Friday, May 24, 2013

Hunting for Creationism - Round 2 - The Universe Was Created Powerfully


I'm on the hunt for evidence for Creationism/Intelligent Design (hereby C/ID). Here, I set the ground rules and mission. Here, I have an index of my search.

Continuing on icr.org (they have a bunch of arguments). Today's argument, "The Universe Was Created Powerfully"

I'll preface my analysis of this argument by saying, prepare yourself for a massive tsunami of question-begging.


Also, I'll start using this term - "Retro-Causal Argument"... or something, to describe something I've brought up before. The idea is that a person will identify an effect - like that the Earth exists - and then assert a cause for it. Since the effect exists, therefore the cause is true. For example:

  1. A fleet of sentient interdimensional potatoes creates universes.
  2. The universe exists.
  3. Therefore, a fleet of sentient interdimensional potatoes exists.
Except, in the case of creationists, they'll use "God" in place of "A fleet of sentient interdimensional potatoes."

Onto the actual argument!

The Argument

A star is a continuous explosion of awesome power.
I don't know that it's an "explosion". A supernova, now that would be an explosion. The sun is more like a "furnace." If my furnace was "exploding", I'd probably call a furnace-repair person. I'll agree though. The Sun is pretty cool.

The power to create a universe with a billion galaxies, each with a billion stars, is beyond imagination.
Pfffft. I could have told you that. Whatever caused our universe to exist (if it isn't eternal in one way or another), is currently "beyond our imagination"... and evidence.

... it's a wee bit more than a billion galaxies, by the way.

To create matter and energy can only be done by a Creator who is outside of nature. 
Okay, how have you established that this is true? Looking at the rest of the argument, you never clarify this. It appears to be a bald-faced evidenceless undemonstrated assertion.

To a degree, it's assuming the thing we're trying to demonstrate. If it turned out that the universe exists, but gods don't, that would imply there'd be a way for universes to exist without gods... but the argument is required to presuppose that isn't possible. Why not? We don't know whether that's the case. We don't know whether any gods exists, or whether universes can exist without them or not. We don't have any evidence about any of that. Any assertions about universal requirements are thus merely speculation.

One of the keys to an effectual investigation of reality is to keep the assumptions and presumptions to a minimum.

We'll mark this one as using the logical fallacy, "Begging the Question", but it's also our first instance of a Retro-Causal Argument.

The creation of the laws of nature themselves demonstrates an even greater power. 
He keeps loading the discussion by using the word "creation" - again presupposing what he's (sorry, I'm just going to use a generic "he", because most likely it's going to be males, the heads of these religious groups, doing the "thinking" for the womenfolk) trying to demonstrate.

How do we know the laws were created? How do we know that's even a requirement? We have no evidence about how/why the laws are the way they are, or why they exist at all, so any assertions about their origins is merely speculation.

Also, he appears to be engaging in some kind of equivocation fallacy - equating these vague references to "power" with "capacity of a supreme being". You get that a lot from creationist arguments... they'll set up vague terms and pivot equivocations from them.

The sun is large, massive, and I daresay "powerful", but not "powerful" as in "intelligent entity-required". That's a case they'd actually have to demonstrate.

These laws are balanced so that our sun provides the energy to us day by day. These laws are balanced so the molecules within us can use that energy.
Here's a lot more question-begging. Are the "laws fine-tuned" and "balanced"? What are you basing that from... the fact that they exist in a particular way?

We don't know that there aren't octillions of universes with random laws, and that only the universes that support life, do. We don't know that we're not living in lucky universe number 18-octillion.

Again, it's a Retro-Causal Argument. We have a phenomenon - the universe exists, and we appear to be able to survive in it (and it's arguable that we survive despite how the universe works). If the author is going to assert that a god is needed or responsible, or that it's impossible for our situation to come about by any other means other than a god, he actually needs to demonstrate that this assertion is true.

The argument appears to be:
  1. A god is required for the laws of the universe to be the way they are.
  2. The laws of the universe are the way they are.
  3. Therefore, a god exists.
Premise #1 is entirely unsupported, and is nothing but mere speculation due to a complete lack of evidence.

The laws of nature are fine-tuned so our sun can burn and provide us with the energy we need.

 The sun isn't "burning", just so you know. It's a nuclear reaction, not a chemical one.

