Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Bruce Gordon: problems with inflationary multiverse cosmologies

From Evolution News. Dr. Bruce Gordon reflects on whether the new BICEP2 results offer any support for the multiverse.

First, quick review of the Big Bang so we’re clear on the challenge that poses for naturalism:

Now, Big Bang theory has its theoretical basis in general relativity, which predicts that the universe is spatiotemporally expanding in the future direction and thus would be contracting if we were to reverse the direction of time. As Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking showed in the late 1960s, no matter which general-relativistic model of our universe is chosen, this contraction leads to a beginning point in the finite past — a singularity, to use the technical term — from which not just matter and energy, but spacetime itself, emerged. This coming into existence of the universe from nothing (no space, no time, no matter, no energy, and hence no physical laws either) is what is known as the Big Bang. It is, as the agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow once observed, startling evidence for the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. He famously put it this way:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason [editorial aside: Jastrow might better have said "faith in the sufficiency of materialist explanations" because the inference from the ex nihilo generation of the universe to a transcendent intelligent cause is eminently reasonable], the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

This having been established, as the physicist George Gamow demonstrated in 1948, one of the predictions of Big Bang theory is the existence of gravitational ripples and cosmic background radiation (CBR) that are an “echo of Creation,” as it were, throughout the whole observable universe. This cosmic background electromagnetic radiation was discovered in 1965 by Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, a discovery for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize. In this regard, the alleged detection of gravitational waves would serve as further confirmation of the correctness of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and of the nature of the Big Bang itself. If corroborated by the scientific community, it would be a hugely important discovery, not just because of the evidence it provides for gravitational waves, but also because of the way this discovery is linked to another theory, namely, inflationary cosmology.

Inflationary cosmology is an enhancement to the standard Big Bang cosmology, and some models of inflationary theory can create additional universes. Some people are hoping that this will address the fine-tuning argument.

But Dr. Gordon is having none of that:

Of course, the inflationary mechanism is often regarded as generative of an unending and rapid succession of universes with the idea that, if enough universes are produced by such means, the improbabilities just mentioned don’t matter. Several things need to be said about this “inflationary multiverse” proposal:

(1) First of all, as pointed out by one of the physicists involved in the BICEP2 project, Kent Irwin at Stanford University, the BICEP2 results do not address the truth or falsity of inflationary multiverse theories.

(2) Secondly, attempting to swamp the improbabilities intrinsic to inflation by multiplying the number of universes it generates to the point of compensation has consequences that undermine scientific rationality. In a materialist multiverse resting on the hypothesis of an undirected and irreducibly probabilistic quantum inflationary mechanism that lacks any principle of sufficient material causality, anything can happen for no reason at all. What is more, quantum-mechanically speaking, everything that can happen, no matter how improbable, does happen, and it happens with unlimited frequency. In this environment we can have no confidence that the future will resemble the past in a way that legitimates uniformitarian assumptions and the very inductive inferences that make science possible. In short, taken seriously, the inflationary multiverse proposal completely undermines scientific rationality.

(3) Thirdly, at least two paradoxes result from the inflationary multiverse proposal that suggest our place in such a multiverse must be very special: the “Boltzmann Brain Paradox” and the “Youngness Paradox.” In brief, if the inflationary mechanism is autonomously operative in a way that generates a multiverse, then with probability indistinguishable from one (i.e., virtual necessity) the typical observer in such a multiverse is an evanescent thermal fluctuation with memories of a past that never existed (a Boltzmann brain) rather than an observer of the sort we take ourselves to be. Alternatively, by a second measure, post-inflationary universes should overwhelmingly have just been formed, which means that our existence in an old universe like our own has a probability that is effectively zero (i.e., it’s nigh impossible). So if our universe existed as part of such a multiverse, it would not be at all typical, but rather infinitely improbable (fine-tuned) with respect to its age and compatibility with stable life-forms.

(4) Fourthly, a mechanism that generates universes ad infinitum must have stable characteristics that constrain its operation if it is to avoid breaking down and sputtering to a halt. In short, universe-generators have finely tuned design parameters that themselves require explanation. So postulating a universe-generator to explain away the appearance of first-order design in a single universe does not obviate the inference to design, it merely bumps it up to the next level. Avoiding an infinite regress of explanatory demands leads to the recognition of actual design terminating in an Intelligence that transcends spacetime, matter and energy, and which, existing timelessly logically prior to creating any universe or multiverse, must also therefore exist necessarily, and therefore require no further explanation of its own existence.

