Now its the NOT Big Bang theory and they’re about to switch a light on the dark universe to prove it
THE BIG BANG THEORY is not just big business, it’s fast becoming big show business. In fact the theory is already growing old and there can be little surprise that it is being increasingly challenged before we lose interest again. The latest contender in the debate could be called the Not Big Bang theory.
But is the debate scientific, philosophical, theological, or simply nihilist? Most of the protagonists seem unclear as to where they stand; indeed they often don’t seem to be aware that there are well defined boundaries inside which other debaters stand. Many nowadays go so far as to deny even those historically acceptable limitations of competence assumed to exist for different intellectual disciplines. Theologians were never thereby excluded from the study of chemistry, or physicists from reading up on Aristotle’s metaphysics. The point is that if they know what chemistry actually is and what it is not and stick to that, and recognise what is philosophy and abide by its tenets of, say, logic then confusion is avoided.
The problem arises when a chemist tries to prove that salt is soluble in holy water at a lower temperature than in tap water. When a mathematician is unaware that mathematics do not constitute a physical entity, for example that a circle exists only in a human mind as an idea of relationships of radii and planes, or when an astronomer assumes that black holes are really holes like coal pits; it is then that discussion get muddled, often hopelessly.
Confusion in analyses about beginnings pervades almost all of current cosmological reflection on the beginning of the universe.
The field becomes even more confusing when you don’t even understand what the differences are or have a completely false conception of them. Practically the entirety of what can go wrong with debate is exemplified in a recent Daily Telegraph article on the Big Bang which is the excuse for publishing this article. But let’s not be too hard on its science editrix, one Sarah Knapton. As William Carroll writing for the Thomistic Institute, Jacques Maritain Centre, pointed out: “Confusion in analyses about beginnings pervades almost all of current cosmological reflection on the beginning of the universe.”
He also warned: “It is interesting that some Christians rushed to embrace Big Bang cosmology because they saw it as scientific confirmation of the Genesis story of Creation. Accordingly, we may understand the particular attraction of some to current variations in Big Bang cosmology which purport either to account for the initial singularity in terms of quantum tunnelling or to deny the existence of an initial boundary to the universe. In either case, so it might seem, the role of a creator is superfluous. ….to use Big Bang cosmology either to affirm creation or deny it is an example of misunderstanding both cosmology and creation.”
So, this Newshawk enquiry is not engaged in taking sides in the latest take on the theory that the universe originated in an explosion or if it did not. We are open minded. By any reckoning that Big Bang explanation is what can be called a special creation theory inasmuch as it proposes that a tiny ball of immense mass inexplicably burst asunder, and, instead of fragmenting into chaotic particles, fell accidentally into fecund abundance, almost infinitely specific and identifiable existents and all in a universal symbiotic orderliness. Instead of a single unit of over-crowded heavy stuff locked up in itself complex brilliantly designed entities took automatic shape, things like lap-top computers, flies with eyes, women science correspondents, newspapers including the Telegraph, mathematics text books, French irregular verbs, together with various suns, moons, universes, and mysteries like black holes etc.
Supposedly this lump of stuff floating in utter nothingness was doing so always, forever but forever backwards from the point of its exploding not necessarily forever forwards as it were. So that’s eternal but how do we get eternal-up-until blast-off? And why on not earth did it laze about merely being a particular mass forever and forever ever then blow apart? Nobody seems to think about that. Big Bang equals the start! No, big bang equals an inexplicable change in an eternal entity.
Lest any Newshawk reader imagines that there is very little evidence to support such an amazing creation theory a group of scientists have found astronomically large funds to construct a Domdaniel cave replete with a machine called (in short) Collider, or even shorter, LHC. Whatever else it is it is very expensive. Oh, and it is becoming more expensive; greedier if you like. It needs more funds, and it gets them. But then they say it proved the existence of the God Particle. And that may be the essence of this affair (if the Telegraph science desk will excuse this relapse into political philosophy). It may be about money, fame, and lastly, God.
This Collider is said to prove that the Big Bang theory can be now disproved and up to date science dogma which keeps faith with the doctrines of a man called Karl Popper insists that if something can be disproved it must be there in the first place, or, at least, that it must be considered fit to be tested as to whether or not it really does exist.
