The End of Cosmology?

In the March '08 issue of Scientific American is an article describing the future of our universe. First click on the scanned in image.

The authors say that future scientists will have little or no evidence for big bang cosmology. As the universe expands all other galaxies will disappear from view, and we'll be left with a single super galaxy. Cosmic microwave radiation will not be strong enough to conclude that a big bang occurred. Observations of the abundance of chemical elements like deuterium and helium (elements that were made by the Big bang) will not be of much help as hydrogen clouds disappear and as stars destroy deuterium.

They write: "we are led inexorably to a very strange conclusion. The window during which intelligent observers can deduce the true nature of our expanding universe might be very short indeed."

Fascinating stuff, science is, eh? But if this is the case then I have a few questions. Christian, are these scientists just wasting their time trying to figure out the future of our universe? I mean, if Jesus is supposed to return to planet earth then why bother with any of this? And when he comes doesn't 2 Peter 3:10 say "the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up"? How can this be the case since we must still be on planet earth when he returns, and if we are, then these scientists are dead wrong about the future. Christianity seems to be opposed to science here, and you must choose between them. But let's say 2 Peter is a metaphor and the universe won't actually end that way at Jesus' return. Then after he returns and consummates creation with the final judgment will he just let the universe run its course along these lines?...that it took billions of years to get here for us, and will subsequently have billions of years to run its course, with human beings existing in it for a very tiny fraction of its whole existence?

One thing seems clear to me about this scenario, though. As long as there is intelligent life there will be religion, for religion is the attempt to explain the mysterious. As the evidence for a Big Bang disappears from the horizon scientists will not be able to effectively counter the claims that there is a God who made it.

First published April 8, 2008

29 comments:

Lee Randolph said...

Hi John,
I don't think I said it clearly enough in the article on your interview, but I thought you did a great Job.
back to biznez....

As the evidence for a Big Bang disappears from the horizon scientists will not be able to effectively counter the claims that there is a God who made it.

They and we should change our strategy now. We should depend less on authority, consensus and tradition and more on principle, inference and strong criteria for evidence. The size, age and beginning of the universe are not the only game in town. There is also the fact that the universe exists at all which does not infer a creator in itself. It just presents itself for interpretation. Infer a creator or infer natural processes, but we can make predictions based on inferences about natural processes which enable us to build technology and improve (generally speaking) on the work of previous generations.

And christians can continue to reap the benefits of secular worker bees that wrestle with the hard questions while they float through life in a perpetual mysterious fog and praise god for the successes of science and chance for the rest. Ignorance is bliss isn't it? Can I get an amen?

However, on a similar note,
I notice that even in the business world, people rely too much on authority, consensus and tradition. Its just stinking thinking, it wastes resources and that makes it inefficient.

But also, on another note, I notice a trend lately in the workplace of "less reverence" and more criticism of religion spoken in public by people that I wouldn't have expected it from. They're like little sweet surprises from heaven.

Tom said...

Wow we live at unique time in the history of the universe to witness it's creation by an outside agent. Cool.

Lee Randolph said...

tom, buddy,
I think you overlooked something. see, we are losing the ability to witness its creation, whether by an outside entity or not.

Now we'll never be able to see the great golden egg as it cracks open and spills out the waters of the universe and its shell becomes the earth.

Anyway, it should make you all happy because it buys you all some time and is one less thing you all have to give yourselves a headache thinking about.

Tom said...

Lee,

This won't be for a long time. I think it's fascinating that we live at "just the right time" in the history of the universe to have discovered it's beginning and birth. What powerful evidence for a Creator. It sounds like the scriptures "In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

JUSTIN said...

I apologize for the length of this comment. I hope it is not burdensome. First, a couple of general comments:

I find it profoundly interesting that the current evidence points to a “big bang”, and that if the authors of the SA article are correct, that evidence is dissipating. Certainly, evidence points to a beginning, and what is beyond or prior to that beginning is fodder only for speculation—no scientific investigation can ever determine those facts. Further, I find it interesting that in the future, scientific evidence may indeed point to “us” as being the center of the universe—again—as there will no more evidence of anything outside our super-galaxy, but the void.

