Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

mucholderthen:

Torus Universe 
Big Bang Cosmos

Visualizations by robolotion  
 ©2014 Philipp Langer (Berlin/Germany)

Visualization of a cyclic cosmology model which describes the big bang as a so-called wormhole, i.e. as a connection between a black and a white hole.

academicatheism:

new-age-conservative:

A little simplified in a few parts but overall a correct and valid argument.

Just to prove how philosophically bankrupt this entire presentation is, I’ll pick it apart. He starts with the Argument From Motion; what follows is a joint refutation—a refutation that includes the input of a few people who take issue with the argument:

I put up a post asking my followers to refute Aquinas’ Argument from Motion.  I only received two responses, but two are definitely better than none.  The point of the post was to establish correlation; in other words, the point was to try to ascertain the general understanding people have of Aquinas’ argument.  Why did I do that?  Because I was told that I didn’t understand Aquinas’ argument.  Thus, I wanted to prove that I understood it even better than the person that used it in a recent discussion.

So, first we’ll consider my response and then we’ll consider the other two responses; then I will also include one of the common refutations listed on Lander University’s website.

The relevant part of my response read as follows:

How is his creation of the universe and his involvement in the universe reconciled with the fact that he is unmoved?  If it strikes me to grab a snack at this very moment, it would be safe to conclude that I’m somewhat hungry and/or craving a specific snack.  It is obvious that I can be moved by thoughts, other people, good advertising, and a number of other things.  However, if this mover is truly unmoved, what compelled him to create the universe in the first place?  Is it that supernatural neurons fired in his supernatural brain?  Is it that divine advertising made him crave creating a universe for himself?  Is it that another supernatural entity told him it was a good idea?  What initially moved him to start the motion we observe?  The notion that he’s unmoved is irreconcilable with the notion that he created the universe.  If you were to say that he was moved by his own nature, then how can he be perfect?  Needs and desires belong to beings that seek to add value to themselves or their lives.  However, being perfect, why would I seek to add value of any sort if I already embody infinite value?  That is to say that I can’t possibly need or desire an add-on.  I would be self-sufficient.  So the question would remain, what compelled him to move?  So rather than the question, “who created god?,” we arrive at the question, “what moved the unmoved mover?”  The question is clearly a logical contradiction—one that arises from Aquinas’ argument itself.

This logical contradiction is one side of the coin.  The other side of the coin is given by my followers’ responses:

The argument makes a halfway decent case for the logical necessity of something as a possible first mover, but fails to demonstrate the existence of a god as an actual first mover.

To accept a god as a first mover, You have to ask how it’s possible for a god to both be a mover yet be un-moved, or exist yet be un-caused. Any answer to those questions will consist of either special pleadingcircular arguments, non-sequiturs, or glib non-answers.

source

Interesting how Aquinas tries to avoid infinite regress by simply asserting that there isn’t one. The logic (everything that moves needs a mover) can go into infinity and indeed it does. What moved god? If god needed no mover, why does the universe? Of god can be eternal, why not the universe?Special pleading, that’s why.

Side note: Robert Green Ingersoll (1899) argued that:

If we have a theory, we must have facts for the foundation. We must have corner-stones. We must not build on guesses, fancies, analogies or inferences.

The structure must have a basement. If we build, we must begin at the bottom. I have a theory and I have four corner-stones.

-The first stone is that matter (energy)— substance — cannot be destroyed, cannot be annihilated.

-The second stone is that force cannot be destroyed, cannot be annihilated.

-The third stone is that matter and force cannot exist apart — no matter without force — no force without matter.

-The fourth stone is that that which cannot be destroyed could not have been created; that the indestructible is the uncreatable.

-If these corner-stones are facts, it follows as a necessity that matter and force are from and to eternity; that they can neither be increased nor diminished. It follows that nothing has been or can be created; that there never has been or can be a creator. It follows that there could not have been any intelligence, any design back of matter and force.