To be fair, Popper’s admittedly extra-scientific platitude served to exclude silly creation theories from the debate by effectively refusing to consider any non-physical cause
Follow the dogma? No? Well neither do many other people (including your writer who was once Science editor of a grand old newspaper). I always read it as “if you can’t heft it you can’t heft it”. There are others who say it means if you can’t heft it it isn’t there. So much for altruism or love! But the science desk of the Daily Telegraph seems to grasp even deeper scientific mysteries than were ever envisaged in Karl Popper’s popular if simplistic saw. To be fair, Popper’s admittedly extra-scientific platitude served to exclude silly creation theories from the debate by effectively refusing to consider any non-physical cause. He may not have noticed that this also served to isolate and then exclude philosophy from intelligent discussions whether concerning the measurement of stuff or the behaviour of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, even of Barak Obama. It is further the case that the Popper mind-set, having removed anywhere else for them to go or extend towards, licensed the wildest imaginable “science” theories to proliferate and posture as real science just so long as they were perceived to deny the involvement of the power mankind has historically conceived of as God. This is not to say that the examination of what causes physical phenomena should ever permit what can be called “a god of the gaps”; that is to say resorting to a theological cum scientific hybrid system for determining physical or natural causalities.
To re-iterate. this little essay is not bent on deriding science or even the far extremes of scientific conjecture. The thrust of this investigation is to disentangle scientific method from scientific speculation. It is also to underline what Aristotle famously said: “You say you must not philosophise, then you must philosophise!” Too few scientifically minded persons would recognise the philosophy which they consistently indulge in even if it were to assume the form of an elephant and dominate the living room. For example, all scientific theories are philosophical acts. All mathematics are elements of philosophy. All creation proposals, and every argument insisting upon the alternatives. Scientific method is a means of determining natural causes of natural phenomena, nothing else. Knowledge of natural phenomena and of natural physical tendencies in act or potential belong to the intellectual instinct of what constitutes a human being. As such it enters the domain of philosophy. Philosophy proper is the science of the consequences of being, universally or in particular. Logic is a process in philosophy sometime called first philosophy.
Etienne Gilson in his Being and Some Philosophers brilliantly demolishes the Pragmatism (which is what we are witnessing in such articles as the Telegraph dismissal of philosophy, almost as if it were the formal antithesis of scientific intelligence) and accurately traces that degrading of Philosophy from, classically, the notion of metaphysics conceived as a wisdom, that is, as a knowledge of things in general by their ultimate causes into a sort of loose conception of general ideas. He quoted the famous Professor Dewey who saw philosophy as that which “expresses a certain attitude, purpose, and temper of conjoined intellect and will, rather than a discipline whose boundaries can be really marked off.”
He points to the influence of William James for whom the “ultimate causes” he conceives are neither things or beings. For James these causes are more or less ultimate according as they are more or less “general”. For him philosophy becomes the “speciality of generalities.”
we insist on being sceptical about the enormous body of dogma that can suddenly appear quite empty when looked at in the wider context of human perceptions
What is first in things is thus transformed into the science of what is most universal in thought, metaphysics undergoes a second metamorphosis, in that the intrinsic generality of its principles becomes itself broadness in scope. Now broadness is not the same thing as generality. The principles may be equally general without being equally valid, but if “a view of anything is termed philosophic just in proportion as it is broad” any broad view of things is as philosophic as any other equally broad one. Generality is still about things, but broadness is an attribute of mind. Things may be equally sweeping while equally conflicting.
If we at Newshawk are sceptical we insist on being sceptical about the enormous body of dogma that can suddenly appear quite empty when looked at in the wider context of human perceptions. Rather as it did in the few paragraphs immediately above.
We will also explore the sort of mess people can find themselves in once they lose the ability to philosophise, or when they mistake mere (or wild) conjecture for the science of philosophy, or when they deny the evidence of their minds and place blind faith in some or other mind set.
Under the headline “Collider will seek to disprove Big Bang” the science editor of the Telegraph reports that the Large Hedron Collider (LHC) might prove the existence of parallel universes.
OK, we’ll get back to parallel universes. No, let’s get it over with. Parallel as in railway lines? As in another cosmos like this one except not in a similar place? Nobody has ever actually seen an atom composed of a nucleus, with electrons, neutrons and protons whirling around it here in this universe so what would suggest there are even atoms in a parallel one? If parallel means running alongside and otherwise similar then why not just call it another more distant universe? If it is not even made of material what involvement can it have with ours? Why propose such a “thing”? Of course there is always the parallel universe which some imagine heaven to be, where the angelic spirits thrive and God is the supreme spirit sufficient unto Himself and infinite in all perfections (penny catechism). “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered unto the heart of man …. ” kind of set-up? Ah, there’s a special theory to set your eyes watering! O.K. so much for parallel universes. We are not going to go to multiverses. Too far!
