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Entry 500, on 2007-03-22 at 15:50:07 (Rating 4, Comments)
I want to get back to the debates I am still engaged in with a bunch of Christians. There are various issues which keep coming up that they refuse to answer and that I would like to deal with here so that they aren't mixed up with other topics. Here are the questions I would like them to answer...
If you don't believe the Big Bang theory can you explain the three best pieces of evidence which support it: 1. the cosmic microwave background which is the "light" left over from the Big Bang which we can still see today (few creationists realise we can actually "see" the Big Bang). 2. the galaxies are receding from each other at varying speeds which indicate they were all crowded together in one spot abut 13.7 billion years ago. 3. The amount of hydrogen and helium (and other elements like lithium) in the Universe is just what we would expect if the Big Bang happened.
We can never know anything is absolutely true or absolutely false, but this shouldn't be an excuse to believe something which is unlikely. If we can only be 95% certain that evolution is true why would we say we can't absolutely prove evolution so we will believe an alternative theory (such as creationism) which is only 5% likely to be true. Note that I made up those numbers but I think they are realistic. And if we want to find out what's true and what isn't, shouldn't we trust objective empirical experiments and logic instead of emotion and ancient beliefs?
Just because its nice to believe there is an after life, and its nice to think god is looking after us, and its nice to think god made us special, is that not wishful thinking leading to a false belief, if the actual physical evidence indicates otherwise? No matter how nice a concept is from an emotional perspective it doesn't make it any more likely to be true.
Is it sensible to trust just one source of knowledge which seems to contradict everything else we know? Should we be impressed by a book which makes predictions about itself, but is in disagreement with every source of objective information we have? Should we not be even more suspicious if that book has done a lot to reinforce the power of the church that created it?
If you are engaging in a debate with someone like myself, do you think making statements like "the prophecies in the Bible are meaningful and they prove what has happened", or "God does exist! He has been proven by artifacts and ancient scrolls", or "the Bible was written through people. God talked, people wrote or God wrote" without further explanation or evidence is going to convince anyone?
So there's a few questions which I would like answered instead of being avoided like they have been up until now. That's a direct challenge to the Christians and creationists out there!
Comment 7 (600) by 123 on 2007-04-04 at 09:08:57: (view earlier comments)
I did some research and here is what I found:
So hereís a nice roundup of historians (besides the writers of the Gospels) who contemporaneously, or with access to recent (at the time) historical evidence, acknowledged His existence:
Is there any historical proof that Jesus existed?
The ancient historical record provides examples of writers, philosophers and historians who lived during or not long after the time Jesus is believed to have lived and who testify to the fact that he was a real person. We will look at what some of these people have said.
Tacitus lived from A.D. 55 to A.D. 120. He was a Roman historian and has been described as the greatest historian of Rome, noted for his integrity and moral uprightness. His most famous works are the Annals and the Histories. The Annals relate the historical narrative from Augustusí death in A.D.14 to Neroís death in A.D. 68. The Histories begin their narrative after Neroís death and finish with Domitianís death in A.D. 96. In his section describing Neroís decision to blame the fire of Rome on the Christians, Tacitus affirms that the founder of Christianity, a man he calls Chrestus (a common misspelling of Christ, which was Jesusí surname), was executed by Pilate, the procurator of Judea during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberias. Tacitus was hostile to Christianity because in the same paragraph he describes Christusí or Christís death, he describes Christianity as a pernicious superstition. It would have therefore been in his interests to declare that Jesus had never existed, but he did not, and perhaps he did not because he could not without betraying the historical record.
Lucian of Samosata
Lucian was a Greek satirist of the latter half of the second century. He therefore lived within two hundred years of Jesus. Lucian was hostile to Christianity and openly mocked it. He particularly objected to the fact that Christians worshipped a man. He does not mention Jesusí name, but the reference to the man Christians worship is a reference to Jesus.
Suetonius was a Roman historian and a court official in Emperor Hadrianís government. In his Life of Claudius he refers to Claudius expelling Jews from Rome on account of their activities on behalf of a man Suetonius calls Chrestus [another misspelling of Christus or Christ].
