Does the nature of the Universe show that there’s no God?

That, at least, is the contention of Emily Thomas, an assistant professor of philosophy at Durham University, in an essay at RealClear Science (“Does the size of the universe prove God doesn’t exist?“) This point has been made by many people before, including, as I recall, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins: the Universe is unbelievably large and all those extra galaxies and planets would seem to be superfluous if God’s real concern was Earth. After all, the Bible refers to this planet, not others, and so what’s going on with all those other planets, even if they do harbor life?

The good bits in Thomas’s essay are simply the facts she gives (these are quotes from her piece):

  • Scientists estimate that the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe.
  • Our own planet is 150m kilometres away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometres). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars. 

The last fact is for just the observable universe. 300 sextillion is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, and multiply that by at least 250 (or more, if the 250 is a linear dimension and not volume). That’s HUGE–even bigger than William Howard Taft! Thomas quotes Douglas Adams here as saying the Universe is “big really, really big”, but as I’m reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I’ll give the full and accurate quote:

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.

The Universe is also old: about 13.7 billion years. Why did God wait so long to create Earth, and then wait another 4.5 billion years—until about 4000 years ago—to reveal himself to us?

As Thomas notes, this evidence—the size and age of the Universe—does not comport with a God who’s deeply concerned with what happens on Earth: the superfluity of stars and of time does not comport. As Thomas argues:

Over the last few decades, a new way of arguing for atheism has emerged. Philosophers of religion such as Michael Martin and Nicholas Everitt have asked us to consider the kind of universe we would expect the Christian God to have created, and compare it with the universe we actually live in. They argue there is a mismatch. Everitt focuses on how big the universe is, and argues this gives us reason to believe the God of classical Christianity doesn’t exist.

To explain why, we need a little theology. Traditionally, the Christian God is held to be deeply concerned with human beings. Genesis (1:27) states: “God created mankind in his own image.” Psalms (8:1-5) says: “O Lord … What is man that You take thought of him … Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” And, of course, John (3:16) explains God gave humans his son out of love for us.

These texts show that God is human-oriented: human beings are like God, and he values us highly. Although we’re focusing on Christianity, these claims can be found in other monotheistic religions, too.

. . . Clearly, there is a discrepancy between the kind of universe we would expect a human-oriented God to create, and the universe we live in. How can we explain it? Surely the simplest explanation is that God doesn’t exist. The spatial and temporal size of the universe gives us reason to be atheists.

As Everitt puts it:

The findings of modern science significantly reduce the probability that theism is true, because the universe is turning out to be very unlike the sort of universe which we would have expected, had theism been true.

She then suggests several ways that theologians could answer this argument, including the possibility that we don’t understand God’s plan, or that God simply values natural causation and lovely stars. But these seem like post facto rationalizations (which they are), and so she concludes that this is all evidence against God:

The problem with these rival explanations is that, as they stand, they are unsatisfying. They hint at reasons why God might create tiny humans in a gargantuan place but are a million miles away from fully explaining why. The weight of galaxies, and the press of years, seem to sweep us towards atheism.

Well, this is all fine and good, but is somewhat unsatisfying on three counts. First of all, it’s not a new argument, though of course hardly any arguments against God are new.

Second, theologians have other answers to the Argument from Douglas Adams not mentioned by Thomas. Michael Ruse—an atheist who specializes in helping Christians keep their faith by telling them how to harmonize science and Jesus—has suggested that Jesus traveled from planet to planet throughout the Universe, saving aliens everywhere (I am not making this up). But of course the Bible is Earth-centered. So theologians would have to claim that each planet has its own Jesus, and that God is saving different life forms in different ways—if those forms are “made in God’s image” and have souls to be saved. (In that case, what does “made in God’s image” really mean?)

Finally, there are many other reasons beyond the size and age of the Universe that already tell us that the probability of God’s existence is unlikely. And some of these arguments, like the existence of physical evils and the death of innocents and animals from horrible diseases, simply do not comport with an omnipotent and loving God—a God also described in the Bible. There’s the fact that God doesn’t show himself to us in convincing ways, and yet could if he wanted to. Why is he a deus absconditius? There are evolutionary arguments, too: if evolution is God’s way of creating humans, why all the wastage—the terrible suffering due to natural selection, and the 99% or more of species that have gone extinct without leaving descendants? Why the superfluity of species, much less stars?

Theologians have answers for these, too, for there is nothing that a clever, committed and well-paid theologian like Alvin Plantinga cannot rationalize as comporting with God’s existence. (If you can  accept the Holocaust and God at the same time, there’s nothing that can dispel your faith.) But that, too, is an argument against accepting God: if his/her/hir/its existence cannot be disproven by anything, then we need not take God seriously.

I’m not overly impressed by arguments like the superfluity of stars as evidence against a God, though it does count for something. And I’m pleased that RealClear Science is giving arguments for atheism. But Thomas writes as if scientists and philosophers like her have just discovered this argument in “the last few decades”. In fact, we’ve known for much longer that this is not the kind of universe that argues for existence of a god, and we’ve known it from several other considerations. Unwarranted suffering alone is, to me, the strongest argument against the Biblical god, for theodicy is the Achilles heel of theology.

Readers might amuse themselves by thinking up other reasons why the sheer size and age of the Universe alone do not militate against God’s existence. If you can walk like an Egyptian, you can think like a theologian.

120 Comments

  1. Mark Joseph
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    If you can accept the Holocaust and God at the same time, there’s nothing that can dispel your faith.

    Quoting (from memory, and therefore inaccurately, at least in part) from Primo Levi:

    “Those who still believed in god after the holocaust had simply not been paying attention.”

