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What Does the Latest “Big Bang” Discovery Mean?

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Filed under Cosmology

Big Bang

Over the past few days the world of cosmology and astrophysics has gone “supernova.” Researchers affiliated with the BICEP2 telescope in Antarctica announced that they had discovered empirical evidence for a key part of the Big Bang theorycosmic inflation. One aspect of this discovery that I found really interesting is that it forms an almost perfect parallel to a discovery that was made sixty years ago.

The First Telescope Discovery

 
In the early twentieth century, the Belgian priest and physicist Georges LemaÎtre concluded that Einstein’s new theory of gravity, called general relativity, would cause a static eternal universe to collapse into nothingness. Since Einstein’s theory was sound, this only meant one thing: The universe was growing, and had a beginning in the finite past. Fr. LemaÎtre and Einstein would discuss the cosmic consequences of the theory while walking around the campus of Cal Tech, and although Einstein was skeptical at first, in 1933 he proclaimed that LemaÎtre’s theory of an expanding universe was one of the most “beautiful theories he had ever heard.”

Fr. LemaÎtre called his theory “the primeval atom,” but another physicist, Fred Hoyle, mocked the theory with the term “Big Bang.” Hoyle believed that theories of the universe beginning to exist from nothing were “primitive myths” designed to put religion into science. Fr. LemaÎtre’s status as a Catholic priest did not help the situation. In response to Fr. LemaÎtre, Hoyle argued for what he called the “steady state theory” of the universe and claimed that there was no empirical evidence for Fr. LemaÎtre’s model. Einstein was also skeptical that no “cosmic rays” or after effects from the Big Bang had ever been discovered.

However, in 1965 Bell Laboratory technicians Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson used radio telescopes to detect a faint, uniform “glow” of static coming from all directions of the sky. At first, they thought this uniform glow was merely bird droppings contaminating the telescope! But after a thorough cleaning, the static turned out to be radiation in the form of microwaves coming from deep space.

According to the Big Bang model, right after the “bang” the universe was a white-hot ball of plasma before it cooled and formed stars and galaxies. Particles that had been flying around since the very beginning of time cooled and turned into microwaves, traveling to fill the whole cosmos. Today, this radiation is called Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (or CMBR, which is pictured below).

This discovery was so monumental that Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize for it, and Fred Hoyle admitted it refuted his steady-state model of an eternal universe: “[It] is widely believed that the existence of the microwave background killed the “steady state” cosmology. . . . Here, in the microwave background, was an important phenomenon which it had not predicted.”

Enter Inflation

 
But this wasn’t the end of the story. As scientists studied the Big Bang they came across several problems that they weren’t sure how to resolve. One was the “flatness problem,” which couldn’t explain why the density of matter and energy in the universe almost perfectly aligned to a very precise value that gives the universe a “flat shape” (or one where parallel lines expand and never intersect). The other was the horizon problem, which could not explain why different parts of the universe possessed “equal temperatures” even though the universe was not old enough for particles from those different parts to interact with one another. Even if the particles were travelling at the speed of light, there would not have been enough time for them to cross our huge universe and mix together until their “temperatures” became even.

In the 1970’s an American cosmologist named Alan Guth proposed the idea that the universe did not expand at a slow, constant rate from the Big Bang. Instead, the universe expanded at an exponential rate from just a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Stephen Hawking says the expansion of the universe would be like a penny expanding to the size of the entire Milky Way galaxy (or 100,000 light years across) in a few seconds. This inflationary expansion would have “locked in” both the universe’s flatness and even temperatures while it was very small and then blown those features up to fill the entire universe we see today.  But for decades this theory had the virtue of being elegant and explaining a lot, but it also had the vice of not being supported by empirical evidence . . . until now.

BICEP2 shows that there are distinct “gravity waves” in the microwave background radiation. These waves are the final “blown up” effects of very small “quantum disturbances” that made up the universe 13.7 billion years ago before the inflation event. What the Bell Labs radio telescope’s discovery was to Fr. LemaÎtre, the BICEP2 telescope’s discovery is to Andrei Linde, another pioneer in inflationary cosmology. A video team even captured the emotional moment when Linde learned that the theory he had been toiling over for decades had finally been confirmed with an empirical observation:
 

 

Any Religious Significance?

 
I’m glad that most news articles covering this story didn’t drudge up the tired “science vs. religion” trope. But, I could count on my local U-T San Diego newspaper to include this gem in their coverage of the discovery:

"The finding strengthens scientists’ support of the Big Bang theory, although it’s likely to be challenged by some theologians who see the hand of a divine creator in the rise of the universe."

Which theologians? Sure there are some Christians who think the universe was created at the same time the Babylonians were brewing beer, but the Catholic Church has affirmed that,

“The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers” (CCC 283).

This discovery does not disprove the idea that the universe requires a necessary being in order to sustain it nor does it disprove the idea that the universe began to exist in the finite past. Even if inflationary theory explains why some of the constants in the universe (such as the strength of gravity) have the life-permitting values they do, inflation alone does not overturn the conclusion that our universe’s life-permitting laws of nature were designed. Instead, it merely pushes the problem back one level. Resorting to inflation to explain the fine-tuning of the universe’s constants and conditions would be like saying that the case of a dart hitting a bull’s eye can be explained by “projectile theory” apart from the actions of any intelligent agent.

The fact is that this discovery has no bearing whatsoever on either the existence of God or any other Catholic teaching. It is perfectly compatible with the view that God created the universe from nothing for the good of intelligent creatures to come to know him.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Raw Story)

Trent Horn

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Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Peter

    "The fact is that this discovery has no bearing whatsoever on either the existence of God or any other Catholic teaching"

    I disagree.

    If God is knowable through his works, then the discovery of those works, if true, ought to lead us closer to God. If inflation is true, it supports the big bang which marks the beginning of the arrow of time and reinforces even further the long held Catholic doctrine that time has a beginning.

    • David Nickol

      the long held Catholic doctrine that time has a beginning

      Since Catholic doctrines are about faith and morals, I don't believe there is a Catholic doctrine proclaiming time had a beginning. Can you cite a source

      • Peter

        CCC 338: "The world began when God's word drew it out of nothingness; all existent beings, all of nature, and all human history are rooted in this primordial event, the very genesis by which the world was constituted and time begun."

        • David Nickol

          Well, I concede that comes pretty close to backing up what you said. I am not at all sure that the big bang marks the beginning of time, though.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Indeed it does not. Jury's still out on what happened during that first Planck moment.

          • David Nickol

            Jury's still out on what happened during that first Planck moment.

            I'd say the case isn't even ready to go to the jury. I recently finished Lee Smolin's Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, and he spends the first half of the book presenting the case that time is not real so that he can spend the second half arguing his own point of view, which is that time is indeed real, and (if I understood him) space may not be. Whether I understood any of it at all, I think it's premature to speak with great assurance about time, and especially as it relates to the big bang.

            One think I did grasp is that Smolin suggests (more or less seriously) that black holes can start new universes, and natural selection of sorts is at work. Universes that produce lots of black holes will have lots of progeny, and universes that produce few black holes will have very limited progeny. Universes that produce lots of black holes will be the "fittest," and so they are more likely to survive and reproduce, and they produce universes like themselves. Universes that can produce lots of black hole are also universes that have the necessary conditions for life, so if Smolin is correct, there is no need to explain why universes are "fine-tuned" for life. They have evolved to be the right universes to produce black holes, and such universes also are hospitable to life. He says again and again that these are ideas that may sound crazy, but the are also testable (or falsifiable) by do-able experiments.

