Monday, January 21, 2019

Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

If you search on the internet for the phrase, "Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?" you will find a host of articles, many by philosophers but some by scientists, that discuss this profound question. The book by Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something From Nothing, which I have discussed in a previous post will probably appear near the top of your search engine. Last June, the cosmologist Sean Carroll added his name to the list of those writing about this subject with the article "Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing?" and a reader of my blog asked me to comment on Dr. Carroll's article.

In general, although Sean Carroll is an atheist, I find his writings to be quite reasonable and thoughtful, unlike some other atheist scientists whose writings and lectures indicate that they have done little research regarding the vast history of dialogue among deep thinkers in regards to these important philosophical and theological questions. In a previous post I highlighted one of Dr. Carroll's talks in which he honestly pointed out that almost all hypothetical ideas about the origin of our universe do not solve the problem of the initial low entropy state at the big bang, except for a small class of models that he favors. He objectively shows that most of the proposals that attempt to remove God from the origin of our universe flatly fail because they do not give the correct initial conditions.

At the beginning of the recent article Carroll points out that there are at least two ways to interpret the question of "Why there is something rather than nothing?" That question could be asking either for the mechanism or for the reason for our universe. On the web site philosophytalk.org a similar idea is developed when the author writes, "To get us started thinking about it, let’s distinguish between reasons and causes. When we ask why something is the case, depending on our purposes and what kind of explanation we seek, we might be asking for a reason, or we might be asking for a cause."1

Monday, December 31, 2018

A New Particle Lurking?

In 1995 when I was a post-doctoral researcher at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California, the top quark was discovered by two experiments at Fermilab near Chicago. This was an exciting event, for the top quark was the sixth and last quark predicted by the standard model of particle physics and had been searched for since 1977 when the bottom quark was discovered. (Quarks come in pairs so when the bottom quark was discovered, which was the fifth known quark at the time, a sixth quark was predicted to also exist. For a brief discussion of quarks and the standard model of physics see a previous post about the top quark.)

A physicist who was collaborating on one of the experiments that discovered the top quark at Fermilab came to give a lecture at SLAC to explain the details of this significant discovery to a packed auditorium. When the presentation ended I was walking out of the auditorium with a graduate student and I remarked, "Wow, that was great. They discovered the top quark." The student replied, "No it wasn't great. It looks exactly what we expected to find." In that moment, I realized the graduate student was correct and had taught me a lesson about scientific inquiry. In general, the most significant discoveries are not those that are predicted based on what we already know, but rather those that are completely unexpected. Though the discovery of the top quark was extremely important in the field of particle physics, it was indeed, exactly what we had expected to find.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Creator Revealed: Now a Lighthouse Book



Every once in a while it is a good idea to break out of the usual routine and do something different. So in this post, rather than my usual discussion of science and Christianity, I'm going to share some encouraging news and even indulge in some self promotion. About six months ago my book The Creator Revealed: A Scientist Examines the Big Bang and the Bible was published by WestBow press. When the book was first published I devoted a blog entry to outline the contents of the book, discuss some of my motivation for writing it, and describe some of the story of how it eventually was published. As I said in my previous post, "There are many good books that discuss the relationship of science and Christianity and describe how science agrees with and supports the Bible. But almost all of those books are written in relatively technical language that can be difficult to read and understand, even for well-educated people who may not be scientifically minded. In contrast to most books on this subject, The Creator Revealed is written in simple conversational language that is entertaining and engaging."

The encouraging and exciting news is that Westbow Press will soon be re-releasing The Creator Revealed within their "Lighthouse Recognition Program." This program is reserved for Westbow books that have shown growth and promise within the marketplace. Lighthouse books are published with the special Lighthouse logo as can be seen in the picture of the new back cover above.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Adam and Eve as Federal Representatives of Humanity

If you have ever competed on a debate team then you have probably had to argue for a position that you don't actually believe is true. A good debater understands the various sides of an issue and can make a plausible argument either for or against a certain position even if they personally hold a different view about that particular issue. In this blog post, I will attempt to be a good debater and argue for a position that I currently don't think is correct.

In my previous four blog posts I have discussed various issues about Adam and Even including the genetic evidence that points to a common female and male ancestor of all humans, the origin of modern human behavior, some options about who Adam and Eve were and when they lived, and some comments on the scientific and biblical viability of the four different views on Adam and Eve. In discussing these issues I have ventured outside of my physics expertise and into the realm of genetics and archeology. Two of the possible ideas that were proposed about Adam and Eve, the Genealogical View and the Federal View, would imply that they were not the genetic ancestors of all humans throughout history. If that were true, then many questions arise about whether or not such a view could be compatible with the biblical account of the fall of humans and of the universality of sin and a fallen human nature. To answer these types of questions I have to continue this journey outside of my arena of physics expertise and into the arena of theology. I also have to propose and defend a position that I currently do not think is correct. So I'll put on my debater's hat and dive right in.

