Friday, June 05, 2009

Why the Big Bang Theory works...

A while ago, blogger Makarios dropped by to lambaste my post on the new slogan for the Atheist Bus Campaign.

Popping over to his blog, it's entertaining to watch him expound his Christian theories - but one in particular made me feel that I needed to post about it.

"The Big Bang just renders atheists incoherent and incapable of putting together even a single line of logical thought," he triumphantly rants, in this post. According to his interpretation, the Big Bang Theory is reliant on the belief that; "everything that began to exist came from absolutely nothing."

He concludes: "The cause was and had to be supernatural, or outside of and transcendent to nature." i.e. 'God.' 'Something' can't come from 'nothing' without divine intervention.

The problem with this theory is that it's complete rubbish.

For a start, it's centered around a totally contradictory fallacy - that the universe had to 'start' somewhere. Everything has a beginning, Makarios argues, so what existed before the beginning of the universe? He concludes that it must be God.

But that logic instantly poses the question of God's origins. If 'everything has a beginning' than God must logically have one too. So God was around to create the universe... But who was around to create God?

Christians argue that God is timeless - he's always existed. The concept of the 'beginning' is one that panders to man's limited understanding of existence: Mankind only comprehends a traditional narrative that includes a beginning and an end.

Well, that's actually an interesting theory. But what if it wasn't God that was timeless, without beginning or end, but the universe itself?

One common theory for the cause of the 'Big Bang' was simple physics. In 'the beginning' everything already existed: The entire universe - every atom of matter and energy - was already there, compressed to an almost incomprehensibly small size - perhaps not much bigger than an atom itself.

There was no beginning, but for the purposes of our demonstration, we'll start the story of the universe at this point - when all matter and energy was compressed to a boiling, seething speck on the brink of detonation.
Science shows us that compressing something heats it up - for example, it's compression, not a spark plug, which causes the combustion of diesel in a diesel engine.

By that same science, the continued compression of the entire universe would heat it up, hotter and hotter, until it burned more fiercely than anything man could comprehend - and the inevitable result would be an explosion.

That explosion sent matter and energy blasting off in all directions - the 'Big Bang' that scientists have written about. As this matter got further and further away, mass was attracted to mass and planets, stars and nebulae formed. Eventually, they became the galaxies, constellations and star systems that we know today.

The 'Big Bang' sends all the matter, energy and mass in the universe shooting off in all directions. Independent to the 'bang,' gravity and other forces would eventually create planets, stars, moons and every other stellar body in existence.
We know that this all took place - and the 'explosion' from the 'Big Bang' is continuing to send everything in the universe hurtling outwards, like an ever-expanding sphere of something in the limitless black void of nothing. As it does so - as science proves it always must - the entire universe is cooling.

Eventually - in quadrillions of years - that cooling will reach another tipping point. Then, the universe will begin to contract, as all cool things do...

Inevitably, the expansion will cause the universe to cool to a critical point, when it will begin to contract. All the planets, moons, suns and matter will be 'sucked' back towards the central point, getting compressed into one single thing as they do so.
The ever-expanding sphere of something will become an ever-contracting one. Smaller and smaller the universe will become, until everything - all that matter, mass and energy - is contracted once again into that small, tiny, compressed ball of stuff that started off the 'Big Bang' in the first place...

As things contract - and become compressed - they get hotter and hotter until the whole cycle begins again and there's another 'Big Bang.' Momentum continues contracting the cosmos, until the temperature increases towards that critical tipping point again.

We're back to the beginning again - a single speck of boiling matter that contains the entire universe within itself. The compression continues until this 'speck' reaches critical mass and we have another 'Big Bang,' starting the cycle all over again.
The universe expands and contracts, in an endless cycle. There was no 'beginning.' The universe didn't appear out of nowhere. It was always here, and always will be.

[Einstein beat you to this theory, Genius. It's the popular concept known as an 'Oscillatory universe' in which the 'Big Bang' is preceded by a 'Big Crunch' as you have described. - Editorial Bear]

Some scientists even surmise that as the universe travels outwards (as it's doing at the moment) time travels forwards. When the universe eventually cools and begins to contract, time will run backwards... Meaning that the entire scope of creation is self-contained. The concept of time, of 'beginning' and 'end' and everything in between, becomes meaningless.

As far as my limited understanding of science goes (and feel free to correct me, Mycroft, Tom and The Chemist) this adequately explains 'the beginning' and the apparent contradiction in 'the Big Bang' - that something can't appear 'from nothing' without something (i.e. God) to create it.

With this theory, God, who is apparently timeless, doesn't need to exist to create the universe because the universe is equally timeless; trapped in a cycle of expanding and contracting across time spans that our fragile human brains can barely comprehend.

