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Vibrant Dance: “Cosmic Reasons”

{Warning: LONG post}
The first of the “position talks” of Tuesday afternoon, Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe addressed the cosmological aspect of the RTB model in “Cosmic Reasons: Did God Supernaturally Design the Universe for Man's Benefit?” He sent an avalanche of data on our way showing that the Biblical God is a reasonable conclusion. His arguments fall into several categories.

Universe’s Beginning:  Ross stated that scientists acknowledge design, but who/what is the designer? And, is evidence for the Creator’s existence shrinking or growing? He quoted astronomer Hoyle, “there is a good deal of cosmology in the Bible…it is a remarkable conception.” Taking Hoyle’s cue, Ross listed a number of cosmological passages from the Bible that indicate a singularity beginning to the universe:  Gen 1:1, 2:3, 2:4, Ps148:5, Is 40:26, 42:5, 45:18, Jn 1:3, Col 1:15-17, Heb 11:3, and Titus 1:2.

He argued that if mass exists in the universe and if general relativity reliably predicts cosmic dynamics, then space and time must be created by a Causal Agent who transcends space and time. He stated that general relativity is the most tested theory, proven to 15 decimal places. As a scientist, I was hoping for references for these assertions, but given the lay audience, I’ll let it slide. Besides, it is probably in one of his books somewhere.

A key point was that he studied many of the major sacred books in the world and the Bible is just about the only one of them that makes cosmological arguments centuries before science could confirm them, and any other books with cosmology were later shown to be wrong.

Expanding Universe:  “Any universe that, on average expands, must have a beginning in the finite past.” “All reasonable expanding universe models are subject to the relentless grip of the spacetime theorems.” If the Bible’s cosmology is correct, we would expect the following three predictions: 1) Evidence for a single beginning of space-time will grow, 2) The certainty of the current space-time theorems will grow (their “grip will become even more relentless”), 3) the case for a transcendental cause will grow stronger. Ultimately he predicts that scientists will no longer be able to presume all causes are natural.

Scripture evidence for an expanding universe according to Ross include: Job 9:8, PS 104:2, Is 40:22, 42:5, 45:12, 48:13, 51:13, Jer 10:12, 51:15, and Zech 12:1. Furthermore, Ross says that Hebrew scholars from 1000 years ago assumed these passages indicated an expanding universe—12 billion years ago, galaxies were close together and farther apart 2 billion years ago.

Constant Laws of Physics:  One of the key hypotheses of the Young Earth Creationist camp is that the physical laws were different in the “early” universe around 10,000 years ago. Ross says the Bible insists these laws of necessity have been constant by God’s decree and design, citing Jeremiah 33:25.

Second Law of Thermodynamics: The movement of the universe towards decay is Biblical too:  Romans 8:20-22.

Fine Tuning Arguments:  Next, Ross went to the ever-present fine tuning argument. Surprisingly to me, he focused on the topic of dark energy. {Personally, I hold dark energy/matter very lightly as a theory as it is sort of a bogeyman theory—there seems to be something out there that we can’t directly observe or measure, so until we know what it is, we’ll call it ‘dark’ whatever. I would be very interested and it seems that it would be a very powerful supporting argument of the RTB model if they could find evidence of the true nature of dark stuff in the Bible in such a way that it would direct researchers to ‘discover’ it directly.}

So, Ross maintains that the fine tuning of the amount and expansion of dark energy is so precise that it exceeds the very best design success of humans (the gravity wave telescope) by 1097. {Basically, God is at least a googol times smarter than the best humans have come up with so far.} Apparently, the existence and impact of dark energy has been confirmed nine ways. He also discussed work by Dyson, Kleban and Susskind where they admit disturbing (and potentially theistic) implications of the cosmological constant. Further fine tuning is observed in the following constants that dictate the life must be carbon based:  gravitational force constant, strong/weak nuclear force constants, proton/electron number ratio, electron/proton mass ratio, velocity of light, cosmic expansion rate, cosmic entropy level, and at least 132 others. Evidence for fine tuning are found at all cosmic size scales—we have “just the right sized” galaxy, sun, Jupiter, earth and moon.

