Administration official: "Big Bang" is just a theory

By Sean Carroll | February 4, 2006 6:21 pm

You’ve heard, I hope, about NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who the Bush administration tried to silence when he called for reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. Cosmology, as it turns out, is not exempt from the radical anti-science agenda. The New York Times, via Atrios:

In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add the word “theory” after every mention of the Big Bang, according to an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee forwarded to The Times.

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose resume says he was an intern in the “war room” of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen’s public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word “theory” needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.”

Emphasis added. Draw your own conclusions, I’m feeling a bit of outrage fatigue at the moment.

Update: Phil Plait has extensive comments at Bad Astronomy Blog. Also Pharyngula, Balloon Juice, Stranger Fruit, Gary Farber, Mark Kleiman, World O’ Crap, and Hullabaloo.

Update again, for our new visitors: Folks, of course the Big Bang model is a theory, and of course it is also correct. It has been tested beyond reasonable doubt: our current universe expanded from a hot, dense, smooth state about 14 billion years ago. The evidence is overwhelming, and we have hard data (from primordial nucleosynthesis) that the model was correct as early as one minute after the initial singularity.

Of course the initial singularity (the `Bang’ itself) is not understood, and there are plenty of other loose ends. But the basic framework — expanding from an early hot, dense, smooth state — is beyond reasonable dispute.

It’s too bad that scientific education in this country is so poor that many people don’t understand what is meant by “theory” or “model.” It doesn’t mean “just someone’s opinion.” Theories can be completely speculative, absolutely well-established, or just plain wrong; the Big Bang model is absolutely well-established.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics
  • Kea

    Maybe it’s all just a last ditch battle; maybe they know that reason has won the war, and only in desperation do they lash out like this. Of course, like in any battle, one still has to fight, and it is wearisome.

  • Asher

    Need another reason for outrage?

    IDers claim they are ideological heirs to Galileo

    Yes, that Galileo. Galileo Galilei. Guy with the telescope and the heliocentrism. Punished by the Vatican.

    *sigh*

  • Kea

    So they might recant?

  • fh

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html

    35. # 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  • http://phd9.blogspot.com Paul Dirks

    I sometimes wish the Bush administrations was “just a theory”

  • damtp_dweller

    Sean, the link to the nytimes story is dead. The correct link is this one.

  • Pingback: Pharyngula()

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    damtp_dweller, thanks; should be fixed now. (I link to the RSS feed, which doesn’t eventually go behind a firewall like the regular stories; see the NYT Link Generator.)

  • Dumb Biologist

    To be honest, I’m kind of astonished this is the first official statement about the Big Bang. The target of the theocrats is always Origins, be it of humanity, life, biological complexity, whatever. What more profound materialistic account of Origins is there than the very successful description of the creation of the Universe itself? Really, how coult it not be a bone of contention among creationists?

  • Tom Renbarger

    Maybe that spike in physics funding is supposed to be hush money?

  • damtp_dweller

    As indicated in the NYT article, and emphasized by Phil Plait in his blog, there is a real possibility that this guy simply overstepped the mark. He is, after all, fresh out of college and presumably inexperienced, so this may not be a case of the ID crowd infiltrating NASA.

    On the other hand, that begs the question of how somebody so obviously clueless could have gotten a relatively powerful job.

  • http://nerdcountry.blogspot.com Jeff Hebert

    dampt_dweller said:

    On the other hand, that begs the question of how somebody so obviously clueless could have gotten a relatively powerful job.

    Can you say “Michael Brown, former head of FEMA”?

  • damtp_dweller

    Touch&eacute. :-)

  • damtp_dweller

    That should of course have been ‘Touché’.

  • royden

    Ugh… It got even worse when I checked out the top google result for a search for “NASA Big Bang”.

    Choice quote:

    “Although the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted, it probably will never be proved; consequentially, leaving a number of tough, unanswered questions. ”

    …and what the heck is that giant “Bang!” doing in the diagram? NASA?!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Can you say “Douglas Feith, Director of the Office of Special Projects and the dumbest f****** guy on the planet“? Hell, can you say “President Bush”?

    I’m sure that George Deutsch overstepped his mandate; I doubt that the “Big Bang is just a theory” line was a cabinet-level decision. The point is that it’s not an isolated incident; people like that absolutely permeate the government. The consequences are manifest and horrifying in Iraq and New Orleans; everywhere else they’re more subtle but equally damaging.

  • http://na Rob

    Do not take this lightly. Many people do not understand what theory means and the religous right is using that to attack naturalism and all science. It has been the biologists and the philosophers fighting for all acience, now it’s time for physics to weigh in.

    It also about more than just the scientific evidence, it has to be presented well. It’s time for another great popularizer of science to arise. Ken Miller is a model of waht can be done on the biologiy side, Dawkins is too harsh for Americans to listen too. We need another Sagan or Attenborough to show the wonders of what we do and don’t know and why we know it. Maybe Simon Singh? Brian Greene?

  • Elliot

    “more than a science issue”. I guess there you have it.

    “and on the 6th day he created the cosmic microwave background radiation so several generations of scientists would be completely misled into thinking that at some point the universe was small and then became large….”

    Elliot

  • http://scrutator.net/ Leonidas

    Where is the sound science behind the theory of the big bang? Where’s the sound science behind global warming? Face it — both theories are part of the liberal program to take God out of science and blame all the world’s problems on George Bush.

  • damtp_dweller

    Leonidas: You might like to start by going here, paying particular attention to astro-ph and gr-qc. Of course, the clincher is here but you sound as though you’ll dismiss the Big Bang model regardless of any amount of evidence in its favour.

  • Babboon

    Nice post, Elliot.

    It’s pretty scary when a religious issue is more important than a science issue.

    Anyway, it’s ridiculous that any deity would change the universe in all the right places so as to make scientists reach the wrong conclusions. Things fall essentially the same way in many different situations, and they all are approximately the same as the most ideal laboratory free-fall setting. Ripples move over the surface of water in essentially the same way inside or outside the laboratory. Despite the lack of strict controls in everyday life, the everyday universe acts essentially the same as the laboratory setting. Anyone who has taken a laboratory science course should have direct experience with this. Why should it be any different with fossils or a cosmic microwave background? The only real difference is one of human preconception, not that the universe changes whenever someone with a PhD bothers to take a disciplined look.

  • damtp_dweller

    An update on George Deutsch: Apparently, Deutsch was also involved in the recent kerfuffle over James Hansen, the climate scientist who claimed that the Bush administration tried to silence him. As if that wasn’t enough, Deutsch has apparently admitted in the past that his job at NASA was to reject requests from liberal media to interview Hansen and also “to make the president look good”

    Strange that, given that his job was as a public affairs at NASA and not at the White House…

  • hugechavz

    I’m a little more worried about the slipping in of ID than the theory labeling. IANAAstrophysicist, but the Big Bang isn’t something I normally think of as rock solid. Are we not still making predictions and adjusting parameters?

    I was at a talk by Stephen Hawking (again, I have no appreciation for his work, just his poignant ruminations on life, science, and the future) and was impressed by his conjecture that maybe the Big Bang was a collision of two spaces–a violent striking in higher dimensions that resonated ours into existence. This is how I think of the Big Bank and our origins, but I don’t tend to think it as elevated to a Law or Fact yet.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to spoil the party. Let me repeat: Are we not still making (occasionally wrong) predictions and adjusting parameters?

  • Matt B.

    #1 (Kea)

    Your post reminded me of a quote in Seed Magazine that at one time gave me great hope.

    What the scientific community—not just scientists, mind you, but people who care about the role science plays in building a better society—is realizing is that scientific knowledge itself is politically vulnerable.

    But then I realized that I misread that quote. I though he said invulnerable instead of vulnerable. Then depression set in… the science superhero met his bane/kryptonite. That’s why I drink instead of being a physicist.

  • anon

    hugechavz:

    I would say that the issue is that “the Big Bang” is not necessarily clearly defined. What is conclusively established is that the universe used to be much smaller and hotter and that it has gradually expanded and cooled. At some point it was extremely uniform and radiation-dominated, and over time some small non-uniformities became galaxies, and currently matter and dark energy make up most of the energy density and radiation only a small fraction. This is what a physicist typically has in mind when talking about how the Big Bang is well-established.

    On the other hand, general relativity leads one to expect that the initial condition for all of this was singular, and I think this has become the popular conception of the Big Bang: that there was some singular point which expanded to become the whole universe. This isn’t something that’s understood; we tend to think quantum gravity will smooth out the singularity, and the initial condition is not at all clear. One attempt at explaining it is the Hartle-Hawking wavefunction. One might expect the early universe to not have a geometric description at all. It’s all very murky, and extremely difficult to probe. (Part of the early and not well-understood part of the story is inflation, which we are gradually getting better hints about from experiment, but even that won’t really tell us about the real initial condition.)

    So the upshot is that, properly understood, the “Big Bang” really is firmly established by experiment. There is absolutely no doubt that the universe has expanded from a hot dense state. On the other hand the very early history is still unclear, and will probably remain so for quite some time. Inflation tends to wipe out information about what happened before, so it’s possible that we’ll never truly experimentally probe the earlier stuff. In that case we could just see what the theory we construct from everything we can probe has to tell us about such things. And at this point, that’s a big mystery.

  • Matt B.

    RE: # 27

    This link reminded me of your post. I have never seen such a vivid visualization of the gigantic baplow until this one.

    (via metafilter)

  • anonymous

    Having just waded through 100+ graduate admissions folders, I was faced with an unfortunate side effect of ID and christian fundamentalism. We had an incredibly talented applicant from a small christian college. Not one with
    a historical but now largely dormant link to religion like Notre Dame, but one where christianity was tightly coupled to the core philosophy of the college. The college was not fundamentalist (i.e. not Bob Jones University), but one where religion clearly shaped the students’ and faculty’s values. We admitted the student after very carefully vetting his applications for signs that he was not deeply troubled by the Big Bang, and did not believe the Earth was a few thousand years old. I can’t help but fear, though, that we are five or six years away from credentialling a shill for the Discovery Institute.

    While not religious myself, I lack Sean’s entrenched skepticism of religion, and see it as a very positive force in many people’s lives. Thus, I hate that I am now in a point where I am forced to be distrustful of someone who is (most likely) simply devout. Fundamentalist groups that rail against anti-christian bias are helping to create it, setting up obstacles for those who have a more complex relationship between their faith and the physical world.

  • http://angryforareason.blogspot.com Burrow

    They are aware that the theory was proposed by a Catholic priest, right?

  • hackticus

    Lubos, where art thou?

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    To All: please note that the Republicans have encouraged the ‘footsoldier’ to answer and challenge on blogs like this. Its all part of the challenge the science program. They challenge studies by focusing on the variable statistic in them. Another way they challenge is by attacking the individual. They have no scientific evidence to supprt their positions but that makes no difference. They try and cause confusion. Please read ‘The Republican War on Science’ by Chris Mooney. It pretty much tells you what is going on in the Bush administration. Dont think this is an isolated incident.

  • Matt B.

    druidbros,

    Any supporting references? Hyperlinks are everyones best friends.

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    Also for Leonidas, just go to his blog and leave a comment for him. He has a post about Global Warming. What a riot!

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    Matt B, I will look for it. I had it at one time b4 my hard drive crashed.

  • http://angryforareason.blogspot.com Burrow

    I have one! One day Her/His Noodly Appendage sneezed and out come the cosmos. S/He didn’t know what to do with it so S/He decided to perhaps make some inhabitable planets. The pirates needed to live somewhere.

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    I agree Burrow. I believe in FSM.

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    Matt B, I dont remember which Republican website I found it on but I will give you just an example.

    http://www.ohiogop.org/News/details.aspx?ID=4

    This is just an example. Each state has their own talking point website as well as many county and local GOP websites. Go and look at your local and state websites.
    Then you will be able to predict exactly what the ‘reality challenged’ will say. Amaze your friends!

    You will remember they attacked NPR and PBS. It was a ratfucking campaign.
    See…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratfucking

    They talked about Bill Moyers on PBS even though he had retired 8 months earlier!

  • cynic

    I have a vague recollection of a humanities graduate, with hands on experience in politics and journalism, dictating the course of hep-th for twenty years or more. He, of course, is a Democrat, a nice chap and a genius. Whether he has been more of a threat to the well being of physical sicence, by blurring its edges with math and related casuistries, than are those that strompo about in the muddy waters of the science/religion interface, remains to be seen

  • Babboon

    Burrow and Matt B.,

    This interesting article:

    http://public.lanl.gov/alp/plasma/people/alfven.html

    mentions the following under “Alfven versus THE BIG BANG”:

    ‘ To Alfvén, the Big Bang was a myth – a myth devised to explain creation. “I was there when Abbe Georges Lemaitre first proposed this theory,” he recalled. Lemaitre was, at the time, both a member of the Catholic hierarchy and an accomplished scientist. He said in private that this theory was a way to reconcile science with St. Thomas Aquinas’ theological dictum of creatio ex nihilo or creation out of nothing. ‘

    Anyway, it is typical of pseudoscientists to attack what they see as the “establishment,” regardless of what the “establishment” actually says or of the history of various ideas which the “establishment” accepts. That is,

    Scientists say so -> It is wrong.

    Of course, this simplifies many problems.

  • Babboon

    Sorry, I misread Matt B.’s post to refer to Burrow’s post. My mistake.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/time.html PLato

    I think like anyone, a finger is being held to the pulse of the conversation in governemental agendas to make sure that it is up todate? Qui Non!

    My ignornance is excuseable :) but the fact remains that the theory of gravitational waves is still hotly considered as such, yet there is so much mounting evidence to say that waves do spread throughout.

