Sunday, December 26, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 112: On the proposed Zero-energy Cosmos -- is God finally out of a job?

 A major theme of this blog, is to keep an eye on the signs and trends of our times, and to comment on them towards our having an answer for the hope we have. That is the focus of the Matt 24 watch series of posts, which has now gone past 100.

Now, in recent days, there have been several portentous developments, such as the ongoing homosexualisation of the US military. (Cf WND's collection of responses by veterans, here.)
(That is, as Mr Obama delivers on some of his promises to a key cluster of backers, the homosexualists, the second shoe has now dropped on the agenda behind the don't ask, don't tell policy imposed on a reluctant military in the early 1990's. Through what is now plainly a first phase, penetration, a network of homosexual agenda activists has now been powerfully put in place in the military, the media and the government. So, now, the open homosexualisation of the strongest military in the world can proceed apace. The direct implications are troubling, as military members will be indoctrinated in the claimed "normality" of homosexual behaviour, and in the slanderous claim that to have a moral or conscience objection to such behaviour is to be a hateful bigot, comparable to a racist or a Nazi or an Inquisitor such as Torquemada. This also provides precedents -- and the muscle -- to back up the ongoing attempt to homosexualise other government agencies and international bodies, thence also marriage. After that, predictably comes the onward criminalisation of those who object, through the already in-place thought control hate crimes laws. In my considered opinion, if these two steps get through in so pivotal a country as the USA, the damage to our civilisation in its current form will be irreparable, and will lead to chaos, unresolvable conflict and collapse as civil consensus disintegrates. The sort of slander-driven open persecution hinted at in the Manhattan Declaration recently highlighted in this blog,  is therefore now looming over the horizon.)
But, this is not what we need to focus on, even though a heads up is important.

For, there are deeper issues that have to take pride of place in our reflections. As, there is something else that is driving and giving cultural momentum to the "might and manipulation make 'right' . . . " radical relativist agenda that underlies the recent development with homosexualisation of the US military, and many similar trends.

There is something out there that is giving power to the Kirk & Masden, marketing of evils, desensitisation, jamming-out of objections, conversion strategy. Something, that is weakening our confidence in the objectivity of truth in general and of moral truth in particular. Something, that is exploiting the cultural power of our culture's principal oracle, science.

For, instance, we may consider Mr Stephen Hawking's recent proposal that the cosmos as we experience it comes out of nothing, through the power of gravity, at an expense of in effect zero net energy, which has been creating a bit of an upstir -- not least because he (incorrectly) thinks this finally puts God out of a job -- and requires some reflection.

That is, anything that makes evolutionary materialism imposed in the name of science seem more credible -- especially in the name of science and with the credibility of a celebrity physicist in the stakes -- provides plausibility for the consequences of such a worldview. 

Namely, radical relativism and "might and manipulation make 'right' . . . " amorality.

These consequences of evolutionary materialism were pointed out long ago by Plato in his last dialogue, the 360 BC The Laws, Bk X, as he reflected on what had led to the collapse of Athenian power and credibility.

So, let us hear him as he speaks in the voice of the Athenian Stranger, gone to visit Crete in the aftermath of Athens' collapse:
Ath. At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. [[Notice Plato's own carefully stated skepticisms and moral concerns regarding classical paganism.] Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe . . . .
[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only . . . . 

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them . . . These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[here, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades as an instance of the factions and tendency to tyrannical abuse that such amorality tends to create], and not in legal subjection to them . . . [[Jowett translation. Emphases and explanatory parentheses added.]

Such shocking consequences are sobering indeed, and should only be entertained if the underlying evolutionary materialism has become well-established as the only plausible account of our cosmos and of our own origins.

And, for sure, that is a common, widely promoted view.  For instance, in the second Darwin Day celebrations at the University of Tennessee, in 1998, Cornell professor of the history of biology, William Provine went on open record as follows:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . 
The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication.
But, has evolutionary materialism been so firmly established as it likes to claim?

Let us look, excerpting and slightly adapting and augmenting  a recent comment at Uncommon Descent blog:

 It’s the logic, not the physics, . . . , even brilliant physicists can be blinded if they ignore basic principles of right reason, here, causality.

