CNN piece suggests that cosmic inflation finding is evidence for God

As expected, the finding of gravitational waves from the earliest moments of the Big Bang has prompted —along with scientific exultation—the usual blathering of theologians and believers, who can’t resist connecting this new finding with God. I didn’t post about that because those blatherings were a). predictable and b). adequately covered by other websites.

But there is one that is extraordinarily silly—because it’s from CNN (the Cable News Network), a respected news source, and doubly silly because it’s written by a scientist, Leslie Wickman. CNN describes her this way:

Leslie Wickman is director of the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University. Wickman has also been an engineer for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, where she worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station programs. The views expressed in this column belong to Wickman. [JAC: I'm glad they're not CNN's, but they chose to publish her!]

And, in an “opinion” piece on CNN, Wickman asks: “Does the Big Bang breakthrough offer proof of God?” The answer, surprisingly, is “yes”—in contrast to the usual saw that any column whose title is a question will answer that question in the negative.

Here are her reasons:

The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,” which argued that the universe has always existed, without a beginning that necessitated a cause.

However, this new evidence strongly suggests that there was a beginning to our universe.

If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

So this latest discovery is good news for us believers, as it adds scientific support to the idea that the universe was caused – or created – by something or someone outside it and not dependent on it.

Well, we already knew, from other data that has been around a long time, that the universe had a beginning. The new data says something about what happened right after it began, and adds weight to the notion of cosmic inflation.

Besides getting that wrong, she also botches “the logic of cause and effects”, raising the old canard of the Cosmological Argument. Well, that logic doesn’t apply to quantum mechanics, does it, Dr. Wickman? Or is there a cause for making a particle pop into existence, or for an atom to decay? Can you tell us what that cause is? And if that cause is an “agent”, how do you know that that agent was the Abrahamic God? Couldn’t it have been Baal, or Brahma, or any of the thousands of Gods who have come and gone on the world scene? Or even, maybe, a space alien from another universe?

Further, if there is a simple law of cause and effect that implies an agent, well, then, what agent caused God? Or did He pop into existence like a particle, totally uncaused? Is God the only thing in the universe that doesn’t need a cause? If so, please tell us why. After all, Dr. Wickman, you’re a scientist as well as a theist, so how do you know that God doesn’t need a cause? And what was he doing hanging around before there was a universe?

Then her words fall together in a familiar pattern, like sled dogs lining up before being harnessed:

We also need to remember that God reveals himself both through scripture and creation. The challenge is in seeing how they fit together. A better understanding of each can inform our understanding of the other.

It’s not just about cracking open the Bible and reading whatever we find there from a 21st-century American perspective. We have to study the context, the culture, the genre, the authorship and the original audience to understand the intent.

The creation message in Genesis tells us that God created a special place for humans to live and thrive and be in communion with him; that God wants a relationship with us, and makes provisions for us to have fellowship with him, even after we turn away from him.

So, we know that Genesis was never intended to be a detailed scientific handbook, describing how God created the universe. It imparts a theological, not a scientific, message.

There it is: “Genesis was never intended to be a detailed scientific handbook, describing how God created the universe.” Well, Dr. Wickman, how do you know that? In fact, there’s every indication that it was intended to be a literal and historical account of how the world and its creatures came to be, and that’s how theologians interpreted it for millennia. It’s only now—now that we have the luxury of scientific knowledge—that we can see that Genesis was a form of proto-science: it was the best guess by its authors about how stuff got here, but it was stone, dead, wrong.  You may now, to save the story, imbue it with whatever metaphorical meaning you want (I’m anxious to hear what “original sin” means, Dr. Wickman), but Genesis certainly imparted a message about history, and that is a “scientific” message as well as a theological one.  (My translation of  the familar trope “the Bible is not a science textbook” is automatically “the Bible isn’t correct”.)

Wickman goes on praising the Lord and declaring the glory of his handiwork, but it’s all embarrassing, for her, her university, and her scientific colleagues. She trots out, for instance, the fine-tuning argument, apparently not aware that the scientific findings that inspired her article lend credence to the idea of multiverses, which in turn could dispel the notion that our universe is “fine-tuned” for life:

These physical laws established by God to govern interactions between matter and energy result in a finely tuned universe that provides the ideal conditions for life on our planet.

As we observe the complexity of the cosmos, from subatomic particles to dark matter and dark energy, we quickly conclude that there must be a more satisfying explanation than random chance. Properly practiced, science can be an act of worship in looking at God’s revelation of himself in nature.

And the final entity that should be embarrassed is CNN—for blessing this unholy matrimony of science and religious drivel. I wish I could have a Marshall MacLuhan moment now, but with Sean Carroll instead of MacLuhan.

h/t: Steve

129 Comments

  1. francis
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    //

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      //

  2. Kevin
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Words almost fail me….

    But first, Leslie Wickman is more engineer than scientist. In my experience, big difference, aesthetically and ideologically. Likewise, companies like LockMart or tainted with conservative, right leaning personnel. That being said, this theistic proposition has been made and will it be made again and again and again.

    Theism usurps all that it can from science to make its plagiarized aims more golden.

    It is grossly unwise and embarrassingly transparent how theism adopts, without payment, the rewards of science.

    • bpuharic
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I remember the late Dorothy Nelkin of NYU making the same remark regarding the number of engineers who are creationists. She speculated that engineers HAVE to come up with answers as part of their jobs, so ‘god did it’ as an answer…which answers everything..is a great answer!

      • Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        Rube Goldberg engineering, no less.

      • Filippo
        Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        Engineers are about DESIGN. More than once I’ve read an engineer say that he has detected or observed “design” in the universe, or evidence for a designer.

        • Filippo
          Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          FWIW, I greatly admire the engineering profession. Were I to do it over, I would go into engineering (though trying to keep involved in education, on the side tutoring motivated students).

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see that it’s necessary to slur engineers as a whole, because one person with that denomination holds silly views. There are also many “scientists” who have equally absurd beliefs. IMOP this kind of characterization is the worst form of scientism. And whilst it is, no doubt, the case that scientific literacy, as part of a rounded education, tends to promote rational ways of thinking, that isn’t restricted to people who end up wearing white coats and examining bubbling test tubes in their labs.

      • Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s perfectly fine fodder for commentary, if it’s true, anyway. I think I’ve noticed a similar pattern among chem E’s out here in Colorado, which could of course be confirmation bias on my part.

