Sunday, January 21, 2018

Evidence Part 3: The Big Bang

This is a continuation of a series. Part 2 can be found here.

Modern day Science™ considers itself triumphant in the existence of the "Big Bang" theory. Because of this theory science was able to explain away all the nonsense about God creating the earth in six days. Thanks to Science™ we now know that the universe formed itself, and took about 14 billion years to get to where we are today, and it is still expanding and changing.

But is that really true? Not really. First off, let's get rid of some straw men. Christians by and large do not now, and never have believed that the earth was created in a literal six days, or that the earth is 5,000 years old. Yes, there is a small minority of people who believe that, but claiming that is part of the core of Christianity is false.

Secondly, what is the big bang theory, and how did it come about (the scientific theory, not the TV show)? Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about it. Note that I am using Wikipedia in part because it can not be said to be biased towards the existence of God.
The Big Bang theory developed from observations of the structure of the universe and from theoretical considerations. In 1912 Vesto Slipher measured the first Doppler shift of a "spiral nebula" (spiral nebula is the obsolete term for spiral galaxies), and soon discovered that almost all such nebulae were receding from Earth. He did not grasp the cosmological implications of this fact, and indeed at the time it was highly controversial whether or not these nebulae were "island universes" outside our Milky Way. Ten years later, Alexander Friedmann, a Russian cosmologist and mathematician, derived the Friedmann equations from Albert Einstein's equations of general relativity, showing that the universe might be expanding in contrast to the static universe model advocated by Einstein at that time. In 1924 Edwin Hubble's measurement of the great distance to the nearest spiral nebulae showed that these systems were indeed other galaxies. Independently deriving Friedmann's equations in 1927, Georges Lemaître, a Belgian physicist and Roman Catholic priest, proposed that the inferred recession of the nebulae was due to the expansion of the universe.

In 1931 Lemaître went further and suggested that the evident expansion of the universe, if projected back in time, meant that the further in the past the smaller the universe was, until at some finite time in the past all the mass of the universe was concentrated into a single point, a "primeval atom" where and when the fabric of time and space came into existence.

Starting in 1924, Hubble painstakingly developed a series of distance indicators, the forerunner of the cosmic distance ladder, using the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. This allowed him to estimate distances to galaxies whose redshifts had already been measured, mostly by Slipher. In 1929 Hubble discovered a correlation between distance and recession velocity—now known as Hubble's law. Lemaître had already shown that this was expected, given the cosmological principle.

In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory. This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaître, was a Roman Catholic priest. Arthur Eddington agreed with Aristotle that the universe did not have a beginning in time, viz., that matter is eternal. A beginning in time was "repugnant" to him. Lemaître, however, thought that
If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time.
Note the emboldened text above. Every major cosmologist actually opposed the theory, because they thought it supported religious ideas about the origin of the universe. So far from being a triumph of science pushing out silly religious ideas, it was an idea, proposed by a priest, which pushed out dilly scientific beliefs.

Religious people at the time did not and do not now have a problem with the big bang theory. It does not in any way disprove God or provide an alternative beginning of the universe. It merely confirms Judeo-Christian beliefs about the universe.

The big bang theory does not say anything about what caused the big bang, or how or why the universe came into existence. It does describe what happened in the early universe. For the how or why of the start of the universe, in some sense it is not a scientific question. First off, "why" questions cant' be answered by science. But even the "how" involves pure speculation.

In that sense, theories about the "how" of the big bang are all based solely on faith, not on observation (since we can't observe anything outside the observable universe, by definition). In the next post I'll go over some of the ways Science™ has tried, unsuccessfully, to eliminate the "need" for God.

[N.B.: I use the term "Science™" to denote, not actual science, but the false idea of science "worshiped" by adherents of scientism.]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Evidence part 2: Scientism

In part 1 of this series I went over a brief introduction and ground rules for my arguments. One of the things which we must get out of the way in order to have a discussion is the notion that science can explain everything, or even that science is the best way to prove something. Rather than get into a lengthy discussion of metaphysics, I will use logic. If there is something that science can't explain, than the statement "science can explain everything" is false, by the law of non-contradiction.

Here is something science can't explain. Mathematics. Although science uses mathematics, it doesn't explain how mathematics works, or why it should be true. Furthermore, mathematics works without science. I could prove, using mathematics, that the circumference of a circle is 2 pi r without ever examining or measuring an actual circle.

