A retired elementary particle physicist Victor J. Stenger, contrary to contemporary cosmology, still stands firm in a possibility of eternal universe.
In his talk given on November 7th 2012 at the Boulder Socrates Café, “How Can Something Come From Nothing?”, Stenger echoed Bertrand Russell’s 1948’s objection rose in a debate with Frederick C. Copleston while discussing the cosmological argument. Stenger contended,
A common question I get from religious believers is “How can something come from nothing?” They seem to think it’s the final clincher proving the existence of God—or at least some form of supernatural creation. Of course, they don’t say how God came from nothing. Or, if they do, they claim God always existed and so did not have to come from anything. But then, why couldn’t the universe have always existed? In fact, modern cosmology suggests that it did—that the universe is eternal. (Stenger 2012: n.p underline original)
After taking a similar Lawrence Krauss’ route on “nothing” and contending for multiverses, Stenger concluded his talk,
“So, how can the multiverse have come From Nothing? Since the multiverse always existed, it didn’t have to come from anything.”(ibid)
On March 17th of 2012 in New Scientist, a magazine with the aim of keeping us up to date with science and technology news, Stenger explained that we should have found evidence from astronomy and physics if God were its creator, but we don’t he wrote. He went further to inform us that “modern cosmology suggests an eternal ‘multiverse’ in which many other universes comes and go”(Stenger 2012: 47)
Should we tell Stenger that a month earlier, 14th of January, in the same magazine, Lisa Grossman reported that “Death of eternal cosmos: From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverses every model of the universe has a beginning”? Should we tell Stenger that on 1st December 2012, New Scientist magazine cover story states that “Before The Big Bang: Three Reasons Why The Universe Can’t Have Existed Forever”? No. Don’t tell Stenger.
Grossman And Chown: What We Should Not Tell Stenger
Back in January 14th, in New Scientist magazine featuring Hawking’s 70th birthday, Grossman’s article, Death of the eternal cosmos: From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverse, every model of the universe has a beginning, ironically began,
YOU could call them the worst birthday presents ever. At the meeting of minds convened last week to honour Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday – loftily titled “State of the Universe”’ two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos”
Grossman reported that cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston went through different models and concluded that space-time can’t possibly be eternal in the past and that all the evidence that modern cosmologist have say that the universe had a beginning.(Grossman 2012: 6-7)
Truth never sleeps. Just in case Stenger missed that issue nor follows updates in modern cosmology anymore, New Scientist’s cover story of 1st December 2012 went deeper than Grossman, giving three reasons why the universe can’t have existed forever.
Chown’s article, In The Beginning: Has the cosmos existed forever, or did something bring it into existence? explained that “until recently an answer[to settle the question whether the universe has away been here] seemed as distant as ever”(Chown 2012: 33). He went further,
However, earlier this year, cosmologists Alex Vilenkin and Audrey Mithani claimed to have settled the debate. They have uncovered reasons why the universe cannot have existed forever.”(ibid)
Chown reported that Vilenkin went through singularity theorems/eternal inflation; “[u]niverses have always been inflating from the vacuum and always will”], cyclic universe; “4D universes repeatedly collide together in a fifth dimension crating a big bang events” and emergent universe; “[t]ing universe has existed forever but blew up to its present size”, and showed the flaws in forever.(Chown 2012: 34-35)
So, should we update Stenger on what modern cosmology says on this issue? Should we tell him eternal cosmos is dead? You decide.
Question: Would I be wrong in thinking that Stenger’s faith in eternal universe has nothing to do with science but with religion?
Chown, Marcus (2012) “In The Beginnning: Has the cosmos existed forever, or did something bring it into existence?” in New Scientist of 1 December 2012: 2893
Grossman, Lisa (2012) “Death of the eternal cosmos. From the cosmic egg to the infinite multiverse, every model of the universe has a beginning” in New Scientist of 14th January 2012: 2847
Stenger, Victor J. (2012) “The God Hypothesis” in New Scientist of 17th March 2012: 2856
___________________ (2012) “How Can Something Comes From Nothing?” November 7th 2012 Talk at the Boulder Socrates Cafe.
Coverphoto: New Scientist 1 December 2012, Before big bang: New Scientist 14th January 2012 & Andrew David’s Bertrand Russell
9 thoughts on “Eternal Cosmos Is Dead, Don’t Tell Stenger”
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Thanks for this piece, I enjoyed your honesty and yet respect for Stenger as both a scientist and non-theist.
