Science Guy Explains It All For You
Why is it that some very smart people, who happen to be gifted and excel in the sciences, think that such intelligence and talent gives them the credentials to pontificate on stuff about which they know less than nothing? Here’s an example in a column from LiveScience.com:
Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science.
Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there’s good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.
If you start with materialist assumptions, perhaps.
Carroll argues that God’s sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. “As we learn more about the universe, there’s less and less need to look outside it for help,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.
God’s sphere of influence? What is He, Russia? “God’s sphere of influence is growing in Central Asia as the Cossacks carry out their pogroms.”
Gobs of evidence have been collected in favor of the Big Bang model of cosmology, or the notion that the universe expanded from a hot, infinitely dense state to its current cooler, more expansive state over the course of 13.7 billion years. Cosmologists can model what happened from 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang until now, but the split-second before that remains murky. Some theologians have tried to equate the moment of the Big Bang with the description of the creation of the world found in the Bible and other religious texts; they argue that something — i.e., God — must have initiated the explosive event.
Actually, in the case of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, those texts state that He made the stuff that had to exist in order for the Big Bang to take place. But whatever.
As he explained in a recent article in the “Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), a foremost goal of modern physics is to formulate a working theory that describes the entire universe, from subatomic to astronomical scales, within a single framework. Such a theory, called “quantum gravity,” will necessarily account for what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. Some versions of quantum gravity theory that have been proposed by cosmologists predict that the Big Bang, rather than being the starting point of time, was just “a transitional stage in an eternal universe,” in Carroll’s words. For example, one model holds that the universe acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates over and over under its own steam. If, in fact, time had no beginning, this shuts the book on Genesis.
Given that Genesis is not meant to be a scientific text, this statement is ridiculous. But there’s another problem that occurred to me: notice that what cosmologists are seeking to explain is what happened “at the moment of the Big Bang.” The real question, and the one I doubt it is possible for scientists to answer, is: what happened the second before the Big Bang? I’m not proposing a “God of the gaps” idea here, because I would contend that however you explain the mechanism of creation, you still have God working in and through that at every moment. But where did the mechanism come from?
Other versions of quantum gravity theory currently being explored by cosmologists predict that time did start at the Big Bang. But these versions of events don’t cast a role for God either.
Of course they don’t, because it is not the place of science to try to “cast a role for God” in describing what happened. Nor is it the place of science to rule God out—just because we can explain something doesn’t mean that God has no hand in it. Saying that, which this article repeatedly does, is like saying that because I know how a plum pudding is made means that Mrs. Smith had no role in making it. Plum puddings don’t generally spontaneously generate from the ingredients, especially if the ingredients don’t exist ahead of time.
Another way to put it is that contemporary physics theories, though still under development and awaiting future experimental testing, are turning out to be capable of explaining why Big Bangs occur, without the need for a supernatural jumpstart. As Alex Filippenko, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a conference talk earlier this year, “The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.”
I’ve heard this a lot lately, and consider what Lilippenko is saying. He is claiming that the “laws of physics” have an existence independent of any physical reality. That is to say, before there was either matter or energy, the laws of physics were just out there. Or alternatively, matter and energy are eternal, which raises all kinds of questions of its own. This is where things start to slide downhill, and before long we’re talking non-theistic religion, as you’ll see in a moment.
Theologians often seize upon the so-called “fine-tuning” of the physical constants as evidence that God must have had a hand in them; it seems he chose the constants just for us. But contemporary physics explains our seemingly supernatural good luck in a different way.
Some versions of quantum gravity theory, including string theory, predict that our life-giving universe is but one of an infinite number of universes that altogether make up the multiverse. Among these infinite universes, the full range of values of all the physical constants are represented, and only some of the universes have values for the constants that enable the formation of stars, planets and life as we know it. We find ourselves in one of the lucky universes (because where else?).
Some theologians counter that it is far simpler to invoke God than to postulate the existence of infinitely many universes in order to explain our universe’s life-giving perfection. To them, Carroll retorts that the multiverse wasn’t postulated as a complicated way to explain fine-tuning. On the contrary, it follows as a natural consequence of our best, most elegant theories.
Once again, if or when these theories prove correct, “a multiverse happens, whether you like it or not,” he wrote. And there goes God’s hand in things.
As Victor Frankenstein says of the experiments of Dr. Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein, “This isn’t science. It’s more like black magic.” What Carroll does here is 1) define the terms; 2) create the theory; 3) declare ex cathedra that reality fits the theory; 4) eliminate God. Presto!
I’m no scientist, and even less a mathematician, but I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about logic, and logic says that just because you devise a (wholly speculative, completely untestable, and non-observable) theory doesn’t mean that you’ve described reality. You may have come up with some pretty “elegant” mathematics, but to then assume that reality must conform to them is to suggest that the variables and constants that you plug into them must of necessity be correct.
Another role for God is as a raison d’être for the universe. Even if cosmologists manage to explain how the universe began, and why it seems so fine-tuned for life, the question might remain why there is something as opposed to nothing. To many people, the answer to the question is God. According to Carroll, this answer pales under scrutiny. There can be no answer to such a question, he says.
And here’s where Carroll falls completely over the edge. Science is not about teleology, ie., providing the raison d’etre of anything, except to explain why a given mechanical function is necessary in order for a given result to come about. But Carroll, because he is so smart and so gifted as a scientist, is convinced that science has no boundaries. There is no question it cannot answer, and if there is no answer that science can give, then there must be no answer.
And people say Christians are arrogant know-it-alls who think they have a monopoly on the truth.
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