Uneducated people at church led to my crisis of faith

One fact which cosmology has shown us is that the universe simply could not be any smaller than it is, for us to survive in it. The universe has to be this big, even if it had only a single living species. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

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Maybe Earth and humanity and the dimensions we perceive and understand are not the only interesting things God has going on in creation.

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What is your field?

Plant physiology

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Thank you. As was already mentioned, it some sense the universe had to be very large. Roughly the argument is that the same baryon density needed to account for the formation of stars and galaxies results in a large (i.e., when compared to our solar system or even our galaxy) universe. I’m a nuclear physicist, not a cosmologist, so I don’t know on how firm a foundation that argument rests–perhaps someone more knowledgeable can chime in.

Let me start here. God intended the earth to be filled with life; Isaiah 45:18 says He ‘formed it to be inhabited’. In Genesis 1:11-26, having filled the earth with plant and non-human animal life, God had not yet completed His work. It was only when man and woman were formed that God declared creation ‘very good’ (verse 31), and ceased.

Most importantly, Genesis 1:26 tells us God formed a highly specific kind of life, a man and woman in His own image and likeness. The Hebrew here is typically understood as a reference to God deliberately creating individuals as His counterparts in some way; they correspond to Him at least in terms of their ability to reflect His thoughts and emotions, and communicate effectively with Him.

Many passages of Scripture (especially Hebrews 12:71-11), indicate God desired a parent-child relationship with these individuals, involving them learning through the natural process of hardships and discipline a father permits and exercises in order to develop optimally his children’s character. Adam and Eve’s testing in Genesis 3 supports this, also demonstrating God wished His children to be free moral agents developing their own consciences, as they chose to obey or disobey His commandments.

These passages identify the constraints operating on God’s choice of creation: a universe capable not only of supporting simple life, but of supporting complex, intelligent life; independent moral agents able to reflect His character, comprehend and communicate with Him, and develop their own conscience; children whose character would be developed by the challenge of struggle and discipline.

Such a form of life requires extremely specific environmental conditions, not only on a terrestrial scale, but on a cosmic scale. It has been argued by a number of scientists that intelligent life actually requires a universe with at least three dimensions, ordered as our universe is.

‘It seems clear that life, at least as we know it, can exist only in regions of space-time in which three space and one time dimension are not curled up small.’, Hawking, ‘A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes’ (1988), 182.

The argument is restated here.

‘Hence intelligent life can arise only if gravity has the l/r or l/r2 form, and so, if gravity and dimensionality connect as Kant claimed, intelligent life can exist only if space has two or three dimensions.’, Hugget, Everywhere and Everywhen: Adventures in Physics and Philosophy (2010), 54; Hugget disputes this argument, which he cites from cosmologist Gerald Whitrow and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

More than three dimensions, and gravitational forces would be inadequate for the solar systems necessary to support intelligent life.

‘If the universe were to hold more than three space dimensions, the gravitational force would not be such as to allow stable orbits of planets about a sun and the constant temperature required for life.’, Adair, The Great Design: Particles, Fields, and Creation (1989), 367.

Less than three dimensions, and the neural and circulatory systems necessary specifically for human life, could not exist.

‘The end result of this complex network is a nervous system that is sufficiently complex to support the existence of intelligent life. However, had space possessed only two spatial dimensions, these complex neural connections would have been impossible, because any two non-parallel connections would have automatically crossed each other, thereby ruining the connection.’. Corey, God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument (1993), 94.

From the same author.

‘Three dimensions are also required for proper blood flow, for had space possessed only two dimensions, venous blood would invariably have become intermingled with arterial blood, with catastrophic results for the body. It is clear, then, that the existence of three spatial dimensions is absolutely mandatory for the proper functioning of both our minds and our bodies.’, Corey, God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument (1993), 94.

Moving from the cosmological to the terrestrial scale, we find a significant range of additional factors necessary for the kind of intelligent life required by God’s purpose.

‘Complex, multicellular life relies on too many planetary factors – even after clearing all the chemical roadblocks – to be common. (For example, a large moon to stabilize the planetary axis tilt and hence the seasons, a magnetic field to shield off radiation, plate tectonics to remix surface and ocean chemistry that helps regulate CO2 levels, etc.)’, Gleiser, From Cosmos to Intelligent Life: The Four Ages of Astrobiology’ (2 March, 2012), 5.

