Monday, August 15, 2016

4 Big Bangs?

I’m currently reading a series of e-books by Robert Kurland, physicist and blogger at Reflections of a Catholic Scientist. The latest installment, Science Verses the Church, starts with “ways of knowing” and the limits of science, and continues on with a brief history of the Church and science and then into topics of cosmology, anthropology, evolution and much more. Each topic is presented with a plethora of perspectives from differing scientist, including the author himself, and it’s all related back to the perspective of the Church.

As is often the case, reading good books can trigger insights and connections to other related items I’ve come across in the past. Case in point is this video about 4 Big Bangs and the existence God.


Bang 1:  The Cosmological Big Bang:
This is the one you might be most familiar with. Both believers and non-believers might gladly agree that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago and that every effect must have a cause, so if there was a Big-Bang there must also have been some sort of “Big-Banger.” In other words, something outside of the known universe that was a necessary condition for the existence of the known universe. It might even be called a “creation event”. Does this prove the existence of God? I think not, but I do think it is relevant data to include in any discussion about a reality that is unconditioned by time, space, matter and energy…and what a curious thing that would be.

In his book, Robert cautions that even if the physical universe is infinite, it does not contradict Catholic teaching. “If we believe God is the author of all, a First Cause, then He can create an infinity of universes, as in the bubble universe hypothesis of Linde or in the parallel worlds given by some interpretations of quantum theory. Economy of effort is not required of God.”1


Bang 2:  The Abiogenesis Big Bang:
How did dead stuff become living stuff? No one really knows. Robert was clear about this in his book. “There are a variety of theories—one might better call them speculation—but until a model is produced that can be empirically verified, it will remain a mystery.”2

An evolutionary process of natural selection and/or survival of the fittest cannot be used to explain how the first living thing came to be. The very first cell (or proto cell) had no parent(s), no genetic ancestors to evolve from; to say it came about through the random jostling of matter and energy might be a kin to saying a running computer could come about through the random jostling of electricity and electronic parts. Whether a living cell or a computer, it’s not just a matter of the right parts being in the right physical location; the parts need to be both integrated and interdependent for anything meaningful to happen. There is no reason for a keyboard, a mouse and a screen to be carefully integrated together with software and electricity unless there was some intention behind it. Could we not say the same for the parts of a living cell?

Bang 3: The Biological Big Bang:
This is about the huge diversity of life on earth and why are there such big differences between bacteria, plants, animals and humans. An atheist might say “Evolution did it!” just as quickly and mindlessly as a Deist might say, “God did it!” Neither answer is intellectually satisfying by itself, but we can still draw some inferences from the facts.

For example, the human brain appeared on the scene in a geological instant and it seems to be evolutionary excess in terms of only needing to survive and reproduce. Bacteria, trees and chimps survive just fine on this planet. There is no need for a life form to be so much more intelligent than them, let alone a species capable of producing individuals like Newton, Einstein and Shakespeare. So what’s the real reason? Is it an intentional purpose or no purposeful reason at all?

Bang 4: The Anthropological Big Bang
Beyond being able to manipulate their environment better than any other living thing, humans are self-reflective, have free will and like to ask “why”. Besides the aforementioned, The Anthropological Big Bang is about man’s moral and aesthetic sense about the Good, the Beautiful and the True. Can all these traits be explained by merely seeking biological opportunities, or by avoiding biological dangers?

Chapter 7 of Science versus the Church is called “Who Has a Soul?” and covers the relation between soul, mind and consciousness. Perhaps one way to define having a soul might be the capacity to wonder where we came from, what will happen when we die, who or what made everything and why. Some philosophers take the materialist position that the soul is merely the brain, and the brain is just a “meat computer”.

The author takes the view of philosophers who believe that consciousness is a phenomenon that can never be fully understood scientifically because our understanding is limited by our own consciousness. There are things we cannot experience or “know” in terms of consciousness. If we cannot know it, how do we study it? If we’re born blind, we can never know what seeing color is really like, even if we know all there is to know about the physical aspects of light reflecting off matter and the physical process it would take to see it. An even better example is from an article by Thomas Nagel called “What’s it like to be a bat”. Unless you are actually a bat, you can never have the same experience as a bat using echolocation no matter how much you study sound waves as a human.3

According to the video linked above, none of these 4 Big Bangs show evidence of gradual development over time. That’s why they’re called “Big Bangs”. Since evolution does not explain them in terms of survival of the fittest with slow changes over time, what can we say about them with intellectual honesty? It doesn’t seem like a far stretch to say there must be something beyond "the physical" which caused "the physical" and that there is a purposeful design behind it. Even with no absolute empirical proof and no faith, this becomes a reasonable and responsible position to hold given all the data from all 4 Big Bangs.

Simply put, the end result is more than mindlessness can do for itself.


1. Robert J. Kurland, Top Down to Jesus Book 3, Science verses the Church (Robert J. Kurland, 2016), e-book, PDF pg. 61.
2. Kurland, Top Down to Jesus Book 3, Science verses the Church, PDF pg. 80.
3. Kurland, Top Down to Jesus Book 3, Science verses the Church, PDF pg. 105.


26 comments:

  1. Ben, thanks for looking at my eBook (or iBook). I've watched "The Four Big Bangs" and it's saying, saying very well and concisely in 5 minutes, what I was trying to say in my book. The two make a good combination, and I'm glad you pointed out the video.

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  2. Unfortunately, Dr. Kurland continues to entertain and promote things of what could have been done by God that is oftentimes akin to the Islamic ideas about God acting in arbitrary ways. He does this instead of focusing more objectively and scientifically on what God's creation actually is.

    The undeniable scientific fact for people well grounded in faith, reason, and objective science is that unless some thing or some one changes the current universe as it presently exists, it cannot be infinite as that would violate basic laws of physics that pertain to the universe (also part of God's creation). The gravitational paradox and the visual paradox (Olber's) of an infinite universe also demonstrate to scientists and others not given to silly speculations about multiverses and bubble universes that an infinite universe is simply not possible. And of course the infinite is not measurable, but Dr. Kurland and others speak about it as if it's a definite quantity, and if challenged on this as they should be, they hide behind false references to quantum physics and X hypotheses that are also mere fantasies. They never provide even a shred of evidence for their claims even though objective evidence is absolutely necessary for sound science.

