The Truth About Easter – Part Three of the Richard Dawkins Challenge

Richard-Dawkins

CHAPTER 3
The Moment Of Creation

 By Ian Wishart

 

“In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin”

Jun-Yuan Chen, paleontologist

 

One of the intriguing things about the world’s creation myths is how many of them evoke a time when there was just an empty void. Creation ex nihilo may have been a foreign concept to the Babylonians, but it wasn’t to the New Zealand Maori, or America’s Apache Indians, or the Japanese. What made all of these primitive peoples, and many others besides, conceive the idea of a timeless, limitless void, out of which both the heavens (stars) and earth emerged? Why did these tribes, from right across the planet, not take the much simpler view – as the Hindus and Buddhists did – that the earth had always existed or that it endlessly recycled itself?

An early Tahitian creation myth, recorded by a passing ship’s captain in 1855 and published the following decade, reads: “In the beginning, there was nothing but the god, Ihoiho, afterwards there was an expanse of waters which covered the abyss.”[1] Similar, again, to the Maori legend and the supreme being Io. The creation myths across the Pacific, again, go much deeper and further back than the cultures that now remember them.

What, then, is the picture that science paints for us of the moment of creation? According to cosmologist Stephen Hawking, the event that kicked off the Big Bang was so incredibly powerful that the entire universe went from being the size of a grain of sand to filling the void of space in literally milliseconds. Now that’s a feat that matches the poetry of “he spread out the heavens with his hands”.

The idea that something so insignificantly tiny could explode with such intensity beggars belief. As a point of trivia, there’s a good chance the watch on your wrist is powered by a lithium battery. What you probably don’t know is that you are wearing material as old as the universe itself. All of the lithium in existence was produced during the first four minutes of the Big Bang explosion. If God indeed exists, his signature is written on the battery powering your wristwatch, or notebook computer.

Does science know why it went Bang? No, we don’t have a clue. Sure, there are theories. Scientists like Edward Tryon have tried to argue that the universe is the result of what he called “a vacuum fluctuation”. Although this sounds suspiciously like what happens when you accidentally suck a sock up the hosepipe, in fact he was talking about a quantum event. Scientists studying quantum physics have long known that particles seem to miraculously appear and disappear, sometimes with quite spectacular energy effects. Could the universe, wonders Tryon, simply be a quantum event that popped into existence and didn’t disappear again?[2] Another to theorise along these lines more recently is British physicist Paul Davies in his book, God and the New Physics.

The argument seems quite tempting, until you crunch the numbers. Quantum events are happening all over the place, even as you read this. But the universe is an incredibly large place. There must be quadzillions of quantum events happening every second throughout the universe. There are 86,400 seconds per day, or nearly 32 million seconds a year. And according to science the Big Bang happened nearly 15 billion years ago.

Now, we know from history that if any one of the quantum events happening all around us turned into a Big Bang, it would wipe the slate clean and destroy the universe as we know it. Yet, despite the enormous, incalculable opportunities for a new Big Bang originating somewhere in the universe in the past 15 billion years, the event has never happened again.

Tackling Paul Davies specifically, astrophysicist Hugh Ross argued on his website[3] that Davies had been caught in his own trap. In one part of God and the New Physics, Davies argues that God did not cause the Big Bang because causing, by definition, can only happen within a time-bound realm, not a timeless one. Davies overlooks the transcendence of God, however – virtually all religions argue that a Deity capable of creating the universe is just as capable plunging his hand into it from outside to stir the mix. I digress, however. Hugh Ross pinged Davies on the theory that the universe may be a quantum event:

“Noting that virtual particles can pop into existence from nothingness through quantum tunneling, Davies employs the new grand unified theories to suggest that in the same manner the whole universe popped into existence. Ironically, his argument against God’s creating can now be turned against his hypothesis. Quantum mechanics is founded on the concept that quantum events occur according to finite probabilities within finite time intervals. The larger the time interval, the greater the probability that a quantum event will occur. Outside of time, however, no quantum event is possible. Therefore, the origin of time (coincident with that of space, matter, and energy) eliminates quantum tunneling as ‘creator’.”

In simple language, there’s still no natural explanation for the Big Bang.

To his credit, Paul Davies has conceded the weakness of the argument and now grudgingly concedes there is an apparent design in the universe.

In a column written for Britain’s Guardian this year,[4] he addresses the problem.

“Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient “coincidences” and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal. Fred Hoyle, the distinguished cosmologist, once said it was as if “a super- intellect has monkeyed with physics”.

