Zombie science

There’s a simple reason for the corruption of biology and the social sciences: these studies are not based on Christian beliefs and faith the way science originally was and must always be. Modern science developed in only one place—Christian Europe. If you look up the great pioneers of physics and astronomy, you will find that they were almost all devout Christians, from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton to Maxwell to Planck to Lemaître.

The one glaring exception was Einstein, but even he famously said, “I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” Even though Einstein was not Christian, he was the product of the Christian European culture that gave birth to science, and he was a willing participant in a process based on Christian principles:

But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. (Albert Einstein, 1941)

The prime motivation of Einstein and so many other great figures in science was to uncover divine truth and know the mind of God. People who feel they are doing God’s work are far less likely to succumb to human frailties and engage in activities that corrupt the search for truth. That tradition remains strong in physics, the original science. That is why the field of astrophysics was able to resist the degenerative effects of an increasingly atheist society. When the devout Lemaître conceived of the primeval atom (aka big bang theory) and demonstrated that the Genesis account of a universe with a beginning was scientifically sound, the stubborn resistance of scientists with a hatred for the idea of God was quickly overcome by the evidence.

The other branches of science have not fared as well. Atheists stole science from Christians in the mid and late 19th century with the false social science of Marx and behavioral science of Freud as well as the misuse of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the gross misrepresentation of Christian scripture. Over the last century and a half, secular humanists have successfully alienated Christians from the scientific method the faithful created and taken over most of its areas of study. Physics still has a substantial minority of Christians (and people with a general belief in God), and much good work is still being done. The social and behavior studies, on the other hand, are the tools of secular humanism and the zombies of the scientific world—active but not alive. Biology was bitten long ago and is gradually succumbing to the humanist infection. There is an easy way to tell a zombie biologist from a true biological scientist; ask him to say the following words, “Darwin was seriously wrong about some important things.” If he can’t bring himself to say this, you are speaking with one of the walking dead. Climate change ‘scientists’ are just garden-variety corrupt hacks who have sold out for money, prestige, and political favors. Bundle up for the coming ice age or thank the polluters for preventing it.

The lesson here is that the further any area of study is from the Christian foundations of true science, the more corrupt it is. The United States has been the source of a great deal of the productive science done in the 20th and early 21st centuries. It is also the most Christian of all developed countries. If atheists succeed in turning the United States into anything similar to what the formerly Christian European nations now are, science will die and humankind will experience a dark age.

Genesis time and the changing length of a day

Scientists have discovered an exoplanet that spins so fast its day is just eight hours long. Beta Pictoris b, which is 65 light-years from Earth, rotates on its axis at a whopping 62,000 miles per hour, about 50 times faster than Earth’s rotation rate (since the exoplanet is much bigger than the Earth, its day is a third as long). Scientists made this calculation using the same method meteorologists use to track earthly weather systems — the Doppler effect.

What is not generally known is that the Earth once had a much shorter day than it does now, due to its changing gravitational interaction with the Moon (and the Sun). Because of tidal friction — the loss of energy due to the gravitational tugging on Earth’s oceans — the Moon is gaining orbital energy at the cost of Earth’s rotational energy. As a result, the length of an Earth day increases. With the extra bit of orbital energy, the Moon’s orbit is increasing by about 4 cm each year and the length of a day increases by a couple of milliseconds per century. It doesn’t sound like much, but over millions and billions of years, it adds up. Computer simulations suggest that billions of years in the past, the Moon was so close to the Earth that an Earth day was a mere six hours long.

Intriguingly, an Earth-day that changes in duration is consistent with Gerald Schroeder’s reconciliation of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and an old Earth. Schroeder argues that the length of each Genesis day is 24 actual hours, but only measured from God’s perspective. From our earthly perspective, each of those days is a different length, ranging from billions to millions of years. It isn’t until humans appear on Day 6 that Genesis time comes to agree with Earth time. It would seem God chose a perspective for Genesis that was 24 hours, because that’s how long an Earth day would be once Adam appeared. For a detailed explanation of this reconciliation, see here.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 11

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9; Part 10

How does evolution relate to the belief of a creator? And please address the time frame. / Please address the timing of evolution and the Bible. / How do you reconcile biologists teaching evolution and coming from apes with the creation story in Genesis?

