Religion and its worthlessness; with special reference to Christianity Monday, Jun 21 2010 

I would like to take some time to share with you some thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to preface this carefully.

The inherent value of religion lies in its veracity. Quite simply without any hint of veracity, the stories and exhortations of religion are reduced to the same position as any other literary construction or myth with the same sort of value for wisdom and knowledge. Thus, when we speak of the exodus and the other stories of the Bible one must either recognize that they have [a] a direct truth value and therefore an empirical, didactic value in and of themselves that sets them apart from other literary constructs without such veracity, or [b] a value of wisdom unrelated to its value of truth, which reduces such wisdom to the forms that we may derive from the Iliad, the Aeneid, Beowulf, and other integral, formative works of literature that so beautifully and perceptively express the human condition.

Thus, we may discuss the veracity of religion, from its higher claims to its basic historical accuracy, and ultimately this is what defines us and our position, for it is the position of any honest human being to embrace what he views to be the truth, irrespective of its value as regards hope and any arbitrary ideal of ‘goodness’.

However what I would like to present to you at this point is what I view to be the relative worthlessness of religion outside of its claims of veracity. That is, if I may, to discuss religion (and specifically Christianity) on its own terms, and to interrogate its inherent value outside claims of truth and constructed realities. I find that, outside of the mere question of veracity that surrounds the Bible, it carries, if it is true in its entirety, many highly disagreeable implications, and here are some of them as I see them.

If you can I’d ask you to forgive the concentration on Christianity as well as the length of this opening post, the former seems more relevant to this forum of discussion and the latter is unavoidable. In all of this I work, as well, with the assumptions that, in such an issue, God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.

The Bible, in the Christian ethos, is predicated on the sinful nature of humanity. Humanity are created with a predisposition to sin, immorality and evil, and are thus deserving of eternal punishment, however by the grace of God, Christ was sacrificed in order to pay for our sins, and so anyone who accepts Christ as their Saviour may transcend the punishment that their sinful nature rightfully demands and proceed into heaven.

However I find it incredibly difficult to empathize with an omnipotent creator, entirely and supremely aware of every consequence of his mightiest action into the infinite corners of the universe, who then creates men with a predisposition to sin and blames them for it. I find that the idea of free will does not compromise, in the slightest, the atrocity of this sequence of events; quite plainly put, if I burn my bread when I am making toast, I do not blame the bread.

To suggest, also, that God’s choices lie between free-will (with knowledge of good and evil) and slavery (without knowledge of good and evil) is severely limiting and presumptuous. It is entirely plausible that human beings ought to retain their free-will whilst being granted knowledge of good and evil without being entirely sinful and despicable creatures, yet the Bible does not recognize this possibility.

Any limit of our emotional, moral and intellectual capabilities that does not allow us to comprehend good and evil and retain our free-will whilst not being creatures of sin and evil that we are is a limit that God has imposed upon us and has blamed us for. That is to say that we are created so that we cannot possibly do all of the following:

[a] have free will
[b]comprehend good and evil
[c]be righteous creatures

Yet these are impositions upon us, and God was entirely aware of the ramifications of his actions when he created us thusly. He created us with the limit such that only two of any of the three things I listed above can be achieved, and most religious people would agree. Yet he still saw fit to test his creations that he had created with such limitations, and to stake the eternal fate of generations to come on such a test.

I find this to be abhorrent. After Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden, their immortality was no longer given but forced to be earned, and if it is to be earned then, tacitly, there will be some that will not earn it. These people should suffer, die and live in a lower state of being (for ideas of hell are still fuzzy at this stage) and denied further life due to a test to which they were not a party that God created us predestined to fail.

Also, again, the Bible then deals with suffering that humans suffer due to their own immorality and evil nature, but what of that they suffer due to nothing more than the way that God saw it fit to create the world. The world and its function has been characterized by natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanoes and other forces of destruction from its very inception, and if the Bible is to be believed, this was God’s will.

Such destruction is a by-product of natural mechanics that the Earth, as created by God, requires, and these by-products, of which God was aware in creating the Earth, are destructive and cause suffering. The world does not require such disasters any further than God endowed it with such necessity, and this necessity leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings yearly.

Similarly, new-born children are often endowed with bone diseases or defects from the second that their existence begins. We can extrapolate two positions from this, in the Bible, and neither of them are agreeable, but I’d like to clarify first. There is nothing about, for example, children born with diseases and defects, that is natural or automatic any further than God made it so.

God is omnipotent. He is not working within a construct that is set for him; he had no obligation to create a world in which bone cancer, birth defects and other such miseries were ‘automatic byproducts of natural mechanics’. There is nothing automatic about it; the world and the natural order was, as held by the Bible, very carefully and specifically crafted by God; the miseries that result from it cannot then be ‘automatic’ or ‘necessary’, they are not ‘automatic’ byproducts but byproducts of the specific way that God crafted the world and its natural mechanics.

So in such, it is dishonest to claim otherwise; that God did not intend for such defects to exist and should be viewed accordingly.

The Big Bang, Fact or Fiction? Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

The Big Bang, Fact or Fiction?

It’s rather irritating to those in the science fields to hear the phrase, “The Big Bang is no different than god creating the universe.” This assertion is so biased and misinformed I have to wonder about the troglodyte that said it in the first place. The Big Bang is a mathematically reducible concept. Here’s why:

A great scientist Edwin Hubble (who we name the Hubble telescope after) found out that v = H*d. He, for the first time established that the universe was and is indeed expanding. It was this relationship that destroyed scientists’ previous theories of an infinite stable state universe. Basically the relationship between how fast a galaxy is receding from earth is a property of how far away it is. The further the galaxy is the faster they are receding from us.

