Can Science Explain Everything Without God?

string theory multiple dimensions

The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene has got to be one of the most interesting books I have ever picked up.  Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University who is widely regarded for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory.  His book explains and illustrates the fundamental concepts of relativity, both general and special, and quantum mechanics, and then explains how superstring theory is making great strides towards unifying theses models into one all-encompassing theory of everything.

The search for a scientific theory of everything, or T.O.E., has been practically frantic for decades.  In essence, a successful T.O.E. would provide one all-encompassing cohesive framework for explaining the properties and behaviors of all matter, all energy, and all forces in all dimensions.  We’ve already acquired some very intriguing insights into the nature of motion, acceleration, gravity, matter, space, and time among other things through empirically verifiable experiments, and superstring theory may one day be capable of unifying and making sense of these findings.

The search for a T.O.E. is exciting because, as human beings, we have a real hunger to understand the world around us.  We want to know the how and the why, not just the what.  If we could establish a fully cohesive, logically consistent T.O.E. that was supported by experimental evidence, we would finally know the how and the why of everything that goes on in the universe, and would no longer need God to explain anything, right?

Well, not exactly…  Leaving aside the philosophical discussion about whether our minds would even be trustworthy guides in a materialistic universe, here are some other gaps that such a T.O.E. would not close:

1) Observations that can contribute to science are limited to phenomena observable by the 5 sense organs.
Information about reality is only valid for scientific purposes if we become aware of it through the use of our senses provided by our physical bodies.  This is wonderful because it eliminates a huge amount of subjectivism from the scientific process.  But it also rules out the possibility of science describing or explaining anything that cannot be observed this way.  Therefore any phenomena not observable in any way by any of the senses is beyond the realm of science.  Science has no business saying what does or does not exist in this realm.  It is inherently limited to a description of the sensory.

Someone might point out that scientists also use logic and math that has not been confirmed by direct observation, but these concepts do follow directly from mathematical and logical concepts that we have observed at work in the real world, and are confirmed by experiment.

The bottom line is that since science does not have authority in the realm of the subjective, it cannot rule out the existence of realities that are not universally observable in the natural world.  That’s potentially a big hole in a theoretical T.O.E.  Why should we assume that all truths are universally observable in the natural world by the sense organs?

2) Implications of probability waves in quantum mechanics.
The double-slit experiment and other data indicate that all particles exhibit characteristics of both particles and waves, and that the wavelike behavior of a particle, such as an electron for instance, is modeled by the mathematical concept of a probability.

In other words, we absolutely cannot predict where a particle is going to go, we can only give the probability that we will find it at any place at any time.  This is not due to a lack of knowledge on our part, this is literally because particles do not behave in an exactly predictable manner.  There is actually an element of true, mathematical randomness in their behavior.  If the same experiment is carried out the same exact way multiple times, a particle will not behave the same way each time, even with all else equal.

This concept deeply shakes our concept of reality.  And for those interested, Heisenberg uncertainty and quantum tunneling make things even weirder.  These concepts led Richard Feynman to write of quantum mechanics that it “describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense.  And it fully agrees with experiment.  So I hope you accept nature as She is–absurd.”  This is one of the most brilliant physicists since Einstein speaking.

But what if the behaviors of particles aren’t actually random?  What if they behave within a certain framework of probabilities so as to maintain order in the cosmos, but leave a certain amount of “randomness” in their behavior for manipulation by a supernatural agent?  This concept essentially provides a scientific means for the occurrence of “miracles” which would be departures from the possibilities allowed by classical, but not contemporary physics.

3) The existence of information, matter, energy, time, space, or anything.
Scientists are uncovering an ever growing body of specific information about the nature, behavior, and natural laws of our universe.  From universal constants to mathematical formulas of incredible complexity to the information encoded in our DNA that they would claim resulted indirectly from these constants and formulas.

But even if we were to identify all of the information that describes physical existence, we wouldn’t have identified where the information came from, or where the matter came from that it acted on, or where anything at all originally came from.  The materialist can choose to assume that it was just always there, and most do believe essentially this.

But notice that not only is the question of why such information and matter “always was” beyond the scope of human science, it also indicates the existence of an eternal, omnipresent, immaterial body of very specific and elegant information that has resulted in fantastic and beautiful complexity, and that this information either already contained or else resulted in consciousness (after all, it has resulted in us.)

Surely even as a cynic, if you know the basic philosophical claims that the Hebrew scriptures make, and you are familiar with contemporary scientific findings, you see that the two are in fact converging rather than moving farther apart.

I hope that in light of these principals, it is clear that while a T.O.E., if it is even possible for us to uncover and uncover reliably with our human minds, would not have authority to speak on matters whose implications are unverifiable by the sense organs, would leave the door open for supernatural agency in our world through probability waves in quantum mechanics, and would explain the behavior of but not the reason for the existence of information or anything else.

