Creationist Wisdom #531: The Big Banger

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Messenger-Inquirer of Owensboro, Kentucky. It’s titled I believe in the Big Bang. The newspaper has a comments feature.

We don’t use the full names of letter-writers unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures. We’ve got a preacher this time. He’s identified at the start of the letter as The Rev. Moses Garswa Matally, and at the end it says: “The Rev. Moses Garswa Matally, known as Brother G, is the founder and pastor of Church For All.” We can’t find a website for that church, but they’re on Facebook: Church For All. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

What is the Big Bang Theory? The website physics.about.com answers that question by saying, “The Big Bang is the dominant (and highly supported) theory of the origin of the universe. In essence, this theory states that the universe began from an initial point or singularity which has expanded over billions of years to form the universe as we now know it.”

Fair enough. What will the rev do with that? You’ll soon find out:

Scientists who accept the theory of evolution readily subscribe to the Big Bang Theory. What these scientists overlook is that it takes as much faith, if not more faith, to believe in the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe, as it takes to believe in the biblical account of an intelligent Creator of the universe.

Oh dear. We’ve seen that so many times before. The rev — or Brother G as he’s known — fails to grasp the difference between: (1) faith, which is belief in the absence of evidence; and (2) acceptance of a testable scientific theory, which is based on verifiable evidence. Ah well, let’s read on:

As a thinker, it only makes sense to ask, “If there was a Big Bang, what caused the Big Bang? What set it in motion?” Such a logical question arises from the law of cause and effect, which is recognized by physics. Where there is motion or movement, there must be a mover, and where there is original movement, there must be an original mover. Or more specifically, if the universe was launched into motion by a Big Bang, there must have, by necessity, been a Big Banger. Logic demands this cause-effect link.

Not bad. The rev is on firm ground in saying that there must have been a cause of the Big Bang. We readily admit that it isn’t known — indeed, it may never be known, as things “prior to” the Big Bang may be inherently unknowable. Nevertheless, the fact that there was a Big Bang seems undeniable. But we’ll remember the rev’s question about a cause, and when the opportunity presents itself we’ll apply it to his faith-based belief. Let’s continue with the rev’s letter:

Creationists, like myself, regard Elohim (the God of Genesis) as the Uncaused Cause, the Unmoved Mover, the Unforced Force, the Big Banger that initially set the universe on its course of expansion.

That didn’t take long. Okay, rev — if there was a Big Banger, then one must ask: What caused the Big Banger? Does the rev, who describes himself as a “thinker,” ask that question? We shall see. And by the way, Elohim can be singular or plural, which is the topic of much scholarly speculation, but we’ll ignore that and stay with the rev’s discussion:

A reasonable observation of the Creation Narrative in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis will at least suggest that the first “Big Bang” was caused by the voice of the all-powerful Creator who repeatedly spoke things into being: “Then God said…” or “And God said…” See Genesis 1:3 and the verses following.

Fine, but that just pushes the question back one step: What caused that cause? Will the rev pursue his logic any further, or will he arbitrarily abandon it at his preferred “explanation”? Let’s read some more:

In particular, the Creator’s voice set off the motion that is attributed to the Big Bang. There is a chapter in the Bible — Psalms 29 — that is devoted to the voice of Yahweh, the God of the Bible. [We’ll skip that.]

Out of the deep darkness that settled over the water-covered planet earth, the roaring thunder of God’s voice sounded from eternity through the corridors of time. Surely there must have been noises throughout the creation process as the almighty voiced His will … .

Yup — lots of noise. That’s rather amazing in the vacuum of space, but it’s in the bible. The rev has no doubts about it, because he tells us:

Certainly, there must have been lots of noises and movements and sounds as the original Big Bang — the voice of the Creator — triggered little bangs as each created thing made its debut to display its beauty on the stage of the universe. That’s the biblical Big Bang, and I am not ashamed to stake my life and eternity on that belief and thought.

Then the rev asks a powerful question:

Finally, if we can entertain faith in Charles Darwin, an imperfect human being like us, and his “Origin of Species,” why should our scientific minds rule out an equally valid faith in a Creator as the grand director guiding the expanding universe?

Aaaargh!! And then the letter reaches its climax:

Charles Darwin is one man, while the Bible, the most influential book of human history and bestseller of all time, was authored by some 40 writers from at least 10 professional backgrounds on three continents over a period of 1,600 years. Yet, this multitude of literary voices converge in their belief in God as the Intelligent Creator and sustainer of the universe, which explains the fact of design in our world and the intelligence that humans do possess and exercise.

