“The Four Miracles of Atheism” aren’t miracles.

thinklikemeIn a blog post last December (which I just stumbled across on Twitter) by Clay Kraby over at Reasonable Theology the argument is made that atheists take some things on faith. While that’s almost certainly true, the four things they cite as prime examples aren’t very good ones. They refer to these examples as The Four Miracles of Atheism:

For the purposes of this discussion, we will define a miracle as an event which occurs outside of the natural order and cannot be repeated or explained by the scientific process.

OK, we can work with that definition.

Consider the following four miracles which must be accepted by the atheist in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary:

1. Getting Something from Nothing. There has never been an observed example where something was created from nothing. No person would attempt to build something without materials, and there is no theory outside Big Bang cosmology which reaches this conclusion without ridicule from the scientific community

It’s a common misunderstanding of the Big Bang cosmology to claim that prior to that event there was “nothing” and that “something” came from it. The theory makes no such claims. If you trace time backwards to the Big Bang you end up with a singularity. That’s not nothing, but something. In fact, it’s everything. All scrunched up into one mind bogglingly small point of energy. The law of energy conservation tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. Which is pretty much what the Big Bang was. Now it’s true we’re not entirely sure why it expanded and became the Universe and that’s in part because a lot of the math involved starts to break down the closer you get to the singularity, but the theory doesn’t say the Universe came from nothing.

As for there never having been “an observed example where something was created from nothing”, well, that’s not entirely true either. One experiment that made use of the the Casimir effect resulted in photons spontaneously appearing in empty space:

Quantum physics explains that there are limits to how precisely one can know the properties of the most basic units of matter—for instance, one can never absolutely know a particle’s position and momentum at the same time. One bizarre consequence of this uncertainty is that a vacuum is never completely empty, but instead buzzes with so-called “virtual particles” that constantly wink into and out of existence.

These virtual particles often appear in pairs that near-instantaneously cancel themselves out. Still, before they vanish, they can have very real effects on their surroundings. For instance, photons—packets of light—can pop in and out of a vacuum. When two mirrors are placed facing each other in a vacuum, more virtual photons can exist around the outside of the mirrors than between them, generating a seemingly mysterious force that pushes the mirrors together.

This effect was predicted back in 1948 and the experiment has been repeated numerous times. There’s some debate on whether it’s truly something from nothing, but it’s certainly a good candidate.

These are both very high-level simplifications of the science. If you’re interested in a more involved explanation then Lawrence Krauss’ book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing is worthwhile reading. Or you can check out this lengthy talk he gave about the subject on YouTube:

The upshot is, given the law of conservation of energy, there’s really no need for faith that something came from nothing because that’s most likely not what happened. Even if it was what happened there are already aspects of Quantum Mechanics that would allow for it.

neilongodinlabYou’ll note that Kraby doesn’t bother to provide any of the “scientific evidence to the contrary” that something from nothing is impossible, he just says it’s a problem and assumes you agree with him. He makes the clever remark that no person would attempt to build something without materials and yet that’s precisely what his god must have done by sheer will alone if it is the creator of the universe and everything within it. That apparently isn’t a problem for Kraby in spite of the fact that it would be infinitely more magical than a universe just popping into existence on its own. Certainly we don’t have the full picture nailed down just yet and it’s possible we may never be able to fully explain how the universe came to be, but that doesn’t mean “goddidit” is the correct answer by default.

2. Getting Life from Non-Life. Even if naturalistic causes could have created the universe, it would still be necessary for non-living material to become living. This is also an unproven (and impossible) feat which must be accepted when denying the existence of God.

There’s really no need for faith in this either because it’s pretty self-evident that life had to arise at some point or we wouldn’t be here to discuss the issue, but let’s carry on and show the flaws in this argument.

The first problem with this argument is that it assumes there are only two possibilities: Either something is alive or it isn’t. Reality isn’t black and white. Things aren’t just alive or not-alive. Rather it’s more of a continuum from non-life to life. The more simple an organic form is the more blurry the line between life and non-life becomes.

For example, most folks consider viruses to be living things, but they really straddle the line between living and non-living things. One of the traits of life is the ability to reproduce and viruses can’t do that on their own. They have to invade living cells and hijack their systems to reproduce. Nor do viruses have any metabolic systems. Yet they do have genes and can evolve. They blur the line between living and non-living and support the theory that life could have started as self-assembling organic molecules.