But the writer also slipped this staggering comment (not hers, but from a Dr. Mir Faizal) into the Telegraph discourse: “This cannot be tested and so it is philosophy and not science.”
What it was that could not be tested was not the concept of parallel universes but the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. Well, that seems to be what she means he means.
So in a few paragraphs Telegraph readers are hit with:
- Parallel Universes,
- Quantum physics
- Quantum mechanics
- Black holes
- Rainbow gravity
- Dark matter
- Dark universe
- Multiverses, “where every possibility is actualised”.
- “Many worlds” of quantum mechanics theory,
- Philosophy as what cannot be proved.
- Philosophy as what cannot be a science.
Rolling off her laptop onto page two, we find stuff that Hollywood script writers must be storing up for the next Star Wars episodes; like, “Rainbow gravity suggests the universe stretches back in time infinitely with no singular point where it started and so no Big Bang”. Another sentence goes “gravity’s effect on the cosmos is felt differently by varying wavelengths of light”. Another runs: “The effects of rainbow gravity would be small for the Earth but it is significant and measurable for black holes”.
Other quotations include: “We predict that gravity can leak into extra dimensions, and, if it does, then miniature black holes can be produced at the LHC. As gravity can flow out of our universe into the extra dimensions, such a model can be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC.”
She seems to understand what Dr. Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN, meant when he described what will occur when they switch on the Collider again. She wrote: The switch-on would create “a new era for physics” which could also shed light on dark matter and dark energy. He said: “I want to see the first light in the dark universe. If that happens then nature is kind to me.”
- Nature the unthinking material universe cannot be kind or unkind. The good Dr. must be indulging in some sort of poetic metaphor to describe good fortune which is an even more non-scientific notion. But these few questions might excite his obvious capacity to emote, perhaps to wonder;
- Nothing explains the faculty in humans to sense “meaning” whether a need to find why this happens or that doesn’t, or to recognise the most simple process of “this therefore that” or to ask “why?”
- There can be no lesser form of meaning. There may be lesser forms of successfully exploring the full meaning of things. But once among men it is of its nature complete, not a process.
- The mind is directed by will although guided by appetite. Will is not amenable to physical explanation. These are unarguable statements of truth, if truth is reality and we may trust our instruments of knowing, our brains.
Please be assured that the teasing tone of this little essay is not meant to denigrate even the widest possible circle of conjecture a man might possibly throw about his curiosity. Our spirit is not of mischief or mockery of the boundless fields of probability, but humorous scepticism for the boundless capacity of pompous men to slip hysteron proteron on the banana skins of serious improbability. There is an unhealthy form of hubris in modern debate which distinguishes a particular mind-set from the commonality of mankind. Its name is Science and it imagines that whoever challenges its theory of universal uncaused mechanism (a form of Cartesian philosophy) is thereby an outsider lacking the competence to apprehend its esoteric deliberations.
In the high tide of classical philosophy as in its Aristotlean formation men debated cosmos theories from fixed statism to an eternally existing and dynamic universe, and on to Divine creation in the sense of prior causation rather than an act initiated in time. In the case of Aquinas and some others the conclusion, that Static universe or otherwise, philosophy cannot prove or disprove either theory, but that whichever the fact turns out to be, the underlying creative activity of God is essential for all material existents. Creation in time is decided only on theological grounds arising from Divine Revelation (Many theologians posit resolutions outside of history and beyond investigation as such). These ancient discussions are elegant and intellectually so thorough that they demand at least respectful consideration to this day. That the tracing of causalities is anything but simplistic in classical cosmological deliberations can be indicated by the following examination of something taken for granted which is among those principles covered in the warning; “Confusion in analyses about beginnings pervades almost all of current cosmological reflection on the beginning of the universe.”
A re-examination of historical cosmologies becomes ever more relevant as the “alternative” creation theories become wilder and further removed from sane norms. This is an important strand in the complex web man throws out upon his perceived environment which Aristotle termed his “organ of knowing”. If our means of knowing is untrustworthy then we know nothing.