Pliny the Younger
Pliny was the Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (AD. 112). He was responsible for executing Christians for not worshipping or bowing down to a statue of the emperor Trajan. In a letter to the emperor Trajan, he describes how the people on trial for being Christians would describe how they sang songs to Christ because he was a god.
Thallus and Phlegon
Both were ancient historians and both confirmed the fact that the land went dark when Jesus was crucified. This parallels what the Bible said happened when Jesus died.
Some time after 70 A.D., Mara Bar-Sarapion, who was probably a Stoic philosopher, wrote a letter to his son in which he describes how the Jews executed their King. Claiming to be a king was one of the charges the religious authorities used to scare Pontius Pilate into agreeing to execute Jesus.
Josephus was a Jewish historian who was born in either 37 or 38 AD and died some time after 100 AD. He wrote the Jewish Antiquites and in one famous passage described Jesus as a wise man, a doer of wonderful works and calls him the Christ. He also affirmed that Jesus was executed by Pilate and actually rose from the dead!
I know you didn't want to hear about Josephus, but he was in the site too, so he is on there.
Comment 8 (602) by OJB on 2007-04-04 at 15:17:58:
OK, first I must say that none of these people actually experienced the events they were allegedly describing. The evidence is therefore hearsay and would not be generally accepted legally, so why should I accept it?
Cornelius Tacitus describes the alleged death of Christ but there are problems with this. He gives no source for the information about the event, and there are no contemporary records of it. There is considerable debate amongst historians regarding the accuracy of this account.
Lucian lived within 200 years of the alleged events. Again, why did all this happen so much later? He mocks Jesus' followers. I don't think he ever mentions him directly, and even if he did, how seriously would we take that?
Suetonius. No real reference to Christ here, just to his followers. If a church had been founded based on a real or imaginary person we would expect a similar vague comment. This is almost useless as evidence.
Pliny the Younger was born after the event were supposed to have happened. He got all his information from Christians - hardly an unbiased source. Therefore this is also useless.
I was under the impression that both Thallus' and Phlegon's works no longer exist, so you must be referring to an indirect reference to a work which itself isn't original. Not very impressive, is it?
Mara Bar-Serapion's writings are controversial in that they refer to how the Jews executed their King. But wasn't it the Romans? Also, at the time, there were many other people with similar credentials to Jesus, so it could have been anyone. Also, yet again, he wrote many years after the alleged events.
Josephus history is probably the most remarkable and the only one which really supports Jesus existence. Unfortunately, it is a forgery, and the vast majority of historians agree with this. Why were the Christians so desperate that they had to create a forgery to support their beliefs?
As you can see, its all rather pathetic. If this is the best evidence supporting Jesus I suggest we should be very suspicious of his existence at all.
Comment 9 (601) by Anonymous on 2007-04-04 at 15:19:56:
Okay, I am going to answer these questions but before I do, I would ask you not to put down inaccurate and made up percentages. 95/5? No way. Well, let me show you a site I have been reading. I haven't read it all yet but, well let me just show you:
THE "BIG BANG" IS JUST RELIGION DISGUISED AS SCIENCE
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was this guy named Aristotle. Pretty sharp fella; he thought up a lot of good things. But, occasionally he made a mistake.
One mistake he made was to toss an orange up in the air and watch it come straight back down to his hand. Aristotle reasoned that if he was moving, the orange would have flown off to one side as soon as it left his hand. Because the orange did not do so, Aristotle concluded he was not moving. On the basis of this one observed fact, and the assumption that there was no other explanation for what he observed, Aristotle concluded that the Earth does not move and that therefore the rest of the universe had to move around it.
Aristotle was a very sharp guy, but the fact is that there was another explanation for why the orange fell back into his hand, and it would wait about another 2000 years before another smart man, Sir Isaac Newton, explained just what it was Aristotle had overlooked, set forth in Newton's laws of motion.
But for the early church, Aristotle's conclusions fit in rather well with their theology, which had the Earth created as the center of the universe, unmoving, with the rest of the cosmos spinning about it.
