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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design – Part 2

Posted by jlwile on January 7, 2010

In the first part of my review of Dr. Bradley Monton’s Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, I discussed Dr. Monton’s excellent defense of intelligent design as a legitimate scientific pursuit. However, I also mentioned the fact that his book makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I want to address that now.

First, Dr. Monton’s sharp intellect makes it hard for me to forget that there are intellectual atheists out there. Most of the “new atheists” are such buffoons that it lulls one into the false idea that atheists are mostly irrational. While this may be true about many atheists, it is certainly not the case for Dr. Monton.

He displays his intellect in no uncertain terms, for example, when he sets out to formulate a statement of what intelligent design is. He starts with the Discovery Institute’s statement of intelligent design:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

He then makes the obvious point that everyone must agree with that statement. An athlete’s strong muscles (a feature of a living thing) are not the result of an undirected process such as natural selection – they are the result of the athlete’s intelligently-designed workout regime. Similarly, a building like the Empire State Building (a feature that is in the universe) is not the result of an undirected process such as natural selection. It is the result of design. Thus, he rightly points out that this description of intelligent design doesn’t really state what the proponents of intelligent design want their own theory to mean. He spends several pages coming up with a much more intellectually rigorous statement of intelligent design:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain global features of the universe provide evidence for the existence of an intelligent cause, or that certain biologically innate features of living things provide evidence for the doctrine that the features are the result of the intentional actions of an intelligent cause which is not biologically related to the living things, and provide evidence against the doctrine that the features are the result of an undirected process such as natural selection. (p. 39)

While this statement is much harder to read than the Discovery Institute’s statement, it is significantly more scientifically rigorous. He also says that in principle, he agrees with that statement. He thinks there is some evidence for the doctrine that certain global features of the universe provide evidence for the existence of an intelligent cause. In fact, he thinks that the “fine-tuning” argument is probably the best argument given by ID proponents.

In short, the “fine-tuning” argument says that there are many fundamental constants that govern global features of the universe, such as the mass of a neutron. These constants seem finely-tuned for life to exist. If the value of even one of those constants was just slightly different from its current value, life could not exist. For example, if the mass of the neutron were higher by a mere 0.15%, no element heavier than hydrogen could exist. Alternatively, if it were just 0.08% lighter, there would be no atoms in the universe at all – everything would be composed of neutrons. If the universe were the result of chance, you just wouldn’t expect so many fundamental constants to be right at the values necessary to allow for life to exist. While Dr. Monton does say the “fine-tuning” argument holds some sway, it is not enough to make him give up his atheism. Nevertheless, he admits that it holds some water.

The second aspect of the book that makes me quite uncomfortable is the result of his discussion of the origin of life. While Dr. Monton correctly states that the origin of life (as we know it) is an incredibly, ridiculously improbable event, this doesn’t give him pause. As he sees it, we live in a spatially infinite universe. In a spatially infinite universe, even absurdly improbable events will happen frequently. Thus, one would simply expect the universe to contain life in many places, regardless of its ridiculous improbability.

Now I have a problem with this argument, but that’s not what makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think there is compelling evidence for a spatially infinite universe. You see, Dr. Monton is convinced by the consensus view in astronomy right now, which is based on essentially three assumptions:

1. General relativity is a good description of the universe on a large scale.

2. The universe is relatively homogeneous (The Cosmological Principle).

3. The expansion of the universe is properly described in all its essential features by the Big Bang Theory.

If you agree with these three assumptions, then yes the universe is spatially infinite. I agree with #1, but I think both #2 and #3 are wrong. Certainly observations of the known universe are inconsistent with #2. For example, here is a typical “map” of the known universe, where each point represents a galaxy:

Map of the Visible Universe

Map of the Visible Universe, Image Courtesy Margaret J. Geller and Emilio E. Falco, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics



This doesn’t look homogeneous to me. Of course, astrophysicists who want to believe in #2 hope that the voids between galaxies are filled with as much mass as what is found in the galaxies, and they think the “missing mass” is probably in the form of “dark matter.” However, the evidence for that hope is not there, at least not yet.

