Thursday, July 31, 2008

God is Infinite

In the previous blog entry I posed the question, is God's omniscience about events (temporal events) infinite? It turns out it God's knowledge of events is infinite, given the following

(1) Before the creation of the universe there was no time, no events.
(2) The universe is finite.
(3) Time is a series of intervals, possibly the length of Plank time -- (or any small interval of time). This would mean between any two intervals of time, whether it be seconds, years, or millennia, there are a finite number of the smallest possible time intervals between those periods.
(4) In the new heavens and new earth, time continues to be Plank intervals, which continues forever.

We should make some definition of event:
(5) An event is a configuration in the universe that is associated with an individual time interval.

Now, there are some issues with defining events like this, but let's run with this for now.

To get a little formal, we have:

A set of time intervals, T, which contain the smallest consecutive intervals of time, t1, t2, t3, ... . This corresponds to all the time intervals of statements (3) and (4), the time intervals since the creation of the universe on into the new heavens and earth.

A set of configurations, C, which contains configurations c1, c2, c3, ... . A configuration is an arrangement of matter and energy in the universe. The set C contains all the configurations of matter and energy in the universe from its beginning, on into all the future, including the new heavens and earth.

A set of events, E, where each of the elements, e1, e2, e3, ... is a set of pairs of configurations associated with times, such that e1 = (c1, t1), e2 = (c2, t2), e3 = (c3, t3), ... . This set E corresponds to all the events since the creation of the universe on into the future. Each time interval in T, tj, corresponds with some configuration ck in C to make the element (ck, tj) which is in the set of events E.

Premise: God's omniscient knowledge of events, which is contained in set E, is complete.

An observation. The set of events, E, does not have to have unique configurations for each association with a T (time) element. For instance, configuration c3134 can be associated with time t16034 and associated with time t920431. So (c3134, t16034) and (c3134, t920431) can be valid members of the event set E.

From statement (4), the set T, time intervals, goes on forever.

Definition: Finite Set. One way to define a set A is finite if A is either empty or there is a way to map the elements of set A with a subset of the natural numbers = {1, 2, 3, ..., k}, where k is a specific number in the sequence of counting the numbers in the natural number set and each element of a of A uniquely maps to the numbers 1, 2, 3, ..., k.

Definition: Infinite Set. A set B is said to be infinite if the set is not finite.

So, let's say we have a set of 16 minute intervals -- this is just a goofy example -- of {16, 32, 48, 64}. We can map all the elements to the natural numbers this way:

16 maps to 1

32 maps to 2

48 maps to 3

64 maps to 4

In fact, we can have the rule for each element in the 16 minute interval set, divide it by 16, and that is the element in the natural number set. Because we found we can map the 16 minute interval set to the first four elements of the natural number set, the set is finite.

Our original set of time intervals, T, is infinite. This is because if T was finite, there would be a way to uniquely map all the elements of T to a subset of the natural numbers of size n. But that would violate that the set T goes on forever because it would stop at time corresponding to the natural number n.

What about the set of events, E? All of the events of E are of the form (ck, tj), where tj is an element of T. We have constructed E in such a way that all the elements of T uniquely map into E. We saw that each element of T maps uniquely to the natural numbers in such a way that there is no number in the natural numbers that would be the last number of the mapping. We have a way to maps all the elements of E uniquely onto T, i.e., (ck, tj) in E maps to tj in T, which in turn maps to k in the natural numbers. The set E cannot be finite, because if it were, there would be some number m, such that all the elements of E would map to 1, 2, 3, ..., m. But that would mean that all the elements of T would map uniquely in the same way, making it finite, which contradicts that we saw it was infinite.

Therefore, the set E is not finite, but infinite. Since God's knowledge of set E is complete, there is a unique one to one mapping of God's knowledge to the set of E, thus demonstrating that God's knowledge of events is infinite.


The picture is from the Hubble website. It is the Hourglass Nebula.

The definition of infinity is based on one of the definitions from Elements of Set Theory, Second Edition, by Peter W. Zehna and Robert L. Johnson (1972, Allyn and Bacon, Inc, Boston, MA), pp. 101-107.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

God Not Infinite?

John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was an important medieval philosopher and theologian. Scotus thought deeply about an important attribute about God -- his infinity. Now infinity is something that I studied in college. It was a fascinating topic for me as a kid because of its bizarre, counter intuitive features. I ate up this kind of stuff, it is why I choose to major in mathematics.

Infinity in mathematics deals with an infinite number of parts, known as sets. Scotus wants us to shift from thinking about an actual quantitative infinity to thinking about an actual qualitative infinity[1]:

Think of some quality (say, goodness) as existing infinitely: so that there is, as it were, no more goodness that you could add to that goodness to make it any greater. That's infinite goodness. But notice that you can't think of infinite goodness as in some way composed of little goodness-bits (just an infinite number of them). If I say that an angel is better than a human being, I can't mean that a human being has a certain number of goodness-bits while the angel has that many plus some extras. Rather, the specific degree of goodness of a thing is just an intrinsic, non-quantitative feature of that thing. Infinite being is just like that. Scotus describes it as "a measure of intrinsic excellence that is not finite." This is why the concept of "infinite being" is the simplest concept available to us for understanding God[2].

God's presence is not to be thought of God extending bits and pieces of himself all over the universe, but rather a qualitative presence where God is fully present everywhere:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me[3].

Is there an aspect where God can be spoken of quantitatively infinite? How about God's omniscient knowledge about events? It depends on whether there are infinite events. One possible theory is:

(1) Before the creation of the universe there was no time, no events.
(2) The universe is finite.
(3) Time is a series of intervals, possibly the length of Plank time[4]. This would mean between any two intervals of time, whether it be seconds, years, or millennia, there are a finite number of the smallest possible time intervals between those periods.
(4) In the new heavens and new earth, time continues to be Plank intervals, which continues forever.

God comprehends all the time intervals in all the places in the universe for all time, including the new heavens and earth. At any slice of time, there is a finite number of events across all the universe. The number of events is huge, possibly beyond what we can name or fathom, but nevertheless finite. As we add successive time slices, each addition of a time slice with all the events is finite. As time goes on, at no point is there an infinite point of time, or a time slice that is infinite. It will always be finite. The sum of all the time/event points is finite as we go on into eternity. Never, at any time will it achieve infinity.

This last observation means that perhaps God's knowledge does not need to be infinite about events. Infinity, in this case, is a limit concept (as it is in Calculus) that is actually never achieved.

