I don’t know about you, but I watched the “debate” between creationist Ken Ham and Science Guy Bill Nye, but didn’t get too much out of it. The format was bad and didn’t really allow for much real discussion and debate, so they just ended up talking past each other. But something good did come of it.
Buzzfeed asked creationists to ask evolutionists a question, any question, by writing it down on a piece of paper for the camera. They didn’t try to answer any of the questions, so the people over at The Science of Sarcasm did. Here are two examples:
As IK and many of you know I like to put something out there that ignites a conversation, so here it goes.
I am an believer of evolution all the way back to the creation. While I am not a science guy, but do understand basic principles of science and I view everything through common sense goggles. I cannot ignore or refute the process of evolution. It’s everywhere around us and has been all the way back to the moment of the big bang. And that’s where the science guys lose me. I haven’t heard of any plausible explanations, just more theory’s that bring up more questions. Through my prism of common sense and limited knowledge of science, you cannot create something out of complete nothingness. Quite possibly our current universe is really “universe 2.0” or maybe 7.0.
I also understand that for some intellectual science folk not to be able to understand or explain some things is like taking the bible from a thumper, but we cannot possibly understand or explain everything (from my common sense side). We haven’t yet matured as a species and our cognitive development hasn’t reached the point where we can understand.
So here it goes, evolution followed creation and the two can and do co-exist, much to chagrin of both camps. (because people just have to be right and in our politically charged world, the other side just has to be wrong.)
I attended a lecture once in college discussing science vs religion. The take away moment for me from the lecture was when the speaker said:
“There does not need to be conflict between science and religion. They both answer fundamentally different questions. Science answers the question of “how” and religion answers the question of “why”.”
No one side of this debate has the monopoly of smug self satisfaction. I wish the debate had been more of an actual debate instead of just theatre. We as a culture could have gained a lot from it.
PSgt, I agree. When I was first trying to figure out how I felt about the whole religion thing, I realized that we often conflate and confuse three separate things: 1) belief in God (higher intelligence), 2) religion, 3) church. I realized that I don’t believe in a higher intelligence (which I guess makes me an atheist if you want to put a label on it, although I would never think that anyone who does believe in God is wrong), but I have had many religious experiences (and I have even taught Sunday School at a mainstream church). As for churches, I think they are no different that other institutions (and should be treated no differently). I have absolutely no problem with other people believing in a higher intelligence and I have plenty of friends who are deeply religious.
What bothers me about people like Ken Ham is when they want to force their beliefs on others.
You are totally correct. Science can help understand how things work and predict how they will work in the future. Religion does not do that. But Science does not say why, or more importantly how we should feel about something. That is the job of religion (and different religions do a better or worse job of it).
I love to sing and play music. Science can explain harmony and chords and can help me predict if something will sound good, but it does not tell my why I enjoy music so much and how it makes me feel.
Though there are scientists looking into just that:
Music: I was in great pain and found a quiz on the Internet. “what helps most with pain?”
Glucosamine? chondroitin? Music? And I forget the fourth.
Being a nurse, I knew the other three didn’t help pain so I answered “music”. And music it was. Music helps carry us away from ourselves and into another world so we don’t dwell on the Universe and things we don’t want to feel or can’t understand. Music is an escape.
The science of music. I love music and played from my childhood on. I taught myself a few different instruments from drums to piano, even some brass. I played woodwind in a concert band and saxophone in a jazz band. I love different types of music from classical to Andean Folk music to Led Zeppelin. Now here’s my question, if my children theoretically have part of my genes, why did the oldest 2 steer away from music although I tried in vain to introduce them. That’s the part that science (or me) can’t explain. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Fortunately my youngest seems interested.
On religion and churches, long ago I decided that churches and religion, while they do many good works, are made by people and as such they interpret and make rules that seem contradictory to spirituality (like enforcing their beliefs on others). I decided to try and live my life guided by spiritual principles and not belong to a club where my values may conflict. Don’t get me wrong, I think religions in general can be great for many people. I do believe in a higher power to borrow from the 12 step programs, but I do not necessarily want to follow the rules created by people for the right of calling myself a member. There are too many examples of people falling into the trap of believing they receive some pass on behavior or somehow outrank others. I believe we are all created equal and it is not up to me to decide whether anyone else is.
Patriotsgt, I recommend A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. He also has a follow-up called the Universe in a Nutshell (which expands and corrects some of the ideas from ABHoT, possibly the ones I mention here), but I haven’t read that and can’t tell you about it. In your original post, you said, “you cannot create something out of complete nothingness,” and that’s exactly one of the sources of confusion. The Big Bang was not about creating something from nothingness. Rather, it was about the sudden expansion of a singularity–a point of infinite density. It’s not that nothing existed before the Big Bang. It’s just that everything existed in a single microscopic point.
This leads to the obvious question: Where did that point come from and what came before it? The answer, to my knowledge, is that we don’t know. As you mention, there are conjectures that there were previous universes. So that singularity may have been the result of a previous universe collapsing in on itself. Or, if you really want to stretch your mind, it is also posited that the singularity at the Big Bang was actually the result of our own universe collapsing in on itself. That is, the end of time could actually be the beginning of time. I won’t rehash the entire book here, but Hawking presents a readable argument how this could happen. But the key is that we don’t know, and scientists are okay with that. Science is about progressively reducing the number of things we don’t know, but it will never be complete.
