Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Dr. Robin Collins explains two kinds of cosmic fine-tuning

I was busy working my way through “Debating Christian Theism“, a book published by Oxford University Press in August 2013. It features about 20 different topics from science, to philosophy, to history. For each topic, there is an essay by a world-class scholar in favor, and one opposed. So you get both sides of many interesting issues, at a very advanced level. The section on cosmic fine-tuning features a chapter written by Dr. Robin Collins.

About Robin Collins:

Robin Collins (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1993), is professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Grantham, PA specializing in the area of science and religion. He has written over twenty-five articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, such as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for the existence of God, evolution and original sin, the Doctrine of Atonement, Asian religions and Christianity, and Bohm’s theory of quantum mechanics. Some of his most recent articles/book chapters are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (2009) “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse? (Cambridge University Press), and “God and the Laws of Nature,” in Theism or Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to finish a book that presents the case for design based on physics and cosmology, tentatively entitled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature.

His specialty is this fine-tuning argument. So let’s see what he says about it.

The fine-tuning argument

Here’s a short article where Collins gives TWO examples of the fine-tuning. He is very modest in his argument, merely asserting that the fine-tuning is more compatible with theism than it is with atheism.

Excerpt:

Science is commonly thought to have undercut belief in God. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked, “the more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” Yet, the discoveries of modern physics and cosmology in the last 50 years have shown that the structure of the universe is set in an extraordinarily precise way for the existence of life; if its structure were slightly different, even by an extraordinarily small degree, life would not be possible. In many people’s minds, the most straightforward explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning is some sort of divine purpose behind our universe.

This fine-tuning falls into three categories: the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, and the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. “Fine-tuning of the laws of nature” refers to the fact that if the universe did not have precisely the right combination of laws, complex intelligent life would be impossible. If there were no universal attractive force (law of gravity), for example, matter would be dispersed throughout the universe and the energy sources (such as stars) needed for life would not exist. Without the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus, there would not be any atoms with an atomic number greater than hydrogen, and hence no complex molecules needed for life. And without the Pauli-exclusion principle, all electrons would fall to the lowest orbital of an atom, undercutting the kind of complex chemistry that life requires.

Some fundamental physical numbers governing the structure of the universe—called the constants of physics—also must fall into an exceedingly narrow range for life to exist. For example, many have estimated that the cosmological constant—a fundamental number that governs the expansion rate of empty space—must be precisely set to one part in 10120 in order for life to occur; if it were too large, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form, and if it were too small, the universe would have collapsed back on itself. As Stephen Hawking wrote in his book A Brief History of Time, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Finally, the initial distribution of mass energy at the time of the big bang must have an enormously special configuration for life to occur, which Cambridge University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has calculated to be on the order of one part in 1010123. This is an unimaginably small number.

How widely acknowledged is the fine-tuning of the universe? Here’s an article from the New Scientist that discusses the fine-tuning of the force of gravity. (Link goes to my blog post on the New Scientist article, which is now no longer available)

Excerpt:

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.

Here’s a very long paper by Collins on the fine-tuning argument, where he answers several objections to the argument, including the multiverse/many-universe hypothesis.

I think if you’re going to bring this argument up with a naturalist/non-theist, you should probably have a couple of examples ready.

In dialog

There’s a PBS TV series called “Closer to Truth” that covers interesting questions about science and religion. It’s moderated by famous scholar Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who has his PhD from UCLA in anatomy and brain research. The series features interviews with many prominent scholars like Alvin Plantinga and Paul Davies.

Robin Collins was also a participant, and here are a couple of clips from his segment on the fine-tuning argument.

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you’re looking for a good introductory book where this argument is explained, Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” is a good choice.

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William Lane Craig debates Lawrence Krauss in North Carolina: Does God Exist?

Would you like to hear a debate featuring the least intelligent atheist ever? Well, this is a good candidate.

The full transcript of the debate is here at the Reasonable Faith web site.

Audio of the William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate at North Carolina State University has now been posted at Apologetics 315. The people who recorded it did not do a good job, though.

And I also posted some background information on Craig’s arguments.

And now for one of my snarkiest summaries, which is fitting for Lawrence Krauss. A less snarky summary is at J.W. Wartick’s blog. And if you want to see a summary of a debate with a smart atheist, then here is the Craig-Millican debate summary.

