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“If You Don’t Want God, You’d Better Have a Multiverse”

Posted on Nov 6, 2008 by Tom Gilson

Discover Magazine tackles the fine-tuning problem in its December 2008 issue, in an article titled “A Universe Built For Us.” It’s not available online, unfortunately, unless you’re a subscriber [update 11/10/08, courtesy of Todd: it actually is online here. You might enjoy buying a copy to discover what they’ve wrapped around this enticing introductory material:

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet…. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse.

That’s remarkably well stated. It highlights how physicists (for which we must surely read some physicists; I’m having breakfast tomorrow with one who would strongly disagree) want to run as fast as they can from the idea of God, the possibility that “life is somehow central to the universe.”

And so, says the article, the work is proceeding in the area of string theory to try to provide some evidence for the vast multiverse. Discover is refreshingly honest about the current status of the work: “evidence … is still lacking;” “Linde’s ideas may make the notion of a multiverse more plausible;” “still very much a work in progress.”

This I find disingenuous, however:

When I ask Linde whether physicists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, he has a simple answer. “Nothing else fits the data… we don’t have any alternative explanations…”

There is an alternative explanation, one that can only be fully ruled out if you “like even less the notion that life is central to the universe.” The article makes a nod toward that other explanation, referring to John Polkinghorne’s objection to the multiverse. (Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest and philosopher, a theist, and not incidentally was also at one time a theoretical particle physicist at Cambridge.) He says that with the multiverse,

“you can explain anything” . . If a theory allows anything to be possible, it explains nothing; a theory of anything is not the same as a theory of everything.

Discover does not actually explain why that is a problem, but I suspect Polkinghorne was referring to a point that I have also made. I believe it actually renders the multiverse theory trivial—at least the infinite universes version of the theory.

Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, an atheist, is also quoted on the matter of God.

“I don’t think that the multiverse idea destroys the possibility of an intelligent, benevolent creator. . . What it does is remove one of the arguments for it.”

Interesting how that works. Evidence for the multiverse is completely lacking right now; its theoretical foundations are “still very much a work in progress,” but “nothing else fits the data.” Nothing else fits the data, that is, if we exclude the possibility of a creator. So having excluded that possibility, we infer a multiverse instead. And what the multiverse does is remove one of the arguments for a creator.

It seems rather a waste of energy for Weinberg to think of removing arguments for a creator, since the whole thing already seems rather handily to have assumed him right out of existence, on the grounds that (some) physicists dislike “the notion that life is somehow central to the universe.”

The psychology, the motivation for it all could hardly be clearer than it is in this from cosmologist Bernard Carr. “If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

“Don’t want God.” Indeed.

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33 Responses to “ “If You Don’t Want God, You’d Better Have a Multiverse” ”

  1. SteveK says:

    Are physicists stroking their beards while pondering multiverses considered heretical in the same way that the IDists are, or do they get a pass?

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks for the post. Today I link to you.

  3. Tristan Ingle says:

    Good article.

    The “infinite multi-verses” hypothesis is bunk, because, as said, ‘a theory that explains anything explain nothing’.

    In an infinite multi-verse scenario, anything is possible. Thus, you cannot rule out the possibility that you, reading these words, are nothing more than floating head in space hallucinating reality and the world (an argument Anthony Flew presents in “There is a God”, Harper-One publishing).

    So what is left is a “limited set (finite number) of multi-verses”.

    But all of this type of thinking is guess-work, for as said, there is no data for invoking multiple universes, nor any reason to invoke them apart from the wish to be rid of God, since we cannot accept the direction the evidence points in (fine-tuning argument, existence of absolute morality, consciousness from rocks, the simultaneous co-ordination of bacteria billions of years ago to produce breathable human atmosphere, etc, etc, ETC).

    Fun stuff.

    -Tristan Ingle, Sydney.

  4. […] “A Universe Built For Us”is the title of the linked blog entry at Tom Gilson's Thinking Christian. That is also the title of an article of Discover Magazine which Tom analyzes. In quoting the Discovery article Tom brings out the point that the universe appears adapted to enable life. Some might wish to put it differently and state that the universe was front loaded at its inception so as to make life possible. […]

  5. An excellent post Tom. I posted a blog entry on this at Telic Thoughts.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, William. I appreciate the encouragement.

  7. […] Gilson discusses a recent article in Discover magazine about the ‘fine-tuning’ that physicists have observed in the universe. An excerpt from […]

  8. Samuel Skinner says:

    “Interesting how that works. Evidence for the multiverse is completely lacking right now; its theoretical foundations are “still very much a work in progress,” but “nothing else fits the data.” Nothing else fits the data, that is, if we exclude the possibility of a creator. So having excluded that possibility, we infer a multiverse instead. And what the multiverse does is remove one of the arguments for a creator.”

    God doesn’t fit the data. You know, Occam’s Razor? We know ONE reality exists- postulating others isn’t such an insane leap.

    For those curious, my position is “arguing from ignorance is a fallacy”. I am waiting and seeing for what they produce.