It raises further questions - are the results of each cycle of 'the Big Bang' the same? Or do random permutations create 'different' universes each and every time.

Perhaps we'll never know - the human experience is only the blink of an eye in cosmic terms, and we're all just one, short blip on only the current leg of an endless cycle.

Let's leave that to the astronomers to figure out (and the philosophers to worry about.) All that concerns me is a logical, rational, scientific theory that deflates yet another dreary argument in the 'believer's' playbook.

As far as I'm concerned, God didn't create man. Man created God.

The Earth is just one of billions of planets capable of supporting life. We're just along for the ride, no more significant to the scope of the universe than ants or bacteria. It's being humble enough to accept that which opens our minds to understanding that any religious creation myth is ultimately inadequate.

32 comments:

Makarios said...

Roland, how are you. I’m busy right now but I WILL get back to you on your post. Until then, however, perhaps you could tell me, prior to the Big Bang, where was this little nugget of matter, so tightly condensed? Where exactly did it exist? Ya, why don’t we start with that?

Makarios said...

f

Suki said...

You know, there's only one problem I have with people who have total faith in the Power of Science.

Although science will probably give us the answers to all the world's mysteries, it hasn't happened yet. The Big Bang is, as far as I know, a point of origin that has been posited retrospectively. We will never KNOW what happened. Doctors cannot tell me why a woman ten times as fit as I am gets killer menstrual cramps while I get none. We don't yet know what makes natural-grown, non-hybrid crops taste just right.

Which means, we don't have the right to act like chauvinistic arrogant pigs. Any more than religious people(no matter what the religion) have the right to demand that the world follow THEIR god and none other.
Just needed to rant :P

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Suki - you're absolutely right. In fact, science will probably NEVER give all the answers to everything (at least, in way that will convince anybody.)

And I hope I didn't come across as arrogant - my point (although I get a little enthusiastic sometimes) is that the universe doesn't require a God to 'create' it. Nevertheless, we're talking in such broad, theoretical terms that this theory isn't necessarily more valid than 'God clicked his fingers and 'pop' came the universe.'

It just seems a bit more believable!

As for Makarios! Nice to see you back! Bienvenue!

Okay, here's my theory. There's nothing BUT the universe. In this rant, I said that there was the black void of nothing... Perhaps there isn't. Perhaps the size of the universe IS the entire universe. As in, when it's a speck of boiling pre-explosive matter, it's the size of an atom. When it's fully expanded, it's billions and trillions of light years across. It's not 'in' anything. Existence is like a balloon - it expands and contracts, but is entirely self contained.

Suki said...

Oh, I'm sorry about the hasty comment. Never meant to imply that I thought you were one of the stuck-ups among the science-worshippers.

And well... for me, God is what we use to explain the inexplicable. The universal point of origin, if you will. As you can guess, I am completely convinced than humankind made God to make life easier :).

Makarios said...

Ok, here’s the thing Roland, we have two options:

a) Matter is eternal or God is eternal

b) If matter isn’t eternal, then matter created itself or God created matter

If you can think of any others options, this would be a good place to note them.

Problem, matter cannot be eternal or infinite. In fact when it comes to concrete objects like sub atomic matter or planets or plates or universes or books, there is no such thing as infinite. Perhaps you’ve heard:

There cannot be an infinite regress of cause.

That’s because the infinite cannot be traversed. Let me ask. In order to have tomorrow, what do we have to have first? Right. Today. In order to have today we had to have yesterday and in order to have yesterday we had to have the day before and so on and so on. If there was no beginning, no push point no starting point or day, there wouldn’t have been a second day which made possible the third day which made possible the fourth day and so on. If the universe was infinite with no beginning point we would not have been able to reach today or this universe in the case of infinitely cycling universes.

This is a scientific fact, Roland. How can I say this. Simple. What evidence do you have of an endlessly cyclic model of the universe? Right. You don’t have any, for several reasons.

ONE, it’s pure speculation with zero evidence to support it. It's just one of a dozen or so attempts to avoid the Big Bang singularity with it's distasteful (for atheists) metaphysical implications.

TWO, it’s not workable. Google Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem and you’ll see that ANY model of an expanding universe absolutely must have a beginning, a definitive space / time boundary a Singularity a Big Bang Creation Event.

THREE - Science has told us that there is not enough matter in the universe to cause it to begin to contract. Our universe it set to expand for ever.

FOUR, in cyclic models, entropy is carried forward into the next universe and the next after that and the next after that. Our universe clearly did not have a previous universe because the levels of entropy are way too low to have allowed for even ONE
previous universe let alone an infinite number of them. That’s why in my post I list put this model in the list of unsupported atheist origin mythologies.

And so we’re back to, if there isn’t a Creator God, why is there something rather than nothing?

