Of Deities and Rubbish

I’ve claimed that there is no scientific basis for the existence of deities, but this assertion has been attacked as being “unscientific.” An endless number of philosophical tomes have debated whether or not one can prove or disprove the existence of a God, and have come to the conclusion that one cannot prove anything either way. The purpose of the present essay is to argue that, on the contrary, one can show that the existence of deities is unscientific.

My argument is based on only three natural forces or “laws”: Gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces, and the conservation of energy law. (There are two other forces, the “strong” and “weak” forces, but they deal with atomic nuclei. Of course, as intelligent laypersons, we can handle “strong” and “weak” forces, but it would be an unnecessary divergence to drag them into the picture.) These are universal forces and laws that hold true throughout the vast universe, and that is why we are confident that measurements made here on Earth can be applied to objects that are billions of light-years away.

With regard to gravitation, it is not necessary for me to say much because we are all expertly acquainted with it. Gravity is a wonderful example, however, of how a simple law applies to everything, small or large, in the universe. According to the gravitation law, the force of attraction between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the distance squared between their centers. Simple enough. Somehow, every object pulls on every other object, no matter where it is located. So we can have some fun with this as follows:

You and your companion each weigh 70 kilograms (154 pounds), and are 0.5 meter (20 inches) apart, center-to-center. What is the gravitational force of attraction between you and your partner (and note that this is independent of sexual orientation. This sexless essay dare not consider an embrace, but you can figure that out in your spare time.) The answer is 1.3 micronewtons (5 millionth of an ounce). Not very impressive if a sociologist is claiming that opposite sexes attract each other.

Just one more “fun” example: For once, I have to agree with the nonsensical statements that the planet Uranus has an influence on your life. We know exactly how much Uranus weighs (86.9 trillion trillion kilograms), and how much you weigh (70 kilograms), and the average Uranus-to-earth distance is 2.87 trillion meters. Substitute these values into the universal gravitation equation, and we get a force of attraction of 49 nanonewtons (177 billionth of an ounce). Perhaps this is sufficient to influence your life if you are a naïve believer in astrology (but notice that the force of attraction of your friend standing next to you overpowers Uranus by a factor of 27).

One final statement with regard to gravitation: As far as we know, forces can only travel at the speed of light. If a massive distant object blows up, the change in gravitational force is projected outward at a speed of 300 million meters/sec. Gravity waves are called gravitons. Despite valiant and expensive efforts, gravitons have yet to be detected here on Earth. Massive cosmological structures that explode are just too far away from us (perhaps fortunately). The search parallels the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. But stay tuned—literally—perhaps something will turn up as equipment becomes more sensitive.

Next, what about electromagnetic (EM) forces? This turns most people off, but it shouldn’t, because EM is just as familiar to us as gravitation. The light from the sun, radio waves, and X rays: all are examples of EM fields. But the forces are not at all obvious. Magnetic forces are familiar via the ingenious shapes that hold promissory notes against the sides of a refrigerator. Electric forces are familiar via two sheets of paper or plastic that are attracted to each other on a dry day. But what does that have to do with a ray of light?

Maxwell revealed the connection between magnetic and electric fields: A changing magnetic field generates an electric field (that’s how we get the voltage that runs our everyday world), and a changing electric field generates a magnetic field (no familiar examples available). Believe it or not, in a ray of light, we have minuscule (usually) magnetic and electric fields at right angles to each other, and at right angles to the direction of propagation. In the case of green light, the fields change at a cyclical rate of 500 trillion per second. The light propagates as the magnetic field generates an electric field that generates a magnetic field that generates … , and so forth.

Finally, consider the law of conservation of energy. It doesn’t let us get away with anything. Energy cannot be created out of nothing, and it cannot disappear. The universe contains exactly the same amount of energy now as it did 14 billion years ago. Energy is converted from one form to another in discrete units or quanta; this is the basis for quantum mechanics. The conversion includes the transformation of mass into equivalent energy units, and vice versa.

The sun exports energy in the form of light (EM) fields. Plants partially convert some of that energy into sugar (chemical energy). The sugar that we eat is partially converted into chemical energy that the muscles can use. A muscular contraction partially converts that chemical energy into mechanical energy. The word “partially” has to be used because the “left over” energy is converted into a heat form of energy (that is, the average velocity of atoms and molecules increases; if they are vibrating, they vibrate faster, and so forth).

From the conversion of energy for an electron, to the most cataclysmic explosion of a giant star, not a single quantum of energy is lost or gained. In principle, one can account for every quantum of energy. Yes, the law doesn’t let us get away with anything.

(We note that the universe is running down in the sense that other forms of energy, more and more, are converted to heat. As objects lose their EM energy via radiation into endless space, they cool off. In the end, we will be left with the equivalent of a cold cinder of coal – a fitting end to a planet that has been thoroughly plundered so that, finally, we have nothing to show for it. Actually, it is difficult to believe that space is “endless” – it must be bounded by the limits of dark matter, or the ether, or whatever. But that is another story.)

The scientific proof that there cannot be a deity is this: A deity would have to violate one or more of the above three natural forces or laws that He (or She) has presumably made. Where is the deity? How does It influence events on Earth? There is no way It can act without breaking the law! It must violate the laws of gravitation and/or electromagnetic (light) waves if It is invisible, and/or the law of conservation of energy if It moves things around without accounting for the required energy. In fact, it is starting to sound downright silly for us to even consider such possibilities. As children we wondered, with good reason, what kept the deity from falling down, or why He wasn’t visible, or why He allowed awful things to happen to good people who, ironically, believed in Him!

True believers remain, of course, unconvinced. Somehow, the deity does not have to abide by gravitation, EM, or energy restrictions. But this is exactly my point – the deity is an unscientific concept, outside the laws of science.

The Intelligent Design (ID) people say “OK, the deity has completed His work, and is no longer with us. But He did set the universe up, 14 billion years ago, and also got life started on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago.” The different time frame remains unconvincing: whenever He created the universe and life, the creation violated the scientific laws with which we are familiar today.

Which brings us to the question: What was the size of the universe when the Big Bang took place 14 billion years ago? It was a “singularity,” in effect, a point with negligible diameter. How is this possible? No problem at all for our present-day physicists: They say that the laws of the Universe were different at the time of the Big Bang. But this is a dangerous game to play. It is exactly the argument presented by the ID advocates: “The laws of the Universe were different when the Deity made the Universe.” It is a better strategy to tell the ID people that the Big Bang was preceded by the Big Crunch in a never-ending cycle; but that, too, is another story.

Oh, I almost forgot! What is the meaning of the word “Rubbish” in the title of this essay? Well, I have been criticized for over-using the word “nonsense.” If the title of this essay was “Of Deities and Nonsense,” you probably wouldn’t look at it. But “Rubbish” is different. It has a double meaning. It would be nice if the Deity did something useful, such as getting rid of rubbish. The intended meaning in this essay, however, is that the concept of deities is nonsense.

(Copyright Pending)

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