“To see the problem, imagine playing God with the cosmos. Before you is a designer machine that lets you tinker with the basics of physics. Twiddle this knob and you make all electrons a bit lighter, twiddle that one and you make gravity a bit stronger, and so on. It happens that you need to set thirtysomething knobs to fully describe the world about us. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs[5] must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile.

“Example: neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn’t exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life. Like Baby Bear’s porridge in the story of Goldilocks, the universe seems to be just right for life. So what’s going on?

“The intelligent design movement has inevitably seized on the Goldilocks enigma as evidence of divine providence, prompting a scientific backlash and boosting the recent spate of God-bashing bestsellers.

“Fuelling the controversy is an unanswered question lurking at the very heart of science – the origin of the laws of physics. Where do they come from? Why do they have the form that they do? Traditionally, scientists have treated the laws of physics as simply “given”, elegant mathematical relationships that were somehow imprinted on the universe at its birth, and fixed thereafter. Inquiry into the origin and nature of the laws was not regarded as a proper part of science.”

Davies looks at some options, such as the theory of an infinite number of multiple universes, and perhaps we just happen to live on the universe capable of supporting life. It’s not a truly scientific theory, because it can never be tested, and Davies recognizes this:

“The multiverse theory…falls short of a complete explanation of existence. For a start, there has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and allocate bylaws to them. This process demands its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

“The root cause of all the difficulty can be traced to the fact that both religion and science appeal to some agency outside the universe to explain its lawlike order. Dumping the problem in the lap of a pre-existing designer is no explanation at all, as it merely begs the question of who designed the designer. But appealing to a host of unseen universes and a set of unexplained meta-laws is scarcely any better.”

Having abandoned the quantum theory, debunked the multiverse theory, and rejected Intelligent Design because, well, it implies a Designer, Davies searches for a replacement theory and comes up with a belief that the universe miraculously (but entirely naturally) altered its own laws during the Big Bang to ensure a life-friendly outcome.

“In the first split second of cosmic existence, the laws must therefore have been seriously fuzzy. Then, as the information content of the universe climbed, the laws focused and homed in on the life-encouraging form we observe today. But the flaws in the laws left enough wiggle room for the universe to engineer its own bio-friendliness.

“Thus, three centuries after Newton, symmetry is restored: the laws explain the universe even as the universe explains the laws. If there is an ultimate meaning to existence, as I believe is the case, the answer is to be found within nature, not beyond it. The universe might indeed be a fix, but if so, it has fixed itself,” concludes Davies.

Are you convinced? To me, he sounds desperate, conjuring up a universe that thinks for itself. It’s probably a reflection of the desperation he himself expressed in his book, The Cosmic Blueprint.

“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all … it seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe … The impression of design is overwhelming.”

Rather than go into all the technical jargon about which atomic elements are crucial for life as we know it, I’ll paint a broader picture of the “monkeying” that has taken place, and why it is so significant that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are now feeling seriously threatened by the latest scientific discoveries.

One aspect of the Big Bang is that the energy and timing of its explosion were incredibly precise. If this allegedly random event had fluctuated by even a nano-second in its crucial first minute, the whole showboat would have sunk without trace on the spot: no universe, period. If the acceleration forces of the Big Bang had been a mere nano-fraction stronger, the material needed to form stars and galaxies would have been flung too far and spread out too much to coalesce into stars and galaxies. If the Big Bang had been a nano-fraction slower, the gravitational pressures would have caused it to implode back in on itself.

Luckily, in this random scientific world where God does not exist, Goldilocks won the day and the universe was born. What you are about to read will, however, give you a new appreciation for how incredibly lucky you actually are. You don’t even know the half of it!

READ PART FOUR

 

[1] M. de Bovis, Annuaire des Etablissements Francais de l’Oceanie, Papeete, 1863, p. 95.

 

[2] Tryon, Edward P. “Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation,” in Nature, 246(1973), pp. 396-397

 

[3] http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/quantummech.shtml

 

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2111345,00.html

 

[5] Here’s another example of how Richard Dawkins is selective in his book The God Delusion. Paul Davies quotes here “thirtysomething” knobs that need to be set “just so” for life to occur. Dawkins, quoting atheist physicist Martin Rees, talks of only “six knobs”. As astrophysicist Hugh Ross points out in The Creator and the Cosmos, by 2001 there were 128 different knobs that each had to be set correctly. The picture is far, far more complex than the mere six constants that Dawkins and Rees discuss in their books

 

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