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Barber’s Big Bang Straw Man

Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel bravely leaps into the field of science and, unsurprisingly, lands with a resounding thud. Read these two paragraphs, which betray either complete ignorance of the big bang and evolutionary theories or the deliberate construction of an absurd straw man:

Be they theist or be they atheist, on this most scientists agree: In the beginning there was nothing. There was no time, space or matter. There wasn’t even emptiness, only nothingness. Well, nothing natural anyway.

And then, bang! Everything. Nonexistence became existence. Nothing became, in less than an instant, our inconceivably vast and finely tuned universe governed by what mankind would later call – after we too popped into existence from nowhere, fully armed with conscious awareness and the ability to think, communicate and observe – “natural law” or “physics.”

Time, space, earth, life and, finally, human life were not.

And then they were.

Any scientist who believed any such thing would rightly be laughed out of the academy. Barber, though, is on the faculty of Liberty University, so he will win wild cheering for this ignorant bullshit rather than derision. They expect this sort of cartoonish version of science at Liberty; anything else would leave their religious ideology in tatters.

Comments

  1. marcus says

    I read some of the comments along with the original article. Please excuse me while I go scrub out my brain. ewww!

  2. iknklast says

    It isn’t only exactly what creationists assert; I’ve heard this from some people who accept evolution, who have no problem with the findings of science, but in many cases have no clue what those findings really are. Many of these same people honestly and sincerely believe that human beings evolved from chimpanzees (or something equally simplistic and wrong).

  3. anubisprime says

    Yeah and these fuckers want to be bestest ‘fwends with science, like fuck they do they want to destroy the acuity of science, make it myopic like their vision is, and to castrate it if possible.
    That is all it is about, all the fatuous camouflage about science and theism travelling the same trajectory is just bollix…it always has been, always will be.

    They want science muzzled, cos it is killing them dead, and they know it, they want to be able to shackle it under pretence of jeebus ethics or their twisted morality, or just because a vast majority of them are completely wilfully ignorant and dumb with it and it frightens them.
    But to do that they need admittance and a seat at the adult table.
    Funny how every single overture about ‘working with science’ always comes from the theist side…like kiddies on the other-side of the sweety shop window, noses pressed up tight and clamouring for entry…

    With ‘fwends like that you do not need enemies…really not!
    They have absolutely no intention of learning the science honestly, and every intent to twist it to suit their delusion.
    They do not show any interest in integrity, just massive and bitter hatred…we know it and so do they.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    There was a slight pause between the Big Bang and the emergence of “conscious awareness and the ability to think”. About….thirteen billion years. But I suppose this is no big deal.

    And I thought our universe budded off from a bigger multiverse, so we do not come from “nothing”.
    As for time, I don’t know if the time dimension of the preceding multiverse is the same as the time dimension of our universe.
    — — — — — — —
    Question: What do they study at Liberty University? Is it just theology, or do they have some stuff anchored in the external world?

  5. celcus says

    Change “bang” to “Let there be…” and yes, he is too stupid to realize that he’s mocking his own beliefs.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    “sincerely believe that human beings evolved from chimpanzees (or something equally simplistic and wrong)”.
    Chimps and the Homo lineage both evolved from a common ancestor, Rushlimbaughiensis.

    “sky fairy poofing everything into existence”
    Or sneezing into existence. Or (censored) into existence after eating something unsuitable.

  7. matty1 says

    Be they theist or be they atheist, on this most scientists agree creationism is bollocks

    Fixed

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Gregory in Seattle #3: And yet, isn’t this EXACTLY what creationists assert?

    No, it’s not. Instead of *POOF* in an instant, creationists are willing to allow that creation took an entire week. You can see that’s much more reasonable.

  9. grumpyoldfart says

    Barber also wrote:

    According to Scripture, atheists like Hawking are fools.
    [...]
    I feel sorry for Stephen Hawking. He’s had a very difficult life.
    [...]
    Pray for him.

    Condescending prick!

  10. matty1 says

    Chimps and the Homo lineage both evolved from a common ancestor, Rushlimbaughiensis.

    I’m sorry that’s going too far, this would mean a Rush Limbaugh reproducing, which is just too horrific to contemplate.