If that is the case, then some logical paradoxes can be avoided about the knowledge of God with events. Some of the issues of Godel's Theorem, that knowledge about infinite sets cannot be both logically complete and consistent. When we speak that God is omniscient and all powerful, those are spoken of in the sense that God can know all that is possible to know and God can do what is not logically forbidden or outside of his character.

It is an interesting speculation -- and that is all it is, a speculation.

But I thought of a simple proof that God's omniscience of events is infinite. Next post...


[1] John Duns Scotus, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[2] ibid

[3] Psalm 139:7-10

[4] See Plank Time in Wikapedea.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can an Actual Infinity Exist?

Can an actual infinity exist?

I have been recently reading William Lane Craig at his website, Reasonable Faith. I also have the second edition of his book, Reasonable Faith, but he is coming out with his third edition of the book, which significantly expands the material.

One of Dr. Craig's specialties is the Kalam argument for the existence of God. His website, under the scholarly section, has several articles discussing the Kalam argument, along with discussing critiques people have made about the argument. The article I am reading is here.

One of the central arguments in the Kalam argument is that there cannot be an actual infinity. Dr. Craig cites an example of the weirdness of infinity by discussing the Hilbert Hotel.

Imagine a hotel that has an infinite number of rooms. The first room is numbered 1, the second is numbered 2, the third 3, etc. You are a traveler and you come to the hotel and ask for a room. The manager at the desk informs you that all the rooms are occupied, the hotel is full. However, the manager is clever, he says he will make a room available for you. He will have the person in room 1 move to room 2, the person in room 2 move to room three, etc. Thus, without adding any rooms or removing any occupants, the hotel that was once full now has a room.

But it gets stranger. The manager has a sudden insight. I will move each person in each room to 2 times the room number. So the person in room 1 moves to room 2, the person in room 2 moves to room 4, the person in room 3 moves to room 6, the person in room 4 moves to room 8, and so on. Now without adding any rooms or removing any persons, the hotel that was full now has an infinite number of empty rooms -- as well as having an infinite number of occupied rooms.

It is William Craig's contention that such an infinity cannot exist in reality. Part of Dr. Craig's contention is that we have the contradiction of two equal numbers, infinity, being in a contradictory state of where one infinity becomes less to the same identical infinity.

My critique of Dr. Craig's comments is that mathematicians do not speak of an infinite number which can be compared to other infinite numbers in the same way as finite numbers are compared. Otherwise the branches of mathematics which work with infinite sets would have logical inconsistencies in them -- and mathematicians hate logical inconsistencies in their mathematical systems and study hard to remove them.

But Dr. Craig does bring up a point which I have not thought much about. Can an actual infinity exist in the real realm of the universe? I think I am beginning to see his point, that it cannot. But I want to think why it cannot. I have some vague notions and I will sleep on it and continue the discussion later.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

3 Years

This July I have been blogging now for 3 years. Over 300 posts, I don't know how much more than 300.

Its been fun. I have met many delightful people on the Internet. A few people regularly read this blog, which I find amazing, given my tortuous writing style that is in severe need of editing -- and even simple proof reading.

Blogging for me is a form of journaling. I find when I write ideas they become more solidified, concrete, more thought out. That happened when I wrote about Revelation, and recently about Cosmology. In Revelation, it allowed my to explore the different ways the book is interpreted and select an approach that made the most sense to me. With Cosmology, I realized I had not really studied the topic in a number of years. The science had changed so much from when I looked at it before. In cosmology I have not even begun to scratch the surface, there is so much to learn. But I think I am beginning to see the big picture. It has deepened my awe of the universe and even more so the Creator of the Universe.

Critique of Spontaneously Generating Universes, Part 2

In my blog article, Spontaneously Generating Universes, I discussed a speculative view by some astrophysicists on how our universe could be spawned from another universe. To review, it is assumed that our universe is now expanding into an accelerated phase of expansion caused by dark energy. This dark energy is also assumed to be a special kind of energy, vacuum energy that is the Cosmological Constant. As our universe expands, and it is presumed that the "parent universe" of our universe did the same thing, it is entering a phase which will ultimately bring it into basically empty expanding space that only has the constant dark vacuum energy. While the entropy of the overall universe grows unbounded, any finite regions of the universe will have its entropy drop to exceedingly low values. In these low entropy volumes of space, it is proposed that the quantum fields from the dark energy will at some point in time have a quantum fluctuation, generating a extra low entropy dark repulsive energy, which will suddenly inflate into another baby universe of its own. In a brief moment of time, that tiny region will inflate from a small dense ball of dark energy, less than a millimeter in size, into a volume of space exceeding 100 million light years. At that point, the dark energy will largely "decay" into more common forms of matter and energy -- and a new universe is born. This is illustrated below:

This is a schematic, imagining our universe being a two dimensional universe which is a surface of an expanding cone. In this diagram, several universes are shown to be spawning from other universes.

The diagram is incomplete in several ways. The first is the "vertical funnel" universe is also the result of another universe, which in turn is the result of another universe, which in turn..., well, you get the point.

In this model of cosmology we have an infinite sequence of universes. In fact, it is more than that. It is an infinite sequence of infinite universes, which also have an infinite number of finite universes.

The reason there is an infinite number of universes is because this sequence is proposed by these astrophysicists to have no beginning. Because there is no beginning, there is at least one universe that have been expanding infinitely, spawning an infinite number of universes, which in turn are infinite.

The diagram above, which I made from Google's SketchUp (a really slick tool, and free!), is typical of what some cosmologists also sketch illustrating the principles of this kind of multiverse. However, how would I represent an infinite number of infinite universes? Contemplating this reveals some problems.

The first problem is what will prevent each of the multiverse "cones" from intersecting and interfering with each other. If we simply assume we are lucky in this universe that no other universe has "crashed" into ours, then we are assuming a privileged position, violating one of the major cosmological assumptions known as the Copernican Principle.

An infinite number of universes of infinite size. Yet none of them have been seen interacting with our universe. How can that be? Maybe there are an infinite number of dimensions which those universes occupy. It would mean that each universe would spawn off a completely new dimension. Why would that be the case?

This infinite number of infinite universes,in my opinion, is a fatal flaw of this proposed model of how our universe came into existence. An infinite number of non-intersecting dimensions, which each universe inflates into.

Given the two explanations for the origin of our universe, an infinite number of infinite universes, verses one infinite, uncaused God, bringing our universe into existence, Occam's Razor (the principle of taking the simplest explanation as the real explanation) suggests that God is the cause of our universe.

