Universe gives birth to itself, transformed by unknown ‘force’

Universe gives birth to itself, transformed by unknown ‘force’ March 18, 2014

This is a challenging day to be a journalist on the science beat, if the goal is to avoid ultimate questions.

I am happy to report that The Washington Post — to my surprise, quite frankly — didn’t try to avoid the obvious. Here’s the top of its story on the Big Bang update that is making global headlines:

In the beginning, the universe got very big very fast, transforming itself in a fraction of an instant from something almost infinitesimally small to something imponderably vast, a cosmos so huge that no one will ever be able to see it all.

This is the premise of an idea called cosmic inflation — a powerful twist on the big-bang theory — and Monday it received a major boost from an experiment at the South Pole called BICEP2. A team of astronomers led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced that it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time.

Say what? “In the beginning”?

Anyone who starts a story on this issue with “In the beginning” has to know that many American readers are going to connect that with, well, this passage that opens the Gospel of John:

1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. The same was in the beginning with God. 3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Next question: What is the best verb here, science writers?

So the universe “got very big very fast, transforming itself” from nothing or next to nothing into something really big? It “transformed itself”?

To it’s credit, the Post team did not settle for one verb in its coverage of this amazing development. That same passage the opens the story also uses, well, the C-word. The gravitational waves were “created” in an event at the “dawn of time.” Yes, the word “created” certainly raises an obvious question or two. Later, the linguistic plot thickens:

Cosmology, the study of the universe on the largest scales, has already been roiled by the 1998 discovery that the cosmos is not merely expanding but doing so at an accelerating rate, because of what has been called “dark energy.” Just as that discovery has implications for the ultimate fate of the universe, this new one provides a stunning look back at the moment the universe was born.

And what existed before the universe “was born” and who, or what, gave birth?

Questions, questions, questions. At some point, the professionals behind this story needed to admit that this development raises questions that transcend science. Finally, there is this:

It is unclear how long this inflationary epoch lasted. Kovac calculated that in that first fraction of a second the volume of the universe increased by a factor of 10 to the 26th power, going from subatomic to cosmic.

This is obviously difficult terrain for theorists, and the question of why there is something rather than nothing creeps into realms traditionally governed by theologians. But theoretical physicists say that empty space is not empty, that the vacuum crackles with energy and that quantum physics permits such mind-boggling events as a universe popping up seemingly out of nowhere.

The story does not follow up on that observation but, at this point, I think it would be asking too much for the breaking-news science team to turn out a feature on the theological and metaphysical discussions that are just around the corner. I think it was bold, and appropriate, for the Post to at least mention the religious implications of this discussion. This opens the door to future coverage of, hopefully, a wide spectrum of religious points of view. Can you say, “Finely tuned universe”?

Contrast the Post approach with the language used at The New York Times:

A potential hitch in the presumed course of cosmic evolution could have infused space itself with a special energy that exerted a repulsive force, causing the universe to swell faster than the speed of light for a prodigiously violent instant.

And who or what set the “presumed course” of “cosmic evolution” and who or what caused this “hitch” in the clockwork mechanism? Once again, there is some question about the meaning of the word “evolution” when the question involves that whole something-from-nothing thing. How does nothing evolve into something? If there is a tiny pinprick of something, where did that come from? The various schools of evolutionary thought tend to work best when explaining changes in a system — micro or macro — that at least EXISTS.

While the Post team saw the ghost in the universe machine, the Times editors tried to avoid it altogether. The result looks something like this:

Physicists recognize four forces at work in the world today: gravity, electromagnetism, and strong and weak nuclear forces. But they have long suspected that those are simply different manifestations of a single unified force that ruled the universe in its earliest, hottest moments.

As the universe cooled, according to this theory, there was a fall from grace, like some old folk mythology of gods or brothers falling out with each other. The laws of physics evolved, with one force after another splitting away.

Ah, so is that “single unified force that ruled the universe” kind of like THE Force? You know, the one that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the universe together, or words to that effect?