William Lane Craig’s case

William Lane Craig made 5 arguments for the existence of God:

  • the contingency argument
  • theargument from the origin of the universe (kalam)
  • the argument from cosmic fine-tuning
  • the moral argument
  • the argument from the miracle of the resurrection

These arguments went unrefuted during the debate.

Lawrence Krauss’s case

Lawrence Krauss made the following arguments in his first speech:

  • Dr. Craig is a professional debater
  • Dr. Craig is not a scientist
  • Dr. Craig is a philosopher
  • Disproving God’s is a waste of my valuable time
  • Dr. Craig has the burden of proof to show evidence
  • My job is not to present any evidence
  • I think that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a nice slogan, but I have no evidence for it
  • I don’t like that God doesn’t appear on Youtube, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that God didn’t appear to humans until recently, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • I don’t like that the stars didn’t come together to spell “I am here”, therefore God doesn’t exist
  • Dr. Craig has to supply extraordinary evidence, because my favorite slogan says he has to
  • Dr. Craig talks about logic, but the universe is not logical
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t have any arguments, just things he doesn’t like
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, and that’s why he believes in cosmic fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig doesn’t like rape, and that’s why he believes in the ontological foundations of morality
  • If people believe in logic, then they can’t do science
  • The things that science discovers contradict the laws of logic
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like infinity, so he believes in the experimental measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • For example, Dr. Craig doesn’t like chance, so he believes in the fine-tuning of the gravitational constant for the formation of stable stars
  • Quantum mechanics shows that the universe is stranger than you think, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • My t-shirt says 2 + 2 = 5, therefore all of Craig’s arguments are false
  • Atheism may look ridiculous, but it’s true, and if you don’t like it, too bad – because the universe is very strange
  • Accidents happen all the time, so that explains the cosmic fine-tuning
  • We all have to convince ourselves of 10 impossible things before breakfast, and atheism is impossible, so you need to convince yourself of it
  • I don’t know about the Big Bang, so Dr. Craig cannot use the Big Bang to to prove the universe began to exist
  • I don’t know about the cosmic fine-tuning, so Dr. Craig cannot use the fine-tuning of cosmological constants to prove the fine-tuning
  • I don’t know anything about science, so Dr. Craig cannot use science in his arguments
  • Dr. Craig says that the universe is contingent because it began to exist 13.7 billion years ago based on the state-of-the-art scientific evidence for the Big Bang creation out of nothing from 1) red-shift of light from distant galaxies, 2) cosmic microwave background radiation, 3) helium-hydrogen abundances, 4) experimental confirmation of general relativity, 5) the second law of thermodynamics, 6) radioactive element abundances, etc., but how does he know that? I don’t know that
  • It’s fine not to know the answer to scientific questions like whether the universe began to exist, it’s more exciting
  • Thinking that the universe began to exist based on 6 pieces of scientific evidence is the “God-of-the-Gaps” fallacy, it’s intellectual laziness
  • But all kidding aside, the universe actually did begin to exist 13.72 billion years ago, exactly like Craig says in his argument
  • I could argue that God created the universe 4.5 seconds ago with all of us sitting believing that we heard Dr. Craig, and how could you prove me wrong? It’s not falsifiable
  • Universes can spontaneously appear out of nothing, and in fact they have to appear out of nothing
  • Nothing is unstable, and space and time can come into existence out of nothing, so that’s not a problem
  • Our universe could have appeared out of a multiverse, an unobservable, untestable multiverse that I have no way of observing or testing
  • The universe is not fine-tuned for life, and no scientist says so, especially not Martin Rees, the atheist Astronomer Royal, and every other scientist
  • What if God decided that rape was OK, would it be OK? God can change his moral nature arbitrarily, can’t he?

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ second speech:

