Tim Ball and Archimedes principle

Richard Littlemore has the latest on Tim Ball’s antics. Check out this bit from Ball:

The point I made was with regard to the Antarctic and Greenland ice
sheets. I posed the question about what happens to the water level
when an ice cube is placed in a glass which is then filled to the brim
and the ice melts. The correct answer is the water level drops because
the space occupied by the ice is greater than that occupied by the
water it contains. Water expands when it freezes.

But the ice is floating in the water. The extra space that the frozen water takes up is, by Archimedes principle, exactly the volume that sticks out of the water. So the water level doesn’t change.

Comments

  1. #1 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Lance posts:

    [[ science presupposes a non-theistic universe. ]]

    Actually, it doesn’t. It just rules out theistic explanations for natural phenomena. Whether the universe is theistic or not is outside the scope of science’s concern.

  2. #2 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    sarah posts:

    [[Christianity needs a new reformation, one that embraces science,]]

    Sarah, traditional Christianity not only embraces science, it made science possible in the first place. The scientific revolution happened in four places — ancient Greece, the dark ages middle east, medieval China, and Christian Europe — and the only one it succeeded in was Christian Europe. And that wasn’t a coincidence. Christianity had come up with the doctrine of secondary causation, that natural things could act on themselves and one another without God’s direct intervention. Please look into the writings of Albertus Magnus, Robert Grossteste, Jean Buridan, and Nicholas of Cusa. I wish I were at home right now so I could post some relevant quotes from them, but they were very aware of the problem that stopping with “God did it” creates for any type of natural investigation. I can remember one quote offhand: “It is not enough to say, we know that God can do it. You fools, God can make a cow out of a tree, but has he ever done so? Therefore give a reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.”

  3. #3 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    matt writes:

    [[if the category "apes" is to include chimps and gorillas, and not have weird ad-hoc holes in it, it includes humans and the nearest common ancestor of chimps and humans.]]

    I disagree. There are major differences between humans and the great apes. Great apes have 48 chromosomes, humans have 46. Humans are obligate bipeds, great apes are only occasionally bipeds. Apes have an estrus cycle, humans have a menstrual cycle. Apes have thick hair amounting to fur, humans have sparse hair. Apes have pronounced sexual dimorphism (especially in the gorilla), humans have reduced sexual dimorphism. And humans are about three times as encephalized as apes, and exhibit an intricate culture and technology which apes have never even come close to achieving. The latter especially is a non-trivial difference. We are closely related to apes, but we are not apes, whatever the cladists say.

  4. #4 luminous beauty
    January 23, 2008

    “The scientific revolution happened in four places — ancient Greece, the dark ages middle east, medieval China, and Christian Europe — and the only one it succeeded in was Christian Europe. And that wasn’t a coincidence.”

    No, but not for the reasons you suppose. Those are post hoc rationalizations. The real reason science failed in the rest of the world was imperialist expansion. The core of mathematic and scientific understanding in Europe was booty from the Crusades, which was in turn booty from the Islamic incursion into India. What the Muslims began by destroying the academic foundations of Indian science, was completed by the Portuguese, French and English destroying the economic foundations of Indian technology.

  5. #5 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 23, 2008

    “Naw, intelligent design is a different beast
    Given the choice between a) believing you, or b) my own research, or c) the informed opinion of a bush-appointed federal district judge, I’ll pick what lies behind doors b) and c).”

    Exactly where does Sarah state that natural laws don’t explain the observed state of the world?

    ID’ers like Behe or Dembski try to use misrepresentations of natural laws to assert that natural laws alone aren’t sufficient to explain the presence and development of life, and there had to be a Hand of God mucking around.

    Theistic evolutionists or cosmologists don’t require suspension of natural laws to explain life: they see these natural laws as part of God’s work.

    “Well, she does say that nothing in science contradicts the Bible”

    Until you know what kind of theist/deist Sarah is, or what she finds important in the Bible that tells you precisely squat: from her words, her image of creation probably owes more to the Gospel of John than to Genesis.

  6. #6 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    The Big Bang model is the current accepted theory for the origin of the universe, and it says that time, space, energy — all of nature — had a beginning. Logically, this implies something beyond nature as the creative force for the universe.

    Well…no. The classical Big Bang model does indeed have a singular beginning, but nobody actually believes that the classical model is an accurate description of reality. There are various attempts at semi-classical treatments, but we can’t really expect anything definitive until a fully quantum theory of gravity is available. Of the existing semi-classical models, some are past-eternal (eg chaotic inflation), some are finite, unbounded models (eg no-boundary proposal), and some have singular beginnings. Whether the Universe is past-eternal is still an open question, and even if the answer is ‘no,’ that doesn’t imply a beginning, as such.

    The Big Bang model has some detractors, most of them atheist

    Do you have any evidence to support this claim? Almost all of the detractors I’ve encountered were YECs.

  7. #7 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    luminous posts:

    [[ The real reason science failed in the rest of the world was imperialist expansion. The core of mathematic and scientific understanding in Europe was booty from the Crusades, which was in turn booty from the Islamic incursion into India.]]

