Those multiple universes

The respectable Scientific American has an article on multiple universes, also known as the Multiverse:

Several physicists have argued that a slight change to one of the laws of physics would cause some disaster that would disrupt the normal evolution of the universe and make our existence impossible. For example, if the strong nuclear force that binds together atomic nuclei had been slightly stronger or weaker, stars would have forged very little of the carbon and other elements that seem necessary to form planets, let alone life. If the proton were just 0.2 percent heavier than it is, all primordial hydrogen would have decayed almost immediately into neutrons, and no atoms would have formed. The list goes on.

The laws of physics—and in particular the constants of nature that enter into those laws, such as the strengths of the fundamental forces—might therefore seem finely tuned to make our existence possible. Short of invoking a supernatural explanation, which would be by definition outside the scope of science, a number of physicists and cosmologists began in the 1970s to try solving the puzzle by hypothesizing that our universe is just one of many existing universes, each with its own laws. According to this “anthropic” reasoning, we might just occupy the rare universe where the right conditions happen to have come together to make life possible.

Amazingly, the prevailing theory in modern cosmology, which emerged in the 1980s, suggests that such “parallel universes” may really exist—in fact, that a multitude of universes would incessantly pop out of a primordial vacuum the way ours did in the big bang. Our universe would be but one of many pocket universes within a wider expanse called the multiverse. In the overwhelming majority of those universes, the laws of physics might not allow the formation of matter as we know it or of galaxies, stars, planets and life. But given the sheer number of possibilities, nature would have had a good chance to get the “right” set of laws at least once.

Our recent studies, however, suggest that some of these other universes—assuming they exist—may not be so inhospitable after all. Remarkably, we have found examples of alternative values of the fundamental constants, and thus of alternative sets of physical laws, that might still lead to very interesting worlds and perhaps to life. The basic idea is to change one aspect of the laws of nature and then make compensatory changes to other aspects.

The article goes on to do that and to speculate on the kinds of universes they might create. But notice what is going on here. Supernatural explanations are ruled out “by definition.” And rather than so much as contemplate the existence of God, scientists find it more plausible to believe in lots of different universes, the arguments for which are based on philosophical theory, as far as I can tell, rather than evidence. And notice the fallacy in the notion that if the number of universes approaches infinity, the chances are that one of them would be finely-tuned for life. (No, monkeys typing for a long enough time period would NOT produce the works of Shakespeare. No, Nietzsche’s contention that since time is infinite eventually the same constellation of molecules will come together to create our consciousness again after we die will NOT work.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    It is amazing how the editors of Scientific American (which I have read regularly for over 30 years) can blast the intelligent design community on the one hand, and then turn around and give regular space to the multiverse advocates. The whole idea of a multiverse is exceedingly speculative and beyond our ability to verify, so it is clearly on the fringe of what we ordinarily consider to be science.

    And it doesn’t solve their “God problem.” Multiverse theory still doesn’t explain why there is something rather than nothing, nor does it explain where the greater laws came from that spawned the laws that operate in the universe we live in. Rather than solving any philosophical problems, they have merely put them back one step.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    It is amazing how the editors of Scientific American (which I have read regularly for over 30 years) can blast the intelligent design community on the one hand, and then turn around and give regular space to the multiverse advocates. The whole idea of a multiverse is exceedingly speculative and beyond our ability to verify, so it is clearly on the fringe of what we ordinarily consider to be science.

    And it doesn’t solve their “God problem.” Multiverse theory still doesn’t explain why there is something rather than nothing, nor does it explain where the greater laws came from that spawned the laws that operate in the universe we live in. Rather than solving any philosophical problems, they have merely put them back one step.

  • Paul

    Would not a “perfect” creation be limitless — appearing to be infinite in every direction? In the end, it’s all “a chasing after the wind,” in my opinion.

  • Paul

    Would not a “perfect” creation be limitless — appearing to be infinite in every direction? In the end, it’s all “a chasing after the wind,” in my opinion.

  • Jonathan

    Oh, the lengths these poor souls will go to try to escape God and his judgment!

    “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths of Sheol, you are there…” [Ps. 139]

    If I dream up a “multiverse” you are there too.

  • Jonathan

    Oh, the lengths these poor souls will go to try to escape God and his judgment!

    “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths of Sheol, you are there…” [Ps. 139]

    If I dream up a “multiverse” you are there too.

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  • Carl Vehse

    The concept of a multiverse was discussed in the November 10, 2008, Cranach blog, “Adler’s proof of the existence of God” and in the November 12, 2008, Cranach blog, “The updated teleological argument for God’s existence”.

    Physicist Paul Davies (1946- ) has commented that the multiverse idea was “cheap on assumptions, but expensive on universes.”

    It’s also good for speculative articles in Scientific American.

  • Carl Vehse

    The concept of a multiverse was discussed in the November 10, 2008, Cranach blog, “Adler’s proof of the existence of God” and in the November 12, 2008, Cranach blog, “The updated teleological argument for God’s existence”.

    Physicist Paul Davies (1946- ) has commented that the multiverse idea was “cheap on assumptions, but expensive on universes.”

    It’s also good for speculative articles in Scientific American.

  • WebMonk

    To be precise, Dr. Veith, they didn’t rule out supernatural creation, but rather stated that it was outside of what science could investigate.

    “Short of invoking a supernatural explanation, which would be by definition outside the scope of science, ….”

    They’re right. Saying that a supernatural event caused something is completely outside of what sciences can investigate. A scientific investigation can say that no known forces could have caused something, but it can’t say that the supernatural caused something. The best that scientific investigation can do is say that the evidence points toward a supernatural cause rather than a natural cause. A scientific investigation CAN’T say that something supernatural caused something, because there’s no way in which science can interact with the supernatural.

    This is one of those articles that they seem to recycle every couple of issues. It’s been said many times and many ways for over 20 years, and there hasn’t been anything new said in these articles for 19 years.

    It makes for an article in which just about any sort of speculation can be floated without needing to resort to anything that is proven (or possibly even provable). They keep recycling it because it’s easy to write and is always good for lots of wild speculation to fill up column inches when needed.

  • WebMonk

    To be precise, Dr. Veith, they didn’t rule out supernatural creation, but rather stated that it was outside of what science could investigate.

    “Short of invoking a supernatural explanation, which would be by definition outside the scope of science, ….”

    They’re right. Saying that a supernatural event caused something is completely outside of what sciences can investigate. A scientific investigation can say that no known forces could have caused something, but it can’t say that the supernatural caused something. The best that scientific investigation can do is say that the evidence points toward a supernatural cause rather than a natural cause. A scientific investigation CAN’T say that something supernatural caused something, because there’s no way in which science can interact with the supernatural.

    This is one of those articles that they seem to recycle every couple of issues. It’s been said many times and many ways for over 20 years, and there hasn’t been anything new said in these articles for 19 years.

    It makes for an article in which just about any sort of speculation can be floated without needing to resort to anything that is proven (or possibly even provable). They keep recycling it because it’s easy to write and is always good for lots of wild speculation to fill up column inches when needed.

  • WebMonk

    Paul, that’s one of those things that gets sort of tricky to nail down.

    What are the concrete specifics of a “very good” Creation? I don’t think the Bible ever invokes the concept of “perfect” when talking about the Creation, but it does at least use “good” and “very good”.

    Regardless, interpretations of what those terms mean in concrete physical details is pretty heavily speculative.

    I’ve heard people say that there wasn’t a Second Law of Thermodynamics in the pre-Fall world, because that is a “running down” of things and not “very good” as the Bible describes. (Never mind the fact there wouldn’t be any nuclear fusion for the sun, sound, friction, digestion, growth, movement, etc without that “running down”.)

    Like you said, nailing down the specifics can be a lot like chasing the wind.

  • WebMonk

    Paul, that’s one of those things that gets sort of tricky to nail down.

    What are the concrete specifics of a “very good” Creation? I don’t think the Bible ever invokes the concept of “perfect” when talking about the Creation, but it does at least use “good” and “very good”.

    Regardless, interpretations of what those terms mean in concrete physical details is pretty heavily speculative.

    I’ve heard people say that there wasn’t a Second Law of Thermodynamics in the pre-Fall world, because that is a “running down” of things and not “very good” as the Bible describes. (Never mind the fact there wouldn’t be any nuclear fusion for the sun, sound, friction, digestion, growth, movement, etc without that “running down”.)

