Sep
19

Not According to Hoyle

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(No, not as in Edmund Hoyle  the famed rules authority on card games from whose last name comes the phrase “not according to Hoyle”.  But as in Sir Frederick Hoyle, the distinguished astronomer.  Here’s the story.)

The following was seen on a restroom wall: “God is dead: Nietzsche.  To which, after the atheist passed away, someone scribbled, Nietzsche is dead: God.” In 1966, Time magazine ran a cover story asking the question: “Is God Dead?”  And many accepted the premise believing that as science progressed the concept for the need for God in explaining the universe would cease to exist.  However, it turns out that the rumors of God’s demise were greatly premature.  Even more amazing is that the relatively recent case for His actual existence comes from the most surprising of all places – science itself.  Let me explain.

The same year Time featured the famous headline, astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were only two criteria needed for a planet to support life: the right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from the star.  Given the roughly octillion (1 followed by 27 zeroes) number of planets, there should be at least one capable of so doing.  But in the fifty years following, of the approximately 3,500 exoplanets discovered (planets orbiting around other stars), researchers have found precisely bubkis (that’s 0 followed by nothing)  capable of sustaining any kind of life.

In the meantime, as our knowledge of the universe increased, it also became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life to exist than Sagan supposed.  His two parameters grew to 10, and then 20, and then 50 – all the while mathematically decreasing the number of other potentially life-supporting planets.   Today, there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life, every single one which must be met perfectly and be in existence at the very same time – which means that if you base things on the law of probability, forget about other exoplanets, even we shouldn’t be here.  Yet, here we are.

So what can account for our existence?  Can every one of these parameters have been perfect by accident?  (For instance, the massive planet Jupiter being nearby, whose gravity draws away thousands of asteroids that would otherwise hit earth.) At what point is it fair for science to admit that we cannot be the result of random forces?  After all, 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?

And 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.  For example, astrophysicists now know that the balance between  four fundamental forces – gravity, electromagnetic force, “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces – necessary for a Big Bang, had to be in perfect harmony less than one-millionth of a second after the explosion (meaning if anything was off by even the tiniest of the tiniest fraction, just one part in 100,000,000,000,000,0000 during all the commotion, then no stars would have been formed).  Feel free to gulp.

All of which brings us to the other famous Hoyle, not Edmund but Fred.  Fred Hoyle is the astronomer who gave the world the Big Bang.  Even he had to now admit that when you look at all the present facts, the notion that the earth and the universe “just happened” defies common sense – as he states, it would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads side 10 quintillion times in a row.  And perhaps just as  important scientifically, this talk of intelligent design from a man who is not a born-again believer (“I am not a Christian, nor am I likely to become one.”)

The bottom line?  When it comes to the Big Bang theory, it is no longer according to Hoyle.