Re: Evidence for "Big Bang Theory"

Yasha Hartberg (
Thu, 18 May 1995 23:50:20 +0300

In article <>, (Kai
Henningsen) wrote:

> wrote on 15.05.95 in
> > In article <>, (Kai
> > Henningsen) wrote:
> > > Well, if you argue from the premise that God isn't a natural phenomenon,
> > > then of course that's where you end.
> >
> > No, you end there by the lack of an absolute set of defining parameters.
> > Whether God has any bearing on natural phenomena or not has absolutely
> > nothing to do with it.
> Nonsense.
> The scenario I'm speaking of is someone claiming "here, X was caused by
> God", or even "whenever you do Z, God does Y", with X and Z observable and
> examinable phenomena. That's something science can look at, and come to
> conclusions.

And I certainly can't argue with that. However, that simply isn't the way
most people describe God.

> In fact, it has done so numerous times, the conclusion being "sorry,
> nothing there". However, there's always the chance that a different
> conclusion may be reached.
> In that case, we'd have some "real" phenomenon that is called "God" by
> someone. Then we can look for more information on that phenomenon, sifting
> facts from myth and arriving at an useable definition.

But you would have only a phenomenon which a select group of people claim
is one (of likely many) manifestations of God. This line of investigation
is doomed to at best examine only partial and inconsequential aspects of a
supreme being.

> That's how it works - you always have only nebulous or even outright wrong
> concepts as long as science hasn't had its pass at the stuff.
> _Afterwards_, you have the precise definitions.

Well, more accurately science works from precise definitions to develop
models which are close approximations, but...

> However, as long as that doesn't happen, people like me will be convinced
> that there is no God, whatever the definition.

But given that God by any definition is taken on faith, regardless of the
evidence, you cannot prove the nonexistence of God.

> > > If, on the other hand (as is, I'd argue, the only proper way), you begin
> > > such a hypothetical examination by saying "these are the phenomenons
> > > attributed to God", then you should be able tom devise a set of
> > > explaining what God is and does - if, of course and as is currently
> > > happening, your conclusion is not that you don't need any sort of God to
> > > explain your phenomenon.
> >
> > Again, look at your defining parameters. By your argument above (minus
> > the double negative--I'm assuming that you are saying that God is not
> > needed to explain natural phenomena), then any natural phenomenon could be
> Including the double negative, please. It's quite correct - you get the
> definitions only when you do not get the current result, which is "no God
> needed".

All, right, including the double negative (clearly a German mind at work). :-)

> > God, which of course means that you have proven the existance of God. But
> Huh?! Maybe that's the result of incorrectly dropping a negative?

Probably. Double negatives are very confusing in English.

> > you've cheated in the process. All you have really done is defined God to
> > be synonymous with, say, entropy. I'm sorry, that simply doesn't work.
> Well, it's definitely _not_ what I'm saying.
> _What_ I'm saying is: _If_ God exists, then he is some sort of natural
> phenomenon, just like me and you. So, to get a grip on the subject, we
> need to find some effects that are caused by him - which we have not
> managed until now.

But yours is a less common view of God. Most accounts of God are
supernatural. In that case you are left with trying to test the existence
of an all-powerful, sentient being capable of acting outside the laws of
nature, indeed able to write the laws of nature to his fancy as He goes
along. I submit that such a definition of God is quite out of reach of
the scientific method and will always remain so.

> If he doesn't exist, then not finding anything is, of course, just what is
> to be expected.

Or what would be expected if God exists and is hiding.

> However, if he _does_ exist, then there's no good reason why such effects
> should not be findable. Once we find those, we can find out more about
> what he is - in fact, we will probably prove his existence then.