    Like you said, nailing down the specifics can be a lot like chasing the wind.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I have tried to get my head around this concept so many times. But it seems to me that scientists don’t know Latin anymore. Otherwise they might have put the pocket verses in the universe. And not called our pocket the universe, and the universe a Multiverse.
    The idea that the world and time are infinite is a huge assumption, and I’m not sure that it can be tested either. Philosophically it gets a bit challenging to. Aristotle resorted to the unmoved mover for a reason.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I have tried to get my head around this concept so many times. But it seems to me that scientists don’t know Latin anymore. Otherwise they might have put the pocket verses in the universe. And not called our pocket the universe, and the universe a Multiverse.
    The idea that the world and time are infinite is a huge assumption, and I’m not sure that it can be tested either. Philosophically it gets a bit challenging to. Aristotle resorted to the unmoved mover for a reason.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    WebMonk @ 6,

    you wrote:

    “They’re right. Saying that a supernatural event caused something is completely outside of what sciences can investigate. A scientific investigation can say that no known forces could have caused something, but it can’t say that the supernatural caused something. ”

    If this is the case, then science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes. The origin of life, the universe, etc certainly falls under this category. If one is committed to finding a naturalistic explanation, it is inevitable that they will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes — not to simply say “no known causes” and leave it at that.

    you also wrote:

    “The best that scientific investigation can do is say that the evidence points toward a supernatural cause rather than a natural cause. A scientific investigation CAN’T say that something supernatural caused something, because there’s no way in which science can interact with the supernatural.”

    If you are correct in science being unable to investigate supernatural causes or interact with the supernatural, then science cannot, in fact, do any such thing. Evaluating evidence in such a way would require interaction with a supernatural. It would HAVE to either say “I don’t know” (which is only a temporary answer) or come up with a naturalistic explanation.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    WebMonk @ 6,

    you wrote:

    “They’re right. Saying that a supernatural event caused something is completely outside of what sciences can investigate. A scientific investigation can say that no known forces could have caused something, but it can’t say that the supernatural caused something. ”

    If this is the case, then science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes. The origin of life, the universe, etc certainly falls under this category. If one is committed to finding a naturalistic explanation, it is inevitable that they will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes — not to simply say “no known causes” and leave it at that.

    you also wrote:

    “The best that scientific investigation can do is say that the evidence points toward a supernatural cause rather than a natural cause. A scientific investigation CAN’T say that something supernatural caused something, because there’s no way in which science can interact with the supernatural.”

    If you are correct in science being unable to investigate supernatural causes or interact with the supernatural, then science cannot, in fact, do any such thing. Evaluating evidence in such a way would require interaction with a supernatural. It would HAVE to either say “I don’t know” (which is only a temporary answer) or come up with a naturalistic explanation.

  • WebMonk

    Matt, the second half of your comment first:

    The answer of “I don’t know” is on answer that science can make when it deals with a supernatural event. The other is “That goes against everything we do know.”

    The second response is what I was meaning when I said science could find evidence that points toward a supernatural cause.

    Then the first half – “science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes. The origin of life, the universe, etc certainly falls under this category. If one is committed to finding a naturalistic explanation, it is inevitable that they will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes”

    Were you being serious, or were you just paraphrasing or extrapolating what you think I meant? If the later, you couldn’t come up with a more inaccurate conclusion. Sorry.

  • WebMonk

    Matt, the second half of your comment first:

    The answer of “I don’t know” is on answer that science can make when it deals with a supernatural event. The other is “That goes against everything we do know.”

    The second response is what I was meaning when I said science could find evidence that points toward a supernatural cause.

    Then the first half – “science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes. The origin of life, the universe, etc certainly falls under this category. If one is committed to finding a naturalistic explanation, it is inevitable that they will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes”

    Were you being serious, or were you just paraphrasing or extrapolating what you think I meant? If the later, you couldn’t come up with a more inaccurate conclusion. Sorry.

  • smapfel

    Sheesh! I can’t believe any of you can question Scientific American’s interest in this topic. Haven’t you read the ground-breaking research and documentation of Terry Prachett?

  • smapfel

    Sheesh! I can’t believe any of you can question Scientific American’s interest in this topic. Haven’t you read the ground-breaking research and documentation of Terry Prachett?

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “That goes against everything we do know” is merely a sub-category of “we don’t know.” “Everything we do know” changes in science–often as a result of data that blatantly contradicts it.

    And yes, I was being serious. A science that adheres to methodological naturalism in all things is not equipped to give true explanations on events which involve supernatural causes. One can argue about where, when, and how often, but it will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes at least part of the time. If one insists on methodological naturalism while denying naturalism as such, he must logically conclude that science cannot be trusted to give true explanations for this kind of event. The other alternative is to moderate methodological naturalism so that it is no longer an absolute within the scientific method.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “That goes against everything we do know” is merely a sub-category of “we don’t know.” “Everything we do know” changes in science–often as a result of data that blatantly contradicts it.

    And yes, I was being serious. A science that adheres to methodological naturalism in all things is not equipped to give true explanations on events which involve supernatural causes. One can argue about where, when, and how often, but it will substitute false natural causes for the true supernatural causes at least part of the time. If one insists on methodological naturalism while denying naturalism as such, he must logically conclude that science cannot be trusted to give true explanations for this kind of event. The other alternative is to moderate methodological naturalism so that it is no longer an absolute within the scientific method.

  • WebMonk

    Yes, I realize the two statements are very similar.

    As far as where science should or shouldn’t investigate, it used to be that we KNEW the sun and heavens revolve around the earth. There are scores and scores of Bible verses which back this up.

    However, it was scientific investigation into an area which your standard would have said science shouldn’t investigate, that opened up our eyes to understand the larger universe, and also opened our eyes to realize we were misinterpreting the Bible in that area. While the Bible may be infallible, our interpretations certainly aren’t.

    Heliocentrism is one example, but another is the age of the universe. Even as recently as 20 years ago, groups like Answers in Genesis said the Bible was 100%, unavoidably clear that the universe is only 6000 years old, and science was wrong to try to force naturalistic “discoveries” onto a supernatural (and recent) event.

    AiG has since changed their mind – they hold the universe is billions of years old, and it is only Earth which is 6000 years old.

    This is one of those areas which would have fallen into your descriptions of things science should not investigate because they would only create false findings. But, because scientists did not limit their research, AiG realized that they were misinterpreting Scripture and they now hold to multi-billion year old universe.

    Let scientists investigate where they will. They may come up with some false answers for supernatural events, but there will be other times when we find our interpretation of Scripture is faulty, and events which we thought were supernatural actually weren’t. (or at least they weren’t supernatural in the way we think they are)

  • WebMonk

    Yes, I realize the two statements are very similar.

    As far as where science should or shouldn’t investigate, it used to be that we KNEW the sun and heavens revolve around the earth. There are scores and scores of Bible verses which back this up.

    However, it was scientific investigation into an area which your standard would have said science shouldn’t investigate, that opened up our eyes to understand the larger universe, and also opened our eyes to realize we were misinterpreting the Bible in that area. While the Bible may be infallible, our interpretations certainly aren’t.

    Heliocentrism is one example, but another is the age of the universe. Even as recently as 20 years ago, groups like Answers in Genesis said the Bible was 100%, unavoidably clear that the universe is only 6000 years old, and science was wrong to try to force naturalistic “discoveries” onto a supernatural (and recent) event.

    AiG has since changed their mind – they hold the universe is billions of years old, and it is only Earth which is 6000 years old.

    This is one of those areas which would have fallen into your descriptions of things science should not investigate because they would only create false findings. But, because scientists did not limit their research, AiG realized that they were misinterpreting Scripture and they now hold to multi-billion year old universe.

    Let scientists investigate where they will. They may come up with some false answers for supernatural events, but there will be other times when we find our interpretation of Scripture is faulty, and events which we thought were supernatural actually weren’t. (or at least they weren’t supernatural in the way we think they are)

  • WebMonk

    LOVE Pratchett!!!!

    I just rented “The Colour of Magic” movie and I’m a bit nervous about watching it – it has a HUGE set of expectations to fill!

  • WebMonk

    LOVE Pratchett!!!!

    I just rented “The Colour of Magic” movie and I’m a bit nervous about watching it – it has a HUGE set of expectations to fill!

  • http://www.meanderinglutheran.blogspot.com Ryan Oakes

    Maybe they’re reading some Pratchett while watching some episodes of “Fringe”.

  • http://www.meanderinglutheran.blogspot.com Ryan Oakes

    Maybe they’re reading some Pratchett while watching some episodes of “Fringe”.

  • Dennis Peskey

    The necessity for multiuniverses originates with the horizon event encountered in black holes. While astrophysicists are comfortable with matter and energy being collected by the black holes (thereby avoiding the inevitable loss of either), they can not account for the loss of information which can not survive the essence of the black hole.

    Ergo, the solution was to postulate multiuniverse whereby information simply transfers from one universe to another as matter or energy are collected and the stability of the overall multiuniverse is maintained in balance. A primary proponent of this thinking is Steven Hawkings (sp?)if anyone wishes to further pursue these theories.

  • Dennis Peskey

    The necessity for multiuniverses originates with the horizon event encountered in black holes. While astrophysicists are comfortable with matter and energy being collected by the black holes (thereby avoiding the inevitable loss of either), they can not account for the loss of information which can not survive the essence of the black hole.

