Paper #3 

Paper: Ross

Respondent: Stanciu


Yockey: You said all statements could be proved either true or false?

Stanciu: Oh, no. I hope I didn't say that.

Yockey: If you did , what about Godel's incompleteness theorem? Furthermore, Epimenides the Cretan said all Cretans are liars. Is that true or false?

Stanciu: I didn't say that. Let me back up. It was implied earlier in the evening that certain statements, philosophical statements, can't be decided. Take the statement that we can describe the world independently of ourselves and of God. That's a philosophical statement but I think it is open to a kind of testability. The test is a pragmatic one: Can we really do it?

Yockey: That's my point. How can we justify the honesty of Cretans on the testimony of Mr. Epimenides? I wouldn't buy a used car from him.

Stanciu: I'm familiar with the liars paradox but I must have missed your point.

Yockey: Epimenides said, all Cretans are liars. Is that true or false?

Stanciu: I don't understand what you're driving at.

Yockey: It's not testable.

Stanciu: I'm not saying all statements are testable. There are certain philosophical statements that we tend to think are not testable. I'm not saying all of them are. But it seems to me that some of them are. Let me give another example. Everybody makes the assumption that we can give some kind of mathematical description of subatomic particles. That's an assumption. How can you decide if it is true or not? You try it. There's no proof ahead of time. If you can do it, you can do it; if you can't, you can't. I think you have to have that kind of nuts-and-bolts pragmatism. There's no way you can answer the question by purely logical argument ahead of time.

Ross: I want to answer the challenge posed this morning: Has evidence ever really compelled scientists to change their world view? The answer is Yes, it is going on in physics right now. I have two books here but there have been a plethora in the last three years. This one by George Greenstein and is called The Symbiotic Universe; this one is by Paul Davies and is called The Cosmic Blueprint. Both these authors are non-theists. They are examples of what has been taking place among physicists and astronomers today: namely, the physics community is conceding that there is intelligence behind the universe. Now, if the physics community is conceding this, maybe it will encourage the biological community to be open to the idea of intelligence.

On this point of quantum mechanics, there has been some hedging by my fellow physicists on whether or not this intelligent source is indeed the God described in the Bible. I appreciate our scribe Skeeter Ellis, who sent everyone of us this interview of John Dell. I think it's a good example of how quantum mechanics is being abused. Let me quote: "Electrons, photons, and the like cannot be pinpointed. They exist in a haze of random possibilities until actualized in particular circumstances as when a scientist performs a concrete experiment. At the lowest levels of matter things don't really exist until you look at them." What is being implied is that you can take the universe back to the time it was the size of a quantum entity, back before l0-43 second. At that point, the whole universe can be treated as a quantum entity, which means it doesn't really exist until the observer looks at it. This is one form of the anthropic principle, that human beings really are responsible for creating the universe. I think we can see through the misapplication of quantum mechanical logic here.

I appreciate the fact that George Stanciu used the word "actualized." There is a difference between the word "actualize" and the word "realize." What John Mueller and others are doing is inserting the word "realize" for "actualize." My position is that on the quantum level we are not making reality, we are merely actualizing what is already real. To quote from my paper, "Design and The Anthropic Principle," in quantum mechanics "it is not that the observer gives reality to the particle, but rather the observer chooses what aspect of the reality of the particle he wishes to discern." That's really what's going on with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

There is a limitation on the human observer, and the human observer must choose which piece of information he wishes to pull out of the quantum event. Quantum mechanics points out the limitations of human knowledge; it should lead to a response of humility. But, ironically, many in the physics community have come up with an interpretation that bolsters human pride, by suggesting that we create quantum reality, we make things exist.

I'd like to express my sympathies for Michael Denton and tell him that he is by no means alone. What I find interesting is that many of the same physicists who go on to talk about an intelligence in the universe also say there is no discernible purpose in the universe. For example, Fred Hoyle argues that oppression, suffering, and death are a guarantee that biological evolution operates. If evolution is true, we expect suffering and cruelty--survival of the fittest, and all that. But if, on the other hand, we say there is an all-loving, all-powerful God, the existence of suffering is a contradiction. Such a Creator could not acquiesce to such evils. So for Hoyle, the Creator cannot be an independent, transcendent being. Instead, he looks for another intelligent source to explain where life came from, what the purpose of life is all about.

