googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Exotic Cosmology: Conclusion

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exotic Cosmology: Conclusion

Nearly five hundred years ago, scientists (if I may call these people scientists) must have thought they were really onto something when they invented the idea of phlogiston. They had “known” for centuries already that things were made of the primitive elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The fact that there was some fiery substance present in some things that made them burn seemed obvious. Yet when they tried to learn more about the properties of phlogiston through experimentation, they couldn't quite nail it down. It simply didn't behave the way they expected.

The problem laid at the root of the theory. This wasn't a case where they had the right idea and just needed to stick with it. They were looking in completely the wrong direction. The truth was exactly the opposite of their theory:
  • When a substance burned, phlogiston wasn't released into the air; oxygen was removed from the air.
  • Objects in enclosed spaces didn't stop burning because the air had become saturated with phlogiston but because the air had been depleted of oxygen.
  • Phlogiston was not a poison that saturated the air and made it unbreathable; instead the air was unbreathable because it had all of its oxygen removed.
What seemed to be the most obvious explanation (that there was something inside things that made them burn) turned out to be completely wrong. No amount of tweaking the phlogiston theory could save it. It was doomed from the beginning. It just took the scientific method of testing, observing, and repeating to discover how wrong it was.

When we consider modern cosmology, the Big Bang doesn't sound unreasonable at first hearing. We can see the stars moving away from us. If the universe is continuously expanding, then we need only extrapolate backward to conclude that at some point in the distant past, all matter very close together. It's obvious. Yet no matter how reasonable it sounds, some things just don't add up – things like the flatness problem, the missing matter and energy, the horizon problem, and the missing monopoles. There's also the unsettling coincidence that we appear to be at the very center of the universe.

To be certain, scientists have “explanations” for all these things. They invent “exotic” theories to explain their failed predictions. It's like phlogiston all over again. However, unlike phlogiston, we can't test these fanciful cosmologies as easily. The nearby stars, for example, move only according to the visible matter near them. In other words, there is no room for “dark matter” within 13,000 light years of us. Yet we are told that the galaxies which are millions of light years away are made mostly of dark matter. How would a skeptic disprove that? We can't fly there to do any experiments. Similarly, scientists say that there really is no center of the universe and it would look basically the same from any vantage point. Really? How do we test that? We can't even fly to the next star, let alone a star millions of light years away, to see how the universe looks from there. We only know what the universe looks like from our vantage point.

Scientists have liberty to be very creative. It is by thinking “outside the box” that has led to many inventions and scientific discoveries. But creativity is still governed by reality. The continuous tweaking to the very reasonable idea of phlogiston could only possibly lead to naught because phlogiston didn't exist. It was only through the scientific method that we were able to arrive at the truth.

Today, secular cosmologists aren't bound by the scientific method. They are free to propose the most outrageous explanations without fear of having their theories disproved by experimentation. Oh sure, their theories might come with predictions but even if the predictions fail, they remain undeterred because they can simply invent a still more outrageous theory to explain the failed prediction.

The Big Bang theory is simply a modern version of phlogiston. It might seem reasonable at first but it is completely contrary to reality and can only be kept afloat by continuously invoking very unreasonable sub-theories. These sub-theories, though, lie outside scientific inquiry. They can't really be observed or tested. They aren't as much theories as they are stories. Secular scientists believe them not because the scientific evidence for them is overwhelming but because they refuse to consider the alternative.


Steven J. said...

One problem with phlogiston theory is that it implies that ashes should weigh what the thing burned weighed, minus the weight of the phlogiston. Now, the fact that sometimes, the products of combustion weigh more than the thing burned was a bit of a problem; it implied that phlogiston had negative mass. But the fact that sometimes, the visible products of combustion weighed less than the thing burned (because some of the matter escaped as gas) implied that phlogiston had positive mass at some times, and negative mass at others, depending on what it escaped from. This is an exceptionally weird property for something to have, even in abstract principle.

Now, the Big Bang has nothing to compare with that weirdness. The horizon problem is simply that out of a range of possible degrees of "lumpiness," the universe exhibits a rather low probability one, not an impossible one. And dark matter and dark energy simply don't seem to me to be conjectures quite so outlandish as mass that is sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

You know, but you omit the point, that the Big Bang has passed some predictive tests. The cosmic microwave background is pretty convincing; it's hardly a necesssary feature of the universe if it didn't expand from a very dense, hot, small state. The relative cosmic abundances of hydrogen and helium likewise aren't predicted by models or theories that don't contain a Big Bang. These are not trivial matters and they represent far more successful predictions than anything phlogiston theory predicted.

They also represent far more successful predictions than any young-earth creationist account can muster. You don't like responses that focus on the myriad deficiencies of young-earth models, but why not? What's the point of showing the weaknesses of the Big Bang, if your proposed replacement has far more and graver deficiencies (there's an interesting article on the Panda's Thumb site, mostly attacking Jason Lisle's variable lightspeed model, but giving brief attention to various other proposals offered by young-earth creationists for why we can see distant galaxies)? You ask us to consider the alternative, but the alternatives you find acceptable are all vastly worse by your own ostensible standards: note merely arbitrary and untestable, but creating more problems than they purport to solve.

Isn't there a verse in the Bible to the effect of "take the plank out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye?"

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

So you want to bring this down to a question of weirdness? The Big Bang is acceptable because it's not as weird as phlogiston? “Weird” is a subjective term. Frankly, I think believing the universe is mostly made up of invisible matter that we can't see, touch, hear, taste, or smell is pretty weird. But you have dismissed my point that it's also beyond scientific inquiry. Phlogiston was finally rejected as a theory because we could test it. The incredible devices used to prop up the Big Bang theory, things like dark matter in galaxies millions of light years away, cannot be as easily tested. I don't necessarily reject anything because of simple incredulity – but if it's incredible AND cannot be examined by any means, I reserve the right to remain skeptical.