    Ergo, the solution was to postulate multiuniverse whereby information simply transfers from one universe to another as matter or energy are collected and the stability of the overall multiuniverse is maintained in balance. A primary proponent of this thinking is Steven Hawkings (sp?)if anyone wishes to further pursue these theories.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Sorry to rain on parades, but Scientific American is not exactly a first-tier Scientific journal. It tries to straddle the fields of serious science and popular journalism, which is a perilous undertaking indeed.

    As a scientist (geologist), I find the state of scientific reporting woefull.

    But in principle I cannot see anything wrong with multiverses. Isn’t that where all the pools in the wood-between-the-worlds lead too? ;)

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Sorry to rain on parades, but Scientific American is not exactly a first-tier Scientific journal. It tries to straddle the fields of serious science and popular journalism, which is a perilous undertaking indeed.

    As a scientist (geologist), I find the state of scientific reporting woefull.

    But in principle I cannot see anything wrong with multiverses. Isn’t that where all the pools in the wood-between-the-worlds lead too? ;)

  • WebMonk

    Dennis, that’s one connection that some people have posited about a multiverse and black holes, but Hawking certainly isn’t one of its proponents. At least not that I’ve ever heard.

    Hawking has a different solution for the information “loss” – there is none. He has found a way in which it is possible for information to escape a black hole. A black hole “evaporates” its information back into the universe through quantum fluctuations at the event horizon.

    That’s horribly inaccurate, and my professors would smack me if they ever read that, but it’s about as short a summary as I can write. But, there aren’t any information-to-different-universes aspects to it.

  • WebMonk

    Dennis, that’s one connection that some people have posited about a multiverse and black holes, but Hawking certainly isn’t one of its proponents. At least not that I’ve ever heard.

    Hawking has a different solution for the information “loss” – there is none. He has found a way in which it is possible for information to escape a black hole. A black hole “evaporates” its information back into the universe through quantum fluctuations at the event horizon.

    That’s horribly inaccurate, and my professors would smack me if they ever read that, but it’s about as short a summary as I can write. But, there aren’t any information-to-different-universes aspects to it.

  • WebMonk

    Scylding – hence their perpetually returning fluff pieces on multiverse speculations!

    But, you’re right about the wood between worlds!! Lewis was prescient! Years and years before anyone seriously thought of a multiverse – Lewis nailed it!

    (I need to go re-read the series!)

  • WebMonk

    Scylding – hence their perpetually returning fluff pieces on multiverse speculations!

    But, you’re right about the wood between worlds!! Lewis was prescient! Years and years before anyone seriously thought of a multiverse – Lewis nailed it!

    (I need to go re-read the series!)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m in over my head here in terms of cosmology and such, but I do find all this interesting, all the same.

    I find it interesting that some scientists (or, at least, some writers at Scientific American) think of universes like ordering a sandwich at a deli: let’s see, for this one, we’ll set the gravitational constant here, and the weight of the proton thus, and the strong force just a bit higher … oh, and what if E=Mc^3?!

    This kind of banal tweaking probably says more about the scientists involved than anything else. I wonder what entomologists dream of when they think of parallel universes: what if insects had four body segments?! Or seven legs?!

    I mean, if you’re going to dream up infinite parallel universes, why do you assume they’re all mainly like ours, with matter, for instance, and physical laws that don’t change, etc.? Probably because they can’t imagine a universe any other way.

    Which is predictable, but, well, dull.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m in over my head here in terms of cosmology and such, but I do find all this interesting, all the same.

    I find it interesting that some scientists (or, at least, some writers at Scientific American) think of universes like ordering a sandwich at a deli: let’s see, for this one, we’ll set the gravitational constant here, and the weight of the proton thus, and the strong force just a bit higher … oh, and what if E=Mc^3?!

    This kind of banal tweaking probably says more about the scientists involved than anything else. I wonder what entomologists dream of when they think of parallel universes: what if insects had four body segments?! Or seven legs?!

    I mean, if you’re going to dream up infinite parallel universes, why do you assume they’re all mainly like ours, with matter, for instance, and physical laws that don’t change, etc.? Probably because they can’t imagine a universe any other way.

    Which is predictable, but, well, dull.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “However, it was scientific investigation into an area which your standard would have said science shouldn’t investigate, that opened up our eyes to understand the larger universe, and also opened our eyes to realize we were misinterpreting the Bible in that area.”

    My standard is that methodological naturalism should not be absolute within science. As an alternative, if one insists that it must be absolute, then science ought not address probable supernatural issues (such as how the world came about). Such issues should be investigated by a more holistic method than such a narrow-minded science (which could also uncover the mistakes you mention). Also, you might want to nuance your view of history. Proof-texting was used to support a scientific paradigm that was later overturned. We “discovered” that paradigm by proto-science, not Scripture. It was as much a case of science corrupting Scriptural interpretation as it was Scripture corrupting science.

    “Let scientists investigate where they will. They may come up with some false answers for supernatural events, but there will be other times when we find our interpretation of Scripture is faulty, and events which we thought were supernatural actually weren’t. (or at least they weren’t supernatural in the way we think they are)”

    Sure; let them. But if you insist that they must hold to methodological naturalism, then also let others include Scripture in their analyses to point out where methodological naturalists have made faulty conclusions by failing to take supernatural possibilities into account. That’s a superior method. I’m fine with people taking different approaches as long as I don’t have to hear how I’m a fundamentalist who rejects reason and ignores the world around me because I don’t automatically accept the consensus of methodological naturalism where it touches on topics in which supernatural events are likely a part. Which, you know, happens just occasionally nowadays.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “However, it was scientific investigation into an area which your standard would have said science shouldn’t investigate, that opened up our eyes to understand the larger universe, and also opened our eyes to realize we were misinterpreting the Bible in that area.”

    My standard is that methodological naturalism should not be absolute within science. As an alternative, if one insists that it must be absolute, then science ought not address probable supernatural issues (such as how the world came about). Such issues should be investigated by a more holistic method than such a narrow-minded science (which could also uncover the mistakes you mention). Also, you might want to nuance your view of history. Proof-texting was used to support a scientific paradigm that was later overturned. We “discovered” that paradigm by proto-science, not Scripture. It was as much a case of science corrupting Scriptural interpretation as it was Scripture corrupting science.

    “Let scientists investigate where they will. They may come up with some false answers for supernatural events, but there will be other times when we find our interpretation of Scripture is faulty, and events which we thought were supernatural actually weren’t. (or at least they weren’t supernatural in the way we think they are)”

    Sure; let them. But if you insist that they must hold to methodological naturalism, then also let others include Scripture in their analyses to point out where methodological naturalists have made faulty conclusions by failing to take supernatural possibilities into account. That’s a superior method. I’m fine with people taking different approaches as long as I don’t have to hear how I’m a fundamentalist who rejects reason and ignores the world around me because I don’t automatically accept the consensus of methodological naturalism where it touches on topics in which supernatural events are likely a part. Which, you know, happens just occasionally nowadays.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And I agree with previous commenters that a multiverse is a pretty cheap cop-out when you’ve already ruled out the supernatural as an explanation. Um, you test your multiverse theory first, and then we’ll test my God theory.

    But I sort of see where the scientists are coming from. Not that it exculpates them, but it would be impossible to distinguish between (1) a universe that was intentionally created so that things could be as they are today (life, etc.), and (2) a universe that just happened so that things could be as they are today. Either way, we all agree that our universe works for the way things are. I mean, duh. You rarely find people living in a universe that is incapable of sustaining atoms, much less life.

    In order to distinguish between those two paths, we’d need some information from outside our universe, as it were. Christians, of course, find that in the Bible. Some scientists, having rejected that, however, must turn to the infinite.

    Speaking of which, I feel compelled, niggling as it may be, to respond to the statement “No, monkeys typing for a long enough time period would NOT produce the works of Shakespeare.” I mean, fine, I’ll agree with that, but I have to go on to note that “a long enough time period” is not the same as an infinite length of time. I would further posit that, yes, an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite length of time would produce any arbitrary series of characters that you wanted to test them for. It’s just that humans have a very poor sense of the infinite, and tend to substitute “very large” for it, instead. The two concepts are not the same.

    One could make an argument from our difficulty in grasping infinity about the nature of creation, but I’m not going to try.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And I agree with previous commenters that a multiverse is a pretty cheap cop-out when you’ve already ruled out the supernatural as an explanation. Um, you test your multiverse theory first, and then we’ll test my God theory.

    But I sort of see where the scientists are coming from. Not that it exculpates them, but it would be impossible to distinguish between (1) a universe that was intentionally created so that things could be as they are today (life, etc.), and (2) a universe that just happened so that things could be as they are today. Either way, we all agree that our universe works for the way things are. I mean, duh. You rarely find people living in a universe that is incapable of sustaining atoms, much less life.

