Posts tagged ‘Einstein’

February 1, 2012

Is There Scientific Evidence for Young Earth Creationism?

by Max Andrews

To answer the question, “Is it surprising that scientific evidence supports a young earth perspective?” I would respond saying that I would almost consider this a loaded question.  I don’t think I can find no evidence for a young earth; however, I find the record of nature to support the proposition that the universe is old (billions of years) by overwhelming evidence.  There is hardly any evidence for a young earth, if indeed there is any at all.

Before getting to the geologic record of nature one needs to address the cosmological record of nature (the earth cannot be older than the universe).  I initially gained my interest in cosmology (and I must say I really enjoy discussing cosmology) was the Kalam cosmological argument, which is an apologetic argument for a beginning of the universe.[1]  I’ll put aside the mathematical and philosophical arguments for a beginning of the universe for that would be off topic and I’ll stick with the scientific evidence.  If one were to analyze an extrapolation of space and time then that initial singularity for the universe would take us back 13.73 GYA (giga, billion years ago).  There are many models of the universe such as the steady state, oscillating, quantum fluctuation, and other string theory models that coincide with former.[2]  The most prominent model with the most philosophical, mathematical, and scientific evidence is the standard model (due to cosmic inflation, the big bang).  Prominent cosmologist Paul Davies comments,

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October 23, 2011

J.M.E McTaggart’s Argument That Nothing is in Time

by Max Andrews

J.M.E. McTaggart provides an objection to the A series of time but suggesting that it may be true that past, present, and future are mere illusions of the mind.[1]  McTaggart dismisses the argument’s subjectivity of time by simply defining it out of existence.

McTaggart’s Argument:

  1. Anything existent can either possess the characteristic of being in time or the characteristic of not being in time.
  2. Anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time [due to subjective references, a lack of indexing events from moment to moment or changing, etc.]
  3. Therefore, anything existent does not possess the characteristic of being in time (time is illusory).

The objection to the A series by the subjectivity of the individual mind is not so easy to dismiss as McTaggart seems to do.  With advances in relativity theory this objection may have phenomenological credibility.  Though McTaggart’s rejection of the argument is correct, there are better reasons for opposing the argument of the mind’s subjective relationship to time.[2]

The special theory of relativity (STR) states that clocks in motion slow down.  This time dilation occurs with respects to the observer.  In the early 1900’s, Albert Einstein’s STR changed how physicists and philosophers viewed the previous Newtonian paradigm of absolute simultaneity.  If STR is correct, then an observer in motion will experience time at a slower rate than an observer at rest.  Perhaps, given STR, the A series of time is really illusory since the experience of time is relative to the subject (the object being the spacetime fabric).

STR may still permit an A series of time where the subject’s experience of objective becoming is supported by the object’s relation to the subject.  There are two concurrent ways this may be done:  Lorentzian simultaneity (from the physical approach) and God as the prime reality (from the metaphysical approach).  Hendrick Lorentz proposed the idea that time and length are absolute but there are no way these measurements could be made since the measuring devices are in motion.

Lorentz’s equations for local time and transformation may aid the A theorist in the subject to object relationship with the observer being the subject and spacetime being the object; however, if the object is changed to God then perhaps the observers experience of becoming is objective [or perhaps a metaphysical time].  Propositions that appear in the past tense are true if and only if that proposition was true and that moment it describes.  The proposition, “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true if and only if today is March 13 [or any later day] and it rained the day before March 13.  If the observer experienced an earlier-than, later-than sense of becoming respective to March 12 and March 13 what criteria would warrant a rejection of that sense of becoming?  If on March 12 the observer objectively experiences rain and then affirms the truth of the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” the next day it seems that the proposition is objectively true as it stands in relation to the event and the observer.  If the event experienced (absolute becoming) is objective and the proposition “It rained yesterday on March 12” is true on March 13 then perhaps the referent for temporal becoming is not mere spacetime but rather God.

