Hawking’s Final Word on the Beginning

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 11, 2018

Did the universe begin to exist or not? The final paper from Stephen Hawking indicates that the universe did have a beginning. Here are the details.

This question has rattled around in the psyche of the scientific community for more than a century now, ever since Einstein developed his general theory of relativity. The dominant view during most of that time held that the universe had existed forever (i.e., it had no beginning). Even though general relativity hinted that the universe might have a beginning, scientists proposed many models that circumvented this conclusion.

In 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation—a discovery that established the validity of big bang models. A few years later, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose developed some powerful theorems that affirmed the conclusion that big bang models included the notion that the universe began to exist. Examining the theorems more closely reveals that the evidence for the beginning ultimately derives from the fact that the space-time trajectories of all matter in the universe cross, leading to a singularity (a region of infinite density) where the laws of physics break down.

However, physicists largely agree that infinities arising in a model indicate that the model is an inadequate description of reality. Consequently, Hawking developed other models without singularities over the last 40–50 years, specifically, his “no-boundary” proposal. In 2010, Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow published a book titled The Grand Design, where Hawking states, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” Hawking basically says that the universe exists, not because a God created it with a beginning. Rather, the laws of physics pop the universe into existence.

It’s this context that makes Hawking’s final publication (with Thomas Hertog) particularly interesting. In the paper, Hertog and Hawking seek to develop a model of inflation that is consistent with quantum mechanics rather than relying on a background universe evolving according to general relativity. After developing such a model, Hertog and Hawking make two interesting claims.

First, rather than producing a large (likely infinite) multiverse containing regions with great variability, inflation generates a comparatively small, rather smooth multiverse. Second, and more interesting to me, is their description of the past history of the universe.

Rather than affirm the conclusion of the previous “no-boundary” proposal, the new theory arrives at a different conclusion. According to Hertog, “now we’re saying that there is a boundary in our past.” Hertog also states, “when we trace the evolution of our universe backwards in time, at some point we arrive at the threshold of eternal inflation, where our familiar notion of time ceases to have any meaning.”

I am not claiming that Hawking believed the universe began to exist, or that the debate about the beginning in the scientific community is settled. What I find remarkable is that one of the most well-known cosmologists of our time supports a model of the universe that looks a lot like the one described in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.”

Resources

If you would like to learn more about the scientific case for a beginning, check out this postwhere I describe my DVD titled How Do We Know the Universe Had a Beginning?

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

DONATE NOW


U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178

Reasons to Believe logo

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does the Multiverse Help Naturalism?

BY JEFF ZWEERINK – MAY 18, 2018

Perhaps our universe isn’t as finely tuned as we thought! We know that life requires stars and planets to form. Overly rapid expansion of the universe would prevent this from happening and a larger amount of dark energy means that the universe expands more rapidly. Yet a recent paper shows that the amount of dark energy in the universe could be hundreds of times larger and yet still permit stars and planets to form. This result seems to reduce the role of fine-tuning, right? Sort of, but not really. In fact, this discovery makes multiverse explanations for the intricate balances that life requires even more difficult to accept—if you demand a purely naturalistic multiverse.

How Does the Multiverse Attempt to Explain Fine-Tuning?

Countless scientific results show that our universe looks designed to support life, and most scientists affirm this conclusion. The real question for many scientists is not if our universe appears designed, but whether it actually is designed. The multiverse currently provides a popular explanation for many who answer “no” to this question. Basically, the argument follows this line of reasoning:

  1. Yes, our universe looks fine-tuned for life.
  2. However, inflation (or any other multiverse-producing mechanism) produces an enormous number of universes and our best models say that the observed laws of physics exhibit great variability over those universes.
  3. Since life demands a rather specific set of conditions in order to exist, we must observe what appears to be a finely tuned universe.
  4. It is a mistake to conclude that our universe is designed because our universe naturally fits into the distribution produced by the multiverse.

In other words, although our universe appears atypical (because of the fine-tuning for life), in truth our universe is typical (given the multiverse and the fact that we exist).

Does This Explanation Work?

In order for the explanation to work one must ask, Does our universe appear typical? At first glance, the notion that it could have hundreds of times more dark energy and still support life seems to make our universe more typical. But it doesn’t for two reasons.

First, we must put the “hundreds of times more dark energy” in context. Some people will say that the dark energy must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120, but that is not a correct statement from a physics perspective. Rather, given our theoretical understanding of the earliest moments of the universe, scientists predict that the amount of dark energy should be 10120 times larger than we observe. Adjusting that statement to reflect recent discoveriesmeans that theoretically typical amounts of dark energy exceed the maximum amount possible in a habitable universe by a factor of 10117. Yes, the factor is smaller, but not in any significant way.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, a larger range of habitable universes makes our universe more atypical. Remember, we observe a much smaller amount of dark energy than expected from our best models. Additionally, the farther something gets from the expected value, the rarer that condition becomes.

