Tag Archives: Multiverse

William Lane Craig debates Lawrence Krauss in North Carolina: Does God Exist?

Two Rams butting heads: may the best ram win!
Two Rams butting heads: may the best ram win!

Would you like to hear a debate featuring the least intelligent atheist ever? Well, this is a good candidate.

The full transcript of the debate is here at the Reasonable Faith web site.

Audio of the William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate at North Carolina State University has now been posted at Apologetics 315. The people who recorded it did not do a good job, though.

And I also posted some background information on Craig’s arguments.

And now for one of my snarkiest summaries, which is fitting for Lawrence Krauss. A less snarky summary is at J.W. Wartick’s blog. And if you want to see a summary of a debate with a smart atheist, then here is the Craig-Millican debate summary.

William Lane Craig’s case

William Lane Craig made 5 arguments for the existence of God:

  • the contingency argument
  • theargument from the origin of the universe (kalam)
  • the argument from cosmic fine-tuning
  • the moral argument
  • the argument from the miracle of the resurrection

These arguments went unrefuted during the debate.

Lawrence Krauss’s case

Lawrence Krauss made the following arguments in his first speech:

  • Dr. Craig is a professional debater
  • Dr. Craig is not a scientist
  • Dr. Craig is a philosopher
  • Disproving God’s is a waste of my valuable time
  • Dr. Craig has the burden of proof to show evidence
  • My job is not to present any evidence
  • I think that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a nice slogan, but I have no evidence for it
  • I don’t like that God doesn’t appear on Youtube, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that God didn’t appear to humans until recently, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that the stars didn’t come together to spell “I am here”, therefore God doesn’t exist
  • Dr. Craig has to supply extraordinary evidence, because my favorite slogan says he has to
  • Dr. Craig talks about logic, but the universe is not logical
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t have any arguments, just things he doesn’t like
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, and that’s why he believes in cosmic fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like rape, and that’s why he believes in the ontological foundations of morality
  • If people believe in logic, then they can’t do science
  • The things that science discovers contradict the laws of logic
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, so he believes in the experimental measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, so he believes in the fine-tuning of the gravitational constant for the formation of stable stars
  • Quantum mechanics shows that the universe is stranger than you think, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • My t-shirt says 2 + 2 = 5, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • Atheism may look ridiculous, but it’s true, and if you don’t like it, too bad – because the universe is very strange
  • Accidents happen all the time, so that explains the cosmic fine-tuning
  • We all have to convince ourselves of 10 impossible things before breakfast, and atheism is impossible, so you need to convince yourself of it
  • I don’t know about the Big Bang, so Dr. Craig cannot use the Big Bang to to prove the universe began to exist
  • I don’t know about the cosmic fine-tuning, so Dr. Craig cannot use the fine-tuning of cosmological constants to prove the fine-tuning
  • I don’t know anything about science, so Dr. Craig cannot use science in his arguments
  • Dr. Craig says that the universe is contingent because it began to exist 13.7 billion years ago based on the state-of-the-art scientific evidence for the Big Bang creation out of nothing from 1) red-shift of light from distant galaxies, 2) cosmic microwave background radiation, 3) helium-hydrogen abundances, 4) experimental confirmation of general relativity, 5) the second law of thermodynamics, 6) radioactive element abundances, etc., but how does he know that? I don’t know that
  • It’s fine not to know the answer to scientific questions like whether the universe began to exist, it’s more exciting
  • Thinking that the universe began to exist based on 6 pieces of scientific evidence is the “God-of-the-Gaps” fallacy, it’s intellectual laziness
  • But all kidding aside, the universe actually did begin to exist 13.72 billion years ago, exactly like Craig says in his argument
  • I could argue that God created the universe 4.5 seconds ago with all of us sitting believing that we heard Dr. Craig, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s not falsifiable
  • Universes can spontaneously appear out of nothing, and in fact they have to appear out of nothing
  • Nothing is unstable, and space and time can come into existence out of nothing, so that’s not a problem
  • Our universe could have appeared out of a multiverse, an unobservable, untestable multiverse that I have no way of observing or testing
  • The universe is not fine-tuned for life, and no scientist says so, especially not Martin Rees, the atheist Astronomer Royal, and every other scientist
  • What if God decided that rape was OK, would it be OK? God can change his moral nature arbitrarily, can’t he?

