Scientists, particularly earth scientists, are constantly criticized on Yahoo Q&A by fundamentalist Christians / creationists, on account of their understanding of the enormity of geological time, as opposed to the literal Biblical interpretation (7 days, Genesis; at about 4000 yrs BC, according to Ussher).
As a qualified and practising geologist, I have absolutely no problems in grappling with the enormous periods of time inherent in the rocks I work with. However. the same level of criticism does not appear to be levelled at astronomers and astrophysicists, who routinely observe objects in the universe at many millions of light years away (i.e. the light took millions of years to reach us).
The obvious implication is that, accepting the basics of physics and knowing the speed of light, the universe must be very very vast, and very very old indeed, which collaborates with the geological evidence.
My question is simply this: How is this contradiction explained by the fundamentalist creationists?
Serious answers only please.
I read arguments from Christians about evolution or creationism that defies logic and ignores what has already been proved about the formation of the earth and it’s contents. They stop abruptly at ‘God created the earth and the bible said so’. So I started thinking Christians can never be true scientists because they will never pursue where facts lead them. Hence, can they be anthropologists, Astronomers or astrophysicists
Answer by The Wag
Of course they can, it depends on how they interpret their scriptures. Just look at Ken Miller.
Question Posed – Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist): “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” (2)
George Ellis (British astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.” (3)
Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming”. (4)
Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design… The universe must have a purpose”. (5)
Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” (6)
John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.” (7)
George Greenstein (astronomer): “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?” (8)
Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” (9)
Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” (10)
Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.” (11)
Tony Rothman (physicist): “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” (12)
Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.” (13)
Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” (14)
Stephen Hawking (British astrophysicist): “Then we shall… be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.” (15)
Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” (16)
Alexander Polyakov (Soviet mathematician): “We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it.”(17)
Ed Harrison (cosmologist): “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.” (18)
Edward Milne (British cosmologist): “As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him [God].” (19)
Barry Parker (cosmologist): “Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed.” (20)
Drs. Zehavi, and Dekel (cosmologists): “This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with ‘common wisdom’.” (21)
Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.” (22)
Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia): “The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.” (23)
Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” (24)
Carl Woese (microbiologist from the University of Illinois) “Life in Universe – rare or unique? I walk both sides of that street. One day I can say that given the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 100 billion or more galaxies, there have to be some planets that formed and evolved in ways very, very like the Earth has, and so would contain microbial life at least. There are other days when I say that the anthropic principal, which makes this universe a special one out of an uncountably large number of universes, may not apply only to that aspect of nature we define in the realm of physics, but may extend to chemistry and biology. In that case life on Earth could be entirely unique.” (25)
Antony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author, and debater) “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” (26)
There is nothing like sitting outside in the dark with your kids and staring up at the night sky. Time stands still as you both ponder the enormity of the universe and your place within it. Poetry springs to mind as you try to explain to your child how people 100 years ago didn’t have television and 500 years ago could really imagine a “man in the moon.” Talking about the constellations brings more talk about ancient people seeing stories in stars and constructing their world-view out of the few reproducible phenomena in their lives. Even a three-year-old can fall under the spell of the heavens. Every child should be able to look into the sky, understand that our earth revolves at a speed of some 800 miles and hour, and see the stars for what they are: dying suns millions of light years away. Better yet though, is for a child (or adult) to be able to recognize the constellations and the planets. That’s a basic skill like knowing how to juggle, play the harmonica or how to score a baseball game. None are necessary for survival in the world, but are part of a basic set of skills that make life fuller, more nuanced, and more interesting.
However, if you’re like me, this is not information you ever learned in school. Amateur astronomy, the inspirational kind for non-astrophysicists, is not taught in school. It’s like the non-existent course on “how to invest in the stock market” that would have saved you a bundle if only they had had a course like that in college. Luckily, like a lot of things on the big list of “Things I wish I had learned in school,” there are ways to fill in the gap of your knowledge and that of your children.
First, obviously, is a trip to local museum and planetarium. Not surprisingly, I have not done that with my kids. Instead, I jumped for accessible tools we could look at home and take with us on trips anywhere I think there will be a big black sky we can peer into together. By all means, go to the local planetarium. Better yet, if there is an observatory, check that out on a clear, warm summer night.
However, if you have little kids who would not sit through a planetarium show or stay up late enough to take the Observatory route, here are a few other ideas:
1. Buy or use a good set of binoculars to look at the moon. A telescope at the early stage is overkill and kids have trouble delaying gratification while you set it up. A good pair of binoculars , perhaps small enough to travel with you easily, can bring the moon in close enough to stimulate great conversation on stars, planets, moons, and space travel. I have a pair of small Nikon Travelite binoculars with 9×25 resolutions. Prices are below $100 for what used to be a luxury item. They are small enough to carry easily in a jacket pocket and I take them with us on all family trips, for moon-watching, but also because the kids love to look at everything: birds, animals, neighbors, with them. And, as I always say, “it’s for the kids,” is always a good gambit to satisfy your middle-age desire for that pinball machine, slot-car set, or model train you’ve wanted since you were nine years old.
2. Try an in-house planetarium. Don’t laugh. Especially if you are miles away from a science museum, or have young kids like I do, this might be a good option to familiarize the kids with concept of the solar system. At $29.95, don’t expect the Star Theater 2 to serve up popcorn for the show, but the price is right for the semi-sophisticated tool that it is. The Star Theatre is a clear globe with the stars and constellations printed on it. Inside is a halogen bulb, and when you turn it on, you get a projection on the walls and ceiling of the night sky. So, okay, with the lights illuminating everything that “isn’t” a star, the idea is a little upside-down, but the kids get the idea. A CD comes with the set, and in dulcet tones, the narrators explain the heavens. I found the CD narration to be both basic and interesting at the same time – clear enough for my six-year-old, but clearly a snore for my two-year-old. The globe itself, can be taken outside, and with its glow-in-the-dark printing, can be used as a star map (read on for other tools for this). Additionally, the Theatre comes with a “meteor-maker” the kids can play with to project asteroids on the ceiling while you fight for control so that you can show them the Big Dipper. I can’t imagine using this device thousands of times, but my daughter is still enthralled with the idea of stars and planets on the walls and regularly begs for a star show.