    In order to distinguish between those two paths, we’d need some information from outside our universe, as it were. Christians, of course, find that in the Bible. Some scientists, having rejected that, however, must turn to the infinite.

    Speaking of which, I feel compelled, niggling as it may be, to respond to the statement “No, monkeys typing for a long enough time period would NOT produce the works of Shakespeare.” I mean, fine, I’ll agree with that, but I have to go on to note that “a long enough time period” is not the same as an infinite length of time. I would further posit that, yes, an infinite number of monkeys typing for an infinite length of time would produce any arbitrary series of characters that you wanted to test them for. It’s just that humans have a very poor sense of the infinite, and tend to substitute “very large” for it, instead. The two concepts are not the same.

    One could make an argument from our difficulty in grasping infinity about the nature of creation, but I’m not going to try.

  • WebMonk

    Matt, yes, the geocentric model didn’t originate from Scripture. However, it was defended with scripture. At that point, your position that “science ought not address probable supernatural issues” would have barred us from discovering the universe as it is.

    Likewise, that same stance, applied to investigating how the universe came about, as you stated, would never have learned that the universe is billions of years old, as even Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research confirm – we would still be stuck thinking the universe is only 6000 years old.

    “then also let others include Scripture in their analyses to point out where methodological naturalists have made faulty conclusions by failing to take supernatural possibilities into account.”

    Absolutely!!! But don’t BLOCK scientists from investigating different areas that you think are “probable supernatural” events, like the beginnings of the universe.

    We have learned incredible things about the majesty of the universe that we wouldn’t know if we had just done “holistic” investigations based off the foundational assumption that the universe is only 6000 years old.

  • WebMonk

    Matt, yes, the geocentric model didn’t originate from Scripture. However, it was defended with scripture. At that point, your position that “science ought not address probable supernatural issues” would have barred us from discovering the universe as it is.

    Likewise, that same stance, applied to investigating how the universe came about, as you stated, would never have learned that the universe is billions of years old, as even Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research confirm – we would still be stuck thinking the universe is only 6000 years old.

    “then also let others include Scripture in their analyses to point out where methodological naturalists have made faulty conclusions by failing to take supernatural possibilities into account.”

    Absolutely!!! But don’t BLOCK scientists from investigating different areas that you think are “probable supernatural” events, like the beginnings of the universe.

    We have learned incredible things about the majesty of the universe that we wouldn’t know if we had just done “holistic” investigations based off the foundational assumption that the universe is only 6000 years old.

  • Joe

    Webmonk @ 13

    I had recently read somewhere (and I apologize for not having a link handy) that the whole sun rotates around the earth controversy regarding the church was a less then honest recital of what actually happened. That it was actually the science of the day that taught that the sun revolved around the earth and that based on the influence of the scientific community the Church made the proclamation that this was the Biblical position – i.e. the Church let science interpret scripture. When the new fangled idea that the earth went ’round the sun came up, it was opposed by the established scientific community, which still had the ear of the Church and influenced the Church to back the old position.

    I will try to find a link.

  • Joe

    Webmonk @ 13

    I had recently read somewhere (and I apologize for not having a link handy) that the whole sun rotates around the earth controversy regarding the church was a less then honest recital of what actually happened. That it was actually the science of the day that taught that the sun revolved around the earth and that based on the influence of the scientific community the Church made the proclamation that this was the Biblical position – i.e. the Church let science interpret scripture. When the new fangled idea that the earth went ’round the sun came up, it was opposed by the established scientific community, which still had the ear of the Church and influenced the Church to back the old position.

    I will try to find a link.

  • WebMonk

    Joe, I probably cross-posted with you, because it was mentioned in 21 and 23.

    Yes, the geocentric view was based on “science” which was more like what we would call philosophy today. But eventually the church came to defend that position with scripture.

    At that point, the geocentric view of the world started to qualify as a “probable supernatural” event that shouldn’t be challenged or investigated.

    We have the same sorts of things today, but with different topics.

    200 years ago a “probable supernatural” thing was that God created all the animals pretty much as they are now. Today, after much investigation, even AiG and ICR have moved to a position that has a LOT of evolution happening since the Flood.

    50 years ago a “probable supernatural” thing was that the universe is only 6000 years old. Since then AiG and every other major Young Earth Creation group has swung around to the position that the universe is actually billions of years old.

    In all three of those cases (or two of the three if anyone starts arguing about the historical details surrounding the heliocentric fight) it wasn’t the holistic investigations based on what we “know” the Scripture means that discovered things. What happened is that we found our interpretation of Scripture was wrong.

    Don’t block or oppose any investigations based on the idea that it is looking into a ‘probable supernatural’ aspect of creation, if for no other reason than the fact that what we think are ‘probable supernatural’ events are based on our interpretation of Scriptures, which is VERY fallible.

  • WebMonk

    Joe, I probably cross-posted with you, because it was mentioned in 21 and 23.

    Yes, the geocentric view was based on “science” which was more like what we would call philosophy today. But eventually the church came to defend that position with scripture.

    At that point, the geocentric view of the world started to qualify as a “probable supernatural” event that shouldn’t be challenged or investigated.

    We have the same sorts of things today, but with different topics.

    200 years ago a “probable supernatural” thing was that God created all the animals pretty much as they are now. Today, after much investigation, even AiG and ICR have moved to a position that has a LOT of evolution happening since the Flood.

    50 years ago a “probable supernatural” thing was that the universe is only 6000 years old. Since then AiG and every other major Young Earth Creation group has swung around to the position that the universe is actually billions of years old.

    In all three of those cases (or two of the three if anyone starts arguing about the historical details surrounding the heliocentric fight) it wasn’t the holistic investigations based on what we “know” the Scripture means that discovered things. What happened is that we found our interpretation of Scripture was wrong.

    Don’t block or oppose any investigations based on the idea that it is looking into a ‘probable supernatural’ aspect of creation, if for no other reason than the fact that what we think are ‘probable supernatural’ events are based on our interpretation of Scriptures, which is VERY fallible.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “Matt, yes, the geocentric model didn’t originate from Scripture. However, it was defended with scripture. At that point, your position that “science ought not address probable supernatural issues” would have barred us from discovering the universe as it is.”

    As I already said, “My standard is that methodological naturalism should not be absolute within science.” I see no reason why this kind of method couldn’t have made the same discoveries.

    “Likewise, that same stance, applied to investigating how the universe came about, as you stated, would never have learned that the universe is billions of years old, as even Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research confirm – we would still be stuck thinking the universe is only 6000 years old.”

    Very interesting example to use. AiG and ICR reached this conclusion WITHOUT strict adherence to methodological naturalism (unless there’s been some major changes in the management since the last time I checked them out). How exactly does that support your contention that methodological naturalism is absolutely necessary to figuring it out?

    “Absolutely!!! But don’t BLOCK scientists from investigating different areas that you think are “probable supernatural” events, like the beginnings of the universe.”

    I’m relatively libertarian politically, so I’ve never endorsed “blocking” them. I do, however, think it’s foolish to exclusively use a knowingly flawed method and likewise foolish to give too much credence to conclusions reached by following it absolutely. If stating my opinion on the subject is tantamount to “blocking” them, then I guess I’m guilty.

    “We have learned incredible things about the majesty of the universe that we wouldn’t know if we had just done “holistic” investigations based off the foundational assumption that the universe is only 6000 years old.”

    I think that’s a highly presumptuous speculation considering the fact that you yourself have given several counter-examples in this thread.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “Matt, yes, the geocentric model didn’t originate from Scripture. However, it was defended with scripture. At that point, your position that “science ought not address probable supernatural issues” would have barred us from discovering the universe as it is.”

    As I already said, “My standard is that methodological naturalism should not be absolute within science.” I see no reason why this kind of method couldn’t have made the same discoveries.

    “Likewise, that same stance, applied to investigating how the universe came about, as you stated, would never have learned that the universe is billions of years old, as even Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research confirm – we would still be stuck thinking the universe is only 6000 years old.”

    Very interesting example to use. AiG and ICR reached this conclusion WITHOUT strict adherence to methodological naturalism (unless there’s been some major changes in the management since the last time I checked them out). How exactly does that support your contention that methodological naturalism is absolutely necessary to figuring it out?

    “Absolutely!!! But don’t BLOCK scientists from investigating different areas that you think are “probable supernatural” events, like the beginnings of the universe.”

    I’m relatively libertarian politically, so I’ve never endorsed “blocking” them. I do, however, think it’s foolish to exclusively use a knowingly flawed method and likewise foolish to give too much credence to conclusions reached by following it absolutely. If stating my opinion on the subject is tantamount to “blocking” them, then I guess I’m guilty.

    “We have learned incredible things about the majesty of the universe that we wouldn’t know if we had just done “holistic” investigations based off the foundational assumption that the universe is only 6000 years old.”