    So no good comes about by pretending to apply scientific scrutiny while putting aside objective truth in order to speculate about mere fantasies that deal with what is not the case and cannot be the case as if such things may actually be possible regarding the current universe. The current universe shows no signs of arbitrarily being changed to suit the science fiction of Dr. Kurland and others who cannot accept the real limits of physics/science right before their eyes, and so by entertaining and promoting such nonsense, Dr. Kurland harms the cause of objective science and truth, and any harm to objective truth is a disservice to the Church and many souls in general who may be led astray by such speculation that disrespects the objective reality of God's creatio ex nihilo.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,
      Did you read the book?
      It seems to me that he is presenting different theories and also the problems with the theories. I don't think "presenting" is the same as "entertaining and promoting". I'm no expert, but my understanding is that although there is no observable evidence for any kind of infinite universe, some math that supports it checks out, so the theory is like a "data point" and we should be willing to at least look at all data points.

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    2. Hi, Ben: My response will require 2 posts because of the character limits.

      Part 1:

      "In his book, Robert cautions that even if the physical universe is infinite, it does not contradict Catholic teaching. “If we believe God is the author of all, a First Cause, then He can create an infinity of universes, as in the bubble universe hypothesis of Linde or in the parallel worlds given by some interpretations of quantum theory. Economy of effort is not required of God.”1"


      Is your quotation above an accurate one, Ben? If so, that's all that anyone needs to understand the lack of scientific rigor employed by Dr. Kurland, and it is what I expose in my comments above. I have also read many articles by Dr. Kurland wherein he has presented the same claims, and this why I wrote that he continues to peddle some of the nonsense that he does. Sadly, given the fact that (by your own admission) you are indeed no expert, Dr. Kurland has also taken advantage of you. This is made manifest by a most unfortunate non-scientific claim you make about "some math that supports it checks out....” If you were better grounded in scientific reality, you would never make such a statement, but therein lies one of the points I have made: Kurland leads others astray by wrapping many of his claims in scientific garb that you and others blithely accept and then make similar nonsense claims despite the fact that God created this specific universe that you should appreciate as creatio ex nihilo instead of playing disrespectful games concerning God's creation by carelessly referring to some bogus requirement you made up to look at all “data points” despite the fact that such are mere fantasies with absolutely no basis in reality.

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  3. Part 2: As it is said in the scientific community, what Dr. Kurland sets forth is not even wrong...because it's mere fantasy and unsound speculation based on the granting of a false power to the measuring tool known as mathematics, but don't take my word for it. Take the word of the late, great Dr. Stanley Jaki who was easily 3 times the Catholic physicist that Dr. Kurland is. If you challenge Dr. Kurland with Fr. Jaki, he'll reply with a red herring/straw man combination wherein he will claim that he likes Jaki, but he also believes that Jaki was wrong on this or that which has nothing to do with cosmology. More importantly, Dr. Kurland never provides a refutation of Jaki's devastating critiques of many of the cosmological claims entertained and promoted by Dr. Kurland and others of like mind who sadly believe mathematical formulas may be able to create realities all their own. Do yourself a favor, and before being buffaloed any further by Dr. Kurland, read some of Dr. Jaki's works first that directly illustrate why the claims of Dr. Kurland and others of a similar persuasion are not helpful, can be harmful, and are scientific disasters. Here's a quote from a book you should get and read carefully, and if you have a hard time in grasping the quote or much of the book, perhaps Stacy Trasancos can help you out. However, most of what Jaki sets forth is fairly easily grasped by the layperson who he wrote for as his primary audience in such works:

    "...there can be no science of multiverse as long as the touchstone of science is experimental verification. For unless one universe can be observed from another (and in that case they form one Universe) it remains a sheer phantasy to speak of multiverses. Yet such a phantasy is at work, and precisely because the emergence of such universes rests on the presumption that physics can solve the problem of being coming from non-being. Mathematical theories can be worked out in such a way as to give cosmic dimensions to the game of building castles in the air. But physicists ought to remain conscious of what distinguishes them from pure mathematicians. The latter can say anything, but physicists must remain partially sane.” ( from Questions on Science and Religion, p. 77)

    Now re-read what Dr. Kurland has written and what you have also set forth, and compare it with what is set forth by the true expert above.

    You and Dr. Kurland et al. are simply Bustttedddd by Dr. Jaki, and rightly so, because the truth must prevail.

    Alas, Dr. Kurland will not accept scientific reality as Dr. Jaki did and defended most of his life, but there is still hope for you if you do indeed pick up and carefully read at least a few of the books of Dr. Jaki without being hoodwinked by Dr. Kurland in the process. In these books, objective truth is masterfully defended by the exposure of nonsense presented by scientists, including the nonsense that is presented even by well-meaning Catholics who unwittingly betray God by refusing to accept the limits of science and the reality of the single universe that God created for us to adore as part of His overall creation.

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    1. It seems you have not read the book. Perhaps you should do so before making multi-part comments. If you do, I think you’ll find that he is not cheer-leading for any type of cosmology theory (at least not in this book). What I had stated was that my understanding is that some the math works out for infinite universe theories. Maybe my understanding is wrong. Maybe you could show me where the math fails? Refer me to an article that explains it maybe?

      “…bogus requirement you made up to looking at all ‘data points’...” What makes it bogus? If there are some correct aspects to a theory then they should be discussed, even with NO experimental verification. If we ignore it, does it go away?

      I’ve read The Savior of Science by Fr. Jaki and New Proofs for the Existence of God by Fr. Robert Spitzer (more than once). I know Stacy Trasancos well. She wrote the foreword for my book coming out soon about Faith, Reason and problem solving. Part of the book is about looking at ALL data points, no matter how absurd, and the pit falls if you don’t. Perhaps you should read my book after Kurland’s?