          • Joe Ser

            Thoughts on this? - Creation - newadvent org/cathen/04470a.htm

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes, he's got some really entertaining ideas that are at least testable in principle.
            I've always been irritated by the idea that multiverse theory is some desperate attempt to get ground the anthropic principle, when it's really a consequence of some of the theories about spacetime.

          • Joe Ser

            How about - Gen 1 "In the beginning"?

          • David Nickol

            How about - Gen 1 "In the beginning"?

            As I have pointed out in a couple of other threads (in exactly the same words that follow), regarding the opening verses of Genesis, the New American Bible says,

            Until modern times the first line was always translated, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Several comparable ancient cosmogonies, discovered in recent times, have a “when…then” construction, confirming the translation “when…then” here as well. “When” introduces the pre-creation state and “then” introduces the creative act affecting that state. The traditional translation, “In the beginning,” does not reflect the Hebrew syntax of the clause.

            Along the same line, we have the translation of the opening lines of Genesis from the Jewish Publication Society Study Bible:

            When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

            A note to verse 2 says:

            This clause describes things just before the process of creation began. To modern people, the opposite of the created order is “nothing,” that is, a vacuum. To the ancients, the opposite of the created order was much worse than “nothing.” It was an active, malevolent force we can best term “chaos.” In this verse, chaos is envisioned as a dark, undifferentiated mass of water.

            So both the New American Bible and the JPS Study Bible thus agree that when creation began, something already existed. I think it makes sense to say that in the account in Genesis, God does not create (or at least not create everything) ex nihilo. He brings order out of chaos. I wouldn't take the creation account to be at all literal, so I don't think it rules out creation ex nihilo. But if we are talking about what the Bible actually says, It seems to me that the above interpretations are correct, and the Bible does not depict God creating the world from nothing.

          • Joe Ser

            Creation ex nihilo has been the constant understanding.

            Creation - http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04470a.htm I would like your comments on this.

          • David Nickol

            Creation ex nihilo has been the constant understanding.

            The point of my earlier message was not whether the universe was created ex nihilo, but whether the creation accounts in Genesis describe a world (or universe) being created ex nihilo. No reference that I have consulted—Genesis by E.A. Speiser (The Anchor Bible), The New American Bible, The Jewish Study Bible, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and McKenzie's Dictiornary of the Bible, attempts to force a translation describing creation ex nihilo.

            Speiser's translation of the opening lines is as follows:

            When God set about to create heaven and earth—the world being then a formless waste, with darkness over the seas and only an awesome wind sweeping over the water—God said, "Let there be light." And there was light.

            There are some who disagree, but I find the case convincing that Genesis depicts God bringing order out of chaos rather than creating ex nihilo.

            Creation - http://www.newadvent.org/cathe... I would like your comments on this.

            I only have one comment. It's very long. :P

        • Michael Murray

          Why couldn't this CCC quote mean that God created all of space-time in one go? Just because we experience time as a passage there is no reason for God to do that. Our reality could be like a movie. You can hold the whole reel or dvd in your hand or you can play it and immerse yourself in the movie's internal time. But your time and the movie's time are different. So if space-time is infinitely long backwards in time it just means God chose to make a move with no beginning.

    • There are several models of inflation. If one of the eternal inflation models turns out to be right, as is so far suggested by the BICEP2 discovery, then there is no end to this universe. So much for "heaven and earth shall pass away". And, ironically given the previous SN article, it would appear that Giordano Bruno was right and the Church was wrong regarding "the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity", one of the heretical claims they murdered him for.

      • Peter

        You're on the wrong thread for Bruno, but regarding eternal inflation, no-one is denying it in principle.

        However, each inflating region involves a beginning to the arrow of time both in reverse to the infinite past and forward to the infinite future. At the point where the arrow of time begins in each inflating region, there is no flow of time, no past and no future.

        Therefore, from a temporal point of view, all these regions are one and the same thing in that they collectively represent a kind of simultaneous present. It is from this collective simultaneous present that the arrow of time for each inflating region begins.

        In this respect, not only is there no conflict with Church doctrine, but Church doctrine is actually reinforced by the notion of a simultaneous present. A simultaneous present is precisely how 1600 years ago St Augustine described the eternity out of which time begins.
        (See Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 11)

        • Paragraph 1: snark.
          Paragraphs 2-4: irrelevant.

          So, what about the contradiction between the Church's teaching that the heavens and earth will come to an end versus the likely inflationary scenario of them being future-eternal?

          • Peter

            Still assuming a multiverse concept, the arrow of time in each universe runs into the past representing a contraction of the universe and into the future representing an expansion, due to time symmetry at the quantum level.

            This means that, just as the inhabitants of the expanding part of the universe such as ourselves perceive the other part to be contracting, so too will the inhabitants of the contracting part perceive their universe to be expanding and ours to be contracting.

            Therein lies the paradox. How can a universe which has only expanded for a finite time from one perspective have contracted for eternity from another? It makes you question what is eternity and what is not.

            This is why I find this model so appealing. Even though such a scenario is beyond our comprehension, it is precisely this kind of unfathomable paradox which I would associate with God creating the universe.

          • At least from the few papers I've read on it, it wouldn't necessarily be the case that all the different parts of an inflationary universe (or "bubble universes" in a multiverse, if you prefer) would actually have arrows of time.

          • Peter

            I'd be very grateful if you could cite examples, because how could a baby universe grow if not from a point of low entropy?

          • If you mean "grow in a temporally linear fashion from smaller to larger", then the answer is obviously that such a kind of baby universe wouldn't. We don't have examples of universes other than our own, so the most that can be cited is physicists' attempts to build theories. You can Google as well as I can if you want to know; better if you have more familiarity with the background material than I do. FWIW, the last I read was this paper by Aguirre.

          • Peter

            I have extracted this quote from your link to Aguirre:

            "In particular, I will argue that given eternal inflation, the universe may be free of a cosmological initial singularity, might be eternal (and eternally inflating) to the past, and might obey an interesting sort of cosmological time-symmetry."

            For the universe to be time-symmetric, that is, eternal to the future and eternal to the past, there must have been a low entropy boundary at which the arrow of time began to run in opposite directions.

          • BTW, in these threads I never know whether to respond just to your latest contrarian point or if I should try to tie it into a cohesive argument, since you jump topics so erratically. Do you have a preference? This time I'll address both ways

            Regarding the "low entropy boundary", it would have no defined arrow of time, somewhat analogously to 1/x as x approaches zero. The arrow of time itself would have no beginning or least value.

            Regarding the previous topic of inflationary regions without AOTs, there's little in that paper beyond a brief qualitative describe on page 33. He wasn't trying to lay out a whole theory, just plugging it as a good research direction.

            Regarding the earlier topic that the common models of inflationary cosmology, while compatible with a beginning time, still contradict Church teaching about an end to time -- on that I'm still waiting for a response about how the Church should react since the evidence now is moving in a direction incompatible with their teaching.

          • Peter

            The arrow of time is merely a phenomenon of the growth of entropy which cannot have been forever otherwise we wouldn't be here.

            I tried to explain earlier that the concept of eternity is not a straightforward one. How do you reconcile a universe which from one perspective has contracted from eternity yet from another is expanding into eternity? Our universe has expanded for 13.8 billion years yet from the point of view of inhabitants in the contracting universe, it is our universe which has contracted from eternity while theirs has expanded for 13.8 billions years.

