The Consistent Electron

Question from Andrew:
How do atheists explain the existence of symmetry?

How do you explain for example; that all electrons have the same charge and mass, and that they are all negative if they are the product of blind chance, and purposeless mechanisms?

How do you explain this, if blind chance and purposeless mechanisms don’t know that this is necessary for life to exist?

Answer by SmartLX:
When a hose or a faucet is dripping, why is every droplet the same size? Because in that particular situation, the weight of the water that gathers at the lowest point of the opening overcomes the surface tension holding it on when it reaches a specific volume, and unless you move things around that volume doesn’t change. Similarly, all the nearby droplets in a given rainstorm are about the same size because each one begins to fall when a specific amount of water vapour precipitates at one point inside a cloud. No one is there inspecting all the droplets on a production line before they fall, they just all end up being alike because conditions are constant.

So it is with the universe as a whole. Outside of certain extremely rare conditions, some properties of matter and energy are exactly the same no matter where you are: the gravitational constant, the strong and weak nuclear forces, the number of spatial dimensions and so on. This means that the amount of matter that forms a proton or the amount of energy that forms a discrete electron is the same everywhere. They don’t need an auditor to check that every particle is built to code, because they simply can’t be any other way.

We don’t know why these properties have the numerical values they do, but as it turns out they are hardly “fine-tuned” for life. In his book Just Six Numbers, Martin Rees finds that the force of gravity for example could vary by up to a factor of 3000 before stars couldn’t form, so there’s a wide range of gravitational constants that would still allow the building blocks of life (carbon, oxygen, etc.) to form and gather. I did a piece on this a while ago, so here it is.

We also don’t know why these properties stay constant and homogenous, but we do know that life couldn’t exist for long if they weren’t. So if there are multiple universes where they may or not be constant, we’re in one of the ones where they are. That’s one possible explanation; another is that a universe simply has that property as part of what holds it together. If you prefer the idea that God ensured and continues to ensure that the fundamental constants of the universe don’t budge, then you’re assuming the existence of an eternal, powerful, purposeful entity which has stayed constant for even longer than the universe without outside help, and should by your reasoning be regarded as even more unlikely. Asserting something unexplained or inexplicable to explain something else does not increase understanding, when there is otherwise no clear evidence that the explanatory entity even exists.

12 thoughts on “The Consistent Electron”

  1. My question to you Andrew,

    How does a consistent building block imply or suggest a creator? What purpose would a creator have for consistency? If a creator valued consistency why are all humans and animals unique even within their own species?

    I will glady admit that I can’t explain why nature “is”. But I am not seeing the connection between observing nature and reaching the conclusion of creator.

    One thing I’d like to point out though, is not only are you assuming a creator, but you are assuming you understand the creator enough to predict its habits and methodology (i.e. you are treating it like a human). If a creator existed, and was omnipotent, it is unlikely that we could comprehend how or why it did anything. Unless it explicitly communicated such things to us.

    1. Adam,
      you say: ” If a creator valued consistency why are all humans and animals unique even within their own species”? The simple answer is that a creator would be at liberty to value both.
      How do evolutionist who use commonality of species as primary evidence of evolution explain the absolute unique characteristics that you explain above?

      1. Rick, I saw you ask that in a different thread. unfortunately, I’m no
        “evolutionist” and cannot answer any in depth questions on that subject matter.

        Concerning your, my, Andrews, and anybodies suppositions about a creator. It seems quite obvious to me that it is all conjecture. If a creator were to exist, who are we to assume what it values, doesn’t value, or aims to do? A human with finite knowledge cannot assume to predict the behavior of a being with infinite knowledge.

        What I’m getting at is, no matter what anybody says is the nature of a creator, it boils down to an opinion, a guess, or an assumption. And given that the existence of a creator is an assumption to begin with, it’s an assumption about an assumption.

        We might as well be writing comic books.

    2. Adam, if you are an atheist, what proof would you accept as implying purpose, an intelligent signature?

      I don’t know you, but atheists dismiss what can be counted as proof of an intelligent creator. Dismiss symmetry, things like fibonacci patterns, and that if the constants of the universe were different there would be no universe as we know it. We would not exist.
      .
      True, we maybe don’t know what a supreme beign would do or not do, but just as we have inductive reasons to suppose there are other universes (because we know at least one universe is possible) we could have inductive reasons to think is possible the existence of a mind behind the order of the universe (because we know at least one intelligent mind does this – us)

      So, according to the order we see, it is reasonable to think there is an intelligent creator.

      1. Hi Andrew, I’m not looking for proof of a creator, that’s not what my question was. I’m asking, “how does a consistent building block imply or suggest a creator? What purpose would a creator have for consistency?”

        Saying things like constants exist, therefore creator, to me sounds no different from saying, there is a tree, therefore creator.

        starting with the assumption that there is a creator makes it easy to attribute anything to it. What I’m asking is, starting with no assumptions, you see that almost all of the grains of sand on the beach are of similar size, does this imply design/intent? You learn that electrons consistently are the same weight and charge, does this imply design/intent? You see that all humans have cells, does this imply design/intent?

