Six Thousand Years Of History

Six Thousand Years Of History

If you ask a physicist “Why can’t objects go faster than light? That there should be a limit doesn’t seem right to me”, he will abuse you.

He’ll start off by calling you an idiot, move to questioning your ancestry, accuse you of spreading error, denounce you as heretic; he will gather his colleagues to gaze at the strange spectacle which is you. He will belittle, bemoan, and besmirch. You will count yourself lucky if he doesn’t track down your employer and have you fired.

No. Of course not. If you question the speed of light any physicist will, if he has the time, explain as best as he can to the level of your understanding. If you don’t go away convinced, he may blame himself for being a poor communicator, or he may blame you for being thick. But he won’t hate your guts, suspect you of vile motives, and demand your views be suppressed.

Yet question him about the age of the universe, saying you think those creationists might be on to something with their theory of a young earth, and everything said above goes. Get ready for heat! The same or worse treatment awaits the poor soul questioning evolution of a biologist; whereas that same biologist will treat gently another who, say, thinks plants can understand human language.

The reason for the differences is obvious. Question a matter that can’t easily be tied to Christianity, and it’s intellectual tea-time, pinkies raised in politeness and everything. But bring up something that might support Christian religion and the cloven hoof appears. (That line courtesy of PG Wodehouse.)

This is a weakness. After all, the physicist and biologist may be missing something in their own beliefs, even if those beliefs are more-or-less true. It’s clear to most, especially those who teach, that explaining fundamentals to doubters often brings greater insight and deeper understanding to the teacher.

So let’s be nice as we question two unquestionable beliefs. Or actually only one, which acceptance causes a second to be false.

Thus let us all suppose the earth is young. Few thousand years old, top. I admit up front I doubt this and would bet against it. But some with better minds than mine believe it (listen to this lecture starting at about 35 minutes), and out of respect we’ll see what’s the best case that can be made.

The reason for the belief is, as suspected, Biblical. A simple reading and piecing together of ages, dates, and things like that comes to a figure of about 6,000 years old, plus or minus, a time made famous by Irish Archbishop James Ussher. The six days of creation were six days, not metaphors for certain lengths of time (which other Christians believe, such as Peter Kreeft; see this video starting about 30 minutes).

Now if the young earth is true—which you will recall we are here accepting—many things follow. Foremost is that evolution is chucked out. Evolution, we are told, works over long periods. Six thousand years is not long enough for neo-Darwinian evolution to function.

It had to be instead, as the Bible says, God created all creatures, dinosaurs to bacteria, in their form all at once at the beginning. Well, and this has to be so even if the earth is ancient. This is the argument of Dominique Tassot, Hugh Owen, and Peter Wilder in their paper “Creation and Time“.

To believe in evolution (some theory of it) is thus to make an error. Evolution is the creation of a new species from an old. Yet a giraffe cannot procreate a thing that is not a giraffe. It can procreate a sub-optimal or damaged giraffe, perhaps because of a genetic mutation. But its mutant progeny will still be a giraffe. If evolution were to be true, it would have to be that the progeny is of an different essence, i.e. a different species, than its parent.

That might make sense for man making a machine, a thing that has a different use than man, but it does not make sense for snails making other snails, or not-snails. To procreate a new species out of an old would be to have an effect greater than its cause, which is not possible.

Okay, fine. Evolution isn’t really that exciting anyway. (Having knowledge of it is useless to most people, even if it’s true. Many only love it because they falsely think it kicks Christianity to the curb.)

What else follows from the young earth? Well, genetics is in some pretty deep kimchi. It had to have been that Adam and Eve had sufficient progeny that, after the Fall, that progeny was able, via incest (one supposes, or by mating with human-like creatures, perhaps Neanderthals, which progeny would be human), to reproduce in sufficient number. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Or, rather, Noah wouldn’t.

After the Flood, which happened, there was only Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives. Maybe incest was out, but first-cousin marriages had to be in, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Some say it can be done.

Geneticists believe that there must be sufficient variation for reproduction to not peter out. That must be false. And didn’t we just see a study (which I cannot now rediscover) of some very small population below the critical level of bird (or was it an insect?) that was able to rebound? Genetics is still a new science, so it shouldn’t surprise that they still have some of the basics wrong.

Geology is now in a sad state. Where are the dinosaurs and what about all those fossils? Well, the Flood took care of both. One idea saves the concept of Pangaea, where all land on earth was together. Its breakup into continents, which did not take billions of years but only one or so fays, was one of the causes of the Flood. Imagine—do this—if over the period of a few days the entire North American continent broke up. Water works galore!

The dinosaurs, being fat, drowned. Alligators survived. The upheaval accounts for the rock formations and strange fossil depositions we see. But then we have to a better theory of oil, and of radioactivity, and even of climate. What about all those air bubbles in Antarctic and Greenland ice? That can’t be linear deposition, as believed. There must be another explanation. I don’t know what it would be.

The people (which includes us for the duration of this essay) who hold with a young earth have spent a lot of effort offering alternate explanations of geology, and of course of evolution. But they’ve also put their minds to cosmology, criticizing, for instance, the red shift. A lot more than that has to go, though: like black holes, inflation, and so forth.

You now at least have the idea.


At last we come to our homework. We have enough readers to span expertise in many sciences, all of which would be touched (many are punched) by a young earth.

What science, meaning what theories, do we have to jettison if the young earth theory is true? What are the consequences? What replacements can be imagined?

There is no point writing below “Only a fool doesn’t believe in evolution; here are all the reasons it is true.” We are supposing it is false; or, rather, we have deduced it is false if young earth is true.

So please spare us reasons why your favorite theory is true. Instead tell us how it can be false—or if it even conflicts. I once asked global-warming-of-doom believers “What would convince you your theory is wrong?” Answer came there none. This proves that, for many, that theory is an article of unimpeachable faith.

Keep in mind the Deadly Sin of Reification. Observations are not theory. The same set of observations can fit multiple theories—and that theory drives observation. We don’t search for what we don’t expect. If we throw out a theory we are not throwing out observations, but neither are we as observant as we think.

One theory, which is trivially possible, is that God created the world as the young earthers say, in six days, just as we see it. This conflicts with no observation. God’s power is infinite, and infinity is more than a big number. It would be easier for God to create the universe in six days than for you to drop a hammer on your toe (you might miss). Why God did such a thing is different than how.

Don’t bother with falsifiability, which is a red herring. A theory deduced from indubitable axioms, with no contingent parts, is a true theory and impossible to falsify. The theory of God creating the universe is not falsifiable, but that is no demerit.

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  1. Sander van der Wal

    If the Young Earth Theory is true, almost all of Astrophysics and Cosmology can be thrown into the bin. Some examples

    The theory that stars get their power by fusing hydrogen to helium, and so on, is not needed anymore. You can now power stars by just letting them shrink, turning potential energy into photons. Stars take about 100.000 years to collapse from a cloud of hydrogen and buts to the main sequence, which means that the Sun was created being in the Main Sequence.

    The idea that galaxies are constructed by merging smaller galaxies does not work on a timescale of 6000 years.

    The idea that Galaxy clusters are in a virial state (their movements completely determined by the local gravity well) cannot be true either, unless they are created moving that way. So out go all the issues we have with Dark Matter.

    Dark Energy is not needed, the universe was created looking 13 billion years (and a bit) old. All the light we see from far away galaxies is just for show, it cannot be the first bunch of stars igniting.

    Or, you can assume that the Universe was created 13 billion years ago, and only the Earth was created 6000 years ago. Which seems unreasonable.

  2. Gary

    Many of the scientific disciplines from astronomy to zoology provide evidence that the Earth looks old. For it to be young in terms of actual time, the appearance of great age must be a feature. The light traveling from distant galaxies must have been created already underway. The sorted order of fossils that never were alive must have been embedded at creation and not deposited by physical processes.

    Why this would be cannot be answered finally. Perhaps to fool people with a delusion of great earthly age? For what purpose? Such a trick by a Creator would have a purpose.

    Proving this great age scenario is equally impossible. If all of the physical evidence is consistent, there isn’t a smoking gun. The historical explanation (the Bible) might appear to disagree. However, it was not intended to be a compendium of scientific fact and is unable to support modern methods of inquiry. That is not its purpose.

    So the only idea we have to jettison is that we can actually know the true age of the Earth. We are unable to include all of the premises in our calculation of probability.

  3. Richard A

    The theory of evolution has its purposes. It would seem, for instance, that a goal of evolution would NOT be to render sexual intercourse non-procreative.

