Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Stephen M. Barr

Part IV: Man's Place In the Cosmos

Ch 14 The Expectations

p115 "theologians have explained that human beings are made in God's image primarily because, like God, we have reason and free will."

p115 Victor Stenger in "Not By Design" "The simplest hypothesis that so far seems to explain the data is that the universe is an accident."

p115 Steven Weinberg in "The First Three Minutes" "It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a farcical outcome of a chain of accidents, ... but that we were somehow built in from the beginning ... It is very hard for us to realize that [the entire Earth] is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe ... The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."

p116 Richard Dawkins in "Science and God: A Warming Trend?", Science 277 (1997), 890: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference."

p116 Steven Jay Gould quotes Freud about the dethroning of man.

p116 The "marginalization of man" theme in scientific materialism.

p117 Brandon Carter in 1970's introduced the anthropic coincidences.

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Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Stephen M. Barr

Ch 15 The Anthropic Coincidences

p118 discusses meaning of anthropic coincidences and says he will discuss 11 of many.

p119 #1. The Strength of the Strong Nuclear Force

p119 25 elements found in the human body that seem to be essential to its functioning. Manufactured in big bang, in interiors of stars, and in supernovas. "we are made of stardust ."

p120 "making the strong force 10% weaker would choke off the process of making the elements at the very beginning, at the very first step." Discusses stability of deuteron. Basically there would be no universe.

p121 making the strong force 4% stronger would make di-protons and di-neutrons possible. Only the slow, weak interaction moderated "burning" of stars like our Sun keeps them around long enough for life to develop. the di-proton path would make the lifetimes of stars very short.

p121 #2 The Three-Alpha Process

p121 The gaps at 5 and 8 "after making helium 4 the next rungs of the ladder seem to be missing.

p121 two He-4 stick together for 10^-17 sec. If a third collides during that time it can stick and form carbon-12. There are no more missing rungs.

p122 Hoyle, triple-alpha process resonantly enhanced. He calculated that energy to be 7.7MeV and it was subsequently found to be 7.66 MeV.

p123 If energy levels of C had been different by a few percent, no carbon and no us. Further, if O-16 had been resonant with C-12 + alpha, would have shunted away the carbon. Near miss: level in O-16 is 7.1187MeV.

p123 #3 The Stability of the Proton

p123Neutron about 10 minutes, but proton nearly forever.

p124If proton more massive than neutron, then no universe. Alludes to quarks.

p125 #4 The Strength of the Electromagnetic Force

p125 Relative strength of 1/137 important for atom formation. If 1/25 then maybe 20 elements, if 1/10 only a few elements -- but we need 25. Charge of protons contributes positively to its mass (which I don't understand) but the quark difference dominates and makes neutron slightly more massive. He says if em force twice as strong, the proton would be more massive and there would be the consequences discussed in #1

p126 #5 The Value of Nu (the vacuum expectation value of the Higgs field)

p127 its value is one of the central puzzles in physics. If it has an apparentl value of 1 but ought to be 10^17, so almost perfectly canceling opposing effects?

p127 if 1.4 rather than 1, then pion more massive by that factor, and range of nuclear force down by about 20%, deuterium wouldn't bind, so no universe.

p129 #6 The Cosmological Constant

p Value abou 10^-120 For universe as we know it, cosmological constant must be zero to about 120 decimal places.

p130 #7 The Flatness of Space

p131 For universe to last so long, space had to be extremely "flat", not accelerating or decelerating in its expansion rate.

p131 #8 The Number of Dimensions of Space

p134 For dimensions larger than 3 no stable orbits would exist according to Barr - not possible for centripetal force to balance electric attraction.

p134 #9 The Quantum Nature of the World

p137 #10 Why Electromagnetism?

p138 #11 Why Matter?