Even if #2 turns out to be correct, #3 almost certainly isn’t. There are a lot of problems with the Big Bang model, and there are several serious astrophysicists who think those problems are insurmountable. Thus, to “explain away” the improbability of the origin of life based on a set of assumptions that includes #3 is not very tenable, at least not in my opinion.

Here’s the part that makes me uncomfortable: Let’s say the universe is spatially infinite. Then there are lots of places where life exists. In some subset of those places, there are advanced beings. Some subset of those advanced beings are even more advanced than us.

Now…what is one thing that advanced beings probably do? They run simulations of reality in order to learn more about it. Many scientist in our world, for example, run simulations of global weather, nuclear reactions, plate tectonics, etc., etc. Some of the simulations are more accurate than others, but suffice it to say that running simulations is probably a trait shared by many advanced civilizations. Well, in a really advanced civilization, they probably run simulations of life. Dr. Monton is one who believes that you can have consciousness without a physical body, so it is possible (not very possible, but still possible) that some advanced civilizations have come up with a way to simulate consciousness.

In a spatially infinite universe, then, there must be advanced civilizations running simulations of consciousness, because in a spatially infinite universe, even ridiculously improbable events (like the origin of life or an advanced race simulating consciousness) happen regularly. Now…because advanced beings like ourselves tend to run many, many simulations, there are a lot more simulated consciousnesses than there are real consciousness. As a result, if we are living in a spatially infinite universe such that life can arise spontaneously, it is more likely that we are a part of a simulation than a real civilization!

I know this sounds strange, but it is logically consistent, given the premise of a spatially infinite universe and the possibility that consciousness can be simulated. As Dr. Monton says:

So that’s the simulation argument. If your attitude is incredulousness, I’m on your side. But expressing incredulousness doesn’t show that the argument is wrong.** (p. 119)

Now Dr. Monton wants the simulation argument to be wrong, so he goes through some objections. However, he doesn’t find any of the objections to be wholly satisfying. Thus, he is left to conclude that there is at least some chance we are in a simulation and are not even “real” beings.

I don’t think we are in a simulation, because I don’t think the premise of a spatially infinite universe is correct. However, I am more than ready to admit I could be wrong about that. I seriously doubt that the Big Bang is correct, or that the Cosmological Principle is correct. Nevertheless, some clever person might find all the “missing matter” in the voids between galaxies, and some other clever person might come up with “fixes” to the big bang model or replace it with a more accurate model that essentially leads to the same conclusion. Thus, there is at least some tiny possibility that the simulation argument might be right.

So while I enjoyed Dr. Monton’s book immensely, it left me a bit uncomfortable. Of course, this discomfort might be just what the alien who is running my simulation is looking for…

————————————————————-
NOTE:
**People like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens could learn a lot from the last sentence of this quote!

Comments

17 Responses to “Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design – Part 2”
  1. Kyle says:

    For the first definition of Intelligent Design, what is the line between intelligent and non-intelligent in the first place? If we were formed by chance, wouldn’t the results of our work, no matter how complex, be the result of chance as well?

    Thanks,
    Kyle

  2. jlwile says:

    A very astute question, Kyle. I don’t claim to have the intelligence to be able to answer it completely, but the way I see it, this depends strongly on the assumptions one makes about epistemology. If there is such a thing as truth, then knowledge is a subset of that which is true and that which is believed. In this case, even beings produced by chance could discover truths, as long as their beliefs overlap truth in some fashion. So even though our actions might ultimately be the result of chance, they could still end up causing us to “stumble” onto the truth. A blind man flailing about in unfamiliar room might find the door that he seeks completely by chance. Nevertheless, even though the door is found by chance, it could lead him to safer, more familiar territory.

    However, if there is no such thing as truth, then all beings (whether produced by chance or design) would simply have their beliefs, nothing more.

    I personally think that there is such a thing as truth. As a result, whether or not we can know true propositions is dependent not on how we came to be, but how our rational pursuits conform to reality. If we propose hypotheses that can be tested, we test those hypotheses against data, and we evaluate the validity of those hypotheses by the results of those tests, then our pursuits are likely to conform to reality. Under such a scenario, truth can be discovered, regardless of our origins.

