Thursday, December 29, 2005

Atheistic Religious Fervor

The popular belief today, fostered by many in the scientific community who have a vested interest in bolstering their prestige, is that scientists are purely rational, following the empirical facts wherever they might lead, while religious people are irrational fanatics who persist in believing in a creator God despite the evidence.

But is that really the case? Even a cursory look at the actual practice of the scientific community shows us that the answer is emphatically "no." Scientists show every bit the tendency toward faith commitments as anyone else, and nobody more than the atheistic, naturalistic ones.

A prime example of this was brought up by an atheistic commenter in the discussion section of a recent post.

After trying to escape the obvious non-naturalistic implications of a universe that has clearly had a beginning in time by positing that it was self-caused (thus committing rational suicide), he then tries to escape by offering up what is known as the multiple universe (or "multiverse") theory. This is fortunate, because there may be no better example of "empirical scientists" coming up with something that is completely unempirical in order to explain away implications they find uncomfortable and which they have ruled out on philosophical grounds.

Leonard Susskind, the widely revered Stanford physicist who has had a major role in formulating string theory, essentially admits in an interview in this month's New Scientist that the "multiverse" theory (which says there are theoretically millions--or more--of other unobserved universes in existence) is necessary to explain why our universe seems so finely tuned for life.

The introduction to the piece, written by Amanda Gefter, is shockingly telling:
But the inventor of string theory, physicist Leonard Susskind, sees this "landscape" of universes as a solution rather than a problem. He says it could answer the most perplexing question in physics: why the value of the cosmological constant, which describes the expansion rate of the universe, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. A little bigger or smaller and life could not exist. With an infinite number of universes, says Susskind, there is bound to be one with a cosmological constant like ours.
So we see the problem we're dealing with (which is described as "the most perplexing question in physics"): the universe is very fine-tuned for intelligent life, and it's very, very difficult to explain that naturalistically. So a theory has to be devised, no matter how non-empirical, to explain the evidence in naturalistic terms. What we come out with is the "multiverse," which is essentially nothing more than a variation on the old idea that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in a room typing on an infinite number of typewriters, every possibility will eventually be realized and one of them will type the complete works of Shakespeare. Because our universe is clearly showing us design far beyond the complete works of Shakespeare, multiversalists simply theorize an infinite number of universes to explain it. None of this is observable, of course, but that really isn't what this is about anyway.

And here's an even more telling section from the Q&A. Keep in mind, this is from the man who is one of the most respected naturalistic scientists in the world and is hostile enough to ID to have written a book called Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design:
If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?

I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation - I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.
In one fell swoop, one of the most eminent physicists in the world confirms everything we've been saying: the universe strongly hints at having been designed; that ID presents an argument that is weighty and has strong evidence on its side; that this conclusion is philosophically unacceptable to the naturalist, necessitating that he dispose of the vast weight of the evidence; and that the naturalistic scientist currently stands in a "very awkward position" in relationship to the criticisms leveled by Intelligent Design.

Not exactly the picture you'd get from all the triumphalistic blather from evolutionists surrounding the Dover case, is it? Which do you find to be more faith-based: the notion that a universe which shows extremely strong evidence of having been designed actually was designed? Or the notion that it must be one of an infinite number of other universes which popped into being out of nothing, none of which we can see, measure, or even detect? Purely rational scientists indeed.

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