I will continue this analysis of the spontaneously generating universes in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Import Excel Tables Into Blogger

(Alternative title, Export Excel Tables into Blogger) Every once in a while I like to create tables in my blog. Blogger allows you to do this, but you've got to do this in "Edit Html" mode and enter the HTML table codes directly. Those of you in Blogger who do this also realize that simply entering table information the normal way, with carriage returns to break up the table elements, end up with lots of extra lines. There are two ways to eliminate the extra lines: (1) get rid of all the carriage returns, or (2) create a CSS style and put your table inside the style div.

Now I am a lazy sort. I would prefer to make my tables in Microsoft Excel and export the results to Blogger. So, for instance, here is an Excel table just created:

What I want to do is to export the table and put into Blogger that looks like this:



Extra Info

Original Export Excel Tables

This tells you how to Export Html

Information on Blogger Tables

This tells you how to change the style of blogger tables.

Old Way is Here

More information on Blogger Tables

Another CSS Style.

Well, at first I tried exporting the table from Excel directly. It created HTML table code, but with lots of extra stuff that Blogger was not too happy with. So then I Googled to see if there were Excel utilities that would do what I wanted. I found one here that did 90% of what I wanted (also the first hyperlink entry in my table above). But it missed two things: (1) the CSS style sheet creation, and (2) copying the embedded hyperlinks I had in the Excel Spreadsheet.

So since this was my first VBA program, I followed the information presented in the blog entry, changed the GenerateHTML function to check for the presence of Hyperlinks in the cells and fetch the information. The new GenerateHTML subroutine that replaces the previous one is:

Private Sub GenerateHTML(ByVal sFileName As String, ByVal sTitle As String)
Dim iFileNum As Integer
iFileNum = FreeFile
Open sFileName For Output As iFileNum
Print #iFileNum, "<HTML>"
Print #iFileNum, "<TITLE>" + sTitle + "</TITLE>"
Print #iFileNum, "<BODY>"
Print #iFileNum, "<P><B><FONT SIZE=5>" + sTitle + "</FONT></B></P>"

Print #iFileNum, ""
Print #iFileNum, ""

Dim lRowCount As Long
Dim lRow As Long
Dim iColCount As Integer
Dim iCol As Integer
Dim iCell As Range
Dim iStr As String
Dim iCount As Integer
Dim QUOTE As String
QUOTE = Chr$(34)

Print #iFileNum, "<style type=" & QUOTE & "text/css" & QUOTE & ">.nobrtable br { display: none }</style>"
Print #iFileNum, "<div class=" & QUOTE & "nobrtable" & QUOTE & ">"

lRowCount = ActiveSheet.UsedRange.Rows.Count
iColCount = ActiveSheet.UsedRange.Columns.Count
Print #iFileNum, "<TABLE BORDER=1>"
For lRow = 1 To lRowCount
Print #iFileNum, "<TR>"
For iCol = 1 To iColCount
Print #iFileNum, "<TD>"

Set iCell = Cells(lRow, iCol)
iCount = iCell.Cells.Hyperlinks.Count
If iCount > 0 Then
iStr = iCell.Cells.Hyperlinks.Item(1).Address
Print #iFileNum, "<a href=" & QUOTE & iStr & QUOTE & ">" & iCell.Cells.Value & "</a>"
Print #iFileNum, CStr(Cells(lRow, iCol).Value)
End If
Print #iFileNum, "</TD>"
Next iCol
Print #iFileNum, "</TR>"
Next lRow
Print #iFileNum, "</TABLE>"
Print #iFileNum, "</div>"
Print #iFileNum, ""
Print #iFileNum, ""
Print #iFileNum, ""
Print #iFileNum, ""
Print #iFileNum, "</BODY>"
Print #iFileNum, "</HTML>"

Close iFileNum
End Sub

You create the table you want in Excel, run the macro from inside "tools, Macro, Macros ...". A browser will ultimately pop up and you will see the table in the Browser. It might look a little odd, like this:

But don't worry about it. It will work fine in Blogger. You need to do a "view, Page Source" (Firefox, I don't know what that awful Internet Explorer menu sequence is to view the HTML source -- but you can figure that out), and then cut and paste the table from the source. You will see

<P><B><FONT SIZE=5>Sheet2</FONT></B></P>

At the beginning. Ignore that part, as well as the very last part:


Cut and paste into Blogger (in Edit HTML mode) all the rest. Then you will have a table like what I got -- which was actually how I created the table in this entry.

If you are interested, I could either email or post the Excel macros on a website (any suggestions where?).

One last note: the table in "Preview" mode or in "Compose" mode will look strange. It will look okay when you publish it.

Cosmology Resources

This is the very beginning of a cosmology resource worksheet. It will be updated as I find more resources. I have yet to enter Intelligent Design sites. I will also cleanup the table format.

Math -- A Algebra, C Calculus
Difficulty -- 1 the most easy, 10 the most difficult









The Universe Is Not Ergodic

Video, Audio


Not evaluated.


The Warpings of Spacetime



Cosmology Introduction, assumes no prior knowledge


Our Preposterous Universe



Cosmology Introduction, assumes no prior knowledge


Why is the Past Different from the Future?




Intro to idea of spontaneously generating universes.


Cosmology Update



NPR interview of 3 astrophysists on expansion.


Universe Timeline



Introduction to the Big Bang Cosmology


Max Tegmark, MIT Astrophysist



Various articles by Dr. Tegmark, including parallel universes


Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial



Dr. Wright, UCLA, tutorial on cosmology


Comic Journey: History of Cosomolgy



Light introduction to the history of cosmology


Cambridge Cosmology Page



Cambridge University Cosmology webpage.


Dark Matter and Dark Energy



Introduction, assumes no prior knowledge


DM/DE Video 1



Video for above.


DM/DE Video 2



Video for above.


Lecture Notes on General Relativity




Introduction, assumes no prior knowledge


General Relativity Primer




Introduction, 3 hours

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Critique of Spontaneously Generating Universes

This is the first part of a of a first draft of a critique of spontaneously generating universes. Much of what I will discuss is written much better by William Lane Craig's discussion on Contemporary Cosmology and the Beginning of the Universe[1]. These notes capture some initial thoughts that need refinement.

One of the first things to note are the assumptions made by Dr. Sean Carroll[2] about the accelerating expansion of the universe. These include:

1. The accelerating expansion will continue.

2. The accelerating expansion is caused by the dark energy vacuum energy that is the cosmological constant.

That the expansion will continue to accelerate is an assumption based on limited data. There are many possible curves that can fit the data points observed. These can include exponential acceleration, but also other kinds of curves, which could still have the universe eventually collapse, or slow down in its acceleration again. If the further investigation reveals that the future universe would slow down, then there would not be the conditions for a "de Sitter" expansion, a runaway expansion that would setup the low entropy conditions to spawn off other universes. Thus the time associated with the big bang event would be the beginning, not part of an infinite series of beginnings. More detailed observations are required to get a better idea of what is fueling the accelerating expansion.

