Evillution

The theology of atheism

ABSTRACT: Is the belief in nothing (atheism) actually a belief in something (theism). SCOTUS has made several definitive decisions; unfortunately, many of the lower courts that hear the arguments for/against the teachings of evolution/creationism/Intelligent Design seem to not have read those opinions. So let’s explore the ramifications of these decisions.

In School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that “the State may not establish a religion of secularism in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.”[1] Government advancement of nontheistic or atheistic religious viewpoints would thus presumably be subject to the same limitations of the Establishment Clause as the prohibition against endorsing traditional theistic religious viewpoints. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that non-theistic viewpoints can qualify as religious when they “occupy the same place in [a person’s] life as the belief in a traditional deity holds,”[2] occupy . . . ‘a place parallel to that filled by God’ in traditional religious persons,”[3] or comprise “an aspect of human thought and action which profoundly relates the life of man to the world in which he lives.”[4] In one case, the Court listed “Secular Humanism” as a religious viewpoint.[5]

Importantly, the widely used Lemon test[6] requires that “principal or primary effect” of a government policy “must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion.”[7]In other words, if the government starts endorsing atheists who are bashing religion, then that could violate the Establishment Clause.

In 2005, the Supreme Court reiterated its view that religion should not be defined narrowly, [8] and the Seventh Circuit likewise observed that “the Court has adopted a broad definition of ‘religion’ that includes non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as theistic ones.”[9] The Seventh Circuit went on to note that “[t]he Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a ‘religion’ for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions[.] . . .”9 Earlier, the Seventh Circuit had observed that “[i]f we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion.”[10] Thus, atheism can be a religion for the purpose of constitutional analysis.

In analyzing the controversy over teaching origins in a public school it becomes necessary to address a more fundamental question: What is religion? The question is important for the Constitution permits only limited intrusion by the public school into the “religious sphere:”“[T]he Establishment Clause stands at least for the proposition that when government activities touch on the religious sphere, they must be secular in purpose, evenhanded in operation, and neutral in primary impact.” [Gillette v. U.S., 401 U.S. 437, 450 (1971)].

The meaning of religion becomes critical at this point because it determines the meaning of “secular” by default. “Secular” then simply means “not religious.” Thus, the scope of the “secular” sphere arises by default, based on the scope of the religious sphere. It is critically important for the Government to know the boundaries of the secular sphere. The constitution allows the government to promote ideas and activities without restraint in that sphere, but not in the religious sphere. Indeed, it must have a “secular” purpose to even enter the religious sphere.

So this brings up the important question of how can one know if the purpose being considered is secular if one does not know the meaning of religion?

In the last sixty years the Supreme Court and other courts have recognized that a number of non-theistic belief systems function in the lives of their adherents in the same manner as traditional theism functions in the lives of its adherents. To ensure that the First Amendment satisfies its non-discriminatory purpose the courts have recognized that these functional equivalents are just as religious as the views of traditional theists. Hence the courts have embraced an inclusive definition that is not confined to just belief in God, but rather includes beliefs about God and other “matters of ultimate concern.”

This was explained by the Supreme Court in a 1992 opinion holding that government cannot prefer “theistic over nontheistic religion,” and that the “settled law” is that the “Clause applies ‘to each of us, be he Jew or Agnostic, Christian or Atheist, Buddhist or Freethinker’” [Lee v. Weisman, 1992] The Court has also recognized that “Secular” Humanism is a non-theistic religion.  (see my posting at: https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/7-reasons-why-atheism-is-a-religion/ ). According to the Humanist Manifesto, adherents to the faith include Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics, Skeptics, Deists, and other “liberal religions.”

Although the boundary between the religious and secular have not been defined with absolute precision, the cases, taken as a whole, indicate generally that religion is an organized set of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life. It is a belief system that “profoundly relates the life of man to the world in which he lives” [McGowan v. Maryland, 1961]. Traditional theists relate life to the world through a creator of both while non-theists view life as simply arising from the world without the guiding hand of an intervening Deity.

So SCOTUS and various appeals courts HAVE determined what constitutes religion in a variety of cases. So why does certain lower courts tend to ignore the legal definition and use the popular one instead.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (W.D. Penn 2005) illustrates the importance of the definition of

religion. In that case Judge John Jones used the popular rather than legal definition of religion in assessing the religious effect of a new school policy on teaching origins. The Policy was “to advise students of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to intelligent design.” According to the Court this “ID Policy” caused the state to enter the religious sphere and thereby endorse “religion,” defined as just belief in God or the supernatural.

The Article shows that if Judge Jones had employed the legal definition previously employed by the Supreme Court and his Third Circuit peers, the result would have been different. He and his hypothetical “objective observer” would have immediately recognized that the school had already entered the religious sphere when it chose to discuss with students religious subject matter – the cause of life and how life is related to the world in which it is lived. Furthermore, since the existing curriculum permitted students to be shown only a materialistic natural cause explanation of that relationship, it was not “evenhanded in operation, and neutral in primary impact.” Given these existing circumstances, the court should have found that the ID Policy was not only legal, but also necessary to permit the state to continue to address that religiously charged subject in a manner that was “evenhanded in operation, and neutral in primary impact.”

Why this is a problem:

First, creationism has been firmly deemed a religious viewpoint by multiple courts, but teaching ID in public schools has only been addressed by one federal trial court, and ID proponents consider ID to be scientific and thereby constitutional for both advocacy and critique in public schools. Critics allege that both ID and creationism are religious viewpoints, and they oppose the advocacy of both views in public schools. But evolutionists—who strongly hold ID is religion—ignore the First Amendment’s prohibition on inhibiting, disapproving, or opposing religion by actively supporting attacks on ID and creationism in public schools.

Second, evolutionists purport to oppose advocating religious viewpoints in public schools, but leading lobbyists for evolution education unashamedly advocate that public school teachers endorse and advocate pro-evolution theistic religious viewpoints in science classrooms to help students accept evolution.

Third, many textbooks used in public schools promote evolution along with philosophical materialism, preferring non-theistic or atheistic religious viewpoints over theistic religious viewpoints. This constitutes government preference for various non-theistic or atheistic religious viewpoints that support evolution in opposition to religious viewpoints that do not support evolution.
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[1] Sch. Dist. of Abington Twp. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted) (explaining that a secular education is not per se unconstitutional).

[2] United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163, 187 (1965).

[3] Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333, 340 (1970).

[4] McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 461 (1961).

[5] Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 n.11 (1961).

[6] The 3 components of the lemon test: The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion. “If any of these three prongs are violated, the government’s action is deemed ‘unconstitutional’…” Lemon v. Kurtzman 1971

[7] Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 n.11 (1961).

[8] Smith v.Bd. of Sch. Comm’rs of Mobile County, 827 F.2d 684, 690, 692 (11th Cir. 1987) (equating “inhibiting religion” with exhibiting “an attitude antagonistic to theistic belief” or attempting to “discredit it”).

[9] Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2005).

[10] Reed v. Great Lakes Cos., 330 F.3d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 2003).

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Evillution

7 reasons why atheism is a religion

Atheism[1] will be defined as not just the lack of belief in a god, but the insistence about the non-existence of any gods, spirits, or divine or supernatural beings. Atheists in this sense are metaphysical naturalists, and as will be shown, they DO follow a religion.