-There is no intelligence without force. There is no force without matter. Consequently there could not by any possibility have been any intelligence, any force, back of matter. It therefore follows that the supernatural does not and cannot exist. If these four corner-stones are facts, Nature has no master.

source

Lander University’s philosophy department has a list of common criticisms and what’s at the top of that list?

There seems to be a contradiction in the argument. Premise (2), “Whatever is moved is moved by another,” conflicts with the notion of God in this argument as that of something unmoved, i.e., that of the Unmoved Mover. God, then, is an the exception to the truth of premise [special pleading] (2). Nevertheless, cannot God move or act? If God is pure actuality, then it would seem to follow that God can’t do anything, for God is already all that God could be. If, then, God is already all that God can be, there’s no potential for God to be able to act or be in any way different from what God is. If God is claimed to have a privileged status and not subject to the first premise, then the argument becomes viciously circular.

(Bold emphasis mine in each section)

What conclusions can we make concerning the general understanding of Aquinas’ Argument from Motion?  Lander University’s list of common objections include logical contradiction and special pleading (which I consider two sides of the same coin in this case), and circular reasoning.  It follows that I understood the argument.  We can then conclude that my opponent doesn’t understand the argument or that he accused me of not understanding the argument to get out from under the weight of my refutations—refutations that are common.  This isn’t to say that commonality implies truth, but in this case, commonality implies the general understanding of the argument. The argument is generally understood in the same way I understand it.  Therefore, it’s either that the general understanding is mistaken or that the objections defeat the argument.  The latter is the likelier conclusion.

Also, the Argument from Motion rests on an outdated Aristotelian physics. Please watch this debate and see why the concept of god is utterly irrelevant in modern cosmology.

Kreeft then continues with a fallacy—namely, an argumentum ad ignorantiam: “just because scientists don’t see a cause doesn’t mean there isn’t one.” This is essentially unscientific thinking; it is to make one’s conclusion unfalsifiable. Unfalsifiable conclusions are the hallmark of pseudoscience (i.e. astrology, Marx’s theory of history, Freud’s psychoanalysis). Kreeft has now intruded on the territory of science and thus, must play by its rules; to put forth an unfalsifiable conclusion is to break the rules. And that’s neglecting the fact that there are other refutations. Philosophers have questioned causality. Causality, as we think of it, may not even exist. In any event, to apply causality to the universe is to commit the same mistake found in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. That mistake is yet another fallacy—specifically the fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition occurs when one applies to the whole that which applies to the parts. Therefore, causality may apply to the parts of the universe, but it wouldn’t follow that it also applies to the universe itself.

Not surprisingly, he rolls right into the KCA. I’ve already shown its pivotal flaw. He states that “nothing can come from nothing.” Unfortunately, the definition of nothing in cosmology isn’t the same as the definition he’s using. The primary difficulty in discussing the KCA is this difference in definition. What the apologist means by nothing and what the cosmologist means by nothing are entirely different. The apologists’ definition is the absence of something; it’s a type of nothing that’s never been observed. What cosmologists mean by nothing is simply the fabric of space minus galaxies, stars, planets, comets, asteroids, and life. The fabric of space was there at the Big Bang; that’s what permitted inflation and expansion to occur. To envision this, think of a balloon. The balloon, prior to inflating, already exists. Air is then blown into the balloon and it begins to expand. Or you can think of a rubber band before it’s stretched.

The fabric of space is not unlike these examples. Some physicists have posited (consider Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe) that space may even have phase changes akin to the phases of ordinary matter. Using this logic, they arrived at the conclusion that the universe may undergo a Big Rip. That is to say that if our cosmic rubber band expands too much, it will tear and collapse onto itself so to speak. It is better to look at the universe as it is rather than how you want to be. The universe is queerer than we supposed.

