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.

A little background information is needed to understand this discovery. Since the 1960's particle physicists have developed a model that describes the fundamental particles and forces in the universe, called the Standard Model of Particles and Fields. With the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, this model has been completely verified experimentally. There are two classes of fundamental particles that make up matter, quarks and leptons with six known types of quarks (given the names up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom), and six known types of leptons (electron, electron neutrino, muon, muon neutrino, tau, and tau neutrino). The six different types of quarks are often referred to as the "flavor" of the quark. Quarks are always bound together in particles called hadrons so quarks are never found as individual particles by themselves in nature. Three quarks bound together is called a baryon, and a quark bound with an anti-quark is called a meson. A proton is a baryon made of two up quarks and a down quark and a neutron is a baryon made of two down quarks and an up quark (in the simplest model). So most of everything we know of in nature, everything made of atoms, is ultimately made of up and down quarks and electrons.

However, any combination of three quarks bound together, or a quark and an anti-quark bound together, could in theory, exist (except the top quark can't be bound because it decays too rapidly). In the 1960's particle physicists were discovering dozens of new particles that were like the proton and neutron but heavier, as well as many particles like the pi meson but heavier. At first this "zoo" of particles seemed overwhelming and no one knew what to make of this vast proliferation of particles. Eventually, Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig independently proposed that this zoo of particles could be easily explained if each particle was actually composed of some combination of three more fundamental particles, which eventually became known as the up quark, the down quark, and the strange quark. At that time only three types of quarks were needed to explain all the known particles, although we now know that six flavors of quarks exist. If you had only the three flavors of quarks and put them together in different combinations, you would get the zoo of known particles discovered in the 1960's. Using u for up, d for down, and s for strange, we could have baryons like uuu, ddd, uds, uus, dds, etc. and using ubar to mean the u antiquark, and so forth, mesons could exist like u-ubar, u-dbar, u-sbar, d-ubar, d-sbar, and so forth.

Most particles made of quarks decay rather quickly, in less than about 10-10 seconds, eventually decaying through different processes to stable protons, neutrons, electrons and neutrinos. For instance, the baryon called a lambda (Λ0) made of an up quark, a down quark and a strange quark, will often decay to a proton and a pi meson with the pi meson further decaying.

The up and the down quarks are the lightest quarks, with the strange quark being slightly heavier, the charm being heavier still, the bottom being quite heavy, and the top being the heaviest known fundamental particle. Although we know of every type of hadron that could exist in nature, not all have been seen. In general, if a hadron is composed of heavier quarks it is harder to make in our colliders and, thus, harder to discover in our detectors. So, for instance, up until last week the existence of a baryon made up of an up quark and two charm quarks was expected but not yet unambiguously discovered. The Ξcc++ is that particle. So this is not an unexpected, unknown, or startling discovery, but a newly observed particle, nonetheless.

Like all particles that are composed of at least one heavy quark, the Ξcc++ only exists for a fraction of a second and then decays to other particles we call "daughters." Certain patterns of these daughter particles give unambiguous signatures that indicate they could only come from another "parent" particle, in this case the  Ξcc++. Thus, the Ξcc++ was discovered by one of the four major experiments on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN called LHCb, whose primary purpose is to study the b-quark and its immediate decays. Studying the b-quark exclusively has the potential of helping us understand some mysteries of the universe such as why matter dominates over anti-matter in our universe. Since I am a member of the ATLAS collaboration, and not the LHCb collaboration, I had nothing to do with this discovery.

However, the discovery of the Ξcc++ has presented somewhat of a new problem because in 2002 another experiment called SELEX thought they saw evidence (3 standard deviations above background) for the Ξcc++ though not technically a discovery (5 standard deviations above background). However the measured mass of the SELEX particle is not really compatible with the measured mass of the LHCb particle, though both experiments claim they are the same particle. This discrepancy is likely to get sorted out as LHCb gets more data and makes more measurements including the expected future observation of the Ξcc+ particle, composed of a down quark and two charm quarks.