From another author.

‘The Earth benefits from the presence of plate tectonics, a process that acts like a global thermostat by reprocessing greenhouse gasses. Life on Earth benefits dramatically from a single large moon that produces exceptional tides and helps to stabilize the tilt of the Earth and the length of its days.’, McCurdy, Space and the American Imagination (2nd ed. 2011), 146.

And another.

‘We must look beyond the mere presence of water to the presence of volcanoes, plate tectonics and oxygen.’, Lane, Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World (2002), 73.

Note in particular the following requirements for complex multi-cellular life; a single large moon, a magnetic field, volcanoes, and plate tectonics. All of them are necessary for the specific form of life required by God’s purpose, and yet all of them are significantly responsible for the earth’s natural disasters. This is the foundation of the “cost of creation” argument in response to “natural evil”.

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I suppose so. I noticed you were careful to say “many things” and you did not say “nothing”. It would be problematic if on accepting Christ nothing changed. But it seems highly unlikely or impossible to me that everything could change either. So that leaves us being changed mostly in increments (gentle ones, we pray – but some changes may get thrust on us spectacularly too). Maybe one way to think of being born again would be to compare it to repentance. To repent means to turn away from whatever sin we have been pursuing, and to face God and move in that direction instead. When you have turned to face (and move) in a new direction, you are still initially in the same location you were. But you are now moving the right direction. Transformation into Christ-likeness is a process we never completely finish while in this flesh. But to have made that decision by responding to Christ’s invitation – that initial turning is HUGE for many formerly lost souls, and warrants the comparison to being born again.

I see the thread’s headline has been already moderated (the word stupid removed, and uneducated left).

I’d like to make the following remark : I used the word “stupid” originally, because it’s not just education.

It’s rather than the information is available, and educators are available too… BUT people are refusing to learn.

OR… people may claim they’re open to different viewpoints, but when you present them with the fact, they still refuse to learn.

It could be related to the Dunning-Krueger effect. People are so incompetent, that they fail to see they’re incompetent.

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At the risk of getting to know Phil’s wrathful side, this comes closer to home for me personally. Just for the record, I and my children are all and were vaccinated in all the ways required by our various educational institutions. But I do have family who (while they may not be anti-vaxxers that I’m aware of) are nevertheless more enthusiastic about “alternative care” kinds of choices than they are about standard medical practice in the U.S. So it is in my blood, so to speak; and I do harbor my own share of suspicions about medicine as practiced in the U.S. – phrases like “big pharma” frequently pass my lips.

So maybe y’all have your own case-study crazy right here in your midst. But I have to warn you, if you get me started I may be doing my own bit of venting. I’ll zip it for now so as not to derail the thread. (That’s one of my spiritual gifts here, BTW).

I only bring it up to say, that it isn’t far-fetched to me how some folks can get themselves really far down a strange or isolated road. In some ways I’ve traveled some of those counter-cultural roads myself. As long as you have a bit of company for fellowship (and/or a personal echo chamber), you can really get away from mainstream. And the internet for better or worse makes it easy to find nearly any kind of fellowship you want.

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Here’s an illustration taken from http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmo_03.htm that supports the idea of our giant universe. A particularly nice graphic would be this one:

This graphic illustrates 3 different conditions of the early universe where if you added or took away the equivalent of a grain of sand 1 nanosecond after our current time dimension began our universe would be getting crunched or ripped apart right now. So do we need all this stuff? Absolutely!

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How funny! I sort of hesitated to put that in because I knew I might step on someone’s toes. And a lot these issues are sometimes a judgement call in medicine, where you try to weight to risk to benefit. With some vaccines, it is not a huge difference so I really do not get upset, but with others the price you pay for not vaccinating is measured with dead babies. Sorry for the excursion.
Getting a little bit back on subject, it seems one reason we go down these trails is rebellion against authority, something that is a problem in our relationship with God in that realm of life also. Our own arrogance and self pride leads us to to think we know better than someone who spends their career studying such things, whether it be in medicine, theology, astrophysics, or geology. Or we know better than God how to live our lives. Certainly, we are urged in scripture to be discerning and wary of false teachers in the spiritual realm, and we should carry that same wisdom over to the secular areas of our lives as well.

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By the way, despite my initial misgivings, this is my new favorite post, as it has allowed expression of frustration and helps us realize there is community of believers in an area where we often feel isolated.