Religion is a difficult thing to define. Various definitions have been proposed, many of which emphasize a belief in the supernatural.[2] But such definitions fail to deal with religions which worship non-supernatural things in their own right (for example Jainism, which holds that every living thing is sacred because it is alive, or the Mayans who worshiped the sun as a deity-among others); they fail to include religions such as Confucianism and Taoism which focus almost exclusively on how believers should live, and have little to say about supernatural issues such as the existence of an afterlife; they also don’t deal with odd-ball movements around UFOs—which believe that aliens are evolutionarilyadvanced (but not supernatural) beings.

Determining if a worldview is a religion is widely accepted by anthropologists and researchers of religion as broadly covering the various aspects of religion, without focusing on things unique to specific religions. We need to look for certain characteristics that religions have in common. Ninian Smart[3] has proposed seven dimensions that are narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material. Not every religion has every dimension, nor are they all equally important within an individual religion.

1)    NARRATIVE: Every religions has stories explaining where the universe came from and what humanity’s part in it is. Evolution is an explanation of where everything came from: the cosmos (came out of nothing at the big bang—nothing exploded and became everything); humans evolved from non-human creatures, hence humanity’s place in the cosmos is being just another species of animal.

2)    EXPERIENTIAL: There are two aspects to the experiential dimension. The first is the events experienced before someone founded a religion (for example the Disciples physically saw and touched the resurrected Jesus). It is often asserted that Charles Darwin, after observing evidence from around the world during his voyage on HMS Beagle, developed the theory of evolution. The second aspect of the experiential dimension concerns the experiences of latter adherents. Many people feel certain emotions when they participate in certain religious ceremonies. Atheists often believe that Atheism is freedom from religion, and some Atheists have reported feeling liberated after converting[4]. Atheistic denial of the divine entails denial of an afterlife. If there is no afterlife,[5] then ultimately there is no higher purpose in life for Atheists than to be happy. Belief in evolution also causes people to aim for self preservation and to spread their own genes.[6] You can include in experiential include ‘faith’ which is often twisted to make it mean things it does not. In Christianity, faith is logical, being defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is not blindly believing the impossible (which is how many Atheists define faith), but rather trusting the promises of God, whose past promises have all been fulfilled. On the other hand, Atheism requires ‘faith’ (using their own definition) that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology were once violated and life arose from non-life via chemical evolution.

3)    SOCIAL: The social dimension of religion looks at the hierarchies and power structures present within the religion. It also includes how people get converted and how missionaries go about their work. Contemporary Atheism has been fueled largely by authors promoting their Atheistic beliefs. In the preface to The God Delusion, Dawkins says “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Dawkins is saying he hopes that his book converts ‘religious’ people to his worldview—exactly what a missionary of any religion hopes to do. Atheism is also taught to children in many schools in science classes as evolution. As atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse admits, “evolution is a religion”, and it could be considered the narrative dimension of Atheism. Thus teaching evolution is teaching Atheism. Several Atheists even support teaching lies, as long as the end result is more children believing evolution.[7]

4)    DOCTRINAL: Doctrines are the beliefs and philosophies that develop out of a religion. For example, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, while not directly stated in the Bible, is logically derived from it. In 1933, some prominent Atheist philosophers realised the effects the lack of a belief in a god would have on the morals of society and wrote what they believed would be a suitable set of beliefs and goals for a secular society in the 20th century. Atheists believe and adhere to the things written in the Humanist Manifesto, after all, many Atheists do want to do what is good. The doctrines, ethics and goals outlined in the Humanist Manifesto, while being atheistic and accepting evolution as true, are opposite of what would be expected if they were solely derived from the evolutionary narrative. This is because Humanism also makes the assumption that humans are basically good.

5)    ETHICAL: Atheism is a morally relativist religion. Most Atheists adhere to one ethical system or another, but in Atheism there is ultimately no foundation for morality, as many leading atheists admit. Many systems of ethics have been proposed; utilitarianism is probably the most popular one. Some people have taken a further step by creating ethical systems based on the evolutionary narrative and the principle of “survival of the fittest”. A world governed purely by Atheistic, evolutionary ethics has been shown by history to be a horrible place to live. Most Atheists recognise this and choose to live by the ethical systems of other religions instead, or at the very least, live by the laws enforced by the government.

6)    RITUAL: Ritual is the only dimension which on the surface might appear to be absent from the religion of Atheism. Because Atheism is a relatively recent movement, it doesn’t have much of a history to commemorate. In other religions, rituals such as sacrifices and dances are done to appease the gods or the spirits. Because Atheism denies the existence of gods and spirits, it doesn’t have the second type of ritual either. Many Atheists do practice ‘secular holidays’ of other religions such as the Christmas and Easter public holidays of Christianity, but this is usually to simply maintain the tradition of a public holiday, and the original meaning of the celebrations are rejected. It’s noteworthy that in recent years, the atheists’ public commemoration of the anniversary of Darwin’s birth each February (and even of the publication of his Origin of Species in November is rapidly becoming something of an annual ritual.

7)    MATERIAL: The material dimension of religion includes all the physical things created by a religion such as art and buildings, and also natural features and places treated as sacred by their followers. While Atheism by its nature of denying the divine can’t have objects that represent the divine (such as icons or idols), oftentimes nature is treated as sacred by some Atheists. There are two extremes in the range of ideas held by Atheists on the ‘material’:

  1. natural resources are here to be exploited because of ‘survival of the fittest’ and humans are obviously the fittest species; or
  2. we should respect all of nature, particularly living things because to kill them is tantamount to murdering a cousin. This second view essentially holds that all life is ‘sacred’.

An Atheist’s view of the material dimension is strongly influenced by their view of the ethical dimension.

Atheists often claim that their belief is not a religion. This allows them to propagate their beliefs in settings where other religions are banned, but this should not be so.

Contemporary Western Atheism unquestionably has six of the seven dimensions of religion, and the remaining dimension, ritual, has also started to develop. Other than the denial of the divine, there is little difference between Atheism and other worldviews typically labelled as religions.

The dichotomy that Atheists try to create between science and religion is false. The conflict is between interpretations of science coming from different religious worldviews. Atheism shouldn’t be taught or enforced in settings where other religions are banned and shouldn’t be favoured by laws which imply a religiously neutral government.

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[1] Rowe, WL. ”Atheism”, in Craig. E Routledge, Ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York, 1998.

[2] For example Cline, A., 30, October, 2009 What is Religion? Viewed on 15, March, 2010. http://atheism.about.com/od/religiondefinition/a/definition.htm

[3] Smart, N., 1996. Dimensions of the sacred: an anatomy of the world’s beliefs. HarperCollins, London.

[4] Colbeck, R. 8, December, 2006. Book answers atheists’ prayers. Viewed on June 15, 2014. http://richarddawkins.net/article,399,Book-answers-the-Atheists-prayers ,Robert-Colbeck.

[5] Provine, WB. 1994. Origins Research 16(1), p.9.

[6] Dawkins, R., 2006. The Selfish Gene. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

[7] As per my previous posting: https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/outrageous-or-predictable/

Evillution

Cosmos revisited poorly

I just can’t keep my mouth shut when such blatant distortions of the facts and the ‘truth’ are being spoon-fed to public with such a high degree of bias and nobody is willing to point it out. So let it be me.

