“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dark Energy, Cosmic Acceleration, and the Anthropic Principle

For those interested in the history and future of our universe, here is a link to a paper I wrote for my cosmology class. It's a summary of various attempts to identify what is causing the accelerated expansion of the universe (this year's Nobel prize in physics was awarded to the discoverers of this fact). Whatever it is, it's been given the name "dark energy."

Dark energy might turn out to be the cosmological constant, a parameter in Einstein's field equations, which relate matter to the curvature of spacetime. If so, we are faced with the question of why it is so small (there could be much much more dark energy). One potential explanation, advocated by Steven Weinberg, is that the cosmological constant varies over vast regions of space (or in different "universes" that comprise a "multiverse"), and life can only exist where the cosmological constant has a very small value. Thus, wherever life is in the universe, it will have to observe a small value of the cosmological constant. (For a more detailed explanation, see the paper.)

Some Christian apologists have viewed this explanation as a philosophically motivated attempt to escape the implication that God "finely tuned" the cosmological constant so that life could exist. The problem with this view is that it jumps the gun and fills the "gap" that science has not yet explained by appealing to God. But the value of the cosmological constant / dark energy is a scientific question, and theoretical physicists may very well yet be able to give a well-grounded explanation.  Time and again, apparent appearances of "design" have found a scientific explanation, and scientific "God of the gaps" arguments have failed.

As a Christian, I myself believe that God is a necessary explanation for the world we experience. But we need to make sure we believe in God for the right reasons. Incorrect reasoning, even if it points towards the right conclusion, can still distort one's worldview. In particular, the wrong reasons may lead us to wrong ideas of God and the world he has made.

1 comment:

  1. Some Christian apologists have viewed this explanation as a philosophically motivated attempt to escape the implication that God "finely tuned" the cosmological constant so that life could exist. The problem with this view is that it jumps the gun and fills the "gap" that science has not yet explained by appealing to God.

    Whoop, nope, there is an "appearance of design" that theoretical physicists may very well yet be able to give a well-grounded explanation of... but you can't claim that it isn't they who are making the leap of faith in the face of direct observational evidence that contradicts their assumption, without said "well grounded explanation".

    FYI, I'm an atheist, and your argument appears to include the common willful ignorance of a fanatic.

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