There is no conflict between Christianity and science inherent in scripture or the theory of evolution. There are at least 26 scientifically testable statements in Genesis 1 about the origins of the universe as well as the origins and diversity of life. All 26 statements are consistent with modern science without any dodgy interpretations of the Bible or contortions of the science to fit religious beliefs. And, all 26 statements are in the correct order according to modern science. See here for a detailed scientific explanation of this.

At the time of Darwin, there was a serious conflict between the Christian belief in a created universe and the scientific consensus of the time that the universe was eternal. That conflict was resolved in favor of the Christian view when big bang theory prevailed in the 1960s, because the basic premise of this theory (very simply stated) is that our universe had a beginning and came into being out of ‘nothing.’ Taking this one logical step further, the fundamental scientific concept of cause and effect requires something outside of and greater than (super-) our material world (-natural) capable of causing the universe to come into existence. In other words, based on the best evidence available, the supernatural must be part of the scientific discussion. Evolution cannot be isolated from consideration of the supernatural since everything biological is made of the stuff that makes up the universe.

In regard to evolution specifically, the Genesis account of creation lists several stages in the development of life on earth: vegetation, animal life in the oceans, flying creatures (winged insects), great sea creatures, life forms that crawl on land, every species of winged creature, land animals which became livestock (mammals), and finally man. There can be no doubt that this indicates a scriptural acceptance and understanding of a progression in the development of life. It is also important that this order of events conforms to the fossil evidence. So, there is no conflict about the fossil evidence between Judeo-Christian scripture and the theory of evolution.

There is a seemingly insurmountable disagreement between scripture and science in terms of the time it took for life to be created. The Bible says that all of creation took just six days. Science provides abundant and convincing evidence that this is absurd. As a result, the notion that the amazing diversity of life was accomplished in a few days is widely ridiculed in scientific circles as a silly and hopelessly unscientific myth of an ignorant ancient people. But, scientists, having lost one great argument with scripture, should have been somewhat humbled and exercised more care in their criticism of the Bible.

A continued lack of humility did in fact set Darwinists up for another scientific fall. There was something else the great minds of the mid-19th century were not aware of besides the big bang—relativity. In all the years since Einstein proposed his theories of relativity, only one man had the insight and ability to use Einstein’s first great achievement to gain a deeper understanding of scripture. Physicist and theologian, Gerald Schroeder, found, through a skillful and honest reading of Genesis coupled with a scientist’s understanding of Einstein’s relativity, that the six-day account of creation does not deserve the ridicule it has received for so many generations.

The first clue to this has always been available to anyone with an open mind. According to Genesis 1:2, for the first two days of Genesis “The earth was without form.” The Earth was not formed until the third day. Since there was no Earth for the first two days of the Genesis account, one has to wonder how time was being reckoned. The author of Genesis must have been marking time according to some other means than the time it takes the Earth to spin on its axis.

It is totally understandable why non-scientists failed to pick up on this clue. Einstein told humankind something hugely counterintuitive—that time passes at a comparatively different rate for every location in the universe. The commonly accepted age of the universe—10 to 20 billion years–is very likely true, but only from the perspective of Earth-bound beings looking back in time. The age of the universe and the passage of time from any other perspective would be very different—seemingly strange, but scientifically indisputable. The same is true of all evolutionary estimates of biological events; scientific observations that life emerged 3.8 billion years ago or that the dinosaurs were destroyed 65 million years ago are only valid from that same extremely limited perspective.

A combination of Einstein’s relativity, Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding, and the big bang theory provides scientists a different way of measuring time—a universal clock based on the frequency of the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang. This is the only all-inclusive perspective available to us. When this ‘universal clock’ is applied to events since the big bang, something truly amazing is revealed—the six days of Genesis are literally true and completely compatible with modern science. See here for a rudimentary explanation of the science of the universal clock and its application to the six days of creation.

