Book Review: “Setting Aside All Authority” by Christopher M. Graney

The book “Setting Aside All Authority” comprises 10 chapters, 270 pages. The last half of the book is largely made up of two appendices: (A) the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and (B) excerpts from the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s reports on his experiments with falling bodies. The book is published by the University of Notre Dame, 2015.

Cover of the book. The cover image is taken from Riccioli’s New Almagest (1651). Note the heliocentric system (top left) compared to the Tychonic hybrid geocentric system (bottom right).

The main thesis of the book challenges the notion that around the time of Galileo, and the beginning of the Copernican revolution, opponents of the heliocentric worldview, championed by Galileo, were primarily motivated by religion or dictates from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The author, Christopher M. Graney, uses newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that they predominantly used scientific arguments and not religion in their opposition to the Copernican system. Graney argues that it was largely a science-versus-science debate, rather than church authority-versus-science as often incorrectly portrayed.

In the 1651, the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli published his book the New Almagest wherein he outlined 77 arguments against the Copernican system (pro-geocentrism) and 49 arguments in favour of it. Most arguments against the Copernican heliocentric system could be answered, at that time, but Riccioli, using the then available telescopic observations of the size of stars, was able to construct a powerful scientific argument that the pro-Copernican astronomers could not answer without an appeal to the greatness of God.

Graney largely uses Riccioli’s New Almagest, which argues in favour not of the Ptolemaic system but of the hybrid Tychonic system, where the Earth is immobile at the centre of the universe, the sun, the moon and the stars circle the earth; but the planets circle the sun. Riccioli built on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and built a strong scientific case against the heliocentric system, at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, which was several decades after the advent of the telescope.

The main two arguments presented in the book, both scientific, are the size of stars and the effect on falling bodies.

Falling bodies

If the earth were rotating, then a falling body should hit a point on the surface of the earth at a definite distance from a vertical line to the surface, if dropped vertically. The same argument could be made for cannon balls fired in different directions on the earth’s surface. These type of discussions and arguments carried on for a century, and even Isaac Newton got involved. What we now know as the Coriolis force, a ‘fictitious’ force, resulting from the rotation of the planet on the fired or dropped objects could not be measured with the required precision in the 17th century.

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Comments on Dark Matter and Dark Energy

A reader of my article Big bang fudge factors wrote the following comments:

Dark matter has been detected: neutrinos fit the definition of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, as they have such small probabilities of interacting with atomic matter that it takes several moles of neutrinos to achieve the same probability of a single interaction as a single neutron or photon. Though individually nearly massless and invisible to matter, the sheer number of neutrinos surrounding us makes it possible to detect them, and makes their combined energy a significant component of the mass of the Universe.

Likewise, Massive Compact Halo Objects are quite ordinary matter. They are planetary and sub-planetary bodies, producing little or no light, and so hard to detect. To these, we add black holes, neutron stars, and brown dwarfs, which also emit little or no light, despite their mass.

Neither should the existence of dark energy be any surprise to Christians. After all, the Bible say, “The heavens are stretched out like a curtain.” Dark energy is the energy of the vacuum state, less than 1 microjoule per cubic meter, distributed uniformly. Only because of the vastness of space are we able to observe its effects. Even so, were this tremendous amount of energy somehow liberated, “the elements shall be consumed by fire.” The decay of the vacuum state, unleashing the tremendous amount of energy stored in it, could very well be the means by which the Lord transforms the Universe at the end of the age.

My responses are below. Continue reading

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 3

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.

Naturalism

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. Continue reading

Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained

Forty years ago a signal–called the Wow! signal–was obtained from space. Some speculated that it might be from an intelligent alien source. Read Wow! Communications from little green men?

Now it is argued that that it was not from little green men, but from a comet. Such is the hype around detection of a signal from aliens that common sense is ignored. Well, time, real science and cool heads have won out. The original source has been found.

Wow! mystery signal from space finally explained

Location of the two comets shown on the sky by pink ellipses. Credit: The Center for Planetary Science

The comets, P/2008 Y2(Gibbs) and 266/P Christensen, which were not known back 40 years ago when the Wow! Signal was first obtained, appeared again in the night sky from November 2016 through February of 2017.

An online news site reports from the astronomy team.1

The team reports that radio signals from 266/P Christensen matched those from the Wow! Signal 40 years ago. To verify their results, they tested readings from three other comets, as well, and found similar results. The researchers acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty that the Wow! signal was generated by 266/P Christensen, but they can say with relative assurance that it was generated by a comet.

