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Science done different

December 24, 2010

Courtesy of a link left in a comment, I have a new website to amuse myself with. Two actually.

The first is All About Science. At first glance a respectable website. But if you want to see just how insane it is, visit the Evolution section. Click through all the “next” type links… Learn anything other than how bonkers the author is? No.

Anyway, I received a link the the Theory of Relativity page. Now I’m not a physicist, but the general description of relativity seems ok. But half way down we’re treated to this nugget of information:

The most common contemporary interpretation of this expansion is that this began to exist from the moment of the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. However this is not the only plausible cosmological model which exists in academia, and many creation physicists such as Russell Humphreys and John Hartnett have devised models operating with a biblical framework, which — to date — have withstood the test of criticism from the most vehement of opponents.

I’d love to know what a “biblical framework” for a cosmological model is (other than “fictional”). Research reveals that the first of two “cosmologists” mentioned has proposed a model wherein Earth is 6000 years old and the outer edge of the universe is the requisite billions of years old. Relativity means that whilst clocks on Earth would have registered 6 days of creation, clocks at the edge of the universe would have registered much longer. So in this model we need our planet, or at least solar system (or maybe galaxy) near the center of the universe and older bits of the universe radiating outwards. However, this as been criticised, with wikipedia informing me that  in some cases it is the other way round, with older pieces of matter “inside” newer pieces. Not that I can claim any autority when it comes to talking about astronomy.


The universe’s expansion helps us to appreciate the direction in which time flows.

Personally, my experience of time helps me appreciate the direction in which time flows.

The expansion of the universe also gives rise to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the overall entropy (or disorder) in the Universe can only increase with time because the amount of energy available for work deteriorates with time. If the universe was eternal, therefore, the amount of usable energy available for work would have already been exhausted. Hence it follows that at one point the entropy value was at absolute 0 (most ordered state at the moment of creation) and the entropy has been increasing ever since — that is, the universe at one point was fully “wound up” and has been winding down ever since. This has profound theological implications, for it shows that time itself is necessarily finite. If the universe were eternal, the thermal energy in the universe would have been evenly distributed throughout the cosmos, leaving each region of the cosmos at uniform temperature (at very close to absolute 0), rendering no further work possible.

I’m not sure what’s being implied by the first sentence. Is the author saying that the expansion of the universe causes the second law of thermodynamics? If so, I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.

Now, technically, if time is only a feature of the universe then the universe is eternal – it will exist for all time. So, in the above it’s actually being argued that time must have a beginning. Ok, fine. It’s also true that the entropy has been increasing ever since – this is an implication of the second law of thermodynamics. However, this doesn’t mean time is necessarily finite. The tenses in the last sentence are mixed up; “the universe would have been evenly distributed throughout the cosmos” should read “the universe will be evenly distributed throughout the cosmos”. That is a perfectly rational hypothesis of what might happen to our universe, with time continuing to tick in a universe of maximum entropy. Pretty boring state to be in.

The General Theory of Relativity demonstrates that time is linked, or related, to matter and space, and thus the dimensions of time, space, and matter constitute what we would call a continuum. They must come into being at precisely the same instant. Time itself cannot exist in the absence of matter and space. From this, we can infer that the uncaused first cause must exist outside of the four dimensions of space and time, and possess eternal, personal, and intelligent qualities in order to possess the capabilities of intentionally space, matter — and indeed even time itself — into being.

Moreover, the very physical nature of time and space also suggest a Creator, for infinity and eternity must necessarily exist from a logical perspective. The existence of time implies eternity (as time has a beginning and an end), and the existence of space implies infinity. The very concepts of infinity and eternity infer a Creator because they find their very state of being in God, who transcends both and simply is.

As I said in my comment earlier today, this is an attempt to make the ontological and cosmological argument look modern and shiny. It assumes an “uncaused first cause”. It attributes properties to this cause that have no rational basis. It assumes that logical coherence implies existence. It uses “eternity” and “infinite” in ways that don’t cohere and have no rational justification. And I assume “God” is the Judeo-Christian God. How does any form of ontological argument lead to Him?

This last point is a massive flaw in lots of arguments for God. Sure, they might lead to the existence of something. But calling that thing God? At least Aquinas was honest enough to acknowledge the leap when he said “and this thing Man calls God”.

For the real fun, follow all the “read the next page” links (or something like that) on the evolution page. This leads you to the real agenda…

All About Creation!