The fifth episode of the dredged up Cosmos rehash is described on the program’s website as an opportunity to “Discover the meanings of light and enlightenment.” It had some wonderful animations illustrating how electrons are bumped into higher energy levels when they absorb light, and how they then emit light when they drop to a lower energy level. A big improvement over Carl Sagan’s series, but one would expect that since technology has changed since the original series in 1980. The show included lucid explanations of how each element has a unique absorption and emission spectrum of light, which amazingly allows us to detect the presence (or absence) of specific elements in stars that are light years away simply by studying the spectrum of light the stars emit. There were also keen comparisons of different types of electromagnetic radiation to the “octaves” of sound in music — an effective audiovisual method of explaining the EM spectrum. I know science teachers who would love to use this sort of material in their classes — if it wasn’t consistently revising historyand promoting inaccuracies to advocate a demonstrably false materialistic narrative of science. (emphasis added)

Early in the episode, host Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi. After several in depth discussions with my younger brother about his philosophical and moral beliefs, I have had to go back and reread many of the books and articles I hadn’t studied in over 35 years. So it just struck me as being a little off when Tyson described Mozi ideas as including “early stirrings of the scientific approach,” as well as innovative political theories encouraging peace, love, and egalitarian values. No mention was made, as would be expected, that Mozi’s followers were later persecuted by a government that wanted power.

I thought I heard Tyson say Mozi wrote a book titled Against Faith, in a manner thatTyson intended to suggest that Mozi was some early anti-religious visionary. After the show was over I looked it up and found the actual title was Against Fate — or according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which describes it as an essay rather than a book, “Rejecting Fatalism.”

You can argue either way as to what he actually said and go crazy listening to it over and over again. So the next step in the scientific procedure should be invoked and that would be the context. Certainly, the context has nothing to do with fate or fatalism. You can listen to the clip here and decide for yourself. Perhaps Tyson did intend to say “Against Fate” — though the context argues against it. I wonder if it was a Freudian slip. Given how often the series bashes faith, I suspect most other viewers heard the same, especially given how much faith-bashing we’ve seen in the series thus far.

If Tyson was seeking an anti-religious visionary to spark science in ancient China, then Mozi is the wrong guy. One statement by Tyson that is clear comes when he praises Mozi for promoting a philosophy “against blind obedience to ritual and authority,” attempting to cast Mozi as some kind of a secular innovator. Once again, Tyson left out a crucial, inconvenient fact: Mozi was a monotheist whom scholars have recognized promoted a “Christian”-like view of God. You might even call Mozi an apologist for a form of monotheistic religion in his day. As historian Klaus Schlichtmann puts it:

Mozi advocated a monotheistic religion, in which God reigned as King in Heaven, a universalism based on principles of equality and justice, as well as the concept of “unbound (i.e., undifferentiated) love” (jian’ai), which was also said to be of “mutual utility,” quite similar to the Christian idea in many ways.

The Chinese scholar and reformer Hu Shi (1891-1962) remarked in 1919 that Mozi was “probably the only Chinese who had founded a religion” and “possibly one of the greatest spirits China ever produced.” Hu Shi came to the conclusion that “though it is to Confucius that his countrymen paid lip service it is Meh Tse [Mozi] who has — unknown to them — really molded their thought. Mozi’s practical philosophy contains elements of what one might call political science as well as fundamentals of a political and individual ethic. Among the main goals of his political ethic is the elevation of the welfare of the people and the general cultivation of law and good administration. The utilitarianism of the Mozi school is everywhere emphasized in the literature as a main characteristic: “His aim is the mutual balancing of needs, based on equality … The principle, however, that supports people’s relations to each other is for Mozi not blood relationships and not ritual, but love.”

(Klaus Schlichtmann, Japan in the World: Shidehara Kijuro, Pacifism, and the Abolition of War, pp. 12-13 (Lexington Books, 2009) (internal citations removed).)

Far from being against faith, Mozi founded a monotheistic religion where a supreme and loving God reigned over the Earth from Heaven. No wonder he also promoted scientific methodologies — after all it was also a monotheistic culture — a Christian one — that gave birth to science in the West, where people believed in one God who reigned supreme over the universe and gave it intelligible, discoverable laws. Once again, we see that monotheistic religion is conducive to science and democratic values. Cosmos not only ignores this but seeks to give the impression that religion and science stand opposed to each other.

Do Scientists Have the Right of Free Expression to Question Neo-Darwinism?

One aspect of this episode that I really liked was Neil deGrasse Tyson’s strong statements about the importance of intellectual freedom for a healthy science. He says “science needs the light of free expression to flourish,” and notes that science “depends on the fearless questioning of authority,” and requires “the open exchange of ideas.” That’s exactly right — bravo Dr. Tyson!

Unfortunately, Tyson stops short of asking whether scientists today have the academic freedom to question certain authorities or freely express certain views. So let’s ask a question that Cosmos wouldn’t: Are scientists today free to express their views when they feel there are problems with authoritative paradigms, like modern evolutionary biology? Don’t ask me. Ask scientists and skeptics:

  • “There’s a feeling in biology that scientists should keep their dirty laundry hidden, because the religious right are always looking for any argument between evolutionists as support for their creationist theories. There’s a strong school of thought that one should never question Darwin in public.” (W. Daniel Hillis, in “Introduction: The Emerging Third Culture,” in Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution, edited by John Brockman (Touchstone, 1995), p. 26.)
  • “It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection … My skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative. It is just a belief that the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense. This is especially true with regard to the origin of life … I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science. … In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture… by the defenders of intelligent design. … [T]he problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.” (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, p. (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 6-7, 10.)
  • “We’ve been told by more than one of our colleagues that, even if Darwin was substantially wrong to claim that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution, nonetheless we shouldn’t say so. Not, anyhow, in public. To do that is, however inadvertently, to align oneself with the Forces of Darkness, whose goal is to bring Science into disrepute. … [N]eo-Darwinism is taken as axiomatic; it goes literally unquestioned. A view that looks to contradict it, either directly or by implication is ipso facto rejected, however plausible it may otherwise seem. Entire departments, journals and research centres now work on this principle.” (Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), pp. xx, xvi.)

And since we’ve been on the topic of China, here’s one final comment to think about, from the Chinese paleontologist J.Y. Chen: “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

These are not proponents of intelligent design. They are atheists and/or mainstream evolutionary scientists/scholars, telling us that scientists don’t have the full freedom to express views that dissent from Darwinian doctrine.

