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2010-03-23 — 11:11 p.m.

The Origin of the Universe Part 3 (final thoughts)

Bill’s Final Thoughts:

As usual Tim, your points are well taken and considerate of your worldview. Your friend Dan made some good points as well in his comments on our discussion. Here is my response to some of them:

In regard to your comments about the fundamental laws of physics, I think maybe you misunderstood my point. I was not trying to draw your attention to the fact that without the fundamental laws, life would not exist. I believe just about everyone knows that. Rather, I was trying to bring your attention to the fact that these laws are so finely tuned that it seems like someone, or something has “monkeyed with the physics” as Sir Fred Hoyle put it. It would seem, at least to many, that there are far too many coincidences needed to explain our existence. So many coincidences in fact, that even some of the worlds most respected scientists have not ruled out the possibility of a Creator. Lee Strobel and Robin Collins, among a host of others, know that these coincidences are not empirical proof that God exists. I don’t believe they would make that claim. But I must say that their logic is not flawed as you said. Their logic is based on the scientific premise that if something appears to be designed and has specified complexity, then there is a chance that it is.

You said:

”While all of these forces may be needed to start life on this planet, we have them.

But what matters is that the Universe has them too....”

The question Strobel and Collins are trying to get us to think about is “why”? Why does the universe have all of these finely tuned laws and parameters in the first place? Where did they come from? Science understands that these laws and parameters could have had many different values if chance and coincidence were guiding their construction. And these “many different values” don’t allow life to exist. But the fact is that they didn’t take on different values. They are exactly the right values for us to be having this discussion.

About the forces, you said:

“These are not mutually exclusive to OUR life, but that’s the way that they were presented by your source, and how you are, in turn, presenting them now. It doesn’t work.”

I believe it does work. It works to show that there is apparent design in the universe and that design should demand an explanation, the same as it does in other areas. At least, we should look into it with an open mind and see where the evidence leads.

But what doesn’t work here is your choice of the words “OUR life”. And in your following paragraph you used terms like “life that WE know” and “life like us”. You are calling attention to the idea that there may be other forms of life out in the vast expanse of the universe. But I must call this line of reasoning for what it is: pure speculation. There is not one shred of evidence to support the idea that other forms of life exist anywhere else in the universe. And to go one further, there is no evidence to support the premise that there is life similar to ours elsewhere in the cosmos. To base your reasoning or worldview on this assumption is, in my estimation, flawed and seems more like wishful thinking. And while chemistry is one of the better understood sciences, it cannot explain how life arose on this planet, let alone any other. To say that life may exist on other planets and in different forms is a statement that cannot be proven and in no way supports your argument. Also, you said that “we are simple biological creatures” but most scientists would agree that life, no matter what its origin, is intricate and miraculous. And, of course, once you mention miracles the idea of a Creator does not seem so absurd. In fact, it seems rather possible to many.

With regard to your idea that we may be living in a universe of a cyclical nature, you said:

“So, if this Cyclic model does end up being proven in a few decades when we have some more technology, and let’s indulge the ‘what if’ for a moment, then it brings us to a larger question. Why did there have to be a creation event at all? We’ve been discussing this topic with the implicit understanding that this is the only Universe that has ever been...”

Again, this is total speculation. There is no evidence to support a cyclic model of the universe. Only theory. In fact, science overwhelmingly goes against this theory. Dr. William Lane Craig, in his book Design and the Cosmological Argument, talks about the waning support for a Cyclical Universe model. He says that physics just doesn’t support it. He points out that theorems by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose show that, as long as the universe is governed by general relativity, an initial singularity, and therefore a beginning, is inevitable. He also points out that in order for the universe to oscillate, it must contract at some point. In order for this to happen the universe would have to be dense enough to generate sufficient gravity to slow the expansion and then reverse it. He says that recent estimates of the amounts of luminous and dark matter are far below what would be needed to slow down and eventually halt the expansion. In fact, in recent years scientists have come to the conclusion that universe is not decelerating at all, but many believe that it is accelerating and will continue to do so.

But like you said Tim, let’s assume that the cyclic model is correct in some fashion. Let’s assume that the universe has been going through cycles where it expands and contracts. The laws of physics would still apply and that presents a problem. The Entropy Laws would be conserved from one cycle to the next. This effect would mean that each expansion would get bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, trace backwards in time and what do you get? The expansions get smaller and smaller until you reach the smallest cycle, and then the beginning. It’s unavoidable. No matter how the Oscillating Universe theory plays out, the evidence still implies a beginning to the universe. And as far as String Theory goes, they haven’t even written all of the equations for it yet, much less solved it. It’s not even a theory really. It’s more like a scenario and therefore has little or no merit. It’s speculative and uncertain at best. I looked into the Baum-Frampton model you mentioned and didn’t find much support for it. However, I did notice that there is some interest in it and so I guess we will just have to see how it pans out in the scientific community. I am always interested.

