Not Such a Surprise Ending: Part Two

the-big-bang-theory-12Section Two of the Book

The book represents The Big Bang as being the origin of:
1. Time
2. Space
3. Matter

Several corrections here.

a) Much like evolution isn’t about the origin of life, BBT isn’t about the origin of the universe. Just as evolution is with life development, so BBT is about the development of the universe.

b) Space and time are one and shouldn’t be listed separately. This becomes important.

c) Matter doesn’t originate with the first moments of the universe, it comes later. The early universe is too hot, too energetic for matter to exist. It is only as it expands and cools that matter – fundamental particles and later hydrogen and lithium and develop. Then from the deaths of the early stars you get the other kinds of matter.

Having got that somewhat wrong, the book then tries to draw parallels to Genesis.

1. In the beginning (time)
2. God created the heavens (space)
3. And the Earth (matter)

Again, several problems here. With spacetime coming into being at the same time there is no before time and no outside space in which anything can occur. There is no context in which an agent (such as god) could act. Nor have they accounted for the existence of this god in the first place.

There’s no reason to think any of this was created, as opposed to coming about naturally.

Lastly, the Earth is a latecomer. The Universe is something like 13.5 billion years old while the Earth is only around 4.54 billion years old (give or take around 200 million years).

The authors call this erroneous and demonstrably untrue account miraculous and in line with science, when it simply isn’t.

The problem we have here is one that you would usually run into more often arguing with Muslims.

Muslims are convinced that the Koran contains scientific truths and often try to draw parallels between verses of the Koran and the discoveries of modern science.

This is problematic for Christians (even those trying to reconcile it with science) just as it is for Muslims – and keep in mind that the Muslims had several centuries advantage when it came to accrued knowledge and cribbed a load of their ‘holy science’ from the ancient Greeks, who were pretty smart cookies.

Problem 1: This is post-hoc rationalisation of vague, poetic verses to try and get them to fit the modern understanding of science. This is an interpretation, just like the many other interpretations which is why there are so many sects of these religions based on different interpretations. The objective, outside observer has no reason to favour your interpretation over any others.
Problem 2: These many interpretations have changed over time in an attempt to catch up with or fit the expansion of scientific knowledge – or to oppose it.
Problem 3: This supposedly divine foreknowledge, if correct and useful, should lead us TO these discoveries, not get in the way of them. No significant advances in human knowledge have come from alleged prophecies or divine knowledge. It is always AFTER the discovery that someone goes back and tries to bend the holy book to fit it. It’s just like Nostradamus’ supposed prophecies.

What is the more parsimonious answer?
A: A bunch of bronze age goat herders, including one who almost certainly never existed (Moses) were given special knowledge by an unevidenced supernatural deity?
B: People are interpreting vague language to fit what they want to hear.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say B.

This problem of post-hoc rationalisation continues throughout the whole chapter. The cherry-picking is most egregious when making excuses for the two different versions of the creation story in Genesis.

Here’s the normally quoted version of Genesis:

This is the order of events in Genesis.
1. God appears out of nothing.
2. God creates the heavens and the Earth.
3. God creates light, day and night.
4. God creates water and the sky.
5. God creates land.
6. God creates plants, on land.
7. God creates the sun and moon (oh, and the stars, as an afterthought).
8. God creates sea life – and birds.
9. God creates land life – including livestock, then man.

Here’s what actually happened so far as we can work out with evidence:
1. The universe begins.
2. The universe expands and cools.
3. Matter begins to form. Simple particles first, then hydrogen. The universe is so dense and compact that some of this fuses, so there’s some helium and lithium too.
4. The universe continues to expand and cool, the early stars form – primarily hydrogen.
5. The early stars die off and some explode, scattering denser matter.
6. More generations of stars form, planets form. Eventually one of these is the Earth.
7. The Earth is a dry, volcanic mess. It is bombarded with meteors and comets (bringing water). One early impact forms the Moon.
8. The Earth cools and stabilises, oceans form.
9. In the oceans – probably around volcanic vents – simple replicating molecules form from organic chemicals. The starting point of all life.
10. Life spreads throughout the oceans.
11. Life colonises the land.
12. Mankind evolves from his hominid forebears.
13. Man domesticates wild animals and starts using technology.

