Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Bother Trying to Prove There Is No God?

Science and religion are like oil and water. Science is about devising theories about how the universe works; religion is about devising theories about how it *ought* to work. Granted, there are religious people who want to encroach on science, and I suppose they've made some small amount of headway with slightly clever ideas about Intelligent Design and so on. But these ideas are really no threat, in my opinion.

Which makes it all the stranger when real scientists take them seriously. In this case, cosmologist Don Page "says that a slightly negative value of the [cosmological] constant would maximise this process. And since life is some small fraction of the amount of matter in galaxies, then this is the value that an omnipotent being would choose." Whereas in the universe as we know it, the cosmological constant actually has a small positive value. Therefore, concludes Page, God must not have fine-tuned the constant.

What nonsense, and what a waste of time. There are any number of explanations why Page could be wrong: maybe greater density of stars and galaxies leads to more radiation, making it less likely for stable molecules to form. Maybe a higher constant leads to a universe whose duration is too short for life to evolve. Maybe anything. And moreover: who cares? This sort of theological debate really doesn't belong in science. Page may have a real discovery on his hands: that he has found a link between the cosmological constant and galaxy formation. That's useful knowledge. But to try to leverage it into a theological argument demeans it.