    But to some who have a high standards, might say all the while thinking, that science would send forth it’s highest regard for experimental validity, that to see this in a solid form, you have to have direct evdience?

    While learning, I had seen the differences, where poltical agenda would send out its scientist to uphold climate perspective and its posturing. For the reasons and the actions it had decided to do, so we have reputable sicentists who speak on climate that call it bogus. Supports the current status and agenda of the science that it would like to see held as a model for consideration amongst the world population, while it continues to disregard and not sign Kyoto.

    Even within sciences own backyard, these idealization of experimental validation is a signators mark of acceptance, while theoretical valuations amongst the stringy views, support for, is held to a negative connatation whilst the push to move through these theoretical spaces continue to develope, it is on the grounds that it is not acceptable?

    So while I may have my own politcal views and having read that same article on the day Sean did, I am confused as to what message should be sent?

    I am working the encapsualted geometrical background while venturing through this topic, so already, I am marked the fool.

  • A condensed matter theorist

    The one thing I wish people could understand is that they get the Big Bang and, say, modern technology together. If the Big Bang (by which I mean, what a scientist thinks the Big Bang is) is *just a theory* so are a lot of other things we rely on everyday. Ultimately, the ideas used in any one field of physics permeate all the other ones. I have trouble imagining reasonable scenarios where we might have screwed up understanding the signatures of a hot, dense universe in the past and still understand how all of our technology works now.

    I think the gulf between how scientific types think and how nonscientific types think is become much greater than I ever thought possible. Even if, in the end, this antiscience trend doesn’t take hold, apparently a great number of people in the world think in ways that are entirely alien to me. It makes me think that scientific thinking may not be as natural as I thought it was growing up. I suspect this goes beyond science vs. religion.

  • cynic

    The condensed matter theorist’s observation that there is a chasmic gulf between scientific and other thought modes, and this has little to do with religion, illiberality or anything else along those lines, is only too true. Perhaps this is no more evident than in the wider interpretation of the word ‘theory': something not applicable to the real world – ‘just’ a theory, in other words. (This may be a view derived from literary, social and other ‘soft’ forms of theory). I recall the hoots of laughter that greeted the news that I would be attending a theoretical barbeque (i.e. with theoretician colleagues) drew from non-scientist friends – surely I realised that, being theoretical, the BBQ could not take place. As is mentioned in an arlier comment, by reinforcing of this use of the word theory creationists etc are using science’s language to subvert the subject itself. To a scientist, a theory is a body of related concepts, derived from and testable by experiment, that has the power to both systematise and predict; to the rest of the world ‘theoretical’ is synonymous with ‘unsubstantiated bollocks’

  • http://electrogravity.blogspot.com/ Science

    Sean, a theory used to be a concise statement of facts. Nowadays for some reason “theory” is taken to mean speculation or nonsense. (I won’t mention “str*ng” theory as a possible cause for this problem.)

    Spacetime says distance is light speed multiplied by the time in the past that the event occurred. So the recession of galaxies is varying with time, in the framework of spacetime that we can actually see and experience with measurements. A speed varying linearly with time is acceleration Hc = 10^-10 ms^-2, hence outward force of big bang is mass of universe. By the 3rd law of motion, you then get an inward force, the gauge boson exchange force, which causes the general relativity contraction and also gravity.

    Should not be dismissed as a personal pet theory, just because it is widely overlooked? You have to face facts: the big bang as widely accepted ignores spacetime and quantum gravity implications.

  • http://realityconditions.blogspot.com/ Alejandro

    The ironic thing, as I say here, is that conventional Big Bang is more consistent with a creator than Steady State theory or than speculative extensions of BB such as eternal inflation. This shows that Deutsch is a biblical literalist, and his use of the words “intelligent design” as the alternative should therefore be an embarassment to the ID proponents that trie to negate its creationist roots.

  • Justin Observer

    Facts have never influenced zealots like that Leonidas that posted earlier.
    Even if you show them the facts, they simply refuse to believe them. Just a simple 1+1=2, they will not believe and that is it. No matter what you put in front of them, they will ignore it. Besides, the way they ‘believe’ makes it so much easier to accept the world. That way they don’t have to ‘know’ anything. ‘Thinking’ will be done for them.

  • William

    It continues to amaze me that ID is being proposed as a science without having to live up to the standards of science. Ask an ID proponent if they followed the scientific process in coming to their conclusions and they will say it is simply self evident. By simply considering the idea that ID is the “opposing viewpoint” to evolution and Big Bang is to undermine science itself, which is exactly what they want!

  • http://geeksaresexy.blogspot.com Geeks Are Sexy

    A theory? A THEORY? I wish Mr. Bush would be just that, a theory.. Ack, Call it whatever you want, but everything started out somewhere, why would the universe be in constant expension then?

    Kiltak
    [Geeks Are Sexy]Tech. News

  • atheist

    OK, for one… all religions must die and be wiped off this earth. There is no point to them. They were created to settle doubts about things we didn’t understand 2000 years ago, but now we do, so god and all his little disciples can go walk off a cliff and die. There comes a time when religion and the belief in a supernatural being becomes an issue that shoudl be erradicated. This is a fine example, when some religious asshat decides to make the one place, where science is respected over everything else, equal to the religious fruitbags. Religious belief in such a sense is a mental disease. This guy should be sent to prison for even THINKING we shoudl teach intelligent design in equal parts with the truth. Well, we’ll see how ****ed up Kansas will be in a few years, and them maybe people will learn something about their immaginary friend, god and jesus. If you read it in a book, written thousands of years after so and so walked the earth, you can ebt it’s fiction. How about this for an idea, clerics and nutjobs… how about we bury “Good Night Moon” for a thousand years, have someone in the future read it, and have that become the new gospil? Sound stupid and idiotic? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE RELIGIONS ARE DOING TODAY!!!! ****ing it up for the rest of us, the sane part of the population. We should crate these fanatics up and ship them to the moon. At least then they can be closer to “god”

  • Andy

    Perhaps the word theory needs some exposition- the evidence we have for the bing bang’s truth is all circumstancial. Admittedly it’s all but impossible to have court-admissable evidence for something that happened before time existed, but nonetheless no hard evidence exists. I have no better theory for why the universe seems to be so obviously expanding, but note the key word in this sentance. The best explanation, even if it is the only reasonable explanation, is not by default hard fact. Theory becomes accepted scientific fact when it is used as an assumption of truth in further theories and contributes to expected conclusions.

    lol, admittedly, Mr Bush is not very intelligent (unsupported theory is that his IQ is 91, half of Clinton’s 182), but the fact that an idiot speaks a fact doesn’t make the fact false.

    If you want to look to the leaders of science of the past 100 years for the stautus of intelligent design (stretching 100 years), look at some of the writings of Darwin and Hawkings. I wish I had quotes, so essentially it’s up to you to believe me, but I beleive the most quoted line of Darwin by Christians is paraphrased something like ‘to say that something as complicated as the eye developed by chance and selection is idiocy’ (I’m sure someone with a better memory can quote the bumper sticker). Hawkings, a strong proponent of the big bang theory, promotes the idea that several factors, including the exact expansion rate of the universe, the balance between strong and weak forces, the very existance of forces such as gravity, is so exact and specific that to say they came about by chance is nonsense.

    It seems to me that this guy had intentions to discount the Big Bang Theory (as I often see it cased) to promote his Intelligent Design ideas; good points, but with bad intentions. There are no points, in my mind, where these two theories conflict. Intelligent Design simply tries to point out that the complexity of life, the tendancy of systems to break down and not build up, and other almost universally accepted principles point to the likelihood of an intelligence behind the universe, not that any creator directly did this or that. Even if you’d like to associate Intelligent Design with Christianity, a careful reading of Genesis points to God having a passive but direct control over the events; the explosion of the universe, the slow exact expansion of the universe, the buildup of biological systems, etc. all contribute to what the Bible says happened, not detract from it.

    This doesn’t say much that Science and Cynic didn’t say a few posts back, and I’m sure that it isn’t gramatically perfect, so please roast what I said, and not how I said it.

  • Andy

    athiest- don’t let ANYBODY tell you what to think, make sure that you’re right. Do your own research, and go with the ideas that fit what you observe best, not the theory that TV tells you is correct.

  • Ben

    I agree with Deutsch, it IS JUST A THEORY! And as for the college admissions fellow who was flustered because someone who applied had a Christian background, that’s plain discrimination. It would be no different if he were to refuse admission because someone is black, to refuse admission because someone is a Christian. I am suprised so few people who agree with Deutsch have written in response to this nonesense, but I suppose they are busy working hard so that the rest of you “Thinkers” don’t have to do so. There is a reason Bush won both elections and maintained a higher popular vote total than Bill Clinton in each election. Kooks like you are in the minority and day of Liberal hippies running the country are long gone. That’s precisely why Republicans control both houses of Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Face it, the country has spoken and you are and your crazy beliefs are in the minority.

  • Ben

    That atheist fellow is a moron. He/she believes we should imprison someone because of their beliefs-

    “This guy should be sent to prison for even THINKING we shoudl teach intelligent design in equal parts with the truth.”

    What an idiot. I didn’t bother to read the rest of the post, because he/she proved themselves to be not-so-intelligent.

  • damtp_dweller

    Andy said:

    “lol, admittedly, Mr Bush is not very intelligent (unsupported theory is that his IQ is 91, half of Clinton’s 182), but the fact that an idiot speaks a fact doesn’t make the fact false.”

    Can we please not resort to such obvious and verifiable nonsense, even in jest?

    And by the way, it’s “Hawking,” not “Hawkins.” You’ve just earned yourself five points on the crackpot scale.

  • Enginerd

    While I understand the reaction people are having to this whole thing, the fact remains that the Big Bang is, in fact, a theory. It has not been proven, nor can it be proven. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not correct, just that we can’t prove whether it’s true or false unless somebody invents a time machine. All the extrapolation in the world can’t establish the initial conditions of the universe. Furthermore, any attempt to prove the Big Bang that I’ve ever seen was reliant on uniformitarian philosophy. To me, the idea that the only processes that have ever existed in the history of time are the ones that we can still observe today is absurd. On what basis do we assume that we can accurately extrapolate anything beyond recorded history, beyond what we can actually measure? That’s voodoo science, in my opinion.

    Take plate tectonics, for example. We know the Earth’s plates move today at particular speeds, but the uniformitarian philosophy that governs current plate tectonics assumes that they have always moved at those speeds. They can’t have ever moved at different speeds because we don’t observe any processes today that could suggest a variable speed. My question is, how are we to prove that they have always moved at those speeds, and not faster or slower than we observe today, without having actually been there. Could they have moved at some catastrophic speed 5,000 years ago to create a global flood as some Creationists would suggest? I don’t pretend to have the answer to that question, but I do know that we can’t prove it one way or the other because we can’t make direct observations. We can only extrapolate based on data we can actually measure, and like it or not, extrapolation is flawed because it necessitates assumptions of initial conditions and constant processes.

  • ElMaestro

    I wonder about the idea that simply because the Republicans run the federal government that suddenly science must be given over in favor of some mystical hoodoo. Science isn’t about elections; it’s about observation, speculation, and experimentation.

    It is precisely the blind faith in a divine protector that creates the serious misgivings I have about putting Christians anywhere that might have some kind of scientific involvement. I mean, do I really want the guy installing the lightning rod on my new skyscraper to worry more about how he’s going to keep Jesus from striking it down than the precepts of electrical engineering? Do I want a doctor that would rather invoke the sacred name than give me the round of antibiotics for that infection?

    But really – let’s split the difference. Christians, I give you everything that happened before the universe began. Hell, I don’t even *pretend* to know what happened then. Just give us science-types everything after the Big Bang; we understand it well enough to make Coc-Cola, light up Las Vegas, and give the world the very internet you’re looking at today. Mana from heaven, indeed.

  • http://coyotesbark.blogspot.com coyote

    dearest Ben-

    let’s see.. which of your idiotic remarks would i like to most kick in the nuts..

    heres one.

    ” It would be no different if he were to refuse admission because someone is black, to refuse admission because someone is a Christian ”

    well actually there is a difference.. just because a person is black does not mean he or she:

    1) has an IQ less than your age

    2) is completely and utterly challenged in terms of reality

    3) has a sheep mentality

    4) cant count beyond 2006 when it comes to history.

    all of the above are qualities i find in the christian right.

    i could go on, but suffice it to say that being a fundy christian makes you unqualified to breath, much less enter a graduate program in the sciences. you cannot assume that about a black person.

    if they had only killed Constantine when he was a child, we would have none of this crap.

    arf

    coyote

  • The Anti-Ben

    Ben, ben, ben…*sigh*

    Let’s see…The difference between being born a minority and choosing to be a “Christian”? Hmmm.. Could it be that one of them is immutible and genetic and one of them is flexible to the point of being meaningless and based on current social mores?

    It’s really obvious that you need to learn to think…Oh wait, that would be against the tenents of your “faith”.

    Listen, little boy…Stay away from the adult commentary. It only makes you look foolish and irritates people who actually have critical thinking skills. We’re already irritated to the point of distraction by your intellectual peers in the White House.

  • anonymous #27

    And as for the college admissions fellow who was flustered because someone who applied had a Christian background, that’s plain discrimination. It would be no different if he were to refuse admission because someone is black, to refuse admission because someone is a Christian.

    It’s far more nuanced than that. And it is likewise far more nuanced than Coyote’s defense.

