better understand and observe how galaxies are formed, then we could better determine if we have had at any time, or ever will have an optimal cosmological constant for the forming of galaxies, and whether or not the constant itself is in fact a constant to begin with.

Let us not forget that the scientific community was convinced that the constant had a value of zero, and it is now assumed to be a positive (though small) value. And in 1998 it was determined that the rate of the universe's expansion is increasing more than expected, which could us to reevaluate if the constant was undervalued again.

There has also been some concern that an observed redshift does not always denote expansion. We're not observing expansion directly, but rather a secondary effect that we believe denotes expansion.

There are so many factors here that we're making best guesses at, and we keep changing our opinions on. Yet from these factors some are suggesting they are definitive proof that divine intervention was at play, or there is definitive proof that divine intervention could not have been at play.

Re:Any need for this? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917898)

Doesn't the Anthropic Principle [wikipedia.org] adequately deal with this issue in any case?

I think so: The anthropic principle rules out non-inhabitable worlds. Since we are not in a non-inhabitable world, the anthropic principle is satisfied.

However it might be a problem with string-based multiverse theories: Unlike (AFAIK) the anthropic principle, those would involve actual probabilities, and therefore they would have to explain this non-optimality. However if there's anything which makes a positive cosmological constant more likely than a negative one, that would be sufficient.

Not the best of all possible worlds (2)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917224)

I find this somewhat comforting. The Earth is becoming less and less 'special' with new worlds being found nearly every day now--worlds that may sustain life. Now it turns out that the universe is 'flawed' from our perspective, too. In a way, it's sort of optimistic--there's a way that it could be better, and the possibility arises that maybe it'd be possible to find a 'better' place.

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917350)

As one of our fellow apartment-dwellers likes to point out, our scientific view of the universe is directly influenced by:

1. Our own biological bias (meaning the way we, as humans, perceive things)
2. The fundamental elements that make up life in this galaxy
3. The math we use

Were any of these three things different, our scientific view of reality could be completely changed.

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917858)

As one of our fellow apartment-dwellers likes to point out, our scientific view of the universe is directly influenced by:

1. Our own biological bias (meaning the way we, as humans, perceive things)
2. The fundamental elements that make up life in this galaxy
3. The math we use

Were any of these three things different, our scientific view of reality could be completely changed.

Unlikely beyond the level of mere triviality. The bio basis seems to make no sense, kind of a long delayed hangover of the vital humor approach to organic chemistry, "life force theory". The fundamental elements seems to make no sense, in that the fundamental elements seem to reliably and predictably follow our scientific view of reality (that's kind of the whole point of chemistry). The math we use seems irrelevant, binary, hex, octal, decimal, it all comes out equivalent and the "dependency tree" of mathematical knowledge seems to have remarkably little room for variation compared to practically all other sciences, so it's an especially poor example.

At the most trivial level, sure, if we had 12 fingers we would probably use a base-12 numbering system, but that has very little effect on the fundamental limit theory of calculus, or pretty much all of geometry, or the concept of a standard deviation.

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917388)

and the possibility arises that maybe it'd be possible to find a 'better' place.

The definition of "universe" as I understand it means that there is no chance for contact, influence, or observation across its "boundaries".

As we have no knowledge of what all the cosmological constants are (or whether they are truly constant), nor even the slighest inkling of whether it would be possible to change them (definition of "constant" seems to suggest that, no, you cant), its not really optimistic at all. You seem to be trying to find a silver lining to a speculation where none seems to exist.

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917510)

and the possibility arises that maybe it'd be possible to find a 'better' place.

      Yet another person fails to comprehend exactly what kind of distances exist between the stars. The answer is no. Unless of course you can find a way to travel significantly FASTER than the speed of light, because even AT the speed it light it would take you hundreds of years to reach stars currently known to have planets orbiting them.

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917738)

Never said I'd live to see it in person. Be nice to know the species, with adequate preparation, could conceivably continue.

\O'course, if some more research went into cryogenics...