Furthermore, while science may b able to demonstrate that velocity is approximately acceleration times time, I can prove it definitively using calculus in a much more sure and convincing way.

Having established that there are things which science can't answer, let me give a less concrete example of something science can't answer. Science can't answer any question that asks "why?" Oh I can say "why is the sky blue" and science can tell me that blue light is scattered more than red. I can ask "why is blue light scattered more than red" and science can tell me that it has to do with particle size and the wavelength of light. But ultimately I will ask a question that involves "why are the laws of physics such and such" and at that point the best science can say is "because they are."

Scientism is the belief that when science says "because they are" we have to suspend all critical thought and just accept it on faith that either science will explain it or it isn't explainable. Ironic, isn't it. As shown above, if scientism is true, we'd have to give up mathematics, and then science wouldn't "work." In other words, the principle of scientism is self contradictory.

In the next few posts I will go into the arguments that Comfort makes in his video that started this whole thing; the argument from existence and the argument from design. They are probably two of the "easiest" to understand.

On to Part 3.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Evidence. Tons of it.

This is the first post in a series of apologetics. I've been contemplating writing one for a long time, but never got off my rear and started. This will not be nearly so long, nor as eloquent as John C. Wright's A Universal Apology, but then again I am not a science fiction author.

I recently came across this video, which I suggest watching. In just a few minutes Ray Comfort presents two of the arguments for the existence of God, the argument from design and the argument from existence. While the video is somewhat terse and glosses over a lot of important details, at least it is a starting point for a discussion.



It always amazes me when people tell me they are atheist or agnostic, and claim to be open minded about it, but they have seen no good evidence or arguments for the existence of God.

If they said they haven't considered the matter important enough to investigate, or that they just didn't care, or that they found the idea of God too uncomfortable to accept, or even that they held their position out of faith (in a person or an idea) I could accept that; but to say that they are open to evidence, but dismiss all the evidence, is somewhat disingenuous.

There was one fellow who was militantly atheist (who was literally shouting me down in a series of posts) who admitted he had never heard of Aquinas' "five proofs." I posted a link, and within 15 minutes or so he replied that he had read them and they were "wrong." Understand that these five proofs would take about that long to read, let alone to understand what they were about, and people have been studying them for some 800 years without refuting them successfully, but this guy apparently did. And furthermore, his intellect was so dizzying he was unable to make someone as stupid as poor me understand exactly what the flaw in those proofs might be. The logic was jsut too dizzying.

What I hope to do in this post (and several more following) is to cover a few of the arguments for God in enough detail to at least demonstrate that these is overwhelming evidence for God, and if you want to remain an atheist or agnostic you need to think of an alternate justification than saying "there is no good evidence or argument."

The tools I will use for this are pretty simple. First is thought. There are a few principles I will use. The first is the law of non-contradiction. Two contradictory statements cannot be true in the same sense at the same time. If I ate breakfast this morning, I did not skip breakfast this morning.

The second is the law of the excluded middle. That is, for every statement, either it or it's opposite is true. Either I ate breakfast this morning, or I did not eat breakfast this morning. There is no other option. For those who immediately want to say "well, what if you ate something that was sort of like breakfast..." forget it. Remember we are talking about something in the same sense at the same time.

I will also be using boolean algebra and propositional calculus as well as a number of propositions. I will attempt to avoid straw men and other logical fallacies, but if something is not fully explained call me on it. I am not perfect, and my understanding of subjects is not infinite.

Well, having st the ground rules I hope I've piqued your interest enough to read part 2. I'm going to try to post at least one per week.

Link to Part 2

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Deer Legislators

If you live in New Jersey you know we have a serious deer population problem. That is, unless you are NJ state Senator Lesniak. The senator introduced S3537, which will replace three representatives on the NJ Fish and Game Council with members of the Animal Protection League, Sierra Club, and Humane Society. The Fish and Game Council sets hunting and fishing seasons, and limits on number and species in NJ. It already has a diverse makeup, including the chair of the endangered species advisory committee and a person knowledgeable in land use management and soil conservation practices. Replacing council members with members of these anti-hunting groups is analogous to putting member of the KKK on the school diversity council - they are there merely to put a stop to hunting and fishing.