I would guess that most readers of this blog are not looking simply for the latest news and explanations about particle physics since that information can be found elsewhere. So you may want to know if I, as a particle physicist, have any insight into the nature of God or spiritual topics based on the discovery of the  Ξcc++. The short answer is, "not particularly." Because this discovery was expected and is well within the known physics of the Standard Model, it is not revolutionary. But this discovery and much of what I observe in nature does cause me to reflect on something Albert Einstein once said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." Like Einstein, I find it remarkable that the universe is comprehensible and appears ordered and designed. Why would a universe spawned accidentally without a creator or designer have coherence, order, and regularity? Shouldn't a randomly produced universe exhibit random laws, irregularity, and arbitrariness? Our universe shows such cohesiveness and precision. We can predict that nature should have a baryon consisting of three particular quarks and be confident that such an object exists simply based on the patterns and laws already discovered. In any other arena we would be confident that this order, design, precision, consistency, innovation, and predictability are sure signs of an intelligent designer and builder behind it all. I think the same can be inferred about this universe from all that we discover in science.

Top image is supplied by Daniel Dominguez and CERN and depicts the three quarks inside the Xi_cc_++
Bottom image is of the LHCb detector and taken from the magazine Fermilab Today.


  1. Yes, our universe is ordered and very well MAY have been designed to be that way by an unknown Designer. The question is, if this Designer exists, who is he (she/they/it)?

    Could such a complicated universe be the design of a god who stated in Genesis that a "firmament" (dome) hangs over the earth? I don't think so.

    1. Gary, I don't know where you are getting your understanding of Hebrew from, but the Hebrew word sometimes translated "firmament" doesn't have as its primary meaning that of a dome. My Hebrew dictionary defines it as "vault of heaven, firmament, sky; pavement, floor." Many translations translate the word as "atmosphere" since this is the best Hebrew word to describe the atmosphere. As I have written in my blog, ancient Hebrew has only about 3000 words, so many words have multiple meanings and the context tells the meaning. Gary, the more you comment, the more it becomes clear that for just about any subject, you will choose one and only one perspective that supports your biased view and ignore all of the other possibilities even when they are much more probable. Your bias and assumptions seem to overshadow your ability to see these subjects with any degree of open-mindedness or objectivity.

    2. Your interpretation of the Hebrew word translated in the King James and other English Bibles as "firmament" is a minority position. Once again, you find yourself opposing the majority of scholars, Mike.

      From Theopedia:

      The view of the expanse as a literal firmament was shared by "virtually everyone else up to the time of the Renaissance!" Of the Jews and early Christians Seely writes,

      "Jews speculated as to what material the firmament was made of: clay or copper or iron (3 Apoc. Bar. 3.7). They differentiated between the firmament and the empty space or air between it and the earth (Gen. Rab. 4.3.a; 2 Apoc. Bar. 21.4). They tried to figure out how thick it was by employing biblical interpretation (Gen. Rab. 4.5.2). Most tellingly they even tried to calculate scientifically the thickness of the firmament (Pesab. 49a). "Christians speculated as to whether it was made of earth, air, fire, or water (the basic elements of Greek science). Origen called the firmament "without doubt firm and solid" (First Homily on Genesis, FC 71). Ambrose, commenting on Gen 1:6, said, 'the specific solidity of this exterior firmament is meant' (Hexameron, FC 42.60). Augustine said the word firmament was used 'to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the waters above and the waters below' (The Literal Meaning of Genesis, ACW 41.1.61)."^[4]^

      Gary: The article goes on to discuss that this was the concept of ALL ancient cultures, with the possible exception of the Chinese. All ancient peoples, including the Hebrews, believed that the sky had a ceiling, a FIRMament, a solid overturned "bowl", Mike. Not a space. It was solid. I know that is distressing for you, but that is what the evidence strongly indicates.

      I suggest that you are latching onto the minority position, once again, because you so desperately want the evidence to fit with your primarily faith-based, preconceived, world view.

      That is not good scientific practice.

    3. I simply quoted the definitions from a reliable Hebrew dictionary in which "dome" is not used even though you said it was a dome.

    4. ...and the appropriate definitions included "sky" but not "dome". Hmm.

    5. From Theopedia:

      "Raqiya is a Hebrew word that has been translated as "firmament" (KJV, ASV), "expanse" (NIV, ESV, NASB), "dome" (NRSV), and "vault" (TNIV, NJB)."

