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.