Tuesday, 16 November 2010
When I first heard them state this claim I thought it was preposterous, but the proponents make a half decent case in terms of using familiar things from the Bible and providing examples from biblical passages to back up there claims, while interpreting these passages in a context that I had never really thought about before:
“Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey,” says Anderson. “Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation.”
…The proof [of Jesus' wealth], he says, is scattered throughout the New Testament. One example: The 12th chapter of the Gospel of John says that Jesus had a treasurer, or a “keeper of the money bag.”
“The last time I checked, poor people don’t have treasurers to take care their money,” says [Rev. Tom] Brown, author of “Devil, Demons and Spiritual Warfare.”…Brown says Jesus’ own words prove that he wasn’t poor.
“Jesus said you will always have the poor, but you will not always have me,” Brown says. “Jesus did not affirm himself as being part of the poor class…
Jesus’ wealth is evident even in the Gospel accounts of his execution, some pastors say.
The New Testament reports that Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing while he hung on the cross. They wouldn’t gamble for Jesus’ clothing unless it was expensive, Anderson says.
“I don’t know anybody — even Pamela Anderson — that would have people gambling for his underwear,” Anderson says. “That was some fine stuff he wore.”
After reading this though, I later found this passage on a blog by Gary North refuting it to a degree:
Jesus’ family was poor. We know this because of the law of the offerings governing the firstborn son (Ex. 13:13). A lamb had to be sacrificed — expensive. A poor family could substitute two turdledoves (Lev. 5:7, 11). Jesus’ family offered turtledoves (Luke 2:24).
The treasurer — Judas Iscariat — held the money for the disciples. He stole the money (John 12:6). It was not Jesus’ money.
Jesus had no home or resting place (Matthew 8:20).
The coat was nothing special. It was more useful than four pieces of cloth divided four ways (John 19:23-24).
I think it is safe to say that Jesus clearly would not have been considered rich according to the standards of his time, since rich would be basically the elites who owned significant sways of land and Jesus clearly didn't, but the issue is slighlty muddled by the fact that (as I've seen one scholar mention) there was nothing that would be like the middle class in the sense that we have one today. Jesus did have some financial resources so it would not be right to say that he was destitute poor either. Hence Jesus could easily mix with both the poor and the rich and not seem entirely out of place among either.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Transition metal catalysts could be key to origin of life, scientists report
One of the big, unsolved problems in explaining how life arose on Earth is a chicken-and-egg paradox: How could the basic biochemicals—such as amino acids and nucleotides—have arisen before the biological catalysts (proteins or ribozymes) existed to carry out their formation?
In a paper appearing in the current issue of The Biological Bulletin, scientists propose that a third type of catalyst could have jumpstarted metabolism and life itself, deep in hydrothermal ocean vents.
According to the scientists' model, which is experimentally testable, molecular structures involving transition metal elements (iron, copper, nickel, etc.) and ligands (small organic molecules) could have catalyzed the synthesis of basic biochemicals (monomers) that acted as building blocks for more complex molecules, leading ultimately to the origin of life. The model has been put forth by Harold Morowitz of George Mason University (GMU), Vijayasarathy Srinivasan of GMU, and Eric Smith of the Santa Fe Institute.
"There has been a big problem in the origin of life (theory) for the last 50 years in that you need large protein molecules to be catalysts to make monomers, but you need monomers to make the catalysts," Morowitz says. However, he suggests, "You can start out with these small metal-ligand catalysts, and they'll build up the monomers that can be used to make the (large protein catalysts)."
A transition metal atom can act as the core of a metal-ligand complex, in which it is bound to and surrounded by other ligands. Morowitz and his colleagues propose that simple transition metal-ligand complexes in hydrothermal ocean vents catalyzed reactions that gave rise to more complex molecules. These increasingly complex molecules then acted as ligands in increasingly efficient transition metal-ligand complex catalysts. Gradually, the basic molecular ingredients of metabolism accumulated and were able to self-organize into networks of chemical reactions that laid the foundation for life.
"We used to think if we could understand what carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur were doing, we would immediately be able to understand biology," Morowitz says, listing elements that constitute a large proportion of Earth's biomass. "But now we're finding that these other fairly rare elements, transition metals, are necessary in biology, so we ask, 'What was their role in the origin of life?'"
The proposal suggests that the rise of life forms is a natural consequence of the unique properties of transition metals and ligand field theory, which describes the characteristics of ligand complexes.
"The idea has emerged from a study of the periodic table. We strongly feel that unless you're able to see how life comes about in some formal chemical way, you're never really going to solve the problem," Morowitz says.
Morowitz and his colleagues are preparing experiments to test the catalytic properties of transition metal-ligand complexes built with different types of ligands. Ligands known to bind tightly to transition metals include molecules produced during the course of the reductive citric acid cycle, a series of biochemical reactions essential for many microorganisms.
"We think life probably began with the reductive citric acid cycle, and there is evidence that under hydrothermal vent conditions some of the cycle's intermediates form," Morowitz says.
"We are going to start with these molecules and mix them with various transition metals, cook them at different temperatures for a while, and see what kinds of catalysts we've made."
Such experiments could reveal what kinds of catalytic reactions took place to lay the foundations for life. The hypothesis also allows for the possibility that life could have arisen more than once.
"Life could have originated multiples times, and, if we find life elsewhere in the universe, it could be very similar to the life we know here because it will be based on the same transition metals and ligands," Morowitz says. "It's a conjecture at the moment, but it could become a formal scientific core for the emergence of life."
I always have to wonder about probabilities with these theories. For instance, the article says "We used to think if we could understand what carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur were doing, we would immediately be able to understand biology," Morowitz says, listing elements that constitute a large proportion of Earth's biomass. "But now we're finding that these other fairly rare elements, transition metals, are necessary in biology, so we ask, 'What was their role in the origin of life?" The fact that rare elements are being found to play an important role in biology, would suggest the chances of life arising on multiple occasions are less likely you would imagine, but the article seems to imply that the simple nature of the molecular mechanism could lead to a form of basic metabolism occuring, which would then be able to self-organize within a chemical network and then chemically react to enable the origin of life to take place. We will have to wait and see how the experiments turn out though.
Monday, 1 November 2010
Click on it to make it larger
Steven Ozment writes:
"Augustine replaced the Platonic doctrine of reconciliation with his own distinctive doctrine of “divine illumination,” one of his most influential teachings. This doctrine placed the eternal forms of the Platonists within the mind of the triune Christian God, thereby making them truly divine ideas. Hence, when one plumbed the depths of one’s own mind in search of truth, one found there, not an innate ability to recollect eternity, as the Platonists had taught, but Christ, the eternal wisdom of God, the second person of the Trinity, whose very name was Truth. Through the illumination of Christ, indwelling truth, the mind received divine light by which it could know truly. Whether pagan or Christian, people understood and functioned within the world around them, thanks to this special grace of God. Without such divine illumination, all they would know was a chaos of phantasms. According to Augustine, just as God frees the will so that people can truly do good things, so he enlightens their minds so that they can surely know."
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Obama Edits the Declaration of Independence By Peter J. Colosi
President Obama has taken to referencing the language of the Declaration of Independence while omitting key words. Although the practice has garnered attention of late, it dates back to the beginning of his presidency.
An October 19 article at CNSnews by Penny Star noted that "For the second time in little over a month, President Barack Obama stripped the word 'Creator' from the Declaration of Independence when giving a speech." These speeches have generated much debate concerning whether the president's omissions were deliberate or mistaken.
