Friday, January 02, 2004
Cosmology & Physics: Whodunits
"Commonsense would suggest that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology..."
- Fred Hoyle
Carl Sagan once calculated that perhaps hundreds of planets had conditions suitable for life. (And I believed him, of course.) Today, however, we know that he did not take many important factors into account - Hugh Ross lists at least 40. By Ross's reckoning, not even one planet (ours included) should be expected to have life.
Even worse, the Anthropic Principle, manifested, for example, in the finely-tuned physical constants such as the balance between positive and negative charge, prods the thoughtful skeptic to ask: could there be a Designer, after all?
Incidentally, according to Satinover (who is not a quantum physicist - not yet, anyway), quantum physics says that atomic decay is caused by "nothing in the physical universe", that is to say, there is absolutely no physical cause whatsoever - it just happens, as it were, on a whim. (Read his chapter notes before responding to this one, please.)
I suspect this is a valid claim because of Heinz Pagels's irrational, desperate assertion that not even God knows which particle will decay next. I guess he had a different concept of omniscience.
Although I would be perfectly content if the current Big Bang theory were true, I don't recall whether the matter of discordant red shifts and interacting galaxies has been settled. Does this deserve further study? Or is Arp's interpretation of the data flawed? Is he a Galileo or a Gould? (A "Gould" is characterized by an otherwise brilliant mind tragically hobbled by preferred a priori beliefs. This could be true of an atheist or theist.)
The Steady State model - which allows that the universe is infinitely old - seems a desperate attempt to avoid a point of creation. However, some anomalies that are problematic for Big Bang theory still need to be explained. For example, the COBE results do show ripples in the background radiation, thus addressing the "Smoothness Problem," but there are still questions to be answered, such as the source of those inhomogeneities.
And what about those Megawalls?
The discovery of apparent large-scale structure to the universe - "Great Walls" of galaxies (megawalls) and 100-million-light-year "bubbles" of galaxies and voids - is currently unexplained by the Big Bang theory. Of course, as yet, the cause of the Big Bang itself is unexplained, and is indeed closed to our investigation past 10e-43 seconds, as is the initial clumping of matter, overcoming the tremendous, radial, outward force of the explosion, to form stars, planets, and so on. Inflation theory notwithstanding.
"Over the last few decades, astronomers have discovered that the redshifts of the galaxies are not evenly distributed but are 'quantized', i.e., they tend to fall into distinct groups. This means that the distances to the galaxies also fall into groups, with each group of galaxies forming a conceptual spherical shell. The shells turn out to be about a million light-years apart. "It is remarkable that the shells are all concentric and all centered on our home galaxy, the Milky Way. If they weren't, we would not see groups of redshifts. Russ Humphreys shows that groups would only be distinct from each other if our viewing location were less than a million light years (a trivial distance on the scale of the universe) from the center. "The odds for the Earth having such a unique position in the cosmos by accident are less than one in a trillion."
Materialist faith has never been more thinly stretched. ...