Just A Stranger On The Bus: atheist ads and the Big BangPosted: December 19, 2009
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more humble and accepting of the wisdom of elders. It’s still December though, so today I’m arguing cosmology with a physicist.
I could be wrong, but the bus slogan “There’s probably no God” is probably, nay, almost certainly, incorrect. It is a purely dogmatic statement that is not informed by science.
Well, why should we believe there’s an intelligent creator? Dr Tallon argues the odds – the universe we live in, he writes, exists on a knife edge.
Its density, back at the first moments of the “big bang”, was critically balanced to better than one part in one billion billion billion billion.
A fraction more dense and it all would have collapsed again. A fraction less dense and it all would have evaporated – no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no mother Earth.
All the known forces of nature are tightly balanced relative to each other.
A little this way and protons do not form. A little that way and neutrons don’t form. Tweak another way and no particles at all. Tweak another way and everything is hydrogen only.
The good doctor goes on to cite the complexity of DNA, proteins and cellular structures, but it’s basically the same argument: the odds of these things happening at all are vanishingly small, even before we consider the chances of their confluence in a way that supports the existence of life forms like ourselves.
So far, so good: if I flip a single coin, the chances of it landing on its edge are incredibly unlikely. But what Dr Tallon overlooks is that we have no idea how many coins have already been tossed, are in the air now, or will be tossed in the future.
Actually, I misspeak – Dr Tallon hasn’t overlooked it.
The bus slogan is tantamount to saying “Gazillions of other universes probably exist, so enjoy yourself.” But the required number of universes is unimaginably huge for this to be the case.
Dr Tallon quickly moves on to the world of biology, but that’s exactly the point: we’re talking about the creation of universes, something so far beyond our frame of reference that we have to abandon any assumptions about the limitations of space or time. Without these physical limitations, probabilities are meaningless: literally any number of universes may exist, and therefore all of them.
When you consider existence from this perspective, our particular universe exists – with us in it – because somewhere along the line, it had to. It’s a supreme fallacy to assume that this is the only possible universe simply because it’s the only one we’ve seen.
So again – there’s probably no god. Now stop worrying about it and enjoy your holiday.