      Check out the NRSV, Mike.

      The fact that some English translators have translated this Hebrew word as "expanse", which you are calling "sky", is irrelevant. The question is: which definition of this word did the ancient Hebrews (and early Christians) understand the word to mean? And the evidence, which I cited above, is that both Jews and early Christians understood this word to mean the concept of a overturned bowl...which is another way of saying a dome.

      Evidence shows that the Hebrew concept of the universe came from surrounding cultures in the Levant. Did you know that there are actually THREE Creation stories in the Old Testament? The Jewish website/newspaper had a very interesting article on this subject. I will give the link below.

      Mike: The simple truth is that the reason that the Hebrew Bible uses a term that incorrectly indicates that there is an upside-down bowl above the earth is because these ancient peoples were scientifically ignorant. Face the facts, my friend.

  2. Source for above excerpt:

  3. Haaretz article on the THREE creation stories in the Bible:

  4. Mike,

    Have you heard of the group called "Biologos"? They are a group of Christian scientists essentially attempting to do the same thing as you: Reconcile Christian teaching with Science. However, you seem to have a more conservative view (dare I say it...fundamentalist) than these Christians, who to me, talk like moderate Christians.

    The Christian scientists agree with me that the Hebrew word which the KJV translates as "firmament" is most definitely solid. It is NOT an expanse, or a description of the sky or atmosphere. So how do the harmonize an obviously incorrect description of the universe as found in Genesis with modern science with has proven beyond any doubt that no solid structure hangs above the earth?

    Answer: They deny that the literal interpretation of the text was the true INTENT of God, when he was speaking in that passage. God was simply speaking in terms that Bronze Age or Iron Age people could understand. God, of course, KNEW that the earth did not have a solid firmament (upside down bowl) hanging above it, but he chose not to give a scientifically accurate description of the atmosphere above the earth...because ancient peoples would not have understood this.

    Hmm. That brings up a point: Why didn't God simply tell us about gravity, atmospherics, proper agriculture techniques, disease prevention, etc., when he was writing his Holy Word to mankind. Why give us silly, unscientific descriptions of the universe and leave us to flounder about in the darkness of ignorance, only to discover the majority of scientific truths during or after the Age of Enlightenment??

    Here is an excerpt from these "moderate" Christian scientists on the Firmament:

    "Arguing for a non-solid raqia in Genesis is extremely problematic, for two reasons. First, the biblical and extrabiblical data indicate that raqia means a solid structure of some sort. The second problem is a much larger theological issue, but is actually more foundational. Regardless of what one thinks of the raqia, why would anyone assume that the ancient cosmology in Genesis could be expected to be in harmony with modern science in the first place?

    This second issue creates a conflict where they need not be one. The raqia “debate” is not the result of new evidence that has come to light. Our understanding of ancient perceptions of the cosmos has not been overturned by more information. The debate exists because of the assumption made by some Christians that the ancient biblical description of the world must be compatible on a scientific level with what we know today.

    Genesis and modern science are neither enemies nor friends, but two different ways of describing the world according to the means available to the people living at these different times. To insist that the description of the sky in Genesis 1 must conform to contemporary scientific [evidence] is a big theological problem. It is important to remember that God always speaks in ways that people can actually understand. In the ancient world, people held certain views about the world around them. Those views are also reflected in Genesis. If we keep this in mind, much of the conflict can subside."

    Or there is a more simple solution, my dear moderate Christians: Recognize that PEOPLE wrote the Bible, not an omniscient deity, and the people who wrote the Bible were scientifically ignorant. The reason the authors of the Bible wrote about a "firmament" is because that is what ALL ancient peoples believed from their natural observations of the sky. This interpretation made sense, just as it makes sense to think that the earth is flat...(unless you live on the coast and pay attention to what happens to ships on the horizon).

    Bottom line: Yahweh is the invention of ancient, scientifically ignorant people trying to make sense of their scary, dangerous world. Let's admire the beauty and entertainment of these ancient tales and stop trying to turn them into...MESSAGES FROM A GOD WHO LIVES IN OUTER SPACE.