  4. I am one of those who agrees that the English term, “Day”, is improperly translated or interpreted. Does Genesis change if I write “And the before and the after was the (first through 6th) epoch”? That said, many things in the material world, from a chemical (chemist) point of view aren’t linear. They are non-linear, and in particular, follow the logistic curve. Looking from the far right end and extrapolating it linearly would make dating estimates of the time course of a given chemical reaction wrong, if you didn’t have other information at hand. Then there are things such as supercritical fluids. Standard bench chemistry goes ‘awry’ if you don’t consider how these change the conditions present.

    How old is the Earth? I don’t know. There are multiple formation and age models out there. What I do know it is old enough to have a solid crust, with rifts, some 10 to 20 miles thick. And, the theory of evolution is a tautology, too; at its core. To me, that’s a way of saying God did it without giving Him the credit. 😉

  5. Sheri

    “So the only idea we have to jettison is that we can actually know the true age of the Earth. We are unable to include all of the premises in our calculation of probability.”

    I’m going with Gary on this one. We don’t know and we cannot know. Which means evolution can pick a number, physics another, religion another. We simply cannot know the age of the earth which makes all of this a matter of faith no matter who picks the number.

    As for a 6000 yr old earth and science, most of science is blown up by that number—physics, biology, evolution, etc. Chemistry probably would survive. I don’t see this happening any time soon. Too radical and too scary for the world of “science” at this point.

    Must it be 6000 years? I have no idea where that number came from, but it seems as arbitrary as the billions we get from physics. I do get attacked with that number any time I question evolution, but I have no idea why or where it came from. And, so far as I can see, very little of “science” is anything more than blind faith. It all comes from the same place. The need to believe something is real and fixed and that YOU know which choice is right. Calling it “science” seems to be the sledgehammer used to force people to agree with you. Physicists do seem the least likely use the sledgehammer.

  6. Kevin

    I volunteer with my church’s high school ministry, this year with ninth grade. At one point during the year a number of the guys were really having questions about evolution and such. It turns out that in their school they were about to go into it in their science class and they were unsure about how they should approach it. The Bible has specific claims, after all. And more than one of the teachers told them that some of them were going to have problems with it because of the truth of evolution.

    So I asked them a simple question: let’s say that everything that you are going to be taught is true. How does that disprove 1) God, 2) Jesus?

    They started with the expected answers, about Scriptural accuracy and such. “No”, I told them, “I asked you about God and Jesus.” Them: “But doesn’t evolution disprove God?” Me: “How? Exactly? Tell me exactly HOW evolution disproves God.” “Well, all of this stuff came together and made cells and such.” “How’d you get the stuff?” “Well, it, uh, came, uh.”

    And so on, but they couldn’t give me an answer. An expected outcome, as most Theists would agree. Clearly that was a simplistic situation and there were a lot of things I didn’t cover, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to challenge what they thought was true about origin questions. Once they discovered that what they believed was believed without cause they found that they could explore these issues rather than deny them.

    A big part of the problem, at least based on my experiences, is that the skeptic and the (shall we call them) Fundamentalist both claim the same thing. Namely, that if evolution is true then the Bible is false. But once my students understood that there was no reason to presume that the agreement between the skeptic and the Fundamentalist is necessarily true we were able to discuss the matter intelligibly.

    Personally, I think that is a good way to address it. We can give them science all day long, but a lot of Christians are fearful that if they look at this stuff too hard that they will have no choice but to admit that their Christianity is false, and they don’t want to lose Christ. But I think what they need, more so than data, is permission.

  7. @Sheri, Chemistry would survive, where chemistry deals with chemical matter and its reactions. Nuclear chemistry might or might not; depending. Is nuclear decay linear or non-linear, that is, are its constants truly single valued for all, as in *all*, time; or functions that depend on time where time is itself a function of conditions and change?

    Recall that biology started life agnostic of chemistry, and as a morphological classification science. From its chemistry standpoint, biology would continue as it does; where mutable things mutate, though they try hard to minimize the effect of accidents. The natural world is one where there is the survival of the good enough. Good enough means be fruitful and multiply; which the West is failing at, due to its current mass delusion of “progressives” and their faith in materialism (this does not mean consumption, by the way, it means that the material world we see is all that there is).

    I have often said that science can’t function without faith; where faith is certain knowledge of that which you can’t know with certainty any other way. The catch is “what do you put your faith in”, as it were.

    Even physics has to deal with the fact that the outputs of its models are conditional and that we, as observers, are embedded in the system. To change the observer changes the system, too. Whether that changes the system as much as instrumenting a system so we can make measurements depends, too; on what is measured, how it is measured, and what axioms and deductions we have in mind when we interpret the results of the measurements to induce the general case from the specific, finite, example(s) we have available.

    As taught to me many years ago in a debate class, semantics matters. You can’t convey exactly what you want to convey if folk don’t grasp what you are saying and instead substitute what they think you said for what you actually said.

  8. Ye Olde Statistician

    The idea that the poem that forms thr into to the book of Genesis ought be taken literally is a notion that came about in the scientific age, when there was a mania for counting and measuring by folks like Newton, Ussher, and so on. The ages of the patriarchs were carefully tabulated, known overlap discounted, and hey presto! a bogus six kiloyear age since creation. But tribes were often referred to as persons. So Israel was a person, but also a tribe that endured for many generations. One of the pharoahs wrote on a stella that he had raided into Canaan and “Israel’s seed is no more.” Perhaps he was using parameters, since that seems too confident by miles.

    As for the six days, poetry need no be taken as scientifically literal; esp. when science did not exist at the writing. Ezra the scribe appears to have written the poem as an intro when, having compiled the books salvaged from the sack of Jerusalem, he wished to emphasize that Sabbath-keeping was the be-all and end-all. So, imagine God as a craftsman — say, a carpenter — building Heaven and Earth (i.e., everything). 1. Turn on the light in the workshop. 2. Rough carpentry on the Heaven; 3. Rough out the Earth; 4. Fine work on the Heaven; 5. Fine work on the Earth; 6. Finishing touches; 7. Kick back and have some brewskies. Lesson: even God observed the Sabbath.

  9. Ye Olde Statistician

    PS. The date proposed is a fair approximation for the pueblos of Mesopotamia; that is, for the creation of the human world out of the timeless bands wandering the forest primeval.

  10. ARB

    I think it’s key to point out that just because a theory is not necessitated by an evolutionary hypothesis, does not mean it must be discarded if evolution is not itself necessitated. Some matters, like evolution (and especially the galactic-scale processes other comments have mentioned) tend to become somewhat hypothetical claims in a 6,000 year old universe, but that doesn’t make them fundamentally false. They may still very well be true on a local scale, even if the full process is never actually realized in any one case. For this reason, scientific claims about the process of nature essentially never need be discarded in the young earth perspective; only claims about the actual history of nature need to be reevaluated.

    However, I agree with Gary’s last point. Permitting the active intervention of a fundamentally incomprehensible force into one’s theories necessarily invalidates essentially all scientific induction, and our species has been given little information in Scripture to provide significant bounds for God’s behavior (in motive, not ability, of course) with respect to creation and thereby to control for that unknown.

  11. Red Forman

    If the six days really were 144 hours, exactly zero falsifiable scientific claims will have to be thrown out. (what’s left of real science is known as “engineering” today)

  12. Dave

    All evidence from the natural world shows the Universe to be about 13.8 billion years old, and the Earth about 4.6 billion. If God’s power is truly without limit, he could have created it all 6,000 years ago, planting dinosaur fossils under millions of years of sedimentary rock with the correct potassium/argon ratios, photons in mid-flight from distant stars, and so on. You could study tree rings and ice cores crossing the moment of Creation and see no discontinuity because God’s forgery is so perfect.

    But if God’s power is truly without limit, His design is utterly unknowable, so there’s no need for science at all. The Sun rises and the flower opens because God commanded them to. All we need to do is chant His praises five times a day and behead anyone who doesn’t join in. If our children are all dying of disease, such is God’s inscrutable will!

    “It is important to worship the right God, one who is big enough to provide the white pill, yet can reach out to man by making himself small enough to be flogged through the streets of Jerusalem.” -Jim Donald

    When scientists say that there are no cognitive differences between races or sexes, that homosex is as natural as procreative sex, that gender is a social construct, that eating animal fat is unhealthy, that government can stimulate the economy by printing money, that the world will burn up in ten years if we don’t give scientists absolute power, that isn’t science, it’s a religion that murdered science and now wears its carcass as a skin suit.