    I think this is where the opponents of intelligent design (and creationism) really miss the boat. Rather than wanting our scientific pursuits conform to reality (regardless of what the data say), they want them to conform to an arbitrary framework that prohibits any supernatural causation. This, of course, is one thing Dr. Monton fights against in his book. If science is about finding out how the universe ACTUALLY works, you cannot simply rule out supernatural causation, because there is at least some possibility that supernatural events have occurred and/or are occurring in the universe.

  3. Wellington says:

    Hi,

    Great review Dr. Wile. I cannot wait to read Dr. Monton’s new book. I’ve read a few of his papers on design and I was very impressed with his command of the issues. I consider him and “Mike Gene” of Design Matrix fame(http://designmatrix.wordpress.com/) to be two of the more profound thinkers on teleology in biology.

    I was curious about your take on The Big Bang Theory. When the idea of a beginning to our universe first emerged, most atheists abhorred it because of its theological implications and not surprisingly, many theists interpreted the findings as evidence for an ex nihilo creation. As a layman on this issue, I just blissfully assumed that the BBT offered strong support for a teleological perspective and I had no idea that it could be used to justify a purely naturalistic account of life.
    If you find the Big Bang Theory lacking, is there an account you find more likely?

    Thanks.

  4. jlwile says:

    Thanks for the post! In answer to your question, while the Big Bang Theory does fit well with the idea that God created the universe, it simply doesn’t stand up well to the data. It has made no quantitative predictions that were then confirmed by experiment. Instead, it has had to continually massage the parameters of the model to fit previously-measured data and come up with unknown quantities like dark energy and dark matter just to stay CONSISTENT with current observations. Remember, if you believe the big bang, you have to believe that roughly 23% of the universe is composed of dark matter, 72% is composed of dark energy, and 5% is composed of atoms. Thus, 95% of the universe is composed of things we currently cannot measure or describe! To me, that is a problem. In addition to all that, you have to believe in an inflationary period in the early universe, which no known physics can describe.

    With all that said, however, I am not sure there is a better model out there. I think that white hole cosmology ala Humphreys and Hartnett has potential, as does plasma cosmology.

    Neither of them are perfect, either, and I guess that’s my main point on all this. Most physicists and philosophers are committed to the Big Bang, even though we know it doesn’t work well. That seems silly to me. Physicists and philosophers should want a model of the universe that actually works. I am not saying we should “give up” on the Big Bang. It is POSSIBLE that one day we will find stuff like dark matter and dark energy. However, given the various problems, physicists and philosophers should not commit to it, and they should certainly take other models more seriously.

    Please note that whether or not a model can be used to promote a purely naturalistic view of the universe is really not important to me. If the Big Bang were successful at predicting data and using known physics to describe the universe, I would have no problem with it. The only way to evaluate a scientific theory is with the data, nothing more.

  5. Going to go for a baby step with this comment – your accepting that the universe is homogeneous. “Certainly observations of the known universe are inconsistent with [homogeneity].” I’m afraid you’ll have to do better than “[t]his doesn’t look homogeneous to me.”

    The Cosmological Principal is a bit more complicated than you suggest here. But sticking to the subject, “Homogeneity means that the same observational evidence is available to observers at different locations in the universe” or “any measurable property of the Universe is the same everywhere. This is only approximately true, but it appears to be an excellent approximation when one averages over large regions.” 2nd quote source.

    And cosmologists aren’t hoping that there is mass between all the dots on your picture. Dark matter, which makes up about 5/6ths of the mass in the universe, is what galaxies form around, so it would be just as “lumpy” as this picture. The test is not to eyeball a picture, but mathematically show that over large scales, the universe is “smooth.” Look at the CMB at the bottom of this page. BTW, There actually are voids without matter, regular or dark. Although even the voids contain dark energy.

    Finally, here’s a good source of answers to some FAQ’s.

  6. jlwile says:

    Once again, Shooter, you need to actually learn about subjects before you try to post on them. As you could read on almost any reputable site, the cosmological principle says exactly what I say in this post. For example “Viewed on sufficiently large distance scales, there are no preferred directions or preferred places in the Universe. Stated simply, this principle means that averaged over large enough distances, one part of the Universe looks approximately like any other part.