There are a number of clues which substantiate this claim. The earthly measure of time is not used in the Bible until after man is created. During the six days of creation, time is not tied directly to the events described. As Gerald Schroeder explains, events are listed and then the reader is informed that another day has passed. After the creation of Adam, time is directly linked for the first time to events on Earth. Another important clue is found in Psalms 90:4, “A thousand years in Your eyes are as a day that passes …” This is clearly an expression of the relativity of time by an ancient writer who had only scripture and revelation to go by.

The Bible’s use of universal time 3,000 years before humans discovered the relativity of time is far beyond remarkable. It is a scientifically inexplicable mystery equal to that of someone actually finding a genuine fossil of J. B. S. Haldane’s famous ‘Precambrian rabbit.’ Haldane used this amusing idea to make the point that one way to empirically falsify evolution theory would be to find a fossil so out of place (hence the rabbit in the Precambrian age) there could be no explanation for it within the bounds of Darwinism. This test can be applied to the Genesis account of creation; the ancient biblical use of universal time is so far out of place there is no scientific explanation for it. It could not have been a lucky or informed guess; it can only be the result of revelation.

Darwin himself said that a person could be a Christian and an evolutionist. Not only is there nothing in scripture or science that prevents a person from believing that evolution was the means by which God created the great diversity of life on Earth, there is evidence for it. Sean B. Carroll is a biologist and modern Darwinist at the forefront of a wonderful new field of study known as evolutionary developmental biology (or ‘evo-devo’ for short). In his fascinating book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Professor Carroll is compelled to use a word that seems completely at odds with the basic concept of evolution, and he uses it over a dozen times in the book.

The incongruous word he employs over and over again is ‘logic.’ You can find it on pages 8, 12, 26, 35, 54, 55, 56, 60, 60, 61, 106, 195, and 271. The word seems so inappropriate, because it is being used to describe something he and all other Darwinists believe is the result of a mindless, random process, even though logic is the product of a rational mind. Nevertheless, Professor Carroll can’t help using this ill-fitted word, because everything he observes in the operation of animal DNA is so elegantly intricate, efficient, and consistent—something like an unimaginably good computer program.

It is unfortunate that his mind and those of most of his fellow biologists are evidently so closed by the current scientific prejudice against the notion of God that it doesn’t occur to any of them what he is really saying in his hugely informative and enjoyable book: There is significant evidence of a great rational mind at work in the structure and workings of genes.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 7

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5; Part 6

What was the most difficult specific objection to faith (particularly Christianity) that you had to get past? / What was the biggest stumbling block to faith that you had to overcome? / For new believers, how do you get past the line of ‘the Bible is just a story’ into faith? I’ve accepted that there is a God, but I’m struggling with accepting Jesus.

As a scientist, I know that the opening book of the Bible is confirmed by science: the Genesis account of creation makes at least 26 statements that are testable by modern science. These statements are not only consistent with our current scientific understanding, but, amazingly, in the correct order. This could not be the result of some lucky guesses. The most reasonable explanation is that it is not ‘just a story,’ but was divinely inspired. Many other stories of the Bible are likewise confirmed by archeology and historical accounts.

But what about the claims about Jesus in the Gospels? I sympathize with new believers who are struggling to accept Jesus, because I’ve been there. I initially had great difficulty believing the Gospels are true, that Jesus really was the Son of God, and that he was sent to Earth to pay for our sins and reconcile us with God. But I was able to reason my way to accepting the truth of the Gospels.

There were two main things that led me to accept Jesus and become Christian. The first was the observation that everything I value in this world is a product, either directly or indirectly, of the Christian faith: science, prosperity, and freedom. History demonstrates that without Christianity there would be no individual rights to protect people against abuses of power, no modern science to raise humankind out of ignorance, and no free market economy (Weber called it rational capitalism) to free billions from abject poverty. Other things, such as widespread literacy, the end of the worldwide slave-trade, and the sense of optimism that invigorates much of humanity, is the result of Christianity as well. As I observe events around the world and throughout history, it is obvious to me that the Christian faith generally acts as a brake against humanity’s worst tendencies and as the inspiration for people to consistently rise above their base nature. As a scientist, I had to acknowledge that there must be something real about the beliefs and faith that motivate people to behave in these extraordinarily good and productive ways.

