Quantcast

«

»

Sep 02 2013

Essential Viewing on Godless Cosmology

Image capture from Before the Big Bang – Loop Quantum Cosmology Explained, showing host (a woman) and physicist Ivan Aguillo laughing together before a chalk board full of equations, some of which Aguillo explains in the video.There is a video every atheist must see, who ever wants to think about or debate the origin of the known universe (with a theist or even a fellow atheist). It is a superb video. It is the kind of video we need more of. What is so great about it? Some atheists went to some actual scientists (actual cosmologists and theoretical physicists) and asked them about the claims made by Christian apologists like William Lane Craig. And asked follow-up questions. And recorded what they said. And edited it together with useful commentary. Imagine this being done for origin of life studies or any other question where theists love to abuse the science (but doesn’t get the same coverage as evolution). Or claims theists make about cosmological science that didn’t get covered in this video.

The video I’m talking about is by the SkyDivePhil video team (an awesome couple who do a lot of great stuff on science awareness through their YouTube channel). The specific video in question is Before the Big Bang – Loop Quantum Cosmology Explained. It’s great for a number of reasons. For one, it gives a nice explanation of what quantum loop gravity theory is and has to contribute to superstring theory and how they came to differ, and then ties this all into current debates in cosmology, in particular the origin of the known universe, in even more particular what caused the Big Bang.

You can see why theists would be nervous at this point. And why atheists might be especially keen to check this out. I know there are lots of videos about the Big Bang and cosmological arguments. But this one is a league above them all. Because it distills the right points, from real experts, in a well-organized way that will leave most smart layfolk with a much better idea of why theists are wrong about Big Bang cosmology and how the likes of William Lane Craig are conning people with their selective distortions of it. Some of the discussion might be easier to understand for at least college graduates and autodidacts, but I think anyone with smarts can grasp the main points, and brush up on anything they don’t quite get with some judicious googling.

Either way, this should be anyone’s first-stop in that quest to understand current Big Bang theory. And everyone who wants to be able to speak informedly on this issue (such as to debate it) definitely must know at the very least what’s said here. So you should all give it a view. It’s 44 minutes, so find a nice pleasant time to just sit down and watch it. You’ll come away with a better grasp of how to articulate the points made in it, and make use of that to thwart Christian apologetics, as well as just understand how we (as intelligent life) got here, better than you did before. The triumph of atheism is reflected in the incredible strides of success science has made in answering that question…without having to posit a god to explain anything.

Below I’ll say more about it, why the video is worth watching, and what other resources you can tap to make the most use of it–and show to Christians why they are just wrong about godless cosmology…

Great for Atheist Debaters…but Also Great for Atheists Just to Know

Photos of Alan Guth and Alexander Valenkin (two of the co-authors of the BGV theorem), and Andrei Linde, one of the founders of chaotic inflation theory.Those who have a particular interest in William Lane Craig’s apologetics (and Christians who rely on it or try to use it against you) will have a particular interest in this video. A little over half way through, for example, they ask actual experts about how WLC uses the BGV theorem (the Borde, Guth, Vilenken theorem) and discover he isn’t exactly being honest about it (or correct, if you prefer to think he’s honest and just incompetent; for examples of treatments of his abuse of the BGV, see here and here). They also ask about his claim (sometimes made in debates) that a contracting universe is impossible, or that eternal inflation is impossible, or that entropy makes a past eternal universe impossible, and so on, where he keeps claiming cosmologists agree with him. Well. Why not listen to what actual cosmologists say? You’ll be surprised. Well, okay, maybe not. But at least you’ll be armed with evidence that he’s not being exactly honest (or, at least, correct) about such things. Likewise other Christians and Christian apologists who ape this stuff or make similar claims.

I also found the video really educational on just the things it talks about, apart from the whole atheism-theism debate. I understand quantum loop cosmology so much better now than I ever did. And how it is actually compatible with superstring theory (and not so much a rival theory as just a sometimes neglected component of what may end up being a part of the actual, as in correct, grand unified theory of everything…I know, I’m conflating GUT with ToE there, but they are looking like they might end up being nearly the same thing, and any quest for one is also getting closer to the other, and this video will clue you in to part of that ongoing quest).

Pausing to Correct a Misleading Statement

There are likewise some good explanations of inflation theory, and how in fact it follows necessarily from a very small number of very simple assumptions (which is why Occam’s Razor currently prefers it to creationism in the real science of cosmology…the god theory is not even remotely as simple, if you want it to actually fit the evidence). The only thing I found misleading in the video, however, was in this discussion of inflation theory, where at one point one of the cosmologists (Ivan Aguillo) keeps talking about “the” Big Bang when discussing the BGV theorem, giving the impression (I think inadvertently) that the associated paper proved that there was only one Big Bang.

In fact, even if the paper’s conclusion is correct, that is not what it concludes. It concludes that there had to be a first Big Bang…not that that first Big Bang was ours. This is such a crucial distinction that I have to add a comment on it here.

What the BGV theorem says is that there may have been zillions of Big Bangs, exactly as chaotic inflation theory entails, just not infinitely many of them. In chaotic inflation, according to BGV, there would be one initial inflation event that got the whole multiverse started, but then kept sprouting new universes everywhere, with Big Bangs occurring in sequence as well as in adjacent timeframes, as the initial inflation event (the “first” Big Bang) expanded and new inflation events began happening here and there in the expanding space-time bubble, which then cause new inflationary events, and thus new bubble universes, and so on.

