I’ve always been interested in astronomy and cosmology, and sometimes wish I’d studied it. I find the universe fascinating and amazing to look at, think about and learn about.
Cosmology has also always been of interest to theists, as it seems to point to the existence of a creator God. The cosmological argument and, in particular, the teleological argument (see The universe points to God) have evolved over centuries based on the discoveries of cosmology. And therefore, of course, it is of interest to atheists, who wish to combat the arguments.
I want to introduce you to one atheist physicist with expertise in cosmology who I think you ought to know – an Aussie, Luke Barnes.
Luke Barnes and Letters to Nature
Luke studied at Sydney University and has a PhD in physics, and has undertaken postdoctoral research in Switzerland. He and some fellow physicists started a blog, Letters to Nature, though it seems he is the main contributor these days.
Why am I telling you this?
Luke is interested in the ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe – the fact that many of the physical constants which describe or determine the shape and character of our universe are within amazingly small limits which allow life. Vary these very much and life wouldn’t be possible. (Or, as he would put it, of all the possible universes, only a very small number would permit life.) As an atheist (at least, I think I remember him saying that, but I may be wrong), he doesn’t agree that this is an indication of creation by God, but he is also honest and open-minded enough to disagree with atheists who use bad science to dismiss the teleological argument.
Worth reading, and watching
The following are a few references to places where Luke has crossed swords with evangelical atheists or christians on fine-tuning, or just given out good information. I recommend them to you – if you are not a physicist, don’t be put of by the occasional symbols and mathematics – I find I can just skip over them and still understand the point.
- Paper on The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life.
- Analysis of the writings of astronomer and creationist Hugh Ross and christian philosopher William Lane Craig. Luke concludes Craig’s writings are ‘not too bad’ and ‘deserve our consideration’.
- Critiques of the writings of atheists Lawrence Krauss, Victor Stenger and PZ Myers.
- A summary of posts on fine-tuning.
- These 5 short videos on fine-tuning. Or, if you have more time, this video series of 4 lectures on fine-tuning delivered to a 2011 Seminar on Philosophy of Religion.