    The point I was attempting to make was that 10 years ago, I would not have thought twice about admitting this person. However, the pervasiveness of christian-fundamentalist movements that seek to discredit, undermine, and explain away overwhelming scientific evidence increases my awareness that this student might be completely unwilling (or unable) to come to terms with multiple lines of evidence that point to the Universe being more than 10 billion years old. I don’t care at all if he thinks the Universe was created by intersecting branes, by the FSM, by God or by Yaweh. I do care that he can reason like a scientist, even when the evidence contradicts a strictly literal reading of his particular theology. I have no obligation to admit him if he can’t, in the same way that a biology program is not obligated to admit someone who rejects basic conclusions of genetics due to a religous text.

  • locolobo

    IF ID or Creationism is the truth then why doesn’t the bible mention dinosaurs? Fossils prove they existed. Soooo if all the life forms were created at once then why doesn’t the bible, koran or whatever mention them? You would think something the size of a brontasauraus would get at least some text eh? Of course that could explain why they all went extinct….. Noah didn’t build the Ark big enough. He only took the wee creatures. hehehehe But seriously I think religion plays an important part in many peoples lives. But that is where it should stay. In their personal life. It should not be forced into the sciences or into the lives of people who believe differently and especially NOT into a government that was founded on the precepts of freedom of religion. Too bad the Bushites were soo terrible in their History lessons they did not learn about Article 11 in the Treaty of Tripoli. That pretty much says it all.

  • http://www.genecowan.com/blog Gene

    Hmm. By Ben’s logic — that someone who chooses to be Christian should not be discriminated against, much like someone who is born black — he’s just invalidated the right wing Christian argument that someone who’s gay should be discriminated against.
    I think that any argument that throws logic and reason out the window –whether it be discrimination against a certain person or persons; or the damning of fact-based science in favor of faith and belief–is automatically suspect.

  • David Edwards

    I’m not wholly convinced about the big bang theory either and I’m as far from being Christian as you can be. A scientific model may fit all of the evidence and still be wrong you know.

    That does not justify attaching the word ‘theory’ only to the elements of the scientific orthodoxy that most deviate from the scriptures. That’s just silly.

    But perhaps it’s better not to fight on this battlefield just in case…..

  • http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog Phil Plait

    Hey, you guys got FARKed (www.fark.com). I got bogged down from links as well, digg.com slammed me. Looks like there is a LOT of interest in this story. I’ll be very curious in deed to see what NASA does in the next few days; the budget is to be announced tomorrow.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    Yeah – the traffic is quite amazing Phil. Welcome to all our new visitors. We hope you’ll come back again for some of our other science/science policy/science and the media/science and politics/fluff posts.

  • Everyone

    So, science types can be just as strident as religious people??? Who knew?

    Schmucks.

  • Rich

    I think “intelligent design” and the big bang theory could complement each other very well if people were more reasonable. The big bang is all but proven, but what made it happen?? IDers are not fighting the right battle. Fall back and defend the defensable.

  • Josh

    I’m with you Rich. I’ve known plenty of scientists who had faith, and were able to reconcile the two with no problem by putting God outside of science. Science cannot, at this point, explain what caused the Big Bang, just that it happened. Those of faith can put God as that cause without contradicting science.

    The problem is that science can’t explain the BB’s cause yet, but may be able to do so eventually. I think this is what scares the religious people, and makes them fight against science. Science has been pushing religion further and further out, and the religious fear that eventually science will be able to explain away God. (If science can ever do it, it’ll probably be well after we’re all dead, so don’t worry so much people.)

  • SeanD

    More of the same on the ‘theory’ confusion, though the extension to one of the fundamental tenets of 20th century cosmology is disturbing.

    The various idiotic comments, here and elsewhere, attempting to draw a distinction between ‘theories’ and ‘facts’ are more in need of correction from philosophers than from from scientists.

    Here’s a brainteaser for you: what precisely is the difference between a ‘theory’ like evolution or inflationary cosmology and a ‘fact’ like, say, that I just finished drinking a beer. After all, neither can be ‘proven’ (important side-note: ONLY mathematical and logical propositions can be ‘proven’)-I could, after all, be dreaming. In fact, as Bertrand Russell argued, I have, in fact, precisely no reason at all to believe that the world was not created exactly five minutes ago, along with my memories and all other traces of the ‘past’ (how would I tell the difference?).

    No one (or hardly anyone) actually believes these skeptical hypotheses, of course. What these cases bring out is that purportedly obvious and unquestionable facts (about ‘medium-sized dry goods’ like chairs and beer bottles) are often more like ‘theories’ than one might think- both require various assumptions, of varying degrees of credibility, in order to be justified. I have evidence that I drank a beer ten minutes ago. I have evidence that a big bang occured many years ago. There is no difference in kind betwen the two cases. Both are either true are false, and, fortunately, in both cases I have every reason to believe they are true.

    What this suggests is not a problem with either ‘theories’ or ‘facts’, but rather only the observation that these are not really sharply defined categories at all. Thus, to claim that ‘the big bang theory is not a fact’ is to make a distinction without a difference. Both ‘theories’ and purported ‘facts’ (as that term is ordinarily used) can be true or false, strong or weak, justified or unjustified. But to say ‘X is a (strong) theory’ need impugn X no more than to say that ‘X is a (well-established) fact’.

  • Ben

    I stand by my original comments, though I do thoroughly appreciate and understand the intelligent rebuttal of the poster about post-graduate admissions. The coyote fellow is, however, a fool. I assure you, my IQ is quite a bit higher than you alluded to and my arguements are accurate. You have simply not thought your own arguements through to the point that you can have an intelligent discussion without resorting to liberal party propaganda and biased comments against Christians. To the poster who made the comment about the ultra-conservative issues with the gay lifestyle and gay marriage, I would tend to agree with you, believe it or not. Unfortunately, we are in the vast minority in that regard, based on the last election. In ever single state that had a ballot question about legalizing gay marriage, the voters overwhelmingly rejected it. I personally, don’t much care about a person’s sexual orientation or physical inclinations, but again, I am in the minority. As far as the current discussion, I again point out that the “big bang theory” is just that, a theory. Nobody was around to document it and there is no indesputable proof that it ever happened. Because some scientists say they believe it is the truth doesn’t mean I will follow their findings blindly. To me, it will always be a theory and I choose to follow my own beliefs in the creation of the universe.

  • John Ross

    In some ways I am becoming quite saddened by how any science post becomes a fight between ‘scientists’ and ‘creationists’ and then small sides with people who want to stand in one camp but listen to the other.

    This one is a bit of an exception because it started as a fight between them but in the end it became a name calling fiest as ‘Ben’ and others started.

    I personally would like to see all of humanity move to the point where we no longer need an all knowing all powerful father figure to send us to our rooms for the rest of creation if we don’t do the right thing. The church used to be the Law, the News and the political system all wrapped into one package. You lived, learned and often died within the same package. Much of the churches actions and behaviours fit within the MEME’s theory of social evolution (sorry I don’t have a link for that). Today the very thing that caused the religous groups to survive and spread are whats causing them to clash with each other.

    As information became more and more available to people we started to question the need for it. We also saw the corruption of religion spread. The two events are not linked directly, but as people became more and more able to share information, the one event reported the other. It also caused the church to try to unify it’s own teachings, to make them better able to be spread and shared. All religions of the world have had voilence between it’s own followers because the others didn’t believe the right thing. If it wasn’t for the spread of the information neither side would have known.

    That is why I will personally never follow a specific church, I can look up the history of it and see all the ways that it went against it’s own faithful, how it changed becaused on politcial needs.

    Good science is different in that it teaches us to always question what it shows, to try to find out the little bits of false in what it presents as true. To pry down to the next level. To Think. It is always changing, and if you read almost any one scientist they will have had aspects of their theorys changed later, or at least yet unanswered questions about some of their statements asked.

    If we could simply get the people who have closed their ears to read the science and then ask the questions that scientists haven’t seen yet, it would be a victory of sorts.

    The problem right now is that we have a poltical will existing to use science as a tool to fight, and science isn’t a good tool for war. The old joke goes that you should never have scientists on your juryboard, any new fact and they go and change their mind. So any time a scientist is put forward to defend something they will give up a soundbite that can be spin to work against them. This has caused scientists to be afriad to speak to the public. I know I wouldn’t want to be the voice heard trying to explain the big bang may be a theory but unlike the ID theory we have attempted to prove that it may be true and have many reasons to believe that even if it isn’t 100% correct it is close enough that we can use it for now to ask more questions.

    One last thought before I’m done here, people are always saying that the public doesn’t understand ‘this’ or ‘that’ and something should be done. No one, as far as I know, as ever come up with a good plan to explain anything to the public. I know that I don’t want to ‘dumb down’ the theories I learned in junior high so that a public that watches tv will be interested for the 30 second soundbit we give them, but can we see any other way to start giving the public the education that almost everyone agrees they need?

    (Of course the question is why don’t they learn that in their own schools could be asked, but I fear that most of the supporters of ID and other religous believes came from seperate school systems and have at least their high school if not college degrees.)

  • http://www.seixon.com Seixon

    This has got to be the funniest story today. A Bush appointee ensures that Big Bang, the theory, is referred to as… a theory… and liberals get upset.

    Does being anti-Bush really blind you to the fact that the Big Bang is “just a theory”? A theory can nonetheless be quite true, but as any scientist would still assess, it is still a theory.

    Deutsch might have wanted to have it called a theory for all the wrong reasons, but he was still right.

    Even funnier is that the NASA website .

    Read the link if you seek to be informed, and not pushed along on the latest anti-Bush knee-jerk exodus of the day.

  • http://www.seixon.com Seixon

    Ah damn, where did the link go?

    The NASA website has said that the Big Bang is a theory for a long time, ever since the Clinton administration.

    Read all about it.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    As far as the current discussion, I again point out that the “big bang theory” is just that, a theory. Nobody was around to document it and there is no indesputable proof that it ever happened.

    What does that have to do with anything?

    Big Bang cosmology is a “theory,” just like Plate Tectonics is a theory and Quantum Electrodynamics is a theory and (yes) Evolution is a theory.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass whether you choose to believe in Quantum Electrodynamics or not. And feel free to believe that færies blow the continents around, like soap bubbles in the bath, if you find that more theologically-congenial.

    Just don’t presume to tell scientists that these are the subject of controversy, and that they must, therefore, listen respectfully when you bring up the Færie Theory of continental drift.

  • John 1:12

    I personally would like to see all of humanity move to the point where we no longer need an all knowing all powerful father figure to send us to our rooms for the rest of creation if we don’t do the right thing.

    For the record, Christianity is not about an all powerful father figure condemning us for eternity for not doing the right thing. We do all stand condemned for our sins, but the good news of Christianity is that this all powerful father has sent his son to pay the penalty for us so that we will not have to suffer for eternity. To those who will accept this undeserved gift, Christ will stand by them on the day of judgement, and Christ’s righteousness will be credited to them who believe. That is the grace of God, and the message of Christianity.

  • Ken

    Re: Ben : I agree with Deutsch, it IS JUST A THEORY!

    Obviously, you would have no problem with the appropriate labelling being used everywhere, right? If you feel it’s necessary to label every theory as such so as to remind yourself to dismiss it, then we should be equally dilligent with the terms “Intelligent Design Fiction“, “Creationist Fiction“, etc.

    You may choose to believe in them for your own personal reasons, but that’s all they are and all they ever will be, unless of course some thinking Christian were to put them to even the tiniest measure of scientific scrutiny, at which point they would cease to exist.

    The sad truth that so many religious zealots exist within this country and around the world is something that you should be ashamed of. Too bad you seem to be one of them or you wouldn’t waste that IQ you claim to have by defending them. A person of strong faith need not attack others to prove it.

  • pigwood

    I saw this discussion linked off of fark and I agree that everything beyond observable data must be termed “theory” and should be viewed as cirmumstantial evedince.
    The reason for this reply is that I am interested in what the people who may have read about the scientist who recently published his data of a sattelite they sent out i believe in the 50’s or 60’s. That has reached the outter rim of the galaxy and left it for dead. Yet, they have been still recieving basic information such as speed.
    Anyway this scientist has found out that it has been slowing down at a rate inconclusive to the rate that physics would predetermine.
    So for the past 20 odd years he has tried to find something wrong with the data, like a glitch, yet has found nothing. He says if the data is accurate it will change everything from black matter to the physics of gravity.

    I am just an “average joe” and so I am sure I screwed up alot of the facts. this is just the gist of what I read about a couple years back.

    But if what he says is true wouldn’t it change the big bang theory also?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/12/bumblebee-wing-rotations-and-dancing.html Plato

    Just wanted to deter for a minute, while holding Jacques protest in mind.

    condensedmattertheoristUltimately, the ideas used in any one field of physics permeate all the other ones. I have trouble imagining reasonable scenarios where we might have screwed up understanding the signatures of a hot, dense universe in the past and still understand how all of our technology works now.

    For instance, what one can hope for in what arises from situation in Gold ion collisions, sets the stage for, how we can now look at “two sides of coin?”

    Yet, such states created from such action would have been more telling to you as the “emergent properties,” then what every other science person might have recognized. They didn’t know the value of models that would help lead them too?

    Laughlin, still entrances me with what ever you like to choose, from “drunk sargeant majors or to bricks.” Where did this materialize from?

    So the theory then, would be the hope of condense matter theorist raised along logical/consistant thinking, from a certain time?

  • pigwood

    oops I meant “dark matter” where it counts.

  • kef

    I think what everyone is missing is that it doesn’t really matter that the Big Bang is “just” a theory. The fact is that it is the prevailing theory among scientists. NASA, a scientific organization last time I checked, has no business debating ID vs. evolution. They operate under currently accepted scientific practices and principles until such a time as those principles are proven wrong or a “better” theory is accepted by the scientific community. Religious belief used to be that the earth was the center of the universe. Clearly science has done all right with its “theories” over the last 500 years. Perhaps religion should butt out.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    pigwood, you’re thinking of the Pioneer anomaly — purportedly anomalous acceleration of the Pioneer spacecraft as they drift away from the Solar System. It’s very likely to simply be some unknown systematic effect that nobody has yet found, although there is some chance that it is a sign of some interesting gravitational effect. It is certainly not evidence against the Big Bang model. Again, some things in science really have been tested beyond the point where they are worth doubting any more, and the Big Bang is one of them — we’ll continue to fill in the details, but we’re not going to find any evidence against the general framework.