Just a note: your friend Dan, who commented on our discussion, brought up some valid points. In his comments he wrote:

“I’d like to ask: why doesn’t god have a beginning? It seems like you could presuppose an infinite chain of gods creating each other with equal likelihood as this one god you presume.”

So, one question here is “why couldn’t multiple Creators have been involved in creating the universe?” I don’t have all of the answers but my opinion would be that Ockham’s razor would do away with any additional Creators. Ockham’s razor is a scientific principle that says we should not multiply causes beyond what’s necessary to explain an effect. Since one Creator is sufficient to explain the effect, you would be unwarranted in going beyond the evidence. Ockham’s razor is a universally accepted principle of scientific methodology and definitely fits the application here. And as far as the question “why doesn’t God have a beginning?” goes, no reputable philosopher will say that everything has a cause. They all understand that logic dictates a “first cause”. In other words, they don’t believe in an infinite regress of causes. For the reasons I mentioned earlier in the discussion, philosophers, for the most part, don’t believe in an infinite past. Something had to start it all. And I believe that “something” was God.

And finally, since we have been writing this paper (almost 2 years now, wow!) I have noticed something. It seems to me that many of these theories, such as The Oscillating Theory, Multiverse Theory, String Theory, Steady State Theory, etc..., are seeking to do one thing. They are trying desperately to avoid a beginning to the universe. If you can prove that the universe is eternal or that it is one of an infinite amount of universes, then the idea of God creating it would seem to diminish. You even hinted at this yourself Tim when you said:

“Why did there have to be a creation event at all?”

But the interesting thing is that theories designed to avoid the beginning of the universe have either turned out to be completely debunked, like the Steady State Theory, or else they imply the beginning that their proponents sought to avoid.

With all that we know right now, it appears that the evidence overwhelmingly supports a beginning to the universe. So, like you did earlier Tim, let’s assume something. Let’s assume that the universe had a beginning. I don’t care when it may have been, 14 billion years ago or 14 thousand. Either way we are faced with a decision. Did all this matter and energy just come out of “nothing”? The Idea of “something” coming out of complete nothingness seems kind of absurd, doesn’t it? For someone to believe that line of reasoning is to take a huge leap of faith, no matter how you put it.

So, I ask this question: Why is there “something” rather than “nothing”? This is the question Man, and ultimately science, is seeking to answer. I don’t have the empirical proof that people in this scientific age seem to demand but I do believe that God is a plausible explanation.

Tim’s Final Thoughts:

Bill,

I know that this paper has been a long time wrapping up for us, mostly since so much of it is theory and speculation from both camps, so it seems that one last bit of clarification is in order, then I’ll wrap it up as well. As usual, your response was well thought out, but for the sake of brevity, I’m just going to say what I meant the first time, because it obviously didn’t come across right.

The whole concept of the “finely tuned Universe” is something that I take exception to, because there is a clear bias. Your “experts” Lee Strobel et al, have an agenda when their “data” is presented, and furthermore it is presented in a way to convince people that there was a designer. “Wow, there is NO WAY that could have happened naturally!” is what the listener is supposed to think, and many do, which is why I tried to make the point that these laws of physics are everywhere in a vast amount of space, not just tailor-made for this little speck of a planet. I just need to point out the fallaciousness of an argument that says “if reality were different, we wouldn’t exist, therefore reality is finely tuned so that we can.” Do you see why this is a biased argument?

I disagree with your assessment that if something “appears to be designed and has specified complexity, then there is a chance that it is”. Appears to whom? Is a flower designed because I think it’s pretty? Is the Grand Canyon designed because someone thinks the Earth is only 6000 years old? Well, If it’s all designed, who kicked Pluto into such an off-kilter orbit? While we're on that topic, why does Sedna only orbit the Sun once every 10,000 years or so in a nearly conical orbit? Wow, that’s some good design right there. When you assess a reason for a question to gain support for a cause or point of view, then it is a bias, and that is what’s going on with Strobel and Collins.