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    2. Anonymous, I don't think you've read the book, nor even the preface. In the preface I state that nothing that science has SHOWN (that means what science has shown subjective to empirical verification) contradicts Catholic teaching.

      "With respect to discussing in the book various cosmology theories and theories for evolution, I am trying to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas Aquinas: he put forth his theological proposition with "Questiones" and "Objections" that countered these. So I have presented cosmological theories (and commentaries by philosophers and cosmologists) and attempted to show their deficiencies. I don't believe that bubble universes or multiverse of any sort are part of science since they can't be validated empirically, but...as I have said in many posts and in the book, they are mathematical metaphysics, not science. I also said in the book, that the "Big Bang" model for the birth of the Universe provides the best model with respect to empirical verification: I quote from the end of Chapter 4:
      "It seems to me that the science/physics/cosmology of creation is not altogether settled, but does show empirical evidence for a creation event, a "Big Bang": the red shift showing a universe expansion; the COBE microwave background radiation showing the burnt embers of a very initial epoch; the hydrogen/helium ratio and lack of carbon-12 in ancient (far distant) stars; the more recent B-mode COBE results showing effects of early inflation....
      Theologians seem to be wary about falling into a "God of the Gaps" pit, using the deity to explain what science cannot. That fear, I believe, is unfounded. At some point a God of the Gaps argument has to be introduced, as a prime mover, to explain why there is science illumined by mathematical theory.
      act in time? ...I'm not sure whether the theologians and scientists have improved very much, if at all, on the insights of Sts. Augustine and Aquinas. Faith and revelation give insight. The arguments of the Catechism are as forceful now as they were when first propounded by Theophilus of Antioch. And finally, we should keep in mind the aphorism of St. Thomas Aquinas: "It is not that God is irrational but that our understanding is limited.”
      And it was St. Thomas Aquinas who said we could not prove by reason that the universe is not eternal--it is an article of faith. My point then is, that God, should He or Would He, could create an eternal universe. Our faith says that He did not.

      By the way, I'm also a great, albeit discriminating admirer of Fr. Jaki and his works. I've quoted his points about the "Limits of a Limitless Science" in the book and in many posts. Nevertheless, he has a restricted view of what science about. There are fields of science--biology, geology, which are qualitative and operate by retroductive reasoning or abductive reasoning, rather than by testing controlled experiments.

      I'm curious. Are you a geocentrist? If so, then there's no point in further discussion. If you'd like to engage in further discussions please refer to what I do say, not to straw men you set up.

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    3. Part 1:

      Dr. Kurland: "Nevertheless, he has a restricted view of what science [sic] about. There are fields of science...."

      Right on cue, Dr. Kurland.


      And so yours is the straw man that I already set forth you would use, and so you have. I write specifically about Fr.Jaki the physicist/cosmologist, and you write about what you believe he knew about other fields, and you engaged in a personal invective against Fr. Jaki by criticizing him based on a reference to other fields of science wherein you merely claim he has a restricted view, etc. (Prove it), but of course all good scientists have a restricted view on the limits of science. Poor scientists believe it can do more than it can. Jaki is in the good camp here; you are in the poor camp, but it's a neat trick to suggest Jaki has a "restricted" view as if it is a negative thing based on the general connotation of the word "restricted." Nice try.

      Now for pointing out your specific errors that are prominent in chapter 4 of your book, but which I first came across when I read some of your silly articles that promote the theologically unsound oxymoron you have labeled as “mathematical metaphysics.”

      1. First, you jump from Aquinas claiming that there can be no demonstration that the world did not always exist to the false conclusion “Even though the world might be eternal.”

      Saying that one cannot demonstrate the world did not always exist is not the same thing as claiming it might be eternal. Aquinas clearly sets forth the proper theological understanding gained from Revelation that the world did not always exist, so your spin is flat out wrong.

      2. Regarding time issues, you set forth this whopper:.. whether “creatio ex nihilo” requires a beginning, an instant in time…

      This is a major violation of Theology 101 regarding the meaning of creatio ex nihilo, which must be outside any time considerations. To even consider the possibility of it “requiring a beginning” shows a complete misunderstanding of what it is and means, and if you suggest this to others, you can lead them astray regarding the proper and Catholic belief in creatio ex nihilo as being outside time.

      3. The loaf of raisin bread error: This is still maintained by many when promoting the nonsense of space-time moving beyond the speed of light while other things cannot. Those who use this example or the similar one of dots on a balloon conveniently ignore that the raisins and the dots also move with the expansion. Oops. Assume you were sitting on one of the raisins of a giant loaf of bread that is about to be baked in a fairly large room. As the bread expands, you go along for the ride and eventually smash into the room’s ceiling or one of the walls. The expansion is occurring at X speed, and since you are going along for the ride, you are also moving at or near the same speed (and you could even be jettisoned at a faster rate away from the bread). Now apply this to space objects allegedly immune from the proclaimed faster than light expansion of the universe via silly inflation that you also find favor with as will be discussed in point 4 below. As an aside, perhaps you can use a variation on this idea if you ever get pulled over for speeding. Try telling the officer that the car was traveling beyond the speed limit, but you weren’t traveling that fast as the mere driver (“raisin”), so you shouldn’t be ticketed.

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    4. Part 2:

      4. You acknowledge the lack of empirical verification for the inflationary theory, but parenthetically add that there is still some empirical verification by way of “explaining qualitatively observed cosmological features.”

      Wrong. A mere explanation or proposed explanation (still in doubt by the way) does not qualify as empirical verification. This is like claiming the math fits X proposition, and so it is the case or likely so. Such is the reality involving inflation and the alleged observations and what they mean, especially when many reports about what this or that probe allegedly revealed have to be taken back/modified a few months later when better scientists point out the flaws in such speculations that apparently don’t concern you too much since you have jumped on the bandwagon at least in part regarding the inflationary theory. Jaki can help disabuse you of your faulty notions here, but I also recommend to you an atheist friend by the name of Alexander Unzicker. Dr. Unzicker is no friend of theology, but he is at least an honest enough scientist to expose the silliness of many claims passed off as science, and his critique of inflationary theory in his book The End of Physics is devastating.