  • Veronica

    Ben:

    It’s sad that the applicant referenced by “anonymous” had to be subjected to additional checks because of his background. It’s sadder still that it was necessary because of the death-grip the lunatic fringe of the Christian Church has on this country socially and politically.

    And another thing: just because Bush and Company managed to convince the majority that they were in the right doesn’t necessarily make it so. No one has a monopoly on the truth, and the more certain you are that you have absolute truth, the more likely you are to be horribly, violently wrong.

    PS: Quit borrowing talking points from Sean Hannity.

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0002874/2006/02/04.html Steve

    This Salon link investigates previous writings by Deutsch and how he endeared himself to the Christian Right and the Bush admin.

  • Matt T.

    One thing I think is getting lost in this whole kerfluffle (hear and at other blogs, such as Mr. Plait’s excellent site) is what the guy really said. He said the Big Bang theory is “opinion, not fact”. It is “just a theory”, but a theory is more than just an “opinion”. That’s wrong. Also, he’s the one that injected religion into the discussion where it had absolutely no place. It is not NASA’s job to provide people with any sort of religious thought or education whatsoever. That’s why we have churches on every street corner. Given the recent hoo-hah about the administration’s leaning on the climatologist inre: global warming, I also thought the young man’s note had something of a threatening tone to it, but I honestly don’t think it was done with the intent of “destroying science in the name of GAWD!!!”

    I just think it’s another example of a woefully underqualified political apointee overreaching his boundaries (and learning) and looking rock-stupid in the process. And, no, having problems with a 24-year-old journalism grad who’s only qualifications are, apparently, working on the Bush re-election team put into such a heavy position is not a “knee-jerk anti-Bush” reaction. Making such an excuse, however, might could be construed as a knee-jerk defend-Bush-at-all-costs reaction, but that is debatable.

    Great blog. I’m fascinated by modern physics; I just wish I could understand most of it.

  • http://raimundstamm.com rai

    Ah two questions…where did the stuff that “big banged” come from? And would those that want the nonemclature of theory attached to the “big bang” also embrace that any mention of God be referred to as a theory?

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  • sagger

    I think scientitsts should explain Karl Popper’s paper on what makes a theory scientific and well estabilshed, to journalists and public. The big bang is a theory but it passes with flying colours. ID theorys fail (Because they are not falsifiable) This kid is correct in saying that Big bang is a theory but it is a widely accepted theory. NASA should tell people about the big bang its has no remit to give the ‘other side of the story’ and therefore should not be gagged

  • SeanD

    Sagger:

    It seems to be, again, that the people who need to explain the demarcation problem (i.e., what’s science and what isn’t) are the people who think seriously about that problem- nameley, philosophers of science. Scientists know what good science is, but they know this tacitly, as reflected in their practices. Philosophers, on the otherhand, have been dicussing falsification and demarcation much more explicitly for decades, and, BTW, are rather pessimistic that Popper’s criterion can serve. Contra ID/anti-big-bangers, the ‘debates’ around these issues are largely philosophical rather than scientific- scientists would be best served (and have been best served) expressing their judgments about what is an is not good science rather than wading into the murky waters of what constitutes science at all.

  • Simon

    Sean, Mark, or someone…

    You might have already done this, but maybe it would be worthwhile to write a post explaining precisely the current evidence for big bang cosmology, perhaps pausing carefully to explain a couple of points:

    1. Big bang cosmology is about evolution of the universe and its contents from a hot dense state to the present

    2. An initial singularity is not really part of the theory – we know we need new physics to describe the universe at sufficiently early times.

    3. Numerical predictions: abundence of light elements, cosmic redshift, CMB, etc. Some of the posts above suggested a lack of awareness that big bang cosmology makes quantitative predictions about nucleosynthesis for example that agree well with observations.

    I don’t know enough of the details to do this justice myself.

  • Tim

    Hey guys! I’m a devout Christian, but also highly interested in science. I don’t see how there is even an issue here.
    As you know, the Bible is the premier Christian manuscript. However, Genesis 1:2 says,
    “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

    …”and the earth was without form…”

    That means that the earth was there. Before the creation story.

    It is my interpretation that the Big Bang theory is in fact a truth. However, I believe that the process was set off by a higher power. Then the creation story proceeded from there. Please post any agreement/disagreement you may have on this issue, as I am very interested to find your opinion.

  • Steve

    Bush is such an idiot. Apparently his interns are too.

  • Mike

    I’m glad Tim came along and wrote that. The reality is most Americans are like him; they may be pro-religion, but that doesn’t mean they’re anti-science. Science and Religion don’t conflict, it’s when they try to be things they aren’t that they do. ID/Creationism/whatever isn’t science, but it could be taught in some philosophy class. And just because things like evolution are sound theory does not mean there is no god. Science is about facts and verifiability, religion is about faith in things that cannot be proven one way or the other. Scientists, if you want to get out of the doghouse with the American public, drop the ‘science trumps religion’ mumbo-jumbo. When you say that you’re claiming to have all the answers, and you’re no better than the fundies. You’re smarter than that…stop it.

    As for Ben…no. Clinton got a lower percentage of the vote because of a guy, you might have heard of him, Ross Perot? He got about 10% in 96, and like 20% in 92…for the record, 3rd party candidates got like 3% in 2000, and only 1% in 2004…if you really want to compare popularity, why don’t you check out approval ratings for the two, I’m pretty sure Bush’s is lousy right now.

    IMHO, the reason Bush won is because the Democrats are retarded, and are so completely disorganized and messed up that they can’t figure out anything, and the American public realized this. This is why the Republicans were able to effectively focus on the ‘morals’ argument, because they have the upper hand, and they’re better organized and can more effectively swing the debate their way. Basically, the Dems need to unf**k themselves, and soon.

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  • RhymesWithSilver

    You know, as someone who believes in both God and science, I get distressed when people in authority reveal worldviews that seem uncomfortably shortsighted. I’m a big fan of Stephen Jay Gould’s notion of “non-overlapping magisteria”. Belief in the Almighty is for me a matter of faith. If a divine and omnipotent power did indeed create the universe, it may indeed be flawless and free standing according to rational laws. Therefore scientific discoveries would be equally valid with or without the element of spiritual belief. I also find attempts to label creationism as science offensive to both science and religion; there is something very 14th century about the whole idea of saying “Well, we can’t possibly understand why this happened, so God must have gone ‘poof’.” I don’t see much difference in this line of thinking from the days when man didn’t know where flies came from or how water becomes ice, and thus applied purely theological explanations to natural phenomena. I have to conclude that there are likely provable explanations for the development of the human eye and other “holes” in current theory. Inasmuch as I respect it as a neat contemporary interpretation of the traditional creation story, from a scientific perspective, Intelligent Design seems remarkably lazy. The more I know of science, the more I am aware of its intricacy and innate harmony, the more I stand in awe and wonder of this world and the Almighty. So, while I find attempts to incorporate ID into hard science misguided, as religion, it seems downright insulting. Just what are they getting at by pushing creationism past the bounds of theology into science? The universe is God’s creation, so you’re hoping to find where he signed his name? Do you need something solid to wave at unbelievers? Jesus refused to perform miracles in order to prove his divinity to Herod, so if you’re looking for proof of the divine under a microscope or in a canyon wall, it seems to me you’re barking up the wrong tree.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Simon (88) check out Evidence for the Big Bang at talkorigins.org, which I added as a link to the post in the last update. It’s only flaw is that it gives so much evidence that one might get the false impression that there is some controvery to be addressed, otherwise why bother? The truth is, there isn’t any scientific controversy, just as there is none about natural selection.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Tim (89) — a short time after the Big Bang (or whatever was the actual beginning of our observable universe, we don’t pretend to know), the temperature was so incredibly high that atomic nuclei themselves couldn’t exist, much less atoms and planets. So no scientist believes that the Earth was there before the creation, in any ordinary sense.

    This is why I don’t agree with Gould as quoted by Rhymes With Silver (93). Science and religion do overlap sometimes; they both make claims about how the universe works. And I will definitely choose the ones suggested by science, as they seem to have a much firmer foundation.

  • Chris

    It is nice to see that not everyone who is faithful and devoted to a specific religion (in this case, Christianity) isn’t a qack-job. Tim and Rymes With Silver, bravo. You have shown that there ARE brains among the truyl faithful.

    I find it immensely offensive that the administration would pull a move like this, for pretty much the same reasons that RymeswithSilver stated. I am not religious, however. But I do respect the fact that a person has a right to believe whatever they want, especially when it comes to spiritual aspects. The theocratic lean of the bush administration has be worried for many reasons.

    While I do not live in america, I do live right next door. As a result, the policies and decisions made by said administration directly affect me in numerous ways. Trade, military, law and countless other areas are highly impacted.

    Intelligent Design is, simply put, flawed at its very root. It is a not-so-cleverly disguised ruse, a more than obvious ploy to enforce a christian dogma on everyone in the nation, even those who do not have any interest in christianity (Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Taoists, Bhuddists, Atheists, Agnostics and Deists, and all the rest). Every time one of its supporters open their mouths it becomes a trying task to not laugh out loud.

    However, so far, they have been utterly unsuccesful in their rather ridiculous attempts to force their blatantly idiotic concepts into the educational and scientific communities. We can only hope they keep it up.

    This is proof that science needs a public face, much like a president of its own. someone liek Brian Greene perhaps? Anyone that can appeal to the masses and at least get people to understand that science:

    a)does NOT ever state that there can BE no god.
    b)has absolutely nothing to do with the bible, save for whatever flimsy ties there may be at the very basic level
    c)is more than “ideas” and “unsubstantiated thoughts”

    Apples to Oranges, and yet the fundamentalist idiots do everything in their power to push their stupidity on the masses, who, for the most part, arent listening.

    I see it, simply put, as a post sept. 11th bout of insanity. One that has spread like a plague among the idiotic and is little more than propaganda designed to enforce christian beliefs on those who are the “enemies of america”

    And so far, it seems to be working. Except for one tiny little flaw. Forgive the snideness of this message in general. Im just a bit …overwhelmed by the degree of idiocy im seeing lately….

    Dramatization:

    “lets go to war in Iraq. They have oil we need. However, we will use terrorism as a mask despite the fact that we will find no evidence whatsoever to support this claim after we illegaly invade and obliterate teh country”

    “good idea, lets do it. THEN well force them to change their entire government structre to be more ilke america!”

    “GOOD idea!”

    and then the vote happens. And oh my GOODNESS. They happen to vote in an anti-america bunch (Hamas) in the process. Didnt see THAT coming a mile away. You carpet bombed their country for fREEDOM! How DARE they not elect a pro-america group!

    “what should we do about this, guys?”

    “why, lets threaten to screw them in the rectal cavity and other fun stuff!!!!”

    “GREAT IDEA!”

    *huff*

    anyhow. Nuff of that. You get the idea. I am rather dissapointed in north america in general the last while. My own countries recent election of the Conservative party only strengthens this feeling. The party itself is atempting to go ass-backwards on the Kyoto protocols..somethign that should NEVER happen. Misssile defense is also part of their agenda. Which is totally pointless and a waste of cash. The list goes on and on.

    We soon will not jsut be JOKED about being “americas retaerded cousin”…..we will be the United States of Canada.

    hope to god that never happens. Or I am moving to iceland.

  • Chris

    gah, typos. oops. My apologies.

  • LIFE_OF_BRIAN

    This is my first post on a topic like this, so bear with me. I am not a religious person and i know there are serious holes in the scince behind the BB, but people need to realize is that all religions have such large holes that they become unrational, unlogical, contrived and assinine. ALL RELIGIONS try to get us to believe something or act some way, and every religion has believers that seem to think theirs is the best and only true faith, the incas and the mayans worshipped animals and the sun, the native americans had an all powerful nature-god, the greeks and romans had an entire pantheon of gods with human-like motives/agendas/bodies, than not coincidentally we as humans got a bit smarter and we started monotheism, which is what most religions and a majority of people belive today-ONE GOD-ALL POWERFUL-LOOKING DOWN ON US-ETC ETC, THROUGHOUT TIME WE HAVE BELIEVED WITH ALL OUR FAITH THAT “OUR” RELIGION WAS THE RIGHT/CORRECT/TRUE AND THE OTHERS WERE WRONG/ILLOGICAL/EVIL. Now if intelligence and organization pushed us on our path towards one god, what will further intelligence/advancements lead us to?! IF ANYONE HAS ANY PROOF OF ANY GOD OR DEMIGOD OR CREATOR- NOW IS THE TIME TO BRING IT FORTH. The Bible is a good moral tool/guide-but not filled with literal truths. When the corrupt and moneyhungry church edited the BIBLE so that it fit their money machine, they left us a shell of what would have been a wonderful text to teach us how to live morally. Instead we got a book filled with gaps, errors, and contadictions.

  • Scott

    The job of science is to observe, describe, and then predict, or guess. You can not observe what happened during the Big Bang. The fellow who drank the beer was a first-hand observer of the event, and, indeed, was a party to the action. Nobody alive, nor anyone in recorded history, was either a party to the Big Bang or an observer.

    Why would we need new physics to describe what happened before and around the Big Bang time? Would that indicate that current laws of physics don’t properly describe what would need to happen for a Big Bang to occur?