Somehow I suspect that Cosmos will continue to sing the praises of the scientific enterprise, and will even promote the idea that evolutionary science is the pinnacle of an intellectually liberated, highly objective, and extremely careful and self-correcting scientific enterprise. But what would Neil deGrasse Tyson know about questioning Darwinism? Ask scientists and scholars who have tried to question Darwin, and you’ll find out just how much academic freedom there really is. I have already had several postings on my blog www.intelligentdesign.blog.com describing the bias in publishing and restraints of freedom of speech in the academic world.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/cosmos_slammed_083111.html

In my earlier review of Cosmos, I mentioned that the new series’s recent premier spent an unusual amount of time (for a science show) promoting the old “warfare” model of science and religion, and the myth that religion has hindered the advancement of science. Jay Richards has an excellent piece critiquing Cosmos’s revisionist history of Giordano Bruno, the scientist cultist philosopher who was persecuted by the Catholic Church for his heliocentric scientific viewpoint philosophy that (among other things) worshipped Egyptian deities. But Dr. Richards is not the only critic. In fact, a number of mainstream, decidedly not-pro-ID sources are making similar criticisms. The television website Zap2it.com criticizes Neil deGrasse Tyson for his “questionable history” of Bruno:One of the goals of “Cosmos” is to introduce the world to “heroes of science.” This would be the premiere episode’s one and only massive failure. That’s because someone at “Cosmos” decided to trot out the case of a 16th-century Italian philosopher named Giordano Bruno as its first hero. Unfortunately for “Cosmos,” Bruno wasn’t terribly heroic. And he wasn’t a scientist at all. A religious philosopher living in the tense years following the schism between Catholicism and the new faith of Protestantism, Bruno managed to irritate and complicate the beliefs of just about everyone by preaching a cosmology of an infinite universe in which the Sun is just a star, around which the Earth moves. Here’s the thing: Even “Cosmos” points out that Bruno had no scientific basis for his theories. “His vision of the cosmos was a lucky guess,” says Tyson. So why is the long-dead philosopher important enough to rate hero status? That would be because “Cosmos” takes his case as one of “martyrdom.” What “Cosmos” does not point out to its audiences is that the Catholic Church didn’t really care about Bruno’s views on the Earth moving around the Sun. His crimes — the ones for which he was executed — were theological. Several actual scientists in this period happily investigated the ideas of Copernicus’ theories without running into trouble. Even Galileo only got in trouble when he published books that directly mocked the Church’s adherence to the Earth being at the center. Why does this matter? So what if Giordano Bruno wasn’t a scientist and wasn’t executed for science? There are three big reasons why this does, in fact, matter and why it hurts “Cosmos” to get it wrong. 1. To borrow one of Tyson’s famous quotes, the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it. The same goes for history. Getting the history of science wrong hurts science itself. Why believe the science if other parts of the show are inaccurate? 2. Making Bruno into a martyr for science basically makes 100 years of historical research useless. The idea of Giordano Bruno as a scientific hero only originated in the 19th century, when he was championed by several historians. Since then, most have classified him as a philosopher sharing dangerous ideas in a dangerous time. 3. It’s an unstated goal of “Cosmos” to champion science and scientific reasoning over superstition and religious dogmatism. But you’re not going to win over anyone by vilifying religion in the face of science. Add in Bruno flying into space in an overtly crucifixion stance almost seems like giving religion the finger. You don’t win arguments that way, “Cosmos.”Or there’s this scathing criticism, from staunch evolutionist Hank Campbell at Science 2.0:Then suddenly we get a claim that Giordano Bruno is responsible for the concept of the universe — because he read “banned” books. Lucretius wasn’t science — there was no scientific evidence for his claim that wind caused earthquakes or worms spontaneously generated — it was philosophy, and his book was not rare in 1600 AD, people were also not martyred for reading it, and yet we get told a philosophical belief in infinity was what got Bruno into trouble. It’s an immediate disconnect for people who know science history because it smacks of an agenda. I instead object because it is flat-out incorrect. To claim that Bruno promoted the concept of the universe, a “soaring vision”, despite persecution, while simultaneously being hired over and over by the institutions we are told were oppressing him, makes no sense. That segment of the show makes it sound like he was a devout Christian tormented by reason rather than what he was — a cultist who engaged in confirmation bias to pick and choose anything what matched his beliefs. Bruno’s “science” was never mentioned during his trial, he was on trial for being a cult worshiper. He only took up the cause of Copernicus because he believed in the Egyptian god Thoth and Hermetism and their belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not because he had perceived anything radical. Galileo rightly dismissed most of Bruno’s teachings as philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Bruno was only revived as a “scientist” and a martyr for science by anti-religious humanists in the 19th century. The church didn’t even bother to ban his writing until well after he was dead. Bruno was not a martyr for science, the way the cartoon in “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” alleges, he was a martyr for magic. He actually was a heretic. Sorry, but 400 years ago when you repeatedly lecture about what was regarded as a cult and insist Catholics and Protestants need to accept Hermetism as fact, you are getting into trouble. He also taught that demons caused diseases. No matter how little you may know about the 16th century, you know they were not teaching that demons cause diseases. Roman Catholics gave him 10 years to back off from his claim that his alternate religion was empirical fact they needed to accept. Hardly a sign of rushing to judgment or pop culture beliefs about religion of the time. He instead wanted to be a poster child for the Inquisition. He was clearly mentally ill. It sets an unfortunate tone that they slipped revisionist history in with science — it is the story of Bruno as if it were written by a blogger on some “free thought” site. Are humanists and atheists the key market for this program? That wasn’t the case for Sagan. And I know that isn’t the case for Tyson either. Walk up to Tyson and call him a Skeptic and he will quickly assure you he is not part of any organized skeptic movement. He goes where reason takes him and, like Sagan, he can probably defend the value of a liturgical society and then he will be critical when religion deserves to be criticized. Sagan succeeded because he communicated science without tearing other people down. Tyson does also but in the episode provided to me, the Bruno story came across as more of a program Richard Dawkins would have hosted than Carl Sagan. And that’s too bad, because Tyson is not divisive like that.Or, perhaps something we’re learning from this new Cosmos series is that Tyson is “like that” after all — i.e., he’s an atheist activist who is willing to rewrite history to suit his materialistic narrative, and intends to use Cosmos as a vehicle to promote the message. – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/cosmos_slammed_083111.html#sthash.HuzHnVme.dpuf

Evillution

Do scientists lie?

I’ve been stating that the secular scientists control the publishing of peer reviewed papers against the Biblical scientists for some time now. On this blog www.intelligentdesign.blog.com search for “publish” or “peer review” and you can read those articles. (UNFORTUNATELY – the blog.com seems to have gone down for the past month so I am switched to www.wordpress.com instead).

In my research I have read many, many articles (both pro and con) about this subject matter and I thought I would quote a lengthy comment from a Darwin-defending philosopher of science Philip Quinn in Michael Ruse’s book But Is It Science?, which discussed whether creationism is science. The full quote is worth reading carefully, as Quinn makes much the same argument that Joseph Martin does in the article I wrote : https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/cosmos-series-lies/

“It sometimes happens that the best arguments one can give in support of a view are not going to be effective and the most effective arguments one can give are not going to be good. After all, decision-makers are sometimes too busy to master complex arguments. Then, too, they can be prejudiced or even stupid. When one is aware that this is the situation — and I suspect this is rather common — then one confronts the philosopher’s dilemma.

One horn looks roughly like this. Convinced of the overall rightness of one’s position, one opts to present the effective bad argument. Each time one does this, one’s hands get a little bit dirtier. At first one is painfully sensitive to even small compromises that one knows to be violations of one’s intellectual integrity, but gradually numbness of conscience sets in. At last, when presenting the effective bad argument has become easy and habitual — second nature, as it were — one’s hands have become dirty beyond all cleansing and one suffers from a thoroughgoing corruption of mind.

