Thursday, March 01, 2007

Science, Superior to God?

In the course of written conversation with another local blogger regarding what seems to be a quest of his to belittle, and in fact demonize, all religion, I began to question why it is that some scientists seem obsessed with the idea of proving that God does not exist and that all people who believe in God, Gawd or little gods are superstitious fools. I mean, really, why is it so important to some scientists to look down their long, sneering noses and pronounce idiocy on others? If those of us who are religious are idiots and superstitious fools why would they bother with us at all? Why is it so important to them? Why don't they spend their time more profitably in the field of science finding cures for cancer, aids and the common cold? Anytime someone, anyone, announces that a certain sector of society are fools but then continues to spend an exorbitant amount of time on trying to disprove what those "fools" believe, then in actuality they are giving undue credence to the "fools," are they not?

I recently left an online political debate group, in part, because I realized that among those of opposing thought there were none who were really even interested in discussing and debating any issue or understanding an opposing viewpoint. My opponents constantly created straw-men arguments in order to avoid real issues. When I finally, fully understood that they were uninterested in discussion, arriving at consensus on any given topic or even offering a modicum of respect for a viewpoint which deviated from their own I wrote them off as a myopic waste of my time. It wasn't that I was unwilling to respect or consider their viewpoint, it was that they could hear or consider nothing which did not support their own and if they could not explain a position or answer a question honestly then the name calling commenced and the discussion, which was never a discussion in the first place...well, you get the drift. See, I left the group because I recognized it was a waste of time. I haven't spent a great deal of time looking back and trying to figure out why they are wrong and why I am right. Why, if religious fanatics are such superstitious fools, beneath respect and consideration, are scientists so obsessed with proving them wrong?

The best I can figure, one of the reasons scientists have given for wishing to abolish all religion is that religion is the cause of all war. I recently wrote a post in reply to the science blog Pharyngula (on) The unspeakable vileness of religious law, in which Professor P. Z. Myers stated:


"Religion is not a source of moral behavior. It's a source of tribalism and obedience to authority, which sometimes coincides with respectable morality, but isn't necessarily associated with it. We have to find our virtue in one true thing, our common humanity, and these ancient superstitions actually interfere with instruction in how to be good by encrusting it with nonsense."


I might agree with Professor Myers that religion isn't the only source of moral behavior or that all religions are not sources of moral behavior but for him to state, as though fact, an opinion so generically broad that "religion" period "is not A source of moral behavior," is not only blatantly false but as foolish as Professor Myers would like to convince us are those who believe in God.

But, let's go back to the argument that some make that wars are all started because of religiosity. Is there really a human being alive who believes that if we purged all religion from society, if all mankind became atheists, if no one believed in God, Gawd or little gods or either a heaven or a hell that there would no longer be any war!? Uh uh. Religion is not the basis for war, if men were not fighting over what they believed was God's edict and instruction they would be fighting over what some man claimed as edict and instruction for them. Human beings seek leaders among their world, among their nations, among their states, among their counties, among their cities, among their communities and even in their own households. Are we to believe that if we swept God out of the way that men would be open-minded, tolerant, totally agreeable, freedom loving, war-immune peaceniks?

John Lennon wrote in Imagine:

Imagine there's no Heaven

It's easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one...


...Yes, John, I say you are a dreamer. Do you suppose Lennon really thought if we could do away with the concepts of heaven and hell that everyone would live just for today? It's utterly ridiculous, people would still be thinking about whether they could earn enough money to survive retirement or go on vacation in two weeks. People would still wish they had the new car their neighbor had. Lennon might just as well have "imagined" there's no money, or sex, or new hair styles.

Do you suppose that if Lennon "imagined" hard enough that there were no countries and no religion that it would do away with the innate longing of human beings to have someone at the helm of their little life-ships? That people would no longer think anything was worth dying for? That everyone would live in peace? Lennon might just as well have "imagined" there's no world at all, there are no houses better than yours, no property with more fertile soil than your property, no new suit or formal dress hanging in the department store window that catches your eye.

The world will not be as one, not even if you "imagine" it without heaven, without hell, without war, without countries or without religion because man's *condition* is a selfish one. Man wants what man wants for himself.

