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Astronomer Hugh Ross on degrees of certainty in science

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How to Understand the Degree of Certainty in Key Discoveries

An international team of astronomers has recently determined the rate of expansion for the universe based on studies of HII regions (star-forming gaseous nebulae) in 69 galaxies over a broad range of distances. This seems to be a straightforward scientific determination, but it is loaded with philosophical implications. Here’s why: Since the cosmic expansion rate measured is at least approximately constant, the inverse of that rate: (1) establishes that the universe had a beginning, (2) yields the amount of time that has transpired since the cosmic beginning, and (3) implies that a cosmic Initiator must exist to have set the cosmos in motion.

Thus, if we can put confidence in the astronomers’ measurement, we will have strong scientific corroboration for the biblical view of creation. So just how much confidence can we place in it? How do we determine that?

Before putting any long-term confidence in a scientific discovery, one should always look for corroboration. Has any other independent research team, using different detection equipment and/or different detection methods, confirmed the result? Is the result confirmed both by observations over time and by experiments? Is there a theory that successfully integrates and explains all the observations and experiments?

Personally, I do not put a lot of confidence in a scientific result unless it has been established by experiments, observations, and theory, and I see consistency among all the observations and experiments. In addition, I expect to see the results becoming progressively better as the error bars, both random and systematic, shrink. More.

Curious that so many people who think themselves more “scientific” are reduced to campaigning against falsifiability in science.

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See also: Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train

and

Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.

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5 Replies to “Astronomer Hugh Ross on degrees of certainty in science

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    This might sound like a ridiculous or even incoherent question, but I’ll ask it anyway: What precisely does it mean to say the universe had a beginning?

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    daveS:

    Isn’t the answer to your question this: it didn’t always exist.

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    Thanks for the response, PaV. My question then becomes, what does it mean to say the universe didn’t always exist?

    To me this would mean that we could identify a point in time when there was no universe. But I don’t think I can do that. When was this? If I simply say that there was no universe 20 billion years ago, I am quite possibly talking nonsense—referring to points in time more than about 14 billion years ago could be meaningless.

    Here’s a mathematical analogy: consider a point tracing out a path on a number line, with position t at t units of time, where t > 0. The point moves very slowly to the right at constant speed, currently with coordinate approximately 13.8.

    However, the point’s trajectory had no “beginning”. Rather, if you identify any point on that trajectory, you can always look farther back in time, so to speak, when the point was a bit to the left of its current position.

  4. 4
    cantor says:

    3 daveS December 2, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    what does it mean to say the universe didn’t always exist?

    To me this would mean that we could identify a point in time when there was no universe.

    .

    There’s your problem right there. You can’t “identify a point in time” before time itself began.

    .

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    cantor,

    Yes, that’s part of what I’m saying. And maybe we can’t even identify a “first” point in time, which is what my mathematical analogy addresses.

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