Also, I must point out that he’s wrong. Though I understand why apologists think the Big Bang is confirmation of a beginning and a creator, it’s not. That’s precisely why I highly recommend the debate. The KCA, when argued from a misinterpretation of cosmology, doesn’t rest on the Big Bang. It rests on a singularity theorem—namely the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin Theorem. Sean Carroll demonstrates why the argument rests on a flawed interpretation and he even Skype calls Alan Guth to explain why the theorem doesn’t imply the type of beginning apologists argue for. That’s exactly why I said it rests on a misinterpretation of science.

The recent discovery of gravitational waves complicates the matter. Our universe may not be infinitely old, but it could have arisen from natural processes that are infinitely old. Gravitational waves confirm rapid inflation just after the Big Bang; they also provide good evidence for the inflationary multiverse. See this post for a little background. Keep in mind that the inflationary multiverse is one of nine options. In The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene offered multiverses that are consequences of mathematics. We know now to take the predictions of math very seriously. Einstein refused to accept to predictions implied by his own general relativity: 1) black holes 2) the universe is expanding. The latter is why he introduced his “blunder,” the Cosmological Constant. This constant has been revived, in some sense, due to an anti-gravitational force that’s speeding up expansion: dark energy. It may or may not have the value Einstein thought it did. Quantum mechanics, theories in cosmology, and m-theory imply a number of multiverses. Like Michio Kaku stated, our universe could be the result of a fusioning or fissioning of other universes. Science doesn’t absolutely disprove the concept of a deity, but it definitely makes it unnecessary.

Kreeft then goes on a strange tangent and attempts to use relativity to ground his logic. Yes, general relativity says that time is relative, but it doesn’t follow that there isn’t a before the Big Bang. Given inflation, there very well might be! If the Big Bang is a singularity, Einstein’s field equations break down; it’s the same thing that happens within a black hole. On episode 4 of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson offered that our universe may exist within a black hole. Think about it! The Big Bang may have been a singularity; an attribute of black holes is a singularity. Who’s to say these singularities aren’t one in the same?

That a multiverse has a beginning is again, flawed cosmology. A multiverse wouldn’t have a beginning at all. A multiverse would complicate matters so much that there’d be no room left for creator concepts. According to Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, there are an infinite amount of parallel universes. If anyone wants to posit a creator at that point, they’d have to speak of a massive quantum computer or a simulator. All of the common concepts fold before this interpretation. Your concept would be devastated because biblical cosmology doesn’t even offer an adequate scope of this (!) universe—let alone a multiverse. Sure, the Bible isn’t a science textbook, but wherever applicable, the omniscient creator would have been careful to mention scientific truths. He would have known of this move away from him long before it happened; thus, he would have been sure to be firm on whatever science he communicated to Iron Age writers so as to ensure that we aren’t deceived or compelled to question his existence. A literal interpretation of the Bible leaves us with a universe that’s a fraction of a hair follicle on a full set of hair; in other words, it leaves us with a universe to young as to be comparable to the universe we know. Given this difficulty, Christians have turned to looser interpretations that still don’t match.

By the way, mathematics is empirical. Mathematics, in many places and through many mediums, implies a multiverse. Therefore, there’s empirical evidence for a multiverse. Again, when mathematics suggest something is likely the case, it’s not long before we find that that something is the case.

In any event, the Bible is demolished by history, archaeology, and textual criticism. Given that I’ve already overstayed my welcome, I’m not going to go there, but if I do, I’ve no doubt you’ll be thoroughly convinced given that you don’t pull wool over your eyes. I understand the logic behind not questioning the authority of apologists—especially ones that boast qualifications like Kreeft does. I don’t doubt that he’s an excellent philosopher, but when he attempts to use philosophy to defend his religion, he comes off as someone who’s very ignorant of the modern scientific current. After all, Christians are in the business of not questioning authority; that’s the beginning of a journey away from such beliefs. To question authority eventually leads one to question god’s authority; then one questions his existence. Before long, you’re not just a non-believer in all other gods, but you’re a non-believer in the god you once claimed as your own. My advice: read more; stay updated; question authority; question everything. Truth requires a diligent seeking process; truth simply isn’t whatever we want it to be. I hope you realize now that atheism definitely doesn’t require faith.