  9. SteveK says:

    Re: Occam

    What can be more simple than saying a necessary, immutable intelligent being is the best answer to the question, why is there something rather than nothing? There’s nothing necessary or immutable about a universe so that doesn’t seem to help.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    So…

    One God is a violation of Occam’s Razor,

    10^500 (or more) unobservable universes isn’t.

    (Note that Occam is about “needlessly multiplying entities.” If infinite universes are needed to account for the evidence, then we ought to feel free to conclude they exist. If one God is needed to account for the evidence, then we ought to feel free to conclude that God exists.

    Note also that the evidence to be accounted for is much broader than what is discussed here, anthropic fine-tuning.)

  11. Tristan Ingle says:

    Here is the argument:

    We know that existence did not exist until the big bang. No matter, no time.

    Seriously, there wasn’t even the void of space. There wasn’t even “nothing”.

    There was no such thing as existence. Materialism cannot work where there is not even existence.

    The only logical hypothesis is for an “unmoved mover” to exist. One that was, is, and always shall be. One outside of existence and time, that caused the time and existence we experience to exist.

    We say eternal, because: it/He had to exist outside of time and matter. Always was, always is, doesn’t succumb to entropy, etc.

    We say intelligent, due to the order of the universe, the human mind… actually, that life even exists.

    Is there another answer?

    ***

    The “eternal universe” that continually expands from the centre does not work. Hoyle spent his entire life trying to make the equations work… but he always ended up missing about ~90% of the universe’s matter (someone correct me on the correct number; I know it was above 70%). Suffice to say, nobody has taken up his mantle.

    And Occam’s razor, Tom has explained what it means. It does not exclude God. If we said “17 gods are required” then Occams would say “why not just one?”.

    And if we say “billions of universes”, Occam’s says “why not just one God? He could do it.”

    Do not take that to mean that the rule of Occam’s is “one God”. My point is (as Tom has said) presented with a choice of billions of UNOBSERVABLE(!!!) universes, and one God, Occam’s dictates we choose God.

    Ruling out God is your (and mainstream science) prejudice. You have no objective reason to, especially when presented with the data.

    …cuddles!

    -Tristan Ingle.

  12. Samuel Skinner says:

    “What can be more simple than saying a necessary, immutable intelligent being is the best answer to the question, why is there something rather than nothing? There’s nothing necessary or immutable about a universe so that doesn’t seem to help.”

    Appealing to personal opinion is a logical fallacy.

    “One God is a violation of Occam’s Razor,

    10^500 (or more) unobservable universes isn’t.

    (Note that Occam is about “needlessly multiplying entities.” If infinite universes are needed to account for the evidence, then we ought to feel free to conclude they exist. If one God is needed to account for the evidence, then we ought to feel free to conclude that God exists.

    Note also that the evidence to be accounted for is much broader than what is discussed here, anthropic fine-tuning.)”

    Yes. We have solid evidence that the current universe we are in exists. Also, Occum’s Razor is multiplying unnecesary entities when the predictive power is the same.

    Postulating alternate universes only adds one- the idea that there are other universe besides our own. It isn’t the number of them that exists that counts as complexity.

    And the other universes aren’t “unobservable”- the point of this article is they are interacting with our own.

    “There was no such thing as existence. Materialism cannot work where there is not even existence.”

    Why not? Simply asserting things doesn’t make them true.

    “The only logical hypothesis is for an “unmoved mover” to exist. One that was, is, and always shall be. One outside of existence and time, that caused the time and existence we experience to exist.

    We say eternal, because: it/He had to exist outside of time and matter. Always was, always is, doesn’t succumb to entropy, etc.

    We say intelligent, due to the order of the universe, the human mind… actually, that life even exists.

    Is there another answer?”

    The classic answer is “Why not the universe itself be the unmoved mover?”

    As for intelligent… why do you consider the existance of life a sign of intelligent design? You are assuming it is special because… you don’t say. You simply assert it.

    “The “eternal universe” that continually expands from the centre does not work. Hoyle spent his entire life trying to make the equations work… but he always ended up missing about ~90% of the universe’s matter (someone correct me on the correct number; I know it was above 70%). Suffice to say, nobody has taken up his mantle.”

    We call it Dark Matter. Some of it is possibly non-baryonic (cool word). Since we don’t have any nearby samples, we don’t know exactly how it works.

    “And Occam’s razor, Tom has explained what it means. It does not exclude God. If we said “17 gods are required” then Occams would say “why not just one?”. ”

    Tom is wrong.
    http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Occam.html

    “And if we say “billions of universes”, Occam’s says “why not just one God? He could do it.””

    For the same reason that one God isn’t used as an explanation for the stock market- after all, the normal theory requires billions of people!

    “Do not take that to mean that the rule of Occam’s is “one God”. My point is (as Tom has said) presented with a choice of billions of UNOBSERVABLE(!!!) universes, and one God, Occam’s dictates we choose God.

    Ruling out God is your (and mainstream science) prejudice. You have no objective reason to, especially when presented with the data.”