    Or how about a quote from a textbook? Fundamental Astronomy by Karttunen, Kroger, and Oja says, “This is an example of the cosmological principle: apart from local irregularities, the Universe looks the same from all positions in space. (Springer, Fifth Edition, 2007, p. 399) As the image shows, the universe does not look the same from all positions.

    I agree that homogeneity cannot be shown by an eyeball test. It takes much more than that. However, an eyeball test can easily show it to be false. Just as a solution may LOOK homogeneous but not actually BE homogeneous, the universe could LOOK homogeneous and not BE homogeneous. However, if a solution doesn’t even LOOK homogeneous, there is no way it can BE homogeneous. In the same way, the universe doesn’t even LOOK homogeneous, so it cannot BE homogeneous.

    The CMB looks fairly homogeneous, but it is not even clear that the CMB truly is a COSMIC background. It lacks the “shadows” one would expect if it were coming from all parts of the visible universe (Lieu, Mittaz and Shuang-Nan Zhang, UAH, “The Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect in a sample of 31 clusters: A comparison between the X-ray predicted and WMAP observed decrement,” The Astrophysical Journal, 648:176, 2006). It also doesn’t show the lensing one would expect if it were coming from all parts of the visible universe (Richard Lieu and Jonathan P. D. Mittaz, “On the Absence of Gravitational Lensing of the Cosmic Microwave Background,” The Astrophysical Journal, 628:583-593, 2005). Even if the CMB is truly a COSMIC background, its homogeneity doesn’t mean the universe itself is homogeneous. It would just mean that ONE ASPECT of the universe is homogeneous. Other aspects clearly are not.

    This is why some very good astrophysicists are getting rid of the assumption in their cosmology. For example, a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that there really is no need for dark energy. Just assume that we are in a special, low-density region of the universe, and the apparent acceleration of universal expansion is easily explained. (Blake Temple and Joel Smoller, “Expanding wave solutions of the Einstein equations that induce an anomalous acceleration into the Standard Model of Cosmology.”, PNAS, 106:14213-14218, 2009)

    You are also woefully misinformed about dark matter. Yes, indeed, dark matter is expected to be in galaxies, but it is also expected to be between galaxies. Once again, as any reputable source on dark matter will tell you “The movements of galaxies within the clusters showed similar problems than with the rotation of stars in galaxies. This suggests the presence of dark matter between the galaxies.”

  7. I LOVE your all caps words! It shows me right where to focus a rebuttal. For instance, you refute my central point, the universe is homogeneous only in your LOOK-BE paragraph. However, you don’t cite anything that contradicts that the universe is homogeneous, you simply STATE that it isn’t. If the universe is heterogeneous, then there must be a measure of that heterogeneity. Can you tell me what that is?

    I realize that I have to focus like a laser on questions I’m asking, so this only provides another tangent for you to attack, but I can’t help myself. It is actually a good thing that i can only access citations you link to easily, or I would probably get bogged down refuting every point.

    Anywho, on your last paragraph, the quote is from a discussion of galaxy clusters, which must have dark matter between the individual galaxies or else they wouldn’t be in clusters. Wherever there is dark matter, regular matter will form structures around it. Compared to the area that galaxy clusters occupy, the space between them is enormous and contains relatively nothing. Scientists are not looking for any type of matter in these voids to make the distribution of matter “smooth” so that any picture will actually LOOK homogeneous.

  8. jlwile says:

    Calling your replies “rebuttals” is rather hilarious! They are more like desperate shots taken by a blind man. They are fun, though, because they illustrate just how little your views are based on the data.

    I cite the distribution of galaxies to show that the universe is not homogeneous. I realize you don’t want to look at data, because that just confuses you. However, just look at the visible universe and you see it is not homogeneous. I also cite a peer-reviewed journal article that throws the assumption out the window. If the universe were clearly homogeneous, such an assumption would not be considered.

    You actually cite NO EVIDENCE for the idea that it is homogeneous. You just give a quote from a website. That’s not evidence. That’s an argument from authority. As someone who is supposedly a fan of Carl Sagan, you should know better than that!