    This link makes me laugh because of the second sentence: “In one single instant, all matter and energy were created.” That’s passive. Something created “all matter and energy.”

    I started reading the talkorigins.org link presented earlier. Interestingly, early on it distances itself from describing the actual origin of the universe, but rather states that it only attempts to describe the workings of the universe after it was already created. I have to read more on this before I can discuss it.

    The “Law of Gravity” is a “law” basically because it describes what happens when you drop things. It is not a law that we have made but simply states something that always happens. We’ve learned more about how gravity seems to exist, in relation to large masses. We have been able to measure decreases in this gravitational “force” as distance from the Earth increase. And we’ve also measured that same force on the moon and elsewhere in the Solar System with various spacecraft. So far, the “Law of Gravity” seems to hold in all environments we’ve encountered.

    But LoG is something we’ve observed and measured and shown in repeated experiments.

    If it is something we can not observe and describe, it tends to be more philosophy than science.

  • Scott

    Hamas was elected to the Palestinian leadership, not that in Iraq.

  • don’t understand

    I don’t get it… the big bang is NOT a “theory,” there just happens to be a “theory” for the big bang.

  • don’t understand

    they turn it around on you,, they say something like “the evolution theory.” when clearly it is “the theory of evolution.” how many things are theories? a theory is everything?,,, then why aren’t I just typing, theory theory ,,, theory…theory!!!

  • OUSOB

    Fascinating thread. At least, until Chris(96) chimed in.

    Iraq elected Hamas? Wow! Now that’s news.

    Wasn’t one of the results of Vatican II the reconcilliation between Christianity and the Big Bang Theory? If I recall correctly, the conclusion was that big bang is consistant with both ID and Christianity.

    It’s my experience that Christians argue against the Big Bang theory only in order to give credence to the many other, less defensable and less credible tenets of their beliefs. There are too many to mention but let’s begin with the great flood and Noah’s ark. Adam and Eve come to mind as well. To be a good Christian requires the denial of nearly all scientific standards.
    Carbon dating, genetics….all false. Carbon dating says that dinosaurs were on the planet long before humans. The bible says that many of it’s figures lived to be over 900 years old in addition to the fact that the entire planet is decended from Noah and his family. Genetics would indicate otherwise.

    Reasonable people disagree.
    Irrational people disagree also, just more loudly.

  • sleestak

    The motive seems rather silly. The fact of the matter is that it is a “theory” though.

    Unresolved problems like “dark matter”/”dark energy” or the negative energy accelerating the universe means that there are all kinds of possibilities in the model and reason for background radiation although a photon dominated period would definitely be implied. The nature of these early singularities have too many “unknowns” other than the fact that certain energies might need to approximate some universal or combinatory energy for the existance of some exotic forces and particles. One interesting question that is often incorrectly answered with what appears to be an obvious answer to those not familiar with cosmology is “why is the sky dark at night?” This is some evidence for an “open universe”.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2004/11/cycle-of-birth-life-and-death-origin.html Plato

    I think at one time is was nice to have a starting point(where is this) but now this becomes a little confusing once you understand the relationship of “particle reductionism” and “cosmological considerations.”

    So now there is a wider perspective(geometrical enhanced view) that encompasses the question. One would had to have known some of this before taking hold of the God given claim, that the universe began there at the big bang, that this was indeed just part of a wider cyclical perspective.

    Gabriele Veneziano helped here.

  • http://demonac.livejournal.com/ Demonac

    I would prefer if Sean (95) did not try to discredit Rhymes With Silver (93)’s points of faith, particularly when he is coming across as particularly rational in justifying his non-exclusive faith in both religion and science. For the record, he stated his believe NOT that Earth was present at the instant the universe came into being (or even as of the admittedly fuzzy demarkation between the “initial” period, and the “understood” period after the Big Bang in which commonly understood rational physics takes over as a reasonably complete explanation of the underlying forces from that point forward). He was instead lining up a congruence between literal components of the holy scriptures with the scientifically accepted facts. It is quite debatable what an Earth “formless and void” constitutes, but that lies in the realm of the theological, and I feel that each individual is free to believe whatever they want, ESPECIALLY when, as in this case, he is not denying or attempting to suppress the views of others.

    That being said, in normal conversation, I tend to define myself as being about as anti-religious as possible. I so often forget that by virtue of the simple willingness to allow people their personal beliefs, I am in fact far less extreme. When I saw what’s-his-name (I can’t be bothered to scroll back to his inanity, but the individual I’m referring to was flaming Leonidas and that appears to be what brought Ben into the discussion) suggesting that all religious prelates and representatives should commit suicide in some expedient manner, I was struck by that unique pain you get when someone who, by all appearances, ought to be on my side was in fact debasing my own beliefs and lowering the level of discourse to that of a drunken brawl.

    I strongly believe that everyone has the right to unashamed belief in whatever form of spirituality appeals to them, whether they arrived at those beliefs through simple upbringing, or (hopefully) by contemplation and self-questioning. In any case, my lack of faith in any religion, afterlife or divine being (creator or otherwise) is no excuse for belittling their faith. In fact, it is the most natural thing for a sentient being to adopt some form of belief system to deal with (or more accurately, to avoid dealing with) the impenetrable philosophical/logical void that arises when you contemplate death. I myself could be accused of similar folly; I have, at a mostly subconscious level, a deep faith that we have reached the critical point where the scientific ability to extend life will begin to outpace aging, such that after several series of lifespan-increasing innovations, a person of my age may be able to live on indefinitely. Consciously, logically, I find this notion doubtful, but at some deep level I believe it anyway, as a simple defense mechanism against some of the more painful questions of a finite life.

    Where I have a problem, and what causes me to so often define myself as “anti-religion” is rather in the area of organized religion. I don’t think there is any organized religious body that is sufficiently removed from corporeal, financial, political and simple power concerns to truly represent the faith of their believers, with faiths that overtly include “conversion” figuring as the worst offenders. Religious bodies are outmoded, their original beneficial purposes are all gone, replaced by modern society, and we in turn need to move beyond them. Our society must reach a point where religious organizations are no longer afforded the unqualified right to exist; the right to function as exceptions to tax laws, anti-hate laws, free speech laws, and so many other laws of our society. Our society must sever the ties, and no longer feature special exceptions for any religion over other religions, or over the non-religious, and we must eliminate laws which are passed for the religious groups to force their codes over the rest of society.

    If we eliminate all these things, religion WILL survive. Faith will survive, and true faith will be strengthened rather than diminished by giving everyone freedom from their edicts. If your faith says to avoid alcohol, don’t seek to ban alcohol. The legality of alcohol means that your personal decision not to drink will mean more.

    But obviously the latter part of this elongated comment ties back into the discussion. Religion cannot be allowed to take precedence over science: in the long run, their attempts to block truth (or more accurately, their attempts to block the search for truth) will fail. But that doesn’t mean we should let them win any of their anti-science battles in the meantime. Education is the most important part. We can’t let them teach the biased and the unjustified as being equal to actual knowledge. You don’t have to be an atheist to see that what the ID movement is doing is wrong. We, as thinking, wondering, critical members of society, have a responsibility to fight against enforced ignorance in all its forms.

  • Chris

    gah, yer right. My bad on the messed up facts, that was palestine.

    But, regardless of that fact, I find it rather convenient that on that basis alone the united states government wants to essentially halt communications until they elect someone that the US deems more appropriate.

    It just seems like the world is reaching a critical boiling point, one that needs to be prevented if at all possible. its rather worrisome. I keep hoping that peak oil slams us soon, so that the bulk of the carnage happens at once rather than in a slew of terrible events one after another :)

    again, my bad on the wrong-o facts there. Got a little heated , and re-reading the post after the fact I did get a little outta hand there :)

  • http://bitsowit.blogspot.com Nevin

    I’m all for adding the word “theory” after “Big Bang” — as long as we add the word “fiction” after “intelligent design”.

  • Marcia L.Neil

    ‘The Big Bang’ as a theory is relative to the African post-volcano holiday known as ‘Kwanzaa'; the images of the ancient African apocalyptic event are yet viewable within the contents of a mucousal oracle-bead chronicle (a tiny archaeological artifact). As is the truth with most events which happened in prehistoric times, such as the formation of the planet Earth, those can only be addressed with theories which use the ‘Big Bang’ as a tag. Images of ancient human social settings also preserved within the oracle bead are accessible to wildlife at the present time, giving such classics as the “Parallel Lives”, termed as historical ‘intelligent design’ scenarios, to other species as direct visual input transmitted.

  • thinkingallthetime

    This is very interesting discussion. I think I got farked here. I am not as eloquent or skilled in typing about this stuff as you folks but I’d like to add an opinion and some personal experience.

    As a kid I loved both science and god. I grew up a New England Catholic with a blue collar Irish step dad. A brief trip to Hong Kong with my biological, (atheist) father at the age of 12 opened by eyes to the idea the some people are born into religions similar or alien to Christianity. I visited a Buddhist Monastery and a Taoist temple. I read a book on the world’s major religions while there. An overnight heretic I returned to my family and the States with a question that needed answering. Since there are so many people all over the world from the most primitive people, to the most advanced that belief in some faith or another.

    So, the question is, in my adolescent mind, “who is really in charge? who is right? whose story is the real deal?

    ” Really, considering the antiquity of religions like Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, the Abrahamic religions are new kids on the block. So after spending time, lot of time, reading the Creationist mythos of a variety of religions. I spent the next 10 years of my life in a whirlwind of conversions and earnest attempts to practice different religions for various lengths of time and use my faith and my mind and my experience with the different pantheons and ideas as a laboratory, after a fashion.

    I practiced (don’t laugh..ok laugh. I was a kid)

    Protestantism, Judaism (Kabbalah) Satanism, Wicca, Druidica, and a variety of old Celtic paganism. I pondered Karma and studied Confucius and knelt with Buddhas and I whirled like a dervish. At some point continuing my search, I started immersing myself in Zen Buddhism and Shrine Shintoism which led to pure Zen with no Buddhist or Shinto overtones. At this point the practice of religion is not. It’s pure, focused contemplation for prolonged periods of time on fundamental questions often in deep seclusion. The need to master meditation caused me to seek further refinements until finally I studied Taoism and Taoist Esotericism.

    The oldest and most fundamental Taoist practice is living meditation. It is the ‘esoteric’ branch of religious Taoism. The ‘real’ Taoism is a practice where you bring the rigorous attention to self awareness and ones environment out of seclusion and isolation and sitting for 1000 hours on end, to mediation all day, anywhere, whether doing dishes, driving a car, practicing martial arts, sitting by a burbling brook or having sex.

    After dedicating myself to living Taoist meditation I practiced for a number of years with the dedication of scientist or a monk. It was all I did, all the time. I began to wake up, in stages.

    One day during a very long session of sitting meditation, everything in my being just settled and settled and settled and slowed down and my awareness became clearer and clearer and clearer suddenly, I was just fine. The persistent suicidal depression that had caused me to attempt to kill myself 6 times during my life lifted, never to return. The deep despair over the condition of life itself lifted from me. All internal desire and motivation to find some kind of external power to ally myself with and to believe in faded from me never to return. Many of my odd idiosyncrasies and neuroses and fears and attractions and aversions all faded like leaves falling from a tree. Since then I have been clear and focused and productive in life. All the things I did to myself and to others while I was mentally ill seemed to be the memories of another person.

    All I wanted was some clear sign or proof. During my teens, I was a spiritual ronin. I offered my soul for all eternity to the first god to burn a bush for me and it never happened Not Allah, not Yeshua, not Krishna, not the Horned God or the Earth Mother. The one entity I wanted most to see for myself was ‘Satan’ but he never answered any of my calls.

    After practicing meditation for many years I am convinced people need religion, the so-called opiate of the masses to deal with deep spiritual fear of reality and death, as well all the unanswered questions of creation and the universe. There is deep , deep internal need in human beings to vest belief in some kind of higher power.

    From the Fire God of the ancient peoples to modern Catholicism. People seem to need a higher power to turn to. Many , many cultures that I have learned of have at some point in its history, created some form of religion to guide a community and to provide answers, farfetched, true or not.

    What profound spiritual meditation and a near death/out of body experience will teach you, one, over time, the other instantly, is that there are no gods of any kind and there never where. Religions are a human creation and so are the mythos and lore and structure of all religions. We made them. We made them to explain things we couldn’t understand, we made religions to feel better when people die, or to explain away ‘bad’ or ‘good’ things that happen to us. It all hubris and fear folks. It really is.

    It would nice if the universe really worked that way, in one sense. Your belief in god would amount to an insurance policy for a spiritual afterlife. Whether you are the highest of the high or the lowest of the low.. be good, be nice and believe, and paradise is yours. End of story.

    Unfortunately if there really was a god of, say, one the major religions, life on earth could be sheer terror fear and submission. If you take the time to really read all the different religious bibles, they are filled with stories of various gods acting like children,, showing favoritism, making irrational laws. Demonstrating selfishness, throwing tantrums and stroking their vanity. They have been documented in these bibles as provoking wars and taking sides, making demands and threats. Life would be absolutely awful, a race to kiss ass the most. Constant fear of not being worthy enough not pious enough not good enough. Fear of sin and commandments fear of pissing of your god and getting struck down by force of nature that god manipulates to punish you. Fire, meteor, lightning, tsunami. People perhaps might become totally insane and irrational.

    Now who qualified to say which religions are real? whose gods are legitimate?