    Nope. Long before the Crusaders arrived, the Islamic world had already abandoned the scientific revolution — see if you can find the classic treatise “Against the Philosophers.” Their reasoning ran that the pen does not write because your hand moves it — the pen writes because Allah is moving both your hand and the pen, and the apparent connection is not intrinsic. They explicitly rejected the idea of secondary causation, and as a result, empiricism became useless.

    And China was only colonized by the west in the 19th century, long after they had shut down their own scientific revolution in a series of fiat proclamations from the Emperor. There’s a Ray Bradbury story about the latter, if you’re interested, true in essence if not in detail.

    Lastly, the scientific revolution in ancient Greece petered out because the Greeks disdained manual labor as fit only for slaves — and thus disdained empirical fieldwork. The idea was that you had to be able to prove something by logic alone, without recourse to the evidence. The evidence could be misleading, as philosophers from Zeno on maintained, but pure reason would always get the right result. Which was quite wrong, of course.

    Christian medieval Europe had the doctrine of secondary causation, and respect for work — “ora labora est,” “work is prayer,” later generalized by John Calvin into the concept of Vocation. When people started doing empirical research in Europe, it kept on, building on itself, because the social forces that had destroyed it in Greece, China and the middle east didn’t exist there.

  8. #8 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    Exactly where does Sarah state that natural laws don’t explain the observed state of the world?

    That would be here:

    Logically, this implies something beyond nature as the creative force for the universe. Strictly speaking, the word for this is supernatural since this force is above nature.

  9. #9 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    There are major differences between humans and the great apes.

    Which has bugger-all to do with it. Classification is based on similarities; all you’ve made a case for is that we are a particular type of ape. Which is entirely true, but also entirely vacuous.

  10. #10 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Martin M. posts:

    [[[[The Big Bang model has some detractors, most of them atheist]]
    Do you have any evidence to support this claim? Almost all of the detractors I’ve encountered were YECs.
    ]]

    I think she meant detractors in the scientific community. Fred Hoyle explicitly rejected the Big Bang because it was “religious.” People looking for a “macroverse” theory to provide something outside the Big Bang often do seem to be coming from a worldview which finds creation per se distasteful — Hawking, Weinberg, Andrei Linde. Note that, so far, none of those theories (e.g. brane theory) has any empirical evidence in its favor, or even a way to test it empirically. They’re unfalsifiable. Their only virtue — in the eyes of their creators — is that they have something natural instead of supernatural creating the universe.

  11. #11 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Martin M posts:

    [[[[There are major differences between humans and the great apes.]]
    Which has bugger-all to do with it. Classification is based on similarities; all you’ve made a case for is that we are a particular type of ape. Which is entirely true, but also entirely vacuous.
    ]]

    No, I maintain that each of the great apes is more like one another than any of them are like humans. They all have Jerison encephalization quotients in the 2-3 range compared to 7.3 for humans, they all have 48 chromosomes, they all spend most of their time in non-bipedal stances, they all have sexual cycles instead of the human constant sexual receptivity. It makes sense to classify humans separately, which is why Linnaeus did so in the first place. He catalogued orangutans as Homo troglodytes, but that was because he never saw an orangutan and was going on what he heard from travelers. (Orangs are neither human, nor live in caves.)

  12. #12 Sarah
    January 23, 2008

    Lance,

    How can any empirically unverifiable and unfalsifiable proposition be “consistent” with the scientific method?

    If you accept Big Bang theory — the theory that the universe (i.e. nature) came into being in a moment of creation — then logically this implies some creative force that is above and beyond nature. We do not observe things in nature giving rise to themselves.* Logically, I don’t see how you cannot have the supernatural if the Big Bang model is correct.

    As for what exactly that creative force is, that’s the difficult part. You are correct that this force is not directly testable by conventional scientific means. But, like I said, studying the program may provide clues about the programmer.

    [* Whenever I say this, inevitably someone brings up spontaneous particle production as a counter-example. The problem with this is that the particles didn't give rise to themselves, the vacuum energy did through quantum fluctuations. These particles are momentarily borrowing energy from the vacuum energy to become particles, and then returning that energy after a very brief time. So even if one uses this line of reasoning to argue that the universe popped into existence as a fluctuation, that still logically implies some kind of super-universe with its own vacuum energy field to give rise to our universe. It's still supernatural.]

    davide,

    Excellent questions — morality is one of my favorite topics — but if I were to provide answers, this would open up a big debate that I just don’t have time to deal with (finishing my dissertation). I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a blog for topics like the ones we’ve been discussing, and even have a domain name set aside. Maybe in May I’ll start posting on this stuff.

    I am curious still tho’ as to how you reconcile your appreciation of science with the what I find to be the most difficult aspect of Christianity; Jesus Christ himself.

    I haven’t yet reconciled it. I sympathize with this difficulty, because that’s where I was for years even after I had accepted the God of the Old Testament. The best way I can describe my relationship to Jesus Christ is that I was “called” to Him. To some degree, this is where compartmentalization occurs. I don’t need to compartmentalize in order to believe in both a Creator and science, but as far as scientific explanations for Christ, you’ve pretty much got me there. I do have a rationale, but as I said, explaining this would open up a huge debate. I’ll save it for later.

