Tag Archives: Testable

George Ellis and Joe Silk attack untestable cosmological theories in Nature

I found this Evolution News post about it, thanks to a J. Warner Wallace tweet. The article they linked is by two well-known cosmologists.

EN writes:

Here’s what George Ellis and Joe Silk say in Nature (“Scientific Method: Defend the Integrity of Physics”):

This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue — explicitly — that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical. We disagree. As the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued: a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific. (Emphasis added.)

In particular, they chide the string theorists, multiverse advocates, inflation theorists, and purveyors of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Their concern is that the requirement for testability is being relaxed for junky theories.

Whether Ellis and Silk’s definitions of science and the scientific method are adequate is beside the point (the definition of science is a vexed question, testability is vague, and falsifiability has its flaws). What worries them is something else:

The issue of testability has been lurking for a decade. String theory and multiverse theory have been criticized in popular books and articles, including some by one of us (G.E.). In March, theorist Paul Steinhardt wrote in this journal that the theory of inflationary cosmology is no longer scientific because it is so flexible that it can accommodate any observational result. Theorist and philosopher Richard Dawid and cosmologist Sean Carroll have countered those criticisms with a philosophical case to weaken the testability requirement for fundamental physics.

Interesting that Sean Carroll, a naturalist who proposes naturalistic alternatives to the standard (theism-friendly) cosmology model (creation out of nothing), wants to weaken the testability requirement. Why do you think that is? Well, if we go by which model is testable, rather than which model is acceptable to that old-time naturalistic religion, then then the standard model (creation out of nothing) wins. That’s because we have experimental evidence for the standard model, (light element abundances, cosmic microwave background radiation, second law of thermodynamics, etc.) Carroll’s model is falsified by observations (e.g. – humans exist, not Boltzmann brains), and that’s why why he weakens the criterion of testability. If testability is what makes science, then he’s really just engaged in creative writing.

And about the multiverse in particular:

Look what they say about multiverse theory:

The multiverse is motivated by a puzzle: why fundamental constants of nature, such as the fine-structure constant that characterizes the strength of electromagnetic interactions between particles and the cosmological constant associated with the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, have values that lie in the small range that allows life to exist. Multiverse theory claims that there are billions of unobservable sister universes out there in which all possible values of these constants can occur. So somewhere there will be a bio-friendly universe like ours, however improbable that is.

That sounds like a lead-up to The Privileged Planet, or to Privileged Species. Ellis and Silk go on to describe how one of the constants, the cosmological constant, is 120 orders of magnitude off from the predicted theoretical value. So are they ready to consider scientific theories that embrace this evidence, like intelligent design? No, but one thing they do know: multiverse theory is not scientific.

Billions of universes — and of galaxies and copies of each of us — accumulate with no possibility of communication between them or of testing their reality. But if a duplicate self exists in every multiverse domain and there are infinitely many, which is the real ‘me’ that I experience now? Is any version of oneself preferred over any other? How could ‘I’ ever know what the ‘true’ nature of reality is if one self favours the multiverse and another does not?

That’s a logical statement, not an observational one. By this, we see that they are not against using logical inference to eliminate unworthy theories. Isn’t that what Meyer does in his books, using “inference to the best explanation”? Isn’t that what Dembski does to eliminate the chance hypothesis?

In the end, Ellis and Silk never explain cosmic fine-tuning. They just preach that science needs to stick to the old-time religion: respect for observable, testable evidence.

The article by Ellis and Silk takes a lot of shots at fundamentalist religion, but at least we fundamentalists are OK with following testable science wherever it goes. Unlike naturalists.

The kalam cosmological argument explained in a 4-minute video

Here’s the 4-minute video that I would like everyone to tweet and share on Facebook:

It does go over the scientific evidence that has emerged recently that caused scientists to accept the beginning of the universe.

Here’s a re-cap of the three main evidences for the Big Bang cosmology from Caltech.

Excerpt:

What is the Big Bang?

