Thursday, March 15, 2007

quantum theory, "biocentrism", and belief

From an article by Robert Lanza, a noted scientist and professor, published in The American Scholar, the journal of the Phi Beta Kappa Society:
Modern science cannot explain why the laws of physics are exactly balanced for animal life to exist. For example, if the big bang had been one-part-in-a billion more powerful, it would have rushed out too fast for the galaxies to form and for life to begin. If the strong nuclear force were decreased by two percent, atomic nuclei wouldn’t hold together. Hydrogen would be the only atom in the universe. If the gravitational force were decreased, stars (including the sun) would not ignite. These are just three of more than 200 physical parameters within the solar system and universe so exact that they cannot be random. Indeed, the lack of a scientific explanation has allowed these facts to be hijacked as a defense of intelligent design.

As we have seen, the world appears to be designed for life not just at the microscopic scale of the atom, but at the level of the universe itself. In cosmology, scientists have discovered that the universe has a long list of traits that make it appear as if everything it contains—from atoms to stars—was tailor-made for us. Many are calling this revelation the Goldilocks principle, because the cosmos is not too this or too that, but just right for life. Others are calling it the anthropic principle, because the universe appears to be human centered. And still others are calling it intelligent design, because they believe it’s no accident that the heavens are so ideally suited for us. By any name, the discovery is causing a huge commotion within the astrophysics community and beyond.

At the moment, the only attempt at an explanation holds that God made the universe.
Of course, Lanza is not satisfied with that answer and instead proposes a theory of “biocentrism” based on quantum mechanics. His argument is that physical reality is created by the mind, and that is why it so perfectly conforms to our expectations. If that’s the best a rational scientist can come up with, I think G-d is getting the best of the skeptics these days.


  1. Excellent post. And they say we provide lame apologetics to maintain our beliefs...

  2. Anonymous9:57 PM

    I have read one alternative that depends on the existence of multiverses--that this is literally the best of all possible universes for us because it's the one that we are in, but there are other universes which are not so nicely arranged for human life. But from our point of view, confined as it is to this one universe, the coincidences are too improbable to be coincidences.
    IOW, we can only observe this universe. Where we able to observe all other universes, the apparent design would be far less obvious. This particular universe supports biological life; other universes--possibly every other universe in existence--may not.

    Of course, that still leaves us free to think that G-d designed this particular universe with us humans in mind. Or, to quote Juan Bama, "Co-incidence is simply G-d being more obvious than usual."

  3. Excellent post.

    However as I have tried to point out over and over on my blog, one has to stop short of using this as "proof" for the existence of God. As Rambam points out that God created the world is known from Nevuah not empirically while His existence is empirically proven namely First Cause. However it is important to know that science does not disprove what revelation teaches us. If something cannot be proven empirically nor can it be disproven, revelation is definitive and must be accepted.

    I think it is important to keep this in mind especially when dealing with the " genuine" skeptic. It is the failure of the Yeshiva world to distinguish between the different kinds of "emunah" that causes some of the best minds to fall on the wayside.

  4. I agree with you 100%. It's not absolute "proof" of G-d, but just shows that the possibility of G-d fits perfectly with what we know about the cosmos and is far from irrational. You might say it amounts to circumstantial evidence. Whether that is enough to cause someone to take the leap of faith, or whether they prefer to search for other answers, as Lanza does, is still a matter of choice.

  5. I find it interesting that he used the phrase "Indeed, the lack of a scientific explanation has allowed these facts to be hijacked as a defense of intelligent design"

    To me this is somewhat ironic given teh fact that the "frum evolutionists" also reject intelligent design

  6. >Whether that is enough to cause someone to take the leap of faith,

    Ubacharta bachaim.

  7. Anonymous8:46 PM

    It's not absolute "proof" of G-d

    This might be a good place to mention what philosophers call the distinction between deductive and inductive proof.

    Deductive proof means that one must follow from the other.

    Indcutive proof is simply that a fact makes another thing more likely than another -- it points the way, so to speak.

    In life, unlike, mathematics, most things are reasoned through inductive, not deductive proof.

    For example, in the secular law of evidence, a piece of evidence is considered relevant so long as it makes a fact at issue in the trial more or less likely.

    This has nothing to do with whether it is direct or circumstantial.

    The standard jury instruction in federal courts gives this as an example of direct vs. circumstantial evidence:

    If a person testifies it is raining outside, that is direct evidence that it is raining. Now just because there is such testimony does not mean it is true -- the person could be lying, or mistaken. But if believed it is evidence of that fact.

    If a person comes into the room drenched in water, then that is circumstantial evidence that it is raining outside. Again, one does not necessarily follow the other, but the person being drenched is still evidence that it is raining because it makes that fact more likely.

    IMVHO, many of these philoshophical arguments founder on this point. There may not be deductive proof of Hashem's existence, but there is inductive evidence.

  8. >but there is inductive evidence.

    8:46 PM

    Rambam has a more incisive formulation - If something is arrived at by revelation or induction, as long as no empirical evidence contradicts it , it may be seen as truth.