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ second speech:

  • We don’t understand the beginning of the universe
  • We don’t understand whether the universe had a cause
  • Steven Weinberg says that science makes it possible to be an atheist, so therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • It’s just intellectual laziness to say that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago, and that things that come into being of nothing have a cause
  • Dr. Craig is an expert on nothing, ha ha ha!
  • There are multiple versions of nothing, there’s nothing, and then there is something, which is also nothing if I want it to be
  • There was no space, there was no time, and then the space create the empty space
  • I’m going to give Dr. Craig a break
  • At least in the nothing there were laws like F=ma, and those laws created the empty space, because descriptions of matter that does not even exist yet can create space out of nothing
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin are good friends of mine and I talk to them all the time, unlike Dr. Craig
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin don’t mention God in their scientific papers, therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • Maybe there is a multiverse that cannot be observed or tested? And my unscientific speculations are a refutation of Craig’s scientific evidence for the fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig just doesn’t like my speculations about the unobservable, untestable multiverse, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • And if you let me speculate about an unobservable, untestable multiverse, then maybe the inanimate invisible universes reproduce and compete for food and mutate like animals and then there is natural selection so that the finely-tuned universes survive and now we’re in one!
  • My cool animation of blue goo mutating proves that the multiverse is real! Empty space is not empty!
  • Darwinism, which is a theory about the origin of species, explains the cosmic fine-tuning that occurred at the moment of creation
  • The unobservable, untestable multiverse universes all have different laws, I believe
  • We don’t know what the right answer is, but we are willing to look at any possibility, as long as the possibilities we look at are not supernatural possibilities
  • The discovery of the origin of the universe could be an accident, I don’t know if the universe began to exist or not, maybe all the six scientific evidences are wrong because if I don’t like the evidence we have, so I’ll just wait for new evidence to overturn the evidence we have which I don’t like
  • Maybe there are other forms of life that are unobservable and untestable that are compatible with a universe that has no stable stars, no planets, no elements heavier than hydrogen, no hydrogen, no carbon, etc.

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ third speech:

  • Dr. Craig is stupid
  • Why should we even care about Dr. Craig’s arguments and evidence, we can just count the number of scientists who are atheists and decide whether God exists that way – I decided everything based on what my teachers told me to believe
  • I actually know general relativity, not like Dr. Craig who co-wrote a book on general relativity published by Oxford University Press
  • What quantum mechanics shows is that virtual particles come into being in a quantum vacuum, and then go out of existence almost immediately – and that is exactly like how a 13.7 billion year old universe came into being in a quantum vacuum, and we’re going to disappear very soon
  • Space and the laws of physics can be created, possibly, if you accept my speculations about an unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • I don’t like the God of the Old Testament, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • Groups of people can decide what they think is good and evil, like the Nazis and slave-owners did, and then that becomes good for them in that time and place, and that’s what I mean by morality
  • Here’s something I studied that wasn’t fine-tuned, therefore there is no fine-tuning of the universe
  • Not knowing things is really exciting! Dr. Craig is not really exciting because he knows things – phooey!

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ fourth speech:

  • If you will just grant me an observable, untestable multiverse, then there must be some universe where intelligent life exists
  • Infinite numbers of things exist everywhere in nature, you can see lots of infinite collections of things, like jelly beans and bumblebees and invisible pink unicorns
  • I don’t like the fine-tuning, but if my speculations about the multiverse are proven true, then I won’t have to learn to live with the fine-tuning
  • Inflation, the rapid expansion of the universe which occurs at some time after the the origin of the universe (t = 0), explains the absolute origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing that occurred at t = 0
  • Physical processes that develop subsequent to the creation of the universe at t > 0 can explain the fine-tuning of quantities that are set at t = 0
  • Morality is just a bunch of arbitrary conventions decided by groups of people in different times and places by an accidental process of biological and social evolution, but that practice over there by those people is objectively wrong!
  • 1 Cor 15:3-7, which most scholars, even atheists like James Crossley, admit is dated to within 3 years of the death of Jesus, is actually dated to 50 years after the death of Jesus
  • The historical case for the resurrection made by people like N.T. Wright in their multi-volume academic works is on par with the story of Mohammed ascending to Heaven on a horse

If you liked this, please check out my snarky summary of Christopher Hitchens’ speeches in the Craig-Hitchens debate.

Lawrence Krauss debates “A Universe From Nothing” with an astrophysicist

Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!
Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!