Then there are Prions. These are small bits of misfolded proteins that aren’t alive in any sense of the word. They don’t contain any nucleic acids, they don’t have a metabolic system, nor genes, or a cell membrane, yet they have the ability to infect you and kill you. They are the cause of Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cows (natch) and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans. They do this similarly to viruses by hijacking the functions of living cells to reproduce. As they reproduce they form a plaque known as amyloid which literally drills holes in your brain (making it spongy, hence the name) destroying you slowly over the course of decades. The odd thing is, these proteins are already in you, though not in the misfolded manner that causes disease. You’ll find the normal form in the membranes of your cells. They are a part of your cellular system, but they are not alive in themselves.

Kraby says that life arising from non-life is unproven and impossible without providing anything to back that claim up. Life is just a chemical process and spontaneous chemical reactions happen all the time — not to mention molecular self-assembly. Not only is there evidence that life came from non-living molecules, but scientists have been getting closer to creating artificial life with each passing year. In November of 2011 Martin Hanczyc did a TED talk where he showed the results of his experiments with protocells. Bonus: He also talks about how life is a continuum:

For being non-living, those protocells sure do look alive. Which is pretty impressive when you consider how simplistic they are compared to your standard human cell or even your average bacteria. Just with these basic chemical molecules there’s already lots of life-like activity taking place. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how this could be a possible beginning of all life.

3. Getting Order from Chaos. The Laws of Thermodynamics tell us that all things tend towards disorder, not order. Left to themselves buildings crumble, gardens are taken over by weeds, and living material decays. If unguided natural causes produced the universe (from nothing) and produced life (from non-life) these processes would necessarily go against observed scientific principles in order to produce the complexity, beauty, and order that we observe in the world around us.

Ah yes! The Second Law of Thermodynamics! Always a favorite of the apologist crowd though they never seem to make use of the First Law of Thermodynamics or the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics (yes, there is a Zeroth Law). It always amuses me how readily theists will accept a scientific theory if it allows them to refute a different scientific theory they don’t like. It’s a shame so many of them don’t understand what it really says.

The first thing they don’t understand about the Second Law is that it isn’t about order or chaos, it’s about heat:

Second law of thermodynamicsHeat cannot spontaneously flow from a colder location to a hotter location.

The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal principle of dissipation of kinetic and potential energy observable in nature. The second law is an observation of the fact that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential tend to even out in a physical system that is isolated from the outside world. Entropy is a measure of how much this process has progressed. The entropy of an isolated system that is not in equilibrium tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

In classical thermodynamics, the second law is a basic postulate applicable to any system involving heat energy transfer; in statistical thermodynamics, the second law is a consequence of the assumed randomness of molecular chaos. There are many versions of the second law, but they all have the same effect, which is to explain the phenomenon of irreversibility in nature.

The second thing they don’t understand about the Second Law is that little bit I put in boldface up there: It only applies to isolated physical systems with no external source of energy. The Earth, where abiogenesis and evolution have taken place, is not an isolated physical system. It has an external source of energy. You may have heard of it. It’s called The Sun. All life is possible because of the sun inputting energy into earth’s natural systems allowing for local increases in order that allows things like people to exist.

But, you might say, the Universe is a closed system with no external source of energy and it started in a high entropy state, but went on to form galaxies and stars and DVD rental kiosks. All highly ordered (low entropy) things. Doesn’t that violate the second law? Thanks to inflation the answer is no:

The Big Bang seems, at first glance, to violate the second law. It starts off as a dense almost perfectly homogeneous gas (thus at almost maximum entropy) and then seems to separate into clumps that formed stars and galaxies. Hasn’t order increased and thus the entropy decreased, and since the universe is a closed system, hasn’t this violated the second law?

The solution here is that because the universe is expanding it keeps getting shifted out of equilibrium, and in the drive to reach a new equilibrium state, you can get pockets of order occurring without violating the second law, because the maximum allowable entropy also keeps increasing.

In more technical terms, if we consider the universe to be a sphere of radius R that is increasing, the maximum allowable entropy increases as the square of R, while the actual entropy of the universe increases less rapidly, only linearly with R. Thus even if the initial universe was at maximum entropy for its size, as the universe expands its entropy can increase while still being easily able to accommodate the increasing order we see. In fact, calculations done assuming that there exist ten planets per star, 100 billion stars for every galaxy and 100 billion galaxies (which are our best current estimates) show that the ordering of the planets produces changes in entropy of only one part in 1011 of the total current entropy. Victor Stenger (Has Science Found God?, 2003, p. 152) summarizes the situation:

No violation of the second law of thermodynamics was required to produce the universe.

It’s clear that Kraby, like most apologists who try to use the Second Law to disprove other theories they don’t like, doesn’t have a firm grasp of the subject. That’s not a criticism. Thermodynamics is a complex subject that involves some serious math and can be difficult to follow, but it helps if you actually read what scientists have to say about it and not other theists.