This week another local blogger and myself have been having a written conversation and it was brought about by his posting of Professor P. Z. Myer's little exercise in stupidity. This morning he posted a little brag about the book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, written by Victor J. Stenger, he was very pleased because the author named him and he used one of his pretty little flower pictures to "demonstrate the fibonacci series."

This week The Discovery Channel will be airing "The Lost Tomb of Christ," which, according to (BP), experts say ignores biblical & scientific evidence and logic, why? Because for some reason scientists are very interested in disproving the existence of God, Gawd or little gods.

Why do they protest so much? Is it because even without religion the heart of man longs for something, something bigger than himself or herself?

Is it because of that empty space that men try to fill with a mate or a job or a hobby, with science or with GOD? I believe that is exactly what it is all about.

We are all searchers, we are all searching for answers.

Some men look to God for their answers and many of them find peace there, many of them may not understand all the details but they keep looking, they keep searching the scriptures, they keep trying to understand things which they cannot fathom, and those things which they cannot understand and which there seem to be no answers for, they entrust to God. They have faith that perhaps one day God will "clue them in" on the things they could not understand today.

Some men look to sex to fill an uneasiness they sense in their soul, some look to wealth, some to knowledge, some look, yes, to science as they seek and when they do they find answers to questions about all sorts of things, just as do those who look to God and God's Word---the Bible. Sometimes scientists can't find an answer but they have faith that they will one day, when they do enough experiments, when they ask the right question, just as those who believe in God have faith that they will one day understand things which they can't understand today.

Perhaps scientists think a faith in man or man's understanding of the world, of life, of the human condition, of his surroundings is superior to the faith that other men have in God. Perhaps by belittling religion they can make themselves believe that that uneasiness, that hole in their heart that only God is capable of filling can be filled by science if they are condescending enough, who knows? God? Science? Is there an end to the universe? Is there an end to God? Is the universe the never-ending mind of God? Can scientists prove that it isn't?

"If what we regard as real depends on our theory, how can we make reality the basis of our philosophy? ...But we cannot distinguish what is real about the universe without a theory...it makes no sense to ask if it corresponds to reality, because we do not know what reality is independent of a theory." - Stephen Hawking

18 comments:

Dahog said...

I give you 2 THUMBS up. I my self am a christian and kind it dishearting to read blogs like this.

John Stone said...

I got a big one-up on you gal ...

I can tell you how the universe was created ... that's everything that can interact with us ... anyting outside the universe cannot - by definition - interact with us.

But you can't tell me how God was created.

ergo: God is a human fantasy invention - invented for human purposes. A nice myth - except for things like are reported in the Bible - but a myth. I felt comfortable discarding Santa, the Easter Bunny, as that cheap SOB the tooth fairy. Sp I am not the least uncomfortable about discarding God either.

My pocketbook thanks me.

Jacke M. said...

John, I didn't say you don't have a theory about how the universe was created. :) (straw man)

I don't know how God was created, God IS and always has been. The questions presented in this blog entry were, in part, "Is there AN END to the universe? Is there AN END to God? Is the universe the never-ending mind OF God? Can scientists PROVE that it isn't?" Not whether you can tell me how the universe was created.

What makes you think that you or PZ are the man/men who get to claim as edict and instruction what the rest of humankind should believe or not believe, what constitutes brilliance or nonsense for the rest of us?

I will neither give up my free speech rights or my faith because you disapprove or PZ Myers disapproves, John, and I'm not even sorry if that disappoints you.

I'm not the one trashing what you believe and calling you a superstitious idiot, John.

You aren't required to agree with me and I'm not required to convince you that God exists, you are obviously not open to that discussion.

I wonder what this is really about? Repeatedly I have told you that I cannot prove God exists. It is taken on faith, just as some of your scientific theories are taken on faith. See how that works?

I'd never dream of issuing vitriole at you about what a superstitious idiot YOU are for having faith in some of your thus far unproven but generally accepted scientific theories. Is that sort of name calling what PZ Myers was referring to as "good" if we would only stop "encrusting it with nonsense?"

You really replied to NOTHING that was written in my entry "Science, Superior to God?" I find that interesting.

John Stone said...