    You claimed that dark matter isn’t between the dots on the drawing. The dots are galaxies. Thus, there is dark matter between the dots, and that would help “smooth out” the universe. Keep up, man. This isn’t rocket science!

  9. Dr. Wile, you can read and cite, but understanding is a bit more than those. From your response above: “Stated simply, this principle means that averaged over large enough distances, one part of the Universe looks approximately like any other part.” Your picture isn’t over large enough distances. Please provide a link to the source of this picture and I’ll check it out.

    Here is a picture over large enough scales. From NASA’s website, which contains this quote: “That is, the matter in the universe is homogeneous and isotropic when averaged over very large scales. This is called the Cosmological Principle. This assumption is being tested continuously as we actually observe the distribution of galaxies on ever larger scales.”

    The “2nd quote source” and “this page” links above clearly says the universe is homogeneous and isotropic, at the top and bottom of those pages respectively. Those links are from Professor Ned Wright of UCLA’s tutorial. Interestingly, he also has a page on Cosmology and Religion that you might enjoy reading.

    It is you who have cited NO EVIDENCE that the universe is not homogeneous, only your own LOOK at one picture. That’s an argument from non-authority on par with this source.

    And for our side conversation, this New Scientist article begins: “Radio astronomers have found the biggest hole ever seen in the universe. The void, which is nearly a billion light years across, is empty of both normal matter and dark matter.”

    Your take: “The dots are galaxies. Thus, there is dark matter between the dots.” Really?

  10. jlwile says:

    Your replies are so entertaining! You actually accuse me of not understanding things when you continue to make mistake after mistake when it comes to science. I usually don’t enjoy correcting students, because it makes me feel bad for them. However, correcting you is such a pleasure!

    If you would bother to learn what you write about, you would know that the map you show demonstrates the exact opposite of the conclusion you are trying to promote! This is the result of the APM survey. As you would learn from even a cursory amount of research, “Each pixel covers a small patch of sky 0.1 degrees on a side, and is shaded according to the number of galaxies within the area: where there are more galaxies, the pixels are brighter. Galaxy clusters, containing hundreds of galaxies closely packed together, are seen as small bright patches. The larger elongated bright areas are superclusters and filaments. These surround darker voids where there are fewer galaxies.” So… if the universe were homogeneous, THE PICTURE WOULD BE ALL ONE COLOR! Instead, you see a myriad of colors, with no apparent pattern. As the description tells you, there are galaxy clusters that contain hundreds of galaxies closely-packed together, which surround darker voids where there are few galaxies.

    Thank you so much for showing yet another graphic that clearly demonstrates that the universe is NOT homogeneous. Of course, since you WANT to believe the opposite of what the data you provide shows, I am sure you will find some reason to ignore it!

    You seem to still be confused about the nature of evidence. You quote people and organizations, claiming that is evidence. For someone who supposedly is a fan, you are really insulting Carl Sagan by doing this. Quoting people and organizations is the argument from authority, against which Sagan avidly fought. The problem with quoting OPINIONS from scientists and organizations is that they tend to hold the OPINIONS they want to hold. Since they WANT to believe in the big bang, they WANT to believe the universe is homogeneous, even though the data you present yourself show that it is not.

    Then, of course, you turn around and say that the data I clearly show are somehow an argument from authority. That is demonstrably absurd, but I thank you for the entertainment you are providing my readers. The DATA that I show are from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and as the picture that I show in the original post clearly shows (and as the picture you give confirms), the universe is ANYTHING but homogeneous. I also laughed out loud when you claimed that the map doesn’t cover a large enough range. 930,000 galaxies and more than 120,000 quasars aren’t a large enough sample? I think that statement by itself demonstrates how little you know about astronomy!

    You did, indeed, quote me accurately. In the picture I show, the dots are galaxies. Since the data I presented to you also demonstrate there is dark matter between galaxies, then there is dark matter between the dots. That, of course, tends to smooth out the universe. Once again, try to keep up.

    You also seem confused over basic English. I never said there was dark matter between ALL galaxies. You, however, said that dark matter always accompanies visible matter, which the data clearly indicate is not true. Also, once again thank you for providing EVEN MORE evidence that the universe is not homogeneous. If there really is a void “which is nearly a billion light years across” that is truly “empty of both normal matter and dark matter,” then the universe is clearly NOT homogeneous.

