a tippling philosopher

Big Bang didn't need God to start universe, researchers say

July 3, 2012
[From msnbc.com]


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Our universe could have popped into existence 13.7 billion years ago without any divine help whatsoever, researchers say.

That may run counter to our instincts, which recoil at the thought of something coming from nothing. But we shouldn't necessarily trust our instincts, for they were honed to help us survive on the African savannah 150,000 years ago, not understand the inner workings of the universe.

Instead, scientists say, we should trust the laws of physics.

"The Big Bang could've occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there," said astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley. "With the laws of physics, you can get universes."

Filippenko spoke here Saturday (June 23) at the SETICon 2 conference, during a panel discussion called "Did the Big Bang Require a Divine Spark?"

Quantum fluctuations

In the very weird world of quantum mechanics, which describes action on a subatomic scale, random fluctuations can produce matter and energy out of nothingness. And this can lead to very big things indeed, researchers say.

"Quantum mechanical fluctuations can produce the cosmos," said panelist Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the non-profit Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. "If you would just, in this room, just twist time and space the right way, you might create an entirely new universe. It's not clear you could get into that universe, but you would create it."

"So it could be that this universe is merely the science fair project of a kid in another universe," Shostak added. "I don't know how that affects your theological leanings, but it is something to consider."

Filippenko stressed that such statements are not attacks on the existence of God. Saying the Big Bang — a massive expansion 13.7 billion years ago that blew space up like a gigantic balloon — could have occurred without God is a far cry from saying that God doesn't exist, he said.

"I don't think you can use science to either prove or disprove the existence of God," Filippenko said.

The origin of the laws of physics

If we're after the ultimate origin of everything, however, invoking the laws of physics doesn't quite do the trick. It may get us one step closer, but it doesn't take us all the way, Filippenko said.

"The question, then, is, 'Why are there laws of physics?'" he said. "And you could say, 'Well, that required a divine creator, who created these laws of physics and the spark that led from the laws of physics to these universes, maybe more than one.'"

But that answer just continues to kick the can down the road, because you still need to explain where the divine creator came from. The process leads to a never-ending chain that always leaves you short of the ultimate answer, Filippenko said.

The origin of the laws of physics remains a mystery for now, he added, one that we may never be able to solve.

"The 'divine spark' was whatever produced the laws of physics," Filippenko said. "And I don't know what produced that divine spark. So let's just leave it at the laws of physics."

The History & Structure of the Universe (Infographic)The Universe: Big Bang to Now in 10 Easy StepsThe Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The interior of Mars holds vast reservoirs of water, with some spots apparently as wet as Earth's innards, scientists say.

The finding upends previous studies, which had estimated that the Red Planet's internal water stores were scanty at best — something of a surprise, given that liquid water apparently flowed on the Martian surface long ago.

"It's been puzzling why previous estimates for the planet's interior have been so dry," co-author Erik Hauri of the Carnegie Institution of Washington said in a statement. "This new research makes sense and suggests that volcanoes may have been the primary vehicle for getting water to the surface."

The scientists examined two Martian meteorites that formed in the planet's mantle, the layer under the crust. These rocks landed on Earth about 2.5 million years ago, after being blasted off the Red Planet by a violent impact.

Using a technique called secondary ion mass spectrometry, the team determined that the mantle from which the meteorites derived contained between 70 and 300 parts per million (ppm) of water. Earth's mantle, for comparison, holds roughly 50 to 300 ppm water, researchers said.

"The results suggest that water was incorporated during the formation of Mars and that the planet was able to store water in its interior during the planet's differentiation," Hauri said.

Some of this water apparently made its made to the surface in the ancient past. NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004, have found plenty of evidence that Mars was far warmer and wetter billions of years ago than it is today.

The two golf-cart-size robots have even spotted signs of ancient hydrothermal systems, suggesting that some places on the Red Planet once had both water and an energy source — two key ingredients for the existence of life as we know it.