        While I would doubt (USA) engineers in general have more religious adherence than their non-engineer counterparts here, I’d wager as a group they were more religious than non-engineer scientists (esp. physicists & biologists). A very quick survey reveals nothing, though – but I think these data are readily available</a).

        In any case, am wondering if anyone has anything more solid on this? (the topic seems to come up often)

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          Which reminds me … 

          An engineer, mathematician, and physicist are each asked to determine the volume of a red metal ball.

          The mathematician measures the diameter, divides it by two to obtain the radius, and then performs a double integration.

          The physicist weighs the ball and then weighs it again when immersed in water. Knowing the density of water and the difference in the two weights, she calculates the displaced volume of water, which is the volume of the ball.

          The engineer turns to her reference text The Physical Properties of Balls and in the chapter entitled “Metal”, finds the table labelled “Red”. Searching for a row that contains the appropriate model number (which is stamped on the ball), she reads across to the column “volume”.

          Which I originally heard from my son, an intelligent-automation engineer.

          /@

          • Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            & who is also an atheist!

          • Posted March 22, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            A brilliant twist on such jokes — hdan’t heard that variant. Many thanks, Ant.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:11 am | Permalink

            Hmmm… a hydroelectric company in French Equatorial Africa has a dam failure with huge loss of life, and the general manager, shift supervisor and chief engineer are all sentenced to death. So the general manger is led to the guillotine – and the blade sticks. Three times. Which means he has to be pardoned. Same for the shift supervisor. Then the engineer is led out, and the blade sticks again – and the engineer looks up and says “Wait – I see what the problem is…”

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

              That’s like the scene in Schindler’s List. The engineer tells her Nazi captors that the roof will collapse if they design it that way. The whole time I was thinking, “shut up – it will kill the Nazis!”. They shot her after she told them how to fix it. I took a lesson from that and I’m more careful about sharing now. I could totally see myself as that engineer.

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          I did make the point, in a previous thread here, that mathematicians may be on average more religious than scientists (and there is some data that suggests that), but you can not thereby conclude that they are religious *because* they are mathematicians and not scientists. It’s probably just that physicists and biologists tend to have greater exposure to theories that better account for nature than goddidit, rather than that e^(pi*i)+1=0.

          • Kevin
            Posted March 22, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            I think of it this way: what can define certain professions is their cross-section with the general (mostly religious) public.

            Biologists are on the front line, plain and simple. If they are atheists, they would tend to be all out atheists fighting, just on principle, to eradicating irrational contradictions that directly affect what they do.

            Physicists lead a different front. The religious have to come to them and want to pick a fight, which they usually know they will lose, unless, of course, they unjustifiably absorb the knowledge that physicists give them and call it their own.

            The rest: engineers, chemists, material scientists, etc. all have a variety of roles. My experience suggest they tend to sit on the fence but they are more likely to contrive an existence that is either wholly commensurate with a religious life or not.

            Then there are mathematicians. I have never met one, so, to paraphrase Wittgenstein:

            “what I cannot talk about I must pass over in silence” (whatever that means)

          • Posted March 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

            Certainly, yes… yeah — all I was looking into was associations, anyway. Am intrigued about the mathematicians, as I was about to lump in the association with the engineers, but stopped short.

            In the case of Colorado engineers (e.g. out of Boulder or Golden [School of Mines]) I would wildly speculate that the hidden variables had something to do with a more “straight-laced” upbringing, leading to entry into the more demanding, more disciplined arenas that tend to weed out the less disciplined. But I really am speculating even more madly at this point. Would be interested in knowing the work that was done on religiosity vs being a mathematician. Maybe if things calm down a bit and I get a hair up, I’ll look more deeply into engineering.

  3. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Wickman is at Azusa Pacific, which is a christian “university,” so, not to put too fine a point on it, my response is “Who the fuck cares what she thinks about this result?”

    I doubt that her university is embarrassed by her; they are always putting up silly billboards here in Southern California.

    • Achrachno
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes. It’s an evangelical Xian University and faculty must uphold the inerrancy of the Bible, if they want to continue having a job. Otherwise, they’re EXPELLED.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        And in case there is any doubt about it, Azusa’s motto is “God First”.

    • ichiban
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Their science building has all kinds of Genesis quotes on it as well. I can’t help but laugh every time I pass by.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how CNN picked her. Did they pick others?

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to resist a quip about “inflating the evidence”.

    It’s been argued that slapping together the contradictory creation accounts together in Genesis is evidence that the authors knew they weren’t necessarily literally correct, but this is not an indication of a higher theological message that should be revered and believed.

  5. Alex Shuffell
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    “If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect.”

    That is a very confusing thing for me to understand. Because the universe exists something supernatural must also exist? What is an agent? How can it effect something if it is “separate and apart from the effect”? Then if the agent turns our to be her god why does she she say that her god wants us to have “communion with him,” and have a relationship? She just said her agent god is separate and apart from the universe, us being part of the universe are therefore separate and apart from her agent god.

    She only made this connection through the book of Genesis. Her belief that Genesis is true contradicts her belief in an agent god.

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      The ‘first cause’ argument is an old, ignorant canard. Rebuttals are:
      a) How do we know there must always be a cause for an event? Just b/c that has been always been our experience does not mean it must always be true. There are lots of things that we thought were true, based on experience, but we later learned it was our experiences which were limited. Mountain ranges do not mean geologic upheavals and floods. It means tectonics. A seemingly flat landscape and ocean does not mean a flat earth.
      b) If god was what caused the universe, what caused god?
      c) Actually, a leading idea about what caused the B.B. is that it had a ’cause’, once we allow that there could have been space and time (and dark energy) before the Big Bang. According to the Rolling Inflation Model the B.B. may have been caused by an inflationary bubble of dark energy, which then collapsed to a lower energy state by converting to matter and heat. Hence, the hot B.B. It nicely predicts the inflationary, ‘flat’ (balanced) universe that we see today.

      The god hypothesis is the last thing we should think of. That hypothesis has never panned out, and I would not bet on it now.

      • Posted March 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        b) and c) definitely. I’m not happy arguing a) though, because the cure is as as bad as the disease. If things happen for absolutely no reason at all, then anything goes. It’s a completely unfalsifiable hypothesis and in fact theists could argue that their god didn’t need a cause either.