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917828)

It would be funny if it is possible to go faster than light, but with the case that it's temporally relativistic or somehow locked to frame of reference. Such that if in you're in a spaceship going faster than light, the passage of time itself slows down such that you get to enjoy a much shorter trip. Yet as observed from the outside, the changing of the time rate progression means that you're only able to approach that lightspeed limit. Also because of the mechanic of this, it would still fit within Einstein's observation about relativistic travel. (And your mass doesn't necessarily grow with speed, if you can change the time-rate within the spaceship's system relative to the rest of the universe outside of it.)

The question is, how much would the math change if the actual progression of time itself is never constant? (By changing the energy level and/or mass of a system, the time within it progresses differently.) But some things that are percieved as constants are such only because time itself is variable. Would it be possible to account for "dark matter" if time progresses much faster nearer the center than the outside of galaxies?

Re:Not the best of all possible worlds (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917638)

Earth is much more special than we ever imagined too :

Earth has a very special location in the solar system (the habitable zone is quite small, roughly earth-mars orbit is habitable, everything else is a non-starter)
Earth has a very special location in the galaxy (slightly more to the edge wouldn't be habitable, anywhere (and by "near" we mean "within 10000 lightyears) of a supernova event is not habitable, so life is not possible in things like "stellar nurseries")
Earth has another property of it's position in the galaxy : deep within, but not at the center, at one of the spiral arms, which stop certain waves from reaching earth.
Anywhere near a black hole (even a small one) or neutron star wouldn't be livable (not because of gravity, but due to the frequency of getting hit by absurdly high-energy photons)
Earth is on a path that has not suffered either a direct or indirect collision with another star system (an indirect collision would massively heat up the planet by creating friction in the core of the planet. The chances of survival when the entire earth turns into lave seem slim. Earth does not require that much heating up to make that happen)
Earth is at a location sufficiently remote (far enough from the other planets) in the solar system to maintain an atmosphere (e.g. mars is not, even though an initial examination of it's orbit wouldn't suggest this)
Earth is at a distance from the sun that is close enough to the sun, yet far enough to prevent the sun from blowing our atmosphere away
Earth has a molten, metallic core, which protects us from the sun (which is only possible in third- or fourth- generation stars. "Our" solar system has blown up two times already, but the last 2 times there were no earth-like planets. After we blow up, there might be a second earth -unlikely but not impossible as far as we know- but that will be the last habitable planet in our nook of the milky way).
I'm sure this is not the end of it

bad (0)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917244)

wow. You can't disprove intelligent design, people have faith in it which is not scientific nor something that can be reasoned with.
This should not be on slashdot. Some people might think that disproving lunacy is actually news.

Sure you can disprove it (2)

webbiedave (1631473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917306)

I thought the existence of Charlie Sheen proved long ago that the whole thing is just a crap shoot.

Re:Sure you can disprove it (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917466)

No, you simply don't understand. Charlie Sheen was *put here* to make you want to go to church and *believe* that there must be a better place. Unfortunately it sometimes works too well, and some people take the 'early exit plan' to get it all over with. One can only take so much Charlie in a life-time.

&lt/humor>

Re:bad (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917344)

Exactly. This finding can be construed as more evidence for intelligent design since there's less of a possibility for life, and yet here we are!

Re:bad (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917420)

You certainly cant disprove anything with

A University of Alberta theoretical physicist claims

but its good to know you place high value on such things without (apparently) reading into it further. What was it you were lambasting, "faith...which is not scientific"?

Re:bad (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917490)

lambasting the science tag this is filed under. Just because a physicist claims something doesn't make it scientific. This would mean it's the complete opposite which is disproving unscientific beliefs.

Re:bad (1)

ubermiester (883599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917720)

Why do you associate faith with lunacy? Perhaps you should look at the faith we all share in science as an explanation for everything. As far as I am aware, there is no definitive proof that there is a finite set of deterministic rules that govern all phenomena. We simply have faith that the scientific method is universal and that, given enough time, we have all the tools we need to figure out absolutely everything.

