A Small Thought About Some Big Numbers

 

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t find the thought of life originating and evolving on Earth through purely naturalistic processes incredible. Five hundred million years — the approximate time we think it took life to get a figurative toehold on our cooling orb — is a long time: multiply that by the number of ponds and puddles and deep ocean vents and, well, there are a lot of places where naturally occurring lipids might self-organize, as lipids do, into little test tubes in which organic molecules can dance.

I find it entirely plausible that that’s what happened.

But I realized today that I’ve been looking at the numbers wrong. Yes, a half a billion years on Earth is a lot of time for chemicals to slosh around, but nonetheless that’s really a drop in the bucket — no, a drop in the ocean.

No, far less than a drop in the ocean.

There’s no reason to think only of the opportunities for life to appear on Earth. More sensible is to think of the opportunities for life to appear anywhere, because, wherever it appeared, that’s the place from which we’ll end up marveling at its improbability.

About a billion lightyears from Earth is a cluster of galaxies named Able 2029. One of the galaxies in that cluster goes by the poetic name IC 1101. It’s the biggest galaxy of which we’re aware, containing on the order of one hundred trillion stars.

That’s 100,000,000,000,000 stars.

In comparison, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, contains a mere quarter of a trillion stars.

There are well over two hundred billion galaxies. Ours is unexceptional — other than being the only one, as far as we know, that contains life.

We now think that most stars probably have planets. Recently, scientists decided that the so-called “Goldilocks zone,” the range of orbits about a star in which the temperature might be “just right” for water to exist as a liquid, is probably much broader than we originally thought. (This has to do with atmospheric dynamics of planets considerably larger than Earth.)

The universe is pretty young (at least it seems that way to me), less than 15 billion years old: life on Earth has been around for more than 20% of the age of the universe. But our sun isn’t a first-generation star: there have been at least two or three generations of stars before ours, perhaps more. So that’s a lot more stars than “merely” the 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars we can see on a clear night. (I kid, of course, but that’s a rough approximation of how many we think are out there.) So double that number to account for those stars that have come and gone before us.

That’s an awful lot of stars with an awful lot of planets. Multiply that by half a billion years, to give life a chance to start. Think of all those ponds and puddles and deep ocean vents.

Given all that, while I find it wonderful and beautiful and deeply moving that life exists at all, I don’t find it surprising.

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  1. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense. 

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    But when will intelligence exist? 😜

    • #2
  3. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Fritz (View Comment):

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense.

    Fritz, to the extent that things have to make sense, I think divine origin doesn’t make sense either. That is, it doesn’t answer any questions, but merely fobs them off into another universe with another set of completely alien rules.

    Meanwhile, we slowly grasp some of the incredible nuance of the universe we can actually see. And we know that there are holes in what we know, perhaps large holes. We haven’t exhausted the scientific method just yet.

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense.

    Fritz, to the extent that things have to make sense, I think divine origin doesn’t make sense either. That is, it doesn’t answer any questions, but merely fobs them off into another universe with another set of completely alien rules.

    Meanwhile, we slowly grasp some of the incredible nuance of the universe we can actually see. And we know that there are holes in what we know, perhaps large holes. We haven’t exhausted the scientific method just yet.

    Let’s just stick to something sensible and scientific for the Creation, shall we?

    Big Bang, anyone?

    • #4
  5. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Arahant (View Comment):

    But when will intelligence exist? 😜

    How many zeros do we want to take off from that big product, above, to allow for those instances of life that don’t progress to intelligence? We could lose quite a few, and still have a lot left over.

    But that’s a fascinating question. Our own intelligence seems vastly overpowered for what we need. From a purely survival standpoint, it’s tempting to say that the species didn’t need calculus. We might be able to give up a lot of our symbolic skills without significantly decreasing our chances for survival, but I don’t really know. Maybe we’d be a footnote in a never-written history if we didn’t have most of what we have, intellectually speaking.

    The suggestion has been made that every niche that can be filled will be filled. I don’t know if that’s true: it’s also claimed that empty but viable niches exist, though how long they remain empty is a matter of conjecture. But if there is a niche for organisms with a seemingly excessive capacity to think, perhaps it borders on the inevitable that that niche also will be filled.

    As the most prolific giant species on the planet, our brains have certainly served us well, evolutionarily speaking.

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    The flaw in this reasoning is that 100 trillion times zero is still zero.  That’s true for 100 trillion trillion trillion, too.

    We don’t know the probability of life emerging by natural processes.  It has never been observed, right?

