Tuesday, January 17, 2012


That argument again?

New Scientist, which seems to run hot and cold out of the sensible science tap, is chilling our tootsies off with an icy-cold flow: an unattributed editorial titled The Genesis problem. In it, they make one of the oldest, lamest arguments that attempt to support creation myths over the Big Bang theory:

The big bang is now part of the furniture of modern cosmology, but Hoyle’s unease has not gone away. Many physicists have been fighting a rearguard action against it for decades, largely because of its theological overtones. If you have an instant of creation, don’t you need a creator?

Cosmologists, the editorial goes on to say, thought they had a workaround.

Well, no... no workaround is needed. The argument is that my creation story (the big bang) involves an entity that itself needed to be created, but your creation story works because it involves the creator misses the point that your creator is also an entity that itself needed to be created. You don’t get to make a set of rules for the one and ignore them for the other, and if one creation entity can exist without creation, then so can another.

No, what’s needed isn’t a workaround, but an explanation, an understanding. You, perhaps, have your understanding because someone made up an answer and you believe it: God has always been, and always will be. Cosmologists — at least the majority, who aren’t trying to fit cosmology into a theistic system — still have a piece that they don’t understand, because they’re not willing to make up an answer that doesn’t follow from the data. If they were, of course, their explanation could be very similar to the theistic one: the primeval atom always existed, and created the universe through the big bang.

We come into a clash of aspects of human understanding when we discuss any genesis explanation. People understand things to have beginnings and ends, and have a hard time coping with things without beginnings. And people like to have questions answered, definitively. When each answer uncovers more questions, we tend to be unsettled. That it seems easier to accept a God with no beginning than a primeval atom with no beginning is perhaps odd, but there it is. God can then be used to explain anything, wrapping things up nicely... for those who are willing to believe those explanations.

I’d rather accept that we don’t yet understand, than to make up facile answers that have no basis in reality. I even accept that we might never really understand it, might never have the real answers. We’ll keep looking at what’s actually there, and we’ll find what we’re able to find.


Call me Paul said...

Sounds like a strawman argument to me. I don't know of any physicists who refer to the Big Bang and "the instant of creation." Nobody is saying the universe was created at that time, only that it is the instant to which our current ability to understand the universe is limited.

HRH said...

Every time that I had engaged in this argument with someone, it ended up in an infinite loop. Accepting that we “don’t yet understand” is a sensible approach. However I am open to all future possibilities, except the day when god comes out of hiding and confesses to sending mosses, Jesus and Mohammad as the messenger, and indorse Mohammad as the final massage, that would be the last day of my life.