Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just WHO are the real "pinheads"?



The problem of origins, cosmic and human, is a trenchant one and generally calls for highly motivated and rigorous debate. Alas, there are too few prepared to deliver it. What one finds instead is a cheap, shallow substitute - maybe akin to that cheap jam spread you buy at the supermarket, that promises big taste, but ends up in the garbage.

The reason for the lack of standards in debates about origins isn't surprising. It is because most of those who try to pontificate don't know anything about actual science, but attempt to go exclusively by "common sense". However, as author Victor Stenger has pointed out ('You Can't Trust Common Sense', in Not By Design: The Origin of the Universe, Prometheus Books, 1988) this is a dangerous and deluded strategy.

In fact, the march of 20th century modern physics shows the degree to which "common sense" so called, is perhaps the worst criterion to use to judge the merits of an argument, or the nature of evidence. Take the Michelson-Morley experiment (which Stenger explores nicely) as but one example.

In our normal experience of motions, say if one is in a vehicle traveling at 40 mph down a highway, and another car moves ahead at 50 mph, then one agrees that the faster car is going 10 mph faster or +10 mph relative to your own car's moving frame of reference.

Now, consider a rocket in space which sends out a flash of light as it is travelling at half the speed of light. Given the light beam is supposed to travel at the velocity of light: c =186,000 miles per second, can we affirm that if it's dispatched by a rocket traveling ALREADY at 0.5c, it will then have to be going at c + 0.5c = 1.5c? No, we cannot! The light beam, irrespective of the medium from which its sent - a car headlight moving at 40 mph down a highway, or a rocket moving at half the speed of light, still travels at only the speed of light, c.


What about TWO rocket ships approaching each other at the speed of say 08.c? Surely then they will approach at a relative velocity exceeding the speed of light (e.g. 0.8c + 0.8c = 1.6c just as two cars traveling toward each other at 60 mph are approaching each other at a relative speed of 60 mph + 60 mph = 120 mph)?

Well, that's what common sense and ordinary laws of motion tell us, but it's wrong. The actual relative velocity for bodies approaching at relativistic speeds is obtained from:

V(R) = [v1 + v2]/ [1 + (v1)(v2)/c^2]

where v1 = v2 = 0.8c

But working it out: V(R) = [0.8c + 0.8 c] /{ 1 + (0.8c)(0.8c)/ c^2 } =

[1.6 c]/ 1 + (0.64c^2)/ c^2 = 1.6c/(1 + 0.64) = 1.6c/ 1.64 = 0.9756c

or stll less than c!

Even more mind boggling and at odds with common sense are the findings from special relativity, proven over and over again.

For example, the "clock" associated with a moving particle runs SLOWER the faster the particle travels. (Based on the well known muon experiments.) This example of what we call "time dilation" has no counterpart in our everyday world (where velocities are generally far below the speed of light) so we never encounter slower clocks. Even the old Concord jets, as fast as they were, couldn't move fast enough to disclose a pronounced time slowdown. Yet the equations of Einstein show it in no uncertain terms, and the muon experiments prove it!

Also in defiance of common sense is that the length of a rod shrinks in the direction of its motion as it travels approaching the speed, c. At that speed, the rod vanishes since its length is now zero.

What would the length (L) of a rod be for a ground observer, if the rod is moving at 0.9c? Before it moves, measurement shows it is 1 meter long, so L' = 1 m.

Then, by the relativistic contraction equation of special relativity: L = L' {[1 - v^2/c^2]^1/2}

So, to the ground observer the length L is:

L = 1m ([1 - (0.9c)^2/ c^2)]^1/2] = 1m{[1 - 0.81c^2/c^2)^1/2} = 1m (0.19)

or L = 0.436 m

Or, in terms of feet- given the original length was about 3.3 ' (since 3.3' = 1 m) then

L = 1.43'

In other words, the moving rod shrunk from just over 39 inches to barely 17 inches!