    I wonder how frustrating it is for you that every time you try to find data, it supports my view. I do hope this doesn’t keep you from commenting, as I am certain this is great fun for anyone who reads the comments!

  11. Oh, no, I won’t stop commenting, no worries there! Two things to keep you amused:

    1. I would like to know the exact webpage you got the “Map of the Visible Universe” from.

    2. You keep using the lay-person or possibly the chemistry definition of homogeneous, instead of the cosmology version, which clearly states over large areas. This means that seeing a dot or different colors or voids doesn’t disprove homogeneity. (But you also have thrown out the map that was homogeneous to the eye, the Cosmic Microwave Background DATA, simply by saying it’s not cosmic enough for you. I wonder why they call it that, then). So let’s take the opposite approach. Find a citation that says the universe, over large scales, is heterogeneous.

  12. jlwile says:

    I am glad that you won’t stop commenting! It is too much fun to watch you squirm.

    1. Since you seem incapable of doing even the simplest research, here it is. Note that the website specifically says this is “large scale.” Note also that the website discusses such clear structure as something that has to be figured out. Why? Because it refutes the Cosmological Principle.

    2. I am using the SCIENTIFIC definition of homogeneous – the same definition that is in the equations of the big bang model. As I have shown you, the cosmological principle is very precise – THERE IS NO SPECIAL PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE. The voids and clusters that are clearly visible show that this assumption is patently false. It is not that there is one dot or void in the map of the universe, it is that there is definite structure on all scales – from huge walls of galaxies to enormous voids – no matter what the scale. This is exactly OPPOSITE of a homogeneous universe.

    Once again, I know you hate to look at data, as it makes you very uncomfortable to see that your preconceived notions are wrong. However, as I told you before, there is strong evidence that the cosmic background radiation is NOT a cosmic background, because it lacks many features that are expected of something that is coming from all over the universe. You can ignore that if you like, but the data are very clear. Also, even if it IS cosmic, the fact that it is homogeneous does NOT mean the universe is homogeneous. It just means the background is. The visible universe is clearly not, as the data you show demonstrate quite conclusively (even though you can’t bring yourself to admit it!).

    I think your confusion lies in the fact that you don’t understand that it is the big bang model that gives rise to the ASSUMPTION that the CMB is connected to the large-scale structure of the universe. Using an assumption of the big bang model to try to argue for ANOTHER assumption of the big bang model is the kind of circular reasoning that you can’t keep away from and is clearly not the result of informed thought!

    Finally, even though Carl Sagan is spinning in his grave, I will be happy to give you quotes that the universe is not homogeneous. Let’s start with a reference to the paper I gave you earlier, which you are too terrified to read, “Several of us at New Scientist recently came across an interesting paper by Timothy Clifton and colleagues at the University of Oxford entitled “Living in a Void: Testing the Copernican Principle with distant supernovae…According to Clifton, the problem may not lie with cosmologists’ observations, but with their assumptions – namely, the Copernican Principle, which says we don’t occupy a special place in the cosmos, and that the distribution of matter is homogeneous, so any given region of the universe is more or less the same as any other.”

    Or how about, “In the last 30 years, astronomers have discovered that contrary to the assumptions of the previous 300 years, the universe is not homogeneous but appears to have a hierarchical structure which is best described as fractal.” (Peter Graneau and Neal Graneau, In the grip of the distant universe: the science of inertia, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2006, p. 261).

    Or how about, “The fact that the universe is not homogeneous on superhorizon scales has many important consequences for the global description of the universe. In particular, it means that globally the inflationary universe is not homogeneous.” (Francis Bernardeau, Christophe Grojean, and J. Dalibard, Particle physics and cosmology: the fabric of spacetime, Elsevier Science, 2007, p. 207)

    Now please note that I am only giving you these quotes because you want to use the argument from authority rather than actually looking at data. While I (like Sagan) reject that argument, I am happy to give in to your unscientific demands.