The Cosmological Argument: An Intelligible, Contemporary Version

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Statement of Intention:

The cosmological argument for the existence of God is nothing new.  In fact, atheists indicate that they are getting tired of refuting it over and over again.  But because of recent advances in science and philosophy, the cosmological argument is actually stronger than ever.

My intention here is not to simply restate the same argument that has always been made in the same way that it has always been presented, but to present it in a clear and concise, up-to-date, relevant way that internally addresses the claims that atheists make in their responses to it.

Presentation of Argument:

1) Anything that exists either a) has a cause outside of itself (and is a “contingent being,”) or b) is causeless or self-causing (and is a “necessary being.”)

*Note that the cause that resulted in a contingent being is itself a thing that exists, and thus it also must be either a contingent or a necessary being.

2) Since a contingent being exists, it must be a) the result of an infinite string of other contingent beings, or b) the direct result of a necessary being, or of a string of one or more contingent beings that ends in a necessary being.

It should be obvious once these concepts are understood that the vast majority of entities that we can identify in our world (physical objects of all sorts, people, etc.) are in fact the result of a very long line of contingent beings.

So is this very long string of contingent beings infinite, or does it end in the existence of a necessary being?  This brings us to our third premise.

3) An infinite series of causes never reaches a final product, so nothing that exists in the present can have resulted from an infinite string of contingent beings.

*Mentally note the difference between “eternal” and “infinite.”  Eternity merely indicates that something is outside of time, while infinity indicates a quantity with no bounds.  Infinity may be a useful concept in abstract mathematics, but in reality it is by definition an impossibility for us to have arrived here from an infinite string of previous causes, since one more cause would always have to be added before we could arrive at the present, and one more, and one more, etc.  In any case, it is unsatisfactory to answer the question “where do contingent beings come from” with the response “other contingent beings make them.”

4) In light of these three previous premises, since either an infinite string of contingent beings or the existence of at least one necessary being must have brought us to the present, and since an infinite string of causes can not have done so, a necessary being must exist.

Very well then.  A being which either caused itself or has no cause must exist or at least have existed in the past.

Addressing The Most Common Objection:

The common follow-up question: “then where did the first cause come from?” displays a failure to properly understand the argument.  If the argument is properly understood, it logically demonstrates that an uncaused or self-caused being must exist, it is an unavoidable conclusion that can only be escaped if one of the premises can be shown false.

Let me illustrate this concept this way: whether you are a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist, you absolutely must acknowledge that something is self-causing or uncaused.  It could be the universe.  It could be a god.  It could be a god that made a god.  But you absolutely must stop somewhere and call it the beginning.  Without a beginning for your story you can never get to the middle.

Taking the Argument Further:

To suggest that at this point I have proven that God exists would be shortsighted and naive.  I have simply proven that something is uncaused or self-caused.  So why not the universe?  After all, if the laws in the universe can explain its own behavior, why make up a God to go one step beyond the evidence when He is unnecessary to explain the nature of material reality?

The common response to those questions from a thinking believer is that the evidence for the big bang has proven that the universe had a beginning, and if it had a beginning then it had a cause and it thus must be a contingent being.  This is reasonable because in reality we observe that a thing can be a certain way in the simple case that it already was a certain way and nothing has changed it, but nothing begins or happens without something causing it to be so.

But let us humor the hypothetical atheistic standpoints that the universe caused itself suddenly at the big bang, or that an uncaused set of laws called it into existence.  The laws and constants that govern our reality, and the math behind it all, are said to be sufficient to have called the universe into existence, creating matter, time, etc. in the process.

The laws that govern the universe might possibly be capable of this act… if they were actually capable of doing any act!  But laws don’t actually govern, they simply describe.  The laws of nature do not have authority, ordering around the universe, commanding it to behave a certain way.  They simply describe for us the patterns that we have found in the universe’s behavior.

In fact, that atheists would suggest that natural laws “govern” our universe,  essentially commanding it to act a certain way and “calling” the universe into existence betrays the intuitiveness of the idea that a mind really is at work here!  Something with agency, something with the power and authority to establish such organized behavior is indeed at work, and natural laws describe this agent.

The bottom line is that acts of governing, commanding, and calling are only doable by a being with agency.  Natural laws are merely descriptive principles of observed patterns in our universe, and descriptions of recognized patterns cannot do anything, they are mere information.

Whatever the necessary being behind everything is, it has caused our universe to behave in the way that our natural laws describe.  Logic has brought us to God’s doorstep.

See a problem with my argumentation?  Point it out in the comments, I’m always looking for new clarity.

