The Anthropic Principle—and Young Earth Creationism

New Scientist today has an article on yet another curious coincidence in the universe, which, if it were not so, would see no life in it.

The article explains:

IT’S not just the nature of dark matter that’s a mystery – even its abundance is inexplicable. But if our universe is just one of many possible universes, at least this conundrum can be explained.

The total amount of dark matter – the unseen stuff thought to make up most of the mass of the universe – is five to six times that of normal matter. This difference sounds pretty significant, but it could have been much greater, because the two types of matter probably formed via radically different processes shortly after the big bang. The fact that the ratio is so conducive to a life-bearing universe “looks like a tremendous coincidence”, says Raphael Bousso at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ben Freivogel, also at UCB, wondered if the ratio can be explained using the anthropic principle which, loosely stated, says that the properties of the universe must be suitable for the emergence of life, otherwise we wouldn’t be here asking questions about it. In order to avoid questions about how these properties became so finely tuned, the anthropic principle is combined with the idea that our universe is part of a multiverse, in which each universe has randomly determined properties.

Freivogel focused on one of the favoured candidate-particles for dark matter, the axion. Axions have the right characteristics to be dark matter, but for one problem: a certain property called its “misalignment angle”, which would have affected the amount of dark matter produced in the early universe. If this property is randomly determined, in most cases it would result in a severe overabundance of dark matter, leading to a universe without the large-scale structure of clusters of galaxies. To result in our universe, it has to be just the right value.

In a multiverse, each universe will have a random value for the axion’s misalignment angle, giving some universes the right amount of dark matter needed to give rise to galaxies, stars, planets and life as we know it.

Sometimes creationists suggest that biological scientists are motivated to suppress evidence about the evolution of species—and that, in fact, the evidence for biological evolution is weak.

But physicists seem to have no qualms about going wherever the evidence leads them—and in the instance of the anthropic principle, it certainly leads them in directions that, at the least, do not hurt the arguments of those who believe in Intelligent Design.

In other words, all scientists—including those focused on biology—attempt to get at the truth of things. With regard to physics, there are curious elements to it which give weight to religious interpretations, but with regard to biology, the notion that species do not change and the earth is young is clearly false—and do not support biblical young earth creationism.

If a biologist found an “anthropic principle” at work in biology, he or she would publish it—just as scientists do in physics.

What I’m trying to say is that creationists—if they are to be creationists and treat science seriously—should be old earth creationists who accept that species have changed over time.

Physics gives weight to the multi-universe hypothesis as well as a “god hypothesis”—but biology does not give any weight to a “young earth/fixity of species” model of life history.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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