  13. Structure obviously exists in the universe, yes even large scale structure, but that doesn’t mean the universe is not homogeneous. Finally you admit the cosmological definition of homogeneous – there is no special place in the universe. (Isotropy means no special direction). Since you seem to ignore what I cite, I will quote from the Cosmological Principal article directly:

    The cosmological principle is usually stated formally as ‘Viewed on a sufficiently large scale, the properties of the Universe are the same for all observers.’

    ‘looks the same’ does not mean physical structures necessarily, but the effects of physical laws in observable phenomena.

    variation in physical structures can be overlooked, provided this does not imperil the uniformity of conclusions drawn from observation: the sun is different from the earth, our galaxy is different from a black hole, some galaxies advance toward rather than recede from us, and the universe has a “foamy” texture of galaxy clusters and voids, but “on a large enough scale” the universe is believed to be structurally uniform.

    [end quotes] These are the exact claims you are stating.

    As for the New Scientist blog link, here another quote from the post:

    “Clifton’s results are very speculative – there’s no hard evidence that suggests we live in a void, nor is the existence of a void that huge very feasible according to the standard model of cosmology.”

    I can’t access the two books you cite here, or any others you don’t provide a link to.

    You also don’t understand the argument from authority fallacy. Simply citing a work is not arguing from authority. It is only when an authority states a claim without providing any support for that claim is it a fallacy. Everything I have cited has included reasons or explanations of their claims, so I haven’t argued from authority as a logical fallacy.

  14. jlwile says:

    Well, at least you are STARTING to admit what the data clearly say. Yes, large-scale structures do exist, which clearly means the universe is not homogeneous. This is better than the nonsensical position you originally took – that the only reason there was structure in the plot I showed was because it wasn’t a “large enough” sample!

    Your quote from Wikipedia conveniently edited out this important statement, which shows I am correct:

    “Homogeneity means that the same observational evidence is available to observers at different locations in the universe”

    This is where you clearly don’t understand what you are talking about, basically because you are too terrified to read the references I gave you. If there are large voids in the universe and large clusters in the universe, the same observational evidence IS NOT available to observers at different locations. If I am sitting in a void, the observations I make will be quite different from the observations of someone in the middle of a cluster. As the reference that fills your heart with fear explains, if we are in a void, we will observe that universal expansion is accelerating and will therefore need “dark energy” to explain the observations. However, if we are not in a void, we would not see any acceleration of the universal expansion and thus not need “dark energy.” This is why large-scale structure means the universe does not obey the Cosmological Principle. There are clearly voids and clusters, meaning that observations will be different in different locations of the universe.

    The quote you give just means that SMALL SCALE structures can be ignored. This is true. However, there is not only small scale structure in the universe, there is large scale structure. That cannot be ignored, because it leads to different observational evidence in different parts of the universe. Once again, you should really try to educate yourself on these issues before you try to comment on them.

    I didn’t claim that Clifton’s views were well accepted. However, I did claim that they conform more with reality. That is clear when you look at the data. Even the quote you gave indicates this, saying that his views don’t align with the “standard model of cosmology,” and that is why they are not shared by many. In other words, the view contradicts their wishful thinking, so they assume it is wrong, even though it aligns well with the data, even the data you have provided.

    Perhaps you should actually read the books I cite. After all, if you actually learned what you were trying to comment on, this discussion would be less embarrassing for you!

    You clearly don’t understand the argument from authority. This is not surprising, as you seem to understand little when it comes to logic, reason, and science. You have quoted people and provided no data. The only data you have provided support my claim. Saying that the opinions of others trump the data is clearly the argument from authority.

    I think you need to read a bit more Sagan if you don’t understand this!

  15. Thanks for linking to the Authority wiki page. I forgot to include the href in my link. BTW, I also forgot a tag from the January 17 comment. If you can edit my comment, please add it after “From NASA’s website” I would appreciate it. In case you can’t, I’ll relink here to the Cosmology and Religion web page that isn’t apparently it’s own link above.

    Wow, all that work to defend your position that the universe is not homogeneous, when it’s not even required to discount the infinite spatial universe – you still have the BBT is wrong argument to fall back on. So, let’s go back to that argument from your previous comment on January 9.