      5. “Mathematical metaphysics.” Of course there is no such thing as the oxymoronic “mathematical metaphysics," and this points to many of your errors wherein you wrongly wed two distinct things that cannot be combined. (This also smacks of/reminds me of the error known as "Transcendental Thomism" promoted by Rahner. ) Mathematics is limited to measuring material things, and there can be no metaphysical aspect to this function. As Fr. Jaki puts it, “Quantities exist in their conceptually separate domain. Powerful as quantities are, it is no more possible to derive from them a single value judgment or even a single existence statement than to obtain silk from a sow’s ear.” (from Questions on Science and Religion, p. 200)

      The alleged silk from the sow’s ear is presented by you as follows: “None of these models can be confirmed or denied by measurements. Thus they are outside the realm of science, but properly belong to the domain of mathematical metaphysics (my take).” This is sheer nonsense that does a major disservice to both mathematics and metaphysics since there is no domain of so-called mathematical metaphysics nor can there be. A mere fantasy you conjured up and actually believe to be a real thing (your take) that you foist upon unwary people like Ben who are also willing to believe in such fantasies despite their inherent disrespect for God’s creation.

      6. You write “what can we say about the temporality of God?” This is blasphemous or virtually so. Sound Catholic theology makes it clear that God exists outside of time. He does not possess an attribute of temporality which would necessarily limit his being. Of course, since you have placed an fantasy limit on metaphysics by wrongly trying to combine it with mathematics, I guess placing limits on God is a logical step down your rabbit hole, but again, what of the people you could lead astray so that they end up losing their belief in God altogether by such nonsense about His alleged temporality and limitations?

      7. You write “It seems to me that the science/physics/cosmology of creation is not altogether settled, but does show empirical evidence for a creation event, a “Big Bang….” There you go again. Science/physics/cosmology is most definitely settled here since it has absolutely nothing to say about creatio ex nihilo because it cannot ever measure the nothing.

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    5. Part 3:

      Now, anyone who is a geocentrist is foolish, but in the intellectual spirit of your question, I will now ask you a similar question: are you a lunarcentrist?

      Lastly, I apologize for claiming that Jaki was 3 times the Catholic physicist that you are. I was wrong as he was closer to being 5 times the Catholic physicist you are. With respect to your weight problem, I am sure that you and Ben can declare your actual weight is really much less than it is by devising a mathematical formula to deny the reality. Then you can happily proclaim that the math works, so the physical reality doesn't matter. Indeed, "mathematical metaphysics" might declare you only weigh 140 lbs.
      _______________________________________________________________

      Ben: You simply need to read more by Dr. Jaki and less by Dr. Kurland, and also give up on attributing to math what it does not possess in violation of the limits imposed upon it by God. Good luck.

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    6. For someone concerned with scientific rigor, you seem to draw conclusions out of thin air.

      “unwary people like Ben who are also willing to believe in such fantasies”. Where did I indicate that I believe in “mathematical metaphysics”?

      “attributing to math what it does not possess” What did I attribute? Math is math. It works out or it does not. If it does not, forget it. If it does, you might learn something from it.

      A question for you…could God create an infinite universe out of nothing (ex nihilo), or do you see that as a contradiction, like saying can God make a square triangle?

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    7. Gee, Anonymous, you are really hot under the collar and seem to have an extraordinary animus against me.

      Fortunately, I’m calling on my resources as a Benedictine Oblate (and learning from lessons prisoners I’ve mentored have given me) to try to be humble and accept rebuke in a spirit of sharing in suffering and improving my message—that there is no war between science and the Catholic Church.

      Before I respond specifically to your comments, I should note that I’m wondering about a few things. First, why “anonymous?” Are you afraid of giving your real name or a moniker that would give a clue to your identity, given the vehemence of your criticisms? I have some ideas about this, but I’ll let them lie. Second, why do you have such an axe to grind against me personally? Again, I have some ideas but I’ll not voice them.

      With respect to my standing as a physicist, I’ll say first that I am not a cosmologist. I rely on the work of George F.R. Ellis, a philosopher and Cosmologist, winner of the Templeton Prize, and his article “Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology” (see https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0602280)
      and my blog posts summarizing this. Fr. Jaki did his graduate thesis in high energy physics, and thereafter did groundbreaking work in the history of science (following Pierre Duhem), theology and the philosophy of science, also winning a Templeton Prize. However, he was not a cosmologist, so his opinions on cosmology are not based on research in that field.

      With respect to my abilities as a physicist (be it relevant or not to your criticisms), I’ll ask the reader to do a web search on the “Kurland-McGarvey Equation”—it’s nice to have a name equation that doesn’t need footnoting, and note otherwise that I had 40 years of experience doing research in magnetic resonance, MRI and biochemical and biomedical applications after my Ph.D. from Harvard-directing graduate students, sitting on review boards, etc. My interest in philosophy of science and the interface of science with Catholic teaching came late in life, after I retired (and converted to Catholicism) in 1995. Let me add that I’m making these remarks so that the reader of these comments might not think me a total dolt or fraud, as you seem to do.

      Now on to specific replies to some of your comments:
      #3. You are not correct in your objections. One is concerned with motion relative to you, the observer, sitting on a raisin or on a dot on the inflating balloon. Even though the raisin on which you’re sitting is moving, it appears stationary to you, all the other motions are relative to you and therefore appear moving away from you as the loaf or balloon expands. This is a familiar problem in freshman physics, when students are asked to calculate velocities relative to a moving vehicle.

      #2 I can’t recall where in Chapter 4 I said “Creatio ex Nihilo” requires a t=0. I mentioned that St. Augustine proposed that time began with creation. Can you cite me a theological authority that says “Creatio ex Nihilo” does not involve a beginning in time? The other alternative is that the universe is eternal and is created out of nothing. Otherwise I’m not sure I understand your criticism. God exists outside of the Universe even though he is immanent in it.

