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Mathematician Amir Aczel on the "Wisdom" Revealed in Nature

Aczel cover.jpg

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. There's an excellent précis of his case in Time Magazine. Very much worth reading. 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. He directs our attention to

the persistent question of the fine-tuning of the parameters of the Universe: 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. To explain the quantum-mechanical behavior of even one tiny particle requires pages and pages of extremely advanced mathematics. Why are even the tiniest particles of matter so unbelievably complicated? 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.

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? The mass constituted elementary particles -- the quarks and the electron -- whose weights and electrical charges had to fall within immeasurably tight bounds for what would happen next. For from within the primeval "soup" of elementary particles that constituted the young Universe, again as if by a magic hand, all the quarks suddenly bunched in threes to form protons and neutrons, their electrical charges set precisely to the exacting level needed to attract and capture the electrons, which then began to circle nuclei made of the protons and neutrons. All of the masses, the charges, and the forces of interaction in the Universe had to be just in the precisely needed amounts so that early light atoms could form. Larger ones would then be cooked in nuclear fires inside stars, thus giving us the carbon, iron, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the other elements that are so essential for life to emerge. And eventually, the highly complicated double-helix molecule, the life-propagating DNA, would be formed.

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?

There's a negative side to the argument, but a positive one as well. This is not about a "God of the Gaps." I would like to introduce Aczel to Stephen Meyer, who crystalizes the argument for intelligent design that he makes in Darwin's Doubt in a similar way, joining a negative premise to a positive one:

Premise One: Despite a thorough search and evaluation, no materialistic causes or evolutionary mechanisms have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified or functional information (or integrated circuitry).

Premise Two: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified/functional information (and integrated circuitry).

Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for the specified/functional information (and circuitry) that was necessary to produce the Cambrian animals.

"With wisdom" is, by the way, exactly how an ancient and authoritative Aramaic translation of the first sentence in the Bible renders the Hebrew word "Bereishit," more familiarly translated as "In the beginning."

BONUS: I see Dr. Aczel also has a sense of humor. Here in a video he uploaded to YouTube he presents a boisterous Jewish wedding as a symbolic enactment, explaining

the action of the Higgs Field -- the field that carries the action of the Higgs boson recently discovered by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Massive objects are like the bride and bridegroom, their movements are slowed down, while a photon (a massless particle) does not feel the action of the Higgs Field and moves without resistance.

I leave it to others to say whether, as physics, this entirely "works."