  • We don’t understand the beginning of the universe
  • We don’t understand whether the universe had a cause
  • Steven Weinberg says that science makes it possible to be an atheist, so therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • It’s just intellectual laziness to say that the universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago, and that things that come into being of nothing have a cause
  • Dr. Craig is an expert on nothing, ha ha ha!
  • There are multiple versions of nothing, there’s nothing, and then there is something, which is also nothing if I want it to be
  • There was no space, there was no time, and then the space create the empty space
  • I’m going to give Dr. Craig a break
  • At least in the nothing there were laws like F=ma, and those laws created the empty space, because descriptions of matter that does not even exist yet can create space out of nothing
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin are good friends of mine and I talk to them all the time, unlike Dr. Craig
  • Alan Guth and Alexander Vilenkin don’t mention God in their scientific papers, therefore the universe didn’t begin and didn’t have a cause
  • Maybe there is a multiverse that cannot be observed or tested? And my unscientific speculations are a refutation of Craig’s scientific evidence for the fine-tuning
  • Dr. Craig just doesn’t like my speculations about the unobservable, untestable multiverse, and that’s why he believes in the Big Bang cosmology
  • And if you let me speculate about an unobservable, untestable multiverse, then maybe the inanimate invisible universes reproduce and compete for food and mutate like animals and then there is natural selection so that the finely-tuned universes survive and now we’re in one!
  • My cool animation of blue goo mutating proves that the multiverse is real! Empty space is not empty!
  • Darwinism, which is a theory about the origin of species, explains the cosmic fine-tuning that occurred at the moment of creation
  • The unobservable, untestable multiverse universes all have different laws, I believe
  • We don’t know what the right answer is, but we are willing to look at any possibility, as long as the possibilities we look at are not supernatural possibilities
  • The discovery of the origin of the universe could be an accident, I don’t know if the universe began to exist or not, maybe all the six scientific evidences are wrong because if I don’t like the evidence we have, so I’ll just wait for new evidence to overturn the evidence we have which I don’t like
  • Maybe there are other forms of life that are unobservable and untestable that are compatible with a universe that has no stable stars, no planets, no elements heavier than hydrogen, no hydrogen, no carbon, etc.

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ third speech:

  • Dr. Craig is stupid
  • Why should we even care about Dr. Craig’s arguments and evidence, we can just count the number of scientists who are atheists and decide whether God exists that way – I decided everything based on what my teachers told me to believe
  • I actually know general relativity, not like Dr. Craig who co-wrote a book on general relativity published by Oxford University Press
  • What quantum mechanics shows is that virtual particles come into being in a quantum vacuum, and then go out of existence almost immediately – and that is exactly like how a 13.7 billion year old universe came into being in a quantum vacuum, and we’re going to disappear very soon
  • Space and the laws of physics can be created, possibly, if you accept my speculations about an unobservable, untestable multiverse
  • I don’t like the God of the Old Testament, therefore he doesn’t exist
  • Groups of people can decide what they think is good and evil, like the Nazis and slave-owners did, and then that becomes good for them in that time and place, and that’s what I mean by morality
  • Here’s something I studied that wasn’t fine-tuned, therefore there is no fine-tuning of the universe
  • Not knowing things is really exciting! Dr. Craig is not really exciting because he knows things – phooey!

Here are the arguments in Krauss’ fourth speech:

  • If you will just grant me an observable, untestable multiverse, then there must be some universe where intelligent life exists
  • Infinite numbers of things exist everywhere in nature, you can see lots of infinite collections of things, like jelly beans and bumblebees and invisible pink unicorns
  • I don’t like the fine-tuning, but if my speculations about the multiverse are proven true, then I won’t have to learn to live with the fine-tuning
  • Inflation, the rapid expansion of the universe which occurs at some time after the the origin of the universe (t = 0), explains the absolute origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing that occurred at t = 0
  • Physical processes that develop subsequent to the creation of the universe at t > 0 can explain the fine-tuning of quantities that are set at t = 0
  • Morality is just a bunch of arbitrary conventions decided by groups of people in different times and places by an accidental process of biological and social evolution, but that practice over there by those people is objectively wrong!
  • 1 Cor 15:3-7, which most scholars, even atheists like James Crossley, admit is dated to within 3 years of the death of Jesus, is actually dated to 50 years after the death of Jesus
  • The historical case for the resurrection made by people like N.T. Wright in their multi-volume academic works is on par with the story of Mohammed ascending to Heaven on a horse

If you liked this, please check out my snarky summary of Christopher Hitchens’ speeches in the Craig-Hitchens debate.

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Dr. Robin Collins explains two kinds of cosmic fine-tuning

I was busy working my way through “Debating Christian Theism“, a book published by Oxford University Press in August 2013. It features about 20 different topics from science, to philosophy, to history. For each topic, there is an essay by a world-class scholar in favor, and one opposed. So you get both sides of many interesting issues, at a very advanced level. The section on cosmic fine-tuning features a chapter written by Dr. Robin Collins.

About Robin Collins:

Robin Collins (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1993), is professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Grantham, PA specializing in the area of science and religion. He has written over twenty-five articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, such as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for the existence of God, evolution and original sin, the Doctrine of Atonement, Asian religions and Christianity, and Bohm’s theory of quantum mechanics. Some of his most recent articles/book chapters are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (2009) “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse? (Cambridge University Press), and “God and the Laws of Nature,” in Theism or Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to finish a book that presents the case for design based on physics and cosmology, tentatively entitled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature.