But, as you and IK allude to, that’s conflating issues. The Big Bang is distinct from evolution. Both are scientific theories–cohesive, falsifiable collections of ideas and evidence to explain natural phenomena. But then there’s Creationism, which tries to address both the origins of the universe and the origins of human life. Creationism is inherently a religious idea. It is not derived from observations and testing. Many of the arguments that Creationists have put forward have been easily refuted by evidence and other scientific theories. For instance, many creationists trot out the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy never decreases, to “disprove” evolution. They claim that the latter can only work if life forms become more ordered (i.e., entropy decreases), which is the opposite of what the Second Law requires. The problem is that the Second Law only applies to closed systems, and the earth is not a closed system.
And here’s where the problem comes in. It’s not that Ham et al., want to advance their ideas. It’s HOW they want to advance their ideas. They want Creationism–which has no basis in evidence and experimentation–taught in SCIENCE classes. This is fundamentally problematic, because it undermines the ability to teach what IS and what ISN’T science. Creationists are being completely and utterly dishonest. Their goal isn’t to bring their ideas up to the same level of scrutiny as existing scientific theories. Their goal is to have their ideas accepted as equally scientifically valid, despite never undergoing rigorous evaluation. Moreover, they want their ideas presented to children–who have not yet learned how to evaluate ideas rigorously–in the hopes that those children will accept the ideas as truth.
Scientists are not the ones conflating issues here. There are plenty of religious scientists who firmly advocate evolution and the Big Bang. The only reason there is any controversy is because people like Ham perceive some scientific ideas as a threat to their religious beliefs. They would rather refute the science than critically evaluate their religion. It’s an argument from fear, and it certainly is not science.
Thanks Michael for that deailed reply. The question had come to me just before IK’s post and it came from my 8yr old daughter. She has been attending Sunday school at a catholic church and also attends elementary school at a non religious and self proclaimed “progressive education” private school. So you’ll understand where the two worlds of thought collided.
She asked “where did we come from” and further defined it as where did people come from. She was wondering from the perspective of the old chicken or egg philosophical question.
So i explained what I believe. There was nothing and then God created the universe. People were not there but wrote what they understood at a much later time. Sometimes stories were handed down and people tried their best to remember and write about it. Othere times people believed that they were instructed by God to write and they tried their best to understand. One of the hardest things they tried to understand is just how long a day is to God, so they used the only thing they knew and compared it to our days.
I then explained the evolutionary process of 1 living cell developing into all we now know and have and that everything is a decendant of that first cell, although many different paths and versions resulted.
I agree about the few Ham et al’s that see it as only one way. And there are some scientists that will not consider the possibility of God’s involvement either. In Hawking’s theory we would need to keep returning to that singularity and going back one more universe. Eventually though, we would come to the point of nothing, no singularity, nada. Perhaps 7 God days is really 7 universes ago, with each one lasting 100 billion years or longer. Using Hawkings and most everyone elses theories they all center around expansion which means there was a beginning. But at the end of the day at some point, however distant, there had to be a period of nothing or some creator.
Its an extremly interesting debate and one that will not be resolved by people in our time. I love to take the side of creationists against evolutionists just because they cannot get past the singularity/ I also like to debate creationists with the scientific proof of evolution. I can’t lose either argument, its a win/win for me from that perspective.
It’s been too long since I’ve read Hawking’s book and I need to read the updated version to see how much of his theories have changed, but humor me as I dust off some more cobwebs. There’s a slight piece that you’re missing: As I understand it, there is no “period of nothing” before the Big Bang. The problem here is language. This notion of a period of nothing depends on a human-centric (i.e., linear) interpretation of time; that is, we could talk about 1 second or a year before the Big Bang, but these may not be real.
As an analogy, think of the color red. What you are thinking of is your perception of the color, not the color itself. Other people (such as those who are red-green color blind) perceive it differently. Other species, such as bats that rely on echolocation, would also perceive it differently. But the key is that there is a difference between the underlying natural phenomenon (light waves) that causes the perception and your perception of that phenomenon.
Same with time. What you think of as time is your perception of it, not the underlying phenomenon. Under this view, it is possible to see that time itself–the real, underlying phenomena–was created as part of the Big Bang, just as the other dimensions were. Thus, there was nothing before the Big Bang, because the was no *before* in relation to the Big Bang.
There’s one other aspect, which is that the theory built around the Big Bang is not just about expansion. The rate of expansion, which started off very, very fast, has slowed over time. That is, the universe is not expanding as rapidly as it was at the Big Bang. At the same time, there remains a black hole where the singularity was, and the gravitational pull of the black hole is increasing. At some point, the pull of this black hole will catch up to encompass the entire universe. When that happens, the universe will start collapsing until we end up at another singularity, which may or may not be the same singularity that led to the Big Bang. If this is true, then “1 second before the Big Bang” is exactly the same moment as “1 second from the end of time.” Thus, time would be a circle, not a line, even though we perceive it as a line.
Is that conjecture true? I don’t know. It seems plausible to me, and it makes me want to explore it more. (Time to go buy the updated book…) Regardless, I am fine with the uncertainty and I feel no need to introduce the notion of an intelligent being for the sole purpose of setting things in motion.
Again, I’d like to note that the question of the Big Bang is one of cosmology, not biology. So discussion of the Big Bang doesn’t really involve being an evolutionist or not. It’s a separate discussion.
My (limited) understanding is that more recent observations show that the rate of expansion is not slowing over time. In fact, it is increasing. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerating_universe
Ah, interesting. I see that was discovered in the late ’90s (i.e., after the original publication of A Brief History of Time). Now I’m really convinced that I need to read the newer book.
This is relevant to this discussion — http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/17/primordial-gravitational-wave-discovery-physics-bicep