Second, I have to chuckle at the dogmatic insistence, by both atheist and fundamentalist alike, that the bible is making any sort of scientific claims. The citations of 2 Peter, Genesis 1-3, ad nauseum are blasted as staking claims about the physical universe that are “clearly” false when considered next to the scientific record. I find that sort of reasoning to be quite silly, considering the fact that the authors of the bible (authentic or not) had no intention of making any sort of scientific claims, whether it be the Genesis account or Saint Peter's letter. They are philisophical statements, not scientific ones. The silliness is as plain as claiming the poem “Roses are red, violets are blue...” is a thesis on the visible spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with certain organic compounds.

Even so... Loftus wrote:
They write: "we are led inexorably to a very strange conclusion. The window during which intelligent observers can deduce the true nature of our expanding universe might be very short indeed."

My question, will the eventual lack of evidence change anything about the “true nature” of the universe?

Christian, are these scientists just wasting their time trying to figure out the future of our universe? I mean, if Jesus is supposed to return to planet earth then why bother with any of this?

No, it is not a waste of time. We have been given an innate curiosity about the world(s) around us. It would be a waste of time NOT to inquire and search. There is knowledge to be gained which enriches us, helps us interact between each other, and, eventually, leads us to conclusions about life and its intangibles.

Regarding the “Second Coming”, rather than argue about the different possible readings of the text(s), in addition to the foundational reading, I will say this: to be in wonder and awe of creation, regardless of your opinions of origins, is a worthy effort. To a believer, it is a form of worship, developing a deeper reverence for God, and possibly a deeper understanding. Knowledge and wisdom are not worthless if it all gets blown up in the end.

How can this be the case since we must still be on planet earth when he returns, and if we are, then these scientists are dead wrong about the future.

I think that is within the realm of possibility, but so it is with the literal view that the physical universe will end with Jesus' coming.

Christianity seems to be opposed to science here, and you must choose between them.

Some views or teachings within Christianity are opposed, yes. But the text itself is not... it's not a scientific subject or matter being addressed. Interpretation is at play here, and it muddies the waters. My interpretation of the text is not necessarily the correct one, but neither is yours.

But let's say 2 Peter is a metaphor and the universe won't actually end that way at Jesus' return. Then after he returns and consumates creation with the final judgment will he just let the universe run its course along these lines?...that it took billions of years to get here for us, and will subsequently have billions of years to run its course, with human beings existing in it for a very tiny fraction of its whole existence?

Speculation. The bible doesn't address that. Some speculate that humans will inhabit the post-2nd-coming earth for eternity. I believe that the main point of the text is that time is short for us and the here-and-now matters. The point of Peter's letter is not a treatise on cosmologic end-games. It's a philosophy of lifestyle.

As the evidence for a Big Bang disappears from the horizon scientists will not be able to effectively counter the claims that there is a God who made it.

Again I ask, if the evidence no longer exists, does that change anything?

Evan said...

Yes Tom, we live at just the right time in the 100 billion year window in which this takes place ...

Lamar said...

Justin,

The problem with biblical "interpretation" that moderates keep expounding is that it leads to an unexplainable infinite regress. How are we to explain which interpretation is correct? Is there literal, non-interpretive evidence in the bible, or do we need to interpret that evidence too? With what evidence do we make THAT interpretation (the interpretation of the evidence for how we interpret the bible), and so on, ad infinitum?

Anyways, people do take the bible literally until science comes along and shows us we can't. For example, no one believed that the creation story was a "metaphor" to be “interpreted,” but they do now, only after the fact that we have discovered natural selection and the old age of the earth.

The point isn’t that the bible has these flaws and thus should be distrusted. The point is, rather, that it has these flaws and thus cannot be the work of an all-knowing god. Either it is or it is not the work of an all-knowing god. If there are parts, even one part, that is wrong, then it cannot be the work of god. (It turns out that there are quite a lot things wrong, both ethically and factually, with the bible.)

