According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, June 14, 2012

R.E. Slater - Star Light, Star Bright (poem)


"Galaxy Rising"



Star Light, Star Bright
by R.E. Slater


We are light!
Did you know that?
Formed from starlight's cosmic debris
Across the wastelands of space -
Empty space, but not nearly empty, just emptied for creation,
As cosmic dust fallen to Earth
Fallen from the dazzling skies above
Ordained by creation's hands of Almighty God.

Bourne of Light, birthed by Light, formed from Light -
Ye Stars of heaven fallen to Earth
Mingling with earth
Mingling Love
Mangled by sin's dark emptiness.

To shine on a new day as the stars above -
Lighting dark places holding earth's sin
Lighting eternity's days with starlight above
Swept from the heaven's
Fallen as Love.


R.E. Slater
June 15, 2012





John Polkinghorne: How Do We Explain the Incredible Uniqueness of Our Form of Multiverse?


"Galaxy Rising"


Star Light, Star Bright

We are light!
Did you know that?
Formed from starlight's cosmic debris
Across the wastelands of space -
Empty space, but not nearly empty, just emptied for creation,
As cosmic dust fallen to Earth
Fallen from the dazzling skies above
Ordained by creation's hands of Almighty God.

Bourne of Light, birthed by Light, formed from Light -
Ye Stars of heaven fallen to Earth
Mingling with earth
Mingling Love
Mangled by sin's dark emptiness.

To shine on a new day as the stars above -
Lighting dark places holding earth's sin
Lighting eternity's days with starlight above
Swept from the heaven's
Fallen as Love.


R.E. Slater
June 15, 2012




Fine-tuning and the “Fruitful Universe”

by John Polkinghorne
June 1, 2012

Today’s entry is part of our Video Blog series. For similar resources, visit our audio/video section, or our full "Conversations" collection. Please note the views expressed in the video are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's video features John Polkinghorne. Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne, a British physicist and theologian, is widely regarded as one of the most important scholars in the science/religion discussion today. He worked in theoretical elementary particle physics at Cambridge University for 25 years before becoming an Anglican priest in the early 1980’s. Polkinghorne has written many books on issues in science and theology, including Science and Christian Belief, Belief in God in an Age of Science, and Questions of Truth (with co-author Nicholas Beale). Among his numerous honors, Polkinghorne was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and he was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2002.

The conversation this week between Dr. James Dew and Dr. Ard Louis addressed aspects of natural theology, the anthropic principle, and fine-tuning of the universe. This is a topic that the renowned scholar Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne explored at length in a lecture on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University, delivered on November 15th, 2010. The entire lecture, entitled “Natural Theology”, is available for download here.

Today’s post is an excerpt from that lecture that explores the question, “Why is the universe so special?” To illustrate this point, Dr. Polkinghorne presents several examples of how the universe is fine-tuned for life, including the constants of stars and the balance of “zero point energy”. The potentiality for life, the fruitfulness of the universe, as he calls it, is accepted throughout science. The contentious question that remains, however, is what is the significance of this fine-tuning?

We provide a written transcript of the talk to make it easier to mull over Dr. Polkinghorne’s ideas while you listen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Transcript of Lecture

I ask the question, “Why is the universe so special?” Now scientists don’t like things to be special; we like things to be general, and our natural anticipation would have been that the universe is just a common or garden specimen of what a universe might be like.

But we’ve come to understand a lot about the history of the universe. We know that our universe started 13.7 billion years ago, and it started extremely simple, just an almost uniformly expanding ball of energy, about the simplest physical system you could possibly think about. But a world that started so simple has of course become rich and complex. With you and me, in fact, the most remarkable and complex consequences are its history, at least of which we are aware. The human brain is far and away the most complicated physical system we have ever encountered anywhere in our exploration of the universe.

That fact itself might suggest that something has been going on in cosmic history rather than just one thing after another. But we’ve also come to understand many of the processes by which this rich fruitfulness has come to birth. As we’ve come to understand these, we’ve come to see that though these processes are of course evolving processes, they took long periods of time – the universe was 10 billion years old before any form of life appeared in it, at least as far as we know anyway – and life of our complexity only appeared yesterday.