Just asking. I’m not trying to argue the science here, by the way. I’m simply saying that it is hard to discuss these issues — even in mainstream news publications — without seeing the bigger questions that will interest millions of readers.

So why try to avoid the obvious?

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

67 responses to “Universe gives birth to itself, transformed by unknown ‘force’”

  1. The NYT seems unaware that the big bang theory was proposed in the 20s, not 1979; WaPo has some historical awareness, but credits Edwin Hubble. Georges LeMaistre, in fact, proposed it first, as well as a couple of theorems that ended up with Hubble’s name on them (Galileo would have been proud). To acknowledge Msgr. LeMaistre, however, would be to recognize that a scientist could also be a Catholic priest, honored, in fact, by the Vatican as a “monsignor”. It’s probably good that he was ignored, however, lest heads explode.

  2. Don’t reporters ever look at Google as they do their research??? Under headings such as priest-Big Bang Theory here are a few postings they would have found: “Priest considered father of the Big Bang,” “The Belgian Priest Who Invented the Big Bang Theory” “How A Catholic priest gave us the Big Bang Theory,” etc.,etc., Incidentally, the priest had the pope’s support for his research.
    There are many ways a few in the media attempt to keep the alleged war of religion against science going–that is by ignoring landmark contributions to science by strongly religious people when giving background in news stories.

    • Right; I don’t think science has a very good handle on what space is. There is certainly no explanation that makes sense that tells us how light waves propagate through space. Every answer science provides seems to mask a hundred deeper questions. I love science, but am not blind to its faults and deficiencies….

  3. Ah, so is that “single unified force that ruled the universe” kind of like THE Force?

    To my knowledge, nobody’s proposed that the strong or weak nuclear force, nor electromagnetism, nor gravity – nor any unification of them – would “also obey your commands”, as Dr. Obi Wan Kenobi put it.

    So, short answer: no.

      • Still not picking up your point, though. Would you have been happier if the Times had written “governed all physical interactions in” rather than “ruled”? I thought your problem was that they didn’t anthropomorphize enough?

  4. I respect your take, but, for me, attributing this to some guy in the sky is just so insufficient. People like simple answers, but science keeps blowing our minds. When volcanoes erupted, early humans thought the volcano was angry (anthropomorphisizing it). They did not have the science to say “plate tectonics” and the answer is so much more complex with magna, the earth’s core, shifting continents, etc. The Biblical story of the creation of humans is nice and simple, but, I would contend, pales immensely in comparison to the story of evolution in its dazzling complexity. The notion of a soul is so much less layered than the science around our minds and its interaction with the rest of our body, our DNA, etc. Ditto for the creation of the universe. We keep wanting some simple answer, but the answers keep coming back more complex than we can imagine. If you want a guy to fill in the blank spots, okay. It doesn’t look that way to me.

    And, as for the old canard about how did the universe come from nothing, as I’m sure you must know, there is no way around that. All systems of thought face the paradox that there is something rather than nothing. In yours, there was a being. There could have been nothing, but there was something. (As the saying goes, there is something an omnipotent being ironically cannot do – he cannot create himself. He just happened, luckily, to be there, wondering why he existed and nothing else did). Whether it’s whatever existed before the Big Bang, the guy-in-the-sky, a seed, a clod of earth, a set of primordial parents, EVERY creation story just starts with something. If there had truly ever been nothing, you’d never have something. So that’s not a physics problem…it’s a quandary for your approach too.

    • Your straw-man comments are facile, sophomoric, and ultimately boring. If you’re uninterested in metaphysics and philosophy, kindly admit it and refrain from engaging in conversations in which you’re clearly out of your depth.