  13. Ianto Watt

    Way too much scientific belief flying around here! BTW, one comment to Gary- yes, light already in motion (towards us) must have been created as being already motion, which agrees with the creation scenario- light was created before the sun, moon and stars. Which says something, I think, about the relative intelligence of the one (One?) who wrote Genesis. He understood what this would imply.

    Next, in respect to the scenario Dr. B presents us with, (that is, the abusive believers in science), I have yet to meet a single scientism-ist that can answer the simplest question of all- where did the initial matter come from? Before the Big Bang, that is. Tell me that (scientifically) and I’ll have a little more respect for ‘science’. I’ll wait. I have time.

    Lastly, it says in numerous places in the Bible that Pride was the first (and greatest) sin. And that God would confound Man in his (man’s) own ‘wisdom’. Now first of all, it seems to me that this document that is nearly as old as the 6,000 years we are speculating upon was written by someone(s) who knew mankind’s tendencies and ego pretty well. Recorded history proves that, I think. Even the last century, when we were supposedly so civilized. Yet I have never met a historian who seems to think this is so. They think we have gotten smarter, simply because we reached the moon by standing on the shoulders of ‘cave-men’. But let me ask- was Pythagoras dumber than us? Archimedes? The list of men like this is long, so I won’t continue, but you get the idea? Build me a Pyramid, without today’s machines and tools, (and position it exactly so) and again, I will have respect.

    Anyway, I think if one simply reviews, logically, the powers inherent in the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God, one should be able to conclude that it is quite possible to understand (and believe) that He could, indeed, create a young earth that looks old, for the original purpose of The Garden; that is, to test us. And our pride. Listen to my favorite song, ‘Pride of Man’ (by a Jewish man) and you’ll get the idea;

  14. Mike Ozanne

    First thing that would have to go is any notion of radioactive decay and half life.. we’d need a theory that aligns observable half life decay with recent origin of the elements…

  15. Salvus

    The issue boils down to whether mankind is to be considered the “special” center of the universe or not.

    The current issues with respect to cosmology, discussed above, are not much different from the examination of the heliocentric versus geocentric solar system around 1600 AD, in a critical conceptual way: how special or unique are we (mankind) as observers in the universe.

    Following is a rough sketch of the history of the two notions, but do not focus or feel the need to quibble on the historical details, the essential point is

    Is man’s physical place “special” in the physical universe or not.

    We will dwell at the end on what this means concerning the deadly sin of Pride.

    Around 1600 detailed observations of the solar system were just becoming available from improvements in construction of optical telescopes. At that time, there was little to no notion of the spatial extent of the points of light observed in the sky, i.e. our modern notions of galaxies. Some objects appeared at angular positions fixed within the daily rise and setting sequence of observations and some appeared to change angular position with respect to the others, which we now call planets and their moons. Two sources of light appeared to be much larger than mere points, the moon and the sun, and these two changed angular position with respect to the others in specific characteristic ways over fairly short time periods. A few appeared slightly different from the others, while smaller than the moon and sun, they did not appear to “twinkle” in the same way most of the points of light did. In addition, these latter few moved about with respect to the others during a year’s time, passing through the angular positions of various constellations as they did so.

    Both heliocentric and geocentric systems were proposed to explain these angular motions in early Greek times. The geocentric view was widely discussed around the time of Aristotle and Eudoxus (~400BC) and the geocentric system was proposed at least as early as ~300 BC by Aristarchus. Aristarchus went so far as to estimate geometrically (similar to modern parallax estimates) the sizes and distances to the sun and moon and determined that the sun was much farther away from earth than the moon and much larger than either the earth or the moon. The heliocentric view never became as widely accepted as the geocentric, in part because it seemed obvious to mankind that the earth did not move and therefore observers on earth held a special position in the cosmos, namely a point about which the cosmos was symmetric. Of course, the most famous geocentric system was that of Ptolemy circa 150 AD. It is worth noting that various medieval Islamic scholars proposed heliocentric systems but in general the geocentric system dominated until the time of Galileo.

    Galileo’s observations (and work of others at the time, notably Copernicus and Brahe) of the moons of Jupiter, the tides, and particularly the phases of Venus convinced him that a heliocentric system was a better explanation. We are all familiar with Galileo’s travails with the church hierarchy of the time, which led to his eventual excommunication and relative confinement. Regardless of the technical considerations, the world view at the time was not ready to accept that man’s position in the observed motions (solar system) was not the “special”, i.e. was not the point about which all others were symmetric.

    It is worth emphasizing that none of these workers had clear theories for the dynamics by which the objects moved, only observations of their positions. Even Kepler’s laws of planetary motions were geometrical statements, not dynamical. Newton (who apparently was born on the day Galileo died) finally provided such a dynamical theory in the late 1600s, which was demonstrated to be able to explain solar system movements in roughly heliocentric terms, although in actuality the sun itself was no longer the center, but instead it was the center of mass of the total solar system, which is somewhat outside the sun roughly at what is called the barycenter of the sun-Jupiter system.

    It nevertheless took several hundred years for the heliocentric view to become widely accepted, even by the church. By the mid-1800s numerous observations of stellar aberration and parallax convincingly demonstrated that the earth’s position relative to the “fixed stars” changed over the course of a year.

    So finally, it was widely accepted that the position of man on the earth, was not “special” in the sense that everything in the solar system was symmetric about it. Instead man’s position was exactly like that of any other point in the solar system, and the point of symmetry was the center of mass of that system.

    Now, we could stop here for a moment and consider an alternative view, namely that a supernatural power had created the solar system to appear to be symmetric about some other point, when in fact it actually is symmetric about man’s particular position, the earth. This would require that power to crate and maintain the solar system’s movement, in just such a way that the motions appear to be explained well by Newtonian mechanics and somehow parallax observations are also made to appear as they do. There is no way to prove the falsity of such a hypothesis, since its construction negates the use of our powers of reason and observation. But even Galileo, a deeply faithful Catholic, might find pause based on what he wrote in a letter to one of the political powers of his day, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

    Turning to modern cosmology, the issue is precisely the same: is man’s position as an observer in the universe “special” or not?

    Modern cosmology has several fundamental assumptions. One is that the universe is homogeneous at large enough scales. Another is that it is isotropic are large enough scales. A third is that the laws of physics we measure locally apply equally and universally everywhere in the universe. Sometimes these are captured in a so-called cosmological principle that an observer anywhere in the universe sees essentially the same thing, a restatement of the Copernican principle that the earth is not a “special” place. All of these together mean that what we observe from earth, coupled with extrapolations based on physical laws as we measure them here, gives an identical view of the universe as that which would be observed any where else in the universe.

    Much discussion about cosmology and creationism involves Hubble’s red shift measurements and what they may mean about universal expansion, coupled with backwards extrapolation for age of the universe. However, Hubble’s observations also made another landmark leap in cosmology, less well appreciated. In the early 1900s a lively debate was in progress on whether so-called nebula (from the Greek for cloud, since they looked like cloudy specs in early telescopes) were within our local vicinity, namely the Milky Way, or whether they were outside it and if so, how far outside. In other words, was our Milky Way the whole universe or just a little piece of it. Due to the limits on how small an angle can be measured by earth based optical telescopic measurements, the largest distance that can be measured to stars is about 100 parsecs, about 300 light years. Since we now know the Milky Way radius is about 16,000 parsecs, nothing was known about the distance to objects further away. Hence the argument about whether they were part of the Milky Way or not. Around Hubble’s time, certain stars, called Cepheid variables, were observed to vary in brightness with regular periods unique to each star and it was found that the brightness was a simple function of the period. Observations of nearby Cepheids, whose distances could be measured, allowed calibration of the period with the absolute luminosity, so that if a Cepheid were observed beyond a distance measurable by parallax, its apparent luminosity could be used to get its distance by knowing the absolute luminosity from the period-absolute luminosity relation. Hubble measured the period of a Cepheid variable, C1, in what was then known as the Andromeda Nebula. His result was about 450,000 parsecs, well outside the Milky Way, demonstrating that Andromeda and other similar nebulae were in fact distant galaxies outside the Milky Way and that the universe was much larger than just our local milky way. This relegated our previous “universe,” the Milky Way to just one of many similar galaxies throughout the universe, that we were not “special” in that galactic sense.

    His further observations (and many others) of the red shift and distance correlations are well known and discussed. As is the 3-degree kelvin background radiation. The body of observations is consistent with physics we measure locally if the universe is expanding and has been for quite some time, much, much longer than 6,000 years. There are many unresolved issues about early times, what will eventually happen, how much matter may be around that we can’t account for, etc. but the basic fact that what we observe is only consistent with the physics we measure locally if it has been expanding for much much longer than 6,000 years. Further, it does appear consistent with physics we measure locally and what we observe that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic at large scales. In this context, we on earth are not in any way “special” in the universe in terms of what we observe.

