I’ve talked before about the so-called “scientific consensus” and I’d like to add some additional thoughts about it. I pointed out earlier that there were earlier “deniers.” The most prominent were called Pythagoreans. They pointed out a number of discrepancies in the geocentric model (a model in which the earth was at the center of the universe and all other heavenly bodies orbited around it. In the 2nd century AD the astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) developed a computer model that resolved all of the questions raised by the “deniers.” Obviously, digital computers did not exist in the 2nd century. Ptolemy’s computer model was, like the Turing Machine, a logical construct. It was able to accurately account for all of the then observed astronomical data. In fact, it was so powerful that if a planet had traveled along a path that consisted only of straight lines and right turns, Ptolemy’s computer model could have accounted properly for its rectangular movement. But he was wrong. What’s my point? The point is that any computer program’s output is subject to the programmer’s goals. I have a collection of old observations, rules and principles about various aspects of life. One of them is called the “Law of Statistics.” It says the following: “numbers, when tortured sufficiently, can be made to say anything.”
I’ve also mentioned previously the experience of J.H. Bretz in the early 1900s. From the 1700s through the late 1800s a scientific consensus had developed that held that the earth’s surface features had evolved over eons through slow imperceptible change. After several years of study of an area called the scablands, he determined that a catastrophic flood of unimaginable proportions had formed the scablands. He was immediately attacked and, indeed, ridiculed by the scientific establishment – the guardians of the scientific consensus. After many years it was finally admitted that he was correct. After, that is, he had wasted most of his life defending his belief when he could have been advancing the science. It is also now known that a number of other geologists who had studied the scablands after Bretz had come to the same conclusion, but were afraid to risk their academic careers by speaking out.
OK, now I’m going to let you in on two of science’s dirty little secrets. Once science admitted that the deniers were correct that the earth and the other planets orbited the sun and this fact became the scientific consensus, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of the universe. Improvements in telescopes, photographic techniques and scientific instruments led to great advances in understanding. Eventually, it was realized that the universe consisted of multiple galaxies and we are part of one we call the “Milky Way.” But there were new questions. Was the universe infinite in size or age? Were there an infinite number of stars? It was soon realized that no matter how far apart the stars were an infinite number of them would result in a universe so hot that there would be no earth.
As scientists struggled to understand better, an astronomer named Edwin Hubble came up with a startling discovery. One, as a whole the stars and galaxies are moving away from the earth meaning that the universe is expanding. Two, the farther they are from the earth the faster they are moving. This brought up a whole new group of questions about the nature of the universe, but out of it came a new theory that we now call “the Big Bang.” This theory holds that everything in the universe came out of an infinitesimally tiny single point in a stupendous explosion. The expanding material did not expand into space, but defined space as it expanded. Some scientists rejected the Big Bang theory and others embraced it. Those who accepted it began to examine the theory mathematically and looked for experimental methods to learn more about it.
Let me interrupt myself here to inject an important point. The Big Bang theory creates a problem for the scientists. It implies creation. And that, Oh, My Bama, implies a creator. Oh, My Bamalama, that might imply a God. Aak, eek, oohhhh. Well, this creates a classic “sticky wicket.” Some enterprising scientists figured out a way to solve this problem. If there was sufficient matter in the universe the expansion would slow, reverse and eventually collapse back into that tiny single point. It’s like you throwing a ball straight up in the air. Initially, it moves fast. Then it slows and stops. Finally, it falls back to where it started. If that happened you could assume (and you know what happens when you do that) that the collapse would be followed by another Bang.” This process would be repeated over and over forever. This would solve the creation issue although philosophically you’d still have the problem how it all came into existence in the first place, but scientists had learned long ago to avoid that one.
After a number of years of conjecture some astronomers set about to survey the universe to determine the total amount of matter in it. This would answer the question of whether the universe contained enough matter to stop expanding and fall back to a small point to repeat the cycle ad infinitum. Unfortunately, the surveyors could find only a tiny fraction of the matter required to stop the expansion. God: 1, Atheists: 0. After a lot of soul searching the scientists decided that the matter must be there. It had to be there. The alternative was just too…too…too religious. So it had to be there. We just can’t see it. It must be “dark” matter. Dirty little secret number one. Rather than consider the possibility that there was a single one-time point of creation scientists assumed there must be a lot of invisible matter out there. Thus ensued twenty some years searching for the missing matter. In the meantime continuing surveys of the observable universe revealed an even bigger disaster. Not only was the expansion of the universe not slowing down it was actually increasing. Imagine you’re standing there with a ball in your hand. You toss it straight up. Not only does it not slow down and fall back to you, but it keeps going. And not only does it keep going it actually speeds up and accelerates away from you. POW, straight to da moon. What a revolting development. So we’re left with a universe that not only doesn’t have enough matter to stop its expansion, but is expanding faster and faster. Well, if dark matter will handle the first problem then maybe dark energy can account for the second. Now you have dirty little secret number two. God: 2, Atheists: 0. And all of this to avoid the possibility that they might have to countenance the existence of God.