    I’ve seem a cute meme:
    “Did you sleep well?”
    “Like god during the holocaust”

    And, from Robert A. Heinlein:
    “God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent — it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.” (Time Enough for Love

    • Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      One thing we can say with certainty is that the god some believe exists was imperfect and fallible, given all the evidence we have at hand. But theists presume the perfectability and omniscience of their god. So let them disprove the evidence of his failures. And if they say it was part of his plan, then they are worshipping a false god and on top of it they are covering up his failures to justify their doctrines. And then we should ask: just how and why did this god allow such hypocrites to come into existence? They are living proof that they were created in the image of an imperfect evil god!

  2. Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    sub

  3. Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I read Hitch-Hiker’s again a few weeks back.

    I’d forgotten that the line ‘Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?’ comes from Ford Prefect and not Richard Dawkins.

    • Barney
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      But in the book, the ‘fairies’, ie the planet-builders of Magrathea, turn out to exist.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      I’d forgotten that too.

      Of course Magrathea, while undercutting that line, also completely explains who made us (and it wasn’t G*d 😉

      cr

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

      I miss Douglas Adams.

  4. Simon Hayward
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I had a conversation along the lines above with an aunt, who considers herself Christian. Her attitude was that you cannot take too seriously, the limitations that a bronze age document places on a god who is much larger and whose aims, if any, are much more mysterious than we can know.

    It was a position that, while it’s hard to argue against, seems to step away from all/most of the truth claims of religion. I’m a little mystified as to how you consider yourself anything in particular on those grounds. In fairness to her, she’d probably say that it doesn’t matter too much what creed you attach yourself too, they all have some limited window on a partially- and poorly-understood truth.

    While not in any way sharing her convictions, I do think that if all religions interfaced with society in her pretty much harmless manner we’d be less concerned with the whole shebang.

  5. Richard
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The stage is too big for the drama – Feynman

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      It’s not just that the stage is too big. Where’s the stagecraft? Our universe manages to run without stagehands, special effects wizards, makeup artists, or armies of animators.

      Look at the credits on any blockbuster superhero movie or Disney animation extravaganza. That’s what you expect of a world created for the purpose of enacting a cosmic drama of good and evil: a vast illusion built from smoke and mirrors.

      What you don’t expect is rigorous physics down to the level of quarks. As Laplace said, the clockwork universe needs no god; it runs just fine all by itself.

  6. Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    One of my favs is Woody Allen’s:

    “If it turns out that there is a God…the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.”

  7. Ken Phelps
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

    …and it’s surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.

    Well now we we know who Orange Bigfoot is imperfectly channeling.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The average Evangelical would pay no attention to things like light years or age in billions. It simply is not in their book so forget it. The bible says this and this and that is all that matters. Heck, they are still trying to get over that the sun does not go around the earth thing.

    It is only we who believe in science and evolution and other realities that are overwhelmed by the size of the Universe and the numbers. Trump was planning to put this little fat man from Iowa in the govt. Agriculture department as the science expert. He bailed out before the confirmation hearing, only because he is in another jam with this Russia business. The guy was a radio talk show person who knew nothing about science.

    • Historian
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      “The bible says this and this and that is all that matters.”

      These same evangelicals would agree with the above sentence if you substituted “Trump” for “the bible.” They have a mindset that does not encourage critical thinking.

  9. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Best arguments against God himself by Peter Singer:

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t this the same point our resident website physicist Sean Carroll makes regarding the extraordinarily low entropy of the early universe?

    • Sixtus
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Carroll makes some of the points Everitt does in his now-classic debate with Christian apologist William Lane Craig. Should be required viewing for all atheists (and Christians, for that matter).

  11. rickflick
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    God is sooooo big that the size of the universe is to Him only the size of a breadbox. He had to stuff it with something so we have lots of colored points of light, like Wonder Bread.

    God is sooooo old that the age of the universe is as the snap of His fingers. What was he supposed to do? Sit around watching tons of reruns?

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      The universe is yuuge, but God is yuuger.

  12. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    We don’t really need to use the size and great age of the universe to see that there is, in all probability, no god that cares a whit for our planet and its life.
    Just knowing that we are in a galaxy of 100s of billions of stars, and that among them are stars that are far older than our system is a pretty definite sign that we are not special. Further, knowing that we are consigned to a place near the edge of this galaxy is yet another hint that we were not wanted, nor planned for.
    I am not sure when these things were first being realized as facts, but I suppose it would be around the 1920’s or 1930’s. The hypothesis of God would have died around then.

  13. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Contention: it is dangerous to admit an identification of God into existence long enough to refute it.

    As the batter swinging away, you are “widening the strike zone” for theists by doing so. They love to see you attempting to prove a negative.

    You are taking the pressure off theists for the burden of proof.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t worry about the size of the strike zone, since we’re playing in the dead-ball era.

      • Posted November 4, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        It’s not over until it’s over, and the Theists have God on their side.

        • Conelrad
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:11 am | Permalink

          I have actually heard this from some of my evangelical relatives: “We know how it comes out in the end: we win.”

          • Posted November 5, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

            I think you could challenge back, assuming they are Christian Evangelicals, with “Gee, I don’t know, I think the Muslims are winning.”

            • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

              I’m reminded of that bit from South Park with the “awww”, when a afterlife-minion has to explained that the Mormons were right. Even just the delivery was funny.

  14. Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    God is what we don’t yet know.

    Which means he could be infinite.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Or, put another way,

      “No one infers a god from the simple, from the known, from what is understood, but from the complex, from the unknown, and incomprehensible. Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.”

      ― Robert G. Ingersoll, The Gods, 1872

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Boy was he right. There’s a lot of ignorance going round.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Which indicates that God doesn’t remotely resemble anything found in the Bible.

    • Craw
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      I always ask, what is the basis for *the* god of the gaps? Why not a god for each gap? “Oh god of the mystery of the ratio of the proton mass to the electron mass, hear my prayer.” The monotheists aren’t entitled to claim all gaps are the same god!