His specialty is this fine-tuning argument. So let’s see what he says about it.

The fine-tuning argument

Here’s a short article where Collins gives TWO examples of the fine-tuning. He is very modest in his argument, merely asserting that the fine-tuning is more compatible with theism than it is with atheism.

Excerpt:

Science is commonly thought to have undercut belief in God. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked, “the more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” Yet, the discoveries of modern physics and cosmology in the last 50 years have shown that the structure of the universe is set in an extraordinarily precise way for the existence of life; if its structure were slightly different, even by an extraordinarily small degree, life would not be possible. In many people’s minds, the most straightforward explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning is some sort of divine purpose behind our universe.

This fine-tuning falls into three categories: the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, and the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. “Fine-tuning of the laws of nature” refers to the fact that if the universe did not have precisely the right combination of laws, complex intelligent life would be impossible. If there were no universal attractive force (law of gravity), for example, matter would be dispersed throughout the universe and the energy sources (such as stars) needed for life would not exist. Without the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus, there would not be any atoms with an atomic number greater than hydrogen, and hence no complex molecules needed for life. And without the Pauli-exclusion principle, all electrons would fall to the lowest orbital of an atom, undercutting the kind of complex chemistry that life requires.

Some fundamental physical numbers governing the structure of the universe—called the constants of physics—also must fall into an exceedingly narrow range for life to exist. For example, many have estimated that the cosmological constant—a fundamental number that governs the expansion rate of empty space—must be precisely set to one part in 10120 in order for life to occur; if it were too large, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form, and if it were too small, the universe would have collapsed back on itself. As Stephen Hawking wrote in his book A Brief History of Time, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Finally, the initial distribution of mass energy at the time of the big bang must have an enormously special configuration for life to occur, which Cambridge University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has calculated to be on the order of one part in 1010123. This is an unimaginably small number.

How widely acknowledged is the fine-tuning of the universe? Here’s an article from the New Scientist that discusses the fine-tuning of the force of gravity. (Link goes to my blog post on the New Scientist article, which is now no longer available)

Excerpt:

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.

Here’s a very long paper by Collins on the fine-tuning argument, where he answers several objections to the argument, including the multiverse/many-universe hypothesis.

I think if you’re going to bring this argument up with a naturalist/non-theist, you should probably have a couple of examples ready.

In dialog

There’s a PBS TV series called “Closer to Truth” that covers interesting questions about science and religion. It’s moderated by famous scholar Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who has his PhD from UCLA in anatomy and brain research. The series features interviews with many prominent scholars like Alvin Plantinga and Paul Davies.

Robin Collins was also a participant, and here are a couple of clips from his segment on the fine-tuning argument.

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you’re looking for a good introductory book where this argument is explained, Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” is on sale right now for $2.99 (Kindle edition). Robin Collins is interviewed by Lee Strobel for the chapter on fine-tuning.

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Why does the cause of the origin of the universe have to be God?

The cause of all the stuff is not itself stuff

The cause of all the stuff is not itself stuff

Here’s an excellent post by J. Warner Wallace to help us understand the cosmological argument. He asks why the cause of the universe has to be God.

Excerpt:

It’s Reasonable to Believe God Is the Uncaused, “First Cause”

Rationality dictates the ultimate cause of the universe, (even if it isn’t God), must have certain characteristics. In addition to being non-spatial, a temporal, immaterial and eternal (uncaused), it must also be powerful enough to bring everything into existence from nothing. Finally, there is good reason to believe the cause of the universe is personalImpersonal forces cannot cause (or refuse to cause) at will. The minute an impersonal force exists, its effect is experienced. When the impersonal force of gravity is introduced into an environment, for example, its effect (the gravitational attraction) is felt immediately. If the cause of the universe is simply an impersonal force, its effect (the beginning of the universe) would occur simultaneous with its existence. In other words, the cause of the universe would only be as old as the universe itself. Yet we accept the reasonable existence of an uncaused first cause (one that is not finite like the universe it caused). For this reason, a personal force, capable of willing the beginning of the universe, is the best explanation for the first cause of the cosmos. This cause can be reasonably described as non-spatial, a temporal, immaterial, eternal, all-powerful and personal: descriptive characteristics commonly reserved for the Being we identify as God.