Finally we come to his last so-called atheist miracle:

4. Getting the Immaterial from Physical Matter. If nothing was able to produce everything, non-life was able to produce life, and chaos was able to produce order the atheistic worldview would still encounter an insurmountable obstacle. No matter how organized, it is impossible for physical material to produce the immaterial realities of human consciousness. Our morality, beliefs, desires and preferences all exist outside of mere physical matter.

Kraby is making a pretty big claim here without providing anything to support it and it’s just flat out wrong. Our morality, beliefs, desires and preferences certainly do not exist outside of mere physical matter. They’re all contained within the human brain along with the rest of your personality. This is easily provable by studying people who have had a traumatic brain injury. There are literally thousands of documented cases of people developing whole new personalities, beliefs, desires, and preferences after brain injuries. Sometimes the changes are minor and sometimes they result in what could be said to be an entirely different person depending on how much damage there is and where in occurred. Passive people become violently aggressive (and vice versa), chaste can become hypersexual, introvert can become extrovert. One of the most famous examples is Phineas Gage whose personality changed dramatically after a tamping rod was propelled through his brain in an explosion. Even your beliefs can be changed by a TBI.

“You” do not exist outside of the confines of your brain and you can even change your personality without a TBI. Drugs are a common way to modify your personality in major and minor ways. People drink alcohol because it lowers inhibitions which results in them taking risks they probably wouldn’t if they were sober. Drug abuse can permanently alter your brain chemistry and, thusly, who you are.

Kraby concludes his little essay with the following claim:

Each of these examples go against the natural order and could be labeled as miracles. Naturalistic worldviews such as atheism, evolution, and neo-Darwinism regard this evidence for God with what Dawkins would certainly consider an unscientific approach: each item must be taken on faith.

As I’ve demonstrated, none of these goes against the natural order in any way nor do they require any faith to accept. We don’t have all the pieces to all the puzzles just yet, but what we do have points to very real and very natural processes that can be understood without invoking the supernatural. Again, even if it turns out that these theories are incorrect that doesn’t mean the only other explanation is “God”. It would be nice if Kraby could provide some reasons why a god is the explanation for these “miracles” beyond the implication of well what else would it be?

Kraby has demonstrated some startling ignorance of the topics he puts forth and provides nothing to back up the claims he makes. This could be avoided with just a little study outside the realm of Creationist websites. There are a number of good books from well respected scientists covering these topics in-depth that are still quite readable by the layman. All in all this was a pretty piss-poor argument. Hopefully the next apologist will do a better job.

49 thoughts on ““The Four Miracles of Atheism” aren’t miracles.

  1. That last point is very irritating for me. People like that don’t understand that while concepts of morality and such could be said to be “immaterial” their proper understanding is conceptual. It’s the old contrived mind/body problem. About on par with the rest of his alleged miracles.

  2. It actually takes a pretty ingenious kind of mind to come up with the slippery arguments that Kraby presents. I’m ever and again amazed that such a mind would bother with such an exercise. Surely he cannot fail to have noticed that there is no evidence of the existence of any gods. But the one thing all religious arguments come down to is “some believe and some do not believe” in such a critter.

    Both religionists and agnostics insist that atheists “have beliefs”.

    Agnostics give equal weight to the belief that there is no god and the belief that there is one, declare that there is no proof either way, and sit happily on the fence.

    Religionists go to great lengths to try to show that atheists have beliefs. It really doesn’t matter to them what beliefs so long as that belief can be defined as “accepting as true something for which there is insufficient factual evidence.” This, they think, brings the atheist down to their level of holding insupportable beliefs just like they do. At this point religionists will usually accept the compromise that neither position can be proven, and be quite content to think that they have moved you from the atheist position to the agnostic – a big step – if it were true.

    However, unfortunately for both of them, atheists DO NOT have a, “belief that there is no god.” Atheism is NOT an alternate belief. It is an absence of belief. Sadly many atheists are careless in expressing their lack of belief and unthinkingly say that they, “believe that there is no god.” This tiny little error in how people phrase their position is pounced upon immediately by religionists and agnostics alike.

    It is this insistence that atheists have beliefs that is the hallmark of the believer. And make no mistake, agnostics ARE believers – they just haven’t yet decided which belief they want to adopt; the belief that there is a god or the belief that there isn’t.

    I caution atheists to mind their words when stating their position. State firmly, “I do not believe that there is a god.” Atheists are NEVER required to “prove there is no god.” It is the responsibility of those who claim that there is one to prove their claim. If it were otherwise, we’d also have to “prove” that there is no Santa Clause or no tooth fairy, or no leprechauns, or whatever. The onus of proof is on the claimant not on the doubter.
    .