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

          I am happy to concur with your opinion about a). That one is the weakest of the 3.

      • Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:14 am | Permalink

        a) How do we know there must always be a cause for an event? Just b/c that has been always been our experience does not mean it must always be true.

        Except that that isn’t what that claim is based on. It’s based on thousands of years of philosophical work on what it means to be a cause. A better way to think of it might be this: if we can say that something is dependent for its existence on something else (entity, event, etc) then that it needs something to exist or happen before it can exist. That means, then, that we need an independent thing or else we can’t solve the Something from nothing problem, meaning that we’d have to start with nothing, and have only a set of entities that need something else to happen first before they can happen. You don’t get anything existing if you end up in that state.

        b) If god was what caused the universe, what caused god?

        God could be an independent being. How this shakes out depends on how you argue for it, but note that classical theists like Hart and Feser derive an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God from what they claim the “First Cause” has to be like, and don’t start from God’s properties and claim eternal existence, which makes it more credible philosophically if you can get past the non-standard ways they talk about causes.

        c) Actually, a leading idea about what caused the B.B. is that it had a ’cause’, once we allow that there could have been space and time (and dark energy) before the Big Bang. According to the Rolling Inflation Model the B.B. may have been caused by an inflationary bubble of dark energy, which then collapsed to a lower energy state by converting to matter and heat. Hence, the hot B.B. It nicely predicts the inflationary, ‘flat’ (balanced) universe that we see today.

        That’s a nice attempt, but you’d have to establish that a) it itself isn’t dependent on anything else and to do that you’d need to establish b) what “dark energy” is. Additionally, that it suddenly collapsed is an event that seems to be dependent. And finally, if this requires you to posit that time and space didn’t come into existence at the Big Bang I do think this will cause some issues with how the Big Bang and universe creation are seen, as they usually claim that space and time in this universe, at least, were created at the Big Bang. If this is asserted only to try to solve the “First Cause” problem without God, philosophically we can see that you’re just asserting your position just as theists do.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

    You hear what you listen for. The Earth wasn’t created until ~ 9 or 10 billion years later.

  7. W.Benson
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    From what I have seen recently, CNN is going to the dogs.

  8. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Since I’m pretty sure that 500 million dead babies wouldn’t dissuade Ms. Wickman from claiming a single survivor was “proof of God”, her interpretation of the new physics doesn’t quite nail down the issue for me.

  9. Dale
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see genesis and the bible as “proto-science”. I think the writers knew it was myth all along and never intended it to be taken literally.

    • noncarborundum
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. The first chapter of Genesis is generally taken to be the work of the Priestly source, and a good case can be made that its purpose is to explain the proper Hebrew perspective on God’s relation to the universe, and particularly to emphasize that God is separate from the parts of creation that were identified as divine by the surrounding peoples. To read it as (an attempt at) history is to miss the point entirely.

      This article from an old edition of NCSE’s “Creation/Evolution” magazine lays it all out very cogently: http://ncse.com/cej/4/2/genesis-knows-nothing-scientific-creationism

      • Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        “generally taken” … by whom?

        How do you know what the bronze-age Canaanites thought about it?

        /@

        • noncarborundum
          Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          1. “Generally taken” by the people who study such things for a living. Source criticism of the Pentateuch has a long and respectable history.

          2. I have no idea what the bronze-age Canaanites thought about it. which is why I refer to people who study such things for a living. I don’t know that they’re right, but I suspect that they know a little more about it than you or I do.

          Did you read the linked article, or merely snark on the fly?

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 1:07 am | Permalink

            Merely snark on the fly … 

            But, having now read the article, I’d ask the same question of Conrad Hyers.

            The whole article reeks of fitting the evidence to a modern Cristian perspective, and ignoring evidence which doesn’t.

            For instance: His discussion of the symbolic importance of the seven days of creation and the number seven itself glosses over completely the astronomical origin of the seven-day week (with each day named for the “planet” – including the Sun and the Moon, but excluding Earth, of course – that ruled the first hour of the day), which the Jews adopted from the Babylonians during their captivity of the 6th century BC.

            /@

    • derekw
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Well most Biblical scholars see Gen 1 as written in historical narrative form. Hence views by the faithful that the ‘proto-science’ it describes (in this case allusions to the ‘big bang’) can be reconciled with modern science. See http://www.christianpost.com/news/big-bang-gravity-wave-discovery-supports-biblical-creation-say-old-earth-creationists-116363/ which mentions Wickman again.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just about cracking open the Bible and reading whatever we find there from a 21st-century American perspective. We have to study the context, the culture, the genre, the authorship and the original audience to understand the intent.

    Yeah, and it doesn’t take much, after you’ve done all that, to realize the Bible has no place in the 21st Century other than an interesting study into the very different and very violent past. It advocates homicidal, cruel and downright sickening behaviour (a reflection of the societies of the time), so why are we consulting it for advice on ANYTHING let alone science?!

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Do people really believe those biblical stories or are they just pretending to believe in order to be part of some community? Maybe paying lip service to odd beliefs is a sort of membership badge. I recall some childhood experiences a bit like that (viz the boy’s belief in “the beast” in Golding’s “Lord Of The Flies”).

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        I used to think they didn’t believe them but they really do believe them. I realized this when childhood friends who are very religious described their recently deceased mother as “dancing on streets of gold” in heaven.

  11. cremanomaniac
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The gravitational field in her head must indeed be very strong, to bend evidence like that.

    Its sickening because there are too many credulous people who will take what she says seriously because she’s has a Ph.D. at the end of her name, and she has some relation to science.

    People like her are a stain on the name of good science.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Reading her words actually gave me pain tantamount to cognitive dissonance. It’s like I was feeling her pain for her!

  12. Sastra
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

    … By the simple logic of cause and effect wedded to the well known and universally accepted fact that Minds are magical things!

    Think about it. It’s intuitive. Minds are simple, irreducible, timeless nonmaterial essences (being) which exist outside of the natural universe and don’t need to obey any of the laws of physics. True! They create and move matter around just through the inherent power and force of their agency. True!

    I mean, come on. Look at your own mind. Isn’t it magic? Think “move finger” and the finger moves just by the will to move it. A REAL mind which wasn’t weirdly connected to the brain or physical world would be even MORE powerful. It could just imagine “create universe” and Bob’s your uncle — there’s an actual universe.