    It is possible that an omniscient and omnipotent entity could have created the universe so that it would appear to us at each stage that we were not “special” in terms of what we observe. It could have been created simply to appear to us that this was the case. It is impossible to disprove by physical observation that hypothesis since by its definition, it says that we cannot observe it to be false in any way available to us.

    Now we come to the issue of Pride. Is it more Pride-full to believe 1) that the universe was created just for us so that we would think from observing that it was constructed over some long time according to the measurements and reasoning we use or 2) that indeed we are not “special” in that sense and instead are just a co-equal denizen of the universe, existing at one small point in a very, very long cosmological development? Perhaps Galileo’s quote bears repeating, ““I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

  16. Ianto Watt

    Well, such a short reply. Anyway, was it Man that first concluded that he was PLACED at the center of the universe? Or was he told this? Now then, we are again back to the question of being tested.

    If you want to avoid this testing, you try and figure out how to dodge the responsibility that comes from knowing (as in, having been told directly, in the Garden and in Scripture) that you were created in the very image and likeness of God. And that amoebas weren’t.

    Why then wouldn’t man, who most clearly reflects the image of the Creator, be found to be at the center of His creation? Thus, the acceptance of this knowledge (and the obedience it entails) is true humility, and the rejection of it is true pride.

  17. Salvus

    To refer again to the strictly observational, physical evidence:

    The observational evidence is strong that mankind and earth are not in any physical, observable way “special” in the universe. One is free to believe otherwise, but only in the Pride that they know the one real truth, which by its definition is hidden from direct observation or empirical test.

    To refer to the non-physical and non-logical issues:

    The notion of test is irrelevant here. To take a test, one must first sign up for the class.

    Whether “Man concluded he was placed” or “he was told” something is also irrelevant. The question is what are YOU personally told or how are YOU personally placed, not to presume out of Pride that you yourself speak for Man in general.

    Buddhist and Hindu scriptures discuss cosmological time in terms of units of time much larger than those in Judeo-Christian scriptures. The typical time unit is a kalpa, which is roughly billions of years. Further the Buddhist and Hindu cosmologies are cyclical, allowing for creation, evolving of the universe and annihilation, followed again by another cycle. You could just as easily consider yourself to be “told” these cosmologies and consider it an act of pride to reject them. In these systems, all sentient beings are considered worthy parts of the cosmology, even the lowly amoebas. If not for many lowly bacteria our digestive systems would not function and we would not survive.

    Consequently, the fact that you consider yourself to be told that you were created in the physical image of your deity does not apply to Man, just to you. Feel free to consider it however you wish. Someone else can consider themselves to be told something entirely different.
    It is Pride that considers that one is “special” and knows what truth is “told” to Man, and does not allow that others may consider something else to be “told” to Man. Or that in fact nothing is “told” and perhaps we should figure things out for ourselves, no matter how many billions of years that might take.

  18. Milton Hathaway

    Many years ago, I visited a natural history museum, and they had this hands-on exhibit of tree cores. Each core was on a horizontal slider, and you could slide any particular core to line up the rings to an adjacent core. It looked like a jumble until you hit the right spot (conveniently marked on the backing board), then all the rings magically aligned. When you lined up all the overlapping cores properly, they created an unbroken record of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ years, extending many hundreds of years into the past. The tree cores came from a dry area with ancient slow-growing trees. Also, the area was in the past settled by peoples who built wood structures, which were well-preserved, and this extended the record much further yet back in time. The record extended back 12,000 years. I remember thinking that if the earth was indeed only 6000 years old, God was the ultimate practical joker.

    As I learned about Special Relativity, General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and all the modern areas of science that challenge our intuition of how the world works, I started to wonder how scientists could claim anything as a fact anymore. For example, how can one know that the laws of physics are the same throughout the universe? Wouldn’t this shed doubt on any astronomical observation?

    This is probably the biggest surprise for me – I thought that surely by now some scientist would have proven that the laws of physics are indeed localized, and some of the extremely complicated theories required to explain observations could thereby much simplified. Sort of like how the orbit of Mars was explained with a very complicated equation, which was greatly simplified with additional knowledge of gravity and the solar system.

    God really seems to like simplicity. Why is that, I wonder?

  19. Salvus


    Good points.

    On the issue of science and facts: For science that we can test in a lab, particularly the basic sciences of physics, chemistry and biology, Feynman’s view was especially insightful. His view was that science (at least physics) proceeds by guessing a law, quantifying it non-arbitrarily and predicting the outcomes of experiments, again in definite non-arbitrary terms. Then if we compare the experiments, with knowledge of the experimental uncertainties, to the predictions, the theory can be said to be either wrong meaning it gives results that are different by more than experimental uncertainties or it is not yet wrong. Not yet wrong means just that, so far it works, but it is never a fact. It just works for now. That is the best we can ask for from science.

    It is harder for sciences that can’t test by experiment, like cosmology or even astronomy. There the predictions have to be limited to future observations or something like the number of different kinds of observations (different objects, different wavelengths, etc.) that are predicted by the same theory.

    The other cool thing about Feynman was his perspective on his baby, quantum electrodynamics, or qed. So far, qed is the most accurately predictive theory of them all. But as he said, the statements of qed are just crazy, they don’t make any sense. They are not simple, but they work in terms of predicting experiments. For example, qed predicts photons going from place to place and interacting with things by summing up probability amplitudes as if they took every possible path, an uncountable infinity of them with different amplitudes and phases, and then adding up the amplitudes and squaring to get the probability that something happens. Both conceptually and mathematically it is anything but simple, but it works. He famously said that if you say you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics.
    From another view though, even qed is simple in the sense that you can write the rules down on one side of a small sheet of paper. Calculating things isn’t simple but the rules are.

    The whole thing is just great fun.

  20. Ianto Watt


    “The observational evidence is strong that mankind and earth are not in any physical, observable way “special” in the universe.”

    So then, you find earth and mankind to be somewhat common throughout the universe? At least, not unique? As in, there are other places like Earth, inhabited by intelligent beings, in some way similar to us? Really? And you believe this because of ‘physical, observable’ evidence?

    Could you please show us some of this ‘scientific’ evidence? No, not ‘probabilities’. Nothing based on the un-observable presumption of rather endless time. Please, no tautologies. If not, please realize that you, no less than I, are speaking on faith. At least I am aware and accepting of that fact. Your ‘observations’ of the origins of matter and man mean nothing in absolute (and yes, scientific) terms. Why? Because you have observed nothing but the aftermath.

    I’ve seen many accidents where the now un-moving cars are pointed in every direction but the ones in which they were originally traveling. And unless you knew their original trajectory and speed, you cannot be certain of their original course. The emphasis here is on the word ‘knew’. Guessing is not a synonym.

    And so, like the person parodied in the intro to Dr. B’s article, you sneer at anyone who fails to bow to your superior ‘knowledge’. Which you are unable to prove (or even explain) with actual ‘observable’ facts instead of theories, which you freely admit are not understandable (qed). Which behavior, if I may point out, is symptomatic of faith. Yes, I have pride in my Faith. You, on the other hand, have faith in your Pride. Which you have mistaken for true science. Tsk tsk.

  21. Oldavid

    Yes, Salvus, it is great fun, but no matter how simple or complex the Universe appears, you cannot get past the the observation that it exists as a “something” and that it does “work” (as in operate) whether we know and understand “how” or not. A great man (but almost completely unknown) defined philosophy to me as “the search for knowledge and understanding of reality using the scientific instrument known as logic”.

    Another man (fascinated with science), described Heaven as a great laboratory where one can spend eternity exploring the wonderful work of the Creator. Another, a musician, thought Heaven to be where he could spend eternity making wonderful melodies and harmonies. Ultimately, Infinity means that no matter how much you know, or think you know, there’s always more. The sheer size and magnificence of the Universe is an inducement to think and acknowledge a greatness way beyond our “intellectual”, proudly demanded autonomy, genital and gastronomic etc. pleasures.

    Anyhow, to more pragmatic things; Galileo was not censured or condemned for espousing “Copernicanism” but for his impish, arrogant, derogation of anyone who would not accept his didactic demands… some of which were just plain wrong even back then. Even while Galileo was making a fool of himself (and physical science) some Jesuits were in China explaining the Copernican model to Chinese astronomers who, (some of them) to their immense credit, pulled out their charts and records to find that the model fits the observations!