Assumption number two is not the only possible explanation. The dark energy does not need to be constant in the universe[3][4][7]. It could be a field of energy that varies in time and space. In this case, the universe would not necessarily continue accelerate in its expanding. Further, there is a problem if the dark energy were the cosmological constant. Its constant nature in an expanding universe would violate the Strong Energy Condition[5][6]. Under current understanding of cosmology, this would seem to rule out dark energy as the cosmological constant. In this I must defer to James Sinclair and William Lane Criag who make this point. I am certain Sean Carroll is aware of the problem and I am interested in what he has to say about in his Internet papers and I will search to see what he has to say.

These are a couple of problems with this proposal of spontaneously generating universes. It points to the likelihood that our universe had a unique beginning and was not spawned from an infinite sequence of universes or multiverses. I will continue the discussion later.


[1] William Lane Craig, Q&A Number 48, Contemporary Cosmology and the Beginning of the Universe, from his website,

[2] Sean M Carroll and Jennifer Chen, Spontaneous Inflation and the Origin of the Arrow of Time, October 27, 2004,

[3] Dark Energy, Wikipedia.

[4] p. 15, Sean M Carroll and Jennifer Chen.

[5] William Lane Craig, Q&A Number 48

[6] Wikipedia, Energy condition

[7] HubbleSite, What Is Dark Energy?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Spontaneously Generating Universes

Our universe had a beginning. Can the beginning be explained by natural causes? Since natural causes and time are tied to the existence of our universe, many scientists say we cannot speak about natural causes before the start of the universe. Others are thinking of possible ways to explain the beginning of the universe through natural causes without involving God.

There are a number of objections that theists, particularly Christians who see God has the agent in the beginning and sustaining of the universe, mention. These include:

1. Nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). It is a philosophical self evident point that nothing cannot be the cause of something.

2. The universe began with an extremely low entropy. Usual mechanisms for a recreating universe, or for a universe starting from something else, has a high entropy situation giving rise to the extremely low entropy start of the universe.

3. The constants and laws of the universe are unusually well tuned to permit life. It is an extremely low probability that such tuning could happen randomly or naturally.

4. The probability of life occurring on earth like it has is very improbable to have happened by natural causes alone for the universe.

I will look at how some cosmologists answer these objections. An article in the May 2008 issue of Scientific American[1] deals rather creatively with objection 2 and will be the basis of much of this blog entry.

The universe is currently going through an accelerated expansion[2]. It means that after an initial fiery beginning, the observable universe will expand faster and faster forever if left on its own.

As the universe expands, ultimately its density drops while the overall entropy increases. If we follow the progression of any particular region of expanding space, we will see that as space expands, there are less particles, matter, and energy in that region of space.

If we were to examine a cubic meter of space over the long history of the universe's expansion, we would see the entropy drop for that cubic meter. Over a very long time, the cubic meter would have a near perfect vacuum, and its temperature would drop to extremely close to absolute zero. The possible micro states of everything inside that cubic meter would drop extremely close to the lowest possible set of states. In other words, the entropy of that cubic meter would drop extremely close to its theoretical lowest possible value.

An observation to add to this is that a vacuum in the universe is not nothing. The best possible perfect vacuum in the universe is not the absence of everything. First of all, in our universe there is the presence of light known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation. Currently, the CMB radiation adds a temperature to the vacuum. As the universe expands, the CMB will continue to redshift, and the ambient temperature will drop. But the fact that the universe is acceleratingly in its expansion means there is some vacuum energy that is contributing to the expansion. One possibility is that the vacuum energy is an exceedingly small, but constant value, which corresponds to what is known as the Cosmological Constant[3]. Einstein's General Relativity has within its framework a concept of a cosmological constant, which depending how the equations are solved, predicts an expanding universe or a collapsing universe[4]. If the vacuum energy, which is often referred to as "dark energy" (simply because nothing much is known about it), is constant, even as space expands, it means the universe will expand exponentially in the future. As the universe expands, its density drops. The cubic meter discussed above as approaching a perfect vacuum and an extremely low entropy, that same reasoning can be applied to all finite volumes of the universe -- including the volume of the observable universe, or greater.

If the vacuum dark energy is the cosmological constant (not proven yet), it means in a "perfect" vacuum there is dark energy. This dark energy is subject to quantum fluctuations. Within a vacuum, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle means that particles appear and disappear within very brief intervals. These are so quick that they cannot be observed directly. Their effects can be observed indirectly. The electron orbiting around an atom would normally loose energy and fall into the nucleus of the atom, however, as the electron gives up energy as a photon of light, it also absorbs energy from one of the virtual particles that appear from the vacuum. This is very weird stuff. The kind of stuff that will appear in the vacuum has its probability of appearing that is proportional to entropy level.

Dark energy is the stuff that is present everywhere in space, in tiny amounts. When the universe expands infinitely, so that the normal matter and energy density drops to zero, dark energy is still present. While overall entropy increases towards infinity in the universe that has expanded infinitely, the entropy for any particular region drops to an exceedingly low value -- lower than beginning of the universe originally. This means there is an exceedingly small chance that a particular region will fluctuate into a large amount of perfectly configured dark energy that will ignite an expansion of space/time that is distinct from the universe that spawned it. In an extremely brief instant, the new patch of dark energy inflates by 100,000,000 light years, and then the dark energy "decays" (or breaks into) dark matter, regular matter, regular energy, and a residual amount of dark energy.

What would such a fluctuation look like from the universe it inflated out of? It would look like a black hole.

This newly inflated universe would grow and condense into galaxies and stars, and follow the same path as our universe. At some point in that universe's distant future, it would have patches of extremely low entropy dark energy fluctuate into rapidly expanding universes.

How does this model address the original 4 objections to the universe as we know it arising naturally?

1. Nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit). The universe that arises from the Big Bang does not come from nothing. There is a prior existing universe that has a quantum energy field of dark energy that is the cause of the new universe.

2. The universe began with an extremely low entropy. The conditions of the "meta" universe that spawned our universe had an extremely low entropy situation -- lower than the initial start of our universe.

I am combining three and four:

3. The probability of life occurring on earth like it has is very improbable to have happened by natural causes alone for the universe. A meta universe from which our universe inflated out of, is infinitely old and infinite in expanse. It means if there is a slight probability for life to occur in such a universe, no matter how unlikely, it will occur during infinite time.