    Doesn’t this just feel like the way it has to be? Don’t your feelings point you to the Truth?

    Oh, we sure don’t need science to tell us what we can know directly from our own experience … and what can be extrapolated from that through simple logic. This realization about the magical state and power of the mind — and how only the Mind could be the fundamental substrate of reality itself — is too deep for science to get at.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, and that mind you have – it has its secret thoughts that no one else can hear and they are so secret that no one, absolutely no one experiences what you experience in your inner life because you are so very, very individual!

      • Sastra
        Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Well, God hears and experiences your inner life because it’s so very, very special that it must be connected to the center and origin of the cosmos. It’s like He’s in your head, nowhere, and everywhere at once. Kind of like your own thoughts are in your head, they’re nowhere, and they’re everywhere at once.

        Once you consider the entire universe to be based on Mind, it all falls into place. And you can shove cosmic inflation, cosmic deflation, or cosmic candy over the top because the easiest and simplest explanation for anything is always “Someone wanted it that way.” ‘Cuz they did.

        • bpuharic
          Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Talk about a whole lot of nothing…

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

          Weird thought coming. What if we were all just in the mind of god? We could be ‘real’ only b/c god is imagining us. He thinks ‘go to Starbucks and get a chai latte’, and bam, here I am in Starbucks. ‘Invade Crimea’, and Putin rolls the tanks in.

          • bpuharic
            Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

            Comedian Lewis Black saying he found the end of the universe…it’s in Houston. He walked into a Starbucks and when he walked out…across the street…was another Starbucks…

            Reminds me of when I was in Seoul…Starbucks on every freakin’ corner

            • Posted March 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

              Well, I am midway between Detroit and Flint, Michigan. Not unlike the end of the universe.

        • Posted March 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

          Peter Boyle in “The Dream Team” as former ad-man/current psychiatric patient Jack McDermott, discussing modern sculpture:

          “Do you know why it’s a brilliant manipulation of negative space, Ed? Because Jesus wants it that way.”

  13. bpuharic
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Talk about moving the goalposts. Alvin Plantinga and others USED to use the fact the cosmic background radiation is uniform to 1 part in 100,000 as one of those ‘fine tuning’ parameters as ‘god did it’, with no scientific explanation possible. Now that we FOUND the reason, they just moved the goalposts!

    AND this results supports Andrei Linde’s Chaotic Inflation theory which is a muliuniverse based idea with NO ultimate begging to the universe.

    • Stephen P
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 1:53 am | Permalink

      Alvin Plantinga and others USED to use the fact the cosmic background radiation is uniform … as one of those ‘fine tuning’ parameters as ‘god did it’, with no scientific explanation possible.

      Do you have a source for that? It sounds like the sort of thing he would say, but a few minutes searching didn’t throw up anything relevant.

  14. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.

    That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”

    What would David Bentley Hart say about this? Probably that she is not a Real Sophistimicated Theologian™.

    In any case, I don’t think that Ms. Wickman and I hear in the same manner, because the cause of the universe is more than adequately explained by the Snohomish Indians: “The Creator and Changer first made the world in the East. Then he slowly came westward, creating as he came.”

    And to muslims, it sounds like “Not without purpose did we create heaven and earth and all between (Sa Surah, 38:27)”

    A little cultural imperialism there, eh, Dr. W?

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      >blockquote>A little cultural imperialism there, eh, Dr. W?

      Celestial bias appears to be a permanent feature of all gods.

      I wonder how they’re getting along up there….

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Yikes. Blockquote fail.

    • BilBy
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      As an ex-S.African in the US I used to occasionally ask the Christian door-knockers why they had to push their god on me: and then talk about unkulunkulu, the great one, emerging from the primordial swamp of reeds to arrange chaos into the world as part of the isiZulu cosmology- why was that not a better explanation of the world?

  15. ToddP
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    there must be a more satisfying explanation than random chance.

    Ah, the old Argument from Can’t Get No Satisfaction.

    • challedon
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Random chance as the explanation suits me just fine.

  16. Barry Lyons
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    “[L]ike sled dogs lining up before being harnessed.” Nice.

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 4:08 am | Permalink

      Yes, I liked that one too – nice image.

  17. Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    gee, someone who works for a Christian university is making stuff up. How surprising… I do love how people like that will continually try to hold onto their old jobs to validate their nonsense, as if being an engineer with an aerospace contractor makes her a magical astrophysicist.

  18. Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    “If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.”

    “She trots out, for instance, the fine-tuning argument,”

    Now all she had to do is explain the existence of evil, and she’s got the big three.

  19. marksolock
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  20. Isaac
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    As others have noted above, CNN has in recent days become the laughing stock of cable news. I thought they had hit rock bottom when they brought in a psychic last week to provide some clues about the very stagnant affair regarding the missing plane, and now this.

  21. Wowbagger
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    We have to study the context, the culture, the genre, the authorship and the original audience to understand the intent.

    Yeah, how convenient that that caveat was included – since what it actually means is ‘so we can cherry-pick the parts we like and pretend the other, nasty parts – God murdering, God’s people murdering, slavery, institutionalised misogyny and homophobia and so forth that Christians accepted (and practised) as God’s will for hundreds of years – weren’t what they ‘really meant’.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      And believe me when we really do study all this from a purely academic perspective, believers do not like the truth. Historically, there is little evidence for Jesus, the ancients drank mixed wine (with water) not grape juice, there are contradictions galore in the bible itself….etc., etc.

  22. Harbo
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    “god of the gaps” is shrinking, I wonder if there will be a virtual “pop” as it asymptotes singularity.

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Just a sudden deflation.

      /@

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 4:10 am | Permalink

      God of the black hole?

  23. JimV
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Her thinking is very poor on many levels. For example, in the Steady State hypothesis, new atoms were supposedly being created in empty space continuously, so while the universe as a whole looked the same, new events were happening. From a (much) longer perspective, the multiverse hypothesis, which includes the Big Bang, behaves similarly – individual inflationary events happening over time in a continuous and homogeneous (on a large enough scale) universe. That is, as individual atoms popped into existence under the SSH, individual Big Bangs can pop into existence in the MH. The recent evidence for inflation tends to make the MH more likely, it seems to me, rather than supporting something of a unique and singular nature.