  5. Link to article and quote from Biologos:’s-not-the-point

    1. I do know biologs well and agree with some of their positions and disagree with others. Of course looking through the internet for articles that agree with your preconceived positions is easy to do. I can do the same to show that the firmament is not a solid disk and so I guess that proves I'm right. For instance, see

      Suppose for this discussion we could show that the writer of Genesis did mean a solid disk. That would still not be a problem since the sky does look like a solid disk from our point of view. Clearly you don't understand how language is used if you are nitpicking at something like this. I'm a little shocked. I guess then that you and I in the 21st century are ignorant people because we say the sun rises and sets. I guess if Yahweh were to call it a "sunset" we would know he is simply the invention of an ignorant ancient culture since the sun doesn't really set but the earth rotates.. Please Gary, don't just write comments to be argumentative. Using language in a point-of-view sense is common and accepted and doesn't denote anything about the science behind it.

    2. Mike,

      Do you have any evidence that any Jew or Christian prior to, let's say, 1,000 CE, believed that the Hebrew word "raqia" as used in the first two chapters of Genesis meant anything other than a solid object? If so, would you please share the source?

      Just because the word "raqia" COULD be translated as an "expanse" means nothing if that is not how Jews and early Christians understood it to mean...unless you are stating that God "inspired" the author to use a word that he, all other Hebrews of his time, and, all Jews and Christians prior to the Reformation, did not comprehend. That's a pretty fundamentalist viewpoint, Mike. Is that what you are saying??

    3. I will investigate this further, but in my last paragraph I'm saying it is irrelevant whether the firmament was or was not considered a solid sphere because point-of-view descriptions are perfectly acceptable and do not imply an incorrect or unscientific idea. I'm disappointed that you would take such a point-of-view description as an indication that something is wrong in the narrative. If so, I better not ever hear you say that you saw a sunset.

    4. I have just reviewed an introductory textbook where the author says that it is not incorrect to say the sun revolves around the earth. He says that you can believe your eyes and the sun does, indeed, circle the earth every 24 hours from our perspective. He is arguing that there is no absolute point of reference and the point-of-view descriptions are valid. If they are valid in the 21st century then surely they were valid more than 3 millennia ago. From a perspective on the earth the heavens look like an orbiting sphere. It is this type of criticism of the language in the Bible that makes me think skeptics are not genuine in their investigation. A point-of-view description does not invalidate anything and is perfectly acceptable.

    5. Mike,

      Of course the author/authors of Genesis used "raqia" as a "point-of-view description". I agree with you 100%. However, the problem comes when humans assert that this book is part of the "Word of God".

      Who was there when this "raqia" was created in the Genesis story? According to the first chapter of Genesis at least, no human existed at that time. So the statement is not coming from a human, such as, "And Adam looked up in the sky and marveled at the 'raqia'. " No, it was your GOD who stated this.

      THAT is the problem. You cannot assert that the Bible is the inerrant Word of your perfect, omniscient god and have him claiming to have created a non-existent upside-down bowl hanging over the earth unless you twist yourself into a pretzel making harmonizations.

      The claim that Yahweh said he created a firmament is proof that the Bible was written by humans without the assistance (inspiration) of an omniscient deity.

    6. I think your claim is very poor reasoning since the creation story is given to a certain people and a certain culture. The message from my "omniscient God" must be conveyed in an understandable language and culture. Even if it is not Adam looking up and marveling, it is God describing the creation possibly to a person who thinks of the heavens like that. So, first, I don't think the word must mean an "upside-down bowl" and, second, even if it must mean that it would be perfectly acceptable if the culture thinks of the heavens like that to explain the created heavens in that point-of-view way. I wouldn't go to a pre-historic culture and explain modern weaponry, for instance, in terms they don't comprehend, but in relatable and understandable language. So even if I know that aircraft can exceed the speed of sound due to jet engines, that language would be useless to a pre-historic culture. In fact, it would be very unlike the God described in the Bible to deal with a culture in a way that ignores their particular time and place in history. Like many critics I deal with, you are imposing your idea of what God is like and should do and say on to the God described in the Bible, whose methods, purposes, and thoughts do not align with yours.