3. A basic tool is a Constellation map for finding stars in the night sky. I recommend the Star Finder . There are plenty to choose from on Amazon. We have something similar to the Orion Planisphere . It’s very simple and easy to use. At $1.99 though, try the Glow-In-The-Dark Star Finder and let me know what you think. At this price, you can’t go wrong. As the Amazon review says: “When you’re out under the summer sky attempting to discern Leo on the western horizon, less is more. Try to juggle an astronomy tome and a flashlight and you’ll end up with more mosquito bites than star sightings. A star dial is what’s needed, a lightweight paper contraption that can be manipulated to show the sky as you see it, whatever the month and time of night. Accurate for the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, there is also a chart showing where to expect Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, month by month, through the year 2000. The stars are rated by magnitude; there’s a zodiac dial identifying each zodiac constellation, showing how it appears in the sky; and most helpful of all, the stars are coated with a luminous treatment that causes them to glow in the dark, so you can see what you’re looking for without ruining your night vision with bright lights. It’s a superbly simple yet elegantly constructed stargazer aid.”
These star maps are simple cardboard items, about the size of a magazine and as thick as a few pieces of cardboard. The non-glow-in-the-dark ones require that you put a piece of red plastic over your flashlight for reading them in the dark, or your eyes will never be able to go back and forth from the map and the sky.
If your budget allows, take a look at the Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium . I have not seen this gadget perform, but it sounds magical.
Another take on the same theme is the stellar scope , which allows you to look up through a telescope-style device to see the stars as they would appear in the sky. At close to $40, it’s more expensive and bulky, and probably over-kills for most.
4. Attach glow in the dark stars to your ceiling . This is a very low-cost idea that adds a magical element to both your child’s bedroom and to bedtime. The stars are barely visible on a white ceiling but are very bright after lights out. It’s easy to put up the simplest constellations (think Big and Little Dipper) and the stars are easy to remove from painted surfaces.
5. And lastly, take a look at telescopes at some point. Not having any real experience (yet!) on this, I can only suggest taking a look at the selections below. Both National Geographic and the Discovery Store have good selections and provide good instruction materials for most science projects. Shop for Telescopes & Science Tools at National Geographic!
Find free online guide to the best Kid Activity web sites. Keep your kids entertained.
Question Posed – “Aliens Cause Global Warming”
A lecture by Michael Crichton
California Institute of Technology
January 17, 2003
My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.
Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science-namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.
I have a special interest in this because of my own upbringing. I was born in the midst of World War II, and passed my formative years at the height of the Cold War. In school drills, I dutifully crawled under my desk in preparation for a nuclear attack.
It was a time of widespread fear and uncertainty, but even as a child I believed that science represented the best and greatest hope for mankind. Even to a child, the contrast was clear between the world of politics-a world of hate and danger, of irrational beliefs and fears, of mass manipulation and disgraceful blots on human history. In contrast, science held different values-international in scope, forging friendships and working relationships across national boundaries and political systems, encouraging a dispassionate habit of thought, and ultimately leading to fresh knowledge and technology that would benefit all mankind. The world might not be avery good place, but science would make it better. And it did. In my lifetime, science has largely fulfilled its promise. Science has been the great intellectual adventure of our age, and a great hope for our troubled and restless world.
But I did not expect science merely to extend lifespan, feed the hungry, cure disease, and shrink the world with jets and cell phones. I also expected science to banish the evils of human thought—prejudice and superstition, irrational beliefs and false fears. I expected science to be, in Carl Sagan’s memorable phrase, “a candle in a demon haunted world.” And here, I am not so pleased with the impact of science. Rather than serving as a cleansing force, science has in some instances been seduced by the more ancient lures of politics and publicity. Some of the demons that haunt our world in recent years are invented by scientists. The world has not benefited from permitting these demons to escape free.
But let’s look at how it came to pass.
Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:
N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL
Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.
This serious-looking equation gave SETI an serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses-just so we’re clear-are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice.
As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.
One way to chart the cooling of enthusiasm is to review popular works on the subject. In 1964, at the height of SETI enthusiasm, Walter Sullivan of the NY Times wrote an exciting book about life in the universe entitled WE ARE NOT ALONE. By 1995, when Paul Davis wrote a book on the same subject, he titled it ARE WE ALONE? ( Since 1981, there have in fact been four books titled ARE WE ALONE.) More recently we have seen the rise of the so-called “Rare Earth” theory which suggests that we may, in fact, be all alone. Again, there is no evidence either way.
Back in the sixties, SETI had its critics, although not among astrophysicists and astronomers. The biologists and paleontologists were harshest. George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard sneered that SETI was a “study without a subject,” and it remains so to the present day.
But scientists in general have been indulgent toward SETI, viewing it either with bemused tolerance, or with indifference. After all, what’s the big deal? It’s kind of fun. If people want to look, let them. Only a curmudgeon would speak harshly of SETI. It wasn’t worth the bother.
And of course it is true that untestable theories may have heuristic value. Of course extraterrestrials are a good way to teach science to kids. But that does not relieve us of the obligation to see the Drake equation clearly for what it is-pure speculation in quasi-scientific trappings.
The fact that the Drake equation was not greeted with screams of outrage-similar to the screams of outrage that greet each Creationist new claim, for example-meant that now there was a crack in the door, a loosening of the definition of what constituted legitimate scientific procedure. And soon enough, pernicious garbage began to squeeze through the cracks.
Now let’s jump ahead a decade to the 1970s, and Nuclear Winter.
In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on “Long-Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations” but the report estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to be relatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on “The Effects of Nuclear War” and stated that nuclear war could perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on the environment. However, because the scientific processes involved were poorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimate the probable magnitude of such damage.
Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences commissioned a report entitled “The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon,” which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke from burning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would be so much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere would reduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis, and that this would last for weeks or even longer.
