Earth’s Life Permitting Moon

This should be a part of other p[osts to understand the immense gap people what is probable and what is possible:

...The Moon's Marvelous Mass

Thanks to the Moon’s extremely large mass relative to its host planet and to its close orbit, Earth alone among all the Sun’s rocky planets possesses a stable rotation axis tilt. The angle, stability, and longevity of Earth’s rotation axis tilt are among several fine-tuned lunar features making advanced life possible on Earth. These findings led geophysicist David Waltham to consider the Moon as a tool for testing the power and scope of the anthropic principle—the tenet that the universe and its various components manifest fine-tuned characteristics that make possible the existence of human beings. If the anthropic principle is a valid description of physical reality, Waltham reasoned, then scientists should discover additional lunar characteristics that prove beneficial to humanity’s existence.

Waltham’s investigation revealed that the Moon is nearly twice as massive as is necessary to stabilize Earth’s rotation axis. The Moon, in fact, proves almost too massive. Increase it by a mere 2 percent and the Moon would pull Earth’s rotational tilt out of stability. Waltham wondered whether some anthropic reason might be found for this excessive-to-the-point-of-risky lunar mass.

Soon he recognized that the Moon’s mass creates the tidal friction that gradually puts the brakes on Earth’s rotation rate. A Moon less massive would take longer than 4.5 billion years to slow Earth’s rotation rate from just a few hours to 24 hours per day. To extend this slowing effect over more than 4.5 billion years would mean exposing Earth to a brighter, less stable Sun—one too luminous and too unstable for advanced life. A more rapid rotation rate during the current era of solar burning would also prove problematic. More rapid rotation means a higher surface temperature…, greater temperature extremes over the planetary surface, and less evenly distributed rainfall.

~ Hugh Ross, “Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home

To compliment the above, here is a portion of the above discussion via I.D.E.A. CENTER:

…More than Just a First Cause

The Greeks attributed the origin of the universe to a “Prime Mover”, or “First Cause” who set things in motion. “Rational thinkers” of the enlightenment took this idea further and found it popular for them to believe in a watchmaker God, who “wound up” the universe and left it to run on its own. This deistic view of the world saw God as an absentee father, who got things going, and then went on about his more important business. Big Bang theory says that the universe exploded, and over billions of years it cooled, and matter condensed forming galaxies, nubulae, stars, and solar systems. Our solar system is thought to be a “third-generation” solar system, which contains the left over parts of two previous star systems which “went nova.” The formation of the solar system, and the earth, allegedly occurred long after the beginning of the universe. Thus, while God could have initially set physical properties of the universe and then gone fishing, the presence of similar “anthropic principles” for the solar system, the moon, and the earth itself indicate that the Designer was involved long after the beginning of the universe and had something to do with life on earth. Put in simple theological terms, one might say, God cares about life on earth.

First of all, the very position of the solar system in our galaxy is unique among stars, and allows for the existence of life. Astronomers Hugh Ross and Guillermo Gonzalez explain:

“The solar system occupies a position in the disk of the Milky Way approximately halfway to its edge and in-between two spiral arms. We now know enough about the structure of our galaxy to understand why our location should be preferred over others. If our solar system were closer to the center of the Milky Way or closer to one of its spiral arms, we would encounter harmful radiation from supernovae and perturbations from stars that would send Oort cloud comets careening into the inner solar system. If the solar system had formed farther out in the disk of the Milky Way, there would not have been sufficient heavy elements to build a planet capable of supporting life.”

Not only is the position of our solar system important, but also the fact that our solar system’s relative position remains constant within the galaxy. Richard Deem notes that, “the stability of our position is possible because the sun is one of the rare stars that lies within the ‘galactic co-rotation radius'” where, “most stars located between spiral arms do not remain there [within a galactic co-rotation radius] for long, but would eventually be swept inside a spiral arm [of the galaxy]. Only at a certain precise distance from the galaxy’s center, the “co-rotation radius,” can a star remain in its place between two spiral arms, orbiting at precisely the same rate as the galaxy arms rotate around the core”. But having a sun–or even a typical sun–isn’t enough:

“While most textbooks discuss the Sun as if it were a typical star, it is a more massive star than 90 percent of the stars in the Milky Way. The Sun is anomalous in other ways, including its composition, brightness variation, and Galactic orbit. It can be plausibly argued that each of these characteristics must be exactly as it is for advanced life to exist on Earth.”