    7. Do you really believe that the author of Genesis knew the true facts of the structure and organization of the universe and was only using the term "raqia" in the same manner that we today would say "the sun rose this morning at 5:30 AM" knowing full well that the sun does not "rise"?

      Come on, Mike.

      The statement in Genesis of a "firmament" above the earth is an ERROR. It is an error of scientifically ignorant people who did NOT have the assistance (inspiration) of an invisible, omniscient being to tell them the real truth. You are making ad hoc harmonizations to maintain your supernatural belief system instead of accepting the obvious: The human authors of the Bible made a mistake.

    8. Is it possible that an invisible, omniscient being spoke to ancient humans in terms that they could easily understand, based on their simplistic, scientifically incorrect understanding of the universe? Of course! Anything is possible. If you are determined to maintain your belief in the supernatural claims of the Bible there is ALWAYS a harmonization to hold it all together. Mormons, Muslims, and Hindus do the very same for claims in their holy books which conflict with modern scientific evidence.

      The question Christians must ask themselves is this: Why wouldn't an omniscient God have used his Word to enlighten humans with the true structure of the universe; with proper agricultural instructions; proper medical treatments, etc.? Why leave us floundering in our ignorance for some many millennia?

      Yes, your worldview is possible, but is it the most probable explanation for the evidence available? I suggest that a much more probable explanation is that the Bible was written by well-intentioned, but scientifically ignorant people. Period. A "god" had nothing to do with it.

    9. Gary, you ask me what I think but then you claim it can't be true. I really think that the firmament is more likely the sky than the solid dome you claim. I point you to a website that defends that as a viable option, but you reject it. I then say that even if it does refer to a dome, that would be an appropriate point of view description within the culture of the time, but you reject that as viable. It seems that you really don't care what I think or what I say because your position is already determined, entrenched, and unchangeable. So why ask what I believe?

      Actually given what God reveals of himself in the Bible, my view that God would use language understandable to the culture, is not only possible or more probable, but the only view consistent with the description of God given in the Bible.

    10. I never claimed your position cannot be true, Mike. Re-read my above comment. What I am saying is that since ALL ancient Jews and even early Christians believed that the Bible taught that there was a solid, upside down bowl hanging over the earth, your position is very improbable.

      Once again, I challenge you to print out this thread and give it to a non-Christian theist professor at your university and ask him or her to give you an honest opinion regarding who is being more rational in our conversations.

    11. I've been reading some of the best scholars of ancient Hebrew and finding more and more of them who do not believe the author of Genesis is describing the dome which was the common near east belief of the time. For instance, John Sailhamer, an eminent Old Testament scholar has written, "Is there a single word or idea that would accommodate such uses of the term “expanse”? Cosmological terms such as “ceiling,” “vault,” or “global ocean,” which are often used for “expanse” in chapter 1, do not suit the use of the term in v.20. Such explanations, though drawn from analogies of ancient Near Eastern cosmologies, appear too specific for the present context. Thus it would be unlikely that the narrative would have in view here a “solid partition or vault that separates the earth from the waters above” (Westermann, p. 116). It appears more likely that the narrative has in view something within the everyday experience of the natural world, in a general way, that place where the birds fly and where God placed the lights of heaven (cf. v.14). In English the word “sky” appears to cover this sense well.
      The “waters above” the sky is likely a reference to the clouds. That is at least the view that appears to come from the reflections on this passage in later biblical texts. For example, in the author’s account of the Flood in chapter 7, reference is made to the “floodgates of the heavens [hashshamayim],” which, when opened, pour forth rain (vv.11-12; cf. 2 Kings 7:2; Pss 104:3; 147:8; 148:4). The writer of Proverbs 8:28 has read the term “expanse” in Genesis 1 as a reference to the “clouds” (shehaqim)." So the more I study, the more it seems my view is supported by good Hebrew scholars despite the cultural view of the time and that your view seems to be shaped more by your presuppositions than a good reading of the text. You seem so convinced that the Bible is full of errors that you don't seem to be open to viable readings of the passage that don't contradict known facts.

