Saturday, October 19, 2013

Norwich and Norfolk Faith Group Lecture.

There’s been another interesting lecture by Norwich and Norfolk’s Science and Faith group, (see here for my post on a previous lecture), this time by Astrophysicist Rodney Holder. According to the article on NN&N Dr Holder (as reported by Patrick Richmond) makes the following points:

The universe is finely tuned in order to give rise to life like us. Its current form arises out of very special conditions.

My Comment. (Just as a note here: We need to distinguish between supporting life and generating life.) That scientists like Dr Holder make constant appeal to the Universe’s very special “sitting-on-a-knife-edge” condition is evidence they actually support “Intelligent Design” in its most general sense. Sad to say, however, that the “Intelligent Design” rubric is probably to be avoided because it has become blighted by its association with anti-academic establishment groups and, much, much worse, Young Earth Creationism. (See John Polkinghorne’s understandable reaction to the term “ID” here)

A universe with an absolute beginning seems to pose a problem for atheists. Some cosmologists continue to seek theories that avoid absolute starts. These attempts are looking problematical in the light of work by Alexander Vilenkin.

My Comment: See my previous post here for comment on this. I’m glad to see Dr Holder steered round the Kalum argument.  It is true, however, that because we are creatures who live in the causal unfolding of time, a logical hiatus at the start of the universe is very compelling, far more compelling than the more abstract logical hiatus that is silently with us everywhere and everywhen. Human beings need an obvious discontinuity and/or change on the stage of time before it becomes newsworthy and demands explanation! As my good friend James Knight points out we are like fish swimming around in the sea asking where is the water?

The main feature of the Christian doctrine of creation is less about beginnings then in it addressing the deep question of “Why is there something rather than nothing”. “Something from nothing” doctrines such as we see from Stephen Hawkin contradict themselves, because they are clearly positing assumed physical properties from the outset. This is not “nothing” (See my comments here)

My Comment: This “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question is basically a probe about that immersive logical hiatus that is with us everywhere and everywhen.

Even the multiverse calls on special mathematical conditions for it to generate universes. Moreover a huge majority of the organisation observed in the cosmos is redundant to our existence; in terms of likelihoods our universe is far too over engineered if it were just one of an infinity of largely disordered universes.

My Comment: I touch on this issue in this series of posts. It is an issue that brings out the very particularity of our cosmos; that is, high complexity in service of simplicity. The North American ID community call this “specification” ( or complex specified information)  - definitely one of their better ideas, I'll give them that!  
Dr Holder concluded that modern cosmology seems to confirm Christian belief.

My Comment: By “confirm” I’m taking that not to mean making an inductive connection to “God” from the known universe, but rather a connection to God that is deductive. Given the known universe it doesn't follow in any inductive logical way I can think of that "therefore God".  On making note of the very general logical hiatuses Dr Holder refers to I've always preferred the deductive approach: That is "In the beginning God, therefore an intelligible rational universe”. (See here). "Evidence" for an object really means passing from object to evidence rather than evidence to object. Such are the imaginative a-priori epistemic methods of the human mind.

Whatever way we turn, whether to standard evolution, multi-verse, or continuous creation we find that the cosmos has particular and idiosyncratic logical "edges" to it. This is evidence of the mathematical truth that descriptive "compression" will always terminate with an irreducible kernel of information, and enigmatic non-trivial information at that.


Seeing people like Rodney Holder and the N&N faith group at work is a breath of fresh air. I’ve made it my lot in life to focus my time on the eccentric, bordering on crank, versions of Christianity, and sometimes I wonder why.

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