This doesn’t prove the central claims of Christianity, but it should nonetheless give us great confidence in their truth. It is somewhat the same way that we know the fundamental assumptions of high school geometry are true. (I know that sounds weird, but stay with me.) Euclidean geometry is based on ten basic ideas (five postulates and five common notions) that can never be proven to be true—we just accept them to make the mathematics work. But, we don’t accept them blindly or in the face of evidence to the contrary. We are confident of their truth, because whatever we try to do in plane geometry based on those postulates works out in useful ways. Likewise, we can observe that whatever people try to do in this world based on the principles of the Christian faith tends to work out more often than not in wonderful ways.

The second thing that led me to believe was that the Christian faith is the only faith/philosophy that explains evil. If you accept that there is evil in the world, the Christian explanation is not only the only one that makes sense, it’s the only one that offers hope of eventually overcoming evil.

I finally realized it came down to accepting Christ or accepting that nothing matters. I chose the former, partly on the basis of reason and partly on hope. I’ll admit, the day I was baptized I felt like a bit of a fraud, because I wasn’t feeling it deep down inside. My intellect had come to terms with the commitment, but my heart hadn’t. So, I accepted Jesus on faith. Contrary to what atheists claim, it wasn’t the sort of faith that insists you proceed in the absence of knowledge or in spite of evidence to the contrary. Rather, it was the sort of faith C. S. Lewis described when he said we hold onto a belief we have accepted through reason in spite of our transitory emotions.

Now, some years after my conversion, I no longer feel like a fraud. I have fully embraced my identity in Christ, and my faith has been internalized to the point that it has given me a degree of peace in my life and guidance through all the confusion. I know my faith is real, because it has sustained me through some very difficult times.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 6

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4; Part 5

What’s the most common scientific argument you encounter against Christianity? How have you responded?

The most common scientific arguments against Christianity are the following:

1. The six days of creation are completely contrary to modern science.

This is false. See here for a thorough explanation of this.

2. Evolution explains everything and makes God ‘unnecessary.’

The first part of this statement is false; the second part is an extremely weak and silly argument. First, Darwinism in all of its forms has not provided answers for the most fundamental biological questions of all: how did life originate, what caused the tremendous explosion of life forms in the Cambrian explosion, why do different phyla of animal life share common genes, what is human consciousness, and where does human consciousness come from? Modern biologists who make grand pronouncements about God end up sounding like teenagers who discover where their mom and dad keep the car keys and the credit cards and then declare that their parents are no longer necessary. They are also like kids in their immature conviction that they know everything. They once confidently declared that they knew how life started: huge amounts of time in which nearly infinite random combinations of chemicals occurred solved the problem of the origins of life on Earth. Then the fossil evidence destroyed that argument by showing that life arose almost immediately after water formed on the Earth; there was no long period of time for random processes to work their magic (it really was a case of magical thinking all along).

Then the Darwinists said, well, never mind that we really don’t have an explanation for the origins of life; once life started, it developed and diversified without any supernatural help. According to evolutionary theory the various phyla of the animal kingdom all evolved separately according to the laws of random mutation and natural selection. That claim turned out not to be true either.

Sean B. Carroll is a current Darwinist biologist at the forefront of a new field of study known as evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). In his book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, he announces the startling discovery that animal life forms as different as mammals and insects share interchangeable genes, something that Darwinists always believed was impossible:

[T]he prevailing view of the architects and adherents of Modern Synthesis was that the process of random mutation and selection would so alter DNA and protein sequences that only closely related species would bear homologous genes. … Virtually everything I have described … has been discovered in the past twenty years. … The insights provided by these discoveries … [have] forced biologists to rethink completely their picture of how forms evolve. (p. 285, emphasis added)

In other words, Darwinists (“the architects and adherents of Modern Synthesis”) are “completely” wrong about how life developed on Earth. With a track record like this, biologists should be humble enough not to make grand pronouncements that God does not exist or is unnecessary.