    12. How many Jewish scholars have you read on this subject?

    13. Here is a very interesting Jewish article on the topic of "the firmament" mentioned in Genesis.

      It seems even in Judaism there are those who believe that the Hebrew Bible must be congruent with modern science and those who believe that God spoke to humans using terms they would understand. This later group points out that if we look at the sky, it looks as if it has a ceiling (dome). So these more "moderate/liberal" Jews believe that is how God spoke to scientifically ignorant peoples in Antiquity.

      I suggest that both Christians and Jews should consider another option: an omniscient God had nothing to do with the writing of the book of Genesis. The Book of Genesis was written by scientifically ignorant people attempting to make sense of their dangerous, scary world.

      THAT is why the "creator" in the first book of Genesis creates a solid "dome" over the earth, an entity we know today does not exist. It is a mistake.

      The author made a mistake based on his lack of scientific knowledge.

      You said: "So the more I study, the more it seems my view is supported by good Hebrew scholars despite the cultural view of the time and that your view seems to be shaped more by your presuppositions than a good reading of the text. You seem so convinced that the Bible is full of errors that you don't seem to be open to viable readings of the passage that don't contradict known facts."

      Gary: No, my view is supported by the overwhelming majority of scholars, including Jews, Christians, and non-believers. Your position is supported by a small minority of scholars, such as Mr. Sailhamer, almost all of whom happen to be fundamentalist/evangelical Christians or orthodox Jews.

      I suggest, Mike, that you seriously consider exactly WHO in this discussion is biased.

  6. And that is the great conundrum for Christians: Although there may be good evidence for a Creator (or Creators), the evidence strongly points to the fact that the Judeo-Christian god is the invention of ancient, scientifically-ignorant people.

    Yahweh does not exist.

    And if Yahweh does not exist, Jesus was mistaken. And if Jesus was mistaken about the existence of Yahweh, Jesus was not God, because Jesus claimed that he and Yahweh were one and the same.

    Skeptics do not need to prove all the claims of Christianity false, they only need to prove ONE claim false and the entire belief system collapses. The false biblical claim of the existence of a firmament proves Christianity false.

    Yes, scientists have discovered a new particle at CERN. Let us marvel at the evidence for this amazing new discovery! Let us ponder the origin of the universe! But let's not insult the beauty and complexity of the universe by asserting that a being who could not pass an 8th grade science quiz is it's Creator.

    1. ...and if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then all of your assertions above look pretty foolish. We have already established that the ONE claim on which Christianity rises or falls is the resurrection of Jesus. So we're back to that subject. Rather than continue to argue with you about why I think an actual resurrection is the only option that explains all the facts, I'll just refer you to the many authors I have pointed to who tried to disprove the resurrection based on the evidence but became Christians instead. The list included General Lee Wallace author of Ben Hur, Albert Henry Ross author of Who Moved the Stone (using pseudonym Frank Morison), Josh McDowell author of More than a Carpenter, J. Warner Wallace author of Cold Case Christianity, Malcom Muggeridge author of Jesus Rediscovered and Chronicles of Wasted Time, and Lee Strobel author of The Case for Christ. You can argue with them for a while if you want.

    2. And I can give you a very long list of former Christian pastors, including evangelical Christian pastors, who have left Christianity due to the mounting evidence that the Bible is NOT the word of the Creator, but the writings of ancient peoples trying to make sense of a world they did not understand.

      You can google the "Clergy Project" for the names of these pastors.

    3. This is the second time you mentioned the Clergy Project. Last time you mentioned it I had gone to the web site and read all 29 "stories" of these people who left their faith. Their stories really influenced me for they confirmed exactly what I believe. Despite your claim that this site would give me "evidence that the Bible is NOT the word of the Creator" it did just the opposite. Of the 29 stories maybe 3 even mentioned that they actually investigated the historicity of the Bible as part of their rejection. Of those few I found the details of their arguments lacking and what they did share quite telling. One person even mentioned the role that Dawkins' The God Delusion played in their deconversion. That showed me how minimal this person's understanding of theology and God must have been, for the God Delusion is full of logical fallacies, straw man arguments, arguments based on poor authority, a total misunderstanding of the Christian idea of God, etc. Most of the people left Christianity because they were disappointed with God, or just "couldn't believe" anymore. One person in particular admitted that they never really believed in God. Some were from belief systems I would call cults. I understand that anyone who chooses to follow God will, at times, be disappointed in how God seems to be treating them, and at times have to re-evaluate their beliefs, etc. That is part of maturing in any relationship or belief system. Philip Yancy's book Disappointment with God is a great book on that subject. Anyway, I encourage everyone who believes in the Christian God to read the Clergy Project. It is a great snapshot of the many reasons people leave their "religion" and little of it has to do with a balanced historical investigation of the truth of the Bible.