      For believers, the answer is not that complicated. Things that exist must have a cause. There cannot be any uncaused cause in the physical world, so if any such exists, it’s impossible to prove using physical tests alone. The theory that this universe is a phenomenon generated by a previous or unseen parallel universe answers nothing, but merely posits an infinite regress which only postpones the ineluctable question of origin. Turtles-all-the-way-down is not an answer, but an evasion. So existence must depend upon a completely exterior cause-without-cause possessing the fullness of existence in itself. It’s not a matter of an omnipotent being paradoxically incapable of creating himself — rather, the omnipotent being has no such need, nor any other. A being without any need lacks nothing, including knowledge, and therefore doesn’t suffer self-doubt about his own existence. A being outside the physical world must be non-physical — viz., spiritual. Clear your mind of cant and do some thinking.

      • Romulus
        Fiest there is really no need to be insulting. It just sullies the conversation.

        I am familiar with your arguments but they are filled with assertions. You say the physical must have been created by the spiritual but there is no such evidence. And of course the spiritual is a singular deity though you have no such evidence. The deity probably has a will. .. No such evidence. Does the spiritual require causation? You assert not. The whole part where you say he has no such need and the sentences following are a series of tautologies.

        I’m not evading. ..merely describing the present state of our knowledge. Science learns more today in a 5 yr period than religion did in thousands. You are left really with metaphysical assertions and tautologies.

        • What you don’t yet grasp is that lack of physical evidence is meaningless and ought to be unsurprising when the object of inquiry is not part of the physical world. But if you insist, I’d gladly argue that the existence of the universe is itself evidence that the uncreated being chooses to create, hence possesses a will and is therefore personal in nature. There’s no tautology in inferring an uncaused cause based on observation of the universe around us.

          I don’t assert that a spiritual nature alone dispenses with the need for a cause. Believers readily assert that angels are created spirits. A spiritual being possessing the fullness of existence, possessing the power to create the physical world, ought to have no trouble with creating a spiritual realm as well.

          Theology is in no way a subject for scientific inquiry; they are separate disciplines. Science concerns itself purely with physical, material phenomena. This is why it’s so irritating when scientists appeal to their professional credentials in asserting the non-existence of God: they are over-stepping their competence. Why are they so rarely called out on this? On what knowledge do they base this assertion? As an advocate for reason and science, does this not bother you?

          • Sometimes. When Dawkins talks, I just wish he would shut up. But at other times what they are doing is critiquing the logic and its total absence of grounding. I could make up a story similar to yours involving polytheism. I could (forgive the analogy) also use the Matrix and its little pills. In either system, there would be no physical evidence, so why not? And better yet –> why *don’t* people in our society use these stories and why, so repeatedly, the monotheistic one given, as you acknowledge, there is no evidence?

            The obvious answer is socialization. Xns born in N America have Xn stories. No one in N America 600 yrs ago found these stories compelling; they had other ones. The species is 200,000 yrs old and for the vast majority of that time, generation after generation never heard of the Xn or Jewish story.

            I think this is what is intellectually troubling. The failure to see how context drives thinking. The nice thing about science is that there is evidence. Someone in China can replicate results, find the same patterns and data. And if the data does not fit, you have to change your story (gasp).

            In comparison, even in your last response, with respect, there are just so many assertions. You speculate on whether creation applies to spiritual beings. Well, how is one going to argue that? Do I say “no” and you say “yes?” You say one should be a theologian but what precisely is the requirement for that? Can I be a theologian with multiple gods? How about a Mormon theologian whose concept of divinity is, shall we say, complicated?

            To my eyes, you solve the turtle conundrum (and it is an intriguing conundrum…I’m okay with that), by simply asserting there is a great big spiritual turtle for whom the rules don’t apply. That, to a scientist, is not just unscientific, but a total absence of rigor. It’s the Matrix argument backed up by a social system that gives legitimacy to one unfounded story but not another.

      • Turtles-all-the-way-down is not an answer, but an evasion.

        It’s getting a bit afield from journalism, but… I’ve never seen an actual argument for the proposition that “an infinite regress is impossible”. I’ve seen plenty of people assume or assert that it’s ‘obvious’, but reality has surprised us radically before (continental drift, germ theory of disease, relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution, etc.). I’d like a little more foundation than, “I can’t see how it’s possible, therefore it isn’t”.