3. The idea of a creator god doesn’t provide any final or satisfying answer, because the question remains ‘who or what made God?’

This is more of a philosophical question with scientific overtones and implications.

Whether atheists like it or not (and they don’t), big bang theory necessitates the inclusion of the supernatural in all philosophical and scientific discussions about the origins of the universe and life. Something outside and greater than (super-) the universe (nature) must have caused it to come into being. Taking this logic one step further, there must be something outside our universe that has, as an inherent quality, the power to exist. In other words, at the bottom of everything is something or ‘someone’ that was not made by something else. We can’t understand this power or the nature of the thing that holds it, but we are living proof that it ‘exists’ in some unfathomable manner.

Rather than argue about the unknowable, we should pose the most obvious question worth asking, “Is this entity that possesses the power to exist conscious or unconscious?” These two alternatives seem to exhaust the possibilities and be mutually exclusive. If you can think of another possibility, let me know.

If one prefers to believe that the creative power behind the universe is unconscious, then the fundamental entity would be some form of eternal material universe based on equally eternal natural laws. Since we are reasonably sure this universe is not eternal, we would be forced to fall back on notions such as the multiverse. Because of the limitations of science, these ideas will never be anything more than unprovable speculation forever consigned to the realms of philosophy, science fiction, or anti-Christian dogma.

I find these unconscious alternatives not only emotionally and intellectually unsatisfying, but truly terrifying. Atheists generally take this idea just one baby-step further by grandly pronouncing that all we have is this one life, and we should courageously accept the truth and live that life to the fullest. But, why bother? According to them, all of humankind will be exterminated and nothing anyone does, feels, or learns will have any lasting significance. As bad as that sounds, the reality of an eternal universe is actually far worse.

One of the most annoying things about atheists who make this argument about ‘who made God’ is their inability to take an idea all the way to its most logical conclusion. Consider for a moment the two most fundamental aspects of their eternal material universe:

  1. Another word for eternal is infinite (in time).
  2. In the unconscious eternal material universe, everything would happen according to the laws of probability.

Put these two things together and the result is total weirdness that offends reason.

We don’t know what the exact probability of you existing in an eternal material world is, but we do know it is some positive non-zero value, because you exist. So, what is the probability that you could exist twice? According to the mathematics of probability, you can calculate that by multiplying the probability you will exist by itself. Well, a positive number multiplied by a positive number is … a positive number. In other words, you could exist in two or more places at the same time, and you will definitely exist again given an infinite amount of time. But it gets more complicated than that because an infinite amount of anything plays havoc with our sense of reality.

If the universe is eternal, you have already lived an infinite number of lives. You have already lived each of these lives an infinite number of times. Each life was lived and then completely lost—no memories, no lasting achievements, no personal growth, no enduring love. There is only an endless and pointless repetition. Really! I can imagine no more terrifying prospect than this utter and endless lack of purpose.

Science is ultimately incapable of proving anything either way. So, I chose for non-scientific but rational reasons to hope that the creative power behind the universe is conscious. That is the only chance we have for meaning, purpose, and love.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 2

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series; Part 1 is here

Was Adam the first man created or was he chosen from an already existing population?

The answers to this two-part question are ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’

There is indisputable archeological evidence for the existence of what are popularly known as Cro-Magnon people (scientists prefer the label ‘European early modern humans’) dating back at least 43,000 years. Christians cannot ignore or deny the evidence for these biological ancestors of humankind without appearing hopelessly un- or even anti-scientific. If Christians take this unscientific route in defense of the Bible, they will lose the hearts and minds of more and more young people. Fortunately there is no need to do that.

