Tag: Creation

25Jan

Review: A Universe From Nothing

A Universe From Nothing
Lawrence M Kraus

The purpose of this book is simple. I want to show how modern science, in various guises, can address and is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing: The answers that have been obtained—from staggeringly beautiful experimental observations, as well as from the theories that underlie much of modern physics—all suggest that getting something from nothing is not a problem. Indeed, something from nothing may have been required for the universe to come into being. Moreover, all signs suggest that this is how our universe could have arisen. I stress the word could here, because we may never have enough empirical information to resolve this question unambiguously. But the fact that a universe from nothing is even plausible is certainly significant, at least to me.

Dr. Kraus’s argument is that “nothing” is really a large energy field primarily composed of dark energy (energy we cannot measure or prove exists, but must exist based on mathematical descriptions of our universe assuming a big bang origin). Energy fields, by their nature, are unstable, constantly creating matter and anti-matter in equal proportions through shifts in their quantum state.

Given an infinitely large energy field, an infinite number of universes must be created and destroyed over any given series of moments in time. If a universe, once created, expands rapidly (such as the big bang), then it will, by quantum rules, exist for a long period of time –creating a universe just like the one we live in.

If this all seems a bit thin once you’ve taken the book length explanation of the “beautiful math” out, that’s because it is, in fact, a bit thin. But more than thin, Dr. Kraus’s work is shot through with logical errors that should make any thinking person shudder.

How do we know this infinitely large energy field exists?

First, because our current observations give rise to a set of formulas that imply it must exist. We know our observations and conclusions about those observations are right because they give rise to accurate predictions of what really happens. Except for the energy that God seems to have mislaid and yet is required for these mathematical expressions to actually predict anything. In any other field a set of explanations that can only account for 3% of the observed phenomenon would simply be thrown out. But atheists are desperate for an explanation, and so they turn the 97% of things they can’t explain into the explanation for the 3% they can.

Second, because the formulas thus produced are “beautiful.” Why a universe which arises from random chance should “evolve” creatures that value beauty isn’t something the author cares to explain, although he relies heavily on the beauty of his explanation to convince his reader.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Because there is no such thing as “why,” in the real world, only “how.”

When we ask, “Why?” we usually mean “How?” If we can answer the latter, that generally suffices for our purposes. For example, we might ask: “Why is the Earth 93 million miles from the Sun?” but what we really probably mean is, “How is the Earth 93 million miles from the Sun?” That is, we are interested in what physical processes led to the Earth ending up in its present position. “Why” implicitly suggests purpose, and when we try to understand the solar system in scientific terms, we do not generally ascribe purpose to it.

Thus totally misunderstanding the entire cosmological argument for God’s existence, Dr. Kraus simply lays it aside (other than to poke fun at his misunderstanding of it periodically). The point of the cosmological argument is that we do, in fact, ascribe purpose to almost everything. How do inanimate objects come to have purpose?

Why is it great thinkers through the ages have been Christians?

Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas knew about the existence of our galaxy, much less the Big Bang or quantum mechanics. Hence the issues they and later medieval philosophers grappled with must be interpreted and understood in the light of new knowledge.

Because they were flat out ignorant, of course. The author here assumes a “god of the gaps” theory, that God can only exist within the gaps of our understanding about how the world works. He believes that if everyone in history knew what he knows, none of them would have ever believed in God in the first place.

The bottom line: if this is all the atheists have, they should withdraw from the ring. There’s no knockdown argument against God here –there’s barely an argument at all. Beautiful formulas in a universe bereft of purpose and beauty won’t replace God. Especially when those formulas are based on greater faith than simply believing in God in the first place.

A well written try, but ultimately a fast food snack in a world in need of a steak dinner.

13Jan

Review: Questions of Truth

nullQuestions of Truth: Fifty One Responses to Questions
John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale

Questions comes from the questions asked of two working physicists, and their answers to those questions. the goal is to present a set of Christians beliefs that can work with science (or rather Science), rather than a set of Christian beliefs that are, apparently, contrary to current scientific thinking. The entire underlying thesis of this work is questionable; science changes it’s mind about every 20 years, but God hasn’t changed his mind, ever.

To understand the model the authors take it’s best to let them speak for themselves.