  3. Personally, I have never said that I “believe there is no god”. I always state that I do not believe that there is one. In fact, I do not believe that there CAN BE a god – or gods; polytheism is still thriving in some parts of the world.

    I have to laugh when challenged to “prove” that there is no god. Proof of the existence/non-existence of something that, by its’ very nature, would have to lie outside of the natural Universe is an impossibility – for now. Such proof would have to be based on knowledge that the human species simply has not accrued – yet.

    I do believe that the sum total of human knowledge is only a small fraction of what there is to be known about the Universe and all it contains. There are many things we can prove now that could not be proven as little as a few hundred years ago. The knowledge and tools needed to prove those things simply did not exist at that time.

    Human knowledge has not yet increased to the point that proof of the existence of the supernatural – a prerequisite for the existence of a god – is possible at this time. That does not mean it never will be possible.

    The only way to find out for certain whether or not a god exists is to die. And so far, no one has come back to tell us, for certain, one way or another.

    Sorry if some of that seems a bit disjointed. I’m still on my first cup of coffee and have not cleared all of the nights’ cobwebs away, yet.

  4. Scribblerlarry writes:

    Both religionists and agnostics insist that atheists “have beliefs”.

    Of course we have beliefs. We have all sorts of beliefs just like anyone else. There’s tons of things in everyday life that we accept with little evidence to back them up. Most of them are trivial and harmless, just like everyone else’s. Some atheists even have blind faith in some of their beliefs. Just because we don’t believe in God doesn’t mean we’re immune to it. We’re still human beings with all the flaws and imperfections that come with it.

    It would be a lie for me to say that I don’t engage in wishful thinking. That happens every time I buy a lottery ticket. I know the odds are against me and that it’s probably just a waste of a dollar, but I also know that someone has to win it eventually and I won’t win at all if I don’t have a ticket. It’s an act of the purest optimism to purchase a lottery ticket and I have no good reason to believe I’ll be the winner and yet I still daydream a bit about what I’ll do with my millions after the drawing.

    I’d hazard that atheists are more inclined to try and have at least some reason for a particular belief, but we can’t know everything and sometimes we make use of faith in a pinch. Is it the same as the faith theists use to believe in their gods? Not really. There’s nothing wrong with having beliefs. I think blind faith in anything is problematic, but not necessarily beliefs.

  5. In my comment on your blog, I assumed that we were using the term ‘belief’ in the religious sense of the word.

    But now that you mention it, a good many years ago I dropped all casual use of the word ‘belief’ in favour of other words or terms that do not imply “accepting as true that for which there is insufficient evidence.”

    Sure an atheist might say, “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee”, but he is stating an intention rather than a “belief” as defined above. Another might say I believe I might win the lottery if I purchase a ticket, meaning that he thinks he has as good a chance of winning as anyone else who buys a ticket or that he hopes to win or that he has a hunch that he’ll win. I’d hardly classify any of those as a “belief” in the religious sense.

    Many words in our language have multiple meanings. Religionists and agnostics, in my personal experience, commonly use that fact in their arguments. I hardly expected an atheist to do so in a discussion that began as being specifically about religious beliefs. So let me try to make myself perfectly clear, “When ‘belief’ is defined as I have defined it above, I have no beliefs, religious or otherwise.”

    If you or anyone else claiming to be an atheist choses to use certain terms according to one of their alternate meanings in the middle of a discussion centering on religious belief, you have that right but I have the right to leave you to it and cease participating in such nonsense.

    Best wishes to you but…. Good-bye

  6. Scribblelarry, I’m not challenging your claim of not having any religious beliefs, I don’t either, I was merely pointing out that to claim we have no beliefs at all is not entirely true. I don’t take offense at the suggestion that I have beliefs simply because someone else interprets them as being equivalent to their own. I’m more than ready to explain to them why they are not so.

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  8. If the universe is expanding, energy isn’t conserved. Conserved quantities come about because of symmetries. In the case of translation invariance, it’s momentum, for time invariance, energy. If the universe is expanding it has a time dependent metric and so energy isn’t conserved. That’s not a good (ie. not valid) argument why the universe must be eternal, even if your philosophical beliefs mean that’s something you want to impose on the science.

    The Casimir effect doesn’t demonstrate something comes from nothing. It demonstrates that the vacuum state is responsible for a force, in exactly the same way that a quantised wave would be. It demonstrates not only does the vacuum state have a particular energy, a particular frequency, a spatial and temporal extent, but it is also responsible for forces in the lab. In other words, the vacuum state acts exactly like a wave would and not like “nothing”.