According to the big bang theory, the universe began by expanding from an infinitesimal volume with extremely high density and temperature. The universe was initially significantly smaller than even a pore on your skin. With the big bang, the fabric of space itself began expanding like the surface of an inflating balloon – matter simply rode along the stretching space like dust on the balloon’s surface. The big bang is not like an explosion of matter in otherwise empty space; rather, space itself began with the big bang and carried matter with it as it expanded. Physicists think that even time began with the big bang. Today, just about every scientist believes in the big bang model. The evidence is overwhelming enough that in 1951, the Catholic Church officially pronounced the big bang model to be in accordance with the Bible.

Until the early 1900s, most people had assumed that the universe was fixed in size. New possibilities opened up in 1915, when Einstein formulated his famous general relativity theorythat describes the nature of space, time, and gravity. This theory allows for expansion or contraction of the fabric of space. In 1917, astronomer Willem de Sitter applied this theory to the entire universe and boldly went on to show that the universe could be expanding. Aleksandr Friedmann, a mathematician, reached the same conclusion in a more general way in 1922, as did Georges Lemaître, a cosmologist and a Jesuit, in 1927. This step was revolutionary since the accepted view at the time was that the universe was static in size. Tracing back this expanding universe, Lemaître imagined all matter initially contained in a tiny universe and then exploding. These thoughts introduced amazing new possibilities for the universe, but were independent of observation at that time.

Why Do We Think the Big Bang Happened?

Three main observational results over the past century led astronomers to become certain that the universe began with the big bang. First, they found out that the universe is expanding—meaning that the separations between galaxies are becoming larger and larger. This led them to deduce that everything used to be extremely close together before some kind of explosion. Second, the big bang perfectly explains the abundance of helium and other nuclei like deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) in the universe. A hot, dense, and expanding environment at the beginning could produce these nuclei in the abundance we observe today. Third, astronomers could actually observe the cosmic background radiation—the afterglow of the explosion—from every direction in the universe. This last evidence so conclusively confirmed the theory of the universe’s beginning that Stephen Hawking said, “It is the discovery of the century, if not of all time.”

The article goes into detail about each of these three evidences.

The Big Bang is not compatible with atheism

According to the Secular Humanist Manifesto, atheism is committed to an eternally existing universe, (See the first item: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”). If something non-material brought all existing matter into being, that would be a supernatural cause, and atheists deny that anything supernatural exists. The standard Big Bang theory requires that all the matter in the universe come into being out of nothing. This falsifies eternal models of the universe, which are required by atheist Scriptures.

This is a bad time to be an atheist, given the state of science. It was easier to be an atheist before we made these scientific discoveries, but given the progress of science it’s not rational to be an atheist anymore.

 

 

Do British humanists want to debate their opponents or silence them?

Now, you might remember that British humanists Polly Toynbee, A.C. Grayling and Richard Dawkins soiled their knickers at the thought of debating Christian philosopher William Lane Craig.

Here’s the press release from BeThinking, in case you didn’t hear about it:

The President of the British Humanist Association has pulled out of debating renowned Christian philosopher William Lane Craig.Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and prominent critic of religion, readily agreed in April to debate Craig on the Existence of God but withdrew her involvement last week saying “I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and having now looked at his previous performances, this is not my kind of forum”.

The event, hosted by Premier Christian Radio and due to take place at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, has already been advertised and hundreds of pounds of ticket sales banked. Toynbee apologised for the “inconvenience”. Organisers will be contacting ticket holders, but are hoping to find an alternative leading atheist voice for the debate [see note below], who is willing to dispute the strong rational grounds for Christian theism that Professor Craig is renowned for defending.

[…]Richard Dawkins recently described Craig as a“deeply unimpressive … ponderous buffoon”, who uses logic for “bamboozling his faith-head audience.” Yet he still has not responded to the actual content of the arguments presented by Craig. Dawkins’ refusal to debate one-to-one with Craig was recently described as “apt to be interpreted as cowardice” by Dr Daniel Came, a lecturer in Philosophy at Oxford University. Dr Came, who is himself an atheist, called it “a glaring omission” on Dawkins’ CV.

