Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Richard Carrier is still Richard Carrier

If you plotted writers with the y-axis simply being the ratio of number-of-words-written divided by IQ, you'd surely need log paper. And in the top decade, on an island all by himself, would be Richard Carrier, the proverbial self-made man in love with his creation.

Since we last met Richard he has been a busy little beaver--declaring that he is polyamorous (TMI, Richard, TMI), getting himself unceremoniously disappeared from the ironically named Freethought Blogs network,  and then suing his former blogging colleagues. The life of a super-genius, it would appear, is not an easy one!

Richard has a (relatively)  new eponymous blog, which is not at all surprising given that it would not occur to Richard to have a blog that was not eponymous. It is worth noting that you can't comment on Richard's blog unless you pay for the privilege, or are otherwise a "select person".

In a recent series Richard goes after Tim Keller's book The Reason For God. Keller's book was published nine years ago. Maybe Richard will soon write a review of Gilligan's Island.

Now it may indeed be the case that Keller's book is worthy of criticism, especially when it talks about science, but Carrier is not up to the task. His criticism, such as it is, is Carrier boiler plate:
[Insert author's name] is a liar. Lies, lies, lies. And he is stupid, stupid, stupid. [Insert multiple thousands of words roughly paraphrased as blah-blah-blah.] I have demonstrated, beyond refute, that [Insert author's name]'s claim is false, which you can read in my peer-reviewed books [Insert mostly self-published crap and misuse of Bayes' Theorem] and so take that! See! [Insert multiple thousands of words roughly paraphrased as blah-blah-blah.] And let me conclude that [Insert author's name] is a liar. Lies, lies, lies. And he is stupid, stupid, stupid.
Let's look at an example of Carrier's analysis. Keller (I haven't read the book) apparently uses the fine-tuning argument as an apologetic. And he apparently makes the usual mistake (yes it is a mistake) of emphasizing the unknowable and incalculable (as incalculable as Carrier's attempts to calculate the likelihood of a historical Jesus by abusing Bayes' Theorem) probability of the fine-tuned constants. 

Here is Carrier:
So it’s just funny when Keller gets to, of course, the Fine Tuning Argument, where it is said all the physical parameters of this universe are just rightly aligned to make a universe capable of accidentally producing a tiny speck of life here and there. And surely “the probability of this perfect calibration happening by chance is so tiny as to be statistically negligible” (p. 130). Actually, we do not know that. 
If he stopped here he'd be on solid ground. But he can never resist talking about math or physics or cosmology, topics for which he has displayed no aptitude. So he rambles:
No one knows all the possible parameters that there could be, or what happens when you vary all of them randomly at the same time. No paper ever published in the history of physics has ever accomplished such an analysis. But more importantly, the properties of this universe are actually as inhospitable to life as they could possibly be and still generate life
And nobody has ever published a paper in the history of physics, cosmology, or baseball that demonstrates that our universe is as inhospitable to life as it could possibly be and still generate life. What would that even look like? I don't know, but it might look like a single earth-like planet in an otherwise inhospitable universe. When in fact current estimates are that there are about a mole (1023) of stars in the visible universe, with a probability roughly 0.01 for a star to have a planet in the habitable zone, giving something like 1021 earth-like planets, give or take a few orders of magnitude. That is approximately 1000 times the number of grains of sand on the earth. Is that the least hospitable universe you can imagine? It is not for me.

Then Richard asserts:
whereas an intelligently designed universe would be uniformly perfect for life, not chaotically random and wasteful on astronomically vast scales.   
Which is impressive in that a single sentence contains both theological and scientific nonsense. The theological nonsense is that an intelligently designed universe (and of course, just like the IDers of whom Richard is somewhat reminiscent, the intelligence he speaks of is God) must be judged by Richard's definition of a perfect universe. The scientific error is in characterizing our universe as grossly imperfect because of its wastefulness. If Carrier understood any cosmology, which he does not, he would know that the vastness of the universe (waste, in Carrier-speak) is a consequence of a tight constraint on the primordial baryon density. The same values of the baryon density needed for the formation of galaxies and stars to create a hospitable universe will also produce a large universe. It is not a bug, it's a feature.

For more details, see the plot below, and the explanatory text.

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