Friday, April 27, 2012

Read Along: Chapter 5—How Did the Universe Begin?

Today we continue with Chapter Five in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Five, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You’re also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!

[Audio Intro] – Sean McDowell introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 05 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) – PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] – Click to subscribe to the audio.

Summary
Chapter Five: How Did the Universe Begin?
(pages 71-82)

Chapter five asks the fundamental question of the origin of the universe. The authors point to scientific and philosophical reasons to believe that the universe had a beginning. They introduce the kalam cosmological argument and unpack the premises. Alternate explanations of the origin of the universe that try to avoid an absolute beginning are assessed, and the authors provide an answer to the question, “who made God?” Finally, the implications of a the universe having a cause are explored, showing that the cause is most plausibly non-physical, spaceless, timeless, changeless and powerful.

Christian philosopher Doug Geivett contributes an essay entitled, “God, the Universe, and Me.” Here he briefly looks at some implications of there being a Creator of the universe.

Notable quotes:

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”‘ – Alexander Vilenkin. (p. 76)  

The kalam argument cannot demonstrate that the Bible is reliable, that Jesus is God, or that Christianity is true. What the kalam reveals is that the universe was made and that someone made it. Further, the kalam helps narrow the range of possible causes to a being that is nonphysical, spaceless, timeless, changeless, and powerful(p. 78)

The best explanation for the origin of the universe is that it was brought into existence through the free will of a personal Creator. Since the universe is the result of a creative act, it is best explained as the result of a mind. (p. 79)

Discuss

  1. Why is the question of the origin of the universe important?
  2. Can you give an example of something coming into existence without a cause?
  3. Why might someone want to avoid the conclusion that the universe had a beginning?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 6—How Did Life Begin?

38 Comments

  1. Katy April 27, 2012

    I love this, but I am behind. have to catch up today. This book explains things well. Sometimes I feel like it is all over my head.

  2. LittleGoose April 27, 2012

    Totally read the chapter! The chapter explored a little of the kalam cosmological argument. what other cosmological arguments are out there?

  3. Robert April 27, 2012

    LittleGoose: some of Aquinas' "Five Ways" can be considered cosmological arguments; there's also the Leibnizian cosmological argument, and Richard Swinburne has proposed an inductive cosmological argument. Finally, see "A New Cosmological Argument" by Alexander Pruss and Richard Gale.

    There's lots more, but these are the most popular.

  4. Hausdorff April 27, 2012

    As usual, there were a few things in this chapter that simply drove me crazy, as a mathematician, there was one in particular that I couldn't stand.

    "The problem is that imaginary numbers don't translate to the real world."

    What is that supposed to mean? imaginary numbers translate to the real world all the time. It seemed to me like the author was trying to discredit an idea of Hawking based on the fact that the numbers are called "imaginary".

    Another thing, you guys shouldn't be so afraid of infinities

    "If God was caused by something else, then that thing would also need a cause, and we would have a infinite regress without a beginning."

    So what? You can have an infinite number of causes provided you have an infinite amount of time in the past. Infinities can be confusing, but that doesn't mean they are impossible.

  5. LittleGoose April 27, 2012

    @Hausdorff

    Hey man, it's true that you can have an infinite number of causes if there is an infinite amount of time, but it's precisely an infinite amount of time that seems contradictory. If the universe has traversed an infinite amount of time, that means there would be an infinite number of successive moments that would have to happen before this moment can happen. No matter how many moments occur, there would always be another one. It would literately take forever before this moment could happen. If it doesn't take forever, than an infinite number of moments did not occurred in the past.

    Just adding my 2 cents, much love!

  6. MaryLou April 28, 2012
  7. Hausdorff April 28, 2012

    " it's precisely an infinite amount of time that seems contradictory"

    I think perhaps that is because we are so used to thinking in the finite realm. It seems weird, but that is because we are used to thinking about there being a beginning. If there is an infinite amount of time in the past and there are an infinite amount of causes, then there was no beginning. As long as you have both infinities it works out fine.