Nevertheless, the universe is pregnant with life, pregnant with the possibility of life, essentially from the beginning onwards. By which I mean the given laws of nature had to take a very specific, very finely tuned form, if the universe was to have so fruitful a history.

That’s a very remarkable discovery, and let me give you some examples of why we believe that. If you’re going to have a fruitful universe, one of the first things you have to get right is that you have to have the right stars in the universe. The stars are going to have a very important role to play. First of all, you must have some stars that are going to be very long lived, live for billions of years, steadily burning, steadily producing energy which will enable the development of life on one of the encircling planets. We understand what makes stars burn in that sort of way very well, and it depends on a delicate balance between the strength of gravity and the strength of electromagnetism. Electromagnetism is the force that holds matter together. The seats on which you are sitting are held together by electromagnetism and in fact you are held together by electromagnetism.

If you alter that balance a little bit in one direction the stars will begin to burn intensely, furiously, just pouring out energy and they will only live a few million years rather than a few billion years. If you move it a little bit in the other direction they will burn so slowly they will be brown stars and they will not produce enough energy to fuel the development of life. So you have to have a very delicate finely tuned balance between the strength of gravity and the strength of electromagnetic forces in a fruitful universe.

Remember, science takes the laws of nature, takes the given strengths of gravity, the given strength of electromagnetism, uses that to explain processes in the world, how things happen, but it doesn’t explain where those laws of nature come from. They are just brute facts as far as science is concerned.

And the stars have another absolutely indispensible role to play. The stars are the place where the heavier elements essential for life are made in the interior nuclear furnaces. There are many elements that are necessary for life, of which carbon is perhaps the most essential. Carbon is the basis of the long chain molecules, which are the biochemical basis of life. The early universe only makes the simplest elements; it makes hydrogen and helium and it makes no carbon at all. Carbon only begins to be made when the universe, which started uniform, begins to condense and become lumpy and grainy with stars and galaxies. As the stars condense they heat up, nuclear processes begin again in their interiors. And it’s those nuclear processes in the stars that make carbon and the heavier elements. Every atom of carbon in your body was once inside a star. We are people of stardust made in the ashes of dead stars.

And that’s a very beautiful process that takes place in that sort of way. And one of the great triumphs of astrophysics and the second half of the 20th century was to unravel that process. One of the people who did some of the most important work on that was a senior colleague of mine in Cambridge called Fred Hoyle. And they were trying to figure out how to make carbon. They got helium, and if you can make three helium nuclei stick together that will produce carbon, but when you have something as small as a nucleus it is impossible to get three to stick together at one time, they’re just too small.

Ok, so let’s do it step by step. Stick two together gives you berylium. Helium 4 gives you beryllium-8, hope it stays around for a bit, another helium comes along, attaches itself, and bingo, you’ve got carbon-12. That’s the obvious thing to think about but it doesn’t work in the obvious way, and the reason it doesn’t work in the obvious way is that beryllium-8 is terribly unstable. It doesn’t oblige you by staying around long enough to catch that third helium, at least in an ordinary, straightforward way.

But Fred realized that it would be just possible for this to happen if there was a very large enhancement effect, in the trade we call it resonance, occurring in carbon at just the right energy, it has to be the right energy, which would enable that attachment process to catch that third helium much much more quickly that you might have thought, in fact so quickly that some of them would get caught before the beryllium-8 disappeared. It was a very good idea, and he must have felt pretty pleased with himself and he went off to just check in the nuclear data tables of this particular resonance’s energy levels, and it wasn’t in the tables, but he knew it must be there, he’s carbon based life like you and me.

So he rang up some friends in the States, a father and son team who were good experimentalists and he said, “Look, you missed something. There’s a resonance and energy level in carbon that you haven’t spotted, and I’ll tell you exactly where to look for it. I know exactly where this energy has got to be. You go look for it.” And they said, “No, no, we don’t want to do that, we have more interesting things to do.” But Fred was very determined and he bullied them into looking for it and they found it.