Fine tuning can be a sound argument, however, the strictest skeptics will claim it is a cleverly disguised “god-of-the-gaps” argument—“the current universe is so improbable, God must have done it.” However, as Walter Bradley has pointed out to thousands of college students over the last 25 years, fine tuning is ‘evidence for,’ not ‘proof of,’ a key distinction. It is important to remember that origins is a “historical science” rather than an “experimental science” that can be tested through repeated experimentation. Therefore, to make a legal-historical proof, one must build up a body of evidence, some individual pieces stronger, and some weaker, so that the overall case is compelling, beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, use of fine tuning is acceptable as a part of a larger whole, of which Ross provides glimpses.

Model Predictions:  RTB’s shtick is that the Bible offers predictive theories to guide researchers into new discoveries, as I indicated above. Therefore, Ross offers some comments on predictions and compares an atheistic universe to a theistic one.

If there is no Creator:
                Design evidence will decrease in strength and number
                Evidence for Biblical God will get progressively weaker
                Design evidence will be for life in general, not humans in particular
                Astonomers will find many systems capable of permitting advanced life
If there IS a Creator:
                Astronomers will soon find 10000+ “goldilocks” planets, but none will match the abundance profile of Earth that makes advanced life possible (Earth has 22 anomalous vital poisons, including carbon, nitrogen, fluorine, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, and so on. And it has anomalous vital metals: aluminum, titanium, thorium, uranium and others.)
                Fossils of Earth’s first life will prove to be abundant, 1-10 microns in size, complex, and diverse. He offered a surprising theory that these fossils should be found on the moon! They will be rare on earth because of all of the weathering and geologic activity that has torn up the surface over the ensuing millions/billions of years, BUT that some of the debris from asteroidal bombardment at this time either is expected to or has been found on the moon and since the moon is not geologically active, we should be able to search for such fossils there. That would be a fine find indeed!

Ross closed with two thoughts.
1)    -  Gaps exist on both sides of the debate, and over time therefore, we should examine to see for which side the gaps are shrinking in size and number.
2)    -  We are in the “7th day of creation” where God is at rest from His Creative works, which is why we don’t see speciation occurring since the arrival of modern humans, and why scientists studying present day Earth (through chemistry, biology and physics, etc, as opposed to origin scientists) only see naturalistic outcomes.

Hugh Ross provided an information rich talk that was like drinking from a fire hose. The main trouble with a talk like that is that so much is presented so fast, it is difficult to evaluate any given argument for validity and robustness. He has written so many books by this point that the evidence for things is scattered across all of them, so it is a decision of effort to study the whole thing. However, he has combed hundreds if not thousands of journal articles and summarized and synthesized them into those books, which makes it less daunting than what he has spent the last few decades doing.

A final thought:  some might argue that it isn’t exactly fair to have the RTB (aka progressive creation model) have two talks right off the bat, compared to one for the other two camps. As I mentioned in one of my recaps last week, the ID folks really are an umbrella group saying there is an intelligent creator (though many tend to be progressivists versus theistic evolution), and the theistic evolution folks only deal with origin of life, not origin of the universe. Therefore, it is fair for RTB to separate out those two aspects of their model, so that origin of life arguments can be compared apples to apples. It is also logical for Ross to address cosmological origins first as the universe had to get here first before life.

{PS- The next post was to be about Fuz Rana’s (RTB) talk about “Biochemistry and the Bible:  How Fine-tuning in the Design and Specific Unfolding of the Biosphere Support Christianity,” but in looking ahead in my notes, it turns out that during his talk my laptop battery died and I lost pretty much all of those notes, so I am skipping to Darrel Falk’s presentation. I will listen to the CD of Fuz’s talk in the next few days and take a new set of notes. They will be limited as I won’t have access to his slides, but it should be a passable representation of his talk.}


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