        I just don’t see the connection you are making with *here is an observation of nature* and *therefore god*. It seems like a baseless leap, unless you start with an assumption that is the conclusion.

        As for what would qualify as proof of a creator? Well that would be the intervention of the being that supposedly did the creating. To me at least. Like Rohit said, if there is a creator, it seems to be hiding from us as if it is embarassed.

        1. Adam I already included my answer of what you are asking:

          We have inductive reasons to think is possible the existence of a mind behind the order of the universe (because we know at least one intelligent mind that creates order – ours)

          So, according to the order we see in the universe, it is reasonable to think there is an intelligent creator.

          1. Andrew, what you have there is a perfect example of the logical fallacy known as affirming the consequent. Design creates order, the universe is ordered, therefore the universe is designed. Cats have four legs, my dog has four legs, therefore my dog is a cat. Winning the lottery makes you rich, Donald Trump is rich, therefore Donald Trump got rich by winning the lottery. It just doesn’t follow.

            The only way to make a real argument for God from the order in the universe is to establish that it couldn’t have happened any other way. Dogs have four legs because they’re related to cats and other quadrupeds, Donald Trump got rich through real estate, and much of the order of the universe is emergent. The physical laws governing matter and energy cause varied and yet in some ways consistent behaviour from one end of the universe to another. Those laws are as yet unexplained (though some hypotheses do exist – ask Lawrence Krauss), but they are just as entitled to be in place from the beginning (or forever) as any god, which is a much more complex thing to leave unexplained.

            1. That’s a good call SmartLX. To make this leap we would need an IFF (if and only if) condition on creation and order. Thanks, I think that made me understand his perspective better.

            2. Smartlx, I don’t think it is such fallacy. My argument is inductive not deductive. I say, that becasue we know how minds work (creating order) we can extrapolate that to a mind behind the order of the universe. I’m just making the assertion that such thing is possible.

              So with this, I answered the question from Adam: “how does a consistent building block imply or suggest a creator? What purpose would a creator have for consistency?”

              Or just as: “similarities imply common ancestry” There are similarities; therefore common ancestry.
              My argument is like: “Order implies a mind” there is order; therefore a mind.

              1. Your argument is indeed inductive, but the ones about the dog and Donald Trump can be too. Just because an argument fits into a certain category of reasoning doesn’t make it valid, let alone persuasive.

                Inductive reasoning seeks to establish that the conclusion is likely, as opposed to certainly true. You are merely asserting that your conclusion is possible, which no one here is disputing since we’re not omniscient, but there is nothing to suggest that its probability is anywhere near the 50 plus percent required to call it likely.

                To address your other approach, straightforward syllogisms rely entirely on their premises, and your first premise is subject to the same fallacy as above. Why does order imply a mind in the first place? Because minds create order? If other things demonstrably create order, for instance a reduction in local entropy made possible by a transfer of energy (say, a rough rock worn smooth by wind or water), there is no basis for the implication of a mind, only the possibility of a mind with no established probability. Your second premise that “there is order” is perfectly evident, but in a syllogism it takes two to tango.

                I should of course apply the same critical analysis to your other syllogism. The evidence for common ancestry is not just the fact that there are similarities but the extent and nature of the similarities, experiences of the mechanisms by which these similarities come about, and the incredibly low probability of their coming about by chance or even by deliberate, separate creation. If it really were just the fact of the similarities, it wouldn’t be an argument for anything.

  2. Nature is not symmetric as it currently exists.
    If you look at the strengths of the four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetic force, strong force, electro-weak force) their magnitudes differ from each other by huge orders.
    An electron (since you take the example) has to be “rotated” twice before you can “see” the same side – one rotation is not enough.
    The electro-weak force does not treat a particle and it’s mirror image in the same manner. It distinguishes between them. The other three forces do not. Photons have continuously varying energies.
    I don’t see any symmetry in all this.

    You probably mean to ask why electrons (or neutrons or protons) are the same all over the universe – i.e. why do they have the same properties and why do they (or their constituent quarks) act as “building blocks”.
    Physicists ask the same questions and for some properties of particles they have answers. For e.g. the spin statistics theorem used in the standard model of particle physics explains why particles (bosons and fermions) must have certain spin numbers.
    The answers for the lowest charge being a specific value (1/3rd the charge of an electron) seem to be theoretical for now. For e.g. Paul Dirac showed that if we could find magnetic monopoles then charge quantization will be automatically required by the quantum mechanics, but magnetic monopoles haven’t been observed in nature so his theory remains a theory.
    For properties like masses of quarks and leptons – the search for answers continues.

    But I do not think that physicists have yet formed an opinion that god did it. And god just seems to keep so darned quiet about the whole affair (as if he/ she/ it is embarrassed that they did it). A commandment like “thou shalt not question the masses of stable quarks and leptons” would’ve led me to actually believe …
    They (physicists) will probably find laws of nature that require masses of stable leptons and stable quarks to be what they are.

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