we-are-star-stuff:

If you really want a headache (the good kind), take a long look at this “photo”. No, this is not a photo of the cosmic microwave background radiation (which you can actually see for yourself if you change your television channel to one of the “fuzzy” stations) nor is it a collection of graphs of a cell structure. So, instead of telling you what it isn’t, how about I tell you what it is? This is, well… everything. Everything we can see and observe anyway. What you’re looking at is the “observable” universe. This particular map has a cellular appearance due to how the galaxies tend to collect into vast sheets and super clusters of stars that are surrounded by stunningly large voids in between them. You and I and everything we’ve ever known are smack in the middle there, along with our Local group, which is a part of the larger Virgo Supercluster.  All of those other dots are also superclusters, each containing perhaps trillions of stars.Since the speed of light is a constant in the vacuum of space, there is an outer edge to what is observable from Earth. That outer edge is defined by the objects within 14 billion years away (how old the universe is estimated to be), which is the time it would take for the light from these distant objects to reach us here on Earth. In this sense, the objects that are the farthest away from us are literally some of the earliest stars and galaxies in the young universe. it’s quite likely that the stars we’re observing are no longer burning and the ones that have formed from the gases expelled during the supernova of the previous stars are in another place entirely.Since the universe has been expanding indefinitely since the big bang, the number of objects seen in the observable universe will shorten with time and it will appear as if the universe is much smaller than it does now - due to the light not having the proper amount of time to travel to the distant reaches of the universe. This expansion that’s going on in all directions is also the reason why our solar system appears to lie in the middle of the universe. In fact, every inhabited planet circling a distant star will look out into the universe and they will see that the universe is expanding away from them, giving the impression that they are located smack in the center of it all.The “observable” universe consists of:
10 million superclusters
25 billion galaxy groups
350 billion large galaxies
7 trillion dwarf galaxies
30 billion trillion (3X10^22) stars (of which almost 30 stars go supernova per second)
According to some math that I have no desire to go into, if you imagine the size of the observable universe (13.7 billion light-years) to be that of one nucleus of an atom and compare that with the size of the unobservable universe, then the total universe is 10 billion times larger than the size of the unobservable universe compared to a nucleus of an atom AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO GET BIGGER.You can look at those numbers here. Keep in mind that it’s impossible for us to know the exact size of the unobservable universe, so the above is an estimation. It could be much larger than that!
[Continue reading →]

we-are-star-stuff:

If you really want a headache (the good kind), take a long look at this “photo”. No, this is not a photo of the cosmic microwave background radiation (which you can actually see for yourself if you change your television channel to one of the “fuzzy” stations) nor is it a collection of graphs of a cell structure. So, instead of telling you what it isn’t, how about I tell you what it is? This is, well… everything. Everything we can see and observe anyway. What you’re looking at is the “observable” universe. This particular map has a cellular appearance due to how the galaxies tend to collect into vast sheets and super clusters of stars that are surrounded by stunningly large voids in between them. You and I and everything we’ve ever known are smack in the middle there, along with our Local group, which is a part of the larger Virgo Supercluster.  All of those other dots are also superclusters, each containing perhaps trillions of stars.

Since the speed of light is a constant in the vacuum of space, there is an outer edge to what is observable from Earth. That outer edge is defined by the objects within 14 billion years away (how old the universe is estimated to be), which is the time it would take for the light from these distant objects to reach us here on Earth. In this sense, the objects that are the farthest away from us are literally some of the earliest stars and galaxies in the young universe. it’s quite likely that the stars we’re observing are no longer burning and the ones that have formed from the gases expelled during the supernova of the previous stars are in another place entirely.

