Now for the longer version, I’ve not suddenly turned religious, and tempting as it might be to run with a story that just happens to align with the conclusion I have reached, I can’t because it is simply not true. I’ll explain why, but first lets establish the context here, there have been various media stories floating around all about this, for example the Daily Express in the UK ran with it …
Scientists have long known that miniscule particles, called virtual particles, come into existence from nothing all the time.
But a team led by Prof Mir Faizal, at the Dept of Physics and Astronomy, at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, has successfully applied the theory to the very creation of existence itself.
He said: “Virtual particles contain a very small amount of energy and exist for a very small amount of time.
“However what was difficult to explain was how did such a small amount of energy give rise to a big universe like ours?”
Enter ‘inflation’ theory.
Prof Mir used some mind-boggling mathematics and two recent theories:
• The Minimum Length Scale – a measurement so infinitesimally small that space and time cease to exist.
• Doubly Special Relativity – which takes advantage of the massive energies available just after the birth of the universe.
Under Inflation Theory the tiny energies and lifespan of the virtual particle become infinitely magnified, resulting in our 13.8 Billion-year-old universe.
Clearly Prof Mir Faizal is a very busy guy, you can find all his work here (along with the actual PDFs of the various papers), and so I have no issue with the science itself, but as for the religious debunking claim … nah.
OK, so what is the problem?
Well, basically we are talking about chalk and cheese. On the one hand we have Prof Faizal working on mathematical cosmological models that are used to describe reality as best as we can understand it, and by doing so, is pushing at the boundary of our understanding, taking it step by step a bit further. On the other hand, we have an unverifiable religious concept – “god”.
Cosmology is something tangible and what is being described mathematically is well-founded upon observational data. In a rather stark contrast the term “god” is an extremely vague term that means rather a lot of different things to different people, and it is also a concept for which there is exactly zero objective observational data. Well yes OK, there are humans with various experiences, but that is data that tells us rather a lot about human psychology and culture, and nothing at all about the actual existence of supernatural entities
The beauty or perhaps trap of the god concept is that whenever it faces a challenge, the people who embrace it can rapidly make up more stuff to resolve any such challenge. If that challenge is, for example, an observation regarding the emergence of the diversity of life, or in this case cosmological origins, then no problem, because to retain the god claim, they can play one of several cards …
- Dismissal: “They are wrong, god really did it”
- Acceptance: “Ah, but that is how god did it”
… no evidence required, just another levitating assertion, and so even if their team looses every single game going, they still support their team basically because it is an emotional commitment and not a fact based bit of knowledge.
Ask yourself this – exactly how can a scientific discovery ever disprove religious claims when you can simply make stuff up to resolve any such challenge?
Lack of knowledge is not the key issue, it never has been.
Science, or to be a tad more precise, the scientific methodology, is not about declaring anything to be right, but instead is a process by which we can gain knowledge that is not wrong. What does actually happen, and continues to happen, is that things that were previously unknown and so were categorised by some as “god did it”, are now understood to be natural and so god is no longer required to explain it. That however is not the end-game for belief, because what then happens is that as we discover such answers, we also often find lots of new questions and so the “god did it” claim simply gets transferred over.
Side note: A scientific conclusion is not “right”, but rather is simply “not wrong”, and that is a rather important distinction, because that then means that it remains open to modification. That often tends to be the inverse of religious claims, they tend to be deemed “right” and never wrong, and so are closed to modification.
None of this is new and perhaps the best summary of all this is Russell’s teapot …
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time
There really is no requirement to disprove something that has never actually been proven, and so the Express headline is meaningless because you simply can’t disprove something that has never been established as real.
Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. – What is asserted gratuitously may be denied gratuitously.