April 9, 2015

In Their Own Words XXXI: The Universe Had No Beginning

Cosmic Microwave Background
All-Sky Map-C
reated from 9 years of WMAP data
Since religion intrinsically rejects empirical methods, there should never be any attempt to reconcile scientific theories with religion. [An infinitely old universe, always evolving may not be compatible with the Book of Genesis. However, religions such as Buddhism get along without having any explicit creation mythology and are in no way contradicted by a universe without a beginning or end.] Creation ex nihilo, even as religious doctrine, only dates to around AD 200. The key is not to confuse myth and empirical results, or religion and science. ~ Hannes Alfvén [Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988)]

Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén was a Swedish electrical engineer, plasma physicist and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on magnetohydrodynamics. His biggest contribution to science appears to have been his research of plasma and charged particle physics. On his religious views, Alfven was irreligious and critical of religion. It is a shame that he wasn’t more critical of his logic, scientific claims or his own statements. The quote I have pulled out of the past is a real winner from both a logic and science standpoint.

This is a really telling statement if analyzed carefully with a philosophical and theological eye. Many assumptions and clear biases are shown. Unabashedly too I might add. He is framing religion to be the sworn enemy of science in his very first sentence. Hannes states, “Religion rejects empirical methods.” Eh, no, it doesn’t. In accepts empiricism in that empiricism physically provides truths about the physical universe. Christianity doesn’t stop there though. Christianity accepts knowledge not just from empirical methods (General Revelation) but also accepts the spiritual (Special Revelation). Christians are not by definition Empiricists though. Religion believes in the physical world and the spiritual world. In this way Christianity is much more accepting and encompassing of all forms of knowledge both a priori and a posteriori, spiritual and physical.

In reality, it is today's science that rejects something. It rejects anything that is non-empirical or metaphysical. Science specifically limits its sources of information and data to only the empirical realm. Christianity accepts empirical-type methods in the natural world…it just denies that empiricism and logical positivism are the only ways to gain true knowledge. A fact that modern science denies. For science, if knowledge or data is gained any other way than through physical sense experience (a posteriori) that knowledge is denied or is relegated to irrelevance or is considered irrelevant by science and atheistic philosophy. Like I said, Hannes is disingenuous or extremely philosophically ignorant.

It was said another way by sociologist Clifford Kirkpatrick three-quarters of a century ago…

“Science recognizes no personal powers in the universe responsive to the prayers and needs of men. Belief in mysterious powers which constitutes, according to our definition, the conceptual aspect of religion is usually an animistic belief in personal powers. Science in effect denies the existence of spiritual beings which religion affirms. ~ Clifford Kirkpatrick-Religion in Human Affairs (1929)

Hannes then further digresses and makes a false analogy and/or straw man argument between Christianity and Buddhism by touting Buddhism’s failure to have a Creation narrative as a positive or "redeeming" feature. His comment about Buddhism being compatible with some science (by implication) because it doesn’t have an explicit Creation narrative is intellectually disingenuous. Buddhism by its very nature is practical atheism...of course it doesn’t have a Creation account. Hannes avoids stating as much (most likely on purpose) just as he fails to name Christianity by name as if it doesn’t merit mentioning. He alludes to Christianity in a backhanded manner by mentioning the Genesis account being incompatible with his beloved evolution. Again he is using a secular or atheistic benchmark by which to gauge the Genesis Creation account and Christian belief in general.

He also makes a statement that the concept of ex nihilo (Creation out of nothing) only came into existence around the year 200 A.D. As if it had never ever existed before. Hannes appears to have assumed that because it wasn't solidified as doctrine until this point, the concept or idea had never arisen. This is a false assumption. In truth the reason the Church formulated the doctrine of ex nihilo which they were already aware of, is because of the same reasons other doctrines arose (as did the creeds.) The doctrines and creeds arise to correct error and protect from future errors. It wasn't until heresies, half-truths and outright lies (like Hannes') began to creep into the church that doctrines like ex nihilo needed to be formulated and officially stated.

Ex nihilo became doctrine because of rising pressure of the false teaching of Gnosticism. Gnosticism drew a distinction between the God of the Old Testament, the one they believed had created this world...and the God of the New Testament. Gnostics regarded the God of the OT as a lesser deity than the God of the NT. Irenaeus responding to this Gnosticism around the year 200 rebuked the teaching of two Gods. He also argued against Greek philosophy which taught that matter pre-existed and God became the divine architect as He ordered this pre-existent matter. Irenaeus said that there "...was no preexistent matter; everything required to be created out of nothing" (McGrath, p. 38). Just because it was not a doctirne pre-200 A.D. doesn't mean the concept didn't exist at all. Hannes is appealing to ignorance here.