    Now, let’s try to compare the Galileo episode with the epidemic superstition of “Evolution”. The Copernican Heliocentric Solar System is supported by completely ideologically detached observations going back hundreds of years. The Darwinist model is not supported by any observations that have not been altered or interpreted to fit the assumed paradigm. Even the supposed “geological column” does not exist anywhere on Earth except in the minds of its proponents and the fanciful “diagrammatic representations” that are sold to the Goyim as a “scientific” fact while the real evidence of (almost universal) incoherence is suppressed and/or ridiculed for no reason other than that it doesn’t fit the assumed paradigm. There’s much more; look it up for yourself.

    Cosmology. For the drongoes that take the popular media (Scribes) as representing a “scientific” consensus then I invite you to knock yourself out with the short, simple explanations here:
    There’s much more and much greater detail available which I could supply if requested.

    The Ivory Towers that I describe as “fortifications designed to prevent the ingress of commonsense” stand on a sandhill of false premises. Their Lords amuse themselves issuing edicts and taunts to befuddle the peasants.

    Any “knowledge” not based in commonsense, irrefutable premises is a con-job; or reality is an arbitrary thing that anyone can invent to suit their immediate circumstance or pleasure; in which case no science is possible.

  22. Salvus


    I said nothing about the presence of life on earth or anywhere in the universe. If you took that meaning, then it was not intended. If you wish to discuss flying saucers or alien life or the origin of life or evolution, discuss them with someone else. I am here focused on theories of physics that can be tested in experiments or as direct or multiple observations as possible. In particular, I intended to focus on theories of the motion of matter in the solar system and the universe, particularly with respect to the length of time such phenomena have been in progress and whether a particular physical reference frame can be demonstrated to be “special.”

    The point about “special” with respect to the universe has to do with the description I gave of physical theories, first of the solar system (heliocentric versus geocentric) and then the universe (cosmology) both of which deal with the behavior of matter under the forces which we measure in the laboratory. In these cases, the primary issue is whether the physical reference frame of mankind (i.e. the location and time of the current earth) is “special” and somehow unique with respect to physics, or is relative and no different from reference frames at any other point in space and time. The view that somehow the solar system and later the universe was or is in some way designed with our particular reference frame as the preferred “special” frame requires the hypothesis that the universe was created so as to look to us like it has existed for many more years than a few thousand, when in fact it was only created somehow a few thousand years ago. Further, it has been designed to look like our frame is not “special.” Since there is no way to test the “designed” hypothesis one is welcome to believe it if one wishes, but because there is no way to test, it is not a useful hypothesis for comparing observations with physical theories.

    Also, there is a strong theoretical argument that reference frames such as ours are indeed relative and not “special”, in particular Emmy Noether’s First Theorem in which she (possibly one of the most under appreciated scientists of modern times) proved that key physical quantities are conserved (energy, momentum, charge, etc. which we measure to be conserved) if and only if the fundamental equations of physics possess symmetries in corresponding particular variables. For example, conservation of energy arises if and only if physics is symmetric in time and conservation of momentum arises if and only if physics is symmetric in space. In particular these mean that fundamental physics has translational and time symmetry, which means that there can be no “special” reference frames. It is in this sense that the notion that our reference frame is somehow “special” requires the intrinsically unobservable supernatural “spoofing of mankind” hypothesis.

    The illustration of cars after a crash is a good one. In essence it is the question of can the initial conditions of several moving relatively large masses (i.e. grams or kilograms) be derived from detailed knowledge of the final conditions after a collision. In fact, this case is examined routinely in undergraduate physics laboratories and indeed the initial conditions of typical collisions can be determined as exactly as the final conditions are known, precisely because of Noether’s Theorem and the resulting conservation laws. In addition, one can confirm one’s “guess” by simply doing the experiment with the derived initial conditions and comparing the result to the prediction. For very small masses one must use quantum mechanics, but again the predictions of theory agree very well with the results of experiments and for the same reasons. There is not need for “faith” in these cases, the experiments either agree with experiment or they do not, in which case the theory is wrong. For the case of collisions within classical or quantum mechanics, agreement between theory and prediction is extremely good. As I mentioned, QED is one of the more precisely confirmed theories, typically better than one part in a trillion. (There is an interesting side discussion on classical many body collision problems, but we don’t need to get into it here.)

    If you got the impression I argue for superior “knowledge” then that was unintended. Quite the contrary. The investigation of physical theories admits no “superior” knowledge. The only arbiter of theories in physics is whether the quantitative theory proposed agrees with experiment or not. You are welcome to test your theories against experiment and make the results known as much as anyone.

    Again, Galileo weighed in on this topic, saying “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

    Feynman also had something to say, often quoted, namely “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are or what your name is who made the theory. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

    The conduct of the physics behind theories of the solar system and physical cosmology is fundamentally egalitarian, no one need bow to anyone, the only arbiter is experiment. If a theory does not agree with controlled experiments it is wrong, period, and is discarded as a viable theory. On the other hand, one can certainly believe a theory that intrinsically can not be tested against an experiment if one so wishes, but anyone else is free not to believe such a theory and should be allowed to not believe such, without consequence. Such a theory is outside the realm of physical theories.

    Finally, a comment on what appears to be a trigger word, “understand.” When Feynman said no one “understands” QED what he meant (and explained in more detail in that particular lecture) was that the theory says if one uses a certain few mathematical rules to predict experimental outcomes, the predictions agree with experiments to parts in a trillion or so. When he said no one “understands” QED what he meant was that no one can articulate a mathematical theory for “why” the rules work. In fact, no theory in physics is designed or intended to say “why” it works. The only test of whether it is a valid theory is whether it predicts experimental outcomes. If you wish, you could say the theory describes “how” a phenomenon works, but not “why.” Unless a “why” can be tested against experiment (in which case it becomes a “how”) it is necessarily an article of faith (since it is untestable) and anyone is free to believe whatever one wishes. If one wants to believe that classical mechanics or quantum mechanics or QED work the way they do because Vishnu, or Allah, or God, or Gaia, or Zeus or the Great Coyote make it so, one is free to choose whatever of those one wishes. There is no problem until one who does so chooses to coerce, modify or criticize the belief or personal behavior (benign behavior) of someone else. Then one falls victim to Pride.

  23. Oldavid

    The concept of an exclusively “empirical” science is ephemeral because materialistic science cannot even be defined or described by the tenets of materialism without reference to metaphysical concepts such as consciousness and perception.

    The matter of “reference frames” is crucially important. Is there some completely stable, immovable reference point to which every other position or movement can be related to? Well, it depends where you are and what you’re measuring. Ancient mariners regarded the Pole Star as a definitive fixed for their purpose of navigation in the wild blue yonder but it’s no use at all in trying to describe the position of a freckle on your face. Most (if not all) the measurements we can do are one thing, or quality, compared to another. The Father of Confusion is trying to convince us all that time and space are some “stuff” that can be deformed, stretched, shrunk, bent, twisted, etc. whereas it is nothing but the succession of events and the separation of points to enable autonomous movement (in the classical sense of change) and the freedom to direct it (as in will).

    If you knew every contingency you could predict every outcome (of a car crash, for example) but that doesn’t happen, there are always many astonishing results of unknown factors.

    [quote=salvus]The only test of whether it is a valid theory is whether it predicts experimental outcomes. [/quote] No! I will contend that a “valid theory” is nothing more than an hypothesis that has not been refuted as incoherent with known and demonstrable facts of reason and experiment. A “theory” is nothing more than a possible, likely, or even probable, explanation for observed phenomenon that has not been refuted by reason or experiment and, as such, may be a basis for further investigation.

    The Ivory Towers are getting desperate; their foundations of sand are giving way so they are busily pouring out more hot air to keep the dreaded commoners at bay.

  24. Joy

    The comment from Salvus is extremely helpful and warrants a third read.
    I’d be interested to hear what Bob K would say about it and suspect he would agree.
    Feynman’s attitude was also before the recent very toxic false debate, between science and religion commenced with so called New Atheism. Parody of each side’s worst examples and deliberate confusion, deliberate smoke-screening to cover up error and group think to add some savour. Just the same way as the climate change argument progressed, or regressed.

    Confusion about the difference between how and why seems to be something for which extremely intelligent individuals have little or no excuse. So it smells like people are doing the confusing on purpose. How it seems.

    They are in different realms. Both in the field of the perception, or human condition/consciousness.