Dina sent me news of a cracking good episode of Unbelievable, which features Lawrence Krauss, who debated William Lane Craig. Krauss’ book was also reviewed in the New York Times.

The MP3 file is here.

Details:

Lawrence Krauss is a Cosmologist at Arizona State University who describes himself as an “anti-theist”. His latest book “A Universe From Nothing” has received both acclaim and criticism for its attempt to answer the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Debating the issue with Krauss is Rodney Holder, Course director at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. An astrophysicist and priest by background. In a lively exchange they debate whether Krauss’ “nothing” is “nothing”, fine tuning and multiverses, scientific knowledge, miracles and the usefulness of theology and philosophy.

This debate is quite entertaining, and do not be intimidated if your don’t understand science. You can understand pretty easily who is arguing based on facts and who is speculating about unobservable, untestable entities. At one point, Krauss actually denies that there is any fine-tuning in the universe, so please see this link to refute that claim as well as this podcast which explains some examples of fine-tuning. Krauss gets a bit angry at the beginning, but calms down.

Quotation marks are for direct quotes, italics is for made-up snark. See below the summary for more posts that are related to this one.

Summary of the discussion: (picked up at 9:30 when they start talking about the book)

Brierley:

  • explain your theory of how the universe can come into being from nothing

Krauss:

  • the nothing that preceded the universe is “no space, no time, no universe”
  • theists say that God is responsible for creating the universe out of this nothing
  • but the laws of nature can create the universe uncaused out of nothing

Holder:

  • Krauss sometimes writes that the nothing is really a quantum vacuum, but that is not nothing
  • He even acknowledges in his book that a quantum vacuum is not nothing
  • He thinks that the nothing has properties, even though it has no being
  • It has the property of being unstable
  • It has the property of being acted on by quantum fields
  • It has the property of being acted on by gravity

Krauss:

  • But nothing can have the potential to do things inside it
  • For example suppose you have an electron, which is not nothing
  • If it jumps from one level to another, it emits light
  • There was no potential for the light in the electron, but it was there as part of atomic structure

Holder:

  • But in cases like that, there is something physical that has the potential
Krauss:
  • Well, how did God makes the universe then if it had no potential?

Holder:

  • God existed, and the potential for creating the universe in himself

Brierley:

Krauss:
  • It was written by a philosopher, so I dismissed it

Brierley:

Krauss:
  • These book reviewers have not even read my book!

Krauss:

  • Science will be able to figure out how to make something from nothing in the future
  • We are even now speculating about interesting questions, like is there a multiverse?

Brierley:

  • Consider the critical review of your book in the New York Times
  • The author of the review claims that you equivocate on the term “nothing”
  • In order to get things to pop into being, you have to make “nothing” mean “something”
  • Reviewer: none of Krauss’ theories explain how something can come from actual nothingness

Krauss:

  • In physics, something and nothing are not that different
  • The reviewer doesn’t understand the physics
  • He doesn’t understand quantum field theory
  • You could call a quantum vacuum “nothing”, (this is the vacuum fluctuation model, refuted by William Lane Craig in a peer-reviewed publication in an astrophysics journal – get the full text of the article here)
  • Maybe there is an eternally existing multiverse that we can’t observe or test scientifically
  • Maybe it has laws that we don’t know about which allow our universe to pop into being
  • Maybe this popping into being is uncaused
  • (alarmed) Who made God? Who made God?

Holder:

  • God is eternal and necessary

Krauss:

  • (interrupting, angry) What does it mean for something to be necessary?

Holder:

  • Basically, you have to decide whether there is more evidence that the necessary being God or a multiverse

Brierley:

  • So Dr. Krauss are you willing to say that the universe is a brute fact, in some sense, and requires no explanation

Krauss:

  • (angry) Religious people are stupid because they just assume brute facts, not like me and my unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • (angry) Religious people are against the progress of science, they don’t want to figure out how things work

Brierley:

  • But isn’t it possible that naturalists can be opposed to the progress of science?
  • What about the way the Fred Hoyle opposed the Big Bang because he wanted an eternal universe

Krauss:

  • (angry) But naturalists like me let the facts determine our beliefs, like the facts about the eternal unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • (angry, shouting) Philosophers are stupid, they know nothing!

=== Break ===

Brierley:

  • Do you see any evidence of purpose in the universe?