My point is that we can appreciate the need for an intelligence to explain the existence of life and of the world. But then we are faced with this question of purpose. I submit that while we scientists are working on the evidence of intelligence, we also have a responsibility to address the issue of purpose. People like Fred Hoyle, like Michael Denton, deserve a good answer.

I'd also like to recommend a little book to any of you who are interested in pursuing what quantum mechanics means. Quantum Reality, Beyond The New Physics by Nick Herbert. The book identifies eight different ways physicists interpret quantum mechanical phenomena. You thought they had it all figured out? They don't.

Thaxton: Often I talk with non-scientists who are becoming aware of the new developments in physics and they say, I thought you guys were scientists but now you're all becoming mystics. Recent events in physics have raised the specter of what, in the past, people called mysticism and it has fueled the fire of the so-called New Age movement. I notice that George and Bob's book, The New Story of Science, was published by The Bantam New Age Press. Very often what people think is that these quantum developments support some sort of pantheism. My response is that we are bumping up against things in science that we just don't have a vocabulary for yet. That's one of the reasons, frankly, why we called this interdisciplinary conference: to make biologists aware of what's going on in astronomy and other areas. The ideas are spilling over into other scientific disciplines as well. But how do we talk about it?

Hugh, I'd like to ask you a question. Over the years, there have been those, Fred Hoyle among them, who have for various reasons oppose the Big Bang idea. And recently there are those like Hans Alfven who have proposed the idea of a plasma universe, using this as an argument for an infinite universe. Their justification for it is there is more than 98% plasma in the universe--this is an observational thing that we can now detect. Therefore, there never was a beginning. I'd like to see you address this.

Ross: Hans Alfven's idea about plasma physics being responsible for the creation of the universe is not new. It's been around for thirty years. The astrophysical community has chosen to ignore it because they consider it such an absurd hypothesis. However, recently Alfven has been vindicated in the sense that scientists have come to appreciate that electromagnetic phenomena impact not just the evolution of the solar system but perhaps also of galaxies, and maybe even clusters of galaxies as well. But I see no tendency among astrophysicists to extend electromagnetic phenomena to the very origin of the universe.

I think you are quoting from the latest issue of Discover magazine. You will note there that James Peeble responds to this hypothesis by saying it's just plain silly. Hans Alfven has done some remarkable work, and I happen to agree with him that electromagnetic phenomena should be applied to much larger entities than solar systems. But what James Peeble points out (and this was not quoted in the magazine article) is that his theory cannot explain where the helium comes from, where the deuterium comes from, where the background radiation comes from. The standard Big Bang, or the inflationary Big Bang, both do. So the traditional models of the Big Bang are able to explain what we observe. On the other hand, Alfven's model is able to explain the twisting up that we see in galaxies and possibly larger entities, yet it cannot explain how the universe developed the chemistry it did within the first few minutes.

Regarding Fred Hoyle. Hoyle to this day persists with his steady state theory but against all evidence. If you take a look at my paper on "Limits of the Universe," we give about a dozen pieces of evidence against the steady state theory. The most obvious one is the fact everything seems to have the same age. This was cited by Sir James Jeans in l922 as the most telling piece of evidence against any possible steady state theory. I believe his argument still holds. But today the most powerful evidence against Hoyle's theory are considered to be the background radiation, the helium, and the abundance of deuterium.

I was at Cal Tech the same time Fred Hoyle was there, and managed to have lunch with him a few times. We would kind of gang up on him and say, Fred, why do you keep proposing these absurd ideas for how the universe came to be? He admitted forthrightly that his whole purpose for developing these oddball ideas for the origin of the universe was to get rid of the God of the Bible. He says, I can't tolerate that God and I've got to find some other solution for the universe that allows me to escape that particular solution. So I'll keep inventing new theories for the origin of the universe that contradict the creation hypothesis. Hoyle has put himself in the position of Immanuel Velikovsky--the rest of the astrophysical community says, This has been disproved for years, it's time to move on to something else. But theologically he has a reason for grasping on to absurd straws.

Thaxton: Like the story of the man taken to the psychiatrist: Despite all evidence he persisted in his notion that dead men bleed.

Olson: When things stray to quantum mechanics (they don't often in my life, fortunately) I go to a friend of mine, Bob Griffith. Some of you here probably know Bob; he's a member of the ASA and a recent member of The National Academy of Sciences, too. Bob is an expert on quantum mechanics, and I've written to him on occasion to get his insights. He wrote me the following: "The people who base a lot of far-out philosophical claims on the new physics have a rather weak case. When the experts are muddled, the popularizers are not going to do any better. I recently finished up a manuscript analyzing the EPR situation with my interpretive scheme, and plan to submit it to the American Journal of Physics. As you might expect, when the situation is properly analyzed, it turns out to be rather dull, precisely because all the magical effects disappear."