    I don’t think such muddy thinking is a generic characteristic of engineers (of which I am one, so who knows?), but rather of dogmatists. I grant it is easier for a dogmatist to get an engineering or medical degree than a science or philosophy degree, but we have also seen philosopher dogmatists and scientist dogmatists.

  24. Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Yes.. I saw the piece a day or so ago in the CNN web site. I too was aghast, especially since the findings definitely should not lend comfort to the faithful. Quite the opposite.
    CNN has its more-or-less solid news content, light fluff content (lots of that I am sorry to say), and of course their approach to inform the public about political issues is to have a liberal and conservative scream at each other to a stalemate.
    This was the first god-bot content that I had noticed. Guess they have news and commentary for everyone.

  25. Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m always amused by the claim the universe is fine tuned for us. It shows a serious misunderstanding of the size of the place. I seem to recall that that are something like 10^ll stars in our galaxy and 10^11 galaxies in the known universe. So there are potentially 10^22 solar systems. A tiny bit of this solar system is the only part of that vast space we have any evidenc we can live in. Some fine tuning, indeed, without even considering exotic ideas like multi-universes!

    • Kevin
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Feynman once said, “it is provincial”. The very encapsulation of religion is provincial and self-absorbed.

      As if there is some special providence in the fall of every damn sparrow. By choosing to think they are special they must guarantee everything is special or call it mysterious.

      This is fully demonstrated in what is now called the modern day miracles. It is when a mass murder cuts away four people and a baby lives and the religious hamm away, “It was a miracle!” Really? That is sick.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      And now that astrobiologists have started to ponder “superhabitable” planets (larger terrestrials around longer lived stars), we definitely know that the universe isn’t fine tuned for us earthlings.

      Earth is marginal in so many ways, we live 1 % [!] in from the inner edge of the habitable zone, only 40 % of planets our size is predicted to have plate tectonics and our volatile supply is marginal because of minuscule size, et cetera. Our planet is a poor backyard of the universe.

  26. Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    See? SEE?!

    Yesterday I said I felt journalists would pull this kind of crap about this story. They think they’re going somewhere deep when they do this (it’s the only kind of “deep” they can talk about; they’re certainly not conversant with the science (but then neither am I)). Even more, though, they know their audience will want to hear it.

    • Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      Oh. Must read more before commenting.

      A “scientist’s” opinion piece.

      Well, still.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      I’m just surprised they had time to run this story what with the 24/7 plane search, the interviews with psychics and what not. Soon a psychic octopus will show up on CNN like that one that figured out sports teams outcomes!

      • Posted March 22, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        Well if Justin Bieber is arrested for a DUI then that news will vanish to the backwaters of CNN.

  27. tien song chuan
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Its the multi verse, silly.

  28. Jeffery
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    So, if there needn’t be, or isn’t, a “cause” for God, then why not just simplify things and say that there needn’t be, or isn’t, a “cause” for the universe? Why pin yourself to all of the internal inconsistencies and paradoxes which the dogma concerning the “existence” of a creator automatically generates?

  29. Posted March 23, 2014 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    “Or is there a cause for making a particle pop into existence, or for an atom to decay?”

    If there wasn’t some cause for a particle to pop into existence then why is it that it is only particular particles that appear (and with probabilities that can be determined) and not other things? That does suggest there is some mechanism involved: One might imagine that if things happened totally without any cause, then anything could pop into existence, with equal likelihood, such as a cat or a chain of burger restaurants, or whatever. If it really is true that things can happen in the universe for no reason at all, then that presages a rather sad end to science’s quest for knowledge about the universe, and it seems a bit early to have to swallow such a bitter bill.

    • Posted March 23, 2014 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      errh… pill

    • Keith
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      I think you’re confusing the scale of the phenomenon under consideration. Particle behavior at the quantum level is very different from what we observe at higher levels of physical or biological organization. I recall William Lane Craig making an argument similar to yours in his recent exchange with Sean Carroll.

      • Posted March 23, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        What’s that? Association with the odious WLC!? One might call that an argument from lack of authority. In any case, no I’m not confusing levels:

        Probably the best supported theories of quantum reality, by physicists, are variations on the many worlds/consistent histories/decoherence approach, which are deterministic.

        Saying that particles pop into existence out of nothing is a confusion that arises because we have a theory of quantum mechanics that is probabilistic, but we don’t (yet) have an accepted theory of quantum reality, since all the different approaches are weird in some way and difficult to separate empirically. It could be that QM defies all logic at the macro level, but it seems more probable to many that we just don’t understand it yet.

    • Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Particles pop into existence in pairs (particle-antiparticle) and annihilate each other very quickly. The product of the energy (mass) and time must be of the order of the Planck constant (Heisenberg). And these are fluctuations in particle fields. The likelihood of multiple fluctuations occurring simultaneously to created anything complex (large, ordered) is vanishingly small.

      /@

      Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse all creative spellings.

      >

      • Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Yes, but the point is that those things are constraints on what occurs. If there was no mechanism behind pair production, then there wouldn’t be any constraints either. If you operate a vending machine and you determine empirically that there is a 60% chance of getting a red piece of gum and a 40% chance of getting a blue piece, and you never get a chocolate drop, then I think you have a right to hypothesize that some mechanism in the machine is responsible for that behaviour.

        • JimV
          Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Or you can expand your imagination to accept, as most quantum physicists do, that on the quantum level certain things happen on a random, probabilistic basis rather than a non-random, strict-cause-and-effect basis.

          That is, there is a mechanism (law of nature would be better words) which produces things randomly, such that no individual case of such events can be correlated to other states (e.g., local variables). So far as all millions of pieces of experimental data have yet shown, that appears to be the reality.

          It is somewhat confusing to apply the word “deterministic” to theories which incorporate the above interpretation. The determinism applies to the evolution of the quantum state function, not the events themselves. Scott Aaronson has made what seems to me to be an excellent suggestion, which is to stop using “deterministic” or “non-deterministic” in science and instead use “predictable” or “unpredictable” – since while there is a difference in principle, empirically only the latter can be distinguished.

          • Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

            Perhaps, but probability originated as a mathematical theory that predicts outcomes in situations of incomplete knowledge. And it isn’t so clear that it is a theory that applies to the real world, as a part of reality, at all. What does it even mean to say that something is fundamentally random when everything that we know enough about to describe fully is described in terms of causal mechanisms. That’s really what it *means* to understand how say an engine works. Applying probability as a real world solution smacks of a probability of the gaps… wouldn’t it be more accurate to just say that we don’t know?

