Shedding (Rippled) Light

Lawrence Krauss's take on gravitational waves

By Jeff Laird

I find scientific discoveries to be doubly educational: they not only shed light on the physical world, they reveal philosophical biases, as people react to the new information. A perfect example is the recent discovery of gravitational ripples believed to be echoes from the Big Bang. If they hold up to scrutiny, these observations would further support the idea that our universe had a definite beginning, something physicists have believed for several decades, and Judeo-Christianity has believed for several millennia.

One of the physicists cited in the linked article, though not involved in the actual study, is Lawrence Krauss. Krauss is a popular speaker and writer, and an aggressive, self-labeled anti-theist. His quoted reaction to the discovery is telling:
It gives us a new window on the universe that takes us back to almost the very beginning of time, allowing us to turn previously metaphysical questions about our origins into scientific ones.
When I saw Krauss' quote, early in the article, I wondered why he — specifically — was being cited. Especially given that all he had to offer was a fallacious opinion. Then I saw this paragraph, nearer to the end:
This is obviously difficult terrain for theorists, and the question of why there is something rather than nothing creeps into realms traditionally governed by theologians. But theoretical physicists say that empty space is not empty, that the vacuum crackles with energy and that quantum physics permits such mind-boggling events as a universe popping up seemingly out of nowhere.
The idea of universes just springing from "nowhere" isn't really from "theoretical physicists" in general, so much as it's from Krauss in particular. Most particularly, from his widely panned book, a failed attempt to prove that "something" can come from "nothing"; I put quotation marks around those words for a reason. The book was criticized by physicists, atheists, philosophers, and theologians alike for making some fairly elementary errors in reasoning. Chief among these is the fallacy of changing definitions mid-argument, known as "equivocation".

Krauss' book attempts to argue that the "nothing" of space is really a quantum vacuum, which can sometimes produce particles. So, he says, those particles come from "nothing". But an underlying system of quantum mechanics which produces particles isn't "no thing", it's "some thing". Krauss merely shifted definitions to avoid conclusions he didn't like. Notice how the article parrots that equivocation by saying "empty space is not empty".

Judging by the earlier quote, Krauss still has a rocky relationship with basic logic and philosophy. Mechanisms — like the Big Bang — do not explain away agency. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed by the mechanism of votes in Congress. Does that imply Abraham Lincoln wasn't involved? Cakes are made in ovens, by the mechanism of ingredients combining and changing in the heat. Does knowing that mean we should disbelieve in bakers?

According to the Big Bang Theory, and this new research, the universe began with a tremendous expansion, which left behind ripples we can still detect. While the Big Bang is often misunderstood, the article's summary is fairly easy to absorb:
Multiple lines of evidence, including the detection of the CMB exactly 50 years ago, have bolstered the consensus model of modern cosmology, which shows that the universe was initially infinitely hot and dense, literally dimensionless. There was no space, no time.

Then something happened. The universe began to expand and cool. This was the big bang.
Our knowing more about "what" happened in no way precludes God from being "why" it happened. No more than it would with amendments, cakes, or anything else. Regardless of one's views on the universe — young, old, purposeful, or accidental — that's just logic 101.

So Krauss is just reiterating an unscientific claim: that science removes the need for God in general, and religion in particular. Desperately wanting to believe that this breakthrough turns "previously metaphysical questions about our origins into scientific ones" does not make it so. This discovery, in particular, doesn't change at all the fundamental point on which Biblical scholars and scientists have agreed for more than a generation: at some point, the universe as we know it suddenly "began".

Discoveries such as these gravitational ripples only give us a better idea of "how", maybe even "when", but not "why", and certainly not "who". Atheism in particular, and science in general, cannot explain what the aforementioned "something" was. And by definition, any physical explanation is only that: a description of a mechanism, not a refutation of agency. As the article notes, once we move from the question of "how did the universe begin" to "why did the universe begin", we are moving solidly outside of science and directly into theology. Anti-theists like Krauss are entitled to their opinions, but that doesn't make their opinions rational, or even well-informed.

Interestingly, even this article noted how the most popular "scientific" alternative to a Created universe — the multiverse hypothesis — is completely lacking in observations. And this experiment doesn't change that.

We need to be diligent, as truth-seekers, to point out these presumptions and lapses in reasoning. Despite anti-theistic bias and illogical claims to the contrary, discoveries about nature should only give us more confidence and appreciation for the God who made it (Psalm 19:1).

Image credit: Illustration of the Central Galaxy of the Phoenix Cluster; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Current-Issues  |  Science-Creation

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Published 3-24-2014