      • You can have an eternal multiverse or an eternal creator. Neither make any every day sense from a causal being’s perspective. Both parties say something is there, one just says it’s conscious and the other does not.

  5. “Universe gives birth to itself, transformed by unknow ‘force'” —Hiliarious! Thank you!

  6. “I’m not trying to argue the science here, by the way. ”

    Of course not, but there is no credible scientist that claims something comes from nothing, that is a religious precept. Anytime anyone violates the Laws of Conservation it is due to ignorance or magic, your pick…:)

  7. People, people, my post is about the fact that it’s impossible to avoid DISCUSSING some religious concepts in a news story about this topic. I mean, again, look at THE VERBS.

    It’s a journalism post.

    • I think some of this is just sloppy writing. The writer should not say “transformed itself” but simply “it transformed.” They do this better later and write “was born” but you reply with “and who gave it birth?” But this is your assumption — that there is a will rather than impersonal forces. This is standard religion vs science stuff. Religious explanations for leprosy, volcanoes, emergence of first humans, all assume anthropomorphic wills as causes. Science generally finds impersonal forces (science of disease, tectonic plates, evolution). So, here, there is really no evidence of all of some organizer scheduling this event. But the religious (well, monotheistic) view is “It’s the big guy.”

      And while you think the experts must acknowledge the questions “transcend science” I find that unlikely. The only progress we have made on these questions are through science. That does not mean science will ever have it all, only that the answers historically provided by that which transcends science (obviously you mean religion) have hardly installed confidence. I think these discoveries show yet again how much more fruitful science is and, to my eyes, how impoverished the stories from religion are. I realize you disagree, but your claim that the journalists are avoiding the obvious is only because of your assumptions. I don’t find the God of Leviticus or Revelation to be an unavoidable topic on an inflationary universe. In the same way, I assume you are not going to write how they avoided the “obvious” implications of Hindu cosmology or that of the Navajos. Or are you?

      • I find that “God” as understood by atheists is indeed anthropomorphic and therefore does not exist. However, “God” as understood by theists is not the same. I also find that only certain kinds of people think that science and religion are mutally exclusive. It is a myth perpetuated by some scientists and believed by some theists, but a myth just the same.

        • Well, it depends. Many theists see anthropomorphic qualities in God (has a will for example; has similar emotions; etc.). As for “certain kinds of people” and “it is a myth,” you’ll have to be more specific. Some religious folks can embrace elements of science while fitting it into their religious frame (e.g. God causes the big bang). Some scientists (themselves religious) can do this too. What is different is that the two involve entirely different processes. Science looks for evidence, proposes theories, tests them, changes them, and develops knowledge in this way that is testable, replicable and predictive. Religion does none of this.

          Science, I would add, can proceed without religion as the bible, the Gita, and Buddhist chant are not relevant for scientific research. Religious folks, it seems to me, either have to wrap science into their religion or deny science (e.g. Ken Hamm…though even then he accepts much of it).

          • The will is not an athropomorphic quality. Rather, it is a divine quality that man possesses in a dim and weak version. Same thing with intelligence. And the fact that you see it the other way around sort of proves my point – I don’t mean it judgmentally, it’s just an observation.
            Brianbrianbrian1, we should probably not try to solve the age-old questions here where the journalistic issues are supposed to be the topic. So I’m not going any further on it, but thanks for engaging me.

          • Yes, we might as well move on. I would just observe that your response falls, I think, into a bit of the difference between science and religion I was making. My argument tries to use empirical evidence (i.e. we observe that people have wills and that they tend, historically, to project them onto volcanoes or why disease happens or to innumerable sprites, spirits, angels and gods). I think your response proceeds without evidence – you assume there is a divine entity out there (also assuming singular perhaps rather than plural?), and that it has a will and an intelligence. Further, it has an uberwill and an uberintelligence (assumption) whereas ours is comparatively weak. My statement wasn’t about “science” proper of course, but falls into the larger division of whether one has evidence or not.