    Your utter lack of understanding Occum’s Razor

  13. Fishbone says:

    Now this is just getting silly. The universe itself is not the unmoved mover because it had a beginning. It seems to me you are just pushing the unmoved mover back a step.

    Samuel, what’s your evidence for a multiverse again?

    And what is generating these multiverses?

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    Good questions, Fishbone.

    Samuel,

    “What can be more simple than saying a necessary, immutable intelligent being is the best answer to the question, why is there something rather than nothing? There’s nothing necessary or immutable about a universe so that doesn’t seem to help.”

    Appealing to personal opinion is a logical fallacy.

    Calling that an appeal to personal opinion is a logical fallacy.

    Postulating alternate universes only adds one- the idea that there are other universe besides our own. It isn’t the number of them that exists that counts as complexity.

    And the other universes aren’t “unobservable”- the point of this article is they are interacting with our own.

    Sounds like you haven’t read the article. The article is not about that at all.

    Postulating alternate universes adds 10^500 or more entities. I can count. I don’t pretend I can count to 10^500, but I’m pretty sure it’s greater than 1.

    God explains far more than the anthropic coincidences. There is in God a simple explanation for reason, for personality, for intelligence, for order, for design, for love, for justice, for purpose, for meaning, and for the ultimate question, “why is there something rather than nothing at all?” I understand non-theists can supply their own versions of answers to those questions, but they are neither as simple nor as well-fitting to human experience as is God.

    The classic answer is “Why not the universe itself be the unmoved mover?”

    Because it is that which was moved, from non-being into being. An entity cannot cause its own beginning.

    “And if we say “billions of universes”, Occam’s says “why not just one God? He could do it.””

    For the same reason that one God isn’t used as an explanation for the stock market- after all, the normal theory requires billions of people!

    No, the stock market refers to billions of people because it has them as data. They are not unobservable theoretical entities.

    Samuel, your reference to the article on Occam’s razor is unimpressive. It’s just saying the same thing you’re saying here with reference to God, which is that God adds one to our list of explanatory entities. It precedes that by pointing out that you really do have to have as many entities as it takes; that simple is not always right. Then it over-simplifies the issue on which it presents God, distorting the complexity of the matter. On the terms it presents, to introduce God could be a violation of Occam’s razor; but the terms it presents are not an accurate picture of reality. (And then there is the sly, “The universe exists…” as if that fact required no further explanation.)

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    P.S. Not that this bears on its logical accuracy, but I’m aware of the names I (and other Christians) have been called on the stardestroyer bulletin board. That’s another thing that’s rather unimpressive about your reference there. I suggest you find a more neutral source of information.

  16. Samuel Skinner says:

    Now this is just getting silly. The universe itself is not the unmoved mover because it had a beginning. It seems to me you are just pushing the unmoved mover back a step.

    Samuel, what’s your evidence for a multiverse again?

    And what is generating these multiverses?”

    No, the observable universe had a beginning. Reality itself we don’t know about.

    The evidence for multiverse is things like this:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081105-dark-flow.html

    It isn’t proven yet, but it is a possibility. Wait to be sure, as always. I personally don’t like the idea of multiverse- it rubs me wrong. But if the evidence says yes…

    “Calling that an appeal to personal opinion is a logical fallacy. ”

    No, it would be a factual error. A logical fallacy is when something fails to adhere to the rules of logic for a logical argument.

    And my statement is accurate- you say:

    “There’s nothing necessary or immutable about a universe so that doesn’t seem to help.””

    That is your opinion. Emphasis on “necesary”.

    “Postulating alternate universes adds 10^500 or more entities. I can count. I don’t pretend I can count to 10^500, but I’m pretty sure it’s greater than 1. ”

    No, it adds one NEW entity- universes outside our own.

    “God explains far more than the anthropic coincidences. There is in God a simple explanation for reason, for personality, for intelligence, for order, for design, for love, for justice, for purpose, for meaning, and for the ultimate question, “why is there something rather than nothing at all?” I understand non-theists can supply their own versions of answers to those questions, but they are neither as simple nor as well-fitting to human experience as is God.”

    No it doesn’t. It states these things are God’s will… because they are God’s will. That is how the most sophisticated theology pans out. It is known as “non-answer”. Or it gives answer that are based on reality… that God is unnecesary for. The Euthyphro dilemma is a good example.

    It ISN’T a simple answer. When we see a skyscraper, we don’t think “God made it”, even though the alternative explanation requires millions of people.

    “Because it is that which was moved, from non-being into being. An entity cannot cause its own beginning.”

    Except God does just that. Or he is around for an infinite amount of time… and why can’t the proto-universe do that as well?

    “No, the stock market refers to billions of people because it has them as data. They are not unobservable theoretical entities.”

    Which is the same as the alternative universes. Astronomical data is still data.

    “Samuel, your reference to the article on Occam’s razor is unimpressive. It’s just saying the same thing you’re saying here with reference to God, which is that God adds one to our list of explanatory entities. It precedes that by pointing out that you really do have to have as many entities as it takes; that simple is not always right. Then it over-simplifies the issue on which it presents God, distorting the complexity of the matter. On the terms it presents, to introduce God could be a violation of Occam’s razor; but the terms it presents are not an accurate picture of reality. (And then there is the sly, “The universe exists…” as if that fact required no further explanation.)”