So, let’s play the ex nihilo, algebraic zero net energy game that famous physicist Stephen Hawking has been popularising in his latest book, for a moment:

1 –> Per Einstein’s energy-time version of quantum uncertainty, a fluctuation of energy that is below the h-bar limit, 

delta-E * Delta-t < h/2*pi,

. . . permits virtual particle-antiparticle production for the moment in the quantum vacuum, so long as they vanish back into the vacuum. [This is responsible for some interesting phenomena in physics, e.g. the Casimir effect, and electromagnetism has infinite range as the photons have zero mass. Etc.]

2 –> As wiki summarises the zero net energy premise:

>> The zero-energy universe hypothesis states that the total amount of energy in the universe is exactly zero. When the energy of the universe is considered from a pseudo-tensor point of view, zero values are obtained in the resulting calculations.[1] The amount of positive energy in form of matter is exactly canceled out by the negative energy in form of gravity.[2]

[edit] Free-lunch interpretation

A generic property of inflation [the proposed period of in effect faster than light expansion after the Big Bang] is the balancing of the negative gravitational energy, within the inflating region, with the positive energy of the inflation field to yield a post-inflationary universe with negligible or zero energy density.[3][4] It is this balancing of the total universal energy budget that enables the open-ended growth possible with inflation; during inflation energy flows from the gravitational field (or geometry) to the inflation field—the total gravitational energy decreases (becomes more negative) and the total inflation energy increases (becomes more positive). But the respective energy densities remain constant and opposite since the region is inflating. Consequently inflation explains the otherwise curious cancellation of matter and gravitational energy on cosmological scales which is a feature of a zero-energy free-lunch universe, which is consistent with astronomical observations.

[edit] Quantum fluctuation

Due to quantum uncertainty energy fluctuations such as electron and its anti-particle a positron can arise spontaneously out of nothing but must disappear rapidly.
[Pause, pardon: not so fast, Wiki:

a: The highlighted "can arise spontaneously out of nothing" is (probably inadvertently) misleading, as in fact there is something that is fluctuating, space, with the quantum vacuum.

b: In addition, the observed arising of effects tracing to virtual particle-antiparticle pairs is in accord with a very precisely balanced set of laws of nature and values of fundamental parameters that allow the setting up of a cosmos like ours that sits at an operating point that allows observers such as us based on Carbon-chemistry cell based life.

c: So, we are identifying underlying necessary causal factors for fluctuations to occur: a quantum vacuum, and the relevant set of laws that constrain the underlying space.

d: In other words, the fluctuations are a contingent phenomenon, dependent on necessary and external causal factors, that have to be right for such fluctuations to be possible.

e: They are not simply "spontaneous" and coming out of "nothing."

f: In short, causality -- contrary to what seems to be being assumed or implied -- has not in fact been circumvented; just, our attention has been distracted from the causality and contingency at work.]
 . . . The lower the energy of the bubble, the longer it can exist. A gravitational field has negative energy. Matter has positive energy. The two values cancel out provided the universe is completely flat. In that case the universe has zero energy and can theoretically last forever.[5] >>

3 –> We may pause for a laugh: creation, ex nihilo, out of "nothing." Sounds familiar? Maybe, it should:

Gen 1: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water. 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light!

Isa 45: 9 One who argues with his creator is in grave danger,
one who is like a mere shard among the other shards on the ground!
The clay should not say to the potter,
“What in the world are you doing?
Your work lacks skill!” . . . .

18 For this is what the LORD says,
the one who created the sky –
he is the true God,
the one who formed the earth and made it;
he established it,
he did not create it without order,
he formed it to be inhabited –
“I am the LORD, I have no peer.

4 –> Let us go further, per the suggestion by Hawking and others, of a quantum foam of micro-black holes, spread out to be the fabric of space time, and providing the negative gravitational energy that balances the mass-energy [where E = m*c^2] of the particles.

5 –> Maybe, even — just for fun — suggesting that the black holes safely lock away the missing antimatter to match the observed matter of the cosmos. [What is behind an event horizon is locked away from our cosmos, as not even light can come back out.]

6 –> Let us take the algebraic trick on board, and let the negative energy of gravity balance or near balance out the positive of the inflation field, etc. So, we have an expanding sub-cosmos that pops up for a zero net energy cost, and grows by stretching out space itself [that is the usual explanation for the Hubble expansion, space itself is stretching out, and gravitationally bound local zones like galaxies therefore are spreading apart] “like a tent” with a similarly zero net energy cost.