There is a false conflict between scripture and science implied in the wording of the question. It occurs because people often read the Bible hastily and fail to notice important clues. Israeli physicist and theologian, Gerald Schroeder, points out something that is almost always missed even by serious students of scripture. Genesis informs us that man was first ‘made’ (Gen. 1:26). After that, man was ‘created’ (Gen. 1:27). The difference between the two words is crucial to understanding what the Bible is telling us (unless you think God would be clumsy or haphazard with words).

A thing is made by taking something else that already exists and fashioning it into a different form. That is what happened in the making of the biological life form we think of as the human species. Genesis lists the major categories of life forms as they emerged; vegetation, animal life in the oceans, flying creatures (winged insects), great sea creatures, life forms that crawl on land, every species of winged creature, land animals which became livestock (mammals), and finally man. There is absolutely no conflict here between scripture and the basic notion of evolution. As a result, as Darwin pointed out, a person can believe in evolution and be a devout Christian.

But, the Bible does not repeat the word ‘make’ in Gen 1:27, because something very different and non-biological happened after the human body was formed. Man was then ‘created’ in the image of God. Since God is not of this world, the human soul is not ‘made’ of anything material, it is not made of anything that already existed in this world, it was brought into this world out of ‘nothing.’ This was as much an act of creation as the beginning of the universe out of nothing (a singularity, in science-speak) with the big bang.

The New Testament agrees with this view of the origins of humankind. In Corinthians 1 we learn:

15:46   The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

15:47   The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

15:48   As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

15:49   And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

On the scientific side of the hypothesis of a two-stage development of human beings, psychologist Julian Jaynes provided some important evidence of an amazing transformation in the human species that he believed took place relatively recently. In his remarkable book, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Jaynes argued that for most of their existence, humans were not conscious and functioned not as we do but as very smart animals. This change from smart animals to fully human evidently occurred only a few thousand years ago.

According to Jaynes, the sudden and mysterious emergence of the Hebrews and Greeks—two people remarkably different from all the other peoples who existed before them—marks the point when full-blown consciousness first flourishes enough to come to the attention of history. That consciousness, expressed in the human pursuit of philosophy, mathematics, science, the arts, spirituality, and human rights, quickly spread across the world and became dominant in the human domain. It is reasonable to conclude that consciousness may be just the most obvious result of people being endowed with a soul. There can be no doubt that conscious people have done what God told descendants of Adam to do:

Genesis 1:28: God said to them, ‘Be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land.’

In any case, it is telling that ancient and medieval Jewish scholars of the Old Testament decoded the clues in Genesis and had no problem with the existence of other biological human beings at the time of Adam and Eve. The great Jewish scholar and authority, Maimonides, called these beings “mere animal(s) in human shape and form” [The Guide for the Perplexed, Part I: Chapter VII]. If true, this would solve many mysteries, such as questions about who the children of Adam and Eve mated with. Once the two-stage development of Man described in Genesis 1 is understood, the original question posed above can be answered. Yes, Adam was the first man created, and yes, his biological life form was chosen from an already existing population.

Questions from Christian Students, Part 1

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. 

How do you account for the Higgs boson particle?

The Higgs boson, which has been in the media quite a bit lately, is popularly referred to as the “God Particle.” Nobel laureate Leon Lederman explains the origin of the nickname in his book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, give its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one …

Lederman goes on to quote from the Bible, specifically Genesis 11:1-9, which describes the building of the Tower of Babel and what happens to man because of it. He draws a fascinating parallel between the unified language of man prior to the building of the tower and the unified ‘language’ of nature during a much earlier time in the universe. He expresses hope that, unlike the Babylonians, particle physicists will succeed in building up their tower so that they can know the mind of God.

The Higgs boson is predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics—the prevailing theory governing the organization of subatomic particles—and it explains why most subatomic particles have mass. Physicist Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, described its properties in a scientific paper in 1966. The idea seemed so strange and complicated to the public that UK science minister, William Waldegrave, challenged physicists to explain, in a simplified way and in only one page, what the Higgs boson is and why physicists want to find it. The winning entries can be read here. There are also numerous short videos attempting to explain the Higgs boson in (somewhat) simplified terms (e.g. Minute Physics Part I, Part II, and Part III, and PHD Comics).