  11. slc1 says

    Re birgerjohansson @ #9

    As I understand it, the current thinking amongst cosmologists is that the universe we occupy was created from the quantum vacuum; presumably, other universes, if any, were also created from the quantum vacuum.

    I think that the unfortunate title of Lawrence Krauss’ book, A Universe from Nothing, has caused nothing but confusion. I have not read the book but I have to assume that a fine scientist like Krauss made it clear that our current understanding of “nothing”, or a vacuum, is quite different then it was in the 19th century. In the 19th century, the term vacuum meant the absence of matter. Today, the vacuum is the quantum vacuum, which consists of fields or equivalently virtual particles (e.g. photons, electrons, neutrinos, etc.) which come into existence for brief periods before disappearing. The quantum vacuum is not directly observable (although there appear to be some indications that the speed of light can be affected by interacting with it) but its effects via the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron are observable.

  12. Doug Little says

    Wow, not even wrong.

    I like how conscience just popped into existence, isn’t that his argument? These idiots have extreme trouble with large numbers, it has taken 3.6 billion years for evolution to develop conscience, poof, just like that, fucking moron.

    Also there was not nothing before the big bang. Inflation occurred before and then before that there had to be at least the inflaton field sitting at a higher quasi-stable potential than it does today.

  13. says

    There wasn’t even emptiness, only nothingness. Well, nothing natural anyway.

    There were toasters and refrigerators and Studebakers and yellowed old issues of “Playboy” floating about the Cosmos, but no stars or planetary nebulae. Is that what he’s trying to imply?

    And this is different from some sky fairy poofing everything into existence how?

    It isn’t. I think that’s his point: he’s mocking the idea that everything can come from nothing without (his) God. Which, to be sure, is about the only plausible sciencey-sounding argument that lot have left.

    It isn’t only exactly what creationists assert; I’ve heard this from some people who accept evolution, who have no problem with the findings of science, but in many cases have no clue what those findings really are…

    I admit to being kinda in that category; and I’m pretty sure Barber’s BS is aimed at people like me: we know enough about the Big Bang to think it at least SOUNDS theistic — nothing in science says “let there be light!” like the Big Bang* as I understand it.

    ————————————————-
    * I almost typed “Big Band” there. Make of that what you will.

  14. Doug Little says

    Today, the vacuum is the quantum vacuum, which consists of fields or equivalently virtual particles (e.g. photons, electrons, neutrinos, etc.) which come into existence for brief periods before disappearing. The quantum vacuum is not directly observable (although there appear to be some indications that the speed of light can be affected by interacting with it) but its effects via the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron are observable.

    Casimier effect and Hawking radiation would be two observations that show particle-antiparticle creation and annihilation due to quantum field fluctuations. It is not known if the current quantum fields for the 18 elementary particles are elementary or whether they arose due to the spontaneous symmetry breaking of the inflaton field that kicked the whole shebang off.

  15. hunter says

    As far as I know, the only ones who believe that the universe came from nothing are followers of what Joseph W. Campbell terms “the desert religions” — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Nobody else believes that.

  16. slc1 says

    Re Doug Little @ #18

    The Dirac theory of the electron asserts that photons can produce electron/positron pairs by knocking a virtual electron out of the quantum vacuum, where it becomes a physical electron, with the hole left behind becoming a physical positron. The initial creation event actually created a very small excess of particles over antiparticles because of CP violation (as I understand it, a few of the holes did not become antiparticles but “evaporated”).

  17. slc1 says

    Re composer99

    Barber read Ethan Siegel? Surly composer99 jests. Prof. Siegel is an atheist Jew and, in the dream world of Barber, is thus unreliable.

  18. says

    To Doug Little and all of you other folks who are being so helpful explaining how the universe works:

    When talking to fundies about this stuff, it’s like attempting to explain the oxidation process to people who see fire as “magic” and rust as a sign of GOD’s displeasure with his creatures–you know, morons.

  19. kosk11348 says

    I got a chuckle the other day from one such God-denier. Stephen Hawking is, no doubt, a brilliant physicist. He’s widely considered one of the most intelligent men alive.

    Which makes his abject foolishness all the more puzzling.

    Ok, if any part of your argument rests on the premise that you are smarter than Stephen Hawking, that’s a pretty good indication you need to rethink your conclusions.

