Thursday, January 19, 2006

Derbyshire: Arhh-WREH?

NRO’s John Derbyshire has a knack for posting annoying blurbs. On NRO’s blog, the Corner, he wrote:
My private opinion, Jonah, is that the "many worlds interpretations" (MWIs) of quantum physics--there are at least three--are total crocks.

Martin Gardner is of the same mind. He skewered the MWIs in an essay in Skeptical Inquirer magazine four or five years ago. The article (and a response to critics of it) is printed in Martin's 2003 book Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? (NB: The book title refers to the fruit, not the gadget.) Martin's conclusion:
The stark truth is that there is not the slightest shred of reliable evidence that there is any universe other than the one we are in. No multiverse theory has so far provided a prediction that can be tested. ... Surely the conjecture that there is just one universe and its Creator is infinitely simpler and easier to believe than that there are countless billions upon billions of worlds, constantly increasing in number and created by nobody. I can only marvel at the low state to which today's philosophy of science has fallen.
Now, the quote from Gardner, at face value, is first-class—I’m not familiar with the article so I don’t want to say much about it—lest I be guilty of quote-mining. But I like it—oh yes, I like it very much.

In fact, this entire post from Derbyshire, taken stand-alone, is just fine. But a problem rears its ugly head when we recall that Derbyshire has a history of anti-ID posts.

The question to Mr. Derbyshire is: if you discount intelligent design and multiverses, how do you account for the fine tuning of our universe? Because it is the opinion of many (including Susskind’s) that you must choose: it is either ID or it is multiverses. (Susskind says ID or the Super String landscape—but we’ll generalize.) There are no other possible explanations save unimaginable luck. And nobody that I know of actually believes that. That is, I don’t know a single scientist who still argues that the fine-tuning requires no explanation—it just is.

Step up to the plate, Mr. Derbyshire, and pick your pseudo-science. But you do have to pick one.

There are some, and maybe this is where Derbyshire resides, who mistakenly believe that a fundamental theory will save the day. I, for one, certainly hope that physics makes some progress (something that has been in short supply recently) in this area. But as longtime readers are no doubt sick of hearing me say, a fundamentally theory explaining the constants does not undo ID—it strengthens it. Explain all the constants and the universe is still just as fine-tuned as before—but know we know a whole lot more about how the designer (that would be God) did it.

That will be a good day for physics, a good day for ID, and a good day for all believers who recognize that science is the theology of God's general revelation.

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