There is no basis for morality in a Godless universe

This is Peter Hitchens discussing John Gray’s Seven Types of Atheism. Lots of points being made. This is one of the many that reading the entire review will bring to your attention:

Perhaps most definitive of all is his observation that godless searches for a universal law are futile. “Without a law giver, what can a universal moral law mean?” he asks. “If you think of morality as part of the natural behaviour of the human animal, you find that humans do not live according to a single moral code. Unless you think one of them has been mandated by God, you must accept the variety of moralities as part of what it means to be human.” Well, exactly. No God: no law. No law: no morals, just situational, alterable ethics. I am amazed that so few seem to realize the implications of atheism for the rule of law over power, the one thing that really sustains human civilization.

Hitchens also provides an insightful quote from Albert Einstein, which he says is not well known which is why he quoted it. It is why I quote it as well.

I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvellously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.

A wonderful article.

Only the completely credulous can be atheists

This arrived in my mail box from someone named Jeff Allen, and I am grateful for his posting. I cannot see how this points towards any particular religion as the answer to our origins, but it does make me sit in wonder of it all and how we came into being. The time frames alone defeat me in making sense of it. But to think that this was a self-creating universe, and everything that had to happen for us to be all happened by chance, is asking me to believe the impossible. I have seen other lists like this, but this one seems particularly fine and very readable. I might just mention that I have been reading basic texts on and histories of chemistry because what we have worked out about the mechanism of the world feels like an algorithm. Two hydrogen atoms plus one oxygen atom and we have water. Sure, totally obvious, which is why it took 2500 years to work it out. Anyway, Mr Allen’s list.

Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today. Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:

1. The Earth…its size is perfect.

The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter (R.E.D. Clark, Creation (London: Tyndale Press, 1946), p. 20). Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. If it were any closer, we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents (The Wonders of God’s Creation, Moody Institute of Science, Chicago, IL).

2. Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion at the moment of the cosmic explosion… The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”Robert Jastrow; “Message from Professor Robert Jastrow”;; 2002.

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousand million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light” [Steven Weinberg; The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe; (Basic Books,1988); p 5.].

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…and what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.
If I told you that the watch on my wrist was designed by a team of engineers, skillfully crafted by a team of highly trained technicians, sent to a jobber, and from there to the store where my wife bought it as a gift for me, would you believe me?

Well, let me tell you what really happened: Millions and millions of years ago, there were atoms freely floating through the universe. Cosmic winds drew them together, clustering them into various materials: silicon, crystals, metals, and other various parts. Through the random effects of chance, over millions of years, of course, these various elements were thrown together into his interesting device that now adorns my wrist, and it has been keeping accurate time ever since!

Ridiculous, isn’t it. The notion that this complex little device “happened” by the caprice of chance alone is, of course, absurd. It is obviously the object of careful and skillful design. Strange that we reject the notion that this watch happened by accident, yet it is vastly simpler than the wrist upon which it resides.

The watch is a simple “open loop” design. The wrist is a “closed loop” servo system, which is vastly more sophisticated. It adjusts to ambient conditions, fights off invaders, even repairs itself and involves design elements we are only just now beginning to understand! Why is it that we require a designer to explain the origin of the watch, yet are willing to ascribe the biological systems which it adorns chance?

3. Does God exist? Design parameters of the universe.

The limits and parameters of the universe have come within the measuring capacity of astronomers and physicists, the design characteristics of the universe are being examined and acknowledged. Astronomers have discovered that the characteristics and parameters of the universe, and our solar system are so finely tuned to support life that nothing less than a personal, intelligent Creator can explain the degree of the universe being fine-tuned It requires power and purpose.

Approximately two dozen parameters of the universe have been identified that must be carefully fixed in order for any kind of conceivable life to exist at any time in the history of the universe. Here are a few examples of these given below.

1. Gravitational coupling constant. If larger: no stars less than 1.4 solar masses, hence short stellar life spans. If smaller: no stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production.

2. Strong nuclear force coupling constant. If larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life are unstable. If smaller: no elements other than hydrogen

3. Electromagnetic coupling constant. If larger: no chemical bonding; elements more massive than boron are unstable to fission. If smaller: no chemical bonding.

4. Ratio of protons to electrons. If larger: electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star and planet formation. If smaller: electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation.

5. Ratio of electron to proton mass. If larger: no chemical bonding. If smaller: no chemical bonding.

6. Expansion rate of the universe. If larger: no galaxy formation. If smaller: universe collapse prior to star formation.