My favourite section so far is the FAQ about Adam. Was Adam the first man? The answer is yes. If you ignore any epistemological concerns that is.

In answer to the question, “Was Adam the first man,” the answer is yes. There is ample proof in Scripture that answers the question.

Right. Lets not worry about any actual truth warrant for our claims to knowledge. It says so in the Bible, so it’s true. I refer the reader to the latest Jesus and Mo.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Nate Moening permalink
    December 24, 2010 9:29 PM

    Well, I really should’ve checked my source more thoroughly before I began quoting it. I didn’t read any articles on the site other than the one I found on the Theory of Relativity, and even then, my only comparison on the topic was some vague explanation in high school science and a couple of other inklings of information from the internet (not necissarily credible sources either). I am glad, however, that I have (sort of) inspired some writing. That’s what this whole site is about, right?

  2. December 24, 2010 10:36 PM

    It is indeed, thanks for following up with comments. And thanks for the link, I’ve found a creationist argument (and it’s refutation) I probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.

  3. Nate Moening permalink
    December 24, 2010 10:50 PM

    No problem. I intend to try and find a more credible source about the Theory of Relativity and all its implications. I also look forward to future writings from this blog, it has some interesting posts.

  4. Justin permalink
    December 24, 2010 11:47 PM

    Allow me to jump in briefly and add a few things about entropy and the flow of time.

    I was recently reading a review on the recent Fields medal work of Cedric Villani intended for the general mathematician and in there I found a concise explanation of some of these vague concepts – so i’ve been thinking about some of these issues.

    Anyhow you can see how these writers thought that inflation explains the second law of thermodynamics.

    Many physical laws, Newton’s laws most particularly are time-reversible. So there is no clear arrow of time when doing classical deterministic mechanics. The bizarre thing is that when you model a gas as a bunch of hard spheres knocking against each other then all the interactions are Newtonian, they are time-reversible. However, one of the most successful equations for describing the classic remove-the-stopper-from-a-gas-filled-beaker scenario, called the Boltzmann equation, is not time-reversible and does what intuition tells you will happen – the gas will largely leave the beaker and escape.

    So here is your classic situation of an equilibrium state (the gas escaped and filling the room) has higher entropy than the “highly ordered” initial state. This is what the authors are doing – they’re modeling the universe as a gas in a room. Inflation dictates that the room is expanding, so the entropy of the universe is increasing.

    Needless to say, the universe is more complicated than hard spheres knocking into each other. In particular there is gravity – something ignored in the above gas model. So large swaths of matter cluster, interesting reactions occur and life, sometimes, develops.

    Finally, I should say that in statistical mechanics the 2nd law does follow from other mathematical assumptions, but those models don’t necessarily apply universally (hehe).

    Now onto the comments of time. I must defend, again, the authors. Time is a sticky wicket. We have no understanding of what time is really. It is still a good philosophical question to ask “Why do we experience the passage of time?” Statistical mechanics provides a decent explanation – entropy. Other explanations ask that we have a consistent marking off of ‘now’ slices. This is runs into problems since because Einstein’s relativity makes simultaneity already a relative thing – there is no universal clock. However, a big bang model of the universe allows us to foliate the universe (imagined as a 4-d space-time manifold) in a consistent manner – each of the leaves marks a slice of ‘now’. So the authors aren’t totally off the mark, but notice that other models of the universe (ones that satisfy Einstein’s field equations) include bizarre things like closed time-like loops (as shown by Godel) make such a foliation impossible. There is no consistent marking off of time slices.

  5. December 25, 2010 12:07 AM

    A question I probably should have asked someone a long time ago – what exactly do we mean when we say a law is time reversible? That if we play time backwards we can recreate the past states of a system?

    From a scientific viewpoint I’m happy to defer to you and say that we don’t understand time. From a philosophical viewpoint I’d like to say we have at least some idea of how to deal with it. I do not have causal access to the past. I do have causal access to some of the future. I could now say that time is the change from the possible through the actual to the necessary. Why we experience this is something I think is probably best left to scientists.

    On your paragraph starting “So here is…”. Is the aim of this to show that the statement that the expanding universe gives rise to the second law could be coherent? If so, I would disagree. It would show that one particular closed system has the property required by the second law, but nothing more.