          • There will not be progress on this issue until both theists and atheists stop conflating the issue. There is literally nothing that science can tell us one way or the other about the existence of God since God being immaterial can not be a topic of experimental science. This does not really say much since Fermat’s last theorem is not a proper subject of science either, in that its not a matter for experiment, but rather the truth of theorem is proved deductively.
            Arguments that prove the existence of God from creation are sound but are mostly misunderstood because someone like Aquinas understood “creation” to mean something different than what we mean. Aquinas thought even an eternal universe would require something to give it actuality, that is since any material thing is contingent it is not a sufficient cause of its own existence and an infinite chain of insufficient causes is impossible. This is true even if the universe sprung into existence because of a quantum fluctuation of the universe’s vacuum energy. A blog response does not give do this justice but a very solid proof for the existence of God can be found in a series of posts at this site: http://catholicxray.com/irrefutable-proof-for-the-existence-of-god-a-preview/
            I would issue a challenge to the atheists out there to attempt to refute the proof. I have yet to see anyone try, most simply either discuss something else ( and therefore attack a straw man) or ignore the argument. Of note however theists need to stop resorting to the God of the gaps argument. Lets presume that the universe sprung into being from a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum state, the real question then are all about are the laws of quantum mechanics and physics in general sufficient to explain themselves? Do they necessarily and logically demand an explanation or can we be content to say they just “are”, is there something inherently different about the kind of “cause” that God is postulated to be and the kind of cause physical laws are that makes one a sufficient explanation for reality and not the other. Answers is found at http://catholicxray.com/proof-of-god-and-the-laws-of-physics/

          • Look, there’s a perfectly good question about why/how something came from nothing. Scientists don’t have an answer to this question (and, sensibly, they don’t try to answer it). Some religious people think that they do have an answer to this question: that God did it. But of course that God did it also isn’t an answer, since one can ask the same question about God – what explains his/her/its existence? Some religious people try to respond to this by saying that God is somehow special so doesn’t need an explanation for his/her/its existence – but if God is just there, w/o explanation, why can’t the universe be just there, w/o explanation? Structurally, the claims are the same. And the distinction between necessary and contingent does not help here, at least unless you have a good account of those modalities which you can use to show, not merely assert, that God is indeed necessary whereas the universe is merely contingent.

          • Sigh… you evidently did not check out the website, or you would not ask this kind of question. In brief everything in the material world is contingent. That is it is the kind of thing that has an existence separate from its essence. ” What it is” ( its essence is different from
            “that it is”. So a unicorn has a “what” but not a “that”. A dog has an essence and an existence, while dinosaur has an essence and had an existence at one time but no longer does, while the graviton ( a particle that caries the gravitational force) has an essence but may or
            may not exist. All of these things are by definition contingent, since they can be described but do not necessarily exist. Obviously then such
            things require something ( a cause) give them a reality and join their essence to an act of existence. Now as you can readily see anything in the material universe is by clearly something that has a essence separate from its existence. It is also obviously true that an infinite chain of contingent things can not exist because something can only function as a cause once it in fact exists. Thus the universe requires something that is non contingent to join its essence to an act of existence. A non contingent thing would then be something whose essence and existence are not separate, but rather something whose essence was existence itself. Let us call this “entity X”. It is possible to define certain qualities of what a necessary entity would be, and based on this logic most people would call the necessary being ” God” . In any case there is a full discussion of this topic at http://catholicxray.com/proof-of-gods-existence-a-different-view/

    • You make a good point about the verbs, but those verbs also have nonreligious meanings that may apply here. In my line of work, we use them all the time wthout religious connotation. We create concepts, evolve campaigns, transform marketplaces. Science and religion actually can agree to a large extent as to “what happened” at the origin of the universe – the friction comes about regarding the “how” and “why” and “who.” The scientific discovery here is about detecting finer and finer details of a phenomenon that is basically well accepted – noncontroversial details about a noncontroversial topic.
      This is not to say that scientism advocates have not appropriated religious terminology. And these articles do seem to have that flavor. But, the topic itself is not necessarily a religious issue.
      I think there’s a scientific ghost here, actually, rather than a religious one, namely, the idea that the universe could have expanded faster than the speed of light, even if briefly. Could there have been some sort of “warp factor” at work? I boggles the mind especially if it can be reproduced on a small and nondestructive scale.