The other horn looks roughly like this. Concerned to preserve one’s integrity at all costs, one resolves never to present the effective bad argument. One always presents the best argument one can for the position one thinks most nearly right, and one’s hands remain clean. But frequently these good arguments fail to persuade or carry the day, and gradually one’s credibility and effectiveness wane. At last, when one has an established track record of failure, the decision-makers conclude that one is of no use to them, and one is unceremoniously cast aside.

Though it should be obvious that I have been exaggerating a bit for rhetorical effect, I think the hard choice between corruption and ineffectuality is sometimes real enough. That is the dilemma! Is there a way between its horns? Perhaps. My colleague, Dan Brock, suggests that academic philosophers should only get involved in the policy-making arena on a temporary, short-term basis. Maybe this is a way in which we could manage to have our cake and eat it too. For a short period one might engage in giving bad effective arguments without being thoroughly corrupted. Then one could retreat back to the academy to wash one’s moderately soiled hands.

After having one’s intellectual integrity restored and reinforced, one might then be ready to repeat the cycle.

The application of what I have been saying to the creationist controversy is straightforward. It seems to me that the attempts by creationists to foist their particular brand of dreadful science on public school curricula are pernicious. We should resist such attempts and resist them effectively in the political realm. But some of the creationists who are making such attempts are, to put it not too harshly, shysters. So there may well be circumstances in which only the bad effective argument will work against them in the political or legal arenas. If there are, then I think, though I come to this conclusion reluctantly, it is morally permissible for us to use the bad effective argument, provided we continue to have qualms of conscience about getting our hands soiled. But I also believe we must be very careful not to allow ourselves to slide all the way down the slippery slope to intellectual corruption. Perhaps, if we divide up the labor so that no one among us has to resort to the bad effective argument too frequently, we can succeed in resisting effectively without paying too high a price in terms of moral corruption.”

(Philip L. Quinn, “Creationism, Methodology, and Politics,” in Ruse M., ed., But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, Prometheus Books: Amherst NY, 1996, pp. 397-399.)

Did you catch and understand all that?

According to Quinn, because “creationists” are “shysters” and promote “dreadful” and “pernicious” initiatives, that means it is “morally permissible” to respond using “bad arguments” (i.e., fallacious arguments) which amount to “compromises that one knows to be violations of one’s intellectual integrity” and lead to “intellectual corruption,” simply because those bad arguments are “effective” in defending evolution.

Quinn thinks one can “retreat back to the academy to wash one’s moderately soiled hands.” However, if the academy is recommending we should tell “taradiddles” or promote fallacious arguments simply because they’re “effective,” then that hardly seems like the place to go in search of moral or ethical cleansing.

Intelligent Design

Defining Intelligent Design

HB481-Graphic-lowres

The following is taken directly from: http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ because I could not say it any better.

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion that can be adequately explained by only natural causes.

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

ID is controversial because of the religious implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement that includes a scientific research program for investigating intelligent causes and that challenges naturalistic explanations of origins which currently drive science education and research.

We are not dealing with the term “natural selection.” Selection is a term that implies the making of a choice, a decision. Synonyms include picking out, choosing, and preferring. A mindless process cannot “select” in this sense. A river does not choose to follow the path of least resistance; sodium and chloride ions do not choose to form a salt crystal; gasoline, oxygen, and a spark do not choose to explode; and a colander does not choose to retain noodles. The term “natural selection” is an oxymoron and its widespread use contributes to the pervasive confusion so characteristic of this topic. We are dealing with ID or “Intelligent Design”

ID addresses one question only: is life the product of a guided or an unguided process? Did it arise from a mind or from the meaningless meandering of molecules in mindless motion?

A purposeful relationship can only derive from a mind or some form of intelligence that has the capacity to think of it. Purpose, meaning or function can only be a derivative of thought. It is produced in the mind through the capacity of the mind to “know” the present, store that “knowledge” in memory, to “think” about that knowledge so as to “predict” the future and to then “choose” to alter the future for an intended purpose.

Material causes and random processes, which lack a mind, simply do not have the capacity to produce an intention in the first instance. Material causes cannot know or think. They can’t know the present, have knowledge of the past or choose to alter the future. Minds order events for a future purpose. They order patterns that will command, inform, assemble, build, enable, excite, please, transport, house, nourish, and destroy. Each manifestation of a mind is preceded by a set of steps. The steps often reveal the ultimate intention of the mind, but not always. The inference to a mind arises from the clues left behind by the mind – the physical steps that had to be taken to produce the intended non-physical function or effect.

There is a difference between a gift and a found object. If one views one’s life as a gift, then it is dependent on the mind of the giver. The recipient might be interested in what the giver wants the gift to be used for. However, if life is just a found object produced by a combination of physical and chemical necessity and chance, then one may do with it as one pleases. If life is a found object it is not dependent on a mind. It is simply the independent result of random interactions of matter, energy and physical forces.

Is life a gift or a found object? Is it a creation or the chance occurrence that Jacques

Monod contemplated in the following statement: “We call these [mutation] events accidental; we say that they are random occurrences. And since they constitute the only possible source of modifications in the genetic text, itself the sole repository of the organism’s hereditary structures, it necessarily follows that chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. (Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, pp 112-3 (Vintage Books 1971); Molecular Biologist known for his work on gene expression in the Lac Operon. Nobel Prize in Physiology)? Based on belief about that issue, religions then address the subsidiary questions of the nature of life, how life should be lived and what happens when life on earth ends. Traditional theistic religions explain life as a gift. Nontheistic religions like Atheism and “Secular” Humanism explain it as simply the product of an accumulation of unguided material causes over time. The idea is that life just arises or occurs from materials of the past. These religions hold that life comes from matter, not mind.

The primary defect of the unobserved hypothesized process of biological evolution is the absurd implausibility of the claim that a random mechanism can produce the sophisticated array of functional systems needed to run life. The exponential increase in the time necessary for each new step needed to attain the required function is the killer. Random events and random mutations are not good explanations for the messages needed for life. Since the messages are not related by chance or necessity, their evident function and purpose inexorably leads one to the mind of an author.

The key philosophical and theological flaw in the ID movement is the unwillingness to identify the designer. ID’s ‘big tent’ strategy is trying to unite all possible opponents to Darwinism from whatever religious background. Strategically, this is supposed to bring together the most number of people to oppose Darwinism, and also emphasize the scientific (as opposed to ‘religious’) basis for design. But when this allows for appeals to ‘teleological organizing principles’, the efficacy of this strategy is questionable. It hardly sounds ‘more respectable’ than the discredited vitalism or ‘life force’ that some early evolutionists appealed to (a doctrine that maintains that life and the functions of a living organism depend on a nonmaterial force or principle separate from physical and chemical processes.), with almost pantheistic (any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the universal) overtones.

It is worth noting that ID’s ‘big tent’ claim sounds hollow at times. While the ID camp does credit young-earth creationists for opposing evolution and for pioneering the information argument, they too often pretend by omission that YECs make little contributions to the design argument today.