I read recently a quotation of Madeline L'Engle, the writer, in which she said that the fluttering of a butterflies wings has an effect on galaxies thousands of light years away. And I wanted to say, Prove it!

Van Till: Just a question triggered by Hugh Ross's comment regarding Fred Hoyle. Why do persons seem to think that a first moment or a beginning is somehow more dependent on divine action than this moment? Why does someone like Fred Hoyle see the concept of a first moment any more demanding or embarrassing than the question concerning our existence and the existence of the whole universe at this moment?

Ross: If I were to speak for Hoyle, I think he'd rather not concede it at any moment, the beginning or any point thereafter, even though he does talk about an intelligence within the universe. He's really a pantheist. He says the universe is God, and if you've been reading his papers, since l982 he's been capitalizing "Universe" and putting a small g on "god." He defines the universe as everything there is. Then, of course, it has to encompass the intelligence that is responsible for it. Hoyle has had a string of Hindu students since the l960s, and I think he's adopted their belief system. What's interesting is that the concept of the Big Bang refutes the cosmological foundation of Hinduism. Hinduism says the universe goes through eternal oscillations of about 4.5 billion years each. But the oscillating universe theory has been defeated--along with the eternality of the universe--by the observational evidence.

But Hoyle's not about to give up because of his anger toward the Christian belief system. I think he's been affected by what he has seen in Britain of Christianity, the way it is acted out. There is definitely a bitter edge to his conversation concerning Christianity, and you can even see it in print. In l952 he published a book on his perspective on the universe, and you can detect a bitterness toward his interactions with Christians and the Church.

Regrading your comment about the beginning--I think most physicists would agree it's at the origin of the universe that we find evidence that seems the most difficult to escape. When you're dealing with the very beginning, you really can't push the issues off anywhere else. That's why physicists focus a lot on the origin of the universe.

Van Till: It's not only physicists who focus on that first moment. It seems to me that the cultural obsession with beginnings is at the heart of the contemporary discussion on creation and evolution--it's why the question is treated as sort of an either/or question. The historic Christian doctrine of creation has, I think, suffered greatly in this debate. It has been squeezed down to a statement about beginnings, when in fact, I think it is a statement of equal importance for every moment and at every time.

Olson: I teach a beginning astronomy class and I came across this statement in a l987 book by Michael Sends, Horizons: Exploring the Universe. Would you respond to this statement:

"Theorists believe that a universe totally empty of matter could be unstable and decay spontaneously by creating pairs of particles until it was filled with the hot dense state we call the Big Bang. This discovery has led some cosmologists to believe that the universe could have created itself by chance."

Then he quotes a physicist named Frank Wilson as saying,

"The reason there is something instead of nothing is that nothing is unstable."

Ross: This is a confusing issue to most laymen because physicists have different kinds of nothing. (Laughter) They have true nothing, and false nothing. In the literature you actually find the phrase "false vacuum." The false vacuum is really something. The reasoning behind it is this. You can't have matter without space; you can't have matter without time; you can't have matter without energy. Matter, energy, space and time are all interrelated. So the idea of having a volume of space with nothing in it doesn't make sense. If there is no matter in it, then you have a false vacuum with a potential of making matter. For example, what takes place in these exotic theories--and even in the inflationary period of the universe--is that the false vacuum contains "energy" or "matter." It's just not in the form that we would recognize as matter or energy yet. As the universe inflates, this false vacuum spews out matter and energy.

There are also true vacuums, however, and there is an idea that the entire universe quantum mechanically tunnels out of a true vacuum into something. That's what is meant by saying "nothing is unstable." We address this to some length in our paper on quantum gravity. One criticism of this idea is that it claims the universe quantum mechanically tunnels out of absolutely nothing into matter, energy, space, and time without the benefit of time. Yet in quantum mechanics, the probability of a quantum event taking place is directly related to the amount of time. How can you have anything taking place without the benefit of time when quantum mechanics is time-dependent? This is some of the philosophical sloppiness we saw in Paul Davies when he said in l983 that God can't create the universe because God is time-bound whereas quantum mechanics can create it because it's not time-bound. In my view, it's more appropriate to argue the other way around: that God is not time-bound but quantum mechanics is.