    You don’t explain WHY the universe existing NEEDS an explanation. Or why God is some how free of the restrictions.

    “P.S. Not that this bears on its logical accuracy, but I’m aware of the names I (and other Christians) have been called on the stardestroyer bulletin board. That’s another thing that’s rather unimpressive about your reference there. I suggest you find a more neutral source of information.”

    First of all logic doesn’t have accuracy, that is the province of facts.

    Secondly you seem to think that the name calling is a problem… even though the previous thread called for preventing a segment of the population from enjoying civil liberties. And several of the members are gay or know gays. Do you think people enjoy being screwed over?

    And you think it isn’t impressive… look at yourself. You are talking to an atheist who is on a board that thinks he is blatantly immoral, wrong, etc. Could it possibly be that you should look at people who disagree with you to see if you are right?

    The board has a tradition of flaming people who make unsupported claims. I can see why you would be uncomfortable with that (the studies you linked in the prop 8 thread were a perfect example), but that is irrelevant to truth.

    As for a more “neutral” source… why? I want accurate sources, not “neutral” ones. Neutrality usually means they avoid pissing anyone off. Which, although polite, usually avoids hitting near the truth. Believing that the truth is in the middle is the fallacy of the Golden Mean.

    Note: doesn’t work.

  17. Doug Peters says:

    Samuel,

    You cite a stardestroyer essay on Occam containing an historical falsehood in its opening paragraph: “[William of Ockham] devised [the “razor”] as a proof that the existence of God is not logical.” If you really wanted accurate sources, you might look elsewhere.

    To be accurate, the statement might read “William found that the celebrated logical mechanism led him to believe that even the existence of God was beyond the limits of formal logic.” An unfortunate confusion between “illogical” and “supra-logical” appears to plague most atheist discussions of Occam and God’s existence, rendering them unconvincing at best.

    Occam himself never formally questioned God’s existence. Why do you suppose? (Warning: whatever reason you give could also be the reason that *you* have never formally *permitted* God’s existence… ;-) )

  18. TI,

    We know that existence did not exist until the big bang. No matter, no time.

    Seriously, there wasn’t even the void of space. There wasn’t even “nothing”.

    There was no such thing as existence. Materialism cannot work where there is not even existence.

    That’s not exactly right. Paul Davies, who is favorably quoted by many Evangelicals concerning issues of the Big Bang, states the following in reference to the “nothing” prior to the Big Bang:

    The idea of space being created out of nothing is a subtle one that many people find hard to understand, especially if they are used to thinking of space as already being ‘nothing’. The physicist, however, regards space as more like an elastic medium than as emptiness. Indeed, as we shall see in later chapters that, because of quantum effects, even the purest vacuum is a ferment of activity and is crowded with evanescent structures. (God and the New Physics, 18)

    Later in that same work, he says that “if the prediction of an initial singularity is taken at face value, the universe began in a state of infinite temperature, infinite density and infinite energy” (Ibid, 49), which hardly sounds like “nothing” in the nihil sense required by creation ex nihilo and your statements. If quantum laws are active in the singularity (which may or may not be the case; if it is truly of infinite density, then the singularity is below the Planck scale, so quantum laws may not apply), then there are a swarm of virtual particles and activity (if anything through fields), though wholly undifferentiated, chaotic. Again, no “nothing” in the ex nihilo sense.

    James Glanz, in a 1999 article in Science (“Which Way to the Big Bang?,” vol. 248, 1448-1451), refers to the current debates concerning whether we even can say anything about the singularity or what was occurring prior to the Big Bang (citing Stephen Hawking [a favorite of William Lane Craig] as an opponent to the view that we can, in fact, meaningfully speak of the “beginning”). Adolph Grunbaum (with whom Craig has had a few spats) has argued (well in my mind) that our discussions of t=0 are inherently problematic, whether we are speaking of divine or secular cosmology (see, for example, his “Narlikar’s ‘Creation’ of the Big Bang Universe Was a Mere Origination,” Philosophy of Science 60/4 (1993), 638-646).

    Brian Greene, in his Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2004), states:

    And if we continue our journey, right back to nearly time zero itself–the time of the big bang–the entire known universe is compressed to a size that makes the dot at the end of this sentence look gargantuan. The densities at such an early epoch were so great, and the conditions were so extreme, that the most refined physical theories we currently have are unable to give us insight into what happened. For reasons that will become increasingly clear, the highly successful laws of physics developed in the twentieth century break down under such intense conditions, leaving us rudderless in our quest to understand the beginning of time. We will see shortly that recent developments are providing a hopeful beacon, but for now we acknowledge our incomplete understanding of what happened at the beginning by putting a fuzzy patch on the far left of the cosmic spacetime loaf–our verson of the terra incognita on maps of old. (247-248)

    More could be given, but your sense of security in the standard Big Bang model as a demonstration of an ex nihilo is not felt in the wider physics community for whom there are many other questions and anomalies that need to be addressed. I do find it interesting that, even as Evangelicals favorably cite a few of those mentioned above in relation to cosmology, they never seem to catch what they say they mean by “nothing.”

