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Why Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology thinks that God isn’t needed, and how do you reply?

Here:

Big Bang?

One sometimes hears the claim that the Big Bang was the beginning of both time and space; that to ask about spacetime “before the Big Bang” is like asking about land “north of the North Pole.” This may turn out to be true, but it is not an established understanding. The singularity at the Big Bang doesn’t indicate a beginning to the universe, only an end to our theoretical comprehension. It may be that this moment does indeed correspond to a beginning, and a complete theory of quantum gravity will eventually explain how the universe started at approximately this time. But it is equally plausible that what we think of as the Big Bang is merely a phase in the history of the universe, which stretches long before that time – perhaps infinitely far in the past. The present state of the art is simply insufficient to decide between these alternatives; to do so, we will need to formulate and test a working theory of quantum gravity.

Fine tuning?

If anything, the much-more-than-anthropic tuning that characterizes the entropy of the universe is a bigger problem for the God hypothesis than for the multiverse. If the point of arranging the universe was to set the stage for the eventual evolution of intelligent life, why all the grandiose excess represented by the needlessly low entropy at early times and the universe’s hundred billion galaxies? We might wonder whether those other galaxies are spandrels – not necessary for life here on Earth, but nevertheless a side effect of the general Big Bang picture, which is the most straightforward way to make the Earth and its biosphere. This turns out not to be true; quantitatively, it’s easy to show that almost all possible histories of the universe that involve Earth as we know it don’t have any other galaxies at all.[24] It’s unclear why God would do so much more fine-tuning of the state of the universe than seems to have been necessary.

There must be a reason for everything?

There is no reason, within anything we currently understand about the ultimate structure of reality, to think of the existence and persistence and regularity of the universe as things that require external explanation. Indeed, for most scientists, adding on another layer of metaphysical structure in order to purportedly explain these nomological facts is an unnecessary complication.

God as a theory?

Over the past five hundred years, the progress of science has worked to strip away God’s roles in the world. He isn’t needed to keep things moving, or to develop the complexity of living creatures, or to account for the existence of the universe. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the scientific revolution has been in the realm of methodology. Control groups, double-blind experiments, an insistence on precise and testable predictions – a suite of techniques constructed to guard against the very human tendency to see things that aren’t there. There is no control group for the universe, but in our attempts to explain it we should aim for a similar level of rigor. If and when cosmologists develop a successful scientific understanding of the origin of the universe, we will be left with a picture in which there is no place for God to act – if he does (e.g., through subtle influences on quantum-mechanical transitions or the progress of evolution), it is only in ways that are unnecessary and imperceptible. We can’t be sure that a fully naturalist understanding of cosmology is forthcoming, but at the same time there is no reason to doubt it. Two thousand years ago, it was perfectly reasonable to invoke God as an explanation for natural phenomena; now, we can do much better.

Read it and comment. I have my own thoughts, but you first.

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9 Responses to Why Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology thinks that God isn’t needed, and how do you reply?

  1. What I don’t understand is how Carroll gets around the idea that in order for him to be able to write this article he has to be able to create the article. In other words, he has to examine the facts, choose words, and make an intelligent choice about conclusions.

    In this context, “intelligence” would be forced to mean an entity which could make a choice of its own volition that was neither random or contingent.

    If “the writing of the article” happens because of intelligence – then intelligence exists. But if intelligence exists, what is its source? How is it that some entity ( the writer ) is able to overrule the laws of chemical processes and make its own choices, but the same entity considers it a rational conclusion that there is no initial intelligence needed.

    If “the writing of the article” was not a result of intelligence. Then why read it.

  2. I certainly don’t understand what data set Carol is looking at to say that God has been ‘explained away’ by advances in science; if anything the case for God, from the empirical point of view, has become much stronger than it has ever been in the past;

    The Return of the God Hypothesis – Stephen Meyer
    http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_returnofgod.pdf
    video lecture:
    http://www.watermarkradio.com/.....;message=0

    Richard Dawkins Lies About William Lane Craig AND Logic! – video and article
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1P6L_QtpZ1pSyOjWvuEOXBWqLFZPdSAWor-MTzKbpVC0

    Theism compared to materialism within the scientific method;
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc....._5fwz42dg9

    I noticed that Carol also tried to turn the ‘Boltzman’s Brain’ problem on its head by suggesting universe’s without other galaxies are more probable than our universe, and I guess he finds such a vast universe wasteful,

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    Despite Carol’s delusions of grandeur of designing a more ‘economical’ universe than God has (Carol cannot even create a single photon), it turns out this ‘vastness’, that he finds unaesthetic, is actually another finely tuned parameter;

    Evidence for Belief in God – Rich Deem
    Excerpt: Isn’t the immense size of the universe evidence that humans are really insignificant, contradicting the idea that a God concerned with humanity created the universe? It turns out that the universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen. Likewise, the universe could not have been much larger than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 10^59 larger, the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 10^80 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 10^21 baryons (about the mass of a grain of sand) would have made life impossible. The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all.
    http://www.godandscience.org/a.....ntro2.html

    We Exist At The Right Time In Cosmic History – Hugh Ross – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5708578/

    My Beloved One – Inspirational Christian Song – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200171

    As well, Despite Carol’s unwarranted sense of freedom for proposing the existence of different types of universes better than what God has wrought, the fact is that there is a ‘irreducible complexity’ that accompanies each model that he has failed to consider, indeed I would hold that he is unable to consider in its entirety.