The only thing the BGV theorem ruled out was past-eternal inflation (as opposed to future-eternal inflation), i.e. that this mess of repeatedly re-spawned new universes goes back in time infinitely. It did not rule out a vastly large (but still finite) number of bubble universes in our past–hence, it did not rule out Chaotic Inflation Theory (in fact, as Guth himself has argued, the number of universes generated by now, even on a finite model, would be far more than 10 to the power of 37, or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 universes). And Chaotic Inflation Theory (not past eternal inflation) is what entails a large number of universes exist, ours just being one, a conclusion that supports multiverse theory, which is bad for business in Christian apologetics town, because it eats the fine tuning argument for breakfast. Insofar as Craig (or anyone) misleads his readers and audiences on this point, chalk that up to dishonesty or incompetence, whichever you prefer. Bullshit either way.

But the BGV theorem isn’t correct anyway. Aguillo gives good reason to conclude it is not (one of many reasons to watch this video). Or rather, to conclude that it is fallacious (in the formal terminology of logic), because, like the Hawking-Penrose theorem (which Craig also used to keep citing, even decades after Hawking and Penrose themselves agreed it had been refuted), it assumed conditions we now know in fact to be impossible–therefore one of the premises in the BGV theorem as such is demonstrably false. And so it’s conclusion does not follow. Aguillo explains why (just not using the vocabulary of philosophy).

BTW, the original authors of the paper actually agree with this–in the paper itself. Hence that paper’s actual conclusion is that eternal inflation doesn’t work on current physics, but might work on a unified theory of quantum relativity. And since we know current physics is incomplete and there must be a unified theory of quantum relativity (and loop quantum gravity is one such theory), their paper’s conclusion even as written could never have supported the argument Craig uses it for. The physicists in the video explain all this. But I make the point here because in saying their conclusion is fallacious, I am saying their conclusion as Craig uses it is fallacious. They themselves were well aware of the fallacy and avoided it with a judiciously worded conclusion. It’s just that that conclusion (the paper’s actual conclusion) is useless to Craig.

Back to Battling Christian Apologetics (and to the Origin of Our Universe without a God)

This same video team also produced the best direct take-down of WLC apologetics a while back, in their Debunking the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Definitely a good watch as well. They also have a good one on The Fine Tuning Argument Debunked. Both are very scientifically informed and informative, and have been recommended by actual physicists and cosmologists. This video team also recorded a related lecture by Dr. Hirnaya Peiris, in which she describes her own work (and others’) in looking for evidence of other universes (yes, it’s theoretically possible to do that).

For utility I’ll mention some related useful resources of my own that can supplement these and help you leverage their videos into effective take-downs of creationist nonsense:

Most generally, you can make what use you can of my response to 20 Questions Atheists [Supposedly but Actually Don't] Struggle to Answer and my related comment about abstract objects (including moral facts). Those can be used to tie all the contents of the universe to cosmology.

For a correct logical analysis of Occam’s Razor, see my Bayesian analysis (with citation of the scholarship) in Proving History (it’s in the index). That’s essential to understanding why chaotic inflation theory is far simpler than divine creation theory.

Note that although in Sense and Goodness without God [III.3.3, pp. 75-81] I had shown this for Smolin Selection Theory (one of chaotic inflation theory’s competitors, although they aren’t mutually exclusive), I also point out there that I only do that because it’s the easiest to argue in terms layfolk can follow–whereas Chaotic Inflation Theory is actually simpler (it requires fewer ad hoc assumptions) and is the most widely regarded as the most probable theory in the cosmological science community. At the time I personally thought Smolin Selection Theory had the better case, but I later came to agree Chaotic Inflation Theory in fact has the more evidence and is more probably correct (and that is my position now), although both might yet turn out to be true.

I’ve noted before that even by definition God is actually the most complex ad hoc theory humanly imaginable (he has maximum specified complexity…by definition, because nothing is supposed to be better than him at anything). See my discussion of this point in The God Impossible.

And that’s just at the level of the conceptual definition of the theory, whereas by contrast, all of nature can be explained by a finite and relatively small set of starting assumptions, e.g. a high-pressure quantum vacuum governed by Relativity + Quantum Mechanics entails the Big Bang and all ensuing contents of the universe and all laws governing it. Which is why cosmological scientists believe Big Bang Theory and not Big God Theory.

All that’s left to explain are the exact contents of the Standard Model, which is what Superstring Theory is about (whereas Loop Quantum Gravity theory is more aimed at explaining how Relativity and QM interact at the cosmological level). The fine tuning argument generally riffs on that, but it doesn’t work logically or factually–as several professional mathematicians have demonstrated already (as I explain in my my chapter on the design argument in The End of Christianity, where I popularize and expand their arguments).