While Toynbee is President of the British Humanist Association, Dawkins and Grayling are both Vice-Presidents. The BHA describes one of its core values as “engaging in debate rationally, intelligently and with attention to evidence”.

So British humanists say they are interested in debate, but they run away from debates. But it’s worse than that – they don’t want anyone else to be debating whether humanism is true or false, either!

From Access Research Network. (H/T Mary)

Excerpt:

This week has seen the launch of a new website, with the title: “Teach evolution, not creationism!” registered by the British Humanist Association. The issue relates to education and the way the subject of origins is handled. The organisations in the campaign are the British Humanist Association, the Association for Science Education, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science & Engineering and Ekklesia. There are 30 individual signatories and most publicity has been given to Sir David Attenborough. The Daily Telegraph‘s report said that “The naturalist joined three Nobel laureates, the atheist Richard Dawkins and other leading scientists in calling on the government to tackle the “threat” of creationism.” What they want is “enforceable statutory guidance” that will allow legal sanctions to be taken if any publicly-funded school allows creationism or intelligent design to be presented as science.

[…]At this point, most normal people will wonder what all this fuss is about. Why this campaign – when the two prime examples are compatible with government guidelines? Why the apoplectic comments about “threats” and why are they insisting that teaching “that God created the world is dangerous and must be prevented by law”? To explain this, it is necessary to see the relevance of their demarcation arguments. They deem it vital to show that creationism and ID are delusions that belong outside science. They are not prepared to contemplate a situation where scientific arguments are used to falsify the evolution of molecules to man. Yet this is what they are faced with: arguments about information that allow design inferences to be made (as here and here); arguments about the fossil record that falsify gradualism (as here and here); arguments based on exquisite design rather than ‘tinkering’ design (as here and here), and so on.

The only way such discussions can be excluded from science is to redefine science. This is exactly what the humanists/atheists are seeking to do. This means that they are re-framing science so it fits their philosophical preconceptions. This results in them wanting to trample all over the academic freedom of people (teachers, parents, students, scientists) who do not share their philosophical stance. The ID community has drawn attention to these issues repeatedly, as in this past ARN blog. Here is a recent example from Dr Alastair Noble, Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design, UK.

“You might rule out an explanation which invokes intelligent mind because it does not fit within the ideological naturalism which is invading science. In that case you’re no longer doing science, but have adopted an overarching philosophy of nature into which you then try to fit the data – a faith position in effect. [. . .] If the science of origins cannot be debated freely, in schools or anywhere else, then it’s not creeping creationism we should be concerned about, but galloping intolerance.”

There’s much more that needs to be said. What is needed though is a wider debate. Until parents, educators and scientists generally see the practical importance of these issues, we face the prospect of a small elite group imposing its will on the majority by influencing policy-makers, journal editors and science organisations. We need academic freedom in schools, colleges and universities, but unless we stand against the thought-police, we have only ourselves to blame when we lose it.

So what’s really going on here?

Here’s what’s going on. When Christians stand up to defend God’s existence, we use reliable science, like the Big Bang theory and the fine-tuning argument and the origin of life and the Cambrian explosion and the habitability arguments (galactic, stellar and planetary). Atheists don’t use science to debate, they instead use the power of the police to stifle criticism of their view. Their worldview is built on a religious presupposition which cannot be proved: naturalism. Naturalism is the view that the natural world is not, in all areas, ever the product of a creative intelligence.

Is the religion of naturalism compatible with science?

According to the Secular Humanist Manifesto, atheism is committed to an eternally existing universe, (See the first item: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”). If something non-material brought all existing matter into being, that would be a supernatural cause, and atheists deny that anything supernatural exists. The standard Big Bang theory requires that all the matter in the universe come into being out of nothing. The Big Bang has been confirmed by experimental evidence such as redshift measurements, light element abundances and the cosmic microwave background radiation. This falsifies eternal models of the universe, which are required by atheist Scriptures.

