The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 9

Part 9 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 8 is found here.

Purpose without a Creator

The next chapter entitled “Emergent Purpose” is about finding some sort of ‘purpose’ as an emergent property of evolution. He is quite clear that evolution itself is undirected but suggests that we humans can find some purpose in it.

He starts out with a question “Why do giraffes have such long necks?” and gives 4 possible answers, 3 of which evolutionist would believe. Option 1 he declares incorrect, which is Lamarckian, yet actually closer to Darwin’s original idea. Options 2 is the common way of explaining neo-Darwinian evolution, with mutations conferring better fitness. Option 3 is about sexual selection and option 4 is in line with his overall message of the book.

“Given the laws of physics, and the initial state of the universe, and our location in the cosmos, collections of atoms in the shape of long-necked giraffes came into existence 14 billion years after the Big Bang.” (pp.291-2)

None of this sentence has any credibility. Only by assuming everything to be true in the evolution story from the big bang to current day could you write this. So it is not a science statement but a theological statement. He says it avoids any particular evolutionary story, but it is not hard to imagine that the words “came into existence” does not mean at the hands of the Creator, but rather is a big bang. Otherwise there would be no need to start in the big bang, nor include the words “our location in the cosmos”. He says this is a poetic-naturalism way of speaking about emergent properties of the biological world. But that could only be true if you could demonstrate experimentally that each requirement in the statement is true.

Then from this sort of story, which he calls “the fundamental description of reality” (p.292) because of the big bang, expansion of the universe and the increase in entropy with time, he says

“… these emergent pictures invoke words like ‘purpose’ and ‘adaptation,’ even though those ideas are nowhere to be found in the underlying mechanistic behavior of reality” (p.293)


“How could evolution, which itself is ultimately purely physical, bring these utterly new kinds of things into existence? It’s a natural thing to worry about. The process of evolution is unplanned and unguided.”

“There is no general principle along the lines of ‘new kinds of things cannot naturally arise in the course of undirected evolution.’ Things like ‘stars’ and ‘galaxies’ come to be in a universe where they formerly didn’t exist. Why not purposes and information?” (p.293)

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The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 6

Part 6 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 5 is found here.

The Core Theory

Carroll spends several chapters discussing the quantum mechanical framework for the Core Theory, as he calls it. Quantum mechanics has been an extremely successful physical theory exquisitely predicting with enormous precision some parameters in particle physics. But what many people have heard of quantum theory is more about the various interpretations applied by physicists (e.g. Bohr’s abstract physical description, or, Everett’s many-worlds) to the way the theory might work beneath what we can measure.

Regardless of the correct interpretation it has enjoyed enormous success as a theory of physics in what is called the standard model of particle physics. The second very successful theory is general relativity—Einstein’s theory of gravity. Both work extremely well in their respective domains of operation, but outside that, in the realm of what is called quantum gravity neither operate nor has a theory been found to unite them. But that is exactly what Stephen Hawking and others have been seeking, to have the Universe begin in a quantum fluctuation of a meta-stable false vacuum.

But even though we have this limitation, in the realm of what humans can measure, Carroll has faith and writes:

“What we can do is show that physics by itself is fully up to the task of accounting for what we see.” (p.179)

However he admits that one class of particles not part of the current Core Theory are those that make up “dark matter” in the Universe. Such alleged weakly interacting putative particles are allowed for in the Core Theory because they are so weakly interacting with normal atomic matter that they are hard to detect. I would argue that dark matter and other dark entities are a philosophical construct used to keep the standard big bang cosmology from being discredited.1 Dark matter was first needed to explain the dynamics of spiral galaxies. Now it seems that it is no longer needed, when standard physics is applied correctly.2 Continue reading

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.


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

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.


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



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.

Recommended Reading

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A world without WIMPs

There was talk over lunch and coffee of dark forces, dark photons, and dark neutrons.1 (emphasis added)

This is the extent of what is actually known about dark matter and any other entities from the dark sector of particle physics.  At a workshop where more than 100 physicists took over the University of Maryland, titled “US Cosmic Visions: New Ideas in Dark Matter,” attendees were encouraged to think more broadly to solve the vexing problem of the non-detection of dark matter particles in all experiments that have ever been tried for the last 40 years, at least.

They spoke of axions and other dark-matter candidates so lightweight that they would be detected as waves, and of particles so heavy that they would clump together and encounter Earth only occasionally as a vast invisible glob.1

Despite impressive sensitivity, dark-matter detection experiments such as Large Underground Xenon (detector array above) have not found any evidence of WIMPs. Credit: C. H. Faham/LUX

A recalibration for the dark-matter community

For decades physicists have been fixated on the putative WIMP, a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, which allegedly has a tendency to intermittently mingle with ordinary matter via the weak force. WIMPs have been alleged to inhabit our part of the Galaxy but all experiments, like the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector array, have failed to find any trace of their existence.  Theorists developed ideas that WIMPs might be the lowest mass yet stable supersymmetric particle, called the neutralino but experimentalists with vast, exquisitely sensitive underground detectors such as the LUX array or using the powerful particle accelerator the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) found no such particles though they were meant to be constantly streaming stealthily through our planet. Now, Continue reading