    My point is basically that having an infinite number of causes and an infinite amount of time in the past is not inherently contradictory. I have heard it argued (probably by WLC) that it doesn't make sense for there to be an infinite amount of causes before this one because we could never get to this point in time. I think that is just nonsense. You have to remember that an infinite amount of time has passes as well as there being an infinite amount of causes. I think it is easy to think of things like "if I counted my whole life I would never count to infinity", but our whole lives, even the entire life of the universe is insignificant in the face of infinity. Any finite amount of time, no matter how large, is nothing in the face of infinity.

    MaryLou, I love the hilbert hotel. There are 2 reasons we teach it, 1 is because it is fun and if presented properly it is a good way to explain a difficult concept. Second, it shows that you have to be careful because infinities are strange. He points out that there are absurdities when you perform subtraction or division, this is true. But that is not because infinities are inherently absurd or contradictory, it is because infinities aren't numbers. They are abstractions of numbers, they are limits of sequences of numbers, they are compactifications of various things. The lesson of hilberts hotel is supposed to be that you need to be extremely careful when you deal with infinities because your intuition will not always work. It's actually not that uncommon to be in a situation where subtraction or division are not allowable operations.

    I hope some of that made sense.

  8. LittleGoose April 28, 2012

    @Hausdorff

    Thanks for the reply man.

    In the middle of your response you said that the notion that we could never get to this point in time if there was an infinite number of moments before this one is nonsense. And then you said,

    "You have to remember that an infinite amount of time has passes as well as there being an infinite amount of causes."

    This was strange to me because that is the point in question. I don't think anyone would disagree that if an infinite amount of time passed then an infinite amount of causes could exist. I pointed out that the notion that an infinite number of successive moments happening before this one is incoherent and the only place in your response that dealt with this problem is when you said that I have to remember that it happened. Perhaps it did, but help me understand what is wrong with my thinking. Do you disagree that it would take an infinite amount of time before this moment could happen? Am I mistaken that it would take forever before "right now"? It seems to me that if there was not another successive moment that had to happen before this moment could happen, then there was not an infinite number of successive moments in the past.

    Thanks for the interaction, hope I'm making sense too.

  9. Hausdorff April 28, 2012

    Sorry, I might have rambled on a bit there. Let me try to explain a certain way that I am thinking before I answer your questions directly. As I see it, there are 2 ways of thinking about this,

    one is that there is a finite amount of time in the past. At some point there was a beginning, there was a first action, and that caused the next thing, which caused the next thing, etc. In my mind, I think about the list of all positive numbers on a line, the first cause is 1, the next thing that happened is 2, etc. Each thing leads to the next. There is a starting point and everything follows from there. At any point on the number line, you can follow a path backward in time and eventually get to 1, which was the first cause. One thing interesting about this, it is obvious that the first cause should be called '1'. There is a natural scale to put on this thing.

    The other way of thinking is that there was no beginning, but things go infinitely into the past in the same way that they go infinitely into the future. I think of this as a number line as before, but include negative numbers going backwards as well. If I take some time, as before I can trace it's causes back as far as I want, but since there is no beginning I can just keep tracing backward forever. I never get to the beginning because there is no beginning. Here is something interesting here, there is no natural scale to put on it this time. Since there is no beginning, there is equivalent to the '1' from before. What you call '0' is arbitrary. In a strange way though, this feels a bit more natural if you think about it. When do you start counting? Perhaps you make time zero the day you were born. Perhaps you make it the day your country began. Perhaps you make it the day your planet first had life. Perhaps you make it the day your star ignited. Perhaps you make it the day your universe started.

    Now, this is a big if, but if our universe is just one of many, and there are an infinite number of universes that came before ours, if we are just part of a multiverse, the beginning of our universe is no better a time to start counting than the day our sun ignited or the day I was born. It is just one important even among many.

    Sorry that was a bit long and again, someone rambling, but hopefully some of it makes sense. But my main point is that both make sense. The infinite universe idea is logical and consistent. I think it would be a mistake to say it is impossible. I also think it would be a mistake to claim that it definitely happened that way (sorry if it appeared that I was making that claim earlier), but I think it is a reasonable possibility.

  10. Hausdorff April 28, 2012

    Now, let me try to answer your questions more directly:

    "Do you disagree that it would take an infinite amount of time before this moment could happen?"

    Nope, if it happens to be true that we are in the second situation where there is an infinite amount of stuff in the past. Although, I notice something interesting about how you phrased this question, you asked if "it would take an infinite amount of time", I would ask you "from when?". If you pick any moment in the past, there is a finite amount of time between that time and this moment. However, given that there is an infinite amount of time in the past, that finite amount of time can be as big as you want.