    I think that’s a highly presumptuous speculation considering the fact that you yourself have given several counter-examples in this thread.

  • WebMonk

    AiG and ICR, most certainly did NOT come to those positions through their own investigations. They came into those positions only because the weight of evidence for those positions (gathered by generally naturalistic scientists) became too much to possibly deny.

    I realize that I’m speculating here a bit – maybe a holistic approach that is quickly willing to say that something is supernatural and doesn’t have any natural cause might make the same sort of discoveries. It’s impossible to know for sure since the last time anything approaching that sort of system was in place was many, many hundreds of years ago.

    However, based on what I see groups like AiG and ICR doing these days, I am quite confident in saying that there’s no way scientists operating under the guidelines you’ve mentioned – not investigating things like the origins of the universe and life – would have made nearly the discoveries which have been made over the last 100-200 years.

    There would have been no looking for anything like the CMB, there would be nothing like morphological skeletal comparisons, nothing like radiometric dating, etc, etc, etc. The list is a long one.

    Why try looking for the CMB when we “know” nothing is there because God created the universe only 6000 years ago?

    Why start comparing modern skeletons with fossil series like the classical horse series? (until just a couple years ago, AiG claimed that series was false! It was only after they spent years trying to disprove it and couldn’t that they finally accepted it as real.)

    Why would they try to look at how old rocks are when we “know” they are only 6000 years old. It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that they’ve finally admitted the methods are valid. (the current explanation is that there was a long series of miracles that accelerated nuclear decay in a really specific way to get the results seen today)

    If YEC scientists can oppose things that already exist and have a lot of evidence for them already, do you really think that an entire system based on that line of thinking would make those discoveries if there were only hypothetical theories as basis to research those areas?

    I HIGHLY doubt it. Following your idea that scientists ought not look into those areas with a purely naturalistic orientation would leave the world VASTLY poorer for knowledge of the universe God has made.

    I would that all scientists were Christians, but NOT that they only search for natural causation in things which are not “probable supernatural”!!

  • WebMonk

    AiG and ICR, most certainly did NOT come to those positions through their own investigations. They came into those positions only because the weight of evidence for those positions (gathered by generally naturalistic scientists) became too much to possibly deny.

    I realize that I’m speculating here a bit – maybe a holistic approach that is quickly willing to say that something is supernatural and doesn’t have any natural cause might make the same sort of discoveries. It’s impossible to know for sure since the last time anything approaching that sort of system was in place was many, many hundreds of years ago.

    However, based on what I see groups like AiG and ICR doing these days, I am quite confident in saying that there’s no way scientists operating under the guidelines you’ve mentioned – not investigating things like the origins of the universe and life – would have made nearly the discoveries which have been made over the last 100-200 years.

    There would have been no looking for anything like the CMB, there would be nothing like morphological skeletal comparisons, nothing like radiometric dating, etc, etc, etc. The list is a long one.

    Why try looking for the CMB when we “know” nothing is there because God created the universe only 6000 years ago?

    Why start comparing modern skeletons with fossil series like the classical horse series? (until just a couple years ago, AiG claimed that series was false! It was only after they spent years trying to disprove it and couldn’t that they finally accepted it as real.)

    Why would they try to look at how old rocks are when we “know” they are only 6000 years old. It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that they’ve finally admitted the methods are valid. (the current explanation is that there was a long series of miracles that accelerated nuclear decay in a really specific way to get the results seen today)

    If YEC scientists can oppose things that already exist and have a lot of evidence for them already, do you really think that an entire system based on that line of thinking would make those discoveries if there were only hypothetical theories as basis to research those areas?

    I HIGHLY doubt it. Following your idea that scientists ought not look into those areas with a purely naturalistic orientation would leave the world VASTLY poorer for knowledge of the universe God has made.

    I would that all scientists were Christians, but NOT that they only search for natural causation in things which are not “probable supernatural”!!

  • Joe

    “What happened is that we found our interpretation of Scripture was wrong.”

    Right, it was wrong because we let the prevailing Aristotlian scientific/philosophic view convince us to interpret scripture in a certain manner instead, of relying on Scripture Alone.

  • Joe

    “What happened is that we found our interpretation of Scripture was wrong.”

    Right, it was wrong because we let the prevailing Aristotlian scientific/philosophic view convince us to interpret scripture in a certain manner instead, of relying on Scripture Alone.

  • WebMonk

    Joe, so views based on Scripture Alone hasn’t produced the 6000 year old universe idea, and views based on Scripture Alone hasn’t tried to insist that God made the animals as they are? And Lutheran churches, relying on Scripture Alone, didn’t continued to teach geocentrism into the 20th century? And views based on Scripture Alone never thought that radiometric dating of rocks was nonsense?

    Let’s say you’re right about ALL those things. Let’s say that in each and every one of those views it was actually outside influences which were affecting the interpretation of Scripture.

    And just how sure are you that now we have arrived so we no longer have any outside forces influencing our ideas of what Scripture means??

    Can we say with complete confidence that we know exactly what areas of the universe are due to supernatural means and which ones aren’t?

    Can we really say we have figured out all the areas (and only the areas) where scientists ought to abandon looking for natural means and just accept “that’s the way God made it and that’s all the further we can know”?

    If you’ve reached that perfect place where you can completely determine the truth of all scientific fields based purely on Scripture Alone without any sort of outside influence …. well congratulations. Please illuminate my ignorance.

  • WebMonk

    Joe, so views based on Scripture Alone hasn’t produced the 6000 year old universe idea, and views based on Scripture Alone hasn’t tried to insist that God made the animals as they are? And Lutheran churches, relying on Scripture Alone, didn’t continued to teach geocentrism into the 20th century? And views based on Scripture Alone never thought that radiometric dating of rocks was nonsense?

    Let’s say you’re right about ALL those things. Let’s say that in each and every one of those views it was actually outside influences which were affecting the interpretation of Scripture.

    And just how sure are you that now we have arrived so we no longer have any outside forces influencing our ideas of what Scripture means??

    Can we say with complete confidence that we know exactly what areas of the universe are due to supernatural means and which ones aren’t?

    Can we really say we have figured out all the areas (and only the areas) where scientists ought to abandon looking for natural means and just accept “that’s the way God made it and that’s all the further we can know”?

    If you’ve reached that perfect place where you can completely determine the truth of all scientific fields based purely on Scripture Alone without any sort of outside influence …. well congratulations. Please illuminate my ignorance.

  • WebMonk

    (Sorry about the grammar in that comment. I reworded something and didn’t adjust everything as I should have.)

  • WebMonk

    (Sorry about the grammar in that comment. I reworded something and didn’t adjust everything as I should have.)

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “AiG and ICR, most certainly did NOT come to those positions through their own investigations. They came into those positions only because the weight of evidence for those positions (gathered by generally naturalistic scientists) became too much to possibly deny.”

    I never suggested any kind of methodological super-naturalism nor do AiG or ICR follow any such, so the fact that they used the results of other scientists working on a naturalistic basis is irrelevant to the point at issue.

    “I realize that I’m speculating here a bit – maybe a holistic approach that is quickly willing to say that something is supernatural and doesn’t have any natural cause might make the same sort of discoveries.”

    Neither have I ever suggested a holistic approach that quickly writes off natural causes. That’s hardly holistic. I suggested that both categories of causes be on the table on certain subjects.

    I’m going to refrain from comment on the specific scientific issues. I try to stick to philosophy of science rather than science proper. However, it’s a very strange picture you paint of YEC’s. They “oppose things that already exist and have a lot of evidence for them already” and yet “came into those positions only because the weight of evidence … became too much to possibly deny.” They refuse to ask question because they already know all the answers and yet modify their views based on new evidence, etc, etc. Something tells me you’re wrestling a straw man here.

    Speaking of not being fair, unless you assume that the conclusions of scientists reached by following a fatally flawed method are all correct, it’s a little early to make speculations about how much more we know due to following a fatally flawed method. You say we wouldn’t know the true age of the universe w/o methodological naturalism? Maybe. But maybe if they followed a more holistic approach, maybe fewer people would be under the erroneous impression that the earth is billions of years old.

    Also, to be frank, it’s getting rather grating that you continue to use “my idea” to refer to a view that I do not hold (a point I have corrected you on several times).

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “AiG and ICR, most certainly did NOT come to those positions through their own investigations. They came into those positions only because the weight of evidence for those positions (gathered by generally naturalistic scientists) became too much to possibly deny.”

    I never suggested any kind of methodological super-naturalism nor do AiG or ICR follow any such, so the fact that they used the results of other scientists working on a naturalistic basis is irrelevant to the point at issue.

    “I realize that I’m speculating here a bit – maybe a holistic approach that is quickly willing to say that something is supernatural and doesn’t have any natural cause might make the same sort of discoveries.”

    Neither have I ever suggested a holistic approach that quickly writes off natural causes. That’s hardly holistic. I suggested that both categories of causes be on the table on certain subjects.