    If the probability is non-zero, then the size and age of the universe would be relevant to the evaluation.  If the probability is zero, it doesn’t matter.

    • #6
  7. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    The flaw in this reasoning is that 100 trillion times zero is still zero. That’s true for 100 trillion trillion trillion, too.

    We don’t know the probability of life emerging by natural processes. It has never been observed, right?

    If the probability is non-zero, then the size and age of the universe would be relevant to the evaluation. If the probability is zero, it doesn’t matter.

    Obviously.

    But the claim that the probability is zero is a vastly stronger claim than that the probability is some very small number. We can all admit that it is very plausible that the probability is a very small number. But to declare it impossible is to make a claim that requires something more than an acknowledgement of the number of felicitous events that must coincide in order to bring about life.

    I’m not willing to make a claim as strong as that — that the probability is zero. I don’t think the science supports such a claim.

    • #7
  8. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    We don’t know the probability of life emerging by natural processes.  It has never been observed, right?

    If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?    If a zillion stars with a zillion planets make life and we never observe it, has it really happened? 

    • #8
  9. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    The flaw in this reasoning is that 100 trillion times zero is still zero. That’s true for 100 trillion trillion trillion, too.

    We don’t know the probability of life emerging by natural processes. It has never been observed, right?

    If the probability is non-zero, then the size and age of the universe would be relevant to the evaluation. If the probability is zero, it doesn’t matter.

    The ability to do math is not as important as knowing what math to do. 

    All that we have ever seen are natural processes, and obviously, life has emerged.  So our sample size of one serves us pretty well in that regard.  Try your math on religion and let me know how that turns out.

    There is no flaw in Henry’s reasoning, and the only shortfall that I see is not taking into account the recent advances in evolution, viz the questionable value of calculus to survival.  I don’t mean the study of evolution, although that too is booming — I mean the accelerating specialization of ourselves as supersocial competition machines.

    Evolution does not care about survival, and only rewards it to the extent that it fosters reproduction.

    • #9
  10. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Fritz (View Comment):

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense.

    Nothing else makes sense to you.  I point that out not to be churlish, but to put the shoe on the right foot.  You describe your view as a decision made on the basis of what you know and believe, and that’s absolutely fair.

    • #10
  11. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    BDB (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense.

    Nothing else makes sense to you. I point that out not to be churlish, but to put the shoe on the right foot. You describe your view as a decision made on the basis of what you know and believe, and that’s absolutely fair.

    You *are* being churlish.  Fritz gives a counter to Henry which is both necessary and unanswerable without invoking a divinity.  Whatever your Origin Legend may be, something had to start it.  As Aquinas taught us, that something may be a Someone, whom we call God.

    • #11
  12. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    I think you’re impressing yourself with some very big numbers while simultaneously ignoring some very small ones. Let’s say I tell you I bought a thousand lottery tickets. Am I likely to win? With just that much information it’s impossible to know. You’d also want to know how many total tickets there are. I’d have a much better chance in a two-thousand ticket lottery than in a two-hundred-million ticket lottery.  In short, 

    [Chance of a thing happening] = [chance of any single try working] x [number of tries you get]

    I’ll grant that in a massive universe over billions of years that [number of tries you get] is going to be stupendously large. But that doesn’t mean anything more than my thousand lottery tickets until I’ve got some idea of [chance of any single try working]. 

    You tell me that lipids will form into liposomes. Well and good. What purely natural processes form those base lipids? What base molecules are necessary, and under what conditions do they need to come together? How abundant are the atoms that make up those base molecules, and under what conditions do they form the correct compounds, and under what conditions might those compounds break down? 

    Without knowing the number of tickets in the lottery the number of tickets you’ve bought doesn’t tell me anything.

    • #12
  13. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    That the current state of the world, with conscious beings, had a predecessor state that naturally produced the current one, does precisely nothing to reduce the mystery of the existence of conscious, acting man. It’s irrational to think that it does. It is moving the question from one place to a different place and then pretending that it is not still the same question.

    • #13
  14. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):

    I have no problem with evolutionary biology, but where does the incredibly designed universe originate? There must be a first cause. I choose to believe its divine origin, because nothing else makes sense.

    Nothing else makes sense to you. I point that out not to be churlish, but to put the shoe on the right foot. You describe your view as a decision made on the basis of what you know and believe, and that’s absolutely fair.

    You *are* being churlish. Fritz gives a counter to Henry which is both necessary and unanswerable without invoking a divinity. Whatever your Origin Legend may be, something had to start it. As Aquinas taught us, that something may be a Someone, whom we call God.