    "Am I mistaken that it would take forever before "right now"?"

    This is a similar thing I think. There is "forever" before right now, but I am not sure I like the phrasing of "it would take forever", because that seems to me to imply a starting point that it "took forever" to get here from. But any specific point in the, no matter how far back you go, is a finite amount of time from us, but also has an infinite amount of time behind it.

    "It seems to me that if there was not another successive moment that had to happen before this moment could happen, then there was not an infinite number of successive moments in the past. "

    I don't quite follow your train of thought here. If I am lucky my comments before might have covered this idea, otherwise please restate.

    If anything here doesn't make sense please feel free to ask follow up questions. I love thinking about infinities.

  11. Vicki McGrew April 28, 2012

    Hi Hausdorff,

    I appreciate that you're taking the time to read this book and share your thoughts.

    If you don't mind, I'd be curious to know what you think the best explanation is for the existence of the universe,and why is this explanation compelling to you?

    Thanks.

  12. Anonymous April 28, 2012

    Hausdorff,

    The reason there cannot be an infinite amount of past time is the same reason you cannot count down from infinity to zero. If there were an infinite amount of time in the past, the present moment would never arrive. The situation of an infinite past is like that of a man who has just finished counting down to zero from infinity, i.e. an impossibility.

    Imagine a railroad track representing the passage of time. A train station along that track represents the present moment. To reach the present moment, the train must reach the train station. Since the train cannot cross an infinite distance, the distance the train can travel must be finite. If train track preceding the train station were infinite, the train would have never reached the train station, meaning the present moment would never arrive. But the present moment has arrived. We are experiencing it right now. Therefore, we must conclude that the amount of time preceding the present moment cannot be infinite, or the present moment would have never arrived. There must be a finite amount of time preceding the present moment.

    ==========
    You asked if "it would take an infinite amount of time", I would ask you "from when?". If you pick any moment in the past, there is a finite amount of time between that time and this moment. However, given that there is an infinite amount of time in the past, that finite amount of time can be as big as you want.
    ==========

    You seem to be committing the same composition fallacy Mackie committed when attacking the cosmological argument. Dr. Craig has already analyzed Mackie's critique and responded to this point:

    "And, we may ask, how is Mackie's point that from any specific moment in past time there is only a finite stretch to the present even relevant to the issue? The defender of the kalam argument may grant the point with equanimity. The issue is how the whole series can be traversed or formed by successive addition, not a finite segment of it. Does Mackie think because every finite segment of the series can be so formed or traversed that the whole can? That would be to commit the fallacy of composition. In fact, Mackie's point appears to be true but uninteresting."

    LG's original question was "Do you disagree that it would take an infinite amount of time before this moment could happen?"

    You then answer "From when?" but this is not relevant to the question. LG's question can be rephrased as follows: "Do you agree that there is an infinite amount of nonzero, finite temporal intervals preceding the present moment?" This question does not require a specification of "when" the entire series begins, since such a question would be obviously meaningless if there is no beginning in the first place.

  13. Anonymous April 28, 2012

    ==========
    There is "forever" before right now, but I am not sure I like the phrasing of "it would take forever", because that seems to me to imply a starting point that it "took forever" to get here from.
    ==========

    Here you make the same mistake again. This is another of Mackie's objections, to which Dr. Craig has also responded:

    "The fact that there is no beginning at all, not even an infinitely distant one, makes the difficulty worse, not better. It is not the proponent of the kalam argument who fails to take infinity seriously. He is all too aware that the order type of the series in question would be *w, the order type of the negative numbers. For the past to have been formed by successive addition, to have been 'traversed', would be equivalent to saying someone has just succeeded in enumerating all the negative numbers ending at 0. But this seems to be inconceivable; as G. J. Whitrow urges, a collection of order type *w is simply not constructible. Whitrow notes that the question of how a sequence of events of this order-type could actually be produced is all too frequently ignored by those who base the possibility of an infinite past on Cantor's theory of infinite sets. In fact, the only way in which we can define the infinite set of negative integers is by beginning with -1, but this does not correspond to the order in which the events that we may wish to associate with them occur in time. Since the set of order type *w is non-constructible, there is no reason for assuming it could represent an infinite sequence of past events. Be that as it may, it seems clear that the proponent of the kalam argument is not assuming an infinitely distant beginning, as Mackie alleges."