Krauss:

  • Well maybe I would believe if the stars lined up to spell out a message from God

Brierley:

  • Actually no, that wouldn’t be evidence for God on your multiverse view
  • if there an infinite number of universes existing for an infinite amount of time, then anything can happen no matter how unlikely it is
  • therefore, no evidence could convince you that God exists, since the unobservable, untestable, eternal multiverse can make anything it wants

Krauss:

  • That’s a true statement, and very convenient for atheists who don’t want to be accountable to God, don’t you think?
Brierley:
  • Back to the multiverse, how does it solve the fine-tuning?

Krauss:

  • “We have no idea if the universe is fine-tuned for life”, even though the atheist Martin Rees who endorsed Krauss’ book wrote his own book about the fine-tuning of the universe called “Just Six Numbers”
  • Inflationary theory does suggest a way to create multiple universes, (this is the chaotic inflationary model, refuted by William Lane Craig in a peer-reviewed publication in an astrophysics journal – get the full text of the article here)

Brierley:

  • But this theory is still very much a hypothesis, isn’t it? We can’t observe or test this hypothesis can we?

Krauss:

  • “No, and that is really important to state”
  • “I’m an empiricist, so if you can’t falsify it and if you can’t test it then it’s not science”
  • In my book, I speculate about a way that we could test the multiverse theory

Holder:

  • Yes, in principle, the multiverse would be scientific if you could test it through other theories like inflationary theory
  • There are a lot of speculations about multiverse theory, but no evidence from predictions that were validated in the lab

Krauss:

  • “I agree completely with everything you just said”

Brierley:

  • Roger Penrose agrees with Holder that the multiverse theory is too speculative
  • (To Holder) Isn’t the multiverse theory better than positing a completely different kind of being, which is God?

Holder:

  • The multiverse theory is extremely speculative
  • Even if the multiverse were true, you would still need to explain the multiverse

Krauss:

  • People don’t oppose my book because it’s full of self-contradictory speculations
  • People oppose my book because they are stupid and ignorant

Holder:

  • There are things that exist that science cannot measure, like objective morality
  • It’s possible to give explanations for moral behavior by appealing to evolution
  • But that does not ground self-sacrificial morality, such as what occurs in the Christian life

Brierley:

  • Dawkins says there is no purpose or morality in in the universe, do you agree?

Krauss:

  • “There is certainly no evidence of any of that”

Brierley:

  • In the book, you talk about how we live in a special time in the universe’s history to be able to do science, (i.e. – The Privileged Planet hypothesis)
  • You also write about how all the discoveries were are making will not be communicated to anyone in other places in the universe
  • So what is the meaning of doing science on your view? And why are you sad at the knowledge that will not be available to people in the future?
  • Are you longing for some kind of purpose?

Krauss:

  • No, I just get enjoyment from studying the universe with science to gain understanding

Holder:

  • What do you make of Einstein’s statement about the unexpected comprehensibility of the universe
  • Theists would say that this is because God wanted us to study and understand and gain knowledge

Krauss:

  • “It is remarkable that the universe is comprehensible”

Brierley:

  • Why is the universe comprehensible?

Krauss:

  • Well, maybe the universe just has to be that way

Brierley:

  • What do you make of the heat death of the universe, when all life in the universe will die out?

Krauss:

  • That’s the way the universe is
=== BREAK ===

Krauss:

  • I wouldn’t want to live in a universe where there was a God
  • God is a cosmic Saddam Hussein
  • “Religious people turn their minds off” and believe in God for consolation

Holder:

  • First, Jesus is the revelation of God and he is no Saddam Hussein
  • Second, the Christian life is anything but easy, we are facing some persecution already in the UK
  • Third, there is also the problem of being accountable to God when we die
  • It’s very much like science – Christianity is the way it is, not the way we want it to be

Krauss:

  • “If you don’t believe in him, you don’t get any of the benefits, so you have to believe”
  • “And then if you’ve done something wrong, you’re going to be judged for it”
  • “So I don’t want to be judged by God, I want to be… that’s the bottom line”

Holder:

  • Well, Jesus has died to pay the price for those things we’ve done wrong
  • Although we will have to face the charges for what we’ve done, believers will ultimately be forgiven

UPDATE: Peter Sean Bradley note that Krauss is now walking back his rhetoric in response to criticisms from people like atheist John Horgan.

