jcr4runner wrote:Atheism Hits a Brick Wall:
The First Law of Thermodynamics
By Chuck Missler (From his Book "The Creator Beyond Time and Space")
The First Law of Thermodynamics asserts that matter or its energy equivalent can neither be created nor destroyed under natural circumstances.1 One of the logical outcomes of this law is that there is no new matter or energy appearing anywhere in the universe, nor is there any matter being annihilated. All matter and energy in the universe is conserved. Consequently, this law is often referred to as the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy. Although matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can be converted from one state to another, i.e. from a liquid to a gas, liquid to solid, solid to gas. The overwhelming experience of experimental physics confirms this First Law to be a fact. As we shall see, this law has enormous implications regarding the origin of matter in our universe.
Protons are positively charged particles which reside in the nucleus of every atom. Each proton consists of a least three quarks. For decades it was assumed that protons were eternally stable. However, physicists now believe that quarks decay into antiquarks, pions and positive electrons, and electromagnetic radiation.2 This decay process occurs at a rate of only once per proton per 1032 years. Consequently, since this process is irreversible, all the atoms in the universe will eventually decay into irretrievable matter. Even though this process of decay will take an enormously long period of time, it is not infinite.
Cosmic Evolution and the First Law
Skeptics often scoff at the biblical creation account because it invokes a supernatural event for the origin of time, space, and matter. Yet, if we search the field of cosmology in the last one hundred years we find that the theories on the "natural" (as opposed to supernatural) origin of matter are few and far between. There are only two options for the origin of matter: it is either eternal or it appeared at a finite point in the past. With the elucidation of the First Law of Thermodynamics the implications of this debate, as we will see, have been clearly defined.
Faced with the evidence of a finite, expanding universe, cosmologists began to look for a way to salvage the existence of an eternal universe. In the 1940's Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold and Fred Hoyle proposed a mechanism that would allow the expanding universe to still be infinitely old3,4 This model for the universe, called the "Steady State Model," asserts that as the universe expands, hydrogen atoms arise spontaneously from nothing in the deep recesses of space. The result is that the universe appears about the same (in a "steady state") in all ages.
In the last forty years this model for the universe has been discredited by a number of scientific discoveries. The first of these has to do with the age of the galaxies. If the universe is infinitely old then we should expect to find galaxies of all ages. However decades of observations reveal that all the visible galaxies in our universe are "middle aged." Secondly, there is no physical (natural) mechanism for the spontaneous origin of hydrogen atoms. In fact, hydrogen atoms have never been observed to appear spontaneously anywhere in the universe.5 Thirdly, Isaac Newton's Law of Inertia declares that a body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. In the Steady State Model there is no mechanism to explain the motion of the galaxies.
The First Law of Thermodynamics is called a "law" because within the bounds of scientific observation it has been proven true beyond all reasonable doubt. In effect, the First Law states that you and I can neither create nor destroy matter. Therefore, it follows that if something which exists (you and I) cannot create matter, then something which doesn't exist cannot create it either!
Matter cannot create itself and, in the real world, cannot arise from nothing. Within the bounds of natural law all effects must have a cause.6 Because of this fact, the spontaneous appearance of hydrogen atoms out of nothing (ex nihilo creation) is a definite breach of the First Law of Thermodynamics which asserts that matter, under natural circumstances, can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, since it is not a natural event, it is by definition a supernatural event-a miracle! This is, we believe, a rather weak starting point for a materialistic scenario to begin.
To avoid this conclusion, a number of physicists have proposed that the laws of physics are different elsewhere in the universe.7 However, this assertion is not supported by even a shred of scientific evidence. Such appeals reveal the lengths that some will go to avoid a finite beginning for the universe.
Since matter is not eternal, we are left with only one option- it arose out of nothing at a finite point in the past! Ironically, the scientific materialist who argues that all matter in the universe arose out of nothing is in agreement with the biblical creationist. However, biblical creationists readily admit that the appearance of matter out of nothing was a miracle, performed by a "First Cause" that transcends the physical universe. The scientific materialist, who believes, as Carl Sagan does, that "the Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be," is forced to conclude that the Cosmic egg arose from nothingness apart from any causal agent.
The atheist immediately protests, "If God made the universe then who made God?" The Bible indicates that God is an eternal, transcendent Spirit.8 Consequently, because time is itself a physical property of the universe which God created, then questions about God's origin are meaningless. This is because God existed before time and He is, therefore, not subject to time-bound concepts such as birth and death. He is outside of time!
Furthermore, because God always existed prior to the creation of the universe and the laws by which it is governed, He is not subject to them either. This means that God was never "young" nor is He aging as dictated by the Second Law. He is outside of our space-time domain and outside of the aging effects altogether.
At the beginning of the atheist's scenario, there is an equally difficult question. "Who or what made that ball of matter that exploded in the Big Bang?" The answer is that the Cosmic Egg made itself, which is impossible on the basis of natural law.
So at the beginning of each model of origins we have unanswerable questions. Atheists may then argue that they are equal starting points. But are they?