    StuV,

    You can read Genesis and say this with a straight face?

    Yes. If you are at all curious, Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God explains this very well. His books were what converted me from deism to a belief in the biblical God. I’m not suggesting any of you would want to read it to be converted, but if you want to understand the position of those who have no difficulty reconciling science with Genesis, this is the book to read. What I appreciate about Schroeder is that he plays no games with the science — it’s all taken at face value. What he brings to the argument is a much better understanding of Genesis through an ancient, well-established interpretation of the Old Testament that is not very well known by Christians or anyone else who relies on a superficial translation of, say, the King James version of the Bible.

    Barton,

    Sarah, traditional Christianity not only embraces science, it made science possible in the first place.

    I agree completely. Where I think Christianity has taken a wrong turn is in recent times, particularly with Creationism and the idea that all we need are the Gospels. To be fair, not all Christians are this intellectually lazy, but I really want to divorce mainstream Christianity from this kind of silliness and put it beyond reasonable consideration.

    I also want to create a much better general awareness of the current state of science, so that believers can defend themselves against criticism and attack. The vast majority of these attacks can be countered quite easily, because it’s not only Christians who are ignorant of the state of science, it’s atheists, too. I was listening to a radio call-in program last night wherein an atheist caller explained his rationale for not believing in God. He said it was because the universe is so vast. There are all these galaxies, and we inhabit only one tiny little speck in the outer reaches of just one of them, so how can there be a God. The host asked him where all the galaxies came from, and the caller said they were created in the Big Bang. (Wrong.) The host then asked him where all the matter that makes up stars in galaxies came from, and the caller said that it’s always been around. (Wrong.) The caller didn’t even recognize his error in reasoning, that you can’t have matter that’s always been around if the universe hasn’t always been around. But the host, who is a believer, also didn’t have the knowledge to point out the errors and the illogic of this guy’s argument. It was frustrating to listen to this exchange, because even a college freshman who has taken Astro 101 would know enough to refute the caller’s argument. Christians need the tools to defend their beliefs, which is why I want to engage them in science.

  13. #13 Lance
    January 23, 2008

    Bart,

    In response to my statement that science presupposes a non-theistic universe you say,

    Actually, it doesn’t. It just rules out theistic explanations for natural phenomena.

    The word universe, in the scientific sense, means the set of all matter and energy existing in the fabric of space-time. Science is the process by which the scientific method and logic are employed to explain the nature and interaction of the elements of this set.

    Science “presupposes” that these elements and the forces between them can be described, and understood, by a self-consistent set of underlying relationships that can be mathematically described.

    Theology is the study of supernatural and mystical constructs and their interactions with the “spiritual” and physical universe. It is based on “revelation” and “faith” with only incidental non-obligatory correlation to the physical world.

    Theological constructs are clearly outside of the universe as described by science and are therefore meaningless to any scientific description of the universe or any subset thereof.

    Thus your statement is not self-consistent.

  14. #14 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    Note that, so far, none of those theories (e.g. brane theory) has any empirical evidence in its favor, or even a way to test it empirically. They’re unfalsifiable.

    Is the classical Big Bang model testable? The simplest model is infinite in spatial extent; can we test that? Well, no. Strictly speaking, the best we can do is say that either a) the Universe is spatially infinite, b) the Universe has non-trivial topology, c) our laws of physics are inaccurate at large spatial scales, or d) magic!

    Oddly enough, d) doesn’t get much play in the scientific community. We’re in exactly the same position with respect to time, but people haven’t quite got used to relativistic thinking yet, and so insist on treating time as a special case. Which is the only reason I can see that magic is seen as a respectable option there.

    Their only virtue — in the eyes of their creators — is that they have something natural instead of supernatural creating the universe.

    Scientists prefer scientific answers to scientific questions. Shocking!

  15. #15 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    No, I maintain that each of the great apes is more like one another than any of them are like humans.

    Which is still irrelevant. If true for the great apes, it’s even more true for the mammals, but we are still mammals.

    It makes sense to classify humans separately, which is why Linnaeus did so in the first place.

    …and so do we. We’re not the same species as the other apes. We’re not even the same genus. But ‘ape’ is a superfamily.

  16. #16 MartinM
    January 23, 2008

    We do not observe things in nature giving rise to themselves.

    Strictly speaking, we don’t observe things in nature giving rise to anything at all. At the most fundamental level, nothing is created or destroyed, merely transformed. Do we then conclude that the Universe must be past-eternal? No, because it’s a false analogy. One has to be very careful when discussing the Universe as a whole.

    The problem with this is that the particles didn’t give rise to themselves, the vacuum energy did through quantum fluctuations. These particles are momentarily borrowing energy from the vacuum energy to become particles, and then returning that energy after a very brief time.

    That’s not really accurate; QM respects energy conservation. No energy is being ‘borrowed’ from anywhere, pop-sci descriptions notwithstanding. A more correct description is that, as virtual particles are off-shell (that is, they don’t respect the usual relationships between energy and momentum), intermediate states which would be classically forbidden are accessible to quantum systems. This means that processes like pair production are truly acausal, of course.