      #1 I did not intend the conclusion you drew. My point was that as Aquinas demonstrated, one cannot demonstrate by reason alone that the world / universe is not eternal. Therefore, given that God can do anything that is not logically contradictory, he could create an eternal world, as in a Middle Knowledge sense. As I said in the quote at the end of the Chapter, the interpretation theology and the history of how "Creatio ex Nihilo" came to be adopted by the Church. is one that is consistent with that from science, conforming to empirical evidence: The Big Bang.

      Both theology and science propse creation at a beginning in time. I’ll go back and try to reword that so it’s clearer. Thank you for helping me to clear up possible confusion.

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    8. With respect to your discussion about the term “Mathematical Metaphysics”, it certainly is not an oxymoron. That’s a term that contains two contradictory meanings—e.g. “wise fool”, “constructive destroyer”. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of metaphysics

      “A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysician.[4] Among other things, the metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.”


      If you search on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for articles dealing with “Mathematical Metaphysics”, there are a host that come up. If you google “Mathematical Metaphysics”, there’s a senior thesis at Carnegie-Mellon with that title.

      My point in using the term “Mathematical Metaphysics” is that the propositions are not susceptible to empirical verification or falsification (e.g bubble universes), so they are not science. These propositions do deal, as indicated in the definition above, with fundamental questions about objects and their properties, so let’s cast them into the domain of metaphysics. As with other propositions in metaphysics, they may be true, or one may hold them to be true. Since the propositions involve unusual and sophisticated mathematics, it seems natural to combine the terms and get “mathematical metaphysics”. Peter Woit, in his book “Not Even Wrong” arguing against string- and M-theory terms the math “speculative mathematics”. Maybe that would be a better term.

      You seem to have followed my blog and commented that the use of the term in several posts is objectionable. I don’t recall getting comments about such, but maybe just one more senior moment and I don’t recall your comment.

      I agree with you about the non-temporality of God. I disagree with process theologians and Teilhard de Chardin, whose Christology is temporal. But people should know about these issues and, again, in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas I have tried to put pros and cons in arguments, perhaps not as satisfactorily as I might have.

      Your comment that inflation theory removes some of the problems associated with the Big Bang does not prove inflation theory to be true is well taken, and agrees with the assessment of Roger Penrose and George F.R. Ellis. I’ll modify that section to make it clear that IBE (Inference to the Best Explanation) is not always a satisfactory mode of verification. And I have made that point in several other posts.

      Finally, thank you for your comments—I’ll try to improve the book so it meets your specifications, for those points you raise that have merit. In the spirit of St. Benedict, I'll take your unkind remarks about me, my weight and my ability as a physicist, as a much need chastisement.

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  4. One other point: you resorted to personal invective in your comment "Fr. Jaki who was easily three times the Catholic physicist Dr. Kurland is." I disagree; I weight about 240 lbs. (much overweight, alas); from pictures of Fr. Jaki I see on the internet, he seems to be a small, spare man, probably weighing no more than 160 lbs. Accordingly, I am 3/2 times the Catholic physicist Fr. Jaki was.

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    1. That's such a great comment, made my day!
      Georg

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    2. No choice. Many parts to follow:

      There is no personal animus against you, Dr. Kurland, save for a little bit regarding the cheap shots you leveled against me in the uncharitably ridiculous question about geocentrism, the false charge of using straw man arguments against you, your red herring refusals to honestly confront Fr. Jaki’s direct criticisms of the kinds of things you seem to find favor with at least to some extent, and also protesting against some of my return sarcasm with a statement of false humility about needed chastisement. What a backhanded shot that is. Moreover, who brought up his weight as a problem? You did. I merely pointed out how you could use the oxymoronic “mathematical metaphysics” to claim it is not what YOU SAID IT WAS. That was not an unkind remark about your weight which you made yourself; it was a sarcastic remark regarding how silly make-believe concepts can be used to deny reality. Also, you may have fine abilities as a physicist, but not in comparison with Fr. Jaki precisely because you fall into the kinds of traps he never did and warned against. Such things have also been exposed by Penrose and Unzicker, but you keep entertaining such possibilities. So again, you may be a fine physicist, but not nearly as fine as Fr. Jaki which is the precise point I made, but which you have attempted to alter. Talk about a straw man.
      Also, I was content with my very first post that could have led to a few shorter exchanges in accordance with a few past exchanges, but somebody by the name of Ben falsely accused me of not reading your book, etc., and not understanding your points, etc., so I was compelled to reply with more specific and lengthier criticisms to defend my own honor that Ben felt compelled to attack.
      Now my foremost concern has been and remains some of the claims you make that can be harmful, especially to the unwary and their belief in God that may not be on firm ground. My approach falls in line with the approach of Fr. Jaki who also pointed out the errors made by what he called religionists when they attempt to wed theology and/or metaphysics and physics in inappropriate ways that you continue to do and defend. The fact that you can and do lead others astray by some of your unfounded speculations that you also claim are not opposed to Catholic teaching is the source of my primary frustration and concern.
      Now to your specific replies:
      “Before I respond specifically to your comments, I should note that I’m wondering about a few things. First, why “anonymous?” Are you afraid of giving your real name or a moniker that would give a clue to your identity, given the vehemence of your criticisms? I have some ideas about this, but I’ll let them lie. Second, why do you have such an axe to grind against me personally? Again, I have some ideas but I’ll not voice them.”
      Anonymous is simple. The ideas are what matter most, not the author, but I understand the need that you and others have to set forth your names and pictures for promotional reasons, the joy in seeing your names and visages in public, and so on. Beyond that, some people also like to state and/or re-emphasize any credentials they have as if that gives them some kind of extra credibility regardless of what they might set forth that is pure nonsense. Still others like to proudly boast about their affiliations with this order or that order they belong to, etc. This is the fallacy of credentialism (more on this next when responding to yet another unwarranted cheap shot on Fr. Jaki that you make).