Now, almost half a century after Higgs’ initial publication, physicists are pretty sure they’ve found evidence for the elusive particle. As with any discovery in science, it will need to be verified several times by independent groups of scientists before it’s really accepted. 

Within your field of study what has been the most remarkable observation that you have made that reinforces your faith?

That the universe is knowable, that it makes sense. As Einstein said, the most incomprehensible thing about the [universe] is that it is comprehensible. Over and over again in my work I see that the universe has an underlying order and logic to it. The only two explanations are: 1) against unimaginable odds, this orderly and logical universe arose purely by chance; or 2) the universe is a deliberate product of a vast Intellect. Explanation 2 strikes me as much more plausible than Explanation 1.

What’s the most remarkable, undeniable discovery you have used to prove or disprove the faiths of different persons?

The big bang. It shows that the first three words of the Bible are true and that the humanist belief in an eternal universe is false.

Questions from Christian Students

Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. They are listed below, in no particular order. (Despite the title of this post, at least two of the questions appear to be from students who are currently struggling with belief.) 

Since becoming a Christian and living in an environment where your faith is tested every day, have you experienced doubt? If so, what has brought you through those doubts? (Part 9)

Was Adam the first man created or was he chosen from an already existing population? (Part 2)

Has an effort by students to share their faith with you ever made an impact on you in any way? (Part 3)

Have you ever had a student challenge an idea during class? (Part 3)

How does evolution relate to belief in a creator? And please address the time frame. / Please address the timing of evolution and the Bible. / How do you reconcile biologists teaching evolution and coming from apes with the creation story in Genesis? (Part 11)

What was it about Christianity that made you feel hostile towards it before you read the Bible? (Part 5)

Do you wish you could talk about your faith in the classroom / office hours? If so, what keeps you from doing it? (Part 3)

How do you account for the Higgs boson particle? (Part 1)

How hard is it to work in the field of academia in an anti-Christian environment from a faith perspective? (Part 9)

How do you recommend Christian students react to professors who are intolerant of their Christian faith? (Part 9)

You mentioned the big bang. In your interpretation, does the big bang coincide with the moment of creation? / How does scientific proof of the big bang line up with the biblical teaching of creationism? (Part 4)

Within your field of study what has been the most remarkable observation that you have made that reinforces your faith? (Part 1)

What was the most difficult specific objection to faith (particularly Christianity) that you had to get past? / What was the biggest stumbling block to faith that you had to overcome? / For new believers, how do you get past the line of ‘the Bible is just a story’ into faith? I’ve accepted that there is a God, but I’m struggling with accepting Jesus. (Part 7)

Outside of the creation story, have you found other parts of the Bible that support what you have observed scientifically? (Part 10)

What’s the most remarkable, undeniable discovery you have used to prove or disprove the faiths of different persons? (Part 1)

What’s the most common scientific argument you encounter against Christianity? How have you responded? (Part 6)

What is the most important piece of knowledge you have come to learn about evolution since becoming a believer? (Part 8)

What is your colleagues’ biggest reason for thinking the Gospel is not worth believing? (Part 5)

Would the discovery of intelligent life on another planet disprove the existence of God? (Part 8)

What would you say to someone who can’t believe in Christianity because of its exclusive claims, that no one enters the gates of Heaven without first meeting Jesus? (Part 12)

Six Days of Creation presentation

Was the universe created and developed in just six days? Is it possible to reconcile a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 with a billions-year-old universe? We address these questions in the following presentation. The material presented is inspired by The Science of God by Dr. Gerald Schroeder, a book we highly recommend.

Cross-posted here. We discuss the 26 testable statements made in Genesis 1 here.

“All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning”

So says Tufts University physicist, Alexander Vilenkin, who made this statement at a meeting in January in honor of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday. (I’m a little late getting around to this, but it’s worth commenting on.)

