Klinghoffer: Math and the Intelligent Designer

The Discoveroids are drifting ever further into mysticism. This can be seen in the latest post by David Klinghoffer, their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Its title is Mathematician Amir Aczel on the “Wisdom” Revealed in Nature.

Who is Amir Aczel? Wikipedia informs us that he is “a lecturer in mathematics and the history of mathematics and science, and an author of popular books on mathematics and science.” He has a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Oregon. Among his numerous writings, his best known is probably Fermat’s Last Theorem (Amazon listing), which should not be confused with the better-known book with that same title by Simon Singh.

Why is Klinghoffer interested in Aczel? His new post says, with bold font added by us:

Despite the clunky title, mathematician and science writer Amir D. Aczel’s new book Why Science Does Not Disprove God is one I want to read. … His point is that while science has battered a simple, literal understanding of the Bible on some points, it has simultaneously forced us to confront the inadequacy of an equally simple materialist account of existence, instead giving evidence an unfurling “wisdom” behind the universe. The more we learn, the more this is evident.

We think we already know where this is going. Aczel writes about “the inadequacy of an equally simple materialist account of existence.” Well, of course! Science isn’t about telling us why the universe exists, or what its purpose is. Science is satisfied to describe what exists and how it works. There’s no evidence of why, so science doesn’t go there. That’s the task of theology (and the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design).

We suspect that we’re about to be treated to yet another science- (or in this case math-) laden version of the God of the gaps. But we could be wrong. It won’t be long until we find out. Klinghoffer quotes from Aczel:

Why is our Universe so precisely tailor-made for the emergence of life? This question has never been answered satisfactorily, and I believe that it will never find a scientific solution. For the deeper we delve into the mysteries of physics and cosmology, the more the Universe appears to be intricate and incredibly complex. … It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom,” or structure, or a knotty blueprint for even the most simple-looking element of nature. And the situation becomes much more daunting as we expand our view to the entire cosmos.

Ah, hidden wisdom! This sounds like a load of “There is much we don’t understand, therefore Oogity Boogity!” But we don’t want to leap to unwarranted conclusions. Let’s read some more of the quote from Aczel which has so enchanted Klinghoffer:

We know that 13.7 billion years ago, a gargantuan burst of energy, whose nature and source are completely unknown to us and not in the least understood by science, initiated the creation of our Universe. Then suddenly, as if by magic, the “God particle” — the Higgs boson discovered two years ago inside CERN’s powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider — came into being and miraculously gave the Universe its mass. Why did this happen?

Why — oh why — did it happen? What’s the deep meaning of it all? Could it be that we’re all on this uniquely privileged planet for the purpose of worshiping the designer? Yes, that’s obviously why!

[*Curmudgeon regains control of himself*] Okay, okay, we’ll calm down. Let’s see … skipping most of Klinghoffer’s long quote from Aczel, we come to this:

Why did everything we need in order to exist come into being? How was all of this possible without some latent outside power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life?

Brilliant question! We need carbon? We’ve got it! Oxygen? We’ve got that too. Everything we need exists for us. It’s amazing! What does Klinghoffer say about that deeply insigntful quote from Aczel? He assures us that:

This is not about a “God of the Gaps.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! To back up that hopeless claim, he repeats Stephen Meyer’s denial in Darwin’s Doubt, which we discussed a few days ago — see Klinghoffer: “We Don’t Use God of the Gaps” — so we won’t bother with it again. Does Klinghoffer offer us anything else? No, not really, so this is where we’ll leave it.

What did we learn? Nothing, except that the Discoveroids seem to have a new pet mathematician. How wonderful for them!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Klinghoffer: Math and the Intelligent Designer

  1. Apart from the fact that scientists use maths and statistics as, er, integral tools in their studies, Aczel’s (and Klunklehuffer’s) awe is touching but irrelevant. Some years ago Aczel wrote a book about General Relativity title God’s Equation so that’s probably why the Dissembly Institute likes him.

  2. Shirley Knott

    Of course, the real problem for this absurd line of inquiry is that the universe is not finely tuned for life. Within the limit of rounding error, the universe is extraordinarily hostile to life. Biological entities cannot even live within all the environments present within the scope of the Earth and its atmosphere. Even if every planet in the universe were habitable, and we know that this is not the case, the universe would be massively hostile to life. Planets amount to an infinitesimal volume of the entire universe, and its all hostile except for a subset of the environment of a subset of planets — an infinitesimal of an infinitesimal.
    But of course Klinghoffer is welcome to demonstrate otherwise. I’d love to see him breathing vacuum. Or washing in the refreshing sulfuric acid rainfall of Venus.

  3. “a gargantuan burst of energy”
    Psssst, Amir Azcel, it might very well be that the net energy of the Universe (remember Einstein; mass and energy are equivalents) is exactly zero.

    “as if by magic, … the Higgs boson … came into being and miraculously gave the Universe its mass”
    Eh no. That thing just liked to play hide and seek with the best human physicists. You’re like a toddler who thinks something only exists when he/she can see it directly. Magic was not involved; a systemetical quest was.

  4. What’s even more amazing than the alleged fine tuning of the universe, is the fine tuning of the Designer. Imagine what the odds are against a Designer arising that is not only made of no detectible substance or energy, but has the unimaginable power to create an incredibly vast and complex universe, in which to locate in infinitesimal speck of matter on which to create billions of life forms for the apparent purpose of making one that will worship it.

    The odds against there being an omnipotent designer, rather than nothing, are imponderable, never mind the odds that the designer would be motivated to create human beings.