Admittedly this makes pantheism and panentheism to be sufficient explanatory hypotheses but these are not the only hypotheses that may work.  If all reality is found in God, according to an Anselmian God, then conceivably the phenomenological experience of the observer objectively experiencing a temporal becoming is due to a noumenal projection or referent providing that objectivity.  This would be analogous to Kant’s phenomenal-noumenal split with regards to the categorical imperative.  Just as Kant antecedently accepts the categorical imperative as objective he consequently postulates God as the objective source.  The analogy fits in the same phenomenological/experiential sense as well as the antecedent-consequent relationship and postulation (as well as implying the reality of events and experiences having temporal characteristics).

The question of how God relates to the world will inevitably be raised in light of this hypothesis.  Explaining how God relates to the world, whether it is pantheistic, panentheistic, or God’s temporal relationship is a Lorentzian time, is not necessary to make the postulation as long as God is the Anselmian understanding of God (that God is the prime reality).  This explanation comes to the same conclusion that McTaggart came to except more credence is given to the subject’s relationship to the object (whatever the object may be).  If the object is spacetime then it certainly may be the case that temporal becoming is an illusion given STR.


            [1] J.M.E. McTaggart, “Time:  An Excerpt From The Nature of Existence” in Metaphysics eds. Peter van Inwagen, Dean W. Zimmerman (Oxford:  Blackwell, 2008), 118.

            [2] When is use past tensed verbs such as “experienced” or “rained” I am using them in a series-independent sense.  The English tenses may assume an objective difference in time but I am not giving credence to my argument by appealing or assuming verb tenses as being true merely because of linguistic limitation.

August 11, 2011

Einstein on Free Will

by Max Andrews

After the First World War Einstein made contributions to the development of quantum theory, including Bose-Einstein statistics and the basics of stimulated emission of radiation from atoms (which was later used to develop lasers).  He gave the nod of approval that led to the rapid acceptance of Louis de Broglie’s ideas about matter waves but he never came to terms with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.[1] The Copenhagen has become the more popular and standard interpretation.[2]

According to the Heisenberg Principle, the moment at which a measurement takes place is the moment at which the randomness lying at the heart of quantum reality expresses itself.[3]  Up to that point, everything is fine.  Amplitudes change in a completely predictable, and more importantly, calculable way.  The observer changes the state of what is being observed.  Outcomes can be predicted according to governing probabilities, but the actual outcome cannot be known in advance.[4]

This was something Einstein could not live with.  Einstein, as a determinist, felt that the world is a structured and rigid web where effects follows cause and all things should be predictable, given the right information.  Einstein acknowledged that quantum theory works but he did not like the philosophy behind it.  If whether or not, for example, Niels Bohr, Einstein’s quantum physics counterpart, were to throw a book across the room Einstein would be able to predict the outcome of Bohr’s “choice.” Einstein would of course say that choice is the wrong word to use; rather, the brain is a complex machine with cogs whirring round to produce a predictable action.  The basis of Einstein’s view was a philosophical conviction that the world did not include random events:  an objection summed up in Einstein’s widely quoted saying, “God does not play dice.”[5]  Bohr is reported to have responded to Einstein with the witty reply, “Don’t tell God what to do.”

Strict [or hard] determinism may be the only way to avoid the implication from quantum mechanics and experiments such as the delayed choice experiment.[6]  This experiment suggests that quantum communications occur instantaneously across any distance, or even travel backwards in time.[7]  The determinist is not yet defeated, quantum mechanics comes with a state of collapse and that seems to be linked to measurement.  Whatever measurements are, they are very specific situations and probably linked to what happens when a particle bumps into a measuring device.[8]

Einstein played a prominent role in the early development of quantum mechanics, particular in his philosophical approach to it.  How one interprets quantum mechanics will shape the answer to the question of determinism and free will.  Empirical testing does not seem to be enough to provide a satisfactory answer; rather, it how the data is interpreted.  Einstein’s approach to the rejection of genuine random events has been an influence of the contemporary debate.  It has been argued that Einstein’s determinism is correct, but it may be a mistake for him to base it on random events.  Randomness is not sufficient for determinism to be true; a lack of causality would be sufficient.  Even with the delayed choice experiment there seems to be a lack of causality, if anything it would be backwards causality.  The free will proponent must be careful not to appeal to any ignorance for a lack of explanation of such quantum events.  Einstein’s reason for determinism (randomness) does nothing to advance his case.  If anything, quantum experiments such as the delayed choice experiment only show that there is randomness in the world, not that there is purposeful, free agency.  All quantum mechanics entails is that there are random events in the brain (or whatever) that yield unpredictable behavior, which the agent is not responsible.[9]  Thus, it seems to be the case that Einstein’s philosophy of determinism has persevered.[10]


[1] Kenneth William Ford, The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 117.