Other modern physics findings also fly in the face of common sense, such as:

1- The observed diffraction of electrons wherein on electron can pass through two slits at the same time,

2- The phenomenon of quantum tunneling whereby a low energy particle can pass through a high energy barrier via wave action.

3- Dark energy in the universe which allows for repulsion to occur between masses, and is responsible for the universe accelerating.

So, given these examples, why is it so hard for some fundies to admit that they fail the physics crtieria to be able to cease relying on their common sense, when it comes to how the cosmos arose? In fact, they assert over and over that we (atheists) say the cosmos sprang from nothing, but that word is only figurative. The actual term is a sub-quantum vacuum within a brane space of at least five dimensions. Details were given in a number of previous blogs last year, but the basic idea is that the pre-cosmic bubble "exploded" in conformal spacetime yielding the event we have described as the Big Bang in normative space-time. (A sketch is shown, in which the vacuum bubble is shown as unstable just before spontaneous release. Also shown is a contous of the conformal bubble (cross section) with units given in terms of the Planck Length, ~ 10^-44 cm)

Despite this, we have unadulterated nonsense such as this, fulminated by a certain pastor:

"Contrary to what the pinhead atheists spew out of their filthy sewers , being CANNOT come from NON-being ! there is no potential for this . Even skeptic David Hume called this "absurd" - a scientific (real) impossibility . "

Of course, what the fundie fails to mention is that Hume was a product of an age (230- odd years ago) when science was still seeking to find its legs. Michael Faraday hadn't yet done his magnet experiments. James Maxwell hadn't even shown the existence of the invisible fields we call "electromagnetic" nor had he developed his powerful Maxwell equations based on them. Quantum theory's first tentative steps were still over 160 years away. The Hubble telescope and its findings, along with modern astronomy's opening vistas into the other regions of the spectrum, over 200 years. So, what's the point of citing this ancient? Well, mainly to distract!

And while asserting that "being can't come from non-being" he 's clearly unaware of the phenomenon of pair production. This is made possible by an uncertainty in the amount of energy(E) available, which is associated with the uncertainty in the time (t) and the Planck constant such that: dE ~ h/dt. (Where h = 6.62 x 10^-34 J-s)

Thus, if the time uncertainty is small enough, than an amount of energy dE can become available to allow production of electron-positron pairs from the vacuum. To find out what this time uncertainy needs to be, one merely has to obtain the total rest mass of the materialized (e-, e+) in terms of energy, then calculate dt, viz. dt = h/ dE

In the same way, using the same analogy, the original cosmic "burp" from the M-brane conformal back ground would be facilitated by an uncertainty in the conformal variable for t (likely posed as (-t) to be associated with the repulsion of dark energy resident in the vacuum). In his superb paper, ‘Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model', in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756.) T. Padmanabhan shows the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation arises when the conformal part of space-time is treated as a quantum variable. The conformal factor uses the key variable:

alpha = S ^6 (t) w ^2 (t)


where S is the action, thereby fixing the state of the universe to be compatible with a harmonic oscillator of frequency w. It is also this basis that provides the model for the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation that arises when a particular threshold is crossed near alpha = 0 (from quantum to classical domains) As Padmanbhan shows in his paper, such a cosmos can emanate from “nothing” (Actually, an M-brane "bubble"- the bubble residing inside the light cone of a point in de Sitter space. The point itself, and its light cone, are the big bang of the Friedmann model, where the scale factor goes to zero). Thus, his model is perfectly justified and follows from the basis of the equations, the light cone, scale factor restrictions and so on.

