Friday, May 31, 2013

Hunting for Creationism - Round 4 - Energy Cannot Naturally Be Created or Destroyed

I'm on the hunt for evidence for Creationism/Intelligent Design (hereby C/ID). Here, I set the ground rules and mission. Here, I have an index of my search.

Continuing on icr.org (they have a bunch of arguments). Today's argument, "Energy Cannot Naturally Be Created or Destroyed"
Let's continue our assessment of ICR's using scientific evidence only when it happens to match their preconceived notions.

The Argument

One of most basic laws of science is the Law of the Conservation of Energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.
I agree, but he's missing something that, ironically, creationists rub our faces in quite frequently. This scientific law, like all scientific laws, are within a particular scope, and are tentative.

A real scientist would have stressed that point. Within the scope of our current scientific models/theories, this is true, as far as we know.

This touches on the idea that "science keeps changing", or more accurately positioned, "science keeps updating". We build models about how the universe apparently works based on the available evidence of the day. These models/theories tend to be useful for explaining other fields, or even applications in technology.

Once in awhile, when sufficient new data comes in, we establish new theories that explain everything the old ones did, plus more, and better. We weren't "wrong" - our understanding just wasn't complete.

In the last century, both Quantum Physics and General Relativity entered the arena, essentially demonstrating that Newtonian Mechanics, and it's three laws of motion did not apply across-the-board. The ultra-small and ulta-fast contexts were incompatible.

So, here we are, with modern day acceptance of these laws of motion, that we now know, due to more data, don't always apply. Newtonian Physics is still valid and useful within its original context of observation - macroscopic and slow. That's why it's still around.

When the author of this argument makes this statement, it must be understood that we may find out later that this only applies within the limited model of the universe we currently have. Investigations into Black Holes, for instance, have clued us in that many of our theories have major problems... and when we're talking about something, such as the Big Bang, that throws off our understandings of how nature work so much, it's really up in the air.

... and the creationists are usually the first (after scientists admit it) to point this out.

This scientific law the author cites is established within the context of a stabilized normally-operating universe... not of a "previous" or post-state. It's primitive humanity looking around and figuring that the world is flat. On small scales, it may as well be, and when building houses we use the flat-Earth model... but some day, more information may come along and demonstrate to us that it's more nuanced than that.

The fact is, we have no clue how or why the laws of physics, even the ones that dictate that matter cannot be created or destroyed (as far as we know), came to be, so any further assertions, such as invisible sky wizards, as the cause, is mere speculation.

Resuming with sentence #3...

Energy is not currently being created.
As far as we know... but it may turn out this all happened "before" the current state of the universe.

The universe could not have created itself using natural processes because nature did not exist before the universe came into existence. 
Woof!

What definition of "nature" is this person using? If "nature" is anything within this current stable version of the universe, that'd be true by definition. If we're talking about a meta-universe, or "preceding" context that established the universe as we know it, I may actually call that "natural" too - it depends on the definition.

Also, we don't know that. If time initialized at the Big Bang, we don't know that the traditional limited-understanding of "cause and effect" apply at that point, either. The context of the Big Bang is so extreme, that applying everyday common-sense ideas of causality is about as intelligible as planning a hot-air balloon trip through a black hole into the age of the cartoon dinosaurs.

We're making a lot of unevidenced assertions about a context we know little to nothing about, empirically speaking.

Something beyond nature must have created all the energy and matter that is observed today.
Must have? How do you know? This speculation.

It's sounding dangerously close to an Equivocation Fallacy.

  • Nature is everything within the universe.
  • Therefore nature couldn't have created itself... so it had to be something beyond nature, a.k.a. "supernatural"
  • If it's supernatural, it has to be God
I'll agree - given what we know, it's probably true that something "preceded" (for lack of a better term) the current state of the universe. Now, what makes you think it's an intelligent entity - a prerequisite for Creationism?

Present measures of energy are immeasurably enormous, indicating a power source so great that "infinite" is the best word we have to describe it.
Wow.. that's quite a leap of "logic."

No, it's not the best word. No quantifiable value, no matter how big, is "infinite". That's the point. Immeasurable simply means we can't measure it yet.

Also, here we go again "power" = "god" equivocation. "Power source"? Do you mean something like a nuclear reactor? Are you talking about electricity... or maybe mass? I'm not sure how having a high quantity of mass is "power."

I could see "power" as in "the ability to do something", i.e. "Sir, do you have the power to grant me asylum?"... which would almost make sense in terms of having the ability to create universes... but then again, we wouldn't say, "Sir, do you have a great enough power source to grant me asylum?"

I have no freakin' idea what the author means.

The logical conclusion is that our supernatural Creator with infinite power created the universe. There is no energy source capable to originate what we observe today.
How do you figure that's the logical conclusion? You didn't show your work so I have no idea how you got from A to B. Does God operate in "Joules per second" (watts)? That's what "power" means in physics.

As far as I can tell, it's "The Universe has a lot of mass, I'm going to label that 'power', therefore God." - it's one big honkin' Equivocation Fallacy between a vague "power" and "intelligent universe-creator."

It'd be like saying "Boy, that volcano is really hot and active.. that's a lot of power! Must be some powerful magician behind it."

That's it in a nutshell. "Incoherent" is the best word we have to describe this argument.


Meta Analysis

This argument must presuppose that there isn't a natural mechanism of "infinite power" that has the ability to form universes. It must presuppose that this can only happen through an infinitely powerful intelligent supernatural entity.

The proper framing of this discussion is by asking "How did the universe come to be?" This question doesn't presuppose anything (outside of the fact the universe exists), and frees us to actually look at the evidenceand follow it to the accurate conclusions. This is the track science takes.

Since this argument is making unevidenced speculative claims outside the context of our laws of physics, there's not much to say.

There's no actual evidence here. We know the universe exists, and it's massive. We're still working on how that came to be, but this can't be connected to a creator-entity without being an Argument from Ignorance... if the idea is that we don't know how else it could have happened.

As far as I can tell, that's the only connection between the "power requirements" of the universe, and God. After all, how does the author know that "There is no energy source capable to originate what we observe today"? If this is the basis for the argument, then yes, it is an Argument from Ignorance. It's negative evidence (if it could even be called evidence), and therefore, significantly poor quality.

So let's recap the argument:

  1. Law of Conservation (seems mostly irrelevant)
  2. Equivocation: Large Numbers -> Infinite
  3. Equivocation: Mass/Energy "power" -> "intelligent do-anything power"
  4. Argument from Ignorance: No other sources of "power"
  5. God is "infinitely powerful", and fits this very loose definition connection
  6. Therefore, God

So, no, that's not, in any way, shape or form, a logical conclusion. This argument is bursting at the seams with logical fallacies.


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