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted March 23, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

              That probability predicts outcomes “in situations of incomplete knowledge” is a philosophic idea, which I don’t think has been tested outside of hidden Markov models (e.g. practical bayesian applications). Well founded probability theory is based on frequency distributions, and can be used in any situation.

              It is well known and fairly accepted that quantum mechanics predicts fundamental random (non-predictive) events as frequencies, while it takes states to states in a predictive way. It is precisely analogous to how evolution embeds non-predictive variation and predictive selection on those events.

              You seem to conflate non-predictivity with uncertainty towards the end. By applying mutually agreeable quality limits scientists can agree on what they know and to what degree (provisionally or, bar severe changes, conclusively) despite having uncertainties. In fact, by using probability theory, thanks to well understood uncertainty.

              • Posted March 23, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                I’m not sure that I understand all the details of your post. But evolutionary mutations need not be genuinely random, they can just as well be pseudo random. So evolution is perfectly compatible with determinism. For instance evolution would be feasible in a deterministic cellular automaton, such as Conway’s life, given some set of initial conditions. I’m not quite sure what this predictable/non predictable terminology really implies: The issue is surely whether events can occur without a full set of causal antecedents and pseudo random events are causally complete.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

            Thanks for the HT on Aaronsson [sp?], that would make so much more sense.

            “Determinism” is AFAIK as “materialism”, “truth”, “prove/induction/can’t prove a negative/circularity” and “parsimony/Occam’s razor”, a philosophic idea that has been, poorly, adopted into physics.

            We have to make these things precise and testable. E.g. say predictive, physics, fact, hypothesis testing and eliminating overdetermination instead.

            But, don’t you mean that only predictivity can be determined, akin to how we can never (with finite resources) distinguish a true random sequence from a pseudorandom such?

        • Keith
          Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          Your analogy doesn’t make any sense with respect to a fluctuation in an energy field. In your vending machine scenario, you are dealing with a population of gum that you’ve determined contains 60% red and 40% blue. Are you asking what determines the distribution of these flavors (or colors)? The obvious answer is the person who stocked the machine; it would be silly to hypothesize some machine generated process of creating gum colors, given our everyday experience with vending machine technology. Perhaps you think you are making a clever argument from design with this nonsense analogy, but it is not at all convincing, and can be dismissed as easily as every other argument from design has been.

          • Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            I’m not making an argument from design!? (to clarify: I am in fact an atheistical atheist from the Isles of Atheism). What I’m saying in simple language is that it is a cop out to just assume that something is inherently random, when it would be more accurate to say we don’t yet know how it works.

            In any case, it seems to me more mystical to assume that probability is a fundamental property of reality than it is postulate that phenomena probably occur for some reason (i.e. are caused). After all that is what our empirical knowledge of the world would lead us to suspect.

            Not sure you quite understood the vending machine example…

        • Posted March 24, 2014 at 1:38 am | Permalink

          Thinking of things in terms of a “mechanism” is a false analogy. Quantum fields behave like quantum fields, not machines. Allowing that there’s an explanation for such constraints doesn’t necessarily imply that there is a cause.

          /@

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 2:22 am | Permalink

            That just sounds like semantics, where you are substituting the word explanation for mechanism. If there is an explanation for why something occurs, then it occurs for a reason and the process that makes it happen must be embedded in something. Why there is something rather than nothing is deeply puzzling, but you can’t just sweep it under the carpet with some vague indeterministic hand waving and then imagine that you have answered the question. See: David Albert’s review of Krauss’s book “A Universe From Nothing” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=0.

            All this seems to me to stem back to the positivist views that infected science in the mid twentieth century. That’s such a stultifying view of what science can be and something we would be well rid of IMOP. Hey you can ask the big questions! Just don’t expect any easy answers.

            • Posted March 24, 2014 at 2:48 am | Permalink

              “If there is an explanation for why something occurs, then it occurs for a reason …”

              Well, that seems to stem back to Aristotle.

              “… and the process that makes it happen must be embedded in something.”

              Why must there be “a process”? Why must anything be “embedded” in “something”?

              /@

              • Posted March 24, 2014 at 2:59 am | Permalink

                Well… because if there wasn’t anything there would be nothing. In the words of the immortal poet William Lane Craig Aristotle: No trees, no flowers, no fields, no processes, November…

              • Posted March 24, 2014 at 3:40 am | Permalink

                :-)

                Clearly there is something. But why need there ever have been nothing?

                If you insists that everything is “embedded” in something else, you’ve got infinite regression.

                /@

              • Posted March 24, 2014 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                It’s not me who is claiming there was nothing… it’s people like Lawrence Krauss. What he *really* means by nothing though is some elementary substance (i.e. a necessary substance) that forms the fundamental fabric of the totality of everything. But that wouldn’t have made a very catchy book title and also he would have to admit that some of those old guys (Spinoza…) maybe weren’t so stupid after all.

              • Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                Well, yes, but you did allude to it! Take it as a parenthetical comment. I do agree that a fundamental fabric seems plausible – but can we recognise it when we find it? ;-)

                /@

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      It may be the red pill, though.

      What appears depends on what circumstances (which constraints) you are discussing:

      – “Virtual” particles, non-resonant wiggles in the fields, appear already as particles, resonant wiggles, are sitting in the vacuum (predicting the “clothed” charges of naked particles) and traveling in the vacuum (predicting how different fields that interacts with particle fields behave. E.g resonant electrons can be divided into non-resonant virtual “photons” and virtual “electrons” and immediately recombined again, as they travel. [Ref: Strassler, his basic lectures on "Of Particular Significance".])

      – Pair matter/antimatter particles of Standard Model, can appear as high energy photons travel, “knocking” them out of their respective fields. Energy must be larger than pair particle masses, or we are back to “virtual particle” temporary wiggles.

      This would happen more in high energy situations nearby (Hawking radiation close to black holes – but note that large black holes have still little curvature at their event horizons though; close to massive stars).

      For universe pairs it would happen simply out of quantum mechanics laws, where the action* is the field considered, as universes are zero energy. [Ref: quantum cosmology; arxiv.]

