Posts tagged ‘physics’

April 3, 2012

Why I’m a Christian: Juan

by Max Andrews

I am a Christian because I didn’t choose God, rather He chose me.

I was 18 years old in college. After experiencing the human condition; the lack of love, care, charity and the abundance of pain and suffering in the world and in myself. I realized that although I had a very good life, I was loved and cared for, and suffered comparatively to others very little; my own struggles always took precedence over others and realized that even when I did something good it was often with selfish reasons (It felt good or I will be liked). I looked in the mirror attached to my combination dresser/desk of my small dorm and wondered, why are we the way we are? It was then that I realized that there was something intrinsically wrong with all of us.

In my search for answers; I engulfed myself in searching for that silver bullet that could explain this predicament. It wasn’t until my second year in college that I really started to get depressed over this seemingly unattainable goal; I saw no explanation in sight. Until one night as I cried on my mother’s lap and she asked me what was wrong. I asked her in the hopes that maybe she knew the answer but she didn’t.

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March 21, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Regularity Theory

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Regularity Theory [of natural laws]

Definition: Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for natural laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.

More about the term:  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

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March 11, 2012

Radiation Could have Caused the Image in the Shroud of Turin

by Max Andrews

A recent paper published by Professor G. Fanti (University of Padua) in the Journal of Imaging Science and Technology arguing that the Shroud of Turin’s image may have been caused by the corona discharge effect (a form of electrical discharge).  Fanti told the Italian, La Stampa, newspaper that:

[Ever] since the Italian photographer Secondo Pia obtained the first photographic reproductions of the Shroud in 1898, many researchers have put forward image formation hypotheses, many interesting hypotheses have been examined to date, but none of these is able to explain the mysterious image fully. None of the reproductions obtained manages to portray characteristics that are similar to the ones found on the Turin Shroud.

Fanti continued,

During my research I also considered the possibility of the combination of more than one mechanism in the image’s formation, returning to the ideas of those who, as of the second half of the last century, started to doubt the authenticity of the Shroud and therefore started suggesting image reproduction techniques used by medieval artists.

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March 7, 2012

The Planck Scale Physics

by Max Andrews

In the system of Planck units, the Planck base unit of length is known simply as the Planck length, the base unit of time is the Planck time, and so on.  These units are derived from the five dimensional universal physical constants in such a manner that these constants are eliminated from fundamental equations of physical law when physical quantities are expressed in terms of Planck units.

Planck Length: 1.616252(81) 10-35 m

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February 8, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Multiverse

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Multiverse

Definition: The term to designate the existence of many worlds or universes.  Contrary to just one world, a uni-verse, there are many worlds, a multi-verse.

More about the term: The multiverse is not monolithic but it is modeled after the contemporary understanding of an inflationary model of the beginning of this universe suggesting a plurality of worlds.  Max Tegmark has championed the most prominent versions of the multiverse.[1]  There are four levels of the multiverse.

  1.  Level One:  The level one is, for the most part, more space beyond the observable universe.  So, theoretically, if we were to go to the “edge” of the universe there would be more space.  Having this model as a version of the multiverse may be misleading because there is still only one volume, landscape, or system involved.  A generic prediction of cosmological inflation is an infinite space, which contains Hubble volumes (what we see in our universe) realizing in all conditions—including an identical copy of each of us about 10^10^29 meters away.[2]
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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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December 31, 2011

An Outline of Tegmark’s Four Levels of the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Contemporary physics seem to indicate that there are good reasons, theoretically and physically, for an idea that there is a plurality of worlds.  This concept has come to be understood as the multiverse.  The multiverse is not monolithic but it is modeled after the contemporary understanding of an inflationary model of the beginning of this universe.  Max Tegmark has championed the most prominent versions of the multiverse.[1]  Tegmark has made a four-way distinction.

Tegmark’s first version of the multiverse is called the level one multiverse.  The level one is, for the most part, more space beyond the observable universe.  So, theoretically, if we were to go to the “edge” of the universe there would be more space.  Having this model as a version of the multiverse may be misleading because there is still only one volume, landscape, or system involved.  A generic prediction of cosmological inflation is an infinite space, which contains Hubble volumes (what we see in our universe) realizing in all conditions—including an identical copy of each of us about 10^10^29 meters away.[2]

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November 14, 2011

Top Ten Philosophy, Science, and Theology Podcasts

by Max Andrews

The following are a list of podcasts that I’ve been following and listening to that have been quite helpful in my philosophical, scientific, and theological studies.  The criteria for consideration are based on 1) quality of content, 2) accurate presentation of the material, 3) constructive and respectful criticism of opposing views, 4) frequency of podcast release, and 5) a broad range of topics/issues discussed.

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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.

June 14, 2011

The Metaphysics of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

William Lane Craig is perhaps the most well known contemporary proponent of the kalam cosmological argument.  It was during his Ph.D. studies at the University of Birmingham in England where he revitalized this early argument originally developed by the Islamic theologian Al-Ghazali (1058-1111).  There are several cosmological arguments such as Aquinas’ hierarchical causal argument and Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, which suggests that everything has a sufficient reason for its existence.  The kalam argument focuses on the impossibility of an infinite set of causes in a temporal manner.