Of course, there was empirical evidence available to all that cast doubt on the church-approved version of the Cosmos. One could see during eclipses that the Earth was not flat. The curved shape of the Earth's shadow as it crossed the moon was the same no matter which place in the sky the eclipse took place. A spherical Earth was the only shape that could produce such a result. Ships sailing over the horizon clearly vanished over a subtle curve ( an observation which eventually inspired Columbus' voyages). Nobody could explain the behavior of a Foucault's Pendulum other than by the Earth spinning beneath it.
But by far the most troubling problem for the geocentric (earth centered) universe was the strange behavior of the planets. In an age before TV, or even books, the night sky was something every person was quite familiar with, even those who were not sailors or fortune tellers. Watching the night sky over time, the paths of the planets were easily seen to occasionally pause, move in reverse for a time, then proceed forward. This behavior was called retrograde motion. Ah, but this was a problem. The church did not have an explanation for this behavior. Indeed in the King James Version of the Bible, the word "planet" appears only once, and then only as an object to be sacrificed to.
There is a very simple explanation for retrograde motion. As the Earth, moving in its inner orbit, overtake an outer planet, it will appear to hesitate, reverse its path across the sky, then resume its normal path. But the idea that the Earth moved was contrary to Church Dogma and to Aristotle. What education was tolerated by the church was "encouraged" to find some way to explain retrograde motion in a way that did not conflict with the religious needs for a universe centered on an unmoving Earth. Rather than re-examine Aristotle's basic claim, the learned men of the day grabbed onto a suggestion made by Claudius Ptolemy called "epicycles". This theory explained retrograde motion around a motionless Earth by suggesting that the planets moved in large orbits called deferents, upon which were superimposed smaller orbits called epicycles which produced a "wobble" as seen from Earth.
Epicycles were extremely popular with the church, and scholars at universities with religious affiliations were "encouraged" to refine this theory. And it needed refinement, badly, because the epicycle theory did not accurately predict what was being seen in the sky. Generations of effort was expended trying to figure out why the models did not predict the actual motions of the planets. At one point, it was even suggested that the epicycles had epicycles. No matter how many times the observed results did not match the predictions, the approved course of action was to refine the theory, but never to question the basic assumption. Those who dared point to the evidence suggesting that Aristotle (and by extension the church) were in error in postulating a geocentric universe were "discouraged". Galileo was tortured into recanting his conclusions that the Earth moved. Giordano Bruno was burned alive at the stake for suggesting that the sun was really just another star, only close up, and that the other stars had their own planets.
In recent times, our expanding technology has confirmed that Galileo and Bruno were right, and Aristotle and the church were flat out wrong. The Earth does move. There are no deferents or epicycles, or even epicycles on the epicycles. The models of the universe which are based on a moving Earth are quite accurate and able to predict the behaviors of the planets as evidence by the fact that we send spacecraft to those planets on a regular basis.
The theory of a geocentric universe and the theory of epicycles were not science. It was religious doctrine masked as science.
The church has never really dealt with the reality of the universe very well. They only apologized for their treatment of Galileo recently and still refuse to discuss Bruno. The Bible, presumed to be the perfect word of a perfect God, still teaches that the Earth is flat, rests on pillars (Job 26:11), and does not move (Psalms 19:5-6 93:1 96:10 104:5).
It seems that some mistakes are destined to be repeated again, despite our technological prowess.
In 1929, a Cal-Tech astronomer named Edwin Hubble observed that objects which appeared to be much further away showed a more pronounced shift towards the red end of the spectrum. Scientists building on Hubble's discovery concluded that the farther an object was away from Earth, the faster it was receding, and calculated the relationship between distance and velocity, called the "Hubble Constant" and concluded on the basis of this one observed fact and the assumption that there was no other explanation for that observed fact that the universe was expanding.