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    3. Part 2

      “Fr. Jaki did his graduate thesis in high energy physics, and thereafter did groundbreaking work in the history of science (following Pierre Duhem), theology and the philosophy of science, also winning a Templeton Prize. However, he was not a cosmologist, so his opinions on cosmology are not based on research in that field.”
      Good of you to tell me some things I have known about Fr. Jaki for more than 25 years. However, stating that Fr. Jaki was not a cosmologist is based on a limited application of the term “cosmologist” and the fallacy of credentialism to make your claim. First of all, what do you know about any of his research in cosmology beyond what may be published that you are aware of, or is part of a degree he achieved? In his autobiography, Jaki points out his turn toward studying and researching cosmology in the late 1960s, and he wrote many articles as well as books that addressed many aspects of cosmology. You claim that his opinions on cosmology are not based on research in that field, but it is obvious from his works that he did indeed do research in the field like many other physicists do without necessarily having their degrees designate such a specialization or conducting various tests, etc. You do the same thing, by the way, and stating that you rely on Ellis does not prevent you from making your own claims regarding cosmology. Otherwise, why write anything on the topic under your name? Just endorse Ellis and make no other claims on your own since you don’t possess the credentials you feel compelled to mention are also “lacking” in Fr. Jaki despite being in error as set forth above.

      Moreover, you also declare Ellis to be a philosopher, but since you have played the credentialism fallacy card with Fr. Jaki, what are Ellis’ credentials as a philosopher or even a cosmologist for that matter since he apparently does not possess even an undergraduate degree in cosmology or philosophy? His PhD is listed as “Applied maths and theoretical physics.” There is also nothing I have seen in his biography that sets forth any “research” in the field of philosophy, so why do you grant him the title of philosopher while maltreating Fr. Jaki by declaring him to not be a cosmologist? Fr. Jaki also possessed a PhD in theology, and just as many physicists and philosophers study cosmology, so, too, do theologians. As such, Fr. Jaki was indeed a superb cosmologist in studying the origin and development and fate of the universe from both an enhanced theological and scientific perspective. You owe him an apology for yet again attempting to diminish his credentials instead of actually engaging what he has set forth regarding cosmology. Also, when it comes to choosing one to follow when writing about Catholic Faith and Science, who would be a better guide than the man with the PhDs in physics and theology and was also a faithful Catholic priest? For theology alone, is it wiser to select a faithful Catholic priest or go with known dissenters like Rahner and Schillebeeckx? 
      Oh well. If you are still going to insist on people possessing X credentials that meet with your standard of approval, then you might not want to listen to anything Bill Gates might have to say about computers since he left college after his freshman year.

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    4. Part 3

      “#3. You are not correct in your objections. One is concerned with motion relative to you, the observer, sitting on a raisin or on a dot on the inflating balloon. Even though the raisin on which you’re sitting is moving, it appears stationary to you, all the other motions are relative to you and therefore appear moving away from you as the loaf or balloon expands. This is a familiar problem in freshman physics, when students are asked to calculate velocities relative to a moving vehicle.”
      Incredible, and not even wrong. You completely missed my point on this, but thanks for the cheap shot regarding freshman that perhaps you have unfortunately encountered. With more and more such cheap shots, your claims to being otherwise humble, etc. look to be more and more suspicious, and you may have to leave the order you bragged about belonging to above.
      The point I made about the raisin or dots is not about the relativity of motion, for crying out loud. It has to do with the claim of inflation wherein it is stated that space can move beyond the speed of light, but the objects in space were somehow immune from the effects of inflation and miraculously did not move beyond the speed of light during inflation, which would violate a basic law of physics if they did so move. Let me try again with this variation: place an uninflated balloon at the top of a pump. Now place a dot on what appears to be the top of the balloon as you place it directly on top of the pump (or sit on top of the balloon yourself and see what happens to you). Now turn on the pump. Assume you can inflate it faster than the speed of light at the rate suggested by inflation. Such a silly assumption is okay when talking about the nonsense of cosmic inflation. The dot will also move beyond the speed of light (at least initially), and therein lies another problem with the claims of inflation that conveniently remain beyond any kind of observation or legitimate experimentation, yet too many scientists and others continue to make the laughable claims that this or that probe finding “is consistent with the claims of inflation.”

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    5. Part 4

      “#2 I can’t recall where in Chapter 4 I said “Creatio ex Nihilo” requires a t=0. I mentioned that St. Augustine proposed that time began with creation. Can you cite me a theological authority that says “Creatio ex Nihilo” does not involve a beginning in time? The other alternative is that the universe is eternal and is created out of nothing. Otherwise I’m not sure I understand your criticism. God exists outside of the Universe even though he is immanent in it.”

      This is what I actually wrote in my previous comment:
      “1. Regarding time issues, you set forth this whopper:.. whether “creatio ex nihilo” requires a beginning, an instant in time…

      This is a major violation of Theology 101 regarding the meaning of creatio ex nihilo, which must be outside any time considerations. To even consider the possibility of it “requiring a beginning” shows a complete misunderstanding of what it is and means, and if you suggest this to others, you can lead them astray regarding the proper and Catholic belief in creatio ex nihilo as being outside time.”
      The statement by you which I quoted is found in section 4.2.2. I guess you need more of it, so here it is:

      “I should briefly comment about the forms ‘time’ might take in a cosmological description of the evolution of the universe, and whether ‘creatio ex nihilo’ requires a beginning, an instant in time….”