7 –> We then have to face a material cosmos that steadily stretches out, and that allows hydrogen balls to form under mutual gravitational attraction [and with numbers of protons and electrons balanced to 1 in 10^39 so electromagnetism -- which is of unlimited range, just like gravity -- does not overwhelm gravity], crunching down, heating up and cooking off the first wave of stars.

8 –> We still have to have spiral galaxies that form 2nd-generation stars in habitable zones, that have sufficient distance from the overly-energetic galactic centres, and sufficient proximity to have enough heavy elements to have a complement of terrestrial planets.

9 –> We still need to form such a star of reasonable mass, with terrestrials, and well behaved jovians,so that they do not come rolling in and discombobulating the inner planets, serving instead as shields against bombardment [as with Shoemaker-Levy 9]. (Cf 101 level exploration here.)

10 –> We still need to form a sub-cosmos with just the right, locally deeply isolated balance as John Leslie describes with his fly on the wall analogy:
 . . . the need for such explanations [of why our cosmos seems fine-tuned]  does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.
11 –> In short, we are back to the issue that to get an observed cosmos with a beginning, i.e. one that is contingent; and precisely functionally specified for C-chemistry, cell based life, we LOGICALLY imply at least one necessary (i.e. potentially blocking/enabling depending on whether “off” or “on”) causal factor that serves as a control switch. For, if our cosmos came into being at just a particular time, then it had a beginning, so it must have conditions that would enable/disable its existence, conditions that are external to it. And, for our cosmos to be habitable by us, we need a finely tuned, functionally specific “cosmos baking bread factory,” that can cook up ((or, bubble up, if you will) such a sub-cosmos as we inhabit.

12 –> Then, at the root of such a contingent — thus caused — and highly functionally specified, — thus, finetuned and organised — cosmos, lies the root cause of such an observed contingency: an ontologically necessary being. If something contingent exists, it is caused and in the end, the root cause is a necessary being.

(In the days of the steady state theory of the cosmos, the observed cosmos was viewed as the necessary being. The current attempts to get a multiverse in significant part boil down to getting back to that happy condition for materialists, but it will not work, once we see design on cosmological fine-tuning, and the moral government we face.)

13 –> A necessary being is one that has no beginning, is self-sustaining, depends for existence on no external causal factor, and so is eternal.

14 –> Facing, now,too, the functionally specific configuration of our observed cosmos and its deep local isolation, the most credible candidate for that necessary being is an intelligent, highly knowledgeable and powerful designer. 

(Notice, warrant on inference to best explanation, as opposed to pretence of proof beyond doubt on premises acceptable to all. This is how science works. So, to object to such a move that it is not a proof, is to be selectively hyperskeptical. Instead one needs to provide a superior explanation. Given the multidimensionality and precision of the finetuning, good luck.)

15 –> Raise that cosmological design inference challenge by an observation that is closely connected to our experience of ourselves as conscious, intelligent creatures living in a cosmos that is at least in part intelligible: by essentially universal consent (the exceptions are patently monstrous) we find ourselves to be morally governed, and thus under obligation to be fair, respectful, caring, etc.

16 –> We can dismiss such, but on pain of then implying that our minds are so delusional that we have no reason to trust our first, equally subjectively experienced, intuitions of mind as we bridge from mind to external world; collapsing the whole project of trying to understand our world.

(Observe here Kant’s gap between the inner phenomenal world of conscious awareness that suggests and structures our experience of the outer world, and the world of things in themselves, and the self-referential incoherence that if one sees an unbridgeable gap, one implies knowledge of the external world in order to try to deny it. Subjectivity is real, but does not undermine objectivity of knowledge and reasoning.)

17 –> That brings us back to the force of the IS-OUGHT gap. If, on pain of otherwise being utterly delusional, we are in fact morally bound, we live in a cosmos where oughtness is real.

18 –> So, there credibly is a grounding is for the cosmos that is a basis for oughtness being real. The only viable candidate for that is a good, wise creator-God. And, amoral alternative worldviews such as materialism, then face the problem of the near-universal intuitions that good and evil are real and important. Indeed, even their favourite problem of evil challenge to the existence of God presupposes this, which is at once fatal to materialistic views. (Cf Koukl on the significance of the reality of evil, here, and the discussion of the problem of evil as an objection to God, here.)

(The materialistic world-picture, by contrast, will be inherently amoral and can have no is that can ground ought. Other monist views, similarly, will founder on not having the capacity to ground diversity, including the reality of and distinction between good and evil, is and ought.)