All of us, whether we are atheists or theists, are trying to identify the first cause of the universe. The eternal nature of this non-spatial, a temporal, immaterial cause is required in order to avoid the problem of infinite regress. It is, therefore, irrational to ask “What caused the uncaused first cause?” It is far more reasonable to simply recognize the attributes of this cause as an accurate description of God.

If you are talking about the beginning of space, the cause of the beginning of space is not itself in space.

If you are talking about the beginning of time, the cause of the beginning of time is not itself in time.

If you are talking about the beginning of matter, the cause of the beginning of matter is not itself composed of matter.

If you are talking about an event without any physical antecedent conditions to cause it in a deterministic way (e.g. – water boiling when heated), then the cause is a free choice by a free agent.

The type of effect (new universe) determines the characteristics of the cause of the effect. Whatever has these properties of being non-material, eternal and personal is not something that atheists are going to like. A cause like this has no place in their naturalistic view.

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

William Lane Craig posts full Vilenkin e-mail misrepresented by Krauss in their debate

First, Dr. Craig posted the e-mail from Vilenkin to Krauss, which Krauss used in his debate with Craig, with the parts Krauss omitted in bold:

Hi Lawrence,

Any theorem is only as good as its assumptions. The BGV theorem says that if the universe is on average expanding along a given worldline, this worldline cannot be infinite to the past.

A possible loophole is that there might be an epoch of contraction prior to the expansion. Models of this sort have been discussed by Aguirre & Gratton and by Carroll & Chen. They had to assume though that the minimum of entropy was reached at the bounce and offered no mechanism to enforce this condition. It seems to me that it is essentially equivalent to a beginning.

On the other hand, Jaume Garriga and I are now exploring a picture of the multiverse where the BGV theorem may not apply. In bubbles of negative vacuum energy, expansion is followed by cocntraction, and it is usually assumed that this ends in a big crunch singularity. However, it is conceivable (and many people think likely) that singularities will be resolved in the theory of quantum gravity, so the internal collapse of the bubbles will be followed by an expansion. In this scenario, a typical worldline will go through a succession of expanding and contracting regions, and it is not at all clear that the BGV assumption (expansion on average) will be satisfied.

I suspect that the theorem can be extended to this case, maybe with some additional assumptions. But of course there is no such thing as absolute certainty in science, especially in matters like the creation of the universe. Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.

Alex

Now recall that Krauss excuses the selective editing of the e-mail in the debate by saying that it was “too technical” to include. Judge for yourself if the omitted lines are “too technical” or whether they were omitted in order to mislead people about the evidence for the beginning of the universe.

Dr. Craig comments:

Whoa! That puts a very different face on the matter, doesn’t it? Why didn’t Krauss read the sentence, “It seems to me that it is essentially equivalent to a beginning”? Because it was too technical? Is this the transparency, honesty, and forthrightness that Krauss extols? (By the way, Vilenkin’s criticism of these models is the same one that Vilenkin makes in his Cambridge paper: far from showing an eternal past, these models actually feature a universe with a common beginning point for two arrows of time.)

And why did Krauss delete Vilenkin’s caveat that the BGV theorem can, in his estimation, be extended to cover the case of an expanding and contracting model such as Garriga and Vilenkin are exploring? And why delete the remark that such a model is usually assumed to be incorrect? It’s evident that Vilenkin’s email was selectively edited to give it the spin Krauss wanted.

Some people told me that they thought that Dr. Craig needed to be a little less gracious with Krauss in the debate, but that comment takes Krauss on directly. Too bad most of the people who watch the debate will never know unless they see the original e-mail from Vilenkin that Craig posted.

Dr. Craig then wrote to Dr. Vilenkin about this misrepresentation and here is part of the reply:

The Aguirre-Gratton model can avoide singularities by postulating a small “initial” closed universe and then allowing it to evolve in both directions of time. I put “initial” in quotation marks, because Aguirre and Gratton do not think of it that way. But this model requires that a very special condition is enforced at some moment in the history of the universe. At that moment, the universe should be very small and have very low entropy. Aguirre and Gratton do not specify a physical mechanism that could enforce such a condition.

Carroll and Chen claim that the universe did not have to be small at that special moment. But in my recent paper I show that in this case singularities are unavoidable.

[...]I think you represented what I wrote about the BGV theorem in my papers and to you personally very accurately.