    So even if one uses this line of reasoning to argue that the universe popped into existence as a fluctuation, that still logically implies some kind of super-universe with its own vacuum energy field to give rise to our universe. It’s still supernatural.

    No, it isn’t. A ‘super-universe’ which obeys well-defined laws of physics is entirely natural.

    What I appreciate about Schroeder is that he plays no games with the science

    Well, as long as you don’t count attempting to sync the days of Genesis with modern cosmology by attaching God to an obscure reference frame (chosen for no apparent reason other than producing an acceptable answer) and invoking time dilation (backwards, IIRC) to be ‘playing games,’ sure.

    the caller said that it’s always been around. (Wrong.)

    ‘Always been around’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘past-eternal.’ Something which had existed since the beginning of time could reasonably be described as always having been around.

  17. #17 Lance
    January 23, 2008

    Sarah,

    Any attempt to describe or explain what “caused” the “Big Bang” must be verifiable and falsifiable to be called scientific. I think we both agree on this point.

    Of course strictly speaking space-time did not exist prior to the singularity and hence discussions of what happened “before” the singularity are nonsequitters.

    My biggest problem with the “creator” model is that it really brings nothing to the table. If you believe, with deference to your personal favorite deity, He “existed” independently of our universe this is consistent with, and in my opinion inferior to, other multi-verse models.

    Your insistence that these models are “supernatural” is only true in that we presently cannot, and perhaps never will be able to, observe these other universes by scientific means.

    It is only this limitation that places your “creator” beyond scrutiny. It does not however afford to Him any special status among arbitrarily assorted multi-universe scenarios.

    I suspect that your “calling” is the reason for your selection of this particular deity among possible explanations. Clearly this was not a scientific choice.

    As I said it remains beyond the purview of science to evaluate your claim. Your inference that examination of the “code” can somehow affirm the “existence” of this creator is also non-scientific. I suspect you will judge these “signals” on how well they resonate with your mystical beliefs.

    I will leave it to you to divine these phantoms. I only insist that you make no claim to this being a scientific endeavor.

  18. #18 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Martin M posts:

    [[Is the classical Big Bang model testable?]]

    Remember the discovery of the cosmological microwave background?

  19. #19 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    [[Scientists prefer scientific answers to scientific questions. Shocking!]]

    What saddens me is that some scientists prefer scientific answers to non-scientific questions, as well.

  20. #20 JimV
    January 23, 2008

    These are the kinds of discussions/arguments I would like to get into with my own family and friends, but those always seem to end badly, so I’ll toss in my 1 cent here.

    First, as the price of admission: I’ll agree that public school teachers should not try to influence their students for or against theism. However, my anecdotal evidence is overwhelming on the side of the former instead of the latter. That may be due to the kinds of blogs I read. In my own case, I can’t recall any blatant instances either way from my public schools days, but I also don’t recall that the word “evolution” was ever used or referred to in my high school biology class. There was one event in my HS senior history class where a teacher’s remark was mis-interpreted by one zealot (the rest of us backed up the teacher’s version), causing a huge fuss, so I am pretty sure any teacher who did say anything critical of Christianity in my school would have been fired.

    Others have made good responses to Sarah’s reasons for espousing theism, and I am not sure I have anything new to offer, but the appeal to the wonderful, elegant complexity of this universe as an argument for theism no longer resonates with me, for a long time now. IMO, the only way that theism logically follows from this, is by assuming theism as a premise. Theism adds no explanation for me, because if it follows that everything which is complex, elegant, sensible (or however else one might describe the structure of this universe) must have been created, then what created the Creator? Is she not also complex, elegant, et cetera? (I have heard that Dawkins has posed a similar question. I think I stumbled on it independently, but maybe not.)

    As for atheists falling into the trap of guessing at answers to questions for which the better answer would be, “I don’t know (and neither do you)”, that’s a human failing, one that is largely responsible for theism in the first place (IMO). The fact that there are things humans are never going to be smart enough to figure out is not a valid argument for theism. Similarly, just because chimpanzees could watch things fall for thousands of years and never figure out gravity, doesn’t mean they would be justified in assuming that there is a god that makes things fall.

    The last time I was in a church, on a visit to some relatives, I pulled a bible out of the rack on the back of the pew in front of me, opened to a page at random, and read a story from near the end of King David’s reign. It seems God was angry and had caused a famine because of some injustice that Saul had done to some tribe who were upright and righteous in God’s sight. Being apprised of this by his priests, King David called representatives of the tribe before him, and asked what they would like done to remedy the injustice, After some hemming and hawing, they asked for seven close relatives of Saul to be given up to them for torture and execution. This was done, and God was pleased, and the famine ended.

    The Brahma-the-Creator, Vishnu-the-Preserver, Shiva-the Destroyer stuff sounds to me like a better religion for a cosmologist, from what little I know of it. It probably has some seamy parts too, but I’m sure they can be rationalized away just as well.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone, and don’t expect to change anyone’s beliefs, but it is a relief to speak my mind occasionally, in a place and time when five of my 77 cable channels are all televangelists, all the time.

