Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday

Today is the reason I am a Christian.
Something happened on the first Easter Sunday (AD 30 or so) that demands an explanation. Every explanation I come up with keeps coming back to the same point--something BIG happened that so changed the life of eleven demoralized disciples that they went out and changed the world.
The liberal Protestants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did their best to reconcile the science of their day with the fact of the Church. The liberal theologians had no objection to discounting any specific text of Scripture. They would have been perfectly comfortable with a humanistic explanation for anything. I have read a lot of their writings and find them ultimately unsatisfying. Their naturalistic paradigm just doesn't cover all the facts.
Perhaps they did the best they could with the science at hand. Twenty-first century science includes so many options our "modern" forbears never knew. They were hobbled by a physics in which miracles were impossible. We now are taught that nothing is impossible--its just a matter of quantum statistics. A man could walk on water if every water molecule rose to the surface at just the right moment. A man could rise from the dead if the quantum wave-function collapsed in that direction.
Given a physics which no longer rules out the story in the Gospels, what should a serious scientist make of Easter? It may be asking too much to expect him or her to dig through historical records to decide whether the eleven eyewitnesses were telling the truth about an empty tomb and a resurrected Christ.
If Christ did rise from the dead, reality should reflect it in a hundred ways that are incompatible with the merely naturalistic worldview that now characterizes science. I will be looking for those anomalies here, and invite believers and skeptics alike to help me think rigorously about the evidence for and against the resurrection.
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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Testing iPhone App


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The Punctuated Participatory Anthropic Principle

  1. John Wheeler came up with the "Participatory Anthropic Principle," in which the entire early universe expands as one vast collection of entangled particles until an "observer" becomes one of the quantum possibilities, at which point that "observer" observes itself into actuality.
  2. What Wheeler failed to note was the "petunia problem" (citing Douglas Adams in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias appear in mid-air and then crash to the ground). An "observer" can exist long enough to "collapse the quantum wavefunction" yet not be able to exist very long after that. Wheeler's original Participatory Anthropic Principle must be modified into a Punctuated Participatory Anthropic Principle ("PPAP") in light of this problem.
  3. A PPAP should leave a distinctive trail in the genome that is as recognizable as the trail a subatomic particle leaves in a bubble chamber. This is because there are two kinds of "evolution" in operation--an "observer-driven evolution" that defies all odds as it produces the most intelligent organism possible in the shortest possible time, and a random "devolution" that cascades down from these more advanced organisms.
  4. On Earth, PPAP would predict some radical anomalies in the fossil record. There should be a few impossibly advanced species very early in the fossil record, with many variations radiating out from that ancestral stock. (This goes directly against the Darwinian model of long, slow growth towards the more advanced species.)
  5. The secular scientists should be able to take the model and look for anomalies. The most obvious ones are (a) the sudden appearance of life on earth which leads some to suggest some form of panspermia, (b) the radical diversification of multicellular animal life in the Cambrian Explosion, and (c) the perplexingly early appearance of birds in the fossil record.
  6. PPAP suggests that humans are not the only intelligent life-forms in the universe. This means that even the most secular scientists might want to take a second look at the book of Genesis. Genesis 1 might not be just a man-made myth; it could contain a communication from another intelligence (whether God, "angels," "fallen angels," or extra-terrestrial biological beings). PPAP makes it possible for secular people to consider the account of Genesis 1 as reliable information about a pre-human history.
  7. When we add Scripture to this reasoning, we get more specific about what to look for in the fossil and/or DNA record. Genesis 1 tells us that flowering plants appeared before the sun (1:11), the lights in the heavens appeared for signs and seasons (1:14), and birds appeared before land animals (1:20).
  • If flowering plants appeared before the sun, they must have appeared on some other planet. This suggests that pollen grains can travel between the stars. There is very little research on this topic (it is known as "reverse panspermia"), so I can't say whether it is possible or not--just that it is a falsifiable prediction of the PPAP hypothesis.
  • If the sun, moon, and stars appeared for signs and for seasons in a PPAP universe, an "observer" probably observed them. Modern molluscs have a camera eye that is startlingly similar to the vertebrate eye. Octopi are unbelievably intelligent-- but have terribly short lifespans (one or two years). They don't leave much in the way of fossils, so we need to look at the modern DNA to hunt for an common ancestor to link the vertebrate eye with a Cambrian observer.
  • Birds are the easiest observer to find in the fossil record. Avian intelligence is very high, and bird bones are preserved often enough to suggest that dinosaurs descended from birds, not vice versa. The "birds came first" theory is based solely on fossil evidence, not any Scripture--but Genesis 1:20 fits perfectly with PPAP.