Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Existence Of God:Mr Greene's Mass-Energy "Proof"

As I was going through the religion section of Huffington Post, I came across a piece written by a former attorney, and host of Hollywood CLOUT, Mr. Richard Greene. It is not readily apparent if Mr. Greene would call himself an atheist or an agnostic. However, the piece echoes some of the same unimpressive sophomoric rhetoric directed against theism. That’s the rub, isn't it? In many cases, when I examine atheist or secularist diatribes against God, I usually come away disappointed at the embarrassing display of crass ignorance. It is even more disappointing when you have that deadly mixture of assumed intellectual heft, arrogance, fanatical obsession with the axioms of science, crippling naturalistic assumptions, and a very poor grasp of philosophy and logic.

Greene starts out by asking whether God exists. Then he immediately tries to convey the radical idea that Albert Einstein, contrary to any proper understanding of science, had already given a scientific proof of God.

A) First of all, it is necessary to point out to him that God (at least the Christian conception of God) is not synonymous with “energy” or perhaps ‘force”. God is an incorporeal, eternal and personal being, and properly should not be addressed as though he were some reactionary and naturalistically reducible component of the universe like energy or force. Greene displays an all-too-familiar ignorance in supposing that God could be quantified or that he is composed of finite or tangible particulars. If this were not the case, he would not think that theist conceptions of God amount to some difficult-to-ascertain quantity of energy in the universe.

B) It is also useful to remind him that energy is not the same as force, in scientific terms. At best, his initial comments are scientifically imprecise. In talking about the formula E=Mc2, he betrays a fundamental misunderstanding in thinking that the formula speaks about some grand and possibly mysterious force out there. It is understandable for Mr. Greene to be awestruck by the grand majesty of the universe, or to marvel at the quirky counter-intuitive extravagance of the universe, but he does himself a disservice when he begins to imagine that being awestruck at the grandeur of the universe is a valid or rational substitute for the theist conception of God. No dice, Mr. Greene. God is not empirically reducible or scientifically verifiable. An equation establishing the similarity of matter to energy is a great scientific tool but it doesn't explain God.

C) He goes on to make the wildly misguided and profoundly unscientific claim that the equation E=Mc2 is causally potent. It is an equation he says that causes all of G_d’s earthly creation to be seconds away from complete annihilation at any moment in time, as it was the source of the secret of the power of the atom and the development of the atomic bomb” [emphasis mine]. Apart from the fact that Mr. Greene demonstrates that he understands precious little about what material sources went into the development of the atomic bomb, one also calls into question his understanding of the terms he so cavalierly throws around. The equation he bandies about is simply an equation; it is simply a symbolic representation in algebraic terms of the relationship between Matter and Energy. This equation has no creative or destructive capacity. It is simply a mathematical expression of a physical proposition; indeed on its own, it is very much like the mathematical expression of other physics terms like Energy, Force, Momentum, Torque, Speed—and thus are causally inert. Mathematical or even scientific propositions or equations do not spontaneously create or cause things in the universe. Rather they are convenient ways of expressing our understanding of the intricate interrelationships between different physical phenomena. Contrary to Mr. Greene’s claim, we are not in any peril of some equation causing or bringing about the annihilation of all creation. This represents a gross over-indulgence in fanciful unscientific language. The attempt to replace this mere scientific equation with God or to imbue the equation with divine attributes smacks of a scientistic desperation for objects of veneration; it is simply an expression of the stirrings of Mr. Greene’s numinous impulses.

D) After pontificating on the supposed potency of a mere equation [please remember that one is not contesting the veridicality of nuclear fission], it is pertinent to note that Mr. Greene fails to tell us exactly how the energy in the universe is supposed to be synonymous with God. Indeed he doesn’t even seem to notice that Einstein was not the first to propose a mass-energy relationship. All Mr. Greene seems to be able to do is to relate the fact that when you multiply the mass of matter found in the observable universe with the squared speed of light, you would have an astonishingly large figure for the energy contained in that mass. But why, you may ask, is this realization sufficient for Mr. Greene to claim a scientific proof of God? Why, you may ask, is this equation enough for Mr. Greene to dismiss or deny theist postulations about God? There is no evidence to show that the God concept is amenable to scientific adjudication at all; certainly not from this equation. It is even likely that if Albert Einstein was alive today and he read Mr. Greene’s piece purporting to replace God with E=Mc2, he would pull his already frazzled hair in consternation! Personally, I have to confess that this equation does not inspire the lavish worship that attorney Greene feels compelled to share.

E) But even if you can forgive his constant unscientific mistreatment of Energy and Force as though they are synonymous, you cannot help but feel underwhelmed at his ignorance of the fact that all matter in the observable universe is estimated to be only about 4.5% of the mass-energy density of the universe. Dark Matter accounts for 23% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe; Dark Energy accounts for the rest. Dark Matter and Dark Energy are pretty much nebulous, difficult-to-explain concepts. It is rather amusing that with just 5% of the observable universe, Mr. Greene is already tipsy with astonishment to the point that he feels he has to substitute God for Energy. How much shock is he in for when he realizes that scientists cannot yet explain the remaining 95% of this observable universe?

F) Perhaps, Mr Greene should be informed that the universe alone is grander than he had previously imagined. It is understandable that he thinks so highly of Einstein’s equation but to extrapolate this rudimentary understanding of mass-energy equivalence to the entire universe or use it to caricature a theist’s understanding of God is to provoke rip-roaring laughter. Pray tell, what will Mr Greene do when he begins to learn about even grander physical phenomena like Time, Strong Nuclear Force, Weak Nuclear Force, Electromagnetic Force, Gravity, Dark Matter or Dark Energy? Like many naturalists (if indeed he is one), he has merely demonstrated his misapprehension of the God concept. One can only conclude that gaining such knowledge would more than likely continue to augment his fastidious devotion to a naturalistic framework.

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  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who does knows what they're talking about on the internet. You automatically know how to bring an issue to light and make it distinguished. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.