Sunday, November 19, 2017

Should We Be Here?

Why are we here? That question could be answered from many perspectives including philosophical, theological, and scientific. From a scientific perspective we are here partly because the early universe had an excess of matter over antimatter. If the amount of matter and antimatter had been identical, their interactions would have annihilated both, resulting in a universe with energy but no matter, so we would not be here. Physicists have been investigating why there is excess matter in the universe, and in particular, if there is a discernible difference between matter and antimatter. When a recent very precise measurement at CERN found no difference in a certain property of matter and antimatter, the headlines across the globe, such as in Cosmos, Space.com, and The New York Post, proclaimed "The Universe Shouldn't Exist."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Reconciling Biblical Interpretation and Scientific Inquiry


In my previous post I pointed out some similarities between good scientific inquiry and good biblical interpretation. I suggested that certain scientific ideas and certain biblical ideas are so well established that, as more information is acquired, they may be modified but will not be overturned. I claimed that the Big Bang was such an idea and that the evidence for it is so compelling that the details of the origin of our universe may be revised, (particularly what happened in the first 10-35 seconds or so), but that the theory itself was so well established it will not be overturned.

Some readers have asked me if I would give an example of a biblical conclusion that is so well established that it will not be overturned even with further observations and evidence. I would suggest one such idea is that the Bible is basically a reliable historical document. For nearly 200 years, critics have claimed that various historical places, events, and people mentioned in the Bible have not been discovered in archaeological excavations and this lack of confirmation shows the Bible is unreliable. Time and time again further archaeological findings have overturned the prevailing view and shown the Bible to be accurate. Some examples include the existence of a Hittite civilization, the existence and governorship of Pilate, the existence of King David, and the fact that people crucified could be buried in private tombs. Further discoveries should continue this trend and I expect that other events in the Bible that currently have little archaeological corroboration will eventually be confirmed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Scientific Theories Change: So how can science be trusted? (and comparison with biblical interpretation)


Often when I give a public talk about science and Christianity at a church or other Christian venue someone will make a comment that the theories developed by science are constantly changing so they cannot really be trusted. I believe that the person making such a statement may often have an underlying assumption that some of the conclusions of science, usually the Big Band and/or evolution, contradict biblical teaching and so those theories really can't be believed or accepted. Similarly, I have heard Christians claim that the theories of science are fallible since they are developed by humans, while the Bible is infallible since it was given by God. As a scientist, I have a lot more confidence in the scientific conclusions drawn from the observations than some people who might make statements like that. Consequently, I think it is important that people understand something about the scientific process and why the findings of science can be trusted. As a Christian, I think it is crucial to distinguish between the infallible Word of God and the fallible interpretation of that word by individual humans. This post will cover some of these subjects and then go on to discuss why I believe there is quite a bit of correspondence between how to interpret the facts of nature and the words of the Bible.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Are Virtual Particles Real?


One of the strangest features of our universe may be entities that scientists call "virtual particles," fundamental particles that apparently come into existence from nothing for a brief period of time, then disappear. When I talk about virtual particles I usually get questions like: "Do these virtual particles really come into existence from nothing? How do you know they exist if they can never be seen? Do they do anything?" Because these virtual particles are a huge part of my scientific life, and because they invoke so many questions, I'm going to discuss what they are, their importance in our understanding of nature, and even some remarkable fine-tuning noticeable in their behavior.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Facts vs Faith

There is a common indictment made by skeptics and critics of religion, that Christianity is based on faith while science is based on facts. These skeptics view faith as a vice because, in their opinion, faith is not based on evidence and blindly accepts religious dogma. The biologist Richard Dawkins has said, "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence," and "Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion." The biologist Jerry Coyne writes, "Indeed, by relying on faith rather than evidence, religion renders itself incapable of finding truth."

These statements which supposedly define faith reflect the most inaccurate understanding possible of what Christian faith actually is. As a physicist and a thinking rational person, if faith were actually believing something without evidence, I would definitely not be a Christian. I simply cannot consider something to be true unless there is sufficient evidence to render that belief as the most probable conclusion that explains the evidence.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The BGV Theorem Revisited

Did this universe have a transcendent beginning? How strong is the scientific evidence for a beginning? If you read the comments in this blog you know that one reader and I have been discussing the question of the beginning of this universe and if there is a necessary transcendent cause. In parallel to our discussion, I have been reading a book by Robert J. Sptizer called New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. Spitzer is a Jesuit priest and philosopher and was the president of Gonzago University in Spokane, Washington. In Spitzer's book, Bruce L. Gordon, who has a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science and physics, has written a nice postscript talking in some depth about the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin (BGV) theorem.1  One of my firsts blog posts that I wrote discussed the BGV theorem, but given my recent dialogue and my recent reading, I think it is worthwhile going into a little more depth about this theorem and its ramifications.