    “95% of the universe is composed of things we currently cannot measure or describe! To me, that is a problem.” Of course it is a problem, but problems are areas to research, not reasons to say the model is unusable. When problems end, science will end. You don’t see that happening, do you?

    You know that scientific consensus or conclusions are provisional: sitting around, waiting to be improved or disproved. This is the extent that scientists commit to a theory – until proven otherwise. What’s great about science is that is a self-correcting process. Bad models will eventually lose the “commitment” of the majority of scientists. But you know this, I don’t know why you suggest otherwise: “they should certainly take other models more seriously.” If there was more support for other models, then more scientists would consider them more seriously.

    “I am not sure there is a better model out there.” No, there’s not, and unless you are doing original cosmological research, then the prudent position to take is provisionally accepting the BBT.

    “Please note that whether or not a model can be used to promote a purely naturalistic view of the universe is really not important to me.” Of course not, because you would simply claim the model is flawed and keep believing in your super-naturalistic view of the universe.

    “If the Big Bang were successful at predicting data and using known physics to describe the universe, I would have no problem with it.” This is the crux of your arguments over everything. DATA is selectively mining “raw” data, as the picture in this post, and rejecting any interpretation of it other than your own. Known physics/chemistry to describe the universe means explaining absolutely everything, there can be no problems. Dark matter and energy in this case and pre-biotic chemistry in evolution. Unknowns will always accompany current research – that’s why research exists. You can’t undermine entire paradigms because there are questions at the edges.

    In this case, what data can be predicted in cosmology? Everything has happened in the past. We certainly find more data, and models are expected to explain it, but there is no prediction as in the experimental sciences. Integrity would demand that you emphasize that BBT theory explains an awful lot with currently understood physics, rather than only stating that the areas of current research undermine the theory itself.

  16. jlwile says:

    The link exists in the discussion, so there is no reason to edit your comment.

    I didn’t do all that work to defend my position. I did it to try to educate you. You clearly don’t understand much about astronomy, so I am trying to get you more up to speed. Hopefully you now know enough about astronomy to understand that the cosmological principle cannot be defended with data.

    I certainly don’t see problems in science ending. However, any theory that is based on more and more assumptions about things we can’t detect or describe, the theory becomes more and more useless. As I have said before, we don’t need to stop investigating the big bang. However, given the facts that it has not made any successful quantitative predictions and it requires so many untestable things, it is time to start looking at other models as well.

    I certainly agree that science is self-correcting. For example, evolution was believed by almost all scientists 50 years ago. Now there is a quickly-growing group of scientists that are rejecting it. This is an excellent example of how science is in the process of self-correction when it comes to origins.

    You claim there is no better model out there, but that is simply your mystical faith. There are several other models out there (plasma cosmology, steady-state cosmology, white hole cosmology, etc.). Since the big bang has no quantitative predictions that have been confirmed, and since it makes assumptions about untestable things, it is clear that there probably is a better model out there. Covering your eyes, plugging your ears, and yelling loudly won’t change that.

    You, of course, are quite wrong about my views. I have no problem with a purely naturalistic cosmology, if it works. The big bang clearly doesn’t work, however.

    You claim that the problems associated with the big bang are “at the edge.” That is pure nonsense. When a model requires that 95% of the universe is composed of things we know nothing about and it requires a step (inflation) that is inconsistent with known physics, that is not the “edge.” That cuts right to the core of the model.

    You are correct that PREDICTIONS are what matter to me, as they are the only scientific way to distinguish between models. The big bang has not given a single quantitative prediction that has been confirmed. Thus, as a model, its value is nearly worthless at present.

    Of course all sorts of things can be predicted by cosmological models. For example, the big bang predicted the temperature of the CMB before it was measured. The big bang’s prediction was wrong. It predicted the relative abundances of light nuclei in the universe. It was wrong about that as well. Any good model MUST make predictions about data that can then be tested. Otherwise, there is no way to determine the reliability of the model. This is basic science that I cover in my 7th grade text. Perhaps you should read it so you can learn a bit about how science works.

    The fact that you didn’t even know what predictions the big bang has attempted shows you know very little about the model. I hate to constantly repeat myself, but why don’t you LEARN about the model you are championing?

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