In this journey which may take us far from the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve, let's address three questions (1) is Genesis 2 written as a historical narrative or a figurative narrative, (2) what does Paul say about Adam's sin and its consequences in Romans 5, and (3) if Adam and Eve were not the genetic ancestors of all humans, how do humans inherit their fallen nature? Remember that in this post I am promoting ideas I do not currently think are true, but I do think have some viability and could possibly be true if some other certain propositions were confirmed.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Adam and Eve: Four Views

Although there seems to be a common perception that scientific discoveries contradict the Bible, actually just the opposite is true. Instead, the things we have learned about the origin and development of the universe overwhelmingly agree with the biblical story of creation. Details about the history of the earth agree with the order and the events described in Genesis as discussed in previous posts Genesis and Science Reconciled and Unlocking Genesis One, for example. Yet within this clear overlap between science and Scripture in so many areas, there seems to me to be one issue that produces some friction between what science has discovered so far and a straightforward reading of the Bible. That has to do with exactly when Adam and Eve lived, if they were the only two humans alive at the time, and how all of humanity is related to them.

In previous posts I have affirmed that current genetic evidence shows that all humans are related to a single male and single female and that I believe it is possible that within current scientific knowledge that couple lived about 50,000 years ago and were the first two humans and the genetic ancestors of all humanity. Then in my most recent post I discussed four other possibilities for who Adam and Eve were. In this post I will summarize these views and categorize them according to archeological and scriptural consistency. So let's first label and briefly review each of the five views (which I have consolidated into four views below).
  1. Ancient Traditional View: In my previous post this was called the sole-genetic progenitorship, that Adam and Eve lived about 500 to 700 thousand years ago and were  the genetic ancestors of all humans and also of all other close relatives of humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans.
  2. Modern Traditional View: In my previous post this was called the genetic-interbreeding progenitorship, that Adam and Eve were the genetic ancestors of all humans and that some of Adam and Eve's ancestors interbred with non-human species. Most scientists would say this would have to be about 200,000 years ago. However, my proposal that this could have been as recent as 50,000 years ago would also fall within this category. This view would be held by Reasons to Believe, a progressive creation organization that would affirm Adam and Eve as God's special creation with no evolutionary ancestors.
  3. Genealogical View: In my previous post this was called the sole-genealogical progenitorship, that Adam and Eve are the genealogical ancestors of all humans and could have lived as recent as 6000 years ago, but were not the genetic ancestors of all humans. 
  4. Federal View: Adam and Eve could have lived as recent as 6000 years ago and were a representative couple among a population of humans. They are not the genetic ancestor of all humans and not necessarily even the genealogical ancestors of all humans.
For each of these views I will comment on a few things. First, I will simply state whether or not that view allows for the traditional understanding that Adam and Eve were the genetic ancestors of all humans. Second I will state whether or not the view allows us to all be related to Adam and Eve through our genealogy. Finally, I will comment on what seems to be a major problem with reconciling the biblical record with the archeological record, which is that the culture of Adam and Eve in the Bible seems to coincide with human culture that emerged about 10,000 years ago including cities, agricultural, domestic animals, and other elements of modern civilization but does not seem to coincide with how humans lived before that time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Adam and Eve and Evolutionary Creation

Within evangelical Christianity there are many different views about how and when God created the universe and humans and about who Adam and Eve were. Very generally, we can categorize these beliefs into three options: (1) Young Earth Creationists (YEC) who believe that God created the universe about six thousand years ago and would deny that the big bang or macroscopic evolution occurred, (2) Old Earth Creationists (OEC), also called Progressive Creationists, who would say God used the big bang to create the universe about 14 billion years ago but did not use the process of macroscopic evolution to create humans or other life, so that God has supernaturally created the major classes of life over the last 4 billion years, and (3) Evolutionary Creationists (EC), also called Theistic Evolutionists, who would say that God used both the big bang and macroscopic evolution to create the universe and all life, including humans.

I personally believe that all three of the above options could be defended biblically (which I will discuss in a later blog post). I would currently classify myself as an Old Earth Creationist because I believe that the scientific case for the big bang is indisputable, but I don't believe that the scientific case for evolution is conclusive or compelling. So biblically, I could accept and defend any of the above options but scientifically I can only defend the second option at this time.

Over the last two blog posts I have presented my opinion that the current genetic and archeological scientific evidence is consistent with Adam and Eve living about 50 thousand years ago and being the first two humans and the sole genetic ancestors of all humans. I have also stated that almost all Christian and non-Christian scientists who study human ancestry would not agree with me as to that being the most likely scenario, or maybe even a viable scenario. So what are the various options for Adam and Eve that are held by Evolutionary Creationists and how do those options fit into the biblical narrative? I'll discuss the answer to the first question in this blog entry and the answer to the second question in the next.