Tag Archives: Big Bang

Biology and physics professors debate whether Christianity is true

The new Unbelievable debate is up, and this time Justin found a fine Christian. A professor of nanotechnology who has enormous intellectual firepower and an incredible scientific background. The atheist is Lewis Wolpert, a very high-profile atheistic cell biologist in the UK, who debated William Lane Craig a while back.

The speakers:

Atheist scientist Lewis Wolpert debates believing scientist Russell Cowburn. Professor Lewis Wolpert is Emeritus Professor of Biology at University College London. Professor Russell Cowburn is Chair of Nanotechnology at Imperial College.

Cowburn is formerly of Cambridge University. Although he does concede evolution in the debate, yuck! That part where he concedes evolution is a little annoying. Still, he is a fine speaker, he radiates competence and confidence, and does a great job of explaining Christianity. I wish I could send him a Signature in the Cell. We have so much more evidence for intelligent design today, that there is no reason to make those concessions!

The MP3 file is here.

One funny thing occurs when Lewis Wolpert says that he gave up belief in God (as a Jew) when God wouldn’t help him to find his cricket bat. He also says that he has never heard of any evidence for God’s existence, which is odd since he debated Bill Craig.

If you listen to the whole thing, Justin also says that Wolpert will be back to debate William Dembski in January 2010 as part of a series on intelligent design. (Expelled is going to be released in the UK in 2010)

Wolpert’s case:

  • Religious belief exists because it provides an evolutionary advantage
  • There are so many different religions so Christianity cannot be correct
  • There haven’t been enough recent miracles

Cowburn’s case:

  • The kalam cosmological argument
  • The fine-tuning argument
  • The historicity of the resurrection

The full debate is available here at the web site of the church which hosted the debate. I note that it’s a independent evangelical Baptist church and I’m an independent evangelical Baptist, so yay! Just take a look at this church’s web page – it’s filled with debates! Now this is the church I would attend if I lived in London.

Debating the Kalam argument in a YouTube thread

A new reader to the blog read my article on the Kalam cosmological argument, and he decided to try it out on youtube here. He presented the argument PERFECTLY, and then he got some responses. He asked me to comment, so I will below. But I want you guys to comment, too! (UPDATE: Comment in this post – I don’t recommend commenting in YouTube discussions)

Anyway, here’s the page. (I didn’t watch the video)

And here’s his initial presentation of the argument:

1 Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
2 The universe began to exist
3 Therefore, the universe requires a cause

The cause for the universe (time, space, matter, etc) must be something entirely different (outside the realm of time, space, and matter) since a thing cannot be the cause of itself.

Now I’ll reply to his opponents, but you can reply too in the comments, because he’s reading this post, and we should all try to offer him our thoughts. At the end, I recommend some additional resources, all free online, to help everyone understand the details of this fine argument.

Responses to the Kalam argument

Here’s the first reply:

Just because we don’t know the cause yet doesn’t mean it’s not something scientific. I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying it’s possible.

By “scientific”, I am thinking that this challenger is hoping for a material cause, but the problem is that the origin of the universe is the origin of all space and matter – so no “scientific” cause is possible. So it is not possible that the origin of the universe was caused by something “scientific”, because it’s an absolute origin of all matter, and the physical laws that govern matter, as well. Tell him that there is only one kind of non-material entity capable of causing effects and that is a mind.

Here’s another reply:

What if the universe always existed? We don’t know that it has started to exist, we just know that it exists and that it has existed for very long. So it is possible that it has always existed. So that doesn’t prove anything.

I would ask this person why they hate science so much to deny the good data about the measurements of red-shift in light from distant galaxies, the helium-hydrogen abundance measurements, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the second law of thermodynamics, the star formation cycle, etc. As them what is wrong with science, and why must they push their religion (naturalism) on science?

Here’s another reply:

The same principle can apply to god as well, so this argument doesn’t prove or disprove either it is just pointless.

My response is that the cause of the universe causes the beginning of time as well, and so therefore the cause exists necessarily, outside of time. Things that exist outside of time are eternal, they don’t not exist at time t1 and then begin to exist at time t2. The cause of time’s beginning cannot come into being itself, because there is no t1 and t2 before time is created.