      Now observe the unjust shift in your characterization of my statement by the following: “Can you cite me a theological authority that says ‘Creatio ex Nihilo’ does not involve a beginning in time?”
      Note the shift from “requires a beginning, an instant in time” to “…does not involve a beginning in time.”
      Creatio ex nihilo of course means creation out of nothing or non-being, and apparently it is now necessary to emphasize that it is an act of God. It could indeed manifest itself in time, but this is far removed from considering the possibility as you do in the cited section that it might require a beginning, which is a temporal limitation that does not pertain to God. Hopefully you appreciate that nothing is non-being.
      And then another theological whopper which follows your basic misunderstanding provides another misunderstanding via the following to complete a kind of Hobson’s choice:

      “The other alternative is that the universe is eternal and is created out of nothing.”
      Perhaps by now you already see the error of the false either-or option you propose. That the universe is eternal and created out of nothing is NOT the other alternative to falsely limiting an act of God to “requiring” a beginning in time. God alone is eternal. The universe is not, but it is created out of nothing outside of any time considerations since, once again, God acts outside of time.
      Next, when it comes to immanence, you need to be much more careful than your theologically misleading statement that “God exists outside of the Universe even though he is immanent in it.”
      Thankful for at least small accuracies, you got the first part right, but when it comes to God’s immanence, your statement about “immanent in it” is consistent with the pantheistic notion that God is present and operating in the universe, which is wrong. The proper understanding of God’s immanence is that His essence interpenetrates all created beings, and this complements His transcendence.

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    6. Part 5

      Now for some more applicable insights from Fr. Jaki:
      “Creation, unless it is a mere play with words, such as the ‘creation’ of a new pair of jeans, has to be creation out of nothing.” (from “Questions on Science and Religion, p. 60)

      “Therefore the transition from non-being into being is not the business of physical science or any science which deals with measurements.” (from “Questions on Science and Religion, P. 67)
      _____________________

      Absolutely all acts of God do not and cannot require any beginning or any other time element, so again, to even suggest such a possibility is a significant misunderstanding of Catholic Theology regarding the nature of God and all of his actions, which obviously include his action known as creatio ex nihilo.
      A good source to assist you in this regard is Ludwig Ott’s monumental “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.” In early chapters that discuss God’s attributes, you will find many De fide statements concerning God’s absolute infinity, which includes the notion of being uncircumscribed in any way. If His act of creation required a beginning in time, He would thus be circumscribed. Also note that God is absolutely immutable. He cannot change. If the act of creation out of nothing required a beginning in time, this would make Him mutable. And of course, God is eternal, which means without beginning and without end,…AND without succession in a constant undivided now. Once more, if His act of creation out of nothing required a beginning in time, say goodbye to the attribute of being without succession in a constant undivided now.

      And finally, “All that exists outside God was, in its whole substance, produced out of nothing by God.” (De fide)
      Since ALL is so produced, time is not even a consideration. Hopefully, with so many legitimate things to consider or speculate about, you will no longer entertain and present this particular theological error about God and time unless you want to clearly set forth that anyone who so speculates is seriously barking up a wrong tree that fails to appreciate the attributes of God and the manner in which God acts.
      My statements above cover much of what you have wrongly repeated in a few of your follow-up paragraphs that basically make the same error a couple of times regarding how God acts. For a more detailed criticism, see Fr. Jaki’s “Questions on Science and Religion,” especially chapter 4: “In the Beginning?”, chapter 5: “In One Big Bang?”, and chapter 6: “Out of Nothing?”

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    7. Part 6: Grand Finale

      “With respect to your discussion about the term ‘Mathematical Metaphysics’, it certainly is not an oxymoron. That’s a term that contains two contradictory meanings—e.g. ‘wise fool’, ‘constructive destroyer’.”

      Actually, the term I used in a previous post of this current exchange is the somewhat broader oxymoronic, which means in the manner of an oxymoron, but in any case, note the following:

      Alas, you simply fail to see the 2 contradictory meanings in the goofy term “Mathematical Metaphysics.” As you rightly point out, the basic meaning of oxymoron is a term which contains 2 contradictory meanings, and it is good to read that you have apparently just achieved this understanding so you wanted to share your newfound knowledge. But you should also know that an oxymoron can consist of incongruous terms that are not necessarily contradictory per se, so be sure to add this to your appreciation of the term and not limit your understanding by the basic meaning you set forth. What you also need to do is go a bit deeper into Catholic theology and philosophy (as Fr. Jaki did, by the way, because he fully respected the need for accuracy when pronouncing on such things), and use some extrapolation to see why “mathematical metaphysics” is indeed oxymoronic and should not even be considered by a Catholic physicist in any context or speculation. Meaning well as you do is not enough. You make too many theological errors, and that’s harmful. A more intense reading of more of Jaki’s works, the basics of Catholic theology and philosophy with some additional guidance by the likes of Gilson, Maritain, Glenn, Gornall, and Pieper could help you avoid such mistakes, which would then add more value to your works in presenting the truth.

      And when it comes to the truth, the more scholarly and Catholic understanding of metaphysics as opposed to the secular ones you reference should be preferred. This being the wisest course to follow, I will turn to Aquinas once again. In the prologue to his commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Aquinas points out that metaphysics can be defined as that which is separate from matter. In this regard, it differs entirely from mathematics which has as its proper object that which is material or physical.

      In fine, mathematics has nothing whatsoever to do with metaphysics, and metaphysics has nothing whatsoever to do with mathematics.

      As such, mathematics and metaphysics are incongruous to each other, and so “mathematical metaphysics” is indeed oxymoronic just like “material metaphysics” or “physical metaphysics” are oxymoronic. Mathematics and metaphysics are in completely separate domains so accepting this notion as having any kind of legitimacy plays right into the hands of many who seek to insert mathematics into the realm of metaphysics. “Quantum metaphysics” is a particularly noxious oxymoronic term that is a close cousin to “mathematical metaphysics.”

      “Speculative mathematics” would indeed be a better term so long as it is not used as a means to infiltrate metaphysics in any way.

      So if you truly want to do things in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, enhance your knowledge of sound Catholic theology and philosophy, and avoid even entertaining nonsense wrapped in bogus scientific, philosophic, or theological clothing. I know a great place to start: Most of the works of Fr. Stanley Jaki.  Not just a few of them.

      But do also get a copy of Unzicker’s “The End of Physics.” He will probably irritate you quite a bit with his occasional atheistic musings, but his criticisms of physics and cosmology are worth reading, and you will find much benefit to aid your own work pertaining to the limits of science.