Now that’s a wonderful achievement, to predict an energy level in carbon on the basis of how it might have been made in the stars is a fantastic scientific achievement. But it’s more than that. Fred had a lifetime conviction of atheism, realized of course that if the laws of physics had been just a little bit different that resonance wouldn’t have been there, and the possibility of carbon-based life is too significant for it just to be a happy accident in his view, so he says in a Yorkshire accent that is beyond my power to imitate, he said that "the universe is a put-up job." Fred didn’t like the word God, and so he said some Intelligent, capital “I” Intelligence, must have monkied with the laws of nature to make carbon production possible. What that could possibly be I don’t know, but the more sensible thing to say is that creation is ordained, that the laws of nature would be such, as to enable the fruitfulness of carbon-based life. [we call this concept "indeterminacy" which is what natural laws are based upon... but for the Christian we see nature's indeterminacy as divinely guided. - res]

We’ll come back to evaluating that possibility in a minute, but before we do, let me give you two other examples of how specific, how special, our universe has to be for us to be able to be here today to think about. We live in a universe that is immensely big, beyond our powers to imagine really. There are a hundred thousand million stars in our galaxy in the Milky Way, of which our sun is just a common or garden specimen, and there are about a hundred thousand million galaxies in the observable universe, of which our Milky Way is a pretty common or garden specimen. So we live in a world that is unimaginably vast, and sometimes we might feel upset by that and think, “What could be the significance of us who are simply inhabitants of a speck of cosmic dust, as you might say, in this vast, vast universe?”

Nevertheless, if all those stars were not there, we would not be here to be upset at the thought of them. Because there is a direct connection between how big a universe is and how long it lasts, and a universe that is significantly smaller than our universe would not have been able to last the 14 billion years, which is the necessary time to produce beings of our complexity. So that’s another condition of the world that has to be right for human beings, or something like human beings, to be a possibility.

One final example, which is the finest tuning of all: quantum theory suggests that there should be an energy attached to space itself. In quantum theory the vacuum, so called empty space, is not just a void. There are things called vacuum fluctuations which occur in a continual sort of seething mass of things coming into being and going out of being all the time. So while there is nothing there that doesn’t mean there is nothing happening. That may sound strange and paradoxical but believe me that’s what quantum theory implies. And of course these happenings, these fluctuations, generate a certain amount of energy, we call it “zero point energy”, and that energy is spread out over the whole of space. So we expect there to be energy associated with space.

And just recently the astronomers have discovered something called dark energy which is driving the expansion of the universe, which is just such an energy associated with [empty] space. Well that’s very good, you might say. However, when we estimate, just from thinking about quantum theory, how much energy there should be in space it turns out to be a fantastically large amount, and when we see the amount of energy there actually is per volume in space, it turns out to be very, very small in relation to that expected size. In fact, it turns out to be smaller by a factor of 10-120. That means by a factor of 1 over 1 followed by 120 zeros. You don’t have to be a great mathematician to see that’s a fantastically small number. So some fantastic cancellation has taken place to turn that big number into the tiny number that we actually observe, and if it hadn’t taken place we wouldn’t be here to observe it because significantly higher energy would simply have blown the whole show apart too fast for anything interesting to happen. That’s the finest tuning that we know in the universe: one part in 10120.

So we live in a world that is very remarkably finely tuned, and we have to consider that. And all scientists would agree about what I have been telling you; this is non-contentious. Where the contention comes in is what we might make of that, what is the further significance of it.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


In the conclusion to Dr. Polkinghorne’s lecture, he looks at two explanations for the "fine-tuning" principle -- the multiverse theory and the existence of a divine intelligence -- and explains why natural theology alone is not sufficient to make the case for a God who interacts and cares for his creation. To make the case for theism, he argues, we need revelation, God's self-disclosure. This is manifest in various ways, including that which we experience personally, including ethics and aesthetics.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


So what shall we make of it? Well I have a friend, a philosopher, called John Leslie, who thinks about these things. And he’s a very interesting philosopher. He does his philosophy by telling stories. He’s what you might call a parabolic philosopher. He tells parables. I find that very helpful. I’m not trained in philosophy, but anyone can get the point of a story. And he’s interested in this fine-tuning of our universe, this special character of our universe. And the way he wants us to think about this is by telling the following story.