Since the universe has been expanding indefinitely since the big bang, the number of objects seen in the observable universe will shorten with time and it will appear as if the universe is much smaller than it does now - due to the light not having the proper amount of time to travel to the distant reaches of the universe. This expansion that’s going on in all directions is also the reason why our solar system appears to lie in the middle of the universe. In fact, every inhabited planet circling a distant star will look out into the universe and they will see that the universe is expanding away from them, giving the impression that they are located smack in the center of it all.

The “observable” universe consists of:

  • 10 million superclusters
  • 25 billion galaxy groups
  • 350 billion large galaxies
  • 7 trillion dwarf galaxies
  • 30 billion trillion (3X10^22) stars (of which almost 30 stars go supernova per second)

According to some math that I have no desire to go into, if you imagine the size of the observable universe (13.7 billion light-years) to be that of one nucleus of an atom and compare that with the size of the unobservable universe, then the total universe is 10 billion times larger than the size of the unobservable universe compared to a nucleus of an atom AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO GET BIGGER.

You can look at those numbers here

Keep in mind that it’s impossible for us to know the exact size of the unobservable universe, so the above is an estimation. It could be much larger than that!

[Continue reading →]

The universe does not behave according to our pre-conceived ideas. It continues to surprise us.

Stephen Hawking (via inthenoosphere)

From Wired.com

A stunning 360-degree mosaic of images shot by Nasa contains more than half of the stars in the Milky Way. The images have been captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of Nasa’s GLIMPSE360 project — or to give it its full title, Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire. It’s a big name alright, but a project of this magnitude does justify it at least.

The panoramas have been stitched together from more than two million photos that have been captured using infrared light over the course of ten years. As you might expect, the use of infrared light allowed the Spitzer to illuminate and capture much more of the galaxy than can be seen simply by using natural light. Visible light is frequently blocked out by a dust that infrared light can easily penetrate. Stars and other objects emit infrared light, which is then picked up by the Spitzer’s detectors.

The stars that we can see are around 1,000 light-years away, but the panoramic photo captured by Spitzer shows stars that are 100,000 light-years away. The blue stars in the image are quite close to us, whereas the red patches are “dusty areas of star formation”. The blue haze in the image is starlight from mature stars thats are packed so tightly together that they cannot be individually identified.

The Spitzer launched in 2003 from Cape Canaveral and is the fourth and final project of the Nasa Great Observatories program. Originally it was thought that the mission life of the telescope would be two and a half years, which could possibly be extended to five. Most of the instruments on board are no longer usable as the telescope’s liquid helium supply has been exhausted. However some of the wavelength modules on the infrared camera are still operable and in use as part of the Spitzer Warm Mission.

From Wired.com

A stunning 360-degree mosaic of images shot by Nasa contains more than half of the stars in the Milky Way. The images have been captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of Nasa’s GLIMPSE360 project — or to give it its full title, Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire. It’s a big name alright, but a project of this magnitude does justify it at least.

The panoramas have been stitched together from more than two million photos that have been captured using infrared light over the course of ten years. As you might expect, the use of infrared light allowed the Spitzer to illuminate and capture much more of the galaxy than can be seen simply by using natural light. Visible light is frequently blocked out by a dust that infrared light can easily penetrate. Stars and other objects emit infrared light, which is then picked up by the Spitzer’s detectors.

The stars that we can see are around 1,000 light-years away, but the panoramic photo captured by Spitzer shows stars that are 100,000 light-years away. The blue stars in the image are quite close to us, whereas the red patches are “dusty areas of star formation”. The blue haze in the image is starlight from mature stars thats are packed so tightly together that they cannot be individually identified.

The Spitzer launched in 2003 from Cape Canaveral and is the fourth and final project of the Nasa Great Observatories program. Originally it was thought that the mission life of the telescope would be two and a half years, which could possibly be extended to five. Most of the instruments on board are no longer usable as the telescope’s liquid helium supply has been exhausted. However some of the wavelength modules on the infrared camera are still operable and in use as part of the Spitzer Warm Mission.

skeptv:

How Big Is The Universe?