7. Entropy level of the universe. If larger: no star condensation within the proto-galaxies. If smaller: no proto-galaxy formation.

8. Mass density of the universe. If larger: too much deuterium from big bang, hence stars burn too rapidly. If smaller: no helium from big bang, hence not enough heavy elements.

9. Age of the universe. If older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of the galaxy. If younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed.

10. Average distance between stars. If larger: heavy elements density too thin for rocky planet production. If smaller: planetary orbits become destabilized.

11. Solar luminosity. If increases too soon: runaway green house effect. If increases too late: frozen oceans.

12. Fine structure constant (a function of three other fundamental constants, Planck’s constant, the velocity of light, and the electron charge each which, therefore, must be fine-tuned) If larger: no stars more than 0.7 solar masses, if smaller: not stars less than 1.8 solar masses.

13. Carbon to Oxygen energy level ratio. If larger: insufficient oxygen. If smaller: insufficient carbon.

14. Decay rate of proton. If greater: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation. If smaller: insufficient matter in the universe for life.

The degree of the universe being fine-tuned for many of these parameters is utterly amazing. For example, if the strong nuclear force were even two percent stronger or two percent weaker, the universe would never be able to support life. More astounding yet, the ground state energies for He, Be, C, and O cannot be higher or lower with respect to each other by more than four percent without yielding a universe with insufficient oxygen and/or carbon for any kind of life. The expansion rate of the universe is even more sensitive, it must be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in 1055! Clearly some ingenious Designer must be involved in the physics of the universe.

4. Does God exist? Origin of life

Life. What is it? Where did it come from? What makes it different from dust, the air and the water on earth? From the time we humans achieve self awareness there develops a fascination with the things that crawl, slither, walk, swim and fly. This fascination with the “living protoplasm” on earth is basic to our constitution. This fascination with living things leads us all to the point when we ask “where did they come from?” The question of the origin of life has been debated by philosophers, theologians, scientists for thousands of years and is at the very core of the debate between the atheists and the creationists. Creationists see the creation of life as powerful, visible, manifestation of an awesome designer, creator, God. To the creationist, life is the product of the greatest chemist, biologists, mathematician and engineer in or out of the universe! To the atheist, life is viewed as incredibly lucky result of billions of years and countless violations of the laws of nature acting on non-living matter. As some have put it, life is “The fortuitous occurrence of accidental circumstances.”

Atheists assume that 3 to 4 billion years ago, non-living, inanimate, inorganic matter developed into highly complex living organism, by random chance. No one knows where it happened, but it generally assumed to have occurred somewhere on earth, in a “primordial ooze”, near hot oceanic vents or some shallow tidal pool. No designer, no blue prints, no instructions, no concept or purpose are allowed in the evolutionary scenario of the origin of life. Only the laws of nature, random chance and long periods of time are allowed to act on the raw materials of life.

5. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

All instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billion of these letters in every human cell!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.

Why is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

6. Does God exist? Encyclopedia on a Pinhead: Chance or design?

At the moment of conception, a fertilized human egg is about the size of a pin head. Yet, it contains information equivalent to about six billion “chemical letters.” This is enough information to fill 1000 books, 500 pages thick with print so small you would need a microscope to read it! If all the DNA chemical “letters” in the human body were printed in books, it is estimated they would will the Grand Canyon 50 times!

The information on the DNA molecule is transferred to RNA and ultimately to proteins in the form of structural and functional proteins. A fundamental dilemma for the evolution theory is that the duplication and translation of the information on the DNA molecule requires the employment of proteins. However, living cells cannot make proteins until the DNA replication and translation machinery is in place! The only rational explanation for this dilemma is that the protein production and DNA replication and translation machinery system arose simultaneously! This could only happen by design.

Question: Would a DNA molecule that arose by chance possess any information, codes, programs, or instructions? According to the basic principles of information theory the answer is clearly NO!

7. Does God exist? A Complex Engineering Puzzle

Suppose you were asked to take two long strands of fisherman’s monofilament line, 125 miles long, then form it into a double helix structure and neatly fold and pack this line so it would fit into a basketball.

Furthermore, you would need to ensure that the double helix could be unzipped and duplicated along the length of this line, and the duplicate copy removed, all without tangling the line. Possible? This is directly analogous to what happens in the billions of cells in your body every day. Scale the basketball down to the size of a human cell and the line scales down to six feet of DNA.

All of this DNA must be packed so the regulatory proteins that control making copies of the DNA have access to it. The DNA packing process is both complex and elegant and is so efficient that it achieves a reduction in length of DNA by a factor of one million. When the cell needs to divide, the entire length of DNA must be split apart, duplicated and repackaged for each daughter cell. No one knows exactly how cells solve this topological nightmare, but the solution clearly starts with the special spools on which the DNA is wound.