(5) Fifthly and finally, as demonstrated by Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin in 2003 (see further reading suggestions below), any inflationary multiverse has a beginning in the finite past: while inflationary models can, in theory, be eternal into the future, it is mathematically impossible for them to be eternal into the past. This means that the inflationary multiverse entails creation ex nihilo in precisely the same manner as the Big Bang. The universe thus manifests dependence on a transcendent reality in respect of its origin, but what is more, in virtue of the manifest absence of sufficient material causation in many aspects of its persistence as a quantum-mechanical phenomenon, the material universe also manifests dependence on a transcendent reality in respect of its operation (for an extended argument to this effect, see my article on quantum-theoretic challenges to philosophical naturalism referenced in the suggested readings).

What all of this reveals, of course, is that it’s intelligent design all the way through and all the way down and that theophobic scientific materialists, once they get past knee-jerk denials, must come to terms with what is, for them, a worldview-defeating fact.

The Boltzmann Brain paradox in point 3) came up as a problem with inflationary multiverse cosmologies in the recent Craig-Carroll debate.

I bolded part 4) because as Dr. Robin Collins has argued before, the multiverse-generation mechanism does not get rid of the fine-tuning, it just pushes it up one level. And I bolded part 5) because Dr. Gordon is alluding to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin (BGV) theorem there, which always comes up in debates on cosmology. The theory applies to inflationary cosmologies: they still require an absolute beginning. These are serious problems that we should not gloss over when people push a speculative model like the multiverse in order to escape the fine-tuning argument.

I always thought of Dr. Gordon as kind of a moderate Canadian guy, but I love that last line, don’t you? :) Don’t fear the reaper, naturalists.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

New discovery confirms Big Bang, and is direct evidence for cosmic inflation

From the UK Telegraph.


Space-time ripples left over from the Big Bang have been picked up for the first time by Harvard scientists.

Astrophysicists have been hunting for ‘primordial gravitational waves’ since they were predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1916.

Today, after days of rumour and speculation, scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre announced they had recorded the first direct evidence of gravitational waves rippling through the infant universe.

“The implications for this detection stagger the mind,” said project leader Jamie Bock. “We are measuring a signal that comes from the dawn of time.”

Our universe burst into existence 13.8 billion years ago. Fractions of a second later, space and time were created, expanding exponentially in an episode known as ‘inflation’.

It was theorized that inflation should also produce gravitational waves – ripples in space-time which spread throughout the universe.

“Think of the ripples you see when you throw a stone into a pond,” said Professor Martin Hendry of the department of Physics and Astronomy at the Univesity of Glasgow.

“But these aren’t ripples on the surface of the water, they are gravitational waves emitted billions of years ago, rippling through the fabric of space and time itself, in the universe’s earliest moments.

“We always suspected they were still washing about but we haven’t been able to detect them.

[...]The signal was found using a specialised telescope called Bicep (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) at the South Pole.

It scans the sky at microwave frequencies, where it picks up light energy from slightly after the Big Bang – around 380,000 years later. Scientists have been searching for tiny ripples in this light which would show it is being slightly stretched by gravitational waves.

We have had a string of solid, recent scientific discoveries that support the idea that the universe came into existence at some point in the finite past, as follows:

  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and the scientific confirmation of its accuracy
  • measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • red-shifting of light from galaxies moving away from us
  • radioactive element abundance predictions (from supernovae)
  • helium/hydrogen abundance predictions (nuclear fusion)
  • star formation and stellar lifecycle theories
  • the second law of thermodynamics

This new discovery is building on #2 above – the cosmic microwave background radiation.

What came into being at the moment of creation?

As the article states, space was created and time began at the first moment.

  1. There was no space causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  2. There was no time causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  3. There was no matter causally prior to the universe beginning to exist

All of these things began to exist at the first moment.

What can we infer about the cause?

So, space, time, and matter began to exist. What could have caused them to begin to exist?

  1. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not inside of space, because there was no space causally prior to the creation event. The cause must therefore be non-physical, because physical things exist in space.
  2. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not bound by time (temporal). It never began to exist. There was no passage of time causally prior to the big bang, so the cause of the universe did not come into being. The cause existed eternally.
  3. And the cause is not material. All the matter in the universe came into being at the first moment. Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist cannot have been matter, because there was no matter causally prior to the big bang.