      • Posted November 5, 2017 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        Back in the day, polytheism was all the rage, probably for the reason you indicated in addition to others. The evolution of monotheism shows memetics at work. One great big, all-powerful, all-caring god is a godsend to the marketing team of any religion.

  15. Roger
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Heck the Earth itself is too big for one god. Look how many of them there are.

  16. Frank Bath
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    There is absolutely no way we can disprove the existence of god, gods, fairies, unicorns and Russell’s tea-pot, as unlikely as their existence is.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      Why do you think I would be interested in your unsubstantiated, contradictory theological claims!? If we know the likelihoods, we can test those facts in the same way we test other superstitious and/or pseudoscience claims.

      At this point, since we are discussing possibilities for testing “gods” magic, let me quote myself from the longer comment I placed down-thread:

      “We know for a fact that magic – as practiced in prayers and thoughts of ‘eternal life’ – and miracles do not exist, so why bother? As Mark says, the hypothesis of gods died sometime in the early 20th century.

      In my opinion the best gods killer should be that religion no longer pays as promised. Early religions may have posited anthropomorphic actions to explain the world, but the discovery of independent physical laws made that unnecessary. Instead recent religions posit ‘souls’ to have a magic bargain chip. As Jerry points out, anesthesia was an early “soul killer”. As I have mentioned so many times, the LHC has now set unobtainable and loophole free limits for magic ‘soul’ functioning like mirroring and copying brain/body mind states at death due to the nature of the quantum vacuum.”

      QED.

      • Craw
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        You have utterly missed his point. The universe could have been created 10 minutes ago, complete with memories. It is logically impossible to prove, PROVE, it wasn’t. Attempts to prove anything about god or gods in the abstract are fruitless. What we can show, and could do even in a “small” universe, is the the claims of revealed religion are false or incoherent.

  17. Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Did I miss something. 13.7 billion – 4.5 billion does not equal 4000. Or was that the idea? 4.5M is of course the age of the solar system.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      @John The solar system formed around 5 bya & Earth just under 4.6 bya

      I think you’ve misread or misinterpreted JAC when he writes “The Universe is also old: about 13.7 billion years. Why did God wait so long to create Earth, and then wait another 4.5 billion years — until about 4000 years ago — to reveal himself to us?”

      “so long” = 13.7 bya minus 4.5 bya = 9.2 billion years of god waiting to make Earth, followed by a further 4.5 billion years before he had a chat with Moses via the burning bush telegraph.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Was he using Moses code? “Ditto ditto duh, ditto duh duh,…”.

      • Posted November 5, 2017 at 1:42 am | Permalink

        Aha. Wasn’t obvious to me. Thanks, Michael.

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. A real problem for theism is the Holocaust and cancer in children.

    I don’t think the size of the universe matters one way or the other.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:11 am | Permalink

      A problem with theodicy is that even if you manage to excuse a good god(s) for the bad things he/she/it/they allow to happen it breaks the ‘personal relationship’ that several religions claim. Once you break the ‘personal relationship’ you have no understanding of what the god(s) require (if anything) of you. All your whinging prayers and rote praising might be really annoying… and I wouldn’t care to upset a god(s) that created tsunamis, earthquakes, or the Black Death.

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Well, I remember encountering a Muslim who claimed that a complete plan for creation is in the Koran, suitably interpreted (I think this position is also heretical, but never mind). I thought : if that’s the case, boy is the universe redundant, because there’s, what, an upper bound of (say) a gigabyte of data in the Koran? (Data compression!)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        Redundant in both sense of the word, then?

        cr

  19. mirandaga
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    As a rule, attempts to disprove the existence of God strike me as lame as attempts to prove the existence of God, and Emily Thomas’s arguments are no exception. The entire enterprise, either for or against, seems to me a waste of time.

    If there is a God who created (or is creating, as pantheists believe) the universe, one thing we might say of “him” with some certainty is that he values faith over rational proof or disproof. That is, he would rather have us take his creation as prima facie evidence of his existence and nature rather than be coerced into belief by irrefutable arguments. Even by human standards, this isn’t all that hard to understand: most artists would rather have their work speak for itself than depend on the arguments of critics to convince you of its worth.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      “[God] would rather have us take his creation as prima facie evidence of his existence and nature […] – most artists would rather have their work speak for itself than depend on the arguments of critics to convince…”

      I’ve not encountered that argument/comparison before. Is it your invention or is it some buffoon’s apologetics that’s unknown to me?

      • mirandaga
        Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        “Is it your invention or is it some buffoon’s apologetics that’s unknown to me?”

        Your question reminds me of one that a third-grade girl asked after I read one of my poems to her class: “Is that a real poem, or did you just make it up out of your head?”

        I suppose you could call it my invention, though I’m guessing that any poet (or other artist) such as myself would consider the view fairly self-evident.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          I was curious if you’d come across a pantheist [or similar], whom you could name, using that line of reasoning – so I’ll take your answer to be “no”.

          Bright, advanced 3yo girl BTW ! 🙂

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Apart from the headline (which I’m guessing Thomas didn’t write), there’s no mention of proof or disproof in Thomas’s piece. What we do find are statements like this (my emphasis):

      The spatial and temporal size of the universe gives us reason to be atheists.

      and:

      The findings of modern science significantly reduce the probability that theism is true

      This kind of argument strikes me as sound Bayesian reasoning, not lame apologetics. I think you do Thomas and Everitt a disservice by equating the two.

      • mirandaga
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 1:16 am | Permalink

        Your point is valid and well-taken. But, proof aside, I would say the same thing about trying to argue for or against the existence of God (or the worth of a piece of art) by reason, Bayesian or otherwise–namely, that it’s an exercise in futility.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure Dan Dennett would disagree with you. His Clergy Project is full of ex-preachers who’ve reasoned their way out of god-belief.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      I do not see testing astrology, homeopathy, religion or UFO beliefs as a waste of time but a probe into nature, including the nature of our own behavior. I am often amazed by arguments that can be interpreted as that religion is somehow protected or different from other superstition. It is neither obvious nor evidenced.