If you treat the bible as a philosophy of lifestyle rather than a factual truth-giver then that is wonderful. I like to treat Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Mark Twain that way too. The difference is that I know that their books are not special, holy or divine (or true). They are the works of humans for humans in a human world. But once you take the step of denying that the bible is a book of facts but rather is one of values to live by, then you’ve placed it in the same category as Aesop’s fables. What right have you to interpret some things in the bible as facts and others as metaphors? (Don’t answer that. It leads to an infinite regress!)

Shygetz said...

Again I ask, if the evidence no longer exists, does that change anything?

Yes; remember that we are part of the universe (albeit perhaps an insignificant part), and evidence shapes our actions. So in this particular corner of the universe, the dissipation of the evidence could have a very noticable effect on reality inasmuch as we have an ability to shape reality.

JUSTIN said...

Lamar wrote:
The problem with biblical "interpretation" that moderates keep expounding is that it leads to an unexplainable infinite regress. How are we to explain which interpretation is correct?

This assumes there IS a “correct” interpretation.

Is there literal, non-interpretive evidence in the bible, or do we need to interpret that evidence too?

There is no “evidence” in the bible... it's a book of ideas, with some [biased] history sprinkled in. All of it must be interpreted. Besides that, the english bible is an interpretation of interpretations on top of other interpretations.

BTW, the scientific method is a interpretive method, too. We all interpret toward the infinite regression, ad infinitum. So what?

Anyways, people do take the bible literally until science comes along and shows us we can't.

No law says I can't interpret the bible literally. Neither, the scientific method cannot tell me to do anything—it simply reports facts, else it ceases to be science and becomes dogma. What I do with those facts—how I interpret them—is up to me, and only me.

The point isn’t that the bible has these flaws and thus should be distrusted. The point is, rather, that it has these flaws and thus cannot be the work of an all-knowing god. Either it is or it is not the work of an all-knowing god. If there are parts, even one part, that is wrong, then it cannot be the work of god. (It turns out that there are quite a lot things wrong, both ethically and factually, with the bible.)

... based on YOUR interpretation of it. Fine, you reject it based on how you read it. Must I and everyone else read and interpret it in your way or fashion? If so, on what basis can you demand that? So what if I don't?

But once you take the step of denying that the bible is a book of facts but rather is one of values to live by, then you’ve placed it in the same category as Aesop’s fables.

The bible contains “facts”, no doubt. It is up to me and you and everyone who cares to decide if those facts are true or false. No one—and I mean NO ONE—comes to biblical interpretation objectively, in fact, it's not possible. I see the philosophical value of the book. I see the facts I have gleaned as true. I admit my biases in doing so. Will you?

What right have you to interpret some things in the bible as facts and others as metaphors? (Don’t answer that. It leads to an infinite regress!)

Then I'm a regressive. I have every right as you do to interpret the bible as I see fit. The same thing happens in science. Take global warming, for example. Same data, same weather readings, same temperatures. Yet, the spectrum of interpretation of those data among scientists runs the gamut. Who is right? Who's interpretation of the facts is correct?

Again, so what?


Shygetz wrote:
Yes; remember that we are part of the universe (albeit perhaps an insignificant part), and evidence shapes our actions. So in this particular corner of the universe, the dissipation of the evidence could have a very noticeable effect on reality inasmuch as we have an ability to shape reality.

So, lack of evidence means I can see the universe as contracting, and that makes it reality? I think, therefore you are?

Does lack of evidence change the reality of the nature of the universe? Does matter what I think or can observe?

eheffa said...

The passage from Peter indicates that the universe will end with a "roar". I suppose the only place anyone will hear the roar will be on this limited terrestrial stage as sound doesn't travel too far through a vacuum...
-evan

Tom said...

Evan,

Your forgitting about the age window of the universe that ruduces it to a few billion. Not to mention the age window of the galaxy, the age window of the star, the age window of the planet, and the civilization time window.

Lamar said...

Justin,

Allow me to restate my point. The bible is a book that says a wide variety of things. Some things, taken literally, are bad or wrong. For example, it says we should stone our daughter-in-laws if they are not found to be virgins at marriage. That’s bad. It also says that the world was created in 6 days. That’s wrong. But the bible also says to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s good. And I presume that there are also correct statements in the bible.