When we look at the connection between the conceptual definition of God and the evidence in need of being explained, the problem only gets worse. Aristotle’s theory of four elements is simpler by far than our current theory of over 90 elements (the Periodic Table). But in fact, the evidence cannot be explained by Aristotle’s theory. Thus the 90-or-so-element theory is the simplest explanation that fits the actual evidence. Likewise naturalism vs. theism. The latter is akin to Aristotle’s four-element theory: even if it started out as a simple theory (it’s theists who irrationally insist on defining it with maximum specified complexity–one needn’t do that; god might not be all that impressive), it would not fit any of the evidence. Instead it has to be loaded with tons of ad hoc assumptions about god’s wishes and nature and plans and abilities to get it to fit the evidence as it actually is (hence the Argument from Evil, the Argument from Confusion, and so on), without which a simpler God theory entails massively different predictions than what we observe.

To see why this is the case, see my chapter on the design argument in The End of Christianity and my four-point argument in Why I Am Not a Christian. Although that latter only shows why Christian creationism does not fit the evidence, not any other God or gods, it’s easy to extrapolate to others from there (and I explain how in the atheism section of my book Sense and Goodness without God, sect. IV.2, pp. 253-89).

The creationist’s error is thus twofold:

(1) The creationist fails to recognize that positing an infinite mind with dozens of remarkable infinite abilities is not a simple theory (God has the highest specified complexity of any conceivable entity; thus you have to prove God is a necessary being, otherwise, he is killed by Occam’s Razor, not saved by it). So theists are starting out of the gate with a theory they have actually chosen to define as absurdly complex, for no good reason.

(2) The creationist is overlooking the fact that one also must have dozens of hidden assumptions in their theory, in order to get it to explain the same facts as naturalism does (e.g. why god is silent, not abundantly active, doesn’t design the world to be less evil and unjust, and so on). Thus the only way Theism can explain the evidence as well as Naturalism is by making Theism even more complex by inventing dozens of non-evidenced ad hoc assumptions to rescue it from contradicting the evidence that is already entailed (and thus wholly expected) on Naturalism without Theism.

And this gets us back to cosmology. With Quantum Mechanics alone, scientists can calculate the probability of an inflaton (a particle that essentially is the nucleus of a universe: because it dissolves immediately, and necessarily, into an inflating universe) arising just by random chance. That probability is extremely, absurdly small. But it is not zero. Though one of the cosmologists in the video I’m directing you to today (Abhay Ashtekar) points out that its probability in a quantum vacuum at an early time state comes out to be nearly 100% in Loop Quantum Gravity theory (so as a theory of the origin of the universe, you can see why cosmologists find that a very compelling result), that isn’t even necessary.

Any nonzero probability, no matter how small, approaches 100% over time. So it doesn’t matter how improbable an inflaton is. Inflatons will randomly appear even in our universe eventually. Indeed, depending on how large our universe actually is, they may have appeared many times already (just so far away that we would never see them or their effects…because they are so improbable, they are therefore so rare that only one occurs every zillion lightyears or so, or locally every zillion years or so). In fact, the observable universe is accelerating, which means unless that changes, eventually it will tear itself apart in a Big Rip, wherein dark energy will tear apart even quarks at the subatomic level, and eventually far beyond that. In fact, if not stopped, this continued acceleration will eventually produce such vast releases of energy as to essentially dissolve the entire universe into a whole cloud of inflatons (and thus vast numbers of new universes will sprout from the ashes of ours).

Even shy of that, the energy release might be indistinguishable from our Big Bang. We might thus be the end result of a previous universe that underwent a Big Rip, especially if it took so long to occur that that universe had reached near maximum entropy, near total equilibrium of scattered particles. Cosmologists believe the scars of the previous universe would be visible in the cosmological background radiation, but that presumes there was any structure left in the previous universe to be preserved in any visible way in ours. Indeed, the physicists in today’s video note that the very process of dissolving a previous universe into inflatons will probably quantum mechanically erase all previous structure.

As I wrote in The End of Christianity (n. 31, p. 411):

[If] the universe in some form will continue to exist for 10^1,000,000 years, then it could easily contain an event as improbable [as 1 in 10^1,000,000], and that event would as likely be its origin as anything else. In fact, since quantum mechanics entails that a big bang of any size and initial entropy always has some (albeit absurdly small) probability of spontaneously occurring at any time, and since on any long enough timeline any nonzero probability approaches 100 percent no matter how singularly improbable, it could easily be that this has been going on for untold ages, our big bang merely being just one late in the chain. We could be at year 10^1,000,000 right now, and as this conclusion follows from established facts and there is no known fact to contradict it, it’s no more unlikely than the existence of a god (and arguably a great deal more likely).

So it doesn’t matter how improbable an inflation arising is. As long as there is any random universe (even one wholly incompatible with life, even one very simple, even one a total chaos, it doesn’t at all matter), eventually you will get a universe like ours. Even if that first universe had a beginning (and began as just a literally random grab-bag universe, a completely randomized quantum event). Even if it didn’t (and it’s been randomly arising inflatons all the way back for all eternity). Eventually, zillions of trillions of years later, this random universe will have produced zillions of trillions of randomly arising inflatons, each its own universe. One of which will randomly come out like ours–able to produce life. The odds are virtually 100%.

There is therefore no need of positing any divine creator. And this follows from known physics.

24 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Giuseppe

    you’ve never written anything that I know of, about pantheism? In particular, about the naturalistic pantheism?