    “If we modify the value of one of the fundamental constants, something invariably goes wrong, leading to a universe that is inhospitable to life as we know it. When we adjust a second constant in an attempt to fix the problem(s), the result, generally, is to create three new problems for every one that we “solve.” The conditions in our universe really do seem to be uniquely suitable for life forms like ourselves, and perhaps even for any form of organic complexity.” Gribbin and Rees, “Cosmic Coincidences”, p. 269

  3. JDH, very well said!

  4. Let’s see.

    Re: The Big Bang, Carroll is trying to pass off the mere logical possibility of the Big Bang not being the start to the universe with it being equally likely that it wasn’t the beginning of the universe (or that the universe has no beginning) given current knowledge. ‘Maybe someday what seems to be the case will turn out to be false’ is true for just about any aspect of science – does he allow this sort of reasoning when it comes to Darwinian evolution, abiogenesis, or anything else?

    Re: Fine-tuning, he’s making the common mistake of assuming A) That the universe having the point of introducing intelligent life means that it’s the only purpose of the universe (even Genesis, read at its most literal, expressly disagrees with this), B) Attributing ‘excess’ to a being for whom there is no requirement to be thrifty, and C) He’s not arguing against fine tuning so much as complaining about it.

    Re: Reasons for the existence, persistence and regularity of nature, A) Those questions are not strictly scientific but ultimately philosophical, B) A number of scientists are entirely at home with adding on metaphysical structures (multiverses) to ‘explain’ things, and C) These do require an explanation (Carroll says ‘external explanation’ as if ‘internal explanation’ were in the running), and the alternative is to say they have no explanation, or that the explanation is (permanently?) beyond science’s capability. Any of the three options weighs heavily against Carroll’s entire approach to this question – so his solution is to pretend all three don’t exist.

    Re: God as a theory, A) Even someone who is skeptical of ID realizes that the evolution of complexity is a question science has yet to answer, B) Yes, God is still needed to ‘keep things moving’, and by Carroll’s own standards, science didn’t remove the necessity to explain the existence, persistence and regularity of nature – that’s a question he simply says scientists think they can ignore or need not give an explanation to, C) Carroll goes from saying we have no explanation of the universe’s beginning to saying God isn’t necessary. Even Krauss in his recent debate ceded that a divine mind may be necessary to resolve questions about the universe’s origins. Even Vilenkin mumbled something in that direction in his book. And Carroll, taking the position that we have no current explanation, can’t at once argue “We have no explanation, explanations are what take roles away from God, and God’s role was taken away here”.

    Carroll doesn’t have much of an argument here – it’s all bluster. Anything science explains to his satisfaction is evidence against God, any question that science is incapable of explaining is not a fair question, any question that science has yet to settle or which seems to indicate a mind is assumed will be eventually settled in favor of naturalism and therefore already counts against God, etc.

    Let me put it another way. Carroll’s response to the question of “Is God necessary?” is to take the question as one posed to a completely unbounded imagination, ie, “Is it possible for me to dream up a world and say ‘God has no role in this’, so long as you let me imagine without restriction, regard any inconvenient parts as brute facts that have no explanation at all, and regard any evidence to the contrary as ultimately being false?” Then sure, God’s not necessary. Neither is anything else: Matter, other minds, an external world, regularity, etc.

  5. (a) Big Bang
    The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem has made it very difficult to take seriously infinite past models. As Vilenkin (Prof of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University) himself confessed: “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning [Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006) 176]. Sean’s arrow of time stuff seems like a desperation move to avoid a beginning. It reminds me of what Christopher Isham said: “Perhaps the best argument in favor of the thesis that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas, such as continuous creation [steady state] or an oscillating universe, being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his/her theory.”

    (b) Fine-tuning
    It’s clear that Sean Carrol doesn’t know what the fine-tuning argument is (cf. Prof. Robin Collins chapter length treatment found in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology — a pdf can be found here http://home.messiah.edu/~rcoll.....20book.doc). All he’s done is brought forward his own observation and make a brand new argument against design *completely unrelated* to the fine-tuning argument.

    (c ) There must be a reason for everything?
    Wow, Carrol’s response here is illuminating. If theism is true, then we have an explanation for the “Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact”, we have an explanation for why the most fundamental laws of physics are what they are. Carrol’s atheism has him confessing to not having any explanation at all. This is a huge confession.

    (d) God as a theory?
    Imho, Sean here gives an old and misguided God of the gaps objection which is ultimately question begging.