You are about to be executed. You are tied to the stake, and the rifles of fifty highly trained marksmen are leveled at your chest. The officer gives the order to fire, the shots ring out, and you find you have survived. So what do you do? Do you just shrug your shoulders as you stroll away saying, “Gee, that was a close one”? I think probably not. So remarkable a fact surely calls for an explanation.

And Leslie suggests there are only two kinds of logically possible explanations for your extraordinarily good fortune. One is, maybe, there are many many many executions taking place today. Even the best of marksman occasionally miss, and you happened to be the one where all fifty missed. There will obviously have to be a lot of executions taking place today to make this possible, but it is at least possible. [The exclusionary rule of uncertainty? - res]

But then of course there is another possible explanation of your good fortune. Maybe there was only one execution scheduled for today, but more was going on in that execution than you were aware of. The marksmen were on your side and they missed by design. [The rule of intelligent design - res]

Now you see how that charming parable translates into thinking about the fine-tuning of our world. Of course if our world wasn’t fine-tuned, we wouldn’t be here to be even thinking about it. There would be no carbon-based life. But it’s such a remarkable and astonishing fact that it isn’t rational to simply say, “We’re here because we’re here. Nothing to worry about” any more than it is to say “Gee, that was a close one” as you strolled away from the execution. You should look for an explanation if you possibly can. [The anthropic principle - res]

And Leslie suggests that there are really only two forms of explanation which are possible. One is maybe there are just many many many different universes. Always different laws of nature, all separated from each other, all but our own unobservable by us, and if there is a big enough portfolio of them (and there would have to be a very very large number [that number is calculated to be 10 to the 500, which is a lot - res]), if there is a bigger portfolio then just by chance our universe turns out to be the one that has the right laws of nature for carbon-based life, because of course we are carbon-based life living in it. In other words, our universe is no more than by chance a winning ticket in a sort of multiverse lottery. That is the multiverse explanation of what’s going on, of the fine-tuning of our world.

Of course there is another explanation. Maybe there is only one universe, and it is the way it is because it is not any old world; it is a creation that is to be endowed by its Creator with precisely the finely tuned laws and circumstances which have enabled it to have a fruitful history. These seem to be the two kinds of understandings that make fine-tuning intelligible: either the multiverse, or the universe is a creation.....



Let us break off here from Dr. Polkinghorne's lecture to consider

the following before resuming further below - res



* * * * * * * * * * * * *


As An Aside,
Might We Not Consider...
by R. E. Slater

Or why not a third? That of the creation of multiverses AND of one with our special form of universe within this scenario? This does not reduce God by thinking of Him less, but expands the largeness of God's power and design harnessing the chaotic power of indeterminacy. Because, at least for now, the mathematics of quantum thoery rules for the concept of multiverses and not towards only one singularity - what we have understood as the "Big Bang" birth of our universe. But of an infinite array of Big Bangs each necessary to the formation of our world. Not by chance but by design utilizing chance. And without those "bubbling cauldrons" of inflating and deflating multiverses there is no us. And we still get to the place where Dr. Polkinghorne wishes to get to, that is, that God is the (very active, very involved) Creator of our world, and it is a special world designed for special purposes. Redemptive purposes. Purposes of Fellowship and Life.