    What do you think about the Dawkins claim about pantheism as “Sexed-up Atheism”?

    For example, I read Quentin Smith (pp.222-242 of Etichal and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language, 1997) and his distinction between dependent and independent naturalistic pantheism, putting the latter against the non-naturalist pantheism of Plotinus, Spinoza, Leslie, etc. .. .

    apart from pantheism, I’m also curious to know how your view is different from the ”nice nihilism” of Alex Rosenberg and his book The atheist’s guide to reality
    best regards
    Giuseppe

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      Rosenberg is one of the worst philosophers of our generation.

      Here is my extensive critique of his nonsensical, unscientific, fact-challenged nihilistic eliminativism: [1] and [2].

      As for pantheism, I have no opinions. Until someone presents any evidence for it, it’s no more plausible than Zeus or Taoism; and unless someone claiming it’s true provides a clear definition of it, it could as well just be a synonym of atheism, or wholly meaningless.

      The burden is on the proponent on pantheism. Otherwise, it goes in the junk bin along with unicorns, crystal power, Freudian psychoanalysis, and ontological Platonism.

  2. 2
    hjhornbeck

    Please forgive the rant, but there’s a fairly obvious flaw in the Fine-Tuning argument that I never see discussed, and you’ve just reminded me of it. The statement “the universe was fine-tuned” depends on a number of premises:

    1. The universe could be fine-tuned, that there is more than one valid way to arrange the constants and laws of a universe.

    2. Of all possible universes which could be constructed, at least one will never lead to life at any point in its lifespan.

    3. In addition, the number of valid tunings which do not lead to life vastly outnumber the number which do.

    None of those three have been demonstrated. While everyone points to models where you can adjust parameter values, no-one has demonstrated those that universe creation must follow those models; this would require the creation of multiple universes, an absurdity. As no-one can say for certain what conditions would result in life (consider the serious discussion of methane-based life), there is no way to even answer the last two questions. Attacking those three premises is easy for even a lay person to do, as it requires no knowledge of cosmology or even biology.

    Yet almost everyone, including most opponents of Fine-Tuning, buy into those three premises without question. This usually results in a “my expert is bigger than your expert” situation, or arguments from ill-formed assumptions. Even the assertion that life would never arise without stellar fusion, as solid as it may seem, is irrelevant if the only method you can show a star-less universe can exist is by tweaking parameters in a model, without pointing to the conditions and laws that existed before the universe and constrained its parameters.

    1. 2.1
      Richard Carrier

      The SkyDivePhil video about fine tuning (linked in this article above) actually makes all the points you are.

      You are quite right, of course. And yet only scratching the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong about the fine tuning argument.

  3. 3
    Rick Ryals

    I am an atheist, but like most of your peers your answers are as ideologically conditioned as they are wrong:

    ‘None of (these) three have been demonstrated’

    1. The universe could be fine-tuned, that there is more than one valid way to arrange the constants and laws of a universe.

    The most natural extension of quantum theory predicts that the vacuum energy density of the universe should be about 120 orders of magnified greater than is observed. This is known of as “the Vacuum Catastrophe” (look it up), it does not include bogus speculative physics theories about multiverses and other crackhead thoughts like that… what is directly *observed* is an extremely unlikely balance between diametrically opposing forces that is representative of the similarly “ecobalanced” commonality that is produced by the “goldilocks enigma”.

    In really really simple layman’s terms, the mechanism that defines the unlikely structure of the universe is *most apparently* connected to the mechanism that enables the same vast multitude of balanced conditions that enable life.

    2. Of all possible universes which could be constructed, at least one will never lead to life at any point in its lifespan.

    You have no clue what you just said in relation to the relevant physics.

    3. In addition, the number of valid tunings which do not lead to life vastly outnumber the number which do.

    Again, you have no clue what you are babbling about, but we’ll see how you do with your first correction before we waste anymore time with you… ;)

    1. 3.1
      Richard Carrier

      “…your answers are as ideologically conditioned as they are wrong…”

      It doesn’t seem you understand what the word “wrong” means.

      Maybe you don’t realize what HJHornbeck was saying.

      When he says ‘None of (these) three have been demonstrated’ he means simply that: no one has scientifically confirmed any of those three statements is even true. And if you merely suppose they are true, then your conclusion is a mere supposition, too (since any weaknesses in the premises of an argument always commute to the conclusion). Garbage in, garbage out. An argument is only sound when the premises are demonstrated to be true. You cannot simply assume they are true. Because assumptions in, assumptions out. And an assumption is a proof of nothing.

      On his item 1:

      The most natural extension of quantum theory predicts that the vacuum energy density of the universe should be about 120 orders of magnified greater than is observed.

      Which means observations contradict our physics. That generally means there is something wrong with the physics (and we know that’s certainly the case, because quantum theory contradicts relativity, so one or the other or both is wrong). But at the very least, that there is something wrong with our physics is as likely as not. Therefore, we cannot assume this is actually variable. In fact it might not be. For all we know, it is impossible to have a Big Bang that has any other lambda than ours does, or any that differs enough to make a difference to producing intelligent life.

      The significant point is that no evidence has ever been produced that lambda is variable or what would ever have changed it (that would be relevant to the case).