    4. Ok, I will then give you the names of a couple of evangelical pastors/missionaries who did leave Christianity based on the evidence. Here is one:

      "Kenneth W. Daniels has produced a powerful work that will give Christian readers much to think about. 'Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary' is an important book that should be widely read. The author's approach is gentle and honest while still managing to be unflinching and thorough. As a former fundamentalist Christian missionary who devoted far more time and energy than most to serving that religion, he obviously remembers what it feels like to be fully immersed in belief. Fortunately, Daniels has retained plenty of sympathy for those who cannot yet see that the supernatural claims of Christianity cannot stand up to honest scrutiny.

      This brilliant book is not a vicious attack on Christians. It is a strong but polite plea for them to see and hear new ideas, to consider the possibility that their belief system might be a mistake. Daniels maintains a humble tone throughout the book. He does not blast believers with arrogant claims of intellectual superiority on the question of faith. He simply shares thoughts and questions about his journey through Christianity and escape from it. This is a powerful story and Daniels has many piercing ideas that are likely to carry considerable weight with believers because of his difficult work as a missionary in Africa. Daniels earned his stripes as a committed Christian. He went way beyond the easy life of a casual Christian sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings. He lived his Christianity; he made serious commitments and followed through with sacrifices for his religion. For someone like him to walk away from it, with great reluctance, humility, and no rage says a lot. It gives Daniels tremendous credibility."

    5. Here is a link to this evangelical missionary's testimony about the evidence which caused him to deconvert from Christianity. His testimony provides a lot of detailed analysis of the evidence.

    6. The second name I am going to give you is Bruce Gerencser. He is a former evangelical/fundamentalist Baptist pastor. He looked at the evidence and became an atheist. Here is a link to his story:

      I encountered Mr. Gerencser one day while surfing the internet while I was still a Christian. I was horrified that an evangelical Christian pastor was spreading his "blasphemy" against God on the internet. I therefore attempted to bring this sinner back to Jesus Christ. I believed that his man had obviously not experienced "true Christianity".

      Instead, four months later, it was I who DE-CONVERTED; I had become an agnostic. He is very knowledgeable. He was an evangelical pastor for many years. He would be happy to discuss the evidence against the veracity of Christianity with you I am sure.

    7. Here is an excerpt from former pastor Bruce Gerencser's story:

      In the fall of 1972, Evangelist Al Lacy came to our church, Trinity Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio, to hold a revival meeting. On Sunday Morning, during Lacy’s sermon, the spirit of God came over me, telling me that I was a sinner in need of Christ. When it came time for the public invitation, I quickly stepped out of the pew, came down the aisle, and knelt at the altar. There, a church deacon took me through the plan of salvation and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart. I was fifteen. I was baptized that night, and a week or so later I went forward during the altar call and let the church know that God was calling me to be a preacher. Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon.

      As a first grader in San Diego, I told people that when I grew up I was going to be a preacher, and now, as a fifteen year old boy, I was telling the world that God was calling me to be what I wanted to be my entire life. From this point forward, most of the preachers I came in contact with worked with me and steered me towards fulfilling my calling. It came as a shock to no one that I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in 1976 to study for the ministry.

      All told, I preached for thirty-two years, spending twenty-five of those years pastoring seven churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I preached over four thousand sermons and taught countless Sunday school classes. For many years, I also preached on the street and at the local nursing home.

    8. Gary,

      I have read the information on the two web sites you sent me to. I don’t know what you are expecting me to see that I haven’t encountered before. I’ve been critically studying the evidence for and against Christianity for over 30 years. I have read the higher critics many times and those who say the Bible is not true. The arguments and statements made by Kenneth Daniels and Bruce Gerenscer are not new. They’ve been around for more than a century at least, and have been adequately answered by many Christian scholars and historians.