"I don't know how God was created, God IS and always has been"

It a good thing you ducked this question ..because I was getting ready to point out that the universe *is* everything. And it had a definite beginning.

It's the ultimate God-problem for the religious. In fact the universe came from exactly nothing ... and for no reason whatsoever. It is the ultimate free lunch.

First causes m'dear. If you can't explain first causes for God like I can explain first causes for the universe ... then you are hopelessly mired in myth, superstition, and wishing it were that'a ways.

Elmo said...

John, just a couple of questions for you, since you do the explaining...The big bang theory says that the earth expanded “a tremendously dense and hot state” in which all the matter in the universe was packed together. But where did that matter come from? And what did it expand into? If space is generally a vacuum, containing no matter, what is space expanding into now?

John Stone said...

Glad you asked Elmo, because I do have the answer.

In 1984 things were slow at my lab so I took a couple fo days off to attend a physics conference in New Orleans. Most of the time I just sat there confused because my math skills are not that good until a talk by Hunter Tyrone about 4 in the afternoon.

He pointed out that the huge energy of the universe as expressed by the einstein equation is *EXACTLY* offset by the negative potential enery of gravity. In other words the net energy in the universe is exactly zero.

Why is this important? Because it means that the universe came from exactly nothing for exactly no reason whatsoever. Our universe is just a particularly long lived vacumn fluctuation that lasts for a long time. The halls and bars were ablase that night.

What is the "observable universe" expanding into? The technical name is "DeSitter Space" but you can think of our observable universe, and everything in it - including space and time as just being a small part of the total universe that was created in the big bang. And the big bang occured some time after the creation to Time=0. (Just to confuse you more, there may have been T=-1 second or T= -1 million years)

Incidentally, just a minor linguistic point ... to a physicist the word "vacumn" has more meaning than a simple absence of matter. It is an absence of space and time itself.

John Stone said...

Elmo .. let me suggest this. Suppose you have a perfect vacumn (In the common meaning of vacumn) pump. You then remove all the atoms from a container with it until you can say, "it's empty". But it's not empty -- not by a long shot. It still contains space and time - because it is still a part of our universe -- and it still contains the energy of space and time. And here is where some weirdness comes in.

Even though you have removed all the matter in the container it is still filled with matter, electrons, protons, photons, quarks and everything that we know of - and even some that we don't know of. The matter appears from the energy of space and time itself, lasts for a brief time and then disappears ... and then new stuff appears and disappears ... ad infinitum. And what's more, if you have the right instrument, you can actually measure it. This is called a quantum fluctuation(s). And it is going on in every point in space and time, at a staggering rate as I write this.

And just to make things more fun, it may be happening in dimensions of space that we cannot access directly - ever. Imagine the three large dimensions of space, up/down, left/right, forward/backward. What would a fourth dimension of space - one at right angles to those three look like. The human brain cannot visualize a picture of such a thing ... but I can show you the shadow of an object in this four dimensional space, just as you can reconstruct the three dimensional shape of an object by viewing it's two dimensional shadow.

Once you get past four (maybe all the way to ten dimensions) the only way you can visualize those hidden dimensions is thru math - which is actually a rather trivial problem.

I find this far - far - far more awesome than the tales of desert nomads who had conversations with angels and dieties, and who were illiterate and had to pass the stories down orally until someone could write it down for them.

Jacke M. said...

John writes:

"He pointed out that the huge energy of the universe as expressed by the einstein equation is *EXACTLY* offset by the negative potential enery of gravity. In other words the net energy in the universe is exactly zero."

You say negative "POTENTIAL" energy of gravity. Does that mean you aren't SURE that the energy of gravity existed? That it could have "POTENTIALLY" *EXACTLY* have offset the "huge energy of the universe, as expressed by the Einstein equation?" So you don't really know, then? And if you don't really KNOW how can you then draw the firm conclusion that "it means that the universe came from exactly nothing for exactly no reason whatsoever?" or that "Our universe is just a particularly long lived vacumn fluctuation that lasts for a long time?"

What causes the earth to rotate around the sun, John?

What causes the sun not to burn out?

Doesn't fire have to have oxygen to burn? Is there oxygen in space?

What is causing the sun to get hotter?

Jacke M. said...