The uninformed might see this as a good thing, since hunting is "evil" and kills innocent animals. But that ignores two important facts. First off, every deer that is born will die. That death can either be a quick clean kill by a hunter, providing food for hungry people, or by slow starvation or being hit by a car and suffering on the side of the road for hours or days. I have personally seen both. In NJ deer have almost no predators, since coyotes, wolves, and big cats are scarce (and with good reason - the animals that hunt deer would also hunt our children and pets). The main predator left to keep deer populations from destroying the habitat is hunters.

Secondly, there is misinformation, pushed by organizations like the three above, that hunters are anti-conservation, when in fact the opposite is true. Hunters have every reason to conserve the natural habitat, as that is the only way to ensure that they are getting clean, healthy food. Income from hunting and fishing and the Pittman–Robertson tax produce over two billion dollars a year to support wildlife and habitat conservation. doing far more to help the environment than any anti-hunting group.

Hunting may not be popular in New Jersey, but it provides much needed relief for overpopulated species, like deer, and it provides most of the support for environmental conservation efforts. Don't break what isn't broken now.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Control

I'd like to talk to you about an object. I'm not going to name it now, but you'll be able to figure it out from my description. As a hint, it is a three letter word.

You can find this object in every part of the world, but nowhere as much as in America. Americans have a unique obsession with these objects, owning more of them than any other country in the world. Some Americans feel naked going anywhere without this object. There is a whole culture around this object. There are clubs where people can go to practice, compete, or just show off this object. There are shows where these objects can be admired or traded. There are even national organizations that lobby to fight government regulations for these objects.

And yet they are dangerous. They kill over 30,000 Americans every year. What do you expect when such objects are ubiquitous? And these objects don't discriminate. Often their victims are children. Sometimes they turn children into killers, when owners fail to secure this object at home and a curious child decides to try it out. This is also one way criminals get a hold of these objects. Once they are stolen they are either traded to other criminals or used in crimes themselves.

What do you think we should do with these objects? Should we ban them outright? Should people undergo background checks and mental health checks before being allowed to buy one? Should we have the police do surprise inspections of the owners' homes to see they are properly secured, and lock up people who don't secure them? Should we limit how large or powerful they could be? Impose bans on accessories or ones that are styled in an aggressive manner? Ban accessories that make them faster or more powerful? Maybe restrict ownership to certain places? After all, maybe out in the boonies people need these, but surely we should ban them in cities. What would you do?

Oh, and I am talking about cars, by the way. What did you think it was?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

HR 38

Brian Fletcher and family, from NJ.com article linked to below
Imagine the following scenarios:
  • You are going to a concert. No video recording is allowed. Earlier that day you were at Chuck e Cheese for your daughter's birthday party, and forgot to take the camera out of your bag. One of the concert personnel catches a glance of the camera as you are getting your money out, and you are successfully sued for five million dollars for intellectual property theft.
  • You are getting gas, and absentmindedly light up a cigarette. You are immediately arrested and after a month in jail and a lengthy and expensive trial are sentenced to prison for arson and attempted manslaughter.
  • There is a pair of nail scissors in your carry-on bag when you check in at the airport. You are arrested, charged with attempted murder and terrorism, and face years in prison with no possibility of parole.
Ridiculous? Of course. In reality the person with the camera is asked to disable it or check the bag. The smoker is told to put out the cigarette (and even if he refuses is fined, not imprisoned). The nail scissors are removed and the owner can either put them back in their car, mail them home, or discard them. You don't prosecute someone for merely being able to commit a crime when they haven't actually committed a crime and they have no intention to ever commit a crime.