  19. Tristan Ingle says:

    I am sorry if you misunderstood my comment:

    “We know that existence did not exist until the big bang. No matter, no time.

    Seriously, there wasn’t even the void of space. There wasn’t even “nothing”.”

    There is a descending layering to it:
    -no matter and not time until big bang (physical/temporal).
    -no void of space (medium)
    -not even “nothing” (absence of anything).

    As to the nature of the vacuum, yes, I am aware it is not “pure nothing”. This, I find interesting:

    http://jvr.freewebpage.org/TableOfContents/Volume2/Issue3/ZeroPointEnergyInReview%5B2%5D.pdf

    Later in that same work, he says that “if the prediction of an initial singularity is taken at face value, the universe began in a state of infinite temperature, infinite density and infinite energy” (Ibid, 49), which hardly sounds like “nothing” in the nihil sense required by creation ex nihilo and your statements.

    I do not think you understand the term “infinity”. Infinity is… unendingness. I cannot understand how something infinite becomes finite, whether it be infinite density/temperature/energy -> how do you reduce that into real numbers? I cannot see how that is a plausible beginning to our universe. Infinite energy/temperature/density does not lead to finite objects, e.g. planets, stars, people (I am oversimplifying, but you understand my point about infinity -> finite units?).

    Perhaps my logic is shortsighted, but I do not understand:

    If T=zero had properties of infinity, how did finite units manifest?
    If T=zero had a finite unit (but super-dense/hot/energy laden), how did it get there?

    -Tristan Ingle, Sydney.

  20. No, there was no matter, but there was energy, which is just another form of matter. In chaos there are no enduring patterns or structures, hence there is no ‘matter.’ But there certainly is dynamic change. But since this change is similarly not ordered or rhythmic, there is no time. Similarly, if we judge time in relation to entropy, as there are no stable structures that can entropy, we can again say that there is no time (which is not the same thing as saying there is no change or temporality of some kind). So, again, ex nihilo is not born out of the scientific data, but forced on it by equivocating: it simply is not demanded nor even hinted at in the data.

    As for your raising the issue of infinity, I can assure you that I am not ignorant of infinite set theory. Yes, I am not a mathematician, but I am familiar with Cantor’s theory. Which is why I can answer your question rather simply: you get the finite from the infinite by removing it from its set. So, we can have the infinite set {…, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, …} and remove, say, -12,398,593 to 2,139,987,923, then we have a new finite set. The cardinality of the infinite set is not changed, but its constituting members are changed (hence it is not a contradiction, as much as Craig/Moreland want to claim to the contrary).

    This, I believe (but do not know for sure), is behind the multi-verse theory: when the conditions were right a finite universe emerges from out of the infinite chaotic background (or ‘foam’ or whatever). This, of course, is the crux of the problem: as we are incapable of discussing t=0 or before, because we do not know how to talk about such a state, then it is extremely difficult to say what the ‘right conditions’ for the emergence of a new universe from the background is possible. So, the very bane of the Big Bang = support for ex nihilo creation argument is also the bane of one of its contrary arguments: both are trying to talk about a time and place that, at least at present (and perhaps forever), we can neither observe nor begin to understand (at least with any remotely firm foundation that can be agreed upon).

    So, I will repeat myself: the Big Bang does not support ex nihilo creation and, I would argue, Evangelicals are ignoring the data that demonstrate this because it is certainly in the writers that they utilize to ‘support’ their argument. Yes, I understand that I am making a strong claim…

  21. Joseph A. says:

    Kevin,

    Later in that same work, he says that “if the prediction of an initial singularity is taken at face value, the universe began in a state of infinite temperature, infinite density and infinite energy” (Ibid, 49), which hardly sounds like “nothing” in the nihil sense required by creation ex nihilo and your statements.

    Are you suggesting that the Big Bang lends no support to the traditional christian doctrine of creation on the grounds that, while there was apparently a finite past, the earliest point our science is able to talk meaningfully about involves the material? If so – while you’re claiming christians are equivocating on ‘nihilo’, I’d respond that you’re equivocating on ‘supports’.

    Your argument here seems to be that for the BB to ‘support’ the traditional christian view of creation, what’s needed is a scientific demonstration that matter/energy can arise out of a particular kind of ‘nothing’ – or a demonstration that it isn’t only possible but certainly was the case, perhaps complete with a demonstration that there exists a testable God who is capable of this act.

    You’re setting the bar ridiculously high just for the claim that the BB supports the traditional christian view of creation. Notice it’s ‘supports’ – not proves, scientifically or otherwise. No major apologist I’m aware of (Not William Lane Craig, not Moreland, not even Dembski or otherwise) are claiming the BB proves the existence of God, ex nihilo creation, or even that the universe had a beginning. They point towards what it infers, what it intellectual leads towards and is compatible with. Arguing that it’s somehow unfair or dishonest of them to claim support based on this data is analogous to arguing that no one can claim support from geology or biology that man evolved, on the grounds that the data doesn’t demand that (It could all be a trick, or we could be in a simulation, or…) and therefore such an extrapolation is an equivocation.