Speaking With Authority About Origins

demolition

In an ingenious slam poetry performance, Taylor Mali addresses the trend in intellectualism for the past several decades of doing the easy work of tearing down ideas without doing the hard work of building cohesive new ones.  The last line of his humorous performance suddenly takes a turn for the serious as he pronounces:

“Contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days just to question authority, you gotta speak with it, too.”

Atheism claims that there is no reason to believe in God anymore because we do not need Him to explain the existence of the world around us.  In science, we are told, we do not assume that something exists unless its existence is necessitated by the evidence.  The burden of proof is placed on the believer.

It really is so much easier to tear down an idea than to build one up.  To place the burden of proof on your opponent.  To point out all of the things that we can’t know.  This is really the essence of the argument against God.

In light of this principle I would like to address the use of the studies of physics and macroevolution by the atheistic movement.

In my limited understanding and exposure to the world of contemporary physics, I find it to be a substantial, respectable field.  Much of it is speculative, but much of it is also well documented and speaks with authority in describing the world around us.

I’ve got my own problems with the theory of evolution.  I don’t think it holds water.  But I will say in its favor that the theory of evolution speaks with authority about something.  It isn’t about shifting the burden of proof onto someone else.  It isn’t about pointing out all of the things that we can’t know or can’t prove.  

I don’t believe in the theory of macroevolution, but I can respect the fact that it seeks to explain, rather than to tear down.  What I can’t respect is the arrogance with which atheism takes these theories and others and uses them to tear down the idea of God.  Let me explain why.

Concerning macroevolution:

To claim that because we have a plausible theory (which I would claim is actually very weak) about how life could have evolved from a single cell into man, has little to do with the incredible questions of the universe’s existence or order.  It even leaves the question of the origin of life unanswered.

Concerning contemporary physics:

I said earlier that science claims not to need God to explain the existence and order in the cosmos.  But science has not explained why the universe exists or why it is the way it is.

The general vague idea is that the laws and constants that govern our universe are eternal and that they called the universe into existence.  For starters, this does’t explain where the laws themselves came from.  Secondly, it doesn’t explain why they happen to be so beautifully and incredibly fine-tuned.  And thirdly, this is a very primitive and unsubstantiated view of natural laws.

As philosopher and author Jim Holt points out, “physical laws are actually generalized descriptions of patterns and regularities in the world.  They don’t exist outside the world… they can’t call a world into existence out of nothingness.”  He points out that even Stephen Hawking asks what breathes fire into the equations and gives them a universe to describe.

Why does something exist instead of nothing?  Physics, which merely explains the behavior of our universe, has no answer.

Why is there so much fine tuning in the universe?  The best atheistic answer is that there are an infinite number of universes and that we happen to live in an amazingly orderly one.  So let’s see, the chances of that are about… 1 in infinity.

Where did the first life come from?  Investigate the atheistic theories for yourself.  Panspermia simply dodges the question, and all other proposals are embarrassing and contrived.

Where does consciousness come from?  The best atheistic answer is that it is a fundamental constant of reality.  Which borders on and honestly encroaches on the existence of the supernatural in its implications.

In conclusion:

Macroevolution makes pronouncements and theories about the way things are.  Physics describes our universe with elegance and precision.  But atheism wrongly uses these studies to tear down ideas which it has no ability to replace.  It questions authority without the ability to speak with it.

If you want authoritative, substantial answers, consider a Biblical worldview.

Do Scientific Dating Methods Support Macroevolution?

jungle

Christians believe that God’s creation of the universe ended just 6,000 years ago.  Thus, human history goes back only 6,000 years, to a real man named Adam and a real woman named Eve, and macroevolution has not occurred.  How can this be true?  Does this view not contradict good science?

First, remember that Einsteins demonstration that time and space are a part of the same fabric.  In light of this, it is logical that when God stretched out the space in the universe, he was stretching out time with it.  Thus, in a very literal sense, there could be 14 billion years of the dimension that we call time between us and that event, just as there appears also to be a great deal of the spacial dimensions between us and that event as well.

This view would allow for astrophysicists and cosmologists to see evidence for a universe that was, technically speaking, billions of years old.  The material in our earth would also be very old in a technical sense.  But there would be no evidence for life existing on earth more than about 6,000 years ago.  So, is this view even possible, or is it absolute nonsense?

It is time for a basic review of scientific dating methods.  There are two types of dating methods: relative, and absolute.  

Relative dating means we take objects that we already know the age of, and use them to evaluate the ages of other objects that we know came before or after them, or were contemporaneous of them.  So basically, if we find a fossil in a rock that we believe to be 2 billion years old, the fossil is assumed to be 2 billion years old.  Or, if we find a fossil that we believe to be 2 billion years old in a rock, we will assume the rock to be that age as well.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this kind of dating will spread inaccurate dates like wildfire through the scientific community if incorrect assumptions are made about the ages of objects that we do know.  This illustrates the great importance of the second kind of dating method, the absolute, which according to the UK’s Natural History Museum, gives us an item’s “exact age.”