Here’s another reply:

uhm .. no, there is no definition of god like that and even if it is it’s invalid, why ? well mostly because apart from a book “The Bible” there is no real proof he existed, no one has seen him and I’ll wager that no one ever will, henceforth you cannot define something that you really know nothing about, something that might not even exist, it’s like saying that bigfoot is a mammal. you can’t prove that either since you haven’t seen it and don’t even know if it exists

Notice that onlinesid produced an argument for the existence of God, and now this guy is bringing in the Bible (red herring), no proof (red herring), why can’t I see God (red herring), no one knows anything about God (red herring and self-refuting), and bigfoot (red herring). This person is clearly brain-damaged and not one of the things he write is worth a response. Note: I am being mean, but you can’t be mean when you reply to him, you have to tell them to stay focused on your argument and deny premise 1 or premise 2.

And here’s another:

You assume that the universe began to exist.

We currently don’t know if it did or not; the present hypothesis is expansion from a single point that is infinitely small.

You also assume that the cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause. You need to account for the cause of the cause, and the cause of that cause, ad infinitum.

And on “God being outside of” reality, then he shouldn’t be able to affect reality in any observable way. God is untestable.

Again, tell him he is a science-hating flat-earther and ask which of the empirical evidences for the Big Bang he denies. We need to get off of his speculations and evasions and ask him to deny a premise or to deny some scientific data. As soon as he does, ask him for peer-reviewed data that refutes the scientific observations. The cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause because it is outside of time and doesn’t begin to exist. The premise is that only things that begin to exist require a cause. Regarding God not being able to cause effects, you should say that God is a mind and causes effects in time subsequent to creation the same way that humans cause effects using their wills on their bodies.

Here’s another:

It’s called the “Big Bang” hypothesis. Even simple Wikipedia will besufficient for an understanding of it. Or videos on Youtube, if you are that lazy and/or ignorant.

The “evidence” for it is background electromagnetic radiation and the appearance that the universe is expanding. Among other things

The “mind” we perceive is the function of electrochemical impulses between our brain cells. We classify it as a “mind”. And as a physical system of reality, it is affected by physical reality..

Again ask him what is his scientific evidence that the universe is eternal, and ask him what is wrong with your scientific evidence showing that it isn’t eternal. You must make him make a claim and supply evidence for his claim. You need to buy a book called “God and the Astronomers” by agnostic Robert Jastrow and read it. It explains all the discoveries that led to the Big Bang, but get the second edition. Also, if he thinks that mind is biologically determined, then you need to explain that biological determinism makes rationality impossible, since all of our outputs are determined by inputs and DNA programming that has the goal of reproducing, not finding truth.

More challenges:

…The beginning of the universe need not be “God”. Could have been made by a pencil. Or could have always been, like a trigonomic function, repeating and diverging into two dimensions.

I think our boy is beginning to wear him down. He now thinks a pencil caused the entire physical universe to appear out of nothing. But the problem is that a pencil is made of matter and cannot have caused the beginning of all matter. But do go on and make him identify what he thinks the cause is. It can’t be in time, it can’t be matter.

More:

And the theist-point-of-view actually can in no way prove God because there are many OTHER ways it could have happened. A pencil could have been the original cause of the big-bang, or it could repeat like a trig function, eternally epanding, collapsing, expanding in another
dimension, etc.

He’s raising the oscillating model, which is falsified theoretically and observationally. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism. Sid, if you still can, try your best in physics class, and take astronomy and physics in university, along with philosophy and logic. It will help you to have more fun in these debates and you’ll know more details.

More:

I did not say that the physical realm is all there is. (Thought there could be two realms, or more.) BUT asuming that an entity exists outside the physical realm and created this universe from that dimension IS illogical.

Ask him for a logical argument that proves that God cannot create matter out of nothing. These assertions need to be backed up with deductive arguments, with premises supported by scientific observations. You can’t just throw around that word “illogical”. It sounds like he is just saying “I don’t like it”. Make sure that you ask him for peer-reviewed papers for anything he says about science, and formal arguments for anything he says is “illogical”.