      May the Good Lord bless you with an abundance of Solomonic Wisdom to properly defend Him and His creation.

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    8. Correction to my previous post of 8/19:

      The title of Unzicker's book is "Bankrupting Physics."

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  5. I had early promised to reply to any more of your comments, "Anonymous", but I do have to rise to the defense of Professor Ellis. I'll quote from the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on him:
    "George Francis Rayner Ellis, FRS, Hon. FRSSAf, (born 11 August 1939), is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, published in 1973, and is considered one of the world's leading theorists in cosmology.[1] He is an active Quaker and in 2004 he won the Templeton Prize.[2] From 1989 to 1992 he served as President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. He is a past President of the International Society for Science and Religion. He is an A-rated researcher with the NRF." (The FRS means "Fellow of the Royal Society".)

    If you read further in the article you'll see that he has over 500 papers published, in addition to many books, and these deal either with cosmology, physics or science and religion. See also https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Biography.php?ID=31;
    so he qualifies as an expert in cosmology in my opinion, and in philosophy.

    As long as I'm writing I'll make one other correction: the raisin loaf or balloon analogy does apply to a view of the expanding universe relative to a local site. In the context used in the book and in the web reference to which I referred there was no mention of inflation--that issue is extraneous.

    Thank you for your good wishes. I trust they are sincere. And this will be the last comment in reply to yours, "Anonymous". "This bear of little brain" is saturated and has other works to do.

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  6. Gee, I thought I was finished with this and would not reply to further comments of "Anonymous", but I have to rise to the defense of Professor Ellis as a working and eminent cosmologist. Here's the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on him:

    "George Francis Rayner Ellis, FRS, Hon. FRSSAf, (born 11 August 1939), is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, published in 1973, and is considered one of the world's leading theorists in cosmology.[1] He is an active Quaker and in 2004 he won the Templeton Prize.[2] From 1989 to 1992 he served as President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. He is a past President of the International Society for Science and Religion. He is an A-rated researcher with the NRF." (FRS means Fellow of the Royal Society.) See also
    https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Biography.php?ID=31

    While I am at it, I'll defend also that validity of the raisin-loaf analogy for the expanding universe. Nowhere in the context of that example in my book was the issue of inflation raised, nor in the web reference which I cited for the example. So inflation is a "red herring" and the physics, as applied to looking at velocities relative to an observer, is correct.

    Thank you for your good wishes and the same to you. I'll refer you to the Rules of St. Benedict as reading which might enlarge your horizons. And now this "bear of little brain" is going to sign off--enough already, no more replies to your extended comments, "Anonymous", I have other things to do.

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  7. Thanks, Dr. Kurland. I also plan to wrap this up after I make a few concluding remarks to defend myself and what I actually set forth, much of which you still seem unwilling to engage without twisting it into a straw man you can easily knock down, which is most unfortunate.

    1. Ellis as a cosmologist is quite good at times, and he has written some good things on cosmology (though there are a few noticeable flaws in some of his musings), but note the actual context in which I point out that you grant him the title of "philosopher" with no background in same based on the credentials you insist must be there for Jaki to be considered a cosmologist. As for being a cosmologist, I simply point out that based upon the background you mention about Jaki, Ellis' degrees, etc., would also not qualify him for the title. However, I accept that he is a cosmologist even if his PhD work was not in cosmology. Once again, you take what I actually set forth, ignore much of it, set up a straw man, and then proceed accordingly.

    For anybody looking at the works of both men, Jaki is easily much more the cosmologist than Ellis is the philosopher. You don't have to publish X amount to be an expert, etc., but even so, look at the hundred or so articles published by Jaki and the books he has written that include many insights into cosmology. Even if this does not technically permit the title of “cosmologist” granted by you, others will see that Jaki was indeed a cosmologist, and at the very least in the manner that you grant the title of “philosopher” to Ellis. Bottom line: Fr. Jaki's background and many scholarly studies on cosmology make him a cosmologist.

    2. Once again, check what I actually write about inflation from my first comment and the following ones. The comments come about because of favorable statements you make about the theory in section 4.2.6 of your book (contrary to your claim, the problems have not been “largely dealt with” by the nonsense of inflation), a bogus claim at the end of the third paragraph of section 4.4.3, and elsewhere. I point out the utter silliness of the inflation theory (Dr. Unzicker crushes it in his book) that you still entertain as a possibility even though you have rightly mentioned that it can't be measured or scientifically observed, etc. Holding onto this nonsensical unscientific theory even a little bit, and also publishing even marginally favorable things about it is a very sad disservice to the Truth. Oh well. Also, you once again make the point about looking at velocities relative to an observer, but that was not and is not my point as is clearly stated in my previous comments. As such, yours is the red herring you complain about, just like the false charge you leveled against me that I criticized you about your weight when it was you who did so about yourself, and I used sarcasm regarding the use of the oxymoronic "mathematical metaphysics" (which I hope you now understand is indeed an oxymoronic term based on a true understanding of metaphysics, etc.) so you could merely declare the weight you complained about possessing as being considered less than the reality. In any case, if it is a problem for you, I hope you get it under control soon.

    Lastly, I do hope that you (and others) will look even more into the works of Fr. Jaki for greater guidance regarding faith and science, you read Unzicker's "Bankrupting Physics," and you use even more Catholic theology than you already have, plus you add the works of Thomistic philosophers like Gilson and Maritain and others previously mentioned in order to obtain a stronger grasp of metaphysics and the meaning of creatio ex nihilo and how God acts. All that this will likely do for you is make you a better Catholic Physicist/Cosmologist. Not a bad result, that.

    Dominus vobiscum

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  8. Seems like a rather lot of convoluted navel gazing in both the article and comments. When faced with these combination natural/supernatural propositions which seem to be directed at no definitively satisfactory conclusion, I always remember the words of Albert Einstein: God does not play dice with the universe. I expect neither science nor theology to come up with answers to these questions in my lifetime or possibly never but I do recognize that the store of knowledge on these matters increases as time passes and we should probably be satisfied with that for now.

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