            Even though we theorise and hypothesise about eternity, we do not comprehend it. What if the beginning is the end? What if the end of the contracting universe marks the beginning of that same universe in its time-reverse expansion, and the beginning of our expanding universe marks the end of our universe in its time-reverse contraction?

            Physicists should stick to disproving big bang creationism, just as biologists have disproved young earth creationism, both the products of Protestant apologetics. However, in doing so neither will disprove God because God is far more subtle than that.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          But there is no simultaneous present implied by the theory. I don't think you understand what you've read on this point.

          • Peter

            "There’s different moments in the history of the universe and time tells you which moment you’re talking about. And then there’s the arrow of time, which give us the feeling of progress, the feeling of flowing or moving through time. So that static universe in the middle has time as a coordinate but there’s no arrow of time. There’s no future versus past, everything is equal to each other."
            (Sean Carroll in his interview with wired.com)

            http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/what-is-time/

      • Loreen Lee

        Isn't truth, indeed, as per Nietzsche, always a matter of interpretation, for us humans anyway. 'Heaven and earth shall pass away' can therefore be thought of in terms of transformation. 'A new heaven and a new earth' could refer even to goodness achieved within in a 'perfect' morality. 'Beginning and end' do not have to refer to one-time physical manifestations. I 'begin' my life anew each day, for instance, or at least I strive to. The 'Truth' however would then suggest the possibility that there is incorporated within it the 'All' (that is 'Good'). For the Buddhist, Ultimate Truth is associated with Nirvana, which is 'Platonically' 'above' the conventional truth and wisdom associated with language understood in a nominalist sense, for instance.
        Hegel suggested that the development of richer synthesis, involves limitation. I am finding a coherence of this idea with entropy, for instance. Just looking for compatibility between 'science' and 'religion'. (or philosophy!!!!!) It was long been recognized that the term 'eternity' has many definitions. Thanks for your patience.

    • Has it been demonstrated that inflationary universes must have a beginning to time? See page 13 of this paper by Andrei Linde for a fairly accessible explanation that shows why the BVG theorem that apologists make so much of does not have the broader implication they claim. After the explanation, Linde concludes,

      In other words, there was a beginning for each part of the universe, and there will be an end for inflation at any particular point. But there will be no end for the evolution of the universe as a whole in the eternal inflation scenario, and at present we do not have any reason to believe that there was a single beginning of the evolution of the whole universe at some moment t=0, which was traditionally associated with the Big Bang.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Nice paper. Thanks for the link.

      • Peter

        The BVG theorem is exploited by big bang creationists to claim that creation had an absolute beginning at the big bang. God is far more subtle than that. Instead of magicking a universe into existence complete with its ready-made a-la-carte low entropy, as big bang creationists believe, God will have allowed the universe to realise its existence in a completely naturalistic way.

        It is ironic that the more cosmologists seek a naturalistic explanation of the cosmos, the more they are reveal how God has allowed its existence to be naturally realised. In their frantic attempts to disprove the supernatural intervention of big bang creationism, they are doing the Church's work by disclosing the exquisite means by which God has actualised creation. They ought to receive pontifical awards.

        • "God will have allowed the universe to realise its existence in a completely naturalistic way."

          The main problem then is that God is an unnecessary burden on the explanatory account. We have no cause to hypothesize his involvement.

          • Peter

            You forget Catholic doctrine. For centuries it has taught that time had a beginning despite constant opposition right up to the 1960's. In fact, a 1959 survey of US scientists showed an overwhelming consensus that time did not have a beginning, until a few years later when the CMBR was discovered which supported the big bang and a beginning in time.

            No matter how naturalistic the models, whether eternal or not, they all depend upon a beginning of the arrow of time in line with long-held and long-contested Catholic doctrine.

          • You forget Catholic doctrine.

            I'm quite familiar with it, actually.

            For centuries it has taught that time had a beginning despite constant opposition right up to the 1960's. In fact, a 1959 survey of US scientists showed an overwhelming consensus that time did not have a beginning, until a few years later when the CMBR was discovered which supported the big bang and a beginning in time.

            Three cheers for the scientists, then, who updated their beliefs in light of the evidence, and will do so again if the new evidence continues to go the other way.

            No matter how naturalistic the models, whether eternal or not, they all depend upon a beginning of the arrow of time in line with long-held and long-contested Catholic doctrine.

            Well, except for the models that don't, as has already been discussed elsewhere in this thread.

          • Peter

            I cannot say that you have explained how any model you have mentioned does not involve a beginning from a state of low entropy.

    • I suppose some people may find support for their religion anywhere. Faith is so flexible it is supported by everything. Disturbing dreams become repressed memories of an alien abduction. A sense of deja vu reinforces belief in psychic powers. Creaking in the attic leads us closer to ghosts.

      Apparently even inflation can reinforce various mystic notions. For the believer, proof of a belief can be found everywhere you look, no matter what you find.

      • Peter

        I think it's simpler than that. Does time have a beginning or does in not? If not, the Church's doctrine is wrong which means its other doctrine may be wrong too and perhaps not be worth following.

        • David Nickol

          Does time have a beginning or does in not?

          What if there are multiple universes—something many scientists take for granted—and for each universe, time begins for that particular universe?

          If not, the Church's doctrine is wrong which means its other doctrine may be wrong too and perhaps not be worth following.

          In spite of the quote you reproduced from the Catechism earlier, I think it is just as much a mistake to read the Catechism as a science text as to read Genesis as a science text. The Catholic Church has not endorsed any theory of the nature of time. Catholicism is not going to fall if time turns out not to be real, or if time starts over for each new universe, or if time itself never had a beginning. The Catechism is not a physics text, and it is not arguing a particular theory of physics or cosmology when it attributes the origin of everything (including time) to God.

          • Joe Ser

            Still might need a master clock.

          • Peter

            If the arrow of time begins for each universe, running both into the past and the future as entropy grows in both directions, then the point at which it begins is where there is no arrow of time. At that point there is no past or future; they are the same, existing simultaneously in a timeless present.

            The claim I am trying to make is that even though there may be many new universes, the timeless present at the beginning of the arrow of time is the same for each universe. There are not multiple instances of a timeless present as there are multiple universes because that would be a contradiction.

            There can be only one timeless present and that same timeless present exists in every new universe. So when you talk about multiple beginnings to the arrow of time commensurate with multiple universes, they all begin from the same timeless point where past and future are merged into a simultaneous present. It is that point which St Augustine refers to as the Eternal out of which time begins.

        • If BICEP2 had not detected B-modes, would this have had a bearing on Catholic doctrine?

          • Peter

            While doctrine is strengthened by this news, it is not weakened by the lack of it because there is plenty other evidence of the big bang.

          • Belief in ghosts is strengthened by the creaking floorboards. It is not weakened by their absence. This is the way with faith.

          • Peter

            I would agree that if there is no evidence for the big bang other than the equivalent of creaking floorboards, then the doctrinal claim that time had a beginning is on pretty flimsy ground. But the evidence for the big bang is quite conclusive with or without the BICEP2 results.

          • So you agree with what Trent said, that it seems as though the CMB polarization map has no bearing whatsoever on either the existence of God or any other Catholic teaching.

            Blades that can't cut both ways are pretty dull.

          • Peter

            On the contrary, it has immense bearing if true because it is yet another confirmation of the big bang.