This time he argues quatum mechanics:

Small particles of matter, at least as I understand it, CAN be “created” from energy. The only real “trouble” is the creation of energy, which “god made it” faces the problem of “what made god?”…

If he wants to argue quantum mechanics, you need to remind him that virtual particles can only appear in a quantum vaccuum, which exists in space. It is not nothing. Also, virtual particles are not as massive as a universe, and those virtual particles only stay in existence for a fraction of a second. So this is not a good analogy for the origin of the entire physical universe.

Further study

You did well, you just need to be meaner in demanding that he bear his share of the burdern of proof. Ask him why you should accept his speculations and assertions, where are his arguments, where is his scientific evidence.

I think that this book would be a good one along with God and the Astronomers, second edition. But read this paper, too, and every William Lane Craig debate you can get your hands on, especially the one with physicist Victor Stenger (video, audio), the follow-up lecture at UC Boulder where Stenger is in the audience, and the second Craig-Dacey debate. When you’re done with that, listen to this lecture and this lecture (I know it’s similar to the first one, but tough!) and this lecture and this lecture. And study more physics if you’re still in school!

God meant for us to enjoy ourselves arguing in his universe. Jesus cured the paralytic to provide evidence for his claims. Similarly, we can use the evidence of nature miracles that science is just now discovering to get the same effect as though we could perform miracles. But we need to understand philosophy and physics down to the details.

MUST-LISTEN: J.P. Moreland lecture on Christianity and science

I found the lectures here at Apologetics 315. These are GOOD. He covers a lot and you’ll get a lot of interesting stuff to think about. This is actually a great lecture – the old J.P. Moreland back in fine form. He’s going over a ton of arguments for theism from science. I’ve counted SIX so far, so this is a really good lecture, and perfect for beginners.

    • The full MP3 audio is here.

      He doesn’t talk about habitability at the galactic, stellar, or planetary level, though.

      I am a little busy mailing out everyone’s gifts today! I apologize for the light blogging. Please go and read just a few chapters of that Dalrymple book that I posted yesterday if you need something to read, or check out these round-ups:

      More from Neil Simpson: Another reason it is hard to stay in the Methodist church

      Neil Simpson is a methodist??? How is that even possible?

      Mailing these gifts will only take a few hours, and then I’m on vacation until January 4th!!! I promise I will write a ton then. I’m also working on an application for the Droid platform, but it’s a secret.

      I’m giving away this stuff to people this year:

      • Unlocking the Mystery of Life DVD
      • Icons of Evolution DVD
      • The Privileged Planet DVD
      • Darwin’s Dilemma DVD
      • Signature in the Cell book
      • The William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate DVD
      • Money, Greed and God book
      • Greer-Heard Forums from 2005 and 2009
      • and other specific things they asked for

      If you guys are giving away apologetics gifts, please write your ideas in the comments. I did gift exchanges with atheists, so now I have atheist books to read! Bleh! I only want to read atheists in debates, because listening to them blab without rebuttal is very annoying.

      How to defend Christian exclusivism from the challenge of religious pluralism

      Recently, I had posted a debate from the Unbelievable radio show, which is broadcast in the UK. The topic of the debate was whether India should pass an anti-conversion law to prevent Christians from trying to convert people to Christianity. Basically, many Hindus in India want Christians to adopt the Hindu notions of polytheism and religious pluralism. They want Christians to accept that Jesus is one incarnation of the divine among many, and they want to outlaw the Christian practice of using speech to convince people to become Christians.

      You can listen to the debate here in my original post.

      But I wanted to highlight another debate that occurred in the comments of this blog, between me and a Hindu reader, who challenged me for being intolerant because I said that Hinduism was false.

      His initial comment is here.

      Guys, all religions teach the same things. Its how each religion is interpreted that makes it different. If you follow any religion persistently, it will lead you to a peaceful and happy life.

      […]If one feels happy following Christian rituals, he may follow Christianity; if he feels happy following Hindu rituals, he is good to a Hindu. It all depends on what makes sense to the person. Enforcing or luring someone to another religion is wrong…It should be a personal choice. And no one should oppose a conversion made by personal choice.

      […]To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.

      […]If one says that other’s God or religion is false, he/she is not tolerating the other’s beliefs. And its immoral. Such things lead to religious conflicts.

      […]I believe in Jesus and so in my religion which is Hinduism.

      […]Why convert when a human being’s main aim is to be happy? Every religion has scriptures that tell how to become happy and attain heaven/liberation.