  14. Gavin April 29, 2012

    I'm quite pleased to see so much enthusiasm for the history of the universe accepted by scientists. Are we all in agreement that the universe is about 14 billion years old?

  15. MaryLou April 29, 2012

    But, given that scientists, Christian, atheist or otherwise, agree that the universe had a beginning and given that the multiverse theory is just that — a theory — isn't the idea of an infinite past mere conjecture and, therefore, a moot point?

  16. Hausdorff April 29, 2012

    "The situation of an infinite past is like that of a man who has just finished counting down to zero from infinity, i.e. an impossibility."

    Counting down from infinity implies a starting point. I think that might be the reason why this sounds like an impossibility but I don't think it is. Suppose we know that there is someone who is truly eternal, who has been around forever and who has been counting down forever. He just finished counting down to zero. We might ask at what point in time he was at 100, and he would tell us when that way. We might ask when he was at 1,000,000,000, and he could tell us when. We could ask when he started, and he would say that the question doesn't make sense, because he has been counting forever. It sounds really weird, but I think that is just because we aren't used to thinking about infinities. If there was no beginning, if he has literally been counting forever, not from a starting point, then I see no reason why he can't have counted infinite numbers up to now.

    "Since the train cannot cross an infinite distance"

    Why can the train not cross an infinite amount of distance? As long as there is an infinite amount of time to do it in, I don't see why the train can't traverse an infinite distance.

    In regards to the composition fallacy, I think my point there was more that, we are so used to thinking in a finite frame that the way we phrase our questions sometimes assumes finiteness before we even get started. To answer the question more directly, yes I do agree that it makes sense that there could be an infinite amount of moments before this one. I think it is logically consistent for there to be an infinite amount of time preceding this current moment.

    In the thing you quoted, it says that a countable set is not constructible (I'm assuming *w means countable based on how it is used previously). Assuming we are using the word constructible in the topological sense then that is true, but this artificially restricts us to a finite union which I don't see why we would do that.

  17. Hausdorff April 29, 2012

    Marylou,

    that is a really good point. We actually don't know if any of this is true. There might not be an infinite past, I really don't know. My point is just that it is not inherently contradictory as WLC has argued as did the author of this book. I think it is incorrect to get to an infinite regress and declare that you have reached a contradiction.

    Vicki McGrew:
    "If you don't mind, I'd be curious to know what you think the best explanation is for the existence of the universe,and why is this explanation compelling to you?"

    What a great question. There are a couple of things that I think sound like interesting possibilities. The idea of a multiverse seems like one good possibility. Perhaps each universe spawns new ones when something happens. Perhaps whenever there is a black hole it spawns a new universe somehow. Apparently the mathematics of black holes and the mathematics of the beginning of the universe are similar. This would be kind of beautiful, although I'm not really sure how much sense it makes. The fact that we get singularities in both situations could just mean that our mathematical models are breaking down there. They could be breaking down in different ways and there is no real link…but maybe.

    Another idea is that asking what happened before the beginning of the universe doesn't even really make sense. You know how time and space are actually intertwined together, like how time slows down when you get near a gravity well and if you go near the speed of light time gets distorted. Well, what if near the beginning, when everything in the universe was all scrunched together, time acted…different. (obviously, I am fairly far away from my area of expertise here). How was it put? Perhaps time rounded off in the final moments before the big bang. I'm not going to pretend I really understand that, but I do know that in some situations time acts in a pretty unintuitive way, and the conditions at the beginning of the universe were pretty crazy. I've heard Hawking suggest that asking what happened before the beginning of the universe is similar to asking what is more north of the north pole. It doesn't really make sense.

    Perhaps the universe repeatedly expands then contracts down into a singularity again. My understand is that this idea is not particularly popular right now, but who knows, maybe once we figure out dark matter and dark energy it will turn out to be correct.

    As to which one I think is the most likely, I honestly have no idea.

  18. Gavin April 29, 2012

    I just want to expand a bit on Hausdorff's response to Vicki. Scientists are (or should be) very comfortable saying "I don't know." When it comes to giving an explanation for the existence on the universe, this is currently the only appropriate answer.