To fully appreciate the magnitude of this statement, consider that the prevailing view of cosmology for more than two thousand years was that of an eternal universe. This view began to change in the 1920s, when astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the spectra of most galaxies are redshifted, and the further away a galaxy is from the Milky Way, the more its spectrum is redshifted. What this means in plain English is that almost all of the galaxies he observed are rushing away from each other, and those that were further away are rushing away faster. Incredibly, it appeared the universe was not only changing, but expanding. If you imagine running the expansion in reverse, so that galaxies rush toward one another as you go back in time, you end up with a point at which the expansion started — a beginning in time and space.

Belgian physicist and priest, Georges Lemaître, anticipated this discovery with what he called the “hypothesis of the primeval atom,” based on his solution to the Einstein field equations. The universe’s beginning was predicted to have been very energetic and violent, and was therefore dubbed as the “big bang.” Four decades later, physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the predicted afterglow of this big bang, which eventually earned them Nobel prizes. By the late 1980s, sophisticated satellites were mapping the tiny fluctuations in the intensity of the big bang afterglow, which allowed physicists to calculate an age for the universe. By the end of the 20th century, there was near-consensus that the universe had a beginning that occurred some 11-17 billion years ago. (The cosmological model-based number is ~14 billion years.)

The big bang has had its detractors. It was astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, out of deep skepticism for the idea, who sarcastically applied the term “big bang” to this cosmological model. (Let it not be said that physicists are overly sensitive — the term stuck and has been used in all seriousness ever since.) Hoyle’s collaborator, astrophysicist Geoffrey Burbidge, famously ridiculed physicists who had hopped on the big bang bandwagon as “rushing off to join the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.” There were two reasons scientists reacted this way. First, some scientists found the idea of a universe with a beginning uncomfortably close to the Genesis account of creation. Second, from the point of view of physics, mathematics, and philosophy, a universe with a beginning is far more messy to deal with than an eternal universe, which requires no explanation. Even still, the evidence for a beginning is now so overwhelming that most physicists have come to accept it, and the big bang has become the prevailing paradigm governing all of physics.

Nevertheless, some physicists had not given up on the idea of an eternal universe, but the focus changed to devising sophisticated models for an eternal universe that fit the observed data — in other words, an eternal universe that incorporated key features of the big bang model. Some of these features are explainable by invoking what’s called inflation, which refers to an early period of exceedingly rapid expansion. This idea was proposed by Alan Guth in the 1980s, and it can also be applied to an eternally inflating universe in which regions of the universe undergo localized inflation, creating “pocket universes.” This inflation continues forever, both in the past and into the future, and so in a sense it represents an eternal universe. Another idea was the cyclical universe, which posited that the universe is eternally expanding and contracting. In this way, the big bang that occurred 14 billion years ago would be just one of an infinite number of big bangs followed by ‘big crunches.’

All of the evidence indicates ours is a universe undergoing perpetual change. To replace Aristotle’s age-old idea of an eternal, unchanging universe, physicists came up with hypothetical eternal universes that were perpetually changing. This was an ingenius approach, but as Vilenkin announced last month, they just don’t work. Guth’s idea turns out to predict eternal inflation in the future, but not in the past. The cyclical model of the universe predicts that with each big bang, the universe becomes more and more chaotic. An eternity of big bangs and big crunches would lead to a universe of maximum disorder with no galaxies, stars, or planets — clearly at odds with what we observe.

As the journal New Scientist reports, physicists can’t avoid a creation event. Vilenkin’s admission exemplifies the reason physics is the king of all the sciences — physicists are generally willing to admit when their cherished ideas don’t work, and they eventually go where the data and logic lead them. Whether this particular realization will pave the way to serious discussion of God and consistency with the Genesis account of creation remains to be seen. Physicists can be a stubborn bunch. As Nobel laureate George P. Thomson observed, “Probably every physicist would believe in a creation if the Bible had not unfortunately said something about it many years ago and made it seem old-fashioned.” Still, some physicists are open to the idea. Gerald Schroeder, who is also an applied theologian, has written profoundly on the subject. His book, The Science of God, is an illuminating discussion of how the Bible and biblical commentary relate to the creation of the universe.