      And obviously we *know* that most religions are false (since they are many and contradictory). Further then, why would one among thousands similar be correct? The odds are staggering against, and that is the baseline we have to account for.

      Your second paragraph switch from private opinion to theology, which is obviously too false to bother with. (I.e. where is the evidence?)

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      If there is a God who created (or is creating, as pantheists believe) the universe, one thing we might say of “him” with some certainty is that he values faith over rational proof or disproof.

      I don’t think you can say that with any certainty at all. If there is a god, the lack of evidence for its existence is better explained by a desire to remain anonymous, in my opinion.

      • mirandaga
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        “the lack of evidence for its existence is better explained by a desire to remain anonymous, in my opinion.”

        A little reflection should make it clear that a desire to remain anonymous and a preference for letting the work speak for itself are complementary, not antithetical.

  20. Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I used to ponder what a religion and a god might be like that took into account the age and size of the universe, or universes. It seems strange that a god would create a religion on one planet for one people when that planet that is to be immolated when the sun goes nova (or whatever) in 1 1/2 million (or is that billion?) years, frying us all. That is, if humanity hasn’t already done in all life on our planet in in the nearer future through our impact on climate change.

    Every religion I can think of arose in a limited area for a limited group of people in a certain specific historical setting. The information spread and g0t modified, updated according to the cultural requirements of the given time, place and people it spread to. When it no longer makes sense, it is modified again. For example, although we tend to think of Catholicism as monolithic, there are many different versions of Catholicism, Eastern vs Roman, for example. And some of them remain closer to Jewish beliefs than others. And, protestantism went further away. And all the other more oddball variants. On this one little planet, the little people who live here hold many, many divergent beliefs about god(s).
    All counter to science.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that the sun will explode in 4.5 billion years, but that it will get hot enough to sterilise the planet in one billion. That is still a very long time though, if we consider how much evolution happened in the last one billion…

      • Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

        Maybe god still has a plan for us to come to fruition within the next billion years. I wonder if the plan includes getting us off the planet before all life is sterilized. Maybe
        transferred to a planet elsewhere in the cosmos called heaven.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 12:18 am | Permalink

          Or maybe, given our track record, sterilising the planet before we can get off it… 😦

          cr

        • DiscoveredJoys
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:15 am | Permalink

          Or maybe humans are just leftovers of God’s plan to create dinosaurs or a byproduct of creating an AI younger brother?

  21. David
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Ok let me say this, the good book does not talk about just the earth. Our Lord created the heavens and the Cosmos. He created us to rule our colonies and countries. He holds the cards, keys and whatever else you want to throw at it.

    Sincerely
    MA3(ret)

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      If you refer to the christian religious myth texts, they are neither a book (they make up a compendium) nor “good”:

      ““The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

      ― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

      But let is set that nasty toy aside. You make claims. Where is your evidence!? (Note that the myth text has nothing to do with evidence, in case you do not know what evidence is. Then look that up, say on Wikipedia.)

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    93 million miles to the sun.
    93 billion light years across the universe.
    Coincidence? I think not.

    Therefore G*d.

    cr

  23. Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I think this IS relevant basically because of science, it is why we are out there discovering the universe and what is in it.
    Not some whimsey of what might or not, exist.
    No bleeding god book apart from maybe the bhagavad gita has even come close to the vastness of space and time, with it’s multiple god heads. If that ain’t a god story on acid i don’t what is.
    Science can explain morality, the tiny and the vast and unlike god it not something hinged solely to the past.

  24. Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    The myth of a ‘creator’ being.

    Reasonable process:

    An entity of unlimited power that runs the universe is observed >

    A book (bible) offers an explantation of its existence, with verifiable facts.

    Doubtful process:

    No such entity is known or even necessary for the universe to operate >

    Book offers an explanation of its existence (of what, exactly? – the facts can never be verified!).

    rz

  25. Posted November 4, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    The myth of a ‘creator’ being.

    Reasonable process:

    An entity of unlimited power that runs the universe is observed >

    A book (bible) offers an explantation of its existence, with verifiable facts.

    Doubtful process:

    No such entity is known or even necessary for the universe to operate >

    Book offers an explanation of its existence (of what, exactly? – the facts can never be verified!).

    rz

  26. Tony
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    1 John 5:19 – We know that we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.

    How small minded has “the wicked one” him self, Satan the Devil, made so called educated men, to the point of now TRYING to prove the Jehovah God does not exist… When you know the TRUTH and realize that all of human suffering, including death, is caused by Satan and his demons, it’s not surprising that Satan always puts in the heart of men to blame God.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      Before you comment further, I want you to set out for us the evidence for the Christian god you tout so highly here. And I’m not asking you to say “the Bible”, because that’s not evidence for God at all! Second, why do you think your Christianity is “right” as opposed to other faiths like Hinduism or Islam?

      I often ask the religious to give answers to these questions, so if you want to comment further on this site, please give answers.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

      According to the bible, god created the angels, one of whom was Lucifer who fell from grace and subsequently became known as satan, the devil, a snake and various other evil personas. Since god created all the universe, including the devil, weren’t the devil’s actions forseen by god and in accordance with god’s plan? In fact, god colluded with the devil to test Job. What a nasty thing to do to a good guy. If god is all, he must include evil. If not, he isn’t omnipotent. We have lots of experience of his mistreating people throughout the centuries, or allowing them to be mistreated. Why would we create (or worship) a god like that?

  27. Posted November 4, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    To me at least this is THE one most convincing argument against gods, or at least against any kind of god that is worth caring about or, in other words, any kind of god that actual humans are actually interested in worshiping. What we know about the universe and its functioning and history is a puzzle; we are still adding pieces to it, some are still missing, but it is perfectly clear now that is going to be a black starry sky. But the religious try to hammer a piece into that puzzle that is not only the wrong colour but also the wrong shape and size, as if it belongs to a different puzzle.

