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ETpro's avatar

As a scientific theory, how good is the God Model?

Asked by ETpro (34469points) September 19th, 2010

I am not asking what does it agree with that was known when it was put forward, rather what has since been found through application of it?

We can’t delve into this without some common definition of what a Scientific Theory (or Model) ought to be. For purposes of this question, I am using Theory to mean a model we develop in our minds to explain things we observe. That model must be useful in describing observations of the physical universe or some subset of it. It’s a good model to the degree that it accurately predicts additional observed data about the thing/s it is intended to explain; and to the degree that it does not rely on a large number or arbitrary assumptions.

For instance, a Greek philosopher and scientist, named Aristotle developed a model of the elements. He theorized that all matter is composed of just four basic elements, Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. A competing Atomic Theory was developed from work done toward the end of the 18th century by Frenchmen Antoine Lavoisier and Joseph Louis Proust and later expanded by English chemist, John Dalton. With this work, Russian Dmitri Mendeleev was able to construct the now famous Periodic Table of the Elements.

If you accept Aristotle’s model, you can easily look at things like the Sun (fire) and rocks (mostly earth) and say, “Yes, the model is sound.” But what can you predict that hasn’t already been observed, and then go test and find it agrees with Aristotle’s 4-element theory? The 4-Element Theory didn’t predict anything new. The Atomic Theory of the composition of matter has, on the other hand, predicted the existence of a slew of additional elements that were, at the time of its first development, unknown. Likewise, it has predicted how elements can combine to form compounds that were previously unknown. In millions of trials its predictions have proved to match experimental data. So while it is perhaps imperfect, Atomic Theory is a far better model of reality than 4-Element Theory.

Another example—Egyptian mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer Ptolemy developed a Theory of the Universe that said the earth sits stationary at the center of the universe, and is surrounded by a series of 8 nested spheres. The Sun and the 5 known planets (those visible without a telescope). He believed that Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all orbited the earth rotating in “epicycles: around these concentric spheres, and that the outer sphere carried all the stars and rotated slowly around the earth. The early Catholic Church liked this theory because it made man (God’s crowning creation) the center of the universe, it agreed with certain passages in the Bible, and it left room for Heaven and Hell beyond the outer sphere.

Ptolemy’s Model did predict the position of the planets he knew of rather accurately. The only major flaw it suffered visible to the naked eye was the motion of the moon around the Earth. Ptolemy chose to lay that aside. It was not until the invention of the telescope and the discovery of additional planets with moons orbiting some that Ptolemy’s model proved out to be deeply out of agreement with observed data.

Copernicus, Galileo and finally Newton improved on our Model of the Solar System. The Galilean Heliocentric Model coupled with Newton’s Theory of Gravity and his description of bodies in motion provided a tool with very accurate predictive power. All the planets followed it closely, except that Newtonian physics is just a tiny bit off for the actual observed orbit of Mercury, It was not till Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity that we found a model that even got the orbit of Mercury exactly right.

So with that understanding of predictive power and the falsifiability of predictions, how does the God Model stand up to the Big Bang Model of cosmology today?

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21 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Not too good. There are far too many small pieces which makes it difficult to glue together.

laureth's avatar

Science, as I understand it, is a process of testing, evaluating the results, and using enough results to decide that some qualities of things are predictable and obey certain laws. For instance, if the Sun has risen every morning that I’ve observed it, I could surmise that the sun will rise again tomorrow because there seems to be some law of sun-rising.

On the other hand, when I hear people discuss the God theory, I hear them say that the idea of any law binding the deity as being impossible. It seems to be held as true that laws are optional, that being able to test and predict and test again are not valid ways of examining that which a creator, being above law, having invented law even, can change at will. I have also heard that the predictability of the universe is (1) proof that there is a God/Creator, because how could we exist without one, and (2) created by God specifically to amuse scientists.

The very foundation of science, that being the ability to observe and test, is therefore not accepted as true by some who hold to the God theory. What good is the belief in either a heliocentric or terracentric solar system, for example, when those both rely on prediction and observation, when this God is said to choose to stop the sun for a few days at will? How can you test for a change of God’s mind (especially when these changes, apparently, do not happen any more, but may happen at any time)?

In other words, I like your question, and “good luck with that.”

iamthemob's avatar

If we’re going solely on predictability, I would say they’re equally predictive. Considering that the SCALE of the observation necessary in terms of time in order to determine whether the Big Bang theory actually predicts any sort of coherent behavior in the universe is just mind-boggling, we’ll never know if we were right about it (those of us around now). Further, when you consider that our observations are based on much of the universe as it was before the earth was formed (considering the speed of light), we’re stuck with admitting that we only really kinda know what the universe was like 3 billion years ago (not really current). And when you consider that the behavior of the universe for many rests on the theory of dark (magic) matter…well, it’s all up in the air.