In the next post, I will critique Dr. Carroll's approach to spontaneously generating universes.

One further note. Dr. Carroll does show a great respect and desire for civil discussion religious people as noted his blog entry, Crakergate. I wish to hold the corresponding same level of respect for the thoughts of scientists who discuss cosmology absent of a belief in God.


[1] Sean M. Carroll, Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes? (in the print media it is titled: The Cosmic Origins of Time's Arrow), Scientific American, May 2008.

[2] See previous blog entry about the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe.

[3] The discussion is based on Sean M Carroll and Jennifer Chen's paper, Spontaneous Inflation and the Origin of the Arrow of Time, October 27, 2004,

[4] See Sean M. Carroll, The Cosmological Constant, May 2008, Living Reviews in Relativity.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Dummy's Guide to Cosmology -- by an Idiot

Those few who read this blog regularly know that I am a Christian -- a theologically conservative Presbyterian Calvinist. I am also not a scientist (hence the title). You may wonder why am I writing about this topic. There is a rich tradition in Calvinism, represented by Abraham Kuyper (29 October 1837 – 8 November 1920), Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (November 5, 1851 – February 16, 1921), among many others, who championed conservative theology which held the Bible is inerrant and also viewed God has another general revelation in nature that is not inconsistent with the Bible. The ideas I discuss here will follow, philosophically, the approaches of these giants in theology. This is not a "safe blog" -- there will be times where I will mess up on science and theology and get either or both wrong. Sometimes I will not have an answer to some path I am exploring. Part of being a Christian is being a truth seeker. I am interested in finding where the truth goes, and I welcome anyone to discuss these ideas with me, whether they be Christian or infidel, scientist or non-scientist like me. I want the discussion to be open, frank, and friendly.

Articles Written:

A Bad Introduction to Entropy -- A first attempt at writing on entropy. After writing it, I discovered I had some wrong ideas.

A Critique of the Introduction -- Analyzing where I went wrong.

Entropy Take Two -- Trying an introduction to entropy again after I did more reading.

Entropy, Meet Gravity -- Entropy with gravity has a different look than entropy without gravity.

Black Holes -- with an interesting movie of stars orbiting a black hole.

Black Holes, Part 2

Cosmic Odometers and Speedometers, Part 1 -- Trying to find a cosmic yardstick.

Cosmic Odometers and Speedometers, Part 2 -- Proving spiral nebulae are distant galaxies.

Cosmic Odometers and Speedometers, Part 3 -- Research in determining velocity of stars and galaxies.

Cosmic Odometers and Speedometers, Part 4 -- The different forms of redshift, and choosing the surprising option.

The Big Redshift Picture -- Since the end of the 1990s, there has been some remarkable surveys of the sky for galaxies and their distances. These have been plotted and give a fascinating view of the huge structures in the universe.

Redshift,Yawn, So What? -- What does the redshift discoveries mean? How does a Christian approach the topic? There is a discussion with various Christians holding different views on the topic.

Did This Happen? -- A picture of the Antennae Galaxies colliding. For young universe creationists, the standard scientific thought estimates these images happened way before creation by millions of years. There was some discussion with this post.

Cosmological Assumptions -- An initial discussion of the major assumptions made by the scientific community in cosmology.

Isotropic Versus Homogeneous -- A more detailed look at the Cosmological Principle, which are assumptions used in cosmology.

Running the Clock Backwards -- An initial look at the Big Bang Theory.

The Cosmological Surprise of 1998 -- The discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Spontaneously Generating Universes -- This is a look at some articles written by the Caltech astrophysicist, Sean M. Carrol. Dr. Carrol answers some classic objections of how an exceedingly low entropy big bang universe could arise following the laws of thermodynamics. Creationists who use the Second Law of Thermodynamics to argue against the Big Bang should understand Dr. Carrol's line of reasoning.

Critique of Spontaneously Generating Universes -- The first part of a critique of the spontaneously generating universes. More to be published shortly.

Critique of Spanteneously Generating Universes, Part 2 -- Examining the consequences of looking back infinitely at universes spawning other universes.

Zeno's Paradox -- Examining an ancient paradox and a related "supertasks" issue with an infinite number of generating universes.

Meet Yourself, Infinitely Many Times -- Some other paradoxes and epistemological issues with infinitely spawning universes.

Just so you know (the truth in advertising part): I favor a form of "old universe/old earth" creationism. The logic behind an old universe is compelling to me. I am open to young earth creationism -- I've held that from time to time in the past. I welcome discussion with all creationists, I greatly respect the reasons for each viewpoint. I also subscribe to the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, as well as the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with one exception, creation in the "span of six days." While technically, under the PCA's understanding of the Confession, I do not need to take an exception there, I do so so that people know my position.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Cosmological Surprise of 1998

In the year 1998, the Monica Lewinsky scandal dominated much of the American news, with the resulting impeachment of President Clinton. 1998 was also the year that Adam G. Riess [1], an astronomer at the University of California, Berkley (now at Johns Hopkins University) announced a cosmic discovery his team made in November of 1997. The universe expansion rate was accelerating. His team was one of two teams studying certain types of supernovas and variable stars[2].

Prior to this time, it was known the universe was expanding. It was assumed the expansion was gradually slowing. The reason this was assumed was because the major forces known by physics were: the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity. The first three act in close range, while gravity acted over huge distances. Gravity acts in slowing down the expansion of the universe. The question in cosmologist's minds was gravity strong enough to bring the expansion to a halt and ultimately cause the universe to collapse in upon itself. For various reasons, in the 1990s it looked like the universe was close to having just enough matter in the universe to bring the contest of gravity and expansion to a draw -- but scientists weren't sure.

In 1997, two competing teams were researching the expansion of the universe, in part to answer the question of whether the universe would expand or collapse. Both were aware of each other's work. Each of the teams were using the Hubble Space telescope, as well as ground based telescopes, looking at certain types of brilliant supernovae and Cepheid variable stars. They were looking to get an accurate measure of the "Hubble Constant" which is the expansion rate of the universe. In November of 1997, Dr. Riess' calculations indicated that the most distance supernovae were brighter than he expected. There were various possibilities. The most likely one in their minds was that there was dust obscuring the closer supernovae. Another possibility was that the universe had recently sped up its expansion (remember, this is "recent" in astrophysical terms, which means in the past few billion years). This latter possibility needed very careful checking because no one what seen any experimental indication of an acceleratingly universe before. Such unusual possibilities usually meant errors in measurement or in not accounting for much more prosaic possibilities. Only a few years before a couple of scientists had their reputations ruined by rushing to publish their thoughts on cold fusion.

