Fine Tuning and Other Mysteries
In my quest to gain an overview of how the world really is, I came across Cosmo Sapiens by John Hands. Tim Crane, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, whose assessment I heartily agree with, summarized Mr. Banks’ endeavor as follows:
“John Hands has attempted … nothing less than an exhaustive account of the current state of scientific knowledge about the origins and evolution of the cosmos, life and humanity. His … questions … have inspired all of science, religion, and philosophy: What are we? Where do we come from? What is the source of consciousness, value, and meaning. Hands … summarizes the current state of knowledge in a wide variety of fields, from cosmology to evolutionary psychology…. He gives an extremely clear view of what science has established, what it has not established, and what it never will.”
So, rather than presenting my own overview, I will present excerpts [shown in italics] from Cosmo Sapiens. Mr. Banks by the way is an agnostic.
The origin of the universe: a miracle of incomprehensibly precise fine tuning
1. (pp.97-98) (As Martin Rees has shown, if any one of six cosmological parameters differed by only a minute amount from its measured value, then the universe could not have evolved in such a way as to enable the emergence of carbon-based thinking humans like ourselves. The laws of physics do not predict the values of these parameters, and cosmology’s current orthodox model fails to explain how or why these parameters are so finely tuned.
The six parameters are:
a. Omega: a measure of the gravitational attraction of the matter in the universe compared with its expansion energy. If there was a Big Bang, then when the universe was one second old the value of Omega must have been somewhere between 0.99999999999999999 and 0.00000000000000001, otherwise the universe would have either rapidly collapsed into a Big Crunch or rapidly expanded into emptiness.
b. Lambda: the cosmological constant. [This] conjectured constant representing an unknown anti-gravity dark energy is questionable…. Nonetheless, it forms a key part of current orthodox cosmology and the value that astronomers have estimated is incredibly small, about 10-29 gram per cubic centimeter. If it were not so small,… its effect would have stopped galaxies and stars from forming, and cosmic evolution would have been stifled before it could even begin.
c. Nu: the ratio of the strength of the electromagnetic force compared with the strength of the gravitational force. Its value is approximately 1036. The electromagnetic force provides atoms and molecules with their stability by balancing the attractive and repulsive forces of oppositely charged nuclei and electrons…. If Nu were just a few zeroes less, such a stronger gravitational force would produce a short-lived miniature universe, no complex structures would form, and there would be no time for biological evolution.
d. Q: a measure of how tightly structures like stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, and superclusters are held together. It is the ratio of two energies: the energy needed to break up and disperse these cosmic structures compared with their total rest mass energy. It has been estimated as approximately 10-5. If Q were even smaller the universe would be inert and structureless. If Q were much larger no stars or solar systems could survive….
e. Epsilon: a measure of how firmly helium nuclei bind together. The key nuclear chain reaction in creating all the elements and in powering stars is the fusion of two protons … and two neutrons into the nucleus of helium. The mass of a helium nucleus is 0.007 less than the mass of its constituent parts This conversion of 0.007 of its mass into energy… measures the force that binds together the constituent parts of the helium nucleus, overcoming the mutually repulsive electrical force of the two positively charged protons…. If this conversion factor were less, … the first stage of the chain reaction, the binding of one proton with one neutron, would not occur, no helium would therefore be produced, and the universe would consist only of hydrogen. If it were greater…, two protons would readily bind together directly to create helium, and no hydrogen would remain to provide fuel for ordinary long-lived stars to allow for the eventual production of molecules essential for life….
f. The number of spatial dimensions in the universe. [There are] three plus one time dimension. If there were four, … structures would be unstable…. If there were less than three spatial dimensions, no complex structures could exist.
2. (p.102) Neither science nor reasoning offers a convincing explanation of the origin and form of the universe, and hence of the origin of the matter and energy of which we exist.
3. (p.133) … this chain of parameters – the longevity of the unstable beryllium-8, the existence of an advantageous resonance level in carbon-12, and the absence of a disadvantageous resonance level in oxygen-16 – were necessary, and remarkably fine-tuned, conditions for the production of sufficient carbon to make the molecules on which the existence of humans and all the other know lifeforms in the universe depends.
4. (p.135) The formation of all stable atoms and molecules depends not only on the laws of quantum mechanics and the Pauli Exclusion Principle (no two electrons in an atom or molecule can have the same four quantum numbers) but also on the value of two dimensionless parameters. The fine structure constant… measure(s) the strength of the electromagnetic force that governs how an electrically charged elementary particle like an electron interacts with a photon of light. Its value of 0.0072973525376 is independent of whatever units are used to measure electrical charge. Similarly, the proton to electron mass… has a dimensionless value of 1836.15267247. No theory explains why these two pure numbers have the values they do. If the values were much different, no stable atoms or molecules would form.