  20. says

    Reginald Selkirk “No, it’s not. Instead of *POOF* in an instant, creationists are willing to allow that creation took an entire week. You can see that’s much more reasonable.”
    THE THING YOU MOCK WOULD SEEM “MUCH MORE REASONABLE”, BUT YOU CAN’T EVEN GET IT RIGHTLY. IT’S SIX DAYS.
    CHECKMATE, BIG BANGISM!

  21. says

    Slc1 @15 – I have read Krauss’ book, and it is not misnamed. He breaks the issue of ‘why is there anything’ down into parts. Why is there matter and energy? Why are there space and time? Why are there laws of physics?

    In each part of the book he’s working with a more total definition of ‘nothing’, and explaining not only what we know about each level but how we gained that understanding. At the end, he’s honest enough to say that our current understanding has reached another ‘we don’t know yet’ point, and he lists some of the hypotheses being considered.

    So talking about ‘how matter and energy appeared when there was no matter or energy’ – ‘how space and time can appear from an absence of space and time’. And so on.

  22. says

    Be they fundamentalist Christians or Muslims, most creationists agree: In the beginning there was nothing. There was no time, space or matter. There wasn’t even emptiness, only nothingness. Well, nothing natural anyway.

    And then, bang! God appeared out of nowhere and from nothing! Nonexistence became water and earth, and light and day (even though the sun wouldn’t come until a few days later, so where the fuck did the light come from until them?). Nothing became, in less than an instant at an invisible sky man’s whim, our inconceivably vast and finely tuned universe governed by what mankind would later call – after dirt-man and rib-woman were created, fully armed with conscious awareness and the ability to think (at least the men, jury’s still out on whether women can think), communicate and observe – “natural law” or “physics.”

    Time, space, earth, life and, finally, human life were not.

    And then god.

  23. Doug Little says

    demo @24,

    I’m not interested in trying to convert fundies or teach them anything. I am sharing some good sites with the majority of the people who visit this site who would actually go to them and learn something, if they already we not familiar with the foundations of particle physics. I have given up on trying to change willfully ignorant people, it’s the definition of insanity to keep trying. Also I’m surprised that Dr. Heddle hasn’t weighed in as of yet as particle physics is his bag and I’m positive he could teach us all a thing or two about the subject.

  24. says

    Well, as many have pointed out, the vacuum is a pretty busy place.

    I do think that as a reaction to the creationists some overstate what we “know.” For example, by no means do we “know” (#7) that “our universe budded off from a bigger multiverse.”

    The latest (unbelievable, as in fantastic) data
    from Planck
    reveal a universe that is consistent with inflation, but it is still not a definite test.

    Furthermore, while models that bubble off semi-infinite inflationary universes are fascinating, they are also not necessary. You could have a single inflationary universe.

    So IMO we all should be careful with dismissing out of hand the “something from nothing” problem.

    There is, of course, the possibility that the universe is “nothing from nothing.” That is, it is “nothing” separated into regions of positive energy and regions of negative energy that, with careful accounting, add up to–nothing.

    To me one of the most intriguing pieces of data is that the new Planck map of the background (linked above) is not completely isotropic on the largest scales–one side of the map is not quite the same as the other. Who knows why?–but one possibility is a collision with another universe.

  25. Doug Little says

    To me one of the most intriguing pieces of data is that the new Planck map of the background (linked above) is not completely isotropic on the largest scales–one side of the map is not quite the same as the other. Who knows why?–but one possibility is a collision with another universe.

    Yeah, I believe that they are working on a paper that deals with this but it’s going to take a couple of years. Also the result from the AMS could be extremely interesting at higher energy levels but again we have to wait for more data on that one. Always waiting for the interesting stuff.

  26. Stacy says

    I have read Krauss’ book, and it is not misnamed. He breaks the issue of ‘why is there anything’ down into parts….So talking about ‘how matter and energy appeared when there was no matter or energy’

    Except that there was never Nothing, in the naive, intuitive sense of “nothing,” and that’s where the confusion comes in. The quantum vacuum contains energy; it is not a simple void.

    It’s confusing, I think, because we have a cognitive bias to assume Nothing as a sort of default. That fits our rough, intuitive notions of reality. But we’re wrong. There’s always been Something.

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