The Bible is not a book but a library, with various types of writing in it. There is much history, but there are also symbolic stories that convey truths so deep that only a story form could express them. (That is the true meaning of that much-abused and misunderstood word myth, very different from that of a simple fairy story.) In interpreting the Bible it is important to work out what kind of writing one is reading. For example, Genesis 1 is not a literal account of a hectic six days of divine activity, given to save us the trouble of using science to discover the remarkable history of the universe. Instead, it is a piece of theological writing that uses a symbolic story to convey the theological truth that nothing exists except through the creative will of God (“and God said, let there be…”). -Page 7

Here, God is a god of the gaps. That which can be explained by science we should leave to science. That which cannot be, well, that’s a fine place for religion to do it’s stuff. The questions are divided into several sections, including the concept and existence of God, the Universe, Evolution, evil, human beings, and finally religion.

The most useful part of this book comes after the last chapter and conclusion. Specifically, the appendix on the arrangement of the Universe in a way that allows for life is explained in detail to a level that almost anyone can grasp. It’s worth buying this book for this single appendix, even if you don’t read the remainder of the book itself.

11Nov

Get Your Own Dirt: A Retelling

The keys rattle as he pulls the chain from his lab coat, finds the right one, and unlocks the door.

“Just this way, Frank, and I’ll show you this new experiment I’ve been working on…”

“This should be very interesting, John. Thanks for coming all the way down here…” The pair of scientists stop. A man is sitting on a stool, calmly examining a small beaker that had previously been standing on the table.

“Hey! Who are you?”

“I am a prophet of God, of course.”

Frank looks over at John. “This is the new experiment you’ve been working on?”

John turns to the man: “You can’t be! God doesn’t exist! Now get our of here, you…”

The man replies, “You have a bit of a problem, don’t you? If God doesn’t exist, than I can’t be a prophet of God. And yet, here I am.” He swirls the beaker he has in his hand. “Interesting stuff here. What is it?”

John’s eyes narrowed. “Stop that! Put it down carefully! It’s a pure quantum field, held in statis in a fluid of…” Frank’s eyes bulged. A quantum field? In a jar?

The man continued swirling the jar. “Oh, wow! That’s really interesting. What did you intend to do with it?”

His face flush, John replied, “I’m going to perturb it, and prove the universe could come from instabilities in the quantum field. Now get our of here! This is my lab!”

The man gave the beaker a thump on the side with his finger. “You mean like this? And why would you want to prove the universe can come from the disturbance of a quantum field?”

“Because if I can prove the universe started with a fluctuation in a quantum field, I can prove God doesn’t exist –that God doesn’t need to exist.”

The man considered this for a moment. “And what did you intend to do with the little universe that resulted from your experiment, if it worked? Did you intend to provide the little people who you think will evolve a nice world to live on, or not? And what if they decide you don’t exist? What would you do then?”

“No world will be created by my experiment, just some bits of matter!”

“And yet, you think our world was created in this way, right? How do you know? Who are you to play god?”

“Just get out of here, would you? I’ve no time for this nonsense.”

“Okay, have it your way.” The tucked the beaker into a pocket of his jacket, and rose from the stool.

“Hey, you can’t take my beaker of quantum field! It took me years to extract that from reality as we know it! It’s mine, and I’m going to prove God doesn’t exist with it, for once and for all.”

The man calmly maneuvers around John and Frank, both of whom seem powerless to resist.

“Create your own quantum field to prove your theories with, rather than taking a slide of God’s.”

==

Inspired by a long post over at Evolution News and Views considering some answers to hard questions by one of these so-called “new atheist.” If the quantum field existed, then the universe didn’t come into being from nothing. If the quantum field didn’t exist in the first place, then there is no universe. Nothing can’t result in something, and it’s nonsense to talk of “variations in nothingness.”

14Jul

The Hidden Reasonableness Argument

Listen to this three and a half minute clip of Dr. Dean discussing atheism before you read the rest of this post.

Dr. Dean does an excellent job of explaining the problem with this line of argument:

You can’t teach intelligent design in schools, because intelligent design is religious. You can teach evolution because it’s not religious, but rather scientific.

The heart of the argument is this false statement: Atheism isn’t a religious belief. But there are a lot of folks who would say this statement is true, rather than false. Dr. Dean’s argument is that if you classify this statement: “God exists,” as religious, then you must also classify this statement: “God doesn’t exist,” as religious. But why must both of these statements be classified as religious?

Let’s begin with the first statement: “God exists.” Why do we classify this as a religious statement? Because there is no scientific proof of God’s existence, so we must accept His existence as a matter of faith. In other words, religion is based on evidence that is not what we would classify as empirical. Using this line of reasoning, let’s examine the second statement: “God doesn’t exist.” On the face of it, this isn’t a religious statement, because you are claiming something that cannot be proven to exist doesn’t, in fact, exist. In other words, you can make the argument that claiming God exists is religious because there is no proof, but that claiming God doesn’t exist isn’t religious because there is no proof of God’s existence.