    And somewhat ironically here, it is you who confuse closed and open systems. A closed quantum system, in its ground state, is inert. It stays in that ground state forever. Particles don’t come into or out of existence if the system is closed. A system in an eigenstate of the Hamiltonian will, according to quantum mechanics, stay in that state. Only for open systems, interacting with an environment or a measurement device say, does the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (which applies to measurement) or decoherence apply.

  9. It is also, very simply, not a matter of what an atheist believes, but what he doesn’t. All of science and the knowledge of ages are immaterial next to the fact that an atheist just does not believe in your god. That doesn’t take any thinking at all.

  10. “If the universe is expanding, energy isn’t conserved.”

    What PBS “science” show did you learn THAT from?

    If we presuppose a finite amount of energy in the universe, then the expansion of the universe would have neither increase nor decrease that amount of energy. The same amount of energy would still exist, it would just be spread thinner as the expansion of the universe progressed.

    I will not respond to the rest of the pseudo-scientific gibberish that the rest of that post consists of.

  11. What it all comes down to is that one either believes that an invisible, “supernatural” being of some kind created the entire universe and then proceeded to completely ignore it, or one does not. The only way to know for certain, one way or the other, is to die. And there can be no surety even in that. I am not quite ready to perform that experiment yet. Especially since it would be quite difficult to get the results of the experiment published.

  12. great post. Poached Egg (apologist site) recently reposted the 3 Miracles. I posted a similar comment debunking each claim. I was as polite as I could possibly be, trying not to come off as a total dick. The comment lasted 5 min. Deleted.

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  14. If this is a created universe, the creator seems to have gone to lengths to cover it’s tracks, and bronze-age miracle stories aside, is supremely indifferent to us.

  15. One could say this “creator” went to supernatural lengths to cover its tracks.

  16. Great article, Les.

    By the way, on the topic of beliefs, here are some examples of some totally false superstitions that extremely intelligent and rational people believe in:
    – Never mess with a winning streak (c.f. Crash Davis)
    – Don’t touch my dice
    – Never say “It can’t get any worse.”
    – If you leave your umbrella at home, or wash your car, it will rain
    – Lucky shirt/sneaker/scrunchy
    – Don’t open a computer that’s working

  17. And even if every single bit of science was disproved that would still leave the question of which god as there are thousands. Why would a deity invented by bronze age tribesmen in the Middle East be the correct one?

    Science is universal; a religious belief system is not.

  18. Poor old God, locked into an infinitely long battle creating new ‘stuff’ from nothing simply to keep heaven from crumbling into disarray thanks to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. You’d have thought he could have come up with better laws for the universe, wouldn’t you?

  19. “We don’t have all the pieces to all the puzzles just yet, but what we do have points to very real and very natural processes that can be understood without invoking the supernatural.”

    Um. Doesn’t that imply a belief that we WILL one day ‘have all the pieces to the puzzle’ as revealed through science? That would take a lot of faith; scientists are men like the rest of us, and like the rest of us, they have an agenda and are frequently arrogant and corrupt. Suppose we already have the pieces? Would we recognize them if we did?

    Science reveals the results of experiment. Experiments deal with what we can detect. We still don’t know how the movements of molecules in the brain result in our sudden yearning for a long-lost girlfriend, so detecting those motions doesn’t automatically solve the issue. In fact, it just adds more questions.

    And what on earth is mean by ‘very real’ and ‘very natural’? Isn’t what’s real and natural sorta decided by the person defining the processes? Very subjective choice of words, and a bit revealing, I should think. And not a point in favor of finding ‘the pieces to all the puzzles’, because when you approach it that way, you always get the answers you expected. Why wouldn’t you when your criteria are what’s ‘natural’ and ‘real’, and those are whatever you say they are?

    “Better Science than Nothing, and better Nothing than the Supernatural”. Those appear to be our choices. Not for me, however.

  20. The only way to find the “answers” to these questions is to die. Which I think I will do, tonight.

  21. I can not give you my address. You will just come and steal what little I have to leave behind.

  22. That’s not a very charitable thing to say. Anyway, I already have a ratty couch and mis-matched dishes. *sigh* I was gonna send carnations, too. The po’ man’s bouquet!

  23. I trust no one. Except my brother. He may be the only one that might keep me alive tonight.

  24. Centurion13 drops by to write:

    Um. Doesn’t that imply a belief that we WILL one day ‘have all the pieces to the puzzle’ as revealed through science? That would take a lot of faith;

    Not at all. The universe doesn’t care if we understand it or not and all science is provisional. There’s nothing to guarantee we’ll ever have everything completely understood, but science is still the best tool we have for making a go at it.

    …scientists are men like the rest of us, and like the rest of us, they have an agenda and are frequently arrogant and corrupt.

    That’s the great thing about science: It’s a self-correcting system. If someone is doing it wrong, someone else will eventually reveal that to be the case.