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Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Stephen M. Barr

Ch 16 Objections to the Idea of Anthropic Coincidences

p138 Discusses the danger of "teleological" approach to nature. Scientists are hostile to anthropic coincidences because it might lead to a return to a teleological approaches that stymied the development of science for 2 millenia. Also it might be fear of the obvious religious implications.

p139 Lists scientists who have written about anthropic coincidences.

p140 Three basic objections to the idea of anthropic coincidences

p140 #1 The requirements for life are unknown.

p140 #2 Conventional scientific explanations may exist.

p141 Uses fine structure constant value 1/137 - may follow from grand unification. From strength of weak and strong forces can calculate within about half a percent. Also flatness may come from inflation.

p141 #3 There may have been no room for choice.

p142 Argument that there may have been a stronger magnetic force with the same electric force, but now that we know that they are aspects of the same force, we imply that they could not be independently changed.

p142 "in a deeper theory facts that previously seemed unrelated to each other are often seen to be tied to each other."

p142 "The question, then, is whether the kind of reasoning that goes into demonstrating an anthropic coincidence really makes any sense at all. When we know the ultimate mathematical theory of all physical phenomena, it may turn out that everything is so tied to everthing else that nothing can be changed without destroying the whole structure of the theory. In the ultimate theory, in other words, it may turn out that everything has to be just as it is. That is what Einstein meant when he famously said 'What I'm really interested in is whether God could have made the world in a different way.'" following is a couple of paragraphs about how theoretical physicists view the possibility that a final unified theory might remove all degrees of freedom.

p143 Answers to objections to anthropic coincidences.

p144 reiterates "not proof, but credibility" but points to cosmological constant and spatial flatness as very tiny windows for life to exist. Also those which would prevent formaton of periodic table.

p145 Carr amd Rees on natural laws and coincidences "even if all apparently anthropic coincidences could be explained in this way, it would still be remarkable that the relationships dictated by physical theory happened also those propitious for life."

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Stephen M. Barr

Ch 17 Alternative Explanations of the Anthropic Coincidences

p150 Weak anthropic principle. Presumes the existence of many universes.

p151 "Many Domain" version of WAP . Other domains would be beyond our horizon of observation.

p152 "Many Universes" version of WAP. The separation is extreme - like different books rather than just different pages in Many Domain version, so Many Domain version most popular

p154 "The basic point of the anthropic coincidences, for the theist, is that they highlight the fact that the universe might have been a different sort of place, and that it had to be a very special sort of place if it were to give rise to life. "

p156 "In any event, however inadequate, some version of the Weak Anthropic Principle seems to be the only way to attempt to explain the anthropic coincidences in a naturalistic way. It is a very curious circumstance that materialists, in an effort to avoid what Laplace called the unneccessary hypothesis of God, are frequently driven to hypothesize the existence of an infinity of unobservable entities."

p156 "It seems that to abolish one unobservable God, it takes an infinite number of unobservable substitutes."

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Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

Stephen M. Barr

Ch 18 Why Is the Universe So Big?

p158 "But if on some clear night we go outside and gaze up at the heavens, it is natural for us to be shocked at their immensity and overcome by a sense of our own insignificance. How vast the universe is, and how very small we are! How can we be so arrogant as to think that all of this was made for our sakes? Is that not as ridiculous as thinking that the entire Pacific Ocean exists for the sake of one microbe floating in its depths?" Quotes Ps 8:3-4

p158 Blaise Pascal in Pensees "The eternal silence of the infinite spaces frightens me."

p158 Comments that size does not equate to significance, that our power of reason can penetrate from one end of the cosmos to the other, and that those vast reaches know nothing . From Hamlet "I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space."

p159 Bertrand Russell, who called the human race "a curious accident in a backwater" quote to support the above - points to a valuing of human beings above all material universe.

p159 Einstein "If there were not this inner illumination [i.e., the human mind], the universe would be merely a rubbish heap."

p159 "God saw that it was good." preceded the creation of man. Ps19 "The heavens declare the glory of God."

p159 "the very vastness of the universe seems to be necessary if life is to arise in it, and so may underline rather than contradict the importance of human life in the scheme of nature."

p160 How old must a universe be?

p160 15 billion - supernovae release elements to be included in later generation stars - Sun about 10 billion years after big bang. Biological evolution more billions of years. One generation must be a very small part of the total age of the universe.

p160 How big must a universe be?

p160, 15 billion years, 15 billion light years in extent, smaller universe shorter life so not enough time for life to develop.

p161 Are we really so small?

pHumans sort of a mid point between the small and the large.

p161 "The universe is to a planet as a planet is to an atom." Using geometric mean. Size of man's hand to an atom is as the hand to a planet. From Carr and Rees, Nature 1979

p162 How basic physics sets the relative sizes of things.

p 162 ratio of atom to planet is fine structure constant to grav constant, the ratio of the corresponding coupling constants.

p163 mean between electron orbit time and age of the universe is about the time for a human heartbeat.

p163 Man is on an "isthmus of a middle state"

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