  21. #21 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 23, 2008

    MartinM said:

    ‘[Me] Exactly where does Sarah state that natural laws don’t explain the observed state of the world?
    [Martin M]That would be here:

    ‘[Sarah] Logically, this implies something beyond nature as the creative force for the universe. Strictly speaking, the word for this is supernatural since this force is above nature.’

    OK, Martin: what natural laws were in place before the Big Bang, and which need to be suspended for there to be a creator? I’m really keen to know.

    Look, I’m not a theist, I’m an agnostic/atheist, but it pisses me off that atheist are arguing with straw men rather than engaging on the level that the theists here are arguing, which (with the exception of say, Lance and JimV) is a much lower one than Bart or Sarah, and personally I want to them to explain their position and thoughts, ‘cos the scientifically educated thinking Theist isn’t exactly given a lot of primetime.

    To me, whether you believe in a creator (or a specific creator) is an aesthetic and emotional question rather than a scientific one.

  22. #22 Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
    January 23, 2008

    “Nope. Long before the Crusaders arrived, the Islamic world had already abandoned the scientific revolution — see if you can find the classic treatise “Against the Philosophers.”

    Averroes was still a great Arabic mathematician and scientist and philosopher, and post-dated Ghazali’s skepticism on the power of rationalism by a century (and wrote a book refuting Ghazali): Averroes died around the time of the Third Crusade. If there’d been no Crusades, who knows how Averroes critique of Ghazali would have been received?

    It took time for Ghazali’s skepticism to be accepted, and Ghazali and the Asharites didn’t direct their ire at the sciences and technology: innovation was still permitted there. Some Asharites (like Ibn al-Haytham) were significant scientists (or natural philosophers, if you like) themselves. The 12th-14th centuries still had notable advances in the sciences and technology in the Islamic world. I think the crusades and the much later opening up of alternate trade routes played a role (but not the primary role) in the ossification of Islamic thought.

    [And without the Arabic philosophers, we'd have lost the Greek classical inheritance: some classical works were preserved by the Irish monks, but very few of the Irish monks read Greek.]

  23. #23 dhogaza
    January 23, 2008

    ‘[Me] Exactly where does Sarah state that natural laws don’t explain the observed state of the world? [Martin M]That would be here:

    ‘[Sarah] Logically, this implies something beyond nature as the creative force for the universe. Strictly speaking, the word for this is supernatural since this force is above nature.’

    OK, Martin: what natural laws were in place before the Big Bang, and which need to be suspended for there to be a creator? I’m really keen to know.

    We don’t need to know what those natural laws were in order to observe that Sarah herself said “Logically, this implies something beyond nature” …

    The discussion is about what Sarah said, not about what is true, and in this context it’s clear that you’re not reading what she says very closely.

    As for me, I think she’s entitled to her beliefs, and I don’t know why you’re trying to pin things on her statements that aren’t said.

  24. #24 SG
    January 24, 2008

    Sarah, I have some minor comments for you (and the others too, I suppose).

    1) Teaching your students that the world was created in 7 days because God said so is very different to teaching them that “science disproves the existence of God”. One represents incompetence at teaching, and one doesn’t. The two infractions are of different severity

    2) I think that anything which can be done honestly and non-oppressively to stamp out, eradicate and destroy religion, and particularly the religion of the society I was raised in, is good. Our religious heritage carries with it nothing that is good and much that is bad

    3) I don’t know what you are talking about with mainstream christianity, because as far as I know all the mainstream churches respect science and accept it without criticism. Besides a few cults, the only churches I know of which reject science are the baptist ones, and to the best of my knowledge they are not “mainstream”. Maybe you should leave the fringe cults to their own devices and do something useful, like continue working in science.

  25. #25 MartinM
    January 24, 2008

    Remember the discovery of the cosmological microwave background?

    That doesn’t address my point at all. CMB observations have done an excellent job of establishing that our Universe belongs to the class of Big Bang models (and most probably the inflationary variety), but it certainly hasn’t pinned down the specific point I was discussing, namely the spatial extent of the Universe. The options there basically break down to infinite, or finite and unbounded, each coming in various flavours. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has proposed finite, bounded, and beyond the boundary ‘here be dragons.’ And yet that mysteriously becomes a respectable solution when asking precisely the same question about time.

  26. #26 MartinM
    January 24, 2008

    OK, Martin: what natural laws were in place before the Big Bang

    If you really want to know about the various pre-Big-Bang scenarios, you could try reading my comments, where I’ve mentioned several. Since it’s at such a low level, you should have no trouble understanding the implications.

    In any case, as dhogaza points out, this is a non sequitur. If the observed state of the world implies the existence of the supernatural, then the natural is not sufficient to explain it, by definition.

