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Science has nothing to say about god?

March 13, 2010

Most atheists would, I think, concede that science has nothing to say about god; it merely discounts his/her existence as an untestable and unsupported hypothesis. Yesterday I discovered that there’s at least one scientist who would disagree.

In God: the Failed Hypothesis, Victor Stenger asks what exactly science can say about miracles, god, and the creation of the universe. He’s got some powerful arguments that I’ll hopefully be getting my head round at some point, in the mean time here’s one examining the possibility that god set off the big bang with our creation in mind.

The science is pretty strong that some 14 billion years ago the universe was pretty damn small. Roughly 1.6×10^-35 meters across. That’s small. This was around 6.4×10^-44 (the Planck time) seconds after the “big bang”, and is as far back as science is currently able to extrapolate. What can be said about the universe at this point in time?

It can be shown that any sphere this small is equivalent to a black hole. The maximum entropy of a sphere of a given radius is that of a black hole with this radius (entropy being a measure of the disorder of a system, or the amount of information it contains). Hence our universe, having existed for the Planck time, had the maximum possible entropy; it was maximally disordered. It could not have contained any information about humans and our eventual evolution.

As the universe expanded, the maximum possible entropy obviously increased as the size of the equivalent black hole (and it’s entropy) increased. So, despite being maximally entropic after the Planck time, the amount of entropy in the universe has been able to increase since then, fulfilling the second law of thermodynamics.

This argument (with caveat below) provides a strong argument that, if the universe had a creator, we were not part of his original plan. We are either an accident or god had to come back into the universe and make us. Stenger (and presumably most of science) would disagree with the second option, as would I.

Stenger discusses a few problems with talking about times this small and justifies being able to talk about the universe at this stage; I don’t claim to fully understand his arguments as yet. What I think is important is that science isn’t mute on the fundamental arguments of religious groups. There are arguments to be made, we won’t always have to leave gaps that those with faith can fill with their gods.

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