      Such universes would appear at saddle points in a slowly varying background geometry, and give rise to “hilltop” eternal inflation. [Ref: Hawking's AdS/CFT cosmology since 2006; arxiv.] Note that while BICEP2 can’t exclude Planck’s preferred hilltop potentials, it doesn’t prefer it yet. But when they include as of yet poorly understood dust models, it comes closer to a toss up… [Ref: Tegmark; Scientific American; BICEP2 result pappers]

      – If you wait long enough even in flat space, Boltzmann fluctuations will happen, “anything can pop into existence”.

      First the funny “Boltzmann Brains”, hallucinating a universe. Then real universes, prefereably small so close to big bang. [Ref: Carroll, his posts on "Preposterous Universe".]

      This prediction of Boltzmann has all sorts of problems, IMO.

      *If I understand Noether’s theorems correctly, the Lagrangian/Hamiltonian actions appears simply when systems moves under time translation. It is what keeps the symmetries.

      So saying that you have action doesn’t mean you say that you have particles or even a spacetime. You are claiming that quantum mechanics has a potential (whether anthropic impressed or not) for symmetries, i.e. laws. It is “pre-physics” if anything.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        - On Boltzmann Brains, I’m fairly certain that I messed up the order of appearance re universes. We need Sean to tell us how it works!

        – Re quantum cosmology and pre-physics, quantum mechanics is likely the unique, or at least simplest, pre-physics that works.

        It minimizes hidden variables, it minimizes number of parameters, it is the only probability theory that emulates classic (bits vs qubits) and then it makes the nice extension of allowing continuous state transformations between classical “in” and “out” states to boot.

  30. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,”

    Well, Whoever-it-was is wrong already there.
    Fred Hoyle named the “Big Bang” in an attempt to ridicule this already-existing theory when he proposed his own, novel, “Steady State” theory of cosmology.
    So, Wossname, “Wickman”, is incapable of even the most basic scholarship about the subject she’s chosen to write about.
    To be honest, there wasn’t really much of a scientific theory of cosmology until Hubble’s discovery of the redshift of (almost all) “external galaxies”, published in 1928.
    Hoyle (along with Bondi and Tom Gold (who would have been better advised to stick to astrophysics instead of trying to get involved in geology) started his work on the “Steady State” theory in about 1948.
    (I note that Georges Lemaitre’s theoretical work and application of Hubble’s early results to his theories predate both ; however since Hoyle accepted Lemaitre’s theoretical work on the metrics of space, but disagreed on the interpretation of the observations, then I think it’s best to leave this underspring out of the issue.)

    • Posted March 23, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      (Georges Lemaitre’s theoretical work and application of Hubble’s early results to his theories predate both ;
      however since Hoyle accepted Lemaitre’s theoretical work on the metrics of space, but disagreed on the interpretation of the observations, then I think it’s best to leave this out of this issue dealing with the new findings .)

      NOTE 2 : (a) Moreover:—-> the inflation theory ( Allan Guth ) solved theoretical problems with the big bang theory and the earliest model of inflation theory dates from 1980 ….(Sir Fred Hoyle (born 1915 ) was then 65 years old )

      —>(b) it took some years before eleaborated and divers models of the inflation theory (–> Linde ) —> ( which is now seems to be more of less confirmed by the new observational data ) … The aging Hoyle (and his “intellectual heir ” the panspermalist Wicramasinghe ) never tried to explain consistentely (or even interpret ) the inflation theory by their own “steady state theory —-> “Why should they ever have done that ? = for them the “Big bang” theory was false ( see 1)

      —>(c) The steady state was further detailed by them ; The creation of new “space ” and matter was not the result of inflation : but the result of a continuous de novo creation of matter and space ; a proces that will go on infinitely

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 23, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        What was that “Wheelerism”?
        “Not even wrong.” Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, that is.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Nice catch!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Not exactly difficult. It just requires a good memory, and reading the guff that these posters write. (They’d probably describe both “tricks” as “being unfair” though.)

  31. Raphael
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    There are times when I read stuff like this that I just can’t take it anymore. I try and remember that people will believe what they want to believe, and accordingly she’s going to fit scientific discovery into her own personal conception of Christian belief.

    But the fact that she resorts to the cosmological argument as so many do, with the “it has to have come from somewhere, therefore god” line just makes my head hurt. This argument explains nothing. God himself would have to come from somewhere. When I was spiritual, trying to wrap my head around where god came from made my head hurt. There is no way we could ever explain that. So why even intelligent people feel that trotting this argument out is a valid reasoning for the existence of a creator god is beyond me. You’re essentially saying that no, the universe could not come from nothing, But the creator of that universe could, and then he created the universe like in a scene out of Fantasia…

    I know it’s wrong of me, but when a scientist of any stripe trots out religion I just lose a lot of respect. Very brilliant people can be religious, but I don’t know how they can reconcile such irrationality, other than they deeply want to and the evidence presented doesn’t cause their mind to abandon its faith.

    There will always be unanswered questions; trying to solve them is what drives scientific inquiry. To be comfortable using the extremely fallible god argument is just intellectual laziness.

  32. Posted March 23, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    CNN’s “Belief Blog” has been around for awhile so I’m not surprised to see such an article. I think it came into being sometime after the New Atheists garnered national attention so I regard the Belief Blog as evidence that we are having an impact. It’s mostly devoted to opinion pieces by religious apologists though I think I have occasionally seen a contrary opinion.

    With regard to engineers, I are one. ;-)
    I have friends and work associates who are engineers, some of whom are very smart people and I would value their thoughts on many technical problems. So it surprises me to learn that many of them are church-going believers, and yes I’m including fundamentalist churches like the Baptists. How they rationalize their beliefs is beyond me. I live in the South so churches of the Baptist kind are very common and well-attended around here, so social conformity probably has something to do with it. It’s also true, I think, that many if not most engineers receive little education in the life sciences where they might learn about evolution and natural selection. I remember many years ago that I was astounded to learn that all life on the planet is built on the same DNA code (with a few exceptions?). Hopefully engineers are listening to the new Cosmos and it will set them to thinking instead of rationalizing.

  33. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Truly embarrassing for the concerned, with magic incantations waved around and all.

    My own take should come as no surprise by now, inflation makes creationism perfectly analogous to homeopathy. These scams both start off with a seed volume, which is diluted so nothing of the original remains. No molecules remains for the homeopath, no inflaton field particles (if that is what it is, else no inflation) remains for the creationist. The supposed magic is then in the dilution process. Madness!