      […]Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.

      And I replied:

      Our view as Christians is that the purpose of religion is not to live a happy life and to be “good”. Our view is that we want to believe what is true and to know God as God really is. We believe that God is a person, with a real personality – likes and dislikes.

      What you’re proposing is a Hindu approach to religion, except with Christian symbols and rituals. But Christians don’t care about symbols and rituals much. We are more interested in history, science and propositional logic. We treat religion like… any other area of knowledge. First we discover the truth, then we act on it.

      Additionally, you have a Hindu approach to conversion, and you are trying to force that on Christians. You can keep your Hindu approach to yourself, and tolerate the fact that we have a different approach to conversion.

      […]You’re not in a position to know what Christianity teaches, or what Jesus believes, since you haven’t looked into these things at all. You know Hinduism. And you are projecting Hinduism onto other religions. But Hinduism is totally different than Christianity. They conflict in many areas, like cosmology and history. We believe that the universe had a beginning, you think it’s eternal. And science can arbitrate that claim. We are willing to change our beliefs to be in line with what we can test in the external world, using the laws of logic, and the study of science and history.

      […]You write “To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.”, yet you think that Christianity is false, and not real. But I am actually not offended by that at all. You are welcome to think I am wrong. I don’t mind, this is the way that the game plays. Only one of us can be right, and if you were right, I would have to switch over to your view and that would be fine with me.

      […]You write “Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.” No that’s your view. You identify Hindusim with India and patriotism and your people and culture. I don’t identify Christianity with anything except truth. I like it because it’s true. And that the only reason I like it.

      […]When I say that Hinduism is false, I am not “talking bad about your religion” any more than I am talking bad about the view that 2 + 2 = 5, when I say that 2 + 2 = 4. It’s not talking bad about an idea to say it is false.

      And then he replied:

      Do you believe that people who worship idols are devilish or all religions except Christianity are false? If yes then explain me with proper scientific reasoning and provide me a proof in the recent decades that logically explains the above two statements. You need to prove me that what you believe is experimented by scientists and proven by technology.

      […]I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One. For me and this generation of educated Indians, we believe in tolerance and respect for all religions. We believe in co-operating with each other and not pointing flaws in others beliefs until its proven scientifically and attested by scientific authority. And we believe that people’s belief be respected!

      Then I replied:

      The current best theory of the origin of the universe is called the big bang theory. It states that all the matter, energy, as well as time and space and time, came into being from nothing. It is backed by experimental data from red-shift measurements, cosmic microwave background radiation measurements, and light element abundance measurements, etc. The theory states that the universe began 14.7 billion years ago. Additionally, the universe will not recollapse because measurements of mass density from Maxima and Boomerang show that the universe will expand forever.

      The big 3 monotheistic religions agree with the universe coming into being from nothing. Unfortunately, other religions think that the universe is eternal, such as Mormonism and Hinduism. On that basis, I reject Hinduism, which requires that the universe be eternal.

      “I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One.” That view (pantheism/polytheism) is called Hinduism. You are a Hindu. Christianity (monotheism) is mutually exclusive with Hinduism, because the teachings are in conflict, (as with the example of cosmology). As a Hindu, you therefore think that Christianity is false. On your definition, you don’t “tolerate” Christianity – you think it’s false. You don’t “respect” Christianity, because you want to force your view (Hinduism) and your view of conversion (don’t tell other people their religion is false) on Christians.

      […]Note: I am ok with you saying that I am wrong and that Christianity is false.

      And then we sort of wound things down from there.

      Anyway, the point of this exchange is most people in most religions think that the point of religion is to be happy, to have a sense of community and to get along with everyone by never talking about whether religious claims about the external world are true or false. But that view of the purpose of religion is not the Christian view. On the Christian view, the goal is to seek the truth. And part of Christian practice is to defend Christianity in public, and trying to convince other people that Christianity is true.

      So, I think that Christians need to be a bit tougher, and recognize when someone who is not a Christian is trying to get them to accept that the purpose of religion is not to seek the truth. That’s their view. That’s not our view. It doesn’t make any sense for someone to say that I am evil for thinking they are wrong, when they are thinking that I am wrong. I think a better way forward is to allow other people to disagree with you, but to keep the disagreement focused on arguments and evidence.