And how did everything - space, time, matter and the laws of physics come from literally nothing, especially BY nothing?

I can't tell if you're joking or not so I'll answer you about who made God. You haven't read the statement carefully enough Roland.
The statement is NOT everything that exists requires a cause.

The statement, one that's based on obervation and inductive reasoning is that everything that BEGINS to exist has a cause. As you've noted, if matter could be infinite it wouldn't need a cause but as science shows matter cannot be infinite. However, existing outside of time or prior to time, God is timeless or eternal. Existing outside of matter God is immaterial or Spirit.

As you know from your own errant beliefs, atheists have no problem with something being eternal, as long as it isn't God. But as we already know, matter cannot be eternal, but Spirit can. It's one or the other, Either matter is eternal or God is eternal. If matter isn't eternal then matter created itself. But for something to create itself it had to pre exist itself either physically or chronologically which is impossible. That leaves God to create matter, space, time, and the laws of physics.

This is getting long but it might be helpful for you to know that ALL of the exquisitely finely tuned constants and quantities that allow our universe to function much less exist had to have been in place prior to Planck time. They did not evolve or settle in over time.

Makarios said...

Ok, I finally have time to read your post.

“The entire universe - every atom of matter and energy - was already there, compressed to an almost incomprehensibly small size - perhaps not much bigger than an atom itself.”

Roland, Where was all this matter and energy before it began to compress? You’re saying that it already existed. Where did it come from Roland? The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem prove beyond any doubt that ANY model of an expanding universe be it purely theoretical like your occilating universe or real like our own requires a finite beginning. It had to have a beginning Roland. That's science. Not science fiction.
=========
“the 'Big Bang' that scientists have written about.”

Roland, if you’re going to talk about scientists then you must accept what science tells us. The universe did emphatically NOT come from a tiny speck of boiling matter that was floating in space because there wasn’t any speck of matter nor was there any space for it to float in.
=========

“is continuing to send everything in the universe hurtling outwards, like an ever-expanding sphere of something in the limitless black void of nothing.”

Well, that’s not accurate. First of all there is no “void of nothing.” The universe is everything. And it isn’t the matter or stars or galaxies that are expanding, space itself is expanding like a balloon. The galaxies are rocketing away from each other, that’s true, but only as the balloon of the universe is itself expanding.
============
I see that you mentioned gravity and the formation of galaxies etc. Did you know that prior to Planck time gravity was tuned to 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent. If it was off in either direction by more than that, nothing would exist. Pretty lucky for us, huh? Of course that’s not mentioning any of the other 100 or so unbelievably finely tuned constants or quantities that had to be in place prior to Planck time. With no God, that makes us really, really, really lucky!
========
“All that concerns me is a logical, rational, scientific theory”

Roland, you ignore what science is telling you. You can’t make a statement like that and then say you believe something for which there is absolutely zero scientific evidence, especially when your mythology contradicts known science? Good grief man, have you no shame?

Roland Hulme said...

Makarios! Your 'logic' runs around an absurd premise! My theories are debatable, based on science and physics, but your 'God' is conveniently liberated from the constraints of scientific laws or physical boundaries. We're not arguing on equal footing - you're like the kid saying 'jinx times infinity' to win a schoolyard game.

By your logic, what's to say seven different deities floating in a sacred bathtub farted the universe into being? There's nothing - NOTHING AT ALL - which makes that any less unprovable than the theory on a single god 'creating' the universe.

All theories about creation are just that - theories. As Suki said, we might never find the answers we're looking for. The difference is that my theories actually have some scientific evidence to back them up - we can prove or disprove them.

The 'God' theory revolves around the fact that you can't disprove the existence of God, therefore he 'might/must' exist.

But equally, you can't 'disprove' the seven deities in the bathtub theory - which makes it just as valid as the monotheistic 'God' myth. EXACTLY AS VALID.

But, of course, I just arbitrarily made up the seven deities theory, so it's pretty absurd to believe it could be true.

Oh, wait, somebody equally arbitrarily made up the monotheistic God theory as well.

God is a creation of humanity, not the other way around. If there IS a 'higher power,' we have no concept of what form it takes and it's very unlikely it matches anything remotely like the 'God' of our organized religions.

Tom said...

Is this post serious? I'm actually not sure myself.

Say we had an absurdly powerful computer.

Now, say we could simulate a large "universe" on it. We'll simulate everything--- subatomic particles, hawking radiation, quantum entanglement, virtual particles... the works.

Now, say we let this run for 13 or 14 billion simulated years, and simulated life on a simulated planet evolves, and becomes intelligent, creating cars and religions and airplanes and trebuchets and so on.

To the people in that simulated universe, isn't their universe as real as ours is to us?

What's more, seeing as there can only be one "top-level" universe, but a large number of simulated universes, isn't it likely that we live in one of the simulations?