    The only difference is while homeopaths are insanely wrong with some 30 orders of magnitude (from a biologically active drug), creationists are insanely wrong with 90 (from a cosmologically active process)!

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    But this is giving the magic believers too much:

    Well, we already knew, from other data that has been around a long time, that the universe had a beginning. The new data says something about what happened right after it began, and adds weight to the notion of cosmic inflation.

    This is is confusing the beginning of our universe with the beginning of the putative multiverse mentioned later, precisely the conflation that Wickman relies on.

    While we know already from Hubble expansion that the universe has to be finite in age, we still don’t know if there was a beginning to inflation. E.g. if Linde’s chaotic inflation model is correct, which simplest model seems spot on the new data (pending Planck CMB polarization data release and data consolidation), inflation spawns new universes like ours all the time. After a very short time, thanks to deterministic chaos, the system’s memory is erased. How old is the multiverse?

    With likelihood = 1 when we look back we will find that our universe has no sign of being among the root set of such a multiverse. (It is unlikely that a process starts out exactly in its steady state, and possibly we can distinguish that.)

    Susskind has argued that, while we know nothing about the requirement for initial conditions, that put us in the position that practically speaking the multiverse can be taken as infinitely old! ["Is Eternal Inflation Past-Eternal? And What if It Is?", Leonard Susskind, arxiv 2012; http://arxiv.org/pdf/1205.0589v1.pdf ]

    Let me quote an inflation cosmologist, Shaun Hotchkiss, from the comments here.

    [vmarko:] “AFAIK, the term “Big Bang” denotes the “initial moment”, or the “beginning of time”, or more seriously the epoch of the Universe where quantum gravity effects were dominant, and where GR predicts the singularity. Everything else, including inflation, bubbles, structure formation, etc. happened *after* the Big Bang. OTOH, you seem to use the term “Big Bang” to denote a post-inflationary period of a given bubble-universe. Where did this usage of “Big Bang” come from? I’ve never seen it before, and I fear that it introduce a nontrivial confusion among people.”

    [Shaun:] “Regarding “Big Bang”, other people have sometimes mentioned the same to me. I don’t think the definition you are suggesting is particularly useful though. If that was what “the big bang” was then I doubt many physicists would feel confident saying “the big bang happened”. I certainly wouldn’t. The Big Bang model that people wrote papers on and has subsequently been tested relates to the rapidly expanding, hot, dense state of the early universe and its current observational consequences. You say you’ve never encountered my usage of big bang, but to be honest, I’ve rarely encountered the definition you’re suggesting.”

    And FWIW, Susskind uses the same definition in his cosmology lectures on youtube. (Which is the one I have adopted.) Inflation happens in a “cold” spacetime (in its later phases) AFAIK, relatively weak quantum fluctuations of gravitons and presumably inflatons being present.

    A spacetime with a well defined classical thermodynamic appears after inflation heats the universe (and its own energy disappears) – particles, temperatures and pressures. That is when pre-inflationary models of big bang takes over.

    To sum up, we know our universe started and when it did so. But we don’t know if spacetime has a beginning, and what it would look like.

    • Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      I think the confusion arises, because in early cosmological models the big bang universe was all that there was. People used to annoyingly say: “time and space before BB is like asking what is north of the North Pole”, as if they understood what they were talking about. Now cosmologists are considering multiverse models (in several different ways), the term universe has become overloaded and as you say theists either don’t understand that or use the term equivocally in their arguments.

      • Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        But there is still (thought to be) an earliest moment of time in this universe. The multiverse model doesn’t change that.

        /@

        Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse all creative spellings.

        >

        • Posted March 23, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          That depends which multiverse model you are considering. As Carroll points out in his debate with WLC (with a cameo appearance from Alan Guth) the BGV theory doesn’t take QM into account and so we can’t tell what the situation was before the universe started at least until someone comes up with a theory of quantum gravity. Carroll’s own model, if I remember correctly, is one where universes arise, by quantum fluctuations, out of some external high entropy background.

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 1:44 am | Permalink

            Who mentioned BGV?

            What does to mean to say, “before the universe started”? That’s sound like the kind of careless use of language that Carroll criticised WLC for. Carroll said that there was an earliest moment of time in the universe (at least in his model; likely others); so what does “before” mean?

            /@

        • Posted March 24, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          In this *hubble volume*, to use a better term.

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            Oh, and at best, since the york time parameterization diverges in the big bang direction in some models, last I checked.

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            I think Hubble volume refers to a specific radius (hence hubble limit) beyond which galaxies recede at > light speed (due to the expansion of the universe i.e. the big bang bubble).

            @Ant BTW I was using universe in the sense of the bubble created in the big bang – so universes (plural) would in that usage be other big bangs arising in the multiverse. Otherwise I would probably have said multiverse, cosmos, totality of everything or something. If that was confusing I apologize, but with all these different models it’s a bit tricky sometimes to know what terms to use.

          • Posted March 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            But is it also the same first moment of time outside our Hubble volume?!

            /@

  35. ichiban
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Fyi, this is APU’s Science building, complete with Bible quotes plastered all over it. I wonder what “science” they teach in there.

    http://architizer.com/projects/segerstrom-science-center-azusa-pacific-university/media/140715/

  36. KP
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Someone probably already mentioned this, but she cites Fred Hoyle who thought (according to Wickman), “the Big Bang was not a chaotic explosion, but rather a very highly ordered event – one that could not have occurred by random chance.”

    But from what I read at the infallible Wikipedia, Hoyle didn’t even think the Big Bang was correct and has been shown to be WRONG by the current support for it.

    • KP
      Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Also, for those on here who don’t do science, it is REALLY hard work, just to get a non-groundbreaking study completed, through peer review and published. There is nothing more insulting than scientists doing what must have been YEARS of learning, formulating hypotheses and carrying out the observations that led to this discovery, and having religion try to take credit for it.

  37. Boris
    Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne is wrong about the universe having a beginning. The stuff the universe is made of has always existed in one form or another. There was never a point in the past when nothing at all existed. The Big Bang is when our eternal universe took its present form not when it began. This is Cosmology 101. I’m a little surprised Jerry does not know these things.

    • Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Read the Roolz about dissing the host. Your comment is rude, and you could have made your point without the last two sentences.

      Are you completely ignorant of how to behave civilly on someone’s site?

      Oh, and you’re wrong, too.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Ethan Siegel for one might not agree with you!

      /@


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