One of the biggest fallacies in the argument for a deity is the following effrontery to logic:
“Alright, yes, the world was created 4.6 billion years ago, the Universe was made with the Big Bang. But it was a Supernatural Force that set it all in motion”
In relative terms, this is one of the more innocuous forms of theism in the sense that it’s far more esoteric and less dogmatic than mainstream Qu’ran/Bible thumping. However, it does a great deal of damage by ensnaring plenty of otherwise intelligent people into ‘realising’ the truth about God.
Clearly, there is no way to prove the existence, or lack thereof, of a Supernatural Force that sets it all in motion. It sounds like a good solution because it’s so abstract and beyond reach.
Then again, it makes God/Supernatural Force seem quite lazy. Twiddle with the constants and press play – that’s one hell of a retirement.
In any case, this argument plays on the God of the Gaps idea. Science doesn’t have an answer to this particular question? Insert God. It’s made all the more easier since the question of Origin at the level of the Big Bang is so apparently beyond reach it’s one hell of a gap to fill.
As usual, as with any Gap God, it creates far more problems than it solves. This Supernatural Force, this constant twiddler, whence did he come from? Ah, he is infinite. But is it not simpler to conclude that it is time which is infinite, or the universe, or whatever, instead of bringing in the concept of a super-complex piece of abstract intellectual machinery that begun the whole thing on a whim?
There are multiple hypothesis in the world of academics about the time before the Big Bang. Two theories in particular I’d like to draw upon now: Colliding Branes and Fragmenting Universe.
Colliding Branes1 is the idea that the universe we live in is inside a four dimensional ‘membrane’ of sorts. Every time another Brane comes into collision with our own2, there is a Big Bang (or what appears to be one from inside our universe) and a lot of radiation and dark energy changes hands.
Fragmenting Universe3 is a similar, cyclic idea, which takes on the Brane idea and suggests that there is a Mother Universe of sorts, from which smaller fragments with lower entropy break off every now and then. This leads to an infinite cycle of fragments and no real discernible beginning.
The two theories seem rather strange and alien? It’s only natural, since they deal with four dimensional planes, whereas we can only just live with three. And this is just for starters. These two hypothesis are very weird.
But they are fundamentally different from deistic claims in many ways. For one, they build upon the knowledge accumulated in 4000 years of scientific investigation. They are also open to change, tinkering, adaptation. Deistic and religious claims are fundamental, unchangeable and have been more or less the same for the past 4000 years, despite a competing stream of science which consistently slams deism merely with the presence of evidence to the contrary.
And interestingly enough, these two theories (to name but two) make certain predictions about dark energy which are completely different, but, wait for it, demonstrable. Physicists denote dark energy behaviour with the parameter w. In a nutshell, dark energy that stays the same as the universe expands has a w value of -1. In Fragmenting Universe, w corresponds to a more negative value, such as -1.o5. Colliding Branes predicts a less negative w, with about -0.95.
A space probe to be launched in the near future, the ESA Planck4 satellite, will measure microwave background with the greatest precision to date, allowing w to be calculated to within 1%, thus heavily slanting the evidence in favour of one scenario (or neither of them, if w turns out to be -1.000000).
The point is that this can be done. Science advances inexorably. Religion and, let’s not ignore this, deism, is satisfied with the answer that “You can’t answer my question therefore God exists”. This is also the base argument of the more mystically and pseudo-scientifically shrouded “God set the physical constants at the beginning and then walked off to have a sandwich or something”.
Science will not be able to answer a lot of questions in my lifetime. Some questions are simply unanswerable. But science will answer a lot of questions in my lifetime. The aforementioned Planck mission has the potential for great things, among them, yet again, a rebuttal of the Deism argument.
Thinking about four dimensional Branes makes me giddy with the perspective. If it turns out to be completely on the wrong track? No problem! Find another theory that builds on the mistakes of the previous one and carry on. No harm done.
But I cannot remain satisfied with the deistic solution, a solution that merely begets more questions and does absolutely nothing with the question of origin. It merely stifles the answer.
Links and references:
- The Ekpyrotic Universe: Colliding Branes And The Origin Of The Hot Big Bang
- Cosmic Evolution In A Cyclic Universe
- Turnaround In Cyclic Cosmology
- ESA – Space Science – Planck Overview