Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

William Lane Craig and atheist Daniel Dennett discuss cosmology and fine-tuning

This audio records a part of the Greer-Heard debate in 2007, between prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and lame theistic evolutionist Alister McGrath. Craig was one of the respondents, and this was the best part of the event. It is a little bit advanced, but I have found that if you listen to things like this over and over with your friends and family, and then try to explain it to non-Christians, you’ll get it.

By the way, this is mostly original material from Craig, dated 2007, and he delivers the speech perfectly, so it’s entertaining to listen to.

Craig presents three arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe:

  • the contingency argument
  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the teleological argument

He also discusses Dennett’s published responses to these arguments.

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (this is very snarky, because Dennett was just awful)

  • Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.
  • I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when I go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.
  • But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.
  • The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.
  • Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.
  • “Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7″. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)
  • The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.
  • I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.
  • Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.
  • If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism. (This part is correct, but Craig believes that God enters into time at the moment of creation – so that it is not a deistic God)
  • If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.
  • I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus based on minimal facts, that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet in public debates and in prestigous books and research journals.

This is a very careful treatment of the arguments that Dr. Craig goes over briefly during his debates. Recommended.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig and atheist Daniel Dennett discuss cosmology and fine-tuning

This audio records a part of the Greer-Heard debate in 2007, between prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and lame theistic evolutionist Alister McGrath. Craig was one of the respondents, and this was the best part of the event. It is a little bit advanced, but I have found that if you listen to things like this over and over with your friends and family, and then try to explain it to non-Christians, you’ll get it.

By the way, this is mostly original material from Craig, dated 2007, and he delivers the speech perfectly, so it’s entertaining to listen to.

Craig presents three arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe:

  • the contingency argument
  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the teleological argument

He also discusses Dennett’s published responses to these arguments.

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (this is very snarky, because Dennett was just awful)

  • Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.
  • I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when I go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.
  • But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.
  • The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.
  • Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.
  • “Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7″. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)
  • The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.
  • I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.
  • Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.
  • If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism. (This part is correct, but Craig believes that God enters into time at the moment of creation – so that it is not a deistic God)
  • If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.
  • I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus based on minimal facts, that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet in public debates and in prestigous books and research journals.

I was in the second row at the Baylor Conference on intelligent design when Guth debated Craig on the origin of the universe. Guth admitted afterwards that the universe did require a cause.

I do not recommend purchasing the whole 2007 debate, because McGrath is a squish. You’re better off with the 2005 and 2008 sets. The 2006 one is OK, but not great. I don’t have the 2009 one yet, but it looks good.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Natalie Wolchover: Will science one day rule out the possibility of atheism?

Here’s an article by Natalie Wolchover on Live Science. (And note that I engaged with people in the comments to that article)

She writes:

Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science.

I find this statement odd. We theists think about evidence that has emerged relatively recently that supports theism and we are wondering why anyone is still an atheist in view of the progress of science.

Here is some of the evidence we theists are looking at:

  • the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • the helium/hydrogen abundance predictions
  • the redshift of light from distant galaxies
  • the cosmic fine tuning (constants)
  • the cosmic fine tuning (quantities)
  • the construction of amino acids on the early earth
  • biological information in proteins and DNA
  • sudden origin of phyla Cambrian explosion
  • biological convergence
  • galactic fine-tuning (e.g. – GHZ)
  • circumstellar fine-tuning (e.g. – CHZ)
  • irreducible complexity of molecular machines like the cilium
  • natural limits to biological change (i.e. – the Lenski experiments)
  • genome functionality now rated at 80% or more

We use that evidence to support premises in our arguments. We think that science is moving towards belief in a Creator and Designer. But not our staff writer Natalie Wolchover. She has found a way to save atheism from the progress of science.

The evidence for a beginning of the universe

Let’s take a closer look at what atheists say about the universe:

Gobs of evidence have been collected in favor of the Big Bang model of cosmology, or the notion that the universe expanded from a hot, infinitely dense state to its current cooler, more expansive state over the course of 13.7 billion years. Cosmologists can model what happened from 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang until now, but the split-second before that remains murky. Some theologians have tried to equate the moment of the Big Bang with the description of the creation of the world found in the Bible and other religious texts; they argue that something — i.e., God — must have initiated the explosive event.

However, in Carroll’s opinion, progress in cosmology will eventually eliminate any perceived need for a Big Bang trigger-puller.

As he explained in a recent article in the “Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), a foremost goal of modern physics is to formulate a working theory that describes the entire universe, from subatomic to astronomical scales, within a single framework. Such a theory, called “quantum gravity,” will necessarily account for what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. Some versions of quantum gravity theory that have been proposed by cosmologists predict that the Big Bang, rather than being the starting point of time, was just “a transitional stage in an eternal universe,” in Carroll’s words. For example, one model holds that the universe acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates over and over under its own steam. If, in fact, time had no beginning, this shuts the book on Genesis.

