The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself? Part 11

Part 11 and the final part of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 10 is found here.

Caring

In the last section of the book titled “Caring” he opens the first chapter with a quote from Carl Sagan’s wife. In response to people who knew Sagan was not a believer, seven years after his death his wife, Ann Druyan, wrote:

“We knew we were the beneficiaries of chance … That pure chance could be so generous and so kind … That we could find each other … in the vastness of space and the immensity of time….  The way he treated me and the way I treated him… that is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.” (pp.387-8)

This then leads to the question of the afterlife. Being a naturalist Carroll does not believe in such. He states though that he would like to continue living in some fashion after death, but only if it was pleasant and if he was not “tortured by ornery demons” (p.388)

And he writes that it takes courage to face up to the finitude of and the limits on our existence. Thus he agrees with Druyan that it was only chance that she met Sagan. The message here is that man is just another animal and not any more important that a sea slug. By chance we meet our spouses—there is no more meaning in our existence than chance.

“Ideas like ‘meaning’ and ‘morality’ and ‘purpose’ are nowhere to be found in the Core Theory of quantum fields, the physics underlying our everyday lives.” (p.389)

But he tries to add meaning by saying that these are emergent ways of talking about our human-scale environment. Nothing more.

“The source of these values isn’t the outside world; it’s inside us.” (p.389)

We could discuss where such ideas have ultimately led to. In the 20th century alone at least one hundred million people were killed, directly or indirectly, by atheistic despotic regimes, which were the invention of man’s values. Nazi Germany eliminated the handicapped because of ideas from inside the mind of man—ideas that were based on humanist Darwinian thinking.

Carroll tries to save the atheist position with

“If you are moved to help those less fortunate than you, it doesn’t matter whether you are motivated by a belief that it’s God’s will, or by a personal conviction that it’s the right thing to do. Your values are no less real either way.” (p.391)

That is true. But in a culture that developed from the Judeo-Christian mind-set it is not surprising that altruism in part remains in the society, even among atheists. But what is their motivation. It would seem they would be acting contrary to their selfish Darwinian belief system.

Figure 1: Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style, from the Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1130. Credit: Andreas Wahra – Wikimedia commons

Most societies that developed aid to the poor or the handicapped did not arrive at those ideas using man’s values. Most hospitals, aged care homes, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other outreaches (the anti-slavery movement, for example) began with Christians desiring to follow Christ’s admonition. (Matthew 25:37-40)

The unsaved sinner did not just think it would be a good idea to help the poor themselves. History tells us—Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, to name a few—that man’s ideas are decidedly selfish and destructive. The scriptures tell us (James 4:1-2) that it is from lust (or desire) that many undesirable actions and even wars result.

But according to Carroll,

“[d]esire has a bad reputation in certain circles. But that’s a bum rap.” (p.392)

And he tries to give it a positive spin, but not by mentioning any of the negative traits that desire or lust lead to. He says once we have provision of food and shelter we challenge ourselves to show some accomplishments.

“That makes sense, in light of evolution. An organism that didn’t give a crap about anything that happened to it would be at a severe disadvantage in the struggle for survival when compared to one that looked out for itself, its family and its compatriots.” (p.392)

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The Bible is still relevant in this age of Science!

IBRIAS title

I presented this message at a small church in Adelaide in 2013. It has just now been posted on the web, and the message is still relevant as ever. In fact, for believers this message daily becomes more relevant as the foundations of the Christian faith are being ‘white-anted’ (eroded) from beneath through the pagan teachings of the big bang origin of the Universe and evolution. That non-biblical worldview has slowly (over the past 150 years) been accepted into the church as true science. The message is ‘the authority of man’s science above the authority of God’s Words.‘ Believers beware of this poison! It is destroying faith and causing many to doubt. But a true understanding of God’s Words and how science fits into the Bible helps us understand the world around us and even answers questions like, if God is a good, merciful and compassionate God, then why is there death and suffering in the world? Continue reading

Why is it so hard for many to understand God’s truth?

Adam-and-EveIn the beginning God created two people who were perfect in all ways. They were Adam and Eve, made in the image of God. Then they rebelled against the living God by disobeying the one commandment he had given them—eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I don’t think the fruit was poisonous, since there was nothing in the creation that was, but this was a test of their obedience to the Creator. For without a choice Adam and Eve would have been just ‘robots’.