The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and Carl Sagan published a paper in Science called “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.” This was the so-called TTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously the atmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from an actual computer model of climate.
At the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, never specifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:
Ds = Wn Ws Wh Tf Tb Pt Pr Pe… etc
(The amount of tropospheric dust=# warheads x size warheads x warhead detonation height x flammability of targets x Target burn duration x Particles entering the Troposphere x Particle reflectivity x Particle endurance…and so on.)
The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drake equation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were-and are-simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.
And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.
According to Sagan and his coworkers, even a limited 5,000 megaton nuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35 degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. The greatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperatures somewhere between .5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed global temperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change three times greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subject of some dispute.
But Sagan and his coworkers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.
This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.
The real nature of the conference is indicated by these artists’ renderings of the the effect of nuclear winter.
I cannot help but quote the caption for figure 5: “Shown here is a tranquil scene in the north woods. A beaver has just completed its dam, two black bears forage for food, a swallow-tailed butterfly flutters in the foreground, a loon swims quietly by, and a kingfisher searches for a tasty fish.” Hard science if ever there was.
At the conference in Washington, during the question period, Ehrlich was reminded that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists were quoted as saying nothing would grow there for 75 years, but in fact melons were growing the next year. So, he was asked, how accurate were these findings now?
Ehrlich answered by saying “I think they are extremely robust. Scientists may have made statements like that, although I cannot imagine what their basis would have been, even with the state of science at that time, but scientists are always making absurd statements, individually, in various places. What we are doing here, however, is presenting a consensus of a very large group of scientists…”
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.
In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let’s review a few cases.
In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compellng evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent “skeptics” around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.
There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the “pellagra germ.” The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called “Goldberger’s filth parties.” Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.
Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology-until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.
And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therap6y…the list of consensus errors goes on and on.
Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
But back to our main subject.
What I have been suggesting to you is that nuclear winter was a meaningless formula, tricked out with bad science, for policy ends. It was political from the beginning, promoted in a well-orchestrated media campaign that had to be planned weeks or months in advance.
Further evidence of the political nature of the whole project can be found in the response to criticism. Although Richard Feynman was characteristically blunt, saying, “I really don’t think these guys know what they’re talking about,” other prominent scientists were noticeably reticent. Freeman Dyson was quoted as saying “It’s an absolutely atrocious piece of science but…who wants to be accused of being in favor of nuclear war?” And Victor Weisskopf said, “The science is terrible but—perhaps the psychology is good.” The nuclear winter team followed up the publication of such comments with letters to the editors denying that these statements were ever made, though the scientists since then have subsequently confirmed their views.
At the time, there was a concerted desire on the part of lots of people to avoid nuclear war. If nuclear winter looked awful, why investigate too closely? Who wanted to disagree? Only people like Edward Teller, the “father of the H bomb.”
Teller said, “While it is generally recognized that details are still uncertain and deserve much more study, Dr. Sagan nevertheless has taken the position that the whole scenario is so robust that there can be little doubt about its main conclusions.” Yet for most people, the fact that nuclear winter was a scenario riddled with uncertainties did not seem to be relevant.
I say it is hugely relevant. Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you will get some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, you get Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends.
That is why it is so important for the future of science that the line between what science can say with certainty, and what it cannot, be drawn clearly-and defended.
What happened to Nuclear Winter? As the media glare faded, its robust scenario appeared less persuasive; John Maddox, editor of Nature, repeatedly criticized its claims; within a year, Stephen Schneider, one of the leading figures in the climate model, began to speak of “nuclear autumn.” It just didn’t have the same ring.
A final media embarrassment came in 1991, when Carl Sagan predicted on Nightline that Kuwaiti oil fires would produce a nuclear winter effect, causing a “year without a summer,” and endangering crops around the world. Sagan stressed this outcome was so likely that “it should affect the war plans.” None of it happened.
What, then, can we say were the lessons of Nuclear Winter? I believe the lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and an aggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science, and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established as fact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war is already over without a shot being fired. That was the lesson, and we had a textbook application soon afterward, with second hand smoke.
In 1993, the EPA announced that second-hand smoke was “responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults,” and that it ” impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of people.” In a 1994 pamphlet the EPA said that the eleven studies it based its decision on were not by themselves conclusive, and that they collectively assigned second-hand smoke a risk factor of 1.19. (For reference, a risk factor below 3.0 is too small for action by the EPA. or for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example.) Furthermore, since there was no statistical association at the 95% confidence limits, the EPA lowered the limit to 90%. They then classified second hand smoke as a Group A Carcinogen.
This was openly fraudulent science, but it formed the basis for bans on smoking in restaurants, offices, and airports. California banned public smoking in 1995. Soon, no claim was too extreme. By 1998, the Christian Science Monitor was saying that “Second-hand smoke is the nation’s third-leading preventable cause of death.” The American Cancer Society announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-hand smoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent.
In 1998, a Federal judge held that the EPA had acted improperly, had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun”, and had “disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The reaction of Carol Browner, head of the EPA was: “We stand by our science….there’s wide agreement. The American people certainly recognize that exposure to second hand smoke brings…a whole host of health problems.” Again, note how the claim of consensus trumps science. In this case, it isn’t even a consensus of scientists that Browner evokes! It’s the consensus of the American people.
Meanwhile, ever-larger studies failed to confirm any association. A large, seven-country WHO study in 1998 found no association. Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. Yet we now read, for example, that second hand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. At this point you can say pretty much anything you want about second-hand smoke.
As with nuclear winter, bad science is used to promote what most people would consider good policy. I certainly think it is. I don’t want people smoking around me. So who will speak out against banning second-hand smoke? Nobody, and if you do, you’ll be branded a shill of RJ Reynolds. A big tobacco flunky. But the truth is that we now have a social policy supported by the grossest of superstitions. And we’ve given the EPA a bad lesson in how to behave in the future. We’ve told them that cheating is the way to succeed.
As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?
And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won’t get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and “skeptics” in quotation marks-suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.
When did “skeptic” become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?