The answer, I think, can be found in President Obama's inauguration speech, which is perhaps the most striking example of this phenomenon, yet no one seemed to notice it then.
Toward the beginning of President Obama's inauguration speech, he said,
America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in
high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of
our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
A few paragraphs later, he said,
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history;
to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation
to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all
deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
These opening lines are obviously meant to remind the listener of the Declaration.
A little later, in the same speech, the president called on the Founding Fathers, the documents they wrote, and the ideals those documents contain. He said that we will not give up those ideals:
But what does the Declaration actually say? It says this:
Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a
charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by
the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not
give them up for expedience's sake.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Notice that in President Obama's speech, the words "created," "Creator," and "Life" are conspicuously missing. Why?
Notice, also, how he utilized three terms: "equal," "free," and "happiness." He removed the term "Life" from the list of the three rights and then replaced it with the term "equal," which occurs earlier in the Declaration. By retaining three terms and by replacing "life" with another word from the same document -- namely, "equal" -- Obama succeeded in generating in the audience a vague recollection of the Declaration while at the same time rewriting it. With well-crafted sophistry, he did precisely what he said we would not do: he gave up the original ideals for expedience's sake.
To say "all are equal" is not to say "all are created equal." To say that there is a "God-given promise" is not to say that there is a self-evident truth that we are all endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. To leave "Life" out of the list of rights, is, well, to delete the first term in the original list of three.
To paraphrase one of his recent predecessors, I wonder what President Obama's meaning of the word "all" is. By removing the term "Life," who, one wonders, is included in "all"?
In the very same speech, right under our noses, Obama said that we would not give up those ideals and then promptly gave them up. He did it in such a way that no one noticed. Why?
In his inauguration speech, President Obama gave up "created," "Creator," and "Life." Is this true to our founding documents, or is it the work of a skilled rhetorician bent on the deconstruction of those documents by stealth? Is it a deliberate attempt to take the opportunity of a presidential inauguration to make major headway at deconstructing the Declaration in the minds of people, or was he just waxing eloquent, but inexactly? The recent speeches give powerful evidence that from the inauguration on, this has been deliberate and calculated.
I think that Peter Colsoi makes some interesting points and observations here, though I think he looks into some of Obama's wording a little to much and the article begins to take a conspiratorial approach to this entire collection of events. I tend to believe that Obama has done these things deliberately, but not because he has some sinister agenda, just that he is personally uncomfortable with the terms, due to how his own worldview and liberalism see's absolute terms and ideals such as those written and presented in the Declaration of Independence. This does suggest though, that Obama is uneasy about America as it was originally conceived and how it has historically been.
On another similar point, I don't know if you've seen MSNBC's new "Lean Forward" ad campaign which also edits out any reference to the Creator and replaces "all men" with "all men and women". Also after the reference to "certain unalienable rights" it shows footage of two men getting "married".
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Obama omits 'Creator' from Declaration rights language again
He's done it again! President Obama has removed "Creator" from the language of the Declaration of Independence when citing the rights with which we are endowed -- by God, as the Declaration tells us. From the Whitehouse.gov website, the text of the President's remarks to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on October 18:
As wonderful as the land is here in the United States, as much as we have been blessed by the bounty of this magnificent continent that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, what makes this place special is not something physical. It has to do with this idea that was started by 13 colonies that decided to throw off the yoke of an empire, and said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
He did this before on September 15th, speaking to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute:
After President Obama says "created equal..", there is a long pause during which he scowls and blinks several times. For once, he may actually have opted to not read something that was on the teleprompter. It looks like he is disgusted and decided it would be better not to read what the preamble actually says. (video here).
Both times, he was speaking before political groups of his supporters.
Once could be a mistake, but twice is a pattern. Acknowledging that our rights come from a power higher than government or himself seems to rankle this man who claims the power to halt the rise of the seas.
Its actually the third time now. There were two in the last article here. The first was at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Awards Gala on Sept. 15, then the second was when he was speaking at a Sept. 22 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) at the Roosevelt Hotel and now this one. I think the last line of Thomas Lifson's article sums this up well.
Friday, 1 October 2010
Original letter by Bruce Gourley:
Don't cling to myth of U.S. as Christian nation (12/22/08)
I would like to second Tom Stonecipher's excellent comments on the myth of America as a Christian nation.
Many Christians in America today have forgotten their own history, both religious and national. In 2009 Baptists will celebrate their 400th anniversary. In the 17th and 18th centuries Baptists, heavily persecuted by colonial theocracies, led the way in embracing a pluralistic society and insisting upon full religious liberty and separation of church and state.
Baptists' perseverance in the face of religious and state persecution led to the founding of America as the world's first secular nation, including the adoption of separation of church and state in the First Amendment. England was so mortified, when the new nation left God out of its Constitution, that some English leaders accused America of being an atheist nation.
Why did Baptists (and some other Christian groups) insist that America be founded as a secular nation? Because they realized that true religion is voluntary, not coerced. This fundamental belief is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago. Christians of the late 18th century clearly understood that our country was founded as a secular nation (although not all were happy about the matter; some wished for a theocracy). Clinging to the historical myth of America as a Christian nation is historical dishonesty, as well as a slap in the face of our spiritual forefathers (and foremothers).
Bruce Gourley Churchill
Blake Dunlop's response:
U.S. is indeed a Christian nation (12/28/08) Bruce Gourley (Dec. 22 letter, "Don't cling to myth of U.S. as Christian nation") must think that if he repeats his "secular nation" mantra enough, he'll bludgeon people into believing it, but the idea that the early republic was a secular nation would have astonished our founders.
If Gourley were right, he'd have a hard time explaining, among other things, why the first Congress purchased Bibles for distribution in the Northwest Territory (most of today's Great Lake states), why Congress opens its daily sessions with a prayer, and why many states had established (i.e., tax-supported) churches, some persisting well into the 19th century.
Above all, Gourley would have to tangle with John Jay, who wrote approvingly in Federalist No. 2, "that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, ..." (Note that Jay's famous words were decisively no paean to "diversity," which many of our contemporaries seem bent on imposing as the national religion.)
The First Amendment, as originally understood, merely stipulated that there be no established national church--no denomination favored by the federal government nor supported by federal monies. And the Constitution's Article VI assures that there's no religious test to hold national office.
But the founding generation took it for granted that Americans were predominantly Protestants of various denominations, with a few Catholics and Jews mixed in. They didn't think America was a society of non-religious people, a "secular nation." Jewish writer Ilana Mercer understands all this: Recently, defending Christmas displays on public property, she referred to Christianity as "America's founding faith."
Indeed. Merry Christmas to all, from an atheist.
Blake Dunlop Bozeman
Bruce Gourley's response:
America was founded as a secular nation (1/1/09)Blake Dunlop's (Dec. 28 letter, "U.S. is indeed a Christian nation") assertion that America was founded as a Christian nation does not square with historical fact. Christians of the late 18th century would be astonished that contemporary Christians believe our nation was founded as a Christian nation.
Yes, theocracies existed at the colonial state level prior to the American Revolution (and persecuted Baptists, Quakers, and non-Christians). However, at the insistence of Baptists, Deists, and many others, our founding fathers rejected theocracy and chose a secular government structure. Yes, some states continued to collect taxes for churches into the early 19th century, because some Christians yet yearned for some degree of theocracy. And yes, people of all manner (not just Christians) in the late 18th and 19th centuries spoke to the vague notion of "providence." John Jay's reference to "providence" is akin to the deism of most of our founding fathers, as is the formal offering of prayer to a distant universal force or supreme being.
Baptist leader John Leland declared, in 1794, that the state has no reason to care whether "a man worships one God, three Gods, 20 Gods, or no God." Baptists as a whole helped ensure that America's founding principles, in terms of religion, were religious liberty, separation of church and state, and pluralism.
In short, America, like most other nations throughout history, has always been a nation of religious persons (as Tyler Mills in a Dec. 29 letter, "Why try so hard to downplay religion?", correctly notes). But unlike all other nations prior to the late 18th century, America is a secular nation that believes the best way to honor religious faith--and lack of faith--is to separate church (and mosque and synagogue) from state.
Bruce Gourley Churchill
Blake Dunlop's reply:
America substantively a Christian society (1/17/09)In his letters (Dec. 22 and Jan.1) about the religious character of the early Republic, Bruce Gourley hammers us with boilerplate--"America was founded as a secular nation"--as though sheer repetition will convince. His boilerplate is based on the false premise that the Constitution was co-extensive with America itself, so that if the national government was secular, then America was a secular nation. But the Constitution merely created a federal governing structure, leaving most of the substance of the society, including religion, to the states.
Further, it's not even correct to say that the national government was secular: Congress has always held daily prayers, and the First Congress mandated distribution of Bibles in the territories. So the correct description of our national government isn't that it was secular, but that it didn't establish one Christian denomination over others.
Gourley's underlying conceptual mistake is to characterize a polity without a religious establishment as "secular" and a polity with a religious establishment as "theocratic." Thus, nonsensically, he derides all colonies and states with religious establishments as "theocracies." A religious establishment doesn't mean that the government is run by God, saints, or holy men, as in a theocracy. "Establishment" simply means that one denomination is supported by taxes and that membership in it is required for public officeholders.
Also, I didn't say that the U.S. was "founded as a Christian nation," a phrase implying that the Constitution declared America to be Christian. I said that, in the Founding era, America was substantively a Christian society, its common beliefs, morals, and religious practices being Christian, and with Christian religious establishments in many states. The Constitution added atop this Christian society a national government that was barred both from establishing a national religion and from interfering with the states' religious establishments.
Blake Dunlop Bozeman
To say that America is not a Christian Nation is true in the sense that the federal government, or the Constitution, makes no direct mention of Christianity, and the First Amendment obviously prohibits any establishment of religion by the federal Congress.
A key point to remember though, which is constantly overlooked, ignorned or just forgotten, is that the federal government is not supposed to be considered the totality of the United States. The federal government is a system created to support the states, to help them handle certain indispensable governmental functions that the states could not handle themselves, the states thus delegate certain powers to the federal government. The states, which comprised the actual substance of what American society was and is, were certainly founded on religion and many of them even had established religions by this point. By contrast, the federal government was seen as a neutral voice and shell to hold together the disparate states. That's why the First Amendment prohibited any establishment of religion by the federal Congress, even as the states continued with their religious establishments. Since the states had different majority religions and different established religions, the federal government, in order to hold the states together, had to be neutral as regards religion.
In 1620 for instance, the Puritans made there religion the official faith of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
They made membership in their congregations a requirement to vote in civic elections. They charged all citizens – members of the congregations or not – taxes for the support of the clergy and the congregations. And they could arrest citizens who “absented themselves from the Ordinances of Publicke Worshipe,”.
The Pilgrims with there Puritan Congregational Church were aloud to tax, arrest, and expel Baptists, Catholics, Quakers and Jews with the appoval of there state.
It wasn't Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” nor the First Amendment, that changed this system. It was the peoples views on tax politics that eventually caused the change.
If you read the First Amendment carefully you will see that it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
At the time the First Amendment was signed, Massachusetts was one of two states with what are called established churches – official state churches, supported by taxes. And the First Amendment was carefully worded so that Congress could not make any law that would interfere with those official state churches. The Congregational Church lost its preferential status in Connecticut in 1818; in Massachusetts (which for most of this period included what is now Maine) in 1830.
So as often as later legal decisions would cite the “wall of separation” phrase, this concept is simply not there in the First Amendment.
It comes from this passage from a letter Thomas Jefferson's sent to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802:
... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."
His equating of non-establishment of religion with separation of church and state, was personally how Jefferson wished the Constitution had been conceived and how he wanted it to be interpreted, but it was not how it had been originally formed and agreed upon collectively amongst the founders.
Further, even at the time that the Treaty of Tripoli was being made, written up and signed, the Congress started its sesssions with prayers, the Congress had Bibles distributed to the federal territories, and did other things that directly promoted and expressed a connection with the Christian religion. What the Congress did not do was establish any Christian denomination as a favored denomination, favour one over the other, which is what was and is meant by an the term "establishment of religion".
The prohibition against establishment of religion by the federal Congress was obviously later distorted, manipulated and then turned into a direct prohibition not only of establishment of religion in the states and localities, but a prohibition against any form of religious expression by the states and localities. The absence of any reference direct or indirect to religion or Christianity within the federal Constitution was ultimately turned into the idea that America as such was a secular country/nation and was designed to be one; and with the destruction of the states' reserved powers, the federal courts gained the power to impose secularism or at least a form of Anti-Christian secularism on the entire country.
Also to note is that the preambles of the Constitutions of all 50 states make some reference to God. Attempts were made in the 19th century to add language acknowledging God to the U.S. Constitution by amendment, but they failed.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
"Just seven days after he sparked controversy by omitting the word “Creator” when he closely paraphrased the passage from the Declaration of Independence that says all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” President Barack Obama again omitted the Creator when speaking about the “inalienable rights” that “everybody is endowed with.”
This time the president was speaking at a Sept. 22 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, and his reference to “inalienable rights” was not as close a paraphrasing of the Declaration as it had been the week before.
“And what was sustaining us was that sense that, that North Star, that sense that, you know what, if we stay true to our values, if we believe that all people are created equal and everybody is endowed with certain inalienable rights and we’re going to make those words live, and we’re going to give everybody opportunity, everybody a ladder into the middle class, every child able to go as far as their dreams will take them--if we stay true to that, then we’re going to be able to maintain the energy and the focus, the fight, the gumption to get stuff done,” Obama said at the DCCC/DSCC event, according to the transcript posted by the White House.
Speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Awards Gala on Sept. 15, Obama had left out the word “Creator” when otherwise virtually quoting from the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Obama said at that event, “that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what makes us unique.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute dinner, however, was not the first time President Obama has omitted mention of the Creator when speaking of the “inalienable rights” cited in the Declaration of Independence. He has also published official presidential proclamations that take this approach.
On Sept. 17, 2009, for example, Obama issued a “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” proclamation that mentioned man's “certain unalienable rights” but not the Creator who endows man with them.
This proclamation was issued in both Spanish and English—with neither versions mentioning the Creator.
In English, Obama proclaimed: “Signed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, this founding document reflects our core values and enshrines the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that we are each endowed with certain unalienable rights. As the beneficiaries of these rights, all Americans have a solemn obligation to participate in our democracy so that it remains vibrant, strong, and responsive to the needs of our citizens.”
On Feb. 2, 2009, Obama issued a presidential proclamation for “National African American History Month” that mentioned “certain unalienable rights” Obama said "we all are endowed with" but did not mention the Creator, who, according to the Declaration of Independence, is the grantor of those rights.
“The ideals of the Founders became more real and more true for every citizen as African Americans pressed us to realize our full potential as a Nation and to uphold those ideals for all who enter into our borders and embrace the notion that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights,” Obama proclaimed."
It's happened on so many different occasions now that it seems hard to deny that it is a deliberate act on his behalf.
Monday, 13 September 2010
"Modern biology is not only materialistic but also mechanistic; indeed, it delights in nothing so much as working out “the mechanism of action” of innumerable vital phenomena. Not “what is it?” or “what is it for?” but “how does it work?” is the basic question. The mechanical model in modern biology goes back at least to Descartes. In the Discourse on Method, Descartes treats all vital activity of animals and all human activity, except for speech and will, in terms of heat and local motion: not only the life-giving motion of the heart and blood, but also wakefulness and sleep, sensing, remembering, imagining, suffering passions, and many bodily motions — all these are at bottom just different forms of local motion. And all motion, including vital motion, is understood mechanically, like the motion of a clock or automaton.
"Descartes does not say the organism is, in fact, a machine, but that we do well to consider it as a machine — for the sake of certain and useful knowledge (know-how). But is this mechanical account — or any mechanical account — sufficient, even for these limited purposes? Granted, vital processes occur in an orderly way, but does that make them fundamentally mechanical? The mechanical account leaves no room for spontaneity or self-initiated action. It ignores all inwardness of the agent: interested awareness, felt lack, appetite, intentionality and, hence, the purposiveness of lived movement — all are ignored. However useful as a heuristic concept, the mechanical account is not true to life."
Friday, 10 September 2010
"In fact, as philosopher Alexander Pruss explains, the multiverse theory leads to an intriguing conclusion: given a multiverse, it is just as reasonable to assert the resurrection of Jesus as it is to assert the existence of China.
Suppose one thinks both (a) that the multiverse should be invoked in order to explain the origins of life, because the probabilities in one universe are too low (or, presumably, to explain fine-tuning of constants) and (b) the resurrection of Christ is too weird to believe. Well, in an infinite (naturalistic, I suppose) multiverse, someone very much like Christ does in fact get resurrected—it is very unlikely that the particles should move in such a way as to reverse death, but in an infinite multiverse even such unlikely things will happen. Isn’t that an interesting thought? (It reminds one of David Lewis’s observation that on his view the Greek gods exist, though he thought—I don’t know with what justification—that they didn’t exist in our world.)
And, I add, such a thing will happen in infinitely many universes, given an infinite naturalistic multiverse: In infinitely many universes, a monotheistic religious leader named “Jesus” is crucified and rises again on the third day, with all the details being as Christians claim. In our universe, it is claimed by otherwise credible witnesses that this happened—and these witnesses are not contradicted by other alleged eye-witnesses. Why not take their claim at face value, and say that we just are in one of the infinitely many universes where it happens? "
But ended up as a discussion about the theory of the Multiverse with the physicist Stephen M Barr:
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 10:33 am
A few comments. (1) It is less misleading to say that the multiverse is a single universe with many, diverse PARTS that are not in contact with each other, than to say it contains many “universes”. (2) There is no reason why the multiverse has to be “infinite”. The multiverse could be exponentially larger than the part of the universe we can see, but still finite. That would allow it to explain some of the things it has been invoked to explain. If it is exceedingly large, but still finite, then most of what Alexander Pruss says does not apply. (3) Even if the multiverse were infinite, Pruss’s argument doesn’t really work. Yes, it is true that in an infinite universe even things that have exceedingly low probability of happening on a particular planet will happen on some planet somewhere — indeed, on an infinite number of planets. But that does not make it any less unlikely to happen on this planet. Suppose, for example, that the chance of my drawing a straight flush ten times in a row is 10 to the minus 60. If there is an infinite number of inhabited planets, there may be an infinite number where poker has been invented, and an infinite number where someone has drawn ten straight flushes in a row. That does not make it any more likely that I or anyone else on THIS planet will draw ten straight flushes in a row. The events on different planets are statistically independent of each other.
Barry Arrington April 5th, 2010 10:59 am
Joe, a few weeks ago I put up a post on this subject at uncommondescent.com: Multiverse Mavens Hoisted on Own Petard.
The materialists had some surprising responses in the discussion thread.
Joe Carter April 5th, 2010 11:22 am
Stephen Barr (1) It is less misleading to say that the multiverse is a single universe with many, diverse PARTS that are not in contact with each other, than to say it contains many “universes”.
Let me see if I can clarify what you’re saying. We have two options:
(1) The multiverse is single set that contains diverse parts that are not in contact with each other.(2) The multiverse is a single set that contains diverse universes that are not in contact with each other.
If #1 is less misleading, then it would follow that it is misleading to speak of our own universe as a distinct entity. We can’t really know if our “part” is separate from the multiverse itself or if it is merely a subpart of another system, etc.
How then can we talk about such things as, say, the consistency of natural laws? If we are but a part of a multiverse then it is possible that the other parts of the system may bleed over and interfere/interact with our own.
(2) There is no reason why the multiverse has to be “infinite”. The multiverse could be exponentially larger than the part of the universe we can see, but still finite. That would allow it to explain some of the things it has been invoked to explain. If it is exceedingly large, but still finite, then most of what Alexander Pruss says does not apply.
But wouldn’t it have to be nearly infinite to explain away the anthropic evidence?
It seems if the multiverse is large enough to be used to explain the probability of an extreme improbable event such as the fine-tuning of our universe (or our part of the multiverse) then it seems like it should be large enough to explain away sub-improbable events like a resurrection.
(3) Even if the multiverse were infinite, Pruss’s argument doesn’t really work. Yes, it is true that in an infinite universe even things that have exceedingly low probability of happening on a particular planet will happen on some planet somewhere — indeed, on an infinite number of planets. But that does not make it any less unlikely to happen on this planet.
I originally forgot to include the link to the post which address, somewhat, that objection:
When in infinitely many universes, some set of testimonies not contradicted by any witnesses is true, and in infinitely many universes, the equivalent set of testimonies not contradicted by any witnesses is false, we should suspend judgment. But then I should suspend judgment over the existence of China if a multiverse obtains. For I only know of China on testimony, and in infinitely many universes the testimony is true, and in infinitely many it’s false.
Suppose, for example, that the chance of my drawing a straight flush ten times in a row is 10 to the minus 60. If there is an infinite number of inhabited planets, there may be an infinite number where poker has been invented, and an infinite number where someone has drawn ten straight flushes in a row. That does not make it any more likely that I or anyone else on THIS planet will draw ten straight flushes in a row. The events on different planets are statistically independent of each other.
True, but Pruss’ point is that if we were to hear from eyewitnesses that a person has drawn a straight flush ten time in a row and there were contradictory eyewitnesses, then we’d have no reason to think that, however improbable, we weren’t one of the infinite number of universes that it occurred on.
The point isn’t necessarily that the multiverse makes the resurrection more likely as it does, bur rather, as Pruss says, “highlights the serious problems that multiversists have with probabilistic reasoning.”
We can’t simply use the multiverse theory to explain away one improbable event (fine-tuning) but then deny that it can be used to explain other improbable events. If there are an infinite (or near infinite) number of universes, then we should expect that events of very low probability have occurred an infinite (or near infinite) number of times.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 1:31 pm
Joe, I am not sure that you have clarified my statement (1). The multiverse idea is actually very simple. The simplest version of the multiverse idea is that the universe is very large compared to the part we can see. We can only see out to a distance of about 10 billion light years, because light from places farther away than that has not had time to reach us since the time of the Big Bang. So we have a “horizon”. The idea is that the universe is vastly (maybe even infinitely) larger than the part within our horizon. If that is the case, then there are a vast (maybe even infinite) number of places in the universe that are too far from each other to see each other or know what conditions are like in each other’s regions. It is analogous to saying that the earth is a big place containing many little tribes too far from each other to know anything about each other. In and of itself, this is a perfectly reasonable idea. I should add that there are very strong pieces of evidence (as well as convincing theoretical considerations) in favor of an idea called “cosmic inflation”. If inflation is right, then the universe probably IS exponentially larger than the part we can see.
Now add to this the idea that conditions in parts of the universe sufficiently remote from each other to be out of touch with each other might be so different that the laws of physics APPEAR superficially to be different. That is the multiverse idea. People who entertain this (very reasonable) possibility generally assume that the deepest, most fundamental laws of physics are the same everywhere. But the same fundamental laws may be realized in different ways in different places. (In essence, the same equations can have many different solutions.)
You ask, “But wouldn’t it have to be nearly infinite to explain away the anthropic evidence?”
What do you mean by “nearly infinite”? Something is either infinite or it’s finite. If you’re “nearly dead”, you ain’t dead, you’re alive. If the universe is “nearly infinite”, it isn’t infinite, it’s finite. To explain some of the anthropic coincidences the universe only needs to be VERY large, it doesn’t need to be infinite.
The passage you quote from Pruss, which you say “addresses, somewhat, that objection”, i.e my third point, does not, as far I can tell, do so at all.
You quote Pruss as saying that his argument “highlights the serious problems that multiversists have with probabilistic reasoning.” There are problems with probabilistic reasoning if the universe is infinitely big. But, as I noted, the multiverse does not have to be infinitely big, it only needs to be very large, in which case there is no problem with probabilistic reasoning.
You say, “We can’t simply use the multiverse theory to explain away one improbable event (fine-tuning) but then deny that it can be used to explain other improbable events.” Yes we can, if the arguments are essentially different. The “fine-tunings” that the multiverse can explain are circumstances required to have life appear. In most parts of the multiverse (by far), the highly improbable tunings do not occur and there is no life. But any sentient being in the universe must find himself in one of those very few and far between parts of the universe where the tunings have occurred. That is a perfectly good way to explain why we see certain “unlikely” conditions being satisfied — IF those unlikely conditions are conditions for life to exist at all and therefore for beings to exist who can note of the conditions around them. That doesn’t mean it is a way to explain any and all unlikely occurrences. It in no way explains the Resurrection, or the miracles of Jesus, for example. But why do we want a naturalistic explanation of those things anyway?
Wouldn’t that kind of destroy their religious significance?
Joe Carter April 5th, 2010 2:20 pm
The simplest version of the multiverse idea is that the universe is very large compared to the part we can see.
I think most people would find your explanation reasonable, but still consider applying the term “multiverse” to be misleading.
The word universe, which is derived from the Latin to “uni” (one) and versus (to turn), mean “turned into one.” The term has historically referred to the sum total of all physical objects in existence. Even if the universe contains places that are too far from us to even know what they are, they are still (I would think) part of our universe.
That is why I think the term mulitverse is misleading if we are referring to parts of a whole, rather than distinct universes. Multiverse would literally mean “to turn into many” which is, if I understand what you are saying, these areas are located within the same cosmos as us.
I think it also becomes confusing when some people are using the term to refer to mulitple distinct universes to use it to refer merely to parts of a larger whole.
You ask, “But wouldn’t it have to be nearly infinite to explain away the anthropic evidence?”
What do you mean by “nearly infinite”? Something is either infinite or it’s finite. If you’re “nearly dead”, you ain’t dead, you’re alive. If the universe is “nearly infinite”, it isn’t infinite, it’s finite. To explain some of the anthropic coincidences the universe only needs to be VERY large, it doesn’t need to be infinite.
You’re right, of course. I should have chosen my words more carefully on that point.
I actually had two ideas in mind, one serious and one tongue-in-cheek.
The more snarky answer is that “nearly infinite” is “a number large enough to get the result needed.” If it turned out a larger number was needed, they would merely tack on one more, ad infinitum, to get the desired result.
But the point I meant by my question was that to determine the probability of an event there must be some boundary condition. For example, let’s say that the universe has existed for roughly 4.32*10^17 seconds. That is an actual finite number. But what if the probability requires, for instance, a time period that is larger than that, a number that exceeds the bounds of the finite timeline? That number may still be finite but it has taken on many of the qualities of an infinite number.
The passage you quote from Pruss, which you say “addresses, somewhat, that objection”, i.e my third point, does not, as far I can tell, do so at all.
In your original point you said, “Yes, it is true that in an infinite universe even things that have exceedingly low probability of happening on a particular planet will happen on some planet somewhere — indeed, on an infinite number of planets. But that does not make it any less unlikely to happen on this planet.”
But wouldn’t it make the probability 50%? Let’s imagine we have two sets of probabilities:
1) An infinite number of planets in which the resurrection did occur.2) An infinite number of planets in which the resurrection did not occur.
Both of these sets are the same size, so there is an equal likelihood that they have obtained.
How would a person determine that ot was less likely to happen on this planet? Since there are an infinite number of universes that will be exactly the same in all respects except for the fact that the resurrection did/did not occur, how can they determine the probability?
Also, as Pruss notes, the fact that some people that some eyewitnesses claim to have seen the even in question would seem to tip (at least on the Bayensian scheme) toward the affirmative.
There are problems with probabilistic reasoning if the universe is infinitely big. But, as I noted, the multiverse does not have to be infinitely big, it only needs to be very large, in which case there is no problem with probabilistic reasoning.
I agree with that in theory, but how does it work in practice? If we’re talking about a large, but not infititely big, number then what are the contraints on it? It seems that allowing the number to expand to fit whatever is needed is simply treating it as “Infinity minus 1.” How do scientists prevent the category confusion that may result from treating a finite numbers as if it were “nearly infinite?” ; )
Yes we can, if the arguments are essentially different. The “fine-tunings” that the multiverse can explain are circumstances required to have life appear. In most parts of the multiverse (by far), the highly improbable tunings do not occur and there is no life. But any sentient being in the universe must find himself in one of those very few and far between parts of the universe where the tunings have occurred. That is a perfectly good way to explain why we see certain “unlikely” conditions being satisfied — IF those unlikely conditions are conditions for life to exist at all and therefore for beings to exist who can note of the conditions around them.
But shouldn’t we account for anthropic bias? Just because we are here to observer our existence does not change the fact that the conditions were “unlikely.” Instead, we should consider what would be the likelihood of the event occurring in a random sampling of the universe. Once we account for observer bias, we realize that the event is even more unlikely than we might ordinarily imagine.
That doesn’t mean it is a way to explain any and all unlikely occurrences. It in no way explains the Resurrection, or the miracles of Jesus, for example. But why do we want a naturalistic explanation of those things anyway? Wouldn’t that kind of destroy their religious significance?
To answer your last question, we first need to answer whether the multiverse theory is a “naturalistic explanation.” Personally, I don’t believe it is. If the laws of nature are different enough in other parts of the universe, then they may be indistinguishable from what we consider to be “supernatural phenomenon.” If they were to “break into” our part of the universe in the same way that God “breaks into” the physical realm, then it may difficult, if not impossible, to say whether the cause was God or the multiverse.
Barry Arrington April 5th, 2010 2:21 pm
Dr. Barr, you say that the other parts of universe are “over the horizon.” If I understand your metaphor, one of the implications of your assertion is that we cannot, even in principle, test empirically the hypothesis that there are other universes (or parts of our universe if you prefer) that are “over the horizon.” How then could this hypothesis be falsified? And if it cannot, in principle, be falsified, is the statement “there are other universes over the horizon” not more properly classified as a metaphysical statement?
R Hampton April 5th, 2010 3:58 pm
String Theory suggests that it may be possible to empirically detect other universes — gravity can leak from one to affect another, producing “gravitational waves, dark-matter-type effects, or even the big bang itself.”
Could CERN’s LHC Detect the Existence of a Parallel Universe?
More exciting than the discovery of Higgs Boson, who’s function is giving mass to the particles of matter, could be the possible creation of tiny, particle-sized black holes. Real data from these experiments will rewrite the theorists’ Guide to the Quantum Universe. According to current physics these nano black holes could not be created at the energy levels the LHC is capable of producing. They could only be created if a parallel universe actually exists, providing the extra gravitation needed to generate the nano black holes.
R Hampton April 5th, 2010 4:06 pm
Reported evidence of gravitational interaction: New Proof Unknown “Structures” Tug at Our Universe
(Edit: The article is about Dark Flow, Wikipedia page on it here).
In 2008 scientists reported the discovery of hundreds of galaxy clusters streaming in the same direction at more than 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) an hour. This mysterious motion can’t be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe. So the researchers made the controversial suggestion that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe…
Will Wilson April 5th, 2010 5:16 pm
Some confusion seems to be arising over the definition of “multiverse”. This may be due to the fact that physicists frequently mean different thing when using the word. Page 14 of this paper may be helpful in explaining:
As I understand it, Stephen is talking about a Level I multiverse and Joe is talking about a Level II multiverse, in Tegmark’s terminology.
Note that a Level I multiverse doesn’t really address the anthropic problems.
Will Wilson April 5th, 2010 5:21 pm
Well, that’s unfair to Stephen actually. There are conceivable ways in which a Level I multiverse *could* address fine-tuning arguments, but people trying to refute fine-tuning arguments rarely use a Level I multiverse to do it, because doing so involves abandoning the principle of isometry of space, and consequently, via Noether’s Theorem, conservation of momentum.
It’s been a while since I studied symmetries in physical laws, so take my last claim there with a grain of salt.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 6:33 pm
Dear Joe, As to terminology, I think we are making the same point. I would say that a “universe” is a totality of things that directly or indirectly interact with each other physically. The so-called “multiverse” is really just the universe. It is made up of many parts, which some people designate “universes”, but which really be thought of as parts of one universe. I am objecting to calling the parts “universes”, because I think the whole is the universe. You (for the same reason) are objecting to calling the whole a multiverse, because the whole should be called the universe. I am not bothered by calling the universe, in such a scenario, the multiverse, as long as one doesn’t think the name means “many universes”. It should be thought of as short for “multi-part universe”.
I get the sense that you think the idea of positing a size of the universe that is fantastically large, but still finite, somewhat artificial and arbitrary. It seems simpler to posit a universe that is infinite and be done with it. (e.g. You say, “If we’re talking about a large, but not infititely big, number then what are the contraints on it? It seems that allowing the number to expand to fit whatever is needed is simply treating it as “Infinity minus 1.”) Well, it is not quite so arbitrary as all that. There are, as I noted, strong empirical evidence that universe underwent a period of exponential “inflation” just after the Big Bang. During that inflation, the size of the universe (assuming it to be finite) would have grown exponentially with time, i.e. its time would have been proportional to e^(Ht), where H is the “Hubble parameter” during the inflationary period. So in a time 60/H (60 “Hubble times”), the size of the universe would have increased by a factor of e to the 60th power (60 “e-foldings”), which is about 10 to the 26th power. We know that there was at least that much inflation. But suppose that inflation lasted twice as long as that — 120 Hubble times — then the universe would have increased by e to the 120th power, which is equal to (e to the 60th power) TIMES (e to the 60th power), i.e. roughly 10 to the 52. If inflation had lasted three times as long, then the universe would have increased by e to the 180th power. In other words, inflation is a mechanism which generates universes that are fantastically large. Making inflation last just a little longer multiplies the size of the universe by a huge factor.
You say that the laws being different in different parts of the universe is “supernatural”. As I tried to emphasize, the fundamental laws are not different in different places in a mutiverse scenario, they just look superficially like they are. An analogy: In a cold place people may only encounter H2O in the form of ice. In a warm place maybe only in the form of water.
Superficially, they think they are dealing with different substances obeying different physical laws: water obeys equations describing fluid flow, ice obeys laws describing crystalline things. But deep down they are obeying the same laws governing H2O molecules. In several types of well-motivated theories that people study in particle physics today, the same fundamental laws can give rise to very different “effective laws” at a superficial level. So this is not a particularly radical or daring idea. There is absolutely nothing supernatural about it.
For example, consider a simple “supersymmetric SU(5) grand unified theory”. (There is some empirical evidence in favor of supersymmetric grand unified theories.) In that theory, there are several “degenerate ground states”, i.e. solutions to the equations having the lowest possible energy, in which things look very different. In the different ground states there are effectively different forces, particles, etc. But all the ground states are solutions of the same fundamental laws. There is no reason why regions of the universe so far from each other that they are not in “causal contact” should be in (or near) the same “ground state” — in fact, they shouldn’t all be. So, in this theory, parts of the universe very far from each other will have different particles and forces, etc., but deep down they are all obeying the same fundamental equations.
Advice to all people reading this: if you don’t understand very well what I am saying, read up on the subject until you do, and only then make philosophical/theological critiques of the multiverse idea. Philosophizing and theologizing about technical matters insufficiently grasped is very dangerous!!!
Many popular attacks on the multiverse scenario are based on popular misconceptions — and so I am happy to clear some of those up here.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 7:17 pm
Dear Barry Arrington,
Many scientists would agree with you that the multiverse idea is metaphysics rather than physics. I would make two points. First, well-tested theories may tell us that there are phenomena that we cannot directly have access to and study. For example, General Relativity implies that when matter is dense enough a black hole forms. It also tells us that we cannot look at what is going on inside a black hole — information cannot get out. Does that make the existence of the region of spacetime inside the black hole a matter of metaphysics? The theory of strong interactions tells us that inside protons there are quarks, and also tells us that we cannot produce a quark in isolation. Are quarks matters of metaphysics?
Suppose that I am trapped on an island so that I can never get off the island as long as I live. I see the ocean extending as far as the eye can see. It would be quite reasonable for me to conclude that the ocean extends even farther than the horizon. How far, I cannot say. But it is more reasonable for me to suppose that there is more ocean than to suppose that the ocean just happens to end and the land begin exactly at the limit of my sight. Is the existence of “more ocean” a matter of metaphysics? Whatever you call it, it may be the most plausible among all the untestable hypotheses about what lies beyond my range of sight. Our picture of reality involves many extrapolations beyond what is testable, based on what is most plausible given what we do know.
In other words, it is often quite reasonable to extrapolate beyond what we can see, if that gives us a simpler and more sensible picture of reality.
Metaphysics? Physics? I don’t care what it is called. The question is whether, given everything we know, the multiverse is a plausible hypothesis.
This brings me to my second point. My second point is that the burden of proof is on anyone who is using anthropic coincidences to argue for God. If the multiverse scenario is a plausible hypothesis (whether testable or not) that would explain a certain fact without positing the existence of God, then it shows that the fact in question is not in itself a compelling reason to believe in God. This is common sense. If the prosecutor adduces some fact as pointing to the defendant’s guilt, the existence of a plausible alternative explanation undercuts the prosecutor’s case, whether or not the defendant can prove the alternative explanation to be correct.
I hope people realize that I am playing the devil’s advocate. I believe that one make arguments in favor of God’s existence from the anthropic coincidences and fine tunings. I do that in my book, and in an article some years ago in First Things entitled “Anthropic Coincidences”. But I also think that the multiverse idea is a reasonable one, in and of itself. It is not some desperate atheist ploy. It may appear that way to people who have insufficient background in physics to judge what cosmological and particle physics scenarios are reasonable and which aren’t.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 7:23 pm
Dear Will Wilson,
Tegmark is an extreme example. Most physicists who would invoke a multiverse scenario to explain anthropic coincidences (e.g. Steven Weinberg, Leonard Susskind, Andrei Linde, Lawrence Hall) would be thinking of the same kind of multiverse I am talking about here.
You are right that momentum conservation is tied (via Noether’s Theorem) to space-translation symmetry — i.e. to the idea that the fundamental laws of physics are the same in every place. But the principle of momentum conservation does not rule out the multiverse idea.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 7:29 pm
Dear R. Hampton,
Most particle physicists think it highly unlikely that the LHC will produce tiny black holes or tell us about parallel universes. Also, it seems at the moment very unclear to most particle physicists that we shall ever be able to test superstring theory. Lots of very sexy possibilities of what might be seen experimentally that are regarded as VERY long shots by particle physicists
Crude showed me this from an article: "In fact, uncertainty looms over Hawking’s entire legacy. Unlike Einstein’s theories, which have been confirmed many times by experiment, Hawking’s ideas about singularities and black hole evaporation will probably never be observed. There is a small chance—Hawking himself puts the probability at less than 1 percent—that the Large Hadron Collider, the enormous new particle accelerator near Geneva, might detect miniature black holes. If Hawking is right (and for the sake of those who fear the LHC might spawn a planet-devouring mini black hole, he’d better be), those black holes would evaporate almost as soon as they appeared. Such a discovery would validate one of Hawking’s signature insights and could easily provide the tangible evidence needed to snag a Nobel Prize. "
R. Hampton April 5th, 2010 8:53 pm
I understand. However, should another universe interact with ours – by gravity or some other force – I suspect we will find a definitive means of detection (not necessarily in our lifetime). The Human species has a tremendous ability to find ingenious solutions to (seemingly) intractable scientific problems.
Joe Carter April 5th, 2010 9:19 pm
Stephen Barr It may appear that way to people who have insufficient background in physics to judge what cosmological and particle physics scenarios are reasonable and which aren’t.
I certainly agree that that those of us with an insufficient background should be careful about making claims about science. But in fairness to those who may have impressions about the theory, we are basing our (mis)understanding on the claims of physicists and popular science journals.
(For example: http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=)
I’ve been trying to follow this issue for years and yet today was the first time I’ve heard anything about the additional universes being merely parts of our own universe. I had always also heard that there were likely an infinite number of them. Your version sounds both reasonable and unobjectionable—and completely different from the popular conception of the theory. I should have guessed that the real version wasn’t as speculative as the version that trickles down to the popular level.
However, while I agree that laymen should tread carefully in discussions about technical matters, I think skepticism may be warranted when scientists make claims that appear—on the surface at least—to be illogical. For example, a recent article in Scientific American begins:
A team of scientists has succeeded in putting an object large enough to be visible to the naked eye into a mixed quantum state of moving and not moving.
I’ll admit that I don’t understand quantum mechanics. But I do have a reasonably good grasp of the law of non-contradiction. I suspect that what is being referred to is a part of an object that is moving while another part is not moving. But the sentence, as written, proposing a contradictory claim. The problem is likely semantic rather than empirical but it is still likely to lead people to be skeptical and misunderstand the claims and advances of cutting-edge physics.
Now if they really do mean that the entire object is moving (A) and not moving (not-A) at the same time, then I would assume that they are misinterpreting the data. My confidence in the law of non-contradiction is absolute; the idea that it could be empirically refuted is absurd. So even without understanding the technical details, a laymen like me would have justification for being skeptical of the claim as stated.
I think something similar occurs when people hear about the popular version of the multiverse theory. For instance, I’m fairly convinced that an actual infinite cannot exist. Therefore any claims that begin with, “An infinite number of universes. . . “ automatically raises a red flag in my mind.
R Hampton April 5th, 2010 9:31 pm
Ah, but in our universe quantum states are not contradictory – that is, impossible – states. Granted that most find this truth difficult to comprehend, but such is God’s Creation. As for God’s motives, Science is simply not equipped to answer.
Stephen M. Barr April 5th, 2010 10:42 pm
The statement you quote (about an object being in a state that is a mixture of a state where it is moving and a state where it is not moving) is not based on a misinterpretation of the data, nor is it based on a misunderstanding of quantum mechanics, nor is it saying anything that violates the principle of non-contradiction, nor is it saying that a part of the object is moving and part is not moving. The paradox does not arise from the philosophical incompetence of theoretical physicists, or the inability of journalists to state things clearly. Nature itself acts very mysteriously at the quantum level. In this case, you must blame nature, not the physicists and not physics journalists.
The statement that annoys you is merely stating the paradox at the heart of quantum mechanics. That paradox is nothing new. It has been with us since the nineteen twenties and has been the subject of endless debate among physicists and philosophers.
I would say the same thing about the quantum paradoxes: either one must take the trouble to master the subject well enough to understand the issues, or one must leave it alone altogether.
There is no more mysterious a question than what than what quantum mechanics is saying about reality.
JB in CA April 6th, 2010 1:45 am
Stephen Barr: I really don’t follow what you’re saying. How is “a mixed quantum state of moving and not moving” not “saying anything that violates the principle of non-contradiction” (as you state)?
Will Wilson April 6th, 2010 2:32 am
I’m a bit confused. It seems like the version of the multiverse that you’re talking about is that which concerns portions of “this” universe beyond our light horizon, but if you want to combat the anthropic argument with that, it seems like you need to give up isometry of space.
I must be misunderstanding a portion of your argument. Can you explain?
Will Wilson April 6th, 2010 2:37 am
Of course, there are interpretations of quantum mechanics that involve neither wave function collapse nor multiple universes. One of the more remarkable prejudices of the physics world is that such theories are frequently not even considered (though my understanding is that that’s begun to change in the last decade or so).
Steve Barr April 6th, 2010 9:04 am
Dear JB in CA, What fails in quantum mechanics is not logic but our concepts. The question is whether velocity (or equivalently momentum) is something that can always be predicated of an object. An object that is in such an ambiguous state does not have a definite velocity. But one cannot even begin to discuss these issues without some understanding of the formalism of quantum mechanics. The mathematics of quantum mechanics is clear; what it is saying if translated into ordinary speech is far from clear. There is much dispute about that. So one must learn some of the mathematical formalism before one can begin to ask what it means. A discussion of it in a comment box on a blog is futile.
Dear Will, The only interpretations that involve neither many worlds nor wavefunction collapse are modifications of quantum mechanics, such as Bohmian mechanics, which have serious problems being extended to the full range of physical systems.
As to “isometry of space”, it is not really whether space has translation symmetry (which you are calling isometry of space) that determines whether momentum conservation holds, but whether the form of the Lagrangian is invariant under spatial translations. Consider spacetime near a massive body, such as the earth. Space is NOT translation invariant near the earth, because spacetime is curved in the vicinity of the earth (which is why things are gravitationally attracted toward the earth, according to General Relativity). The curvature of spacetime is greater ten thousand miles from the earth than it is twenty thousand miles away, for example. So space near the earth is NOT translation invariant. That does NOT imply, however, that momentum conservation is violated. If one takes into account all the momentum that is there, including the momentum carried by the gravitational field, then momentum is conserved. Your understanding of Noether’s theorem and its implications seems to be a bit off.
Will Wilson April 6th, 2010 1:11 pm
What are the problems with de Broglie-Bohm wave mechanics? I’m pretty sure there are extensions of it it that are consistent with special relativity, for instance. Are your disagreements with it experimental, theoretical, or conceptual?
Thank you for your clarification regarding translational symmetry of physical laws, but you still haven’t explained exactly what your proposed multiverse looks like. Is it, as I asked before, portions of “this” universe beyond our light horizon? If so, do you agree that physical constants need to take on other values in these inaccessible areas of the universe in order for the fine-tuning argument to be addressed?
How do you propose that physical constants vary with location?
Stephen M. Barr April 6th, 2010 4:39 pm
The version of the multiverse that I find plausible is, as you say, the portions of this universe beyond our horizon. The way “constants” can vary, is that their values depend on fields whose value can be different in different places.
The problem with Bohmian mechanics is that it is hard to extend it to relativistic theories. in the words of Steven Weinberg, “It does not seem possible to extend Bohm’s version of quantum mechanics to theories in which particles can be created and destroyed, which includes all known relativistic quantum theories.”
The reason for this is, I think, not hard to understand. Bohm (as I see it) destroys the “wave-particle duality” of standard quantum mechanics, in which the same entity is both a wave and a particle. Bohm, however, has two distinct entities, one of which is wavelike and the other particle-like, with the wave guiding the particle. It is essentially a realization of de Broglie’s “pilot wave” idea. Relativistic quantum field theory (RQFT), however, depends essentially on wave-particle duality.
Faraday explained force as being due to fields. Maxwell then showed that fields can have waves propagate in them. Quantum mechanics then showed that these waves are also particles. So (roughly speaking) forces fields waves particles. In quantum field theory, which is quantum mechanics applied to fields, one therefore finds that forces can be understood as being the result of the exchange of particles a la Feynman, closing the loop, as it were. This leads to a beautiful synthesis whereby force and matter (particles) are seen as manifestations of one underlying reality, namely quantum fields.
RQFT works fantastically well. Its picture of forces being mediated by particles cannot just be thrown out. But if one abolishes wave-particle duality as Bohm basically does, it is hard to see how one can arrive at the same results. That is why, as Weinberg says, Bohm doesn’t seem extendable to RQFT.
Peter G Kinnon April 7th, 2010 4:29 am
The issue of multiverses has here become side-tracked into a fruitless discussion on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Feynman himself remarked “nobody understands quantum mechanics”Of course the discipline has important practical implications, with regard to which he advised “just do the calculations”. Sound advice.
With regard to the positing of an infinity of multiverses, each having different physics, there is no doubt that this is largely a device proposed to avoid the invokation of deities to account for the “fine tuning” we observe. The existence of multiverses of this kind is not, of course, inconceivable, nor is the similarly extravagant Everett parallel universes model. There is, however, a better and possibly more useful explanation.
As detailed in chapter 11 of my recent book “Unusual Perspectives, this fine tuning is actually far stronger and more extensive than is generally recognised and extends beyond the “wow” numbers to the chemistry of the observed universe. This also being “just right” to allow (and in fact make inevitable) the exponential evolution of technology for which our species has been the vehicle.
This, together with closely related topics, is discussed in detail in my recent work “Unusual Perspectives” The electronic edition of can be freely downloaded from the eponymous website
Alexander R Pruss April 21st, 2010 12:55 pm
The metaphysically really interesting distinction is between the infinite and the finite. If the multiverse is very big but finite, well that’s not very metaphysically interesting (except in regard to fine-tuning arguments), though of course it may be very interesting in other ways. So, yes, my argument only relates to the infinite case.
As for the claim that what happens in different universes is independent, the argument linked to is just the most vivid of a series of arguments for the same conclusion that probabilities don’t make sense in an infinite multiverse. A more precise version of the argument is here, and there I do in fact explicitly discuss independence:
The issue is this. We have basically two ways of computing probabilities. One is from transition probabilities in indeterministic or quasi-indeterministic processes. The other is by counting. When we can count, the results of counting trump the results we get from transition probabilities. Suppose ten people independently toss a coin, and you’re one of them, and I am in another room. You ask me on the phone: “How likely is it that I have heads?” I will say: “1/2.” But now you give me one more piece of information: “Seven out of ten people in the room have heads.” This piece of information trumps the initial transition-probability-derived estimate. Now I should say: “7/10.” Interestingly, given the actual distribution of heads in the room, the transition probability is irrelevant. Even if all the coins were loaded so that the chance of heads was 1/3, my estimate should still be 7/10.
So the principle is: once you know the actual distribution of the outcome in a given population, the transition probabilities become irrelevant. But now suppose that the population of coin-tossers is infinite. Then whatever the transition probability, as long as it’s strictly between 0 and 1, and as long as all the coins are independent, we will (almost surely, i.e., with probability 1) get the same distribution: infinitely many heads and infinitely many tails. So in the infinite case, if my principle that distribution trumps transition probabilities, we get the same estimate for the probability of your having heads regardless of whether the coin is loaded. That, of course, is absurd, and hence it is impossible to have an infinite number of coin tosses. Or so the argument says.
Of course, maybe the trumping principle is false. I am more suspicious of it right now than I was when I first wrote the posts, but I haven’t seen a really good criticism of it yet.
Monday, 22 March 2010
A Short article Talking about the Austrian View of Imperfect Markets Here
Hayek on the Austrian View of Information Economics and Imperfect Markets Here
Thomas C. Taylor An Introduction to Austrian Economics Here
Mises: Economic Calculation In The Socialist Commonwealth Here
Mises: Money, Method and The Market Process Here
Mises: A Critique of Interventionism Here
Mises: Epistemological Problems of Economics Here
Mises: Economic Freedom and Interventionism Here
The Most Complete Layout of the Work of Mises: Human Action Here
The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle Here
Murray Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty A History of the United States.
Vol 1 Here
Vol 2 Here
Vol 3 Here
Vol 4 Here
Murray Rothbard: Man, Economy, and State: Here A Great Layout and guide to Austrian Economics.
Murray Rothbard: America's Great Depression: Here An Austrian look at the Cause and History of the Great Depreaaion.
Murray Rothbard: A History of Money and Banking in the United States Here
Henry Hazlitt: Economics in One Lesson Here
Henry Hazlitt: The Failure of the 'New Economics': An Analysis of the Keynesian Fallacies Here
Henry Hazlitt: The Critics of Keynesian Economics Here
Henry Hazlitt: What You Should Know About Inflation Here
Henry Hazlitt: Man vs. The Welfare State Here
George Reisman: Capitalism Here
Herbert Spencer: The Man Versus The State Here
The Wikipedia page for Henry Hazlitt has links to his works as Well Here
The Wikipedia page for Murray Rothbard has links to his Works as Well Here
The Wikipedia page for Ludwig von Mises has links to his works as Well Here
Wikipedia Page on Austrian Economics Here
This Will give you a Good and Thorough overview of Austrian Economics.