There are a handful of categories that absolute dating methods can further be divided into, but the most widely used and trusted are radiometric dating methods.  Most objects in nature contain radioactive isotopes.  In very basic terms, these are elements that decay into different elements, or different isotopes of the same elements.  Since they decay at a steady rate (or at least they have since we started paying attention,) if we know the amount of an isotope in something when is was formed (or in the case of a living thing, when it died,) we can determined its age based on the amount of the products of its decay in our sample.

But the problem, as many have pointed out, is that in the case of non-living objects such as rocks, there is so much room for contamination during the time between the objects creation and our sampling of it.  To make matters worse, we can only speculate about the amount of isotopes in the original.  Perhaps this is why samples of fresh lava from Mt. St. Helens were dated to between 340,000 and 2.8 Million years old only a few years after its creation.

But with living things the method is much more reliable, right?  Not in all cases.  Not unless living mollusks died 2,300 years ago (“Radiocarbon Dating: Fictitious Results With Mollusk Shells,” Science , Vol. 141, p. 634).  We are making too many assumptions about initial quantities of isotopes, constant rates of decay, lack of contamination, and precision of measurement.

I’m skeptical of the dates that the scientific community is putting on fossils.  If rocks are being dated to be extravagantly older than they really are, and we are then using relative dating to determine the age of the fossils in those rocks, then our entire timescale for living things on earth is reduced to rubble.

Even scientists admit that carbon-14 dating is “not generally reliable for finds that are more than 40,000 years old,” and the rampant use of relative dating leaves the door open for widespread error.  Evolution does indeed need millions and billions of years between the appearance of the first living organisms and the appearance of man, and we simply have no reliable way of validating those kinds of numbers.

Love: the Cosmic Glue of the Universe

Hands_of_God_and_Adam

The Bible teaches in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians that in Christ “all things hold together.”  Christ is the cosmic glue that creates order out of chaos.  

He does this, as many apologists have pointed out, in defiance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  He reaches into a reality that by its own natural laws ought to move from order to disorder – from having pockets of heat and activity to being calm and cool throughout, from being organized to being chaotic – and He orchestrates its ongoing organization and meaning.

Thus we find ourselves, in a world bursting with meaningful information and beautiful, elegant complexity.  We find ourselves conscious, a fact that stuns and stumps atheistic scientists to this day.  We find ourselves in a world with bananas and oranges conveniently waiting to be picked, peeled, and eaten.  With chickens producing eggs like factories for us to crack and fry.  With tides and winds that have moved our watercraft for centuries.  With a moon and starts that taught us about the times to plant and harvest our crops.  It is a world with language, emotions, morals, and ideas.  A world phenomenally balanced between any extreme condition that might make it immeasurable more mundane.

So how does He do it?

Jesus glues the universe together (Colossians 1:17,) Jesus is God (John 1:1,) and God is love (1 John 4:8.)  Therefore I suggest that love is that glue that orchestrates and solidifies this universe.

But I want to define love far more broadly than the emotional feeling that we typically associate with the word.  Love is an affinity of one entity for another, even despite resistance or opposition.

By this definition, the planet earth loves the sun.  Despite the inertia constantly pulling it out into the darkness, away from all warmth or order, it gravitates towards the sun with all of its mass so that it may stay nearby.

Yes, by my definition there are four physical loves that accompany the other emotional or spiritual ones: gravity, electromagnetic force, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.  

And so atoms bond when their affinity for each other overcomes their resistance.  They form molecules which may build up into beautiful and orderly crystals or, by the intelligent hand of our designer, our very DNA.  These molecules also work together to build our tissues, which build our organs, which work together in various organ systems to build our bodies.  Our bodies in turn build societies and organizations.

Order.  Dictated by the laws of attraction.

Many scientists today acknowledge these physical loves but deny the spiritual ones, writing them off as illusions.  Even their love for their own families and friends they boil down to a meaningless electrical and chemical event.  They acknowledge the exchanging of electrons in the formation of ionic bonds, but they refuse the forgiveness of a God who would welcome them into a familial bond with Him through His Son’s sacrifice.

In then end, all things devoid of adequate physical love will not hold together physically.  It follows that all things devoid of sufficient spiritual love will not hold together spiritually.  The Bible’s description of hell as a place of fire turns out to be a very insightful description.  The breakdown of order.  The stripping away, piece by infinitesimal piece, in a beautiful but horrible display, of all that once constituted a meaningful whole.

Even as they learn to preserve and improve their own buildings and bridges, physical environments, and even their own bodies, they neglect their own souls, and unchain themselves from the Son.

http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970108b.html