    Claiming God ‘done a hoax’ on mankind is so preposterous.
    The mystery is inherent without God’s needing to do a loop, or plot and scheme.
    What a strange kind of prankster would God be? More like the kind of propping up. Artificially keeping the plate spinning for fear that people won’t believe in Him without something to see. To have faith or to see the mystery is part of the human condition, more or less. It’s a basic driver, in the non car sense!

  25. Richard STADTER

    Dear Mr. Briggs, thank you for your post. It does inspire thought, as do the comments. The request to state which theories would have to be discarded if the supposition is true is a bit of the “shoe on the other foot,” since the “young earth” position is the one I believe is biblical. To think about what theories would be wrong if a “young earth” position is verified requires me to shift from defense to offense, a mental shift not easily accomplished.
    I am unqualified as an expert on anything, especially the scientific implications of this or that. I tend to go right to the nature of God and of man, but I believe the implications of those things would apply to everything else. God’s nature is seen as all-powerful (above any physical, natural limitations), yet personal (acting with purpose, relating to His creation, communicative). Man’s nature, created in the image of His Maker, metaphysically, shares attributes with Him, in ability and relationship. The verification of a young earth consistent with the account in Genesis would reinforce accountability to God, emphasize the destructive effects of the Fall, and magnify the grace of God in providing salvation through Jesus Christ. However, such verification would not produce faith. Man’s heart remains the hardest nut to crack.
    My feeble submission would be that a young earth would challenge man’s assumptions of constant rates of natural cycles ( sedimentation, radiation, growth rings, ice formation, erosion, age, to name a few), the view that what we see now determines how things were (both “why” and “how”), and the question of who is God (by that I mean, in authority).

  26. Sander van der Wal

    @Ianto Watt

    If you know the temperature of the current universe, you can compute the temperature of the universe when it was smaller. At some point the temperature was so high, particles could not exist. Then the universe cooled enough so that the could exist.

    The theories that predict such events have been tested, but not to the extend that those conditions have been replicated in the experiments. Now, you can extrapolate the theories to those temperatures, and do the sums. This will give you the best answer available given our current understanding.

    Practically, it does not matter for the things humans are capable off. Our machines do not operate at temperatures that might cause subatomic particles to cease to exist.

  27. Oldavid

    @Sander [quote]If you know the temperature of the current universe, you can compute the temperature of the universe when it was smaller.[/quote]
    How? By using Boyle’s Law, perhaps?
    This is just an example of how gratuitous assertions pretend to be known facts.

    Just getting back to the presumed age of the Universe. There are several unjustifiable assumptions that are presumed to be premises according to fashionable scientism. Of importance are the assumption of “uniformatiarianism” (that what is now operating is what always was and produced what is now (except if it doesn’t yield the desired result and then conditions are assumed to have been what might have given the desired result)). But, even more irrational is the assumption that what might have been can give rise to what was not by its own metaphysical purpose. An effect being greater than its cause.

    I must admit that I substantially agree with S Augustine’s version of the “Big Bang”. The material Universe was not then it was according to the Divine will… complete and fully functional. Even the execrable Richard Dawkins is reported to have said in an interview that if there was an omnipotent deity He/It could have created the whole Universe as it it exists right now five seconds ago. Then he blew himself up by saying “but I don’t believe it” as if his “belief”, with no attempt at reasonable justification, is the representative of reality. Here we have the perfect example of diabolical narcissism that assumes that his “belief” is the reality and all other observations of reality must be interpreted to suit. The complete antithesis of any valid scientific method. It rather reminds me of Julian Huxley selling “Evolution”. He admitted that the chances of even one simple protein forming by random accident is so infinitesimally small that is it is effectively impossible but he went on to say “but it has happened because here we are”. Ah! the diabolical gods of scientism! The forest of Ivory Towers!

    Now then, all of you slaves of fashionable opinions relentlessly imposed by despicable lackeys of the Synagogue of Satan, do not even attempt to investigate outside of the box or your slender credibility that relies on licking fashionable opinions and ar**…. er, boots, unless you are prepared to be despised by the Sanhedrin and their lackeys.

    Orrite, Mr Briggs, you attempted to dismiss Hugh Owen and his mission but I bet that you never investigated the ‘site beyond the couple of simplistic videos on the home page. Put on your reading glasses and read the many articles featured.
    And if that’s not enough to unsettle your Ivory Tower complacency try this mob of Proddy scholars:
    There’s over a thousand credible criticisms of fashionable “science” in every category that I know about.

    There’s more but I doubt that anyone will even look up, let alone read, what’s presented so far.

    When I got into this ‘site my purpose was to try to entice, or goad Ed Feser out into the open where he could be challenged; it hasn’t happened yet. Yair, I know about Ed’s blog but I’m cautious about getting into a rhetorical gymnasium where the participants are preoccupied with showing off their rhetorical muscles in a mirror.

  28. Salvus


    The distinction between how and why is something worth keeping in mind.

    A simple physicist understands that Briggs’s penchant for “cause” is charming but misguided with respect to physical science. For example, his lead question in this post:

    `If you ask a physicist “Why can’t objects go faster than light? That there should be a limit doesn’t seem right to me”, he will abuse you. ‘

    A simple physicist will not abuse you at all. He will say we simply he doesn’t know why. For the same reason we don’t know why mass attracts other mass, or charge attracts or repels other charges. The only thing a physicist can know is how can we predict what experiments involving light will give, not why. In the case of light, it was thought one could predict light speed by using wave equations based on properties of luminous aether, like the equations known to work for sound were based on the properties of water or air. A result of that predictive scheme said that measurements of the speed of light should give different results depending on where the earth was in its orbit. When experiments showed that scheme was wrong, another scheme was proposed that said the wave equations had to be invariant with respect to Lorentz transformations, which led to better agreement with experiments. So that was a better way to predict experiments. Why is it that way? That is a question for philosophy or if you wish, religion, but not physics. Currently the most useful way to predict the measured speed of light is by solving Maxwell’s equations under Lorentz invariance for the speed in terms of measured constants and seeing what the result is. Also currently, waves of other similar fields are predicted to be measured to go at the same speed, such as the gravitational waves. This prediction was recently found to agree fairly well with the data from the colliding black holes, which found light and the gravitational waves arrived here very nearly at the same time.

    Why can’t something go faster than the speed of light? No reason at all. Its just that right now predicting things that could be measured using that assumption gives results that have not yet been measured. Some things have been predicted to go faster, such as tachyons, but so far experiments have not agreed with the prediction. Some other things should be observed that would require modifying theories, such as things going faster than light could interact with things in their own past and give experimentally measurable effects. So far that has not been observed and assuming it can occur leads current schemes for predicting experiments to give results that would violate conservation of quantities as we know them now. But if it did, we would just have to figure out how to modify our predictive schemes to incorporate it and move on. Why is not the question for a physicist.

    Another question sometimes asked is why can’t we make a perpetual motion machine? No reason at all. Just predict what would happen if we could and see what the results are. So far, the results using that prediction disagree with experiments. If that changes, we just have to modify the way we predict things.

    It may be that Brigg’s quest for cause instead of correlation is futile in a scientific sense. It may well be that all we can do is find a correlation between a predictive scheme and experimental results and use it until we find it doesn’t work, then fix it so it works better. Until the next time. Certainly this works well for the basic sciences such as physics and much of chemistry and biology, where rigorously controlled experiments are possible. For disciplines in which control is harder or not possible, such as sociology or economics, things are bit different and predicting using correlations is much trickier and fraught with uncertainty.

    But, for things like the speed of light, cause may be an illusion that Briggs just likes to pursue, and if it makes him happy and doesn’t harm anyone, so be it. So was the horizon for the man in Stephen Crane’s poem,

    I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
    Round and round they sped.
    I was disturbed at this;
    I accosted the man.
    “It is futile,” I said,
    “You can never —”

    “You lie,” he cried,
    And ran on.

  29. Salvus

    Sorry, I addressed my last comment to Sheri and I meant Joy.

  30. Briggs

    Salvus says “Why can’t something go faster than the speed of light? No reason at all.”

    Rot. Utter metaphysical balderdash. For if you accept that, then nothing has a reason, so anything that is or happened might have happened for “no reason at all”, and there would never be any way to tell if something had a reason or it didn’t.

  31. Salvus

    Searching for a “reason” is in fact the metaphysical notion. Metaphysical in terms of not physical, meaning not in the construct of physics. “Reason” for something is not a defined quantity in physics and is not the capability sought. The only capability sought is the capability to predict the outcome of experiments. See the 2 minutes of Feynman’s lecture in which he describes all of physics.