      • Yes. But, in your examples, you identify the one responsible. Not only verbs, but the subject of those verbs is most important..

    • You seem to believe that people can argue intelligently and respectfully on the internet, particularly when the word “God” or “religion” is involved. “What!? This person dares to broach such a topic without coming out strongly in favor of my personal ideological inclination? How dare they!” Cue rabid self-defensive posts by sweaty-palmed psuedo-intellectuals.

      If nothing else, the response validates your hypothesis.

      • Intelligent, interesting discussion used to happen in this blog, when they could filter out the extraneous nonsense and focus on religious journalism. Now it’s some interesting comments surrounded by people on hobby horses.

        Fortunately, the blogging itself remains intelligent and interesting.

  8. Verbs: I think the journalist is accustomed to using active verbs. Even lawyers are taught that passive verbs are usually used to avoid answering the question. Example: mistakes were made. LOL

  9. “So why try to avoid the obvious?” because it’s a science show not a theology debate. Tyson and any honest scientist declares that the question you wish to force is one they don’t currently know the answer to. Nothing wrong with the God of the gaps approach if you simply need to have an answer to hold on to, but the science lab is probably not the place for it.

  10. I think more people would associate the ‘In the beginning’ portion with Genesis rather than John. Considering the context of Genesis 1, it seems a more appropriate reference to the topic at hand.

    Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to leave it at ‘transformed’ rather than ‘transformed itself’, but aside from that I don’t see what the problem of that verb is. Maybe I’m missing your point.

    I think you’re being overly sensitive to the use of the word ‘created’. The observed waves appear to be a consequence of the brief period of inflation. ‘Caused’ or ‘Formed’ could be used in some fashion here and I suspect would have been subject to the same ‘ahhh you see what they did here with the subtle shoehorning of religious language’.

    “And what existed before the universe “was born” and who, or what, gave birth?” These are not the questions this type of investigation is likely to answer, nor was that the intent. What’s being offered is a more detailed description of the fraction of a second after the universe ‘was born’. That metaphysical questions might arise from studying the early cosmos is irrelevant. The whos or whats lie beyond the scope of this particular inquiry.

  11. “And who or what set the “presumed course” of “cosmic evolution” and who or what caused this “hitch” in the clockwork mechanism?”

    Do you ask the same kinds of questions about rainbows and how their existence points to (presumably your) god? Aren’t they supernatural indications of the great flood? Or is that silly now because we know how they happen?

  12. “In the beginning” is a relative term. One element of inflation is that it usually implies a multiverse. Our universe could be a branch inside an already evolving universe. And it might be possible to detect the influence of other universes on our own. Some think we already might have done so.

  13. And what existed before the universe “was born” and who, or what, gave birth?

    Scientists: We don’t know. Here’s some interesting new research.
    Christians: Thanks, but we already know.

  14. What’s the problem with seeing that the more we learn about the Universe the more we learn about God? Why not see them as being ONE?

    • Because, if you mean by “God” a being capable of rational thoughts and decision-making ability, like a human being, you’ve left the field of science and entered religion. Stop the bus, this is where I get off.

    • If a thing exists but could have failed to exist, then it is dependent on something beyond itself for its existence. In other words, any physical state of affairs S must have an explanation in a causally prior state of affairs S* which does not include S. This means that the explanation of the universe must be some causally prior non-physical state of affairs.

  15. Of the few most embarrassing things about the current state of humankind I can think of off-hand, the fact that the majority still thinks that theologians have something of value to contribute to cosmology ranks pretty high.

    • Same thing applies to philosophers. In order to not be completely crazy as a philosopher they need to be very well versed in science. Lest they say something that is demostrateively not true and get called on it.

