Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Significance of the BGV Theorem

Let's continue to explore the question of whether or not our universe had an actual beginning.  In two previous posts I have said that (1) if our universe had a beginning, then the cause of the universe must be transcendent, a characteristic of the Christian God, and (2) we may never have any observational or theoretical evidence about what happened in the first 10-35 seconds of the universe.

However, there have still been a lot of ideas from theoretical physicists about what may have happened to bring the universe into being and what we can surmise from the equations and laws that we know describe our universe.  One of the most often discussed papers dealing with our past was published by Arvind Borde, Alan H. Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin in 20031 and called the BGV theorem after the three authors.  In this paper, the authors show that any universe which is on average expanding has a timeline that cannot be infinite into the past, it must have had a beginning when it started to expand.  Since our universe is known to be expanding this theorem seems to require that it had a beginning.  (There are some technicalities to this conclusion like, for instance, the difference between "expanding" and "on average expanding" but, in general, what is known about our universe corresponds with the requirements of the BGV theorem.)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Singularity at the Beginning?

A previous post about the Big Bang elicited a few comments and questions about alternative scenarios for the origin of our universe that would not require an actual beginning.  I'd like to respond to those questions, but I think it would be beneficial to first discuss some of the scientific challenges that are faced when we try to understand what happened in the first 10-35 seconds of the universe.

One major challenge is to try to determine what laws of physics are applicable during that time.   This is a problem that you may have already heard about for it has to do with the incompatibility between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity.  If you do a web search about this subject, you will find multitudes of articles written, from those that are quite basic to those that are quite technical.  The purpose of my blog is to describe things accurately, but simply, so my discussion will necessarily be basic.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Proof, Evidence, Science, and Christianity

In my previous post I said that the Big Bang was evidence for the existence of God, though not proof.  This raises the question of whether or not there is proof for God, or for that matter, whether or not there is proof for anything, even within the scientific realm.   

If by proof, we mean absolute certainty of truth without any doubt or possibility of exception, then proof is not possible within a scientific framework.  Proofs are only possible in logic and in mathematics where there are well defined rules within the discipline.  In those two fields, once a proposition has been proven, that proof is complete and will remain valid.  In contrast, scientific knowledge is the best explanation for the results of current experimental observations among all the available options.  As additional evidence and observations are made, the facts may require modifications and adjustments to the theory.  If an experiment is done that contradicts the current scientific paradigm, then that theory is not wholly true and must be refined or discarded.  Therefore, scientific ideas can be disproved, but never absolutely proven.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Should the Big Bang be Disdained?

When my children were young, I would often drive to the home of the person babysitting my kids, usually a young teenage girl, pick her up, then drive her back to my house.  In the car I would ask questions about her interests or her school.  In addition, I would sometimes ask a question that intrigued me since I am a scientist and a Christian, "Do you think the Big Bang is a theistic theory or an atheistic theory?"  Now that question is not on most people’s list of babysitter interview questions, but I was interested to know their answer even though it would not affect their monetary tip.  Every time I asked this question I always got the same answer, that the Big Bang is an atheistic theory.  This is just one example of the fact that many kids growing up in an evangelical church environment have the perception that the Big Bang is an idea which removes God as the creator.  It seems that many Christians may disdain the Big Bang.

Subsequent conversations with people of all ages have shown me that many individuals (1) don't really understand what the Big Bang is, (2) don't know the scientific evidence for the Big Bang, and (3) don't comprehend the theistic significance of the Big Bang.   So let's explore these ideas a little bit.  The ultimate conclusion for me is that the Big Bang is among the very best objective evidence available for the existence of God, and is consistent with the biblical record.  Many of you readers probably already know much of what follows, but maybe you will find something of interest anyway.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The God Particle...and God

On July 4, 2012 two collaborations of over 3000 physicist each independently announced the discovery of a particle colloquially known as "The God Particle."  Where did this elusive particle get its name?  Why did its discovery make international news?  And does it have anything to do with God?

Every scientist I know dislikes the moniker "The God Particle."  Physicists, instead, have named the particle after one of the six people who predicted its existence in 1964, the British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.  Thus, it is the "Higgs particle" or "Higgs boson."  (For those of you who don't know but care about such things, a boson is a subatomic particle with an intrinsic quantum mechanical property of spin equal to an integer value times the Planck constant, named after Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose.)

In 1993, Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, wrote a book about the search for the Higgs boson and named the book The God Particle at the urging of his publisher in order to maximize sales.  So the nickname "The God Particle" is mostly a marketing gimmick to sell books.  The name doesn't give any insight into the particle's properties or its place in the ensemble of fundamental particles.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Soul of the Artist

I have a friend who is quite an accomplished artist.  In fact, one of his paintings (shown above) hangs in the main gallery of the Oklahoma Capitol Building.  He has told me that when you look at a piece of art, you see the soul of the artist.  When I look at a piece of art I often just see the superficial subject and colors.  But an art aficionado would truly see the soul of the artist in things like the intricate technique used to paint the picture, or the subtle use of light and shadow, or the way the artist has created a scene that draws your eyes from one place to another.

As a scientist, I have the privilege of looking at God's work of art, his creative work called the universe, and seeing his soul.  Like the art expert, I may be able to see things in the creation that give me insight into the Artist's soul in a way that the casual observer might not notice.