    Not sure what basis you have for claiming that scientists are “frequently” corrupt. Is there some study that seems to indicate corruption is rampant in science? It seems rather cynical to assume that every scientist has an agenda and is often corrupt. I don’t even think that about most religious people.

    Suppose we already have the pieces? Would we recognize them if we did?

    Probably. There’s certainly seems to be a consensus that we’re far from that goal. The universe is big and complex. We’ve not been around all that long cosmically speaking and the scientific method has been around even less time than that. I doubt we’ll run out of questions to ask anytime soon.

    Science reveals the results of experiment. Experiments deal with what we can detect. We still don’t know how the movements of molecules in the brain result in our sudden yearning for a long-lost girlfriend, so detecting those motions doesn’t automatically solve the issue. In fact, it just adds more questions.

    Science is more than just experimentation. It is both a body of knowledge and a process we can use to further our understanding of how the universe works. Yes, the practice of science often does raise more questions. That’s kind of the point. That’s how your knowledge grows is by asking more and more questions and trying to find the answers. The fact that it raises more questions is a feature, not a bug.

    And what on earth is mean by ‘very real’ and ‘very natural’? Isn’t what’s real and natural sorta decided by the person defining the processes?

    Not if you’re doing it right. Real as in actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed and natural as in existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind. In other words, the opposites of “supernatural.”

    Very subjective choice of words, and a bit revealing, I should think.

    Not subjective at all. I used the words as defined. I’d be interested to hear what you think my choice of words reveals.

    And not a point in favor of finding ‘the pieces to all the puzzles’, because when you approach it that way, you always get the answers you expected. Why wouldn’t you when your criteria are what’s ‘natural’ and ‘real’, and those are whatever you say they are?

    It’s a good thing scientists don’t just make shit up as they go along then, eh? Otherwise the whole thing would just be a waste of time. Which is what you seem to be suggesting is the case.

    Look, if you want to dismiss science out of hand because it doesn’t agree with what you want to be true then that’s your perogative, but it pretty much tells me you have nothing worth contributing to the discussion.

    “Better Science than Nothing, and better Nothing than the Supernatural”. Those appear to be our choices. Not for me, however.

    No, apparently you’d prefer to just make shit up as you go along to fit your beliefs. That’s fine, but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously.

  25. “Look, if you want to dismiss science out of hand because it doesn’t agree with what you want to be true then that’s your perogative, but it pretty much tells me you have nothing worth contributing to the discussion.”

    Substitute “Centurion13” for “science” and you’ve pretty summed up your own position. Which is a pretty neat trick, come to think of it.

    Sooo… no scientist makes things up, eh? Science, as done by flawed people like you and me, is self-correcting. Right? I mean, it’s supposed to *in theory*, But theory and people don’t mix too well. People have agendas and theoretical performance, well – that’s for the salesmen pushing a product.

    What product are *you* pushing, Les? You slid into insulting me towards the end. Does that mean the sales pitch for scientism is over? Or did you just lose your cool with another troll because he/she didn’t agree with you?

  26. Centurian13 tries again…

    Substitute “Centurion13″ for “science” and you’ve pretty summed up your own position. Which is a pretty neat trick, come to think of it.

    My position is a direct result of your own statements. You clearly want to play semantic games rather than engage in a discussion. You’re starting to sound like Bill Clinton arguing over what the meaning of “is” is.

    Sooo… no scientist makes things up, eh? Science, as done by flawed people like you and me, is self-correcting. Right? I mean, it’s supposed to *in theory*, But theory and people don’t mix too well. People have agendas and theoretical performance, well – that’s for the salesmen pushing a product.

    I never said no scientists make things up. There’s fraud — both intentional and non — in any field. Your implication seems to be that because some scientists have engage in fraud to serve some agenda that the presumption should be that that’s true of all scientists. Yet you haven’t provided any basis for such a presumption. I wonder if you question your doctor like this when he/she recommends a suggested treatment for whatever is ailing you? Why even bother consulting a doctor if it’s all just part of their agenda?

    What product are *you* pushing, Les? You slid into insulting me towards the end. Does that mean the sales pitch for scientism is over? Or did you just lose your cool with another troll because he/she didn’t agree with you?

    Those weren’t insults, those were observations based on your statements. You’ve implied more than once that you consider all scientists to be fabricators intent on pushing an agenda without providing any reasons for why that should be true. You’ve given us no reason to take you seriously about anything you’ve said so far.

    As for losing my cool, are you kidding? I’m more amused than annoyed.