  16. Big bang is not the same thing as inflation. The inflationary universe model is much more recent than the big bang model – 1979 sounds about right, though I’ve forgotten.

    • Kalam is so laughably bad as a argument that it isn’t even worth discussing in serious terms.

          • The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a serious argument, one that you have not yet given me any reason to doubt.

          • It is not a serious argument since it relies on laughably simplistic views of causality and the universe. The first premise of kalam is flat out not true due to our understanding of modern physics, and trying to shoe horn ancient philosophy into it just a shallow attempt at confusing the issues.

          • Exactly what of modern physics denies the metaphysical principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause?

          • Modern Cosmology.

            The second part of the kalam is a lie since we have no idea if the universe began to exist. All we have is that the universe has a earliest period of existence, which is not the same thing.

          • Modern cosmology? Modern cosmology denies that whatever begins to exist has a cause? No it doesn’t. Not even close. It doesn’t even try to do things like that because that’s outside the scope of cosmology.

            The discoveries of the last century all point to a time at which absolutely nothing existed–neither space nor matter (nor, if you like, time itself). Starting with Einstein’s field equations, then the models of Lemaitre and Friedmann, strengthened by Hubble’s redshift observations, and finally confirmed by the discovery of cosmic background radiation, everything suggests that the universe began to exist.

          • No, all it does is point to a earliest moment of time. Which is a issue since time is a product of the universe itself. You are stuck with a outdated sense of plausible causality to a universe that cannot be taken as such.

          • Exactly! A first moment of time entails a first moment of the universe. There could not have been a universe prior to the first moment of time, since time is itself a product of the universe (although that is not even necessary–on my position–for a universe that has existed for a finite time. That is, on my view, it is possible that time has always existed, as Richard Swinburne holds, even though the physical universe has not always existed). But on your view, there could not have been time without a physical universe. So since there was first moment of time, the universe began to exist.

          • (the link doesn’t work) And do you actually think that Sean Carroll is a real cosmologist? He’s just like Krauss. They’re both well-known just because they are popularizers of science. Yes, they’re both professors at universities. But just about every other person is! The only reason anyone knows them is because they’ve been able to make some science accessible to the ordinary laypeople. What have they done in their field though? They have contributed absolutely nothing to science. And these two in particular I dislike because they are dishonest in misrepresenting scientific theories.

          • Are you kidding me? Did you even watch the debate? Carroll utterly embarrassed himself. Ten minutes into his opening speech, Carroll ran out of things to talk about about cosmology and went on a rant of red herrings and straw men, talking about the achievements of science, negatives of religion, the idea of persons being material objects, etc. He lost all of his credibility from me. There’s no doubt that Carroll didn’t even read Craig’s book “Kalam Cosmological Argument” since he invoked “Aristotelian causality” only to be shut down when Craig pointed out that the argument doesn’t require any particular form of causality (from among Aristotle’s distinctions between a formal cause, efficient cause, etc.).

            So, again, do YOU have any real objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

          • “Did you even watch the debate?”

            Did you watch the debate? Craig was humiliated over and over when Carrol had to correct him on research papers that Craig superficially read. Craig also just ignored rebuttals and repeats himself, expecting idiots to think that this is a valid debate tactic.

            “He lost all of his credibility from me. There’s no doubt that Carroll didn’t even read Craig’s book “Kalam Cosmological Argument”

            Why should he? The kalam is a joke as previously explained.

            “only to be shut down when Craig pointed out that the argument doesn’t
            require any particular form of causality (from among Aristotle’s
            distinctions between a formal cause, efficient cause, etc.).”

            Which is what you do when you don’t have a argument, you make stuff up. Which Craig did by the bush loads.

            “Carroll ran out of things to talk about about cosmology and went on a rant of red herrings and straw men”

            Carroll stayed on topic with his ideas of materialism and how it is a far better model of the universe than theology. He also preempted Craig’s attempt to add ad hoc justifications for his theism since theism is a poorly defined term, you can add anything you want to it to justify anything. Sadly, actual models of cosmology are more strict than that.

