On Electromagnetism and Intelligent Design
Most modern arguments for Intelligent Design focus on the complexity and elegance of all the various forms of life in our world, including ourselves. Indeed, one only has to look at any of the many sub-processes of the human body, such as the Krebs Cycle, in order to be filled with a sense of wonder about who it was that put all this together.
Of course, the predominant secular answer is that no one put it all together; that it evolved over the millenia into what it is today. And of course we observe some evolutionary forces such as Natural Selection, as well as some species' ability to adapt to a changing environment. These things do, in fact, lend some credence to the assertion that all forms of life are a product of evolution.
But what about non-living things? The inquiring mind must ask, "How did the laws of physics come into being? Who wrote them? By whose decree do the subatomic particles behave in such a way as to produce protons and neutrons when they finally settle down and get together?"
Perhaps there was a Big Bang. Since we know that explosions tend to create only chaos however, then whence comes the order that we observe in our modern universe? When you blow the front half off of a federal building for instance, why doesn't the debris land across the street in the form of several smaller out-buildings? This is just something to think about.
So let us consider electromagnetism, which is a favorite field of physics of mine. Did you know that radio waves and light are the same stuff? Light is simply really high-frequency electromagnetic waves—the same stuff you tune your AM/FM receiver to; the same stuff you cook your food with in the microwave oven; and the same stuff with which you warm yourself beside the camp fire. They are all electromagnetic waves.
Now here's the amazing thing about electromagnetic waves: they transmit both energy and information—from one place to another, without anything but space between sender and receiver. And what is space? Is it "something," or is it "nothing" (the absence of something)? We look at stars that are a zillion miles away, with nothing in between. So we have electromagnetic waves traversing space, transmitting energy and information from one place to another, with no physical medium by which this information or energy are transferred.
And here is where it gets fascinating. Electromagnetic waves need only three things to exist: An electric field, a magnetic field, and time. Now, setting time aside for a moment (which we couldn't do unless it existed (—see what I did there?)), let's ask the question of what is magnetism…
A magnetic field finds its source in the motions of electric fields. An electric field exists wherever there are two oppositely charged particles in proximity. On the most basic level, we have an electron (which has the most fundamental negative charge of 1 [electron volt]. As long as the electron (or a bunch of electrons) sit in one spot, no magnetic field is generated. But if they move from one place to another, they create a magnetic field. And this is where time comes in, because without time, nothing moves. As it turns out, the faster they move (or the more of them that move), the stronger the magnetic field that is produced.
But wait, there's more… it turns out that the presence of physical bodies with electric charge are not the only vehicle by which an electric field can exist. An electric field can also be generated by a magnetic field (which has no physical objects directly associated with it) that changes its strength or direction (which again requires time, because without time nothing changes).
These force fields (electric and magnetic) exist in space (where there is the absence of stuff). So the question arises: In the absence of stuff, what do these force fields push against? The amazing answer is that they push against each other—in an amazing way. They push at right angles. So when an electric field changes its strength in the up direction, it creates a magnetic field in the left direction. Now of course this magnetic field is changing its strength as it comes into existence, and since a changing magnetic field creates an electric field, this results in an electric field being generated in the down direction, which, as it grows, creates a magnetic field in the right direction.
But it gets weirder. This scenario begs the question: "How long does it take for a change in electric field strength to create a magnetic field?" The answer appears to be zero. In other words, the magnetic field exists the exact moment that the electric field changes (and vice-versa), though the whole effect propagates through space at the speed of light, in the form of an electromagnetic wave.
The upshot of all this is truly amazing: Take one electron and move it, or shake it, spin it, or wiggle it around, and every other electron in the universe knows about it! The moment you displace an electron, you change the strength of its associated electric field, which instantaneously creates a magnetic field. But since that magnetic field isn't constant, it creates another electric field, which isn't constant, since the magnetic field that created it isn't constant. Thus we have an electromagnetic wave, propagating through space. Any electron that comes across its path will feel its tug as it passes.
So next time you hear Mr. Plant admonishing you not to be alarmed by the bustle in your hedgerow, know that what you are hearing are sound waves produced by speakers by way of varying electrical current sent through a coil wrapped around a magnet. This electric current was produced by an amplifier which is fed a signal selected out of billions of signals by filtering them according to their frequency of vibration. The information (the music) was put into the form of electromagnetic waves by the transmitter at the radio station miles away from your receiver.
And this is all made possible by the fact that
- A varying electric field creates a magnetic field, and
- A varying magnetic field creates an electric field.
Which is also the reason we are able to see stars a zillion miles away.
So I ask: How is it possible that no one set this all up? Would one argue that the laws of physics wrote themselves—that electrons, protons, and neutrons somehow made themselves up as self-distinguishable from some generic cosmic goo? Whence evolved the elementary sub-atomic particles? What gave them their behavior, and why do they behave at all? What motivates them not to just sit there? Why do they interact at all, and how is it that their interaction yields such astounding order?
The laws of physics are not self-descriptive; they did not write themselves. Someone wrote them—someone who is not bound by them, not subservient to them. Someone who is above and superior to the laws of physics is the author of the laws of physics.
Scientists might disagree as to whether an author exists, but they must agree that to believe in a physical author of the laws of physics would constitute utter foolishness.
We know that randomness does not beget order, unless there is a non-random, or at least constant, forcing function at work in the system. Thus we can see how the Big Bang might be the origin of our universe now filled with stars, planets, and galaxies—because the subatomic particles (quarks, leptons, and bosons) flying away in random directions obey the laws of physics, which dictate how they behave, combining in various ways to produce protons, neutrons, atoms, the elements, etc.
See, we do, in fact, observe order coming out of chaos, even in the belly of the particle accelerator or the hadron collider. But it is a ruse, folks! The order is already there, in the midst of the chaos. As we smash protons into one another at near the speed of light, we observe that they fly apart in random directions, only to reassemble themselves into structures just as orderly as those whence they came—and it takes immense effort just to keep them apart and separate. It's like blowing up a Boeing 747 with dynamite, and producing three F-16 fighter jets as a result. This might be possible if the chunks of the 747 had physical laws that dictated how they would react with other chunks, as if they were pre-programmed to be aircraft parts with specific roles. But of course we know this isn't the case, which is why they form piles of worthless junk instead of F-16s.
So if we were to observe a high-speed midair collision of two aircraft, and no wreckage fell, but instead three or four smaller aircraft flew away… would we not be amazed? And would we not wonder who set that up, and how they pulled it off? Or would we instead attribute it to evolution? I think not.
Aircraft don't evolve on their own.
So did evolution produce the behavior of the quarks, the protons, the neutrons, and the electrons? Did heat and light produce themselves out of a need to adapt to the changing environment of empty space?
I don't think so. I think someone designed this stuff.