          • I hope I misunderstand what you're saying. The way you express the result, you make it sound as though, if true it's good support for a Catholic doctrine, if false it has no impact on Catholic doctrine. It counts the hit and ignores the miss. That's superstition, on the level of psychic channellers and ghost hunters.

          • Peter

            You have misunderstood what I was saying.

            If BICEP2 is true it is good support for Catholic doctrine. However, if the BICEP2 results are not supported by other observations, such as the Planck mission, this doesn't mean that gravity waves don't exist but that our instruments may still be too crude to detect them.

          • My apologies. I was uncharitable in my last comment. But I feel very passionately about this issue. I don't see these new results as providing significant support for the Big Bang because there's already so much support for the Big Bang, it's not really affecting the probability much. The results, insofar as I understand them, provide evidence for inflation, and help rule out some theories of inflation in favor of others. That, in itself, has nothing to do with whether time began.

            And, even more importantly, whether time began has no connection for me to the doctrine about whether time began. No evidence can support the doctrine for me, because I don't hold to the doctrine in the first place.

          • Mike

            Hi Paul,

            Can I jump in for a science question? I would imagine you are far better to understand the science presented herein.

            My understanding is that the new results indicate that there was some quantum mechanical behavior in spacetime before the CMB was emitted as the universe cooled. This is telling us that the universe behaved quantum mechanically at some point in it's history indicating it's very small? Is it indicating that gravity was behaving quantum mechanically? Does this imply that the regions where there were more dense regions of matter were a remnant of quantum mechanical fluctuation from very early in the universe (maybe before inflation occurred) Am I thinking about that right?

          • Peter

            You don't have to hold the doctrine; just look at the evidence. The fact is that for centuries the Church has taught that time has a beginning, when almost everyone else was saying it didn't, right up to the middle of the 20th century with the steady state universe.

            Whether the big bang marks the beginning of the arrow of time in one direction only or in two opposite directions, it is still the beginning of the arrow of time. Whether it's a reverse arrow or forward arrow is irrelevant because what is forward to one observer is reverse to another.

            The important thing is that the arrow of time begins from a point where the past and the future do not exist, which is what St Augustine said 1600 years ago.

          • "The important thing is that the arrow of time begins from a point where it does not exist"

            ...except in nonsingular cosmologies. It's premature to say we know which sort of inflationary cosmology is the real one.

          • Peter

            The arrow of time is the growth of entropy from a low level towards a high level. Inasmuch as a nonsingular universe begins from a point of low entropy, the growth of entropy from that point marks the beginning of the arrow of time.

          • Uh. Pretty much by definition, nonsingular universes don't being from a point of low entropy. In any case, these examples merely go to point out that there remain logical alternatives that theists often dismiss without sufficient reason. We certainly can't claim to know that our universe is or is not that kind of universe. (My money is on "is not".)

          • I don't recall where Augustine discussed polarisation of the CMB. Maybe BICEP2 forgot to cite him?

          • Peter

            What St Augustine did discuss is how he understood "the Eternal":

            "They would see that a long time does not become long, except from the many separate events that occur in its passage, which cannot be simultaneous. In the Eternal, on the other hand, nothing passes away, but the whole is simultaneously present. But no temporal process is wholly simultaneous." (Confessions, Book 11, Ch 11)

            This, written 1600 years ago, is uncannily similar to our current understanding of the arrow of time as expressed by Sean Carroll:

            "And then there’s the arrow of time, which give us the feeling of progress, the feeling of flowing or moving through time. So that static universe in the middle has time as a coordinate but there’s no arrow of time. There’s no future versus past, everything is equal to each other." (wired.com)

          • David Nickol

            I remember singing this in church when I went to Catholic school:

            Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,

            Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait...

            The Earth began to cool,

            The autotrophs began to drool,

            Neanderthals developed tools,

            First were the Jews, but then the Catholics,

            Math, science, history, unravelling the mysteries,

            That all started with the big bang!

          • That's a violation of conservation of probability. If a fact is evidence for something, then the negation of the fact is necessarily evidence against it.

          • Peter

            I said the lack of news, not the falsification of it.

          • That's equally a violation of conservation of probability. If news of a claimed fact is more likely when the claim is true than when it is false, then the lack of news is still necessarily evidence against the claim.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      To be nitpicking, the existence of these gravity waves has nothing to do with the Big Bang itself; just with the theory of inflation.

  • Ulises

    So, along with this cosmic evolution or inflation, which is the probability that within a galaxy like the milky way, from the dust of its exploded stars, the living being who uses a computer was formed - computer included? A favourable case among infinite unfavourable possibilities? Fifty-fifty? To be or not to be, is that the question? Are calculations simplified or made more complex when the subjective self of each one is the entity that is studied? Anyway, what is the relationship between life and immense numbers? Is life a folding process of infinity? Is it just something infinite that would have enough to allow a self, something isolated but of infinite claims? But, is infinity credible within something with a beginning, out of a Big Bang? And is it credible within something with an ending, with the inevitable death around the corner? Along these lines, there is a book, a preview in goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion in order to free-think for a while

    • We don't know yet. We're at a point where scientists are becoming reasonably sure that our universe was an inflationary one, but we don't know what kind yet. Most all kinds, especially the simple ones, are multiverses, but not all. Most multiverses, especially the simple ones, are everlasting, but, IIUC, not all. So if we find out that we're in a simple multiverse, then the correct conclusion would be that the probability of a living being forming who uses a computer would be 100%. Somewhere, sometime, absolutely everything that is physically possible would happen.

  • Ben Posin

    "This discovery does not disprove the idea that the universe requires a necessary being in order to sustain it nor does it disprove the idea that the universe began to exist in the finite past. Even if inflationary theory explains why some of the constants in the universe (such as the strength of gravity) have the life-permitting values they do, inflation alone does not overturn the conclusion that our universe’s life-permitting laws of nature were designed. Instead, it merely pushes the problem back one level. Resorting to inflation to explain the fine-tuning of the universe’s constants and conditions would be like saying that the case of a dart hitting a bull’s eye can be explained by “projectile theory” apart from the actions of any intelligent agent."

    This is the heart of the article. The point of it---Yes, we understand a little more about why the universe is the way it is, how it formed, but don't worry, our new knowledge hasn't squeezed out room for God yet. I don't know enough about this new discovery yet to hold a strong opinion as to this claim (and--forgive me--am not willing to rely on Mr. Horn's explanation without doing some other reading), but I am curious about something: what sort of discovery on this line WOULD, accoridng to Trent, disprove the idea that "the universe requires a necessary being in order to sustain it [or]that the universe began to exist in the finite past"? Would Horn feel comfortable writing the above paragraph only swapping in "this discovery" with "no discovery"?

    • Steven Dillon

      Well...the thing is Trent is very Thomist, and Thomist principles entail that the universe needs a necessary being in order to sustain it no matter what. I.e. It doesn't matter what we observe, anything that's composed of act/potency, essence/existence, or form/matter needs to be sustained by a necessary being.

      I think folks are unaccustomed to this style of natural theology. For years now, theists have tried to justify their belief via evidential arguments that often require staking their claim on scientific theories. While this certainly isn't incompatible with Thomism, it's better known for attempting to deduce God's existence from philosophical axioms and self-evident observations.

      • Tim Dacey

        Steven:

        Trent's belief that there exists a necessary being isn't dependent on his Thomist sympathies. One can readily believe that there exists a necessary being and not be a Thomist; in fact, one can believe in a necessary being and not even be a Theist.

