Friday, November 13, 2015

Has matter and energy always existed?

OK, has matter and energy always existed? 

In this lecture, I would like to discuss whether time itself has a beginning, and whether it will have an end. All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology. Yet it is now taken for granted. We are not yet certain whether the universe will have an end. When I gave a lecture in Japan, I was asked not to mention the possible re-collapse of the universe, because it might affect the stock market. However, I can re-assure anyone who is nervous about their investments that it is a bit early to sell: even if the universe does come to an end, it won't be for at least twenty billion years. By that time, maybe the GATT trade agreement will have come into effect. ---Stephen Hawking. 

Before Big Bang theory developed, the only people who would have agreed with that statement were theists. Now, atheists have adjusted their position to accept this, much the way, we are told, Christians have "adjusted" to accept evolutionary biology.

13 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

The typical response would be something along the lines of "atheists change their beliefs due to evidence, theists change their positions in order to maintain their beliefs". Nonsense, of course, but that's the usual line of thought.

Of course, I will doubt atheists' commitment to evidence as long as they don't promote the fact that a vast majority of knowledgeable scholars believe Jesus existed and that a vast majority of science historians reject the science/religion conflict thesis myth that new atheists propogate. Most also seem to be liberals and reject the biological fact that a human life begins with the first cell. So much for science.

Atheists will fit atheism into their interpretation of facts just like theists, and will ignore or attack any fact that is inconvenient. The eternal or non eternal state of the universe is irrelevant, atheism is the correct answer no matter what.

Victor Reppert said...

I am not sure that this, in itself, is perfectly irrational. That is, I think we always make as limited adjustments as we reasonable can to our beliefs.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion said...
""atheists change their beliefs due to evidence, theists change their positions in order to maintain their beliefs". Nonsense, of course,"
I would agree that this is nonsense; but because we have to admit that we are all victim of this bias. The goal is to challenge our own ideas in order to have accurate beliefs.

"as long as they don't promote the fact that a vast majority of knowledgeable scholars believe Jesus existed and that a vast majority of science historians reject the science/religion conflict thesis myth that new atheists propogate"
To me this changes absolutely nothing; I will never believe Jesus was born from a virgin, healed the sick or got resurrected, simply because it's written in a book. However, it is interesting to read about the mythicists ideas and I found myself surprised by their findings. It seems that centuries of biased research have tricked religious and secular historians alike into accepting certain text and scripture as authentic without ever going back to check the source. Now that it's easier than ever to access these sources; the story is changing a lot... I am not sure who is correct anymore, but I have not heard any good defense of the new arguments put forward by supporters of the myth theory. It seems more unlikely than ever that Jesus existed at all... and what I don't understand is that it would cleary make no difference. Christians already dropped core beliefs such as Adam & Eve for metaphorical interpretations. The same could happen with Jesus and his resurrection, as a form of spiritual journey that people "learned" about while praying.

"Most also seem to be liberals and reject the biological fact that a human life begins with the first cell. "
Not sure what 'liberal' and 'biology' have to do together but, regarding the latter, you need to make the word 'life' almost meaningless to consider the first cell to be 'life'. It's what I find very ironic coming from Theists because you are the ones who want to claim that 'life' is a lot more than just organic material reproducing itself. Yet, when it comes to human life, it means nothing more than the combination of 23 chromosomes from each parent. So much for science...

"The eternal or non eternal state of the universe is irrelevant, atheism is the correct answer no matter what"
It's relevant because, in order to believe in a creator god, you have to have an implicit belief that there was nothing natural, except some god, and then god created all of nature. So you cannot just say 'I don't know if the natural universe is eternal or non eternal. Actually, you can say 'I don't know' but you cannot say 'I don't believe'. You have to believe 'The universe is non eternal' in a very specific way, which means that at some point there was nothing natural at all. And this is not supported by scientific evidence.

Hugo Pelland said...

From the same article; emphasis mine...

"Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there's no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system can not be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.

[...]

In fact, James Hartle of the University of California Santa Barbara, and I have proposed that space and imaginary time together, are indeed finite in extent, but without boundary. They would be like the surface of the Earth, but with two more dimensions. The surface of the Earth is finite in extent, but it doesn't have any boundaries or edges. I have been round the world, and I didn't fall off.