Especially since we don't have a good reason why the universe came to exist. In the simulation model, it was created by someone on the outside.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Tom!

Your theory is JUST as valid as the idea of a monotheistic God clicking his fingers and creating the universe - instead a bunch of smart people typed data into a computer (and the boundaries of the universe are the hard disc.)

But that 'top level' universe, in which a scientist created the rest of the simulation universes... Who created that?

It's like a loop that goes on forever. For everything that exists, it must have a creator. Unless you have some dumb theory like mine, that it's a causal loop and plays over and over into infinity.

Tom said...

More seriously now, there are a couple of assertions on Makarios's blog that I disagree with, like:

- "Inorganic and inanimate gases / chemicals cannot evolve."

- "Life only comes from life."

I don't see anything wrong with the opposite of these two... I think it's perfectly possible that, given billions of years, a self-copying molecule would form randomly. And once you have one of them, you'll have 2, 4, 8, 16, ... 1,099,511,627,776 in 40 generations. (Well, probably not... but you get my point.)

So while it might be unlikely to happen, the universe is big enough and long-lasting enough for many unlikely things to happen.

I do think that Roland is a bit confused about the nature of the big bang, as it's not just chucking matter out into space, it's space itself coming into existence.

Here's a fun fact about our universe. Say you have two points sufficiently far enough away from each other. Even if you start them off still relative to each other, they'll be moving away... because the universe between them is expanding.

Frankly, I think the Big Bang is relatively non-controversial, except among people like young-earth creationists.* We don't yet know what caused it... it could be any of a number of theories, a creator deity, some other kind of creator, or something altogether too weird.

I see no reason why support for the Big Bang matters when it comes to religion. The proposer of the big bang was a priest.


* And frankly, I have no idea why they would believe in a deity perverse enough to create, 6,000 and change years ago, light that looks like it's coming from a source billions of years away.

Tom said...

Roland:

But that 'top level' universe, in which a scientist created the rest of the simulation universes... Who created that?

The answer is, "I don't know."

At the same time, I suspect that if we were in that universe, the answer would be obvious, or at least knowable. I don't think that someone in a simulation universe would be able to find that out.

Random way my speculation could be falsified: Show that it's possible to do something a Turing machine cannot.

Not like it's a particularly scientific speculation in the first place.

Makarios said...

“My theories are debatable, based on science and physics,”

Well, since I’m debating with you I suppose I have to admit that your theory is debatable but it certainly has nothing to do with science nor physics, none that have been observed anyhow. Neither have they been verified nor could they ever produce inductive or deductive conclusions. It is crude speculation and nothing beyond that.

Tell me Roland, why do you think people such as yourself are not satisfied with the Big Bang scenario as it is presented to us by science? It fits the facts. It coheres with what we know to be true. Why isn’t that good enough for atheists?
========
“but your 'God' is conveniently liberated from the constraints of scientific laws or physical boundaries.”

Well, that’s true I guess. Convenient for me but disastrous for you.
===========
“We're not arguing on equal footing”

You’re right. I’m giving you scientifically verified facts and you’re inventing mythologies.
=============

“By your logic, what's to say seven different deities floating in a sacred bathtub farted the universe into being? There's nothing - NOTHING AT ALL - which makes that any less unprovable than the theory on a single god 'creating' the universe.”

Roland, my dear lad. You’re starting to scare me. I doubt that any scientist on earth would stand beside you on a stage and say, “This man, whom I know only as Roland is on to something. I concur with Sir Roland that in all probability, a fart created the universe.” You might believe it Roland but I don’t think anyone else will. You should probably go lie down :-)
=============
“we might never find the answers we're looking for.”

You’re absolutely correct. You are looking for a natural explanation for how nature came into existence. But since nature came from nothing, it could not have been created by natural means. You, Roland will never find the answer you are looking for.
===========
“The 'God' theory revolves around the fact that you can't disprove the existence of God, therefore he 'might/must' exist.”

I sure wouldn’t say that. You see, the God theory fits the facts as we know them. While the Big Bang has nothing to do with nor does it arise from Christianity or Creator God, and while the premises that I gave you on my post have nothing to do with nor do they arise from Christianity or Creator God, (both the Big Bang and those premises from my post arise solely from science) Christianity and Creator God fit very nicely with the Big Bang and the premises that I gave you. I believe that no one, this side of eternity will ever prove God beyond ALL doubt. But I do believe we have enough information right now to prove Him beyond a REASONABLE doubt.

At this moment in time, it takes a unbelievable amount of faith to hold to atheist premises that try to eliminate the Standard Big Bang cosmology. You may find it easier to believe in infinite universes or an infinite cycle of universes than to believe in an infinite Deity, but such a belief must rest on blind faith rather than observation.