        Also, it seems to me that scientific theories are based on basic assumptions and self-evident observations about the natural world so I see no reason why the Thomist would not utilize scientific theories for theological purposes. This would just be one style of argument existing in the boarder realm of Natural Theology. I would argue that philosophy and theology ought to be continuous with science.

        • Steven Dillon

          I don't think I disagree with any of this. But, I think it's precisely because of Trent's Thomism that scientific observations aren't going to affect his reasons for believing that a necessary being sustains the universe: the universe will still be composed of act/potency, essence/existence and form/matter.

    • "The point of it---Yes, we understand a little more about why the universe is the way it is, how it formed, but don't worry, our new knowledge hasn't squeezed out room for God yet."

      This reveals a key misunderstanding. Trent is not proposing a sort of "God of the gaps" view, where God is competing for the same space with the ongoing progress of science. He's saying that the Big Bang is, by itself, theologically neutral. Therefore, this new discovery is independent of God's existence, contrary to what some media sources claim (like the one he linked to from his local paper.)

      • Ben Posin

        I think we're actually roughly on the same page, with each of us maybe phrasing things a bit oddly (for instance, despite how you put it, I think one could very much hold a God of the gaps mindset while maintaining a particular discovery doesn't close any relevant gaps.)
        But I think my follow up question in the sentence after the one you quote shows where my head is at. Do you agree Steven Dillon, whose answer matchs my guess: that Trent Horn thinks no new discovery about the history/formation of the universe could disprove or diminish his beliefs concerning God? Because if so, the article is a tiny bit disingenuous (not sarcasm, I really mean only a tiny bit) and it would helpful for Trent to say upfront: no physical discovery can be inconsistent with Thomist principles or remove the necessity for God, and that of course includes this one.
        Please let me know if I have revealed any further key misunderstandings.

        • materetmagistra

          Doesn't it work both ways, though? Isn't your mindset one of "science WILL fill the gaps"? That is, if you truly believe that God does not exist, there is NO evidence that can show he does: You will only accept those explanations that have no God.

          • Ben Posin

            Respectfully, no, I think it doesn't work both ways, though I suppose I can't speak for everyone. There are plenty of things that could happen or could have hapened that I would take as evidence in favor of something like the Catholic God actually existing--I suppose it could never be proved to me, I'd always have to admit the possibility that I'd gone insane or that aliens were interfering with technology I don't understand, but it would certainly move my current belief meter.

            Off the top of my head, I would be more inclined to believe in something like the Catholic God than I am now if:

            biblical prophecies actually came true
            if the bible contained accurate scientific knowledge that we couldn't expect its authors to actually have had at that time
            if practicing Catholics/priests/bishops/or at least the Pope were able to perform seemingly miraculous healings that we did not see from those in other faiths or among secular poeple
            if a Jesus like being appeared today, informed us that the Catholic church has it right and that as proof the world would stop spinning for three days, and this actually occurred (or something similarly "miraculous").
            if it turned out that human DNA contains coded bible passages/messages from God/etc.
            if we could find any medical scientific evidence weighing against the material mind..

            and so it goes. That's just off the top of my head here, I'm pretty sure there are articles and videos by some athists on this very subject.

          • Steve Law

            Evidence that the universe was eternal would probably deal quite a blow to the notion of God as creator of the universe, wouldn't it?

          • Joe Ser

            That is what they used to think. Then Big Bang and 2nd law made it untenable.

          • Ben Posin

            A good point, it certainly should.

          • George

            I'm sure the response would have been "God just chose to make it look that way, and we must simply have faith."

            Why would anyone need evidence anyway? God is beyond science.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That is the claim. But if so, it means no argument can convince, since it would be based on nothing.

          • Michael Murray

            But most atheists I have met, read, etc don't "truly believe" in anything. "Truly believe" is more of religious notion. Most atheists I think would just say that the evidence is currently against there being gods. There nearest I've ever seen to "truly believe" is people who argue that the concept "god" or "supernatural" is so logically incoherent as to make statements about their existence meaningless.

          • materetmagistra

            @Michael Murray: "But most atheists I have met, read, etc don't 'truly believe' in anything."

            ? So, they believe in nothing? How exactly does THAT work?

            You say, " Most atheists I think would just say that the evidence is currently against there being gods."

            Then, they are BELIEVING that evidence, eh? Of course they believe in something!

            “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” ~G.K.Chesterton

          • Michael Murray

            Nice try with the caps but did you read what I said? I said "truly believe" not "believe". As the rest of my comment makes clear I think "believe" is about evidence and "truly believe" is more of a religious concept. The emphasis is on the TRULY.

          • materetmagistra

            So, you are trying to make a case that "believe" and "truly believe" do not mean the very same thing? Either you accept something as true (believe it) or you don't. Either you have faith in said evidence or you don't.

            Religious belief is based on evidence. I believe in _________________ because of this_______, this_______, this________, this________ and this________. It would be truly irrational to accept any belief if you had NO evidence for it. Now, we can discuss the WEIGHT of the evidence, just as we can in reviewing scientific theories, but the evidence we would be reviewing is the evidence put forth for such belief (be it religious or scientific.)

            Ultimately one looks at the cosmos and ponders: Does MEANING exist or not. Science cannot answer that.

          • David Nickol

            Don't you think that most religious belief is based on people accepting what they are taught in childhood, before they are competent to evaluate evidence? Stalin said, "Give me a child for the first seven years and you may do what you like with him afterwards.” It seems to me that is often how religion works.

            When a person who has had a religious education (and I speak from experience) begins to have doubts, often as young adults, they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that the faculties they would use to evaluate evidence have been rendered less than fully reliable for making objective, rational judgments. The various world religions (Christianity and Islam chief among them) know what Stalin knew. If you take control of children in their earliest years, the odds are very strong they will not be able to undo what was done to them later in life.

          • materetmagistra

            @David Nickol: "Don't you think that most religious belief is based on people accepting what they are taught in childhood, before they are competent to evaluate evidence?"

            So, once they become competent to evaluate evidence....what then? If the worldview they learn as a child never meets contradictory evidence - what reason would there be to re-evaluate their worldview? And, if contradictory evidence is met, the reasonable thing to do would be to re-evaluate and adjust accordingly one's worldview, eh?

            @David Nickol: "Stalin said, "Give me a child for the first seven years and you may do what you like with him afterwards.” It seems to me that is often how religion works."

            So, why the example of Stalin? Indoctrinating religion wasn't exactly his goal. Of course adults can abuse the trust of children - but, should they? And, that parents would teach their children what they, the parents, know to be true is not exactly evil.....it would be evil to teach your children that which you do not believe to be true..... What Stalin was doing was undermining what the children were learning at home. They were being taught to distrust their very own parents!

            @davidnickol:disqus: "When a person who has had a religious education (and I speak from experience) begins to have doubts, often as young adults, they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated...."

            Parents teaching children what they (the parents) believe to be true should not be categorized as "indoctrination." As a parent I take offense to such characterization.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not making a case. I'm just telling you how I would use those two phrases. I wouldn't say "I truly believe" about anything.

            Ultimately one looks at the cosmos and ponders: Does MEANING exist or not. Science cannot answer that.

            I don't.

          • materetmagistra

            I truly believe you are not telling the truth. Why did you choose to read this blog and comment on it? Apparently people are not seeing the world as you 'truly believe' it is and so you are correcting/teaching/sharing your 'truly held' views.