But that sort of harassment is exactly what happens to gun owners all the time.
  • Shaneen Allen was a mother of two and a nurse in Philadelphia. She drove into New Jersey to arrange a birthday party for her son, and mistakenly brought her legally owned and carried gun, secured in her purse. At a routine traffic stop she showed the officer her weapons license, and informed the officer that there was s gun in the car, as is the law in most states. She was sentenced to three years in prison without the possibility of parole. After public outcry that was reduced, but she still had a felony charge, which would prevent her from working as a nurse and take away her rights for the rest of her life. Governor Christie was able to pardon her, but not until she had spent months in jail awaiting trial, spent thousands in legal fees, lost her job and lost custody of her children.
  • Brian Fletcher was a lineman from North Carolina, who traveled to New Jersey to help with disaster relief after superstorm Sandy. He had a legally owned gun in his vehicle for protection. He also showed police his weapons license and informed them of the weapon. He was also arrested, convicted and sentenced. He too was eventually pardoned by Governor Christie.
  • Raymond Hughes was a corrections officer in Pennsylvania who took his wife to dinner and a concert in New Jersey. On the way home, they were hit by a drunk driver and had to be hospitalized. He informed police that he was a law officer and he had a gun, and asked them to secure it from the damaged vehicle. Because PA corrections officers do not have "statutory arrest" powers under PA law, New Jersey did not consider him a law enforcement officer and prosecuted him for felony gun possession. After public outcry charges were eventually dropped.
I would like to say that these are the only three cases, but New Jersey has, according to gun rights lawyers, over a thousand people currently serving prison terms for being in the state with a gun that they own legally, and that they had no intention of using for a crime. These cases are significant because of their notoriety. And although in these three cases the citizen was eventually freed, it was not without spending tens of thousands of dollars, losing months or years of their lives, and massive public awareness campaigns, and ultimately depended on Chris Christie being governor. Under our next governor, Phil Murphy, these people would be rotting in jail (not just in my opinion, Murphy has said as much).

Multiple that number by eleven states who have such laws - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington D.C. and you can imagine the magnitude of the problem.

This week the house passed HR 38, the "Concealed Carry Reciprocity" bill, which does three things.
  • It creates a study to address the issue of bump stocks (like the ones used in the recent concert mass shooting in Las Vegas).
  • It removes immunity from legal consequences for states and agencies that do not report violent criminals to the NICS system (the National Instant Criminal Search system is what is used to identify people who should not be allowed to purchase guns).
  • It treats weapons licenses the same way as other state issued legal documents (marriage licenses, birth certificates, drivers licenses) so that states must recognize gun licenses issued by other states. This would address some of the issues above.
It does NOT (as some are claiming)
  • Allow criminals to possess guns.
  • Allow legal gun owners to violate state laws regarding firearms.
  • Allow people to have guns in schools.
  • Allow people to carry a gun who cannot otherwise carry a gun.
  • Create a "public safety crisis." This law does not protect anyone with criminal intent.
Soon the Senate will take up bill S 446, the "Constitutional Concealed Cary Reciprocity Act" which is the corresponding similar bill in the senate. This bill does not address bump stocks or the loopholes in the NICS system fixed by HR 38. Please contact your senators and ask them to support S 446 and adopt the language of HR 38.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gettysburg... How long, O Lord?



When my older son joined the boy scouts, one of the first camping trips I went on with him was to Gettysburg. We camped on the battlefield, and hiked the "Johnny Reb" and "Billy Yank" trails, following in the footsteps of the soldiers of the Confederate and Union, respectively.

This October, my youngest son arranged that we would camp at the same spot, on one of the last camping trips we would make together. We did some of the same things, but one thing we did differently was a ranger tour of the cemetery and a tour of the town. What an eye opener.

After the battle of Gettysburg the town was in bad shape. The Confederate army fled south after the battle, the the union army pursued them, leaving the town, population 2,400, to deal with the 8,000 bodies left behind, the 3,000 horse carcasses, not to mention 14,000 wounded and 8,000 Confederate prisoners.

People came from all over the country. Many to look among the dead for their loved ones (this is before the age of dog tags, many soldiers were hard to identify), some volunteered to help bury the dead, burn the horses, and tend to the wounded. Many people were sick from the stench. Flies were so numerous they covered entire houses. Every possible building was turned into a field hospital to care for the wounded. One of the churches had to have holes drilled in the floors to drain out the blood because it was getting deep.

For the most part the Union soldiers were buried and the Confederate soldiers were left to rot and be eaten by scavengers, unless their families came and claimed the bodies. The battle happened in July, so it was imperative that things be taken care "quickly".  It wasn't until October, when the weather was cooler, that the bodies of Union soldiers were exhumed and moved to the National Cemetery where they have a place of honor today. The Confederates were still left where they fell.

On our camping trip we visited the national cemetery, where a ranger gave us a tour. It was later, walking through town, that we wound up finding the "colored" cemetery. Even though we like to think of the North as fighting for African Americans, the colored troops were not allowed to be buried in the national cemetery, but buried in a not-so-good part of town, in their own cemetery.

And even today, that cemetery is separate, and is along Cemetery Ally, behind an abandoned auto body shop. Gettysburg is a stark reminder that the desecration/denigration of people we don't consider "worthy" is not a new thing.