Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What help has materialism been in understanding ourselves or the universe? - Denyse O'Leary

[Recently, I began a series on the ways in which questions in science are shaped in order to produce an atheist mindset … even when it isn’t even reasonable. I have linked the series to date below, but start with a short excerpt:]

What help has materialism been in understanding the universe's beginnings?

Many in cosmology have never made any secret of their dislike of the Big Bang, the generally accepted start to our universe first suggested by Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (1894-1966).
On the face of it, that is odd. The theory accounts well enough for the evidence. Nothing ever completely accounts for all the evidence, of course, because evidence is always changing a bit. But the Big Bang has enabled accurate prediction.

In which case, its hostile reception might surprise you. British astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) gave the theory its name in one of his papers -- as a joke. Another noted astronomer, Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), exclaimed in 1933, "I feel almost an indignation that anyone should believe in it -- except myself." Why? Because "The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural."
One team of astrophysicists (1973) opined that it "involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting." Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, initially remarked, "On both scientific and philosophical grounds, the concept of an eternal Universe seems more acceptable than the concept of a transient Universe that springs into being suddenly, and then fades slowly into darkness." And Templeton Prize winner (2011) Martin Rees recalls his mentor Dennis Sciama's dogged commitment to an eternal universe, no-Big Bang model:

For him, as for its inventors, it had a deep philosophical appeal -- the universe existed, from everlasting to everlasting, in a uniquely self-consistent state. When conflicting evidence emerged, Sciama therefore sought a loophole (even an unlikely seeming one) rather as a defense lawyer clutches at any argument to rebut the prosecution case.
Evidence forced theorists to abandon their preferred eternal-universe model. From the mid 1940s, Hoyle attempted to disprove the theory he named. Until 1964, when his preferred theory, the Steady State, lost an evidence test.
In 1965, an unexpected discovery both confirmed and publicized the Big Bang: Two physicists at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, accidentally discovered the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the radiation apparently left over from the origin. Then in 1990, NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite confirmed Big Bang cosmology with more accurate measurements. A 2011 discovery of gas generated minutes after the Big Bang further confirmed predictions.
That wasn't good news for those who track the progress of science by the progress of atheism. "These men and women have built their entire worldview on atheism," says cosmologist Frank Tipler: "When I was a student at MIT in the late 1960s, I audited a course in cosmology from the physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg. He told his class that of the theories of cosmology, he preferred the Steady State Theory because 'it least resembled the account in Genesis.'"
So disapproval snowballed along with evidence rather than with disconfirmation. In 1989, Nature's physics editor John Maddox predicted, "Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead." In 1992, Geoffrey Burbidge of the University of California at San Diego taxed his colleagues with rushing off to join "the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang." Stephen Hawking opined in 1996, "Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention. ... There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang." ... 

What has materialism done for science?

Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train

Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.

 “Behold, countless Earths sail the galaxies ... that is, if you would only believe ...

 Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!

 But surely we can’t conjure an entire advanced civilization?

 How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Denyse, I didn't get around all the links, but did follow several. You raise numerous fascinating, thought-provoking issues. Thank you. ~~+~~

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