In an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Lawrence M Krauss provides a provocative look into the muddle-headed thinking of scientists, particularly scientists engaged in the dark art of theoretical physics, opining on the existence of God. Unfortunately for him, it’s his muddle-headed thinking that is mostly revealed. Here’s an example:
Some of us have spent our careers trying to figure out what kind of universe we live in so we could be the first ones to know how the universe would end. After 80 years of trying we have actually determined the answer. Observations of the cosmic microwave background from the Big Bang have unambiguously confirmed that we live in a precisely flat universe.
Now, how many things are wrong with this paragraph? First, anyone spending their entire lives wishing to be the “first to know” how the universe might end is not a person who should reasonably be trusted when they proclaim to have unambiguously found the answer. Think about it for a moment. Does Mr. Krauss have a vested interest in the resolution of the problem that might just bias his interpretations of whatever observations have been made? And how could it possibly be, considering that the Big Bang Theory is still just that–a theory, that it provides the foundation for unambiguously concluding anything?
There are a great many problems with the Big Bang Theory and General Relativity Theory when it comes to explaining the universe:
- The Big Bang Theory requires an inexplicable period of rapid expansion at its beginning. Why? Well, there is no scientific basis for its occurrence, but General Relativity would not work without it. Some might say it requires a period of rapid expansion because the scientists propounding the Theory needed rapid expansion to make their equations work, and besides, there’s no way to make such a brilliant deduction falsifiable. In other words, some might say the idea of a rapid expansion is just another of many rationalizations scientists have had to make in order for the Big Bang Theory to work.
- General Relativity predicts the universe should be expanding, but at a decreasing rate. Or at least it does without the cosmological constant that Einstein inserted into the equations to keep the universe still, dammit. Edwin Hubble later observed the universe to in fact be expanding, just like the Theory said, without the cosmological constant. But he didn’t stop there. It was eventually discovered that the universe is expanding, but at an accelerating rate. Or, so it seems, according the observations of astronomers, which it should always be pointed out, can’t be tested by anyone except other astronomers for accuracy. If there is an objective truth out there that they (we) are missing, there is no way to know it, because we are stuck here on planet Earth, peering into the mists with our crude sensory-extending instruments. Of course, Einstein said all things are relative, so all truths are subjective, an implication of his Theory which seems completely lost on its acolytes.
- Since the universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate, and we don’t know why, we invented a new, mysterious force to explain it–dark energy. According to the calculations of the eggheads, dark energy comprises fully three-quarters of the stuff in the universe. We can’t see or feel or taste or touch or sense in any way this dark energy, which by rights should also compose three-fourths of the stuff we are made of. The stuff is bizarre. All it does is mysteriously repel gravity. I suppose we’d weigh half a ton here on earth were it not for dark energy repelling gravity. It is this gravity-repulsion property that is needed in order to explain the accelerating nature of the expansion. The Theory of Relativity is saved by dint of reinserting the cosmological constant that Einstein had taken out, claiming it his “gravest error”. Turns out the cosmological constant, a fiction created by Einstein to keep his universe from expanding or contracting because he didn’t believe it should or could works perfectly in allowing the Theory to model observations it didn’t predict–a universe expanding at an accelerationg speed. Incidentally, we also “discovered” another invisible substance– dark matter–that is believed to comprise about 20% of the universe. With all the revisions, the visible universe comprises only four percent of all the stuff Einstein’s Theory, now tortured into numerous confessions of dubious value, tried to explain.
Given all the problems; all the obvious rationalizations; all the yearnings to make reality fit our conception of it, or at least the conception of it propounded by a Swiss Patent Clerk roughly a century ago, it’d seem that theoretical physicists might occasionally step back from the void and look around to see if their theories stand upon firm, logical ground. Remember in logic, if there is even one flawed premise in the deductions, all that follow it are suspect. In other words, it seems that questioning the theoretical underpinnings of Einstein’s Theory might be a profitable endeavor. For example, is light really the speed limit of the universe, so far as information transference goes? What of entangled particles, that Einstein tried and miserably failed to explain, which was summarily ignored, except by a brave Scotsman, who was himself ignored? If everything can’t be measured relative to the speed of light, what then? What happens to the rest of the Theory when we realize that a portion of it is resting on shaky foundations?