What is even more embarrassing for Hannes is his infinitely old universe claim (as a fact). The universe isn’t infinitely old. There is a complete failure to understand or acknowledge generally accepted science. Ask any cosmologist that studies the Cosmic Microwave Background or the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang.  To exacerbate and compound Hannes’ absurdity he also commits a another fallacy of logic. It occurs when Hannes states that Buddhism is, “…in no way contradicted by a universe without a beginning or end.” The last I checked, a majority of science still held to a Big Bang inception event for the creation of the universe.

Increasingly science is moving in the direction of believing in an infinite universe, parallel universes or similar theories because these theories pose fewer problems when attempting to deny God. Regardless, those in science that do not accept that there was a universe inception event are then in serious danger of committing a surprisingly elementary logic error called an infinite regress. In an attempt to deny that God is the Aristotelian Uncaused Cause of the universe, atheists often resort to an infinite regress of events that have no cause (a logical error, therefore not plausible). The physical evidence within the universe itself points to a beginning. It had to have had a first cause. Because of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics exists (entropy), science and atheism are prevented from scientifically and logically claiming the universe had no beginning.

What claim am I making here to nullify Hannes' comment about a beginningless universe? Simple really…

It is called the Kalām Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. It goes like this in syllogism form.

  • Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  • The universe began to exist.
  • Therefore: The universe has a cause.

From the conclusion of the initial syllogism, we further  append the premise and conclusion based upon ontological analysis of the properties of the cause. It goes something like this.

  • The universe therefore had a cause.
  • If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
  • Therefore: An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.

Explained in a more simplistic manner: Energy is “winding down” (entropy) in the universe. That is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Therefore there is a finite or limited amount of energy in the universe and it is progressing towards disorder or absence of order. This means that at some distant point in the future, if followed out scientifically and logically, the universe will suffer heat death, cease to exist or use up the energy of the universe barring no divine intervention. The fact that the universe has a finite amount of energy and order and it has not lost all its energy or order since it is still being expended as we speak…argues consistently for the fact that universe was indeed created at a past date or point in time. Therefore the universe began to exist. If the universe does have a finite amount of energy and it hasn’t been exhausted shows that a quantifiable amount of “gas” was put in the cosmic fuel tank of the universe at its creation as the “initial start-up condition”. Before such time, the universe did not exist. After the “gas” runs out of the universe’s “tank” it will end barring a catastrophic or cosmic calamity beforehand (i.e.: Judgment Day, Day of The Lord).

The universe is generally considered a closed system in physics and therefore finite. It then stands to reason that the universe was indeed created at a definitive point in the past and had a cause outside of the physical realm since whatever created the universe or caused it had to be beyond the physical realm/universe. This “ultra-mundane" being must have therefore transcended time since physical space and time are linked together by Einstein’s Space-Time Continuum. Since there was no time as we understand it or one moment followed by another in sequential linear order, this “ultra-mundane being” must also have the characteristics of timelessness. If He/It/God/Uncaused Cause is timeless He/It must therefore be changeless since changes require linear time also. To be timeless, changeless and not of the physical realm dictates that this Being must also be immaterial and dare I say it, spiritual and beginning-less since without time there cannot be an Infinite Regress anyway even if someone wanted to violate the rules of logic. It is at this point the illogical infinite regress fails because an infinite series of events require time to unfold in linear sequence backwards in time. Either way, it is at this point of absurdity that my point about God’s existence has been made. Hannes’ infinite universe has been logically dismantled.

What we inevitably see in Hannes Alfvén is a rabidly anti-theistic man who has fallen victim to his own wishful thinking. Just because he wants the infinite universe to exist doesn’t mean he can violate logic to make his flawed belief reality. When he also goes against physical evidences like the Cosmic Microwave Background to make his erroneous theological point he gets two strikes against him.

One error provokes theists and Christians, the other dismays his own brethren in his own scientific ranks because it makes them look ridiculous too. I’m guessing those that study in the field of Physical and Observational Cosmology aren’t really thrilled with this guy because in one fallacy ridden quote he discredits their entire field of study. That has got to be frustrating for them.

McGrath, Alister E. Theology: The Basics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. Print.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...