Now perhaps those fluctuating masses of multiverses cancel each other out much as the quantum fluctuations of dark energy within our universe's void of space cancel each other out. I'm not sure. But regardless, because of the anthropic principle which states that in the end, we are here and can observe God's creation because all the conditions set for human life are in place for us to observe God's creation. If not, then there would be no us. Consequently, the formation of the universe - that is, our special form of universe - is so unique, and so rare as to be either a highly unique series of special occurences requiring the collaboration of highly unique cosmic processes to occur. Or, we must admit to some kind of "special intelligence" (sic, agnosticism and atheism) or a Godhead (theism) behind these processes that from the outside seems only due to large probabilities of chance (quantum science). But inside, within those processes of indeterminacy, can be understood as the guiding hand of a Creator God, as told to us in the Christian Bible time and time again.

I give below, through Wikipedia, several additional discussions to the above before returning to the conclusion of Dr. Polkinghorne's lecture....


From Wikipedia
Multiverse hypotheses in physics

Tegmark's classification

Cosmologist Max Tegmark has provided a taxonomy of universes beyond the familiar observable universe. The levels according to Tegmark's classification are arranged such that subsequent levels can be understood to encompass and expand upon previous levels, and they are briefly described below.[2][3]

Level I: Beyond our cosmological horizon

A generic prediction of chaotic inflation is an infinite ergodic universe, which, being infinite, must contain Hubble volumes realizing all initial conditions.

Accordingly, an infinite universe will contain an infinite number of Hubble volumes, all having the same physical laws and physical constants. In regard to configurations such as the distribution of matter, almost all will differ from our Hubble volume. However, because there are infinitely many, far beyond the cosmological horizon, there will eventually be Hubble volumes with similar, and even identical, configurations. Tegmark estimates that an identical volume to ours should be about 1010115 meters away from us.[4][5] This estimate implies use of the cosmological principle, wherein one assumes our Hubble volume is not special or unique. By extension of the same reasoning, there would, in fact, be an infinite number of Hubble volumes identical to ours in the universe.

Level II: Universes with different physical constants

In the chaotic inflation theory, a variant of the cosmic inflation theory, the multiverse as a whole is stretching and will continue doing so forever, but some regions of space stop stretching and form distinct bubbles, like gas pockets in a loaf of rising bread. Such bubbles are embryonic level I multiverses. Linde and Vanchurin calculated the number of these universes to be on the scale of 101010,000,000.[6]

Different bubbles may experience different spontaneous symmetry breaking resulting in different properties such as different physical constants.[4]

This level also includes John Archibald Wheeler's oscillatory universe theory and Lee Smolin's fecund universes theory.

Level III: Many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics

Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation (MWI) is one of several mainstream interpretations of quantum mechanics. In brief, one aspect of quantum mechanics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations, each with a different probability. According to the MWI, each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe. Suppose a die is thrown that contains six sides and that the numeric result of the throw corresponds to a quantum mechanics observable. All six possible ways the die can fall correspond to six different universes. (More correctly, in MWI there is only a single universe but after the "split" into "many worlds" these cannot in general interact.)[7]

Tegmark argues that a level III multiverse does not contain more possibilities in the Hubble volume than a level I-II multiverse. In effect, all the different "worlds" created by "splits" in a level III multiverse with the same physical constants can be found in some Hubble volume in a level I multiverse. Tegmark writes that "The only difference between Level I and Level III is where your doppelgängers reside. In Level I they live elsewhere in good old three-dimensional space. In Level III they live on another quantum branch in infinite-dimensional Hilbert space." Similarly, all level II bubble universes with different physical constants can in effect be found as "worlds" created by "splits" at the moment of spontaneous symmetry breaking in a level III multiverse.[4]

Related to the many-worlds idea are Richard Feynman's multiple histories interpretation and H. Dieter Zeh's many-minds interpretation.

