Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Friday, October 23, 2015

Points to Ponder

My previous blog opened the door to questions about the universe and how it may have begun.  Evidently this topic doesn't interest as many readers as I thought, so I've decided to discontinue my planned series on this subject.  But I do want to hit a few major points before I leave the topic.

            Here is my main point: Many people believe that science and the Bible are mutually exclusive, i.e.you have to believe one or the other.  I believe that science and religion are not enemies, but actually support each other. However it's necessary to consider many of the statements and stories in the Bible metaphorically.  That's not to imply that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.  I just mean that some things are not to be taken literally.  Jesus referred to himself as "the door." Was that a literal description or a metaphor? 

            I pointed out previously that there is no such thing as "settled science."  Science constantly changes as more and more information becomes available.  So if there appears to be a gap between science and the Bible, it could be a misunderstanding of the scripture or perhaps lag time on the part of science to fill the gap.

            Let's assume that the Big Bang Theory is basically correct.  In the early 20th century, astronomer Edwin Hubble applying the Doppler effect  noted that light from distant galaxies shifts toward the red end of the spectrum indicating an expanding universe. He calculated that everything in the universe, including matter, energy, space and even time itself, actually had a beginning. Creation or the big bang didn't take place in time.  Time began when there was matter and motion.

            Stephen Hawking, the most famous living scientist, in his book, "Grand Design", says the laws of physics explain the creation of the universe.  "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing."  But Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Genome project, argues that gravity is "something," therefore gravity and the laws of physics nullify Hawking's definition of "nothing."  And how or by whom were the laws of physics established?

            Dr. John Lennox, British scientist and mathematician,  in his book, "God and Stephen Hawking" says, "The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but not how it came to exist in the first place."

            I don't want to sound like a preacher, but it is true that the universe had to either have a creator or it must be explained by science.  I want to consider some options.

            Some scientists believed that our universe  never had a beginning.  They believed that mass, space and energy had always existed in time, but the big bang theory offered another option.  The term "big bang" was used sarcastically by British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, who held tenaciously to the idea that the universe had always existed.   But the scientific evidence of a beginning became overwhelming.

            Dr. George Smoot, the Nobel Prize winning scientist who came up with the big bang theory said that a parallel exists between the big bang theory and the Christian notion of creation.  Smoot was an agnostic, so he was comfortable sitting on the fence. (metaphor)

            It's important to realize that science has its limitations and is not the only path to knowledge and truth. Einstein said,  "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."  I said previously that science and religion confirm each other but require an adequate understanding of both.

            So here are some options:

Atheism eliminates the possibility of a creator or a supreme intelligence behind the universe.  Stephen Hawking would be in this category.   

Agnosticism is not sure about a Creator, like George Smoot.

Deism  is the belief that God set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs.  This notion began in the 17th and 18th century and is common today.  Thomas Jefferson was a deist. 

Theism is the belief that God created the universe.  The difference from deism is that God didn't stop there. He continues to be involved in his creation and in the lives of human beings.

            There are subcategories to consider.  There is the New Earth position initiated by James Ussher, an Anglican Archbishop, who dated our earth's age at roughly 6,000 years with six literal days of creation. 

            British biologist Philip Goss, back in1857  tried to explain the scientific evidence of an old earth with the idea that God created the earth in six 24 hour days with the appearance of age.  God just made it look old. But this implies that God is a trickster.

            Regarding the old earth belief, many of the problems with the Genesis account can be ameliorated if it is understood that there could be millions of years between the first verse, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and the second verse and those describing the days of creation that follow.  There are several theories about the order and sequence of the days described as well.

            Augustine took "morning" and "evening" figuratively, for example. John Lennox says that the Bible ". . . leaves the time of creation open."

            I've tossed out some ideas to think about.  I know that we'll never have all the answers, but, personally I find it impossible to believe in design without a designer.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Who lit the match?

     I've been goaded  to come out of my catatonic stupor and write something.  There are a ton of topics I'd like to address, but I'm trying to stay away from the dismal condition of America and the ominous paradigm shifts we are seeing on the world stage.  If I state what I really think, my house would be destroyed by a drone.

            Sometimes refuge can be found in the contemplation of bigger things. I've always had an insatiable cosmological curiosity, i.e. questions regarding the origin and nature of the universe from a philosophical perspective.

            How did it all begin?  And why?  Do we exist by design or are we here by accident, magic, or the result of an ambitious amoeba in a primordial mud puddle?  I've always thought that if a human being woke up to find himself or herself on a deserted island the first thing that would come to mind would be "Where am I?  How did I get here?  Why am I here?"  Yet people jump in their cars and head off to work, come home, crack open a beer, and turn on the TV considering nothing more consequential than if Kaeperrnick will hold his job with the Niners.

            So how did it all begin?  There seems to be agreement that there was nothing prior to what many believe was the big bang.  The idea is that the original configuration of the universe was a state of infinite density where all mass, space, time and energy were contained in a single mathematical point with no dimensions.  That's easy for me to say, but to completely comprehend it is above my intellectual pay grade.

            Then came the big bang and the universe exploded into time, space, matter, and motion. This means that the universe had a beginning.  If my memory still works, I think Einstein said that without matter and its motion there could be no time and space.  So time didn't exist prior to this explosive event.

            I've learned not to put all my money on scientific consensus,  because science is constantly changing.  New information can change a hypothesis.  For example, we are told that man-made climate change is "settled science," but those words are never spoken by a true scientist for the reasons I just stated.  There is no such thing as  "settled science." I think the "settled science" sometime around the '70s was that the world was headed for another ice age.

            Prior to Galileo scientists and religious leaders had a geocentric view of the universe.  That's the belief that the earth was the center of our galaxy.  As you know, Galileo paid a price for his heliocentric view that the sun is the center of our solar system. Many more thoughtful scientist  today understand that the sun and other factors control climate more than an SUV or outdoor barbeque.  Climate has been in flux since that big bang or whatever kicked off the program.

            So what caused the big bang?  And why? How did that initial configuration come into existence? Philosopher Bertrand Russell, who was an atheist, took the easy way and stated that the universe was just there and that's all there is to it.  More importantly to many is the idea that science has usurped the biblical account of creation.  Or has it provided a scientific explanation that fits perfectly with the creation account?

            Another thing I've learned is that where it appears that there is a conflict between science and the Bible,  it is due to an incorrect interpretation of the words in the Bible or changes in science. 

            Perhaps the most common error many people make is to take every word in the Bible literally.  The writers use metaphors throughout the Bible in order to communicate to readers at every intellectual and educational level.  For example, is it logical to think that God came to our planet in a physical form, dug around in the mud, made a "mud man" called Adam, blew air in his nose turning him into a living person, then ripped out a rib and turned it into a woman?  (If a man told his wife that she had the value of one of his ribs, the guy would be banned from her "Garden of Eden" and relegated to the couch.)

            We're talking about the Creator of this vast universe.  If He created the universe by His word, why would He need to become human and get muddy? Or is it more accurate to take that story metaphorically?  The conclusion is the same.  The first thing we need to do is to get rid of the notion that science and the Bible are in conflict.  The more we learn, the more they seem to reinforce each other.

            This article was meant to look at theories from science and religion regarding how we got here, but the debate moderator is indicating my time is up and I've barely started.  If there is any interest in this stuff, I'll pick it up next time.  And if you have ideas or questions send a note to me at higgins@digitalpath.net.