    Or to use another analogy, claiming that there is a god who specifically cares about us after being informed about the nature of the universe is as if some archaeologists try to reconstruct the world of a bronze age tribe from pottery shards and burial sites, and then one of their colleagues tries to get them to accept that those people must have had smartphones.

    Yes, a lot of people say that the argument from evil is the strongest, but in my eyes it is easily avoided by playing the mysterious ways card or by relaxing the omnibenevolence aspect of one’s hypothesised god, and certainly the god as plainly described in the bible, for example, is not so benevolent as to be incompatible with the observation of needless suffering. So I really don’t understand why that one is given so much air.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:18 am | Permalink

      God moves incredibly long distances in mysterious ways…

      /sarcasm

  28. murali
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Analyses like this are utterly vacuous. The idea of God is so arbitrary that you can make anything up. Religion has evolved to survive analyses like this. Even Trump understands that 🙂

  29. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    In fact if we take the latest estimates of spatial curvature, which at most 1/1000 away from zero, our universe is at least 10,000,000 larger than the observable universe in volume.

    But why quibble over crumbs. We know for a fact that magic – as practiced in prayers and thoughts of ‘eternal life’ – and miracles do not exist, so why bother? As Mark says, the hypothesis of gods died sometime in the early 20th century.

    In my opinion the best gods killer should be that religion no longer pays as promised. Early religions may have posited anthropomorphic actions to explain the world, but the discovery of independent physical laws made that unnecessary. Instead recent religions posit ‘souls’ to have a magic bargain chip. As Jerry points out, anesthesia was an early “soul killer”. As I have mentioned so many times, the LHC has now set unobtainable and loophole free limits for magic ‘soul’ functioning like mirroring and copying brain/body mind states at death due to the nature of the quantum vacuum.

    So religion is no longer a bargain. In fact, religion has no use outside of the comfort it seems to give in remaining dysfunctional, insecure societies.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:21 am | Permalink

      It’s a protection racket. “Pay us a tenth of your earnings – that’s a nice soul you have there, be a pity for anything nasty to happen to it for ever and ever.”

  30. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    “as I’m reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,”

    Congratulations! Finally!

    My prediction is, either DNA’s quirky sense of humour will appeal to you and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it, or it won’t and you’ll find the whole thing pointless.

    (Myself, I like it hugely).

    cr

  31. Vaal
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    As always it depends on the attributes of the purported God. But taking the standard attributes of the monotheistic God – Wise, Just, Loving, Good, etc – the universe certainly provides plenty of evidence against such a Being creating or presiding over this universe (given it’s apparently blind and indifferent operations continually violate all those virtues).

    As for using the profound size, and apparent hostility to life, of the universe I think it DOES add some more evidence against the existence of a God.

    As usual, it wouldn’t be touted as a “proof” but rather evidence.

    If we are asking about the proposition “God has a special concern with human beings” then we can ask “does the size of the universe *suggest* such a special concern? Of course it’s logically compatible with God having special concern with us…but does the nature of the universe SUGGEST such a concern?

    Obviously not. That would be like finding a bathroom the size of…I dunno…Manhattan Island…cleaned of dirt and in which anti-bacterial disinfectant coated virtually all the surface…save a pin-head sized couple of areas where bacteria had managed to survive.
    Does such a scenario suggest this bathroom was created with special care for the thriving bacteria in mind? Of course not.

    Similarly the idea that an astonishingly vast universe mostly hostile to human life *suggests* a designer had a special interest in human life is just ludicrous.

  32. Craw
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    All knowing, all powerful, all good. Pick two.

  33. Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    “Jesus traveled from planet to planet throughout the Universe, saving aliens everywhere”

    This is an old SF trope, as is that of the much-repeated Garden of Eden. Brian Aldiss called them Shaggy God stories.

    I remember a story I read in the 70s (which may have been written decades earlier) where a Garden of Eden scenario is played out such that Adam and Eve stand up to God’s pettiness. At this point he welcomes them as his true children, the first to approach him as equals in all the many gardens across millions of planets.

    See http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/adam_and_eve for more examples

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      There’s also the SF trope of “different avatars” (to borrow the Hindu term in a Christian context :)). So Aslan = Jesus, sort of. (Well, more than sort of, but …)

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      “Shaggy God stories”

      Never heard that one before, and it makes my day, and my list of smart-ass replies to god botherers who are asking for it!

  34. Craw
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    If X is evidence for Y then not X is evidence for not Y. So if you buy their size argument you must buy that if future measurements or theory suggests a “smaller” universe that that would be evidence *for* god. Does anyone really believe that? I certainly don’t.

    • Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      If X is evidence for Y then not X is evidence for not Y.

      Yes, not really sure about that. If the probability of y is 0.5 when we don’t know if x or not x is true and knowing x shifts the probability of y to > 0.5, I don’t see how knowing not x necessarily shifts the probability of y to < 0.5.

      if future measurements or theory suggests a “smaller” universe that that would be evidence *for* god.

      How much smaller? As long as we are in the 10’s or 100’s of billions range, it doesn’t make much difference. On the other hand, if Voyager 1 hits a wall tomorrow à la Truman Show, there might be questions…

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

      “If X is evidence for Y then not X is evidence for not Y.”

      That doesn’t follow. A bloody thumbprint on the murder weapon would be evidence that the suspect did it, but lack of such a print would not be a reason to rule that suspect out.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 4, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      “If X is evidence for Y then not X is evidence for not Y.”

      – but much weaker. Someone recently linked to a page that pointed out that many placed named in the Bible couldn’t be found by archaeologists. But an archaeologist finding traces of town X is surely much stronger evidence, than failure to find any traces of an ill-defined location after 2000+ years is evidence of non-existence.

      cr

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      “If X is evidence for Y then not X is evidence for not Y.”