    I think my problem with the comments made in the article about time might be that they don’t fit into two categories I have arbitrarily created. For someone to talk about time seriously I think they either have to be talking about necessity and causation from a philosophical viewpoint, or have to talk in a similar way to you above, using maths I barely remember. This article fits in to neither category, occupying that vague middle ground that is virtually synonymous with cranks. That’s why I feel able to dismiss it without claiming to have any special knowledge about one possible side to my argument.

  6. Justin permalink
    December 25, 2010 3:23 AM

    I agree the authors ar not doing anything serious – best called cranks or whatever.

    Yes! That is exactly what time reversibility means. Sometimes we also require that the equations are still well behaved as you let time go to minus infinity. The 1+1D heat equation (one space, one time dimension) has solutions that look like e^{-t} times some other spatial stuff. So you can “see” heat decay because as t->+ infinity the solution decays, but if you reverse time the heat blows up. Of course this mathematically makes sense, but physically the model makes no sense (as unbounded temperatures are hard to come by in the near past).

    Onto the “so here is” paragraph. The only thing I wanted to point out is if you have a corked bottle (that is in equilibrium state) and never remove the cork (forget about external heat dissipation — this corked bottle is the entire universe!) then I don’t believe entropy will increase. It is already in equilibrium, there is nothing to do!

    Finally, I meant to add my own thoughts on time and re-emphasize a point I believe you were making. The universe is already a space-time manifold. It just sits there like a football. There is no beginning or end, it just is. If we could look down at it from God’s perspective (or the Tralfamadorians’), we would see a tangled mass of world-lines of particles tracing out their existence in this static entity. Normal causal concepts make no sense here.

  7. December 25, 2010 11:32 AM

    Ok, I see the point you were making now.

    Time from God’s perspective is an interesting one. If we place God in time, we kind of limit him, and we imply that maybe he is in space as well. So where is he? A lot of theology gets around this problem by making God timeless – he is outside both space and time. This makes talking about God very difficult. It also has some interesting implications in terms of what God can do. If God “created” the universe in a timeless act, then he cannot be interacting with it now. We have no causal access to the past, but in an analogous way God has no causal access to the entire past, present and future. Then, to paraphrase you, normal causal concepts of God make no sense.

    Or he doesn’t exist.

  8. Chris permalink
    December 25, 2010 9:26 PM

    an interesting post and thread. thanks folks. i’ve been having some related musings which I’ve attached below.

  9. December 26, 2010 2:09 PM

    Justin, been doing a bit of reading about the philosophy of time, I’d be interested to know your thoughts. From your comment I’d take it that you’re an eternalist, in that you seem to be saying that all temporal points exist. That is, an event in the past or future has the same ontological status as the present. I’d contrast this with my view of time, which is a presentist view. Only the present exists. The past is conceptual, in that we can recall it, but it has no special ontological status beyond the conceptual status it has in the present. Similarly the future has potential, and that is the limit of its ontological status.

    I need to do more reading, but from a first look these seem to be our starting positions. Do you agree?

  10. Justin permalink
    January 2, 2011 3:45 AM

    Yes, I agree for the moment that I endorse some form of eternalism.

    This is a funny debate from the viewpoint of a person of science. On the one hand a presentist viewpoint of time is fundamentally anthropocentric — your notion of time depends on how you personally experience it. In which case a presentist seems to only believe in things he or she immediately sees. Also, what is a “present,” i.e. what is a “now”? A person of science will see that simultaneity is a funny thing. (I’ll be precise about this once I review my special relativity.) The reason I think this is funny is because science aggregates observations with the hope of objectivizing them by removing the human element. (This also ties into my thinking on how an empiricist/scientific viewpoint requires some weak form of platonism.)

    It is true that my belief in eternalism comes from a belief in a certain model of reality existing independently of the human mind. This comes to me from Einstein who has written down a very compelling model of the universe as a 4-dimensional differentiable manifold equipped with a Minkowski metric (i.e. a bilinear form on each tangent space with signature +3-1 or -3+1 depending on convention). When I wear my science hat this is how I think of the universe – an externally existing manifold.

  11. Nate Moening permalink
    January 11, 2011 3:35 PM

    Just in case you were wondering if I would hold true to my intentions, check out my latest post. I did, and still am conducting some follow-up research on the topic of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and thus far, no mention of a higher power has been made; and I don’t forsee one being made any time soon. Not that that is my primary interest in the subject, but my somewhat foolish encounter here is basically what started this project. Thanks for the push in the right direction!

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