      On his item 2:

      ‘Of all possible universes which could be constructed, at least one will never lead to life at any point in its lifespan’ could in fact be false, and no scientist has ever proved it is false.

      For all we know every physically possible universe produces intelligent life.

      We have no actual evidence otherwise. It is merely assumed we could have other configurations that wouldn’t produce it. But assumptions in, assumptions out. In other words, garbage in, garbage out.

      For example, the constants G, h, and c (the most fundamental constants in all of physics) are in quantum mechanical natural units all necessarily 1. Which means they disappear in QM. They actually don’t exist. They are really just unit conversions, since human measuring units for space and time are arbitrarily invented, whereas the true natural units of space-time are not.

      This is actually relevant to the subject here of Loop Quantum Gravity, on which theory (as the video explains) our universe is quantized even at the space-time level. Once you grant that (and one could argue it must necessarily be the case, but I won’t attempt that here), then G, h, and c will all have the same values in every possible universe. It is therefore impossible to change them. If it were the case that these having the values they do were sufficient for a universe to produce intelligent life, then intelligent life would exist in all physically possible universes, and therefore claim 2 would be false. So what if any other requisite constants (like alpha or lambda) were likewise unchangeable? They may well be.

      No one has ruled this out.

      Therefore claim 2 is an unproven hypothesis. It is not an established fact of science.

      That doesn’t mean it’s false, either. But that’s not the issue.

      On his item 3:

      That ‘the number of valid tunings which do not lead to life vastly outnumber the number which do’ is simply not in fact known. Victor Stenger (a theoretical physicist) has explained this repeatedly throughout his work. And other physicists have published papers showing that even if we allow variable constants, the ratio of life-generating to barren universes may be as high as 1 to 4 (20%), and 1 is by no stretch of the imagination “vastly outnumbered” by 4.

      Indeed, if 2 is false, then 3 is necessarily false (as then the number of barren universes possible is 0). But even if 2 is true, 3 is not necessarily true. And for all we honestly know, 3 is false. Sure, 3 might be true, too, but we can’t build proofs of god from “might be.” That was HJHornbeck’s point. And he’s not wrong.

  4. 4
    Rick Ryals

    “When he says ‘None of (these) three have been demonstrated’ he means simply that: no one has scientifically confirmed any of those three statements is even true.”

    No statement in science is considered a “demonstrated truth”, but quantum theory is one of the most well tested theories in all of science, so to say that it hasn’t been “demonstrated” is a big load of bull!

    “Demonstrate” … inflationary theory for us then, hot shot…

    1. 4.1
      Richard Carrier

      Nothing you just said responds to anything I just said. You clearly don’t understand a word of what I was saying.

    2. 4.2
      Rick Ryals

      That may have something to do with the fact that days go by between comments, and that’s if you stay right on top of it.

  5. 5
    Rick Ryals

    Or, maybe to put it more to the point:

    Quantum theory “proves” to a high degree of certainty that there….

    “is more than one valid way to arrange the constants and laws of a universe.”

    Since it *should* be one way, but is, in fact, another.

    1. 5.1
      Richard Carrier

      No, quantum theory does not “prove” that. At all. Anywhere.

      It is an assumption (and only that) that if those constants are variable (note: if), then their determination might (note: might) be determined quantum mechanically.

      Thus, the premise has never been demonstrated. Therefore any conclusion based on that premise has also not been demonstrated. QED.

    2. 5.2
      Rick Ryals

      Fine, I see your point and I was out of line. Obviously, or at least, naively, they aren’t being determined quantum mechanically, although they may still be variable, it appears to me that the cosmological constant at least is fixed by a maximum action principle… like a near flat, near perfectly balanced universe disseminates energy most efficiently.

    3. Richard Carrier

      They might be determined quantum mechanically. We don’t really know. Yet.

  6. 6
    steele

    Richard,

    I was surprised, well not so much, to see you commit the same fallacy you so fiercely condemn in others. What I am referring to is another one of your pathetic backhanded comments about William Lane Craig.

    you say:

    “why theists are wrong about Big Bang cosmology and how the likes of William Lane Craig are conning people with their selective distortions of it”

    While that may be your opinion Richard, it is far from the truth. You can say Craig is fallacious, incompetent, dishonest (a con man), etc….blah, blah, blah, but you clearly don’t prove it in this article.

    let me remind you as you state in one of your other blogs about Bart Ehrman:

    “He just assumes expert historians and biblical scholars can’t have familiarized themselves with the ancient languages and documents pertaining to Christianity, and that scholars who lack university appointments can’t be experts. Neither is true, and it is shameful that he keeps using those arguments”

    How about using that same attitude and extend Craig some professional courtesy? You pull the old canard that because Craig doesn’t have PHD in physics he is pulling metaphysical rabbits out of his ass.

    Craig has shown (see links) that he is more than aware and competent with regards to modern physics and contemporary cosmology, he even address quantum loop gravity in one of these articles.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/contemporary-cosmology-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/current-cosmology-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe

    It seems to me Craig is well aware of mainstream physics and has made philosophical observation based on his interpretation of the evidence. As you are aware Richard physicists often are unaware of the practical much less the philosophical import of their findings. A good example would be when Hermann Minkowski reformulated Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity into 4D spacetime; I think Einstein even made the comment facetiously that since the mathematicians had gotten a hold of his theory he couldn’t even understand it.