That physicists don’t and won’t question the Theory’s fundamental assertions in light of evidence that seems to auger a ridiculous result (75% of the universe is undetectable energy and another 20% is undetectable matter), speaks more to the nature of man than of the universe. Humans bring deeply-held biases and beliefs to their every endeavor. The difference with scientists, theoretical physicists in particular, is that they refuse to acknowledge any biases and beliefs, considering themselves and science above such banalities. But isn’t it a matter of belief that the Theory of Relativity is valid when only four percent of what it purportedly explains is in any way detectable? Isn’t it historical bias that prevents any physicist from acknowledging what a ridiculous mess this belief in the infallibility of Einstein and his Theory has wrought?
Yet, Mr. Krauss is undeterred. Not only does he unambiguously claim that we know what type universe in which we live, he goes so far as to assert that the evidence is now in that the universe arose from nothing, and we thereby need not posit a creator:
The existence of this energy, called dark energy, has another consequence: It changes the picture so that knowing the geometry of the universe is no longer enough to determine its future. While this may be a disappointment, the existence of dark energy and a flat universe has profound implications for those of us who suspected the universe might arise from nothing.
Why? Because if you add up the total energy of a flat universe, the result is precisely zero. How can this be? When you include the effects of gravity, energy comes in two forms. Mass corresponds to positive energy, but the gravitational attraction between massive objects can correspond to negative energy. If the positive energy and the negative gravitational energy of the universe cancel out, we end up in a flat universe.
Think about it: If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero. And when we measure the total energy of the universe, which could have been anything, the answer turns out to be the only one consistent with this possibility.
Even assuming that all of the slim evidence upon which Mr. Krauss draws his conclusions is true, marvel at the hubris inherent with his deduction–if the universe is flat and with dark energy, it should have zero total energy, and we expect a universe arisen from nothing to have zero total energy. Why is it expected that a universe arisen from nothing would have zero total energy? He doesn’t say. Are there other explanations for a zero total energy universe? Doesn’t say that either. His implication is that God (a “creator”) is not necessary if the universe arose out of nothing, but where is the logical evidence that precludes God in such a universe? And what does such a thing say for the Big Bang Theory, the source for all this dark matter and energy needed to zero out the energy equation? By implication, how relevant is the Theory of Relativity if one asserts that something came from nothing? In fact, is all of physics now suspect? If effects don’t have causes, as would be the case in a universe that arose from nothing, how could physics legitimately explain anything? Further, does he understand anything about the Judeo-Christian idea of a God that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient in all realms, infinitely? Creationists could easily argue that a universe arisen from nothing, instead of disproving the need for God or a creator, stands as a testament to His existence.
The question of first causes is more than just a question of physics, but it is that, too. The question is deeply embedded in logic and philosophy. For every effect there must have been a cause. This is the sum total of the theory behind rationalist physical inquiry. Even Aristotle, like virtually all metaphysicists that followed him, saw the logical fallacy in assuming the universe arose spontaneously from nothing. For Aristotle, God is the First Cause, the unmoved mover, that is eternal and incorporeal and indivisible, that stands as the ultimate initiator of all the rationally-understandable effects flowing from his initial act. For modern physicists, if the cause of the effect is difficult to ascertain, it is not permissible to fall back on the supernatural as explanation. Mr. Krauss bastardizes the rule. He provides that the lack of a discernible cause means there wasn’t one, which in turn proves there is no supernatural. He’s as guilty of making false and logically indefensible deductions as are the “God in the gap” Creationists.
The Big Bang Theory was readily accepted by Christian scientists as proof that creation had a beginning and would thereby have an end, as the biblical narrative provides. The scientific materialists were dismayed at the time that they had discovered something that seemed to support a cause steeped in backward and superstitious views. Now it seems they have found a way out, with creation arising from nothing. Yet if they follow their logic forward, it would yield a universe in which every effect could be attributed to supernatural causes, because if something can arise from nothing at the beginning, it could do so again and again. Physics would be again like it once was–the realm of sorcerers and magicians. Mr. Krauss’ essay stands as incontrovertible proof that logic is not the life of theoretical physicists, no matter how vociferously they’d object to the characterization. I doubt he’s even considered the logical implications of his theory. It sounds to me like his biases and beliefs got the best of him when he was formulating it.