      Gregory K. has a good counterexample to this, and another would be:

      (Sun’s age is 4.6 billion years)

      is evidence that

      (earth’s age is at most 4.6 b.y.).

      But
      (sun’s age is not 4.6 b.y.)

      would not, without more precision, be evidence that
      (earth’s age is > 4.6 b.y.)

      Sun’s age might have been 4.59 b.y.

      In strict (non-probabilistic logic, and with ‘is evidence for’ replaced by ‘implies’, the correct version is simply

      If X implies Y, then (not Y) implies (not X).

      More precisely and completely,

      ( X–> Y) (negY –> negX)

      That is, the contrapositive.

      Since “X is evidence for Y” is surely the same as the statement
      “There is evidence for X, and X implies Y”,
      it would follow that the probability of
      [Y, given X]
      is the same as the probability of
      [(notX), given (not Y)].

      Or am I missing some subtlety?

      • phoffman56
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        Sorry,

        “( X–> Y) (negY –> negX)”

        got something chopped. Should be

        ( X–> Y) (negY –> negX)

        • phoffman56
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          It just won’t print that “if and only if” when rendered in symbols!

  35. Craw
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    So, basically, we’re gonna need a bigger turtle.

  36. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Slartibartfast gives a perfectly good explanation for the origin of the earth. When I turn on my tablet it says “don’t panic.” When I open the calculator it has a beautiful little 42 button. When I touch the button it shows some universal constants: the Planck constant, the speed of light in a vacuum, and the Ultimate Answer, 42, which makes about as much sense as any ultimate answer. The Planck constant and the speed of light do more to explain the the universe and its appearance than all the gods in all the minds of men.

  37. Alex
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    This article is trying to explain the existence of God from the nature of the material world, and therefore the premise is absurd. Everybody knows that the material world is constrained by space and time.God is not. St Augustine said: “we must not try to imagine a God who exists somewhere and sometime in what we believe to be reality. The reality which God possesses, which is inherent in his being, does not require time to exist.”
    What is extremely unlikely is that the universe is the result of random evolution that out of luck brought a world full of structure and consistency (which almost sounds like a fairy tale).

    • Posted November 5, 2017 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      Before you can post here again, please give us evidence that your God exists (and not just saying “It’s in the Bible”) and that your God is the Christian or Abrahamic God rather than the god of other religions. How do you now there aren’t many Gods, like the Hindus believe?

      As for evolution being a fairy tale: I”m sorry, but you’re deeply ignorant about the extensive EVIDENCE for evolution documented in Why Evolution is True,
      For one thing, evolution by natural selection isn’t purely “random”. Read my book and then explain why evolution is a “fairy tale.” It’s pretty clear you know nothing about this “fairy tale”.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I think you have it backwards. The regularities of nature argue for mindless mechanical causes, not divine whimsy. If you believe that an immaterial soul controls your body by non-physical means, then you must also accept that God could directly sustain the world by sheer power of mind. If he can perform miracles that violate physical law, then he can make a world in which literally everything that happens is a small miracle, with no underlying law whatever. To say that God works through physical law is to put limits on his power to animate the world.

      An omnipotent God has no need of physical law, and a world run by physical law has no need of God.

    • scottoest
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I always enjoy how God is both completely beyond our comprehension as an entity, yet some guy on Earth is always the one explaining the exact nature of how incomprehensible He is.

      Oh, and order or consistency in the universe is a wild fairy tale (mostly because our friend Alex here doesn’t know anything about astrophysics) – but omnipotent space consciousness that loves and cares for us, and willed such order into existence with a thought… that’s just cold hard facts, man. St. Augustine said so.

      What created that incomprehensibly complex space consciousness, you ask? He has always been. QED.

      Sure, the observable universe might be approximately 93 billion light years across, filled with trillions of stars and other planets – but we are special.

  38. lkr
    Posted November 4, 2017 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    It’s not surprising that the very sophisticated theologians of the early 17th Century were willing to torture [or threaten torture] those who didn’t accept a geocentric universe. They at least accept the problem of an insignificant Terra.

  39. Posted November 5, 2017 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    All that extra space is there to make an exciting challenge for humans in the Space Age. Duh! 😉

  40. jardino
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    A few years back I found an excellent slide show that started off by showing the extent of the known Universe, down to our local cluster of galaxies, then to the Milky Way galaxy then to the Solar System and on to – not just the “pale blue dot” we call Earth – but to the area around Palestine where Jesus and his cronies are supposed to have hung about.

    Unfortunately, I’ve lost it and my reference to it. Can anybody around here help me find it again?

    Happy Guy Fawkes day!

    Alan.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      I don’t know of one that has Palestine

      But there are a load of these all based on a template devised by by Cary & Michael Huang [their copyright], that’s operated via a scrollbar at the bottom [or use mouse wheel].

      It scales by steps based on powers of ten of the metre length – up to the observable universe & down to the Planck length. You can find the original here: http://htwins.net/ or google search for the many copies [all seem to be called “The Scale Of The Universe”]

      You can get it as a phone app, normal online interactive, video or as slides [powerpoint] on slideshare

      All the above is based on an idea by Charles & Ray Eames that has a chap kipping on a picnic blanket by the Chicago lakeside who in turn got it from a Dutch source featuring a girl & her cat! [No Palestine for either example though]

      See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_Ten_(film)

      • jardino
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Michael, but it’s not quite the show I remember.
        Alan.

  41. Posted November 5, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The size/complexity/harshness of the Universe, while convincing to us, is no problem to the sophisticated theologian.

    The Universe is a big as it because because God wanted it that way. He wanted it work a specific way, and its insane dimensions and make up is what God decreed it needs to be.

    It’s lame, but it answers the problem.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      It’s lame, but it answers the problem.

      Your sentence there would make an excellent textbook for a class entitled All theology and apologetics in a nutshell.