Now, when you read any text there will be interpretation, and differing interpretation arises out of connotation. (The denotation is objective.) So there very well may be arguments as to the correct interpretation of Shakespeare, however, the only reason we cannot come to an answer is that the correct interpretation “out runs” us, if you will. There is a correct interpretation – one that Shakespeare meant – but there isn’t enough evidence to let it be known. That’s okay, however, because Shakespeare is never proposed to be a divine book about the ultimate truth in the universe. The bible is, however, and that’s a problem. The correct interpretation will always out run us because of translation, connotation etc…

However, some things we judge correct and good, and other things we judge wrong and bad. We do this, not because of the bible, but because of our previously understood notions of right and wrong. We claim that the creation story is to be interpreted metaphorically only because we already know that, taken literally, it’s wrong. We claim that the demand to love thy neighbor is to be taken literally because it is already intuitive for us to think that it is moral to do so. Nothing in the bible itself gives us anything important. We just use it as a tool to reaffirm what we already think or know to be the case. That’s my point.

Here’s it restated another way, if you like. If you say we should take the bible literally, then fine. The bible is garbage. But if you say it is to be taken metaphorically (to be interpreted) then you have to give us a set of criteria with which to interpret it. Those criteria cannot come from the book itself, otherwise you’d have an infinite regress (which is bad, by the way). Thus, they must come from ourselves. But if they come from ourselves, then what’s the point of the bible again?

On the charge that science is just an interpretation ad infinitum I cannot stress how wrong that is. The buck stops at brute facts, which we have no control over. Thus, there is no interpretation ad infinitum because there can be no “interpretation” of brute facts. Mount Everest is a certain height. Period.

From those non-interpretable brute facts (data) arises a theory that concludes, based on logic, what must be so about the world given the brute facts. Logic, as well as brute facts, is non-interpretable either. Thus, by using pure facts and pure logic applied to those facts, scientists can come to true conclusions about the world. The only time scientists disagree is when the conclusion is not settled. And the only time that the conclusion is not settled is when there are other logical explanations for the given data other than one particular theory. In other words, there are other variables not taken into account, which in turn means that all the data is not in yet.

To continue the example of global warming, the only reason that there are differing interpretations of the data is that there is not enough of it. The data we do have doesn’t have to be explained the way Al Gore explains it, but his way is one logical way to explain it. There could be others. (One hypothesis is that the sun’s radiation is increasing.) There are other variables not taken into account. When all the variables are taken into account, we will know whether or not humans are causing global warming. The facts out run the evidence in this case, but there is nothing stopping us from collecting enough data to catch up with the facts. Science is the only way to come to know truths within the world. You collect raw data and you use logic to see what it means for reality. There will always be other explanations of that data until you have controlled for every variable. (The skepticism arises from the claim that we could never know when we’ve controlled for every variable and thus when we’ve collected enough data. This is why scientists constantly repeat experiments.)

JUSTIN said...

Lamar wrote:

That’s okay, however, because Shakespeare is never proposed to be a divine book about the ultimate truth in the universe. The bible is, however, and that’s a problem.

Please, then, post a/the biblical reference, not the opinion of the Pope, Jerry Fallwell, or some other scholar or preacher or blog hack, but a biblical book-chapter-&-verse, that claims itself to be "a divine book about the ultimate truth in the universe".

However, some things we judge correct and good, and other things we judge wrong and bad. We do this, not because of the bible, but because of our previously understood notions of right and wrong.

Actually, the bible supports this notion in Romans 2... but, that's just my interpretation.

Nothing in the bible itself gives us anything important.

Another opinion/interpretation... otherss find it very important in supporting whatever dogma they believe in.

We just use it as a tool to reaffirm what we already think or know to be the case. That’s my point.

Indeed we do. So does the slave owner, so does the racist, the polygamist, the faith-healer, the facist, and the imperialist. Who's fault is that?

And again, so what?

But if you say it is to be taken metaphorically (to be interpreted) then you have to give us a set of criteria with which to interpret it.

I don't have to give you crap. You, and you alone, bring whatever you want and have to the table in reading the bible. I cannot dictate or influence your reading of it, without your giving me "permission" to do so. I don't recommend you do so, me or anyone.