Considering that god models either work either (1) in conjunction with physical descriptions of the origins of the universe (and therefore can be described as predictive in the same manner as the model above) or (2) separate from it, so that things happen by “god’s will”, which is inscrutable and therefore unknowable – what’s going to happen is up in the air as well.

Oddly – what we can say is that if the Big Bang theory is predictive, we’ll never know. If the second form of the God model is predictive, and s/he decides to “make his/her/its (whatevers) will known during our lifetime…well, it wasn’t predictive before, but it sure will be then.

ETpro's avatar

@AstroChuck Thanks.

@laureth To be accurate, the sun doesn’t rise, does it? Our planet just rotates around to where we can see it again. Thanks for the thoughts. :-)

@iamthemob Very interesting answer. The Big Bang Theory has predicted a number of things, and a good number of them have been observed and proved true. We do see the variance in red shift it predicts for objects at varying distances from a central point or origin. We do see that speed and direction project back to one central point of origin 13.75 billion years ago. We do see the background radiation a Big Bang predicts and other phenomena left over from an original explosion.

So far, dark matter and dark energy haven’t been observed. But no model is ever fully proved. Newtonian Physics stood centuries of tests before being undone by General Relativity. I can’t think of anything that “God did it” predicts. But it’s certainly still possible that GOd did it.

Jabe73's avatar

@ETpro I’m not familiar with everything you mentioned in your question but getting at the core of it it seems some creationists and theists have started to accept the Big Bang Model itself because they have found a way to fit the Big Bang Model into the biblical event of creation because both theories state that there was a beginning which before there was nothing (hence you have the term “creation” derived from a single event).

iamthemob's avatar

@Jabe73

I don’t think the bible really needs to or has come into play here….

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 While @iamthemob is right that the question doesn’t mention any particular god, it is natural to assume that as an American asking it, I am thinking mainly about those who speak of creation being done by the Abrahamic God of Biblical fame. And regarding those believers, you are quite right. Big Bang and Let the Be Light do seem to be amazingly well aligned. To accept the creation story of Genesis 1 or 2 and integrate it with the Big Bang, it is necessary to allow that “day” does not mean the same thing as a single rotation of the Earth as we experience it right now. What is more confounding is reconciling the variances in the order of creation listed in Genesis ` versus Genesis 2. There are recent translations that seek to resolve the contradictions, and I am no scholar of ancient Hebrew language so I do not know which translators got it right, but it looks fishy to me.

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro

Alright – is it true that there are phenomena in the universe that cannot be predicted by the big bang theory without dark matter coming into the picture?

If so, I’m wondering how dark matter isn’t a way to make evidence contradicting the big bang theory fit the theory…

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob At the moment, my best understanding currently is that dark matter is most important in explaining the orbital behavior of galaxies in clusters. Ignoring the Big Bang for the moment, the orbital velocities of galaxy clusters suggests that 80% of the Universe is dark matter and 20% is visible matter.

Dark energy is more the applicable to explaining the continuation of acceleration we have recently observed. Without it or something as a driving force, the observed matter alone should have caused the distant galaxies to begin decelerating by now as gravity counteracts the kinetic energy of the Big Bang. It is a hypothesis, and has not been verified by observation.

iamthemob's avatar

But the orbital behavior of the galaxy clusters is contrary to the big bang theory…according to the measurements, space inbetween the galaxy is increasing. Essentially, there is a continuing and increasing acceleration of (I’ll just say) matter away from other matter. According to the big bang theory, the EXACT OPPOSITE should be happening.

In order to make it work, there must be 80% of this dark matter around, exerting it’s own (I’ll say) dark energy on regular matter to cause this. Eventually, this will cause the destruction of the universe as matter is literally ripped apart (the big rip).

Therefore, without dark matter, which has not been observed in any way shape or form, the universe is behaving in the exact opposite way that the big bang theory should predict.

So, it seems that either the big bang theory is flawed in the most basic sense, or we will discover this thing that makes it right (which we just made up) eventually.

I make no claims either way, but explain why it’s not reasonable to think that sounds a little bit like hocus pocus – in fact, as unsupportable and contradictory as many (well, most) religious assertions seem to be.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob I think that’s about right. Actually, whether by Big Rip, Big Chill or Big Crunch, life as we know it is doomed to change.

Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, projected back to before any singularity mathematically, seems to suggest that if there were nothing, it not only could explode and produce everything, it would have to do so. So why ever the Universe is continuing to fly apart, the end result of that may be just to trigger another Big Bang and play the game all over again. But this is just fun speculation. We surely do not know how the Universe got here. We only know that some explanations have more evidence pointing to them than others.

iamthemob's avatar

@ETpro

I haven’t read Hawking’s new book – but isn’t that suggestion from it? (nothing into something)

My problem is, if so, that I can only be told, more than likely, in the most paternalistic way, exactly how that was so. Hawking does a good job of leading you by the hand, but the way he does so is to not try to fully explain the science or math behind it, and draw often misleading analogies (the universe began with a big bang – however, considering that nothing really existed to bang into, bang requires sound transition, etc.), so that it seems to make sense. In the end, though, we just have to trust him (them).

I’m not trying to be glib, but in essence it seems that we’re saying “If we believe this origin theory to be true, despite direct evidence contradicting it, then the math may suggest the possibility that if there was in fact nothing prior to the origin, it not only could but it is potentially likely that it would have to transform into the universe…but only a very very few people understand it completely so you’ll just have to trust them.”

This really is sounding more and more like it’s on par with the god model.

basstrom188's avatar

Dark Matter is not hocus -pocus it is like all science. You start with an untenable contradictory theory and then proceed to disprove it. You attempt to maintain the status-quo until it becomes untenable and has to be superseded in the light of new knowledge. Unlike the Biblical creationist view of the universe our understanding of it is constantly changing, evolving.
Now I am going to contradict myself.
The British astronomer Fred Hoyle put forward a model for a rotating steady state universe. Maybe it is time to reconsider his viewpoint.

iamthemob's avatar

@basstrom188

It’s strange how by contradicting yourself, the argument is one of the more reasonable I’ve heard. ;-)

Jabe73's avatar

@iamthemob @iamthemob @ETpro Did any of you hear about a newer theory called “The Big Breed Theory?” I just purchased a book about it. I do not know much about this theory yet, I have to start reading about it when I get time.

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 Is that Dark Energy Mystery Solved by Big Breed Theory by Ron Pearson? Looks most intriguing. He seems to be nominating himself for a Nobel Prize for it. If he turns out right, he probably will win one. But it’s a bit suspicious that it’s on Lulu.com. Why did it need to be self published? See more on the author.
http://www.lulu.com/product/hardcover/dark-energy-mystery-solved-by-big-breed-theory/12669088
http://bigbreed.org/home.html

Jabe73's avatar

@ETpro I ordered that book and 3 others by Ron Pearson. I happen to like that guy. I didn’t get the books yet. I just ordered them a few days ago. I would rather read a good book for some topics rather than looking up info on the internet jungle. I guess I’m somewhat old fashioned when it comes to prefering books over the net.

ETpro's avatar

@Jabe73 I’m not making a snap judgment on Pearson, but a quick sniff test gave off the smell of crank. Self published work. He self declares he’s survived all attacks from peers. He nominates himself for a Nobel. It should at least make interesting reading.

Humor me a bit and do look at this piece of Internet data. It’s good protection to arm yourself with. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/science-versus-everything-else

iamthemob's avatar

@Jabe73

My concern is that it uses the word “proof” a little too much for my tastes.

Jabe73's avatar

@iamthemob Perhaps so. I was a skeptic of the Big Bang long before I heard of him. I’m not saying I agree with the Big Breed Theory but I always will look for all possible answers not for the purpose of just being different but to learn the truth. That is what being a freethinker really is. Ron Pearson has come up with several other potential solutions to other subjects as well.

Amazingly many of these great scientists and inventors in the past such as Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Tesla, Faraday, Edison and many others were considered outcasts in their days because of odd viewpoints that were considered “psuedo-science”, but now today these same cynical critics use the very inventions of many of these great scientists and inventors (such as televison, radio, power transmission and many others) to criticize many of these individuals findings when it comes to alternative scientific hypothesis’. There are quite a few holes in the Big Bang Theory, I’m not saying this isn’t the most credible theory at the moment but we should never stop investigating the truth no matter where it takes us. If the Big Bang Theory happens to be the correct theory in 100 years from now instead of another then there is no need for anyone to have a problem with this, including myself.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jabe73

Wow – the search for truth being privileged over the search for consensus? However will knowledge grow if we don’t agree on what we all think? ;-)

(that was me agreeing with you wholeheartedly on this point – skepticism is the most important intellectual tool I think we have)

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