[2] At this time there are at least ten regularly cited interpretations of quantum physics varying in interpretation of wave collapse, determinacy/indeterminacy, superpositions, and Schrödinger’s equations.

[3]  The equation: (change in x multiplied by the change in px is greater than or equal to half of Planck’s constant). For a given state, the smaller the range of probable x values involved in a position expansion, the larger the range of probable px values involved in a momentum expansion, and vice versa.  The key to the expression is the greater than or equal to because it places a limit on how precise the two measurements can be.  The principle is relating and for the same state ( signifies change, h, h-bar, is the Planck constant).  Heisenberg’s target was causality. The Copenhagen interpretation adopted this principle.  Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 247-248.

[4] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2009), 100-101.

[5] Allday, 101.

[6] If photons are fired through the experiment one at a time (firing photons at a wall with two holes and a photon detector on the other side of the holes), they will build up an interference patter on the other side, as if they had gone through both holes at once and interfered with themselves.  If the experiment is set up so that detectors monitor which hole the photo goes through, the photon is indeed observed to be going through only one hole, and there is no interference pattern.  If a detector is set up not at the holes but intermediate between the two holes and the back wall detector screen then it may be possible to see which route a particular photon took after it had passed the two holes before it arrived at the screen.  Quantum theory says that if we choose to turn this new detector off and not look at the photons, they will form an interference pattern.  But if we look at the photons to see which hole they went through, even if we look after they have gone through the hole, there will be no interference pattern.  The delayed choice comes into the story because we can make the decision whether or not too look at the photon after the photon has already passed through the hole[s].  The decision made seems to determine how the photon behaved at the time it was passing though the hole a tiny fraction of a second in the past.  It seems as though the photons have some precognition about how the set-up of the experiment will be before it sets out on its journey.  This has also provided credence to the metaphysical concept of backwards causation.  John R. Gribbin, Mary Gribbin, and Jonathan Gribbin (Q Is for Quantum: Particle Physics from A-Z. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998), 102-103.

[7] This is most notably accepted by the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. Gribbin, 104.

[8] Allday, 102.

[9] Predictability may be equivalent to randomness, not a lack of causality.  Louis Pojman, Philosophy: The Pursuit of Wisdom (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2006), 229-230.

[10] Recalling Einstein’s epistemic method, he based all of his philosophy and work on the ontological status of the universe.  He did not seem to indicate an immateriality to the mind.  Einstein’s influence is limited only to the physical aspect for the substance dualist.  Here is where the substance dualist and the scientific theologian must resume the dialogue.

August 10, 2011

Einstein, The Big Bang, and Natural Theology

by Max Andrews

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GTR) had predicted that the universe was either expanding or contracting.  Einstein found the notion of a beginning to the universe so distasteful that he introduced a “fudge factor” to his field equation to keep a Steady State universe, an eternal equilibrium.[1]  Einstein introduced a term called the cosmological constant.  The cosmological constant was a force so weak, which factored into the geometric curvature of space, that it would make no difference on an eternal universe.

In the 1920’s Edwin Hubble was studying the Andromeda nebula.  At least since the time of Kant scientists wondered what these distant enormous objects were (galaxies).  Kant conjectured that they might be island universes in their own right.[2]  With further study, Hubble noticed that these galaxies had a red shift; the galaxies were appearing redder than they should have and Hubble postulated that these galaxies were moving away from one another.  What was being observed was the same thing that the Doppler effect has on sound.  The trajectory of an object has an effect on the wavelength of the sound, or in this case, light.