Not likely. Reduced to the confines of a natural phenomenon, God would
cease to garner the worship He now enjoys. Most accounts of such a
supreme being concur that said worship is extremely important although I
can't personally imagine, with all that power, why a god would be so
impressed with acts of self-deprecation. So then what is a god without
worship? And what are the faithful without something TO worship? If
science were able to reduce an attribute of God to some natural
phenomenon, I submit that the religious would quickly construct a new
definition, with separate attributes, which would lie outside the original

> I don't expect it to happen. However, it's certainly possible.
> > > Let's get a little more concrete.
> >
> > This sounds like fun!
> > But lack of evidence is not proof now is it? Let's take your "concrete"
> Of course not. I never said it was. I was talking about the (hypothetical)
> opposite situation.
> > example and define God by the parameters you have described, namely God is
> > that force which creates burning, speaking bushes, stops the movement of
> > the sun, parts the sea, creates apparitions, and resurrects the dead. Now
> > design a series of experiments to prove or disprove the existence of a
> > unifying force behind these phenomena. By all accounts all these
> Well, give me those phenomena to look at, and I may just come up with
> something. However, it's a bit much to expect someone to design something
> only on the basis of a very short and decidedly non-scientific description
> by a layman (like what's found in the Bible).

What's this? Where are you to look for definitions of God if not within
the institutions and sacred texts which make up religion? Surely now your
search is more hopeless than ever because if you don't work within the
definitions set forth by the church you are not examining God in any
meaningful sense of the word.

> > phenomena are rare so you must plan carefully, possibly by starting with
> Well, that's just what I was complaining about, isn't it? Currently, we
> have _nothing_.
> On the other hand, suppose we'd get this "stopping the sun" stuff _today_,
> with all our knowledge and technology about astronomy. We should be able
> to learn _something_ then. Of course, I've got no idea what that would be.
> > the resurrection of the dead (the most common of the attributes).
> Well, to be useable, that would need someone reliably documented to be
> dead, who could then be examined after being resurrected. Only after such
> an examination could we possibly know what to look for next - it all
> depends on what we'd find.

But if you are able to find a natural phenomenon behind what was
attributed to God, does it continue to *be* God? Not by most accounts.

> You know, "resurrection of the dead" really doesn't say anything except
> he's dead before, he's living afterwards. The only thing science can do on
> that basis is have as good a look as possible on both sides, and start by
> getting a more accurate description about what changed.
> Look at all the literature about resurrecting dead people. Those that give
> an "explanation" use dozens, maybe hundreds of different mechanisms.
> Just imagine that mankind had, unto this day, lived in caves, with only a
> few tales about how it looks outside. How would you then design an
> experiment to find out what the sun is? Impossible. You first have to get
> out of the cave and look at that thing. "It's very bright and makes you
> hot" isn't enough. However, with respect to God, that's the situation we
> currently are in.

And will continue to be. You are looking at things from a stricly
atheistic standpoint. That is to say that you are expecting that all of
the current attributes ascribed to God will be explained as natural
phenomena. This is fine as a statement of personal convictions but
utterly breaks down in the face of a body of human thought which maintains
vehemently that God is something wholly outside the laws of nature.

Actually, your example of the sun is a good one. I think it is pretty
safe to say that the sun is not driven across the sky by Apollo. However,
that really does nothing to say that Apollo doesn't exist, only that he
doesn't waste his time thanklessly driving a very hot chariot.

> > However, what are your controls? You have to have some sort of positive
> > control to prove that your technique is working and that it is capable of
> > demonstrating a positive result. You also must have some sort of negative
> > control to not only show that your technique won't give spurious positive
> > results but also that your technique is capable of giving an accurate
> > negative answer. Hmmm, not very easy. The best positive control would be
> You're trying to put the cart before the horse. First, observations, then
> hypotheses and theories, and only then experiments with controls. We don't
> have the observations, so we cannot devise any experiments - we don't yet
> have any theories to test.

But observations have been going on for years! You are suggesting the
next step of developing hypotheses and theories which are going to require
experiments with controls. I maintain that the development of those
hypotheses to point worth testing is simply impossible without a
universally accepted definition of God. Until you are able to get the
whole of humanity to agree to a strict definition of God which is
ammenable to scientific testing and will not change regardless of the
outcome of such tests, you really don't have a question that can be
addressed in any meaningful way.

> > catalog. Well, it's Monday morning and I'm not at my most creative so
> > I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you are able to devise
> > a set of experiments and get a grant from NSF to go to work.
> Umm ... that, of course, assumes that it would be "expensive" science. We
> don't know that, either.

