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Interactive video lesson plan for: Lloyd rants about the 'Just Right Universe' rubbish

Activity overview:

There is a daft argument supposedly showing that god might exist doing the rounds on the internet. It asserts that because there are various values in physics set at very precisely what is necessary for them to have the effect that they do, this somehow suggests an intelligent creator's setting all this values.

I suggest in this video if one looks at any observed phenomenon (e.g. bird migration) that one would be able to come up with many variables that have to be set very precisely for us to observe the effect that we do, and that these value are in fact all related. Isn't it amazing that water flows EXACTLY along every river in the world? No, not really, because gravity and the water shaped the rivers in the first place, and now the same gravity and the same material (water) will follow the courses quite naturally.

Physics, especially quantum physics, is imperfectly understood at best, and the various values that we observe will of course all affect each other, so we should be similarly unimpressed by the apparent precision of these values. Also, you can't alter the rules of the game after the game has started. You cannot observe two planets in perfect orbit and then say "If gravity were slightly stronger, they crash into each other" - if gravity had always been stronger, then the planets would have formed differently in the first place and found a different point of balance/orbits.

I decided to use bird migration as my example. No particular reason. Isn't it amazing that the birds all curve their flight path exactly to match the curvature of the Earth? No, not really - if the earth curved more, they have curved their flight paths more to match it. People often seem rather bad at spotting when a coincidence is truly remarkable, and when the coincidence is in a field they don't understand well (e.g. quantum physics) they may be fooled more readily.

I've been sticking to my policy of doing all these videos in one unrehearsed take, and am now starting to question the wisdom of this policy. It is nice when it works, but sometimes the shambolic nature of the result starts to get wearisome. I have tried to pep this one up with fancy backgrounds, but I'm not sure how well it worked.


Tagged under: migration,bird,dr,Hugh,Ross,universe,god,proof,evidence,godwit,exist,argument

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