Each spool carries two “turns” of DNA, and the spools themselves are stacked together in groups of six or eight. The human cell uses about 25 million of them to keep its DNA under control. DNA is wound around histones to form nucleosomes. These are organized into solenoids, which in turn compose chromatin loops. Each element in this complex, yet highly organized arrangement is carefully designed to play a key role in the cell replication process.

The arrogance and ignorance of atheism

There is an article in The Australian today that is supposedly a reply to another that had originated in The Wall Street Journal in this case arguing the case for atheism. I dealt with the earlier article here under the heading, And who created the God particle? But this latest effort is so superficial that if this is the best that the atheist community can come up with, there is no case to answer for any of us who cannot see how the world we inhabit ever came to be. You don’t wish to believe in even the possibility that we are the conscious outcome of something in the universe, that made the world as it is so that we could have a home to live in, then don’t. But your belief is a matter of will, not of evidence and probability.

The title is typical of someone arrogant enough to believe that everything that has been brought together must absolutely have been for the benefit of humans. It is a reflection of the article itself, Why did the almighty create mosquitoes? Since he cannot think why mosquitoes were created, he does not believe there was a conscious attempt to allow the world to exist. Instead he comes down to this:

As Steven Weinberg, a Nobel-prize winner in the field, put it at the turn of the century, the more plausible, if daunting, hypothesis is that we are part not of a “universe” but of a “multiverse”, in which universes come and go with infinite variations. We just happen to be in one in which things worked out this way.

Instead of some creator, we have a fantastic expansion of what is out there that has allowed us to have come into existence, built on a will to believe that it just happened by itself. This is what he is forced to resort to:

The multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes (including the universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes or “alternate universes”.

He thus finds it more plausible that there are an infinite number of universes – in some versions an infinite number of parallel universes that exist even at the same time as our own – but in one of these, simply by chance, things turned out just so, which has allowed you and I to come into existence. There is a will to disbelieve. He finds it preferable to believe that it just happened by itself, in one of the trillions of universes that have meandered through time. That is a belief system, based on no evidence at all.

So let me again mention the famous Higgs boson. The wikipedia discussion of the Higgs boson, the “God particle”, is hilarious because it never actually gets around to explaining what its hypothesised existence is needed for, or why it got the name it has. Here’s why it has been hypothesised:

The Higgs boson, or “God particle,” is believed to be the particle which gives mass to matter.

Got that? The issue is how did pure energy become matter. The big bang was all energy but no mass. The Higgs boson apparently existed at the moment of the big bang and allowed at least some of that energy to be turned into mass, into matter, into the things we are made of. You can hypothesise this as yet undiscovered particle so that you can live without the thought that we are here by design, for reasons unknown to us, and probably never knowable. Why the universe should be created with this embedded principle is a question that anyone with an inquiring disposition would immediately turn into the notion of a presence that had something in mind when the process was begun.

To live in certainty that we are not the conscious creation of some other presence in the universe is so empty that I cannot understand how anyone cannot see just how improbable such a belief must be. Certainly more improbable that assuming some creator, whose characteristics, and original aims and intentions are unlikely, ever to be known.

And who created the God particle?

There is an article that originated at at the WSJ, but has been reproduced in The Australian: Is science showing there really is a God?, according to which “the rumours of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.” Said the same thing the other day myself. The article adds:

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

The God particle, so called, may actually exist, that allowed energy to be immediately turned into mass at the moment the universe was created. But that still doesn’t answer the question, who created the God particle?

Atheism is the greatest delusion of all

Last night, Christmas eve, I came home and read my freshly bought copies of Standpoint and The Spectator, both of which had the same ad for a book by one John Marsh titled, The Liberal Delusion: The Roots of our Current Moral Crisis. The title of the ad was: “Did Einstein Believe in God?” And after reading the text of the ad, I’m afraid I will have to get the book. This is from an article by Marsh, that I have chopped through to remove passages where other arguments are interwoven, to leave only what is found in the title, which was the same title as the ad: Did Einstein Believe in God?.

Is there clear unequivocal evidence that Einstein did believe in God? . . . The following quotations from Einstein are all in Jammer’s book:

“Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.”

“Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.”

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

“The divine reveals itself in the physical world.”

“My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”

“I want to know how God created this world. I want to know his thoughts.”

“What I am really interested in knowing is whether God could have created the world in a different way.”