Those criteria cannot come from the book itself, otherwise you’d have an infinite regress (which is bad, by the way). Thus, they must come from ourselves. But if they come from ourselves, then what’s the point of the bible again?

The bible wasn't written to necessarily help you at all. Heck, it wasn't written to anyone now living, or who has lived in the past 1900 years. It was written to tell a story, period. Take it or leave it. Give everyone else the same choice you have.

On the charge that science is just an interpretation ad infinitum I cannot stress how wrong that is.

You can stress all you want, it does not change the reality of inherent bias EVERY scientist brings to any experiement, simply by setting up the experiment, not withstanding everything else introduced.

Statistical Analysis and Designed Experiments confirms this fact... we can only hope to minimize the biases introduced.

There is no such thing as brute fact--Mt. Everest changes height every infinitesimal moment of every second of every day and can only be measured in finite, discrete averages to the precision technology currently afforts. Was that 1/4 of a millimeter or 3/16? Oh, heck, just round it off...

Logic, thus, is now based on rounded off data--interpreted--which has all the bias built in. It is no better than the data facts gathered. Logic is now variable and subject to interpretation.

There is no such thing as pure logic or pure fact. Sorry, Mr. Spock, Bones was right.

When all the variables are taken into account, we will know...

Ask any scientist whether or not ALL the variables can be taken into account.

...but there is nothing stopping us from collecting enough data to catch up with the facts.

Nothing except an infinite amount of time, factors of complexity, calculator power. No technology, no scientist is physically capable of analyzing ALL variables for just one scientific hypothesis, nonetheless something as complex as the weather or global warming. Anyone who thinks it is possible is just naive or deluded.

Science is the only way to come to know truths within the world.

Is an idea true? How about beauty? Can science define an idea? What about beauty? I declare bullshit.

Those who believe that are no less taking a leap of blind faith than the amputee praying for a new leg.

M. Tully said...

John wrote: “As the evidence for a Big Bang disappears from the horizon scientists will not be able to effectively counter the claims that there is a God who made it.”

No worries John,

One, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” I have no reason (providing relativity and quantum mechanics still hold true) to believe that the scientists of the future won’t be able to trace the data back and mathematically verify it.

Two, and much more importantly, in the text of the article it states, “This process takes about 100 billion years”. Since all life on this planet will cease to exist some 4 – 5 billion years from now (based on the life cycle of medium-sized stars like our own), I don’t think scientific proofs will be a problem.

Evan said...

Please, then, post a/the biblical reference, not the opinion of the Pope, Jerry Fallwell, or some other scholar or preacher or blog hack, but a biblical book-chapter-&-verse, that claims itself to be "a divine book about the ultimate truth in the universe".

2 Tim 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,"

M. Tully said...

John,

BTW, at the end of the article it discusses the observable universe collapsing into a black hole. If it did collapse into a singularity, then quantum tunneling would allow it to emerge as a new big-bang somewhere else. Just as Hawking postulates one of the explanations of our Big-Bang.

Fascinating!

M. Tully said...

justin wrote,

"You can stress all you want, it does not change the reality of inherent bias EVERY scientist brings to any experiment, simply by setting up the experiment, not withstanding everything else introduced."

Yes, but in the knowledge arts, the theory still must explain the data. If it doesn't, the theory is eventually discarded, no matter how attractive it may be.

"To continue the example of global warming, the only reason that there are differing interpretations of the data is that there is not enough of it."

There is so much data that supports the phenomena of global warming and its forcings are so well understood that in actuality global warming's mechanisms are much better understood than the mechanisms for gravity.

To use your logic, we shouldn't drive our cars, fly in airplanes or launch satellites. Oh, and don't turn on your computer, the mechanisms of quantum electrodynamics are just some guys interpretations and not based in reality.

JUSTIN said...

Evan said...
2 Tim 3:16

Thanks Evan. Indeed Paul claims the scriptures (in his time, the Hebrew bible) are divinely inspired. But for what... "training... in righteousness." That addresses a philosophy about lifestyle, NOT the ultimate truth about the nature of the universe.