    No, my churlishness is unmistakeable.  I don’t go on the God-bothering threads to debate this stuff, so I’ll let ‘er rip here on a science thread when ignorance (meaning simple non-awareness of existing facts) is substituted for reason.

    Aquinas was a fine thinker who unfortunately worked from some flawed axioms.  Naturally, many of his conclusions are therefore weak.

    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.  Just as we cannot relate to the very small, the very large, and the very fast, and so our primate brains rebel at quantum weirdness and time dilation, we also cannot relate to things exquisitely remote in the past or the future.  Linear causality is all well and good in the middle of a universe’s lifetime, but it need not necessarily hold at either end.

    • #14
  15. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Internet’s Hank (View Comment):

    I think you’re impressing yourself with some very big numbers while simultaneously ignoring some very small ones. Let’s say I tell you I bought a thousand lottery tickets. Am I likely to win? With just that much information it’s impossible to know. You’d also want to know how many total tickets there are. I’d have a much better chance in a two-thousand ticket lottery than in a two-hundred-million ticket lottery. In short,

    [Chance of a thing happening] = [chance of any single try working] x [number of tries you get]

    I’ll grant that in a massive universe over billions of years that [number of tries you get] is going to be stupendously large. But that doesn’t mean anything more than my thousand lottery tickets until I’ve got some idea of [chance of any single try working].

    You tell me that lipids will form into liposomes. Well and good. What purely natural processes form those base lipids? What base molecules are necessary, and under what conditions do they need to come together? How abundant are the atoms that make up those base molecules, and under what conditions do they form the correct compounds, and under what conditions might those compounds break down?

    Without knowing the number of tickets in the lottery the number of tickets you’ve bought doesn’t tell me anything.

    Regarding your larger question, here is a friendly, non-scientific write-up of the Drake equation and another recent one tuned to predict the odds of finding signs of life (not proof) in a sliding ten-year window.  Interesting; not dispositive.  Drake is the real deal — now all we need are some good coefficients.

    On your smaller question about lipids and so forth, I don’t know.  I’m not a biochemist.  But I do read a lot.  You may object that the weak nuclear force cannot really be behind lighting the sun because nothing we can identify causes the weak force to act at a particular time and not some other.  It’s statistics all the way down.

    Science has steadily marched back our inbuilt animist beliefs, with the receding shield of proper religion defending the preconceptions of the primitive mind at every backward step.  Back then the sun circled the earth and man was formed of clay as-is.  Now it’s lipids.  Alllrighty then.

    • #15
  16. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    BDB (View Comment):
    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.

    Closure usually has to do with endings rather than beginnings, doesn’t it?  

     

     

    • #16
  17. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):
    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.

    Closure usually has to do with endings rather than beginnings, doesn’t it?

    There you go again with that linear causality.

    Seriously though, the closure desired is in the human mind.  When the search is for origins, the beginning of the thing is the end of the story.

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    BDB (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):
    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.

    Closure usually has to do with endings rather than beginnings, doesn’t it?

    There you go again with that linear causality.

    Seriously though, the closure desired is in the human mind. When the search is for origins, the beginning of the thing is the end of the story.

    But what about the human yearning to have an explanation for human yearning?  Is it turtles all the way down? 

    • #18
  19. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):
    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.

    Closure usually has to do with endings rather than beginnings, doesn’t it?

    There you go again with that linear causality.

    Seriously though, the closure desired is in the human mind. When the search is for origins, the beginning of the thing is the end of the story.

    But what about the human yearning to have an explanation for human yearning? Is it turtles all the way down?

    Until you get to the lipids, I guess.

    • #19
  20. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):
    I think you’re impressing yourself with some very big numbers while simultaneously ignoring some very small ones.

    Hank, no, I’m not ignoring the small numbers. I’m aware of them (though not of how many there are, nor of their true magnitude); that’s why I felt some relief when I realized that the number of lottery tickets purchased includes not only those purchased here on Earth, but those purchased everywhere else as well. I already suspected we had won the lottery. It just seemed even more plausible when I realized that we were playing on a sextillion worlds, not not merely our own.

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):
    What purely natural processes form those base lipids?

    Lipids are, as I understand them, actually pretty sophisticated, showing signs of evolutionary tuning. But there are simpler self-orienting (amphiphilic) organic precursors to lipids that make similar membranes. What is required is a source of organic compounds, an aqueous environment of suitable temperature, and opportunities… probably lots of opportunities.

    It seems very likely that, per the original post, there have been a lot of opportunities.