Level IV: Ultimate Ensemble

The Ultimate Ensemble is the hypothesis of Tegmark himself. This level considers equally real all universes that can be described by different mathematical structures. Tegmark writes that "abstract mathematics is so general that any Theory Of Everything (TOE) that is definable in purely formal terms (independent of vague human terminology) is also a mathematical structure. For instance, a TOE involving a set of different types of entities (denoted by words, say) and relations between them (denoted by additional words) is nothing but what mathematicians call a set-theoretical model, and one can generally find a formal system that it is a model of." He argues this "implies that any conceivable parallel universe theory can be described at Level IV" and "subsumes all other ensembles, therefore brings closure to the hierarchy of multiverses, and there cannot be say a Level V."[8]

Jürgen Schmidhuber, however, says the "set of mathematical structures" is not even well-defined, and admits only universe representations describable by constructive mathematics, that is, computer programs. He explicitly includes universe representations describable by non-halting programs whose output bits converge after finite time, although the convergence time itself may not be predictable by a halting program, due to Kurt Gödel's limitations.[9][10][11] He also explicitly discusses the more restricted ensemble of quickly computable universes.[12]

Cyclic theories
Main article: Cyclic model

In several theories there is a series of infinite, self-sustaining cycles (for example: an eternity of Big Bang-Big crunches).

M-theory

A multiverse of a somewhat different kind has been envisaged within the multi-dimensional extension of string theory known as M-theory, also known as Membrane Theory.[13] In M-theory our universe and others are created by collisions between p-branes in a space with 11 and 26 dimensions (the number of dimensions depends on the chirality of the observer);[14][15] each universe takes the form of a D-brane.[14][15] Objects in each universe are essentially confined to the D-brane of their universe, but may be able to interact with other universes via gravity, a force which is not restricted to D-branes.[16] This is unlike the universes in the "quantum multiverse", but both concepts can operate at the same time.

The (Weak) Anthropic principle
(Main article: Anthropic principle)

The concept of other universes has been proposed to explain how our Universe appears to be fine-tuned for conscious life as we experience it. If there were a large (possibly infinite) number of universes, each with possibly different physical laws (or different fundamental physical constants), some of these universes, even if very few, would have the combination of laws and fundamental parameters that are suitable for the development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, stars, and planets that can exist long enough for life to emerge and evolve.

The weak anthropic principle could then be applied to conclude that we (as conscious beings) would only exist in one those few universes that happened to be finely tuned, permitting the existence of life with developed consciousness. Thus, while the probability might be extremely small that any particular universe would have the requisite conditions for life (as we understand [carbon-based] life) to emerge and evolve, this does not require intelligent design per the teleological argument as the only explanation for the conditions in the Universe that promote our existence in it.

Occam's Razor (See also: Kolmogorov complexity)

[Occam's Razor simply states that the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation - "it is a principle urging one to select from among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions and thereby offers the simplest explanation of the effect." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor]

Critics[who?] argue that to postulate a practically infinite number of unobservable universes just to explain our own seems contrary to Occam's razor.[19]

Max Tegmark answers:

"A skeptic worries about all the information necessary to specify all those unseen worlds. But an entire ensemble is often much simpler than one of its members. This principle can be stated more formally using the notion of algorithmic information content. The algorithmic information content in a number is, roughly speaking, the length of the shortest computer program that will produce that number as output. For example, consider the set of all integers. Which is simpler, the whole set or just one number? Naively, you might think that a single number is simpler, but the entire set can be generated by quite a trivial computer program, whereas a single number can be hugely long. Therefore, the whole set is actually simpler. 
Similarly, the set of all solutions to Einstein's field equations is simpler than a specific solution. The former is described by a few equations, whereas the latter requires the specification of vast amounts of initial data on some hypersurface. The lesson is that complexity increases when we restrict our attention to one particular element in an ensemble, thereby losing the symmetry and simplicity that were inherent in the totality of all the elements taken together. In this sense, the higher-level multiverses are simpler. Going from our universe [Level 0] to the Level I multiverse eliminates the need to specify initial conditions, upgrading to Level II eliminates the need to specify physical constants, and the Level IV multiverse eliminates the need to specify anything at all."
He continues:
"A common feature of all four multiverse levels is that the simplest and arguably most elegant theory involves parallel universes by default. To deny the existence of those universes, one needs to complicate the theory by adding experimentally unsupported processes and ad hoc postulates: finite space, wave function collapse and ontological asymmetry. Our judgment therefore comes down to which we find more wasteful and inelegant: many worlds or many words. Perhaps we will gradually get used to the weird ways of our cosmos and find its strangeness to be part of its charm."[4]


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Continuing with Dr. Polkinghorne's Lecture...

