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

Review in brief of the book: “The Big Picture, On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean Carroll a theoretical physicists at the California Institute of Technology. The book is the winner of the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.

Front cover of book. Published by Oneworld Publications, London, 2016, 470 pages.

On the inside book cover these questions are written:

Where are we? Who are we? Do our beliefs, hopes and dreams mean anything out there in the void? Can human purpose and meaning ever fit into a scientific worldview?

Carroll’s message in this book is that there is no ultimate purpose, we are only the product of matter and material forces, there is no meaning to life, there is no afterlife and meaning and purpose do not fit into any scientific worldview. But the author tries to dress it up saying that it’s what you put into your life that counts. Beauty is found in the observer. But he cannot escape his own bondage because his worldview ultimately does not allow for intrinsic meaning or purpose. He is just dead in the end.

There is nothing new in this book but a lot of atheistic philosophy stemming from Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. The author uses circular reasoning and begging the question. By assuming there is no Creator because He is not needed in the universe, to cause it or operate within it, and by assuming everything in the past evolution of the universe, and life in it, is explained by man’s current knowledge (Darwinian evolution of mutation and natural selection) then everything can be explained how it came to be. The universe needs no reason to exist. It simply is. Life needs no reason, it simply is. There was nothing before time began in the big bang so no question can be asked what was before? There is no First Cause because either the universe came into the existence with the beginning of time itself, or, time is fundamental and always existed so from it and the laws of physics the universe spontaneously arose from some quantum fluctuation. Now that we are smarter we have become to understand this true fact.

He talks of methodological empiricism as the correct way to learn the truth about the universe but he offers no direct empirical evidence for the origin of the universe in a big bang, or for the initial alleged low entropy state it started in, or for the spontaneous origin of life by random chance, or for the alleged Darwinian evolution of living organisms by natural selection over eons of history. We are essentially asked to just believe these as given facts as much as the author seems to. Only he offers up stories to justify his beliefs. As a book alleged to give the Big Picture of the Universe and all life in it, it fails on the very premise the author sets out to use—direct observation of the world to discover the truth. Continue reading

Intelligent design or the “simple unguided” laws of nature

This year I restarted a hobby that I hadn’t participated in for over 40 years. That is oil painting. One of my fears in restarting to paint was that I would not have the ability I had when I was young and I would just waste my time. Some examples of the art I have been doing in the past few weeks are shown below.

DSC02381 small

For the past month, I have been staying in a guest house at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (A.I.S.T.) in Tsukuba, Japan, while I have been working on some developments of ultra-stable sapphire clocks for the National Metrology Institute of Japan (N.M.I.J.), which is an institute within A.I.S.T.. During my free time, mostly on weekends, I have been oil painting.

TBP coverAlso during this time I have been reading Sean Carroll’s latest book The Big Picture, On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself (2017). In that book, for which I will write a review later, he writes that according to “science” life arose, and has subsequently been driven to evolve by Darwinian evolution, because the apparent design we see has been the natural consequence of available ‘free energy’ (Gibb’s free energy that is available to do work, derived from sunlight), an increase in entropy (the outcome of the Second Law of thermodynamics) and Darwinian natural selection. No intelligence was necessary, he says. The complexity we observe in living organisms is a consequence of the initial condition that we live in certain a time and place in the universe far from equilibrium and the “simple unguided” laws of nature act in a way to produce what we think looks like intelligent design. Continue reading

Why search for life in outer space?


Figure 1: A gamma ray and neutron detector on board Dawn was used to determine the elements in the subsurface of the dwarf planet. It found water on the dwarf planet Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. Ceres. Credit: LA Times

In a recent LA Times news item it was reported that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft mission found life’s building blocks on the dwarf planet Ceres.1  However, the reality is that all that was found are possibly some biochemical molecules, molecules that are pre-cursor molecules to form the more complex chemistry in living cells.

Organic molecules are carbon based molecules and the chemistry of life is a special subset of those but from the spacecraft data no biochemical molecules were identified.  Those would be molecules like carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.

The news item reports that this new spacecraft

… using its Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer instrument, … has spotted organics lying on the surface.1

That is the only real fact in the report, that organic molecules of some sort have been found on Ceres.

While the scientists aren’t sure exactly what the compounds are, the fingerprint is characteristic of material containing carbon-hydrogen bonds, and may include components like methyl and methylene.(emphasis added)

But they don’t even know what the molecules are, and the research is hyped up in hope that scientists may find life–even just microbes–living on worlds other than our own.

We can now add this dwarf planet Ceres to other ‘space rocks’ that have been so hyped in the past few years in the quest to find life out there in the solar system. Examples are Mars,2 Enceladus (the sixth-largest moon of Saturn),3 Titan (the largest moon of Saturn),4,5 Europa (one of the 4 Galilean moons of Jupiter),6 and the asteroids.7 Continue reading

Did aliens hack the Voyager 2 space probe in 2010?

I don’t know how I missed this news item back from 2010! Then NASA reported a single bit-flip error occurred in Voyager 2’s software code used to communicate with Earth. That sounds pretty mundane in today’s IT savvy world where we are all used to software errors and corrupt code.