To get an example of the extremes “science” will go to while blandly assuming that a sort of sola material dogma lends it credibility (or worse, excludes the rights of common sense to propose any form of criticism) try to find the scientific method which could possibly support the following:
Most physicists refer to the Big Bang as a “singularity,” that is, an ultimate boundary or edge, a “state of infinite density” where spacetime has ceased. Thus it represents an outer limit of what we can know about the universe. If all physical theories are formulated in the context of space and time, it would not be possible to speculate, at least in the natural sciences, about conditions before or beyond these categories. Nevertheless, during the last twenty years, precisely such speculation has intrigued several cosmologists.(10) Some of them now offer theories which propose to account for the Big Bang itself as a fluctuation of a primal vacuum. Just as sub-atomic particles are thought to emerge spontaneously in vacuums in laboratories, so the whole universe may be the result of a similar process.(11) Professor Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University has developed a variation of an inflationary model of the expanding universe which accounts for the birth of the universe “by quantum tunneling from nothing.” “Nothing,” for Vilenkin, is a “state with no classical space-time . . . the realm of unrestrained quantum gravity; it is a rather bizarre state in which all our basic notions of space, time, energy, entropy, etc., lose their meaning.”(12)
Vilenkin and Alan Guth (the original proponent of the “inflationary model”)(13) base their variations of Big Bang theory on extrapolations from high energy physics. The four fundamental forces (the strong, the weak, gravity, and electro-magnetic) and the elementary sub-atomic particles (leptons and quarks) are “low temperature phenomena.” At the temperatures estimated at the time of the Big Bang itself, temperatures around 1032 degrees Kelvin,(14) all the forces of nature are thought to exist in a single, undifferentiated superforce, and all the now disparate sub-atomic particles had yet no acquired distinct identities. According to the “inflationary model,” there was a rapid “supercooling” of the universe when it was about 10-35 second old which produced a tremendous amount of energy, some of which condensed into matter.(15)
Comment is superfluous. But are “scientific” theories which seem to support fideist inclusions in the holistic perception of humanity any less fantastic? And how exactly do those who strive to exclude all false or skewed causal explanations describe cosmic phenomena in pertinent vocabulary – including the ancients?
Take some examples of common terms that are rarely examined; Ex-nihilo, from nothing, trips off the tongue in Latin or English. How about “space”, or “time”, or “space-time”. What about vacuum? Or do we consider (as we began this enquiry) with “beginning”. There is “prior” and there is “before”. But any amount of extreme speculations stub a toe on such obvious realities as these.
Granted, the great thinkers were careful about terms like “space”. Space/time is another mindless given. The old debaters were careful also about defining time. Here’s why. Try to think about nothingness. Take, for example, the usual Einsteinian image of the universe. It is a bowl-like formation of material floating in nothing? No, it is floating in space. It takes time to float, floating is a time process. Being a process it is action in what we call space, in the sense of a place. But go back to nothingness in which exists nothing, certainly where there can be no changes and so no recognition or recording of time. Nothing means NO THING. Unending no thing and in it a material bowl, Inside the bowl (if it is to be a bowl) NOTHING. Do you wish to examine your level of intelligence? Try the concept of “no thing”. So much in no thing, like no meaning, no beginning, no endings. Now what contains material, holds it from flowing off from its centre?
Theories abound that may appear to give an answer to that because they will be reflecting some possible construct of a mathematical nature (which, remember, is of its essence a purely intellectual device) but what defies observation, or indeed any mental consideration other than a form of plausible limitation is that the boundary of material has to be nothing (if bounds there be at all). “Nothing” which means that no thing exists, is abhorrent to the intellect, God, whether or not it is agreed that He exists is not abhorrent to the human mind. And that puts at significant disadvantage a theory for all reality which by its essential definition MUST exclude the creator.
There is always too the problem facing men since the spiritual darkness of the modern Enlightenment, which is that a system of thought insists upon an unexamined denial upon probable causation, explicitly primary causation. And, further, that this method of thinking about all reality refuses to sanction as a scientist any man who is open to all probability so long as a theory containing any specific cause can be supported by positive or even negative indications.
The older savants were not so bigoted, so they were not fazed by the idea of infinite conceivings. Infinity is less obscene to the human mind than utter nothingness.
Dr. Carroll recalls an astounding insight into the blind faith of those who chase after what is in effect ultimate end of end as purpose, the idea of a creator universe. The British physicist Paul Davies took the notion of an “inflationary universe” to conclude that it actually emerged “out of nothingness”. Obviously “nothingness” had to be taken for granted and left unexamined. He has calmed down since then but as Carroll explains the idea contrives a scenario by which the entire universe comes out of nowhere (no place never mind space. My point), completely in accordance with the laws of physics, and creates along the way all the matter and energy needed to build the universe as we now see it.