  27. Huh… well, the cussword-laced ‘observations’, combined with your one-sided demand for proof (I note your several statements with no supporting evidence) and your constant use of the royal ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ reminds me of something. Namely, that I *did* promise the wife – and myself – that I wouldn’t blow too much time having it out with fellows like you. So… sayonara.

  28. The name of the site is Stupid Evil Bastard and you get offended at a couple of cuss words? What did you expect to find here? Rainbows and unicorns? Shit, I haven’t even started to cuss yet.

    As for your leaving, that’s not surprising given the quality of your argument so far. You could’ve saved us both some time by not bothering to begin with. Did you expect everyone to swoon at your avante garde dismissal of science as though you were sharing some amazing insight no one had ever thought of before? You are funny, but probably not in the way you’d want to be.

    But don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out…

  29. Great article, but one thing I thought was odd. It’s suggested that the universe was in a maximally entropic state as a singularity, but with zero volume wouldn’t that be a state of ZERO entropy? If the universe started in a state of maximum “order”, then entropy can have simply increased constantly from the beginning. After all, the universe as a whole is still tending towards “chaos” or spread-outness, isn’t it?

  30. I think people often get confused with the term entropy. I’m still not entirely sure when entropy is increasing and when it is decreasing although I think it is as you state.

  31. You say the Big Bang began with a ‘singularity’.. and that’s not nothing. So exactly what is it?

    Since we have never seen or know what an electron is how do you know the hypothetical singularity is even a possible state of the universe..?

    You should also know that the duration of a quantum event is inversely proportional to the energy of the event.. Which reasonably and evidentially means something the size of the universe gets to exist for about 10e-230 seconds.. or violates the first law..!

    As you know when energy produces matter by the first law it must produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter.. So where’s the antimatter..? Or do you like others in your camp just ignore it an claim this universe is some kind of error in the first law..?

    So how big in energy terms is the hypothetical singularity..?

    What caused the singularity in the first place..?

  32. Wow, it’s been a couple of years since the last comment on this thread. Surprised to see it starting up again. Let’s see what we have here.

    Michael Bellamy writes:

    You say the Big Bang began with a ‘singularity’.. and that’s not nothing. So exactly what is it?

    In the case of the singularity prior to the start of the universe it would be, literally, everything. Take everything in the universe and scrunch it all up into an infinitely small point and you have the singularity. Of course, none of it would still be in the form of chairs or people or planets or toasters. Admittedly this is simplifying the idea quite a bit, but it’s the logical conclusion from the generally accepted theory of the Big Bang.

    Since we have never seen or know what an electron is how do you know the hypothetical singularity is even a possible state of the universe..?

    Actually we have seen an electron. We’ve even filmed it. It’s surprisingly unimpressive to look at. You can watch a video of it here.

    And we’ve got a pretty good idea of what electrons are and have backed that idea up with lots of experiments. The proof of which is the device you used to leave your comment on my blog. If we didn’t have a solid understanding of electrons and how they work that computer/smartphone/tablet you used to read my blog wouldn’t work.

    As for singularities, the universe appears to be littered with them in the form of black holes. While we’ can’t directly observe a black hole, we can observe its predicted effects such as massive amounts of x-rays from the superheated gas surrounding them, jets of matter travelling at nearly the speed of light, and their gravitational effects on nearby objects.

    It’s clear you’re lacking in a basic understanding of chemistry and if you really want to understand what we know about things like electrons I’d highly recommend you spend some time on YouTube watching the Crash Course series on that topic. You’ll find the first episode here.

    You should also know that the duration of a quantum event is inversely proportional to the energy of the event.. Which reasonably and evidentially means something the size of the universe gets to exist for about 10e-230 seconds.. or violates the first law..!

    I find it interesting that someone who clearly doesn’t understand basic chemistry seems to think they understand quantum mechanics. I can only assume you’re quoting a creationist talking point without citing it.

    The problem with this argument is that it assumes there was no energy prior to the moment the universe came into existence. In short, it ignores the singularity.

    That said, even in an instance where the universe springs into form from nothing, as Lawrence Krauss describes in his talk I posted in the original entry, that still wouldn’t violate the first law if the net energy of the universe is 0.

    In terms of general relativity, the curvature of our expanding universe is related to the total gravitational energy of the objects being carried along with its expansion. In a flat universe, the total energy is zero. So a flat universe could have arisen from nothing. One can tradeoff the positive energy of particles for the negative energy of gravity and move from a situation in which there are no particles to one with a lot. – Krauss 2008

    Michael continues:

    As you know when energy produces matter by the first law it must produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter.. So where’s the antimatter..? Or do you like others in your camp just ignore it an claim this universe is some kind of error in the first law..?

    Short answer: We’re not sure. It’s definitely one of the mysteries physicists are still working on.