    It is OK to want to seek “reasons.” Just realize it is not a quest within the hard sciences, instead is it a metaphysical quest, even a religious one. Whether it is balderdash is a matter of opinion.

  32. Oldavid

    [quote Briggs]
    Salvus says “Why can’t something go faster than the speed of light? No reason at all.”

    Rot. Utter metaphysical balderdash. For if you accept that, then nothing has a reason, so anything that happened might have happened for “no reason at all”, and there would never be any way to tell if something had a reason or it didn’t. [/quote]

    Hmm. As I understand it the effect of gravity must be vastly more than the speed of light but somewhat less than instantaneous for the Solar System to maintain its physical integrity.

    No, no, Billy! it’s only balderdash if you are determined to insist that a widely publicised speculation trumps observation and reason.

  33. Salvus

    Let’s take an example. Before quantum mechanics, Newton’s equations allowed prediction of experiments fairly well. What is the reason? Well, if you want you could say because the Great Coyote made it so if you want. But the only thing needed was that it predicted the outcomes of experiments.

    Along came measurements of small things. After a while it was found that expressing the outcomes of experiments in terms of a funny kind of thing called a probability amplitude by physicists, in which the magnitude and phase both change and the outcome of future experiments is predicted by squaring this so-called amplitude and identifying that quantity with the probability that a certain outcome will be observed. Well, that scheme worked. Why? What is the “reason” that a thing called a probability amplitude works? Did a god say that is what should happen? It is an irrelevant question. If you wish you could try to say, well, how can we predict probability amplitudes better. Then propose it and see how it agrees with experiments. If it works, you could call that the “reason.” Of course it has just become a “how” and not a reason. Then you could ask, well what is the “reason” that works? Again it is irrelevant.

    It is like the child asking why is the sky blue daddy? Because air bends the light of the sun, jane. Why does the air bend the light of the sun daddy? Because the fluctuating fields interact with the dipole moments of the molecules, jane. Why does the field interact with the dipole moments daddy? Because the components of force act on the charge differential jane. Why do the components of force act on the charge differential daddy? Because the field acts on the charge to cause the force, jane. Why does the field act on the charge daddy? Because that is what we measure, jane. Why do we measure that, daddy?

  34. Oldavid

    [quote Salvus]
    The only capability sought is the capability to predict the outcome of experiments. [/quote]
    Which is a metaphysical notion. As is the idea of “experiment”.

    Notwithstanding any ideological notions and prejudices that Briggsanbuddies might have, “balderdash” is a commonplace term to indicate something irrational and opposed to commonsense. As is usual these days it is adopted to denigrate anything inconvenient to fashionable opinions.

  35. Joy

    Somebody’s missing capitals on purpose! teehee, for a reason, why?
    “just because..”
    I understood what you said and it was well taken, thanks again.

  36. Sander van der Wal


    If you read the argument, you will find that people stated that they assumed certain behaviours, and from these behaviours and a bumch of theories, came to certain conclusions about the universe.

    At leas, they did so in the eighties of the previous century. And in the preprints on, people still state their assumptions as being assumptions. Maybe they don’t do that on youtube, but who cares what people do on youtube.

    Regarding the notion that physical laws differently in the past, if they did, you can still trying to figure out how different they Were. And in the mean time, assume they worked the same and do the sums based on that assumption. If measurements are different one of the can be that physics then differs from physics now.

  37. Sander van der Wal

    Regarding the speed of light being the limiting speed of all particles, this is part of the Theory or General Relativity, which is called Relativity because speed of light is Absolute ( a Pratchett joke).

    So, find a particle that goes faster and that theory goes out of the window. In the mean time, all the really fast particles we find, like the ones coming in from Outer Space, behave as if General Relativity is true. I.e. we see time dilation and extra mass because of the high speed, which is just below the speed of light.

    Which means it is not unreasonable to keep working with General Relativity, as it is doing a splendid job of making predictions that work.

  38. Oldavid

    That particles increase in mass as a function of speed is well known but it only applies to “stuff” that has a mass. It begs the question; speed relative to what? Anyhow, it’s just another example of something Einstein plagiarised to lend credibility to his speculations.

    The sky is blue because that’s the colour of air. Just look at a beaker of liquid oxygen.

    We can’t see time dilation in moving particles. The Lorentzian model (that Einstein plagiarised) regarding the apparent time difference in moving reference frames works without modification. The Einsteinean “model” has to have “fudge factors” applied to make it conform to the observations.

    I am not claiming that physical laws were different “then”. That’s a claim made by them who assert that what can’t happen did happen because “it was different then”.

  39. swordfishtrombone

    @ Briggs,

    “Evolution is the creation of a new species from an old. Yet a giraffe cannot procreate a thing that is not a giraffe. It can procreate a sub-optimal or damaged giraffe, perhaps because of a genetic mutation.”

    Technically, evolution is not the creation of new species – that is speciation. Evolution is just change. Of course a giraffe can only procreate another giraffe, but it won’t be exactly the same giraffe. The (mostly) tiny differences between parents and offspring ARE evolution, and your claim that these differences are “sub-optimal or damaged” is just wrong. It’s entirely possible for mutations to produce advantageous changes, such as the mutation which gave humans three-colour vision.

    “To procreate a new species out of an old would be to have an effect greater than its cause, which is not possible.”

    Metaphysics hath spake, but reality isn’t listening.

  40. swordfishtrombone

    @ Ianto Watt,

    “Anyway, was it Man that first concluded that he was PLACED at the center of the universe?”

    There is no center to the universe.

    “So then, you find earth and mankind to be somewhat common throughout the universe? At least, not unique?”

    Stars are common. Planets are common. Planets covered in water are common according to recent findings. We don’t have direct evidence of intelligent life (or any life) elsewhere, obviously, but can you prove such life can’t exist?

    “Could you please show us some of this ‘scientific’ evidence?”

    Note that scientific is placed in inverted commas. Textbook evidence of the fact that religion and science aren’t compatible. Could you show us evidence for God?

  41. Oldavid

    My reply was rejected by WordPress as spam

  42. Sander van der Wal


    When Lorentz retired from Leiden University, the University tried to persuade Einstein to take up Lorentz’ professorate. Einstein declined, but not because Lorentz thought Einstein was plagiarizing him. Einstein was offered an even better deal in Berlin.

    Nevertheless, Einstein visited Leiden at least once a year for a full month as a visiting professor, and he met Lorentz and some other people like De Sitter (who had done some important work on the application of relativity to Cosmology), his friend Ehrenfest , who got Einstein’s intended position, and later Eddington, who made the measurements that confirmed Special Relativity. If these people thought Einstein was some kind of fraud, they would not have offered that professorate, or in De Sitter’s case, De Sitter would not have acted as an intermediate between the German Einstein and the British Eddington just after World War I.

    You notion of plagiarizing is so that all physicists using calculus are plagiarizing Newton and Leibnitz. Which is insane. Einstein was the guy making the physical connections Lorentz, or Poincaré for that matter, where not making. That’s why he’s famous among physicists.

  43. Richard STADTER

    After seeing several ideas in the posts, let me humbly offer this. Regarding “how and why,” if the world is young ( 6000 or so) and the model of origin is accurate in Genesis 1 and 2, “scientism” loses the concept that the physical is all there is, and that God is irrelevant. True science, investigating God’s handiwork after Him, would lose nothing.

  44. Michael 2

    Sander van der Wal writes: “the universe was created looking 13 billion years old. All the light we see from far away galaxies is just for show, it cannot be the first bunch of stars igniting.”

    A challenge is proving that this is not the case. In fact, how can you be certain you were not created this morning?

    Gary writes: “The sorted order of fossils that never were alive must have been embedded at creation and not deposited by physical processes.”

    An astute observation. Someone obviously went to considerable lengths to make Earth seem old. But what is that to an Omnipotent Person? Nothing.

    swordfishtrombone writes: “There is no center to the universe.:

    Maybe, but there is a center of the observable universe and I am at that exact center. Each observer is at the exact center of what he observes.

    As for the reason matter cannot travel faster than the speed of light is simply because matter IS light, and light goes no faster than light. That’s just the way it is. Not even science fiction proposes to travel faster than light; but rather to skip the intervening space.