    As it is most physicists are conservative with their own theories given the scientific enterprise of not presupposing the evidence and thus somewhat cautious about the conclusions, of course you may not know this because you don’t seem to practice this same method. Vilenkin isn’t going to say God done it for you.

    Further as you are probably aware in am email correspondence with Victor Stenger and Alexander Vilenkin;

    Vilken states:

    “Vilenkin added,

    This sounds as if there is nothing wrong with having contraction prior to expansion. But the problem is that a contracting universe is highly unstable. Small perturbations would cause it to develop all sorts of messy singularities, so it would never make it to the expanding phase. That is why Aguirre & Gratton and Carroll & Chen had to assume that the arrow of time changes at t = 0. This makes the moment t = 0 rather special. I would say no less special than a true beginning of the universe. [3]

    In a follow up email to me Mr. Vilenkin made his position clearer,

    [I]f someone asks me whether or not the theorem I proved with Borde and Guth implies that the universe had a beginning, I would say that the short answer is “yes”. If you are willing to get into subtleties, then the answer is “No, but…” So, there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning.”

    Something as special as a beginning! Hmm…. interesting?

    I realize that you need to have the universe to be eternal to fit into your atheist regime Richard, but try not to impugn people’s character in the effort to build your Temple of Reason. Oh and remember you first sacrifice in your new temple will be your own reason.

    Take care

    Thanks

    1. 6.1
      Richard Carrier

      You can say Craig is fallacious, incompetent, dishonest (a con man), etc….blah, blah, blah, but you clearly don’t prove it in this article.

      This article isn’t about proving that. It’s about a video that provides some of the evidence of it. If you want the rest of the evidence just Google “William Lane Craig liar” and read the first three pages of hits.

      Case in point: the links you provide prove Craig is either ignorant, lying, or conning you. Because what he says there either contradicts or does not actually address what actual cosmologists are saying, including in this video (and in the other commentaries and videos I linked to in this article above).

      Indeed, your own quotation of Vilenkin proves my point: Vilenkin admits there that we don’t know whether the universe had a beginning and that he has never proved it did (as to why that is, the video my present article about tells you). Funny how you never hear that from Craig. Craig says he proved it did. Hmmm…

      Finally, you obviously don’t read any of my work. I do not “need to have the universe to be eternal.” I have extensively described in all my writings about the options in godless cosmology many non-past-eternal godless universes. Indeed, I have written entire blogs about nothing but exactly that (and that is only one possibility: I have discussed several others in Sense and Goodness without God and online–links are in that last linked item).

      So here you are, quoting at me evidence of Craig’s fraud, thinking it is evidence on your side, showing how much you aren’t even paying attention to your own materials (or the video and other linked resources you are supposed to be responding to here), and making claims about me that are patently false and demonstrate your total ignorance of atheist philosophy in general and my own discussions of it in particular.

      Ignorance only makes you look the fool.

    2. 6.2
      steele

      Richard,

      Hey ok you are right, sorry, I didn’t really address the video and I did watch it. Other than the girl in the video being somewhat smug, I did find it interesting.

      Ok

      1) The video: Like I said it was highly interesting and I do enjoy physics. I have read the Borde, Guth and Vilenkin paper as well.

      You state in your blogpost

      “What the BGV theorem says is that there may have been zillions of Big Bangs, exactly as chaotic inflation theory entails, just not infinitely many of them. In chaotic inflation, according to BGV, there would be one initial inflation event that got the whole multiverse started, but then kept sprouting new universes everywhere, with Big Bangs occurring in sequence as well as in adjacent timeframes, as the initial inflation event (the “first” Big Bang) expanded and new inflation events began happening here and there in the expanding space-time bubble, which then cause new inflationary events, and thus new bubble universes, and so on.”

      Well that is not completely accurate, the BGV doesn’t even mention chaotic inflation theory or zillions of big bangs, the paper you cite by Guth in your article does, so it appears you are conflating the two papers. This doesn’t bother me but I am just merely making a correction as your statement is misleading to some extant.

      2) you state:

      “Indeed, your own quotation of Vilenkin proves my point: Vilenkin admits there that we don’t know whether the universe had a beginning and that he has never proved it did (as to why that is, the video my present article about tells you). Funny how you never hear that from Craig. Craig says he proved it did. Hmmm…”
      I understand what Vilenkin said and my point was that while Vilenkin might be cautious and conservative as a scientist and not want to draw philosophical conclusions from his own work, that doesn’t make Craig wrong from doing so. That doesn’t mean Craig is right but to critique Craig because Vilenkin doesn’t support Craig’s conclusions seems to me immaterial to the question.
      As a scientist Vilenkin isn’t going to commit to a beginning with absolute certainty, I just think Craig is more affirmative and in my opinion based on the work of Vilenkin and the current general accepted Big Bang Models Craig is not that far out there saying its been “proved” ( I would just add provisionally proved pending further evidence). I think Vilenkin saying something “as special as a beginning” is telling, someone is going to have come up with a full fledged quantum theory of gravity before he throws the baby out with the bath water (meaning there probably was still a beginning point).