This reasoning makes one vital assumption: That we don’t need proof to claim God doesn’t exist. The corollary to this is belief in God is unreasonable, while atheism is reasonable.

In other words, the statement “atheism isn’t religion,” begs the question.The statement assumes that while God’s existence needs to be proven, God’s nonexistence doesn’t need to be proven. But if there is no empirical evidence for God’s existence, it follows there is no empirical evidence for God’s nonexistence, either. And if there is no evidence for the non-existence of God, believing there is no God is a matter of faith. Hence, atheism is a religious system based on faith.

15Jun

Alternative Creations

One favorite technique of critics of the creation account given in Genesis is to compare the Genesis account with other creation accounts. This is actually a useful exercise, but it doesn’t quite yield the result those who try and tear down the Genesis account anticipate, or want. The reality is the creation account given in Genesis is actually radically different from alternate creation accounts.

When above [Enuma elish] the heaven had not (yet) been named, (And) below the earth had not (yet) been called by a name, (When) Apsu primeval, their begetter, Mummu, (and) Tiamat, she who gave birth to them all, (Still) mingled their waters together, …. (At that time) were the gods created within them….They lived many days, adding years (to days)…. The divine brothers gathered together. They disturbed Tiamat and assaulted(?) their keeper….

This is a quote from a creation myth translated from Babylonian tablets. Those who would point out the similarities, to prove the Genesis account was taken from some other, earlier, account, would say, for instance, the beginning of this Babylonian account is very similar to the account we find in Genesis.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. Genesis 1:2

There’s something missing here, though, isn’t there? Isn’t there a bit before Genesis 1:2?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

For the actual creation, the Babylonian version has no counterpart. Things already existed in the Babylonian version, and we hear about how they were changed from what they were to something else. But we don’t get at actual creation in the Babylonian version at all. It’s like the scientist who challenged God by saying they could make life. God accepted their challenge, but told them to get their own dirt.

The next bit to compare is about how two gods, Apsu and Tiamat, beget all the other gods, and hence shaped the land, creatures, and everything else. This is supposed to be similar to God creating.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

And it does seem similar, if you don’t look too closely. But in the Babylonian version, the two gods, Apsu and Tiamat, beget the other gods. In the Genesis version, God doesn’t beget anything, He speaks it into existence. There is a world of difference between the two. What of the gods themselves? Although the actual Babylonian myth doesn’t tell you who Apsu and Tiamat are, we know them from other documents. Apsu is the marshlands, while Tiamat is a great sea serpent.

There are two notable points here. The first is the gods in the Babylonian myth are actually part of nature, or intertwined with nature. Apsu is not just a god of the marshes, he is somehow intertwined with the marshes, unable to exist apart from them. In a sense, Apsu is the marshes. Tiamat is much the same way, not just a sea serpent, but the essence of the sea herself, in some way.

We find this serpent/sea motif in many creation accounts, as well. In the Sumerian account, Asaq is a giant serpent who restrains the waters, who are in rebellion against the gods. In the Indian account, Vrtira is also a serpent who restrains the waters. in Genesis, God creates these serpents, and the sea they live in, showing His mastery over all of them.

What does all this tell us about these various creation accounts? That the Genesis account stands unique among all the various creation accounts. And if the creation account in Genesis stands apart from all the other creation accounts, the God of Genesis also must stand apart from all the other religions. That Christianity and Judaism are unique among the religions, no matter how much the critics might try to pull all the religions together.

3Jun

The Challenge of Creation

While many people rightly see the account of Creation contained in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 as the foundation of all the other promises of God, the head of the stream from which history flows, this section is also a direct challenge to every other religious system in the world. These few sparse paragraphs contradict all other creation stories not only in their style, but also in their content.

For instance, many people today claim to be atheist, which says there is no God. But Genesis tells us God created. Atheism also tells us there is no good or evil, that things just are what they are, but Genesis tells us good and evil are definite things.

Others are agnostics, that we cannot really know God in any meaningful way. But the Creation account tells us God gave humans language, and understanding, and that God is knowable.

Other religions and systems claim the Earth is eons old, that people evolved, in some way, from other creatures, or were created by gods that came out of the elements of the world. These views teach us that there was always something, and a singularity converted that something into what we see now. Genesis teaches us that God created from nothing, that God is the singularity that originated the universe as we know it. Genesis teaches us that the world was created in six days by God, not over billions of years.

