Tag Archives: cosmology

Another god debate


Apparently Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig went head to head this weekend on the question of “the existence of God in light of contemporary cosmology.”

Usually I think these sort of debates are a waste of time but am keen to see the video of this one – it will be on Youtube eventually. In previous debates Craig attempts to use cosmology to “prove” the existence of his god (I use the word “use” as meaning very opportunist use of motivated reasoning). In most debates his opponents are usually not completely familiar with modern cosmology and he gets away with murder in his misrepresentation of the science.

But Sean Carroll is a different proposition. Not only is Sean a researcher and teacher in cosmology he is also an excellent communicator of science. His recent bookThe Particle at the End of the Universe, won last year’s Royal Society Winton Prize for best science book (see The particle at the end of the universe’ wins Winton Prize).


Nor is he intimidated by Craig’s acknowledged debating skills. He says in a blog post before the debate:

“You can find some of WLC’s thoughts on the upcoming event at his Reasonable Faith website. One important correction I would make to what you will read there: Craig and his interlocutor Kevin Harris interpret my statement that “my goal here is not to win the debate” as a strategy to avoid dealing with WLC’s arguments, or as “a way to lower expectations.” Neither is remotely true. I want to make the case for naturalism, and to do that it’s obviously necessary to counter any objections that get raised. Moreover, I think that expectations (for me) should be set ridiculously high. The case I hope to make for naturalism will be so impressively, mind-bogglingly, breathtakingly strong that it should be nearly impossible for any reasonable person to hear it and not be immediately convinced. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if there are any theists left in the audience once the whole thing is over.”

I think his tongue was in his cheek with the last sentence.

His suggestion for viewers:

“Feel free to organize viewing parties, celebrations, discussion groups, what have you. There should definitely be a drinking game involved (it’ll be happy hour on the West Coast, you lightweights), but I’ll leave the details to you. Suggested starting points: drink every time WLC uses a syllogism, or every time I show an equation. But be sure to have something to eat, first.”

Thanks to God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig

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Testing the God theory

I enjoyed this video.

It is a full lecture but well worth watching – especially if you are interested in the science-religion debates.

Sean Carroll presents these cosmological arguments well – and his analysis is far more up to date – and “with it” than those theologians who venture into the area. Just compare this with the rubbish W. L. Craig comes out with.

This lecture really puts the theological argument that God is a “better explanation” of life than the multiverse into perspective.

Thanks to Your Thanksgiving viewing « Why Evolution Is True.

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That particle again

This week sees the launch of another book on the Higgs Boson. This one is by the cosmologist Sean CarrollThe Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.

I found Carroll’s last book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time excellent so am looking forward to this one. he has a real gift for explaining the complex science of cosmology and particle physics clearly for the lay person.

In this short promotion video he describes the aim of the book

Sean Carroll: The Particle at the End of the Universe

See also: The Excitement Grows!

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Comprehending reality – Should we give up so easily?

The Edge question is an annual event. Publisher John Brockman poses an interesting question to a large number of scientists, thinkers, academics and writers. He publishes their answers on the Edge website and usually, later,  as a book*

The 2012 question is:

What Is Your Favorite Deep, Elegant, Or Beautiful Explanation? Continue reading

Nothing is something

Lawrence Krauss’s most recent book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing was released last week. It’s one I have been looking forward to and I downloaded the eBook version this last weekend.

Some readers may have seen a video of one of Krauss’s lectures on this subject – these are what motivated my interest. For readers who have not seen one these lectures I have embedded one below.

I am keen to get into the book. With chapter titles like “Nothing is Something” and “Nothing is Unstable” it promises to be a good read. (I have placed the list of chapters at the bottom of this post*).

Krauss is not only an excellent lecturer he also writes very well. He has a lively style and is able to communicate complex ideas. Lawrence Krauss is one of the listed speakers art next April’s Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne (see A Celebration of Reason).

I wonder if he will pass through New Zealand as part of a book tour?

‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 .

Last year Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow were bombarded with a lot of criticism from religious apologists for their book The Grand Design. I think it helped bring the book to the attention of potential readers. So I hope these moral watchdogs are not asleep and will be just as energetic in their criticisms of Krauss’s book.

My first impression is that A Universe from Nothing actually has more detail than The Grand Design.

So here’s looking forward to some interesting debates.