So what could the cause be? Dr. William Lane Craig notes that we are only familiar with two kinds of non-material realities:

  1. Abstract objects, like numbers, sets and mathematical relations
  2. Minds, like your own mind

Now, abstract objects don’t cause of any effects in nature. But we are very familiar with the causal capabilities of our own minds – just raise your own arm and see! So, by process of elimination, we are left with a mind as the cause of the universe. As Sherlock Holmes says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

This cause created the entire physical universe. The cause of this event is therefore supernatural, because it brings nature into being and is not inside of nature itself. The cause of the universe violates the law of conservation of matter is therefore a miracle. And when we do our science, we find evidence of it.

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

Does the Bible teach the universe was created?

J. Warner Wallace has a new post up and he lists a ton of Bible verses that talk about the beginning of the universe.

I’m going to pick out some of the best ones – ones that will scare the stuffing out of you.

Be amazed:

Colossians 1:16-17
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Hebrews 11:3
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

John 1:3
All things came into being through Him [Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

1 Corinthians 2:7
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

Isaiah 45:12
“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host.”

All things were created? Time had a beginning? The universe is expanding? Wow, that’s all stuff that naturalists hate – they want their eternal, steady-state universe back. Too bad that’s been falsified by the hydrogen-helium abundance observations. Oh well, I guess they can still believe it if they want to. Now if you’re an atheist, you don’t like what the Bible has to say about the origin of the universe, especially since all the experimental science we have today agrees with the Bible. So atheists aren’t just angry at God, they’re angry at science, too.

The latest Please Convince Me podcast

By the way, J. Warner Wallace’s latest 64-minute podcast on the scientific evidence for the creation of the universe was a must-listen. He re-caps the experimental evidence that we have for a cosmic beginning, and highlights the names of the scientists, the dates of the discoveries, the experiments that were run, and the results that were obtained. He also evaluates naturalistic alternatives to the standard model, and explains what’s wrong with each one.

If you’re into science, then you will love this podcast.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , ,

Is there any science in the new “Cosmos” series, or is it all naturalistic religion?

I noticed a couple of reviews of this television series, produced by an atheist producer of cartoons.

The first review comes from J. W. Wartick.


The universe is actually so huge that we can’t actually observe the entire thing because there is more beyond what we can see. But “many… suspect” that our universe is but one in an extremely huge number of actual individual universes (here shown as little bubbles spreading out continually over the screen).

Origin of life:

The origin of life “evolved” through biochemical evolution.

J.W. comments:

The depiction of the multiverse with little-to-no qualification was alarming, for there is much debate over whether there even is such a multiverse, and if there is, to what extent it may be called a multiverse. The portrayal within this episode was essentially a fictitious account being passed off without qualification as something a lot of people believe. The wording used was that “many… suspect” there is such a universe. Well yes, that may be true, but to what extent can we test for these other universes? What models predict them and why? I am uninterested in how many people hold to a belief; I am interested in whether that belief is true.

[...][T]he brief snippet used to explore the origin of life: “biochemical evolution” was astonishingly insufficient. I’m sure we’ll get into that in the next episode, but the origin of life is one of the great unsolved mysteries within science and to just hand wave and say “biochemical evolution” is, well, notable to say the least.

I agree with Wartick. What I am looking for is the story of how scientists experimented, observed and tested in order to find out about the universe. I’m not interested in people working theoretical physics who presupposed naturalism at age 14 because their Sunday School teacher was mean to them. Presupposing a philosophy of naturalism is just religion. I want to see the science. Here are my responses to the multiverse speculation and the origin of life speculation.

The series quote Carl Sagan at the beginning, but he a person who let his religion of naturalism lead him away from the scientific evidence for a beginning. Instead of accepting the standard Big Bang model, which implies a transcendent Creator, Sagan chose to embrace a faith-based eternal oscillating model of the universe, which tries to avoid a Creator. I wrote about the problems with Sagan’s naturalistic speculative cosmology in this post.

Now let’s see Casey Luskin’s review on Evolution News.