5. (p.157) The values of six cosmological parameters need to be fine-tuned to produce a universe that enables matter to evolve to the complexity of the atoms and molecules of which we consist. Moreover, the values of two dimensionless constants need to be fine-tuned to permit the evolution of any atoms or molecules. The values of three parameters in stellar nucleosynthesis need to be fine-tuned to enable the production of sufficient carbon for the evolution of those organic molecules essential for the existence of humans and all known lifeforms.
Earth: a very special place indeed
1. (pp. 190-191) Six conditions are necessary for organic molecules of up to 13 atoms found in interstellar space and on asteroids to evolve into things as complex as humans: a planet with essential elements and molecules, sources of energy, a minimum and probably a maximum mass, protection from hazardous radiation and impacts, a narrow temperature range just below, at, and just above its surface, and stability of this biosphere over billions of years.
2. A concurrence of galactic, stellar, and planetary factors provides these six conditions on Earth.
a. Its parent star is single, has a mass within the narrow range required for stability over 4.5 billion years, and is located in the relatively small and changing galactic habitable zone over such a period.
b. It formed as a rocky planet comprising or subsequently acquiring essential elements and molecules.
c. Its mass lies within a range that supports a biosphere.
d. Its location within a narrow circumstellar habitable zone is atypically shielded over 4.5 billion years, from life destroying cometary bombardment by the gravitational effect of an outer gas giant.
e. As the planet was forming it was impacted by a planetesimal with sufficient mass at just the right relative velocity and angle to produce several features favorable for the evolution of complex life: an abnormally large iron core that generates a protective powerful magnetosphere, an abnormally thin crust enabling the movement of tectonic plates; and an abnormally large moon producing an optimal rotation, a stable axial tilt, and tidal flows in its oceans.
f. The planet has one or more feedback mechanisms that maintain a surface temperature range favorable for biochemical reactions and enable liquid water to remain on its surface for some 4 billion years despite a large increase in energy radiated by its evolving parent star.
3. Together these factors produce a changing flow of energy through a physico-chemical system that remains stable but far from thermodynamic equilibrium over some 4 billion years to generate the complexification necessary for the emergence and evolution of varieties of lifeforms.
4. These factors contradict the view of orthodox cosmology that the Earth is just an ordinary planet orbiting an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy of some hundred billion stars forming part of the observable universe of an estimated hundred billion galaxies.
5. The Earth, if not unique, is a rare location in the galaxy, if not the universe, in possessing the conditions necessary for the emergence and evolution of lifeforms as complex as humans.
How life emerged: a mystery science cannot explain
1. (p.245) … science cannot now, and very probably never will, explain how life emerged….
2. (p.244) Biochemistry’s orthodox account of how life emerged has no empirical support after 60 years of efforts to generate life from primordial molecules. The hypotheses of biochemistry are invalid because… there is an overwhelming improbability that random reactions in an aqueous solution could have produced a self-replicating RNA molecule or a self-replicating peptide, still less ones with only the left handed amino acid isomers found in cells.
The NeoDarwinian hypothesis is not supported by logic nor evidence
NeoDarwinists assert that evolution is caused by randomly generated genetic mutations, some of which confer an advantage in the competition for resources.
1. (p. 411) Biochemistry’s orthodox account of how life emerged from a primordial soup of … chemicals lacks experimental support and is invalid because, among other reasons, there is an overwhelming statistical improbability that random reactions in an aqueous solution could have produced self-replicating RNA molecules or even self-replicating peptides.
2. (p.413) …natural selection… cannot be a cause [of biological evolution] … unless nature chooses because to select is to choose. [Neo-Darwinism explains nothing about who or what does the choosing, or how].
3. (pp. 414-415) The Neo Darwinian orthodox hypothesis fails to explain [among other things:
a. Why the fossil record for animals shows morphological stasis with minor and often oscillating changes punctuated by geologically sudden (tens of thousands of years) appearance of fully formed new species that remain substantially unchanged for some tens or even hundreds of millions of years…;
b. Why or the accumulation of genetic mutations is approximately the same in different lineages, but in some lineages this results in no morphological or species change over tens if not hundreds of millions of years despite considerable changes in the environment while other lineages undergo a series of major evolutionary transitions in the same period;
c. Why or how acquired characteristics are inherited without any underlying genetic change ….
The Uniqueness of human beings
1. (p.454) The one characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other species is reflective consciousness, i.e.…., consciousness that becomes conscious of itself.
2. (p.455) Like the emergence of matter and the emergence of life, because of the inherent paucity of evidence, it is almost certain that science will never be able to identify when, how, and why humans emerged. But that is not to deny that the emergence has taken place.
3. p.538-539) Human anatomical and genetic characteristics differ only in degree from those of other primates. What distinguishes homo sapiens from all other known species is reflective consciousness, that is, not only does an adult modern human know but also it knows that it knows. Despite the claims of most primatologists, anthropologists, and evolutionary biologists, the emergence of humans with their unique capacity for reflectiveness marked a change of kind, not merely degree, in the evolution of life, just as the emergence of life marked a change of kind from the evolution of inanimate matter.