A speculative quantum gravity model?

Let’s see what the peer-reviewed research says:

At the close of their analysis of Linde’s Chaotic Inflationary Model, Borde and Vilenkin say with respect to Linde’s metaphysical question, “The most promising way to deal with this problem is probably to treat the Universe quantum mechanically and describe it by a wave function rather than by a classical spacetime.”{37} They thereby allude to the last class of models attempting to avoid the initial cosmological singularity which we shall consider, namely, Quantum Gravity Models. Vilenkin and, more famously, James Hartle and Stephen Hawking have proposed models of the universe which Vilenkin candidly calls exercises in “metaphysical cosmology.”{38}In his best-selling popularization of his theory, Hawking even reveals an explicitly theological orientation. He concedes that on the Standard Model one could legitimately identify the Big Bang singularity as the instant at which God created the universe.{39} Indeed, he thinks that a number of attempts to avoid the Big Bang were probably motivated by the feeling that a beginning of time “smacks of divine intervention.”{40} He sees his own model as preferable to the Standard Model because there would be no edge of space-time at which one “would have to appeal to God or some new law.”{41}

[...]The question which arises for this construal of the model is whether such an interpretation is meant to be taken realistically or instrumentally. On this score, there can be little doubt that the use of imaginary quantities for time is a mere mathematical device without ontological significance. Barrow observes, “physicists have often carried out this ‘change time into space’ procedure as a useful trick for doing certain problems in ordinary quantum mechanics, although they did not imagine that time was really like space. At the end of the calculation, they just swop [sic] back into the usual interpretation of there being one dimension of time and three . . . dimensions of . . . space.”{48} In his model, Hawking simply declines to re-convert to real numbers. If we do, then the singularity re-appears. Hawking admits, “Only if we could picture the universe in terms of imaginary time would there be no singularities . . . . When one goes back to the real time in which we live, however, there will still appear to be singularities.”{49} Hawking’s model is thus a way of re-describing a universe with a singular beginning point in such a way that that singularity is transformed away; but such a re-description is not realist in character.

Quantum gravity is a theoretical model that uses imaginary time. When translated back into the real world, the singularity re-appears, and the need for a cause of the universe coming into being is re-asserted.

Natalie explains how strong her speculation really is:

Another way to put it is that contemporary physics theories, though still under development and awaiting future experimental testing, are turning out to be capable of explaining why Big Bangs occur, without the need for a supernatural jumpstart. As Alex Filippenko, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a conference talk earlier this year, “The Big Bang could’ve occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes.”

See? Their view is “just because theists have all the experimental data for a creation out of nothing today, that doesn’t mean that these speculative theories won’t replace that  hard evidence tomorrow”. But physical laws are descriptions of how matter behaves – they don’t bring matter into being out of nothing. Physical laws can’t explain the origin of the universe because they don’t even exist until there is matter created for them to describe. Even the New York Times knows that. But that what atheists are reduced to - they deny what you can test in a lab, and hope for things to emerge that have never been tested in a lab. That’s atheism.

The evidence for a finely-tuned universe

What does she make of the fine-tuning evidence? Well, she has a speculation to answer the experimental evidence there as well.

She writes:

But there are other potential grounds for God. Physicists have observed that many of the physical constants that define our universe, from the mass of the electron to the density of dark energy, are eerily perfect for supporting life. Alter one of these constants by a hair, and the universe becomes  unrecognizable. “For example, if the mass of the neutron were a bit larger (in comparison to the mass of the proton) than its actual value, hydrogen would not fuse into deuterium and conventional stars would be impossible,” Carroll said. And thus, so would life as we know it.

Theologians often seize upon the so-called “fine-tuning” of the physical constants as evidence that God must have had a hand in them; it seems he chose the constants just for us. But contemporary physics explains our seemingly supernatural good luck in a different way.

Some versions of quantum gravity theory, including string theory, predict that our life-giving universe is but one of an infinite number of universes that altogether make up the multiverse. Among these infinite universes, the full range of values of all the physical constants are represented, and only some of the universes have values for the constants that enable the formation of stars, planets and life as we know it. We find ourselves in one of the lucky universes (because where else?).

A speculative multiverse? Why should we take a speculative multiverse over one observable, knowable experimentally-testable universe?

Let’s see what the peer-reviewed science says:

The feebleness of gravity is something we should be grateful for. If it were a tiny bit stronger, none of us would be here to scoff at its puny nature.

The moment of the universe‘s birth created both matter and an expanding space-time in which this matter could exist. While gravity pulled the matter together, the expansion of space drew particles of matter apart – and the further apart they drifted, the weaker their mutual attraction became.

