Monday, July 30, 2007

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 1

As I was checking my email today, I noticed an ad on the sidebar asking "Where did the Universe Come From?"

I just had to see this, so, since subscription is free, I subscribed.

Here is the first part, and my reactions to it. Please note that I'm posting this without the author's permission. But it was freely distributed. It isn't personal. And hey, fair usage.

Part 1: Einstein's Big Blunder

100 years ago this year, Albert Einstein published three papers that rocked the world. These papers proved the existence of the atom, introduced the theory of relativity, and described quantum mechanics.
I'll assume that this was written in 2005.

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that the above passage is not so much a lie as deceptive hyperbole.

“proved the existence of the atom” - Einstein published a paper on Brownian motion that explained "random movement of very small objects as direct evidence of molecular action, thus supporting [not proving] the atomic theory”

“introduced the theory of relativity” - yes, he published a paper proposing the theory of special relativity.

“described quantum mechanics” - he published a paper on the photoelectric effect, and suggested that the experimental results were best explained using
Max Planck’s idea of light as discrete quanta of energy. This "description" barely scratches the surface of quantum mechanics.

Oh look, Einstein published a fourth paper that year. Conservation (equivalence) of matter and energy. E=mc2 ? Sound familiar? I guess this one isn’t important.


Pretty good debut for a 26 year old scientist, huh?
We already know he was a genius, get on with it

His equations for relativity indicated that the universe was expanding. This bothered him, because if it was expanding, it must have had a beginning and a beginner. Since neither of these appealed to him, Einstein introduced a 'fudge factor' that ensured a 'steady state' universe, one that had no beginning or end.
Bullplop. In 1917 Einstein used his new theory of general relativity to describe the universe. By his calculations, the universe would collapse due to the gravitational effects of its own mass. He added an anti-gravity term (the fudge factor, lambda) to make his description fit the (then) observed reality (the current view was that the universe was static)


But in 1929, Edwin Hubble showed that the furthest galaxies were fleeing away from each other, just as the Big Bang model predicted. So in 1931, Einstein embraced what would later be known as the Big Bang theory, saying, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation
of creation to which I have ever listened." He referred to the 'fudge factor' to achieve a steady-state universe as the biggest blunder of his career.
Closer examination of Einstein's equations showed that they worked for collapse or expansion. Einstein, like any honest scientist presented with contradictory evidence, admitted that he had been wrong (to add the lambda term)


As I'll explain during the next couple of days, Einstein's theories have been thoroughly proved and verified by experiments and measurements. But there's an even more important implication of Einstein's discovery. Not only does the universe have a beginning, but time itself, our own dimension of cause and effect, began with the Big Bang.
Verified? Yes. Proven? No. Contradiction is becoming vanishingly unlikely, but still possible.

Yes, using general relativity alone, the universe would seem to have a beginning (t=0). However, theoretical physics cannot really get any further back than about t=5.39121x10-44s (one Planck time) before quantum effects make the calculations intractible, and so cannot say anything about t=0. However, the theory of loop quantum gravity may change that, and seems to support the idea of continual cycles of expansion and contraction (no beginning)

reference 1

reference 2

That's right -- time itself does not exist before then. The very line of time begins with that creation event. Matter, energy, time and space were created in an instant by an intelligence outside of space and time.
see the above refences. Also, this leap to an intelligence outside space and time is unfounded

About this intelligence, Albert Einstein wrote in his book "The World As I See It" that the harmony of natural law "Reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
Here's a page of Einstein quotes on religion, including the full context of the above.

To me this sounds like poetic metaphor, but Einstein may well have been a Deist.

But so what? Atheists don't worship Einstein any more than they worship Darwin. They were both great scientists, but their opinions and personal views weren't divine pronouncements. Nor did their scientific work become dogma (See above where Einstein admits he was wrong)

He went on to write, "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe--a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."
Again, metaphor or Deist. Either way, without mathematics or experiment, it's just opinion.

Pretty significant statement, wouldn't you say?
No, not really

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment: "Bird Droppings on my Telescope."
I look forward to it

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

Cosmic Fingerprints, 67 East Algonquin Road, S. Barrington IL 60010 USA

So in the end this is all just argument from authority (Einstein said...therefore God) and argument from ignorance (We don't know, therefore God). Meh.