As a result of Hubble’s discovery and Einstein’s own equations the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedman and the Belgian priest and physicist Georges Édouard Lemaître suggested that the universe had a finite past and was not static and eternal.  There was now a problem with the cosmological constant; it cannot simply be deleted from Einstein’s equations. The cosmological constant could balance the equation from describing the geometric curvature (left hand side of the equation) to describing the energy momentum (right hand side of the equation).   If this expansion is extrapolated the equations of motion then (and even now) can only go but so far—until the universe comes to a singularity. With reluctance Einstein conceded the steady state model in the late 1920’s, though many scientists would not accept the implications of an expanding universe (its finitude).  One critic, Fred Hoyle, dubbed such an event the “Big Bang” in mockery and the name stuck.[3]

Einstein’s GTR [and aspects of STR] has made incredible contributions to natural theology.[4]  Given the fixed speed of light, that nothing can travel faster than light, and the billions of light-years separation between the earth and other stars, it follows that the universe is billions of years old.[5]  This has created a problem for young-earth creationists.[6] Current estimations for the age of the universe have been set at 13.73±2 billion years old.  Young-earth creationists have adopted three main approaches:  (1) embrace a fictitious history of the universe in the spirit of Philip Gosse’s 1857 work Omphalos; (2) view the speed of light as having decayed over time; and/or (3) interpret Einstein’s GTR so that during an “ordinary day as measured on earth, billions of years worth of physical processes take place in the distant cosmos.”[7]

Regarding a fictitious history of the universe, the argument states that all present light, which appears to be billions of light years away, was created in transit with an appearance of age.  So, when supernovae exploding in a galaxy millions or billions of light years away, the young-earth creationist [advocate of a fictitious history] must adopt the approach that no supernovae ever exploded.[8]  Einstein and the scientific theologian’s epistemic method reject such an interpretation.  Einstein’s method of inquiry based the natural order as having an ontological status of genuine reality and the discoveries are made a posteriori; no such method of inquiry is tenable under a fictitious history.  Einstein’s epistemology has influenced Big Bang theists and scientific theologians regarding GTR and the objectivity of the natural order.  It appears, objectively, that the universe really is billions of years old.

The second argument was a denial that the speed of light has been a constant [approximately] 300,000 km/s.  As previously discussed, Einstein’s E=mc2 states that energy is proportional to the mass of an object multiplied by the speed of light squared.  If c decays then that would imply that there has been a change in the quantity of energy in the universe.  This creates a problem for thermodynamics.  Thermodynamics would not be the only problem; many other constants would need to change as well to preserve the stability of a life-permitting cosmos such as Planck’s constant h (h-bar).  Suddenly the objection is not only with c because that would in turn change all of physics.[9]  All of this would be done to circumvent an old universe suggested by a constant speed of light.[10]  Before Einstein’s relativity theories, this would not have been a problem for the young-earth creationist.

The third foremost-misconstrued aspect of Einstein’s equations by natural theologians has been to misinterpret GTR and time dilation.  The mathematics of this theory shows that while God makes the universe in six days in the earth’s reference frame (“Earth Standard Time”), the light has ample time in the extra-terrestrial reference frame to travel the required distances.[11]  The problem with this theory is that there are mathematical errors in its use of Einstein’s GTR.

One misunderstanding is the theory’s use of the Cosmological Principle.  It wrongly assumes that the long-time-scale implications of Big Bang cosmology are crucially dependent on the global validity of the principle and that the relaxation of this assumption, through the introduction of a boundary to the matter of the universe, produces dramatic differences in the gravitational properties of the universe.[12]  A second misunderstanding is the nature of time.  The theory wrongly affirms that the physical clock synchronization properties, which occur in the standard Big Bang model are due to the boundary conditions implied by the Cosmological Principle and that modification of these boundary conditions can change the way physical clocks behave.  Clocks in either our bounded or unbounded universe will behave exactly the same way whether on earth or at a distant galaxy provided there are identical interior matter distributions.[13] The third misunderstanding to be discussed is how GTR relates to event horizons (the point where escaping a mass’s gravity becomes impossible).  The theory wrongly affirms that observers who pass through event horizons observe dramatic changes in the rate of time passage in distant parts of the universe when it is the case that no such changes occur.[14]  Einstein’s impact on young-earth creationism has been profound and, arguably, has overthrown the tenability of young-earth creationism altogether.[15]

