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A Universe without Purpose

Lawrence M. Krauss - Los Angeles Times

[COMMENT:   This is a superb piece from the secular point of view.   Read it well and remember its main points. 

They are, in my humble opinion, all wrong, but they are what you will encounter "out there" from secular writers.  This why we Christians MUST learn how to defend our worldviewSee good responses to the kinds of issues presented by this article at www.discovery.org and also some at the end of the online article itself.   

The author apparently admits the "anthropic" principle, that the cosmos appears to be designed for our habitation.  And indeed that is precisely the case.  But he denies the reality of this principle, retaining only the formal existence of it.  It is there, but not true (whatever that might mean...). 

For a coming alternative to this view, see www.commonsensescience.org, which promises to reverse many of the anomalies of relativity and quantum mechanics, etc.  I think they will succeed. 

The Road to Emmaus is about Common Sense Religion, basing our belief on logic and fact, as does the Bible (see The Authority of Scripture in a Scientific Age). 

The writer below takes the Freudian view that we imagine God so that we can be comfortable in an otherwise very uncomforting cosmos.  See my response to Freud.  Visit also Personality, Empiricism, & God, my D. Phil. thesis on the relation between science and religion, which gives, I think, an airtight case for the Cosmological Argument for God.  The author below is wrong both psychologically and metaphysically

Krauss's apparent belief that because he can "explain" the  bizarre anomalies of relativity and quantum mechanics mathematically, he can do it in the real world as well. 

Note his quote from Wes Bausmith at the top of his article, "Science has taught us to think the unthinkable..."  But that is a gigantic, blind, and irrational leap of "faith".  Science cannot teach us to think the unthinkable without betraying its search for truth.   It results in the collapse of rational science because it violates the two fundamental laws of all science, including those of theology, the law of non-contradiction and the law of sufficient cause.  Some seem to think that they have discovered a new and profound (never mind that it is contradictory) truth about life.  But when Biblical people do that, they accuse us of irrationality.  And they are right. 

I want to return the favor.  The article below accuses us Christians, especially the Intelligent Design people, of irrationality.  But it is Mr. Krauss who fails in the rationality department.  The cosmos which he proposes is fundamentally irrational for its violation of the two fundamental laws of rational thinking.    

Here is a question for Mr. Krauss:  Given what you write in your article, how would you know if you were wrong?  What rational standards are left by which you might measure your ideas to be mistaken?  Would you still apply the two basic principles above?  And if those two principles are still valid, how do you justify your reasoning below? 

The rational response to contradictions in reality (such as given us by relativity and quantum mechanics) is to conclude that something is wrong here, not that we have a new and profound contradiction which we must honor as true.  Nonsense by any other name is still nonsense.    E. Fox] 


New revelations in science have shown what a strange and remarkable universe we live in.

April 01, 2012|                                     By Lawrence M. Krauss
Science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the… (Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive  illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn't surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.

As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound. For many, to live in a universe that may have no purpose, and no creator, is unthinkable.

But science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide — rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires — we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.

And so it is that the 21st century has brought new revolutions and new revelations on a cosmic scale. Our picture of the universe has probably changed more in the lifetime of an octogenarian today than in all of human history. Eighty-seven years ago, as far as we knew, the universe consisted of a single galaxy, our Milky Way, surrounded by an eternal, static, empty void. Now we know that there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, which began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. In its earliest moments, everything we now see as our universe — and much more — was contained in a volume smaller than the size of a single atom.

And so we continue to be surprised. We are like the early mapmakers redrawing the picture of the globe even as new continents were discovered. And just as those mapmakers confronted the realization that the Earth was not flat, we must confront facts that change what have seemed to be basic and fundamental concepts. Even our idea of nothingness has been altered.

We now know that most of the energy in the observable universe can be found not within galaxies but outside them, in otherwise empty space, which, for reasons we still cannot fathom, "weighs" something. But the use of the word "weight" is perhaps misleading because the energy of empty space is gravitationally repulsive. It pushes distant galaxies away from us at an ever-faster rate. Eventually they will recede faster than light and will be unobservable.

This has changed our vision of the future, which is now far bleaker. The longer we wait, the less of the universe we will be able to see. In hundreds of billions of years astronomers on some distant planet circling a distant star (Earth and our sun will be long gone) will observe the cosmos and find it much like our flawed vision at the turn of the last century: a single galaxy immersed in a seemingly endless dark, empty, static universe.

Out of this radically new image of the universe at large scale have also come new ideas about physics at a small scale. The Large Hadron Collider has given tantalizing hints that the origin of mass, and therefore of all that we can see, is a kind of cosmic accident. Experiments in the collider bolster evidence of the existence of the "Higgs field," which apparently just happened to form throughout space in our universe; it is only because all elementary particles interact with this field that they have the mass we observe today.

Most surprising of all, combining the ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics, we can understand how it is possible that the entire universe, matter, radiation and even space itself could arise spontaneously out of nothing, without explicit divine intervention. Quantum mechanics' Heisenberg uncertainty principle expands what can possibly occur undetected in otherwise empty space. If gravity too is governed by quantum mechanics, then even whole new universes can spontaneously appear and disappear, which means our own universe may not be unique but instead part of a "multiverse."

online article

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Date Posted - 04/16/2012   -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012