Note: My references are not definitive sources, however they all make further reference to actual scientific publications.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Common questions atheists are asked

The Friendly Atheist posted a list of questions that atheists are often asked. He suggests that the answers be short and clear.

Here are my answers to them.

Why do you not believe in God?
I read the Bible when I was about 15. That plus a complete lack of real evidence.

Where do your morals come from?
The same place as everyone else's. Humans evolved a cooperative society. That is way over-simplified, but a full explanation deserves an entire post all to itself. Maybe sometime I'll do that.

What is the meaning of life?
42. Duh. Seriously, there is no one Meaning to life. If you feel your life needs meaning, then it is up to you to provide it.

Is atheism a religion?

If you don’t pray, what do you do during troubling times?
Something productive.

Should atheists be trying to convince others to stop believing in God?
No. I think that we should encourage people to learn to think critically, and embrace reality. Failing that, I'd encourage theists to leave me alone.

Weren’t some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century committed by atheists?
The worst atrocities in all of human history were committed by humans. What's your point?
Note: Hitler was not an atheist. (Don't kid yourself, that's who you meant)

How could billions of people be wrong when it comes to belief in God?
By being wrong.
The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.
- Bertrand Russell

Why does the universe exist?
It exists. This question makes no sense from an atheist viewpoint.

How did life originate?
I don't know. I'm comfortable with that.

Is all religion harmful?
That depends on what you consider to be harmful. I'll just say that it can be.

What’s so bad about religious moderates?
They provide an environment that produces and shelters extremists. Plus the "they aren't really Xian" argument is really annoying.

Is there anything redeeming about religion?
I don't think so, but some people prefer a comforting lie to the truth.

What if you’re wrong about God (and He does exist)?
I'll take my chances.

Shouldn’t all religious beliefs be respected?

Are atheists smarter than theists?
Not necessarily.

How do you deal with the historical Jesus if you don’t believe in his divinity?
The same way I deal with historical Beowulf. If he ever really existed, the stories of his life have been greatly exaggerated.

Would the world be better off without any religion?
Possibly. I doubt it, though. What the world would be better off without is credulous, superstitious thinking that leads to religion.

What happens when we die?
The living get on with their lives. The dead decompose.

Some of these questions deserve longer clarifications. I may do that sometime. Others barely deserve to be answered at all.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Harry Potter weekend

I went to see 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' last night. I thought it was good. A bit sketchy on some parts. I think there were some things that I wouldn't really have gotten if I hadn't already read the book. Still, it was a pretty decent movie even without those bits.

I remember thinking, as I left the theater, that I should have pre-ordered the new and final book ('Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows') on Amazon so that I could get it without hassle.

Imagine my surprise when I went to get the mail today, and there was a package from Amazon with a bunch of Harry Potter references printed on it. Apparently I had pre-ordered it (several months ago, at least) and completely forgotten.

No one who knows me will be at all surprised by this.

Speaking of final books, I read on Robert Jordan's website that the next Wheel of Time book will be the last one. It was also mentioned that it will be significantly longer than the others (given the brick-like size of the others, this one must be a cinder block). It will have to be, if Jordan is going to wrap up the series in it. I've said before that I think it's time for the series to move clearly towards closure, but I am not sure one book, even a particularly long one, will be able to do so satisfactorily.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why I am not a Darwinist.

Darwinist is a term mainly used by creationists in an attempt to paint acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (ToE) (all of science, in fact) as a religion, with Darwin as ToE's messiah, and The Origin of Species as its Bible.

Unfortunately, creationists can't accept that it isn't true.

They can't bring their nonsense up to science's level, so they try to drag science down to theirs.

Also, any term to collectively describe people who accept ToE will quickly be perverted the same way. "Evolutionist" has been.

Anyway, do not refer to me as a Darwinist (or an Evolutionist). I will vehemently deny the association. I do not worship Darwin.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Check this out!

My cousin-in-law, Kyle, showed me this a couple of weeks ago. I just remembered it.,1322,n,n


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Debunking some creationist lies

Bogosity Ep. 2: Evolution vs. Creation (Part 1)

Bogosity Ep. 2: Evolution vs. Creation (Part 2)

(via Bad Astronomy)