AIG: The Origin of The Universe

Yesterday we wrote AIG Says We’re Alone in the Universe. It was about an article by Danny Faulkner, one of the creation scientists who work for Answers in Genesis (AIG), the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else.

Today there’s another by Danny at the AIG website, titled The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics and the Origin of the Universe. We’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this].

After devoting a few paragraphs to describing the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, which you can read about in Wikipedia’s article, Danny says:

The first and second laws of thermodynamics are well-established, and they appear universally to apply. Of course, there is no problem with the two operating simultaneously today, but a startling conclusion results if we extrapolate them into the past.

What’s the “startling conclusion”? He announces:

If the first law of thermodynamics has always been true, then the universe must have always existed [Okay, no problem.] Otherwise, sometime in the past energy must have spontaneously appeared when none had previously existed. But this would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Hence, the first law of thermodynamics requires that the universe be eternal.

*Groan* All that’s necessary is that there has always been mass-energy. After that he tells us:

But what if we extrapolate the second law of thermodynamics into the past? If the universe was eternal, there would have been more than ample time for the universe to have already reached its maximum state of entropy, with no useful energy remaining. The fact that today we can use heat engines and that biological systems operate today reveals that the universe is far from the maximum entropic state. Therefore, the universe cannot be eternal, and hence the universe must have had a beginning in the finite past.

*Groan* There’s no problem if the universe has been oscillating between expansion and contraction phases. That was the consensus view until about 20 years ago when it was discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating — but that doesn’t mean the universe hasn’t been oscillating in the past; and it may continue to do so. Danny can’t let himself even even think about that. It’s time for him to bring in the creationism. Here it comes:

But this produces a contradiction: the first law of thermodynamics demands that the universe be eternal, while the second law of thermodynamics demands that the universe cannot be eternal. [No, it doesn’t.] Both laws appear to be fundamental and inviolate, so there is no way one law can be made subordinate to the other.

Having set up a false problem, he continues:

One could hypothesize that in the past one of the two laws did not apply, but that would be a departure from the way in which the natural world is known to operate.

So what? Danny’s a creationist. Let’s read on:

The physical world today follows these two laws (and others), so any past departure from how the world now works would have amounted to a non-physical operation. Another word for non-physical is metaphysical. There is no physical mechanism whereby physical processes would suddenly change.

Jeepers, where do you think he’s going? Another excerpt:

Thus, if physical processes changed at some time, it must have had a cause outside of the physical. [Gasp!] That is, the origin of the universe requires a radical departure from how the physical world operates Hence, the origin of the world is beyond the realm of science, as science is the study of the physical, or natural, world, not the metaphysical or the spiritual.

Ooooooooooooh! The origin of the universe must have been a supernatural event. And now we come to the end:

Since science can’t tell us where the universe came from, the only consistent way to study the origin of the universe is to realize that the Creator God exists and that he is not part of the physical universe. He is transcendent. The God who made all was not himself created. This is exactly what the Bible says: ”All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). One ought to begin the study of the origin of the universe with God.

So there you are. The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics lead you inevitably to Oogity Boogity!

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21 responses to “AIG: The Origin of The Universe

  1. So a creationist claims that the laws of thermodynamics are always correct to show that you cannot trust the laws of thermodynamics. And they also fail to recognize that scientific creationism is an oxymoron. I’m not exactly overwhelmed or for that matter even whelmed.

    Of course creationists claiming that the laws of thermodynamics must be obeyed at all times in the universe eventually end up claiming that their gawd doesn’t have to follow such laws. And three is identically equal to one. Stupid is as stupid does.

  2. “One ought to begin the study of the origin of the universe with God.”

    One ought to be totally upfront if one adheres to a predetermined metaphysical conclusion to begin with, and not sicken everybody with a modern day Massacre of the Innocents, in which hapless fields like logic and physics are indiscriminately slaughtered.

    But then, one probably shouldn’t be a creationist, should one?

  3. I’ve seen this several times before.
    But the mathematics does not work.
    Consider the inverse of the tangent function (arctan) over the whole real line. It is a smooth, decreasing function, defined infinitely to the negative (past) and to the positive (future), with an always limited finite value, and never reaching a minimum.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    “God exists and that he is not part of the physical universe.” What a copout! Silly, and not really supported by what I know of the bible.

  5. Sorry, that Anonymous was me. And the decreasing function should be stated as the negative of the inverse tangent
    – arctan

  6. “If the first law of thermodynamics has always been true, then the universe must have always existed.”
    Nope. Dannyboy is lying. The total amount of energy in our Universe may well be zero.