As a result of their action they were cursed, as was the whole creation (Romans 8). One result of the Curse (the Fall) was degeneration in humans. This would have included errors in the genetic code, not corrected for when copies were made every time cells are replaced in our bodies. (Before the Curse God sustaining power would have corrected any thermodynamically induced copying errors.) As a result the offspring of Adam and Eve, of which there were many, would have in many ways been less than perfect, physically and mentally. They then passed these inferior traits down to all their offspring, which includes all the human race, to us.
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Life on Earth 2.0—Really?

Discovery of Kepler-452b

The news media is currently full of the news of the discovery of Kepler-452b, the planet that is supposed to be Earth’s twin.1,2 It was discovered using the satellite-borne telescope, Kepler, where the exoplanet was found to be at a distance of about 1400 light-years. It has a mass about five times that of Earth and diameter about 60% larger, hence a gravity nearly double that of Earth. It has a year3 about 20 days longer than Earth. That makes it the most similar planet to Earth yet and it is located in the habitable zone around its parent star, which is a G-class star, the same class as our sun.

You see pictures (e.g. Figure 1 here) of a planet with oceans and land masses and some even with green vegetation drawn in. But none of these are actual images of the planet. It is too far away for such a thing, even with man’s best telescopes.

Figure 1. Artist conception of the planet Kepler-452b. Clouds, continents and oceans are included, for which there is no evidence. Credit: NASA

Figure 1. Artist conception of the planet Kepler-452b. Clouds, continents and oceans are included, for which there is no evidence. Credit: NASA

Why all the hype? Well, it is the hope of life being found elsewhere. The way it goes is: find an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone, called the Goldilocks zone—not too hot, not too cold, but just right—the distance from the parent star where water is in its liquid form—detect the presence of water in its atmosphere and that gives you a good chance of finding life.4 Continue reading

Development of an “old” universe in science

Notes of a lecture on the historical philosophical development of the notion that the universe is very old. The lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.


Bishop James Ussher was the Irish Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland. He excelled in education, was fluent in Arabic and Hebrew. In 1654, after an exhaustive investigation, he published his date for the Creation of the Universe – 4004 B.C..When Ussher published this Creation date it was believed. There was nothing remarkable about that. If you add up the genealogies in the Bible, and with a bit of historical knowledge, you can easily get a time since the beginning of the world of around 6000 years. It was believed that God created the world as He said in Scripture about 4000 years before Christ. For roughly 18 centuries of the Christian era such a time period was widely believed.

In the 17th century Sir Francis Bacon developed the ideas of the modern scientific method – scientific empiricism—where one developed a thesis and did experiments to test it. Bacon has been called the ‘father of the scientific method.’

Middle ages onAnd it was from the Middle Ages science was nurtured in the Christian universities of Europe and flourished after that, from the Reformation on, underpinned by the rich Christian worldview that held that the Universe was created by a rational trustworthy God, and the unchanging laws of nature are His creation. Continue reading

The Lawgiver is the biblical Creator God

Michael Faraday  Credit: Wikipedia

Michael Faraday      Credit: Wikipedia

Where does knowledge1,2 come from? From research and inquiry? It seems an obvious question, but is it really? It is only obvious if we realize what the unstated assumptions are that go with it. Why do men study science anyway? Why do they believe it a fruitful activity at all? The answer must be founded on the belief that the laws of nature, which they are attempting to discover, are the same today as they were yesterday, and will be the same again tomorrow. What is the justification for this?

If we look back 500 years we see a list of names of well-known philosophers and scientists: Tycho Brahe, Nicolas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Gottfried Leibnitz, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Kepler, Carolus Linnaeus, John Dalton, Christian Huygens, Robert Hooke, Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry, James Joule, Louis Pasteur, William Thomson (aka Lord Kelvin), James Clerk Maxwell, John Strutt (aka Lord Rayleigh), John Ambrose Fleming, to only name a few. These men all believed in the truth of the Bible, so much so they believed that the laws governing nature that we study in the laboratory can be extrapolated to the Universe and apply both in the past and the future. We know this by the very nature of the scientific endeavours they were involved in. Continue reading

How much can you trust in science?

How do we know what is true and what is not? These days we are expected to believe what we hear on television, read in the newspaper and read on the web. Science is portrayed as being able to answer (eventually) all questions and provide some sort of ultimate truth. But how much can you believe that? How much should you believe?

“A lot of what is published is incorrect.” So began a letter in the Comment section in the medical journal the Lancet.The following is a sample of excerpts from that letter (my emphases added in bold).

Why the paranoid concern for secrecy and non-attribution? [in regards to government employees.] Because this symposium—on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week—touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.

edch-150605-2The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.

The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.

Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivised to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivised to be productive and innovative.

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