During November and December of 1997 and into January of 1998, Adam Riess checked his results again and again, quietly checking with others at U.C. Berkeley. Dr. Riess knew this was the kind of monumental discovery that few astronomers make in their careers. So far, as far as Dr. Riess could tell, the other competing team had not found the discrepancy in supernovae brightness, but he knew what they were looking at and knew it was only a short time before they would notice the same anomaly. Riess' team sent their paper for publishing in March of 1998[3], just as the other team were also concluding that the expansion rate was accelerating.

In a span of just over a year, the astrophysicists' view of the universe changed drastically. At the start of 1997, it was thought that matter, the stuff you see around you, atoms, cars, baseball bats, and stars, were the dominant stuff of the universe. By the end of 1999, it was realized conventional matter and energy (such as light, gravity), the stuff we see in the universe, made up a small fraction of what there is in the universe. How small? Cosmologists are now saying it is just 4% of the universe. What is the other stuff? No one knows what it is. There is unseen stuff that causes galaxies to form, and unseen negative energy that is driving the accelerating expansion of the universe. Currently the unseen "stuff" that forms the galaxies and other great structures is called "dark matter." The unknown repulsive energy that drives the expansion is called "dark energy." Just because they are both called dark does not mean they are related or tied together in a special dark way. The use of the term "dark" is like "x" for being unknown. Further, dark matter is not really dark per se. Dark matter is transparent to light. We can see dark matter's presence from the gravitational fields it exerts. Dark matter and dark energy make up 96% of the universe.

The previous blog entry briefly explored the cosmologists thoughts of running the clock backwards in the universe. It points to a beginning for the universe. What about running the clock the other way? What will an accelerating expanding universe look like in the extreme future?[4] First, over the course of 100 billion years (7 times what cosmologists think the present age of the universe is), all the galaxies we presently see, outside of the local cluster galaxies we are in, will disappear from view. This is because as space expands, the more distant regions that we currently see will in essence be moving away from as greater than the speed of light. Light emitted from those distant objects will never reach us. Or put another way, the light from the distant objects will redshift so greatly, that we will no longer be able to detect them. Our local galaxy group will not fall out of our sight because gravity is strong enough within the group to counter balance the expansion of space. All the galaxies in our local cluster will collide and merge together into one giant super galaxy. Eventually all the matter in the super galaxy will fall into the super massive black hole that has merged from all massive black holes in the center of the original galaxies. Over a very, very, very long time, the super massive black hole will evaporate, leaving, for practical purposes, an empty space that still is continually expanding.

Overall, in the expansion of the universe, its entropy will continue to increase. As the current universe we see expands infinitely, its entropy will increase infinitely. But the density of the entropy will drop.

I now have covered that background need to discuss Caltech astrophysicist Sean M. Carrol's proposal of how this universe came into existence.[5]


[1] Photograph of Adam Riess taken from his website at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

[2] Adam Riess' story of his discovery is told in the Shaw Prize lecture, My Path to the Accelerating Universe. You can watch the 02/27/98, PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer segment's interview of Adam Reiss in Dr. Reiss's FAQ page.

[3] Adam G. Riess, et al., Observational Evidence from Supernovae for an Accelerating Universe and a Cosmological Constant, Astronomical Journal, May, 1998

[4] Lawrence M. Krauss and Robert J. Scherrer, The End of Cosmology? Scientific American, February 2008.

[5] Sean M. Carrol, Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?, Scientific American, May 2008.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Running the Clock Backwards

The universe is expanding -- so the redshift of the galaxies indicate. That means last year the region of space we see now was closer. Even closer 20 years ago. Let's perform a thought experiment. Suppose we look at the rate of expansion, look at the most distant galaxies, and just run the whole thing backwards, assuming the physical laws of the universe remain the same. Space would shrink smaller and smaller, until it shrinks to an infinitesimal point. how long? Current estimates are 13,730,000,000 years, give or take 12,000,000 years [1].

Virtually all astronomers believe that the universe began 13 to 14 billion years ago. This means virtually all astronomers believe this universe had a beginning. The name of the beginning point is the Big Bang -- a name that was ironically coined by British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle[2] as a derogatory name for a theory he did not believe in. Hoyle had believed that the universe was eternal and its basic structure always remained the same.

What is thought about the beginning? First, since he universe shows a remarkable degree of homogeneous structure in its distribution of matter and energy, the universe currently has a remarkably low entropy. Since entropy always increases in a large closed system over time, it means at the beginning the universe had an extremely low amount of entropy.

The early universe was a remarkable place. All the particles that make up the universe we currently observe were squeezed into an extraordinarily hot, dense volume. Most important, they were distributed nearly uniformly throughout that tiny volume. On average, the density differed from place to place by only about one part in 100,000. [3]

But an instance before, this extremely low entropy of the hot dense universe was even lower. It is thought by many astrophysicists that early universe when through a brief period of incredible expansion, known as inflation. It is thought extremely dense "dark energy" engaged the inflation. The entropy at the start of the inflation was extremely low:

the ultradense dark energy had to begin in a very specific configuration. In fact, its entropy had to be fantastically smaller than the entropy of the hot, dense gas into which it decayed. [4]

One of the things that many scientists like to do is come up with a natural explanation of why things are the way they are. The universe as we see it is an extraordinarily unusual thing. It's constants (such as the speed of light) and laws are tuned to an incredible degree to support life. Is there a way to explain the beginning of the universe without God, without an intelligent designer? The extremely low entropy at the beginning of the universe is very improbable. It was hoped that String Theory could provide an explanation for the beginning, but the problem is that String Theory has so many unspecified initial conditions that lead to wildly different universes, the vast majority of which could not support life.

Some have proposed that our universe came out of a "quantum" fluctuation. However, it is extraordinarily unusual for low entropy systems to appear in such high entropy fluctuations.

The author of the article that I have quoted from, Sean M. Carrol, has an interesting proposal. I'll examine it in my next post and discuss some problems with that proposal.


[1] Gary F. Hinshaw, et al., p. 2 and p. 42, Five-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP1) Observations: Data Processing, Sky Maps, & Basic Results, unpublished manuscript submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. No date, but footnotes imply the manuscript was written in 2008.

[2] Wikipedia, Big Bang.

[3] Sean M. Carrol, Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes? p. 2, Scientific American, May 2008.

[4] ibid, p. 3.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Isotropic Versus Homogenous

Can you image a universe of Energizer Bunnies? Rather frightening. Through the magical world of bloggery, I am taking you there. It's too late, if you try to click away, you've already caught a glimpse. There are two versions of this universe. The first is a homogeneous universe. Its made up of banging bunnies, all facing the same way.