Whether leaving the identity of the designer for later is good strategy or not, it is assuredly bad theology. Salvation rests not on the fact that we were designed, but on the intervention of the designer as the identifiable Saviour, Jesus Christ. And soteriology (theology dealing with salvation especially as effected by Jesus Christ) is just the beginning of the problem. If Christianity is true, and the Bible is the very revelation of God, then we have a duty to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, to do all things to the glory of God. As Christians, we must recognize God’s sovereignty over biology as well as everything else. But the standard ID approach states that if design happened, the identity of the designer is a question that is yet to be determined. Unfortunately, this stands in opposition to any robust Christian scholarship. If, on the one hand, we believe God’s word to be the truth, and God to be the sovereign creator of all things, it does not appear consistent to say on the other hand that the designer’s identity is inconsequential in the field of science. Avoiding the identity of the designer has another significant problem: it gets in the way of important scientific and philosophical theorizing.

Since ID lacks a coherent history of the acts of a designer, it has two major vulnerabilities that misotheists (like Richard Dawkins) and theistic evolutionists (like Kenneth Miller) exploit:

  1. Apparent ‘bad design’ in the world, as well as design features that are designed to hurt. But biblical creationists recognize that we live in a cursed world that resulted from the Fall of Adam, so we are not seeing the world as originally created.
  2. Extinctions and the fossil record: why would a designer be so incompetent that his creatures die out? But this death is not only the result of the Fall, but also the global Flood.

And as long as the ID camp is unwilling to face the question of the identity of the designer, it never will be able to offer an alternate historical account of origins. Without the historical framework (which does depend on the identity of the designer), ID can challenge Darwinism on many fronts, but it does not have the stuff to replace Darwinism.

Education vs Common Core

Outrageous or predictable

A new study in Psychological Science by Deborah Kelemen of Boston University and colleagues helps to explain why evolution is hard to grasp. It also suggests that we should teach children the theory of natural selection while they are still in kindergarten instead of waiting until they are teenagers.

Evolution by natural selection occupies a not-so-sweet spot between the intuitive and the counterintuitive. The trouble is that it is almost like Intelligent Design (ID) , and that’s confusing. Adaptation through natural selection, like Intelligent Design (or as the WSJ calls it ‘intentional design’), makes things work better according to secular scientists.

Dr. Kelemen has discovered that it’s possible with ‘Darwinian storytelling’ to suppress common sense in children of the kind that leads them to recognize artifacts of intelligent design in nature. The Journal notes that quite apart from religious instruction, kids are primed to see life as reflecting “intentional design.” It’s intuitive. The corrective is to catch them at an early age and train them to see things in a Darwinian light.

“Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched. They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection. The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects. Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones. A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels. The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died. So the next generation all had thin trunks.”

anteater_nose

There are a number of interesting points here. First, that the example of natural selection is fictional, do they not have a REAL example out of all evolutionary theory. The mammalian order Pilosa (anteaters and sloths) is real, but “pilosas” are not. Second, it is decidedly in the micro-evolutionary realm — a kind of evolution that no one disputes, certainly not advocates of the theory of intelligent design. There’s no reason to think that the “pilosas” are on their way to true speciation, of the kind that evolutionary theory is really challenged to account for. And it would have been far more than one generation to have developed thinner trunks. It fact one might suspect that the actual thick trunked “pilosas” would have picked up sticks and placed down the insect burrow or grew strong nails and learned to dug prior to the length of time necessary for natural selection to have kept them from dying of starvation. (Oh wait, they do that, don’t they). The extrapolation from such a trivial thing into the origin of all species and all biological complexity by unguided natural processes is giant step that isn’t warranted by the facts even if they are imaginary.

anteater_claws

“Before the children heard the story, the experimenters asked them to explain why a different group of fictional animals had a particular trait. Most of the children gave explanations based on intentional design. But after the children heard the story, they answered similar questions very differently…” Most enlightening is that Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues would seek to talk children out of their intuitive response. Among ID researchers, the approach would be to test that intuition, objectively weighing the empirical evidence without preconceptions. Dr. Kelemen would “suppress” it: her own word!

If you look at the original research, reported in the journal Psychological Science, the language is revealing (“Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention”) http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/4/893.full. From the Abstract:

“In a novel approach, we explored 5- to 8-year-olds’ capacities to learn a basic but theoretically coherent mechanistic explanation of adaptation through a custom storybook intervention. Experiment 1 showed that children understood the population-based logic of natural selection and also generalized it. Furthermore, learning endured 3 months later. Experiment 2 replicated these results and showed that children understood and applied an even more nuanced mechanistic causal explanation. The findings demonstrate that, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, basic natural selection is teachable in early childhood. Theory-driven interventions using picture storybooks with rich explanatory structure are beneficial.”

The initiative to program children is repeatedly referred to as “intervention,” a term used in psychological counseling to refer to an attempt to thwart counterproductive, dangerous thoughts or behavior. The intuitive response of human beings, seeing design in nature normally, is implicitly compared to destructive patterns of abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, and the like! Given that bizarre premise, suppressing design thoughts becomes the preferred solution.

More from the Abstract: ´Repeated, spaced instruction on gradually scaled-up versions of the logic of natural selection could ultimately place students in a better position to suppress competing intuitive theoretical explanations. The defense of Darwinian theory is already centered on an avoidance strategy, dodging a direct confrontation with genuinely challenging critiques, while dishonestly conflating scientific alternatives (intelligent design) with non-scientific ones (biblical creationism) to confuse people. Even adults raised from childhood to see the universe as void of purpose may have a lingering suspicion that natural selection alone can’t explain the panoply of life around us.

It becomes necessary, then, to choke off the illness of possible understanding at its origin, somewhere in early childhood. The more obvious and responsible alternative of debating the arguments for intelligent design is, of course, not thinkable in their mind.

Biblical Discussions

Distinguishing Mystery from Contradiction

Each human language (both existing and extinct) has (or had) strengths and weaknesses. The size of the English vocabulary gives it great strength. Nearly 4 million words (including species names and biochemical terms) compared to just several thousand each for biblical Hebrew and Greek.

This great strength is also a weakness with respect to Bible translation, however, because English is rapidly changing. This can require an ocassional retranslations from the original biblical languages, while the huge difference in vocabulary size can sometimes require several different translations to faithfully and fully communicate the rich meaning, thought, and emotion in the Bible’s original texts. By no coincidence does the creation-day controversy rage most fiercely among English-speaking Christians. Such readers of the Bible may be unaware of the nuances of meaning in the various Hebrew verbs used to describe God’s creative activities in Genesis 1 and 2. With so many words available in English to describe long time periods (having specific start and end points), many readers don’t realize that in biblical Hebrew only one such word exists. Likewise, English readers may not know that many Hebrew nouns possess multiple, literal definitions. So to effectively understand the inerrant Word of God, one must study and be aware of the subtleties of biblical Hebrew and their impact on our understanding of Scripture.

As a computer software developer trained in logic, one fact of historic Christianity that leaves me intellectually wanting and desiring answers. That is the concept of mystery found within Christian theology. It is not the idea of mystery that troubles me, but rather my finite human nature that—by definition and according to historic Christianity—limits me from fully fathoming certain truths about God.

Nevertheless, my intellectual limitations afford me an opportunity to distinguish between the concepts of a logical contradiction and a theological mystery. As you continue to read my blog writings, I’ll gradually end up revealing the knowledge I have gathered to come to terms with the challenging dilemma that God defies complete human comprehension.