    I’m going to refrain from comment on the specific scientific issues. I try to stick to philosophy of science rather than science proper. However, it’s a very strange picture you paint of YEC’s. They “oppose things that already exist and have a lot of evidence for them already” and yet “came into those positions only because the weight of evidence … became too much to possibly deny.” They refuse to ask question because they already know all the answers and yet modify their views based on new evidence, etc, etc. Something tells me you’re wrestling a straw man here.

    Speaking of not being fair, unless you assume that the conclusions of scientists reached by following a fatally flawed method are all correct, it’s a little early to make speculations about how much more we know due to following a fatally flawed method. You say we wouldn’t know the true age of the universe w/o methodological naturalism? Maybe. But maybe if they followed a more holistic approach, maybe fewer people would be under the erroneous impression that the earth is billions of years old.

    Also, to be frank, it’s getting rather grating that you continue to use “my idea” to refer to a view that I do not hold (a point I have corrected you on several times).

  • Economist Doug

    I’m a Lutheran but I’ve never discussed this sort of thing in Church.

    Do you guys think you’d face difficulties if you spoke in favor of the framework interpretation at Bible Study?

    Or if you expressed doubt in YEC?

  • Economist Doug

    I’m a Lutheran but I’ve never discussed this sort of thing in Church.

    Do you guys think you’d face difficulties if you spoke in favor of the framework interpretation at Bible Study?

    Or if you expressed doubt in YEC?

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Doug @ 32,

    It really depends on your church. I’m sure there are places where you would catch a lot of flak, others where the view would be cheered, and everything in-between. I’ve been a member at one church where YEC views were the standard to which people were expected to conform and at another where I caught flak for speaking in favor of YEC in a Bible Study. I would guess that the former are more common in the LCMS, though.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Doug @ 32,

    It really depends on your church. I’m sure there are places where you would catch a lot of flak, others where the view would be cheered, and everything in-between. I’ve been a member at one church where YEC views were the standard to which people were expected to conform and at another where I caught flak for speaking in favor of YEC in a Bible Study. I would guess that the former are more common in the LCMS, though.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – comment #18 – My apologizes to Mr. Hawkings if I have misrepresented his position. The information I relayed came from a five-part NOVA program on Mr. Hawkings views of the universe. It was during this program I heard him detail the possibility of multi-universes to deal with the horizon event. Since I do not try to remain current on these issues (and the NOVA program was at least a year ago), it is entirely possible I misunderstood his presentation or his views have evolved.

    I am puzzled by your claim AIG has renounced the six-day creation model and embraced an older universe (i.e. billions of years vs. ~6,000 years,) Upon review of the AIG website, I can find no evidence they have altered their position. Would you be so kind as to profer information as to where or how you justify this assertion?

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – comment #18 – My apologizes to Mr. Hawkings if I have misrepresented his position. The information I relayed came from a five-part NOVA program on Mr. Hawkings views of the universe. It was during this program I heard him detail the possibility of multi-universes to deal with the horizon event. Since I do not try to remain current on these issues (and the NOVA program was at least a year ago), it is entirely possible I misunderstood his presentation or his views have evolved.

    I am puzzled by your claim AIG has renounced the six-day creation model and embraced an older universe (i.e. billions of years vs. ~6,000 years,) Upon review of the AIG website, I can find no evidence they have altered their position. Would you be so kind as to profer information as to where or how you justify this assertion?

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – solved the Steven Hawking position. Mr Hawking’s position did include the possibility of multi-universes, a necessity for his assertion that black holes destroy all matter, energy and information encounters. This position was disputed by physicist John Preskill who entered into a personal wager with Mr. Hawking to validate their individual positions. In July, 2004, Mr. Hawking released a new understanding of the black hole paradox which rejected the possibility of multiuniverses. At this point, He posited the dissipation of information into the known universe (ergo, not undergoing loss, i.e. destruction. but rendering this information scattered throughout our known universe.)

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – solved the Steven Hawking position. Mr Hawking’s position did include the possibility of multi-universes, a necessity for his assertion that black holes destroy all matter, energy and information encounters. This position was disputed by physicist John Preskill who entered into a personal wager with Mr. Hawking to validate their individual positions. In July, 2004, Mr. Hawking released a new understanding of the black hole paradox which rejected the possibility of multiuniverses. At this point, He posited the dissipation of information into the known universe (ergo, not undergoing loss, i.e. destruction. but rendering this information scattered throughout our known universe.)

  • WebMonk

    Dennis, AiG holds that the earth was created 6000 years ago, but that the universe at large is billions of years old. Read Starlight and Time. They have a variety of publications released that have further defended that position – New Vistas of Spacetime being the flagship one. Basically, through gravitational time-dilation, billions of years pass in the rest of the universe while only a few days pass on Earth.

    As for their support of radiometric dating, that came in their relatively recent RATE study. They confirm that the process of radiometric dating is proper and correct results are being found, but that the results don’t mean billions of years on earth because during the Flood there was a series of miracles that accelerated radioactive decay on Earth.

    Hawking certainly isn’t infallible, and he certainly does work with the multiverse assumptions and has made various mistakes over the years. His loss to Preskill is one which is becoming legend! He might have been speculating something like that at one point.

    The multiverse/black hole I read from him was wormhole physics rather than strictly straight-forward black hole physics. (though the two can be related) That might have been what NOVA was talking about? (is that NOVA on PBS?)

  • WebMonk

    Dennis, AiG holds that the earth was created 6000 years ago, but that the universe at large is billions of years old. Read Starlight and Time. They have a variety of publications released that have further defended that position – New Vistas of Spacetime being the flagship one. Basically, through gravitational time-dilation, billions of years pass in the rest of the universe while only a few days pass on Earth.

    As for their support of radiometric dating, that came in their relatively recent RATE study. They confirm that the process of radiometric dating is proper and correct results are being found, but that the results don’t mean billions of years on earth because during the Flood there was a series of miracles that accelerated radioactive decay on Earth.

    Hawking certainly isn’t infallible, and he certainly does work with the multiverse assumptions and has made various mistakes over the years. His loss to Preskill is one which is becoming legend! He might have been speculating something like that at one point.

    The multiverse/black hole I read from him was wormhole physics rather than strictly straight-forward black hole physics. (though the two can be related) That might have been what NOVA was talking about? (is that NOVA on PBS?)

  • WebMonk

    Matt, I’m afraid I have lost track of what you’re supporting then. At first it sounded like

    “science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes.”

    But now I’m not sure what your general point is.

    As far as AIG and ICR, there have been quite a few places where they have rejected, resisted and refuted areas (universe age, radiometric dating, Horse series, etc, etc, etc) for decades until the weight of evidence finally became so overwhelming that there wasn’t any other even vaguely reasonable choice and they finally conceded.

    They have areas which they believe are supernatural and they resist any sort of possible naturalistic explanation. How do you investigate the origins something that was created that way from the very beginning? There are no origins to investigate – it just suddenly existed. Research stops.

    What does the history of YEC science look like? A series of ideas based on “Scripture Alone”, that are held and defended against any naturalistic explanation until finally the naturalistically acquired evidence becomes so overwhelming that there is no choice but to give up the false interpretation of Scripture.

    Horse series, vapor canopy, “no beneficial mutations”, “nearby” stars, C decay, fraudulent archaeopteryx, moon dust, Peleg’s time being the splitting of the continents, Paluxy tracks, etc, etc, etc.

    These are all claims held or defended by YEC groups, at least partially because of wrong ideas about what was a “probable supernatural” cause.

    That’s the problem – if a supernatural cause is assumed for something, then research on its beginnings and associations stops. There’s no point. It is that way because God made it that way, and that’s all there is.

  • WebMonk

    Matt, I’m afraid I have lost track of what you’re supporting then. At first it sounded like

    “science ought to refrain from investigating events for which we have good reason to believe involve supernatural causes.”

    But now I’m not sure what your general point is.

    As far as AIG and ICR, there have been quite a few places where they have rejected, resisted and refuted areas (universe age, radiometric dating, Horse series, etc, etc, etc) for decades until the weight of evidence finally became so overwhelming that there wasn’t any other even vaguely reasonable choice and they finally conceded.

    They have areas which they believe are supernatural and they resist any sort of possible naturalistic explanation. How do you investigate the origins something that was created that way from the very beginning? There are no origins to investigate – it just suddenly existed. Research stops.

    What does the history of YEC science look like? A series of ideas based on “Scripture Alone”, that are held and defended against any naturalistic explanation until finally the naturalistically acquired evidence becomes so overwhelming that there is no choice but to give up the false interpretation of Scripture.

    Horse series, vapor canopy, “no beneficial mutations”, “nearby” stars, C decay, fraudulent archaeopteryx, moon dust, Peleg’s time being the splitting of the continents, Paluxy tracks, etc, etc, etc.