    Anyone who has done some research on religions in general can see the trend that religions and their respective practices have evolved somewhat as civilization marches on. People at once time believed in various forms of elemental or cosmological polytheism. Many remote places developed ‘hippy’ faiths the believed in spirits or powers or forces in the stars, in animals, in terrestrial objects and weather phenomena. Some empire cultures made a jump to monotheism, dispensing with ideas of demigods, spiritism or ‘the force is all around us’ type ideology to all powerful singular ruler beliefs. Allah or Yahweh for example. You have a spiritual ‘king’ of everything and he sets the rules, the thou shalls and the thou shall nots, and He holds wrath and punishment in one hand and mercy and paradise in the other hand..funny that..the resemblance in power of God and kings, all encompassing. Monotheism rules today. It’s a very attractive idea in some regards.

    However, all the behavior attributed to gods, came from the minds of the creators of the books and the ideas, and they were all too human with the potential for greed, selfishness, irrationality and the need to be recognized and to have attention. Our gods are only as good as we make them and they come with all the flaws of their creators.

    A trained, focused, disciplined and awakened mind is a more stable and real force in the world than any god. We are the gods folks, and we are getting godlike as science marches on. Its fun to watch.

    So two things.

    You can use meditation to free yourself of any and I mean any kind brainwashing, conditioning, and any need to for a religious belief of any kind.

    Now that you know this, you have to decide, do want you to keep Alice in wonderland? Do you prefer a religious fantasy based on your people’s indigenous culture? or do you want to see how far the rabbit hole goes?

    Meditation, serious serious prolonged intensive meditation, will do that to you. Once you start down a path of self awareness and self enlightenment you go on a ride. At the end of that ride, you can never ever be made or convinced of the need or legitimacy for any religion at all ever for anyone. You will acquire an unshakable ‘belief’ in yourself and your human spirit and the spirits of all humans really. You become the master of your own destiny. There is no higher power then the self and its awareness.

    You achieve a state where you accept full responsibility for the decisions you make, and the things you do. You no longer blame anything on karma, your Astrological chart and the planetary alignments, or on ‘temptation’ and the works of evil entities. “Well the feng shui of my house gave me bad luck.” Well I am prone to this behavior or that tendency because I am an Aquarius” or “the devil made me do it.” or “the angels whispered to me in my dreams and told me so it must be true”.

    None of these are ever acceptable answers for human behavior anymore. You accept good fortune and misfortune with total equananimity and balance..shit happens. There are no confessions to make. no sacrifices and rituals or prayers for this or that. You live each moment to the fullest.

    You can use meditation to overcome mental illness. and Im working on a book about meditation and defeating suicidal depression and mania.

    During the times I was the most devout and the most intensely believing in the power of religion, was about age 10, and I was a member of the Third Order of Franciscans. At 20 I was a practicing new age ‘pagan’ with an eclectic mishmash of Gypsy, Druid, and Witchcraft practices.

    The time between the age of ten and twenty was the most fearful, chaotic, unpredictable and very often violent times of my life and when I was the most suicidal and mentally ill.

    Since then, and over the last ten years I’ve spent practicing meditation, I have evolved and grown up and I have become convinced that;

    Deep down I believe and I feel, that the belief and practice of any religion is a sign of mental or spiritual illness to a greater or lesser extant, Be it subtle or overt.

    The more fanatical the belief or the zeal, the deeper and more profound the mental illness and cognitive errors are rooted. Its really a kind spiritual illness, which if it festers, can sometimes foster mental illness. I feel like I can almost guarantee that too. I might be wrong though.

    Take from this what you want.

    For what its worth all my life my favorite sciences were Astrophysics and Particle physics.

    If I hadn’t been a suicidal, homicidal, lunatic as a teenager bouncing from group homes to foster home to residential schools, might have gone on to a real college trajectory and become a scientist. Instead I ended up a philosopher and I teach meditation.

    For you up and coming scientists. You guys have to unriddle gravity. I have deep feeling it will dot the Is and cross the Ts of a lot of ideas. Its my favorite of the known forces to read about in science books.

    About Bush and the fundamentalists and the ID people. Worst case scenario. Dark Age for science, and it would not be the first time. Dark ages don’t last forever folks. Reason will win in the end. I can feel it. The Bush admin and Co. are too scared that genetics research will unravel god. So its unlikely they will try to breed the need to know and learn and question and experiment out of humans in the near future because you’d have to fund a lot more research in science to do that. Which means real science will be back.

    About that comment on Dawkins from Rob . I had to laugh out loud for that comment. I am American and I agree, Dawkins is too harsh for Americans to listen to, but I do..

    Also, what’s up with protesting over 2000 dead US side in the war? Read up on deaths figures for troops and civilians of various Allies and enemies in WW I and WWII.. we’ve lost a lot of backbone when it comes to prosecuting a war. We can use technology and be surgical and push buttons but its still war folks, people die in wars not just enemies side.

    Finally. The absolutely scariest thing in the world to me, is religion and serious, deep faith and fanaticism. You know there is a lot of arrogance in both and science and religion. However some scientists will admit when they are wrong. Their theories get disproved, or research is invalidated. Some scientists, humbled, will return to the bench and begin again. Develop a new theory. Try new experiments.

    Deeply religious people do not seem to ever contemplate the fact that their god(s) have not be ‘proven’ at all. That they might in fact, be wrong.

    Despite this lack of proof they will do things in name of faith in an unproven idea/entity/force and do amazing things in the name of that belief. Some really wonderful things have been done and accomplished in the name of religious and that’s cool and that’s great. However as long as people will immolate themselves, or blow themselves up or others, torture people or protest over religious issues.

    Really which is scarier? Bush declaring that God put him office to fight terrorists, or Muslims praying and protesting and rioting over Koran burnings or Muhammad cartoons? Seriously folks.

    The scientist in my heart thinks that is very very very very wrong and very scary. There is a whole lot of growing up to do for a lot people and lot of cultures. Come on folks, 6000 years, no one has concretely proven that god exists and yet still you believe. Its a paradigm shift perhaps, to believe me when I say that that kind of belief and behavior is mental illness, it really is. What if you folks are wrong? What if there no god and therefore Bush did NOT get put in office to fight terrorists. What if there is no Allah and your so-called jihad is nothing but the testosterone rampage of kids not getting their own way? What if Allah exists and doesnt believe suicide bombings are the way to go? What if the Universe just happened and it is not intelligently designed at all, just damn hard to fully fathom at this level in our science. What you are really afraid of, is not having any faith not having any belief not having a heaven to go to you are afraid of being all alone on planet earth with no supernatural Daddy or King to give you all the answers. You are afraid of the dark still but of especially of dying.

    Think about the consequences if there is no god. All those holy wars, the Crusades the Jihads…all for nothing. All the religious, ethnic cleansings, all for nothing There are no gods that authorize jihads and cleansings and no god to care if you do! You cant follow that line of reasoning because it means everything being done in the name of religion is madness and insanity. That also includes ‘good works’ like feeding the poor and building hospitals with donation money to heal sick people.Those are nice things to do but do them because its the right thing to do because human generosity can be a beautiful thing, but not because God compels you to or because it will earn your Grace in Heaven. Thats lunacy. You wont go there though. Thats where I went. That is how I see it.

    You religious folks scare the hell out of me quite honestly. In my fear of you, should I start a movement for all agnostics, aethists and heathens to round up all religous people and start the gas chambers? Im rightly afraid that you religious (mentally ill) people will allow your unproven beliefs to influence your judgement in courtrooms, schoolrooms and labs and laws and so on?

    You are a possible threat to my safety, my way of thinking, my way of life and my family and people that think like I do. Your beliefs or things you may be inclined to do for that belief are a threat to me and my kind, to my tribe, my clan. Should I declare a pogrom on religious people everywhere to ensure a madness, religion free future for my children? No, that would not solve anything, I would not enlighten or convince anyone that I am right that way..

    Rather I have to let you all take your sweet time coming to the same conclusion that I have, and sit back quietly and hope you dont exterminate my godless ass in the meantime, or teach my children nonscience fearology.

    In the mean time I can teach meditation to spiritually troubled people and if they are really serious about wanting to know themselves, they can take responsiblity for their own thinking and learn to meditate and practice on thier own until they become free.

  • himagain

    anonymous on Feb 5th, 2006 at 1:51 am was amongst many interesting posts in the fervid quest to find out how EVERYTHING started.

    It is an extraordinary thing that only humans seem to have the ability to completely delude themselves despite any great evidence to the contrary. I believe after 50+ years of research into the aetiology of such things, that it is the fault of language.
    Especially the great depth and richness of the English language ( not Amer-English, but English-English), which allows astounding prevarication and dissembly.

    BIG BANG and CREATIONISM and INTELLIGENT DESIGN are three very similar theories. THEORIES. Vis: not fully formed hypotheses even, merely theories. Speculation on possibility, supported by carefully selected “proof” that is often mere lower theory, propounded by adherents to that theory.

    For a disinterested observer, there is not much more justification to support any current Origins THEORY:
    Remember, we “scientifically” still have Steady State ( my fun favourite), as well as God-in-7-days, Intelligent Design, Reciprocal Exchange (oldest theory, sanest still,) and Big Bang ( biggest copout and silliest), all with strictly equal claim.

    Let us try not to confuse Big A Authority with authority.
    The second most intelligent person I ever met was Jesuit. The third a Chinese Taoist-almost to-Alchemist.
    Both subscribed to the “leaking universe” THEORY on the grounds that ALL rational scientific actual evidence supports the concept of a very practical no-waste universe – a perpetual motion machine.
    But all leave us with the same conundrum:
    If there is no “original?” god, what was/is there?

    Dear people, postulate all you will, but unless you have proof – practical, verifiable proof, your “Science” has no more valid a claim that that of the Australian Aborigine who tells you that “the universal rainbow serpent creates itself and us in a never-ending self-perpetuating circle”. Because that’s what the men from the sky told them and they should know “because they could fly, baby”(?).

    Pacem en Terra

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2004/11/cycle-of-birth-life-and-death-origin.html Plato

    thinkingallthetime:

    Now that you know this, you have to decide, do want you to keep Alice in wonderland? Do you prefer a religious fantasy based on your people’s indigenous culture? or do you want to see how far the rabbit hole goes?

    I think you write very well.:)

    Even in the Alice’s story there is a profound shift in thinking, as one progresses, about the many possible pathways.

    Indeed if gravity was your concern, then what influence would such journies be if the photon went this way, or that?

    I wonder as well, being a layman while trying to dispell my illusions. I would have been guilty of invoking “heaven” in the God of the Gaps. Dimensional proclivities( to harmonic backgrounds).

    I would be lying if I didn’t think about this in our everyday decisions, being the master of our destiny. Why “clear color” is very important to me, and the spectrum.

    Which leaves, what “always existed” and why string theorists abhor infinities. :)

  • Rusty

    Interesting Feb/2006 Physic’s Today had an article about Ben Franklin and the lightning rod. And of course, the religous right in his day claimed the Lightning Rod was interfering with God’s will to basically burn down your house, and all the rest of their tiresome rhetoric. Franklin, anticipated them, and claimed it was God’s desire that we know about these things. All you right wing Republican’s please enlist in the Army go to Iraq, and let evolution continue to weed out the dummies amongst us.

  • Marc Buhler

    Having googled “george deutsch nasa”, I am struck by how the press releases feature our Mr. Deutsch along with an Erica Hupp from “NASA HQ” and then some other person from JPL, Goddard or another of NASA’s divisions as if they were “primary authors” of the press release.

    It’s as if he was an expert on about 100 different types of project, able to write about them in detail. But when you go to the link provided “for more information”, you find exactly the same information as in the press release in those resources. I guess PR people do this, but plagiarism of NASA’s technical staff, who obviously wrote the sources that became the press release, as if you were involved in the project and understood the material, is still plagiarism even though you work within NASA. Each release gives both the NASA HQ phone number for George and the other HQ “author” for contact, and a number for whichever NASA section actually was involved, but is he really the spokesperson for NASA on all of these projects? It looks like he presents himself to be, but should he?
    (It’ll look good on his CV, I guess.)

    (signed) marc

  • Susan

    Here we are debating religion and science again, what you dont realize is that GW BITCH is trying to be the center of the universe. The A$$hole needs to be removed from power before he nukes the world. The stupid monkey.
    Calling abortion, MURDER in a medical building,
    BUT dont give a F@CK about killing Iraqi children.

    What a hypocrit!!

  • Tim

    IF ANYONE HAS ANY PROOF OF ANY GOD OR DEMIGOD OR CREATOR- NOW IS THE TIME TO BRING IT FORTH

    Thanks for that, LIFE_OF_BRIAN.

    I am as offended as all of you are about this situation. This is not Mr. Deutsch’s place, trying to interject his own religious beliefs into purely-scientific organization like NASA. It is not NASA’s job to corrupt its pure data with interpretations on either side of the fence. That’s our job, to interpret the findings that NASA has come upon.
    However, I would like to call your attention to the religion of Christianity, which I am a member of. I became a member of this religion at a young age, but in the past few years have investigated thoroughly many other world religions. Yet here I am still a Christian. You know why? It’s because Christianity provides the most hope for the future. It shows the most openness to the world; in fact, it encourages us to be a part of the world around us while also being pure and holy. Therefore, I live my life in a respectable manner while also enjoying all the natural aspects of the universe. It’s mind-blowing, in fact, how intricate the universe is compared to how tiny this rock we live on actually is…yet how complex the Earth is compared to how tiny humans are…yet how complex we humans are compared to…and so on and so on. You see where I’m going? Complex people in a complex world, with a pattern of repeatability and scientific glory? That’s Science, but it’s also beyond that. I enjoy being able to commit science to my mind with a positive outlook to the future. Think of how far we can go, looking at how far we’ve come! I can’t wait until I’m in college! Because of course, I haven’t made it that far yet (many people think I’m 30, but I’m actually a mentally-overdeveloped 18 year old).

    Anyways, I love both aspects of intellect. Because, of course, religion is intellectual as well as spiritual if you do it right!