This was the first proof that space itself was expanding, pushing away objects held together by gravity faster and faster as the amount of space between two objects grew. To notice this effect you need to be two galaxies separated by mind boggling distances but the effect grows rapidly.

How can galaxies be approaching then? Well galaxies aren’t just static, they’re moving in space as space is expanding between them. Some galaxies such as the Andromeda galaxy are close enough that the expanding space between it and our galaxy is not greater than the velocity at which it’s approaching ours, but it is a general rule that the farther something is away from us the faster it’s moving away from us.

It was this theory that lead science to postulate the idea of a ‘big bang’ something seen previously as impossibility. It became science overnight to believe that time actually had a starting point and that our universe was born. If space was expanding faster and faster objects at one point had, logically, to be closer and if objects were closer gravity should have pulled them together and, like an explosion, once that force was overcome the universe would’ve rapidly expanded. We know now that it wasn’t only gravity but I digress.

As science progressed we filled in more blanks. If there was a big bang there should’ve been energetic residue throughout the universe that proved it did; however no one was having any luck finding this residue.

It’s important now to understand the nature of light. Electromagnetic radiation (of which visible light is a part of) is a property of its wavelength. Radiowaves are large; the visible spectrum of light includes small tight waves, and X-rays are even smaller. In 1964 two Radio astronomers were using a telescope which interprets Microwaves instead of visible light. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were having a problem. They were attempting to run experiments with satellites and radio astronomy but they could not account for several extra degrees Kelvin.

Both Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson knew that the atmosphere contributed a minor amount to their readings but it had been long established that this was only about two degrees Kelvin. They were reading seven to eight degrees Kelvin. They assumed something else was influencing it. First they checked nearby radio signals and pointed their telescope away from incoming sources. Unfortunately they were still reading around seven degrees Kelvin.

This didn’t make sense until they heard the squawk of pigeons coming from their telescope. Usually pigeons wouldn’t affect such equipment but they decided to clear the birds out anyways and after having the fowl creatures return several times were forced to use drastic means. After scrubbing the pigeon’s left-overs from their telescope they tried again; six degrees Kelvin.

At this point, after clearing every inconsistency away, they couldn’t understand why cold dark space seemed to be anything but cold and dark. Their telescope had been calibrated manually, their interference had been removed and the birds had been killed. The only conclusion was that space wasn’t cold and dark.

What Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson had stumbled upon was the predicted residue from the big bang: a snapshot of the microwave radiation still present in all space from the initial explosion of the big bang. This was dubbed the CMBR or the cosmic microwave background radiation. After the stunning discovery scientists had their smoking gun. The big bang was now fact.

So then what would the big bang have been like? Well using Hubble’s law and the more exact data provided by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson we can calculate the universe’s age to be somewhere between fourteen to fifteen billion years old. The number of course is more exact as we can derive down to a fraction of a second after the big bang (when the laws of our universe break down and quantum mechanics take over) but the point is the universe is about that old.

Fifteen billion years ago the big bang formed. From quantum mechanics we believe this was caused by a spacetime foam, these foams are created when universes (constantly shifting and moving) interact with each other creating a new universe. The new universe starts out as a big bang singularity. Big bang singularities should not be confused with the singularities at the center of a black hole; though the idea behind both is the same (minus gravity) the big bang singularity contains all of the original stuff in our entire universe within it.

This singularity was amazingly energetic and dense. The fundamental forces of our universe held it together acting as a ‘super force’ gravity, electro magnetism, weak interaction (where nuclear fission gets its energy), and strong interaction (where nuclear fusion gets its energy) were one.

One of the neat things about the birth of a universe is that time begins. As time begins change happens and so it did. The forces were violently thrown off of the singularity condensing into the laws that we know today releasing a huge explosion of energy. As the singularity expanded, space itself expanded, its boundaries pushed larger and larger as the singularity exploded. Space quite literally expanded faster than the speed of light.

Some might say, hey wait a minute, nothing is faster than the speed of light. This is true but that’s assuming in a straight line. The laws of relativity allow for a loophole to that speed. Rather than you moving, the space around you moves, and the expansion of space or even the shape of it is not constrained by light.

The farther the primordial energies of the big bang got from one another the more space and time there was to dissipate their heat. Energies interacted in ways that can’t happen at modern day temperatures building up complexity as they coalesced and interacted producing most (if not all) of the matter and energy within the universe today. First it was photons, then electrons and positrons then protons, antiprotons, and neutrons.

With the building blocks of matter in place the first (and still the most common) element appeared: hydrogen. The universe was nothing but gaseous hydrogen at this point but there was a lot of it and space itself buckled under the weight. A star was born, and another and another. Soon galaxies and super clusters were born. The engine within a star produced all of the elements through iron we know and love today. Unfortunately fusion by itself isn’t enough stars simply don’t possess enough energy to fuse heavier elements than Iron.

What was needed was an explosion. The first supernova, second and soon trillions propagated the heavier elements throughout the universe. Eventually, in a small galaxy and on the edge of one arm enough raw materials came together to give birth to a star. That star we call Sol, and around that star dust and debris collected to form planets. The Solar system was born.

So that leads us back to our first question. The big bang, fact or fiction? Frankly to believe in anything else is insanity.