Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Big Bang and other "theories"

I'll be honest here. I don't feel that I completely understand the concept of The Big Bang. But here's another thing - I don't feel that I'm alone in this.

Here's how I understand it, and I won't feel embarrassed if somebody who's more scientifically-inclined corrects me. Apparently, there was an explosion billions of years ago that created the universe as we know it. Now, this is accurate, I believe, but the words aren't accurately demonstrating what it really is. First of all, when we think of an "explosion" we think that there was something that had to blow up. We also think of fire and destruction, not something that creates any sort of order (which isn't to say that everything in the universe is perfectly ordered). So, it's not THAT kind of explosion. Also, the word "create" implies an intelligence, which confuses the issue. I suppose that it "created" the universe in the same sense that rain "creates" puddles.

Why am I trying to define this? Well, it's because it's a subject that comes up quite a bit while debating theists. As woefully ignorant as I feel that I am, I often feel that they're getting the concept even less. Here's the breakdown of the confusion that I'm sensing from them:

1. They think that the Big Bang serves as an alternate explanation for God. From what I understand, this is simply not the case. There are plenty of theist scientists out there who simply view the Big Bang as the method in which God used to create the universe. The theory has nothing to say about what came before it and what caused it.

2. They don't get the word "theory". I've had to explain this to people before. Sometimes, they're willing to be corrected; other times they insist on remaining obtuse about it. The bottom line though is that when scientists speak of a "theory" they don't mean the same thing that you and I do in casual conversation. It's not a guess or even a hypothesis. It's an explanation of the existing evidence. Generally speaking, a theory is the closest thing that you can get to a fact in science, as it has stood up to a lot of scrutiny. Sure, it's possible that it can get thrown out when more evidence comes along, but things like The Big Bang, evolution, and gravity have all stood up to some pretty rigorous examination.

3. They think that people who accept the Big Bang approach evidence the same way that they do. Okay, this will no doubt tick some people off, but what I used to do, and what I see a lot of theists do, is that they start with their conclusion and then gather evidence to support the conclusion - conveniently ignoring what contradicts their conclusion. The scientific method doesn't work this way. Is it possible that there are some people who are going to keep believing in evolution and the Big Bang even if new evidence comes that disproves the theory? Sure. I can speak for myself though - if both of these things aren't true, then I want to know about it. Unfortunately, all of the evidence that supposedly disprove these things don't really hold a lot of water.

It was once suggested to me that I have "faith" in The Big Bang. I had to correct that, as it's really not the right way to look at it. I accept The Big Bang as the best explanation for the evidence. What evidence, you may ask? Well, Wikipedia's article seems to do a pretty good job of laying it out. If evidence comes out that throws all that out, then that's fine with me. I don't personally have anything riding on it.

A mistake that theists seem to make about The Big Bang (and evolution - but I want to make it clear that the two are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THEORIES) is that they think that if they disprove it somehow, that will make their god of choice suddenly the best alternative answer. Well, disproving one thing and proving another thing isn't exactly the same now is it?

I've also heard theists say that The Big Bang theory is "full of holes". I've asked them what those holes are. What kind of reactions do I get? Well, either non-reactions or supposed "holes" that indicate that the person doesn't seem to have a very good grasp on what it is in the first place. Oftentimes, that confusion comes along when they speak of The Big Bang, abiogenesis and evolution as though they are all one and the same thing.

I suppose that if I do have any faith, it's that I have faith in science and scientists on this issue. From what I've read, the vast majority of them accept the theory. As for any controversies amongst scientists, it wasn't because a good number of them thought that "Goddidit" was somehow a better explanation. Why would I put my faith in science and scientists though? Well, I'm sitting here typing my thoughts and sending it out for anybody in the world to instantly access it through a screen in their home. I drive a car to work. I have lights in my house. I own a TV. I take medicine when I'm sick.

Get the point? It's all part of the same process. The same mode of thinking that is giving you the ability to read this also produced the explanations of supposedly "controversial" topics like evolution and The Big Bang. For some reason though, there's a disconnect where people just don't see that. Personally, I think that we can blame the politicization of everything in this society on that. Somehow, it's "conservative" to not accept the evidence for these things but to tout something like Intelligent Design, which has produced absolutely no experiments and research (which was admitted by one of the leading ID proponents in the Dover trial!) to further itself as any kind of actual scientific theory.

Is it just me, or should things like what's real and what isn't be something that transcends being conservative and liberal?

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