Origin and Evolution of the Universe

Origin and Evolution of the Universe: Evidence for Design?

Introduction by Alan H. Batten
Edited by John M. Robson
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Origin and Evolution of the Universe
    Book Description:

    Does the universe have the character it has because of design? In this collection of essays first presented at a symposium sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the Royal Society of Canada, seventeen scientists and philosophers re-examine the "Argument by Design" in light of current scientific theories. Scientists in such diverse fields as cosmology, physics, geology, biology, and psychology provide syntheses of the state of their respective disciplines with regard to questions such as the origin or evolution of the universe and of life, the interaction of life and terrestrial environment, and verbal communication in prehumans. Contributions by philosophers cover such areas as arguments for a designer and the question of whether nature's laws and initial conditions could be viewed as "fine tuned" for the production of life. Many of the chapters demonstrate the awe-inspiring success of modern science in explaining the universe in terms of fairly straightforward natural laws, countering those versions of the design argument which try to find evidence of God's activities in the supposed failures of scientific laws to cover various phenomena.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6144-1
    Subjects: Astronomy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    The idea of this symposium came to me as a result of reading Paul Davies’ recent book,The Accidental Universe(1982), in which he explains some of the insights that have emerged from bringing together astronomical cosmology and quantum physics in the study of what might have happened at the very earliest beginnings of the universe as we know it. If we may assume, as most astronomers and physicists now do, that the expansion of the universe, which we infer from our modern observations of other galaxies, began in a single event somewhere between 10 and 20 thousand million years...

  4. The “Purpose” of Chance in Light of the Physical Basis of Evolution
    (pp. 1-32)

    In my youth I was taught to be a devout Christian, but I soon became enamoured of the ethics and physics of Epicurus [1]. This transformation occurred as I was attracted by the explanatory and predictive powers of science. Theistic accounts of the origin, nature, and future of the world seemed, in comparison, to be inadequate, unsound, and, to a naive realist, contrary to the plain evidence of one’s senses.

    I remain entranced by the Epicurean view of the universe unfolding through the indeterminate swerve and collision of “atoms” in the void. Chance events in the atomic and molecular domain...

  5. “The Gene Seemed as Inaccessible as the Materials of the Galaxies”
    (pp. 33-58)

    The sciences in our century have been marked almost everywhere by momentous discoveries, by extraordinary people, by revolutions in understanding, by a remarkable dynamism of legions of scientists in a world-wide community. Twice since the early 1900s science has generated a transformation so broad and so deep that it touches our most intimate sense of the nature of things. The first of these transformations was in physics, the second in biology.

    The revolution in physics came first. It began with quantum theory and the theory of relativity, with intellectual giants such as Max Planck and Albert Einstein, and came to...

  6. From Selfish dna to Gaia: One Molecular Biologist’s View of the Evolutionary Process
    (pp. 59-76)

    1.1The view from molecular biology. To begin, a confession. I was trained as an experimental molecular biologist during the 1960s. It was understood that I was to believe that nothing really important happened in biology until 1953, when Watson and Crick came up with a structure for dna; that this discovery made flesh the words of Darwin, which were never to be doubted (nor, except out of curiosity, read); that an interest in the history, or worse the philosophical roots, of the discipline was a symptom of intellectual weakness; that the whole wasnevermore than the sum of...

  7. The Large-Scale Structure of the Universe
    (pp. 77-86)
    P. J. E. PEEBLES

    The papers on astronomy and geology in this volume serve to illustrate the methods and results of the physical sciences, and to describe the nature of the physical environment within which life may form and other curiosities occur. Astronomy is not a very rich example of the first purpose because its observational basis is necessarily so limited – we cannot poke a star, or look at the universe from another place – and its inferences are therefore indirect and often controversial. Laboratory physics, however, provides a more convincing example of the way physics plumbs some aspect of reality. This problem...

  8. Of Stars, Planets, and Life
    (pp. 87-108)

    In the middle of the sixteenth century, artists were also scientists. To a young lad growing up at that time, it was the artist who seemed most fully to express the promise of human genius, and his greatest ambition would have been to become a famous architect, painter, or sculptor – and man, forever making God in his own image, would seek design in nature as evidence for a Divine Artist. The recognition of “design” was therefore in the nature of an aesthetic judgment.

    On the other hand, to a young lad growing up in Scotland in the middle of...

  9. Is the Physical Universe Natural?
    (pp. 109-118)
    W. G. UNRUH

    The title of this conference “The Origin and Evolution of the Universe: Evidence for Design?” asks whether or not our present theories about the origin of the universe, the earth, and life itself have any relevance to the old argument from design for the existence of God. That argument is basically that the complex structures and the order which we see around us could not have happened by chance, could not be “natural,” but must have been specially created. The contrary argument is that the structures and order are the result of completely natural processes, and can be explained as...

  10. Coincidences: Mundane and Cosmological
    (pp. 119-138)

    Probability ideas continue to be used in arguments from design. This paper examines the logic of such arguments, (1) Eighteenth-century cosmological arguments are used to illustrate this logic. (2) Difficulties in applying this logic are illustrated by adapting the famous case of Paley’s watch. (3) These difficulties are transferred to today’s discussions of the “fine tuning” of the universe. (4) The anthropic principle and the idea of many universes have been used to undercut design arguments. It is shown that in connection with Carter’s ensemble of coexisting universes, this approach is sound. When applied to a sequence of successive universes,...

