Monday, December 29, 2014

Yellow Cat Takes On The God Hypothesis

A reader asks why I don't embrace the hypothesis that God created the universe. Higgs the cat answers him.

Yellow Cat Takes On The God Hypothesis

F.F. After my visit with Richard Dawkins I’ve started thinking more in terms of those self-replicating viral ideas he dubbed “memes”. A recent letter from a creationist seemed interesting to me in that it amounted to a big pile of creationist-friendly memes – memes about Louis Pasteur, about the origin of the cosmos, and about thermodynamics. This is not the clearest letter I’ve received and it’s not the nicest, but I thought if anyone could handle it, it would be Higgs, who once made his living hunting rats in city dumpsters. It's quite long, so I recommend you skim it.

Reader: I have read some of your recent columns on Science and Creation in The Inquirer, and I found the one of January 23rd ("Cheers For The Word 'God'") particularly interesting.

Actually, I have never heard so much sheer philosophical balderdash masquerading as "science" in my life.

In that article, you say that many scientists who subscribe to Darwinian evolution insist that there is a naturalistic explanation for how the universe came about. Apparently now they are even starting to deny proven science (and the laws of physics) in order to continue to hang on to that belief. (Now "spontaneous generation" is all of a sudden possible again, even after respected scientists like Francesco Redi, Lazzaro Spallanzani, Rudolf Virchow, and Louis Pasteur definitively proved that it isn't possible?) This really is beginning to sound to me much more like a godless religion than objective science. And it is getting more and more desperate in defending its orthodoxy. Now it is even willing to throw logic itself completely out the window, supposedly in the pursuit of the "rational".

For instance, Stephen Hawking, despite the work of Einstein, Hubble, and almost all other verifiable scientific evidence, is still insisting that the universe has always existed, and didn't have a beginning. (Whatever happened to the proven scientific law that all effects must have a cause? And the Laws of Thermodynamics that strongly insinuate that the universe had to have once had a starting point and that neither matter nor energy -- at least by itself, according to naturalistic laws -- cannot be created or destroyed? How did these things create themselves when all the laws of physics that we know say they can't do that?) You also have other Darwiniacs insisting that naturalistic physical laws somehow contributed to the formation of the early universe. But then where did those physical laws come from? And if they did not exist before the universe existed, then how could they have contributed anything to its creation? The whole concept of a "natural creation of the universe" violates everything we know about reality. The natural universe could not have brought itself into being all on its own, because spontaneous generation of anything from absolutely nothing is (according to naturalism!) impossible, no matter what Darwinian scientists try to tell us! That you could get something from nothing defies all the laws of logic that we know. Yet Darwiniacs insist on asserting this, and then calling it "science". Again, I say, "Balderdash"!

(For those logic-impaired dolts who will then come back and say "But theists insist that God made the universe from nothing!" -- this isn't the same thing at all as saying the universe created itself from nothing. If God created the universe from nothing, then the Universe had a cause -- God! This fits right in with what the laws of physics tell us. The natural universe cannot even sustain itself -- it is rapidly winding down, and will eventually cease to exist when all usable matter and energy is used up. Then how could it have created itself from nothing if it can't even sustain itself after being created?)

Why do Darwinian scientists keep insisting that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" cannot be a legitimate explanation (scientific or otherwise) for the beginning of the universe simply because they may not be able to explain in scientific terms how that event came about? You mean reality can't be real unless we humans (in our all-mighty infinite understanding and intelligence) cannot first adequately explain it in naturalistic, scientific terms? But why must creation fit into that neat, tidy little intellectual box (a box artificially created by human beings who think they must be able to explain everything in human terms!) before we can accept it as the truth?

MIT cosmologist Alan Guth said in your January 23rd article, "We don't have a solid theory of how the universe originated -- but that doesn't mean we have to invoke a deity." But why not? Does the lack of a solid theory automatically eliminate the possibility of a deity? No, it does not.

And why does invoking a deity (or a supernatural cause) for the creation of the universe automatically become a "placeholder for an intellectual gap" and a "fatal flaw"? Why can't it be an explanation in itself? Just because we can't fit that into a test tube and study it?

Then, at the very end of your article, Alex Vilenkin of Tufts University says that it's a "mystery" how the universe could bring itself into existence without having physical laws already in existence to cause that beginning  to come about. (Good question!) Then he speculates whether there can be "laws governing nothing".

No, you lamebrain -- or else then there would be something! Then you're right back to where you started! You call this reasoning "science"? I call it a pitiful attempt to salvage Darwinism at any cost, when it's becoming quite clear that Darwinism can no longer explain anything!

This is what naturalistic scientists always do when they end up being forced to "bump up against the idea of God" -- they just slough everything off then and say, "well, it's a mystery".

Sure it's a mystery. When you automatically eliminate the only possible answer for anything (God), then of course you're going to be left with a "mystery" that you cannot solve! When you say "the only possible answer is something we won't even consider" you're always going to end up stuck with an unsolvable "mystery"!