Another choice canard offered by the Pastor:

"Through the centuries , many believed that the universe didn't need a cause ; it was self-existent . They thought a beginningless / uncaused universe wasn't illogical or impossible . But now that contemporary cosmology points to the universe's beginning and an external cause , skeptics insist everything needs a cause after all ! "

A key deficiency here is that the pastor isn't aware of the nuances that underpin causality. (One reason that most specialists now demand necessary and sufficient conditions as opposed to causes. Mainly because too few people can distinguish between efficient and non-efficient causes, or proximate causes, and a disjunctive plurality of causes). Now, a key question is whether the Padmanabhan theory of the inception of the cosmos from a sub-quantal bubble meets the most primary causality criterion. According to philosopher Mario Bunge (('Causality and Modern Science', Dover):

"Giving reasons is no longer regarded as assigning causes. In science it means to combine particular propositions about facts with hypotheses, laws, axioms and definitions. In general, there is no correspondence between sufficient reason and causation".

In other words, the standard is met, since Padmanabhan's paper combines particular propositions (e.g. that the conformal part of space-time can be treated as a quantum variable) with facts about hypotheses and laws ( e.g. the conformal variable allows contiguity of the pre-- and pst Big Bang states, by virtue of the resulting universe being compatible with a harmonic oscillator form of solution, which we know has solutions in terms of Hermite polynomials H_ n (q))

Finally, in his last sentence the pastor evinces total confusion in terms of his criticism. He avers:

"now that contemporary cosmology points to the universe's beginning and an external cause , skeptics insist everything needs a cause after all ! "

But misses the point as to why the external cause needn't be his "god". Again, from John Allan Paulos ('Irreligion'):

"If someone asserts that God is the uncaused first cause and then preens as if he's actually explained something, we should inquire: 'Why can't the physical universe itself be taken to be the uncaused first cause? After all, Occam's Razor advises us to shave off unnecessary assumptions, so taking the universe itself as the uncaused first cause has the great virtue of not having to introduce the (unnecessary) hypothesis of God"

The issue with us skeptics then, isn't we are now 'changing our minds' and just asserting "everything has a cause", but rather saying that you have to constrain your causal options until you fully define and explicate the nature of the entity you claim is unique and causeless. To use Paulos' words again: "Either EVERYTHING has a cause OR there's something that doesn't." BUT- if there's something that doesn't, that doesn't ipso facto make it "God" (since you haven't provided the n-s conditions for it to exist yet!)

Failing that proviso, coughing up those pesky n-s conditions, then the theist is left with one fact alone: If everything has a cause then GOD must too! THAT is why it is logical to introduce that another agent had to create him. OTOH, if something exists that IS uncaused, it could as well be the cosmos emerging from a sub-quantual bubble vacuum, which proposal has at least been published in a peer-reviewed scientific paper.

So much for the pinheads, who seem to be those who exercise more "common sense" than scientific sense in arriving at the mandate their god must exist. Well, it does, in their temporal lobes!

10 comments:

Pastor Mike said...

Against my better judgment I'm taking a chance and posting this comment,though,I doubt you'll post it - which doesn't matter one way or the other. At least I KNOW you'll see it.

Now,re: Victor Stenger,his book you so highly reference,is really just further proof of what I have said before in so many words -that many modern scientists are actually perfectly okay with science making statements about God's existence ... so long as the statement is in the negative. When someone writes a book or article saying science affirms God's existence, suddenly "science cannot say something like that". How quaint.

Anyway,may God bless ya anyway,bro - luv ya -

Your "favorite" pastor...

janidebar said...

You might have missed this doozy on your pastor brother's site. I had to read it twice to believe it, and even then I didn't:

"BELIEVERS REJECT THE CLAIM "Everything that exists has a cause" AND AFFIRM "Whatever BEGINS to exist has a cause." :


"Begins to exist"???? Well, didn't his God BEGIN TO EXIST when humans created him on paper (bible)? I mean, doh!

If OTOH he claims his God is an independent entity then he has to show it didn't "begin to exist" but always was. All we know is that HE CLAIMS IT DIDN'T!

But I can also claim the flying spaghetti monster doesn't have a cause...because well, unlike all other stuff it never began to exist, it always did! I SAID SO!