The bible, Hebrew or Christian, is NOT a scientific reference text... and was never intended to be.

Mr. Tully wrote...
To use your logic, we shouldn't drive our cars, fly in airplanes or launch satellites...

Therein lies the risk in accepting our scientific approximations. Many studies result in conclusions that are "close-enough" to make our technology possible, feasible, and useable. Kind of like Newtonian physics... close enough for most situations, but the equations fall apart at some level.

Just because we hae an approximation which can "make it work" does not mean we have found the first principle truth which makes this computer send the message I am typing here to your eyes. There is always variability and uncertainty.

M. Tully said...

Justin,

You wrote:

“Therein lies the risk in accepting our scientific approximations. Many studies result in conclusions that are "close-enough" to make our technology possible, feasible, and useable. Kind of like Newtonian physics...”

Oh, my!

Let’s talk about approximations. General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics make predictions. The experimental results of these predictions regularly show accuracies on the level of 10^25 decimal places. What the physicist Richard Feynman would compare to predicting the average width of the North American continent and being experimentally accurate to one hair’s breadth.

“Kind of like Newtonian physics”? If you don’t trust Newtonian physics, then you better not go across modern bridges or up to the top floor of skyscrapers. They are designed using Newtonian physics.

You see Newtonian physics is very accurate here on earth, traveling at slow relativistic speeds. It only breaks down as a particle approaches the speed c or in certain combinations of gravitational fields.

So yes, Newton wasn’t exactly right in all frames of reference. But then again he wasn’t really wrong was he?

Can you show me any place where the epistemology of divine revelation comes anywhere close to such accuracies? When compared to the scientific method, divine revelation falls into an area Wolfgang Pauli would call, “This isn't right. This isn't even wrong.”

If I may be frank for a moment, for someone who criticizes science so harshly, you really don’t seem to know much about it.

JUSTIN said...

M. Tully said...
Let’s talk about approximations. General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics make predictions. The experimental results of these predictions regularly show accuracies on the level of 10^25 decimal places. What the physicist Richard Feynman would compare to predicting the average width of the North American continent and being experimentally accurate to one hair’s breadth.

But, has anyone actually measured the width of the NA Continent? To what precision? How much did it change since? GR and QM make guesses, albeit very, very good guesses. The variability is still not zero. Call me when it is.

If you don’t trust Newtonian physics...

Who said I don't trust Newtonian physics? I USE it every day. It pays the bills.

You see Newtonian physics is very accurate here on earth, traveling at slow relativistic speeds. It only breaks down as a particle approaches the speed c or in certain combinations of gravitational fields.

Preachin' to the choir, man.

So yes, Newton wasn’t exactly right in all frames of reference. But then again he wasn’t really wrong was he?

So, you give Newton a pass, but not a bunch of sheepherders and fisherman from the 1st Century (who weren't really concerned with physics anyway)?

Can you show me any place where the epistemology of divine revelation comes anywhere close to such accuracies? When compared to the scientific method, divine revelation falls into an area Wolfgang Pauli would call, “This isn't right. This isn't even wrong.”

I'll say it again, exasperated as I am to keep repeating it... the bible is not a scientific reference text, and was never intended to be. Therefore, to expect it to stand up to the rigors of scientific examination and review is unrealistic and doomed to fail each time. Which, by the way, is why some people keep doing it... it's an easy strawman to fight.

If I may be frank for a moment, for someone who criticizes science so harshly, you really don’t seem to know much about it.

Well, Mr. Frank Tully, I love science, it's the basis for my career (what is engineering but applied science) and I study it (not all of it, mind you). I understand it and I also recognize its LIMITATIONS, what it can and cannot do. For all the problems good science has led to solutions for, I don't close my eyes and blindly hope it will lead me to ultimate truth. But it did make a good pickup, and a tasty latte.

Any undergrad course in measurements, statistics and probability, and designed experiments will explain what I'm getting at much better than I can.... bein' a dum ol' bible-thumpin' inguneer dat I is.

richdurrant said...