“This firm belief in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

“My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit, …That superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”

Further confirmation that Einstein believed in a transcendent God comes from his conversations with his friends. David Ben-Gurion, the former Prime Minister of Israel, records Einstein saying “There must be something behind the energy.” And the distinguished physicist Max Born commented, “He did not think religious belief a sign of stupidity, nor unbelief a sign of intelligence.” Einstein did not believe in a personal God, who answers prayers and interferes in the universe. But he did believe in an intelligent mind or spirit, which created the universe with its immutable laws. What Einstein actually said is:

“I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.”

“Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source.”

“There is harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, yet there are people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me to support such views.”

Einstein takes the opposite point of view: “A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

Max Jammer was a personal friend of Einstein and Professor of Physics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. His book is a comprehensive survey of Einstein’s writing, conversations and speeches on God and religion. In his book, Jammer wrote, “Einstein was neither an atheist nor an agnostic” and he added, “Einstein renounced atheism because he never considered his denial of a personal God as a denial of God. This subtle but decisive distinction has long been ignored.” His conclusion is that Einstein believed in God, albeit not a God who answers prayers. Eduard Büsching sent a copy of his book Es gibt keinen Gott (There is no God) to Einstein, who suggested a different title: Es gibt keinen persönlichen Gott (There is no personal God). However in his letter to Büsching, Einstein commented, “A belief in a personal God is preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook.” According to Jammer, “Not only was Einstein not an atheist, but his writings have turned many away from atheism, although he did not set out to convert anyone”. Einstein was very religious; he wrote, “Thus I came – despite the fact that I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents – to a deep religiosity.”

On Spinoza, Einstein said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” Spinoza wrote, “The view of certain people that I identify God with nature is quite mistaken.” The French philosopher Martial Guéroult suggested the term panentheism, rather than pantheism, to describe Spinoza’s view of the relation between God and the universe. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘panentheism’ as the theory or belief that God encompasses and interpenetrates the universe, but at the same time is greater than, and independent of it. So panentheism is similar to pantheism, but crucially in addition believes that God exists as a mind or a spirit. The idea that God is both transcendent and immanent is also a major tenet of both Christianity and Judaism.

To sum up: Einstein was – like Newton before him – deeply religious and a firm believer in a transcendent God. However Einstein rejected anthropomorphic and personal understandings of the word ‘God’. His beliefs may be seen as a form of Deism: “the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being as the source of finite existence, with rejection of revelation and the supernatural doctrines of Christianity” (The Oxford English Dictionary).

I am no Spinoza or Einstein, but of all possibilities, the absence of some creator presence in the universe seems the least likely possibility of all.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: Not that it can influence anyone either one way or the other, but this is just something to note: RELIGIOUS PEOPLE MUCH HAPPIER THAN OTHERS, NEW STUDY SHOWS. As it says in the first line:

A strong correlation exists between religiosity and personal happiness, according to a new study by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.

Who knows the cause and effect, and which way it runs, nor is happiness the reason to feel the existence of a transcendent presence in the universe. Atheism just seems an unnatural act, where the incredible impossibility of our existence must be denied, and one’s face set against all the evidence to the contrary.

How can an atheist know right from wrong?

The Spectator has a story on The return of God: atheism’s crisis of faith. That the world as we know it cannot possibly be the result of spontaneous creation and Darwinian natural selection is so obvious that I am no longer even embarrassed in the company of atheists who I now think of as intellectually shallow and impossibly obtuse. Atheism cannot be defended other than as a form of wilful ignorance. Even the existence of a morality within human societies, a largely common morality shared across all religious groups – although with large differences in view about whether non-members of the religion are protected by these beliefs – shows a kind of understanding of the difference between right and wrong.

The new atheism has reached the limits of what it can achieve because it is attempting to renew secular humanism in anti-religious terms. This cannot be done. It’s a paltry and dishonest attempt, because it avoids reflecting on the tradition of secular humanism. Such reflection is awkward for it, due to its muddled claim that morality is just natural, and so no special tradition is needed. And yet — felix culpa! The atheists have unwittingly raised the question, which we generally prefer to evade, of what secular humanism is, how it is related to God. By tackling this big issue ineptly, they have at least hauled it onto the table. (Also — a slightly different point — their unattractive polemics have surely helped to push some semi-Christians off the fence, onto the faithful side — seemingly including A.N. Wilson and Diarmaid MacCulloch. And they have nudged some quietly Christian authors into writing about their faith — Francis Spufford stands out.)

Evade it as you like, without God there can be no morality beyond self-interest and what you can get away with.