    For an explanation to be compelling, it would have to make a variety of correct predictions. These could be predictions that we test in experiments (like those done at the Large Hadron Collider) or predictions about observation (like those made with the Hubble Space Telescope). We don't have a theory about the cause of the universe that has passed those tests.

    William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow don't have a theory that has passed those tests either. They claim a great deal of certainty, but lack verified predictions to support their confidence. They don't know what caused the universe any more than I do.

  19. MaryLou April 30, 2012

    Thanks for your response, Hausdorff. I appreciate it. I guess I'm left with the question — where did the raw materials for the universe come from?

    And my next question is — why couldn't there be a transcendant being outside of space and time who created everything?

  20. MaryLou April 30, 2012

    Hi, Gavin! Thanks for joining in!

    I'm wondering what kind of evidence you require for belief in the existence of God and his creation of the universe. Are you asking Christians to use scientific methodology to prove these things?

  21. Hausdorff April 30, 2012

    MaryLou, Thanks for the great questions.

    "where did the raw materials for the universe come from?"

    If we think of the idea of the multiverse, it came from another universe, perhaps from the black hole of another universe. In the idea of the single universe that repeatedly collapses and re-expands, then it came from the previous incarnation of the universe. Of course, neither of these really answer the question do they? Because the obvious question is "where did the previous universe get it?" We arrive at a similar infinite regress as before. Maybe the raw materials have just been around forever. I heard it summed up very nicely a while ago (wish I could remember the source) with the question "why does the default have to be nothing?" Being in the mindset of creation lends you to think the default state is that nothing exists, and something has to be created, but what if the basic building blocks have just always been there?

    "why couldn't there be a transcendant being outside of space and time who created everything?"

    There could be, it is certainly a possibility. But it seems to me that it has the same infinite regress problems as the idea of "the matter came from an older universe." And if you can solve that with "God is eternal", I just don't see why that is any better than the matter itself being eternal.

    Also, I know your final question was toward Gavin, but if you are interested in my thoughts on that matter I wrote about a similar idea a little while ago. I won't go into it here as I already feel like I might be talking too much 🙂

  22. MaryLou April 30, 2012

    Thanks for the response, Hausdorff, as well as the link. I hope you don't mind, but I posted some responses to your most recent blogs.

    It's interesting that you were discussing the chapter in John where we see Lazarus being raised from the dead. The Pharisees saw that and didn't fall at Christ's feet and praise him for being God. They felt the pressure to get rid of him sooner rather than later so they wouldn't lose any follwers to him.

    God has given us free will. The Pharisees exercised it in their way. Atheists like Dawkins who insist there is nothing that will ever make them believe in God are exercising it, too.

    God can certainly overcome that kind of hyperskepticism, but we play a role in the process. I don't pretend to fully understand how that process works, but I know it takes two to tango!

  23. Gavin April 30, 2012

    MaryLou,

    I'd just like to see WLC and others deliver what they claim to deliver. Christian apologists are claiming scientific support for the existence of God and his creation of the universe. However, this appears to be nothing but a facade.

    In nearly every Star Trek episode there is a point where somebody "remodulates the phase of the baryon particles" or some such thing. It sounds impressive, but to those who know what the words actually mean, it is nonsense. WLC says, "as G. J. Whitrow urges, a collection of order type *w is simply not constructible." [quoted by Anonymous above] This is nonsense math babble. A mathematician, like Hausdorff, can see that. Much of what apologist say about the Big Bang is equally nonsensical. (I don't think that the apologists realize that they aren't making any sense, so I'm not going to accuse them of being deceptive.)

    I have a neighbor who says that the bible is the word of God and we should accept it as it is. That is a perfectly honest argument that deserves consideration. Claiming that actual infinities are logically impossible or that every event has a cause is just wrong and should be dismissed out of hand.

  24. Vicki McGrew April 30, 2012

    Hausdorff,

    Thank you for answering my question I posted earlier about your explanation(s) for the universe. I've been studying apologetics for a few years but haven't had a lot of opportunities to engage with people who aren't Christians like I am. I appreciate the interaction.

