Friday, February 14, 2014

You Can't Tuna Universe, Part 5

This is the final part to the series on Fine Tuning (aka, the final nail in the coffin). In the previous parts it was shown how there were basic flaws in the premises contained in the Fine Tuning Argument (FTA). Also discussed were the objections from mainstream scientists. In this concluding part, it will be shown that if you believe that the FTA proves the existence of God, then you must also conclude that God is controlling our weather intentionally killing innocent people! So strap your seat belts and put on your science helmet!

Roughly 50 years ago it became apparent to meteorologists that the atmosphere here on Earth has its own fine-tuning problem, specifically in the area of numerical weather prediction where physical equations of the atmosphere are applied to initial weather conditions and integrated forward in time to produce a weather forecast.

In the early 1960s Ed Lorenz was performing some of the earliest experiments in computer-based numerical weather prediction. By accident, Lorenz discovered that when the same set of initial weather conditions were input to three decimal places instead of six, the two sets of computer forecasts diverged rapidly apart. That is, very tiny changes in the initial state of the atmosphere grew nonlinearly through time resulting in dramatically different future weather patterns. This became known as the "butterfly effect" after a paper Lorenz presented in 1972 titled "Predictability:  Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?". For this discovery Lorenz became known as the Father of chaos theory.

In addition to sensitivity to initial conditions, meteorologists further discovered that the future evolution of the weather is also extremely sensitive to numerous "tunable" physical parameters and constants of the atmosphere. For instance, if the moist adiabatic lapse rate was greater than the observed value of 3* per 1000 feet, then updrafts in thunderstorms would be weaker and there would be less violent weather. There are literally hundreds of these parameters and coefficients which are necessary to accurately describe the physics of our atmosphere including those for cloud radiation budgets, heat and moisture fluxes, turbulence, convection and so on. If any of these factors are altered even slightly then those differences would grow nonlinearly through the forecast period, resulting in dramatically different weather down the road.

In recognition of this meteorological "fine tuning", weather forecast centers around the world have adopted a strategy referred to as ensemble forecasting. Instead of running one computer forecast model from one set of initial conditions as input, the ensemble forecast technique runs dozens of computer forecast models each with a slightly different physics package or from slightly different initial conditions. As a result each computer forecast is different from the other, some more dramatically than others. This provides the meteorologist with information about the most probable future weather along with a measure of the different possibilities.  Those who watch The Weather Channel during hurricane season have probably already seen the output from such ensemble forecasts which typically resembles a spaghetti plot. The link below provides one such example, which is of the possible forecast tracks of tropical storm Sandy roughly 10 days before intensifying to hurricane strength and bashing the NJ/NY coast.

Notice how the individual model forecast tracks diverge significantly over time only because of tiny differences in initial conditions and physical parameters. So this "fine-tuning" problem is for real in the atmospheric science and is widely acknowledged in the meteorological community.

So how does this relate to the fine tuning argument that God was responsible for creating the universe? Well, in the FTA it was argued that in order for the universe to exist, numerous physical constants have to be in a narrow range of values or else we wouldn't be here, and the odds of them ALL falling in such a narrow range to allow a life-permitting universe are so infinitesimal that a God had to be responsible. Those odds being on the order of one in 10^1050.

Well, in the meteorological fine tuning it ends up that in order for a killer hurricane like Sandy or Katrina to form the antecedent initial conditions several weeks prior to the storm's formation must be exactly tuned to specific values over a broad area. Even the slightest deviation from those precise values would result in no hurricane or one that takes a different path or intensity.

So what are the odds of having a storm exactly like hurricane Katrina form that follows the exact track and exhibits the same evolution of intensity over time? Perhaps not so surprisingly, that probability is far lower than the odds of one in 10^1050 for the formation of a life-permitting universe!

To show this, let's produce very conservative back-of-the-envelop calculations. First suppose there are just five meteorological variables that need to be fine-tuned (temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, wind direction). Next suppose there are only 10 possible values that each of those variables could possibly have whereby each value would result in a different weather pattern in the future. Lastly, suppose there are just 1000 locations across the northern hemisphere and 5 levels of the atmosphere (5000 total data points) where the initial conditions must be fine tuned. Again, these are VERY conservative estimates. Yet, when the math is done the probability of getting a storm exactly like Katrina is roughly one part in 10^34,948 (5^10 raised to the 5000th power). This of course is a much more insanely low probability than Hugh Ross's odds of a life-permitting universe mentioned earlier. Moreover, this calculation only considered the fine tuning of the initial conditions. If the fine tuning of the physical parameters are also taken into account the probability would be even insanely lower.

So what are the implications of meteorological fine tuning? Well quite simply, if you think that a God has to be responsible for the formation of the universe because the probability of its formation through the fine tuning of the physical constants is insanely low, then to be consistent you must also conclude that God is responsible for forming Hurricane Katrina since the probability of its formation is even lower. Of course that would mean God was responsible for human death and destruction! Doesn't sit well to theists does it? Well too bad. If theists want to concoct a crazy argument like the FTA to prove God formed the universe, then they have to take the good with the bad and similarly conclude God likes to kill people with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning.

Such a notion is silly, of course, because for the most part we can predict the weather. That would make it unlikely that it is being controlled by a God (since it's absurd to think we could forecast what a God would do with good reliability). Of course the error in both arguments is that given enough time and enough space, shit happens! The cosmos is enormous and old, and extremely rare things can happen at any time. That's not a proof of God's existence.

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