Does that make every scientist a lunatic?

BTW, I don't think ID as generally presented has any merit as science or even theology, but I am not yet willing to rule out the concept on all levels. Given the rapidly increasing size and complexity of the models we use to conceptualize the "universe" we see - that term is now used as an atomically, with the potential for an infinite number of them out there - it seems odd to claim that our sense of how things work is even close to being "universal". We most likely know next to nothing about how things actually work, and are just beginning to open our eyes to what's really going on. And what happens when we find out there are things out there we can't "see"? E.g., dark matter, dark energy, alternate universes, cyclical big bangs, cells using quantum teleportation etc., etc., etc. These things might be indirectly observable and perhaps testable, but the fact that we didn't even have a concept to describe them until a few decades ago should temper one's faith in the scientific method as a universal tool. After all, it would seem that there is far more going on than meets the eye.

Re:bad (2)

spikenerd (642677) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917768)

Some people might think that disproving lunacy is actually news.

Calling religion lunacy is like beating up an old dying grandma. Everyone knows she cannot hit back with any significant force. If you want to do something impressive, try showing that society would be better off without religion, or that people with conviction are less content overall. Now That would be like whipping the old grandma at a knitting or cookie-backing contest.

Evidence against intelligent design? (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917248)

Just look at any government. Intelligent design surely would not allow for such insanity.

Well, then why doesn't he make his own universe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917262)

With his own constant? Huh, huh?! Who does he think he is? God?

Irrelevant .... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917264)

The people who want to believe that a creator is pulling the strings in our favor aren't willing to listen to science.

We don't need to resolve science with religion ... we need to reconcile religion with science. Once your god is outside the big bang where scientists just shrug, or addressing things like an afterlife ... run wild.

If your religion can't incorporate what science tells us, you're choosing to live in ignorance and take your holy book as literal, factual information.

I know astrophysicists who are devoutly religious ... first and foremost, they turn to the science to explain the universe as it exists. For them, god answers a completely different set of questions -- and I have no problem with that. If any entity DID create the universe, it's largely going to be beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

If a god exists, he's such a massively abstract and complex being, that trying to fit him/it/whatever into OUR understanding of the universe is laughable.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917382)

The really devout ones would probably take this as evidence of intelligent design anyway.

"Ha ha!" they'd say, "Because the universe isn't fine-tuned for life, the fact that life exists here is clearly a miracle that only god can produce!"

You can't win. They'll twist any argument around, no matter how logical, to suit their views, and it'll strengthen their belief, not weaken it.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917502)

Who needs to twist anything. Science is proving this more and more that the "religious fanatics" seem to have been right all along.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917528)

The really devout ones would probably take this as evidence of intelligent design anyway.

The ones I know who are scientists who are also religious mostly accept that god isn't micro-managing the day-to-day stuff.

To me, I picture something more like us being critters in a lab experiment ... "oh, look, the little blue ones are wearing pointy hats this year, how cute! I like it when they wear hats -- uh oh, the purple-speckled ones are fighting again, what a shame -- oops, I think I just stepped on the green ones".

He might be keeping score, but he's not altering reality around us.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917558)

They'll twist any argument around, no matter how logical, to suit their views, and it'll strengthen their belief, not weaken it.

Of course the fact that any argument can be twisted around this way is proof that an intelligent designer exists! ;-)

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917606)

Most creation-believing Christians that don't adhere to abiogenesis and billions of years of evolution would, in fact, say that life is clearly a miracle that only God can produce. They have been saying that for many, many years. Your hypothetical quote would not be any sort of twisting; it'd be the same as they have been saying for years. I don't think that would be a case of the creationist twisting an argument, it would be the non-creationist ... um, setting up a strawman, in this case, I think would be the right logical fallacy thingy?

Re:Irrelevant .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917748)

Most creation-believing Christians IN YOUR OPINION...

Actually the bible thumpers that run around with the 6000 year sillyness are a minority. But thanks for lumping us in with the crazies.

What's next? you going to state how Most muslims are terrorists?