  25. Vicki McGrew April 30, 2012

    I realize that objections can be made against all the arguments put forward for the existence of the universe, including the explanation that God created it. However, despite some objections or other hypotheses, I still think that God creating the universe is a very reasonable explantion. And, when all the arguments for Christianity (cosmological, origin of life, design, moral, historical, and the argument from reason) are put together into a cumulative case, I think that Christianity makes the most sense in terms of explaining all the evidence around us.

    I won't deny or ignore the objections made against Christianity, nor will I pretend that I can perfectly answer them all. But I will point out that I think they are outweighed by the greater objections on the other side. That is to say, that the difficulties on the opposite side are immeasurably greater than any possible ones that can be brought forward against Christianity.

  26. Gavin May 1, 2012

    MaryLou asked, "where did the raw materials for the universe come from?" Since this is in the area that I research, I'll give a quick update on where we stand.

    There are two types of raw materials we would like to account for. One is all of the matter and energy in the universe. The other is the actual space and time. We have no go theory for how the space-time came into existence. The God hypothesis is as good as anything else.

    However, we do have a good idea how the universe was filled with matter and energy. The Big Bang started with the universe very dense, very hot, and rapidly expanding. However, it was not infinitely dense or infinitely hot.

    Right before this hot, dense phase was a brief period called inflation. During inflation the universe was cold and filled with a field (similar to the electric or magnetic field) that carried a lot of energy. Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that a small universe filled with a field like this will undergo an exponential runaway expansion. As the universe expands, there is more and more space filled with this field, so you actually get a huge amount of energy for nothing.

    At some point the field decays and all of this built up energy is released in a fierce firestorm, heating the universe to a tremendous (but not infinite) temperature. The resulting hot, rapidly expanding universe is what we call the Big Bang.

    Inflation my have been very brief, maybe as quick as 10^-35 seconds. However, the makes several predictions which have been verified. Inflation predicted that the geometry of the universe would be very flat. This was a surprise and has been checked to extraordinary accuracy. Inflation also predicts that massive relic particles like mini-black holes and magnetic monopoles are extremely rare. Indeed none of these relics have been found, even though we have relics from later times. Just in the past few years we have been able to see the fingerprints of inflation on the cosmic microwave background.

    The Microwave map made by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (launched 2001) confirmed many predictions about the the early universe. There is another spacecraft, the European Space Agency's Planck, that has made even more detailed maps that are currently being studied to learn more about the universe all the way back to inflation. It is an exciting time.

  27. Hausdorff May 1, 2012

    MaryLou, I'm glad you are enjoying the discussion as much as me, I find it fun whether it is here or on my blog 🙂 Thanks for posting in both places.

    Vicki McGrew,

    "I still think that God creating the universe is a very reasonable explantion"

    This I like. While I disagree with you, it seems you have thought about this and have good reasons and it just seems like it will be ripe with good conversation. I look forward to our future interactions.

    Gavin, That was super interesting, thank you. Makes me want to bump Laurence Krauss' new book up on my reading list.

  28. MaryLou May 1, 2012

    Thanks, Gavin and Hausdorff, for your ongoing discussion and your patience in answering my questions. I appreciate it. And thank you, Vicki, Little Goose and Anonymous for your contributions, too. This has turned into a most interesting thread!

    Gavin, you noted that apologists don't seem to know what they're talking about when they talk about science, origins of the universe, etc. Have you ever read any of Hugh Ross's work or visited Reasons to Believe or listened to the Straight Thinking podcast? Ross is an astrophysicist who has written a number of books including Why The Universe is The Way It Is.

    I ask that because I'm wondering if the apologists you're familiar with are all non-scientists talking about science. Have you listened to or read Christian scientist-apologists at all? John Lennox is another good one. He's a mathematician like Hausdorff. He hangs his hat at Oxford.

    Hausdorff, awhile back, Brian posted a link to a review of Krauss's book by Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe. It's here if you're interested:

    http://tnrtb.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/universe-from-nothing-a-critique-of-krauss-new-book-part-1/

  29. Gavin May 1, 2012

    MaryLou,

    Let me clarify that as a physicist and cosmologist, I can only say that apologists don't seem to know what they are talking about when they talk about physics and cosmology. I'll like other sciences to other scientists.