Related posts

Five reasons why the multiverse is not a good explanation for cosmic fine-tuning

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

This post by J. Warner Wallace appeared at his Cold Case Christianity blog. It features 5 reasons why the multiverse hypothesis is not a good explanation for the astonishing degree of fine-tuning we find in the cosmic constants and quantities in the universe that allow complex, embodied intelligent life of any conceivable kind.

Here is the list:

  1. This Explanation Lacks Evidential Confirmation
  2. This Explanation Requires Fine-Tuning
  3. This Explanation Relies on Speculative Notions of Time
  4. This Explanation Results in Absurdities Common to “Infinites”
  5. This Explanation Acknowledges an “External” Creative Cause

Let’s take a closer look at numbers two and three:

This Explanation Requires Fine-Tuning
If there is a multiverse vacuum capable of such creative activity, it would be reasonable for us to askhow the physics of such an environment could be so fine-tuned to create a life-permitting universe. As Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne observes, any proposed multiverse mechanism “needs to have a certain form rather than innumerable possible other forms, and probably constants too that need fine-tuning in the narrow sense . . . if that diversity of universes is to result.” Theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, when assessing “eternal inflation” models as a source for the multiverse, admits the same problem of fine-tuning: “The problem is, for our theoretical models of inflation to work, the initial state of the universe had to be set up in a very special and highly improbable way. Thus traditional inflation theory resolves one set of issues but creates another—the need for a very special initial state.”

This Explanation Relies on Speculative Notions of Time
Theorists who propose a pre-existing vacuum must account for the nature of time in this setting. All descriptions of this vacuum describe it as temporal (with bubble universes emerging or quantum events occurring over time). But the Standard Cosmological Model indicates time, as we know it,began with our universe. Physicist Alexander Vilenkin describes the dilemma this way: “There is no matter and no space in this very peculiar state. Also, there is no time . . . In the absence of space and matter, time is impossible to define. And yet, the state of ‘nothing’ cannot be identified with absolute nothingness.” Multiverse explanations must provide an account for the temporal nature of the vacuum lying at the core of their theory.

Regarding  Wallace’s first point, here is MIT physicist Alan Lightman talking about the multiverse’s evidential problems in Harper’s Magazine.

He writes:

The… conjecture that there are many other worlds… [T]here is no way they can prove this conjecture. That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

It’s not a good explanation of the data, it’s just desperate speculation. Don’t be one of these people that finds a way to believe what you want to believe. Look through the telescope for yourself. Believe what you can see with your own eyes – that’s the right way to get to the truth.

Thoughts about atheist tweets, atheist memes and atheist YouTube rants

In this post, I want to show you an atheist tweet, and then contrast the atheist tweet with some scientific evidence.

Look at this meme that was recently tweeted by a serious atheist:

Atheists believe nonsense, and they are proud of it
Atheists believe nonsense, and they are proud of it

That’s the tweet, now let’s see the scientific evidence.

Look at this article from the Weather Channel which talks about the most recent NOAA hurricane estimates:

A new hurricane season forecast issued by The Weather Channel on Tuesday says we can expect the number of named storms and hurricanes in the 2015 Atlantic season to stay below historical averages.

A total of nine named storms, five hurricanes and one major hurricane are expected this season, according to the forecast prepared by The Weather Channel Professional Division. This is below the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

[…]The Weather Channel forecast for below-average activity during the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season is consistent with what Colorado State University (CSU) said in its forecast issued on April 9. CSU’s forecast called for seven named storms, including three hurricanes, one of which is predicted to attain major hurricane status.

[…]The 2014 season featured the fewest number of named storms in 17 years (eight storms), but also featured the strongest landfalling hurricane in the mainland U.S. in six years (Hurricane Arthur on the Outer Banks), and featured two back-to-back hurricane hits on the tiny archipelago of Bermuda (Fay, then Gonzalo).

Meanwhile, we should also be concerned about tornadoes, and here is a graph of that:

National Weather Service Tornado trend and averages
National Weather Service Tornado trend and averages (click for larger image)

As of September 25th, 2015 (the black line) is near the record low (the pink line).

By the way, the leftist Los Angeles Times is now reporting that the hurricane caused ZERO deaths. It was much less powerful than the hand-wringing global warmists wanted us to believe.