Now, believing without observation is exactly what atheists accuse “religious people” of doing. But, ironically, it’s the atheists who are pushing a religion of blind faith.

Christians have good reasons based on observation (such as the Big Bang and the Fine Tuning anthropic principal) for believing what they believe. Atheists don’t. That’s why I say atheists are nothing but irrational agnostics. A move to atheism is an act of the WILL. It is not a conclusion based on evidence.

Makarios said...

“If there IS a 'higher power,' we have no concept of what form it takes.”

Good grief man, where have you been. Here is a concept that is deduced from general revelation, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

It comes from the person of Jesus the Christ who said, “If you have seen Me you have seen Creator God.”

And it comes from God’s very Spirit who indwells those who are in an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus.

The concept of Creator God is as follows:
Eternal - Existed before time began and now exists in time but outside of time constraints
Necessary - Creator God had to exist or there would be nothing,
All Powerful - Creator of space, time, matter and the laws of science,
All Knowing - Created the constants and qualities by which the universe functions,
Omnipresent - Not limited by space or time,
Timeless and changeless - Not limited by time
Spirit - He exists outside of and prior to the creator of matter,
Personal - the impersonal cannot create personality
Purposeful - He deliberately created the universe
Intelligent - Only intelligence can create intelligence
Caring - His character makes possible objective morality by which we live
Moral - What He asks of us is for our benefit
Merciful - At His own expense made possible the forgiveness of our sins,
Slow to Anger - He has put up with us from the beginning of human kind,
A friend to the poor,
Full of Grace,
Compassionate,
Patient - continues to bless those who hate Him,
Mind / Logos,
Triune: Father, Son and Spirit,
Source of objective morality,
Uncaused,
All-good,
Infinite,
Unique,
Lord of lords, King of kings,
Creator,
Sustainer of the universe.
Independent of His creation,
Perfectly Holy,
Love,
Truth,
Righteous,
Sovereign,
Self-existent,
Elohim - The strong One, mighty Leader, supreme Deity.
Yahweh - Self-existent, changeless, Provider, Present,
Adonai - Majestic, Master, Owner.
True God,
Transcendent,
Saviour,
Supreme Lord.

I’m sure there are more descriptions than this. So I wonder, what do atheists mean when they say we can’t describe the God in which we believe? What do atheists mean when they ask, "Well which god(s) are we talking about when you say god created the universe?"?

The fact is, out of all the religions of the world, this God, the Christian God, the God that was just described, best describes the Creator of the Universe. Creator God IS the Greatest Conceivable Being.

“For everything that exists,”

Roland, now you’re starting to make me think you are, well, too tired to be taking part in this discussion. It’s NOT everything that exists has a Cause. It’s everything that BEGINS to exist requires a cause. Why do you think you aren’t able to tell the difference?

And Tom is life coming from non life is impossible at one point in time, it is impossible at any point in time. If it's impossible, and science tells us that it is, then it's impossible - Period.

Makarios said...

“a self-copying molecule would form randomly.”

Tom, please! Do you know what’s involved for something - a living thing - to copy itself? I’m no fan of Richard Dawkins but perhaps an atheist would be more likely to listen to him than to me. Dawkins himself admits that even the simplest living cell requires a DNA code with enough written information to fill 1,000 COMPLETE sets of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Think about that! It’s important.

These are not just randomly placed letters filling up space. The adenine(A),Thymine (T)Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G) alphabet are written specifically and purposefully to allow the cell to replicate.

If I understand you correctly you
are suggesting that:
. non life could evolve into something living - which itself is preposterous. If it doesn’t happen today in perfect laboratory conditions why in the world would it take place spontaneously in the harsh conditions of primordial earth?

. non life could form a written code in this living cell. Tom if it takes intelligence for you to write one sentence on Roland’s blog. Why in the world would you think that it DOESN’T take intelligence to write a code that is so intricate and detailed that it would fill 1,000 complete sets of the Britannica? Think of what you're saying man! Surely you can't believe that.

. If natural laws can’t do the job today, why would you think they could do it at some time in the past?

C’mon guys. This isn’t rocket science. All it takes is an open mind, a mind that will allow you to see the evidence for what it is.

Tom said...

Sorry if this rambles a bit, it took me too long to write it.

Makarios, the problem with quoting Romans is that it doesn't have much weight with someone who doesn't already believe it correct. If I was to quote from the Bhagavad Gita, Koran, Book of Mormon, or Kamichu!*, you wouldn't take it as (pardon the pun) gospel... and for the same reason, agnostics (such as myself) don't consider Romans or any of those other works to be absolutely true.


A few years ago, I took a graduate level computational biology course. And while I'm not super great in bio, I did learn a couple of things.