The order of events and their nature is wildly wrong, even with all the post-hoc rationalising in the world.

There’s a reference to The Flood, which one would not expect in a book trying to reconcile science and religion since there is no reason to think The Flood ever happened. No physical evidence, nothing.

There are excuses to try and get around The Problem of Evil, predictably moving to the Free Will argument. Needless to say this has massive problems which are well discussed elsewhere. A good deity setting up the universe would have no need to create evil and Free Will and divine omniscience are mutually incompatible.

There’s further problems with talking about Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge. After all, they couldn’t know disobeying was wrong until after they had disobeyed. It is, of course, just a nonsensical myth but the book seems to treat it with undue gravity.

Satan? Also problematic.

This section is pretty clearly aimed at the religious, not me, none of these things mean a damn thing to me. I don’t believe in Satan and have been given no reason to. I don’t believe in a soul and have been given no reason to. The same goes for god, Jesus, Moses, Adam, Eve, Miracles, Eden or spirit. These things are just included here and no attempt is made to explain or justify their mention or to establish that they exist.

There is ample evidence for human development from precursor species and our relationship to the other primates. None for any divine human creation or Adam, or Eve.

Even more surprisingly this book seems to try to retain the idea of original sin – and, laughably, by appealing to justice.

  • Justice is an appropriate punishment to fit the crime.
  • If we accept the Bible account at face value Adam – and the whole human race everafter – was being punished for something he couldn’t have known was wrong until he did it.
  • His descendents were being punished for something they didn’t even do.
  • This is not moral, this is not justice. It is the very opposite.

This is then followed by a lot of stuff about Mary and Jesus and Luke. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m a (provisional) mythicist and having been given no reason to believe the earlier establishing remarks I have no reason to believe any of this either. It is entirely irrelevant to me.

As such with no foundation upon which to build and no reason to believe in even a mortal Jesus, the extra leap of faith to an afterlife existing has zero chance of being accepted by any rational human being examining this book.

There’s a section on answering the ‘tough’ questions. Here’s the questions and here’s my answers:

Is the Bible free of error?
No, it’s chock full of ’em.

Why did God create Adam and Eve if he knew that they would sin and bring about so much pain and suffering?
He didn’t because he doesn’t exist. If such a being did exist – and was good – why would it do such a thing? It would have to be cruel. Comparison to mortal parents is not valid because we lack the alleged powers and foresight of this supposed deity.

Where does the soul come from?
There doesn’t appear to be such a thing as a soul.

If an individual is in a coma, do they still have a soul?
No, they never had one in the first place. Whether their CONSCIOUSNESS is dormant or not depends on the injury and the coma. It is still quite hard to tell at this point but fMRI etc is helping us work it out.

Where did consciousness come from?
It’s an emergent quality of the complexity of the physical brain. An adaptation like any other. Self-awareness has good survival utility.

But didn’t the scientific community already prove that free will and morality, if they do exist at all, are probably by-products of the brain?
The book makes a rather typical appeal to ‘love’. Can we see or measure love? Actually we can. We can observe love in an fMRI scan of the human brain. We can also detect it in physiological reactions, hormone releases etc and see evidence of it in people’s actions. So it goes for all such claims. We can and do see them and measure them, though there’s been reluctance in the past due to religious interference.

How did God use the natural processes to form life and what role does Faith play in the physics of the universe?
He doesn’t, and none. Respectively.
Faith = (belief – evidence) or, as Mr Clemens put it: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
As such it is an incredibly dangerous mode of non-thinking that causes huge harm to humankind.

How does God’s Word program the quantum world?
It doesn’t and describing the quantum world as information flow is getting to the point of Chopran, new-age bullshit. Quantum level physics is counter-intuitive, but it is not magic. There are horrible misunderstandings of aspects of it such as the observer effect and indeterminacy that lead to people invoking it for their ‘woo’ ideas and this is no different, sadly!

Atheism Challenge Update: Still atheist.

One response to “Not Such a Surprise Ending: Part Two

  1. I’m thinking you didn’t finish the book in this post, cuz I thought we were getting empirical evidence for God’s existence, somewhere in chapter 5 if I recall? Looking forward to that portion.

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