    • Zetopan
      Posted November 8, 2017 at 1:05 am | Permalink

      “it answers the problem.”

      No it doesn’t, it completely avoids the problem. Why are things the way that they are? “Because they are that way” is not an explanation of anything.

      Within rational thought, to “explain” something means to render an unknown in terms of knowns. The loony goddites prefer trying to render unknowns (and worse yet even knowns!) in terms of even greater unknowns, claiming it is an “explanation”.

      Rendering unknowns in terms of greater unknowns is the basis of all “god of the gaps” arguments. Rendering knowns in terms of unknowns is simply a form of obscurantism (theological or otherwise) taken to its only “logical” conclusion.

      For the followers of that particular species of irrationalism, nothing is explainable because someone wants to keep it that way. As soon as people are exposed to actual rational explanations, some will abandon conviction as a “valid way of knowing”. The more who do that abandonment, the less control that professional irrationalists can retain.

      The theistic “explanation” *always* boils down to: because they want “magic” to actually work. If it is due to magic, no explanation is ever required. This is why they actually prefer willful ignorance, even those having university degrees.

  42. Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Not about god, but possibly a good subject for a column…

    I have never understood how the universe could be 25,000 billion light years across, but ony 12.5 billion years old. Would someone please explain that? And perhaps say something about the evidence for the size of the universe (I understand the evidence for the age).

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      @James

      [1] We don’t have a measure for the width of the universe, it might be infinite

      [2] The width of the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE is 93 bly

      [3] The age of the universe is unknown – it might be infinitely old

      [4] The so-called Big Bang event [which might also be the beginning of time & space, but not necessarily!] was 13.799 ±0.021 bya. Thus we know the universe is that age or older.

      [5] The fabric of space-time [which apparently has no mass] supposedly inflated, at every point, at multiples of the speed of light in the early stages – swelling from something smaller than a seed to an ‘object’ many light years across in a fraction of a second. There is no constraint on how fast space-time can swell – it is only matter that’s restricted to sub-light speed.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Clarification: “– it is only matter that’s restricted to sub-light speed.” should read something like “matter/mass moves through the fabric of space-time at less than light speed while massless particles [photons], forces & waves all move at light speed, in a vacuum, through space-time. [So the spreading influence of a gravitational force, a magnetic force & any of the sub-atomic nuclear forces operate at exactly light speed as far as we can tell from measurement & observation]. I’m not gonna bring up non-local quantum mechanics though…

        • phoffman56
          Posted November 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

          “matter/mass moves through the fabric of space-time…

          Presumably the “space-time” you would prefer to replace by just ‘space’, right, after thinking a bit more? “moves” in any physical sense need time to be somehow external to the medium, or the space, in which the motion takes place. Moving generally means changing position as time changes. This is quite apart from the less than the lack of absolute existence of either space or time separately.

          Sorry for harping on basics, but we wouldn’t want the enemies of evolution and atheism making fun of us, would we? It kind of bugs me when writers about space and time and the universe appear to be overly vague about whether they’re talking about space or about space-time.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted November 5, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            @phoffman56 You are right under Newton, but not right under Einstein

            No. I’m happy with the concept of matter/mass moving through space-time. This is because masses actually do move through time as well as space. And the rate at which the mass moves through the time component varies depending on local masses [or gravitational fields if you will], the speed of the mass & the acceleration of the mass [inc. constant speed acceleration via changing direction] & combinations of all the above.

            e.g. We all know theoretically that a spacecraft can be ‘frozen’ on an a black hole event horizon from the POV of a safely distant outside observer, but the unfortunate spacecraft crew don’t experience this lack of activity – they’re acutely aware that they’re accelerating into a future of spaghettification by black hole tidal force

            I’m thinking of space-time in the way depicted by Minskowski in 1908 – the Minkowski diagram in special relativity, light cones, moving observers, cause & effect etc. etc.

            • phoffman56
              Posted November 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

              “…the rate at which the mass moves through the time component…”

              I certainly have no idea what that phrase means. Without that, there is no point in arguing (and I suppose this non-blog is the wrong place anyway). But something, probably even more helpful than a general definition from you of what you mean there, such as either

              (1) a single specific example, where perhaps your “mass” is an elementary particle, an electron say, and your “rate” is made clear
              (with respect to time—or something else??)
              In what sense could an electron be represented by a point in space-time as opposed to space? Or is the usual representation as a curve in space-time still usable by you here? Or maybe your notion of “the mass” would not permit an electron to be an example?

              or

              (2) a specific decent textbook or reputable paper in physics which makes use of the notion of a mass moving in space-time, or in the time component (which I assume means the obvious thing once an observer is specified).

              I seriously doubt that a resolution of this has anything to do with the difference between Einstein and Newton, that is, between relativistic and non-relativistic kinetics.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted November 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

                phoffman56

                You don’t think the framework being that of Newton or Einstein makes a difference to the space-time relation? My gast is flabbered! 🙂

                Go to Wiki & look at the ‘world lines’ of objects represented in Minkowski diagrams & Minkowski space. These diagrams reflect the reality of our universe – in the diagrams objects have REAL different rates of travel through time. Think the twins paradox where one twin goes to space at high c & returns much younger than her identical sister who stayed home.

                I think that’s clear enough
                End of our little chat too

      • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        The big bang is the origin of our *local* hubble volume. The *local* “space and time” begin (so to speak) there. The universe proper is eternal.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          I would have to very roughly agree with you Keith – from my layman’s reading of pop science I don’t think there was a ‘singularity’ prior to inflation [there wasn’t a t=0 in other words].

          It seems natural to me [what I feel is worthless of course!] that there is an underlying ‘substrate’ that’s eternal into the past & future. I do also like Lee Smolin’s fecund universes [cosmological natural selection] notion from the ’90s – new universes budding from old ones like a family tree of bubble universes.