I really liked this article when I read it a couple of weeks ago. One thing that hit me though, it was thought that we were at the center and all things moved around the earth. They actually do from our perspective. Not until we gained another perspective did that change. the sun rises and sets from our perspective, but doesn't do the same for someone in orbit. While looking at the illustrations I had to wonder if we will get a different perspective at some future point that will make us change our minds yet again. this is based on our current viewable universe. I have to think that our viewable universe will increase with time.
Perspective makes a lot of difference to the observer.

Hamilcar said...

Justin,

But, has anyone actually measured the width of the NA Continent? To what precision? How much did it change since? GR and QM make guesses, albeit very, very good guesses. The variability is still not zero. Call me when it is.

Call you when your arbitrary requirement for "zero" variability is met? If this is not an arbitrary requirement, can you provide an argument as to why we must have zero variability? With our current, non-zero variabilities, we seem capable of landing people on the moon and returning them to earth, landing robots on Mars that and buzz around and send back pretty pictures, put a satellite in orbit around Mercury, etc. What's wrong with our current process of continually refining our precision? It seems to be working pretty well so far.

Do you mean to argue that knowledge is not possible? That complete knowledge is not possible? That certainty is impossible? That god-like certainty is impossible?

Do you wail in existential angst that you cannot even know if you yourself exist?

I'm just not sure where you're coming from.

JUSTIN said...

Hamilcar said...
Call you when your arbitrary requirement for "zero" variability is met? If this is not an arbitrary requirement, can you provide an argument as to why we must have zero variability?

That's what “ultimate truth” is, is it not? Ultimate truth implies lack of variability, no? Therefore, if science, rather people who make conclusions from scientific evidence, are claiming absolute/ultimate truth, I assume there is zero variability in the data; the interpretation is SO compelling that another conclusion is impossible.

With our current, non-zero variabilities, we seem capable of...

... all sorts of great accomplishments, I agree.

What's wrong with our current process of continually refining our precision? It seems to be working pretty well so far.

Improved precision is not the point. Staking claim to “ultimate truth” based on conclusions from imprecise data IS the point. Which is where this SA article comes in.

The article asserts, in the “future”, regardless of what we now “know” about the nature universe, evidence of the facts we currently know will disappear. The data variability will then be very high. The only “evidence” available, unless it is somehow destroyed or mis-translated down through time, will be the collective knowledge of scientists who came before--”the shoulders of giants.” What they will have written down will be in stark contrast to the scientific observations and data available at that time.

My question is, does that matter? Is the reality of the nature of the universe affected?

Do you mean to argue that knowledge is not possible? That complete knowledge is not possible? That certainty is impossible? That god-like certainty is impossible?

Maybe...

My point: The scientist of the far future must take the collective knowledge of scientists of the past and decide if what they wrote about is true (for which there is zero evidence), or if the data they observe and collect about the universe in that time is true (with its own variabilities).

In that situation, what is the truth?

Do you wail in existential angst that you cannot even know if you yourself exist?

Thanks... it's been a while since my existential angst has been brought out... it's all coming back, now... ahhhh, good stuff.

Hamilcar said...

Justin,

That's what “ultimate truth” is, is it not? Ultimate truth implies lack of variability, no? Therefore, if science, rather people who make conclusions from scientific evidence, are claiming absolute/ultimate truth, I assume there is zero variability in the data; the interpretation is SO compelling that another conclusion is impossible.

Wow. I don't know of a single scientist who claims to have ultimate truth. I can also say that I can't think of any scientifically-minded non-scientists who claim to have ultimate truth. I'm sure there are some people out there who mis-use scientific theories in this way, and of course I agree with you that those people should be "put right" about the limitations on our knowledge.

For my part, I can say that I'm very careful to state that science shows "evidence for X" and "evidence for Y", and sometimes that science shows "no good reason to think Z -- no credible supporting evidence". I don't go around saying that science proves things, only that science is a very useful method for arriving at reliable information. I like to think that I'd tell anyone who was ranting about science "proving things" that they were mistaken, or at least overstating their case.]

My question is, does that matter? Is the reality of the nature of the universe affected?

I'm not sure how the article deals with "ultimate truth". It seems that this is a spin that you've snuck into the debate. But perhaps I'm wrong, is that what they're claiming? Ultimate truth in a metaphysical-epistemological sense?