Logical Contradiction

A logical contradiction refers to two statements that negate or deny one another (A cannot equal A and equal non-A). Two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way. Here’s an example of a logical contradiction:

Larry Marshall is a human being.

Larry Marshall is not a human being.

These two statements cannot both be true because they directly deny or negate one another. If one of these statements is true, then the opposite statement is necessarily false. Thus, we say in logic that they have opposite truth value. Contradictions are always false by their very nature. In other words, contradictions equal nonsense.

Theological Mystery

A theological mystery, on the other hand, is something very different. A mystery in Christian theology refers to something that is true but the finiteness of the human mind cannot fully comprehend it. The idea is meaningful and to some degree understandable, but ultimately defies full human comprehension. Here’s an example of one mystery from Christian theology:

Jesus Christ has a divine nature.

Jesus Christ has a human nature.

Both of these statements reflect Scriptural teaching and, according to theology, they also reflect orthodox Christian truth. While Christians believe these statements to be true, no one knows exactly or precisely how they are true. Finite creatures cannot fully comprehend how a single person can have two distinct natures (one divine and one human). The two natures that are one person (namely Jesus Christ) can be understood in a way that avoids contradiction.

Historic Christian theology holds that these two statements constitute a divine mystery. Thus the teaching of the Incarnation (Jesus Christ as God in human flesh) is a truth that conveys a meaningful reality but ultimately defies complete human comprehension.

All logical contradictions are mysterious nonsense, but not all mysteries are contradictions.

Contradictions are necessarily false while mysteries are true but cannot be fully fathomed. Christian theology is not alone in positing a variety of beliefs as true but unfathomable. For example, the scientific phenomenon of quantum mechanics, among other realities in the universe, is real and true but still lies beyond our full, finite human comprehension.

Furthermore, virtually everything that the God of the Bible has revealed about himself to human beings involves mystery. Such is the case because God is an infinite and eternal being while humans are finite and temporal beings. Here is a partial list of essential Christian theological beliefs entailing mystery: God’s attributes (such as his self-existence, immutability, and infinity), the Trinity, creation, the image of God in man, the Atonement, reincarnation. Whether we like it or not, all of God’s dealings with humankind involve some mystery.

Here are four points that has helped me attempt to understand the fact that God eludes my total comprehension:

1. God’s perfections make me aware of my need for humility.

2. The limitations of being human reminds me I need to pay careful attention to all that God has in His world and His Word.

3. Being made in the image of God allows me to appreciate God’s infinite perfections and my inherent finite limitations.

4. Knowing that God exceeds human comprehension means I cannot be dissatisfied in him or by him.

We can know and experience the one true and living God as he has made himself known to us—and still appreciate the truth that God, as an infinite being, will always defy human comprehension.

How’s that for a mystery we can all live with.

The Science of it All

The big bang theory fizzles again

This article gets technical- there just is no way to avoid it. If you have some problems with the terminology, please review the references provided or email me and I’ll have more space to provide a more detailed explanation.

In late 2012 a discovery was made[i]of what was afterwards called the Huge Large Quasar Group (Huge-LQG). A collection of 73 quasars—all with redshifts around a mean value of z = 1.27– was discovered in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS DR7QSO) that covers 15 degrees across the sky.

A new discovery was made in 2013 of a massively large quasar group as indicated by the black circles (see fig. 1). Its longest extension is about 4 billion light-years based on standard concordance cosmology. This was then claimed as the largest single structure in the universe. Its location on the sky is about 8.8 degrees north of the Clowes & Campusano large quasar group (LQG) at the same redshift, with a mean of z = 1.28. The latter is indicated by the red crosses (see fig. 1).

 

But these two LQGs are at the same approximate redshift, and therefore according to the standard model they are at the same distance from earth.

The question was raised; how could this even exist if the standard big bang paradigm is correct? The largest quasar groups seen in the early universe up until this point were with characteristic sizes of 70-350 Mpc, where 1 Mpc is 3.26 million light-years. This is what their proper size at the current epoch would be. This new discovery was then calculated to have a characteristic size of about 500 Mpc

hugh-Lqg

Figure 1: The coloured background indicates the peaks and troughs in the occurrence of quasars at the redshift of the Huge-LQG. The LQG is shown as a long chain of peaks indicated by black circles. The red crosses indicate the positions of quasars in a smaller LQG, the Clowes & Campusano LQG at the same redshift, around z = 1.28.

So how could it possibly have formed so soon after the big bang? It just could not. It questions the correct scale over which the universe is homogeneous and the validity of the cosmological principle (which assumes that the cosmos is uniform everywhere on a large scale). However, without the large-scale uniformity (or homogeneity) provided by that assumption the standard Friedmann-Lemaître-Robinson-Walker metric, upon which all standard big bang cosmologies are based, is invalid.

According to the Daily Galaxy:

The LQG also challenges the Cosmological Principle, the assumption that the universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from. The modern theory of cosmology is based on the work of Albert Einstein, and depends on the assumption of the Cosmological Principle. The Principle is assumed but has never been demonstrated observationally ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. [emphasis added][ii]

If you understand cosmology correctly you’ll understand that it is all about philosophy and worldview, and not about ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Cosmology is not science in the usual repeatable laboratory sense. All interpretations rely on one’s set of assumptions. These assumptions determine the model, and the standard big bang model has some fundamental unprovable assumptions, of which the cosmological principle is key.[iii]

The problem is that quasars in the standard model are at their redshift distances. That is, based on the Hubble law, any object with a redshift greater than z = 1 must be extremely distant (more than 9 billion light-years) and also extremely old (formed less than 5 billion years after the big bang). Accordingly, this structure must have formed much less than 4 billion years after the big bang, but that is impossible because of the problem of scale, or put another way communication across the whole structure. Gravitational forces according to standard general relativity are limited to the speed of light, so for the structure to form under gravity it must take much more than 4 billion years. But that does not accord with its own redshift distance.

 

The only way to determine what is the probability of such clustering is to simulate the universe with mock universes, fake universes in computer simulations. This is because we have only one universe, so how can you tell what a typical universe should look like? A researcher at the University of Bielefeld ran simulations on quasar clustering in 10,000 simulated randomly populated regions and found that 8.5% of them clustered larger than the Huge-LQG. He concluded that, “… the observation of the Huge-LQG is best explained as the action of a computer algorithm biased to find clusters looking at a spatially random scattering of quasars.”[iv]

 

This brings us to the most important point in this discussion. It is all about a worldview. The dominant one says, basically: We are here looking at this problem and the only way that that could come about is if the big bang history is all true, which of course includes evolution of man from pond scum starting some 3.8 billion years ago. ‘Since we know that that is the true history of the universe then we can rely on our simulations that tell us there is an 8.5% chance of the apparent cluster forming randomly in the early universe. Whew, that was close!’

 

This now goes to the heart of science—really scientism[v]. How does one know what are the parameters to use to simulate typical early universes? One doesn’t, so one uses the standard model and everything flows from that. This then becomes circular reasoning. Only an interpretation of the evidence that fits with the accepted worldview is allowed. In the case of the simulations the researcher did, 91.5% did not cluster on the scale needed, but because 8.5% did, this is the evidence (but note, not from the only real universe) that indicates everything is OK? Nothing to worry about? No. It makes much more sense if the quasars are not at their redshift distances and they have similar redshifts because of their common origin from the same or similar parent galaxies.