Imagine sitting on the blue ball looking all around. This is a homogeneous universe. The question for an isotropic universe is do all the ways I look at the universe look the same? Looking to the left of the blue ball, you will see bunnies facing you. Looking to the right, you see back of the bunnies. Looking up you see the feet of the bunnies. Looking below, you see the tops of the bunnies. With the first image, you see the universe has a definite orientation. The universe looks differently depending which direction you look at it.

The second image is not so homogeneous, but fits the bill for isotropic.

In this image I ran a program that randomly oriented the bunnies. The result is that there is no particular orientation to this universe of bunnies. Sitting on the blue ball you will see bunnies facing every direction as you look up, down, left, right, and all the directions in between. This is the kind of thing that is meant by an isotropic universe. As we look at any direction, on the large scale (clusters of galaxies and larger distances), we see galaxies oriented in every direction.

This image is from Hubble website.

Finally, the redshift surveys are producing spectacular results. This image is the entire sky from earth showing the Milky Way galaxy, which is the galaxy the solar system resides in, and what can be seen that is not blocked by our view of the Milky Way. Each point in the image represents a galaxy. The galaxies that are closet to us are blue, the furthest ones are shown as red and those at "intermediate" distances are green and other colors. This comes from the internet article, Large Scale Structure in the Local Universe: The 2MASS Galaxy Catalog by Dr. Thomas Jarrett of Caltech.

A detailed listing of the objects in the picture is found here.

This image gives us an idea of the limits of homogeneous and isotropic. If you look at the image carefully, you can see "threads" of galaxies and other large structures. But you also see how all the galaxies spread over the sky in such a way that one area of a sky looks very similar to every other area of the sky.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cosmological Assumptions

Remember the Energizer Bunny? I haven't watched TV in years -- any programs I watch are on the Internet -- so I don't know if the bunny is still pounding away at the drum. I am going to use this bunny to illustrate some major assumptions made in cosmology.

The first assumption is that the physics of the universe -- physics of the fundamental forces of electromagnetism, gravity, and a few other forces -- has remained the same throughout all the life of the universe -- or nearly so. The speed of light has not changed over time, forces, properties of matter, the fabric of space and time have remained the same. It is like the Energizer Bunny, the fundamental forces keeps on ticking. The exception is at the very beginning at the universe.

We need to carefully make the distinction between the fundamental forces and physics and that the universe itself was the same all the time -- the latter is known as the Perfect Cosmological Principle. Einstein first assumed that in General Relativity. This is the view that the universe has always existed, forever, in basically its present form. This theory was referred to as the Steady State Theory. Discoveries over the past 50+ years has eliminated the Steady State Theory as a viable theory.

On the large scale, the universe is homogeneous. By large scale, I mean billions of light years. The various redshift surveys show that the universe is somewhat clumpy. There are stars, galaxies, and galaxy clusters. But as you go beyond the super clusters of galaxies, there is a rough evening out of the visible matter in the universe.

On the very large scale, whatever direction you look at the universe, it essentially looks the same way. The diagram I put together for isotropic had a problem, it is not isotropic. Do you see how it is not?

These two assumptions, the universe is homogeneous and isotropic, form what is known as the Cosmological Principle. The universe looks basically the same in every direction it is examined.

There is also another assumption made by cosmologists. There is no special vantage point in the universe. How the universe looks to us in the Milky Way galaxy, looks essentially the same to someone else at a galaxy 10 billion light years away. This principle is known as the Copernican Principle, named after the astronomer that developed the description of the solar system where earth was not at the privileged position of being at the center of the solar system.

The Copernican Principle is a very interesting assumption. When we look at the universe all around us and note how it is expanding, it looks like we're smack in the very center of the universe. Everywhere we look, the universe is expanding (over the large distances) at exactly the same rate. The universe looks like it is growing with earth being the very center point from which all space is expanding away from. The Copernican Principle states if we view the universe this way, so do the observers at a galaxy 10 billion light years away from us. How can that be? There are some straight forward consequences of that assumption that will be discussed later.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Issues, Etc Review

Issues, Etc. was reborn last Monday, June 30. It was summarily canceled without warning on March 18. Issues, Etc. was previously broadcast under the auspices of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) but it is reborn free of the official ties. Host Todd Wilken says this allows him to be the loyal opposition in the LCMS where he walks the middle ground of being silent to his concerns of the LCMS and firing both barrels of criticism. I've noticed Todd is freer in his comments about the LCMS. In the past I could read between the lines of Todd's statements and phone caller's concerns of some of the directions the LCMS denomination and individual churches. Now there is explicit statements of concerns.

As a result, Issues is even a better program than before. As one of the announcements between segments says, there are no longer any infomercials for the LCMS. Issues still retains its unashamedly theologically conservative Lutheran roots. It's parent company, Lutheran Public Radio, an independent, soon-to-be non-profit corporation, reminds us Issues' Lutheranism. While Issues is Lutheran, its appeal spreads way beyond the confines of conservative Lutheranism. Evangelicals of all stripes listen to Issues, Etc. Issues calls Evangelicals to return to the Christ centered, cross focused gospel.

Issues is an eclectic mix of theological discussion and current news talk radio. As a news topic talk radio, Issues blows away any and all competitors, such as Janet Parshall, Sean Hannity, Neal Bortz, and Rush Limbaugh. Issues, while theologically conservative, does not necessarily endorse all things politically conservative. While strongly prolife, Issues will interview prolife Democrat groups, poke holes in American conservative political fiction that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and explain why we should not have a Christian nation. One of my favorite guests, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, discussed these last two points with Todd Wilken on the Issues' Fourth of July program.

The theological discussion often shows its Lutheran distinctives, such as the nature of the sacraments, which often make other Evangelicals a little uncomfortable. However, Evangelicals, in fact all Christians, as well as interested non-Christians, will have much to learn from the theological segments. For instance, I discovered in one past Issues show, several years ago, a perspective on Jesus' parables that moved me from seeing parables as little moral object lessons to seeing Christ and the gospel of God redeeming sinners as the center of the parables. Issues discusses historical people and events of the church calendar. In theology, Issues does the job as well as the White Horse Inn and Renewing Your Mind. But Issues integrates all of its analysis and talk of American and worldwide culture with its theology that is unlike anything else in radio.

This Presbyterian highly recommends Issues, Etc. You can listen to Issues live on streaming Internet radio, or on your own schedule by downloading mp3 files from their website at, or with iTunes. I was previously an anti-iTunes person, but discovered how easy and painless iTunes is in getting Issues, Etc.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Did This Happen?