      And just because you disagree with someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to be mean to them. In my office, I am friends with Hindus, Muslims, atheists and Jews. We try to outdo one another in good deeds to make our religions look good! And when we debate which religion is true, we use arguments and evidence to attack and defend. What I’ve found is that you get a much stronger friendship when you are comfortable being yourself. I keep telling my co-workers – it’s OK to disagree.

      Related posts

      Mentoring

      Apologetics advocacy

      Does God exist? Is there any scientific evidence to prove that God exists?

      Since I haven’t talked about science in a while, I thought that now would be a good time to list some of the more common arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe and/or intelligent life. I like to use arguments drawn from mainstream science that do not assume the Bible or inerrancy or anything specifically religious. The arguments below all show that the reality we live in exhibits effects in nature that are not explained by particles in motion, chance and the operation of natural laws.

      First, here’s the list of a few of the better-known arguments:

      The average knuckle-dragging atheist will not be familiar with any of these arguments, will have never seen them used in academic debates, and will not even click through to read about them. That’s atheism these days – it’s non-cognitive. Atheism is all about escaping from moral values and moral obligations, which are not even rationally grounded by atheism.

      The point of being familiar with these arguments is to show that religion and science are virtually identical. Both are trying to explain the external world. Both are bound by the laws of logic. Both use evidence to verify and falsify claims. For example, the discovery of the origin of the universe falsifies Hinduism, Buddhism and Mormonism, but it leaves Christianity, Islam and Judaism unscathed. All religions make truth claims and those claims can be tested against what science tells us about the world.

      What is the significance of scientific progress for Christians?

      Some general points to know when presenting these arguments.

      1. You need to emphasize that atheism is in full flight away from the progress of science. Each of these arguments has gotten stronger as the evidence grew and grew. For example, scientists had to be forced to turn away from the eternal universe as new discoveries arrived, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation measurements. Scientists had to turn away from the view that the cosmological constants are nothing special, as more and more fine-tuned quantities were discovered.

      2. Christians need to pay attention in school and score top grades in mathematics and experimental sciences. Science is God-friendly, and we need to have Christians doing cutting edge research in the best labs at the universities. Think of the work done by Doug Axe at Cambridge University in which he was able to publish research showing that very few sequences of amino acids have biological function, so getting functional sequences at random is virtually impossible. One of Doug’s papers is here. We need more people like him.

      3. Each of these arguments needs to be studied in the context of polemics and debates. The best way to present each of these arguments is by presenting them as a struggle against opposing forces. For example, when talking about the big bang, emphasize how atheists kept trying to come up with eternal universe speculations. When talking about the fine-tuning, talk about the unobservable multiverse. When talking about irreducible complexity, talk about the co-option fallacy. Don’t preach – teach the controversy.

      4. Don’t make lazy excuses about how scientific evidence doesn’t persuade non-Christians. Science is absolutely the core of any argument for Christianity, along with the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Christianity is about knowledge. Christians who refuse to subject their faith to science are probably just trying to make sure that Christianity isn’t so true that it dictates how they should live. They like the uncertainty of blind faith, because it preserves their autonomy to disregard Christian moral teachings when it suits them.

      5. The purpose of linking your Christian faith to scientific arguments is to demonstrate to non-Christians that Christianity is real. It is not a personal preference. It is not something you grew up with. It is not something you inherited from your parents. When you link your Christian faith with scientific facts in the external world, you are declaring to non-Christians that Christianity is testable and binding on everyone who shares the objective reality we live in. You can’t expect people to act Christianly without showing that Christianity is objectively true.

      6. Scientific arguments are tremendously useful even for believing Christians, because sometimes it is difficult to act in a Christian way when your emotions are telling you not to. When your feelings make it hard for you to behave Christianly, that is when scientific evidence can come into play in order to rationally justify acts of self-denial and self-sacrifice. For example, scientific evidence for the existence of God is a helpful counterbalance to the problem of apparently gratuitous evil, which often discourages Christians.

      My complete index of arguments for and against Christian theism is here.

      UPDATE: I notice that in the popular culture, people are not really aware of these arguments, and are still arguing for religious faith based on pragmatism and personal experience, not on evidence. Using reason and evidence is much better, and it’s what the Bible teaches, too.