Genesis 1

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Uh, John? Sounds like we are in agreement. In the beginning the earth was VOID. :)

You have the same starting point as the rest of us. :)

John Stone said...

JackeM ... there are two types of energy in classical physics. Kinetic energy ... simply put- the energy of stuff that's moving, like the energy of your car at 60 MPH. Potential energy is stuff that's not moving. If you reach down and pick a baseball off the ground that baseball now has a potential energy, if you let it go and it drops back to the ground it is converting potential to kinetic energy.

It's a mistake to apply common meanings to words that actually have a jargon associated with them in a different context, like science.

You might be interested to know that the earth doesn't "rotate" around the sun. It actually travels in a straight line through space. But -- and this is a big but -- space itself is curved because of the gravity of the sun.

As to your questions about the sun, you need to do a little very basic homework. A good place to start would be look up "nucleosynthesis" in Wikipedia. I hope you were pulling my string a little with those questions.

"Void" is an interesting word. Vic Stenger prefers to use it rather than "vacumn". Genesis also says that 3 days and nights passed before creation of the sun and moon, which some might find more than a little troubling.

If Genesis had said, "In the beginning God created leptons and quarks" I would be a lot more impressed with that story - also I like the very different story, by a different author, in Genesis 2.

Elmo said...

John,

The idea that the energy of the universe is offset by the "negative potential energy" of gravity raises two thoughts for me:

1) If I grant this premise, the universe is in equilibrium, all positive energy being offset by negative energy, bringing the universe to a net energy of 0. This doesn't say there was no reason for the beginning of the universe. It doesn't even address the question. If it does, you'll have to explain it better. Also, using this description, the universe didn't come from nothing, it came from energy. Therefore, energy had to exist previously (at T-1, or whatever). At the very least potential energy, or just the concept of energy was present in a perfectly balanced universe, and something (we say God) caused the incredible expansion.

2) However, if you take this to it's logical conclusion, the expansion of the universe would have to be countered by a collapse with negative energy on par with the positive energy of the big bang. There would have to be enough gravity existing in the universe to collapse the entire thing. I don't think that's happening. What that would mean is that there was no negative kinetic or potential energy to match the energy expended in the big bang, and that the universe has come close to equilibrium since then. I say close, because the expansion reveals the existence of more positive energy than negative, unless the negative energy of gravity is still potential. If it is, what's keeping it from becoming kinetic?

John Stone said...

Well, Elmo ... the seed (and this happened before the Big Bang -- at T=0, (the earliest time we can talk about using known physics is 10^-43 second - Plank Time) doesn not mean that this seed had to come from something. It is perfectly consistent and logical to assume it came from nothing .. and in fact a fluctuation the size of a pea would have done it). This is the stuff of quamtum physics that gets really weird -- stuff happens -- and it happens unpredictably. The "void" -- the nothingness prior to the universe may have been there for an infinity -- although I doubt not.

In other words, energy is a result of the formation of the universe, not a cause of it. No universe - no energy.

Part (2) of your comment is what bugged cosmologists prior to 1974. If it were not for the inflationary epoch of the Big Bang the whole She-bang would have collaped on itself and we would not be around to find any answers.

Only about 25% of the universe is matter and energy as we understand them. The remaining 75% of the universe is "dark matter" and "Dark energy" and are at this point a great mystery ... although M-theory is making some inroads (albeit maddenly slow).

It now appears that our observable universe is accelerating, due to the dark matter and energy ... but that may not apply to the universe as a whole. Whether we have a "big crunch" or 2 branes collide an the universe disappears in an instant are open questions.

The point to Jacke's discussion is: there is absolutely no room anywhere for a supernatural explanation for anything. A supernatural explanation is a human hubristic excuse for not understanding, and narcisitically insisting that nobody will ever know ... plus, if there is a God he must be a part of the universe ... it is false to give attributes to anything outside the universe -- and therefore testable, and after all is said and done -- God fails tests.

Jacke M. said...

John writes:

"The point to Jacke's discussion is: there is absolutely no room anywhere for a supernatural explanation for anything. A supernatural explanation is a human hubristic excuse for not understanding, and narcisitically insisting that nobody will ever know ... plus, if there is a God he must be a part of the universe ... it is false to give attributes to anything outside the universe -- and therefore testable, and after all is said and done -- God fails tests."