  22. Joseph,

    I never used the words “prove” and I stick by my claim that it does not support nor even intimate an ex nihilo creation. Let’s focus on the issue of time, which you are arguing is central to the argument.

    ‘Prior’ to the Big Bang we have a case of maximum entropy where there are no stable structures, giving us the claim that ‘before’ the Big Bang there was no time nor matter. We also, then, get the claim that our universe has only existed for a finite time ‘since’ the Big Bang. Up to this point we are agreed.

    But what ex nihilo proponents then argue is that our universe is the only universe that has ever existed (because it was created by divine fiat and God does not need to experiment with other universes), which is where things get sticky. If it is impossible (at least where things stand) to say much about the ‘before’ the Big Bang, then this claim has no support whatsoever (it does not support nor even intimate no even vaguely point to the possibility). A multi-verse proponent, in fact, has as much right to claim what they are as the ex nihilo proponent, for while there is no time (=organized cyclical patterns and the possibility of entropy) there is nothing in the data that rules out the possibility that ‘before’ the Big Bang (in some indistinct time in the past of its undifferentiated chaos) there were hundreds or thousands or millions of other emergent universes or even of partial universes that began to expand out of the infinite chaos but never came to fruition (and I would also argue that the argument from infinity (Kalam) is fundamentally inadequate, also, surprisingly enough, because of some silly word play).

    So we come to the point where the data of Big Bang cosmology does not give us a ‘nothing’ remotely similar to ex nihilo (even if we do talk about ‘before’ the singularity) nor does it give us a reason to suppose that our universe was the only one ever to come into existence. And I would also point out that the most recent ‘eternalists’ in relation to cosmology never argue that the universe is eternal, but that the cosmos, or this infinite chaotic background from which order emerges, is eternal (yes, I know this is adapting the term ‘cosmos’ for another purpose as a cosmos is, by definition, ordered).

    Let me end by saying that Craig, at least, does argue that the Big Bang is, in fact, demonstrating (requires?) an absolute ex nihilo beginning:

    Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.
    God and the Beginning of the Universe

    Here Craig is simply playing on words: there is nothing in the scientific data that demonstrates that the singularity came into existence from an absolute nothing (since, as I’ve argued above, the singularity itself certainly isn’t nothing and we cannot really say much about a ‘before’ because of reasons other than a demonstration of creatio ex nihilo) and there is a potential way to talk about ‘before’ the Big Bang insofar as maximum entropy is, in fact, a dynamic (i.e. temporal) energetic (i.e. a form of matter) state (I think Craig even mentions this somewhere else on the God’s temporal status). He is equating our inability to say anything about ‘before’ the Big Bang (even our capacity to talk about the singularity is severely limited) with the claim that the Big Bang actually argues for (or even indicates) an ex nihilo beginning (something that cosmologists themselves don’t seem to say and, in fact, argues that we cannot say). I don’t see the hedging of the claim that you are arguing for. Maybe it’s a new development in his work, but from my experience Craig (along with Moreland) is notorious for simply recycling his old work for his ‘new’ work.

  23. Todd says:

    I believe the original article is online, but titled Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, Todd. That’s quite helpful!

    They put an interesting title on it there. It would appear that they’re making it science against God. If I’m right about that, then they’ve certainly chosen their side in the debate. If there’s any doubt, check here for more on that.

    I don’t think science vs. God is an appropriate way to look at it at all. It’s materialist or naturalist science against God. Materialism and naturalism, which are nearly synonymous, both claim that there is no God, or if there is a God, he is irrelevant to the natural world and human experience. That is by no means a proper conclusion that can be drawn from scientific investigation; it is a metaphysical assumption.

  25. Joseph A. says:

    Kevin,

    I never used the words “prove” and I stick by my claim that it does not support nor even intimate an ex nihilo creation.

    And on this I judge you to be clearly wrong, for the reasons stated. You’re setting the bar for ‘support or intimate’ unreasonably high – which, as I said, amounts to a demand for scientific support and demonstration of something coming out of nothing.

    Just think of what you’re asking – how could science as we know it ever ‘support or intimate’ ex nihilo creation, even if it IS true? The door would forever remain open to the possibility of it coming from another ‘thing’ or place that we cannot see, measure, or even understand. Particularly – and I stress this – if ex nihilo creation is itself viewed as a line in the sand, a point that cannot be crossed due to prior intellectual commitments. But you may well certainly find data that points toward / indicates such an event – and that’s about what you’d expect, considering ex nihilo creation wasn’t an idea developed on the assumption that it could be decisively demonstrated.

    The idea that one can never take data as supporting or indicating an idea unless it decisively rules out all other imaginable alternatives just won’t stand. Now, perhaps there is a point where science simply and necessarily breaks down, and all we can do from that point on is metaphysics. I’d be willing to agree to that.

