Sunday, March 10, 2013

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

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A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?
Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?
And We have made in the earth firm mountains lest it should quake with them; and We have made therein wide pathways, that they may be rightly guided.
And We have made the heaven a roof, well protected; yet they turn away from its Signs.
And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each gliding along in its orbit.

(Al Quran 21: 31-34)

Written and Collected by Zia H Shah MD

Professor Richard Dawkins seems to divide the physical reality of the universe into simple things like stones and clouds and complex things that are the living beings.  He opens his book the Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, with the following words:
"We animals are the most complicated things in the known universe. The universe that we know, of course, is a tiny fragment of the actual universe. There may be yet more complicated objects than us on other planets, and some of them may already know about us. But this doesn't alter the point that I want to make. Complicated things, everywhere, deserve a very special kind of explanation. We want to know how they came into existence and why they are so complicated. The explanation, as I shall argue, is likely to be broadly the same for complicated things everywhere in the universe; the same for us, for chimpanzees, worms, oak trees and monsters from outer space. On the, other hand, it will not be the same for what I shall call 'simple' things, such as rocks, clouds rivers galaxies and quarks. These are the stuff of physics. Chimps and dogs and bats and cockroaches and people and worms and dandelions and bacteria and galactic aliens are the stuff of biology.
The difference is one of complexity of design. Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design."1
But, tell this to a quantum physicist that rocks, clouds and rivers are 'simple things,' and do not require an explanation!  Dawkins claims that 'physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design,' not so fast!  This is only his assumption created by the anesthesia of familiarity, and a passionate desire to prove atheism. Non-living things certainly require an explanation and of course the living things require a greater explanation.  The assertion that the stone does not require an explanation is only his delusion and with his passing years it has become more entrenched in his mind.
Such an assertion could have been true prior to the Big Bang theory but no more.  According to Aristotle the universe was eternal and this continued to be the physics of the nineteenth and the twentieth century until Edwin Hubble's discovery of the expanding universe.  Where did the Big Bang come from?  Who made the laws of nature and why do they conspire to make this universe suitable for life?  Is multiverse universe science or only confabulation of those scientists who are fundamentalists in their atheism? Here we will focus on only one type of evidence and only one type of element or stone for our purposes, namely carbon and why it requires an explanation.  A diamond is a precious stone and is made entirely of carbon (just like the graphite in a pencil). But, while graphite is very soft, the carbon atoms in diamond form in such a way as to create the hardest known substance. The word carbon probably derives from the Latin carbo, meaning variously 'coal,' 'charcoal,' 'ember.' The term diamond, a corruption of the Greek word adamas, 'the invincible,' aptly describes the permanence of this crystallized form of carbon.  Pure diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance known.  The Encyclopedia Britannica describes, "On a weight basis, carbon is 19th in order of elemental abundance in the crust of the Earth, and there are estimated to be 3.5 times as many carbon atoms as silicon atoms in the universe. Only hydrogen, helium, oxygen, neon, and nitrogen are atomically more abundant in the cosmos than carbon."  Encyclopedia summarizes that originally in the universe, carbon has been produced by a nuclear reaction involving helium atoms, "Carbon is the cosmic product of the 'burning' of helium in which three helium nuclei, atomic number 4, fuse to produce a carbon nucleus, atomic number 12."2  Life as we know it would not be possible without carbon.  The Encyclopedia Britannica describes:
"More than 1,000,000 carbon compounds have been described in chemical literature, and chemists synthesize many new ones each year. Much of the diversity and complexity of organic forms is due to the capacity of carbon atoms for bonding with each other in various chain and ring structures and three-dimensional conformations, as well as for linking with other atoms. Indeed, carbon's compounds are so numerous, complex, and important that their study constitutes a specialized field of chemistry called organic chemistry, which derives its name from the fact that in the 19th century most of the then-known carbon compounds were considered to have originated in living organisms."3
The life as we know it would not be possible without water and carbon, yet there was no carbon around at all for tens of millions of years after the Big Bang.  Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee write in their book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe:
"The cosmic choreography that led to the formation of Earth, all other bodies in the Universe, and (ultimately) life began with the Big Bang, the very 'beginning of time.' The Big Bang is what nearly all physicists and astronomers believe is the actual origin of universe. Born in an instant, the entire universe started out as an environment of incredible heat and density, but subsequent expansion led to rapid cooling and more rarefied conditions. During the first half-hour, conditions existed that produced most of the atoms that are still the major building blocks of the stars-mainly hydrogen and helium, atoms that make up over 99% of the normal (visible) matter in the universe. In itself however, the Big Bang generated little chemical diversity. It gave us little or nothing beyond hydrogen, helium, and lithium to fill the periodic table. It did not produce oxygen, magnesium, silicon, iron, and sulfur, the elements that constitute more than 96% of the mass of our planet. It did not produce carbon, a chemically unique element whose versatile ability to form complex molecules is the basis for all known life. But the Big Bang did produce the raw material (hydrogen) from which all heavier and more interesting elements would later form."4
The simple fusion process of hydrogen changing into helium is the secret of the stars. It is the reason why the night sky is not dark, the reason why Earth's surface is not frozen, and the reason why planets can exist; it is the energy source that powers life on Earth. This process commonly occurs inside stars, but it was also the major nuclear reaction in the Big Bang. In stars the fusion of hydrogen to yield helium provides a critical long-term energy source. In addition to being the first nuclear reaction to produce new elements, the formation of helium from hydrogen (thermonuclear fusion) has handed advanced life a double-edged sword. On the one hand, fusion is the only known process that could be used in future reactors to provide truly long-term energy sources for advanced civilizations. The sun has continued to provide solar energy to the earth, by thermonuclear fusion for its 4.5 billion years of existence and will continue to do the same for billions of years to come.  But the same life bestowing thermonuclear fusion cannot be happening on the planets that harbor life.  So, on the other hand, bombs based on the fusion of hydrogen are one of the surest means of destroying advanced life forms completely on our planet earth on a wide scale.  In the early universe we had only few elements, mostly hydrogen and helium. 

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