There is no “why”, about reality because there doesn’t have to be. It is what it is. Yes, gravity works, and yes there are laws about how molecules interact with each other that scientists have observed over the course of history. Yes, when you mix sodium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid you get heat, salt, and water. Hey, wait a sec. I like heat, I like salt, I LOVE water. That chemical reaction must have been designed with my dinner in mind.

As far as the life argument, you made it a point to say that other life in the Universe is pure speculation. I agree. My point here was that there is a bias amongst many people, an assumption, that in order to make life in the Universe we need to recreate Earth, down to the finest detail, complete with asteroid collisions and the like. We’ve even gone so far to map out a “goldilocks zone.” Well that’s fine if we want to recreate humans, but it’s a very limited view of life since we only have ourselves and the life on Earth to compare against. Is there a possibility that there might be other factors that have contributed to life elsewhere? You bet. Do I have any data to support this? Of course not. I just want to point out that we have limited thinking when we consider life in the Universe. Mostly this line of reasoning comes from Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, who discuss it in their book: Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life (2002) which basically says what I just have, and it’s a counterpoint to the Rare Earth Society, which I mentioned somewhere earlier.

The truth is, Bill, most people don’t want there to be life elsewhere, because it will contradict the Bible. If we get down to brass tacks here though, God is pure speculation, as there is no actual, tangible evidence for his existence either. Oh, I know there are many “historical” documents, but let’s face it. One shred of physical evidence? None.

You also pointed out at the end the flaws in the Cyclic Universe Model that I brought up (stating that science overwhelming goes against it), then backed it up with a quote from a well known Creationist writer, Dr William Lane Craig. I can’t seem to find the book that you’re referring t, but if you meant to quote The Kalam Cosmological Argument, or The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz, those works were published in 1979 and 1980, respectively. The book that you quoted from, Design and the Cosmological Argument, doesn’t exist as far as I can tell. Anyways, the quote might be valid, regardless of the book, but I think he may have been talking about the Oscillating Theory, which you mentioned in your introduction to Part 1. I thought I made it very clear that the cyclic model that I was referring to was not the same, was much newer, and though I won’t presume to say that it has or has not been reviewed by Stephen Hawking, it likely HAS been reviewed by Sir Roger Penrose. In fact, contrary to your information from Dr. Craig, Penrose supports a Cyclic model:

“For example, Roger Penrose has argued that a cyclic model may be necessary to explain how the universe is compatible with the second law of thermodynamics, one of the most fundamental dictums of physics. According to the second law, entropy (the amount of disorder) always increases. Since the inflationary model creates an enormous amount of entropy, the universe must have begun with very little before inflation. However, there is no explanation for why this should be so. In fact, cosmologists often describe the universe right after the bang as being chaotic and random, suggesting high entropy. Penrose argues that some event must have preceded the bang to make the entropy low and that this event is likely to repeat in the future. Coming full circle, this seems to result in a cyclic universe.”

Source: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/a_cyclic_universe/

I’m not sure where Dr. Craig is getting his quotes, but either they’re wrong or sorely out of date. I’d recommend you reading the article above, which unlike the actual white papers I read. This article explains in a lot simpler terms the Cyclic model that I was referencing, and it’s dated 2007, which is a lot more current than Dr. Craig’s science books. There is even a link in here to one of Sir Roger Penrose’s presentations about Pre-Big Bang theories, entitled: "Before the Big Bang: An Outrageous New Perspective and Its Implications for Particle Physics", R. Penrose, Proceedings of EPAC 2006, Edinburgh Scotland

The older, Oscillating Theory was disproven for a number of reasons, and it doesn’t take for granted the inflationary aspect, which you pointed out (how the Universe is expanding), but it is addressed in this model. Is there a theoretical aspect to it? Yes. Has there always been theory in Cosmology? Yes. Is there a lot of it in this paper? Yes.

While it might seem that I’m trying to disprove God made the Universe by finding another reason or an alternate to the Big Bang as “the Beginning”, I’m not trying to dodge the question. I’m not satisfied with the answer “God made it, don’t worry anymore”. I’m not satisfied with the Universe spawning itself spontaneously from nothing either. That’s why it’s interesting to kick around some other ideas. I don’t for a second believe that some benevolent creator made it, but then again we went into this, as with our last paper, agreeing to disagree and I think we’ve done a fine job of it again, Bill. Thanks for playing.

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Want to comment? Speak up! 2 Quips to Date


Bill - 2010-03-25 17:40:22
My pleasure Tim. Thank you as well.
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Dan - 2010-03-30 21:35:22
Great stuff, guys.
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