          • Posted November 8, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Singularities are in the equations (i.e., in the descriptions), not in the reality they partially describe. So they tell us that our knowledge is incomplete, not “any” more.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted November 8, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

              Singularities: Exactly

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      @Jason

      Here are two posts by the astronomer Ethan Siegel that explain better than I can!

      View story at Medium.com

      and

      View story at Medium.com

      • Zetopan
        Posted November 8, 2017 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        There is a somewhat simpler explanation. The visible universe is about 93 billion years old. In other words at a time about 93 billion years ago that visible portion that we can see was *extremely* small.

        But the age of the visible universe is “only” about 13.8 billion years, which is presumably your objection.

        When viewing the visible universe we are looking backwards in time the farther away we look. This is simply due to the finite speed of light (actually, *causality*).

        Looking at something 10 Light-Years away also means looking 10 years into the past for that object because it took 10 years for the light to reach our location. Since it was at that specific distance 10 years ago and (assuming that) it is moving away from us at a determinable velocity, we can calculate that it is a specific distance farther than 10 light-years away at our current time.

        Light from the most distant parts of the visible universe took about 13.8 billion years to reach our current location. Its velocity away from us is so high that it has to be about 47 billion light-years away from us right now. That make the diameter of the visible universe about 93 to 94 billion light-years across.

        Also note that the total universe is *much* larger than even 93 billion light-years across, since measurements of the curvature of the visible universe indicate a vastly larger size, even approaching if not actually equal to, an infinite size.

        Another important point is that the universe expanded everywhere. Thus when we talk about the visible universe expanding from an infinitesimal point, if we were to move 10 billion light years away we would see a different horizon for the observable universe and the infinitesimal point would also be at a slightly different location in the distant 13.8 billion year past.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 8, 2017 at 4:21 am | Permalink

          No! Simply no.

  43. Posted November 5, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Whether or not we have known it for a long time seems immaterial. We also know cognitive biases, various evolutionary adaptations of the brain, as well as the human susceptibility to ideological brain viruses inhibit and restrict those ‘aha’ moments, or Dunning-Kruger releases, or moments of clarity when a misbelief, myth or superstition is dispelled sufficiently to make a breakthrough possible.

    Robert Oxton Bolt wrote that “A belief is not an idea the mind possesses, but an idea that possesses the mind.”

    While Thomas’s argument is not new there is a misbelief penetrating majesty to it that should not be underestimated either. Let’s remember that the essential appeal of any religion or myth is an experience of the “mysterium tremendum”, or awe. The brain is hardwired for it. Once a misbelief is unlocked from its indoctrination or religion science can readily fill the void.

    Can a sophisticated theologian put a spin on it, of course, that’s there job, but it’s a powerful enough nugget of reality that once implanted in a fertile mind has the power to dispel any Iron Age belief system.

  44. W.Benson
    Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    A potent argument against the Scriptural God is that, when the ancients wrote they actually talked with Him, just about everything He allegedly told them that was the least bit controversial turned out to be demonstrably wrong.

  45. phoffman56
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I am sorry that this has become fairly peripheral the original posting here. But popularizations of science by respondents in a source like this non-blog can carry some, at times unjustified, authority. I may be mistaken, but suspect this is read and generally approved of by many people who are really just at the beginning of their educations. (Here I reserve “education” for things beyond being trained in how to read and write and worship a primitive figment of the imagination.) And I think many of us are concerned at the tendency of people to insist on getting almost all their information from the internet. When the topic is physics, brought up occasionally by our gracious host, and in this reply on very fundamental matters like the relativity of Einstein, this has more importance than most others.

    In the polite exchange in #42. above, there seems to be no answer option provided at this point, for clarifying a confusion related to the twin paradox. So here’s my reply.

    That famous paradox does engender many confusions. In this case, at least neither of us denies its existence. But there was an attempt to answer my request relating to a misleading confusion between space-time and space, which I’d initially thought had been just a slip of the pen, but a very confusing one. I had requested for an example, a text or a reputable paper, and got a non-specific reference to Wiki. Actually that’s not as bad as it sounds. I even support Wiki with a regular tiny donation. Its articles on physics are usually quite good and unsullied by the type of people who try to maliciously change a Wiki article, say, on Just-n B-b—r.

    But nowhere, even in Wiki, will you find a reference to the confusing phrase “the mass moves through the time component…”, or “… through space-time”. If the poster is referring to the different times recorded by two clocks ‘travelling’ with different paths between the same pair of events in space-time, we have no disagreement other than in the unusual, and I think confusing and completely novel, use of words.

    Let us try to make that into an example as I had requested. Suppose clock#1 records 3 hours elapsing (the peripatetic twin) and clock#2 records 12 hours (the lazy twin). Well, only 2 clocks are there, so let’s do rates using clock#2. So we get the strange sounding rates of 1 hour per hour and 4 hours per hour. Just the use of “hours per hour” does sound pretty bizarre. And so does the original poster’s “matter/mass moves through the fabric of space-time at less than light speed” . But if that is all that was meant by the ?rate? or ?velocity? when referring to a ?mass moving through the time component or originally through space-time?, we have no disagreement and can let the matter rest. If you want the mass to be an electron, I suppose you could glue one clock to each particle. But I’d prefer more clarity, and a use of words which relates to physics and its popularizations as written by physicists, like say, Richard Feynman.

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Read _Understanding Einstein’s Theories of Relativity_, by Stan Gibilisco. He goes through this sort of thing with only high school trigonometry as a prerequisite.

      • phoffman56
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Keith, for the ref, which my library has, so I will soon.

        Maybe you intended that for the other poster. But an exceptionally elementary treatment of stuff like that is very interesting to me.

        Till I see it, I’ll be suspicious about that elementary possibility for general relativity, though not so much for special.

        • Posted November 8, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          No, the treatment of GR is cursory – and I’m no expert, but the question about the twin paradox is answered in detail.


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