Or, the bible said so....somewhere. But, the bible was also dreamed up and written by men, no more or less than your brother.

But where is the outside evidence to support it?

Or, as you keep prodding him to give but he never does: the necessary and sufficient conditions for existence. At least THEN we'd see if the claim of a causeless God was rational,based on logical rules and showing self-consistency.

At least i CAN GIVE THE N-S CONDIITONS FOR THE SPAGHETTI MONSTER:

1) It's as long as an 11 dimensional heterotic string ((N)

2) It's embedded in an infinite M-brane (like you describe and show in the figure) and always remains in its conformal bubble of negative energy - unless aroused to action by dumb fundies!

janidebar said...

I see in his new blog your brother is claiming

"I HAVE always maintained that our atheist friends lack that common ingredient called "common sense."

Of course, he can't demonstrate that his common sense is any use with the examples you provided! (Any nuumskull knows you didn't mean forgoing ALL common sense, just the limited form based on naive perceptions which don't work in terms of theories of physical origins).

But maybe he really does think or believe common sense can conquer all. In that case I will wait with bated breath for him to show me, using only his common sense, how a 39 inch rod could shrink to 17 inches if it was moving at nine tenths the speed of light.

Or,how an astronaut moving at 95% of the speed of light would only take 1 year to make a journey that would be measured as 4.2 years from Earth.

Geez, maybe this guy has a form of common sense superior to any other? Yuh think?

Copernicus said...

Pastor Mike wrote:

"Victor Stenger,his book you so highly reference,.."


Actually, I reference Stenger's book no more (or less) than many others, including John Allan Paulos' "Irreligion". His just happened to be convenient at the time for the point being made: which wasn't to trust "common sense" in recondite domains of abstract physics - such as to do with cosmic origins.


"is really just further proof of what I have said before in so many words -that many modern scientists are actually perfectly okay with science making statements about God's existence ... so long as the statement is in the negative."

I don't think that's the case *unless* God claimants veer into areas like science (e.g. cosmology, 2nd law of thermodynamics) to try to make their argument that "God Exists". In other words, if ardent theists would cease invoking the above or putative principles they think apply, scientists would have no need to negate their case. Or arguments.

Re: "God's existence", let's be clear that people such as Stenger, Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Paulos (and yours truly) *start* at the position there's nothing there. Hence, one can't make 'negative statements' about nothing.

What we are making negative statements about (actually critiques) is the ARGUMENTS that purport to show a deity exists- whether from "cosmological argument", "2nd law of thermodynamics" or any related.

Hope this clears the air....somewhat!

Copernicus said...

janidebar wrote:

"Any nuumskull knows you didn't mean forgoing ALL common sense, just the limited form based on naive perceptions which don't work in terms of theories of physical origins"

I believe Mike knows that too, but is just using that tactic you noted ("He always knew atheists were devoid of common sense") to try to score cheap debate points. I would say that is beneath him, but I think he alredy knows that.

Common sense is extremely useful in prosaic situations (such as govern 99% of Earth affairs) but I showed in detail, can't compete with the findings of actual theoretical physics.

All a matter of perspective, and I'd guess, priorities.

Copernicus said...

janidebar wrote:

"At least i CAN GIVE THE N-S CONDIITONS FOR THE SPAGHETTI MONSTER:

1) It's as long as an 11 dimensional heterotic string ((N)

2) It's embedded in an infinite M-brane (like you describe and show in the figure) and always remains in its conformal bubble of negative energy "

That's actually quite good! I would, however, just reverse the conditions so that (2) = (N) : necessary condition, and (1) = (S) sufficient condition.

Bear in mind that a necessary (N) condition is such that in its absence an event cannot occur, while a sufficient (S) condition is such that in its presence it must occur.