      3) As far as an eternal universe or a beginning, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me either (I thought it did for you so sorry about that) other than curiosity sake. I don’t think either one necessarily disprove or prove God. The same with the fine tuning argument. You say:

      “And Chaotic Inflation Theory (not past eternal inflation) is what entails a large number of universes exist, ours just being one, a conclusion that supports multiverse theory, which is bad for business in Christian apologetics town, because it eats the fine tuning argument for breakfast. Insofar as Craig (or anyone) misleads his readers and audiences on this point, chalk that up to dishonesty or incompetence, whichever you prefer. Bullshit either way.”

      I don’t think you make the case that the fine tuning argument is out the window it may just be pushed back to 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 universes. The initial “Universe” that supposedly spawned the multiverse may have needed specially finely tuned constants in order for the multiverse to be viable, no one knows at this point.

      4) More specifically in the video I would highlight two parts I found most interesting is where Professor Abhay Ashtekar, is talking about the Borde Guth and Vilenkin theorem which starts at 31:50

      He says:

      “These theorems of Vilenkin, Guth, and Borde, on which much of the discussion is based, they basically assume that the universe was eternally inflating, that is to say, there was no contracting phase in the past. And in Loop Quantum Cosmology there is a contraction phase in the past, and therefore the basic assumption of the theorem is violated, and therefore there is occurrence which is not compatible with the conclusion. I mean theorems are theorems, but if the assumptions are violated then the conclusions are not true.”

      So Professor Ashtekar has proved there was a contracting phase? I am sure Professor Guth will be interested in that. I think here Professor Ashtekar overstates his case and begs the question of how do we know it isn’t his theory that has the wrong assumptions.

      The BGV theorem utilizes currently known well established physics and makes minimal assumptions. The only assumption the paper makes and I quote from the paper itself

      “The result depends on just one assumption: the Hubble parameter H has a positive value when averaged over the affine parameter of a past-directed null or noncomoving timelike geodesic.”

      If Professor Ashtekar proves Loop Quantum Gravity, I would agree with him but as it is at this point I think that he is a little ahead of himself to say the BGV theorem is invalid.

      Also in the video at 39:58 I think he is some dude at NASA and he says:

      “I think if I were an inflationary theorist I would be more happy than disturbed by these results,but we have to be open minded that there might be new physics involved in these anomalies.”

      Ok I think BGV theorem as you stated Richard basically says this, so yes with new physics things could change but as it is BGV still holds. Again Craig is not so far out there in my opinion.

      5) Lastly what I really don’t understand is where you state:

      “But I make the point here because in saying their conclusion is fallacious, I am saying their conclusion as Craig uses it is fallacious. They themselves were well aware of the fallacy and avoided it with a judiciously worded conclusion. It’s just that that conclusion (the paper’s actual conclusion) is useless to Craig.”

      How is the way Craig uses the BGV fallacious, what would you call a boundary where space and time come to an end other then the beginning? Based on the current status of physics Craig is clearly not misusing the theorem. Again so what if Vilenkin doesn’t agree with the philosophical conclusions? Einstein didn’t like an expanding universe so he put a fudge factor in there to make it static, the cosmological constant. Physicists frequently don’t know what their own research may imply or like Einstein to make his model fit current observations introduce things like this.

      I think the current trend in physics today is to say when we don’t understand something say “Quantum Mechanics” and mystery solved, lol. Not unlike God done it for the theist side. Regardless again it is your critique of Craig that is fallacious.

      Thanks

    3. Richard Carrier

      …the BGV doesn’t even mention chaotic inflation theory or zillions of big bangs…

      It is a response to those claims (by Linde). The BGV theorem is analyzing if claims like Linde’s are consistent with past-eternal sequences (and then only under classical physics, which we know is false, so the theorem is not applicable to reality anyway).

      I understand what Vilenkin said and my point was that while Vilenkin might be cautious and conservative as a scientist and not want to draw philosophical conclusions from his own work, that doesn’t make Craig wrong from doing so.

      What is wrong is for Craig to claim such philosophical speculations are established scientific facts. That is what he is misleading about. He does not say ‘it is possible Vilenkin’s speculations are correct’. He says (in effect) ‘Vilenkin proved the universe can’t be past eternal’. The latter statement is a lie–a lie exposed even by Vilenkin, who himself denies it’s true. Vilenkin only speculated that it might be true, given certain as-yet-unproven assumptions. But you can’t get an argument for God from “as-yet-unproven assumptions.”

      …someone is going to have come up with a full fledged quantum theory of gravity before he throws the baby out with the bath water (meaning there probably was still a beginning point)….

      That’s a non sequitur. There is no basis for which to conclude “there probably was still a beginning point.” That would be a fallacy of argument from ignorance. We don’t know what the correct theory of quantum gravity will entail about this. Period. And if you’re going to rely on current theories of quantum gravity, they entail nearly the opposite of what you are claiming (they eliminate every argument so far advanced for “there probably was still a beginning point,” including the BGV theorem–as this video explains, and as Vilenkin himself admits).

      The initial “Universe” that supposedly spawned the multiverse may have needed specially finely tuned constants in order for the multiverse to be viable, no one knows at this point.

      You are making my argument for me. Craig cannot argue to any conclusion from what he does not know about the universe.