Einstein’s impact on natural theology has not been completely negative, as in the case for young-earth creationists, but for scientific theologians [and old-earth creationists] he has been a catalyst for epistemic and religious advances.  It is important to understand that as a GTR-based theory, the model does not describe the expansion of the material content of the universe into preexisting, Newtonian space, but rather the expansion of space itself.  The standard Big Bang model, as the Friedman-Lemaître model came to be called, thus described a universe that is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a g finite time ago.  Moreover, the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo.[16]  Christian theologians and philosophers already had arguments for a beginning of the universe based on necessity, contingency, and the concept of an actual infinite, but Einstein’s equations, which led the Standard Model, gave a mathematical and physical description of the universe that supported the Christian doctrine of creation.  The metaphysical concept of creatio ex nihilo now had empirical evidence.

In the 1960’s there was a dramatic increase in a series of dialogue on the relationship between science and religion.[17]  Natural theology [by the tasks of primarily scientists and philosophers] has sought to demonstrate that God is a necessary element in any comprehensive explanation of the universe is a long tradition, one that the Darwinian crusade sought to eliminate.  It might be legitimate to say that this renewed relationship between science and religion is a return to normal if Einstein was right when he said that “science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”[18]


            [1] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004), 171.

            [2] Gonzalez and Richards, 169.

            [3] Gonzalez and Richards, 171.

            [4] Natural theology supposes that the belief in God must rest upon an evidential basis.  Belief in God is thus not a properly basic belief.  Through the development of Einstein’s work, natural theology was undergoing barrage of attack from theologians such as Karl Barth.  Barth’s polemic against natural theology can be seen as a principled attempt to safeguard the integrity of divine revelation against human attempts to construct their own notions of God, or undermine the necessity of revelation. Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 81-82.

            [5] It is worth noting that space itself can travel faster than the speed of light, Einstein’s STR permits this.  It is expected that space begin to exceed this cosmic speed limit relatively soon.  William Dembski, The End of Christianity (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2009), 65.

            [6] Young-earth creationists have an epistemic method that begins with the Bible and shapes the rest of nature and science according to that specific interpretation rendered.  Their conclusion is that the six days of creation are a literal 24-hour day period and the universe is roughly six to ten thousand years old.

            [7] These are the three primary approaches as they relate to Einstein’s work.  Young-earth creationists have certainly developed scores of other arguments, but these are the most relevant and most cited.  D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest, AR: Master, 1994), 37 quoted in Dembski, 65.

            [8] Dembski, 66-67.

            [9] Dembski, 67-68.

            [10] There are models consistent with a 13.7 billion year old universe that suggests a change in the speed of light.  Recent varying-speed-of-light (VSL) theories have been suggested as a possible alternative to cosmic inflation for solving the horizon problem, the problem of causality over long distances in initial inflation, suggesting that the speed of light was once much greater.  This is not a popular view since it is difficult to construct explicit models permitting such a suitable variation.  Other constants have been suggested to change (a theory of varying fundamental constants) in part due to superstring theory and eternal inflation.  Even so with these theories and cosmic models, there are still more-fundamental (in contrast to varying) constants in the parent universes (preceding universes in the multiverse models).  Even with a theory of varying fundamental constants Einstein’s equations [of STR] still stand in such models. Andrew R. Liddle, and Jon Loveday, The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009), 316.

            [11] Humphreys, 13.

            [12] Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page, “Starlight and time is the Big Bang,” CEN Technical Journal 12 no. 2 (1998): 174.

            [13] Ibid.

            [14] Ibid.

