Sunday, July 16, 2017

A New Particle Discovered at CERN

About a week ago, an experiment at CERN announced the discovery of a new particle, the Ξcc++ (pronounced Ksigh-see-see-plus-plus). Many people who have read about this discovery have asked me about its significance and if I was involved. So, this post will deviate from the usual discussion of the relationship between Christianity and science and focus on the discovery of the Ξcc++ with a few additional observations in my conclusion.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Is Fine-Tuning a Fallacy?

Victor Stenger was a theoretical particle physicist who wrote many books critical of God, religion, and the case for God from scientific reasoning. A regular reader of this blog asked if I would critique some of his writings and ideas including his 2011 book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is not designed for us. I have always felt that if one wants to determine what is true, then one should understand the best ideas from opposing views of any issue and, consequently, I have read books by many critics of Christianity including Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Stephen Hawking. I haven't read much of Stenger's work so I thought this would be a great opportunity to assess his ideas.

In his book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, Stenger claims that arguments theists make about fine-tuning can be easily refuted. Following the tone of my blog, I will try to discuss this issue in a non-technical way. The astrophysicist Luke Barnes wrote a long technical article refuting Stenger's claims which I highly recommend. In response to Barnes' article, Stenger wrote an article, which caused Barnes to write a further rebuttal on his blog. The general consensus among scientists who have studied this question is that Barnes' arguments are stronger than Stenger's and the universe does appear to be fine-tuned. For those who want to read the technical articles on this topic, I refer you to the links in this paragraph. For those who want a less technical discussion, including some of my original thoughts on Stenger's arguments, please continue reading.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Genealogies and the Creation of Heaven and Earth

I'd like to continue with the topic of my previous post in which I used various passages in the Bible to show that the six days of creation in Genesis are not necessarily 24 hours each, but are periods of an undetermined amount of time. In that blog entry, I wrote that there are three propositions that are used by those who say the Bible teaches the universe is only a few thousand years old. Those propositions were (1) the genealogies in the Bible are basically complete, (2) the six days of creation in Genesis are consecutive 24 hour days, and (3) no time passes between the creation of the earth and the universe (as described in Genesis 1:1), and the subsequent six days of creation.

Since I already discussed proposition (2), I'd like to continue on with propositions (1) and (3) and show that the genealogies in the Bible definitely have gaps in them, and that the language clearly indicates that Genesis 1:1-2 occurs before the first day of creation allowing a significant amount of time to pass.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Six Days of Creation

Does the Bible teach that the universe was created a few thousand years ago? I know many people, both secular and religious, who believe that it does and, therefore, insist that the Bible is in conflict with the claims of Big Bang cosmology which require a universe that is about 13.8 billion years old. Of course the Bible does not say how old the universe is, so why do some people believe it teaches a "young" earth, only thousands of years old.  Such a claim is based on three propositions, all of which can be shown to be false, or at least not necessarily true. If the propositions are not correct, then there is no information in the Bible about the age of the universe. The propositions are (1) the genealogies in the Bible are basically complete, (2) the six days of creation in Genesis are consecutive 24 hour days, and (3) no time passes between the creation of the earth and the universe (as described in Genesis 1:1), and the subsequent six days of creation.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Some Proposals about the Beginning of our Universe

The theoretical physicist from Caltech, Sean Carroll gave a talk to the American Astronomical Society in January 2017 on the topic of what we know and don't know about the beginning of the universe. He has generously posted a copy of his presentation on his blog, In this talk, Dr. Carroll speculates about how the gaps in what we don't know may be filled in by presenting a systematic classification of the main ideas developed over the last few years about what may have occurred before our universe began and brought our universe into existence. (Dr. Carroll does point out that to say our universe "came into existence" sounds like a process within time, but that time as we know it actually had a beginning with our universe.) In previous posts I have already discussed many of the things Dr. Carroll covers in his talk including (1) that our universe was in a state with very low entropy at its beginning, (2) that something like the Big Bang occurred about 13.8 billion years ago but we don't know what actually happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second because (3) we don't have a quantum theory of gravity which may describe the initial conditions of our universe, even though (4) the equations of classical general relativity predict that our universe had an actual beginning.

Let's review what we do know: (1) About 13.8 billion years ago the universe was very hot and dense and was expanding rapidly while decelerating; (2) classical general relativity predicts that there was an actual beginning of our universe in a singularity; and (3) our early universe was in a very low entropy state which is quite hard to explain since low entropy is associated with an ordered, and improbable state. The last point presents tremendous challenges for any naturalistic proposal about how our universe came into existence.

In regards to what we don't know, Dr. Carroll presents four different classes of models about the space-time origin of our universe: (1) a bouncing model, (2) a cyclic model, (3) a hibernating model, or (4) a reproducing model.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Extraordinary Claims and Extraordinary Evidence

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is a phrase that was popularized by Carl Sagan but has its roots from at least the 18th century Enlightenment when the miracles of Christianity were being questioned by certain intellectual thinkers of the day. The most famous Enlightenment critic of Christianity was probably David Hume who wrote an essay called Of Miracles in 1748 where he states, "Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours to establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous; in that case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less unusual."

At first this statement may sound reasonable. For instance, I am more likely to believe you if you tell me you had breakfast this morning than I would believe you if you told me that you levitated off the ground this morning without anything holding you up. But does the fact that I believe you if you say you did something ordinary and I don't believe you if you say you did something extraordinary support the statement that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?" Actually, it doesn't. Although I may believe that you ate breakfast this morning, I must obtain supporting evidence if I want to actually determine whether or not that fact is true. If you have cleaned up your kitchen, such evidence may be hard to find. I might have to pump out the contents of your stomach, for instance to see what you ate and when you ate it. It is one thing to say that I believe you ate breakfast because it is an "ordinary" event, but it is quite another to actually find enough evidence to validate your claim. My point is that actual validation of any event requires sufficient evidence.