  27. #27 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    Sg posts:

    [[ I think that anything which can be done honestly and non-oppressively to stamp out, eradicate and destroy religion, and particularly the religion of the society I was raised in, is good. Our religious heritage carries with it nothing that is good and much that is bad]]

    Yeah, take that, religious heritage! The heck with the doctrine of secondary causation that permitted modern science to arise, the Abolitionist crusade, Handel’s Messiah, Michelangelo’s David,, spirituals, M.L. King Jr.’s sermons, How Great Thou Art and the Narnia books. It’s all bad!

  28. #28 SG
    January 24, 2008

    the bad things are christian; the good things are human. You can’t claim that Michelangelo’s work was the result of christianity, but you can’t deny that the Inquisition was about God.

  29. #29 SG
    January 24, 2008

    Also Barton the doctrine of secondary causation is a debate between co-religionists about whether or not humans can affect the universe. Were it not for their own stupid superstitions, these people could have just got on with the job. It’s the height of arrogance to suggest that atheists or scientists should care to thank these people for managing to overcome their own superstitions sufficiently to permit science.

  30. #30 Ian Gould
    January 24, 2008

    “You can’t claim that Michelangelo’s work was the result of christianity, but you can’t deny that the Inquisition was about God.”

    But SG surely you realise that the entire literary, intellectual and artistic output of non-christians, unenlightened as it is by the divine light of the One True Faith, is worthless filth that needs to be wiped from the face of the Earth?

    The Oddysey – blasphemous filth

    The Daibutsu – a graven idol

    The Bahagavada Gita – degenerate nonsense

    The rubaiyat – Satanically-inspired pornography.

  31. #31 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    SG posts:

    [[You can't claim that Michelangelo's work was the result of christianity]]

    Why can’t I?

  32. #32 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    SG posts:

    [[Also Barton the doctrine of secondary causation is a debate between co-religionists about whether or not humans can affect the universe. ]]

    No it isn’t. It’s about how God affects the Universe.

    [[Were it not for their own stupid superstitions, these people could have just got on with the job.]]

    You’re making the mistake of thinking the scientific outlook is the natural habit of humanity. It isn’t.

    [[ It's the height of arrogance to suggest that atheists or scientists should care to thank these people for managing to overcome their own superstitions sufficiently to permit science. ]]

    See above.

  33. #33 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 24, 2008

    Ian Gould posts:

    [[But SG surely you realise that the entire literary, intellectual and artistic output of non-christians, unenlightened as it is by the divine light of the One True Faith, is worthless filth that needs to be wiped from the face of the Earth?
    The Oddysey - blasphemous filth
    The Daibutsu - a graven idol
    The Bahagavada Gita - degenerate nonsense
    The rubaiyat - Satanically-inspired pornography.
    ]]

    I didn’t expect a straw man like that from you, Ian. I never said anything of the sort. For one thing, I quite like the Bhagavad-Gita. You have to like a book where the scene is on the verge of a tremendous battle and the protagonist stops to argue philosophy.

    SG’s contention was that Christianity had added nothing positive to the world. Why do you assume that my viewpoint would mirror his, and I would just embrace the opposite fallacy? Don’t put words in my mouth, please.

  34. #34 Alan
    January 24, 2008

    Barton Paul Levenson wrote:

    “Whether the universe is theistic or not is outside the scope of science’s concern.”

    Why? Any “supernatural” being is hypothetical unless it influences our natural universe, at which point it would be fair game for scientific inquiry just like any other observable phenomenon. Religious people claim that either a deity interacted with man at one point in the past, or that this deity is still active in the world today. Why should these claims be exempt from scientific scrutiny?

  35. #35 Cameron
    January 24, 2008

    OK – Back to archimedes for a second. I didn’t see anyone mention the correct answer to the sea ice/melting ice cube problem. Forgetting the temperature effect #18 (negligible for sea ice anyways since the surrounding water is so cold), there are two effects 1) the freshness of sea ice #12 – correct and 2) The buoyancy effect felt by the part of the ice in air – thus the ice also experiences an upthrust equal to the mass of air displaced, this in addition to the mass of water displaced causes the level of water even in the glass of fresh water to go UP ever so slightly…NOT stay the same! Most textbooks have this wrong.

    So yes Ball is an idiot – there are two effects acting here causing sea level to rise when sea ice melts…

    Sarah – I absolutely agree with you that your professor violated SOSC, there is no place for any such non-scientific claim in a science class. I am very interested in the way you rationalize your faith, your conversion experience and most importantly your desire to improve science knowledge and literacy among religious people so we can move beyond these Evol. vs ID debates to larger questions regarding the place of religion in modern society with everyone on the same scientific page. I am interested in discussing such issues with you if you’re keen to start a dialogue. I am also v. busy with PhD stuff right now but we have time…

  36. #36 Sarah
    January 24, 2008

    MartinM,

    This means that processes like pair production are truly acausal, of course.

    Admittedly, QM is not my strong subject, however I always understood that pair-production is not acausal, because it requires extreme conditions, say, near event horizons of black holes. If certain conditions are required for something to happen, then it doesn’t make sense to say it’s acausal.

    No, it isn’t. A ‘super-universe’ which obeys well-defined laws of physics is entirely natural.