    As for William Lane Craig playing on words, he also quotes Barrow and Tipler on this point in the linked article:

    As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.”

    So it’s not as if WLC is a lone voice in the wilderness on this question. Indeed, the BB’s history is one of skepticism and worry from some quarters precisely because just what it seemed to ‘support or intimate’ to people not sympathetic to such a possibility.

    I want to keep in mind here that, no matter how much I respect WLC (though I do disagree with him on some issues), the issue doesn’t stand or fall on any perceived misconduct on WLC’s part. It remains that the BB model is ‘of help to the theists’, and said help can be had even if there is a limit to what science does or even could say on the subject.

  26. Tristan Ingle says:

    My question(s):

    If T=zero had properties of infinity, how did finite units manifest?
    If T=zero had a finite unit (but super-dense/hot/energy laden), how did it get there?

    The infinite set theory is nice, but I don’t understand how that answers the question (apart from pure maths).

    If you take a finite set out of the big bang (or whatever), that’s great. You’re still left with infinity. And you say that the big bang was infinitely dense/energy/temperature. Therefore its still there.

    But it cannot, for an “object” of infinite density would have swallowed our universe (infinite density = instant gravitational pull).

    Thus, I cannot imagine how anything of infinite density could exist. It must have been finite. But then we’re stuck answering how it got there :/

    Am I missing something in my logic? (I am asking earnestly)

  27. Joseph,

    Let’s say that I agree to your point. If what you say is so, then what makes ex nihilo creation a better interpretation of the data than the multiverse? If we were to accept your claim it seems that we would then have no grounds on which to claim that one is superior to the other on this matter. And if that is the case then Evangelicals are spilling a lot of ink over something that is in essence unrelated to (i.e. unsupported by) the scientific data. Is this what you are claiming?

  28. TI,

    If you take a finite set out of the big bang (or whatever)

    No, you aren’t taking it out of the Big Bang; the Big Bang itself is the finite set already removed from the infinite background. Just to be clear…

    You’re still left with infinity. And you say that the big bang was infinitely dense/energy/temperature. Therefore its still there.

    You need to make a very important distinction; you are equating the Big Bang (as well as the singularity) with the background (the multiverse/’foam’/etc.), which is what is causing most of the problems. The singularity (not the Big Bang) is what was infinitely dense (and, just to remind us, of a finite amount of energy/virtual particles/etc.).

    But it cannot, for an “object” of infinite density would have swallowed our universe (infinite density = instant gravitational pull).

    Thus, I cannot imagine how anything of infinite density could exist. It must have been finite. But then we’re stuck answering how it got there :/

    A few points: at the point where the singularity was at infinte density “our universe” didn’t exist; that only happened after the Big Bang itself. I imagine what you’re trying to say is that the singularity would have “swallowed” the infinite background or any other universes that might exist in the multiverse. And that is indeed one of the puzzles: since we do not know the nature of the (possible existence of the) infinite background and, indeed, a case of absolute entropy might not be subject to the same laws as organized things, how the singularity would react with the background is unknown. If the atom is not the entity that we can reduce all physical objects to, then it might be the case that the more fundamental particles follow slightly different laws (much like water has vastly different characteristics than hydrogen or oxygen atoms on their own).

    I would also point out that this has been a perpetual problem since the beginning of the Big Bang theory: how did it ‘bang’ from this state? If gravity was infinite how on earth did it expand in the first place (and at such an incredible rate!)? A theist might claim that God is what made it ‘bang’, but that’s pretty unnecessary (and unelegant): God would create a singularity of infinite density that on its own wouldn’t expand, so he (she, it; never know how to refer to a non-gendered being) then causes it to expand in an act of non-natural/supernatural causation (which would then mean that our scientific search for a natural reason is unwarranted, even impossible). Seems rather unnecessary to create the singularity in the first place.

    Anyway, that’s my best shot at answering your issue.

  29. Tristan Ingle says:

    Thankyou for your thought out response, Kevin.

    I have confused “big bang” and “background” in my last response responding to you. Obviously, I was not aware of a distinction, coming from an ex nihilo belief (my “background”, is God obviously). And still, I cannot understand how a mindless “infinite background” that gives rise to a “big bang” singularity could exist:

    ->We exist in a distinct dimension/existence to the “background”. If we did not, we would not exist, as everything would be soaked in “infinity”. I agree you can take finite from infinity – but you cannot lay finite energy/mass over infinite energy/mass. Our finite universe must be distinct.

    ->But can there be a distinction between a finite universe and infinite background, if they have a relationship to allow transfer of particles/energy? Any relationship with an infinite body results in infinity in both “sides” of the relationship – infinity has no edge, it doesn’t “seep” through at a measured rate.

    ->But surely if there is a relationship between dimensions, that allows particle and energy transference from the background into our own, then a singularity of infinite density would have an effect on the infinite background, drawing infinite particles/energy over to “add-on” to the big-bang, making it infinite and defeating what we know?