... but again, you cannot merely assert that it's fine-tuned. That must be demonstrated.

This entire argument is apparently Evidence from Unsupported Assertion.

It's also "perception reversal". It's not so much that the sun was built to give us energy, as much as life sparked around, and evolved to make use of, heat that was coming from these hot balls of gasses. Life would only hypothetically arise in the right conditions - being in the habitable zones of stars is a precondition of this, as far as we know.


Light from stars and the sun begins with hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. The sun is a large ball of very hot hydrogen. It is more than 100 times larger than the earth.
The energy of the sun comes from explosions of hydrogen. These are nuclear explosions, which are much more powerful than chemical explosions.
Gravity draws all the sun's hydrogen together creating intense pressure. In the core of the sun, the huge forces cause nuclear fusion reactions. Hydrogen atoms fuse together into helium and release huge amounts of energy. 

Okay.. I could nitpick about whether it's "explosions" or not, but otherwise, I don't see any real issue here. We've got a mostly-accurate basic description of what a star is.

These explosions do not cause the sun to suddenly blow up and then go cold. The balanced laws of physics hold our sun together. Gravity pulls the atoms back as each explosion pushes them away. This balance keeps the billions of stars in billions of galaxies burning. 
Okay, and...?

So within the universe, some things may fall into balanced states. Clearly, this indicates the presence of unicorns.

If the laws of nature were just slightly different, the delicate balance would not exist between hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. Without this balance thousands of critical molecular interactions would not happen. There are only a few elements that can sustain life through their unique properties. Any change would make life impossible. 
There's quite a few constants that could vary quite a bit without a significant impact on the livability of the universe... but so what?

That'd just mean that this universe would be one of the octillions of universes that didn't have the right setup, and so of course this one wouldn't have life in it.

I may be making up a multi-universe explanation, but the point is, they're making up an explanation too. Now, if only we had any evidence at all that could bring any of these possibilities out from being mere evidenceless speculation.

I, on the other hand, and willing to acknowledge that we've identified that a universe exists, and natural laws exist... but why they exist ... I don't know. I'm waiting for evidence.

Meta Analysis

In terms of vetting against the preponderance of evidence, there's not a whole lot to say. They're not replacing any current models, but rather taking something that we don't know how/why it exists, and merely asserting a cause with no evidence. That doesn't exactly create any upheaval.

Conclusion

This argument has no meat... no "power", if you will. It's almost entirely Begging the Question with baseless undemonstrated assertions on almost every point made, in nothing more than a vain attempt to hijack scientific evidence to say what they want it to say, and failing miserably.

Personal Reflection

I sometimes worry that I may be engaging in double-standards. In the previous argument, I dismissed the idea that us being the center of a universe was evidence for a god, but when it comes to whether the fossil record indicates common ancestry within evolutionary history, they might question my assertion that the fossils indicate that.

The difference is one I keep trying to explain. On a very basic rudimentary level, yes, us being the center of the universe would point towards a creator, as that would be a potential output of a universe-creating entity... sort of.

The issue is not about whether some data that points towards a conclusion exists, or not... as much as how well does it do so, and what's the "quality" of that evidence?

If you go to car dealership, looking to buy a car, the car salesman isn't going to ask you "Do you have money?", expecting a simple yes/no response, and if you say "yes", the car is yours. Instead, it's a question of how much money you have versus how much the car costs. There are multiple variables present that all factor into whether you can ultimately purchase that car.

This is an analogy I frequently bring up, because I think it better positions what I'm talking about regarding the quantity and quality of evidence versus the total evidentiary requirement to demonstrate a claim as true.

What I'm doing in these posts is explaining why the qualify of the argument is "too poor" to be of any use, whereas I can explain a stronger empirically supported connection between the fossil record and common ancestry. That's mostly what the standards of evidence are about - determining the usefulness/qualify of an asserted piece of evidence.

These epistemological topics can get complicated, but they're worth having. Having a piece of evidence isn't some admittance card that you can flash and get entrance, demonstrating that you're now totally valid. It's a question of building up a case that is compatible with the preponderance of evidence to the point that it can explain as much about reality as possible, and progress our total understanding  Your case, with all the evidence you've gathered, must be of sufficient quantity and quality to convince others - especially the scientifically skeptic ones.

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