So it’s really no surprise that the High Priests of atheism like Toynbee, Dawkins and Grayling want to run away from debates where science will be used by their opponents – they hate science. It falsifies their religion of naturalism.

Ground Zero: Why truth matters for preventing another 9/11-style attack

Philosopher Michael J. Murray wrote an interesting research paper that I think is relevant to the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center by Islamic terrorists. The title of the paper is “Who’s Afraid of Religion?”, and he begins by discussing why it is that people are so hesitant to talk about religion.

He writes:

…we would be perfectly happy to have a discussion of claims like…”Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first century BCE with the appearance of the Mahayana sutras.” … It is OK to speak of religion… as a historical phenomenon or a socio-cultural influence. It is something altogether different to discuss religious commitments that one owns. That is the sort of religion that troubles us.

And:

…think about the last time you heard a devoutly religious person argue, on explicitly religious grounds, that gay marriage should be banned, or that intelligent design should be taught in the public school biology curriculum, or that abortion is murder and thus should be outlawed.

Why are religious commitments difficult to discuss? Well, I think most people think that religious convictions, no matter what the religion, are not rooted in logic or evidence. That’s the perception of religion that many people have. Even religious people have this idea that religion, no matter which religion it is, is not really something that people have arrived at by a careful process of investigation and study. Many people believe that religions are just stories that religious people grow up with and they “believe” those stories in order to get along with the families or their cultures.

The problem is that people often act in public on the basis of these religious convictions. Sometimes, they just vote in laws and policies that we all have to live by. But other times, they take over airplanes loaded with innocent people and fly them into buildings. What are we supposed to do when people act on convictions that are not rooted in logic or evidence? How should we respond to that?

So what’s the answer?

In his paper, Murray  argues that the evil actions of people acting on religion can be opposed by falsifying the underlying religion using reason and evidence. He points out that refuting of a religion is possible because religions all make testable claims. So, if we are afraid of the excesses of a dangerous religion, they we should argue that its testable claims are false.There is no reason to be afraid of expressions of religious belief when you are free to argue against the testable truth claims of that religion

Here are just a couple different claims made by different religions that can be opposed using widely-accepted facts:

  • Hinduism is committed to an eternally oscillating model of the universe, but this model has been falsified by the measurements from 1998 that showed that the mass-density of the universe was not sufficient to halt the expansion of the universe. That means the universe will expand forever, and there are no cycles of creation and destruction, as required by Hinduism.
  • According to the Secular Humanist Manifesto, atheism is committed to an eternally existing universe, (See the first item: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”). If something non-material brought all existing matter into being, that would be a supernatural cause, and atheists deny that anything supernatural exists. However,  eternal models of the universe have been falsified by the Big Bang cosmology, which requires that all the matter in the universe come into being out of nothing. The Big Bang has been confirmed by experimental evidence such as redshift measurements, light element abundances and the cosmic microwave background radiation.

So it’s quite easy to argue against an entire world religions like Hinduism and Atheism simply by using universally accepted facts.

How is it relevant to the 9/11 tragedy?

On the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, it might be a good idea for us to consider whether there is any similar evidence, accepted by virtually everyone, that falsifies Islam – the religion that motivated the 9/11 terrorists.

And it turns out that there is. The Islamic Scriptures contain the following verse that Muslims must accept in order to be Muslims.

Surah 4:157 from Quran.com:

And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.

They think that Jesus didn’t actually die – that he was never crucified by the Romans.

Now the interesting thing about this is that there is no non-Muslim historian who believes that Surah 4:157 is true. The crucifixion of Jesus is a fact that is acknowledged by atheist historians, Jewish historians, Christian historians, Buddhist historians, Hindu historians, and every other non-Muslim historian who has ever existed. There is not one shred of evidence that the Quran’s view, which is recorded hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, should supercede the attestation of Jesus’ death found in earlier Christian and non-Christian sources.

Eminent secular scholar E.P. Sanders of Duke University lists the facts about Jesus that the broad consensus of historians consider to be almost indisputable.