            “the idea of persons being material objects, etc.”

            We are material objects in case you were unawares.

            “So, again, do YOU have any real objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument?”

            So, again, the kalam is a joke. The first premise is a lie and the second one is unproven. Got anything else?

          • Repeating that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a joke does not advance your position. Saying it again and again is not going to make it true. You haven’t given me any reason to doubt either of the two premises or the logic of the argument.

            You say, “Which is what you do when you don’t have a argument, you make stuff up.” But how is that a response to the argument? The fact, again, is that the argument does not require any particular understanding of causality. So the “Aristotelian causality” objection is no objection at all.

            What I meant was that the mind is an immaterial object. I said not that that people aren’t material objects but that personhood implies an immaterial component.

          • “Repeating that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a joke does not advance your position.”

            Because I already refuted it.

            “You haven’t given me any reason to doubt either of the two premises or the logic of the argument.”

            Besides modern cosmology.

            “But how is that a response to the argument?”

            Because Craig didn’t have one, since to throw up a strict definition of theism and pit it against the known world, which was the debate was about, would have had made him into a laughing stock. In other words:


            “The fact, again, is that the argument does not require any particular understanding of causality.”

            Which is the making up stuff part of the debate.

            “What I meant was that the mind is an immaterial object.”

            Wrong, again. Have someone swing a chair at you hard enough and your definition of yourself goes away.

            “I said not that that people aren’t material objects but that personhood implies an immaterial component.”

            Not even close.

          • You haven’t even begun to refute the argument because you haven’t given me any reason to doubt either of the two premises or the logic of the argument. The definition of theism is what the debate was all about? It seems to me that you’re invoking that “theism is poorly defined” thing simply because you lack a sense of even the essence of God. Read the great theologians and you won’t even think of making that claim again.

          • “You haven’t even begun to refute the argument because you haven’t given
            me any reason to doubt either of the two premises or the logic of the

            Modern Cosmology and looking at the actual evidence. You don’t understand the concept that the beginning of time isn’t necessarily the same thing as the beginning of the universe. Especially since time itself can be a product of the universe.

            “The definition of theism is what the debate was all about?”

            If you refuse to provide a concise explanation of your view point, then nobody should take you seriously. Since you yourself don’t partake in that luxury.
            That is apologetics 101, be as vague as possible because that is all they can do without it turning into a comedy show. That is what Craig did with no shame, he never once offered up a internally logical worldview of theism.

            Since, when he does that and when Carroll starts to dismantle theism, all Craig has to do is pretend that theism isn’t theism.

            “It seems to me that you’re invoking that “theism is poorly defined”
            thing simply because you lack a sense of even the essence of God.”

            Case and point. Even you don’t offer up a concise idea of theism.

            “Read the great theologians and you won’t even think of making that claim again.”

            Which is just the Courtier’s Reply.

  17. With or without physics, philosophy, theology, cosmology, or whatever, I cannot understand how anyone could view and ponder our universe and not be awe struck. That said, I know people that can look at a great piece of art, or see a beautiful panorama and feel nothing special. Never-the-less, our universe is proving to be stranger and more mysterious than we imagined. Can something come from nothing? The current set of facts seem to indicate that something can come from either nothing, or at least something unknown and not understood. Einstein’s work seems to indicate that energy and mass are interchangeable. That alone is pretty weird. And, now we know that there are particles that seem to just happen, where there were none before; and particles that change their behavior, if they are being watched! Very weird. A universe expanding at an accelerating rate? Mind bending. Considering the wonder of it all, there seems to plenty of room for all of us to admire things in our own way, without being too disparaging of other points of view.

  18. “The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”
    Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment: The Play

    I generally find that extremely religious people fall into the latter category, when speaking of the physical universe.

    • It isn’t so much that they think they found it in that they knew all along. Theists are very scared of the unknown and don’t want to deal with it, hence their creepy levels of dogma with factors of life that are nowhere near 100% certain.