It turns out that the struggle between these two was balanced on a knife-edge. If the expansion of space had overwhelmed the pull of gravity in the newborn universe, stars, galaxies and humans would never have been able to form. If, on the other hand, gravity had been much stronger, stars and galaxies might have formed, but they would have quickly collapsed in on themselves and each other. What’s more, the gravitational distortion of space-time would have folded up the universe in a big crunch. Our cosmic history could have been over by now.

Only the middle ground, where the expansion and the gravitational strength balance to within 1 part in 1015 at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

That’s what the science says. That’s what we know from experiments.

An MIT physicist Alan Lightman explains how much evidence there is for the multiverse:

The… conjecture that there are many other worlds… [T]here is no way they can prove this conjecture. That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

This is a non-theistic scientist telling us this. There is no evidence for the multiverse, just like there is no evidence for Santa Claus, just like there is no evidence for the Tooth Fairy. Yet atheists are driven to speculate about whether Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy might be real, in order to escape the fine-tuning. And atheism just goes on and on and on like this – from the origin of life’s building blocks, to junk DNA, to the Cambrian explosion, to protein synthesis, to galactic habitability, to DNA sequences, and so on – it’s madness stacked on top of delusion stacked on top of insanity. It’s just speculative nonsense and the denial of today’s cutting-edge peer-reviewed experimental evidence.

What is causing them to do this? What is their motivation for wanting atheism to be true?

UPDATE: A response from Uncommon Descent.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig vs atheist Daniel Dennett on cosmology and fine-tuning

This audio records a part of the Greer-Heard debate in 2007, between prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and lame theistic evolutionist Alister McGrath. Craig was one of the respondents, and this was the best part of the event. It is a little bit advanced, but I have found that if you listen to things like this over and over with your friends and family, and then try to explain it to non-Christians, you’ll get it.

By the way, this is mostly original material from Craig, dated 2007, and he delivers the speech perfectly, so it’s entertaining to listen to.

Craig presents three arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe:

  • the contingency argument
  • the kalam cosmological argument
  • the teleological argument

He also discusses Dennett’s published responses to these arguments.

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (this is very snarky, because Dennett was just awful)

  • Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.
  • I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when I go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.
  • But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.
  • The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.
  • Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.
  • “Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7″. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)
  • The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.
  • I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.
  • Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.
  • This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.
  • If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism. (This part is correct, but Craig believes that God enters into time at the moment of creation – so that it is not a deistic God)
  • If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.
  • I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus based on minimal facts, that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet in public debates and in prestigous books and research journals.

I was in the second row at the Baylor Conference on intelligent design when Guth debated Craig on the origin of the universe. Guth admitted afterwards that the universe did require a cause.

I do not recommend purchasing the whole 2007 debate, because McGrath is a squish. You’re better off with the 2005 and 2008 sets. The 2006 one is OK, but not great. I don’t have the 2009 one yet, but it looks good.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brian Auten interviews astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink about the multiverse

Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 has a new interview with Jeff Zweerink on the multiverse.

Brian’s summary:

Today’s interview is with astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink. Jeff is a research scholar with Reasons to Believe, and serves part-time on the physics and astronomy research faculty at UCLA. He is author of Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse?, the main topic of our interview today. He talks about his background and how he got into astrophysics, scientific evidences pointing to God, the role of natural theology, the strongest (and weakest) arguments from science, the multiverse, the various types of multiverses, why scientists postulate the multiverse, various objections to the multiverse, should Christians, how to be well-informed in scientific evidences, advice for apologists, and more.

Full Interview MP3 Audio here (55 min)

Krista Bontrager writes this about Jeff’s book:

Reasons To Believe has a new booklet out. It addresses the multiverse controversy: Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? (And when I say “booklet” it would really be more accurate to call it a short book. It’s a “good-sized” short treatment.)

RTB’s newest research scholar, physicist, Dr. Jeff Zweerink, explores the multiverse idea and its implications for biblical creation models. He addresses such questions as:

  • Does the multiverse pose problems for the Christian worldview?
  • Does the multiverse offer atheists an escape-hatch, one that is capable of explaining away design of the universe?

Zweerink’s answers to these questions may surprise some readers. He believes it is quite possible that particular types of multiverses to exist. (Whereas I think it would be fair to characterize Hugh Ross as being a little more cautious about this issue.)

Zweerink does a good job of explaining the appeal of the multiverse approach for some athetists. In fact, he is so fair and even-handed that, at times, the reader may wonder whether he’s defending the multiverse in all of its forms.

I am not aware of any other treatment of this quality by a Christian physicist. If you have a teenager who is planning on a career in science, especially in astronomy or physics, Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? is a must-read. It would probably also be of interest to those who are curious about the topic.

It sounds like Jeff actually is open to the multiverse. BOOOO! James Sinclair’s essay in Contending With Christianity’s Critics also seemed to give the idea a fair treatment. Oh well, I have to be open to being proven wrong, so here is the podcast and let’s see the evidence!

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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