I would also add, a universe replete with Supersonic jets, motorways, camera lenses, and cell phones, not to mention spiders, mice, and men.
Quentin Smith insisted there was enough evidence to warrant the conclusion the universe … began to exist without being caused to do so. Indeed. As I pointed out earlier, the very extent to which such blind faith will go to get around the idea of the Primary Cause is quite startling. What beggars any kind of faith blind or not is that the acolyte of such extreme propositions dares to call this Science, and insists that it is all in keeping with scientific method or even purpose.
There was in history a theory that all matter was an emanation of the Divine Power. This was branded in early Christendom as a heresy, the heresy of Emmanationism. But at least, in proposing a cause the idea was less intellectually abhorrent than what is today passing itself off as science, the science of the uncaused non cause. Where, then, such mantras as “nothing in nature is uncaused”? The old heresy did not propose that inanimate mater was our creator and its own creator at the same time, none of the ancient thinkers (so far as we are aware) were so unhinged from the principles of physics that they could conceive of such a idol; a thing fit to intrude into the sphere of divinity despite being made of dirt (for surely even the pre-dust of dust is dirt, of earth and earthy?). But that this “worse than senseless thing” might have achieved the all in all out of nothing, really nothing, as in no existent entity! Well, what can one say?
Perhaps the wonder of our “scientific age” is not in physics but in the realm of psychiatry, that so many people (and I include the thousands of my fellow Daily Telegraph readers) could be gullible enough to accept such esoteric extravagances as hard science on such flighty presumptions. Common sense scepticism would prevent, at least, the very obvious and self-contradictory mumbo jumbo from proliferating. The umbrella label “science” is not a licence to exclude common sense from the debate. Another necessary safeguard against those who would blind us with science is rigorous honesty. That, after all, is the aim and purpose of the scientific method. But, of course, there’s little new in the parable of silly courtiers and a humble lad who recognised that the emperor had been so deceived by vanity that his own cunning servants could dress him up in material so fine that it was invisible to the human eye. Robes made of nothing if truth be told! (Here, “nothing” is used in the sense of “no material”, not in the sense of absolutely No Thing, that is ex-nihilo!)
As to theological perspectives; if one were to search about for an analogy of the omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and utterly unbound in distinction or extension, (really infinite that is), you could do worse than seize upon God’s creating and maintenance of an infinite, always existing cosmos. Note that “creating” in the sense of Divine competence does not necessarily entail a beginning in time, an initiation, but a necessity of priority in that existents require Divine causality; they exist because of it. Unless God is responsible for it it would not be.
Universities are awash with idiot savants roaming about muttering the Latin mantra; “post hoc propter hoc fallacy!” It has been called “all the Latin any academic is supposed to know.”
So, where to begin when assessing the costly Collider and the distant orbits of human enquiry to which it is boldly going where its lab-coated crew have so boldly and so often gone before?
Perhaps we could begin by asking if quantum mechanics is philosophy and so not science or not science because it cannot be tested and therefore only fit to be dismissed as philosophy. (Surely it is not the Telegraph science expert’s view that philosophy is bunk in the way that Henry Ford dismissed history?)
Meanwhile, we recommend a publication that while it may not shed any kind of light on the arcane ramblings from the average newspaper science desk may at least help to clarify what philosophy is especially what part it must play in science as it must in every consultation of the mind.
It will help if we admit why such Promethean energies are expended in trying to prove that we are mere ciphers droning mindlessly nowhere in a meaningless eternity, or what is worse (and it is the agenda of the latest space trip) to prove that the material machine we call the cosmos is actually our creator god.
True there is also the perfectly valid ancient debate on-going also, about Creation, about beginnings, and about meaning. Some of it, some very tiny part of it, is about scientific method which is another way of stating a need for decency, honesty and for careful investigation of things by men whose virtue it is to know, or rather to wish to know.
The study, a translation and extensive commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s account of the Creation in his writings on the Sentences of Peter Lombard by Drs. William Carroll and Steve Baldner, published by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto, will startle a few smug moderns. They will find that the most up to date speculation about the relationship of natural science with real philosophy and Christian theology is a few light years farther advanced than their own; perhaps because we today have lost the guiding hand of philosophy the mistress of all science.
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