Artist's concept of Voyager in flight.

Artist’s concept of Voyager 2 in flight.

But sometime the corruption of code is due to deliberate interference. Hackers hack into computers everyday for fun or more nefarious reasons. In this instance several scientists suggested that the on-board computer was hacked by an alien race (from another star system) who were trying to communicate with us.

But note the Voyager 2 space craft at that time was nearly about to cross over into what we would call interstellar space. It was about to leave the solar system in 2010 at a distance of 90 times the distance between the sun and the earth. That is about 8.6 billion miles or about 14 billion kms. That means it takes a light signal nearly 13 hours, travelling at nearly 300,000 km/s, to travel from the space probe to Earth. For NASA to send and receive a signal that would take twice that time, nearly 26 hours. It is certainly at a distance where one can easily discount any Earth based hacker.

The following is excerpted an online news item from 6 years ago and is typical of the several available.1

NASA space probe Voyager 2, which left earth 33 years ago, may have been hijacked by aliens who are now trying to make contact with earth according to a German academic.

The craft, which is 8.6 billion miles from earth on the very edge of the solar system, has been sending back data ever since it was launched – until last month when it briefly stopped transmitting before starting to send strange messages that scientists cannot decipher.

German academic Hartwig Hausdorf believes the change could be down to extraterrestrials. He says that because the rest of the spacecraft is still working normally there may be more to the cryptic messages than meets the eye.

“It seems almost as if someone has reprogrammed or hijacked the probe,” he told German newspaper Bild. “Thus perhaps we do not yet know the whole truth.”

NASA was much more circumspect stating that they believe it was due to this one corrupt bit of code. That may have occurred due to radiation in space or impact by a highly energetic particle which flipped the bit. Continue reading

When will God reverse decay in the Universe?

In biblical creationist discussions and presentations we often talk about the restoration of the Universe back to its original perfect uncursed state that it had before the Creator destroyed the perfect paradise. That Curse was put on all creation and we see that the removal of the Curse is an integral part of understanding the message of the Bible, especially the gospel.

It was because of Adam’s original sin that the Universe was cursed and altered in a way that brought forth all types of imperfections in all living creatures, resulting in sickness, disease, mutations, death, violence and the many sins of mankind.

The usual image used to illustrate this is to show that sin caused the world to be corrupted but later God will remove the Curse and restore the perfect paradise of His original creation. See illustration below.


The world now is not that perfect world that God originally created. Death, pain, disease, suffering are intruders on God’s perfect creation. But the Scriptures give us hope, that through Christ, of the restoration of the world back to the same state in a new heaven and a new earth after Christ’s second advent. The world will be restored back to the same state that it once had before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.

Continue reading

Richard Dawkins is a hypocrite

As you may have heard Richard Dawkins suffered a stroke and recently was interviewed on the BBC. The interviewer even asked him about whether the stroke caused him to think about the afterlife. He affirmed there that he does not believe that there is anything else. That, in itself, is sad as he does not have too long left in this life.

But when asked about challenging religion and people who hold to religion, he said he only uses intellectual arguments. He said the way to argue is

“to always to do it on intellectual grounds, always to do it using argument, evidence, rather than insult.” (emphasis added)

(Watch between 3:54 – 4.01 mark in the video below) But he even went on in that interview to agree that it doesn’t matter to him if someone feels insulted by what he said.

What a total hypocrite! Previously on several occasions he has said that the way to argue is to use ridicule, which is the same as insults. See the video below. Continue reading

God, science & miracles: as conversations go

—A biblical creationist in the skeptics lion’s den

by John H.1 (this is not me, John Gideon Hartnett, see footnote)

Daniel in the lion’s den is an event I can vaguely relate to. Some years ago I attended a movie screening held by the NSW Humanists in Sydney. I was the lone Christian and Biblical creationist at a meeting attended by scientists, atheists, Skeptics and hard-core Darwinians. I had attended the meeting to secure a public debate between a visiting leading American Christian Apologist, Dr John Warwick Montgomery, and the then President of the Australian Skeptics, Mark Plummer, both lawyers. The subsequent debate was well attended and reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.


Daniel in the Lion’s Den by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Credit : Wikipedia

After the screening that night, I engaged in a lively conversation with the head of the science department of a major Sydney university. We both enjoyed the conversation. He gave me a draft copy of his forthcoming book on evolution, and invited me to be his guest at the post screening dinner to continue our discussion.

During the meal I asked him whether he was an atheist or otherwise. He said he was probably an atheist. So, the following exchange took place:

John H: Do you regard yourself as a hard-boiled atheist, or a soft-boiled atheist?

Scientist 1: What’s the difference?

John H: Well! The hard-core atheist says that God doesn’t exist.

Scientist 1: Yes that’s probably my position.

John H: Einstein said he had less that 1% of all available knowledge. How would you compare yourself to Einstein? Would you have more or less knowledge?

Scientist 1:
I would have to say less.

John H: So, how can you say with any certainty that God doesn’t exist when you have less than 1% of knowledge? You would need 100% knowledge of all that exists to affirm that no God exists. You can’t substantiate that, can you? Continue reading