To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models. Back in the days of nuclear winter, computer models were invoked to add weight to a conclusion: “These results are derived with the help of a computer model.” But now large-scale computer models are seen as generating data in themselves. No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world-increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality. And indeed they are, when we are projecting forward. There can be no observational data about the year 2100. There are only model runs.
This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right. Because only if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can you arrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.
Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?
Stepping back, I have to say the arrogance of the modelmakers is breathtaking. There have been, in every century, scientists who say they know it all. Since climate may be a chaotic system-no one is sure-these predictions are inherently doubtful, to be polite. But more to the point, even if the models get the science spot-on, they can never get the sociology. To predict anything about the world a hundred years from now is simply absurd.
Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?
Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?
But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS… None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.
Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment’s thought knows it.
I remind you that in the lifetime of most scientists now living, we have already had an example of dire predictions set aside by new technology. I refer to the green revolution. In 1960, Paul Ehrlich said, “The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” Ten years later, he predicted four billion people would die during the 1980s, including 65 million Americans. The mass starvation that was predicted never occurred, and it now seems it isn’t ever going to happen. Nor is the population explosion going to reach the numbers predicted even ten years ago. In 1990, climate modelers anticipated a world population of 11 billion by 2100. Today, some people think the correct number will be 7 billion and falling. But nobody knows for sure.
But it is impossible to ignore how closely the history of global warming fits on the previous template for nuclear winter. Just as the earliest studies of nuclear winter stated that the uncertainties were so great that probabilites could never be known, so, too the first pronouncements on global warming argued strong limits on what could be determined with certainty about climate change. The 1995 IPCC draft report said, “Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.” It also said, “No study to date has positively attributed all or part of observed climate changes to anthropogenic causes.” Those statements were removed, and in their place appeared: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on climate.”
What is clear, however, is that on this issue, science and policy have become inextricably mixed to the point where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to separate them out. It is possible for an outside observer to ask serious questions about the conduct of investigations into global warming, such as whether we are taking appropriate steps to improve the quality of our observational data records, whether we are systematically obtaining the information that will clarify existing uncertainties, whether we have any organized disinterested mechanism to direct research in this contentious area.
The answer to all these questions is no. We don’t.
In trying to think about how these questions can be resolved, it occurs to me that in the progression from SETI to nuclear winter to second hand smoke to global warming, we have one clear message, and that is that we can expect more and more problems of public policy dealing with technical issues in the future-problems of ever greater seriousness, where people care passionately on all sides.
And at the moment we have no mechanism to get good answers. So I will propose one.
Just as we have established a tradition of double-blinded research to determine drug efficacy, we must institute double-blinded research in other policy areas as well. Certainly the increased use of computer models, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who make the models from those who verify them. The fact is that the present structure of science is entrepeneurial, with individual investigative teams vying for funding from organizations which all too often have a clear stake in the outcome of the research-or appear to, which may be just as bad. This is not healthy for science.
Sooner or later, we must form an independent research institute in this country. It must be funded by industry, by government, and by private philanthropy, both individuals and trusts. The money must be pooled, so that investigators do not know who is paying them. The institute must fund more than one team to do research in a particular area, and the verification of results will be a foregone requirement: teams will know their results will be checked by other groups. In many cases, those who decide how to gather the data will not gather it, and those who gather the data will not analyze it. If we were to address the land temperature records with such rigor, we would be well on our way to an understanding of exactly how much faith we can place in global warming, and therefore what seriousness we must address this.
I believe that as we come to the end of this litany, some of you may be saying, well what is the big deal, really. So we made a few mistakes. So a few scientists have overstated their cases and have egg on their faces. So what.
Well, I’ll tell you.
In recent years, much has been said about the post modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. We can take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.
The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever “published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review.” )But of course the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?
Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was “rife with careless mistakes.” It was a poor display featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocust denier. The issue was captioned: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.” Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?
When Lomborg asked for space to rebut his critics, he was given only a page and a half. When he said it wasn’t enough, he put the critics’ essays on his web page and answered them in detail. Scientific American threatened copyright infringement and made him take the pages down.
Further attacks since have made it clear what is going on. Lomborg is charged with heresy. That’s why none of his critics needs to substantiate their attacks in any detail. That’s why the facts don’t matter. That’s why they can attack him in the most vicious personal terms. He’s a heretic.
Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I’d see the Scientific American in the role of mother church.
Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it will become, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists to aggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that “Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference-science and the nation will suffer.” Personally, I don’t worry about the nation. But I do worry about science.
Thank you very much.
Astronomy could be distinct as the offshoot of skill that deals with the learning of natures and beckon of space bodies like stars, planets and galaxies. There are yet different definitions for Astronomy. This includes the analysis of worry and clothes further earth’s atmosphere and having their own pure and compound properties. Some different views enter -Astronomy is the learning of everything. This is because astronomy is the inquiry of universe and everything is part of the universe.
One can say that all these definitions rectify and, hence there are many sub fields within astronomy. Cosmologists, Astrometrists, Planetologist, Radio astronomers, Mathematical astronomers are some among these sub divisions. Cosmologists examine universe as a full including its source and opening. Planetologists do analysis about all those planets within the solar procedure and those orbiting hazy stars. Astrometrists assess distances coupled with universe. Again Radio astronomers use radio telescopes to report the universe. Numbers, calculations and mathematical astronomers worn statistics to clarify universe.
We can’t say that astronomy is a stop deserted subject. It is a combination of different fields. These fields embrace mathematics, geology, chemistry, physics, geology, ecology. Physics can be said to be as one of the most basic part of astronomy. That is why some of the astronomers are known as Astrophysicists. Astronomy could be said to be the oldest knowledge. During the early age, astronomers were priests and holy men, who tried to fix the puzzle of the universe. They tried to uncover planting cycles and celebrations. Astronomy theories where first developed and introduced by archaic Greeks. They made out theories about the universe object as an undivided. There were many astronomers who proved them to be great astronomers. Later many of the data provided by them proved to be immoral, as technology came brazen with a selection hand. Some of them contain Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, Johannes Kepler etc. but one fact is convinced that without the contributions of all those greats the evidence known today could not have reached ahead.
