Friday, 15 July 2011

Middle For Diddle or Shifting The Evidence

One of the more amusing claims of the Abrahamic religions is that their god created the entire universe just for somewhere for its special creation, Man, to live. It’s the same anthropocentric view which the early authors of the Bible took for granted and so told stories of a creation with humans as the only important species on a world around which everything else revolved. A view regarded as ‘common sense’ even some 500 years ago, so much so that to doubt it was a heresy.

Creationists require no more evidence for this view than that these stories were eventually written down in a book. However, some of the more educated Abrahamic theists who know that science shows these stories are just that, still cling to this anthropocentric view.

These people accept the evidence of an expanding universe, that the rate of expansion extrapolated backwards shows an origin as a singularity some 13.5 billion years ago, though they like to place their god in this process as the instigator of the Big Bang. They will readily accept the evidence for expansion in the Red Shift, and of the Big Bang itself in the cosmic background microwave radiation - which is exactly as we would expect it to be if there was a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

They accept that Earth is a small planet orbiting an average star somewhere in an arm of a spiral galaxy; that this star is one of several hundred billion stars which together form just one of several hundred billion similar galaxies in a vast universe.

However, many (though it has to be said, not all) of these educated theists will point to one single fact as evidence that somehow Earth is at the centre of it all.

They will point to the fact that the Red Shift is the same in all directions and is directly proportional to the distance between Earth and the object being observed.

This, they will claim, is proof that everything is moving out from Earth equally in all directions, so Earth must be at the very centre of the Universe. Earth must occupy the very point at which the Big Bang occurred and thus occupies a very special place in creation.

So, let’s look at this claim in some detail.

Firstly, a short explanation of the Red Shift, and why it shows an expanding universe.

[Skip the next five paragraphs on the Doppler Effect if you know it already.]

The Red Shift appears to be a form of the Doppler Effect, something with which everyone will be familiar, even if they didn’t know it had a name. Everyone will be familiar with the phenomenon of the sound of an approaching train or emergency vehicle with sirens, seeming to change in pitch to a lower register as it passes.

What is happening is that sound waves are being compressed as the train or emergency vehicle is moving towards you and being stretched out as it moves away. The pitch of a sound is a measure of the wave length so peaks closer together are heard as a higher pitch than those further apart.

This is the same phenomenon by which police radar traps can measure the speed of a car by bouncing radio waves off it and measuring the change in wave length. The change in wave length is directly related to the speed of the car relative to the radar gun.

The same phenomenon is observed with all moving objects which emit or reflect electromagnetic waves, like radio waves, microwaves or light. The light emitted by an object like a star which is moving away from the observer, will have its light shifted to a lower wave length than would be the case if it were stationary relative to the observer. If it were moving toward the observer the light would be shifted toward a higher frequency.

In colour terms, a higher wave length means the light is bluer; a lower wave length means it is redder. This is the ‘Red Shift’ and how we know that, on a large scale, objects are moving away from us.

Now, on first sight this appears to confirm the anthropocentric view that we are at the centre of things since the Red Shift is the same in all directions.

However, there is one little inconvenient fact for this theory:

All the evidence shows that the Red Shift is the same for all points in the universe. It matters not where you place the observer.

So, what’s going on?

The universe is expanding, just as the Red Shift shows, but it is expanding not by all objects moving away from one another, but by the space between them increasing. This is a small but subtle difference. In fact, the Red Shift is not a true Doppler effect. The Red Shift is caused by the light having further to travel as each peak is transmitted because the space through which it is travelling has increased.

To understand this, consider dots drawn on the outside of a balloon as it is being inflated. The dots are not moving across the surface of the balloon out from some central point; rather, they are moving away from one another because the rubber between them is being stretched. And this holds true for every point on the surface of the balloon. An observer on any one spot would appear to see all point moving away at a rate which is directly proportional to their distance from the observer.

Earth is at the centre of the universe but so is everything else, because the singularity was the centre and the singularity is expanding as space is created.

The centre of the universe is all of the universe, just as it was in the singularity.

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  1. It's much easier to understand pictorially.
    Start 10 minutes in.

    By the way, this is a fantastic lecture if you haven't seen it.

  2. I second that comment. It is well worth an hour of your free time to watch that video. I was just about to post a link too (but now don't need to).

  3. I have to admit, I've never actually heard anybody use that particular argument for religion before. In fact, I find it so ludicrous I can't believe anybody actually has used it.

    Do you have a link where I can admire the abject stupidity for myself?

  4. It used to come up almost weekly on the old Compuserve Religion Forum. I've seen it once or twice here.

  5. Further.

    A Google search for "Red Shift Evidence For Creation" found these examples, amongst others:

    Both well-known Liars 4 Jesus sites set up to cash in on creationist gullible stupidity.

  6. I actually don't know whether I should laugh or cry. It's just... what.. that... what is wrong with them?

    Do you think the authors understand and are lying or just simply don't get it?

    Teh stoopid. It burns.

    1. I'd say they understand but don't want to admit it if it disproves what they've been brought up to believe.

  7. I'm sure Russell Humphreys has used this argument, the white hole cosmology guy.

  8. I've been a Christian for 30 years and I've never heard anyone use these arguments.

    1. Hi Jim

      It took me less than 10 seconds on Google to find Our galaxy is the centre of the universe, ‘quantized’ redshifts show by D. Russell Humphreys.

      There are very many more examples. I'm surprised you couldn't find them.

    2. I see I listed several more to someone else who had your difficulty a while ago. See above.

  9. Red Shift... Planets not further away but more space between them...
    After shoving the brain leak back into my ears at the utter magnificence of science, I have to admit I adore how I don't understand it. But still know it makes more sense than "God did it"


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