  6. Caroll: Over the past five hundred years, the progress of science has worked to strip away God’s roles in the world. He isn’t needed to keep things moving

    I challenge Sean Caroll or anybody else in the scientific community to explain what causes two bodies in inertial relative motion to remain in motion. They have no clue.

    If you’re not a scientist and would like to know more about the cause of motion, Google “Physics: The Problem with Motion”. The gist of it is that Aristotle was right to insist that motion requires a cause.

  7. Mrs O’Leary:

    A note or a few, to further stir thought:

    1 –> The general principle is that if something exists it has a reason, whether (i) a cause if it had a beginning and/or is otherwise contingent, (ii) being self-explanatory on its inherent nature [e.g. the number seven], if it is a necessary being.

    2 –> To abandon intelligibility of existence by conveniently refusing to ask why (after decades in which asking about interesting patterns in the laws and circumstances of our cosmos) sounds suspiciously and conveniently circular to me.

    3 –> So, the claimed abandonment of asking why on the pattern of laws and circumstances surrounding our cosmos, is an implicit admission of want of naturalistic explanation for the evident fine tuning of the cosmos for C-chemistry, intelligent life.

    4 –> The closing of the gaps once filled by God claim runs directly counter to at least 2,300 years of history of serious thought on God as origin and root of the cosmos and nature.

    5 –> From Plato to Paul to Newton, and onward to modern design thought, the order, evident purposeful organisation and intelligibility of the world are the main scientifically relevant signs that are seen as pointing to God; not gaps in our understanding. So, this objection is little more than a strawman.

    6 –> Worse, as C S Lewis often pointed out, our ability to detect miracles depends on their being a generally orderly pattern to the cosmos, not a chaos. That is the possibility of miracles DEMANDS a generally lawlike pattern of regular behaviour, only, one that is not absolute.

    7 –> And, the problem of the inductive turkey who showed up expecting breakfast on Christmas Eve (only to become the main course for Christmas Dinner . . . ) shows how there is no inductive basis that can suffice to show that an inductively arrived at pattern is absolute, or beyond correction on observation and credible report.

    8 –> So, Hume-type dismissals of the possibility or know-ability of the miraculous, are question-begging.

    (Besides, the evidence for something like the resurrection of Jesus is not in itself extraordinary: the difference between an empty and a full tomb are ordinary matters of observation, as is the difference between a live man and one dead at the hands of extreme violence. Similarly, we all know what it is to eat supper with a friend. The miracle lies in sequences and implications, not in the actual acts of observation.)

    9 –> The significance of the big bang lies in its pointing to a beginning, not in some imagined north of the north pole . . . besides, the North Celestial Pole is [in principle, infinitely] north of the north pole, in a very real sense!

    10 –> the point of the big bang is that it is strong evidence pointing to the contingency of the world of matter-energy, space and time we inhabit, as indeed does the reality of nuclear transformation of matter.

    11 –> Such contingency of matter makes it not self-explanatory.

    12 –> Similarly, the laws, circumstances, initial conditions, and key properties of the physical world and things we find in it are what points strongly to fine tuning and cries out for explanation.

    13 –> And so on . . .

    ++++++++

    Looks like we need to take some time “soonish” to look at the fine tuning issue as a key evidence of design at cosmological level. (A good place to begin is the properties of water, which are very well understood, and which point to the circumstances of the creation of Hydrogen, Helium, Oxygen and Carbon as the four most abundant elements in our cosmos.)

    Have fun . . .

    GEM of TKI

  8. I posted some comments from GK Chesterson’s 1908 book Orthodoxy this morning that I think would be applicable here:

    But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place.  Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition.  Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.  A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.  Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself.  The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason…  It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith.  Reason is itself a matter of faith.  It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.  If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction?  Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic?  They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?”  The young sceptic says, “I have a right to think for myself.”  But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, “I have no right to think for myself.  I have no right to think at all.”

    It is an ambitious task to remove God from the cosmos (for all of the reasons cited above). And in claiming that the task is complete, it certainly seems some humility has been misplaced. It also seems that Carroll, while perhaps a brilliant man of science, is a terrible philosopher and is unable to get past his “youthful skepticism.”

  9. Do these guys even read dissenting opinions?

    1) Gravity is still something and there are no current cosmologies which constitute “nothing” as a beginning point, phase, whatever. Even if one extrapolates an infinite past one still must answer the question, “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    2)God is wasteful. Yeah, see Plantinga’s comments on Closer to Truth. Waste is something for limited beings to discuss. Who says God isn’t more like a Romantic painter than a Classical Artist? Maybe he delights in making billions of galaxies. Not a powerful objection.

    3)Metaphysics is a unnecessary complication. Maybe for scientific methods which seek out natural explanations. But not for life. His objection is non-physical. Isn’t Verificationism and Falsificationism dead?

    4) The whole, “no place for God to act.” Well, what about acting within creation (which people report daily), or in miniscule ways on the quantum level or again, “why is there something rather than nothing?”

    I’m just a rookie at this stuff, but it seems like his objections are really just the same recycled hash. Can somebody find some freshly prepared hash, please?

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