            [15] In Conner and Page’s response to young-earth creationism’s cosmology they assume five mathematical and methodological points.  (1) GTR is an accurate description of gravity.  (2) Gravity is the most important force acting over cosmologically large distances, so that the conventional application of GTR to cosmology is valid.  (3) The fundamental parameters of nature, such as the gravitational constant G and the speed of light c, are invariant over the observable history of the universe.  (4) The visible region of the universe is approximately homogenous and isotropic on large distance scales.  Lastly, (5) the events which we witness by the light of distant galaxies and quasi-stellar objects are real events and not appearances impressed onto the universe by the intention of the Creator.  Ibid, 175.  The first two assumptions directly reinforce Einstein’s GTR equations.  The third assumption, as previously discussed, relates to Einstein’s STR equations.  The fourth assumption relates to the balancing of Einstein’s field equations and its adjustment after Hubble’s discovery of expansion.  The final assumption relates to Einstein’s epistemic method of reality having real ontological value in an epistemic inquiry.

            [16] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Leicester, England: Apollos, 2004), 222-223.

            [17] These efforts were predominately made by scientists and not theologians.  Such landmark works were Ian Barbour’s Issues in Science and Religion (1966) and later Paul Davies’ God and the New Physics (1983). Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 197.

            [18] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 46. Stark, 197.

July 29, 2011

Existential Absurdity in the Sciences

by Max Andrews

Given the natural order of universe and its cause and effect network, perhaps redemption and reconciliation from absurdity can be found in biology or physics.  For example, consider an adult salmon’s biologically given capacity to swim upstream and mate.  In this case the end at which the adult salmon’s activity aims is not, or anyway need not be, valuable, it is simply the end with which it was endowed by nature.[1]  The same may be true with human life.  The notion may not be too far-gone since many philosophers and scientists find their meaning, value, and purpose in nature.  Friedrich Nietzsche based his teleology and understanding of truth in biology.  If this universe [or multiverse] is all that exists it seems that this scientific driven teleology may not be sufficient.

Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg provided a self-comforting dialogue in The First Three Minutes suggesting that his own research in the field of physics has provided himself with meaning, value, and purpose.  Paradoxically, he believes that the more he learns about the universe, the lesser of an ultimate meaning it has.[2]

Physicist Victor Stenger seems to agree with Weinberg’s understanding of the purpose as it relates to reality.  In his book, God the Failed Hypothesis, he displays a rather existential reflection when he ponders the universe and reality.  He believes that if God created matter with humanity in mind, then it was not done so for a purpose.[3]  The universe is so vast and hostile to life and the parameters for existence of humanity are incredibly slim.  Earth is a rarity.  This notion of absurdity is not as introspective as the philosophers may see it; rather, it is an inference based on his observation on the physical realm.  What is similar between the philosopher’s inference and Stenger’s is that they encounter a breakdown of rationality, Camus’ alienation and disappearance of reason. Like Camus, he becomes aware of the sheer absurdity of his existence.

In contrast to Weinberg and Stenger, it should be understood that because the universe is meaningful could any meaning or rationality be derived thereof.  The glory of mathematics and human art manifests a genius.  Just as Albert Einstein pondered the striking fact that the universe is comprehensible, that mathematics illuminates nature by mapping forms of order as small as particles and strings and as broad as universe [or multiverse] itself.  On secularized grounds, why should nature make sense?  Why should there be any connection whatsoever between the highly abstract, formal relationships of numbers and figures and the order of nature?  Why is nature amenable to mathematical analysis?[4]  By all human experience, it would be irrational to infer that, in a continual state of becoming, there is no meaning behind the order observed in nature.

It would serve well for one to be reminded that humanity did not construct the order behind the abstract and the physical.  The order of the universe is prior to and independent of man’s attempts to understand it.  That is why theories must be tested against nature.  Man is not the creator of order, but at best, discerners of order—not only for humanity’s own existence but also for the perfection of understanding.[5]


            [1] Michael Smith, “Is That All There Is?” Journal of Ethics 10 (January 2006):  83.

            [2] Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes (London:  Andre Deutsch, 1977), 154-155.

            [3] Victor Stenger, God the Failed Hypothesis (Amherst, NY:  Prometheus, 2008), 137-164.

            [4] Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2006), 27.

            [5] Ibid., 244.