            Earlier you wrote: "But most atheists I have met, read, etc don't "truly believe" in anything." To which I ask, to be 'atheist' doesn't one need to "truly believe" in there being no god?

            Regarding your "I don't [ponder]"......G.K. Chesterton noted:

            ...if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
            -Heretics (1905)

          • Michael Murray

            I truly believe you are not telling the truth. Why did you choose to read this blog and comment on it? Apparently people are not seeing the world as you 'truly believe' it is and so you are correcting/teaching/sharing your 'truly held' views.

            Perhaps we disagree on the meaning of truly believe. To me it means "believe 100%". Of course I think the theists posting here are wrong in the sense that I think there are no gods and I weight that belief as more much more likely to be true than their belief that there are gods. But that isn't the same as saying I truly believe in the sense of believe 100%.

            In any case as you believe I am a liar there is little point in us having further discussion and this will be my last response to you.

            Michael

          • materetmagistra

            Michael Murray: "Perhaps we disagree on the meaning of truly believe. To me it means "believe 100%"."

            Hmm. To believe is to have confidence or faith in the truth of something. To say, "I believe...." means that one has confidence in what follows. Not sure how "truly" can change the meaning.

            @MM: "Of course I think the theists posting here are wrong in the sense that I think there are no gods and I weight that belief as more much more likely to be true than their belief that there are gods. But that isn't the same as saying I truly believe in the sense of believe 100%."

            ?? Either you BELIEVE "the theists posting here are wrong" or you don't. In fact, I do believe, truly, that you really and truly believe that "the theists posting here are wrong." And, I'm sure you have reasons/evidence behind your statement [versus that statement being just a random response.]

            Do you even know what you have trust and belief in? I would imagine like any person, you place your trust where you have good reason and evidence to base it. For example you say, "It's enough to just not believe in gods." Which indicates you have trust/belief in evidence that shows god cannot possibly exist (like not believing in the Easter Bunny because never once have there been Easter eggs hidden around your house, which would be good EVIDENCE of the non-existence of the Easter Bunny.) You must have some evidence that indicates your belief is correct. Do tell, what reasons do you have to believe the "theists posting here are wrong"?

            @MM: "In any case as you believe I am a liar or apparently a turnip there is little point in us having further discussion and this will be my last response to you."

            No, Michael, I do not consider you to be a liar or a turnip. I do think, however, that you have not really given much thought as to why you believe what you do - why you have faith in what you believe. We all (because we are not turnips) trust in things, or come to conclusions, based on some reason or some evidence. You have your reasons - I have mine - and, as reasoning humans we should be able to explain such reasons. Reason and logic is the same for theists as it is for atheists - that is the medium through which we can discuss our views.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You must have some evidence that indicates your belief is correct. Do tell, what reasons do you have to believe the "theists posting here are wrong"?

            Lack of evidence is, in this case, evidence. And the problem of evil eliminates entire categories of "god models".

          • materetmagistra

            Lack of evidence? For your view? You have no evidence or reason for your belief (that God does not exist)??

            Or, rather, do you mean that you do not see something that you WOULD EXPECT TO SEE if God existed. (Akin to not finding the Easter eggs you would EXPECT to see if Easter Bunny existed.)

            So, what is missing that you would expect to see if God existed?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The latter. And it depends on the model of god we're discussing.

          • materetmagistra

            Actually, before one can determine which 'model' or version of God makes sense, one needs to first determine that God exists.

            So, what is missing that you would expect to see if God existed?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That doesn't seem to make much sense. Unless we know what god we're talking about, evidence or lack thereof can't be quantified.

            Lack of evidence for Zeus, f'r example, would include things like nothing on top of Olympus.

            Which god are we talking about?

          • materetmagistra

            @Serafina_Pekkala:disqus: "Which god are we talking about?"

            Given the discussion at hand, I was presuming God as "the supernatural creator of the universe."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Impossibly vague. Such a god is not described by any faith that I know of. Such a god concept offers no meaningful handle to examine it.

          • Susan

            Impossibly vague

            Yes. And why call it a god?

          • materetmagistra

            @ M. Solange O'Brien: "Impossibly vague. Such a god is not described by any faith that I know of. Such a god concept offers no meaningful handle to examine it."

            Hmm.
            Supernatural.
            Creator.
            That's the basic idea.
            Should be enough to begin with.

            But, here's more from the author of this blog piece, Trent Horn: "...a being that is necessary (cannot fail to exist), eternal (not bound by time), immaterial (not bound by space), all-powerful, and all-knowing." Those are necessary attributes that we arrive at by reason when considering the existence of a supernatural creator of the universe.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why? How can we reason to those attributes?

          • materetmagistra

            If a supernatural creator of the universe existed, what necessary attributes exist?

          • Susan

            If a supernatural creator of the universe existed, what necessary attributes exist

            That it is supernatural (a word I still can't make sense of and which no theist ever explains) and that it is a creator.

          • materetmagistra

            Supernatural
            That is supernatural, whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect, or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain. [Horace Bushnell, "Nature and the Supernatural," 1858]

          • Susan

            whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect,

            For which there is not, nor can there be evidence.

            or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain.

            Which has the same problem.

            What is "nature"?

          • materetmagistra

            @Susan: "For which there is not, nor can there be evidence."

            Ah - cannot be MATERIAL evidence. That does not mean NO evidence.

          • Susan

            For instance?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Precisely. What evidence? This returns to my contention that the fundamental (and irreconcilable) difference between theism and atheism is the understanding of what constitutes evidence.
            Non-empirical evidence which cannot be independently verified is indistinguishable from imagination, hallucination, wishful thinking, or madness.

          • materetmagistra

            @"Non-empirical evidence which cannot be independently verified is indistinguishable from imagination, hallucination, wishful thinking, or madness."

            A thing cannot verify itself - what would you use to verify the scientific method??

            There are many truths which do not depend upon your restricted view of what qualifies as truth - logic, mathematical proofs, ethical proofs and metaphysical truths. In addition, knowledge of history provides evidence that is not independently verifiable.

            And, as I noted in my very first comment, if you restrict the evidence you will accept, you by necessity restrict what you will find.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            A thing cannot verify itself - what would you use to verify the scientific method??

            Inductive logic. We use the scientific method. We observe that it works and has never failed. We accept (provisionally, as all rational scientists do) that the scientific method is valid.
            Really, this is logic 101.

            There are many truths which do not depend upon your restricted view of what qualifies as truth - logic, mathematical proofs, ethical proofs and metaphysical truths.

            You are mixing apples and concrete blocks. Logic and math are consistent symbolic systems; ethical proofs are personal opinion sanctioned by tradition and societal approval; and metaphysical truths are, at best logically sound. That doesn't make them true.

            In addition, knowledge of history provides evidence that is not independently verifiable.

            Absolutely false. Knowledge of history is based on empirical evidence. That evidence is independently verifiable. Do you understand how history is determined? Artifacts, records, and analysis. All nice, clean, simple scientific methods.

            And, as I noted in my very first comment, if you restrict the evidence you will accept, you by necessity restrict what you will find.

            But I don't. You do. You begin with premises you can't prove, can't demonstrate to anyone else, and you warp your thinking around them. That does not show rational thinking or an open mind.

          • materetmagistra

            @"You begin with premises you can't prove,..........." & "We accept (provisionally, as all rational scientists do) that the scientific method is valid."

            OK. Can't prove it but accept it. Case closed.

          • George

            so should we just accept any propositions put to us?

            you want to open the can of worms with a reducto ad absurdum, so be it.