Religious circles embraced the idea of an expanding universe because for the universe to be expanding, then at some point in the past it had to originate from a single point, called the "Big Bang". Indeed, the concept of the Big Bang did not originate with Edwin Hubble but was proposed by a Catholic Monk, Georges LemaÓtre in 1927, two years before Hubble published his observations of the Red Shift. The "Big Bang" coincided nicely with religious doctrine and just as had been the case with epicycles (and despite the embarrassment thereof) religious institutions sought to encourage this new model of the universe over all others, including the then prevalent "steady state" theory.
Then history repeated itself. Evidence surfaced that the "Big Bang" might not really be a workable theory in the form of General Relativity, and its postulation that super massive objects would have gravity fields so strong that even light could not escape, nor would matter be able to differentiate. Since the entire universe existing in just one spot would be the most super massive object of all, the universe could not be born.
Needless to say, this suggestion that the Big Bang could not happen provoked the same exact reaction as the suggestion that the Earth might not be the center of everything. Instead of questioning the basic assumption, great effort was made to find a way to evolve the new data in terms acceptable to the assumption of a universe spawned in a single moment of creation. A complex Cosmology theory sprang up, encouraged by those invested in the "Big Bang" to explain why the basic foundational principles of physics behaved differently in the first few milliseconds of time. The math work is impressive, as impressive as that which supported the theory of the epicycles, but it is really just a polite way of saying "The rules just didn't apply when we need them not to apply".
An attempt was made to prove the Big Bang by searching for the "Cosmic Background Radiation", the presumed energy echo from the primordial explosion. and indeed a radio noise signal was picked up. Like Aristotle, and like Hubble, the discoverers of the Cosmic Background Radiation assumed the signal meant what they thought it did and could have no alternative explanation. The discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation was then heralded as final proof of the Big Bang theory, and those institutions invested in that theory celebrated.
But just as the theory of epicycles did not accurately predict the observed motion of the planets, the Big Bang Theory turned out to be less than accurate about the radiation signal detected in space. When the satellite COBE was sent up to analyze the Cosmic Background Radiation, it discovered instead of the smooth featureless glow predicted by the cosmologists a highly complex and detailed structure. Yet again, rather than question the prime assumption that the signal being analyzed was actually from a supposed "Big Bang", research was encouraged to find a way to fit the data into the existing theory, again on the assumption that the signal detected could not be from any other source. And yet, an alternative explanation for the signal was right at hand, indeed literally on all sides.
Our Solar System and planets have heavy elements (without which you would not be here) because at some time prior to the creation of our Solar System another star in the immediate vicinity exploded, creating the heavy elements and scattering them into the universe. Every star that explodes creates a planetary nebula, such as the one easily seen with amateur telescopes in the constellation Lyra. A planetary nebula is a bubble of debris in space, and given the presence of heavy elements in our own Solar System, then somewhere out in space there must be the tenuous remains of a billions of years old planetary nebula, the result of the not-so-very-big bang, viewable from our unique point of view near the center. This model of Earth lying at the center of the remains of a supernova predicts exactly the sort of structure that COBE found in the presumed Cosmic Background Radiation. But as was the case with Galileo and Bruno, challengers to the "approved" creation myths face a tough time, albeit funding cuts have replaced torture and being burned alive at the stake.
So pervasive is this bias to see the universe as created in a Biblical-consistent "Big Bang" that when William G. Tifft submitted his first article on the quantization of the observed Red Shift to Astrophysical Journal, the Journal published it because they could not find errors in it, yet still felt compelled to editorially distance themselves from the conclusions.
The conclusions derived from quantized red shift are devastating to the conventional view of the universe created in a single Big Bang, as devastating as Galileo's first telescope was to the theory that the Earth was the center of the universe.
Edwin Hubble (like Aristotle) assumed there was no other explanation for the red shift he observed than the motion of the observed objects relative to Earth. But given the theory that the universe is expanding uniformly, the amount of red shifts would have to be uniformly and randomly distributed.
But they aren't.
The observed red shifts in the sky are quantized, falling into discreet intervals. This is not explained by the theory that the red shift is produced solely by relative velocity. Some other effect is at work. And that means that the assumption that the universe is expanding based solely on the red shift is invalidated. Some other effect IS at work that explains the observations, quite possibly one that triggers a quantized red shift over vast distances without respect to relative velocity.