It seems that science is his religion, you did mention in your question his “FAITH in eternal universe”. He himself validating a “religious” quest by pressing cosmology to give him answers regarding existence and an effort to understand reality, two of the most pressing requirements for a religion.
I always struggle with challenging atheists of their beliefs, beliefs hit the core of our worldview (Dallas Willard refers “a biological reality”) and a challenge can only instill their already confused belief. On the flip side, I also believe that with carefulness and a well thought out approach, a message can be given with the receiver in mind for persuasion.
Thank you Mark
You make a very interesting point when you say ‘a challenge can only instil belief’. Although a challenge does not always reinforce an already existing belief, it very often can, due to the defence that springs up when people try objecting against our convictions.
Do you recognize the same being true in the opposite direction – that you are aiming to reinforce your belief? I find no mention in your argument of trying to find the truth; you are just saying that you are right + that atheists’ views are “confused”. Is that helpful?
Finally, I wouldn’t say your beliefs are “confused” because that makes an assumption about your subjective reality. Maybe you do find your religious belief confusing, maybe you don’t. I don’t find my atheism confusing so there’s an example of your opinion weakening your message. My belief is absolutely crystal clear in my mind.
I think you are right Prayson.
Not all, but many atheists express a strong hatred, or maybe disdain, of God and believers. I have been at a loss to explain this. How can you hate someone (God) you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food? Why should it matter if people believe in God? Nothing matters if atheism is true.
Aldous Huxley (1894–1963), the brother of the atheistic evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley, advocated a drug-fuelled utopia. He gave the reason for his anti-Christian stance:
“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning … the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”
Like Huxley, it could be that some people don’t like God because they don’t like moral constraints—you can make up your own rules, or have none at all, if God does not exist. Or it could be they have disdain for God and Christians because they are actually not confident that God does not exist and seeing Christians may remind them that they are ‘suppressing the truth’ (Romans 1:18).
Brilliant Roy. Thank you for a concise remark.
Thank you. Your perspective of things makes me think. As we have experienced recently, a life-altering event can happen at any second, so we must try to put things in perspective. Life is fragile, and sadly for some, too short.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair was perhaps the most notorious atheist of the 1900s. Often profane and sarcastic, she was a powerful debater who shouted down her religious opponents.
After O’Hair mysteriously disappeared in 1995, her diaries were auctioned to pay back taxes she owed the US federal government. They reveal an unhappy human being who didn’t trust even the members of the American Atheists Association. She passed this harsh judgment on herself: “I have failed in marriage, motherhood, and as a politician.” Yet she yearned for acceptance and friendship. In her diary she wrote six times, “Somebody, somewhere, love me.”
Instead of viewing atheists like O’Hair as enemies, we should see them as sin-sick people whom God loves. They have a void in their lives that only He can fill. In Isaiah 55:7 we hear God calling out to the godless, inviting them to come to Him and experience His mercy and forgiveness.
We who have experienced the Lord’s grace have an opportunity to proclaim His invitation to others. Even in the face of hostility, we can tell those who have turned their backs on God that if they respond to His love for them they will find peace for their troubled hearts.
God bless us all.
Millions immigrated to America to find a better life, a life free from religious and governmental oppression. Francis Scott Key in 1814 wrote The Star-Spangled Banner which became out National Anthem. In the last stanza Key writes “…And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The U. S. Department of Treasury states “the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins.
From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania. As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:
Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States.”
The first time “In God We Trust” appeared on our coins was in 1864 on the new two cent coin, and by 1909 it was included on most the other coins. During the height of the cold war, on July 11, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 140 making it mandatory that all coinage and paper currency display the motto.
President Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time” and asked ‘Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of God?’”
Like it or not, a substantial majority of the smartest and cleverest people who ever lived have believed in God.
An answer to your final posed question: It would certainly seem so…
Sadly, some scientists do understand the implications of a finite universe and regress to the physics of 200 years ago. It seems to be a growing trend to deny a finite universe, redefine “nothing” and delve deeply into philosophical questions, all the while denying (ironically) that philosophy has anything to say about the subject. Another religious scientist who is beginning to make a stir that I’m sure you’ve seen is Sean Carroll at CalTech.
I find it very odd when Scientists seem to make it their mission not only to remove religion, but to evangelize their own (all the while failing to see that their “new” atheism has become nothing but a carbon copy of the organized religious systems they hate.
I could not agree more Peter.
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