4. (p.535) Human learned behavior is radically different from that of any other primate because their learning process differs qualitatively and quantitatively in four significant ways:
a. Nonhuman primates learn almost exclusively by copying, whereas humans learn principally by being taught.
b. With primates the learning relationship is normally between offspring and their parents or close kin, whereas human parents teach their offspring for about the first five years of life, but the next ten to twenty years… of teaching is undertaken by non-kin.
c. Primates learn only direct or indirect survival skills,… whereas humans also learn a vast variety of things that range beyond survival, like literature, the arts, philosophy, and science
d. Humans are able to teach themselves, using human-created resources like… the World Wide Web.
Where did reflective consciousness come from?
The dominant, generally accepted view among the elites who occupy the commanding heights of the universities, government, and media is materialism, aka naturalism or physicalism, the speculation or belief that only physical matter is real and that all other things such as mind or consciousness or thoughts, will eventually be explained as physical things or their interactions (p.523). Allegedly scientific support for this putative, “enlightened” view comes mainly from two branches of psychology, neuropsychology and evolutionary psychology.
* Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel prize for discovering the structure of DNA, summarized the consensus view of neuropsychology in his 1994 book, The Astonishing Hypothesis: “ ‘You’, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
* Evolutionary psychology claims that what we are, in the sense of what we think, what we feel, and how we behave, is caused by the NeoDarwinian accumulation over thousands of generations of random genetic mutations responsible for the psychological mechanisms naturally selected to provide an adaptive advantage in the competition for survival of our stone age ancestors (p.524).
Both concepts fail to explain actual experience.
(p.524) Neuropsychology, or at least Crick’s claims for it, has not been able to provide independently verified observations or experiments that explain what it is like to have subjective experiences of phenomena, such as a notion of self, a feeling of pride, listening to music, and seeing a color…. There is a deep epistemological gulf between descriptions of physical events in the brain and the personal, subjective experience that we presume to be associated with those events…. Neurons transmit electrical impulses in response to stimuli, but the neurons and their networks do not understand the informational content of those impulses.
As for evolutionary psychology, no evidence supports the ideas that
* there is a basic human nature genetically programmed for Stone Age survival and this determines thinking, behavior, and emotions such as pride or guilt …
* and there is also a genetically determined developmental program that absorbs information from the social environment and adapts the maturing mind accordingly…. Furthermore, evolutionary psychology … fails to show how human thinking such as devising quantum mechanics to explain the interactions of subatomic particles or composing a symphony resulted from a human nature genetically programmed for Stone Age survival (p.525). I believe evolutionary psychology eventually will be shown to be nothing but “just so” stories made up to justify a preconceived notion with no empirical foundation.
It turns out that there is a strong empirical foundation for the view that consciousness is NOT an epiphenomenon of the brain; rather consciousness exists independently of the brain. The most exhaustive survey and synthesis of scientific, empirical investigation into the nature of consciousness of which I am aware is Irreducible Mind. The evidence supporting the concept that the brain is the physical means by which humans access consciousness, not the source or originator of consciousness is overwhelming and compelling. I believe the great body of empirical support for this view has not received widespread attention because it directly contradicts and falsifies the views of the science establishment.
Here are some excerpts from Irreducible Mind, summarizing what voluminous evidence says about the nature of consciousness and therefore the nature of man:
(p.xx) The provisional consensus among mainstream scientists, psychologists and neuroscientists in particular is that:
* Human beings are nothing but extremely complicated biological machines; mind and consciousness are entirely generated by neurophysical events and processes in the brain.
(pxxi) This view is NOT correct and in fact is at critical points demonstrably false empirically.
(p.37) Only one thing is certain: the unification of experience is not achieved anatomically. There are no privileged places or structure in the brain where everything comes together, either for the visual system or for the sensory systems together.
(p.39) A sizeable body of evidence demonstrates that organized, elaborate, and vivid conscious experience sometimes occurs under physiological conditions, such as deep general anesthesia and cardiac arrest, which precludes workspace operation (brain activity).
(p.387) People have consistently reported from different parts of the world and across different periods of history having had complicated cognitive and perceptual experiences at times when brain functioning was severely impaired.
(p.416) The current mainstream doctrine … is that the central substrate for conscious experience – the neuroelectric activities that make it possible – consist of synchronous or at least high frequency gamma band EEG oscillations that link widely separated, computationally specialized regions of the brain. The empirical evidence supports the existence of these mind-brain correlations, under normal conditions. But, the conventional interpretation must be incorrect because in general anesthesia and cardiac arrest, the specific neuroelectric conditions necessary for conscious experience are abolished, yet vivid, even heightened awareness, thinking, and memory formation can still occur.
(p.605) There is much more than sufficient evidence to falsify all forms of biological naturalism [materialism or physicalism] the current physicalist consensus on mind-brain relations.