So there you are, dear reader. You gotta admit — the rev writes a great letter!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #531: The Big Banger

  1. Big Banger or Silly Sausage?

    Nevertheless, the fact that there was a Big Bang seems undeniable.

    There’s been some interesting recent research that casts a little doubt on this. Too early to say if it has merit, of course, but intriguing nonetheless.

  2. Well, if we’re going to have the Big Banger, I think we also need a Maker of Mash. Because if it ain’t Bangers & Mash, it just ain’t a meal.

  3. It would not be Bangers & Mash without the Aboriginal Ampersand, which, by the way, also allows preachers to make completely cuckoo causal connections.

  4. Our Curmudgeon notes

    Yup — lots of noise. That’s rather amazing in the vacuum of space, but it’s in the bible.

    In space, no one can hear you scream “Let there be light!

  5. “it takes as much faith, if not more faith, to believe in the Big Bang Theory”
    Yeah, Hubble’s observations of the expanding universe and Penzias’ and Wilson’s observation of background radiation were totally the result of faith.

    “the law of cause and effect the law of cause and effect, which is recognized by physics”
    Our dear SC forgot it: BWAHAHAHAHA!

    http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9780792309291

    “The rev is on firm ground in saying that there must have been a cause of the Big Bang.”
    Perhaps, perhaps not, but that ground is not provided by Modern Physics.

    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2015/02/19/the-wrong-objections-to-the-many-worlds-interpretation-of-quantum-mechanics/

    “it’s certainly possible that we don’t have the right understanding of probability in the theory, or why it’s a theory of probability at all.”
    Are we witnessing our dear SC rejecting about 80 years of physics?

  6. mnb0 asks: “Are we witnessing our dear SC rejecting about 80 years of physics?”

    If you like the many-worlds interpretation, then you will be pleased to know that there is some other version of the universe where I too like it. But this is not that universe.

  7. @mnbo

    Thanks for the link to the Sean Carroll piece, which I’d somehow managed to miss. It’s an excellent explanation — many thanks. His answers to some of the commenters are likewise very illuminating.

  8. “Creationists, like myself, regard Elohim (the God of Genesis) as the Uncaused Cause, the Unmoved Mover, the Unforced Force, the Big Banger that initially set the universe on its course of expansion.”

    Anybody else notice that “Elohim” is a plural noun in Hebrew? Somehow I don’t think this helps the creationist case for the inerrancy of Scripture and the existence of one and only one God.

    Then there’s the delicate question of why, if God can be the “Uncaused Cause” etc., the Big Bang itself can’t be.

  9. waldteufel

    As good an answer to origins questions that “goddidit” is “universe-creating pixies did it.” Same logic and evidence for each idea.

  10. Stephen Kennedy

    There does not have to have been a cause for the Big Bang to have taken place. If the critical density of the Universe is equal to one it will have curvature, denoted by “k” = 0. That would mean that the Universe is flat which results in the kinetic energy of the Universe being exactly the same magnitude as the potential energy but with the opposite sign.

    The result would be that the total energy of the Universe would be exactly = 0 and a quantum fluctuation that caused the Big Bang would comply with the law of conservation of mass-energy.

    Observations with the largest telescopes on Earth as well as the HST seem to indicate that the Universe is flat for as far as we can see. Therefore, no need for a creator.

  11. The result would be that the total energy of the Universe would be exactly = 0 and a quantum fluctuation that caused the Big Bang would comply with the law of conservation of mass-energy.

    Yep, thereby neutering the creationists’ claim that the Big Bang theory’s impossible because “you can’t get something from nothing”!

    Also, if I remember my Lawrence Krauss correctly, this supports the multiverse notion (although I know it doesn’t go down a bundle with our host), since for such a quantum fluctuation to have occurred there must have been some kind of “substrate” in which it could do so. Given that “substrate” it’s inevitable there must have been other quantum fluctuations that created other universes.

  12. Dave Luckett

    “Elohim” is indeed the plural noun, and the natural translation would be “gods” were it not for the fact that it agrees only with singular verbs throughout the Old Testament.

    Some say that this is evidence for redaction – that there were earlier stories folded into the strict monotheism of Judaism. I think stronger evidence for this is found in, say, Genesis 6:4, Exodus 20:3, Job and Psalm 82. (The latter was paraphrased by Jesus himself, who confirmed the translation “gods”. Lesser gods, to be sure, but gods nonetheless.)