I've addressed your “predictions” in a previous comment. Most of what you call predictions, I would call part of your theory. Do you really believe the abundance of hydrogen is “predicted” by your theory? Or is it your theory that the universe began as simpler elements which became heavier through fusion? Considering that hydrogen is the simplest atom, why shouldn't it be the most abundant? By the way, where are the hydrogen-only stars that must have been abundant in the early universe and were necessary to create the heavier elements? We've never observed such a thing.

As far as successful, cosmological predictions made by creationists, you've certainly heard how Dr. Russell Humphreys published his predictions of the strength of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune in 1984; his predictions were not only confirmed by the Voyager II space probe years later, they were also different than secular theories (the dynamo model) by orders of magnitude. This is science. We were able to make predictions AND TEST THEM. It's not like predicting monopoles being created by the Big Bang, then invoking a cool inflation to explain why none are found.

Finally, I certainly don't mind criticism of creationism. I simply have had to continuously point out that your theory is not made correct by disproving my theory. Such a tactic is a red herring. Look, I know that there are things about the universe we don't understand. Since both you and I have time/distance problems in our models, for example, I suggest that means there's something about the speed of light in deep space that we haven't figured out. The bottom line is this: I know there was a beginning because we are here. We could both be wrong but certainly one of us is wrong. There are things about the Big Bang that seem to defy things we know to be true – from a scientific standpoint. When I consider the revelation given by the One who created the universe, I can only conclude there was a recent creation.

God bless!!


Steven J. said...

It's not my theory. I'm not a cosmologist. But my understanding is that hydrogen and helium (and traces of lithium) were the only elements produced directly by the Big Bang; everything else arose through stellar nucleosynthesis. And despite large local concentrations of, e.g. carbon, oxygen, iron, etc., the universe is still mostly the stuff made directly in the Big Bang, and the proportions of hydrogen and helium is a prediction of the Big Bang, and not of other accounts.

I've heard of Humphreys' predictions. I'm very unclear as to how he came up with them; I've run across claims that he did so by "extrapolating" biblical descriptions of the creation of the planets, which strikes me as a neat trick, considering the Bible barely mentions planets or says anything about how (as opposed to on which day of the creation week) God created them. I see no possible method by which one could derive predictions of magnetic fields (which are of course nowhere mentioned in the Bible) from Genesis.

I know of no hydrogen-only stars. There are certainly stars of very low "metallicity," with only traces of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, but they are thought to be second-generation stars, incorporating heavier elements made in supernovae of first-generation stars. Even this is hard to explain in terms of a "fully-formed" universe made some 6000 years ago; if stars don't form through natural processes, why should they show the varying levels of "metallicity" expected from multiple generations of star formation since the Big Bang?

I'm wondering what you make of "fine-tuning" in the universe? It is often brought up in old-earth creationist models, since while evolution implies that the universe must have the properties necessary for evolution to occur over billions of years, it offers no particular reason why such properties should exist. But the universe does have the properties necessary for stars to form through natural processes, and to endure for billions of years. If the universe is in fact mere thousands of years old, and unlikely to last more than a few thousand years more, and stars don't form naturally but through miracles, then all this "fine-tuning" is unnecessary -- and judging from your discussion of the Oort cloud (you don't expect a source capable of sustaining comet formation for billions of years), you shouldn't expect the universe to exhibit such "fine-tuning" (more precisely, you should expect it not to exhibit properties necessary only if the universe and solar system is to last for billions of years).

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

It is your theory in the sense that you subscribe to it. I guess I can't blame you if you don't want to necessarily be associated with it but you can't have it both ways. Don't hold it out like it's the undisputed truth then say “it's not my theory” when dealing with the problems in the theory.

I certainly can't describe all of Humpreys' cosmology in a blog comment. This post was never about Humphreys' cosmology anyway. The fact that you're not sure how he made the prediction is hardly a thorough rebuttal of it. The simply fact of the matter, though, is that he did make the prediction, it was published, it was vastly different than secular predictions, and his was confirmed and the others failed – your incredulity notwithstanding.

I would consider the fact that no hydrogen-only stars have been found to be a failed prediction of your theory. Since the light from the most distant stars is supposed to be how the stars looked billions of years ago, we should still be able to see some of these stars if they were initially the only stars formed. Oh, by the way, even the most distant galaxies appear to be very mature (for example, they have already assumed a spiral shape) which is yet another failed prediction of your theory.

By “fine tuning,” I assume you aren't referring to the flatness problem discussed in my series. Instead, I assume you mean the “conducive to life” argument (some might say the “anthropic principle”) about the properties of the universe. I have recommended on this blog before that this should not be used as an argument for design. I appeal to the clever analogy of “puddlism” where the water believes the hole it is puddled in is “finely tuned” for its own shape. The truth, of course, is that the water conforms to the hole. If life had existed in a vastly different universe, we would be talking about how that different universe still seemed perfectly designed for us. God designed us according to His good pleasure. He could have created us to live in any environment He intended. If life evolved naturally, we would expect it to be adapted to whatever environment it's in. Either one can hardly be said to be a conclusive argument for anything.

Just to be clear, I've never said something like the Oort cloud cannot exist. I'm just saying there's been no evidence for one. Such a thing is not necessary for a recent creation but if one exists, it doesn't change anything about my theory. The fact that stars seem like they could continue burning for billions of years doesn't really mean anything either. First off, it's an unproven assumption since we've never observed stars burning for billions of years. But it's also rather presumptuous to say what God “should” have done. The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God. If we lived in universe seemingly hurtling toward annihilation in a few millenia, we might say God didn't make a very good universe.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!