Friday, November 04, 2005

Can You be Both?

Does being a Christian, in the eyes of atheist scientists, taint your credibility when it comes to science? Atheists are usually (although not always) careful to say “no”, but I don’t think it takes a Fellini to read between the lines.

Oh sure, they trot out people like Ken Miller, but his role is really that of a “useful idiot.”

And at any rate, they have repeatedly quote-mined, if not outright lied, about Rome’s view on evolution. (It’s happening all over the place today, as a result of this story.) To summarize what I have blogged about before: Rome accepts theistic evolution. A theistic evolutionist concedes that the evolutionary process is never out of God’s sovereign control, while an “ordinary” or even a “deistic” evolutionist does not. They will all “do” evolution in the lab in exactly the same way (just like I do physics the same way as a nonbeliever) but if you ask if it is possible that life could have been wiped out by a catastrophe, or taken a different path, or any of a number things that could have prevented the evolution of intelligent life, you’ll get two different answers.

Yesterday, on Phil Plait’s blog, he posted some gorgeous pictures that just might be of some of the earliest starlight we have seen.

In the comment section, one reader expressed confusion over how it took the light so long to reach us. I commented (I have corrected a few minor typos):
I think the problem is probably (it usually is, anyway) with a misconception about what it means that the universe is expanding. It does not mean that the universe is filling a void of previously empty space. It means that the space between objects (galaxies) is getting larger.

The usual analogy is to imagine galaxies as dots painted on a balloon. As the balloon inflates, the dots are stationary, but the space between them grows, and each dot claims the other dots are moving away (when, in some sense, they are all at rest!).

So imagine a star was 10 steps away. It emits light. As the light travels toward us, space expands. So the light has to travel more than 10 steps to reach us. (In fact, if space expanded fast enough, the light might never reach us!) Well suppose it finally does reach us. It might have traveled 15 steps, even though at first it was only ten steps away. In the meantime, the star that it came from might be 25 steps away.

That is why that, although the universe is about 14 billion years old, the visible universe is much larger than 14 billion light years–it is more like 40 billion light years.

Which immediately elicited this reply (from a different reader, not the one I was helping)
toss me for getting off-topic, but i can’t believe (oh but it’s true!) that the previous comment was contributed by the same david heddle that vigorously defends intelligent design over at Panda's Thumb. his explanation of the size of the universe here seems clear and logical, just what we want on this blog, but knowing that he’s arguing creationist nonsense elsewhere puts a bad taste in my mouth. i had to say it.
I just find this telling, somehow, that a person had to go out of his or her way to point out my religious (or, to be more exact, philosophical) leanings after I had made a “pure science” comment. Now this happens all the time on Panda’s Thumb; there I cannot give a pure science comment without launching an unrelated religious war. Here, however, it caught me by surprise.

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