    Tim

  • Another Tim

    Debate rages on and on. “Intellectuals” use big words to prove they are actually intellectual. “Religious” people quote scripture to prove they are religous. And yet a simple question has not been asked:
    “Do I personally want to be accountable?”

    Accountability is the driving force behind both sides of this debate. Pure scientists who blatantly brush off the idea of a creator or intelligent force behind the universe simply don’t want to be accountable to anyone for their life. It is like if I were to give you a beautiful sculpture as a gift, that gift requires taken care of or else you will have to answer to me when I come over your house and look at it. It is much easier to say. “No thanks”, and not accept the gift than to become accountable for how you care for it.

    Life is the most precious gift of all. It is very easy to say, “I just came out of primordial soup, so it doesn’t matter what I do with my life”, than to accept that everything you have is a gift, and sooner or later you will be called to account on how you have used it.

    Sadly, this view has also been adopted by many so called religous people. They resort to perfunctory worship to either appease their own conscience, or to be seen at church so they don’t lose the religous status. These types of people have lost sight of accountability, much like most pure scientists refuse it outright.

    So, we all have the same 2 choices, either we want to answer to someone for how we live, or we dont.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    It is very easy to say, “I just came out of primordial soup, so it doesn’t matter what I do with my life”

    Would it really?

    Funny, but I don’t know anyone (atheist or theist) who says that. Seems like a rather strange principle on which to organize one’s life.

    While I agree that religion can be a powerful moral guide in many people’s lives, the sad lesson of History, is that it has been far from a uniformly positive force.

    As Steve Weinberg likes to say,

    To get bad people to do bad things is easy.
    To get good people to do good things is also easy.
    But to get good people to do bad things … that takes Religion.

  • jw

    Scott, Newton’s Law of Gravity was superseded by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. We use the Theory of General Relativity to explain observations like the orbit of Mercury or the time differential experienced between GPS satellites and GPS receivers on the Earth, which Newton’s Law of Gravity fails to explain. In summary, laws are not more certain than theories. Law is a historical term for what we today call a theory, nothing more.

  • jw

    Scott,

    The Big Bang is an ongoing event that scientists watch every day, observing the recession of galaxies from us with regular telescopes and seeing light from it directly with microwave telescopes.

    “Why would we need new physics to describe what happened before and around the Big Bang time?”

    Your post focused on matter and energy, which we have a good handling of, but the Big Bang is much more than that: it’s the origin of spacetime. What is the meaning of “before” in a context without time?

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  • Atheist

    Another Tim,

    That’s a good question, but you’ve got the answer reversed. Since atheists lack the illusion of an afterlife, they realize that nothing matters more than what they do in their lives. It’s the theist who evades accountability by imagining an afterlife that allows him or her to avoid the accountability of real life and death.

    The pernicious belief in an afterlife leads suicide bombers into sacrificing their lives to murder others for an imaginary reward. It’s also what leads fundamentalist Christian mothers like Andrea Yates, Deanna Laney, and Dena Schlosser to think they’re saving their children by murdering them.

  • http://www.jessemazer.com Jesse M.

    Update to this story–apparently George Deutsch is not even a college graduate! See here.

    BREAKING NEWS: George Deutsch Did Not Graduate From Texas A & M University

    Through my own investigations I have just discovered that George Deutsch, the Bush political appointee at the heart of administration efforts to censor NASA scientists (most notably to prevent James Hansen from speaking out about global warming), did not actually graduate from Texas A&M University.

    The idea that NASA let a 24-year-old journalism major, with no experience in science or technology, other than writing a few articles about video games, determine what scientists were able to communicate to the public was pretty bad. The fact that he was censoring scientific information on global warming and the big bang made things more interesting.

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  • http://www.jessemazer.com Jesse M.

    Another update–George Deutsch has just resigned, possibly over that research by a blogger I mentioned in my last comment that showed he never graduated from Texas A&M. Story in the New York Times here:

    A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA

    George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

    Mr. Deutsch’s resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

    Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.

    Mr. Deutsch’s educational record was first challenged on Monday by Nick Anthis, who graduated from Texas A&M last year with a biochemistry degree and has been writing a Web log on science policy, scientificactivist.blogspot.com.

    After Mr. Anthis read about the problems at NASA, he said in an interview: “It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated.”

    He posted a blog entry asserting this after he checked with the university’s association of former students. He reported that the association said Mr. Deutsch received no degree.

  • http://lockeforthemodernage.blogspot.com/ druidbros

    This is good news ! And did you also hear that the House Republican who is on the subcommittee which oversees the NSA has called for a full congressional investigation into the domestic eavesdropping program! Things are looking up!!

  • belovedone

    Well, well, well. Got farked here, like so many others, but have to comment on the overwhelming miss the mark I read here.

    Scientific knowledge, by definition, is comprised of only those observations and descriptive narratives connecting them that can be attained by anybody with the time and cash nd inclination to do so. The body grows by accretion of repeatedly confirmed observations, and by refinements of the narratives that explain them and guide the acquisition of new observations. The more solidly repeatable by more observers a result is, the more its narrative gains strength as what is scientifically called a Theory. Conversely, an observation that contradicts some particular prediction of a theory will falsify that part of that theory and remove it from discourse. Opinions do not enter into it. At all.

    Very pragmatic – a scientific theory is a description of how something works that can be practically uised to either arrive at a desired result or to know why same cannot be realized. And the strength of a scientific theory is proportional to (amongst other things) the number of supporting independent observations and experiments.

    The existence of this blog is a prime example of the confluence of many such theories, and would not have been possible were there any fudging or wishful thinking involved. I know this – I do computers for a living, and do it because my efforts can be seen to work without needing my continued attention to maintaining any kind of illusion or deseption. Cellphones, GPS, Play-Stations, plasma widescreen TVs, all are possible only because of the scientific method. Dis it, and retreat bck to mediaeval times. You really want that? Die of old age at 40? or more likely die of an infected scratch at 20?

    By descriptive narratives I include descriptions of how the various aspects of the observations inter-relate, what tools and how to build them to make the observations, and predictions of observations yet to be made. Perhaps also including descriptions of possibilities of things to poke and what changes that would make to the observations (aka experiment). In other words, observer independent and purely objective. By definition.

    Therefore there is no such thing as a conflict with religiousness, since anybody, religous or not, can follow the given recipes and make the same observations. It makes no such claims over subjective experience (yet) since that cannot be observed in any given individual by anybody other than that individual. And religion is purely concerned with the subjective experience and explanations of meaning of life.

    There is therefore no corresponding meaning to be derived from attempting to categorise or otherwise inject religious commentary into scientific discourse. It literally makes no sense. Just as nonsensical as attempting to use science to circumscribe religious discourse.

    Finally (been up all night on this) the matter of the Big Bang Theory itself. First, the theory makes no assertions about time 0 through the first microseconds. But after that, contrary to those who say nay, we have abundant observations.

    Maybe we were not in proximity to those events some 13 billion years ago, but we can certainly observe them. Light from those events is still arriving here, and what else is an observation but seeing the light from the event being observed? And there are many observers, many telescopes, all pointed at refining the measurements, looking for deviations from theoretical predictions that can be used to further refine those theories. And through this process the BBT is become very strong indeed. About as far from a guess as one can get.

    Now it maybe takes very deep pockets and exquisitely sensitive instruments (Hubble Telescope, with the most sensitive camera yet built, required an exposure time of 100 hours for the deep field pics. That’s 36,000,000 times longer than your typical snapshot of the family at play) but anybody with those resources can play, and will get the same results. And they do. The Hubble is not the only eye on the Big Bang.

    I repeat – will get the same results. That is what science is about. If you don’t see the same thing, or don’t get the same results, you are not dealing with science, you are dealing with opinion. Or delusion. Or you are simply incompetent, and perhaps not willing to face up to that fact. Or lazy. Or in too much of a rush to pay attention to the details. Or cheap. Anything but following the prescription in excrutiating detail.

    Or, and this is very rare, you have actually discovered something new. But you’d better be able to a) back up your observations with strong justification that your methods were thorough, b) be able to repeat them, and c) be able to describe to others how to repeat them and have them actually be repeated.

    There is of course much more that can be said, but it would be mostly either essentially repetitive or too much detail or both. And I need to sleep. Thanks for listening.

  • Elliot

    Hey George maybe you can get a job over at Mike Brown’s consulting company….

    good riddance.

    Elliot

  • Chris W.

    Now that Deutsch has resigned, this becomes reminiscent of the Jeff Gannon debacle. Don’t these jerks ever learn any lessons from their screwups?

    Actually, I guess it’s better that they don’t, insofar as it will hasten their departure from the national political scene. Let’s hope so…

  • Elliot

    There is nothing for them to learn because they already know everything.

    Elliot

  • Mary O’Shaughnessy

    Apparently this George Deutsch is a liar. The New York Times reports today that he resigned from NASA when it was discovered he never graduated from Texas A&M.

    Some Christian, huh?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/politics/08nasa.html

  • http://www.physicsmyths.org.uk Thomas

    One should in my opinion not mix up science with politics here. Naturally, Big-Bang cosmologists would like to see their theory being the ‘official truth’ and other groups theirs (not only for idealistic reasons but also in order to secure further funding for their work). In the end however it is solely NASA who are responsible for what they publish or not.
    One can just hope that this affair doesn’t affect the scientific discourse as such.

    Thomas
    http://www.physicsmyths.org.uk

  • http://greedoneverfired.blogspot.com Dave Himself

    I must say of the many blogs (and other sources) I read on this topic the comments here were without contest the most thought provoking and coherent of the lot. There is the typical bickering and bashing, but even that is eloquent. Bravo!

    Now have a look at a cartoon I made to lighten things up a bit:
    http://greedoneverfired.blogspot.com/2006/02/big-bang-for-your-buck.html

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  • Peter Gaffney

    I’m not a cosmologist, but, based on everything I’ve read, I question the premise that the Big Bang is a certainty… at least to the same degree that evolution is a certainty. I’d say there’s a very high probability it’s right but that you have to withhold certainty until we’ve got a better understanding of gravity, dark energy and the true nature of spacetime.

    And of course it’s definitely questionable whether “our” Big Bang — the one 13.7 billion years ago — was a truly “universal” event… or whether the observable universe created by that Big Bang is merely a local region within the true universe.

    It’s worth remembering that the Steady State Universe was considered a virtual certainty in its day. It’s ALWAYS possible that we’re wrong, no matter how certain something may SEEM. I’m not sure that science should ever assert certainty on a subject, because that’s equivalent to closing one’s mind. To paraphrase somebody: our true ignorance lies not in what we don’t know; it lies in all the stuff we DO know that ain’t really so.

    Of course, I realize the admission of ANY uncertainty on the part of scientists will be instantly latched onto by the religious right and held up as weakness, but ultimately what we must be defending are not the truths of science — evolution, the Big Bang, etc. — but the truth of Science itself, which ultimately depends on an open mind.

    Moreover, practically speaking, I think it’s critically important for scientists to err on the side of too much doubt rather than on the side of too much certainty. If the Big Bang has been presented to the public as a certainty, and if it were then — against all odds– disproved, the credibility of the scientific community as a whole could be undermined.

    Science is not under attack from the religious right alone. There is a more generalized skepticism, and it’s partly the result of “arrogant” scientists having been proved (or perceived to be proved) wrong about the safety of nuclear power, pesticides, wonder drugs and other aspects of the “better-living-through-science” modern world which didn’t pan out. There’s also the persistent (and not ENTIRELY unfounded) myth of a closed-minded scientific establishment fiercely resistant to unorthodox ideas. Obviously this idea has been exploited by the religious right with some success in their depiction of evolution as an orthodoxy the scientific establishment refuses to have questioned.

    I realize that the attempts of this fellow insisting that the word “theory” be tacked onto any mention of the Big Bang represent an attempt to undercut the authority of science and are thoroughly deplorable, but — to play devil’s advocate — mightn’t it be preferable, in terms of the way we want to have people view science, to present the Big Bang as a “well-founded theory” rather than as a certainty (and thus, as some would have it, a tenet of the scientific religion)?

    Again, isn’t it more important that people believe in science than that they believe in the Big Bang?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/evidence-for-extra-dimensions-and.html Plato

    Peter,

    Again, isn’t it more important that people believe in science than that they believe in the Big Bang?

    Do you not think the “big bang,” science?

  • Joe Carey

    Re. ‘Dark Energy’ and the fact that the Universe is accelerating, is it not possible that there was an earlier ‘Big Bang’ which created a much bigger Universe than ours and it, is slowing down and we are experiencing its gravitational pull, hence we are being accelerated towards it. We are as it were a ‘small’ Universe within a very large Universe the ‘Dark Energy’.

  • Tom Renbarger

    Re. ‘Dark Energy’ and the fact that the Universe is accelerating, is it not possible that there was an earlier ‘Big Bang’ which created a much bigger Universe than ours and it, is slowing down and we are experiencing its gravitational pull, hence we are being accelerated towards it. We are as it were a ‘small’ Universe within a very large Universe the ‘Dark Energy’.

    In this case, you would get different redshifts looking towards and away from this attractor. Galaxy redshifts are evenly distributed in direction on cosmological scales once you account for peculiar motion arising from local clustering of matter.

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  • http://www.erectlocution.com/boxing/ Daniel

    I really hope this isn’t a pointless addition, though I suppose I’m taking that chance, with 138 replies before me.