    Also, Hugh Ross and the RTB physicists are quite competent. I have read some of their technical papers, but those papers were arguing against the young earth models of a physicist at the Institute for Creation Research. I have not read technical articles providing physics or cosmology evidence for God.

    Based on their website, the arguments seems to go be that since we do not know how the universe was created or why the constants are fine-tuned, God must have done it. However, we have natural models for these things (quantum tunneling and the multiverse). The models haven't made predictions that have been verified, so they are considered very tentative. Since there are both supernatural and natural explanations possible, it seems the right thing to say at this point is, "we don't know." I'm not sure why people have such a hard time with that.

  30. Gavin May 1, 2012

    Sorry about all the typos. I'm having some technical problems with this site's comment boxes, making it difficult for me to make corrections.

  31. Katy May 2, 2012

    How do you explain the dinosaurs? I believe God created them. There is mention in Job about such creatures. I understand there are a lot of things in this world beyond our understanding. Can you believe in ghosts and still believe in God? Sorry for the weird questions.

  32. Vicki McGrew May 2, 2012

    I don’t think this chapter mentioned the multiverse theory. I’d like to make sure I have my information correct concerning it and think through how it relates to the cosmological argument.

    The multiverse theory is largely speculative at this point. There is no direct empirical evidence to support it, but scientists are working on developing tests to evaluate it.
    It seems that the evidence we do have points pretty strongly to the whole multiverse having an absolute beginning. The theorem based on special relativity by Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin showed that even a multiverse can’t be past eternal but must have a beginning.

    So even if the multiverse theory were true, it seems it only pushes the beginning back a bit farther.

    The kalam cosmological argument states that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This premise seems more plausible than its opposite, that something can begin to exist without a cause.

    The universe (or multiverse) had a beginning.
    Therefore, the universe (or multiverse) had a cause.

    You could then draw the conclusion that this cause must be transcendent or not part of the multiverse itself. This chapter does a fine job of making further implications of what this cause would have to be like, so I won’t repeat all of that.

    At any rate, it doesn’t seem like the multiverse theory harms the cosmological argument.

    Katy,
    Those are good questions. How do you define “ghost”? That might help with thinking through an answer.

  33. Hausdorff May 3, 2012

    Katy:

    Is there really mention of dinosaurs in Job? I've never heard this before, do you know the verse?

    "Can you believe in ghosts and still believe in God?"

    I don't see why not.

  34. Hausdorff May 3, 2012

    Vicki McGrew:

    You seem to say 2 contradictory things to me. You said that the multiverse theory has no evidence, but you also said that the evidence says that it must have a beginning. My understanding is that your first statement is correct, that there is little to no evidence for it. Given that we no so little, how can you then assert that it needs to have a beginning? There is no reason to think special relativity would hold up even at the beginning of our universe, let alone in the multiverse.

    "The kalam cosmological argument states that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This premise seems more plausible than its opposite, that something can begin to exist without a cause."

    It seems plausible yes, but that is largely because we are used to looking at everyday objects. As was discussed recently, on the quantum level, uncaused things happen all the time.

  35. Vicki McGrew May 4, 2012

    Hausdorff,

    Thanks for the reply. Let me try to clarify my first remarks. I did mean to say that there is no direct empirical evidence for the existence of a multiverse. The current research is indicating that the whole multiverse, if it exists, would have an absolute beginning. Maybe another way of saying it would be that while there is no direct empirical evidence for the existence of a multiverse, circumstantial evidence seems to indicate that a multiverse would have an absolute beginning.

    “There is no reason to think special relativity would hold up even at the beginning of our universe, let alone in the multiverse.”

    Exactly what special relativity would do at the beginning of a universe or multiverse is certainly more than I know. Is there any evidence to think it would not hold up? Would you then say that we should not put much stock in the theorem proposed by Borde, Guth, and Vilenken? I was under the impression that their theorem does not depend upon any particular physical description of the universe prior to the Planck time and that their theorem holds regardless of our uncertainty concerning that era.

    “On the quantum level, uncaused things happen all the time.”

    Is it true that all scientists agree that sub-atomic events are uncaused? I thought there were many physicists today who are exploring deterministic models. I’ve heard that David Bohm has a theory of quantum mechanics that is purely deterministic and which is in accord with all empirical evidence. Physicist Victor Stenger is a naturalist who admitted that, “Other viable interpretations of quantum mechanics remain with no consensus on which, if any, is the correct one.” Therefore, we must remain “open to the possibility that causes may someday be found for such phenomena.” This quote is found in his Has Science Found God?