June 28, 2011

Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method

by Max Andrews

Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457) developed the interrogative (interrogatio) rather than the problematic (quaestio) form of inquiry.  Valla’s mode of inquiry was one in which questions yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known.  This method was similar to the works of Stoic lawyers and educators like Cicero and Quintilian; that is, questioning witnesses, investigating documents and states of affairs without any prior conception of what the truth might be.  Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.”[1]

Valla’s logic for scientific discovery was the art of finding out things rather than merely the art of drawing distinctions and connecting them together.  He called for an active inquiry (activa inquisitio).  John Calvin (1509-1564) applied this method to the interpretation of Scripture and thus became the father of modern biblical exegesis and interpretation.[2]  Francis Bacon (1561-1626) applied it to the interpretation of the books of nature, as well as to the books of God, and became the father of modern empirical science.[3]

This methodology created a split between subject and object, knowing and being, and gave rise to phenomenalism.  Newton claimed that he invented no hypotheses but deduced them from observations produced rationalistic positivism, which engulfed contemporary European science.  This split’s gulf was widened by David Hume’s (1711-1776) criticism of causality, depriving science of any valid foundation in necessary connections obtaining between actual events and of leaving it with nothing more reliable than habits of mind rooted in association.[4]  Hume weighed heavy in Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) philosophical development.  Given the Newtonian understanding of space and time, Kant transferred absolute space and time from the divine sensorium to the mind of man (the transfer of the inertial system), thus intellect does not draw its laws out of nature but imposes its laws upon nature.  According to Kant one cannot know the Ding an Sich (thing itself) by pure reason; one is therefore limited to the sensual and shaping mental categories of the mind.  That which comes through sensation the intuitions are shaped by the mind’s a priori categories.  It is in this sense that Kant played an essential part in the development of the idea that man is himself the creator of the scientific world.

Throughout Einstein’s work, the mechanistic universe proved unsatisfactory.  This was made evident after the discovery of the electromagnetic field and the failure of Newtonian physics to account for it in mechanistic concepts.  Then came the discovery of four-dimensional geometry and with it the realization that the geometrical structures of Newtonian physics could not be detached from changes in space and time with which field theory operated.  Einstein stepped back into stride with Newton and his cognitive instrument of free invention.  It was free in the sense that conclusions were not reached under logical control from fixed premises, and it was invented under the pressure of the nature of the universe upon the intuitive apprehension of it.  Einstein used Newton and Maxwell’s partial differential equations in field theory to develop a mode of rationality called mathematical invariance.  Mathematical invariance established a genuine ontology in which the subject grips with objective structures and intrinsic intelligibility of the universe.[5]

Einstein’s categories are not some form of Kantian a priori but conceptions that are freely invented and are to be judged by their usefulness, their ability to advance the intelligibility of the world, which is dependent of the observer.  As he sees it, the difference between his own thinking and Kant’s is on just this point:  Einstein understands the categories as free inventions rather than as unalterable (conditioned by the nature of the understanding).  Einstein asserts that the real in physics is to be taken as a type of program, to which one is not forced to cling a priori.[6]

Principles of method are closely related to empirical observations.  As Einstein put it, “the scientist has to worm these general principles out of nature by perceiving in comprehensive complexes of empirical facts certain general features which permit of precise formulation.”[7]  These principles, not “isolated general laws abstracted from experience” or “separate results from empirical research,” provide the basis of deductive reasoning.[8]

There is a long tradition within Christian theology of drawing on intellectual resources outside the Christian tradition as a means of developing a theological vision.  This approach is often referred to by the Latin phrase ancilla theologiae (a ‘handmaid of theology’).  The evolution of thought and method from Newton to Einstein vitalized scientific theology.  Scientific theology argues that the working methods and assumptions of the natural sciences represent the best—or the natural—dialogue partner for Christian theology.[9]

Here too logico-deductive argumentation from static concepts and mechanistic systems are rejected.  There is another reorientation of man’s knowledge leaving epistemic and cosmological dualism behind in operations that have to do with the unity of form and being.  Scientific theology is concerned with the discovery of appropriate modes of rationality or cognitive instruments with which to enter into the heart of religious experience, and therefore with the development of axiomatic concepts with which to allow interior principles to be disclosed, and in that light to understand the rational structure of the whole field of God’s interaction with man and the world.[10]

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[11]


            [1] Thomas F. Torrance, “Einstein and Scientific Theology,” Religious Studies 8 no. 3 (1972):  236-237.