Previously, I blogged about how the reliable satellite measurements of global temperature show a 19-year pause in “global warming”. And of course we have the Medieval Warming Period (MWP), a period from the 9th to 13th centuries when global temperatures were warmer than they are now. That’s why there are viking villages encased in ice on Greenland. Changes in global temperatures occur naturally, most likely due to solar activity variations.

I understand that it’s fun for atheists to send each other pictures that make them feel smarter than theists, but at the end of the day, we should care about the data, shouldn’t we? I mean, we should be driving at truth using scientific evidence, and not just amuse ourselves with comforting myths that make us feel smug and self-assured.

Who’s irrational now?

Now, let’s take a more generalized look at which group, atheists or theists, are more likely to believe in ridiculous superstitions, using survey data from the center-left Pew Research Center (and not some meme tweeted on Twitter).

The Pew Research survey is here.

Here are the parts that I found interesting:

More:

Notice the numbers for Republicans vs Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals, and church-attending vs non church-attending. The least superstitious people are conservative evangelical Republicans, while the most superstitious people are Democrat liberals who don’t attend church. I think there is something to be learned from that. It’s consistent with the results of a Gallup survey that showed that evangelical Christians are the most rational people on the planet.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article about the survey done by Gallup, entitled “Look Who’s Irrational Now“. Again, this is data, and not some meme tweeted on Twitter.

Excerpt:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.

“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity.

[…]The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

When I think of the “weird” things that evangelical Christians believe, I think of the origin of the universe, the cosmic fine-tuning, the origin of life and the sudden origin of animal body plans in the Cambrian. All of that science is superstition to an atheist, and yet all of it is rooted in mainstream science. Not just that, but support for our “weird” views has grown stronger as science has progressed.

There are many, many arguments for theism in general, and Christian theism in particular:

I can accept the fact that an atheist may be ignorant of the science that defeats his atheism, but that’s something that has to be remedied with more studying of the evidence, not tweeting memes to each other and giggling like children. There is no science that supports atheism, just as there is no science that supports superstitions.

What are Boltzmann brains, and what challenge do they pose to the multiverse hypothesis?

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

I thought I would turn to the atheist theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, who has previously debated William Lane Craig, to explain to us what a Boltzmann brain is, and what threat it posts to the multiverse hypothesis.

Here is Sean Caroll, quoted by About.com:

Ludwig Boltzmann was one of the founders of the field of thermodynamics in the nineteenth century.

One of the key concepts was the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the entropy of a closed system always increases. Since the universe is a closed system, we would expect the entropy to increase over time. This means that, given enough time, the most likely state of the universe is one where everything is the in thermodynamic equilibrium … but we clearly don’t exist in a universe of this type since, after all, there is order all around us in various forms, not the least of which is the fact that we exist.

With this in mind, we can apply the anthropic principle to inform our reasoning by taking into account that we do, in fact, exist.

Here the logic gets a little confusing, so I’m going to borrow the words from a couple of more detailed looks at the situation. As described by cosmologist Sean Carroll in From Eternity to Here:

Boltzmann invoked the anthropic principle (although he didn’t call it that) to explain why we wouldn’t find ourselves in one of the very common equilibrium phases: In equilibrium, life cannot exist. Clearly, what we want to do is find the most common conditions within such a universe that are hospitable to life. Or, if we want to be more careful, perhaps we should look for conditions that are not only hospitable to life, but hospitable to the particular kind of intelligent and self-aware life that we like to think we are….

We can take this logic to its ultimate conclusion. If what we want is a single planet, we certainly don’t need a hundred billion galaxies with a hundred billion stars each. And if what we want is a single person, we certainly don’t need an entire planet. But if in fact what we want is a single intelligence, able to think about the world, we don’t even need an entire person–we just need his or her brain.

So the reductio ad absurdum of this scenario is that the overwhelming majority of intelligences in this multiverse will be lonely, disembodied brains, who fluctuate gradually out of the surrounding chaos and then gradually dissolve back into it. Such sad creatures have been dubbed “Boltzmann brains” by Andreas Albrecht and Lorenzo Sorbo….

In a 2004 paper, Albrecht and Sorbo discussed “Boltzmann brains” in their essay:

A century ago Boltzmann considered a “cosmology” where the observed universe should be regarded as a rare fluctuation out of some equilibrium state. The prediction of this point of view, quite generically, is that we live in a universe which maximizes the total entropy of the system consistent with existing observations. Other universes simply occur as much more rare fluctuations. This means as much as possible of the system should be found in equilibrium as often as possible.