*Contents of A Universe from Nothing

Chapter 1: A Cosmic Mystery Story: Beginnings
Chapter 2: A Cosmic Mystery Story: Weighing the Universe
Chapter 3: Light from the Beginning of Time
Chapter 4: Much Ado About Nothing
Chapter 5: The Runaway Universe
Chapter 6: The Free Lunch at the End of the Universe
Chapter 7: Our Miserable Future
Chapter 8: A Grand Accident?
Chapter 9: Nothing Is Something
Chapter 10: Nothing Is Unstable
Chapter 11: Brave New Worlds
Afterword by Richard Dawkins


Answer simple question – win an iPad

The catch – you are limited to 140 characters on Twitter.

Oh, yes, also the entry must “explain the origins of the Universe.”

Credit: Wikipedia

Simple – should be plenty of entries for that!

I guess the trick is in the syntax, as well as the science.

Have a look at Otago University‘s Centre for Science Communication Twitter Competition for the details.

Deadline is Tuesday 15 November. You will have a chance to vote on your favourite entry from Wednesday 16 November until noon Saturday 19 November.

And, Professor Lawrence Krauss, author of the forthcoming book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, will then select the winning tweet from the five tweets receiving the highest number of votes.

I still have a week or so to solve that problem and send my entry.

Thanks to: Best Science Tweet Competition.

Hawking’s grand design – lessons for apologists?

I managed to get my own copy of  The Grand Design (co-authored by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow) the other day. Talk about luck. I was on one of my rare visits to the big smoke and inquired at Borders. It had just come in that day and wasn’t yet on the shelves!


Victor Stenger


Obviously I won’t comment in depth until I have read the book. I get the impression that I may find the discussions of philosophy more interesting then the physics, though. And I guess it is the philosophical aspects of the book which have provoked the most criticism, or at least the theological criticism. (Mathematicians and physicists like Peter Woit, of course are making their criticisms – but hardly making the newspapers with them – see for example Hawking gives up).

However, I am aware the Victor Stenger is reviewing the book and look forward to his views. He has some standing in cosmology and philosophy, and his writing in these areas are excellent.

So far he has made only limited comments based on other reviews (see Hawking and the Multiverse). I feel he makes an important, point in his conclusion. It does seem obvious to me, but then again the extreme theological reaction to news of the book suggests it may not be to some others. Victor says:

So, at least according to the reviews, Hawking and Mlodinow haven’t said much that physicists and cosmologists haven’t already heard before. However, thanks to Hawking’s notoriety, at least more people will now have heard that science has plausible answers to how the universe came about naturally without the need for a creator. Hopefully this will include those theologians and apologists who continue to wrongfully insist that modern science has demonstrated a need for God.

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The Grand Design – neither God nor 42

It seems that God, or more correctly disbelief in God, sells books. In recent years anyway. Perhaps since the religiously motivated terrorist attacks in New York nine years ago this week.

So one can hardly blame the publishers for jumping on to the advertising bandwagon with Stephen Hawking‘s latest book The Grand Design (with co-author Leonard Mlodinow).  And I am sure that is what has lead to headlines like Stephen Hawking: God NOT Needed For Creation, Stephen Hawking: God didn’t create universe, Hawking Says God Not Needed to Kick-Start Big Bang; World Freaks Out. Even Somebody’s Going To Hell! Stephen Hawking: “God Not Necessary For Universe To Exist”.

Inevitable advertising hype.

Continue reading

Fallacy of Fine Tuning

I just picked up in my browsing that Victor Stenger is working on a new book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: How the Universe is Not Designed for Us. Its planned for publication early next year.

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Avoiding grown-up discussion

Cosmologist Sean Carroll has announced a break from blogging on Cosmic Variance. I picked up this news from Jerry Coyne‘s blog Why Evolution is True! (also the title of his book) (see Sean Carroll says goodbye).

Like Jerry, I think that is a great pity. I find Sean Carroll’s blog posts interesting. I don’t necessarily always agree – as, for example, in his debate with Sam Harris on morality. But they are clearly written and refreshing to read. His lecture’s on cosmological questions are fascinating and I am looking forward to reading his recently published book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.

However, Sean does say his hiatus will not be permanent (see Downshifting). And other contributors to the Cosmic Variance blog will continue.

I agree with Jerry that Sean’s last major post, “Reluctance to let go”, was impressive. It’s worth reading in full – but here’s an extract: Continue reading