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917500)

So ... everyone's religion should reconcile with your view of "a god." :) If it is laughable to fit Him into our understanding of the universe ... then how is it we reconcile Him with OUR science? It seems that you basically have asserted that God cannot exist because He cannot fit into our science while maintaining that if He did exist, He would not be able to fit into our science in the first place? So how is it our science can prove or disprove anything about God?

I could, of course, be misreading your post, and I realize that these are vast generalizations. I am also not attempting to say that we should ignore everything science discovers just because it's "science."

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917718)

So ... everyone's religion should reconcile with your view of "a god." :) If it is laughable to fit Him into our understanding of the universe ... then how is it we reconcile Him with OUR science?

No, I'm saying that if a creator-god put all of this together, the universe as it exists is part of that, and pretending like that isn't the case serves no purpose. Reality exists, and trying to contort that reality to match a belief that, say, the Earth is 6000 years old is kind of loony. If 'he' made it, then we should understand it the way it actually is, as opposed to the way we hope it is ... I'm sure God was relieved when Galileo was un-excommunicated for saying the Earth goes around the sun. ;-P

So how is it our science can prove or disprove anything about God?

Actually, it can't. By definition, he/she/it would outside of our science -- as you point out. I'm specifically saying that science can't actually speak to the question ... but pretending that all science is wrong because your limited understanding of god says so is wrong.

I'm saying that a creator-god would be so vastly beyond our understanding, that trying to pigeon hole it into our limited understanding of the universe would be like an amoeba trying to conceptualize the solar system.

Have your religion, and have your science. Just remember which to look for to answers on what questions -- they don't need to be incompatible. I don't see a need for their to be an un-resolvable conflict between the two -- if you want to understand God, try to understand the universe as it really exists. You might not find an answer, but you'll come up with better questions.

I sure as heck don't claim to have any special insights on the matter -- I just know that I can barely wrap my head around half of the astronomy I see; trying to make categorical statements about anything which could have created all of this is way beyond me. :-P

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917862)

For the most part, I agree... except that I would also argue that if a creator is outside of our science (and yet created our science), then our science is not the highest authority; and, in fact, if our science assumes no God and tries to explain everything from an atheist POV (i.e., everything must be explained naturally), then it could be that science could be wrong.

Generally, I'd argue that science without God has some issues at it's foundation - why science works in the first place, aside from "because that's how it has always worked" (though it's hard to prove that it's always been the way it is now... :) ).

Thanks for the brief discussion. :)

Re:Irrelevant .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917570)

I have an engineering degree, taught nuclear physics in the Navy, and have studied science as a hobby for many years, and I believe in God. Just as many great scientists in our past have.

To believe that science explains everything and that to believe in God is somehow ignorant is a terribly arrogant position....or ignorant. Science really explains very little. We're pretty good at modeling our reality and predicting outcomes with scientific process, but there is very little that really explains the hows and whys. To believe science has all the answers is to be ignorant of science.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917584)

We don't need to resolve science with religion ... we need to reconcile religion with science.

      Er personally I don't see the need for reconciliation, either. We need to accept that a certain not insignificant percentage of the population will always be prone to manipulation and belief in the incredible. So either you replace it with another lie that keeps them away from explosives and weapons and important decisions, or you shoot them. They refuse to be educated, so there's not really much choice.

      Unfortunately because there are so many of them, they would end up crushing us. My only consolation is that their deaf and blind gods would again fail to provide, plunging the world into yet another "dark age". And so the circle goes on again.

Re:Irrelevant .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917612)

The people who want to believe that a creator is pulling the strings in our favor aren't willing to listen to science.

On the other hand, being atheist ends up being as un-scientific as being religious. Since you can neither prove or disprove the existence of God, being agnostic is the only real option for a true man of science (whatever that is)...

Re:Irrelevant .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917628)

> The people who want to believe that a creator is pulling the strings in our favor aren't willing to listen to science.