During the first episode, Tyson devotes lengthy segments to promoting the old tale that religion is at war science, and strongly promotes the idea that religion opposes intellectual advancement. He tells the story of the 16th-century astronomer cultist philosopher Giordano Bruno, who he says lived in a time without “freedom of speech” or “separation of church and state,” and thus fell into the clutches of the “thought police” of the Inquisition for disagreeing with the church’s geocentric views. Never mind that his show made it appear that President Obama endorsed Sagan-style materialism, but I digress… Of course the main religious authority of that time was the Catholic Church, and the program shows angry priests with evil-sounding British accents dressed in full religious garb throwing Bruno out on the street, and eventually burning him at the stake.

Just to make sure that other Christians who aren’t Catholic also understand their religions too hinder scientific progress, Tyson goes out of his way to point out that Bruno was opposed by “Calvinists in Switzerland,” and “Lutherans in Germany,” including the great protestant reformer Martin Luther himself. He never mentions that Protestants aren’t the ones who burned Bruno at the stake, nor does he ever mention that most of the founders of modern science were Christians. But I digress…

It’s a lengthy scene, all to highlight some of the darkest chapters of Christianity in Europe. But the entire retelling of Bruno’s fate lasts a good portion of the first episode’s hour. Why make the religious persecution of scientists some four hundred years ago a major focus of a widely publicized television series that is ostensibly about promoting science?

Luskin took issue with the idea that religious people hold science back. On the contrary, religious Christians were largely responsible for the birth of modern science. Luskin also reports on over a dozen cases where naturalists have suppressed critical thinking about whether science disproves the religion of naturalism.

Here’s are a few:

A congressional subcommittee staff investigation found that biologist Richard Sternberg experienced retaliation by his co-workers and superiors at the Smithsonian, including transfer to a hostile supervisor, removal of his name placard from his door, deprivation of workspace, subjection to work requirements not imposed on others, restriction of specimen access, and loss of his keys, because he allowed a pro-ID article to be published in a biology journal.

In 2005, over 120 faculty members at Iowa State University (ISU) signed a petition denouncing ID and calling on “all faculty members to … reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.” These efforts were significant not just because they opposed academic freedom by demanding conformity among faculty to reject ID, but because they focused on creating a hostile environment for pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of The Privileged Planet, who was denied tenure at ISU in 2006 due to his support for ID. Both public and private statements exposed through public records requests revealed that members of ISU’s department in physics and astronomy voted against Gonzalez’s tenure due to his support for ID.

In 1993, San Francisco State University biology professor Dean Kenyon was forced to stop teaching introductory biology because he was informing students that scientists had doubts about materialist theories of the origin of life.

In 2005, pro-ID adjunct biology professor Caroline Crocker lost her job at George Mason University after teaching students about both the evidence for and against evolution in the classroom, and mentioning ID as a possible alternative to Darwinism. While her former employer maintains that it simply chose not to renew her contract, she was specifically told she would be “disciplined” for teaching students about the scientific controversy over evolution.

In 2013, Ball State University (BSU) President Jo Ann Gora issued a speech codedeclaring that “intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses” at BSU, after atheist activists from the Freedom from Religion Foundation charged that a “Boundaries of Science” course taught by a well-liked physics professor (Eric Hedin) was violating the Constitution by favorably discussing intelligent design.

You can read more about the problems with Carl Sagan’s religion-driven rejection of experimental science in this post by Phillip E. Johnson. For a better take on cosmology with more evidence and less religion, check out this lecture by particle physicist Michael Strauss. I think you’ll find that science is better when it’s done by a practicing experimental scientist, and not by the creator of cartoons like “Family Guy”.

UPDATE: On the Christian Apologetics Alliance blog, Dr. Tim McGrew wrote that the portrayal of Bruno had even more inaccuracies. Isn’t it amazing that that a cartoonist can get something filled with myths and misrepresentations to be televised? And many people will believe it, too, just like many people accepted the (now-discredited) oscillating model of Carl Sagan. I still have atheists proposing this to me when I present the standard model to them. That’s the hazard of having a TV-driven worldview, I guess. A worldview based on Star Trek.

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

J. Warner Wallace: science and the Bible agree on creation of the universe

I always recommend that Christians who want to make a positive case for Christian theism begin with the evidence that caused scientists to accept that the universe had a beginning. I don’t recommend stating the kalam argument, or any Bible verses, or any philosophical arguments. Instead, I recommend that they tell the story of how the evidence that led up to the discovery of the Big Bang cosmology was discovered. Who made the discoveries of the evidence, what was the evidence, when was it discovered, and how was it discovered.