While the new results should help scientists better understand Mars and its history, they could also shed light on the evolution of large, rocky bodies in a more general sense, researchers said.

"Not only does this study explain how Mars got its water, it provides a mechanism for hydrogen storage in all the terrestrial planets at the time of their formation," lead author Francis McCubbin of the University of New Mexico said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal Geology on June 15.


I have an internet stalker - and he's a bloody pain in the arse

June 29, 2012
So I have a stalker. He's a complete tool with no capacity for intellectual conversation. He started by posting a negative review of my free will book without having read it. He has done it on .com and .co.uk,. He has started reading it now but is so dense that he is making stooopid claims. He is a man of the cloth, it seems - a Father Clifford Stevens.

For example, in Free Will I set out the three positions, talk about their main adherents and then debunk them. However, he quotes me quoting...
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D Rizdek gives an insightful view on writing Gospels

June 23, 2012
Here is a good post from another blog which I think is worth reposting. I think people forget to think of the Gospel writers as real people actually sitting down and logistically trying to create something so demanding:

It always puzzles me at the idea that someone might assume one person, be he named Matthew or Sam, just sat down one day and decided to write a book called the Gospel according to Matthew from memory or from his own notes. Is this how literary scholars think things got writ...

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The Nativity available now!

June 22, 2012
My new book "The Nativity: A Critical Examination" is now through all the distribution channels! It has a foreword written by David Fitzgerald, author of "Nailed". Looking at the infancy narratives in the Bible, it analyses the reports from a historical context to see whether they stand up to scrutiny.

They don't. Check it out in paperback or on Kindle.

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Nonstampcollector, sticks and stones - and yes, they will break bones.

June 21, 2012
Nonstampcollector is always good - this fulfils expectations:

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The Nativity and Herod

June 21, 2012
Whilst some of you may think Christmas has come early, the reality is that I have a new book out which deals with the historicity of the nativity accounts found in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. As if all the other arguments aren’t enough, there’s nothing like topping it all off with a healthy dose of critical historical analysis.

So the book is called The Nativity: A Critical Examination and the more involved in writing and researching it I became, the more amazed I was that anyone a...

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Philosophy and knowing about as much as possible (and my free will talk)

June 17, 2012

So I gave a speech to the Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub group on Thursday night and, if I might say so, it went really well.


Here is some of the feedback from the events page:


“Amazing talk tonight, I'm still attempting to process everything..so many questions :) Thanks Johno Pearce.”


“Fascinating talk on free will tonight by Johno Pearce. Who knew philosophers could be so ... enthusiastic?!”


Which is great to hear – I’m glad I did not disappoint. However, to be ...

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Reppert on loving your enemies

June 14, 2012

I was perusing Victor Reppert’s blog in order to catch a feeling of what apologists around are saying. Something that Reppert was talking about over on his blog dangerous idea the other day struck me as slightly nonsensical. Reppert was dealing with Keith Parsons talking about the commandment to love thy enemies, and how far this should be taken. Parsons gives examples of really terrible actions of certain people and Reppert counters that loving these people is “above his pay grade”: ...

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My talk tonight to the Portsmouth Skeptics

June 13, 2012
i am pretty excited about tonight's talk on free will to the Portsmouth Skpetics in a Pub group. Hopefully there'll be a good turn out. Free will seems to really be on the agenda at the moment. People are talking about it and it features on programmes such as Horizon, Radio 4 and suchlike. There is certainly an appetite fro the debate.

Here are the details:


I'll let you know how it goes!

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Interesting extra-terrestial impact

June 12, 2012
New Evidence Supports Theory of Extraterrestrial Impact

ScienceDaily (June 11, 2012) An 18-member international team of researchers that includes James Kennett, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara, has discovered melt-glass material in a thin layer of sedimentary rock in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Syria. According to the researchers, the material -- which dates back nearly 13,000 years -- was formed at temperatures of 1,700 to 2,200 degrees Celsius (3,100 to 3,600 degr...

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