Consider going out to see one (and only one) shooting star. The majority of shooting stars arise from particles around the size of a sand grain. Many more particles smaller than that hit Earth’s atmosphere, but they don’t meet the requirements necessary to produce a streak of light visible to the naked eye. So, the vast majority of particles are incredibly small (think size of a proton) but the typical size of particles that produce shooting stars are like sand grains. To reach the ground, the “particle” must be the size of a small rock (a few kilograms). Armed with this knowledge, you go out to observe your one shooting star. As you settle in and wait, a bright light appears overhead, persists for a brief time, and then a small pebble strikes you on the head. Given your knowledge, you must conclude that you witnessed a remarkable, or atypical, shooting star.

Let’s assume that a vast multiverse exists and that this multiverse produces a wide enough variety of universes to account for ours. We now know that our universe could contain much more dark energy and still form stars and planets. Yet, we observe much less dark energy than expected. Our universe is atypical. As Luke Barnes, one of the paper’s authors, states, “Our work shows that our ticket seems a little too lucky, so to speak. It’s more special than it needs to be for life. This is a problem for the Multiverse.”

Our ticket may be too lucky for the naturalist’s multiverse, but it makes perfect sense if God created our universe for us to observe and marvel at his handiwork!

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

DONATE NOW


U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178

Reasons to Believe logo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Now We Can Hear God

By Will Myers
 >
In the Old Testament, we have the laws and the promise of the Messiah to come. The Old Testament has the New Testament concealed within. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed, and this is the coming of Christ Jesus with His teachings. The laws are to bring us to the Teacher who has the Holy Spirit from whom we learn all things. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and giver of God’s Spirit without limit.
>

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
>
The Apostle Paul is making an inquiry into the minds of his followers in the above scriptures whether it’s the law or the Spirit whom we seek. The law can not create life, only the Spirit can give life. The law can help preserve life and guide unto the Giver of life Who is in Jesus Christ.
>
One’s salvation is to receive Jesus and repent of sinning. The stronger one’s faith in Jesus Christ’s teachings then the more one can hear the Living God.
>

For the law of the  Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
 >
We are saved not by our works but by the Grace of God; afterward, God judges our works and those who received Christ Jesus God shall use His Son’s works in you which are perfect in the sight of God. Truly, Christ Jesus is our Savior in these last days.
 >
Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.
>
Not only can one hear God directing our lives through Jesus, but we can intercede with a prayer for something that we desire, and God shall answer our prayers.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
>
The Spirit Of God is here in the name of Jesus and available to All. The true process of life is to listen to every word from the mouth of God and obey God in which we go from Glory to Glory without an end.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TAKING SCIENCE ON FAITH

 

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist.

A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe — one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.

And just as Christians claim that the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe.

It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.

In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.
[First published as an OpEd piece by The New York Times, November 24, 2007]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God and Science: A Course in Due Course

BY ANJEANETTE ROBERTS – APRIL 19, 2018

Many fear to tread into culturally charged topics in an “us” versus “them” social media climate characterized by rapid escalation, rabid judgments, and character assassinations. What if a course on God and science could actually help us love one another, or at least be kinder to those who see things differently than we do?

I’ve just returned from Houston where I taught the first three lectures of an eight-session course on “God and Science.” I’m thrilled and a bit overwhelmed with the challenge and opportunity presented to me by The Bible Seminary in Katy, TX. How does one begin to develop and teach a course on two inexhaustible topics? My approach so far: prayer, perseverance, hope, humility, and lots of good authors, theologians, biblical scholars, and scientists.

The surprising thing to many, myself included, is that after the next lecture we’ll reach the halfway point—and we haven’t even covered a single piece of “scientific data” yet. What?! What kind of course on God and science is that?

Well, it’s one where I’m not trying so much to teach the intricacies of science to nonscientists or to convince anyone to see the data my way. I’m trying to help others see foundations for harmony or integration when thoughtful, committed people engage on the topic of science and faith in a culture where the two are sometimes pitted as polar opposite ways to approach life.

So, what have we looked at? In week one, we examined metaphysics and worldviews, as well as the roles of revelation and interpretation. Next, we considered the history and concept of dual revelation in nature and Scripture, ways of relating science and faith, and the types of reasoning we employ whether we’re involved in scientific endeavors or theological ones. In the third session, we spent most of our time discussing and contemplating the demarcation of science and the role of methodological naturalism in scientific research (and how critically different methodological naturalism is from philosophical naturalism).

The best part of covering this material is that I have drawn from authors who cover the gamut of interpretive positions. The next lecture will feature some of the most challenging material as we look at specific interpretive positions. In regard to the science, I am drawing from old-earth and evolutionary creationists as well as naturalists and biblical literalists. And in regard to scriptural interpretive approaches, we’ll consider those who take the creation accounts literalistically1, non-literalistically—but still historically (analogical and chronological approaches), and positions that could be described as more theological than historical (e.g., framework views, polemic views, and ancient Near Eastern mythical views). When we break it down and tackle the topics this way, we see areas of overlap in several positions and logical consistency within a variety of positions that try to harmonize God’s activities in nature and words in Scripture.