    On the other hand, there can be the seeming of going faster than light. A science fiction short story I read many years ago proposed a Bussard Ramjet kind of thing that collects hydrogen in intersteller space and through fusion accellerates itself. Something malfunctioned and they could not stop it, so it continued to accelerate. From its own frame of reference it approached the speed of light, becoming hugely massive as seen by neighboring observers. But on the ship what was seen was rapid aging of the universe as time dilation became extreme. They exited the visible universe to keep from hitting anything, circling around it as it collapsed into a new big-bang. But now the new universe was expanding. By then they’d fixed the ramjet but used time dilation to allow the new universe to mature then as they slowed the ship and started to experience time on the new universe’s schedule, chose a planet that was developing life and that became their new home.

  45. Michael 2

    Ianto Watt asks “Anyway, was it Man that first concluded that he was PLACED at the center of the universe? Or was he told this?”

    I have no idea. The concept (and its importance) seems to be unique to Catholicism.

    “Why then wouldn’t man, who most clearly reflects the image of the Creator, be found to be at the center of His creation?”

    The center of God’s creation appears to be a giant “black hole”, extremely destructive, not a nice place to live BUT perfectly positioned to provide gravity to the galaxy.

    It is human nature for inexperienced photographers to place at the exact center of the photo whatever it is they are photographing. It is human nature to project onto gods that which is human.

  46. Salvus

    Michael 2,

    Now you are getting to the cool stuff. “Not even science fiction proposes to travel faster than light; but rather to skip the intervening space.” A very astute observation.

    I didn’t want to go there in this thread, since the focus was seemed to be on the nature of “cause” rather than just the sheer fun of the concepts. But, anyway….

    You are spot on about the difference between the local and global structure of the universe. Locally it is very tough to allow superluminal velocities and come up with a consistent physics. But globally, there is a fair amount of speculative work on whether it is possible to follow a path that winds you up in a region of spacetime which was not in the region you could have moved to continuously by travelling less than light speed, “skipping the intervening space”-time as it were. These speculations typically involve analytical extensions of extreme spacetimes such as inside event horizons or in so-called wormholes, which require stress-energy configurations that so far have not been observed. They take advantage of the global topological properties of the universe in weird but maybe possible cases. I think the movie Interstellar may have used these notions. But the basic speculation is fun.

    Another case that comes up in astronomy are observations of so-called superluminal motion. A wiki link is here . The general gist is the appearance of faster than light motion rather than the actual existence of local superluminal phenomena. But whatever is, is.

    As far as whether you can be sure you weren’t created this morning…Lots of folks like to entertain the many worlds Everett-Wheeler interpretation of quantum mechanics. In that view, the universe is constantly branching into a large number of alternate universes and you and I just happen to be the one that just branched out a moment ago. In that view, you were just “created this morning.” Leads to a lot of cool science fiction but so far it is hard to figure out an experimental test.

    The hubbub about quantum entanglement also touches on this notion a bit. The idea is that while a quantum state is evolving it has all possible states but kind of doesn’t have any one observable aspect (i.e. “real” in some sense) until it is actually observed, at which time all the potential observables it had are collapsed down to the one chosen by the observation. This seems to be leading to at least information transferring faster than light, but there is still a lot of cool weirdness going on trying to figure out what is really going on.

  47. Joy

    “This seems to be leading to at least information transferring faster than light, but there is still a lot of cool weirdness going on trying to figure out what is really going on”.

    Maybe it would account for prophetic knowledge at critical moments. Or mean the possibility can’t be ruled out.
    The kinds of things which skeptics call coincidence.

    If the universe is not material alone, then the idealist, in the non everyday pejorative (utopian) sense, becomes the likely closer to real worldview. Bishop Berkley was not so silly.
    Whatever is the correct or closest to truth, everybody is the same way, built the same way. Its local conditions, configuration and information that vary.

  48. pouncer

    If the world / universe is axiomatically young, then another axiom must be discarded. That one is:
    “As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be.”

    What we see and measure NOW must be very different from what happened a short time ago. Radioactive decay now must be different from a few thousand years ago. Soil erosion must, once, have occurred at different rates. The sun must shine for reasons other than nuclear, or from gravitational in-fall, either. And THAT means that, tomorrow, that the processes might just as easily change again, and as much. The radiation of your smoke detector, next Saturday, might increase to dangerous degree — or go away entirely. A rivulet from the gutter and downspout might cause a new Grand Canyon to open, perhaps Monday night, right in your back yard. The sun may go out this evening. All has happened and will happen, at the whim and will and wish of God.

    Scary thought.

  49. Oldavid

    Although BGaede is a disagreeable blabbermouth this serves an an introduction for those of very short attention span to the problems of Eisensteinean speculations.
    Much more can be found by anyone brave enough to investigate.

  50. Oldavid

    It is clear that no one commenting has bothered to check the actual observations of any well credentialed scientists who present evidence inconvenient to the Naturalistic assumption that “Nothing” (an imagined “Singularity”) can, and does, turn itself into Everything by no mechanism and for no purpose.

    Your silly assumptions, imbibed from the popular media, cannot be substantiated by real science.

    Tell us that your only “justification” for millennial ages is the “geological column” that repeatedly contradicts its assumptions everywhere on Earth. I’m a farmer’s boy and I know for sure that dead animals do not lie around for millions of years waiting to be fossilised. The skeleton of a dead animal hardly lasts two years exposed to air and moisture and sunlight.

    Fossilisation only occurs where an animal is buried in anaerobic mineral rich mud such as might be found in tidal waves of mud sweeping the planet precipitated by a great catastrophe.

  51. swordfishtrombone

    @ Oldavid,

    “Although BGaede is a disagreeable blabbermouth…”

    I watched as much of that video as I could stand but it’s just total rubbish. Black holes were predicted by basic physics. The effect of black holes at the center of galaxies (including our own) on surrounding stars and gas clouds has been observed, we’ve detected the gravitational waves from merging black holes with the LIGO experiment, and we’ve even recently taken a direct image of a black hole.

  52. Oldavid

    @ pouncer
    ““As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be.”
    This seems to be a deliberate misrepresentation to scoff or deride many things. The whole context is “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be”.

    The haters of God and Man are characterised by a lack of honesty and integrity.

  53. Oldavid

    “Black holes were predicted by basic physics.”
    If there was an (impossible) “Black Hole” in the center of the Galaxy things or stuff close to it would be orbiting it at close to the speed of light. All the observations that I know of indicate the exact opposite. I can supply reasonable hypotheses that are congruent with the observations but I doubt you would be interested.

  54. swordfishtrombone

    @ Olsavid,

    “If there was an (impossible) “Black Hole” in the center of the Galaxy things or stuff close to it would be orbiting it at close to the speed of light.”

    Says who? Look up this paper:

    “Monitoring stellar orbits around the Massive Black Hole in the Galactic Center” (S. Gillessen, F. Eisenhauer, S. Trippe, T. Alexander, R. Genzel, F. Martins, T. Ott)

  55. Pouncer

    @ Oldavid: I intended to allude to the 19th century geologists’ doctrine of “uniformitarianism” as the axiom being replaced. While the verbiage I chose to describe the geological doctrine — developed independently, by non-geologists, and much earlier — has theological utility, it was not introduced to take sides in any theological debates.

    Although the thought that “all has happened and will happen, at the whim and will and wish of God,” is unchanged by contemplation of whether “all” encompasses billions or merely thousands of years. It is STILL a “Scary thought”. I trust there are no vast eternal plans that require a new Grand Canyon to open overnight at the spout of my gutters; but I don’t dispute The Authority has the right and duty to conduct such excavations should His plans so require.

  56. swordfishtrombone

    @ Michael 2,

    “Someone obviously went to considerable lengths to make Earth seem old. But what is that to an Omnipotent Person? Nothing.”

    An omnipotent God who creates fake fossils to conceal the true age of his universe – when he could be doing something useful like ending all suffering – is an idiot. Further, aren’t we told that the intelligibility of the universe is evidence for God? That can’t be true if it’s faked. Further still, what is the point of going to ‘considerable lengths’ to make your creation appear natural, then working miracles to prove the opposite?

  57. Oldavid

    Sillly, pretentious twaddle!
    “An omnipotent God who creates fake fossils to conceal the true age of his universe – when he could be doing something useful ” ??? Rooly , rooly stupid con-job that would only work if your “audience” are already card-carrying members in the Pantheistic “Hate God and Man Society”.

    It is apparent that the clever dicks who (surreptitiously) propose the nonsense that Nothing is “becoming” Everything with no cause, mechanism or purpose do not, or will not, consider anything inconvenient to their irrational ideology.

    The only thing that the fossil record shows is that there were some animal and plant types buried in mineral rich, anaerobic tidal waves of mud.

    Of course, the main problem is the Modernist (Kabbalist) notion that Everything is Becoming.

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