Again it can be said that astrology is the analysis of space. A crack to understand the narration and make up of universe can be termed to be as astronomy. A limitless vicinity of fields is covered under astronomy. They include stars, nebula, planets, sol, star clusters, galaxies, dusk count, black holes etc. each of these can be again alienated into numerous topics. Research is done in the whole electromagnetic spectrum. This includes ultraviolet, visible, x-ray and infrared. Thus it genuinely covers tons of things when it comes to astronomy.
Astronomy could be distinct as the diverge of skill that deals with the research of natures and motion of space bodies like stars, planets and galaxies. There are yet different definitions for Astronomy. This includes the examine of substance and gear exterior earth’s atmosphere and having their own objective and compound properties. Some different views compose -Astronomy is the reading of everything. This is because astronomy is the revision of universe and everything is part of the universe.
One can say that all these definitions are accurate and therefore there are many sub fields within astronomy. Cosmologists, Astrometrists, Planetologist, Radio astronomers, Mathematical astronomers are some among these sub divisions. Cosmologists examine universe as an unbroken counting its origin and beginning. Planetologists do cram about all those planets within the solar method and those orbiting cold stars. Astrometrists calculate distances united with universe. Again Radio astronomers use radio telescopes to revise the universe. Numbers, calculations and mathematical astronomers worn statistics to elucidate universe.
We can’t say that astronomy is a rack unaided business. It is a combination of different fields. These fields involve mathematics, geology, chemistry, physics, geology, biology. Physics can be said to be as one of the most central part of astronomy. That is why some of the astronomers are known as Astrophysicists. Astronomy could be said to be the oldest knowledge. During the early age, astronomers were priests and holy men, who tried to fix the puzzle of the universe. They tried to verify planting cycles and celebrations. Astronomy theories where first urban and introduced by ancient Greeks. They made out theories about the universe invent as a complete. There were many astronomers who proved them to be great astronomers. Later many of the proof provided by them proved to be illegal, as technology came ahead with a portion hand. Some of them include Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, Johannes Kepler etc. but one actuality is confident that without the contributions of all those greats the evidence known today could not have reached ahead.
Again it can be said that astrology is the study of universe. An effort to understand the account and make up of universe can be termed to be as astronomy. An infinite subject of fields is enclosed under astronomy. They include stars, nebula, planets, sol, star clusters, galaxies, shady problem, black holes etc. each of these can be again divided into compound topics. Research is done in the entire electromagnetic spectrum. This includes ultraviolet, obvious, x-ray and infrared. Thus it actually covers loads of things when it comes to astronomy.
Question Posed – Please take the time to listen to this.
New Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God
A Seminal Presentation by Astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, given in South Barrington, Illinois, April 16, 1994
Editor’s note: This lecture was selected not in spite of being more than 10 years old, but because it is more than 10 years old. Virtually every statement and inference given in this speech has been reinforced and further validated during the last decade by measurements from the COBE Satellite, the Hubble Telescope, and advances in physics and astronomy.
The hallmark of a truly reliable scientific theory is that it is thoroughly testable, scientifically falsifiable, and makes accurate predictions. Dr. Ross’s origins model has stood the test of time for nearly two decades, literally receiving further validation on a monthly basis as physics and astronomy journals publish new papers. http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/audio/…
The questions of how the universe originated, where it leads to, and how the laws maintaining its order and balance work have always been topics of interest. Scientists and thinkers have thought about this subject endlessly and have produced quite a few theories.
The prevailing thought until the early 20th century was that the universe had infinite dimensions, that it had existed since eternity, and that it would continue to exist forever. According to this view, called the ‘static universe model’, the universe had neither a beginning nor an end.
Laying the groundwork for the materialist philosophy, this view denied the existence of a Creator while it maintained that the universe is a constant, stable, and unchanging collection of matter.
Materialism is a system of thought that holds matter to be an absolute being and denies the existence of anything but matter. Having its roots in ancient Greece and gaining ever-increasing acceptance in the 19th century, this system of thought became famous in the shape of the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx.
As we have stated earlier, the static universe model of the 19th century prepared the grounds for the materialist philosophy. In his book Principes Fondamentaux de Philosophie, George Politzer stated concerning the basis of this universe model that “the universe was not a created object”, and added:
If it were, then it would have to be created instantaneously by God and brought into existence from nothing. To admit creation, one has to admit, in the first place, the existence of a moment when the universe did not exist, and that something came out of nothingness. This is something to which science cannot accede.(1)
When Politzer asserted that the universe was not created out of nothingness, he was relying on the static universe model of the 19th century, and thinking that he was posing a scientific claim. However, the 20th century’s developing science and technology demolished primitive concepts such as the static universe model that laid the grounds for the materialists. Today, on the brink of the 21st century, modern physics has proved with many experiments, observations and calculations that the universe had a beginning and that it was created out of nothing with a big explosion.
That the universe had a beginning means that the cosmos was brought into being out of nothing, that is, that it was created. If a created thing exists (which did not exist beforehand), then it certainly should have a Creator. Being from non-being is something inconceivable by the human mind. (Man cannot practically conceive it since he has no chance of experiencing it.) Therefore, being from non-being is very different from bringing objects together to form a new object (such as works of art or technological inventions). It is a sign of Allah’s creation alone that everything formed perfectly all at once and in a single moment, when the created things had no previous examples and not even time and space existed in which to create them.
The coming of the universe into being from non-being is the greatest proof possible that it has been created. Consideration of this fact will change a lot of things. It helps people understand the meaning of life and review their attitudes and purposes. This is why many scientific communities have tried to disregard the fact of creation which they could not fully comprehend, even though its evidence was clear to them. The fact that all scientific evidence points to the existence of a Creator has compelled them to invent alternatives to create confusion in the minds of people. Nevertheless, the evidence of science itself puts a definite end to these theories.
Now, let us take a brief look at the scientific developmental process through which the universe came about.
THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE
In 1929, in the California Mount Wilson observatory, an American astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of astronomy. While he observed the stars with a giant telescope, he found out that the light from them was shifted to the red end of the spectrum and that this shift was more pronounced the further a star was from the earth. This discovery had an electrifying effect in the world of science, because according to the recognized rules of physics, the spectra of light beams travelling towards the point of observation tend towards violet while the spectra of the light beams moving away from the point of observation tend towards red. During Hubble’s observations, the light from stars was discovered to tend towards red. This meant that they were constantly moving away from us.
Before long, Hubble made another very important discovery: Stars and galaxies moved away not only from us, but also from one another. The only conclusion that could be derived from a universe where everything moves away from everything else is that the universe constantly ‘expands’.
To better understand, the universe can be thought of as the surface of a balloon being blown up. Just as the points on the surface of a balloon move apart from each other as the balloon is inflated, so do the objects in space move apart from each other as the universe keeps expanding.
In fact, this had been theoretically discovered even earlier. Albert Einstein, who is considered the greatest scientist of the century, had concluded after the calculations he made in theoretical physics that the universe could not be static. However, he had laid his discovery to rest simply not to conflict with the widely recognized static universe model of his time. Later on, Einstein was to identify his act as ‘the greatest mistake of his career’. Subsequently, it became definite by Hubble’s observations that the universe expands.
Here, the difference in the remoteness of various galaxies and the extent to which they tend towards red are shown. The vertical line at the top indicates a certain point on the spectrum. In other spectra, this point tends towards the right as far as the horizontal arrows go. The tendency towards red, which is an indication of remoteness, increases as a galaxy moves farther away from the earth.
What importance, then, did the fact that the universe expands have on the existence of the universe?
The expansion of the universe implied that if it could travel backwards in time, the universe would prove to have originated from a single point. The calculations showed that this ‘single point’ that harbored all the matter of the universe should have ‘zero volume’ and ‘infinite density’. The universe had come about by the explosion of this single point with zero volume. This great explosion that marked the beginning of the universe was named the ‘Big Bang’ and the theory started to be so called.
It has to be stated that ‘zero volume’ is a theoretical expression used for descriptive purposes. Science can define the concept of ‘nothingness’, which is beyond the limits of human comprehension, only by expressing it as ‘a point with zero volume’. In truth, ‘a point with no volume’ means ‘nothingness’. The universe has come into being from nothingness. In other words, it was created.
The Big Bang theory showed that in the beginning all the objects in the universe were of one piece and then were parted. This fact, which was revealed by the Big Bang theory was stated in the Qur’an 14 centuries ago, when people had a very limited knowledge about the universe:
Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Surat al-Anbiya, 30)
As stated in the verse, everything, even the ‘heavens and the earth’ that were not yet created, were created with a Big Bang out of a single point, and shaped the present universe by being parted from each other.
When we compare the statements in the verse with the Big Bang theory, we see that they fully agree with each other. However, the Big Bang was introduced as a scientific theory only in the 20th century.
The expansion of the universe is one of the most important pieces of evidence that the universe was created out of nothing. Although this fact was not discovered by science until the 20th century, Allah has informed us of this reality in the Qur’an revealed 1,400 years ago: It is We who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it. (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 47)
THE SEARCH FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE BIG BANG THEORY
As clearly seen, the Big Bang theory proved that the universe was ‘created from nothing’, in other words, that it was created by Allah. For this reason, astronomers committed to the materialist philosophy continued to resist the Big Bang and uphold the steady-state theory. The reason for this effort was revealed in the following words of A. S. Eddington, one of the foremost materialist physicists:
‘Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me.’(2)
Sir Fred Hoyle was one of those who were disturbed by the Big Bang theory. In the middle of the century, Hoyle championed a theory called the steady-state which was similar to the ‘constant universe’ approach of the 19th century. The steady-state theory argued that the universe was both infinite in size and eternal in duration. With the sole visible aim of supporting the materialist philosophy, this theory was totally at variance with the ‘Big Bang’ theory, which held that the universe had a beginning.
Those who defended the steady-state theory opposed the Big Bang for a long time. Science, however, was working against them.
Some scientists, on the other hand, looked for ways to develop alternatives.
In 1948, George Gamov came up with another idea concerning the Big Bang. He stated that after the formation of the universe by a big explosion, a radiation surplus should have existed in the universe left over from this explosion. Moreover, this radiation ought to be uniformly diffused across the universe.
This evidence which ‘ought to have existed’ was soon to be found.
MORE EVIDENCE: COSMIC BACKGROUND RADIATION
In 1965, two researchers by the name of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered these waves by chance. This radiation, called the ‘cosmic background radiation’, did not seem to radiate from a particular source but rather pervaded the whole of space. Thus, it was understood that the heat waves that were radiated uniformly from all around space were left over from the initial stages of the Big Bang. Penzias and Wilson were awarded a Nobel Prize for their discovery.
In 1989, NASA sent the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite into space to do research on cosmic background radiation. It took only eight minutes for the sensitive scanners on this satellite to confirm the measurements of Penzias and Wilson. The COBE had found the remains of the big explosion that had taken place at the outset of the universe.
Defined as the greatest astronomic discovery of all times, this finding explicitly proved the Big Bang theory. The findings of the COBE 2 satellite which was sent into space after the COBE satellite also confirmed the calculations based on the Big Bang.
Another important piece of evidence for the Big Bang was the amount of hydrogen and helium in space. In the latest calculations, it was understood that the hydrogen-helium concentration in the universe complied with the theoretical calculations of the hydrogen-helium concentration remaining from the Big Bang. If the universe had no beginning and if it had existed since eternity, its hydrogen constituent should have been completely consumed and converted to helium.
All of this compelling evidence caused the Big Bang theory to be embraced by the scientific community. The Big Bang model was the latest point reached by science concerning the formation and beginning of the universe.