19 –> So, since the IS-OUGHT gap is the dagger pointing to the heart of the unreality, incoherence and explanatory impotence of evolutionary materialism, maybe we can now understand why its advocates often become so violently strident, and slanderously dismissive once the issue has been put on the table.

20 -->  The genetic code visible in every living cell  (yes, CODE, as in, LANGUAGE) based 
DNA –> mRNA –> Ribosome + tRNAs –> protein chaining process

. . . is precisely a case of discrete-state, code-based information system processing, i.e. instantiation not mere easy-to-dismiss metaphor or analogy. 
(In other words, the living cell incorporates miniature digital stored program implementing entities, i.e miniature computers. And, where do we know that codes, languages, algorithms, programs, storage of same, and their execution on implementing machines comes from? What are the odds that such would happen by chance, as compared to by design? So, if we see such, are we reasonably entitled to see such as evidence of design? Why or why not?)
21 –> Moreover, this digital information system is a key part of a self-replicating entity that also interacts with and acts on its environment, i.e the cell indeed instantiates the generic von Neumann type self-replicator.

22 –> Given the implied complexity and the fact that even so small a set of digital, coded, functionally specific information as 1,000 bits sits in a configuration space of 2^1,000 ~ 10^301, the whole observed cosmos of ~10^80 atoms across its lifespan and changing state every Planck time could not credibly undergo enough states to sample 1 in 10^150 of that space; far, far less than the ratio of one atom to the 10^80 of the whole observed universe -- more nearly the ratio of one atom to the number of atoms that would be produced by converting each atom to a whole universe of comparable size. That is, a random walk search of that configuration space on the scale of our whole universe rounds down to no search.

23 –> So, chance, the other source of highly contingent outcomes [natural selection filters simply cut off lower or non-functioning sub populations so, it does not create configurations] is not a credible explanation for such an information system. 

24 --> Intelligence (as we experience and observe) routinely produces objects and systems that exceed this threshold, e.g. this post. And, we ONLY observe such functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] coming into being by intelligently directed configuration. So, it is credible that FSCI is a reliable signature of design. 

25 --> In other words, we are well warranted to infer that wen we see FSCI, we see the handiwork of a designer.

26 --> Nor, does the present biological world provide a case where in our observation, FSCI in excess of 1,000 bits [500 DNA base pairs] originatesd by undirected chance plus necessity. 

27 --> It is often claimed that this is what explains the origin of life and biodiversity, to the certainty of being a fact, but a closer look soon shows that in reality the evolutionary materialism is imposed on the evidence before it can speak, censoring its voice. As Lewontin summed it up in his infamous NYRB article of 1997:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis added.]
28 –> Philip Johnson's rejoinder of November that year was on targfet, and richly deserved:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

29 --> Further to this, the only actual observations directly relevant to the life of the deep past are the fossils that have been recovered in recent centuries. Darwin knew them, and he knew that the Cambrian revolution whereby in a window now estimated at 5 - 10 million years some 530 MYA, the major body plans appear suddenly, without antecedents. This holds as the overwhelming pattern of the record: sudden appearance, stasis, disappearance and/or continutation to the current world. Darwin hoped that there would be many discoveries of transitions as the fossil beds were investigated, but -- despite the many headlines over the years on discovered missing links [that then, as a rule quietly fade away] --  in fact the pattern is even stronger today.

30 --> Credibly, on the evidence of FSCI as a signature of intelligent configuration and the absence of observation of chance plus necessity producing FSCI, we have every right to conclude confidently that life in the cell is designed. 

31 --> And, that by an intelligence, and in a cosmos that sits at a finely and complexly balanced operating point that facilitates such C-chemistry cell based life, i.e the cosmos is also credibly designed. Designed by someone who is an IS who is the moral governor of the cosmos, who grounds OUGHT.

32 --> Something very much like the God we fond in the scriptures is credible.

33 --> And, just so, evolutionary materialism is plainly an ideology imposed on science, not a worldview grounded in it. So, we do not need to accept its radical relativism, amorality and might makes might manipulations.


In short, it’s the logic, not the physics; next, it's the evidence of design, not a priori imposition of the view that things that are complex must have been made by God; and, it's the moral governance written on our consciences that demands that we see our world as being rooted in an IS who can ground OUGHT.

That is, is the eternal, creator God who is good as to his essential character and calls us to walk in the ways of the truth in love, purity and power, by the gospel. END

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