The creationist's model begins with an infinitely intelligent, omnipotent, transcendent Creator who used intelligent design, expertise or know-how to create everything from the sub-atomic particles to giant redwood trees. Was it a miracle? Absolutely!"In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter)" (Genesis 1:1).
The atheist's model begins with an even more impressive miracle - the appearance of all matter in the universe from nothing, by no one, and for no reason. A supernatural event. A miracle! However, the atheist does not believe in the outside or transcendent "First Cause" we call God. Therefore, the atheist has no "natural explanation" nor "supernatural explanation" for the origin of space-time and matter. Consequently, the atheistic scenario on the origin of the universe leaves us hanging in a totally dissatisfying position. He begins his model with a supernatural event. This supernatural event, however, is accomplished without a supernatural agent to perform it.
According to ekpyrotic theory, the Universe has always existed and the matter in the observable Universe was created by a collision with another Universe. If true, this will, of course, preclude the existence of God, since a Universe that's always existed can't have a creator!
With respect to the Big Bang Theory, here's an excerpt from an article I found online at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html : The simple statement "something can not come out of nothing" is, in itself, not very convincing. From quantum field theory, we know that something does indeed come from nothing: to wit, "vacuum fluctuations". In the simplest case, an electron, a positron and a photon can appear effectively out of nowhere, exist for a brief time and then annihilate, leaving no net creation of mass or energy. Experimental support for this sort of effect has been found from a number of different experiments. See, for instance, the Wikipedia page for the Casimir effect.
The common point for all of these effects is that they do not violate any known conservation laws of physics (e.g., the conservation of energy, momentum, and charge). Something can indeed come out of nothing as long as these conservation laws permit this. But people often argue that the Big Bang theory violates the conservation of energy (which is essentially the first law of thermodynamics).
There are several valid counterarguments against this: first, as already pointed out, the BBT is not about the origin of the universe, but rather its development with time. Hence, any statement that the appearance of the universe "out of nothing" is impossible has nothing to do with what the BBT actually addresses. Likewise, while the laws of thermodynamics apply to the universe today, it is not clear that they necessarily apply to the origin of the universe; we simply do not know. Finally, it is not clear that one can sensibly talk about time "before the Big Bang". "Time" is an integral part of our universe (hence the GR term "spacetime") - so it is not clear how exactly one would characterize the energy before and after the Big Bang in a precise enough way to conclude it was not conserved.
Assuming we have some way to handle notions of time outside of our spacetime, the universe appearing out of nothing would only violate the first law of thermodynamics if the energy beforehand were different from the energy afterwards. Probably all people will agree that "nothingness" should have an energy of zero; so the law is only violated if the energy of the universe is non-zero. But there are indeed good arguments that the energy of the universe should be exactly zero!
This conclusion is somewhat counter-intuitive at first sight, since obviously all the mass and radiation we see in the universe has a huge amount of associated energy. However, this tally ignores the gravitational potential energy within the universe. In the Newtonian limit, we can get a feel for this contribution by considering the standard example of a rocket leaving the Earth, with a velocity great enough to "escape" from its gravitational field. Travelling farther and farther away from the earth, the velocity of the rocket becomes smaller and smaller, going to zero "at infinity". Hence the rocket has no energy left "at infinity" (neglecting its "rest energy" here, which is irrelevant for the argument). Applying conservation of energy, it follows that the energy of the rocket was also zero when it left Earth. But it had a high velocity then, i.e., large kinetic energy. It follows that the gravitational potential energy it had on the Earth was negative. For another explanation, see e.g. this post about Negative gravitational energy.
In a Nature article in 1973, E. Tryon sketched an argument that the negative gravitational potential energy of the universe has the same magnitude as the positive energy contained in its contents (matter and radiation), and hence the total energy of the universe is indeed zero (or at least close to zero).
Part of the difficulty here is that the concept of "gravitational energy" is essentially a Newtonian one. In GR, the principle of equivalence makes defining a gravitational energy that will be coherently viewed from all frames of reference problematic. Likewise, the idea of the "total energy of the universe" is difficult to define properly. Misner, Thorne and Wheeler (one of the standard texts on GR) discuss this at length in chapter 20 of their book.
Another approach is Wald's "Hamiltonian" or "Hamilton function" for GR as derived in his GR text. In classical physics, this function can (almost always) be interpreted as representing the total energy of a given system. Using this formalism, Wald shows that, for a closed universe, the Hamiltonian is zero. Similar arguments can be applied to the same effect for a flat universe, although for an open universe the formulation for the Hamiltonian ends up ill-defined.
Other efforts to deal with conservation of energy in GR have used so-called "pseudo-tensors". This approach was tried by Einstein, among many others. However, the current view is that proper physical models should be formulated using only tensors (see again Misner, Thorne and Wheeler, chapter 20), so this approach has fallen out of favor.
However, this leaves us with something of a quandary: in the absence of a proper definition of gravitational potential energy, the law of conservation of energy from classical mechanics clearly does not hold in GR. Thus, for any theory based on GR, like BBT, conservation of energy is clearly not something that can be held against it. Hence, the first law of thermodynamics argument becomes moot. For a more detailed discussion along these lines, see this FAQ page on energy conservation in GR.