ATC and G aren't just letters. They're molecules, the molecules that make up DNA. RNA is similar, except it uses Uracil (U) instead of Thymine.

These molecules can be made by a bunch of natural processes.

One of the cool things about RNA is that it can form Ribozymes. These are strings of nucleotides that also work as enzymes.

And another cool thing is that these Ribozymes can copy themselves. You have a strand of RNA that can produce can identical strand of RNA using nothing else.

Now, we don't know how short a sequence of RNA we have to have to do this. Right now, labs have produced ones that are 200 bases long. That's kinda long. But it's probably possible to produce shorter ones, if they only have to work in special circumstances. Also, we don't know how many of those 200 base pairs actually matter.

So what we have is strand of RNA, in a lab, created by a scientist. And you put that in a soup of the RNA bases, and an hour later, you have 2 strands. An hour later, 4. and so on.

To me, something that can copy itself is the basis of life. Once it can copy itself, it can change and become different. But it has to start somewhere.

Is this unlikely? You betcha. But unlikely things do happen. It took life 600 million years to form on earth. And that's a lot of time for something unlikely to occur.

Once replication occurs, complexity becomes much easier to manage. The replication isn't perfect. Some sequences are shorter or longer. Some work, and some don't work at all. Those that work better dominate those that do not.

(And the numbers we're dealing with are _huge_. The University of Georgia estimates there are
5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bacteria on Earth.)

The genome of a bacteria can be remarkably small. 160K base pairs. That's an amount of data far smaller than what is sent to your computer when you download Roland's front page.

The human genome is 3G base pairs. Round that up to one gigabyte. That fits easily on a flash chip smaller than a fingernail. It's about as much as 4 episodes of Kamichu!, compressed.

What's more, the vast majority of the genome is "useless". Things like boilerplate code that tells when it should be copied, and when it shouldn't. And other such information. Only 1.5% of it is actual genes. That's way smaller than the 10% of it that is ALU.

ALU is a bit of DNA. All it does it copy itself somewhere else in your genome. Sometimes, doing so causes Hemophilia or Breast Cancer.

The thing is, I design things for a living. And one of the big principles of design is "Keep it simple." But there's nothing simple about biology, about how a person or a bacteria works. And to me, that's the best evidence that it wasn't designed at all.

Is it unlikely that I'm sitting here, able to write this? Yes. But we live on a world where something that happens to one in a trillion organisms happens a quintillion times.


* A 2005 TV show about a middle school girl who becomes a Shinto god. Worth seeing to realize how alien eastern religions can be to someone who was raised in a western faith. And for a cat that thinks he's from Fight Club.

Makarios said...

Good morning Tom, This won't be long. Two points:
1) I believe you wanted to know how to decribe the God that "I" am talking about. Of course I'm going to use religious texts from "My" religion. If you want to know a description about a Hindu god you would go to their regligious text. Having said that, many of those descriptors that I gave you come from simply observing nature and through inductive reasoning describing what the Cause of the universe must be like in order to create the universe.

2)When you say that scientists have done this and done that in the lab - and for the sake of argument let's even say that scientists create what you and I would both call "life." That's my whole point Tom. It takes INTELLIGENCE to create life. Life does not happen by accident.

Klaus Dose of the Institute for Biochemistry in Mainz, Germany said, “The difficulties in synthesizing DNA and RNA are at present beyond our imagination.” Since atheist scientists are nothing if not imaginative, that statement says a lot.

As Nobel Prize-winner and atheist Sir Francis Crick said, “The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.”

You probably know all this stuff but if you're interested, I'm posting something along these lines on my blog today.

Tom said...

(cross-posted from Makarios's blog)

I've never read anything by Richard Dawkins. I'm just posting my positions here.

My point about the scientists creating life (or at least a self-replicating molecule) was that they were able to create it with a relatively small amount of work. It seems plausible to me those conditions could be recreated on a planet, at least once in a hundred billion years.

I'm actually curious as to the source for your quote from Hawking. On his official website, he writes:

"The early appearance of life on Earth suggests that there's a good chance of the spontaneous generation of life, in suitable conditions. " and "One can not make nucleic acids in the laboratory, from non-living material, let alone RNA. But given 500 million years, and oceans covering most of the Earth, there might be a reasonable probability of RNA, being made by chance."

There's the (nobel prize winning) suggestion that life does not need aminio acids to form, but only the CGA and U nucleotides of RNA. That's a much lower hurdle. So most of what you're saying about amino acids is irrelevant.

Nobody here is saying unlikely events happen frequently. But it does seem possible that, over billions of years and sextillions of worlds, unlikely events might happen.

Makarios, what is your position on this, anyway? Are you claiming humans were created? Or that life was created? or something else?

Makarios said...