These are the Antennae Galaxies. This comes from the Space Telescope website (1), which has many beautiful images you can download. Most of these are NASA, US Government funded images, so you can copy to your heart's content.

These are two galaxies colliding that are estimated to be 45 million light years away from us (2). Given the widely accepted assumptions that the speed of light is constant in a vacuum (and goes no faster than 299,792.458 kilometers per second), it would take the light 45 million years to reach us.

The previous blog entry had some excellent discussion. Several participants in the comments suggested that the universe was created recently -- 6,000 to 15,000 years ago. The suggestion is that the universe was created by God in a mature state. The mature state implies that there is an appearance of history. Let's say that God created the universe 6000 years ago. God created Adam as a mature man, complete with navel, even though Adam did not have an umbilical cord. The ground was full of rich earth with decaying nutrients of dead plants -- even though the plants were never alive, because if they were, they would have existed before God created the earth. An excellent article on the topic is James Jordan's article that Jared cited (3).

Under the appearance of age hypothesis, God created the night skies with starlight that is mature. The light and images we see comes as if the stars and galaxies had existed long ago. This includes the massive galaxy collision of the Antennae Galaxies. My question, were the Antennae Galaxies actually colliding 45 million years ago? The appearance of age hypothesis would say no. The galaxies in the Hubble image we are seeing at the start of this article did not exist 45 million years ago. God created the light some 6,000 years ago, that is just arriving now, that gives the appearance that those galaxies are colliding. Assuming that those galaxies were created 6,000 years ago (or, if you believe God created the universe 15,000 years ago, use that figure), colliding with each other, it will be another 45 million years (give or take some thousands of years, not counting the margins of error in scientist's estimates) before the light from the actual galaxies gets to earth and with it the real history of their interaction in the universe. What we see in the meantime are phantom images of galaxies that did not exist yet.

There is no testable way to verify whether the appearance of age hypothesis is true or false. I am a little uncomfortable with this approach. For one thing, I believe that Christianity is a historically based religion. Jesus Christ actually entered history. He lived, said and did many things in history, then died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Unlike Karl Barth who said that Christ's death and resurrection were in "super history" and unverifiable, I think all of Christ's life, death, and resurrection can be examined in historical ways. The appearance of age hypothesis puts creation outside the realm of scientific analysis, unlike the life of Christ.

I think there are some problems in a naturalistic only view of the start of the universe and its development. I will explore these in upcoming blog entries. If I take the appearance of age approach, then it is difficult to discuss issues of speculative cosmology with others because what I expect from them in analyzing their views I would not be doing for myself.

I have great respect for James Jordan and the others who responded. Perhaps the appearance of age hypothesis is the correct view. There is merit for it. But I am going to explore some other avenues. I welcome comments from all, including those who hold to the appearance of age viewpoint of creation.

Further background. The first image in this post is a small detailed view of the image to the left. The Antennae Galaxies are the closest colliding galaxies to us. The perhaps give a hint of what could happen to the Milky Way and Andromeda sometime in the future, since our two galaxies are headed towards each other on a collision course.

Many colliding galaxies have been observed in the universe, but these two, as the closest, are the most studied of all the colliding galaxies. Many new stars are formed as a result of this collision.

Credit for these images: NASA, ESA & Ivo Saviane (European Southern Observatory).


(1) Colliding galaxies make love, not war,

(2) 09-May-2008, News Release - heic0812: The Antennae Galaxies move closer.

(3) April 1999, James Jordan, Creation With the Appearance of Age.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Big Bang -- Happy 4th of July!

A big bang theory Americans get into on the 4th of July. Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Redshift, Yawn -- So What?

Often, when we are asked how far some location is, we'll answer it saying how long it takes to drive there. For instance, I was asked how far is Orlando, Florida from the northern suburbs of Atlanta where I live. I answered that it is about eight hours away. Noticed I was asked a distance question, but I gave a time answer.

In astronomy, there are lots of distance units: astronomical units (AU), parsecs, and light years. That last unit, light years, sounds like a time unit, but it is actually a distance unit -- the distance it takes light to travel in one year. We are assuming the speed of light in a vacuum is exactly 299,792.458 kilometers per second or approximately 186,282.397 miles per second. It is also assumed, based on Special and General Relativity, that the speed of light is constant, although it has a lower speed in air or other physical medium. Nothing starting slower than the speed of light can exceed the speed of light, and anything with a rest mass greater than zero can never achieve the speed of light.

For a Christian who holds to the inerrancy of the Bible and considers the speed of light, that nothing can go faster than the speed (disregarding speculative thoughts about tachyons), and the distances of observed galaxies in millions and billions of light years -- some potential issues can arise. Probably the most plain reading of the book of Genesis implies the earth and universe is perhaps 6,000 years old, or possibly as old as 10,000 to 15,000 years. However, the closest spiral galaxy, Andromeda, is 2 million light years away. The galaxies in the redshift surveys range out to 3 billion light years away. Other galaxies have been observed much further away. If we consider Andromeda Galaxy, and assume the light was see from it, as we look in the summer sky, originated from the stars within the galaxy and traveled no faster than 299,792.458 kilometers per second, then we must conclude that the universe is, at a minimum 2 million years old, in order for the light to make it to our eyes. As we consider the galaxies that are further out, keeping the same assumptions, then we have a universe that is billions of years old. That is a far cry from age of 6,000 to 15,000 years that Genesis seems to imply for the universe.

How does a Christian deal with this? There are a number of approaches. I have personally taken many different approaches during my life -- ranging from believing the Bible has errors to being convinced the Bible is inerrant. While believing the Bible was inerrant, I have ranged from young universe/earth creationism to various old universe creationism. I have sympathies for each of the different viewpoints, particularly with the ones that hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. In my conversations with others, I will typically not express my viewpoint because I am not solidly in one camp or the other, and, I fear that for some Christians, discussing anything other than young earth creationism wounds their faith because they believe if the universe and earth was not created just thousands of years ago, then the Bible has errors, which rightly has ramifications in all the other areas of the Bible.

There is a resource from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), my denomination, that was adopted by a recent General Assembly meeting of the denomination. It is simply entitled as the Report of the Creation Study Committee. The interpretation of Genesis and the scientific data has caused some amount of controversy in the PCA. Some congregations have left the denomination over this issue. This report discusses much of the issues.

As I continue this blog series, I will comment on some of the bizarre ramifications in some speculations in cosmology and how various Christians deal with the general issues of a big universe and its implied old age, including comments from the Creation Study Committee. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.