    It seems reasonable that if one takes the fine-tuning argument seriously, then one must apply the same argument to the alleged cause of the alleged fine tuning.

  5. paulpfish

    I should also add that the description of where the mass of the universe comes from is totally garbled up. I would recommend that anyone interested read the excellent web site “Of Particular Significance” by Prof. Matt Strassler. A sample Q/A from the site on the Higgs Particle is: http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/the-higgs-particle/the-higgs-faq-2-0/

  6. I have never understood why anyone would use the so called “fine tuning” of the Universe to explain what we see when we examine the constituent parts of the Universe. I guess it is built on the incredibly egotistical premise that the Universe exists for a single purpose and that purpose is to provide a home for human beings.

    The particular values for the mass of the neutron, the charge of the proton and electron as well as the value of the fine structure constant did not determine the nature of the Universe, instead it was the naturalistic processes that brought the Universe into existence that required that these physical constants have the values that they do have and not something else. The value of the physical constants do not determine the nature of the Universe, it is the nature of the Universe that dictates the values of the physical constants.

    The fact that the conditions that resulted in the emergence of the Universe through the Big Bang and fixed the physical constants at their particular values also created conditions in an infinitesimally small portion (As Shirley noted above, most places in the Universe would kill us instantly) of the Universe that allowed for the existence of our particular form of life is completely coincidental and did not have to occur or could have been more conducive to some other form of life. It is a fallacy to think that because we are here, the Universe was somehow arranged to bring that about.

    Mathematics is useful, in fact probably indispensable, for the practice of the natural sciences but it is not itself a natural science. Mathematics is a human invention and therefore a mathematician is probably more likely than most people to see nature, like mathematics as the product of a sentient mind.

  7. If we lived in a universe in which the constants of physics were not “fine tuned”, that would be evidence that there were some supernatural being causing us to exist.

  8. SC: “The Discoveroids are drifting ever further into mysticism.”

    You and ~99% of fellow critics can’t possibly be reading about the same Discoveroids that I have been reading about for 17 years. Because even in 1997 I found them to be as far into mysticism as one can ever get – in some respects even further than flat-earthers. If anything, the only surprises I have found in their statements are how much ground they occasionally concede to evolution, and how they all but admit that they are playing a bait-and-switch game. But even that is no longer surprising, because everything they write is just what I would expect from “big tent” scammers who know that they are peddling nonsense.

  9. @TomS:

    As you probably know, you’re one of the few I had in mind for the “other 1%.” Unfortunately I lost the reference, but I remember reading that the “fine tuning” argument, undermines the ID argument. Not long before that I read Dembski’s claim that chance, regularity and design are mutually exclusive. They’re not of course (& he knows it), but in one of those “why didn’t I think of that?!” moments I recognized that, if anything, fine-tuning supports regularity.

  10. You would think that a mathematician would have no trouble computing the negligible proportion of the universe in which we can exist. Shirley Knot and others on this page pointed it out before I got to it, but that’s one of my favorite responses to the fine tuning crap.

  11. waldteufel

    Dr. Kennedy observes: “Mathematics is useful, in fact probably indispensable, for the practice of the natural sciences but it is not itself a natural science. Mathematics is a human invention and therefore a mathematician is probably more likely than most people to see nature, like mathematics as the product of a sentient mind.”

    Perhaps that’s why engineers seem susceptible to the Discoveroids’ scam?

  12. The whole truth

    Since klinghoffer and the rest of the IDiots are only interested in promoting real science (LOL), along with uncensored speech/expression (LOL), along with all sides of the ‘controversy’ (LOL), along with being wide open to anything or anyone being ‘the designer’ (LOL), and are not just trying to shove their particular ‘God’ and associated religious beliefs into science, government, schools, and everything else (LOL), I’m sure (ROFLMAO) that they have no problem with this and will strongly support it:

    http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/3/5678782/satanic-group-reveals-crowdfunded-monument-for-oklahoma-state-capitol

  13. BlackWatch

    I have an article name change recommendation for the Discotute.
    New Applications of the Principle of Retroactive Astonishment
    when sidestepping the scientific method.

  14. Eddie Janssen

    “There’s no evidence of why, so science doesn’t go there. That’s the task of theology…”
    As Dawkins once said: Why theologians? Why not asked the gardener?

  15. @FrankJ
    Well, at least I am in some kind of 1%. 🙂
    I like your way of pointing out, as far as “fine tuning”, it means “regularity” among “chance, regularity or design”. I’ll have to borrow that (ahem) regularly in trying to reach the other 99%.

  16. @TomS:

    Please do “borrow” anything I say. And I trust you won’t mind my “borrowing” your observation on how evolution deniers make an arbitrary exception (or more accurately try to have it both ways) with reproduction. You might recall my personal experience with that 5-6 years ago, when a regular denier on the Panda’s Thumb admitted that reproduction was a designer intervention event, not realizing how that undermines the DI’s painstaking strategy of leading people to think that such blessed events occurred only “long ago and far away, but don’t ask where or when.”

  17. @FrankJ Of course. I would be flattered.

  18. @SK: “I guess it is built on the incredibly egotistical premise that the Universe exists for a single purpose ”
    Nail, head. Fine-tuning assumes this to prove this. Like Herman Philipse wrote: basically the idea that the Universe is fine-tuned to produce Homo Sapiens is like the idea of the fly landing on the White House concluding that the building is designed to provide it with a resting place.

  19. Mark Joseph

    Excellent comments here; thanks to all. There are more good ones concerning the same topic here