The month has reached its final days, so it is time once more for a little Apologetic Potpourri. This is a list of articles that I found interesting combined with my own little musings about them. The month of February features new discoveries challenging our capacity to understand cosmology, an interview with the incomparable Alvin Plantinga, the statistical relationship of faith to the profession of science, and a fanciful video trying to explain the Fermi Paradox. Enjoy!
This article contains just a brief and fairly technical summary of some recent work done by the Planck satellite team that is looking at some of the “big picture” issues of cosmology. The fascinating findings point to a couple of issues related to an interest I have in the limitations of science, especially as applied to cosmology. First, “Anomalies suggest that the Universe may be different on scales larger than those we can directly observe.” The fact that we are so small and the universe so big should prevent us from forgetting this, but we often do. It is entirely possible that our modern cosmology is analogous to an ant attempting to describe human sociology while marching around a man’s shoe. Second, the data challenges modern cosmology’s holy verity, that the universe is essentially the same everywhere. In this case, the universe appears to be lopsided, and I don’t really believe anyone knows what that will ultimately mean. Overall, the study demonstrates that modern cosmology is shifting before our eyes.
“Our ultimate goal would be to construct a new model that predicts the anomalies and links them together. But these are early days; so far, we don’t know whether this is possible and what type of new physics might be needed. And that’s exciting,” says Professor Efstathiou.
This is an interview with the one and only Alvin Plantinga. The questions will bounce around from the rationality of atheism to the problem of evil. Virtually everything Plantinga says is thought provoking. My favorite is this little gem concerning human suffering:
I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story.
Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.
I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.
In the Plantinga interview above, a mention was made about the statistical relationship of philosophers to atheism. In this little article, polling data is discussed regarding scientists and belief in God. The data was not as bad as I suspected, so I thought I would pass it along.
Nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence
18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services (compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population)
15 percent of scientists consider themselves very religious (19 percent)
13.5 percent of scientists read religious texts weekly (17 percent)
I recently wrote a little bit about the Fermi Paradox (complete with a countdown clock) and the problem of the lack of extraterrestrial life for naturalistic evolution. This little video shows some of the creative attempts to solve the problem. I’m not convinced any of the suggestions answer the riddle, but you be the judge.