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.