             [2] Valla served in conjunction with Andrea Alciati (1492-1550) as Calvin’s primary influence for his biblical interpretation.

            [3] Torrance, 237.

            [4] Ibid., 240.

            [5] Ibid., 241-242.

            [6] Donna Teevan, “Albert Einstein and Bernard Lonergan on Empirical Method,” Zygon 37 no. 4 (2002): 875-876.

            [7] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 221.

            [8] Teevan, 877.

            [9] Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 18-19.  There are five distinct classes of things—time, space, matter, energy, and the things relating to conscious life—form with their combinations the known universe.  The fifth class must, like the previous, be permanent in quantity, variable in form, and cannot be destroyed.  This may be simply labeled as “spirit.”  In natural science dialogues, this element is often referred to as “God,” though it does not necessarily carry the theological meanings with it.  This, perhaps, is the sense in which Einstein meant the term “God.”  T. Proctor Hall, “Scientific Theology,” Monist 23 (1913): 95.

            [10] Torrance, 244.

            [11] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  McGrath, The Science of God, 21-22.

March 20, 2011

Young Earth Cosmology Just Doesn’t Cut It

by Max Andrews

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been quite busy doing research papers on theological fatalism, J.M.E. McTaggart’s arguments against the reality of time, and Einstein’s theory of relativity’s impact on theology.  While researching for my Einstein paper I chose to do a piece on his influence in natural theology by discussing his epistemic method and big bang cosmology.  I discussed how Einstein, Lemaître, Friedman, and Hubble collectively overturned young earth cosmology (if anything they were the catalyst in the overthrow).  I gave young earth creationism a voice with Russell Humphrey’s book Starlight and Time, which is supposedly the best model of young earth cosmology (Russell holds a PhD in physics from Louisiana State University).  I soon discovered that Humphreys made a cluster of errors in relativity.

I found this rebuttal by Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page (Page studied under Stephen Hawking and specializes in quantum cosmology and black holes).  The paper made an interesting read because both parties had respectable credentials.  Granted, it is a technical paper so it may be a tough read, (Starlight and Time is the Big Bang).  I don’t have any rights to the paper, it’s publicly available at:  http://www.trueorigin.org/rh_connpage1.pdf. The abstract is below.

The physics of Dr. Russell Humphreys’ new cosmological model presented in Starlight and Time is profoundly flawed and the conclusions drawn from this model are seriously mistaken.  An accurate treatment of the physics indicates that this model is actually a trivial variant of the standard Big Bang model, with its attendant implications for the age of the Universe and the Earth time required for light to travel from distant galaxies to the Earth.

I wanted to add a brief note about the speed of light and whether or not it changes [or has changed].  There are models consistent with a 13.7 billion year old universe that suggests a change in the speed of light.  Recent varying-speed-of-light (VSL) theories have been suggested as a possible alternative to cosmic inflation for solving the horizon problem, the problem of causality over long distances in initial inflation, suggesting that the speed of light was once much greater.  This is not a popular view since it is difficult to construct explicit models permitting such a suitable variation.  Other constants have been suggested to change (a theory of varying fundamental constants) in part due to superstring theory and eternal inflation.  Even so with these theories and cosmic models, there are still more-fundamental (in contrast to varying) constants in the parent universes (preceding universes in the multiverse models).  Even with a theory of varying fundamental constants Einstein’s equations [of STR] still stand in such models. (Andrew R. Liddle, and Jon Loveday, The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009), 316.)  The speed of light is [approximately] 300,000 km/s.  Einstein’s E=mc2 states that energy is proportional to the mass of an object multiplied by the speed of light squared.  If c decays then that would imply that there has been a change in the quantity of energy in the universe.  This creates a problem for thermodynamics.  This would not be the only problem; many other constants would need to change as well to preserve the stability of a life-permitting cosmos such as Planck’s constant h.  Suddenly the objection is not only with c because that would in turn change all of physics. All of this would be done to circumvent an old universe suggested by a constant speed of light.