  36. Gavin May 4, 2012

    The Multiverse solves the problem of fine-tuning, it does not address the origin of the universe, to it does not impact the cosmological argument. The paper by Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin does address the cosmological argument.

    To understand the impact of the Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin paper, we need to understand the variety of cosmological origin theories that have been on the table over the past couple of decades. There is a great deal of observational support for the idea that the universe is currently expanding, that there was a hot Big Bang in our past, and that the Big Bang was powered by an earlier period of inflation. Therefore, I will only consider theories that include this sequence:

    Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    Here is a fairly comprehensive list:

    1. Creation by God -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    2. Creation by quantum fluctuation (HH) -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    3. Inflation from the infinite past -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    4. Contracting Universe -> Big Crunch -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    5. Contracting Universe -> Big Crunch -> Bounce -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    6. Similar Ancestor Universe -> Black hole formation -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    7. Similar Ancestor Universe -> Black hole formation -> Bounce -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    8. High CC Ancestor Universe -> Quantum fluctuation (CdL) -> Inflation -> Hot Big Bang -> Expanding Universe

    Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin paper did not say that the universe had to have a beginning, they said that inflation had to have a beginning. More specifically, inflation had to begin with something smaller. Clearly this rules out number 3, in which inflation has no beginning. It also rules out 4 and 6, where inflation starts from some larger contracting state (a collapsing universe in in 4 or a collapsing black hole in in 6).

    Let's take a quick look at what is left. Number 1 has a theological component that is outside of my expertise, so I have nothing to say about it. The Hartle-Hawking model (2) is still in consideration. The model's mathematical description is difficult and approximate. We would probably be able to get a better handle on it if we had a quantum theory of gravity. (Imaginary numbers are a necessary part of all quantum theories, so their appearance in Hartle-Hawking is no problem.)

    Number 5 and 7 involve a bounce that changes a contracting universe or region into an expanding universe. Our partially developed quantum theories of gravity include the possibility of a bounce. String theory, which is the most developed, has bounce-like features called T-Duality or Mirror Symmetry. However, string theory is not well understood in on regions of significant curvature, so we are not sure how useful it is in the highly curved bounce region. Loop quantum gravity and random triangulations are other quantum gravity candidates that seem to include bounces, but they are not well formulated or understood.

    Right now number 8 is the most interesting because it is well described mathematically. It starts with a universe that has a large cosmological constant. This universe is very different from ours. For example, it is unsuitable for life because its rapid expansion would rip atoms apart instantly. A quantum fluctuation (called a Coleman – de Luccia instanton) occurs in the universe creating a bubble with a small cosmological constant. The bubble expands rapidly, with its interior undergoing inflation and a hot Big Bang before becoming our expanding universe.

    Currently none of these theories have made predictions which we can test with observations. None of them have been ruled out either.

  37. Gavin May 4, 2012

    Vicki asks, "Is it true that all scientists agree that sub-atomic events are uncaused?"

    I do not think that all scientists agree about anything. Scientists are so disagreeable, they disagree about whether they disagree. Here is how I cope. If we are considering a certain class of phenomena, like the behavior of sub-atomic particles, and there is a theory that predicts how those phenomena occur and those predictions have been throughly tested and verified, then I say that the theory describes the phenomena.

    Quantum mechanics is a hugely successful theory that describes radioactive decay. In this theory, radioactive decay is an uncaused event. Therefore, I am comfortable saying that radioactive decays are uncaused.

    Bohm's theory and other deterministic alternatives to quantum mechanics are not supported by evidence. I only discuss speculative, unsupported theories in cases where there is no successful theory yet (e.g. the discussion of what preceded inflation) or if the theory is accepted by a large number of people and therefore deserves attention for sociological reasons (e.g. Young Earth Creationism or Homeopathy). Bohm's theory is not accepted by enough people (I know of none) for me to worry about it.

    Progress is only possible if we believe well supported theories until new evidence convinces us to abandon them.

  38. Gavin May 4, 2012

    I'm going to avoid the Multiverse discussion until chapter 7, since I think that is where fine-tuning arguments appear.