    ->Likewise, if such an “infinite background” exists, there must be a relationship between it and this dimension/existence (or the big-bang couldn’t appear). Why do we exist then, for this universe should be flooded with infinite energy/temperature, etc?

    ->Since it is a finite thing, how was the big-bang compressed into infinite density, let alone expanded afterward?

    ->How did an undirected process result in the astoundingly rare result of a habitable planet, bacterial life that colonized earth and cooperatively worked to pump oxygen into the atmosphere, produce (even more) complex life…

    Truly, I find infinite multiverses are required… but then we might as well give up thinking, as even the least likely events will occur infinite times.

    This is thinking predicated on the idea that a relationship needs to exist in order for the big-bang to have ‘accumulated/appeared’. But a relationship with an infinite body results (or, “is”) infinity on both sides :/

    Correct me where I am wrong, perhaps I am overlooking something base.

    ***

    Just a point on theology:

    A theist might claim that God is what made it ‘bang’, but that’s pretty unnecessary (and unelegant): God would create a singularity of infinite density that on its own wouldn’t expand, so he… then causes it to expand in an act of non-natural/supernatural causation…Seems rather unnecessary to create the singularity in the first place.

    There is a presupposition amongst some people that “best” = “God doing minimum work”. Words like “unnecessary” and “unelegant” belie this presupposition. The God of the bible is a God that delights in creating things and revealing things, like a father that enjoys showing his children how he can overcome a challenge they thought impossible (that is, of course one aspect, but the relevant one).

    There are other factors rather than just “what is easiest”, if we are going to consider the Christian God. Personally, I prefer to play tennis against a difficult opponent, rather than slaughter a beginner. Why -> challenge, to prove to others I could do it, etc.

    “Easiest” is not the sole factor in God’s (and of the same mind, human) decisions.

    {another long post :/ wish I could learn the what ‘concise’ means)

  30. Frank says:

    Boy you guys are pretty intelligent folks. On both sides of the argument. I’m a kid so i don’t have a whole lot to say, but i do read discover and i do believe in God (very much so). I’m in no way a physicist or anything, so i feel like an idiot for chiming in on this kind of stuff, but i’m trying to figure out what is trying to be said here. This multiverse thing is a bit confusing… So the idea of a multiverse is some type of infinite energy (foam?) that universes ‘sprout’ out of (layman’s terms?). And an infinite singularity was created within this background.(is there a within? Is this background/foam an infinite ‘thing’?) A singularity with infinite density/temperature/whatever… but how does it get particles? How does this background energy turn into particles and what is stopping it from turning back?
    ~~~~~~
    I like the last thing Tristen said here “The God of the bible is a God that delights in creating things and revealing things, like a father that enjoys showing his children how he can overcome a challenge they thought impossible (that is, of course one aspect, but the relevant one).”
    This is always how i felt (as a naieve kid.lol). Maybe it’s me trying to just look for the easy answer out, but it explains a lot. And to me it sounds like even if science somehow proves a multiverse theory (which i feel would be out of our grasp as we are confined to the universe we currently reside, i’m not sure how we could reach out of it, though again i don’t know anything about that kind of stuff), but one would still need to explain what the multiverse is exactly and where that came from and why it creates universes… And it sounds like that sort of creation still fits the description of a God-created thing to me… maybe even more so. Maybe this creator loves diversity. And what better way to create diversity other than to create a universe as diverse as ours. Or maybe even 10^500 universes all equally as diverse as ours… sounds to me like we’re thinking too hard.lol. I’m gonna go for a walk and look at some trees and butterflies and things and wonder why they are the way they are.lol

  31. Frank says:

    oh and sorry, i just noticed this thread died in november… whatever, it was still a good read! lol

  32. Kailey Copeland says:

    Frank,

    I’m just a “kid” too, but I just thought you might be interested in reading some books that I’ve found quite helpful. “The Science of God” (by Gerald Schroeder) is a good one, but it can be a little wordy at times. I would suggest just reading a page at a time, don’t be in a rush, and just let it sink in :) Really, anything by Schroeder is a good read. (Genesis and the Big Bang; The Hidden Face of God; etc.) Another good one is “The Wonder of the World”, by Roy Abraham Varghese.

    Keep searching for the truth! Talk to people smarter than you, read books that can go way above your head, but most importantly, keep the Bible as your foundation. These other resources can get things wrong, but the Bible is the infallible Word of God. I’ll be praying for you!

  33. Frank says:

    Well thanks! You are the second person to reccommend the science of God. And i’m pretty lucky myself. There is a three phd toting pastor’s spouse (who used to be a pastor himself.lol, after he figured out God was way cooler than science, though that is not how he would say it.lol) He is without a doubt the smartest guy i have ever met, and boy does he like to talk. But i love to listen. And biblicallly, well he has the bible in some of it’s earliest translations and he reads them, so to make sure no one messed up along the way (and translation on top of translation, he says a lot of stuff does get messed up)..

    So thanks again… i’ll check amazon for those books as soon as i get some money.lol. College debts you know…

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