Friday, January 2, 2015

Letter to the editor | Richard Dawkins Foundation

Dec 31, 2014
ote:  On Dec. 26, 2014 an opinion piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled  "Science Increasingly makes the case for God." Lawrence Krauss responded with the following letter disputing its specious science claims. Unfortunately the editors of the WSJ failed to print his response. Since then, the opinion piece has gained traction on right-wing and religious websites, spreading inaccuracies and misinformation. Lawrence's letter corrects the record.
By Lawrence Krauss
To the editor:
I was rather surprised to read the unfortunate oped piece "Science Increasingly makes the case for God", written not by a scientist but a religious writer with an agenda.  The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations.  For example:
  1. We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe.  We know the many factors that were important here on Earth, but we do not know what set of other factors might allow a different evolutionary history elsewhere.  The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.
  2. We have discovered many more planets around stars in our galaxy than we previously imagined, and many more forms of life existing in extreme environments in our planet than were known when early estimates of the frequency of life in the universe were first made.  If anything, the odds have increased, not decreased.
  3. The Universe would certainly continue to exist even if the strength of the four known forces was different.  It is true that if the forces had vastly different strengths (nowhere near as tiny as the fine-scale variation asserted by the writer) then life as we know it would probably not evolved.  This is more likely an example of life being fine-tuned for the universe in which it evolved, rather than the other way around.
  4. My ASU colleague Paul Davies may have said that "the appearance of design is overwhelming", but his statement should not be misinterpreted.  The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.
Religious arguments for the existence of God thinly veiled as scientific arguments do a disservice to both science and religion, and by allowing a Christian apologist to masquerade as a scientist WSJ did a disservice to its readers.

Lawrence M. Krauss is Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Directors of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, and the author most recently A Universe from Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing.
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