          • materetmagistra

            @disqus_5RaCi55XON:disqus : "so should we just accept any propositions put to us?"

            Absolutely not. Only the sound ones.

            But, we do have to agree to certain premises before we can even begin. Like,

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What evidence do you offer? Personal opinion? Not evidence of anything other than what that person thinks is true.
            Texts? Great. We have dozens; they all contradict each other. Same thing goes for tradition.
            Try again.

          • George

            how do you know something is immaterial evidence? how would you know it exists? with what do you observe it? just explain it please.

          • materetmagistra

            That we speak or write philosophically, putting thoughts into words does not make that evidence "material."
            Evidence from reason, using logic versus scientific method.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That definition is not clear. Nor is it coherent. It relies on equivocating on cause and effect. Something supernatural which is either unknowable or a cause but not a cause.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What Susan said.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            How are you defining universe and supernatural?

          • materetmagistra

            The common definitions - universe=the cosmos - supernatural=outside of nature

          • Susan

            The common definitions - universe=the cosmos - supernatural=outside of nature

            How are you defining the cosmos? What does it mean to "exist" "outside" of nature?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This adds no clarity. What do you mean by cosmos?

          • George

            why do theists insist on splitting reality into two categories? if two, why not three? natural, supernatural, and hypernatural! where do you stop?

          • materetmagistra

            Because we have 'evidence' for the supernatural - our thoughts.

          • George

            What is the difference between "our thoughts are natural" and "our thoughts are supernatural"?

          • materetmagistra

            What definition of "natural" do you care to use?
            How about "natural, PHYSICAL world"? Material.
            Supernatural...outside of nature, not material.

          • George

            which supposed supernatural creator of the universe?

          • materetmagistra

            The necessary being. You start there.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And actually, for most atheists, it's simply a lack of belief. We lack belief in god. And I've never been presented with a definition of god that was logically and semantically coherent and evidence for that god.

          • materetmagistra

            M. Solange O'Brien: "And, I've never been presented with a definition of god that was logically and semantically coherent and evidence for that god."

            Well, either God exists or he doesn't.

            Does his existence depend upon our human ability to define him?

            If there is no God, no infinitely wise writer can produce him.

            If God exists, no amount of bad poetry can make him not exist.

            Do you agree?

            @M. Solange O'Brien: "And actually, for most atheists, it's simply a lack of belief. We lack belief in god."

            You do not lack belief - you just stated your belief: You have confidence in the truth that God does not exist. One of your pieces of evidence that gives you confidence is that "[You've] never been presented with a definition of god that was logically and semantically coherent." You see that as proof for God not existing. I'll bet you have additional evidence or reasons to think that God cannot exist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            To all your points, my response is, "that depends".

          • materetmagistra

            @ M. Solange O'Brien: "To all your points, my response is, 'that depends'."

            On what?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            On your definition of god.

          • materetmagistra

            Well, either God (as the necessary being - as the supernatural creator of the universe) exists or he doesn't.

            Does his existence depend upon our human ability to define him?

            If there is no God, no infinitely wise writer can produce him.

            If God exists, no amount of bad poetry can make him not exist.

            What do you think of that?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Given your definition of god, the answer remains, "it depends."

          • materetmagistra

            Based on logic - such a God either exists or doesn't exist.

            Reading your responses leads me to guess that you believe atheism is true. There must be some reason(s) that you believe atheism is true and that God does not exist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "Believe atheism to be true"? Of course it's true. There are atheists, do you deny that?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't believe that god doesn't exist. I am an atheist: I don't believe god exists.

          • materetmagistra

            @M. Solange O'Brien: "I don't believe that god doesn't exist. I am an atheist: I don't believe god exists.
            .....it depends on the model of god we're discussing."

            Actually, if that is YOUR belief, then you must already have a notion of the model of God that you are deciding, based on some evidence or reasoning, cannot exist.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Apparently you don't bother to read the posts of the person you are responding to. This is not going to further discussion. I lack all belief in god or gods; that is to say, I have no belief. Nor is the fact that I lack belief a belief in and of itself - it is merely a statement of fact.
            Please try to read and respond to what people write; it will make our discussions more profitable.

          • materetmagistra

            Earlier you stated: "We lack belief in god. And I've never been presented with a definition of god that was logically and semantically coherent and evidence for that god."

            So, one of your reasons to not believe in God is that you have never been presented with an idea of god that was logical or coherent. Score: God 0, atheism 1

            Three hours ago you stated: "I lack all belief in god or gods; that is to say, I have no belief.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I warned you that you needed to read what I wrote and not reply to whatever odd version of my words is floating around in your head. You failed to take that warning.

            So, one of your reasons to not believe in God is that you have never been presented with an idea of god that was logical or coherent. Score: God 0, atheism 1

            Not what I said. Me: 1; You: 0.

            Three hours ago you stated: "I lack all belief in god or gods; that is to say, I have no belief."

            Correct.

            Which indicates that you DO have a belief or idea about this thing called God - the belief being that such a thing/being cannot exist.

            False. I examine my set of beliefs. None of them relate in any way to anything that might, even charitably, be labeled "god". I have no beliefs about something called god. Why do you keep ignorning what I say?

            Why do you believe that such a thing/being cannot exist?

            I don't believe that. Again, read for comprehension.

            Well, becasue you have never been presented with a definition that was logical or coherent is a piece of evidence to you.

            It's evidence that theists aren't particularly good with definitions, I will grant you.

            You see, based on logic, one of the following must be true: (1) God exists, or (2) God does not exist.</blockquote
            Actually, that's false. Try reading Barron, or even Feuerbach, or Tillich. The more "sophisticated" Christian theologians disagree with you.

            Based on reasons known to you, you have ecided to put your trust in (2).

            Do not accuse me of lying ever again or this conversation will cease. If you cannot deal honestly and accurately with what I am saying, you are not capable of carrying on a discussion on this topic.

            If you seriously had NO belief whatsoever regarding which was true....it would be enough to flip a coin.

            False. Flip a coin about what? I've already pointed out that your dichotomy is false.

            Each choice would be equally relevant to you, having absolutely no belief towards either.

            Absolutely false. Why would they be equally relevant? And what god definition are you going with here? I'm still waiting for one that is logically and semantically coherent.

            However, I am sure you will not accept (1)....

            Based on a coin toss? Would you? Are you saying that you would accept god's existence based on the toss of a coin? And you know nothing of what I would or would not accept.

            therefore there is some idea or thought or reasoning behind your choosing (2) as true.

            But I have not chosen (2) as true. As I have already said several times.

            For the one who had not enough evidence to choose, he would claim agnosticism.

            Why? That's not what I've claimed, nor does it match my position.
            I am an atheist. I lack belief in god. I'm sorry you seem to be unable to understand that. But if you wish to discuss it, deal with what I'm saying, rather than your strawman.

          • materetmagistra

            @"I don't believe that [Why do you believe that such a thing/being cannot exist?.]

            Ah - so you are agnostic [def=a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.]

            @"I am an atheist."

            OK. So, NOT agnostic.

            @"I lack belief in god."

            OK. So, you DO believe something about God - you deny his existence - you do not believe he can exist. There must be some reason that you believe this idea is the correct, true, believable idea. You must be working from some definition you yourself understand God to be, or how else can you come to any conclusion regarding the non-existence of this thing.