And vice-versa:
=>The people who don't want to believe that a creator is pulling the strings in our favor aren't willing to listen to science.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917644)

>If a god exists, he's such a massively abstract and complex being,
>that trying to fit him/it/whatever into OUR understanding of the
>universe is laughable.

God is a she, but you are correct: we will never understand her.

Re:Irrelevant .... (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917704)

I know astrophysicists who are devoutly religious ... first and foremost, they turn to the science to explain the universe as it exists. For them, god answers a completely different set of questions.

Well exactly. Personally, I think Science answers the how and Religion answers the why.

The problem is that most people get mixed up in the difference of the two. How something happens and Why something happens are two different questions. Why often implies some motivation by some entity for the action preformed. How did this post come about? I typed keys and clicked submit and the internet had a bunch of traffic etc etc. Why did this post come about? Because I, as a person, decided to type this out to you.

As a thought experiment, I would ask you why grass is green. You can go and explain that the chlorophyll is green and a major component. And you can explain that the chemical make up of chlorophyll typically has an Electromagnetic absorption to certain colours and that green is the visible colour it reflects. And you can explain that it's a certain frequency in the EM spectrum that is green and how exactly the absorption of other light works, and you could go on forever explaining the process. All you would be doing is explaining how the grass is green. And you can ask "How" an infinite number of times, and I think that often drives scientific progress.

But you only need to ask "Why" once, and ultimately you know, that you just don't know. You don't know if there is some omni-potent being who decided exactly how the universe would operate. You don't know if there is anything after all this. Personally I like to think there is, as I find it a bit comforting to know that there'd be something at the end, or else why bother at all. At least, that's my philosophy.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

aanton (1978902) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917756)

I disagree with your position. In my opinion, there are plenty of profoundly religious people that embrace science, art and theology as faces of the same truth (just like past, present and future are all faces of time). The problem is when theology claims scientific results and scientists make theological assumptions. If you want to know more about the root of this historical debate there's a very good, affordable reading: http://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Things-Not-Seen-Orthodoxy/dp/B000SB5N4O [amazon.com] The author is versed in science (particle physics among other disciplines) and a retired archbishop.

Re:Irrelevant .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917890)

I disagree with your position. In my opinion, there are plenty of profoundly religious people that embrace science, art and theology as faces of the same truth

I won't refute that ... they answer different questions on different facets of it, but I agree with what you say.

The problem is when theology claims scientific results and scientists make theological assumptions.

That's kind of what I was getting at ... I don't believe science can definitely say anything about religion unless religion is saying wrong stuff about science. If 'god' made the universe, he made gravity and quantum physics and the whole shebang.

But, if religion goes around saying science isn't true because it conflicts with their world view ... well, that's where I say religion needs to reconcile itself with science. Science can, and largely should, distance itself from the discussions on god until or unless we get any experimental data that lets us actually say anything on the topic.

More galaxies would sterilize planets (5, Interesting)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917278)

The author of the linked study appears not to have considered that a universe more dense with galaxies would be a universe with many more planet-sterilizing gamma ray bursts [wikipedia.org] , which would not be terribly conducive to life.

Re:More galaxies would sterilize planets (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917598)

And you also forget that gamma ray bursts are only harmful to life as we know it and may in fact be beneficial even required by some other form of life.

Stop thinking of life as only what you see on planet Earth.

Its retarded to think that life on Earth has a monopoly on the only possible way life could ever exist, especially when you open your eyes and take into account that we are almost daily discovering life in places that were only yesterday thought to be completely devoid of live since it couldn't possibly form in those conditions based on what we've seen.

People who talk about these sort of things should be real scientists, not arm chair or pseudo scientists who don't understand that science involves proof, not assumptions. Stop assuming you have any clue what life 'needs' to survive. You don't. At best you have a clue as to what life on Earth that way have discovered already needs to survive.

You (nor I or anyone else) have note the slightest fucking idea what life else where needs to survive. Even saying 'it needs energy and mass' is dangerous considering how little we actually understand about the universe.