For any non-causal creative agent - such as your flying spaghetti monster, the infinite M-brane driven by negative energy comes before, or is more primal, than the other condition. So we say it is "necessary". An 11-D heterotic string would make it a sufficient condition - also to be something like "spaghetti".:)

In addition, we know that classical causality is out the window and we are dealing with acausal determinism:

If S(g) > > h

where S(g) is the gravity-based action and h, the Planck constant of action.

To evaluate S(g) as Padmanabhan shows, we need V the 4-volume of the space-time manifold for which we choose a de Sitter space, in the first approximation.

We have

S(g) = c^3/ (16 pi G) INT_V R(-g)^1/2 d^4x

with c, the speed of light. (INT denotes the integral over the 4-volume V with the differential (d^4x) to match. )

In the big bang model one takes V as the spatial volume enclosed by the particle horizon, and bounded by the time span (t) of the universe. Thus, at any epoch t for k = 0,

S(g) ~ t^1/2

The particle horizon is defined by

rS(g) = 2 ct

Einstein's gravitational equations (with cosmological term, for the sake of generality) are

R ( i k ) - (1 / 2) g ( i k )

R = T ( i k ) + lambda g ( i k )

where the ‘lambda’ denotes the cosmological constant. For de Sitter space it is equal to:

(n – 1)(n – 2)/ [2 @^2]

where @ is a scale factor, and n denoted the dimension (4) of the volume under consideration. R(ik) is the Ricci tensor.

Now for S(g) ~ t^1/2, R (the scalar curvature of de Sitter space) = 0, so S(g) = 0

However, the above happens because the Einstein 4-tensor (Tik) has trace = 0 in the early universe. The ‘trace’ is the sum of the diagonal elements of a tensor, e.g.

Tr(M) = 0

where M =

[0 1 0 0]
[0 -1 0 0]
[0 0 1 0]
[0 0 0 1]

This means the limits must definitely be for acausal determinism and quantum cosmology, NOT classical – including classical causality.

So long as you adopt all this, specifically in terms of the N-s conditions, your flying spaghetti monster trumps Mike's deity.

What Mike would have to do, in the scheme of things - to show otherwise, is to prove that his deity underpins a mathematical necessity that the trace Tr(M) is NOT 0. That would show his agent has a causal as opposed to an acausal basis, assuming he wanted to go that far.

Short of that, it's still incumbent on him to give his own necessary & sufficient conditions in order for us to confer on his god the *possibility of existence* and rescue it from the realm of impossibility!

Caleb Shay said...

Tr(M) = 0

where M =

[0 1 0 0]
[0 -1 0 0]
[0 0 1 0]
[0 0 0 1]


Copernicus, I believe you outwitted yourself! The trace of the matrx M you gave i NON-ZERO! I.e.

1 - 1 + 1 + 1 = 2

You just helped Pastor Mike proving a non-zero trace so .....his God must be real!

Or, more likely, the matrix M you gave ommitted the (-) sign in the last row!

Pastor Mike, try again!

Caleb Shay said...

Pastor Mike wrote: "many modern scientists are actually perfectly okay with science making statements about God's existence ... so long as the statement is in the negative"


Errr...would that be like certain fundamentalist pastors making statements about the universe's existence, in the negative, i.e. it CAN'T come into existence on its own via a quantum bubble like copernicus showed?

Btw, I wonder if you watched the program last night (on cable) entitled 'How the Universe Works' showing exactly how the universe came to be in a tiny quantum bubble that erupted just like copernicus proposed?

I believe it was on the NatGeo channel but may have been on the Science channel (also run by the outfit that operates NatGeo)

Caleb Shay said...

Jani, I dig that flying spaghetti monster god! So, can we then see it would be an 11-dimensional flying spaghetti monster since it's based on an 11-d heteroetic string? LOLZ!

Copernicus said...

Caleb Shay wrote:

Or, more likely, the matrix M you gave ommitted the (-) sign in the last row!



BINGO!