Here’s Wallace’s post on it.


The Second Law of Thermodynamics

This law (also known as the Law of Increased Entropy) recognizes the following: While the quantity of energy within a closed, isolated system (like the Universe) remains the same, the amount of usable energy deteriorates gradually over time. “Usable energy is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair. In the process, usable energy is converted into unusable energy. Thus, usable energy is irretrievably lost in the form of unusable energy.”

Many of us have played with wind-up toys over the years. After toys of this nature are wound, there is a limited period of time in which we can enjoy them. Within a few seconds, wind-up toys slow down and stop; they run out of energy. Imagine walking into an empty room and discovering a wind-up toy sitting on the floor, still operating (unwinding). The discovery of this toy (and the fact it is still in the process of unwinding), would raise two reasonable inferences: (1) the toy was recently wound at a fixed point in the not-too-distant past, and (2) there was an adequate cause responsible for the initial winding. In other words, you would start looking for the “winder” somewhere in the room, given the fact the toy was still in the process of unwinding. We happen to be living in a “wind-up” universe slowly losing its usable energy. If the universe had no beginning and was infinitely old, why would there be any usable energy still available to us? The fact there is still usable energy in the universe points to a beginning in which the universe was tightly wound, and causes us to look for the cause responsible for such winding.

The Expansion of the Universe
Over the years, a number of scientists have calculated or observed the expansion of the universe. In 1905, Albert Einstein developed the Special Theory of Relativity involving measurements of length, velocity and time from moving observers. These equations led to the now famous E = mc2 equation, which describes how matter and energy can be converted from one form to another. In 1915, by applying relativity to Newtonian physics, Einstein derived the equations of general relativity which describe the relationships between gravity, the speed of light, mass, and other factors in regard to the universe as a whole. His work was consistent with an expanding universe. While this conclusion was initially troubling to Einstein, other mathematicians and scientists were coming to the same conclusion.

Alexander Friedman, a Russian mathematician working in the 1920’s with Einstein’s theories, used the mathematics to prove the universe is expanding. His work was being paralleled at the time by astronomers in Belgium who independently came to the same conclusion. An astronomer named Vesto Slipher presented findings at an obscure astronomy meeting in 1914 which showed that several ‘nebulae’ were receding away from the earth. A graduate student named Edwin Hubble was in attendance and realized the implications. Hubble later proved that these nebulae were actually galaxies, composed of billions of stars. In 1929 he proposed the law of red shifts. Galaxies which are moving away from the earth demonstrate emission spectra with bands shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, and Hubble observed these distant galaxies demonstrated this red shift phenomena. In essence, he proved by observation the universe is indeed expanding.

Our universe is expanding like a balloon. Imagine individual galaxies drawn on the balloon’s surface. As the edge of the balloon expands, the edge galaxies move away from center and away from each other. This is what we are seeing in our universe today. If we could go back in time and reverse the process (“deflate the balloon”), we would eventually arrive at an initial point of convergence. Once again, the science demonstrates our universe had a beginning.

The Radiation Echo
In 1964, two American physicists and radio astronomers, Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, happened upon an important discovery. They were unable to eliminate the radio signal “noise” from their large antenna at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, regardless of where in the universe they tried to point their instrument. As a result, they began to consult with colleagues to determine the cause of this background noise. Phillip James Edwin Peebles, a physicist and theoretical cosmologist at Princeton University, suggested the noise might not be from the antenna at all. Instead, he proposed they might be detecting the residual “background radiation” caused when the universe first came into being. Penzias and Wilson pursued this line of investigation and confirmed Peebles’ suspicions. Numerous additional experiments and observations have since established the existence of cosmic background radiation (culminating in data from the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite launched in 1989). For many scientists, this discovery solidified their belief the universe had a beginning at a fixed point in the past.

Wallace gets these evidences from a book by famous agnostic astornomer Robert Jastrow, former head of the NASA Goddard Space Institute. The book is called “God and the Astronomers”. I have the second edition.

Wallace is working on a new book. Not much is known about it, but based on photos of the books he is reading, it’s something to do with cosmology. If he can write a book for Christians that’s as easy to read as his “Cold Case Christianity”, then we are really going to gain some ground in the culture. The more Christians understand the science of cosmology, the more likely the culture as a whole is going to be to respect the Creator and Designer of the universe.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , ,

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