I’m not out to convince others of my position. I am hoping to help others understand how their philosophical (metaphysical) and worldview biases shape the way they interpret data (scientific and biblical) and to adopt their own view on how science and faith relate. By doing this, I also hope to help them understand that others may approach the interpretation of the data (scientific and biblical) differently. We’re all just trying to make the best sense we can out of life. We’re all just trying to fit those things we know via mathematics and philosophy, natural and behavioral sciences, human experience, and religious beliefs together in a logically coherent whole that helps us navigate and make sense of the world.

I hope this approach will allow us to be more accepting and loving of fellow Christians who have different views than we might. I hope it will allow us to view other non-Christians with a greater degree of understanding and acceptance, too. I really hope it will allow us all to dialogue with true curiosity and genuine kindness with one another.

Jesus calls us to seek truth and to be actively engaged in loving each other—and God—as we do. If we’re doing these things with a modicum of humility and a serious dose of self-awareness, I think we can build bridges and friendships with people who are very different than we are. What a beautiful vision, a kaleidoscope of diversity without character (or real) assassinations. If we could pull that off, maybe others would believe there really is a God and that Jesus is really who he claimed to be.

If we’re helping one another to consider things differently, we will likely understand our own positions better, and together, draw closer to the truth. As Christians we should never shrink back from the pursuit of truth as we trust in Jesus. Because all truth, after all, is God’s truth. On that note, I’ll close with a recent statement I heard that I wish was attributable to a fellow Christian, but is not. “In the end we’re all just walking one another home”—even in a course on God and science.

Endnotes
  1. Use of the word “literalistically” is intentional. Although not found in some dictionaries, literalistically is used in discussions regarding interpretation and refers to a particular commitment of an interpretive approach, one which is done in a literalistic manner; an approach to interpretation that adheres to the explicit sense of a given text or doctrine.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

DONATE NOW


U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178

Reasons to Believe logo

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Philosophy’s Most Famous Quotations

via Philosophy’s Most Famous Quotations

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Philosophy’s Most Famous Quotations

I love ideas. And I love thinking about them. One of the fundamental reasons I study philosophy is that I believe ideas really matter. And philosophy is the discipline of big ideas: God, the cosmos, the mind, knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, logic, etc.

As a Christian, I also think it is important apologetically to understand how the big philosophical ideas through the centuries relate to the truth of historic Christianity. For much of Christian history, the discipline of philosophy was understood to be a handmaid (servant) to theology. But in the ancient world, as today, certain philosophical ideas posed challenges to Christian truth-claims.

In parts one and two of this series, I suggested that one way of coming to know and appreciate philosophy is to consider some of the powerful quotations made by great philosophers on ultimate issues. In part three of this series, we’ll look briefly at three famous philosophical quotations from three of history’s greatest thinkers. The three quotes relate to such topics as the mind, creation, and morality.

Three Famous Philosophy Quotes

1. René Descartes (1596–1650)

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Because of his break with the traditional Scholastic-Aristotelian philosophy, he has been called “the father of modern Western philosophy.” He developed the first modern form of mind-body dualism. Thus, his famous dictum:

I think, therefore I am. (Latin: Cogito ergo sum.)

René Descartes, Discourse on the Method

Descartes affirmed that thought was indubitable evidence that a person existed, for one must be a thinking entity (mind) to even doubt one’s existence. And even if a person is confused about their existence, they must exist to be confused.

2. Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. As part of his argument for God’s existence, he asked the ultimate metaphysical question:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Gottfried Leibniz, Principles of Nature and of Grace

For Leibniz, all contingent (dependent) realities find their cause in God, who is a noncontingent, or necessary, reality. Leibniz’s question anticipated big bang cosmology, which implies a cosmic beginning.

3. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who deeply influenced Enlightenment thinking. He was a systematic philosopher who wrote in such fields as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, and aesthetics. In developing his duty-oriented approach to objective ethics, he stated:

Always act so as to will the maxim of your action to become a universal law.

Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

In affirming a nonconsequential approach to ethics, Kant believed that one could, in effect, universalize one’s ethical actions. Thus, Kant believed in an objective basis for ethics, which he grounded in God’s existence.

I hope this very brief introduction to some of philosophy’s greatest thinkers and their most important quotes will help you appreciate the unique discipline of philosophy and part of its history. Join me once more next week for the final post in this series on philosophy’s most famous quotations!

Reflections: Your Turn

Which one of the three quotes above do you find the most engaging? Why? Visit Reflectionson WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

For more about the ideas of Descartes, Leibniz, and Kant in light of Christianity, see Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements by Colin Brown and A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John M. Frame.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

Your support helps more people find Christ through sharing how the latest scientific discoveries affirm our faith in the God of the Bible.

DONATE NOW


U.S. Mailing Address
818 S. Oak Park Rd.
Covina, CA 91724
  • P (855) 732-7667
  • P (626) 335-1480
  • Fax (626) 852-0178

Reasons to Believe logo

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment