Part 3 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 2 is found here.
Carroll defines naturalism saying it comes down to three things (p.20) and that “the only reliable way of learning about the world is by observing it”. But how can he know that if he is not God. Suppose for a minute that there really is a Creator God and He gave us a revelation in His written Word. But because man cannot, by definition, observe God, since He is a spirit and outside the realm of detectability by science, how can he know that what God has written is not a reliable way of learning about the world? And this is another self-refuting claim: what observation did he make, or even could he make, that reliably showed that observation is the only reliable way of learning?
His form of naturalism – poetic naturalism (after David Hume) – is just standard atheistic naturalism, but he adds that man has responsibility and freedom (p.21).
“The world exists; beauty and goodness are things that we bring to it.”
He means there is nothing intrinsically good or beautiful. He writes that there are
“No causes, whether material, formal, efficient, or final” (p.29).
Extending the idea of Laplace’s Demon, he writes
“Realistically, there never will be and never can be an intelligence vast and knowledgeable enough to predict the future of the universe from its present state.” (p.34)
In the chapter titled “Reasons Why” he says that Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason is a mistake. That principle states that “For any true fact, there is a reason why it is so, and why something else is not so instead” (p.40). And he points out that
“Hume noted that conceiving of effects without causes might seem unusual, but it does not lead to any inherent contradiction or logical impossibility.” (p.41)
This leads to his belief that the universe needs no reason to be; it simply is.
“… there are facts that don’t have any reasons to explain them”. (p.42)
He implicitly believes a big bang origin for the universe 14 billion years ago, and says that there are some questions for which we may not get answers.
“We have to be open to the possibility that they are brute facts, and that’s just how things are.” (p.45)
“But we should be at peace with the possibility that, for some questions, the answer doesn’t go any deeper than ‘that’s what it is.’” (p.46)
Carroll talks about science as what we can measure experimentally but then in regards to the alleged big bang he appeals to faith, using the big bang model (theory not experimental results) to test the big bang model (theory). This is common practice among astronomers. He admits this in regards to measurement of the alleged expansion of the universe.
“If you focused on a particular faraway galaxy and measured its velocity, then came back a few million or billion years later and measured it again, you would find that it’s now moving away from you even faster. (That’s not what the astronomers did, of course; they compared the velocities of galaxies at different distances.) If this behavior continues forever—which seems quite plausible—the visible universe will continue to expand and dilute in perpetuity.” (p.52)
The problem is that he has assumed the big bang model to be the true description of the Universe to provide evidence for the description of the Universe. Galaxy velocities are not measured but their redshifts. See Fig. 1. A velocity is an interpretation based on general relativity that a galaxy’s redshift implies a recession speed. But it does not necessarily follow as there are many other possible mechanisms that could give rise to redshifts.1
Secondly the big bang model is assumed by applying the assumption that galaxies at different redshifts represent the state of the Universe at past epochs classifies by those redshifts. This is the cosmological principle in application. It states that there are no special places in the universe and all locations at the same epoch of time look the same. Thus you can use galaxies at any redshift as representative of the state of the whole universe at that time.
But the latter can only be assumed, without proof. In fact, cosmology itself is an historical science (at best) and more akin to trying to reconstruct the history of the rocks from sedimentary layers or past life from the fossils buried in those rocks.
At the end of the chapter on our universe he opines about our existence and purpose.
“We are small, and the universe is large. It’s hard, upon contemplating the scale of the cosmos, to think that our existence here on Earth plays an important role in the purpose or destiny of it all. …. A crucial question along the way is, why did the matter in the universe evolve over billions of years in such a way as to create us?” (p.53)
All the glory to the universe! Or so it would seem. This is what the book is essentially preaching.
Considering how these atheist apologists operate, not only Carroll, but also Krauss, Tyson, Hawking, Dawkins and others, there is often really little effort focused on real operational science but more on presenting unprovable-historical-science stories dressed up as real science. The tone of this book, though at times the author admits to the shortcomings of our current knowledge, is not critical of the evolutionary stories, but only of minor details that yet need to be filled in. To state to a general audience that velocities of galaxies are measured (for example) without qualification, because it fits into the story-line, is tantamount to being deceptive. This book like many others along the same line attempts to sell a message—a philosophical worldview—dressed up as science.
Nowhere does the author address the impossibility of doing real science on the Universe, nor does he explain the limitations of cosmological investigations.
The following paragraphs, excerpted from a 2007 article published in the prestigious journal Science, include quotes from three well-known cosmologists.2 Square brackets are my insertions.
Researchers have measured the temperature variations in the CMB [Cosmic Microwave Background radiation] so precisely that the biggest uncertainty now stems from the fact that we see the microwave sky for only one Hubble volume [i.e. only one possible observable universe], an uncertainty called cosmic variance. ‘We’ve done the measurement,’ [Charles] Bennett says.
That barrier to knowledge, some argue, is cosmology’s Achilles’ heel. ‘Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn’t a science,’ says James Gunn of Princeton University, co-founder of the Sloan survey. ‘A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can’t do that in cosmology.’
‘The goal of physics is to understand the basic dynamics of the universe,’ [Michael] Turner says. ‘Cosmology is a little different. The goal is to reconstruct the history of the universe.’ Cosmology is more akin to evolutionary biology or geology, he says, in which researchers must simply accept some facts as given. (emphases added)
Arrow of Time
In the chapter titled “Time’s Arrow” he states that the arrow of time seen in human aging and in the evolution of the big bang universe are “intimately related”.
“The reason why we are all born young and die older; the reason why we can make choices about what to do next but not about things we’ve already done; the reason why we remember the past and not the future—all of these can ultimately be traced to the evolution of the wider universe, and in particular to conditions near its very beginning, 14 billion years ago at the Big Bang.” (p.54)
“The reason why there’s a noticeable distinction between past and future isn’t because of the nature of time; it’s because we live in the aftermath of an extremely influential event: the Big Bang.” (p.55)
The notion of purpose is discarded in favour of just everything that happens, including aging and our memories, are the result of the big bang. It reads like worship of the big bang. It is the reason for our existence and must be given due credit, even credit for the existence of time itself.
He discusses the special condition that the Universe allegedly started in, that is in a low state of entropy from which entropy (or disorder) has ever since increased as a function of time. He states that this gave rise to the well-known “thermodynamic” arrow of time. Later he credits this initial low entropy state and subsequent progression of expansion and increasing entropy as the cause for growth in complexity everywhere and even the origin of life itself.
“Nobody knows exactly why the early universe had such a low entropy. It’s one of those features of our world that may have a deeper explanation we haven’t yet found, or may just be a true fact we need to learn to accept.” (p.58)
Thus Carroll ultimately appeals to a ‘god of the gaps’. And his god seems to be the big bang itself. But the evidence is better interpreted as being consistent with a uniquely created Universe. The Universe was created by the self-existent One, the eternal I AM, who is outside of time. He created the Universe in an initial low entropy state (not in a big bang) and created all life within it.
The Creator is the First Cause. The initial low entropy state implies a beginning. Anything that has a beginning has a first cause. Only an eternal uncreated being can be that first cause and He is God.
Click here for Part 4 of this review.
- Marmet, L., On the Interpretation of Red-Shifts: A Quantitative Comparison of Red-Shift Mechanisms II, marmet.org, February 29, 2016.
- Cho, A., A singular conundrum: How odd is our universe? Science 317:1848–1850, September 28, 2007.