            Example: I actually have no belief about aliens. Do they exist? I'm not sure. Since they either must exist or must not exist (they cannot kinda exist) logic tells me I have three choices:

            (1) review evidence and decide whether it is convincing enough to trust in it - and then trust in the existence of aliens (because of a trust that that is what the evidence supports);
            (2) review evidence and decide whether it is convincing enough to trust in it - and then trust in the NON-existence of aliens ((because of a trust that that is what the evidence supports); or
            (3) never really consider the evidence...never consider it's worth or non-worth......never come to any reasoned conclusion whether aliens exist or not. [This describes agnosticism = neither faith nor disbelief.]

            You quite clearly state that you are "an atheist. [You] lack belief in god." So, either you flipped a coin and have no reasons to support your conclusion, or more likely, you have your reasons for your belief. It is comical that you think the 'atheist' position has no burden of proof.

            As G.K. Chesterton stated: "Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It
            is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being
            influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought
            that has not been thought out. The latter is what we commonly call culture and
            enlightenment today. But man is always influenced by thought of some kind, his
            own or somebody else’s; that of somebody he trusts or that of somebody he never
            heard of, thought at first, second or third hand; thought from exploded legends
            or unverified rumours; but always something with the shadow of a system of
            values and a reason for preference. A man does test everything by something.
            The question here is whether he has ever tested the test." ~The Common Man. p.176.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Once again, you are lying about my statements. Either read and respond to what I say or don't bother to reply.

          • materetmagistra

            That's why I quoted directly what you said.
            Best wishes.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You quoted my words and then claimed I believed something different. That is fundamentally dishonest. I'm sorry, but given that fundamental choice to distort, rather than engage in actual dialog, I cannot return your good wishes.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You should not put words I did not say into my mouth, or I will have to terminate this discussion. Show me exactly where I claimed that I regard lack of a divine definition as proof that god doesn't exist? Be precise.

            And why are you calling me a liar?

          • materetmagistra

            Liar? Wow. Not something I said.

            Regarding your belief: You stated, "We [atheists] lack belief in god."

            Is that NOT your belief...that God does not exist?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nope. Not my belief.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            When you tell someone that a statement they made about them self is false, the you are calling them a liar.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I am still waiting for you to point out where I said that lack of a coherent definition was proof that god does not exist. Please be precise and provide quotes. Thanks.

          • George

            and yet you can assert enough about it to build a massive church system upon it with elaborate traditions.... and highly specific lifestyle restrictions.

          • materetmagistra

            It would be absolutely absurd to build upon 'nothing', eh?

  • Mike

    I'm only slightly amused that the first three quarters of the article explains the science, with some background of what humanity has understood about the origins of the universe from the last century. I'm not a cosmologist, but it seems like what I have heard from listening to their youtube videos.

  • Loreen Lee

    Please bring into the discussion the extension of this on-going cosmological report including such topics as the possibility that the 'beginning big bang' is some kind of meeting point of the many parallel universes, and the possibility that in some the arrow of time is reversed.
    Also on reading this article again, I now interpret the trillionth of a second inflation rate as the time of sequence of the big bang per se, to the time of the inflation from that singular substance of matter. I had previously understood it as the time it took for the inflation to take place. I thought at the time that it was a bit of an exaggeration to say it was merely 'faster than the speed of light'. Can anyone fill out the details in colloquial language on this one too. Thank you.

  • I agree this has nothing to do with the existence of any god or catholic teaching. I accept that the Catholic claim is unfalsifiable.

    • "I accept that the Catholic claim is unfalsifiable."

      Just to add some needed clarification, I assume you mean it's empirically (i.e. scientifically) unflasifiable, and not generally unfalsifiable. If that's all you mean, then we'd of course agree.

      But It can be falsified philosophically if it's shown to contain a logical contradiction.

      • Empirically. This article is about an empirical observation that does not Disprove God or Catholicism because no empirical observation ever could.

        It means very little to me to make logically consistent, but unfalsifiable claims. A claim that we are all in the Matrix or that the universe was created last Thursday are other examples.

        • Michael Murray

          I rather like the idea that wizards are still living amongst us and they change our memories every time a non-wizard sees them. I believe they are planning to reveal themselves to us and are getting us used to the idea by planting the Harry Potter stories in JW Rowlings mind. How else do you explain a rather ordinary amateur writer suddenly publishing a series of books which had such an extraordinary effect on so many children?

  • The fact is that this discovery has no bearing whatsoever on either the existence of God or any other Catholic teaching.

    Yep. Like almost all of science, this discovery has nothing whatsoever to do with religion or with God.

    • Joe Ser

      The Big Bang materialists did not like because it meant the universe began. This supports the Big Bang, materialists still don't like it.

      • The materialists who don't like it lack imagination.

        • Loreen Lee

          Indeed, according to what a video I saw referred to as a logical basis in for instance quantum mechanics, that is not 'Aristotelean', could not some of the 'descriptions etc. of these physicists be compared to the 'miraculous'. (I by the way am grateful that the Church does not require a belief in miracles by the faithful.) I guess when it comes to physics/cosmology I may be too much of an idealist to conjure up in my imagination the empirical realities that are suggested. for instance by a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second!!! I don't have that powerful an imagination or understanding with respect to time.

  • Tom Rafferty

    I read the article and all of the comments up to the present. A great deal of verbage leading to nothing. This finding, as well as all other cosmological findings only take us back to somewhere before the Big Bang. ANYTHING postulated "before" then is pure speculation. Yes, there are some interesting mathematical and scientific hypotheses, but that is all they are. As a skeptic, I am comfortable with "We don't know, but are continuing to work on it." ANY theological statement in support of a deity to "explain" any "before" is simply a "god of the gapper."

    • David Nickol

      This finding, as well as all other cosmological findings only take us back to somewhere before the Big Bang.

      I think you meant to say they take us back to somewhere (somewhen?) very shortly after the big bang. According to the New York Times, the astronomers "detected ripples in the fabric of space-time — so-called gravitational waves — the signature of a universe being wrenched violently apart when it was roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old." The Times article links to this video.

      • Tom Rafferty

        Yep, my bad. Of course I meant to say "just AFTER." Thanks for the correction.

  • Raphael

    This discovery has nothing to do with atheism, either.

    • Tom Rafferty

      Yep, you are correct. The only point of my comment was to emphasize that any belief without evidence is not knowledge and should be looked at as a speculation/hypothesis only. To posit a god behind anything that is unknown is an erroneous claim of knowledge.

      • Loreen Lee

        That precisely is Kant's distinction between faith and knowledge. It is the source of the modern understanding of the meaning of agnosticism. Science is knowledge based on understanding, as defined by Kant, according to his categories. It concerns phenomenal reality only. Reason however is a much broader concept within his oeuvre. Indeed even in the development of logical constructs as well as the transcendental (to empirical evidence) basis of the 'categories' it is reason operating independently from empirical evidence that sets the paradigms for our 'knowledge a posterior'. You probably know this. But does this not set forth a similarity between religion and science? The irony with respect to Kant is that when he was 'young' (superseding Hume) he said something like we must make room for faith (reason?) as the basis of our criteria for understanding the world or something. Then in later life, he wrote a book which put forth an account of why that faith must be within the bounds of 'reason'. Once again words are seemingly used inconsistently, and within opposing definitions and contexts. But I interpret him as merely recognizing the dangers of reason abstractly divorced from a cogent perception of material reality, and 'common sense'. I still pick up his Critiques from time to time, although at my age I must accept that even with another run at it, I shall never assimilate all that is written in that incredible trilogy.