... And then the question is: which shall we choose? And Leslie says, and I think he’s right in saying this, he says that as far as fine-tuning is concerned, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. We don’t know which to choose. Each does the explanatory work required of it.

But I think that there is sort of a cumulative case for seeing the world as a creation which I don’t see reflected on the side of the multiverse. I’ve already suggested that the deep intelligibility of the world suggests we should see it as a divine creation with a divine mind behind it. And so that reinforces the notion of seeing the fine-tuning of the world as an expression with a divine purpose behind it. And of course there are also well testified human experience and encounters with sacred reality, of course. So it’s more of a cumulative case for a theistic view for the world that builds up on this side. I don’t see a corresponding cumulative case building up on the multiverse side... [that is, as an argument from the theory of chance; but as demonstrated above, we could also allow for the theory of multiverse, and thus keep indeterminacy as a principle, and still be able to keep the power of the Divine's assemblage as special and unique. Consequently, Dr. Polkinhorne's less specialized argument more-or-less complicates his theme for a Level 0 universe rather than simplifiing it per the observations made when using Occam's Razor as applied to multiverses. - res].

Moreover, of course, it’s not clear without further argument that the multiverse thing simply does the trick. Having an infinite number of things doesn’t guarantee that every desirable property is found among an infinite collection of things. There are an infinite number of even integers, but none of them has the property of oddness. So you have to make some more argument to say that it works in that way.

So that’s another meta-question, which I think receives its most satisfying response and explanation in terms of natural theology, of seeing the world as a divine creation.

In Western metaphysical tradition, there are really two different types of metaphysical tradition, and they differ from each other in what they take as their founding brute fact. Metaphysics simply means a worldview. Scientists sometimes say, “Oh, we don’t go bother with metaphysics,” but that’s absurd. Everybody who has a worldview has a metaphysic. We think metaphysics as inevitably as we speak prose, and the reductionist scientist who says everything is mere matter, nothing but atoms and molecules, is not making a scientific statement, but making a worldview, a metaphysical statement.

So everybody has a metaphysic and everybody has a basic brute fact. And the materialist metaphysic tradition takes the laws of nature, the given properties of matter, as its unexplained brute fact. Somebody like David Hume would suggest that was the right plotting point. And of course a theistic metaphysic takes the brute fact of a divine agent, a divine creator, as its unexplained brute fact.

What I’ve been trying to say to you in the last 20 or 25 minutes is that the laws of nature and their fine-tuned fruitfulness and deep intelligibility have a character that seems to me to point beyond themselves to demand further explanation and makes them unsatisfactory to be treated simply as a brute fact starting point. And that would be my defense of theism.

But now, natural theology, as I said at the beginning, is an attempt to learn something of God by the exercise of reason, by the inspection of the world, by a certain limited source of understanding. And it only appeals to limited kinds of experience -- general experience, the kind we’ve been thinking about – and so it only can lead to limited insight. If you were to give me the maximum success in what I’ve been saying to you this afternoon, it would be as consistent with the spectator God of deism who simply set the world spinning and watched it all happen, as it would be with the providential God of theism, who is of course the God in whom I believe, who not only set the world spinning but who is concerned for that world and interacts providentially in its unfolding history.

So natural theology, even when it’s most successful, can only give you a limited insight into God, and give you a very thin picture of the nature of God. God is the great mathematician or the cosmic architect, something like that. [But] if you want to know more about God, if you want to know, for example, does God care for individual beings? Does God indeed interact with unfolding history? Then you’ll have to look in a different realm of experience, you will have to move from natural theology to the theology of revelation, which appeals to what are believed to be acts of divine self-disclosure in the course of history.

So it’s a limited exercise, but I think it’s an exercise of some value.