    You’re playing games with words. “Natural” refers to our universe. Anything above and beyond our universe is, by definition, supernatural, even if it obeys its own laws of physics.

    Schroeder isn’t using an obscure reference frame. He’s considering the universe as a whole, which is necessarily how God would view the universe. And I don’t understand how his invocation of time dilation is problematic. I have to correct for the effects of time dilation in my observations of distant objects, so it makes perfect sense to me.

    ‘Always been around’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘past-eternal.’ Something which had existed since the beginning of time could reasonably be described as always having been around.

    Someone who thinks galaxies were created in the Big Bang probably doesn’t understand the difference between ‘always been around’ and ‘past-eternal.’ I think he meant ‘always been around’ quite literally.

    Lance,

    It is only this limitation that places your “creator” beyond scrutiny. It does not however afford to Him any special status among arbitrarily assorted multi-universe scenarios.

    True, but that wasn’t my point. My point is only that, logically, one must accept the supernatural — whether that consists of a conscious creator or multi-universes — if one accepts the Big Bang model. This is important, because I get this argument from materialists all the time: there’s no such thing as the supernatural, and only religious nuts entertain such ideas. Clearly, this is not true.

    Your inference that examination of the “code” can somehow affirm the “existence” of this creator is also non-scientific.

    I didn’t say “affirm the existence,” I said give clues as to the nature of the programmer. Note that this leaves open the possibility for a programmer that is a non-conscious creative force. You aren’t at all curious enough to try to find out which it is? I think it makes all the difference in the world if our universe is the purposeful product of an intelligence or if it’s just some statistical fluctuation in an infinite series of physical realms.

    I suspect you will judge these “signals” on how well they resonate with your mystical beliefs.

    Possibly, but not necessarily. Remember, science drew me to religion, not the other way around. I’m interested in the truth.

    JimV,

    … what created the Creator?

    Unless you think the universe is eternal, we’re stuck with this problem regardless of what we posit the creative force of the universe to be. If it’s a super-universe/multi-universe scenario, then what created that? And what created that which created the super-universe? And so on. The assumption of an eternal creative force has a philosophical advantage here.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed discussing stuff with y’all, this will likely be my last response here. I formally started a new faculty job today, and the burden of teaching and finishing the dissertation won’t allow for much extra-curricular stuff. If I get my own blog up and running, I’ll ask Ben to make a plug for it here. Thanks for the good conversation.

  37. #37 SG
    January 24, 2008

    Barton, this is a classic christian dodge. Some poor bastard scientist finds a way to shake the church off his back long enough to publish a result, and you claim that christianity “enabled science”? Merely permitting someone to say something without burning them at the stake is not enabling anything.

    Similarly, scholars fighting it out for a couple of centuries over whether the real, observable universe could be affected by anything except God’s will is not a case of christians “furthering” science. It is a case of christians arguing over whether to allow science into their world view.

    So don’t present the doctrine of secondary causation as proof of christianity enabling or furthering science. It is an example of how long it took christianity to merely accept science.

    (Also, I think you may be exaggerating the importance of occasionalism in holding back scientific inquiry, but I’m no expert so I shan’t dispute you on that).

  38. #38 JimV
    January 24, 2008

    Thanks, Sarah, for the reply, and thanks to our host for tolerating this massively off-topic thread.

    I completely understand that you have much more productive things to do then clear up my confusion, so I won’t expect a further response, but it is still unclear to me why “The assumption of an eternal creative force has a philosophical advantage here.” If we get to just assume an eternal, incomprehensible, complex entity or force, why not just assume the cosmos we actually observe, whether finite or eternal? Or better yet, just admit that we do not understand, and will probably never understand, everything about the universe we inhabit, much less whether anything lies beyond it, but that assuming something else which we understand even less is responsible for it adds no explanatory value (in the absence of good evidence for the existence of such, which so far I have not encountered).

  39. #39 Chris O'Neill
    January 24, 2008

    If it’s a super-universe/multi-universe scenario, then what created that? And what created that which created the super-universe? And so on. The assumption of an eternal creative force has a philosophical advantage here.

    And what created the eternal creative force? Sorry, I don’t see any philosophical advantage in that. The only difference is that one view makes an assumption of never-observed supernatural processes and the other only assumes natural processes. Looks more like a philosophical disadvantage to me.

  40. #40 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 25, 2008

    SG posts:

    [[Some poor bastard scientist finds a way to shake the church off his back long enough to publish a result, and you claim that christianity "enabled science"? ]]

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I rather suspect you don’t, either.

  41. #41 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 25, 2008

    JimV posts:

    [[ If we get to just assume an eternal, incomprehensible, complex entity or force, why not just assume the cosmos we actually observe, whether finite or eternal?]]

    Because we have empirical evidence that the cosmos we actually observe wasn’t always here, and we don’t have such evidence for the creator. Therefore, it is logical to posit an eternal creator but not an eternal universe. God was always there. The universe wasn’t.

  42. #42 MartinM
    January 25, 2008

    Admittedly, QM is not my strong subject, however I always understood that pair-production is not acausal, because it requires extreme conditions, say, near event horizons of black holes. If certain conditions are required for something to happen, then it doesn’t make sense to say it’s acausal.