As discussed above, liquid water is necessary at least for carbon based life23, and probably for any life. Yet another parameter allowing for life on Earth is its position within the solar system which allows for liquid water. Nick Hoffman, Senior Research Scientist at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia notes that if Earth was a bit closer to the sun, it would have a runaway greenhouse atmosphere vaporizing any chance for non-gaseous water to exist, like Venus. But, if it were a little further, it would have had no liquid water, as it all would have been frozen.

Earth’s single large satellite, the Moon, is unique among the planets and greatly affects the geography of the earth. Hoffman again notes that, “it has become clear that our Moon is a rare celestial object and that few Earth-like planets could have produced such a chance outcome during their assembly” and argues that without the moon, the earth most likely would have little to no exposure of continents.

Similarly, Ross and Gonzalez note that the moon is vital for earth’s continental geography:

“Removing the moon seems harmless enough at first. Of course, Solon [Earth without the moon] would differ from the earth. The tides would be lower without the moon, and it would lack eclipses and romantic, moonlit nights, but in the global scheme of things these changes seem trivial. As we dig deeper, we discover that lower tides, higher winds, and shorter days would greatly affect Solon’s geography, its ability to evolve [could also read: support] life, and the quality of the life animals would have there. As the differences between Earth and Solon become more evident, it becomes clear that Solon would be a much less hospitable place in which to live.”

Finally, it has been argued that the size of the earth has prevented it from becoming either a total desert or a waterworld, that the large magnetic field protects life from harmful radiation, that our unique continental crust allows for plate tectonics and replenishes nutrient supplies for life, and even that the size and position of Jupiter is vital to the protection of life on earth from space debris. The bottom line is that a large number of parameters of the earth and solar system are finely-tuned to keep it a stable, protected, nutrient and liquid-water bearing planet. This implies that design went into the origins of earth and the solar system, disallowing for a deistic worldview where God does not care about life on this planet.

Winning the Cosmic Lottery

In light of this evidence for fine tuning, what are our options? So potent is the argument for design that one commentator stated that, “[t]his fine-tuning has two possible explanations. Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or there is a multitude of universes- a `multiverse’” This common objection to these arguments basically goes like this:

“Sure, maybe it is unlikely that our universe would be ‘just right’ for life. But isn’t it also really unlikely that one would win the lottery? We don’t infer some divine coincidence there because we know that if you have enough tries, chances are even something very unlikely will occur. If there are ‘infinite universes’ out there, then perhaps the fact that ours is ‘just right’ for life isn’t so unlikely!”

While this objection, if valid, would seem to make our universe less likely, the rejoinder to that is that we have no evidence of these “multiple universes” and this is complete philosophical speculation. This argument is unverifiable, and unfalsifiable. Additionally, Paul Davies notes that, “if the bio-friendliness of the natural world were the result of randomness, we might expect the observed universe to be minimally rather than optimally bio-friendly. But the degree of bio-friendliness we observe in the universe is far in excess of what is needed to give rise to a few observers to act as cosmic selectors.” Occam’s Razor (the claim that simpler explanations tend to be the right ones) would seem to argue against postulating some complex cosmic lottery producing infinite universes.

However, the anthropic argument for design has something else much more powerful going for it. According to intelligent design theory, the ways that intelligent agents act can be observed in the natural world and described. When intelligent agents act, it is observed that they produce high levels of “complex-specified information” (CSI). CSI is basically a scenario which is unlikely to happen (making it complex), and conforms to a pattern (making it specified). Language and machines are good examples of things with much CSI. From our understanding of the world, high levels of CSI are always the product of intelligent design. It may very well be that, through the fine-tuning of its laws, the universe contains this same CSI that we tend to find produced through intelligent design. The laws and properties of the universe are extremely complex, yet they are highly specified to match the very properties needed for life. Thus, we have a positive argument in favor of intelligent design of the universe. In essence, the universe has the same type of information we tend to find in intelligently designed machines. This strongly points to design….

A Fortunate Universe

Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it – and life as we can imagine it – would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos. Conflicting notions about our place in the Universe are defined, defended and critiqued from scientific, philosophical and religious viewpoints. The authors’ engaging and witty style addresses what fine-tuning might mean for the future of physics and the search for the ultimate laws of nature. Tackling difficult questions and providing thought-provoking answers, this volumes challenges us to consider our place in the cosmos, regardless of our initial convictions.

Book is up for pre-order: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

S.E.T.I. ~ Shutting Down The Search for Life After Decades of Failure

Via The Wall Street Journal

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”…

…read it all!…