All science is expensive. The university will always charge overhead! :-)

> > Let's say you're results come up positive--there is a God. Well, are you
> > sure? After all, you're results may be consistent with the existence of
> > God, but are you sure there is no other possible interpretation? Might
> > not your results simply be reporting on a hitherto unknown natural
> > phenomenon? Your theoretical work is already being heavily contested by a
> Umm ... you got my idea all wrong. My position is that God (if there) _is_
> a natural phenomenon. Just like you and me. (Umm ... do I repeat myself?
> :-))

Yes you do. It's really quite exasperating! :-)

> > were due to contamination. No other group has been able to repeat your
> > experiments...
> ... in wich case we have a contradiction to the premise, that there _is_
> something tangible.
> That would just be what we have today. The whole idea is based on the
> premise that this would _not_ happen, that the situation was different
> from the way it is today.

Surely you're not suggesting that experiments will go the way you want
them to, are you? I merely proposed plausible scenarios of some of the
responses your impossible experiment is likely to receive regardless of
the outcome.

> > You're results come up negative--there is no God. How can you be sure?
> Not my problem. I've never said science could disprove God. I said that
> _if_ there was a God, and _if_ he didn't play hide-and-seek with us, then
> science should be able to _prove_ him. Just like we proved the existence
> of the atom - when the idea was concieved, we had no better idea how to do
> this that we have today how to prove God.

But these are very large and bold "ifs" indeed. They rely on an entirely
arbitrary set of defining parameters which are likely not to be widely
accepted. At least the idea of the atom was founded on natural laws,
unlike the *super*natural.

> > In the meantime, the Hopi were never concerned because you clearly weren't
> > defining their gods within you're experimental design. I'd say your
> Well, _if_ there was "something there", then I'd expect it wouldn't
> exactly conform to anybodys expectation. That's what generally happens
> when myths become science.

But if there was "something" there which didn't conform to a groups
expectations, then that "something" would likely not be God for those

> > So let me repeat. The existence of God is NOT a scientific question!
> Well, _you_ certainly have not shown this :-)

Then I would say we have been equally successful. :-)

> Anyway, let me repeat again (it's getting boring): _If_ God exists, and
> _if_ there's something to observe, _then_ the existence of God is a
> scientific question, just as much as the existence of the atom.
> If there was no such thing as an atom, then the "existence of the atom"
> would probably not be a scientific question. If the existence of the atom
> wouldn't make a difference (nothing to observe), then it definitely
> wouldn't be a scientific question.

But there is a universally accepted definition of atom which can be tested
and agreed to by the world at large. Once so defined, such a definition
cannot be changed outside the parameters of experimental evidence. Your
analogy completely fails on this one point.

> Bottom line: "The existence of God is NOT a scientific question" is not
> the same as, but _very_ similar to "there is no God".

How so? The former statement is an agnostic (some would argue a
defeatist) position while the latter is an atheistic one. Admitting that
God is outside the realm of scientific inquiry is neither a statement in
support of, nor in opposition to, the concept of God.

> Let's attack this at a slightly lower level. The existence of the mythical
> tooth fairy is not a scientific question. However, suppose someone could
> capture a tooth fairy - then it would suddenly _become_ a scientific
> question. (And we'd probably get a "tooth fairy protection liga" :-))

Ah, but tooth fairies, like their gnome cousins, are clearly defined and
aren't said to be everywhere at all times possessing infinite power and
acting outside the laws of physics. They merely act outside the laws of
business. I mean, where do they get the money to pay for the teeth?

> > Unfortunately, too few people realize this and, especially in such realms
> > as evolutionary theory, abiogenesis, and the Big Bang, scientists are
> > being accused of trying to disprove the existence of God. This is
> This is, of course, nonsense. Note, again, that I never talked about
> disproving ...

Then you were never seriously discussing the idea of scientifically
inquiring about God. If a hypothesis is unable to be disproved, then it
is untestable and not particularly useful.

> > creating a tremendous backlash against the whole of scientific research.
> > At least in part this is contributing to the growing trend toward
> > religious fundamentalism. If such a movement gains much more momentum, we
> > may find it almost impossible to get funding to do research in areas which
> > the people at large consider to challenge the existence of God.
> Well, so then the research gets done on this side of the pond :-)

Unless their movement gains sympathy on your side as well. Just today it
made the news that the leaders of several American churches have
co-authored a letter condemning research into genetic engineering. I am
serious when I say that the religious right poses a "clear and present
danger" to science.

Yasha Hartberg
Texas A&M University
"The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald's." Andy Warhol