    The rest is a classical god of the gaps argument. But in the end Dannyboy manages to get something right:

    “Since science can’t tell us where the universe came from.”
    This is a clumsy formulation, but when done properly (hence not by Dannyboy) this turns into the Cosmological Argument, in the form of First Explanation. Yup, science by definition cannot explain the First Naturalistic Explanation. That’s what it’s the First Naturalistic Explanation for. However that bare fact doesn’t justify the salto mortale to a First Metaphysical Explanation that proposes a Grand Old Designer (blessed be MOFO!), let alone one who poofed the entire shenanigan into existence about 6000 years ago. That one runs into many problems pointed out by TomS, a few by me and several more.
    Garbled Aristotelean and Aquinasian thinking dressed up with ill-understood modern physics that doesn’t even try to argue for his core belief (6000 years) – that’s our Dannyboy.

  7. Steve Gerrard

    “The physical world today follows these two laws (and others), so any past departure from how the world now works would have amounted to a non-physical operation.”

    He is going to have to ignore that if someone asks about the historical speed of light and the size of the universe, or about historical radioactive decay rates and the geological history of earth.

  8. @FrankB has nailed the first law argument. Given that the universe has a finite age ,Danny’s argument from the second law doesn’t apply.

    As I understand it (Sean Carroll is very good on this), that Second Law, and our ability to observe Time’s arrow, depends on the fact that we are sufficiently close to the origin of the universe, which started from a state of very low entropy.

    I think there are interesting questions about how applicable laws of physics are to the universe considered as a whole. As I understand it, Hoyle’s Steady State Theory violated these laws, since matter was being continuously created. Except that maybe it didn’t, because the amount of matter/energy in the observable universe remained constant, and the expansion process defined direction.

  9. @FrankB, @Paul Braterman You guys beat me to it, haha. Sean Carroll has a nice blog post from last month discussing some misconceptions in cosmology, the “violation of energy conservation” misconception included.

    As usual, the creationists’ knee-jerk (and fallacious) reaction of “god done it” lazily avoids the hard work of doing real science, and closes the door to any future investigations on how the world *actually* works.

  10. OK, let’s assume that time begins at some finite time in the past, T_a. There is no violation of the law of conservation of energy at that time, E_a > 0. For there to be a violaton of conservation, there would have to be a time T_b E_b. But, by our assumption, there is no such T_b. Therefore, no violation of the conservation of energy. There is no change of energy over time at the beginning of time, because there is no change over time at all: there is no time before the first time.
    There are other possibilities. It could be that time in the distant past is not linear: that the description of time on the “real number line” breaks down, and we cannot say that for any two moments of time, either T_a = T_b or T_a > T_a> T_b or T_a < T_b. (An example would be if time were described, not as a real number, but a complex number X+Yi. I think that Hawking suggested this in his "Brief HIstory of Time", but my memory may be mistaken. There are other possibilities, too.)

  11. Theodore Lawry

    Has Danny Faulkner stolen Behe’s thunder just a tad? Behe has a whole book out (almost) versus Faulkner’s mere article, but then Faulkner has the universe, not some disputed techy musings about natural selection.

  12. WaPo “Kentucky routinely ranks near the bottom in educational attainment.”
    Recently 40% of atypical Kentucky high schools students scored in the bottom most test group for reading skills. This is HamBones target audience.
    He’s in a creationism nirvana state and the ideal demographic for his schtick to , well, schtick. Ayatollah of Appalachia indeed.

  13. Thank you, Caleb Wagner. An excellent site to add to my browsing/reading list.

  14. Holding The Line In Florida

    Ditto tedinoz. Adding yet another blog to the reading list. Thanks Caleb Wagner.

  15. Danny is borrowing some of arguments from Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic priest, mathematician, physicist and astronomer who was the first to propose what would later be known as the Big Bang Theory in 1927. This was two years before Hubble discovered the galactic redshift and at the time all scientists believed the Universe was static, including Einstein. Father Lemaitre predicted that the Universe must be expanding or contracting based on the solutions he found to Einstein’s equations of General Relativity published in 1916. A little explanation: It is possible to construct mathematical equations that describe physical processes but not be able to solve them yourself. Einstein was unable to solve his equations so continued to believe that the Universe was static.

    Father Lemaitre was certainly one of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time and was able to solve Einstein’s equations that showed a steady state Universe was impossible, it had to be expanding or contracting. The Big Bang and expanding Universe proposed by Lemaitre demonstrated that the Universe was not eternal and began at a definite finite time in the past. Einstein and many other scientists at the time initially rejected Lemaitre/s theory, partly because they looked at Lemaitre as a clergyman who was trying to sneak the Genesis myth into astronomy.