If space and imaginary time are indeed like the surface of the Earth, there wouldn't be any singularities in the imaginary time direction, at which the laws of physics would break down. And there wouldn't be any boundaries, to the imaginary time space-time, just as there aren't any boundaries to the surface of the Earth. This absence of boundaries means that the laws of physics would determine the state of the universe uniquely, in imaginary time. But if one knows the state of the universe in imaginary time, one can calculate the state of the universe in real time. One would still expect some sort of Big Bang singularity in real time. So real time would still have a beginning. But one wouldn't have to appeal to something outside the universe, to determine how the universe began. Instead, the way the universe started out at the Big Bang would be determined by the state of the universe in imaginary time. Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe, that we observe.

[...]

The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, if the universe satisfied the no boundary condition. This says that in the imaginary time direction, space-time is finite in extent, but doesn't have any boundary or edge. The predictions of the no boundary proposal seem to agree with observation."



Not sure how this helps the god hypothesis...

B. Prokop said...

"The same [metaphorical interpretation] could happen with Jesus and his resurrection, as a form of spiritual journey that people "learned" about while praying."

That will NEVER happen (with the exception of apostates and heretics, who don't count). The literal, physical, historical, verifiable, Resurrection of Christ is the one key, absolutely rock bottom, indispensable foundation of Christianity. Take that away and... well, I don't know what you'd have - but for damn sure it would not be Christianity! The Resurrection is not a "doctrine" to be defended, but rather an Event to be proclaimed.

It may be a few months early, but... Христос Воскресе!

Hugo Pelland said...

Bob, I am sure some people were saying, or are still saying, that the same thing is true of Adam&Eve. Religions, including yours, are more malleable than you imply...

B. Prokop said...

"Religions, including yours, are more malleable than you imply..."

Not on this point. And I'm not "implying" anything. I am clearly stating what is and what isn't negotiable. As Saint Paul wrote (far better than I ever could): "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." And in this he is 100% correct. No Resurrection, no Christianity.

And the converse is true. Yes Resurrection, yes Christianity. That is why all the demands for so-called "independent" (i.e., non-Christian) First Century testimony for the miracles of Christ and/or for His Resurrection are so foolish. Just think for a moment! If you were alive in the First Century and you possessed evidence of Christ's Resurrection, why on Earth would you not become a Christian? To not do so would be the height of absurdity. Therefore, every witness to the event is going to naturally and inevitably come from a Christian source.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Hugo Pelland said...

Some magic tricks wouldn't convince me of adopting a religion. What Jesus supposedly did is not even as impressive as some modern-day illusions. He had no special knowledge of anything, made no useful predictions, and depicted typical traits of any hero of any epic stories. Your emotional attachment to the stories is what convinces you; not historical facts. People at the time certainly believed. But people also believe Sita survived trial by fire, twice, and I don't see you worship her...

Legion of Logic said...

What Jesus supposedly did is not even as impressive as some modern-day illusions.

Jesus supposedly healed people of all sorts of diseases, including those who had been sick their entire lives, cured blindness, fed thousands with a few baskets, walked on water, caused a storm to cease, willed himself to die...to which modern-day illusions are you referring?

He had no special knowledge of anything

Such as what, science? Science is neither the most important knowledge to be had nor the only source of truth.

made no useful predictions

By what standard?

and depicted typical traits of any hero of any epic stories

Thereby demonstrating that people know what a great person looks like, and Jesus exhibited those qualities. Hardly a strike against Jesus or Christianity.

People at the time certainly believed.

Bear with me. For giggles, assume that 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus walked around healing people in the Middle East, was killed, and rose from the dead. What evidence should we expect of such a situation, and why?

Gyan said...

Hugo Pelland is correct in that an atheist needs not to be discomfited in the least by the Big Bang.
Besides, the physicists are not resting with Big Bang as it was in 70's. They are going further. Even if Hawking did say that Big Bang has no explanation, it does not mean that all physicists are so committed. Hawking is not the Pope and his word carries no dogma.

Again, VR has failed to reply to the point that Big Bang has nothing to do with the metaphysical creation of the universe from nothing. So, the Big Bang neither confirms nor refutes the Christian dogma of creation of the universe.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion of Logic said...
" Jesus supposedly healed people of all sorts of diseases, including those who had been sick their entire lives, cured blindness, fed thousands with a few baskets, walked on water, caused a storm to cease, willed himself to die...to which modern-day illusions are you referring?"
That's what books say, yes .But I find people disappearing live on TV, while surrounded by lots of people and cameras, much more impressive...