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    That the current state of the world, with conscious beings, had a predecessor state that naturally produced the current one, does precisely nothing to reduce the mystery of the existence of conscious, acting man.

    Mark, the nature of consciousness is certainly a fascinating mystery. I see nothing in what we know of consciousness to make me think it could not have evolved through natural processes, however intricate and currently mysterious to us. That is, I see nothing that makes the natural origin and evolution of life inherently impossible, no philosophical or chemical contradiction, and no evidence of insufficient opportunity.

    Of course, I do not begin from a presupposition that a natural origin is impossible. I think such a view, absent a compelling naturalistic justification, must be a position of metaphysical faith, something I unfortunately lack.

    • #20
  21. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):
    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story.

    Closure usually has to do with endings rather than beginnings, doesn’t it?

    There you go again with that linear causality.

    Seriously though, the closure desired is in the human mind. When the search is for origins, the beginning of the thing is the end of the story.

    But what about the human yearning to have an explanation for human yearning? Is it turtles all the way down?

    Heh.

    It’s biology quite a bit of the way down, and then chemistry, and then physics. If all of that is standing on the back of a turtle is a question the metaphysical people will have to address.

    • #21
  22. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    This is HR’s “why I believe in God” post without the God part.

    It’s his own declaration of faith. Assuming the existence of that which has not been observed is exactly that – faith.

    Turns our Religion and science have some things in common.

    • #22
  23. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Stina (View Comment):

    This is HR’s “why I believe in God” post without the God part.

    It’s his own declaration of faith. Assuming the existence of that which has not been observed is exactly that – faith.

    Turns our Religion and science have some things in common.

    I suppose there’s an aspect of faith in the assumption that the sun will once again rise in the east, that gravity will keep working as it does, that objects won’t spontaneously flit about my desk without rhyme or reason. Sure. But that’s kind of reductionist, right? If you want to call that faith, then I think we have to distinguish between faith based on some kind of chain of objective evidence and measurement, on the one hand, and faith that is, as Hebrews 11:1 puts it, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    Now here’s what I find interesting about what you said: It always goes that way, but not the other way.

    It’s been pointed out to me before that what I call rational materialism is merely another kind of faith. I’ve never heard anyone accuse a person of faith (in the traditional, religious sense) as engaging in rational materialism. I think that might be because rational materialism is bounded, defined, and identifiable as a specific approach to knowledge, whereas the term “faith,” as you demonstrated with your comment, is pretty elastic and can be applied so broadly as to lose any conceptual value.

    Anyway. I’m not dismissive of faith. I don’t possess it (again, in the traditional sense of the word), but I respect people who do. The only time I feel compelled to comment on matters of faith is when those who are faithful attempt to combine metaphysical faith and rational materialism as if the two domains shared a meaningful intersection. That is always, in my experience, done from the faith side, and I interpret it as an attempt to leverage science in the service of belief, a practice I consider deleterious to both.

    • #23
  24. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Stina (View Comment):

    This is HR’s “why I believe in God” post without the God part.

    It’s his own declaration of faith. Assuming the existence of that which has not been observed is exactly that – faith.

    Turns our Religion and science have some things in common.

    Sure “turns out” that way when that’s your (generic you) opening assumption. Every time.

    Are all of these equally faith-based?

    1. We exist (or at least one of us exists).

    2. This world exists.

    3. 2+2=4

    4. The sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

    5. Some problems can definitively not be solved.

    6. Lifeforms evolve via natural selection.

    6. Jesus walked the Earth.

    7. Natural processes could have produced life on Earth.

    8. Winston Churchill and Lady Astor engaged in witty repartee.

    9. Cato the elder said “Carthago delenda est!”

    10. Only those on Noah’s Ark survived the deluge.

    11. God exists, or created life, or tends to the fall of every sparrow, or any combination of these.

     

    • #24
  25. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    BDB (View Comment):

    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story. Just as we cannot relate to the very small, the very large, and the very fast, and so our primate brains rebel at quantum weirdness and time dilation, we also cannot relate to things exquisitely remote in the past or the future. Linear causality is all well and good in the middle of a universe’s lifetime, but it need not necessarily hold at either end.

    This line strikes me as something of a straw man.  “Something had to start it” is as reasonable a statement of the case as “aliens did it” or “it just happened”.  When you find a tool (even a simple one), no one just assumes the thing sprung into existence.  The appearance of design leads us to conclude there was a designer.  And not because we want a “good story” to tell.