Which means the universe is not expanding. Which means there was no moment of creation, no "Big Bang" with an epicycle-esque cosmology to explain why the greatest black hole of all didn't behave like a black hole. Which means that the background radiation mapped by COBE which didn't quite fit the Big Bang model is probably the remnant of the stellar explosion that created the heavy elements making up that computer you are reading this on.
But the lesson for our time of just how much our society remains dominated by religious superstitions is revealed by the fact that the quantized red-shift is NOT a new discovery. The first article regarding the observed data appeared in 1976, a quarter of a century ago. Since then, scientists as much in the service of superstition as were those scientists who "studied" epicycles have repeatedly tried to disprove the observations of Tifft and Cocke, only to confirm and re-confirm the truth, that there is a quantized red-shift, which casts doubt on the theory of an expanding universe and a "Big bang" creation.
Yet even though hard evidence exists to warrant a full re-examination of the basic assumption of the expanding universe, our science classes and TV programs still promote the "Big Bang" view, just as the erroneous theory of Aristotle continued to be promoted even after Galileo proved it wrong, because one theory fits into a theology, and the other does not.
Man's progress is not measured by the reaches of his science but by the limits of his superstition. The truth is known. But the truth is unpopular.
UPDATE: PROOF THE BIG BANG DID NOT HAPPEN
Perhaps the biggest contradiction with the Big Bang Theory is the question of the singularity. The "primordial egg" had to be a super-massive black hole. Therefore no amount of "bang", no matter how big, is going to thrust the universe out into, well, the universe.
Cosmologists eager to promote the Big Bang Theory have hit upon the "explanation" that the laws of physics, gravity., etc. simply did not apply in those first few moments of the universe. The present Cosmology theory is that the universe enjoyed a period of "rulelessness" of about 3 seconds, after which the elements formed and the fundamental forces of the universe, gravity included, were functioning as we see them today.
Ah, but there is a problem. The singularity formed by the primordial egg turns out to be rather large.
Estimates of the total mass of the universe vary wildly, given that the ends of the universe have not yet been determined. One estimate is found at http://www.rostra.dk/louis/quant_11.html of 2.6*1060.
From the mass, you can calculate the diameter of the event horizon by finding the distance from a point mass that will have an escape velocity of c. Use sqrt(2GM/r) where M is the mass of the hole (the entire universe in this case) and r is the radius (classical), and G is the gravitational constant. Work it backward starting at c and you get c^2=2GM/r.
This works out to an event horizon light years across!
In short, at the moment in time when the Big Bang theorists claim the universe was functioning as it does today, complete with all fundamental forces, the entirety of the universe's mass was still well within the event horizon of its own gravity well. That the well was not the product of a true singularity is irrelevant, Newton's equation provides an equivalent gravity field for a singularity or a super dense mass in a localized region.
Therefore the Big Bang, as currently described, could not have produced the universe as we see it today. At three seconds, the time the theorists claim the universe started operating as we know it, it would have come under the influence of its own gravity and unable to reach an escape velocity exceeding that of light, collapsed back into itself.
There ya' go.
Comment 10 (603) by OJB on 2007-04-04 at 16:50:35:
An interesting history lesson, and one which is essentially accurate, but irrelevant. There are two issues here. First, you are right, we don't understand the physics of the early Universe, that's why a grand unified theory encompassing relativity and quantum mechanics is a major aim of this century. And second, the Universe isn't really like a black hole. The BB singularity *was* the Universe, a black hole is a singularity embedded in the Universe.
I haven't seen any alternative explanation to the cosmic microwave background. Recent anisotropy studies are consistent with the big bang modified by inflation, which looks increasingly realistic. And the expansion of the Universe is an accepted fact. Review the latest thoughts on red shift quantisation here.
Comment 11 (605) by Ian on 2007-04-12 at 23:53:02:
So hang on, where were the answers to OJB's questions?
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