  11. Directionalité, intentionnalité, et analogie dans l’approche de l’univers
    (pp. 139-152)

    J’ai pensé que, le premier à prendre la parole dans ce colloque, il serait opportun que je donne à mon intervention la forme de prolégomènes: distinction et définition de quelques notions fondamentales qui, de mon point de vue à tout le moins, paraissent les plus utiles aux échanges que nous entreprenons aujourd’hui. Directionalité et intentionnalité se retrouveront ainsi au terme de l’élaboration de cet ensemble de notions. C’est pour marquer dés le départ l’orientation fondamentale de ma démarche que je les ai fait paraître dans mon titre. Toujours présentes d’une manière le plus souvent implicite, directionalité et intentionnalité n’occuperont cependant...

  12. The Ecopoiesis of Daisy World
    (pp. 153-166)

    Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, and this may be why fiction is often more credible than fact. For example, anyone interested in the sociology of Victorian England could read the first great sociologist, Marx, but is more likely to have read Dickens. These thoughts were brought home to me recently following the publication of a book of fiction entitledThe Greening of Marsby Allaby and Lovelock (1984). I was surprised by the seriousness of its reception. It was the story of an entrepreneur who made a profit by making the climate of Mars favourable for life....

  13. The Earth and Its Life: Geologic Record of Interactions and Controls
    (pp. 167-194)

    The search for design in our surrounding world is strongly influenced by personal views of the relative importance of deterministic vs probabilistic concepts of evolution and history. The deterministic attitude naturally leads to formulation of an ultimate cause, and thus of a directional design. The probabilistic approach, although not excluding design in terms of processes rather than products, does not require directionality. I would like to argue, from a geological perspective, that these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but complementary. The evolution of the Earth can be viewed as a propagation of populations through continuous “birth/death” cycles. This concept...

  14. An Anthropocentric View of the Universe: Evidence from Geology
    (pp. 195-210)

    I begin with an anecdote, a detached piece of history that I shall refer to again. It concerns Philip Henry Gosse, a Victorian zoologist and writer who, in 1857, once and for all resolved the dilemma of reconciling the facts of biology and geology with a belief in a sudden creation. He published his discovery in a book calledOmphalos, an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. His solution involved two conflicting assumptions, the first of which required him as a member of a Calvinist sect known as the Plymouth Brethren, to believe that “in six days Jehovah made Heaven...

  15. The Origin of Consciousness
    (pp. 211-226)

    I begin by analysing my datum: I am concerned to explain the occurrence of conscious events. Events consist in the instantiation of properties in substances (that is, things) at times. My tie (substance) being red (property) now (time) is an event; so am I (substance) writing (property) today (time). (As I shall use the term, events include both continuing states and changes of state.)

    Properties and events may be physical or mental. I understand by a physical property one such that no one subject is necessarily better placed to know that it is instantiated than is any other subject. Physical...

  16. The Origin of Human Communication
    (pp. 227-246)

    On learning the topic of this volume, a philosopher I know said: “Surely if someone was going to design people, he could have done a better job?” Many people, however, who are quite willing to admit that a daisy or even a monkey could have come about by chance, believe that human beings must have come about by design. Scientists are apparently not exempt from this attitude, and non-biological scientists, in particular, often conjecture that the complexity of human thought and ability precludes their emergence through natural selection alone. Certainly it sometimes seems that the pervasiveness of human communication, for...

  17. More Gaps for God?
    (pp. 247-258)

    It is often argued that the basic laws of the universe seem very finely tuned for the production of life and even of human life. My brief is to comment on these arguments from the point of view of Christian theology.

    The subject divides into five topics: (1) the need for arguments supporting Christian belief; (2) the nature of these supporting arguments; (3) the theologically equivocal nature of arguments from “gaps” in the intelligibility of the universe; (4) the possible force of such arguments notwithstanding; and (5) the application of these considerations to the place of miracles within Christianity.


  18. In the Beginning Is the Dance of Love
    (pp. 259-280)

    It is a reflection of our collective world-view, perhaps since the publication of Newton’sPrincipiain 1687, that we regard questions concerning the origin, development, measure, and meaning of the cosmos as pertaining almost exclusively to the domain of science, and in particular to that of physics. In other words, for us moderns, cosmology is a branch of physics, a subject that since the sixteenth century has concerned itself with understanding the cosmos ultimately in terms of dead matter in motion in reaction to external and purposeless forces.

    As is well known, natural theology has a long history. At the...

  19. Science, Design, and Ambiguity: Concluding Reflections
    (pp. 281-294)

    It is not my purpose here to recapitulate the papers in this volume, but to offer one view of the way in which they advance the perennial debate of which they form a part. To do so, I shall, first, try to say where the debate stood up to our time – that is, after the advent of Darwinism, but before the spectacular developments described here. I shall then estimate the impact of current scientific findings on the status of this debate, and conclude with some observations on the attitudes of my humanistic colleagues, and a tentative judgment of my...

  20. Contributors
    (pp. 295-297)