The Universe is not Specified to Human Scale

October 30, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

One of the many miscommunications between people of science and Creationists is the assumption that the universe was created for man. If so, the engineer behind this place was wa-ay off the mark. The universe is nowhere near human scale, and the vast majority of it has nothing to do with Man.

We only began to understand the heavens when some very careful measurements were made using precision instruments. Copernicus had to note the precise movements of dots in the heavenly sphere for a long time to be sure enough that they were centered on the Sun, not the Earth. It was easier for Galileo, who polished some chunks of glass to see that even these dots had smaller dots in orbit around them. Dots that couldn’t possibly be seen by, nor affect, the average human.

Then Leeuwenhoek ground some smaller lenses and noticed that there were complete creatures too small to see, and that they were everywhere! He opened up the microscopic revolution in which it turned out that humans (and other creatures) are not made of continuous stuff, but rather each organ is composed of colonies of lesser lifeforms, cells. In fact, each organ is an ecosystem. Our skin (our largest organ after birth) is host to an abundance of microbes, mites, bacteria, and fungi that ideally coexist peacefully to maintain the health of our skin. These “parasites” are essential to our well-being, but they do not share our DNA.

When Mendeleev worked out the periodic arrangement of basic chemicals into a table, he noticed large blank areas. Chemists eagerly worked to fill these in. But what about the huge category called the Lanthanides? These hard-to-isolate chemicals occupy more slots than all of the basic elements essential to life, but have no detectable purpose for or against life. We have found a few uses for some of them in the last 100 years, such as phosphors in CRT’s. But why would a good engineer invent so many basic building blocks that have no purpose to his ostensible client?

What about infinity? This essential concept in math, popularly perceived to be an unknowable amount, was first put to practical use by Newton (if we ignore the mostly lost work of Archimedes). Calculus is based on the principle of calculating subtle differences in infinities. There is nothing human about the scale of infinity, yet we need to manipulate it to really understand the simplest things, like the relationship between state and change-of-state and rate-of-change-of-state, and so on (e.g: Position, velocity, acceleration). Newton used it to predict the paths of comets (among other things). Schroedinger used it to show that particles can be modeled as waves, and Einstein went on to show that matter is energy. These are not just ivory-tower ideas, but rather a practical understanding of what we are made of! If you can wrap your mind around Euler‘s eπi=-1 then you’re on your way!

How about quantum physics? The world of Heisenbergian uncertainty was discovered and manipulated with many interesting effects. Einstein never quite accepted it because of his faith in an absolutely determinable universe. But understanding the irrational microcosmic scales led to transistors, lasers, and other booming technologies (pun). Also, isotopes give us a suite of accurate clocks with which we can find the age of pretty much anything.

To the other end of the size spectrum, where Copernicus was followed by others who move the Earth from the center of the universe, to a small planet in our solar system, our solar system to the edge of our galaxy, our galaxy to the edge of our local group, and our group just one of many millions that we can see fleeing some presumably common center (Hubble). This was all discovered long after the Biblical known world was bounded by the seven seas (of which the western-most was the Mediterranean).

Let’s not forget all the non-human-scale discoveries in geology and biology that led to the foundation of the theory of evolution in the late 1700’s, Darwin‘s contribution in the mid 1800’s, and the practical application of evolutionary theory to build modern medicines in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Now, speaking of human scale: I have highlighted some of the noted discoverers of some of the eureka theories about our universe. But I do this to humanize their discoveries. These ideas are not great because an authority has said them. They are great because they are useful to describe what has been found, useful to predict what will be found, and completely testable (and often tested). This combination is part of what makes them “theories” in the scientific sense.

Science is not bounded by limits set by previous experts, except for such provable and testable limits as set by Heisenberg and Goedel (and these get challenged by bright, young upstarts regularly). Science is not limited by what men believe, in the long run. It is a series of open-ended challenges to test and retest ideas with the end result that we have an understanding of truth that is more solid than anything ever carved in stone, no matter what authority carved it.


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Category: Communication, Evolution, History, Religion, Science

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. "There is no better way to determine whether a person is being dishonest or deceitful in argument than to note whether he or she has the courage and integrity to put the opponent’s best foot forward before attacking the opponent."

    Is the opponent Creationism or the Creator? Why not talk about Intelligent Design? Or, better still, Information Theory.

    "The heavens declare the glory of God". We are supposed to be impressed by the size and complexity compared to our tinyness. It's not ours {for us}, it is to show us something.

  2. Jason Rayl says:

    "We are supposed to be [this or that]"

    "We were meant to [this or that]"

    "The purpose of [this or that] is [that or this]"

    One of the major problems with Intelligent Design is that its proponents do not wish to submit their work to peer review just like every other scientist must. They wish to step outside the process and DECLARE. They are evangelists, not scientists, at least in this respect, regardless of whatever other credentials they have. They do not submit their work to the leading journals, they do not put their ideas into the arena of sceintific debate.

    The other problem with it is, its proponents already have a specific Intelligence in mind before they even start arguing about it, so they themselves a priori discount hypotheses of varying forms of intelligence which may not include Consciousness. To put forward a model of intelligence which does not include Purpose, Intent, and Self Awareness would be to completely by-pass the goal of Intelligent Design, which is to formulate a scientific-sounding basis on which to argue for the existence of a god.

    That's bad science.

    Which is the real opponent–the advocate of Bad Science. We don't even have to get to the part where god is being discussed.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    I just re-read the Dembsky article at the Intelligent Design site cited by Larry J. C. (above) purporting to use Information Theory to prove that there must be a universal designer.

    It reminded me of Scientology texts in that terms are introduced and (re)defined to make that term support a particular conclusion that the term doesn't support using its existing definition in science. Other words are created as original usages that mirror existing words that are used for the same purpose by reputable technical authors.

    His definitions of information theory and its corollaries don't come very close to anyone else's definitions. But if you define enough terms on unsupported declarations, you can use them to prove anything.

    The funniest part of it was the invocation of the "Theory of Conservation of Information". If anyone was foolish enough to propose this as an actual theory to a reputable journal, some second year college mathematician would eagerly disprove it. If you Google the term, you only find Dembski and a few other ID reference sources.

  4. (con)fusion of life says:

    If it means that we are very tiny in front of a huge, unimaginable universe; does it mean we should stop searching for truth and believe what our ancestors researched and wrote? Researches by anybody are the building blocks to the future researches. they are may be being used to understand our existence but they are aimed at totalling the universe and our existence. This may be achieved after a million years from now or may never be achieved but it could never be achieved if it hasnt even started

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