    There would seem to be no stronger proclamation of the veracity of a concept than that it is a theory. This applies within and without the domain of professional scientific scrutiny. As single observation is an, if not the, initial point of exploration of a pattern. It might be argued that it is the detection of and application of recognized patterns that is the seat of what we call &#147intelligence”. Upon that argument we’d build the idea that any decision, no matter how minute, is the result of at least some minimal search for a pattern among one or more observations. That is, you reach for the doorknob to open a door based on a recognized pattern showing that that is the easiest way to get through a closed doorway. Young children often take some time to come to this conclusion after successive attempts and observations of other people using this method. In that sense, through several iterations of observation, hypothesis formation, hypothesis testing, and hypothesis refinement (i.e. the scientific method), the child has developed a successful theory for getting through the closed doorway.

    No one would argue that that process is nearly as rigorous as that practiced by practicing scientists, but it needn’t be to motivate an understanding of the language of “theory” and “fact”. No one would argue, I’m sure, that attempts at understanding the early conditions of the universe can be as easily investigated as can be the opening of a door. If we were instead to use as an example a criminal trial, wherein there is only a variety of indirect evidence (e.g. no witnesses, no direct detection, etc.), I’d be astonished to learn that any among you would baulk at a verdict based on 50 verified exhibits of evidence, verified at least insofar as the court is capable (e.g. DNA testing which, itself, is not fault-proof but which has been shown to have a high degree of accuracy), all of which most strongly suggested the defendant. This is, after all, the purpose and nature of our legal system, and cynics though we may be, outside the hype of prime time “news” magazines and the like, we expect that it works pretty well.

    How, then, assuming I am correct in that second paragraph, could you so easily dismiss several orders of magnitude more and stronger evidence of the scientist’s conception of the early universe? If in each case there was no witness, that shouldn’t matter lest we assume that the person with what appears, under close scrutiny, to be the victim’s blood all over their clothes and hands, and who is thought to have had significant motive for murder, and has no alibi at the time of the death, and whose footprints were found around the scene of the death, to be actually innocent because no one saw the murder happen. To be a little less wordy, when there is available a system of indication of such weight that it includes almost all evidence outside of direct observation, whatever conclusion is most strongly indicated by said system of indication should reasonably be considered the best available conclusion. It would, of course, be a conclusion open to scrutiny; but after thousands of iterative challenges, each of which either dismissed by prediction borne out by observation, or used to inform the theory further, there really would be very little room for alternative conclusions of any use.

    This is a theory, no? When a turd is found on the floor, with chunks consistent with undigested dog food, with a form factor consistent with a dog’s anus, and in a room recently departed by a skulking dog, all evidence save direct observation suggests that the dog just shit on the floor. Granted: there is some (we likely all agree nearly zero) probability that some other agent, e.g. another dog or a small faerie of fecal mischief, snuck in and framed your dog; but that is just about ludicrous.

    We use, whether we want to or not, the basic framework of the scientific method in our everyday lives. I can’t think of very many things which are absolutely certain events. I can only base my expectations on a rational interpretation of and inference from things I have observed and what those observations best indicate. Each of you does this, too. We should hope that our conceptions of patterns in the world around us are strong enough to be called theories.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/big-bangone-mans-change-of-heart.html Plato

    I wasn’t sure where to add this, so I thought what the heck, if Roger Penrose can have a change of heart then why not those who hold speculative idealization and models as insignificant as an affront to reality. Then hey, this place and thread would have been most apprporiate? :)

  • Elliot

    Hey anybody consider the possibility that Dick Cheney was performing an experiment to see if the “Big Bang” was real or just a theory :)

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  • Bill Freels

    I remain truly amazed by the thought processes revealed here, and encountering beings who would literally wish you into non existance because you would dare to have a different opinion! But then again, what is more explosive than Religion & Politics, with Science mixed in for good measure.
    25 years ago, an article appeared in “Popular Science” that stated a super computer had determined the odds the Big Bang Theory was correct were one in a “cazillion” (paraphrasing here) A while later, I read about another super computer that had determined that if a human studied all there was written in the Old Testament about the coming of Christ, the odds were one in one with seventy zero’s that he could’nt make it happen by any means.
    My belief based on scientific “fact”, & historical “fact”, lead me to believe that both occured. I personaly believe neither can cancel out the other. Both require “fact” and both require “faith” I can think of nothing science could discover that could shake my belief in a “creator”
    I am truly awed by the scientific mind and encourage the search for God’s signature. Let’s hope when they get around to creating man, they can come up with their own dirt.

  • tom sevigny

    Hello scholars!
    I just came upon this site by accident. Well, I can say that there are a lot of people in here that really hate the theist argument and are militantly opposed to the concept of a supreme being creating all of what we see.
    I read the posts of many who believe that we evolved from simian ancestors. I thought that most of those theories were already given up on much as the “theory of spontaneous generation” and the concept of “an upward urge in nature” to produce an evolved and supposed better species. Louis Pasteur’s findings and the demonstrable laws of physics disproved these theories long ago. On another note if you folks don’t believe that science and politics should ever cross paths, you may want to go back in time and inform Germany’s chancelor Adolph Hitler that it was not okay to murder
    “lesser evolved” forms of homo sapiens.
    regards,
    Tom

  • Max Antuar

    Hi you guys!

    thoughts from Australia.

    it seems to me that a lot of you delight in showing your learning with your big words and theoretical meandering.
    My observations show that the proposed ideas of B.B. are bringing out the religionist intolerance like those who opposed Galileo, Copernicus and others, and the real threat ( to them ) of eternal damnation and excommunication from their religous ideals. Whether one believes or not is ones own choice just as the U.S.constitution decrees and allows ( and we need to be thankful for that). The fact that America developed out of the idea that people need to be free to make their own decisions, and that that freedom is cherished is a great blessing for mankind. The fact of “ex nihilo” is still accepted by some deluded persons, and a “7 day creation” idea is still about, is a pity!

    Thinking persons have to agree that there is proven knowledge that pre-Adamic events did happen, that Dinosaurs did exist, Ive seen some of their bones, and that the earth has a long history of developement. At the same time I question Darwins ideas, that,if he had the knowledge of D.N.A.,and other matters as we have today, showing the unlikely event of genetic change to convert a fish into a man in one fell swoop, or whatever link that is put forward to support his theory, that we may give more credibility to I.D. Contrary to the thoughts of some, Science and religion must be in agreement, otherwise the idea of God would fall flat on its face, for if we are to believe in a creation,(how else did we get here ???), how could this happen without the creator being endowed with a knowledge of all the sciences that we presently know and maybe some that we do not yet understand and or that we are not yet endowed with, such as computer technology, which my Grandfather would have revelled in, as he was a radio enthusiast from the days of Marconi. As for the steady solid state before the B.B,where did all this stupendous amount of matter that we know to be in our universe originally come from???. We are obviously in deep water when we try to fathom that one (remember ex nihilo).

    I do not totally discredit B.B., but one thing remains to be said, maybe there are other forces that we do not know of as yet that will give us a clearer understanding of the cosmic powers in our universe. Who will be foolish enough to say without trepidation, we know every thing that there is to be known, just like the Religious bigots who threatened Gallileo when he said that he believed that the earth revolved around the Sun.

    We have to accept that the religious idea that God made man is no more than a theory to many, just as Darwins ideas which are so fully accepted by many, are only just a theory, so we likewise have to accept that the big bang idea, while seemingly supported by measurement and collation of many ideas accepted by some, is after all only a theory, and after all, is a only a possible chance event, which begs the question why did it happen???

    So, I conclude my diatribe with the following quotation of which I do not have the author:-

  • Arthur HU

    Intelligent design advocates do support the big bang. Young earth creationists do not.

  • tom sevigny

    Hello folks!

    Hey Max. You make some very good points. I don’t think many people even Christians or theists consider science an anathema unless they are completely ignorant. We all come into this world with the question “how” on our lips. You cannot have an intelligent exchange of ideas with such a person nor can you have a discussion on philosophy or religion without first establishing that there is some truth in the writings of the philosophers or theists. Otherwise you have no reference or common ground. In like manner scientists take creedence in many theories that have been accepted in their community but are not yet proven. It is much like a discipline.
    I believe that science is a systematic attempt to gather knowledge of the tangible things in the universe through study and observation. Many study and observe the mechanics of matter and energy and leave out the big question of “why”as though it is some sort of stumbling block. The greatest minds always ask “why”.
    On the other hand, you have creationists holding to a literal six day creation with one day of rest explanation from the Bible. The Biblical texts expound that God/the Creator transcends time and that to Him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.
    It is more likely describing 6 or seven units of time rather than the period it takes for the Earth to rotate once on it’s axis. Without this understanding you are having an ideological debate rather than a comparison of theorum. The finding of homo sapien footprints in the same stratum of soil as dinosaur remains is another stumbing block for many. It doesn’t however surprise me.

    regards,
    Tom

  • tom sevigny

    Hello,
    I read back in a post a while back from a fellow named JW stating that a law and a theory are pretty much the same. What’s that all about? No wonder everybody is so messed up over the classification of a theory/hypothesis
    My understanding of what a law is relating to physics or science: a sequence of natural events occurring with unvarying uniformity under the same conditions. In otherwords scientists have observed these events occurring where the conditions were the same and pretty much concur that based upon the uniformity and probability that unless conditions change, the events will occur as expected.
    Though both a law and a theory deal with principles of science, a theory is much more speculative based upon verified principle and a law relates more in being the know/verified substantiation for the principle.

    Tom

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Im afraid I have to agree most with ATHIEST (122) and LIFE_OF_BRIAN (98) on most of these issues. I am not personaly religious, however beleive in the “to each his own philosophy.” What I have a problem with is people who invade other’s personal inalienable rights for the sake of faith such as muslim suicide bombers and christian housewives who kill their children for the sake of a better afterlife.

    I also have a problem with religious people who so blindly devote themselves to god or allah or whoever the hell else without seriously reciprocating the possibilities first. Does a god exist? Maybe, I guess you could call me agnostic, but I do know that life everyone should make the best of life and (at the risk of being labeled really gay) you should go out with a positive attitude and make the world a better place.

    I know personaly that I am not going to devot myself to a faith just because some random middle eastern guy in a turban said without having some type of rational thought toward my own means of existence. Nonetheless, I belive that our society and gov’t should be totaly secualr and advocate science, space research and stuff like that.

    Can’t we all just get along without going to war, killing each other, or providing an environment of intolerance, ignorance, and apathy?

  • tom sevigny

    Hey Rusty,
    Everybody is entitled to believe what they wish. We all should make an attempt to understand the wonders of the universe. The sciences do their best to explore the cosmos and to observe the living systems and geological dynamics of this planet and they do a rather efficient job especially with the advent of new technologies. I take issue with people who would rather keep their head in the sand and simply accept what is than those who seek. Can you honestly say that the “why” is not as important question as how?
    Theology is not the antithesis of science. Don’t be fooled. Many of the greatest minds of the last millenium
    who made significant contributions to science were theists and many became theists based upon the discoveries they made. Secularism,humanism and atheism are “ideologies” that set forth the presumption that the origin of all matter has come into existence randomly.
    The theory of spontaneous generation was another brilliant (sarcasm) concept. This took more faith to accept than Moses’ parting of the Red Sea. Why do evolutionists use the term “design” which is a term appropriately attributed to a thinking living being when describing the mechanics of nature? The degree of complexity of the living systems all around us is evidence of a creator with supreme intelligence.
    There, I showed my cards.
    As for Christians killing people…Read the “red letters” in the New Testament and show me anywhere where Jesus from Nazareth advocated murder for any reason. Men murder other men despite his teaching not because he condoned it. I cannot however say that about Mohammed. He was kind of partial to using his sword rather than his tongue. In the fifth century he was promoting his faith through extreme violence. It’s no wonder the followers of this Arab prophet are willing to kill people over a cartoon.
    Trashing theism in general and lumping all religions in the recycling bin for deletion without regard for their founders intent is not very scientific. Hee Hee.

    Regards,
    Tom

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  • tom sevigny

    Hello,
    I do not dispute that the big bang theory pertaining to the creation of the universe as a possibility. The presumption it resulted strictly by a physical force acting upon matter however is still a matter of conjecture.
    Intelligent design and the biblical account of the origin of living systems is at odds with evolutionary theory. The book of Genesis is however compatible with the big bang theory as the creation of the solar system and the universe is not exhaustively explained in the scriptures.
    The Bible does however stress that God brought into being all that we see. According to these writings, in the beginning the earth was void and without form.
    The real issue I would say is that until something is definitively proven, it is still a theory.

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  • Tom Sevigny

    It just goes to show you what brilliant minds we have in the executive branch of government today. May God help us…

  • http://spatulated.wordpress.com/ Spatulated

    I don’t know if something like this was said… but I think churches should be required to reference god as a theory.

    According to god theory, he said “let there be…”

  • Cynthia

    Spatulated, I would like to build upon your “thought-invoking” comment. If Mr. Deutsch is so adamant about classifying Big Bang as a mere nebulous theory, Christians – who are so eager to incorporate religion into science – should be adamant about classifying God as a mere nebulous theory. Furthermore, as long as these Christians are so eager to play upon the scientific landscape, they must equally abide by the rules of the scientific method. Therefore, as these Christians intertwine religious dogma with the scientific method, these Christians must come to the harsh realization that their almighty God is nothing more than a mere nebulous theory.

  • Tom Sevigny

    Wow somebody needed there thoughts invoked.

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  • http://mmcyf.sytes.net eLaine

    What do you think is the meaning of “theory” then?,,Theory needs to be proven, or has not yet proved. SO how can they say that the Big Bang is correct and true if it is still known as a THEORY? pls. answer me!!! ehehhehe

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  • Jon Jackopin

    Yea Sean let’s believe people can accurately predict how the universe started, let alone 14 billion years ago…You can be an atheist but don’t say there is overwhelming evidence to the point that anyone that disagrees with you and other people who believe the big bang are dead wrong. You sound like a jerk

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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