    • #25
  26. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story. Just as we cannot relate to the very small, the very large, and the very fast, and so our primate brains rebel at quantum weirdness and time dilation, we also cannot relate to things exquisitely remote in the past or the future. Linear causality is all well and good in the middle of a universe’s lifetime, but it need not necessarily hold at either end.

    This line strikes me as something of a straw man. “Something had to start it” is as reasonable a statement of the case as “aliens did it” or “it just happened”. When you find a tool (even a simple one), no one just assumes the thing sprung into existence. The appearance of design leads us to conclude there was a designer. And not because we want a “good story” to tell.

    Why does looking at a hammer apparently give you the same impression as looking at a tree?

    • #26
  27. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Only…lipids don’t self-organise left to their own devices. And proteins really, really don’t . What abiogenesis research has demonstrated rather conclusively in the last 70 years approximately is that to get the pre-cursors of pre-biotic materials (not active biotics) the most intelligent beings in the universe, using the best ingredients available and the best equipment available under the most controlled conditions they can manufacture have not been able to generate from raw ingredients self-replicating precursors of life. See also the “Hand of God Dilemma” in abiogenesis research.

    • #27
  28. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    You can look at faith as transaction based.  For the reassurance of something beyond  all that striving and disappointment, including death, you accept faith and all its promises.  If it is false, in the end, so what?  You gained whatever metaphysical sustenance you needed to bear human suffering.  Questions of the emergence of life, especially of life as a self aware being, can be relegated to questions of faith and dismissed.  But like you, I find myself unable to make the transporter ride to faith, so the question of life for me becomes a contemplation of biology, chemistry, physics and ultimately, mathmatics; that is, probability.  One thing we can say for sure is that the math exists and it works.  And if it works here, it can work elsewhere.  We know, for example, that the life that exists on the seabed near volcanic vents is of a nature that differs in its biology, chemistry and physics from all other earthly life.  So the math works in more than one way right here on earth.  Given the incalculable opportunities in the total cosmos since its creation, no doubt, the math of earthly life, or some other math, has resulted in some form of creation elsewhere.  We provide proof of this.  Us.

    • #28
  29. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    You can look at faith as transaction based. For the reassurance of something beyond all that striving and disappointment, including death, you accept faith and all its promises. If it is false, in the end, so what? You gained whatever metaphysical sustenance you needed to bear human suffering. Questions of the emergence of life, especially of life as a self aware being, can be relegated to questions of faith and dismissed. But like you, I find myself unable to make the transporter ride to faith, so the question of life for me becomes a contemplation of biology, chemistry, physics and ultimately, mathmatics; that is, probability. One thing we can say for sure is that the math exists and it works. And if it works here, it can work elsewhere. We know, for example, that the life that exists on the seabed near volcanic vents is of a nature that differs in its biology, chemistry and physics from all other earthly life. So the math works in more than one way right here on earth. Given the incalculable opportunities in the total cosmos since its creation, no doubt, the math of earthly life, or some other math, has resulted in some form of creation elsewhere. We provide proof of this. Us.

    Interesting points.  I usually lose people much earlier, such as when they talk about how if the sun were just a little hotter, or a little cooler, then life wouldn’t exist here on Earth; and I point out that maybe it wouldn’t be here on Earth, but it might be on Venus, or Mars…

    • #29
  30. Justin Other Lawyer Coolidge
    Justin Other Lawyer
    @DouglasMyers

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Justin Other Lawyer (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    “Something had to start it” is a human yearning for closure in a good story. Just as we cannot relate to the very small, the very large, and the very fast, and so our primate brains rebel at quantum weirdness and time dilation, we also cannot relate to things exquisitely remote in the past or the future. Linear causality is all well and good in the middle of a universe’s lifetime, but it need not necessarily hold at either end.

    This line strikes me as something of a straw man. “Something had to start it” is as reasonable a statement of the case as “aliens did it” or “it just happened”. When you find a tool (even a simple one), no one just assumes the thing sprung into existence. The appearance of design leads us to conclude there was a designer. And not because we want a “good story” to tell.

    Why does looking at a hammer apparently give you the same impression as looking at a tree?

    Here’s my relevant response (also posted at Old Bathos’s piece):

    It’s a type of argument from the lesser to the greater.  If we reasonably assume a designer of a simple tool, what should we conclude as we learn more and more about the amazing complexity of a tree or DNA.  The more we learn, the more we realize we really don’t (or didn’t) understand how the systems truly worked.

    Thus, if I assume a designer when I see a hammer, I assume the same thing for a double helix.

    • #30
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