Wherein I offend creationists and maybe some other people…

When life gets me down I go and watch some Ray Comfort videos. For some reason, watching him chase his circular logic, poor understanding of physics and utter disregard for the truth just cheers me right up. The guy has all these bubble gum rock star metaphors that he uses to prove his belief system. The awesome thing about metaphors is that they take a very complicated situation and reduce is to factors that are theoretically of the same relational value but easier to relate to. I use metaphors all the time to explain things, I think in a very visual way and it allows me to turn non-visual concepts into easily envisioned situations.
The danger with metaphors as instructional tools is that often the relational values are not equal to the initial concept. So while the metaphor is quick and easy to understand, it ends up supplying a necessarily false explanation to the original situation.
Ray Comfort will often hold up a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and present this argument, “because this painting does exist I know that it must have a painter”. This is easy and true. It is a painting, we can apply the scientific method if we wanted to a determine that indeed, it has been painted and to have been painted, an agent had to act as the painter. From this he says that one does not need scientific proof that the universe has a creator, the existence of the universe necessarily means that it had to be created.
And that creator is god (specifically the Judeo-Christian anthropomorphic representation of god as found in his KJV Bible).
But that’s where his argument gets false. First, he uses the term “creator” intentionally. The word “creator” is an inherently anthropomorphic concept. Because he already has you accepting that a person painted the Mona Lisa, it’s easy enough to fold the creamy deliciousness of ‘creator’ and ‘god’ into the mix.
I could hold up a painting. This painting would not be the well recognized Mona Lisa, but something perhaps only one or two other people have ever seen. Perhaps one of my neighbors painted it. Maybe some paint spilled on the canvas and kind of looks nice. Again, we can agree that the existence of the painting necessarily means that an agent acted as the painter. Unlike the Mona Lisa, which has much verifiable documentation as to its provenance, my painting merely exists as the creation of an unknown and unquantifiable creator.
What if someone were to stand up and claim to know who painted it? What if they had in their hand an email they had printed out saying that 12Pound Moon Harry painted this painting? How does he know this is true? The email says it, sure, but can he provide corroborating evidence? What if someone else says “no! I got an email today saying that Plantagenet Jane painted that picture!”
Are both emails equal? In the absence of corroborating evidence do we pick one over the other or do we investigate further? We continue to investigate. We cannot just pick based on this information.
Unfortunately, Ray Comfort’s Mona Lisa metaphor actually mixes two philosophical/scientific issues. The first if the Prime Mover/First Cause issue and the other is the existence of a god in some form or another.
The argument that the mere existence of the universe is evidence enough of some larger force at work and a force that big must be god, isn’t entirely accurate. The first cause is simply that agent which which did act in some way to cause the creation of the universe. Astrophysicists and cosmologists do not know what the first cause or prime mover was. The search for this answer has gone on since the beginning of time and will go on for a very long time. Most religions agree that their particular god or gods were responsible for the first cause. That’s cool. The issue, however, is that accepting a concept with no independently verifiable data is ‘faith’ and that belongs in religion/philosophy. Science and learning cannot just accept the unverifiable, that is the antithesis of science.
You can have faith in a god and still work to learn and decode the mysteries of the universe. These things are not mutually exclusive. Just because we learned that the sun was not a chariot driven across the sky each day by Hermes, doesn’t diminish the awesomeness or reality of the sun. All it does is add a better foundation of knowledge to future endeavors. Learning that the sun is still and the earth revolves around it allowed mathematicians and scientists to measure and calculate the world in a much more accurate way. This does not negate faith.
Does a god exist in some fashion? Depends on who you ask. Ultimately, believing in a god requires faith, something I do not have.
Ray also quite often confuses the big bang with the prime mover with the origins of the matter of the universe. These are all different things. The big bang describes the actions after 10-43 seconds after the first cause. So this means that from the moment of zero to 10-43 seconds (a really really really small sliver of a tiny fraction of a bit of one second) the actions of the universe are not part of the big bang. From 10-43 (or 10-15 depending on which model you use) to 100 million years later is the big bang. The big bang does not explain the origins of the matter in the universe, it does not relate any information about the prime mover. The big bang is merely a model of the development of the universe from one point in time (10-43 seconds) to another (100million years).
Where did all the ‘stuff’ in the universe come from? Scientists do not know. This is important. Scientists do not know. God? not necessarily. Unlike Ray and his ‘beliefs’, science is not static. It is not a final answer. It is forever moving forward and discovering. It is not enough to blindly accept that if we don’t know now it must be because we can never understand later. It’s okay not to know something.
To say that the big bang theory violates the first law of thermodynamics is also incorrect. We don’t know where the energy and matter came from. We do not know what existed before 10-43 seconds. No scientist claims that the universe was formed from nothing.
As for evolution violating the second law of thermodynamics (that systems tend toward entropy when isolated), well, the key word is ‘isolated’. The earth is not an isolated or closed system. A closed system receives no influence in the form of energy from outside of it. Earth is a great big wide open system with a nice nearby star constantly dumping energy onto it.
Now, I am going to go take a nap before making dinner. Next time, I’m going to go on and on with my issues regarding the tree of knowledge because whoa! if that one single tree does not just bug the everloving shit out of me!

5 thoughts on “Wherein I offend creationists and maybe some other people…

  1. I kees you! Mwah!
    As a recovering astronomer, though, I have to say that the sun isn’t still; it’s going around the Milky Way at 220 km/sec relative to the Milky Way’s halo. I can’t even remember how fast the Galaxy is moving relative to Andromeda. But you knew that.

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