Putting that criticism aside, the dozen men working on the idea of creating something out of true vacuum unanimously acknowledge that this requires such an incredible fine-tuning of the equations of physics that you virtually have to concede the need for a Creator. It would take a fantastic amount of intelligence to work it out. Davies makes this point. What you have to do when you read these books is turn straight to the last page. The rest is just heavy-duty physics but the last page tells you where they're really coming from. Davies has written three books and on the last page of each one he tells you his philosophical or theological interpretation of all the heavy-duty physics that fills the rest of the book. He makes the point (and it is echoed by these other authors) that you require such an incredible fine-tuning of the equations of physics that you're really no better off than if you had God creating it out of a singularity, just as the standard Big Bang model would suggest.

Newsweek magazine came out two weeks ago with a story on Stephen Hawking, in which he says, "My goal is a complete understanding of the universe." He's made that his life goal. As a result he tries to escape the singularity of an absolute beginning, because he realizes if he acknowledges the existence of a singularity he cannot attain complete understanding. Therefore, he says time does not go forward inexorably, and he comes up with an imaginary time based on his desire to find a complete understanding of the universe. But a straightforward application of Godel's theorem would reveal that a complete understanding is impossible. Many physicists, even very brilliant physicists like Stephen Hawking, have set for themselves an impossible goal, which has led them into some bad philosophy and some bad theology.

Thaxton: I'm reminded of a comment by William James, "From nothing to being crosses an unbridgeable abyss." On the other hand, Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker said, "Nothingness is pregnant with being." That was his way of trying to get something out of nothing.

Van Till: One of the ways I have tried to capture the same puzzle is to ask the following question: Have you ever noticed how all self-creating universes start with some form of self?

Brabner Smith: You mentioned Heisenberg and the uncertainty principle. Now as I understand, light and heat are both wave and particle. But the uncertainty principle says if you look for one you don't see the other. But both are real. This is the theory of complementarity: that to understand reality you have to have both. Now, as a lawyer I use this as an illustration. Our nation is built on the laws of nature and of nature's God. But the courts are saying, No, you have a wall of separation between them.

Ross: I could give you another analogy. In your studies of the Bible you will find the doctrine of free will, and simultaneously the doctrine of predestination. That's a paradox that cannot be resolved from the perspective of our human limitations. I believe the same thing is true about quantum mechanics. There are limitations placed upon us that lead us to see paradoxes in both the physical and the theological realms.

Meyer: Hugh, would you spell out the contradiction you see between Godel's theorem and Hawking's new approach to getting around the singularity.

Ross: I'd like to make a suggestion for the lawyer first, if I could. Our human experience is limited to four dimensions: length, width, height, and time. Because of those four dimensions, there are limitations placed upon us. We are never going to find the center of the universe, for example. Quantum mechanics reveals some other things that we are not going to be able to find out. But string theory, and, I would add, the Bible itself, speaks of dimensions beyond the four. Eight, nine, ten, eleven dimensions. And from that perspective, we could see the possible resolution to these paradoxes. And I would agree, both are true, but from the perspective of four dimensions we cannot see the totality of that truth.

Stanciu: I'll say a few words about it since I got us into this. Let's consider the experiments: the Poisson spot experiment and the interference of light and the photoelectric effect. In one case, the photoelectric effect, light has to be made of particles because it's the only way you can transfer energy to electrons to eject them out of metals. But if light were completely made out of particles then you couldn't have an interference phenomenon, you couldn't get this bright spot behind a dime.

This is a true paradox. Something cannot be both a particle and a wave. Something cannot be localized and not localized at the same time. Something can't have the ability to transfer energy and not transfer energy. So how do you get around this? Bohr introduced the principle of complementarity, which suggests that subatomic entities have the potentiality to assume one kind of form or another kind of form.

Ross: Referring to Steve Meyer's comment about Hawking, let me quote what he actually said: "My goal is the complete understanding of the universe." What does Godel's theorem say: With incomplete information about a system, one cannot prove a necessary theorem about that system. What Hawking hopes to discover is that there is only one possible way the universe can be put together. What Godel is pointing out is that as long as you don't have all the information about the universe, you're not going to be able to do that. So long as you lack information about the universe, a complete understanding is going to remain beyond your reach. I think we all would concede that there is no way that scientists are going to discover everything about the universe, no matter how many dollars are poured into research by the government. There will always remain points of ignorance. And therefore Hawking's goal will never be achieved.