    These are all claims held or defended by YEC groups, at least partially because of wrong ideas about what was a “probable supernatural” cause.

    That’s the problem – if a supernatural cause is assumed for something, then research on its beginnings and associations stops. There’s no point. It is that way because God made it that way, and that’s all there is.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – I believe you are correct in stating the NOVA broadcast (PBS originated) was primarily concerned with wormholes as a function of blackholes. I have a reluctance to pursue astrophysical issues but was attracted to this interview series where the issue of multi-universes arose. Having read Dr. D. Russell Humphreys’ articles on “Space and Time” and his critic rebutal found in “New Vistas of Space Time” I now find myself with a significant headache. When I had completed my required collegiate courses in physics (several decades ago), I (and several other engineers) delighted in buring our physic’s book. I prefer to view the heavens as an expression of God’s glory rather than a mystery I must solve.

    Having said this, I return to the position of AiG regarding creation and the age of the universe. I find their website consistant in affirming the six day creation of Genesis, including the stars of our universe being created on the fourth day.

    While Dr. Humphreys’ articles are illuminating (for those of such mind), they in no way alter the substance of the biblical creation model. For me, the operative premise of all current astrophysics is Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The two words most important in this are “theory” and “relativity. AiG makes clear the measurements of space/time are distance measurements; to wit, the Bible clearly states God stretched out the heavens.

    My willingness to believe in a creator God does not preclude any scientific investigation into the process. At all times, I bear in mind the limits of science to what we (as part of the creation) can observe and measure. This “young earth creation” belief is centered upon what God has caused to be written – not because this is a requirement for true Christianity nor due to this being the official position of the LS-MS. The exclusion of God’s handiwork in the universe, a priori, does not serve our investigations into these wonders and, I believe, can limit our understanding.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Webmonk – I believe you are correct in stating the NOVA broadcast (PBS originated) was primarily concerned with wormholes as a function of blackholes. I have a reluctance to pursue astrophysical issues but was attracted to this interview series where the issue of multi-universes arose. Having read Dr. D. Russell Humphreys’ articles on “Space and Time” and his critic rebutal found in “New Vistas of Space Time” I now find myself with a significant headache. When I had completed my required collegiate courses in physics (several decades ago), I (and several other engineers) delighted in buring our physic’s book. I prefer to view the heavens as an expression of God’s glory rather than a mystery I must solve.

    Having said this, I return to the position of AiG regarding creation and the age of the universe. I find their website consistant in affirming the six day creation of Genesis, including the stars of our universe being created on the fourth day.

    While Dr. Humphreys’ articles are illuminating (for those of such mind), they in no way alter the substance of the biblical creation model. For me, the operative premise of all current astrophysics is Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The two words most important in this are “theory” and “relativity. AiG makes clear the measurements of space/time are distance measurements; to wit, the Bible clearly states God stretched out the heavens.

    My willingness to believe in a creator God does not preclude any scientific investigation into the process. At all times, I bear in mind the limits of science to what we (as part of the creation) can observe and measure. This “young earth creation” belief is centered upon what God has caused to be written – not because this is a requirement for true Christianity nor due to this being the official position of the LS-MS. The exclusion of God’s handiwork in the universe, a priori, does not serve our investigations into these wonders and, I believe, can limit our understanding.

  • WebMonk

    As to whether or not Humphrey’s book disturbs the AIG previous stance of a strictly 6000 year old universe, it’s not necessarily obvious or clear cut.

    Here’s my take on it:

    In some ways it doesn’t change anything – the universe is only 6000 years old if you watch a clock on Earth. In some ways it changes everything – the universe is 6000 years old only if you watch a clock on Earth.

    Those are such wildly different statements (aside from their similar wording) that there is an almost no way to work them together.

    Genesis is interpreted to be a very precise and scientifically accurate description of the details of the creation of the universe and Earth.

    Genesis is simultaneously only a localized description of what things would look like only to an Earth-based observer and written to be comprehensible to ancients, not as something to be used for accurate depictions of what actually happened – we have to read INTO the Bible’s description what truly happened.

    Thus, we need to read in between the lines to find out that God didn’t really create the stars on the fourth day, but instead he had been letting them develop all along and it was just that the light from the stars arrived on the fourth day.

    That’s a WILD difference!!!!

    On the need to assume God has created various things to discover accurate things about the universe:

    The assumption that whatever we’re investigating was NOT caused by supernatural forces is the requirement for research to continue in anything.

    How can a person investigate the interrelatedness of different families of animals if he believes God just made them all distinct from each other? – there is no “interrelatedness” to investigate.

    How to investigate star formation if God just made all the stars just like they are? – there’s no such thing as star formation.

    Galactic formation? Continental formation? Similarities of Notch proteins? Don’t bother looking into those things because they’re the way they are because that’s the way God created them, and that’s it.

  • WebMonk

    As to whether or not Humphrey’s book disturbs the AIG previous stance of a strictly 6000 year old universe, it’s not necessarily obvious or clear cut.

    Here’s my take on it:

    In some ways it doesn’t change anything – the universe is only 6000 years old if you watch a clock on Earth. In some ways it changes everything – the universe is 6000 years old only if you watch a clock on Earth.

    Those are such wildly different statements (aside from their similar wording) that there is an almost no way to work them together.

    Genesis is interpreted to be a very precise and scientifically accurate description of the details of the creation of the universe and Earth.

    Genesis is simultaneously only a localized description of what things would look like only to an Earth-based observer and written to be comprehensible to ancients, not as something to be used for accurate depictions of what actually happened – we have to read INTO the Bible’s description what truly happened.

    Thus, we need to read in between the lines to find out that God didn’t really create the stars on the fourth day, but instead he had been letting them develop all along and it was just that the light from the stars arrived on the fourth day.

    That’s a WILD difference!!!!

    On the need to assume God has created various things to discover accurate things about the universe:

    The assumption that whatever we’re investigating was NOT caused by supernatural forces is the requirement for research to continue in anything.

    How can a person investigate the interrelatedness of different families of animals if he believes God just made them all distinct from each other? – there is no “interrelatedness” to investigate.

    How to investigate star formation if God just made all the stars just like they are? – there’s no such thing as star formation.

    Galactic formation? Continental formation? Similarities of Notch proteins? Don’t bother looking into those things because they’re the way they are because that’s the way God created them, and that’s it.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “I’m not sure what your general point is.”

    I’m sorry if I’ve been too unclear. This is probably about as clear as I can make it:

    1)Methodological naturalism means that science (as currently practiced) is unreliable on certain issues (where we have reason to think there are supernatural causes).

    2) I see two possible solutions to this problem.

    a) Science should not be practiced with absolute methodological naturalism on these issues. This is my preferred solution.

    b) Science should not be considered the authority on these issues. I don’t like this except as a temporary measure (until the methodological problem is solved), but it’s the only remaining option I see for those who insist that methodological naturalism remain absolute.

    “What does the history of YEC science look like?”

    As you note, it involves a lot of garbage. To be fair though, so does the history of medical science, and yet they were able to make good on it. Could the problem here be impatience? I am completely fine with YEC scientists taking a long time and making mistakes along the way. To me, the fact that they reject such theories when sufficient evidence is considered speaks well of them rather than poorly. I similarly consider the fact that they are much more open-minded and creative than scientists who will not consider supernatural possibilities to be a mark in their favor. I’m not claiming they’ve reached the optimal balance of skepticism with regard to their interpretation of Scripture vs skepticism with regard to mainstream science’s interpretation of the physical data; I don’t even know what the right balance is. I am claiming that finding such a balance is necessary; in the long run it’ll result in a better method that’s more likely to arrive at true answers.

    “That’s the problem – if a supernatural cause is assumed for something, then research on its beginnings and associations stops. There’s no point. It is that way because God made it that way, and that’s all there is.”

    I think that your statement here has been the main problem with our conversation. You are creating a false dichotomy between methodological naturalism and some kind of methodological supernaturalism. Nobody is suggesting assuming a supernatural cause. I am suggesting that such causes be on the table when we have good reason to suspect supernatural involvement. If we’re investigating a world that God made, that seems only sensible.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Webmonk,

    “I’m not sure what your general point is.”

    I’m sorry if I’ve been too unclear. This is probably about as clear as I can make it:

    1)Methodological naturalism means that science (as currently practiced) is unreliable on certain issues (where we have reason to think there are supernatural causes).

    2) I see two possible solutions to this problem.

    a) Science should not be practiced with absolute methodological naturalism on these issues. This is my preferred solution.

    b) Science should not be considered the authority on these issues. I don’t like this except as a temporary measure (until the methodological problem is solved), but it’s the only remaining option I see for those who insist that methodological naturalism remain absolute.

    “What does the history of YEC science look like?”

