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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Any Toe Left to Stub?

The other half of the photo session of the death match actually relates to Ray's The Universe Eternal post. I created some inspirational posters relating to Ray Comfort.

I think Maragon made a decent summary response to Ray's Second Law of Thermodynamics post, pointing out the hypocrisy of using science to support claims.
Funny how theists hate and fear science when it says something about their worldview that they disagree with, but love and accept science when they think it's proving their point. You can't have it both ways; science either has the power to explain the universe around us, or it doesn't. Pretending to accept science when you mistakenly believe that it disproves other science is intellectually dishonest and a testament to how little you understand about the workings of this academic discipline.
I think there are two things to also point out, though. Her post overlooked the image. Darwin's theory has nothing to do with the big bang. I think "evolution" and "Darwinism" are used by Ray to mean anything which contradicts his scientific reading of the Bible, including evolutionary theory, radiometric dating, cosmological model of the universe, and so on. Ray also managed to overstep the broader question of the poster that the universe can't be eternal while God can, which is perhaps a subject for a later post.

In this post, Ray quotes Stephen Hawking from a 2004 lecture. The lecture he quotes from relates to a previous passage from A Brief History of Time he quote mined to suggest that Stephen Hawking believed in a Creator behind the Big Bang. As I pointed out in Another Toe-Stubbing Post on Hawking, though, the chapter discusses laws breaking down at singularities, finite space-time, and self-containment, and concludes the chapter with:
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started -- it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?
As a fan of Hawking (and knowing Ray's propensity to quote mine), I spent some time reading the lecture. The lecture he quotes from actually covers much of the same stuff. When reading the lecture, I wondered where Ray got the quote from (as I doubt he has read the article, details further below). In searching for this quote to see if it was on a prominent site for quote mining, I found it posted a lot in forums with the follow statement made by posters at a few:
This is a very recent lecture. While he may have supported a universe without a beginning earlier in life, this definitely shows that he has changed his mind in favor of a beginning of the universe and time. (paraphrased)
This is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of Hawking's work and shows ignorance of it. To just provide you with a simple demonstration of this, what I quoted in a my previous post came from A Brief History of Time in 1988, the lecture was in 2004, and the following is from A Briefier History of Time (a revision and updating) in 2005 from the conclusion to Quantum Gravity in chapter nine (pg 103): (luckily I brought this book with me on my trip)
If there is no boundary to space-time, there is no need to specify the behavior at the boundary -- no need to know the initial state of the universe. There is no edge of space-time at which we would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. We could say: "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary." The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE. As long as we believed the universe had a beginning, the role of a creator seemed clear. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, having neither beginning nor end, then the answer is not so obvious: what is the role of a creator?
This is something the lecture touches on and if read to try to understand, rather than to quote, it becomes obvious. He discusses often what could have preceded the Big Bang, and then always dismisses them as speculation with the comment that we cannot know what happens before that as the laws of science break down in it. He mentions this even in the lecture Ray quotes from:
At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang. The universe will evolve from the Big Bang, completely independently of what it was like before. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang, as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang.

Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there's no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. (emphasis added)
I emphasized the passage where he discusses the beginning. He speaks of this "kind of beginning" of time (the big bang) is "different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier." What beginnings were considered earlier? The beginning of the universe as created by an external agency. And when Ray quotes that "this argument about whether or not the universe had a beginning..." is referring to this, as the section that precedes it reads:
It was therefore natural to believe that the human race, and maybe the whole universe, had a beginning in the fairly recent past. However, many people were unhappy with the idea that the universe had a beginning, because it seemed to imply the existence of a supernatural being who created the universe. They preferred to believe that the universe, and the human race, had existed forever. Their explanation for human progress was that there had been periodic floods, or other natural disasters, which repeatedly set back the human race to a primitive state.
What I find especially humorous to Ray using this lecture is that Hawking actually specifically addresses the beginning of the universe which Ray supports (biblical/created) and the different "kind of beginning" which the Big Bang is. This is the continuation from the previously emphasized passage:
These [different kinds of beginnings considered earlier] had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system can not be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.(emphasis added)
After this he discusses some historical attempts to get around the Big Bang beginning, then past light cones, then quantum effects impact on the Big Bang theory, then imaginary time and its implication on real time, and then finally the self-contained, no boundary condition. If all this seems confusing (as it should) but at the same time interesting (as it also should), I strongly recommend reading the lecture yourself, reading some Wikipedia entries on the subjects, and also reading A Brief History of Time, A Briefer History of Time, and The Universe In a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking to find out what Hawking really believes, studies, and lectures on, rather than listening to Ray to divine such knowledge.

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