Adopt the correct worldview—one that has God creating the universe—and you don’t need to support a godless worldview that is only justified by the existence of unknowns.

For further study of the subject matter dealing with a variety of alternates:

http://physicsoverflow.org/12098/current-alternatives-standard-concordance-model-cosmology

“There is an alternative line of thought according to which inhomogeneities in large-scale structure, known as voids, are responsible for the “perceived” or “apparent” acceleration on large time scales… However such a fit requires a very low Hubble rate ( ∼0.40−0.45h−1) compared to the widely accepted ∼0.73h−1, and also requires a significant amount of negative curvature. These shortcomings aside….”

“but if these references to papers by David Wiltshire have anything to say about the question of “apparent” vs. “actual” cosmic acceleration, it would appear that many in the cosmology community have been worshipping the false god of “dark energy” !”

“It does make some predictions regarding the distribution of irregularities in the CMB. Basically black holes in the previous aeon should show up as circular patches of colder or hotter radiation. Some such irregularities have been found but more investigation is needed.”

Prof. Abraham Loebfrom Harvad Universitysuggests MOND[vi] (Modified Dynamics) is a worthwhile non-standard approach in his Fig. 2. In his paper, Abraham states that “Once experiments push the upper limit on the cross-section of Weakly-Interacting Massive Particles[vii] (WIMPS) down well below the expectation of most reasonable models, alternative gravity models might apear more apealing.”

One issue is that LCDM (i.e. standard cosmology) has been found to already fail on galaxy and somewhat larger scales (Kroupa, Famaey, de Boer et al. 2010), such that the CDM (cold dark matter) part must be wrong. Thus, WIMPS can’t exist. If some experiment were to find evidence for CDM particles, then the failure of LCDM would not be removed, but instead, the situation would become even worse in trying to understand how structures arise in the universe.

 

 

[i] Clowes, R.G., Harris, K.A., Raghunathan, S., Campusano, L.E., Söchting I.K., and Graham, M.J., A structure in the early Universe at z ∼ 1.3 that exceeds the homogeneity scale of the R-W concordance cosmology, MNRAS429, 2910–2916 (2013).

[ii] The largest structure in the observable universe—Quasar group 4 billion light-years wide, dailygalaxy.com, 17 March 2013.

[iii] See my article FUDGE FACTORS for the big bang.

[iv] Dodson, B., Do the largest structures in the Universe actually exist?, gizmag.com, 20 November 20, 2013; arxiv.org/pdf/1306.1700v2.pdf, 22 July 2013

[v] Scientism is a philosophical position that exalts the methods of the natural sciences above all other modes of human inquiry. Scientism embraces only empiricism and reason to explain phenomena of any dimension, whether physical, social, cultural, or psychological. http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/scientism_este.html

[vi] http://nedwww.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/Sept01/Milgrom2/Milgrom_contents.html

[vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weakly_interacting_massive_particles

The Science of it All

FUDGE FACTORS for the big bang

I’ve discussed this several times, the number of FUDGE FACTORS used by astrophysicists and cosmologists to try to get both sides of their convoluted equations to match up. I’ve put together a listing of the most obvious problems they can’t explain. Maybe at another time I’ll put together a list of the unverified data that drives their belief in these fudge factors.

energy_pie

Cosmologists tell us we live in a universe filled with invisible, unobserved stuff—74% dark energy and 22% dark matter. Only 4% of the matter/energy content of the Universe is supposed to be the ordinary atoms that we are familiar with- that makes up everything we see on our earth and in the sky.

For 40 years, one form or another of dark matter has been sought in the lab,[i] the axion[ii], for example. Another missing particle the paraphoton—a WISP (Weakly Interacting Slim Particle) not a WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle) has been searched for but to no luck.

Lieu lists five evidences where cosmologists use ‘unknowns’ to explain ‘unknowns’, and hence he says they are not really astrophysicists. Yet these evidences are claimed to be all explained (and in the case of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)[iii] radiation even predicted) by the ΛCDM[iv] inflation model. None of them are based on laboratory experiments and they are unlikely to be ever explained this way. They are:

  1. redshift of light from galaxies, explained by expansion of space,
  2. Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, explained as the afterglow of the Big Bang,
  3. perceived motion of stars and gases in the disks of spiral galaxies, explained by dark matter,
  4. distant supernovae[v] being dimmer than they should be hence an accelerating universe, explained by dark energy,
  5. flatness (space has Euclidean geometry) and isotropy[vi], explained by inflation.10

The ‘unknowns’ in the lab (meaning not known in any way shape or form to physics today) are listed in bold type.

  1. ΛCDM = cold dark matter cosmology with a non-zero cosmological constant, that also involves a rapid Inflation stage to smooth out the clumpiness of the early density variations and solve numerous other problems, including the lack of monopoles. Which the Big Bang Theory had the four guys traveling to the North Pole for three months to try to detect them.
  2. CMB=cosmic microwave background radiation..
  3. The metric expansion of space[vii] is the increase of the distance between two distant parts of the universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion whereby the scale of space itself is changed. That is, a metric expansion is defined by an increase in distance between parts of the universe even without those parts “moving” anywhere.
  4. The speeds of gases (and stars) in the outer regions of the disk in spiral galaxies are inferred from Doppler line redshifts or blueshifts and they don’t obey Keplarian motion as predicted by Newton’s law of gravitation.
  5. Inflation is the extremely rapid exponential expansion of the early universe by a factor of at least 1078 in volume, driven by a negative-pressure vacuum energy density. The inflationary epoch comprises the first part of the electroweak epoch following the grand unification epoch. It lasted from 10−36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds. Following the inflationary period, the universe continued to expand, but at a slower rate.

The cosmologists may shore up their faith in a model that is based on false and unverifiable assumptions, but the fact is that the history of the universe cannot be determined from a model which cannot be independently tested. No matter how many fudge factors are needed for the model to describe the observations. The Big Bang cosmology is verified in the minds of those who already hold to that belief—that the Universe created itself about 14 billion years ago—ex nihilo.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” is far more believable—eventually we can fill in the details.

 

 

[i] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=lux-dark-matter-null-result

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axion and www.physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/19419

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background_radiation

[iv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambda-CDM_model

[v] Supernova = exploding star. A certain class, type Ia, is used as a standard light source to measure distance in the cosmos.

[vi] Flatness describes the fact that all we ever measure in the universe is Euclidean. This is a cosmological fine-tuning problem and since the Universe has departed from the needed critical density over cosmic time it must have been closer to perfect flatness soon after the Big Bang. Another problem is the horizon problem which has to do with the fact that light has not had enough time since the Big Bang to travel between what should be causally coherent regions of the visible universe, which means they are not causally connected. For example, light from diametrically opposite side of the Universe. Then why is it isotropic generally in every direction we look. This is particularly true for the temperature of CMB radiation where we see the same thing—the Universe is isotropic, the same in all directions to within 1 part in 104 at least. This is called the smoothness problem and it is even more incredible because as the Universe expanded the isotropy supposedly lessened, starting at the level of 1 part in 1040.

[vii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metric_expansion_of_space