    No, pair production happens all the time. What you’re thinking of is the promotion of ‘virtual’ particles to ‘real’ status. This can happen if, say, one of a pair falls into a black hole, which is the source of Hawking radiation. There are other ways, of course.

    You’re playing games with words. “Natural” refers to our universe. Anything above and beyond our universe is, by definition, supernatural, even if it obeys its own laws of physics.

    I think this rather depends on what you mean by ‘Universe.’ If you mean our observable neighbourhood, I certainly don’t agree that anything beyond it is supernatural – but I agree we’re getting into semantic games here.

    Schroeder isn’t using an obscure reference frame. He’s considering the universe as a whole, which is necessarily how God would view the universe. And I don’t understand how his invocation of time dilation is problematic. I have to correct for the effects of time dilation in my observations of distant objects, so it makes perfect sense to me.

    Schroeder has to consider different reference frames to invoke time dilation in the first place. He meshes 6 days with cosmological time-frames by taking the ratio of the scale factor at present to that at the time of quark confinement, then multiplying 6 days by that factor. Leaving aside the fact that this doesn’t actually give the correct answer at all, there’s no a priori reason to choose quark confinement as the starting point. It’s done simply because any other choice gives unacceptable answers.

    Someone who thinks galaxies were created in the Big Bang probably doesn’t understand the difference between ‘always been around’ and ‘past-eternal.’ I think he meant ‘always been around’ quite literally.

    You’re almost certainly right on that point; I just think it’s an important distinction.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed discussing stuff with y’all, this will likely be my last response here. I formally started a new faculty job today, and the burden of teaching and finishing the dissertation won’t allow for much extra-curricular stuff. If I get my own blog up and running, I’ll ask Ben to make a plug for it here. Thanks for the good conversation.

    Good luck in your new job. If you do start your own blog, I’d certainly be interested to read it.

  43. #43 MartinM
    January 25, 2008

    Because we have empirical evidence that the cosmos we actually observe wasn’t always here

    As mentioned above, ‘always here’ and ‘past-eternal’ are not synonymous. Under no cosmological model I can think of was there a time when the Universe did not exist.

  44. #44 Chris O'Neill
    January 25, 2008

    Because we have empirical evidence that the cosmos we actually observe wasn’t always here,

    Evidence that the cosmos had a different form is not the same as evidence that the amount of mass-energy was different. Just because the Big Bang obliterated a lot of information about the Universe, doesn’t mean it violated any natural laws, e.g. the law of conservation of mass-energy.

    and we don’t have such evidence for the creator. Therefore, it is logical to posit an eternal creator

    What a contorted piece of [il-]logic. I don’t have any evidence that there is no celestial teapot on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Therefore there is such a celestial teapot.

  45. #45 MartinM
    January 25, 2008

    the law of conservation of mass-energy

    To be picky, there is no global principle of mass-energy conservation in GR. Mass-energy is conserved only in the case of time-translational symmetry, which is manifestly not the case in an expanding Universe. Still holds locally, though.

  46. #46 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 25, 2008

    Chris O’Neill posts:

    [[Evidence that the cosmos had a different form is not the same as evidence that the amount of mass-energy was different. Just because the Big Bang obliterated a lot of information about the Universe, doesn't mean it violated any natural laws, e.g. the law of conservation of mass-energy.]]

    In the standard model of the Big Bang, mass-energy and space-time both originate at the Big Bang. That’s not having a different form before the starting point.

  47. #47 Chris O'Neill
    January 25, 2008

    In the standard model of the Big Bang, mass-energy and space-time both originate at the Big Bang.

    Models can have these characteristics but that doesn’t mean any supernatural process must occur.

  48. #48 Lance
    January 28, 2008

    It is interesting that Sarah and Bart both recoil from the “God of the gaps” description of their deity but hurl him into the largest void they can find!

  49. #49 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 28, 2008

    Lance posts:

    [[It is interesting that Sarah and Bart both recoil from the "God of the gaps" description of their deity but hurl him into the largest void they can find!]]

    To which I reply:

    Huh? What? Come again?

  50. #50 Lance
    January 28, 2008

    BPL,

    The old god of the gaps ploy is when “God did it” is no longer plausible as an explanation of a physical phenomenon you hide him behind the next “gap” in a never ending shell game.

    Now that everything in the universe has, at least plausible, natural explanations you run, deity in satchel, to the safety of the “multi-verse” theory and toss your invisible friend into the void, safe from prying eyes and possible falsification.

  51. #51 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 29, 2008

    Lance posts, inexplicably:

    [[The old god of the gaps ploy is when "God did it" is no longer plausible as an explanation of a physical phenomenon you hide him behind the next "gap" in a never ending shell game.
    Now that everything in the universe has, at least plausible, natural explanations you run, deity in satchel, to the safety of the "multi-verse" theory and toss your invisible friend into the void, safe from prying eyes and possible falsification.
    ]]

    What in the world are you talking about? I don’t even accept a “multiverse” theory. Your whole argument is a straw man.