Defending the steady-state theory alongside Fred Hoyle for years, Dennis Sciama described the final position they had reached after all the evidence for the Big Bang theory was revealed. Sciama stated that he had taken part in the heated debate between the defenders of the steady-state theory and those who tested that theory with the hope of refuting it. He added that he had defended the steady-state theory, not because he deemed it valid, but because he wished that it were valid. Fred Hoyle stood out against all objections as evidence against this theory began to unfold. Sciama goes on to say that he had first taken a stand along with Hoyle but, as evidence began to pile up, he had to admit that the game was over and that the steady-state theory had to be dismissed.(3)
Prof. George Abel from the University of California also states that currently available evidence shows that the universe originated billions of years ago with the Big Bang. He concedes that he has no choice but to accept the Big Bang theory.
With the Big Bang’s victory, the concept of ‘eternal matter’ that constituted the basis of the materialist philosophy is thrown into the trash-heap of history. What, then, was before the Big Bang and what was the power that brought the universe into ‘being’ with this big explosion when it was ‘non-existent’? This question certainly implies, in Arthur Eddington’s words, the ‘philosophically unfavorable’ fact for the materialists, that is, the existence of a Creator. The renowned atheist philosopher Antony Flew comments on the issue:
Notoriously, confession is good for the soul. I will therefore begin by confessing that the Stratonician atheist has to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus. For it seems that the cosmologists are providing a scientific proof of what St. Thomas contended could not be proved philosophically; namely, that the universe had a beginning. So long as the universe can be comfortably thought of as being not only without end but also without beginning, it remains easy to urge that its brute existence, and whatever are found to be its most fundamental features, should be accepted as the explanatory ultimates. Although I believe that it remains still correct, it certainly is neither easy nor comfortable to maintain this position in the face of the Big Bang story.(4)
Many scientists who do not blindly condition themselves to be atheists have admitted the role of an almighty Creator in the creation of the universe. This Creator must be a being Who has created both matter and time, yet Who is independent of both. Well-known astrophysicist Hugh Ross has this to say:
If time’s beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the cosmos. This conclusion is powerfully important to our understanding of who God is and who or what God isn’t. It tells us that God is not the universe itself, nor is God contained within the universe.(5)
Matter and time are created by the almighty Creator Who is independent of all these notions. This Creator is Allah, Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth.
DELICATE BALANCES IN SPACE
In truth, the Big Bang caused much greater trouble for the materialists than the above confessions of the atheist philosopher, Antony Flew. For the Big Bang not only proves that the universe was created out of nothing, but also that it was brought into being in a very planned, systematic and controlled manner.
The Big Bang took place with the explosion of the point which contained all the matter and energy of the universe and its dispersion into space in all ections with a terrifying speed. Out of this matter and energy, there came about a great balance containing galaxies, stars, the sun, the earth and all other heavenly bodies. Moreover, laws were formed called the ‘laws of physics’, which are uniform throughout the whole universe and do not change. All these indicate that a perfect order arose after the Big Bang.
Explosions, however, do not bring about order. All of the observable explosions tend to harm, disintegrate, and destroy what is present. For example, the atom and hydrogen bomb explosions, fire-damp explosions, volcanic explosions, natural gas explosions, solar explosions: they all have destructive effects.
If we were to be introduced to a very detailed order after an explosion – for instance, if an explosion under the ground gave rise to perfect works of art, huge palaces, or imposing houses – we might conclude that there was a ‘supernatural’ intervention behind this explosion and that all the pieces dispersed by the explosion had been made to move in a very controlled way.
The quote from Sir Fred Hoyle, who accepted his mistake after many years of opposition to the Big Bang Theory, expresses this situation very well:
The big bang theory holds that the universe began with a single explosion. Yet as can be seen below, an explosion merely throws matter apart, while the big bang has mysteriously produced the opposite effect – with matter clumping together in the form of galaxies.(6)
While stating that the Big Bang’s giving way to order is contradictory, he surely interprets the Big Bang with a materialistic bias and assumes that this was an ‘uncontrolled explosion’. He, however, was in reality the one who became self-contradictory by making such a statement simply to dismiss the existence of a Creator. For if a great order arose with an explosion, then the concept of an ‘uncontrolled explosion’ should have been set aside and it should be accepted that the explosion was extraordinarily controlled.
Another aspect of this extraordinary order formed in the universe following the Big Bang is the creation of a ‘habitable universe’. The conditions for the formation of a habitable planet are so many and so complex that it is almost impossible to think that this formation is coincidental.
Paul Davies, a renowned professor of theoretical physics, calculated how ‘fine tuned’ the pace of expansion after the Big Bang was, and he reached an incredible conclusion. According to Davies, if the rate of expansion after the Big Bang had been different even by the ratio of one over a billion times a billion, no habitable star type would have been formed:
Careful measurement puts the rate of expansion very close to a critical value at which the universe will just escape its own gravity and expand forever. A little slower and the cosmos would collapse, a little faster and the cosmic material would have long ago completely dispersed. It is interesting to ask precisely how delicately the rate of expansion has been ‘fine-tuned’ to fall on this narrow dividing line between two catastrophes. If at time I S (by which time the pattern of expansion was already firmly established) the expansion rate had differed from its actual value by more than 10-18, it would have been sufficient to throw the delicate balance out. The explosive vigor of the universe is thus matched with almost unbelievable accuracy to its gravitating power. The big bang was not, evidently, any old bang, but an explosion of exquisitely arranged magnitude.(7)
The laws of physics that emerged together with the Big Bang did not change at all over a period of 15 billion years. Furthermore, these laws stand on calculations so scrupulous that even a millimetre’s variation from their current values can result in the destruction of the whole structure and configuration of the universe.