A Few Preliminaries

  • A set is any collection of things or numbers that belong to a well-defined category.  In a set notation, this would be written as {2, 3, 5, 7, 11} being the first five prime numbers, which is a finite set of things.  Let’s simply signify this set as S.
  • There is a proper subset (SS) of S.  There are members in S that are not in SS, but no member of SS that is not in S.
  • The set of first three primes in a proper SS of the above S is {2, 3, 5}.
  • A dense set is a set where there is always room for one more in between another two elements.
  • Where there is an infinite set is with a set of cardinality, or natural numbers, it’s simply called a power set or an infinite set.
  • A series is an ordered set of numbers.  A finite series has a finite fixed number of terms.  An infinite series has an infinite number of terms.  A series with m terms, or the sum of the firs m terms of an infinite series, can be written as Sm or ∑a.
  • An actual infinite set is signified by the Hebrew letter aleph א.
  • potential infinite set, or series, is signified by the lemniscate ∞.

The Argument

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

The argument for premise 1 is that anything that begins to exist does so temporally, at some indexical moment of time.  Because there is a difference between moments, an earlier or later than, there must be a cause to the thing which begins to exist, which determines its temporal existence.  Craig offers two arguments for premise 2

2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite

  • 2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist
  • 2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite
  • 2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist

2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition

  • 2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite
  • 2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition
  • 2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite

Premise 3 follows necessarily if 1 and 2 are true and valid.  So, what type of cause are we looking at?  Let’s take a look at Aristotle’s causes.

Aristotle’s Four Causes

  1. Material Cause:  Out of what?  This is where the physics come in.  Hawking, for example, agrees with Craig on this, the universe had no material cause. The universe is from nothing.
  2. Efficient Cause:  Through what?  This is the type of cause kalam gets to.  This is why Craig argues that the cause must be a personal agent.  An agent is the only entity that could initiate or cease a series of cause and effect relationships.  This is known as agent causation.
  3. Formal Cause:  What form or essence?
  4. Final Cause:  For what purpose?  This is teleological argument.

Objections

Paul Draper’s “In time or In or with time

Paul Draper responds to P1.  He believes Craig seems to elide over a distinction, and a very important one right at the heart of the debate. There is a difference between:

  1. 1’ Whatever begins to exist in time has a cause of its existence; and,
  2. 1’’ Whatever beings to exist in or with time has a cause of its existence

It is 1’’ that gets back to the main issue: is the universe caused?  The issue here is that time began withthe universe.  It may be true that all things we’ve ever observed that started to exist [in time] had a cause, and eve, that they must have had one.  Still, the unknown (Humean) question is, is 1’’ true on the basis of 1’’? The truth of 1’ seems irrelevant to the inquisitive truth of re: 1’’ Craig’s possible reply? There is still the issue of creatio continuans, that is, God as a cause of contingency’s existence from moment to moment.  Reply? Yes, perhaps; but that isn’t what the kalam argument is supposed to focus on.  The focus has changed from the creation of the universe in the finite past to sustaining the universe at each moment (which is more of Thomas’ argument).  I think this may be one of the stronger objections but the objection seems to interpolate the original premise for what it was.  There’s the difference between concurrent causation in or with time and the beginning of time.

Alvin Plantinga’s division of time…

Plantinga (Warranted Christian Belief, Ch. 1) argues that Craig assumes that each moment of time is of equal duration.  If we divine up time like the following, then there are an actual infinite number of time points in any finite time segment.  Count the events going back in time… 1 second, ½ sec., ¼ sec., etc.  Craig’s reply? Time isn’t like that though, cosmological time is quantal; that is, there is an actual smallest amount of time, which is Planck time (10-43 seconds).  It is at the increment of time can any meaningful physical event take place (this point works in conjunction to Draper’s objection as well).  If we wanted to chase this rabbit trail we would have to then get in to the metaphysical aspects of time and whether or not time is one smooth flow or choppy like a film strip (and at an incredibly choppy rate of one frame per 10-43 second).  This means Plantinga’s example won’t work, and so if each event in the past is taken to be Planck time, then there cannot be an actual infinite number of past events, for reasons previously mentioned.

J. A. Cover’s appeal to omniscience…

Cover’s objection is with 2.11.  Wait a second, but what about God?  Doesn’t God know an actual infinite number of propositions?  Theologians and philosophers have always said that God is “infinite”?  Is his infinity and actual infinity or a potential infinity?  Response?  It assumes a Platonic idea of divine omniscience.  Craig has come to seem less conceptualistic, that is, that the abstract like numbers and certain ideas exist in the mind of God, and has seemed to embrace nominalism.  This nominalism would suggest that propositions do not exist.  Propositions do not exist in a form of a set or a series; rather, propositions are useful fictions.  There’s a distinction Thomas makes in omniscience, there’s a difference between an intuitive knowledge (or non-propositionally) and a discursive knowledge.  I’m not too certain how far Craig take’s any of Thomas’ material but the Thomistic idea of divine approximation may work.  With this idea, God is the ultimate archetype.  If God is simple, but the object of knowledge is not himself, is that not complexity?  So, if God knows a plant, God knows the plant by approximating it to himself (that it exists, that it lives, etc.).  I would venture to say that Craig parts in this area but kalam is still compatible with this concept of God (though Thomas himself would disagree about the nature of time).

Conclusion

The conclusion of the argument ends with a first temporal cause.  Now there are some implications that may be made.  This cause must be personal (nature of agent causation), extremely powerful (observing the effect), timeless (at least explanatorily prior to the beginning of the universe), and changeless (nature of events).  Kalam does not arrive at God, but it ends where it ends… a first temporal cause.