Re:More galaxies would sterilize planets (3, Interesting)

KovaaK (1347019) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917912)

Even though BitZstream is using quite a few flame inducing words, he does have a point. A quick google suggests that we've identified life on Earth that uses gamma rays for energy. This [scienceagogo.com] was one of the examples I found by searching...

Isn't this a positive argument for creation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917282)

If life is less likely in this universe, doesn't the fact that it exists help the creationist argument? In essence any life becomes more special not less.

Re:Isn't this a positive argument for creation? (2)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917334)

This was my thought, too... the conclusion that this somehow is an argument against a creator would only come if you assume certain ideas from the non-creator view. That is, that having a better chance of *developing* life is better, therefore having a creator create a cosmological constant that does not increase the evolutionary chance of life developing ...

Really, it sounds quite mixed up. The low chance of evolving life does not seem to be a good argument against having a creator.

If it proves a creator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917568)

If it proves a creator, it proves he's an arsehole.

If those pushing theistic support in science by saying "since it's not tuned for us, it MUST be a miracle!" have lost the argument, since the only point of arguing that is to make someone else feel that there IS a god and therefore convert. Except that this now devolves from a somewhat persuasive, if shallow "how come it's all so tuned for life?" to the much less persuasive "It's not tuned for us, so it must be impossible, eh?".

Just because there's life in the desert doesn't mean that life there is "more alive" than when it's in the tropical jungle, so why does life existing in a sub-optimal universe become "more special"? Just because a negative constant would be better doesn't mean that a positive one makes life otherwise impossible.

I'm afraid the OP is *really* reaching.

His point would be relevant if the constant were such as to make life impossible.

Re:If it proves a creator (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917766)

I said nothing about proof. Proof is a pretty big word. :)

Furthermore, what is not tuned for us? The "tuning" seems to refer to the likelihood of other worlds (in other galaxies) evolving life. How is the universe "sub-optimal" ... sub-optimal for what? Are you under the understanding that creationists believe God created the entire universe for creatures on earth to live in? As far as I am aware in the Bible, it specifically states that man is to "rule" over the earth. He makes no mention of Mars.

To say that the likelihood of life evolving is lower than we thought and claiming that is evidence against a creator makes no sense. The inhabitability of the universe and how likely it is that life would evolve in it is pretty much only a concern if you believe life evolved in the first place. Creationists would expect what this scientist has stated he has found; in fact, creationists expect life to be so complex that it can't evolve, no matter how inhabitable the world is...

The less likely it is life would evolve, the more evidence it is for creation. Stating that life is less likely to evolve and therefore a creator is less needed? That's weird...

Re:Isn't this a positive argument for creation? (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917486)

None of these arguments have any bearing on the subject, because in the end you are speculating on what said creator "would have done". Would constants be biased in favor of more favorable, or less favorable conditions? Noone knows, and those arguing against a creator will make the argument that the results of their studies disprove said creator.

At the end of the day, the statement on creation tends to be "things are as they are because they were intentionally made that way." Showing that X constant makes such an existence less or more likely doesnt in the least affect that statement.

Breaking news: (4, Funny)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917298)

Here at /. News, our top story is "An uncaring universe does not care about humanity". News at 11.
Following this we will have more videos of cats being catlike.

Re:Breaking news: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917692)

Breaking news: article commenter neither reads, nor appreciates content of article posted on /. . Following this: more of the same.

You've got it all wrong!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917300)

Not speaking about the merits of Intelligent Design or any other theory of your choice... but Intelligent Design talks about the constant as if it were a constant to help maintain life on this planet, not about life evolving on any planet out there in any galaxy out there. Your assertion is incorrect.

Moderately Intelligent Design (1, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917304)

This doesn't refute Intelligent Design, it just suggests that the Designer isn't as Intelligent as He's cracked up to be.

Re:Moderately Intelligent Design (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917360)

Or it suggests that He didn't design the entire universe as a habitation for, at least, the same creatures as those on earth; rather, the earth was for that. Very shocking - a specific habitat was created for specific creatures, rather than the entire universe.