      The BGV theorem utilizes currently known well established physics and makes minimal assumptions.

      Incorrect. It utilizes physics we already know for a fact are false. The “established physics” you are referring to is classical relativity, which we know as a scientific fact is invalid at the scales the BGV is being applied to. That we don’t know for sure what physics does apply there does not change the fact that whatever it is it is not the established physics the BGV is basing its conclusion on.

      The only assumption the paper makes and I quote from the paper itself — “The result depends on just one assumption: the Hubble parameter H has a positive value when averaged over the affine parameter of a past-directed null or noncomoving timelike geodesic.”

      Wrong. It makes a number of other assumptions. That’s the point being made in the video (and which Vilenkin conceded). For example, it assumes classical relativity works at all scales. An assumption we know to be false.

      …so yes with new physics things could change but as it is BGV still holds…

      Incorrect. The BGV only holds if classical relativity works at all scales. We know for a scientific fact it does not. Therefore we know for a scientific fact that the BGV does not hold.

      This is wholly separate from the question of whether loop quantum gravity is true.

      Thus Craig is dead wrong about this. And apparently has succeeded in duping even you into not realizing it. That’s how good he is.

      How is the way Craig uses the BGV fallacious…?

      The BGV does not hold. In the terms of formal logic, it is unsound (one of its premises is known to be false: that classical relativity operates at all scales). Therefore, he cannot use it as a premise in an argument. That is a fallacy. By definition. And he should know this by now (because it’s been explained to him by actual physicists multiple times). Yet he won’t tell you that. And that makes him a con artist, IMO.

    4. 6.3
      steele

      Richard,

      I just want to mention, not because I want to debate you on this topic any further but only because you may be curious/interested, that on Dr. Craig’s website in his Q&A forum #336 he is again discussing the BGV theorem and has an email from Professor Vilenkin.

      I’m not going to comment on it other to say it is an interesting read and it is related to the discussion you and I had on this blog, so I thought it worth mentioning to you.

      Thanks

      Erik

  7. 7
    belzerbru

    on “Craig is either ignorant, lying, or conning you.” . I’m pretty sure I know which 1 or 2 is correct about WLC ..

  8. 8
    Lion IRC

    “Any nonzero probability, no matter how small, approaches 100% over time.”

    Got it. Thanks.

    Incredibly powerful sentient beings in parallel universes? No big deal at all really when you think about it.

  9. 9
    Jo Led

    Vilenkin disagrees with your characterization.

    We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibil- ity that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal inflation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past.

    read the whole thing.

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658

    1. 9.1
      Richard Carrier

      All of that is still based on Classical Relativity. Since we know that doesn’t hold at the scales relevant, your argument is a waste of time. You cannot know whether past eternality is possible until you unify Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. And no one has done that. That’s the whole point of the video you are here commenting on (a point made by actual physicists), so I can only assume you didn’t pay attention.

  10. 10
    Nightshade

    The observations upon which Quantum Physics are based occur in the universe. We have no way of knowing they would occur if there were no universe. Quantum physicist might have the causal relationship reversed. Perhaps the universe causes quantum phenomena rather than being caused by quantum phenomena. In addition to the egocentric predicament we face a cosmocentric predicament, we can’t get outside the universe to see the state of Reality without it. If the terms Nature and Universe are user synonymously then the origin of the universe is the origin of nature and the ‘laws of nature’ which we know. If science is based upon the laws of nature then science cannot tell us anything about the state of Reality before the Universe/Nature. It would seem a naturalistic and therefore scientific theory of Cosmogony is impossible.

    1. 10.1
      Richard Carrier

      If science is based upon the laws of nature then science cannot tell us anything about the state of Reality before the Universe/Nature.

      Science is not “based on” the laws of physics, it discovers what they are. It is a method. A method that fundamentally completely lacks any reference to the laws of physics–except insofar as the existence of distinctions must obtain for any method to function, so science requires the existence of at least one law of physics, but only to function–it is not thereby prevented from studying what would happen in universes without that law.

      The way science works is by positing a hypothesis (a model), deducing what observations that hypothesis entails if true and if false (i.e. determining what each logically entails), then looking to see which observations obtain. This method does not require us to actually see or observe the root causes of anything. For example, we did not have to observe atoms in order to be able to scientifically prove they existed and what many of their properties were. By the same token, we do not have to see “outside” our universe or “observe” what existed before it in order to know what did. We just posit a hypothesis as to what preceded or caused everything, deduce what that hypothesis entails should be the case, and then see how well observations match those predictions.

      Thus we can in principle naturalistically explain all existence, by simply observing the present universe alone. In just the same way we did not have to see the Big Bang happen to know that it did, we do not have to see what happened before the Big Bang to know what did.

      Of course, it’s possible we may end up with many working models such that we have insufficient observations to distinguish which of them is true. But that’s still a naturalistic solution to cosmogony, it’s just instead of saying “It’s most likely A” we have to say “It’s most likely either A or B or C.” And as long as none of those things are supernatural, we will have confirmed naturalism (to some probability).

      Thus my ex nihilo argument is an example of a naturalistic hypothesis that explains all observations, with more success than theism and with far fewer presuppositions. That does not mean that’s what happened. But it does mean that that having happened is far more likely than “God did it.” And that’s progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: