I Agree With the Title, at Least

Not-to-scale diagram of the evolution of the universe, used in the space.com articleSaid title is Physics, Not God, Explains the Universe, from Brian Thomas – I have a feeling he made a mistake and got it the wrong way around, but lets run with it. [ED: he’s gone and fixed it and added a question mark: cap of original]

Thomas links to a space.com article, which opens:

Our universe could have popped into existence 13.7 billion years ago without any divine help whatsoever, researchers say.

The ICR will have none of that!

The argument put forward by the researchers is the quantum fluctuations that Jake Hebert tried to attack in the article from last week. Thomas basically regurgitates Hebert’s article, and we may as well recap:

Physicist Jake Hebert recently showed fatal flaws in this increasingly common “universe from nothing” argument, as described by theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss in his 2012 book, A Universe from Nothing. In Hebert’s Acts & Facts article, he first explained that the “argument hinges on the claim that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero,” an extraordinarily unlikely sum. And since nobody but God knows the exact energy content of the entire universe, the claim is entirely unscientific.

Consider the following formula: You know the drill
We know that if you add one to a half to a quarter to an eighth and so on to infinity you will eventually get to precisely two. Thomas and Hebert’s argument is the equivalent of saying that we can’t know that, and indeed only God can – this on the grounds that there is an infinite number of terms that must be added and thus only the One that is Infinite could do such a thing etc. In the meantime Thomas and co will continue insisting that the result is itself infinite, because that’s what you’d expect from adding more and more to a number forever… right?

Of course, there is an easy way to prove that the answer to the above is in fact two as stated: if you halve the formula you get ½ + ¼…, and if you took that half away from the original formula you’d get a half remaining. This remainder is ‘1,’ and if the half is equal to one then the whole must be equal to two. Simple!

A similarly simple argument for the energy content of the universe being precisely zero without requiring the counting of the is given by Hawking immediately after the quote given by Hebert in his article – see my previous post for it in full. Neither Hebert nor Thomas address this, but curiously both seem to implicitly concede thepossibility that Hawking might be right.

Second, and more critically, quantum fluctuations are only known to occur within space that already exists. How would the first universe-generating fluctuation occur without space, and how could that space be there without a universe already in place? It appears that in order to make a universe this way, another universe must already exist. In that case, how did the first universe begin—or the one before that?

In his article, Hebert makes an interesting tactical error: he claims that the laws of physics are based on observation, and thus cannot be assumed to apply in the case of the origin of the universe. If that is so, then can Brian really claim that quantum fluctuations demand space to happen in? We have no practical experience with such a situation where there is no space at all, so perhaps it can and will simply appear from true nothingness. Certainly, space expands and thus does not seem to abide by any ‘conservation of spacetime’ rule, so it’s a possibility. Science is all about speculation – they just then go and test it.

Hebert also noted logical problems. For example, the assertion that the universe came from nothing assumes pre-existence of the very laws of physics that can supposedly generate universes. Filippenko began to address this by saying, “The question, then, is, ‘Why are there laws of physics?’ And you could say, ‘Well, that required a divine creator, who created these laws of physics and the spark that led from the laws of physics to these universes, maybe more than one.'”

But instead of accepting his own argument for a “divine creator,” Filippenko objected that one would still need to explain where that creator came from, and where the creator of that creator came from, and so on. This is a thin smokescreen, since the ultimate Creator of the laws of physics and/or the finite universe would of necessity not be finite. Only finite entities like universes or people require causes, because only they have beginnings. A “beginningless” or infinite Creator did not come from anything else since He always was and is.

Filippenko – who was speaking at a panel at the SETICon 2 conference on June 23, if you were wondering – conceded that he could not explain the origin of the laws of physics. But as Thomas said he attacked the theistic idea with the classic ‘turtles all the way down’ argument. Thomas’ response is the typical eternal God stuff, but if we are going to let that slide why not cut out the middle man and apply it to the whole universe? The idea of God existing ‘before’ the universe makes no sense, you understand, because time is part of the universe in the same way space is. We can apply the same torturous argument to the universe as a whole as we can to God, suggesting that He has no real point or requirement to be there, the point of the space.com article.

Thomas concludes:

Filippenko and like-minded scientists ignore the necessity of pre-existing space for quantum fluctuations to occur, ignore logical problems in obtaining laws of physics from nothing, and ignore the nature of God, all in the name of justifying their faith that the universe could come from nothing. In reality, without an infinite Creator, not only would there be no laws of physics that point sinful people to his existence, but there would be no universe at all.

The reason why these problems are ‘ignored’ is because they are entirely without substance. It is a “faith that the universe could come from nothing” in the same way that we have “faith” that lightning is caused not by Thor but by atmospheric processes – in other words, not at all.

While we’re on the subject of Hebert, here he is getting trounced in the letters section of the Journal of Creation in 2010 on an unrelated matter. Very amusing…

3 thoughts on “I Agree With the Title, at Least

  1. I have a feeling he made a mistake and got it the wrong way around, but lets run with it.

    I think he got the title the way he wanted it. However, if you look carefully, his title ends in a question mark. Presumably, the implication is that he is questioning that statement.


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