    Lemaitre made the argument to Einstein that if the Universe was really infinite in age, it would be in a state of maximum entropy which it is clearly not. Therefore it had to have a finite age and a beginning. Einstein eventually accepted this argument and supported an expanding Universe.

    [*Voice from above*] That comment was from Stephen Kennedy.

  16. @Anonymous
    I hadn’t heard that Lemaitre made an argument from the 2nd law that convinced Einstein. I am not denying that, I am no expert. But what I heard is that Einstein agreed with Lemaitre’s solutions of the equations, but said that they were not good physics, and introduced a new constant to made a steady state possible. It was only when the observations of expansion became known that Einstein accepted that.

    As I said, I am no expert, so I would like to hear corrections.

  17. “who was the first to propose what would later be known as the Big Bang Theory in 1927.”
    Nope, he was the second.
    The first one was Alexander Friedmann, three years before.

    @TomS: in the first link you’ll find the “no good physics” comment. Sensation seekers like to bring it up, but it’s not very exciting. When Friedmann and Lemaitre formulated their theories there were no empirical data available to back it up. Their work was entirely mathematical. That means that it was based upon several assumptions. And as we all should understand (unlike that creacrap goof on the other page) such assumptions cannot be proven mathematically by definition. So what Einstein said was that he rejected the assumptions of Friedmann and Lemaitre. And why shouldn’t he? Only in 1929 Hubble provided observations that favour a dynamic Universe. And that made Einstein change his mind.
    In this context two more, and I say more interesting, developments are completely ignored – including by Anon.

    The Cosmological Constant is back btw, albeit in a different form.

    Lemaitre in the 1950’s explicitly explained that his mathematical model (and in general theories regarding the Big Bang) cannot be used for any god-argument.

    “He realized quite fully the tentative and hypothetical character of scientific theories and for this reason alone, if for no others, opposed the use of such theories to support philosophical, theological or faith statements.”

    So no, Anon. got it quite wrong. Dannyboy is not borrowing from Lemaitre. He does exactly what Lemaitre warned against. And with Ol’Hambo he’s one of the last persons to do so, because he doesn’t accept the Big Bang anyway. But I can’t imagine you being surprised by this level of inconsistency.

  18. @FrankB
    That is what I understand what happened.
    What surprised me about Anon’s post was the argument from the 2nd law. Why would that be convincing in the context of General Relativity, rather than be a difficulty for an infinite, steady state pre-Einstein physics? There is no mathematical problem with an increasing function defined on the whole infinite real line. What new would Lemaitre point out to Einstein?

  19. I’ve never seen the 2nd Law applied to the history of our Universe. So I googled around a bit: nothing, except two apologists. One is Dannyboy, the other Frank Turek.
    Assuming that Bondi, Gold and Hoyle were not exactly dumb, despite being wrong, I would be surprised if they hadn’t incorporated it in the steady state model of their 1948 paper. It also should be noted that their model didn’t deny an expanding Universe (it’s rather a problem for Young Earth Creacrap) but postulated the continuous creation of matter/energy. Had creacrappers been smart and honest (probability about zero) they would have realized that thus steady state is as (in)compatible with the Cosmological Argument as the Big Bang.

    “What new would Lemaitre point out to Einstein?”
    That a model covering all the relevant empirical data including our Universe having a beginning, compatible with Relativity, is possible. Like I wrote, not very spectacular, even if very interesting.
    The turmoil is largely the most famous and one of the very greatest physicists ever being wrong for once. Duh, he was human too. It’s always non-physicists who get worked up.

  20. I have heard this argument from YECs: The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that entropy is always increasing; if the universe were infinitely old, that would mean that entropy was increasing for an infinite time, and would thus have an infinite value.
    As far as the mathematics is concerned, that is simply and obviously false. It is easy to point to familiar functions which are defined over the whole infinte real line, and always increasing, but also always finite – even with values within finite fixed bounds.
    Perhaps there is some physical reason backing up the argument, but if that were the case, I would be surprised if Lemaitre had to remind Einstein about it. (Thus my comment about “what new”.) Indeed, why would it take an abundance of evidence to convince almost everyone of the concept of a finte age of the universe? As if everyone had forgotten thermodynamics.

    As far as the fallibility olf Einstein, there is always his resistence to quantum mechanics. One might also mention his resistence to the Kaluza-Klein theory. What a coup for Einstein if he had encouraged that, rather than what is thought to be (who knows what might turn out?) a dead end!

  21. @frankB, are you willing to be identified so I can thank you for your information about the devolution book in the review I am writing about Behe’s, due to appear on Monday in 3 Quarks Daily?

    You can email me. I’m very easy to trace