    It’s known as baryon asymmetry and there’s been a couple of theories proposed, but nothing that’s been conclusive yet. Back in August of this year scientists reported on an experiment to see if perhaps there were slight differences between matter and antimatter that might explain why matter seems to have won out, but the results show they are mirror images of each other:

    In the most stringent test yet of differences between protons and antiprotons, scientists investigated the ratio of electric charge to mass in about 6,500 pairs of these particles over a 35-day period. To keep antimatter and matter from coming into contact, the researchers trapped protons and antiprotons in magnetic fields. Then they measured how these particles moved in a cyclical manner in those fields, a characteristic known as their cyclotron frequency, which is proportional to both the charge-to-mass ratio of those particles and the strength of the magnetic field.

    […] The scientists found the charge-to-mass ratio of protons and antiprotons “is identical to within just 69 parts per trillion,” Ulmer said in a statement. This measurement is four times better than previous measurements of this ratio.

    In addition, the researchers also discovered that the charge-to-mass ratios they measured do not vary by more than 720 parts per trillion per day, as Earth rotates on its axis and travels around the sun. This suggests that protons and antiprotons behave the same way over time as they zip through space at the same velocity, meaning they do not violate what is known as charge-parity-time, or CPT symmetry. – Mystery Deepens: Matter and Antimatter Are Mirror Images @ LiveScience

    That said, the fact that we’re not sure why we ended up with more matter than antimatter after the initial expansion of the Big Bang isn’t in any way evidence for the existence of God(s).

    So how big in energy terms is the hypothetical singularity..?

    I’m not entirely sure I understand the question.

    What caused the singularity in the first place..?

    Logically, if energy cannot be created or destroyed, then nothing created it. It was there all along.

    Of course, that’s assuming the classical theory of the Big Bang is 100% correct. These days there are very few physicists who think the BB arose from a true singularity. A good overview of that can be found here: Did The Universe Really Begin With a Singularity? – Theoretical Physicist Matt Strassler.

  33. So to summarize your answer to the first of ‘Four Miracles of Atheism’:
    1. How do you get a universe from nothing..
    “If you trace time backwards to the Big Bang you end up with a singularity. That’s not nothing, but something. In fact, it’s everything.”

    And from your reply to me.. The initial singularity is the result of a hypothetical quantum event, before space or time existed, drawing upon a vast amount of energy which was ‘always’ there, “created by nothing”. This all being a ‘logical’ outcome of a hypothetical Big Bang which in violation of the First Law produced only a matter universe OR was so massive our matter universe was less than 69/10e12 of it.. and we miraculously stayed ‘together’. And.. “These days there are very few physicists who think the BB arose from a true singularity.” This is supposed to be a “fact” of science..!

    I’d say a logical outcome of the above is you have a very shaky hypothesis not all that far removed from but very much inferior in beauty and elegance to ‘God created it’.

  34. The Big Bang does not violate the first law and a good portion of the Big Bang theory is based on evidence. A preponderance of which is available online for you to read through anytime you wish.

    Tell me, what evidence do you have that God did it? Surely you can provide at least as much supporting evidence as exists for the Big Bang. Seeing as you’re just hand-waving away my explanation I won’t hold my breath awaiting your supporting evidence for God.

  35. Fun fact, all the matter in the universe is less than one billionth of the matter and antimatter formed from the big bang. It’s not like only matter was generated, unfathomable amounts of matter AND antimatter were formed. But once it all annihilated, some curious asymmetry left a billionth of the matter behind once the antimatter was gone.

  36. The ‘evidence’ for God is obvious.. so obvious most of the worlds population saw it and still see it.. and accept it for what it means..
    I like one word sermons so here it is..

    PURPOSE..

    For all those who need more..
    1- Purpose is inherent in INFORMATION
    2- DNA is a specification of life = Information
    3- Information is inherent in DESIGN.. design always has a purpose
    4- Only MINDS have purpose (matter & energy do not)
    5- The universe is full of ‘infinities’.. (reason for religions)
    6- The mind that created it is infinite..
    7- GOD (as described in the Bible fits)

    If you are going to respond intelligently to the above please include the model which demonstrates..

    MASS + ENERGY = INFORMATION

  37. I’m not sure what level of bullshit that is, but it doesn’t rise to the level of evidence of anything other than your credulity.

  38. I am not a religious person. I do not believe in all of the mystical hocus-pocus that all major religions are based on. I do, however, wonder how it all – the universe – got started. Is there a supranatural being that got bored one day and said to itself, “I think I’ll make a universe – maybe that’ll help”

    The only way we will ever know is by dying – which I am not in a big hurry to do, right now.

  39. You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself, Michael. You could read a few books and smarten yourself up a bit.

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