I'm saying that when you find a written message, a code in fact that enables life and reproduction, a code that's a 1,000volumes in length, you can safely bet that there was intelligence behind it.

Tom said...

But the problem is, the smallest code that can do that isn't 1000 volumes in length. It's 200 base pairs in length. That's maybe the equivalent of 60 or so letters, depending on the coding. So we're talking about something that has way less information than this comment.

(Once we have a small thing that can copy itself, other processes take over.)

Makarios said...

Tom: are you suggesting that to write a code that dictates the functioning of a living organism that is the equivalent of an encyclopaedia in length requires intelligence, but to write code that dictates the functioning of a less complicated living organism, that determines whether or not it will reproduce, that is only a paragraph in length does not require intelligence?

Tom said...

No. What I'm saying is that the smallest possible "living" organism, a piece of RNA replicase 200 or so bases in length, could arise by chance in a pool of chemicals.

Once it has formed, then it will (by its nature) begin to make imperfect copies of itself. Some of those copies will be better (at copying) than it, some will be worse. Over time, chances are the better replicases come to dominate the less efficient ones.

As they get bigger, they might start to do other things, apart from simply replicating. They might form a lipid shell for protection, or recast themselves in DNA rather than RNA.

Eventually, some of these organisms might wander across sexual reproduction, which increases the rate of change many times, making their children and grandchildren more likely to survive.

It seems like intelligence is the ultimate survival trait.

Roland Hulme said...

Hey Guys, sorry I haven't been able to contribute recently! But I've enjoyed your debate.

Makarios, Tom is onto something. I've spoken to scientists who say that the development of life from
'non-life' isn't just possible, but probable.

Right now, they're investigating the possibility that life exists on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Conditions exist there similar to conditions in the deep-sea trenches on Earth - where life exists.

The development of life is VERY possible, as scientists have proven. It doesn't need a higher power to come into being - it just needs to right conditions and billions of years. Given those conditions, the development of very simple single-celled organisms isn't just possible, it's almost inevitable.

The reason I'm an atheist is simply because any construct or concept of 'God' is entirely shaped by mankind's limited vision and experience. If there is a 'higher power' it's probably in some form we can barely conceive of - and even then, it's not 'a God.' It's merely a different, more powerful type of being that doesn't abide by the same limitations we do.

Coffee Bean said...

Oh My Lord...

My brain hurteth greatly! Y'all definitely went to school longer than I did. That is some debate you've got going!

The thing is that no one has all the answers. I am a Christian that tried not to believe because I couldn't find the answers to my questions, many of which I still have. I was not raised to believe in God so that is not why I do believe.

To me... when I step outside and see the grass, the trees, the flowers, the sky, the mountains... when I hear the wind rustling through the leaves... feel the breeze on my skin... it all tells me we have a creator. I cannot deny it. Believe me when I tell you I tried very hard not to believe it.

We all know that we will all someday die. Everyone does. Maybe those of us that cling to a belief in God are weak. Maybe people did invent the idea of God. Maybe we and this world serve no purpose. Maybe we just are.

If you believe in evolution... do you ever wonder why some things seem to have stopped evolving? We see evidence of adaptaion within humans and animals that some take to be evolution. But... what about things like grass and trees? Maybe I'm just too simple minded.

Say there is no God and there is no purpose. Don't we all still live out some sort of purpose? There are people that their only purpose seems to be their own survival and pursuit of their own pleasure. Even so, those are still purposes that serve them. As for the rest of humanity you can see that being played out every day. People work so they can provide for their families. Most parents would willingly die if it meant their child would survive.

People want to love and be loved. Why? Science has tried to address the laws of attraction. Maybe some can strip things down to pheromones and animal instinct in regard to mates and children. But, isn't there much more to it than that? What about the love we have for other relatives and friends?

The fact is that it requires faith to believe in evolution and it requires faith to believe in God and that it is our choice to believe in what we will... with that will requiring some sort of action on our part. When I tried not to believe and couldn't it was because, in my limited reasoning, I find believing we are created to make the most sense.

My husband and I hit a rough patch about ten years into our marriage. I made a scary decision that ended up being the turning point for us. It was truly a pivotal moment and I felt like I was stepping through a door not knowing if there was going to be a floor once I crossed the threshold. I was scared that the bottom of my life was going to fall out. I had no guarantee that the decision I made was going to result in the outcome I was hoping for. A lot of times I feel that way about my faith.

I think some Christians are afraid to admit that they have doubts. I imagine that may hold true for some who believe in evolution as well. In the end, we are each left with deciding things for ourselves.

I think the whole Hell thing gets people excited on both sides of the fence. I don't believe in God because I am afraid of going to Hell if I don't. There is so much I can't really wrap my mind around. It was really difficult for me to come to a place of acceptance where my questions are concerned. Because of my own struggle with that I don't have a problem with people questioning what I believe, nor do I have a problem with questioning what others believe.

