Monday, March 9, 2009

Hey! We’ve Won The Atheist Lottery!

In response to my post, Atheists Do Standup, I’ve been told by an atheist that I “fail to have a simple understanding of the law of very large numbers.”

He then went on to say, “One way to think of the idea behind the law of very large numbers is a lottery. The odds that I will win are 1 in 50 million (or whatever the number of potential combinations are). The odds that SOMEBODY will win are much closer to 100%. So you can think of the odds of the universe turning out in this particular way to be astronomically high (1 in whatever number you want to go with), but given the existence of the universe, it obviously HAS to be in some specific manner, the fact that it is this particular one can be said in some ways to just be chance.”

Of course that’s rubbish and I’ll get to the reason why in a moment.

He also said, “But where we diverge is your instance of a fine tuned designer. I see no evidence of this fine tuned design. I see "random" evolution building on top of previous evolution.”

Good grief!! Sigh - Before the Big Bang, there wasn’t anything to evolve from. No prior universe, no previous cycle of expansion or contraction or the smashing of branes or anything else. Before the Big Bang there was literally nothing - no matter, no energy, no space, no time, - nothing.

So, to the lottery!
First of all, you don't have a lottery unless someone decides to create one. It's the same with the universe. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that anything should exist, unless a Creator decided to bring something into existence.

Second, we aren’t talking about the probability of having a universe. We’re talking about the probability of having a life permitting universe. When one has as many variables requiring exquisite fine tuning so that life might evolve, that is a very highly unlikely occurrence.

The questioner seems to think that 1 chance in 50 million is a large number. Pfft! That’s less than a speck. Atheist Hubert Yockey, in a comment dripping with mockery states, “It seems that those who do not understand probabilities are always saying that the highly improbable probably happened.

People like the atheist in question say that the fine tuning of the universe is like a lottery in which an individual’s winning is fantastically and equally improbable but which some individual has to win. Just as the winner of such a lottery should not conclude that the lottery must be rigged just because he won (that someone designed for h/her to win), so we should not conclude that there is a cosmic designer just because our universe exists.

The fallacy in this reasoning is that we are not trying to explain the existence of a universe; rather it is the existence of a life-permitting universe that DEMANDS EXPLANATION. We’re not asking why a universe exists but why “our” life sustaining universe exists.

Thus, the proper lottery analogy to the fine-tuning of the universe is a lottery in which a single white ball (a life permitting universe) is mixed into LITERALLY a billion, billion billion, billion black balls and a ball is then selected randomly from the collection. If you began drawing zeros on pieces of paper, zeros that represented the balls that represented possible universes, and you did this 24 / 7, you could draw from now until the day you died and you wouldn't be able to draw that many zeros. Beyond that, one of those zeros would be different in some way. That different zero would represent the white ball that represents our life-sustaining universe. Think about that, it's important.

Now, this atheist says, "What? Big numbers? No problem. Someone has to win and obviously it was us."

Back to the lotto. Any given ball that rolls down the chute will be fantastically and equally improbable; nevertheless, it is overwhelmingly more probable that whichever ball rolls down the chute, it will be black rather than white.

Similarly, the existence of any particular universe is equally improbable; but it is incomprehensibly more probable that whichever universe exists, it will be life-prohibiting rather than life-permitting. It is the enormous, specified improbability of a life-permitting universe that presents the hurdle for the chance hypothesis. If the white ball comes down the chute, we would have every right to suspect that the game was rigged. And if the game was rigged, who is responsible?

This is what the questioner must answer and if he thinks that’s not a big deal then I would suggest that it is he that doesn’t understand the law of very large numbers.

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