No, that wasn't the point of Jacke's discussion. Nice try, Scientist. ;)

God doesn't FAIL the test, you cannot TEST God, therefore you cannot disprove His existence.

You don't get to decide that "there is absolutely no room anywhere for a supernatural explanation for anything," for anyone but yourself, John.

You are very presumptuous. THAT is the point of Jacke's discussion. :)

John Stone said...

I must say .. I find it remarkable that you claim that there is more proof for the tooth fairy than there is for God ... after all .. the tooth fairy leaves testable evidence.

Momma Twoop said...

I can tell you how the universe was created

Isn't this belief nothing more than faith, a faith in something unproven and unprovable? You can tell us how you THINK or FEEL the universe was created, but have no tangible evidence with which to prove it as fact or real. The creation of the universe in miniature cannot be produced and reproduced in a laboratory and, as such, your theory remains nothing more than that - a theory, a hunch.

You're no different than the religious folks you deride, Mr. Stone. You, yourself, are a faithful man. You've simply chosen Science as your god.

John Stone said...

"The creation of the universe in miniature cannot be produced and reproduced in a laboratory and, as such, your theory remains nothing more than that - a theory, a hunch."

Bzzzzzzdt .... wrong .. very, very wrong. We can recreate it in the laboratory, and do so on a daily basis ... and wait until you hear about the resluts that will start flowing out of the LHC at CERN later this year ...

There are a number of very good books written for the non-scientist which you could read and understand. My favs for suggesting (and available at Amazon and B& N) are any of the series by John Gribbin, "In Search of....." Specifically to your question, "In Search of the Big Bang". (My favorite is "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat")

Momma Twoop said...

Bzzzzzzdt .... wrong .. very, very wrong. We can recreate it in the laboratory, and do so on a daily basis ... and wait until you hear about the resluts that will start flowing out of the LHC at CERN later this year ...

Perhaps I am wrong. Time will tell. Of the science publications I have read, none have suggested it HAS been done, only that there was a possibility. If this ability exists, it is relatively new.

For the sake of this argument, however, let's assume that you are correct - the birth of a universe can be created in a laboratory repeatedly. How does that disprove God's existence? It does not. All those alleged baby universes were caused by the direction and guidance of an intelligent being, that being the scientist(s). A universe being created at the direction of an outside source, not as a result of sheer luck or random occurrence, would tend to support the existence of some intelligent being creating our universe. The theory of intelligent design is not far-fetched. It is discussed quite frequently among scientists who suggest that our universe might very well be an intelligent unknown's laboratory experiment.

In short, the ability to create a new universe in a laboratory in no way disproves the existence of God, though it's very clear you strongly wish that to be the case.

Jacke asks a very important question, one I'm wondering if you'll ever answer. If religious people are misguided fools, why are so many scientists so eager to disprove the existence of God? People generally do not waste their time on fools, but the opposite is quite true with you and many others. Why is that?

John Stone said...

"Jacke asks a very important question, one I'm wondering if you'll ever answer. If religious people are misguided fools, why are so many scientists so eager to disprove the existence of God? People generally do not waste their time on fools, but the opposite is quite true with you and many others. Why is that?"

No one is the slightest bit interested in disproving the existance of God. And we waste our precious time on fools because some of them are dangerous fools, who would prefer to see mankind revert to the middle ages, with all the associated godly glories of that period.

No scientist who has had also at least a smattering of philosophy has believed science to be in the business of 'proving' its proposals since 1739; when David Hume disproved the logical validity of the principle upon which 'scientific proof' was believed to rest. Science then had, in effect, no philosophical basis whatsoever for the next 200 years. This bothered it about as much as the lack of a bicycle bothers a fish. But it was still a noteworthy event when, in 1934, Karl Popper finally did supply a rational basis. A basis upon which science actually can be rationally understood to work. What was most noteworthy about it was that, once fully and properly grasped, this basis can be seen to underlie not just science but, in the first instance, all human knowledge. It is observable that we have been maintaining an alternative and competitive basis, upon which to hold some of our proposals in direct rational opposition to those of science. But it is also observable that this alternative basis does not logically fly. That is is 100% irrational.