      I know there are some Christians who have never been exposed to some of these critiques before so they are startled to hear some of these ideas. But these ideas have all been discussed by Christian apologists and scholars who have answered them over the decades. For example Daniels makes a big deal about the post resurrection appearances not aligning with each other, but he assumes that Matthew is talking about the first appearance of Jesus, while John makes it clear that the appearances in Galilee were not the first. After all, the disciples were all in Jerusalem so, of course, the first appearances are there. I’ve already talked with you in some of my other comments about the difference between logical contradictions and different perspectives. It is pretty obvious this is a case of different perspectives with different emphasis. It is definitely NOT a logical contradiction. This resurrection “problem” is just one example I picked out from Daniels' book, but he does have many other criticisms that I just find lacking. So much of the dialogue on these web sites is rehashing old arguments that have reasonable solutions. Because I have some formal training in logic and reasoning it is easy for me to see the logical fallacies in so many of these arguments. They just aren’t persuasive, and they aren’t new or revolutionary.

      I don’t think it is worthwhile to have a long dialogue about each of the specific points made by these two people on this blog. That’s not the point of the blog. But I would be happy to dialogue with you when I have time by email if you want to email me. I would really like to hear more of your story about how Gerenscer’s arguments caused you to not believe the truth of the Bible or the resurrection of Jesus. I would appreciate hearing your story in the context of what has happened more broadly in your life. Maybe if you want to share some of your story you can email me instead of having such a conversation on this blog since, again, that would deviate far from the point of the blog.

    9. Thank you for your response, Michael. I am impressed that you took the time to read these two men's stories. I think it is important that both sides of this issue read the information from "the other side".

      I would be happy to continue our discussion but I prefer doing it on a public forum. If you prefer not to do it on your blog, come to my blog and we can discuss this issue at length there. Here is the web address:

    10. I wrote out my story on my blog, indicating to my readers that you might engage me in conversation there. Some of my readers may ask you questions or leave responses, but you are not obligated to respond to them. I realize that you are a busy man. I do not moderate or edit comments, so your comments will post immediately.

      I look forward to continuing our discussion, hopefully, here:

  7. Dr. Strauss, this is Neal Stetson, Autumn Thigpen's sig other you had lunch with. I have been keeping up with most of your posts and find them absolutely fascinating. I always have more questions but I'm not on the same level as a lot of the people I read the comments of below your posts and do not have a firm grasp of much of the content having never taken a formal physics class. A lot of my questions have to do with the physics of the posts so I do not want to waste your time with them as I could easily just google them. I am happy to say I have a 3.9 GPA and will have finished taking all the prerequisites to take physics when I get to OU and will do what I need to so I can take it with you if possible. Autumn and I have also been listening to The Case for Christ on audiobook. We both enjoy it a lot. It has not made a believer out of me yet but we just started. And it is helping Autumn a lot I think. Anyway, I do feel like I can comment on this post because this is something I think about all the time. It is not just that this universe has obviously been designed in a way that can be quantified and measured and observed that is the most interesting to me...its that a species of life on a planet in a galaxy was able to evolve enough to understand it. Thats not coincidence. As with humans ability to predict gravitational waves and then build a machine that would detect them within years of them being detected from two black holes colliding 1.4 billion light years away...its just too much to apply randomness to the whole thing. Does that mean we're special or unique? Not in my opinion. I do not think we can know we if we are or aren't so I do not see the point in believing one way or the other. What it does mean is that the universe is meant to be observed and we have the capability. It's ridiculous to try to explain this as chance. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. And I look forward to taking your class at OU!!

    1. It is amazing that we can comprehend the universe to some degree. I'm always amazed by that as someone who studies the universe every day in my job.

  8. I'd be curious if you have looked at and reviewed the research of Chinese scientists in 2014 regarding evidence that indicates that it is possible that the universe developing out of nothing:

    1. I have critiqued Krauss's Universe from Nothing. This paper makes the same assumptions with the same fatal flaw. Can you find it?