[…] I’ll say two things very briefly. I’ve simply been talking about natural theology in terms, essentially, of our scientific understanding of the world, but there is another possible source of natural theology which I think is very important, a different kind of general human experience: personal experience, the experience of value in the world.

For example, I believe that we have irreducible ethical knowledge. I believe that is just a fact, and I know actually about as surely as I know any fact, that torturing children is wrong. That’s not some curious genetic survival strategy which my genes have been encouraging in me. It’s not just some cultural convention of our society, that we choose in our society not to torture children. It’s an actual fact about the world in which we live.

And there lies the question of where do those ethical values come from? And theistic belief provides one with an answer for that, just as the order of world we might see as reflecting the divine mind and the fruitfulness of the world is reflecting the divine purpose, so our ethical intuitions can be seen as being intonations of the good and perfect world of our creator.

And then of course there is the aesthetic experience in the world, and I think we should take our aesthetic experience extremely seriously. I think it’s an encounter with a very important and specific dimension of reality. It’s not just emotion recalled in tranquility or something like that.

And again of course science offers no help for us in these questions of value. If you ask a scientist as a scientist to tell you all he or she could about the nature of music, they would say that it is neural response -- things go off in our brains, neurons fire -- to the impact of sound waves on our ear drum. And of course that is true and this way is worth knowing, but it hardly begins to engage with the deep mystery of music, of how that sequence of sounds in time can speak to us -- and I think speak to us truly -- an encounter of a timeless realm of beauty. I think we should take our aesthetic experience very seriously.

And where do they come from? Where does that aesthetic value come from? And again theistic belief suggests that aesthetic experience is a sharing in the Creator’s joy in creation [sic, see the Lost sight of Transcendence and this website's Art and Poetry sections such as Jars of Clay - res]. So I see belief in God as being a great integrating discipline really, a great integrating insight, perhaps I should say rather than discipline. It links together the order of the world, the fruitfulness of the world, the reality of ethical values, the deep and moving reality of aesthetic values. It makes sense. It’s a whole theory of everything in that way, which is to me, essentially, most satisfying.


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The Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne comes to us from the United Kingdom. He is truly a household name in the best of Christian academic inquiry, especially as it relates to the intersection of science and faith. For 25 years, he was a theoretical physicist and played a significant role in the discovery of the smallest known particle called the "quark." In 1979 he resigned his chair as Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University to study for the ministry. He was ordained in 1982 within the Church of England - John Wesley's own theological tradition - and subsequently served in parish ministry for 5 years. He then returned to Cambridge to serve as Dean of the Chapel at Trinity Hall from 1986 - 1989, and then President of Queen's College, Cambridge. Dr. Polkinghorne is a founding member of the Society of Ordained Scientists and the International Society for Science and Religion.

His work demonstrates a commitment to both human agency and divine creative activity in the world - both central tenets of Wesleyanism -particularly expressing the conviction that these need not be mutually exclusive, competing allegiances. His work in bioethics, characterized by a commitment to the dignity of human life, as shared by the American Evangelical tradition, renders his contribution to the H. Orton Wiley Lectures as most timely.

Dr. Polkinghorne is chairperson of the Science, Medicine and Technology Committee of the Church of England's Board of Social Responsibility and has helped shape the UK's ethical guidelines pertaining to the responsible limits of reproductive technology, with particular concern for the ethical implications of fertility treatments and stem cell research.


The Friendship of Science and Religion

An Afternoon with Dr. John Polkinghorne - Part 1
November 14th, 2010
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An Afternoon with Dr. John Polkinghorne - Part 2
November 14th, 2010
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Dr. John Polkinghorne guest speaker in PLNU Chapel
November 15th, 2010
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The Search for Truth in Science and Theology

Lecture 1
"Natural Theology"
November 15th, 2010
Crill Performance Hall
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Lecture 2
"Motivated Belief"
November 16th, 2010
Crill Performance Hall
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Lecture 3
"Providence and Prayer"
November 16th, 2010
Crill Performance Hall
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Lecture 4
"A Destiny Beyond Death"
November 17th, 2010
Crill Performance Hall
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