Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bagging on science

I will bag on religion and weird beliefs enough over the years - but it's fair to turn the tables and bag on science for a moment. Let's look at Creation.

Religions almost always have a creation myth - Judaism and Christianity have Genesis ... the Vikings had Yggdrasil, the Greeks had Eurynome and Ophion. Science currently has the Big Bang. Now, the Big Bang is not technically a myth, but a theory. Labeling it "theoretical" gives the un-scientifically inclined an excuse to dismiss it. Just as Creationists will say that Evolution is "only a theory", so could they say "the Big Bang is only a theory". Okay. But wait, there's more.

Think about it, as a layman, as a mechanic, carpenter, plumber, caregiver, homemaker, shopkeeper. What are the things that you can reason about our world, without having the special knowledge and theoretical backgrounds that cosmologists currently have? Well ... the world sure looks like it's been here forever. A second observation - there are fossils in the ground. This is something that you'll have observed if you had the kind of childhood that I had, where you could walk in the woods and dig around in the ground and crack open rocks. There is evidence of older life forms. So, a little special knowledge tells you that the fossils have been there for a while - generally thousands of years, possibly millions of years. Then, when you look into it, you are presented with information that illustrates the gradual growth, elaboration and radiation of plant and animal types over millions and billions of years. So if you believe this, then the earth is millions and billions of years old. If you don't, then a creator put all of the evidence in the ground to make it look that way.

Look up in the night sky - you see stars. The light from those stars arrives at your retina after a journey of tens of thousands of years - the light that you can see, that is. The issue then becomes, do you accept astronomer's claims that some stars and galaxies are millions and even billions of light-years away? If you do, then the universe must be that old for that to have happened - or a creator put the light in motion to your eyeballs at the moment of creation. Which do you believe?

Getting back to the Big Bang - if you accept that the universe is expanding in all directions now, then you can mentally reverse the movie and imagine that the expansion becomes a contraction to a single point. A Big Bang.

So, what is my criticism of the Big Bang? It's not much of a criticism - it's just that the theory requires the reader to apply the logic that we just applied, given the evidence that neither the reader, nor I, has personal experience of. That's the criticism. So when a science writer is able to present evidence in an accessible and logical way, the reader can understand and hopefully, accept it. If not, then it's easy to reject. That's the problem.

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