    As you note, it involves a lot of garbage. To be fair though, so does the history of medical science, and yet they were able to make good on it. Could the problem here be impatience? I am completely fine with YEC scientists taking a long time and making mistakes along the way. To me, the fact that they reject such theories when sufficient evidence is considered speaks well of them rather than poorly. I similarly consider the fact that they are much more open-minded and creative than scientists who will not consider supernatural possibilities to be a mark in their favor. I’m not claiming they’ve reached the optimal balance of skepticism with regard to their interpretation of Scripture vs skepticism with regard to mainstream science’s interpretation of the physical data; I don’t even know what the right balance is. I am claiming that finding such a balance is necessary; in the long run it’ll result in a better method that’s more likely to arrive at true answers.

    “That’s the problem – if a supernatural cause is assumed for something, then research on its beginnings and associations stops. There’s no point. It is that way because God made it that way, and that’s all there is.”

    I think that your statement here has been the main problem with our conversation. You are creating a false dichotomy between methodological naturalism and some kind of methodological supernaturalism. Nobody is suggesting assuming a supernatural cause. I am suggesting that such causes be on the table when we have good reason to suspect supernatural involvement. If we’re investigating a world that God made, that seems only sensible.

  • WebMonk

    Ok, let’s say that we put into consideration that something MIGHT have a supernatural cause.

    What do we do differently?

  • WebMonk

    Ok, let’s say that we put into consideration that something MIGHT have a supernatural cause.

    What do we do differently?

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    A very good question. Finding a working answer for it will take a long time. That said, my suggestion for a starting point is this:

    After we’ve 1) made our observation about something with a possible supernatural cause, we should:

    2) hypothesize on what that supernatural cause might be.

    3) Evaluate the evidence: consider whether the hypothesis conforms to physical observations and information we have on the supernatural aspects (such as revelation). Do experiments, etc.

    4) evaluate the results of the analysis and either confirm or reject the hypothesis depending on the nature of the evaluation.

    Just a variation on the basic scientific method. Of course this takes place in a context where we ourselves and others will be considering other hypotheses (for both natural and supernatural causes) in addition to our own. Also, given the very large body of knowledge acquired through a method tainted by methodological naturalism, it ought to involve a healthy skepticism of existing interpretations of the physical data (and yes, a healthy skepticism on interpretations of revelatory data as well — given that the quality of an interpretation of a written work is not predominately judged by physical data, though it can be a factor).

    And, of course, there can be plenty of ancillary techniques to further improve the method. We might also try new options for putting a check on superstition (which is what methodological naturalism is for — it’s just too much of a scorched-earth technique).

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    A very good question. Finding a working answer for it will take a long time. That said, my suggestion for a starting point is this:

    After we’ve 1) made our observation about something with a possible supernatural cause, we should:

    2) hypothesize on what that supernatural cause might be.

    3) Evaluate the evidence: consider whether the hypothesis conforms to physical observations and information we have on the supernatural aspects (such as revelation). Do experiments, etc.

    4) evaluate the results of the analysis and either confirm or reject the hypothesis depending on the nature of the evaluation.

    Just a variation on the basic scientific method. Of course this takes place in a context where we ourselves and others will be considering other hypotheses (for both natural and supernatural causes) in addition to our own. Also, given the very large body of knowledge acquired through a method tainted by methodological naturalism, it ought to involve a healthy skepticism of existing interpretations of the physical data (and yes, a healthy skepticism on interpretations of revelatory data as well — given that the quality of an interpretation of a written work is not predominately judged by physical data, though it can be a factor).

    And, of course, there can be plenty of ancillary techniques to further improve the method. We might also try new options for putting a check on superstition (which is what methodological naturalism is for — it’s just too much of a scorched-earth technique).

  • Dennis Peskey

    The confusion present in this discussion centers on the difference between “methodological naturalism” and “metaphysical naturalism.” Both are means of scientific study, but they have at their root a far different paradigm.

    Methodological naturalism seeks to explore the known universe irrespective of any supernaturalism intervention. Note this does not rule out, a priori, the possibility of God – it only seeks to define the universe by what we can observe (and/or interpret).

    Metaphysical naturalism, as a precondition, denies any possible supernatural existance, and proceeds to explain all phenomena in observatation terminology.

    The position expressed by Matt (#40) is consistent with methodological naturalism. A christian is free to investigate the wonders of the universe and believe this same universe is created and governed by God.

    Webmonk’s position (#39) seems to fall in the category of metaphysical naturalism which requires the denial of a supernatural influence prior to any scientific investigation. If this is correct, the answer to #41 is mote since, by definition, this condition can not exist. If we approach the answer to #41 from methodological naturalism, the answer is simply, “What’s your point?” A christian response would center on God exists; creation exists; let us investigate to see what we can make of this.

    Now, if I have not properly distinquished each position, please forgive me for I mean no offense. Personnally, I do accept the confines of methodological naturalism especially when I realize I lack the comprehension of God (and have no chance of obtaining this). My own preference is in the investigation of the DNA molecule – albeit smaller than the universe but every bit as complex. Yet I do find myself attracted to the astrophyical world and can ponder multiuniverses without suffering angst (although, in excess, it still generates a headache.)

  • Dennis Peskey

    The confusion present in this discussion centers on the difference between “methodological naturalism” and “metaphysical naturalism.” Both are means of scientific study, but they have at their root a far different paradigm.

    Methodological naturalism seeks to explore the known universe irrespective of any supernaturalism intervention. Note this does not rule out, a priori, the possibility of God – it only seeks to define the universe by what we can observe (and/or interpret).

    Metaphysical naturalism, as a precondition, denies any possible supernatural existance, and proceeds to explain all phenomena in observatation terminology.

    The position expressed by Matt (#40) is consistent with methodological naturalism. A christian is free to investigate the wonders of the universe and believe this same universe is created and governed by God.

    Webmonk’s position (#39) seems to fall in the category of metaphysical naturalism which requires the denial of a supernatural influence prior to any scientific investigation. If this is correct, the answer to #41 is mote since, by definition, this condition can not exist. If we approach the answer to #41 from methodological naturalism, the answer is simply, “What’s your point?” A christian response would center on God exists; creation exists; let us investigate to see what we can make of this.

    Now, if I have not properly distinquished each position, please forgive me for I mean no offense. Personnally, I do accept the confines of methodological naturalism especially when I realize I lack the comprehension of God (and have no chance of obtaining this). My own preference is in the investigation of the DNA molecule – albeit smaller than the universe but every bit as complex. Yet I do find myself attracted to the astrophyical world and can ponder multiuniverses without suffering angst (although, in excess, it still generates a headache.)

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Dennis,

    With respect, I do not think you have properly distinguished each position. I have been trying to keep the discussion on the implications of methodological naturalism, not on choosing between methodological and metaphysical. Perhaps I should not speak for him, but I do not believe Webmonk is suggesting metaphysical naturalism at all, but, like yourself, suggesting adherence to methodological naturalism.

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    Dennis,

    With respect, I do not think you have properly distinguished each position. I have been trying to keep the discussion on the implications of methodological naturalism, not on choosing between methodological and metaphysical. Perhaps I should not speak for him, but I do not believe Webmonk is suggesting metaphysical naturalism at all, but, like yourself, suggesting adherence to methodological naturalism.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Matt – before I engage in further discussions regarding the methodology employed, I am compelled to wait for a response from Webmonk. For now, I shall profer my reasons for the insertion of a “metaphysical” understanding based upon a demonstrated opposition to any supernatural cause prior to investigation (#37, #39 & #41). I do conceed his earlier comments (#23, #27 & #29) were within the boundries of methodological naturalism. As the discussion progressed, his position seems to have hardened beyond the methodological constraints to a metaphysical understanding. I believe it best to seek clarification from him as to the perceptions I garnered.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Matt – before I engage in further discussions regarding the methodology employed, I am compelled to wait for a response from Webmonk. For now, I shall profer my reasons for the insertion of a “metaphysical” understanding based upon a demonstrated opposition to any supernatural cause prior to investigation (#37, #39 & #41). I do conceed his earlier comments (#23, #27 & #29) were within the boundries of methodological naturalism. As the discussion progressed, his position seems to have hardened beyond the methodological constraints to a metaphysical understanding. I believe it best to seek clarification from him as to the perceptions I garnered.

  • WebMonk

    I definitely don’t hold to metaphysical naturalism nor was I trying to presuppose it as a requirement for science. It sounded like Matt was supporting something like a rejection of scientific inquiry into places where there might be a supernatural cause.

    Now I have no clue what anyone is supporting. He doesn’t hold to that, and I’m just not sure of what is being said any more.

    Sorry guys.

  • WebMonk

    I definitely don’t hold to metaphysical naturalism nor was I trying to presuppose it as a requirement for science. It sounded like Matt was supporting something like a rejection of scientific inquiry into places where there might be a supernatural cause.

    Now I have no clue what anyone is supporting. He doesn’t hold to that, and I’m just not sure of what is being said any more.

    Sorry guys.


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