And as for "positive evidence" in the universe that God exists --the many professional scientists at the Institute For Creation Research headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and the scientists and philosophers at the Discovery Institute headquartered in Seattle, Washington can provide you with plenty of that -- if you have an open-enough mind to consider any of it (which most Darwiniacs do not).

We also have the historically documented life of Jesus Christ (testified to by many direct eyewitnesses who wrote down what they saw and heard, and the various dedicated scholars, historians and copyists who made absolutely sure that those documents would be available in their original form to all future generations), who claimed to be the very God who created everything manifested in human form in order to communicate with us. He Himself provides plenty of positive evidence for the existence of the God who said "In the beginning I created the heavens and the earth".

Why is that considerable "positive evidence" always completely ignored by people who insist that naturalism is the only explanation we have for anything?

Kirk Hastings, Somers Point, NJ, Author of "What Is Truth? A Handbook For Separating Fact From Fiction In A Propaganda-Filled World" (2009), and co-host of the weekly radio program "Evidence4Faith", heard on WIBG 1020AM Sundays at 4 PM.

Higgs: Dear Sir, I did not know there were shock jocks on Christian radio. Before I answer your question, I’d like to ask one of you: Do you think Jesus would use the terms “lamebrain” or “logic impaired dolt” to address people with whom he disagrees?

I’d also like to point out that Louis Pasteur is not widely credited with proving the existence of God as creator of life. He discovered that under certain laboratory conditions, living things don’t spring up under sterile conditions over periods of days or weeks. Bacteria come from other bacteria. He did not prove that living things much simpler than today’s bacteria might have self-assembled out of complex organic molecules in the primordial soup over tens or hundreds of thousands of years.

None of those other people are credited with proving God created life either.

In the paragraph on Einstein and Stephen Hawking, I do give you some points for originality of approach. I’ve seen other creationists practice what’s called “quote mining”, in which small snippets of a quote are taken out of context, often to imply someone said something exactly counter to his or her beliefs.

But hey, it’s much more efficient to make up Einstein and Hawking quotes from scratch. And I can see how you might get away with it if listeners of your Christian radio show haven’t read any of Hawking’s books and don’t realize that he never said the universe has always existed. Also,  Einstein didn’t say the universe had a beginning. Einstein did alter his theory of relativity after realizing that the universe was not static but expanding. He had originally added a so-called cosmological constant to keep everything from collapsing, but later realized that if the universe was in fact expanding, relativity worked without the constant.  

But I digress. I admire the fact that you have the chutzpah to make up your own laws of physics.  Alas, there is no “proven law” that everything must have a cause. The laws of thermodynamics don’t “insinuate” that the universe had a beginning either. And matter and energy can be converted back and forth, so it is in fact possible for matter to come into existence through natural means. Otherwise it would be futile to expect a Higgs particle to materialize in the Large Hadron Collider.  

This leads me to your question about why so many scientists don’t take seriously the God-did-it hypothesis for the origin of the universe.

You see, while scientific theories are subject to revision, they are not arbitrary. You can’t just make up new laws willy nilly. In physics, a theory needs empirical, theoretical and mathematical grounding. Some of the newer ideas such as string theory are criticized for having just two out of three of these kinds of justifications, but at least string theory connects general relativity and quantum mechanics. The God-created-the-universe hypothesis in contrast has no empirical or theoretical or mathematical backing. It strikes out.   

An equally plausible theory is that the MGM lion created the universe. While felids aren’t big on worship, my ears perk up when the MGM lion roars and I feel a tingle in my spine. But I don’t get mad at scientists for dismissing the MGM lion-as-creator hypothesis. They don’t have any evidence in its favor. 

Another serious problem with the hypothesis that either God or the MGM lion created the universe is that it doesn’t answer any questions. If you take the assumption that complex things can’t just come about naturally but need to be created by the MGM lion, then who created the MGM lion? And how did the MGM lion do it? You are left with exactly as many unanswered questions as you started with.

And while it’s true there’s something puzzling about the origin of the laws of physics, it gains us no intellectual ground to say that the MGM lion wrote them. For a meaty discussion of the laws of physics, I’d recommend this link to the blog Cosmic Variance. Physicist Sean Carroll of Caltech (a good place to learn about physics!) has some very interesting observations on the matter. Here’s how he ends the post:  

Human beings have a natural tendency to look for meaning and purpose out there in the universe, but we shouldn’t elevate that tendency to a cosmic principle. Meaning and purpose are created by us, not lurking somewhere within the ultimate architecture of reality. And that’s okay. I’m happy to take the universe just as we find it; it’s the only one we have.

I’m down with that! It’s not a bad universe, as they go. Thanks for letting me express my opinion – Higgs.  

P.S. Dr. Carroll of Caltech and Leonard Finegold of Drexel U. both deserve treats for advising me.  

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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