December 17, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Loopy Cosmology Goes Abstract

A physicist from Warsaw standing by a Picasso painting finds convergence with his thinking about the origin of the universe.  The caption on Science Daily reads, “The lines in the painting are fairly similar to graphs showing the evolution of quantum states of the gravitational field in loop quantum gravity.”  The cosmologist is Prof. Jerzy Lewandowski, and the painting is Picasso’s The Kitchen.  What kind of cosmological stew has Lewandowski cooked up?
    The article is just one in a recent trend to reach outside reality in order to try to understand reality:

What was the Big Bang and what happened before it?  Scientists from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw have attempted to answer the question.  Within the framework of loop quantum gravity they have put forward a new theoretical model, which might prove useful for validating hypotheses about events prior to the Big Bang.  This achievement is one of the few models describing the full Einstein’s theory and not merely its greatly simplified version.

Some red flags pop up immediately in this paragraph.  The Big Bang was supposed to represent the beginning of spacetime itself.  By definition, nothing happened “before” it.  And if a “theoretical model…might prove useful for validating hypotheses,” at what point does this become a scientific activity?
    The article goes on to boast about how Lewandowski and others are trying to unify relativity with quantum gravity, a long-standing wish by cosmologists who have not been able to figure out how these “mutually exclusive” theories, both validated by experiment, can be simultaneously true.  To get there, Lewandowski had to invoke a theoretical fabric of quantum threads so small 1066 would fit in a square centimeter.  Obviously such entities will not be amenable to observation any time soon.
    Lewandowski explained that he still keeps the flow of time beginning at the Big Bang: “It is worthy of note that time is nonexistent at the beginning of the model,” he said.  “Nothing happens.  Action and dynamics appear as the interrelation between the fields when we begin to pose questions about how one object relates to another.”  This, however, begs the question of how the fields emerged, and whether relationships can hold outside of time.  While he is figuring this out, he admitted there is still a long way to go.  “We are curious ourselves to find out what will happen,” he said.
    Lewandowski is not the only one claiming to have insight into hidden things.  PhysOrg proudly reported, “Scientists find first evidence that many universes exist.”  One Big Bang is seeming so 1999.  “Perhaps this was the beginning of everything, but lately a few scientists have been wondering if something could have come before that, setting up the initial conditions for the birth of our universe.”  Don’t think for a minute that they are admitting the possibility of God.  They are looking at circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and calling them “bruises” in our universe from bumps by other universes.  Again, though, “The researchers emphasize that more work is needed to confirm this claim,” the article admitted.  Readers might recall that Roger Penrose last month offered a proposal to detect a multiverse (see 11/28/2010 and PhysOrg; see also “Multiverse Explanations Are Fashionable, If Not Justifiable,” 02/22/2010).
    Whatever “happened” before, if such a concept has any meaning, what happened after is surprising.  Space.com continued another theme prominent within the last decade: the grand finale came first.  “Whopping Celestial Baby Boom Revealed in Early Universe” trumpeted the headline.  Observations by the Herschel Space Telescope show an “astonishing” scale and rate of star formation in the early universe (cf. 01/08/2002, 09/21/2005, 04/02/2009; but balance with 08/26/2009).  “The new glimpse of such a productive early universe – seen as it looked 3 billion years after the Big Bang – may change the way scientists think about star formation.”
    Maybe they should think outside the materialistic box.  One of the leading astronomers of the 20th century died last week – Dr. Allan Sandage.  He became a theist and a Christian late in life.  Nature claimed in its obituary, “In mid-career, Allan became deeply concerned about the meaning of life.  He studied the Bible and spoke in public about science and religion as ‘two separate closets in the same house’.  In the end he highly valued Christian philosophy, but did not find faith.”  This claim by Gustav A. Tammann is contradicted by Sandage’s own words, found in an article at Leadership University, where he said, “If the world must simply be understood by a materialistic reductionalist nihilism, it would make no sense at all.  For this, Romans 1:19-21 seems profound.  And the deeper any scientist pushes his work, the more profound it does indeed become.”  In addition, an obituary in The Telegraph UK quotes him saying in 1983, “I could not live a life full of cynicism.  I chose to believe, and a peace of mind came over me.”

The equations, models and schemes of a blind man can be all self-consistent in his own imagination, without having any connection to reality (07/29/2010, 06/17/2010).  “Materialistic reductionalist nihilism” is a trap that leads to a dead end (10/05/2010).  It cannot satisfy.  It leads to a comedy of absurdities (03/19/2010).  Embrace the only world view that is not only consistent but connects with reality.  Start with that profound passage Sandage recommended (Romans 1:19-21) and continue reading from there.

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