Re:Moderately Intelligent Design (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917526)

Nothing can refute intelligent design, because it is not falsifiable. ID is based on the premise that gaps in certain scientific theories "must" be explained by an intelligent force having designed life/the universe. Since the argument is based on the fact that there are things which remain unknown or unexplained, and since there will always be things that remain unknown and unexplained, intelligent design could not possibly be falsified, regardless of how much evidence you gather or how many missing links are found.

So.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917322)

So really life is just fined tuned for the cosmological constant?

And here I thought... (4, Interesting)

Empiric (675968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917340)

...you can't argue with success.

Known attempts at permutations of physical constants: 1
Success at creating intelligent life: 1

Of course, one could never argue against the line of reasoning suggested by the summary--whatever degree of life exists, arbitrarily declare there should be "more", and conjecture (yes, it's sheer conjecture--the actual results from modifying the cosmological constant would require far more calculation of than is provided) something else would have made it "better".

Personally, though I'm used to having my code second-guessed, they'd have to come up with a much better criticism than this...

Nice Conclusion! (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917342)

Basically, he said the current value of the cosmological constant does not maximise the potential for life.

Assuming that an omnipotent would seek to create as much life as possible, then the Omnipotent did not set that value. That shows us one of two things:

1) The omnipotent does not exist

2) The omnipotent did not want to maximize the chances of life, but instead did what he/she/it wanted to: which is pretty much the definition of an omnipotent.

So either this omnipotent does not exist, or it is omnipotent. Yeah...

Re:Nice Conclusion! (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917602)

2) The omnipotent did not want to maximize the chances of life, but instead did what he/she/it wanted to: which is pretty much the definition of an omnipotent.

Actually, the definition os an omnipotent is that he can do anything he wants, not that he does. An omnipotent god who is too lazy to do anything at all would still be omnipotent.

Re:Nice Conclusion! (1)

specialguy92 (1974828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917798)

Your sig fits the end of your post incredibly well.

Re:Nice Conclusion! (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917910)

It always does... It always does.

Well, except this one. Kinda.

No ... Wait .. Now it fits.

Habitable Zone (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917368)

And Earth is on the inner edge of the habitable zone, instead of the middle. If they can reconcile that with the fine-tuning theory, they can reconcile this news.

Re:Habitable Zone (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917632)

At the inner edge of the habitable zone, we get the most light from the sun, thus the most energy to drive the biosphere.

What about Venus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917684)

I was taught that the orbit of Venus marked the inner edge of the habitable zone. When did she get kicked to curb?

Re:What about Venus (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917852)

Yes, it marks the absolute inner boundary. But Wikipedia claims the habitable zone is from 0.725 to 3.0 AU, so we're comfortably closer to the inner boundary than the middle.

Doesn't mean anything (2)

KingFeanor (950059) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917392)

This is biased toward non intelligent design right off the bat. A creator would only need to optimize for life the planet or planets that he intended to deposit life upon. The fact that the universe at large is biased against life makes life here on earth all that more special.

Define "Better suited" (1)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917404)

"Creating more Galaxies" is not necessarily synonymous with "Creating more galaxies that can sustain life". If increasing the cosmological constant increases the percentage of matter that forms galaxies, but also changes the makeup of those galaxies to be inhospitable to life, then there would be an overall decrease in the universes 'suitability for life'.

Given that there is no (currently known) method of testing how a change in the cosmological constant would affect other properties of matter and energy, it would be foolish to simply assume that all else would remain the same.

Please tell me I'm missing something big, and not that Cornell university published a paper with that fundamental of a flaw.

Re:Define "Better suited" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917814)

My first thought was that this argument is ignoring the fact that dissipative systems (where small variations in initial conditions result in larger variations in later states) are known for spontaneous formation of complexity.

So we just disproved god? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917406)

`Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

He just didn't want to overcrowd the universe (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917432)

any positive value of the constant would tend to decrease the fraction of matter that forms into galaxies, reducing the amount available for life. Therefore the measured value of the cosmological constant, which is positive, is evidence against the idea that the constants have been fine-tuned for life.