In his book, “Jesus and Judaism” (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985)., he lists the following almost indisputable facts about Jesus on p. 11:

1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.

3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve.

4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel.

5. Jesus engaged in a controversy about the temple.

6. Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem by the Roman authorities.

7. After his death Jesus’ followers continued as an identifiable movement.

8. At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement . . . .

That book won the annual Grawemeyer Award in 1990 – a prize given to the best book in religion published that year.

The death of Jesus is corroborated in every source inside the Bible and outside the Bible, up until the Quran is written about 600 years after the death/non-death is supposed to have taken place.

Watch it disputed in debates

The best way to assess this testable claim made by Islam is by seeing how well Muslim scholars can defend this claim in formal, academic debates with non-Muslim scholars.

Here is a debate on the question “Was Jesus crucified?”:

And here’s a debate on the resurrection of Jesus featuring a Muslim scholar, which has a substantial discussion of the crucifixion:

So it turns out that there is a way for us to make sure that another terrorist attack like 9/11 never happens, quite apart from national security or foreign policy concerns. And the way that we do that is by arguing against religions and ideologies like Islam that can cause harm, using logic and evidence. There is no reason to treat religious ideologies- and non-religious ideologies – as being somehow above inquiry and investigation.

Why do atheists believe in unobservable entities and weird things?

Consider this summary of an article in Nature written by George Ellis, a famous cosmologist based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Excerpt:

Multiverse thinking or the belief in the existence of parallel universes is more philosophy or science fiction than science. ”Cosmology must seem odd to scientists in other fields”.

George Ellis, a well-known mathematician and cosmologist, who for instance has written a book with Stephen Hawking, is sceptical of the idea that our universe is just another universe among many others.

A few weeks ago, Ellis, professor emeritus of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, reviewed Brian Greene’s book The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (Knopf/Allen Lane, 2011) in the journal Nature. He is not at all convinced that the multiverse hypothesis is credible: ”Greene is not presenting aspects of a known reality; he is telling of unproven theoretical possibilities.”

According to professor Ellis, there is no evidence of multiverses, they cannot be tested and they are not science.

Ellis is not the only multiverse sceptic in this universe. A few months ago, science writer John Horgan wrote a column in Scientific American, expressing his doubt in multiverses.

Multiverse thinking is basically an atheistic attempt to solve some huge problems with the big bang and explain why the universe could have been formed without a design or a Designer.

Now how do the theorteical physicists respond to this?

Here’s an article from Scientific American responding to Ellis. (H/T Uncommon Descent)

Excerpt:

This picture of the universe, or multiverse, as it is called, explains the long-standing mystery of why the constants of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the emergence of life. The reason is that intelligent observers exist only in those rare bubbles in which, by pure chance, the constants happen to be just right for life to evolve. The rest of the multiverse remains barren, but no one is there to complain about that.

Some of my physicist colleagues find the multiverse theory alarming. Any theory in physics stands or falls depending on whether its predictions agree with the data. But how can we verify the existence of other bubble universes? Paul Steinhardt and George Ellis have argued, for example, that the multiverse theory is unscientific, because it cannot be tested, even in principle.

[…]Our universe appears surprisingly fine-tuned for life in the sense that if you tweaked many of our constants of nature by just a tiny amount, life as we know it would be impossible. Why? If there’s a Level II multiverse where these “constants” take all possible values, it’s not surprising that we find ourselves in one of the rare universes that are inhabitable, just like it’s not surprising that we find ourselves living on Earth rather than Mercury or Neptune.

[…]George argues that if we take seriously that anything that could happen does happen, we’re led down a slippery slope toward even larger multiverses, like the Level IV one. Since this is my favorite multiverse level, and I’m one of the very few proponents of it, this is a slope that I’m happy to slide down!

Is the multiverse theory a good response to the fine-tuning argument? It seems to me that the fine-tuning rests on solid experimental evidence, while the multiverse rests on what-if speculations about unobservable entities.