Other religions teach us that the gods are a part of creation. Genesis teaches us that God is transcendental, outside of creation, and outside of time.

Other religions teach us that God is inscrutable, or apparently random, sometimes having mercy, and sometimes not, and there is no apparent plan to history. Genesis teaches us God is a law making, and keeping, God, that God doesn’t act randomly, that God acts according to a plan He has laid out beforehand.

Other religions teach us there are many gods. Genesis teaches us there is one.

Other worldviews teach us reality is grounded in our perception of it. Genesis teaches us there is a reality that exists whether or not we perceive it.

Genesis throws the gauntlet down at every point, challenging all the other worldviews directly. As Christians, we should not be afraid to confront the other worldviews boldly, as well.

22May

Narrative 003: Man

This one focuses on the creation of man, the first Toledot in Genesis. There are some comments on the breath of life, Man’s purpose and place on the Earth, the soul of man, and the ending state of man after his creation. My plan is to cover the Fall in the next one or two sessions, depending on how much information I end up pushing into the slides. From here, the studies will follow Genesis for some time, until we skip over to Job in its place, around the time of Abraham. We will fall out of the book order again someplace around the end of Joshua,  most likely.

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20May

Review: The Long War Against God

The Long War Against God
Dr Henry Morris
ISBN: 0-89051-291-4

This is a very interesting book showing the background and history of evolutionary thought. The idea is that once you see how evolution is tied to religion specifically, and how it is not a new idea, but rather an age old idea, traceable all the way back to the ancient Babylonian religious system, you’ll be able to better refute evolution in its modern form. The information presented is very well documented, and provides a compelling argument for the author’s central theme.

The one downside to the book is the reading a bit dry (even for me). There are statements I disagree with here, but that’s not saying much, because there’s very little I read or listen to where I agree 100% with the author.

Some sample quotes for flavor.

Remember, also as Ager has pointed out, that the fossils are not dated by the rock strata where they are found. Instead, the rocks are dated by the fossils, on the basis of the stage of evolution which they supposedly represent. (pg 27)

Proponents of punctuated equilibrium assert that the universal evolutionary process has proceeded jerkily from the sudden big bang (which produced the universe), to a sudden explosion of some star (which generated the solar system and the complex chemical elements therein), to a sudden appearance of living systems in some chaotic disturbance of the primeval soup—then on up the chain of complex life to human beings…. Now that man has arrived, “conscious evolution” can take over, so that future advances can be in the psycho-social sphere, culminating ultimately in a unified global consciousness and a perfect world order.

Recommended.

18May

The Circle of Life

The circle of life. It represents the Continuity of Being, an expression that finds form in many religions across the ages. The yin and the yan, the circle of life, the great dragon encircling the Earth. The image is old, and almost ubiquitous, running all the way back to the most ancient of the creation myths. For instance:

  • In Sumerian belief, there was a Asaq, who encircled the Earth, restraining the waters.
  • In Indian belief, there was Vritra, a great serpent who encircled the Earth, restraining the waters which are pregnant with the sun.
  • In Akkadian belief, there is Tiamat, a great serpent who is the mother of the gods. Apsu, the marshes and the lakes is the father.

In Jewish belief, and therefore Christian belief, there is also a great serpent. We find this serpent described in Job 41.

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle?you will not do it again! Job 41:1-8

The serpent holds a different place in the Scriptures, that of a creature of God. We find the great serpent of the sea created in Genesis.

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21

The serpent who encircles the world, representing the Continuity of Being, then, is just another of God’s creatures. One serpent, Satan, has rebelled. One serpent, Satan, has encircled the Earth, claiming it as his own, teaching us the Continuity of Being as the essence of truth, embedding its symbols in our thinking, such as the circle of life. But there is a truth greater than this circle of life, a force greater than the dragon.

The Cross. For no matter how large you make the circle, no matter what you encircle and attempt to control, the cross breaks through the circle, growing ever larger with grace, breaking out of Satan’s control. The two symbols, the Cross and the circle, are opposed in this world. Creation teaches us there is no circle of life, there is no Continuity of Being. There is only God, and a deceiver, Satan. There are only two choices, the Cross, or the Circle.

This is one reason why the origins debate is so important. When someone says the Creation story told in Genesis is just another creation myth, look closely, and you’ll see the difference between the myths, and God’s reality. When someone tells you the argument between the Scripture’s record of Creation, and Evolution, is just about science, look again. You’ll see the difference between the Continuity of Being, the circle, and God’s Creation, the Cross.

The clash of these worldviews is deeper, and more important, than it appears on the surface.

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