    The good Rev says “forty writers” of “at least ten professional backgrounds” produced the Bible. That is mere assertion, without evidence. He knows nothing of the sort, and neither does anyone else. The most likely explanation for most of the texts is a multistage process through a number of different hands – how many is not known – then redaction by further hands; so the number of authors is certainly more than forty. And the “professions” bit is simply a made-up squib.

    Nobody knows who really wrote the Gospels and Acts – the traditional ascriptions are no more than that, except in the case of John, where multiple authorship is strongly implied in its own attribution: “He it was who wrote it and we know his testimony is true”, John 21:24.

    The person nominally responsible for most of the rest of the NT, Paul of Tarsus, was a tentmaker before he became a professional evangelist. But about half of the material attributed to him is most likely pseudographical, and nobody knows who wrote it.

    The letters of Peter may contain material that originated with the Apostle, but also contain material that certainly postdates him. John, well, maybe. James is the interesting one. There’s reasonable cause for believing that it does originate from Jesus’s own brother, so different is its take from Paul’s, and it is written with a tone of authority. Oddly, that epistle is probably the closest material we have to the origins of Christianity. Nobody has the least idea who wrote Hebrews.

    Who John of Patmos was is pure conjecture, and what he did for a living is completely unknown. The only possibility suggested by the text of Revelation is that he sold good dope, but smoked a heap of it himself.

    As for the OT, nobody has the least idea who were the authors, except for traditionally-ascribed names. I won’t bother with refuting the ridiculous notion that Moses wrote the first five books his own self, except to say that even the text doesn’t assert that, and the evidence for multiple authorship and extensive redaction is plain enough to anyone who actually respects evidence.

    But give the rev a little cred, here. He isn’t preaching six-day creation, six thousand years ago, and if you don’t beleeeeeeve that, it’s to Hell with you – literal fiery furnace, burn for eternity, pit of flames Hell, that is. He seems to think that an acceptance of evolution as described by Charles Darwin requires atheism, but it doesn’t. If the good rev can accept the reality of the expansion of the singularity as the cause of the Universe – a natural process that explains the existence of the Universe as we have it now – he should be able to get his head around evolution – a natural process that explains the origin of the species, as we have them now. If he wants to believe that God lies behind both of them, it’s no skin off my nose. So long as he doesn’t want his religion taught as fact in a public school, I’ve no problem with him.

  13. waldteufel

    Dave muses: “So long as he doesn’t want his religion taught as fact in a public school, I’ve no problem with him.”

    Amen!

  14. realthog speculates:

    Given that “substrate” it’s inevitable there must have been other quantum fluctuations that created other universes.

    Oh yeah? Well you can take your other universes and ram ’em where the sun don’t shine!

  15. @Dave Luckett

    What a great comment! Oodles of thanks for this info.

  16. Megalonyx: “In space, no one can hear you scream “Let there be light!“

    True enough — in space. But “In the Beginning”, there was no “space” in the universe — it was incredibly dense. Just sayin’.

    (Of course, there wasn’t anyone around to hear it anyway, so it makes no difference one way or the other. Unless there truly were “Elohim”. In that case, one of them would have said, ” “Let there be light!“, and the others all chimed in with “Amen, Brother! Amen!” while rhythmically swaying and clapping their hands. And that’s the way it was, 13.7 billion years ago.)

  17. 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    3 And God said, “Clap on!”: and there was light.

  18. @Dave Luckett, spot on about Elohim. The plural is an intensifier, a known grammatical form in Biblical Hebrew, and the singular (Eloah, cognate with Allah) is rare.

    To be fair to the Reverend, First Cause arguers like him do have a couple of ways of answering SC’s question: if the First Cause is eternal (Augustine, I think) and/or necessary, whatever that means (Wm Lane Craig), it does not need a cause. Bollocks, of course – you can’t have an eternity before the start of time, and the necessity is mere wordplay – but they have at least noticed the question and answered it to their own satisfaction.

  19. Thank you, Stephen Kennedy, for that information, because while I have always snorted at the naive notion that there is some “law of cause and effect”, I did not really know how an expansion from the singularity might occur.

    I don’t yet grasp the explanation in detail, as I’ve always been pretty bad at physics, but I can think about it and at least firmly state that this silly “must have a cause” thing is refuted. So, thanks again!