Beakus were commissioned to create three animated films that explain key concepts about our universe, with humour helping to explain the ‘almost’ unexplainable! Director Amaël Isnard also designed the films.

In ‘How Big Is The Universe?’ ROG astronomer Liz shows us the expanding nature of the Universe and how this affects the light reaching us from distant galaxies, some of which will remain forever hidden from our view.

via Beakus.


Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Cosmos - edited for rednecks

I recently posted the Family Guy bit, "Carl Sagan Cosmos Editied For Rednecks". Here is the NDT update from SkepticallyPwnd.

(Source: theeverlastinggopstoppers.com)

Scientists capture first ever signal from the beginning of the Universe

It looks like an explosion from an 80s game, but you’re looking at the first direct proof of the event that started the Universe—the Big Bang. Those black lines represent the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, which “could have been produced by gravitational waves created by inflation” as predicted by Einstein. If confirmed, it could be one of the biggest scientific discoveries in history.

Somebody’s going to win a Nobel Prize. At least that’s what the physics community is saying after the announcement on Monday that a Harvard team has found the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang. It’s more proof that the Big Bang really was the beginning of it all.

The discovery itself is a little bit tough to wrap your head around—as it should be, given that it helps to explain the beginning of existence. Astronomers specifically discovered a twist of light called primordial B-mode polarization. This refers to the swirling effect that enormous gravitation waves had on photons that escaped from the Big Bang and serves as proof that those gravitational waves actually exist. As far as understanding the origins of the universe goes, this is a very, very big deal. Some say that this finding is up there with the discovery of the Higgs boson back in 2012… 

Continue

Scientists capture first ever signal from the beginning of the Universe

It looks like an explosion from an 80s game, but you’re looking at the first direct proof of the event that started the Universe—the Big Bang. Those black lines represent the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, which “could have been produced by gravitational waves created by inflation” as predicted by Einstein. If confirmed, it could be one of the biggest scientific discoveries in history.

Somebody’s going to win a Nobel Prize. At least that’s what the physics community is saying after the announcement on Monday that a Harvard team has found the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation right after the Big Bang. It’s more proof that the Big Bang really was the beginning of it all.

The discovery itself is a little bit tough to wrap your head around—as it should be, given that it helps to explain the beginning of existence. Astronomers specifically discovered a twist of light called primordial B-mode polarization. This refers to the swirling effect that enormous gravitation waves had on photons that escaped from the Big Bang and serves as proof that those gravitational waves actually exist. As far as understanding the origins of the universe goes, this is a very, very big deal. Some say that this finding is up there with the discovery of the Higgs boson back in 2012…

Continue

The recent discovery if gravitational waves is a great chance to revisit the origins of Alan Guth’s original idea of inflation in the the post-Big Bang era. 

Here’s the page in his notebook from when he first made the discovery.

The recent discovery if gravitational waves is a great chance to revisit the origins of Alan Guth’s original idea of inflation in the the post-Big Bang era.

Here’s the page in his notebook from when he first made the discovery.

sci-universe:

Ann Druyan — the amazing lady who has co-written, produced and directed both the original (1980s) and today’s “Cosmos” series.

“We may be little but we don’t think small. It’s the courage of questions, of grasping our true circumstances, and not pretending we are at the center of it all, that is adulthood. That’s being a grownup. Nothing in the cosmos diminishes the profundity of life and love. This show is a celebration of life in the universe.”

Lawrence Krauss | Why’s there something rather than nothing?

skeptv:

Was the Universe Designed?

A contentious question, especially given recent debates between a certain science guy and a certain creationist. Is there any strength to be found in the Teleological argument, or its fraternal twin the Fine-Tuning augment?

via Philosophy Tube. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilosophyTube
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhilosophyTube

zerostatereflex:

The Beginning of Everything — The Big Bang

A beautifully animated description of what we know about the creation of the Universe, so far.
We can see most of the how, though who knows how long this can last. Does the universe build in enough time for the beings that study it, to reveal why it happened? We’ll see I guess. :D