Coffee Bean said...

Oy! I forgot to check the follow up box!

Roland Hulme said...

As always, CB, you have a great perspective on things.

I grew up on a farm, so I've got rather a pragmatic view of things. When it comes to scale - the sheer SCALE of the universe - we're about as significant as ants on an anthill. Ants live worthwhile lives. They have purpose. They leave legacies in what they do... But to humans, an individual ant is insignificant - to be ignored, at best, or frazzled with a magnifying glass at worst.

I fail to see how humans - a bunch of monkeys on one of two billion inhabitable worlds - would be any less significant to anything we could define as 'God.'

I prefer to ignore the concept of God and look at life on it's own terms. I don't believe in heaven or hell - so I believe the only reason to live a worthwhile and moral life is to give your followers - children, family and friends - a reason to remember you.

In cosmic terms, humans are utterly insignificant. For 'God,' if it exists, we're just one ant in an anthill of six billion. But for my son, I'd a dad. For my wife, I'm a husband. People read my blog. I give money to charity. I've made some contribution to making the world I live in a better place.

Depending on the 'scale' of your vision, I've made a good contribution, or an utterly worthless one. I think our vision and our perspective on life is as close to 'God' as we'll ever ge

Roland Hulme said...

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Einstein

Tom said...

I'm an agnostic.

The way I see it is that there's no way of proving the non-existence of any god, which is the test that an atheist must pass. At the same time, I see no evidence for the existence of any particular deity, or any at all.

CB:

"do you ever wonder why some things seem to have stopped evolving?"

I think "seem" is the operative word here. Evolution is a slow process compared to the human life. (And then there's human-controlled breeding, which would tend to mask out the slower evolution, while using the same technique.)

Coffee Bean said...

I understand why you feel the way you do Roland. I've thought a lot about the significance/insignificance of human life from other perspectives. When we strip things down to atomic or cellular levels it is like a whole other world. Compared to the universe we aren't even that relative size. In terms of world history most of the individuals are lost... just remembered as a number within a group of people.

Tom,

I did think of the time factor where evolution is concerned. I was also thinking of the thousands of variations. What determines that?

Just between you and me *wink*, I think Roland is trying to hard to be an atheist but is really more of an agnostic. I'm not agnostic so I could be wrong. What do you think?

Tom said...

CB,

Each time something reproduces, the child had (with some probability) slightly different DNA than the parent. Since 90% of DNA is useless, most of the time the change doesn't matter. Sometimes, it makes the child better able to survive than its siblings without the mutation, and sometime less so.

I'll also note that "better" is a relative term. So you might have a mutation that means the child can survive best in forests, while its siblings do better in plains.

There are so many niches in this world, this process can easily lead to a diversity of life.

And, since there's so much randomness involved, there's plenty of places for the supernatural, if that's your think. (Frankly, I find far more elegant a creator that could simply set the rules, than one who has to constantly tinker.)

I can't speak for Roland. I can say that, when I first lost my faith*, I felt quite sure of myself, trying to draw people into arguments. That's moderated a lot over the past 15 or so years, to the point where I only bring it up in forums such as this, where the subject is already on the table.

* When I was in Catholic high school.

Roland Hulme said...

He he! You're a cunning one, CB!

In all honesty, it's impossible to be an Atheist by an atheist's standards. We're about proof, logic, rationality and evidence... And you can't PROVE that some sort of thing we might think of as a 'god' doesn't exist. It's unlikely, but you can't PROVE it. Therefore, by our own standards, we must BY DEFINITION be agnostic.

But I don't BELIEVE something like a God exists - although perhaps that's almost as much of a leap of faith as believing in a God.

Coffee Bean said...

Right-O Roland!!!

That was me trying to sound British. I think I failed. LOL!

I always find other's stories of how and when they lost their faith interesting. I think because I've struggled so with being frustrated that I can't find all the answers to my questions.

You know, within all the variations that fall under the title Christian it is really hard to figure out who is "right". The term Christian means follower of Christ. Jesus was about love, grace, forgiveness and humility. He was a leader that led by example. Yet, he also got angry. Two instances that come to mind are the money changers in the temple and those who lead children astray.

When you look at humanity you cannot deny the yearning for redemption. It is a story that plays out over and over. There's the little angel and devil on the shoulder that people jokingly refer to as our conscience. Maybe the greatest fight between good and evil is actually occurring inside each of us seeing as humans are capable of both.

If there is anyone I want to be like it is Jesus. To reach out to someone who is in pain, show them love and give them hope... I try to do that. I try not to judge others. I fail often. I try not to be "religious" because I don't believe that has anything to do with it. Everything is too complicated.