The famous physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking states in his book A Brief History of Time, that the universe is set on calculations and balances more finely tuned than we can conceive. Hawking states with reference to the rate of expansion of the universe:
Why did the universe start out with so nearly the critical rate of expansion that separates models that recollapse from those that go on expanding forever, so that even now, ten thousand million years later, it is still expanding at nearly the critical rate? If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.(8)
Paul Davies also explains the unavoidable consequence to be derived from these incredibly precise balances and calculations:
It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out… The seemingly miraculous concurrence of numerical values that nature has assigned to her fundamental constants must remain the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design.(9)
In relation to the same fact, an American professor of Astronomy, George Greenstein, writes in his book The Symbiotic Universe:
As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather Agency – must be involved.(10)
THE CREATION OF MATTER
The atom, the building-block of matter, came into being after the Big Bang. These atoms then came together to make up the universe with its stars, earth and sun. Afterwards, the same atoms established life on the earth. Everything you see around you: your body, the chair you sit on, the book you hold in your hand, the sky seen through the window, the soil, the concrete, the fruits, the plants, all living things and everything that you can imagine have come to life with the gathering of atoms.
What then is the atom, the building block of everything, made of and what kind of a structure does it have?
When we examine the structure of atoms, we see that all of them have an outstanding design and order. Every atom has a nucleus in which there are certain numbers of protons and neutrons. In addition to these, there are electrons which move around the nucleus in a constant orbit with a speed of 1,000 kms per second.(11) Electrons and protons of an atom are equal in number, because positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons always balance each other. If one of these numbers were different, there would be no atom, since its electromagnetic balance would be disturbed. An atom’s nucleus, the protons and the neutrons in it, and the electrons around it are always in motion. These revolve both around themselves and each other unerringly at certain speeds. Those speeds are always proportionate to each other and provide the subsistence of the atom. No disorder, disparity, or change ever occurs.
It is very remarkable that such highly ordered and determined entities could come into being after a great explosion that took place in non-being. If the Big Bang were an uncontrolled, coincidental explosion, then it ought to have been followed by random events and everything that formed subsequently ought to have been dispersed in a great chaos.
In fact, a flawless order has prevailed at every point since the beginning of existence. For example, although atoms are formed at different places and times, they are so organized that they seem as though they were produced from a single factory with an awareness of each kind. First, electrons find themselves a nucleus and start to turn around it. Later, atoms come together to form matter and all these bring about meaningful, purposeful and reasonable objects. Ambiguous, useless, abnormal and purposeless things never occur. Everything from the smallest unit to the biggest component is organized and has manifold purposes.
All of this is solid evidence of the existence of the Creator, Who is exalted in power, and indicate the fact that everything comes into existence however He wants and whenever He wills. In the Qur’an, Allah refers to His creation thus:
He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth with truth, and on the day He says: Be, it is. His word is the truth. (Surat al-An’am, 73)
AFTER THE BIG BANG
As Roger Penrose, a physicist who has done extensive research on the origin of the universe, has stated the fact that the universe rests where it is not by mere coincidence shows that it definitely has a purpose. For some people, ‘the universe is just there’ and it just goes on being there. We just happened to find ourselves right in the middle of this whole thing. This viewpoint would probably not help us in understanding the universe. According to Penrose’s view, there are many deep affairs going on within the universe whose existence we cannot today perceive.(12)
The ideas of Roger Penrose are indeed good food for thought. As these words imply, many people wrongly entertain thoughts that the universe with all its perfect harmony exists for nothing and that they live in this universe again for idle play.
However, it can by no means be considered as ordinary that a quite perfect and wondrous order came about after the Big Bang, which is considered by the scientific community to be the means of the formation of the universe.
The order in the structure of the atom rules the whole universe. With the atom and its particles moving in a certain order, the mountains are not scattered, lands do not break apart, the sky is not split asunder and, in short, matter is held together and is constant.
Briefly, when we examine the glorious system in the universe, we see that the existence of the universe and its workings rest on extremely delicate balances and an order too complex to be explained away by coincidental causes. As is evident, it is by no means possible for this delicate balance and order to have been formed on its own and by coincidence after a great explosion. The formation of such an order following an explosion such as the Big Bang could only have been possible as a result of a supernatural creation.
This matchless plan and order in the universe certainly proves the existence of a Creator with infinite knowledge, might and wisdom, Who has created matter from nothing and Who controls and manages it incessantly. This Creator is Allah, the Lord of the heavens, the earth and all that is in between.
All these facts also show us how the claims of the materialist philosophy, which is simply a 19th century dogma, are invalidated by 20th century science.
By exposing the great plan, design and order prevalent in the universe, modern science has proved the existence of a Creator Who has created and rules all beings: that is, Allah.
Holding sway over a great number of people for centuries and having even disguised itself with the mask of ‘science’, materialism, by deeming everything to consist of nothing but matter, has made a great mistake and denied the existence of Allah, Who created and ordered matter from nothing. One day, materialism will be remembered in history as a primitive and superstitious belief opposing both reason and science.
1. George Politzer, Principes Fondamentaux de Philosophie, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1954, p. 84
2. Recounted in Jaki, S. (1980) Cosmos and Creator Regnery Gateway, Chicago
3. Stephen Hawking, Evreni Kucaklayan Karinca, Alkim Kitapcilik ve Yayincilik, 1993, p. 62-63
4. Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Varghese, eds., Cosmos, Bios, Theos, La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing, 1992, p. 241
5. Hugh Ross, Ph.D., The Creator and the Cosmos, Navpress, 1995, p. 76
6. W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991; originally published by Philosophical Library in 1987, p. 462
7. W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991; originally published by Philosophical Library in 1987, pp. 405-406
8. Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Bantam Books, April, 1988, p. 121
9. Paul Davies, God and the New Physics, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 189
10. Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, 2nd. Ed., Orange, CA: Promise Publishing Co., 1991, pp. 114-115
11. A Dorling Kindersley Book – The Science, published in the United States by Dorling Kindersley Inc., p. 24
12. Stephen Hawking, Evreni Kucaklayan Karinca, Alkim Kitapcilik ve Yayincilik, 1993, p. 143
Under the pen name of Harun Yahya, Adnan Oktar has written some 250 works. His books contain a total of 46,000 pages and 31,500 illustrations. Of these books, 7,000 pages and 6,000 illustrations deal with the collapse of the Theory of Evolution. You can read, free of charge, all the books Adnan Oktar has written under the pen name Harun Yahya on these websites www.harunyahya.com