" He had no special knowledge of anything
Such as what, science? Science is neither the most important knowledge to be had nor the only source of truth.
"
Anything; literally anything! Jesus says nothing of any 'special' value at all. The message is not useless nonetheless, but there is no great insight into anything. It's fairly simple, based on a lot of common sense things, and just flat out wrong and stupid on other occasions. It really sounds like what it is... thoughts that some people 2,000 years ago had and thought were the best way to live. Again, not entirely ridiculous and quite interesting for conversation purposes, but Jesus' word are not profound at all.

" made no useful predictions
By what standard?
"
Mine. I am not impressed. If you think I should be, let me know...

" and depicted typical traits of any hero of any epic stories
Thereby demonstrating that people know what a great person looks like, and Jesus exhibited those qualities. Hardly a strike against Jesus or Christianity.
"
Fictional heros...

" Bear with me. For giggles, assume that 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus walked around healing people in the Middle East, was killed, and rose from the dead. What evidence should we expect of such a situation, and why?"
I don't know... but what we have today is no reason to believe in it. That's the point. There are lots of things we can think about...

Legion of Logic said...

That's what books say, yes .But I find people disappearing live on TV, while surrounded by lots of people and cameras, much more impressive...

If you want to change the parameters of what I was responding to, go for it. What you originally said was that modern magicians perform feats far more impressive to you than what Jesus supposedly did, which is what I listed. The things Jesus supposedly did are infinitely more impressive to me than some guy performing tricks on a stage.

Anything; literally anything!

Jesus' message was to Israel regarding the tribulation, with lessons that can also be applied sometimes to modern-day Christians. You are correct that such information is completely useless to atheists.

Fictional heros...

Irrelevant.

I don't know... but what we have today is no reason to believe in it. That's the point. There are lots of things we can think about...

I don't wish to derail onto a tangent, but for someone who finds theism to be far more rational than atheism, things that can be described as miraculous or supernatural are not so easy to dismiss out of hand. People who witnessed Jesus in Israel would probably do something like writing down what they saw so that others could know about it. The gospel letters are not lonely pieces of evidence in a vacuum.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion of Logic
" If you want to change the parameters of what I was responding to, go for it. What you originally said was that modern magicians perform feats far more impressive to you than what Jesus supposedly did, which is what I listed. The things Jesus supposedly did are infinitely more impressive to me than some guy performing tricks on a stage."
True, I am more impressed by today's live magic than the 'claims' of Jesus' magic tricks. Good point.

" Fictional heros...
Irrelevant.
"
Ok but that's the parallel I was making... I find it suspicious that Jesus has so many similarities to other 'heroes' of the time who we now consider fictional without any debate.

" for someone who finds theism to be far more rational than atheism, things that can be described as miraculous or supernatural are not so easy to dismiss out of hand"
That short statement is very interesting for 2 reasons...

First, labeling 'theism' as 'far more rational' than 'atheism' shows a real problem with how you see atheism, unless you were referring to the specific strict belief that 'there is no god', which almost no one would even try to defend. But if you are talking about 'atheism' in general, then it's weird to say that not believing in something is irrational. I would never say for example that it's irrational to not believe in evolution, if the unbeliever simply does not know enough about it, but I would say it's irrational to be a creationist who actively believes in a young Earth. The latter is the equivalent of "there is no god" and a fringe position, though Creationism is, unfortunately, not as fringe as the strong atheism position...

Second, saying that 'miraculous or supernatural are not so easy to dismiss out of hand' makes it sound as if we should thus accept some, or most, accounts of miraculous or supernatural events by default, just because someone claims that's what they experienced/witnessed. And I am sure that's how a lot of people actually go about it, and it's a horrible way to justify such beliefs! It's a vicious circle where people who already believe in, say ghosts or bigfoot, see ghosts and bigfoot all the time... In other words, it's not that these people don't see anything 'special', but the problem is that when they see something 'special', they claim it was a 'ghost' or 'bigfoot' when in reality they just don't know, and made up an explanation that satisfies them. Why should we ever accept such explanation until we can investigate for ourselves?