From this point of view, it is very surprising that we find the universe around us in such a low entropy state. In fact, the logical conclusion of this line of reasoning is utterly solipsistic. The most likely fluctuation consistent with everything you know is simply your brain (complete with “memories” of the Hubble Deep fields, WMAP data, etc) fluctuating briefly out of chaos and then immediately equilibrating back into chaos again. This is sometimes called the “Boltzmann’s Brain” paradox.

[…]Now that you understand Boltzmann brains as a concept, though, you have to proceed a bit to understanding the “Boltzmann brain paradox” that is caused by applying this thinking to this absurd degree. Again, as formulated by Carroll:

Why do we find ourselves in a universe evolving gradually from a state of incredibly low entropy, rather than being isolated creatures that recently fluctuated from the surrounding chaos?

Unfortunately, there is no clear explanation to resolve this … thus why it’s still classified as a paradox.

Naturalists like to propose the multiverse as a way of explaining away the fine-tuning that we see, and explaining why complex, embodied intelligent beings like ourselves exist. But even if the multiverse hypothesis were true, we still would not expect to observe stars, planets, and conscious embodied intelligent beings. It is far more likely on a multiverse scenario that any observers we had would be “Boltzmann” brains in an empty universe. The multiverse hypothesis doesn’t explain the universe we have, which contains “a hundred billion galaxies with a hundred billion stars each” – not to mention our bodies which are composed of heavy elements, all of which require fine-tuning piled on fine-tuning piled on fine-tuning.

William Lane Craig answered a question about Boltzmann brains a while back, so let’s look at his answer since we saw what his debate opponent said above.

He writes:

Incredible as it may sound, today the principal–almost the only–alternative to a Cosmic Designer to explain the incomprehensibly precise fine tuning of nature’s constants and fundamental quantities is the postulate of a World Ensemble of (a preferably infinite number of) randomly ordered universes. By thus multiplying one’s probabilistic resources, one ensures that by chance alone somewhere in this infinite ensemble finely tuned universes like ours will appear.

Now comes the key move: since observers can exist only in worlds fine-tuned for their existence, OF COURSE we observe our world to be fine-tuned! The worlds which aren’t finely tuned have no observers in them and so cannot be observed! Hence, our observing the universe to be fine-tuned for our existence is no surprise: if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be here to be surprised. So this explanation of fine tuning relies on (i) the hypothesis of a World Ensemble and (ii) an observer self-selection effect.

Now apart from objections to (i) of a direct sort, this alternative faces a very formidable objection to (ii), namely, if we were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing a very different universe. Roger Penrose has calculated that the odds of our solar system’s forming instantaneously through the random collision of particles is incomprehensibly more probable that the universe’s being fine-tuned, as it is. So if we were a random member of a World Ensemble, we should be observing a patch of order no larger than our solar system in a sea of chaos. Worlds like that are simply incomprehensibly more plentiful in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and so ought to be observed by us if we were but a random member of such an ensemble.

Here’s where the Boltzmann Brains come into the picture. In order to be observable the patch of order needn’t be even as large as the solar system. The most probable observable world would be one in which a single brain fluctuates into existence out of the quantum vacuum and observes its otherwise empty world. The idea isn’t that the brain is the whole universe, but just a patch of order in the midst of disorder. Don’t worry that the brain couldn’t persist long: it just has to exist long enough to have an observation, and the improbability of the quantum fluctuations necessary for it to exist that long will be trivial in comparison to the improbability of fine tuning.

In other words, the observer self-selection effect is explanatorily vacuous. It does not suffice to show that only finely tuned worlds are observable. As Robin Collins has noted, what needs to be explained is not just intelligent life, but embodied, interactive, intelligent agents like ourselves. Appeal to an observer self-selection effect accomplishes nothing because there is no reason whatever to think that most observable worlds are worlds in which that kind of observer exists. Indeed, the opposite appears to be true: most observable worlds will be Boltzmann Brain worlds.

Allen Hainline explained some of the OTHER problems with the multiverse in a post on Cross Examined’s blog. I recommend taking a look at those as well, because I feel funny even talking about Boltzmann brains. I would rather just say that there is no experimental evidence for the multiverse hypothesis, as I blogged before, and leave it at that. But if the person you are talking to fights you on it, you can disprove the multiverse with the Boltzmann brains.