Clearly, He just doesn't want us to be overcrowded. Well, at least galaxy-wise. (In other words, the only way to win is to not play, as there's always a non-explanation explanation.)

I told my family I was going to Cosmetology school (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917468)

and they asked "Why do you want to study the stars?"

Stop trying to resolve them! (1, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917474)

Science. Religion. They are not a competition. Religion answers questions for us that Science cannot. Science answers questions for us that Religion doesn't address. Many famous scientists from bygone ages were devout believers in God, or Allah, or (insert other deity here), and yet made great strides to science. They didn't see the two as mutually exclusive. I blame arrogance and intellectual hubris for thinking that you can live without one or the other. Learn to accept both, and you will be a much happier person.

Re:Stop trying to resolve them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917824)

Religion answers questions for us that Science cannot.

So, to what question does religion have an answer?

Physicists should stick to physics (2)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917670)

When they try to tackle the deep philosophical questions, they sound every bit as ridiculous as the creationists do trying to "correct" science.

Stephen Hawking, I'm looking at you.

So according to this obscure principle... (1)

Yold (473518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917676)

Before this disintegrates into the inevitable slew of religion bashing...

From TFA:

laws of physics contain various constants that have very specific, mysterious values that nobody can explain

Maybe its because mathematics is (often) an approximation. You can hide oodles of complexity with a constant, especially in a system that is not understood i.e. the universe.

One explanation is that this is pure accident and that there is no deeper reason for the coincidence. Another idea is that there is some deeper law of nature, which we have yet to discover, that sets the constants as they are. Yet another is that the constants can take more or less any value in an infinite multitude of universes. In ours, they are just right, which is why we have been able to evolve to observe them.

Wow that's convincing. So basically, constants are either random, hiding complexity, or rooted in some string theory nonsense about infinite parallel universes. Oh yea, or they are created and tuned by God/gods/FSM, which is what this "evidence" claims to refute.

the constants have been fine-tuned by some unseen omnipotent being who has set them up in a way that maximises the amount of life that form

The constant expressing the universe's rate of expansion is positive, however:

Page says that a slightly negative value of the constant would maximize this process.

And this is it. Some dude ran some simulations on a computer, simulations of a poorly understood system. And from this, we can conclude that our universe is not designed for life to exist. And yet here we are.

Theoretical physics is planted mid-way between science and pseudoscience. The field seems to be in its infancy, much like chemistry was in the early 1700s. This experiment isn't much different than the one that proved the existence of "phlogiston". Much of the evidence is "proven" without an understanding of the underlying principles, just on the basis of logical jumps and conclusions.

We don't understand it, but it disproves God? (1)

AmericanBlarney (1098141) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917716)

Seriously, all this means is that some atheists make equally ridiculous claims as some believers. Given how little we truly understand about the universe, I think it's a little premature to say that the cosmological constant is/isn't tuned to produce life. While it's observed value may result in fewer galaxies forming, it likely also means fewer galaxies colliding and annihilating all life caught in the collision. I don't think that the cosmological constant in and of itself has any implication in the argument for whether or not God exists, and I have no idea why people on both sides try to make every scientific issue connect back to that. Take a philosophy class, there is no definitive proof or disproof, believe what you choose to believe and let everyone else to make their own choice.

yeah, well... (1)

sandawgscorch (1106917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917736)

he probably wouldn't have designed our knee the way it is either - or the octopus or the elephant or.... (etc etc) - but the crazy thing is --- it works!

Not necessarily true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34917868)

The cosmological constant can be considered 'fine-tuned' if vacuum energy differs by region of space (domain). Granted, this is just one of many theories.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_constant#Cosmological_constant_problem

Personally, I think people are trying too hard to either disprove religion or disprove science. I believe that if people were to quit trying to shout down the opposing view and simply concentrate on their respective discipline, the truth would become self-evident without the need for 'smack-talking' on either side, so long as people were even the slightest bit open to 'alternative opinions'.

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