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New planet discovered hotter than most stars

Astronomers from Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University have discovered a planet with a surface temperature hotter than most stars. The planet KELT-9b has a surface temperature of 4600 K, only 1200 degrees K (about 2000 degrees F) cooler than the sun. The planet must have a warm yellow glow.

Astronomers at The Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University have discovered a planet that is so hot, its temperature rivals most stars. Credit: Robert Hurt, NASA/JPL-Caltech

The astronomy team presented their results in the journal Nature and at a presentation at the American Astronomical Society spring meeting (2017). They found the planet, which is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only as half as dense, to be continually bombarded by stellar radiation from the nearby star. As a result its day side is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide, and methane can’t form there. It is not known what the night side is like. It is speculated that molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily. The planet is tidally locked to the central star KELT-9, which, at least, shields the night side from the intense radiation.

The environment of this planet is a far cry from the ideal environment God has created for life on Earth. Certainly life as we know it could not exist on a planet such as KELT-9. And considering that its atmosphere is constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation it is unlikely a place to find any sort of life.

Reference

  1. A planet hotter than most stars, ScienceDaily, June 5, 2017.

Synopsis: A biblical creationist cosmogony (Japanese translation)

The starlight-travel-time problem has been a difficult issue for biblical creationists for a long time. Big Bang cosmologists also have their own starlight-travel-time problem but creationists have proposed various solutions to this problem in the past decade or more. Recently I proposed an expansion on a solution, first proposed by Jason Lisle, in an article entitled “A biblical creationist cosmogony.” It is somewhat technical so I thought I’d write a very short layman summary here.

星の光が届く時間の問題は、聖書的創造論者にとって長い間難題でした。ビッグバン宇宙論者にとってもやはり星の光が届く時間は難題となっています。しかし創造論者は、過去数十年にわたって、この難題に対する答をいく通りか提案してきました。近年私が提案しているのは、最初にジェーソン・ライルが提案した論文「聖書的創造論者の宇宙論」を発展させたものです。これは多少専門的なので、一般向けにこれを説明しようと考えました。

Hubble Deep Field: Extremely distant galaxies on the edge of the visible universe. Credit: NASA/Hubble

ハッブル深部:観測可能な宇宙の端にある。非常に遠い銀河。提供・NASA

創造主が、創世記1章に記されている順序通りにご自身がすべてを創造したなら、そこに記されているすべての出来事は、その示す通りに約6000年前に24時間を1日とする連続した6日間で起こったはずです。ライルは、これらの出来事(星の創造)は光が最初に地球に到達した時点、あるいは、仮に地上に観測者がいた場合にその観測者が光を最初に目にした時点で起こったと提案しました。その要点は、星や銀河の創造で、ある光は100億光年以上もの距離から到達したというものです。もし私たちが観測者の視点(どう見えるか)のみを考慮するなら、これらの銀河やすべての星の光が最初に届いたのは、創造の第4日のどこかの時点です。

もし、光の速度は一定(c)であるという視点からこれを見れば、光は1年で1光年の距離を進むので、遠い星の光は100億年以上もかけて地球に到達したということになります。したがって、この視点から宇宙を考えるなら、すべての銀河は創造主が創造の第1日に地球を創造するはるか前に造られたということになります。しかし、これも単に観測者の視点(どう見えるか)の問題なのです。「光の速度は一定(c)である」という仮定は、(始点と終点にある)複数の時計の時刻が一致していることを想定しています。私たちは同様に、これとは別の想定、すべての出来事は観測者が目撃した時点で起こったとする想定を選ぶことができるのです。そうすると、「新しく」造られた星々や銀河の光が、創造の第4日に地球に到達したのです。それは、本当にこれらの銀河が造られた時に発せられた最初の光です。 Continue reading

Lecture: A biblical creationist cosmogony in Japan

An illustrated lecture I presented on March 19th, 2017, at Saidaiji Christian Church in Okayama, Japan. It was translated into Japanese by Mr Toru Yasui. The lecture covers the issue of the need to assume a worldview before we can interpret any observational data from the cosmos. Two worldviews are contrasted: The biblical creation worldview and the pagan big bang worldview. Biblical creation cosmogonies are explained and how they provide an answer to how we see distant starlight, from galaxies billions of light-years distant, in a 6000 year old universe. Running time 1 hour 14 minutes.

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