Now I don’t want anyone to get the idea that all atheists are like Krauss. I distinctly remember another atheist named Anthony Flew debating Dr. Craig and a questioner from the audience asked him why not prefer speculative cosmologies like the eternally oscillating model. Dr. Flew (unlike Dr. Krauss) was honest – he said that we have to accept the science we have today based on the evidence we have today. Dr. Krauss is not willing to accept the science we have today and the evidence we have today. That’s the difference. This is a failing of Dr. Krauss’ will and intellect. He simply cannot bring himself to accept what science has shown, if it impacts his autonomy in any way. He would rather mislead himself and others with speculations rather than face reality.

Watch the whole debate – see for yourself

I’ll re-state the relevant part of my Craig-Krauss debate summary below. The summary has the full video.

The segment from 52:18 to 57:12 about the Vilenkin e-mail on the BVG theorem is a must-see. Krauss is standing up and gesticulating while Craig is calmly trying to quote a paper by Vilenkin that shows that Krauss is misrepresenting Vilenkin. Krauss constantly interrupts him. After a while, when Craig exposes him as having misrepresented Vilenkin and gets him to admit that all current eternal models of the universe are probably wrong, he quietens down and can’t even look at Craig in the face.

Cosmological argument:

  • Craig: The e-mail says any universe that is expanding, on average, requires a beginning
  • Craig: There are two models - Aguirre & Gratton and Carroll & Chen - where there is a period of contraction before the expansion
  • Craig: The two models are the ones cited in the e-mail that Dr. Krauss showed
  • Craig: In the very paper by Vilenkin that I cited, he says that both of those models don’t work
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) Vilenkin said that they have to make an assumption about entropy that they have no rationale for
  • (as Craig starts to talk Krauss makes an exaggerated, disrespectful gesture and sits down in a huff)
  • Craig: Yes, an unwarranted assumption means that they don’t have EVIDENCE for their theories being correct
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) “All the evidence suggests that the universe had a beginning but WE DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!” (raising his voice)
  • Craig: I’m not saying that we know that the universe had a beginning with certainty
  • Craig: I am saying that the beginning of the universe is more probably true than false based on the evidence we have
  • Craig: And you  agree with me about that – you think the universe had a beginning
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) (Unintelligible)
  • Moderator: One at a time
  • Craig: In your Vilenkin e-mail slide, at the end of the paragraph where the two models are mentioned that Vilenkin specifically shows…
  • (I am guessing that Craig is going to ask why so much of what Vilenkin wrote has been cut out of the e-mail that Krauss showed)
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) Because it was technical…
  • Moderator: Lawrence! Hang on a sec!
  • Craig: He specifically shows that these models are not past eternal, and that they require a beginning just like the others…
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) We can do the math if you want
  • Craig: Now wait. I couldn’t help notice that there on your slide there was a series of ellipsis points indicating missing text…
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) “Yeah, because it was technical!”
  • Craig: “I wonder what you deleted from the original letter”
  • Krauss: (agitated and interrupting) “I just told you!”
  • Craig: “Now wait. Could it have been something like this:  (reads a quote from Vilenkin) ‘You can evade the theorem by postulating that the universe was contracting prior to some time. This sounds as if there is nothing wrong with having contraction prior to expansion. But the problem is that a contracting universe is highly unstable. Small perturbations would cause it to develop all sorts of messy singularities, so it would never make it to the expanding phase.’
  • Craig: “That’s Vilenkin.”
  • Krauss: “In this paper, that’s absolutely right”
  • Krauss: But it’s ok for theories to assume things that we know are wrong – they are still good theories – it’s unknown
  • (Craig turns away and looks through his papers)
  • Craig: “Isn’t it true that the only viable quantum gravity models on order today involve a beginning – have a finite past?”
  • Krauss: “No”
  • Craig: “Well, can you give us one then”
  • Krauss: (talks about a variety of possible eternal models) “In my experience in science, all of them are probably wrong”
  • Krauss: “You know most theories are wrong, which is why, you know, it’s hard”
  • Craig: “Right”

Krauss accused Dr. Craig of misrepresenting science many times in his three Australia debates, but now we know the truth about who misrepresented science.

UPDATE: This whole episode made me think of a lecture by famous physicist Richard Feynman.

Excerpt:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi.  I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

Now given what Krauss did in the debate, it seems to me that he is not in agreement with Feynman.

UPDATE: Dr. Craig reports that Dr. Krauss refused to let the organizers live-stream the three Australia debates, as well as refusing to let the Australian Broadcasting Corporation live-broadcast the three debates.

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