My take on the article is that it's an interesting question to ponder: Given what we observe now, we've been able to develop a well-supported theory for big-bang cosmology. What theory will future scientists be able to develop, given that the things we observe now will not be available to them?

In answer to your question, I think that existence is primary, so no, the reality of the nature of the universe will not be affected. The universe simply is what it is, regardless of what we wish it to be, and regardless of how much of it we can perceive. But it's interesting to ponder what scientists of the future, whether they have access to our recorded knowledge or not, will be able to deduce or infer about the origin of the universe.

JUSTIN said...

Hamilcar said...
Wow. I don't know of a single scientist who claims to have ultimate truth.

Nor do I. In my experience, it's non-scientists who claim science has found the ultimate truth and use that to back their belief system (for and against).

I'm not sure how the article deals with "ultimate truth". It seems that this is a spin that you've snuck into the debate.

You caught me... you caught the 'Tater.

The article does not, specifically, deal with it or claim anything about it. I'm using the article's premise (disappearing evidence of what we know, now, to be true) as an example.

What theory will future scientists be able to develop, given that the things we observe now will not be available to them?

I also ask what the debate might look like, and who will be debating.

... I think that existence is primary, so no, the reality of the nature of the universe will not be affected. The universe simply is what it is, regardless of what we wish it to be, and regardless of how much of it we can perceive.

I agree.

Therein lies a great deal of the basis for my belief in God.

Hamilcar said...

Justin,

Therein lies a great deal of the basis for my belief in God.

Can you unpack that for me?

I see the Primacy of Existence as a foundational axiom (or presupposition, perhaps) of most atheistic world views. Of course, that in no way implies that it can't be an important concept for a theist. Perhaps you can elaborate on how it lends you a great deal of the basis for your belief in God.

JUSTIN said...

Hamilcar said...
Can you unpack that for me?

I see myself as a type of the future scientist in the SA article--only, I'm here and now and the subject isn't the nature of the universe, but God.

I am confronted with the idea of God, of whom there is precious little reliable evidence that I can now observe. Except, I have this compilation of books containing the thoughts and experiences of ancients who claim to have seen, felt, watched, heard from, seen the acts of, etc. this God. I also have anecdotal evidence from generations of belivers, some reliable, but some not, who stake various claims to the truth of what's written in the compilation, supported by their own experiences. A "cloud of witnesses", so to speak.

Primacy of Existence states that, if an object exists, it does not matter if the evidence is clear to my observation or not, and it does not matter what I want it to be or not be--it still exists as it is.

One can easily decide God does not exist on the same basis, but such a person has no more relevant or valid an opinion on the matter than the one who decides God does exist.

Thus, the varying opinion is no longer an argument of "evidence", but an argument of what a person is predisposed to and simply wants to believe.

If God does exist, it does not matter one bit what I, as a follower of Jesus, believes about him--he is what he is. In the same way, if he does not exist, it still does not matter--he is not what he is not.

My existential void is filled by believing in God. Some (not all) of the deep questions of my soul are answered in a relationship with God.

Intelligent and thoughtful people disagee with me on this. I can accept that.

I doesn't change a thing.

Andre said...

I have a bit of a problem with all of this type of speculation. I think we (and science) are extremely naive when we believe that any answer in cosmology or related field can ever authoritatively settle this.

Let's assume that within this "window" science shows, in full HD colour and with a full, observable and repeatable explanation, exactly how the universe came into being. Let's give it a nice new name and sit back, all content, and say "See there, it has been proven - it is through the process of genesisification that the universe was created through entirely natural causes, as we have shown."

There will be a hush of a day or two, whereafter the theist will say, with patented "I know something you don't" smile - "yes, thank you, but Who created / allowed genesisification?"

Yes, the window is relevant to the garnering of knowledge, but to actually prove anything, to really settle the debate? No chance.

Lvka said...

1) The same line of resoning as the one contained in your article can be applied to Jesus and His miracles, or to those of the Apostles.

2) What contradiction do you see between the Big Bang and God's creation ex nihilo? (We don't..)