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It looks like there’s one factor : people have forgotten how awful life was before vaccines and before modern medicine.

I think my grandpa had several sisters, most of which died from horrible diseases when they were kids.

Most of those people who remember the pre-vaccine world are either too old or already dead.

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My emphasis added.

But here’s the thing, Phil. Sometimes we do know better than the experts --certainly not about the whole of the involved topic to be sure, but maybe about our choice on some binary detail, like “should I smoke or not?”. I’m told that before I was born it wouldn’t have been uncommon for a doctor to prescribe smoking to somebody to help calm their nerves, and many medical personnel still did (do?) smoke themselves! [for a while I was inductively convinced that all respiratory therapists smoke --what’s up with that anyway!?] My conservative religious culture bequeathed to me a conviction that smoking was a great way to not take care of your body. Score: conservative religious folklore: 1; and Medical/science establishment: big fat 0. So how and why could all the experts be so wrong? Personal habits? Strongly influential industry? All of the above? When I hear of all the economic pressures medical doctors must face today, I think it’s naive to assume we are now past any age of heavily influenced error. Does that mean I don’t trust the medical establishment? Well, a little, yes. But in general I do trust it warts and all, because as you say, these experts have studied these things their whole lives --and eventually do come around on things like smoking.

But all of this is just to showcase the anatomy of distrust. It is not a far-fetched jump for some people (maybe one horrific experience away) from writing off an entire industry of experts as being hopelessly corrupt or muddled in a hopelessly corrupt system. It isn’t as if this has never happened on large scales before. And people tend to have conveniently long memories about some things [and correspondingly short memories or deaf ears about others] according to their confirmation bias desires.

That is how somebody might go off the deep end cynically thinking they permanently know better than a whole body of experts. Isn’t there at least a smidgen of room for discernment there?

Hope I didn’t make you regret responding to me --I’ll make sure to have my steel-toed boots on. But I do think this is on-topic since we are wanting to know why or how uneducated people could believe the far-out things that some do.

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Excellent judgment all the way around … there is the smell of troll house cookies…

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@RoundEarth,

I was once married to a woman some could have labeled stupid. I loved her despite her struggles. And many times my love for her was greatest when her frustrations were at their most extreme.

God’s plan is not based on humans being smart, or self-reliant, or independent, or resourceful. Someday we may know what all the fuss was about.

But one thing I already know without a doubt: God wants us to care about people who are least able to care for themselves.

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What aspects would we expect to change? I’m not sure “scientific opinions” is necessarily on that list.

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Big? Compared to what? It’s a pretty “humanist” perspective (i.e., judging size and space compared to “me”).

Some of the things discussed here frustrate me as well, but after spending my whole life as a YECer, conspiracy-esque views like these are not all that unusual to me. I mean, sometimes I still feel like I’m saying a swear word when I read the phrase “millions of years” in a book to my kids (or that I’m going to destroy their faith, etc. since that’s pretty much what I was taught), so there’s a lot more to it than “just the facts.” I think those who have mentioned fear are right on.

One observation I have is that some people are just very relationally/emotionally based. Trust is a big thing to them, and it’s something they base more on intuition than objective facts. Therefore, trusting a local, friendly “healer” feels a lot safer than a clinical, faceless health conglomerate. I’m not very relational, so I don’t understand, but I still try to recognize the importance in others’ approaches even when they make no sense to me. They could probably rag on me for my lack of people skills or sensitivity or whatever, if they wanted to…

Another thing that I notice is as others have said, that sometimes it does seem that people of faith are more susceptible to conspiracy theories. After all, I was taught from a young age to believe in what I didn’t see (and I still do), and unfortunately that sometimes gets communicated as “we don’t need no facts!” Plus, we believe Christ is the truth, and sometimes that can translate to Christians thinking we automatically have all the answers to everything in the universe just because we’re in Christ.

Interestingly, I think my misadventures with anti-vax ideas helped me develop more appreciation for science, and eventually start questioning YEC. I noticed during the Ham/Nye debate that Ken Ham (more than once, I believe) mentioned vaccines as something good that has come from science – probably a deliberate statement of “we are not affiliated with them!” however effective that might have been.

Also – I think sometimes Christians get a bit of an “underdog complex.” Maybe this is more the case for conservatives. The idea that everyone’s already against us, so if we run contrary to science, well… par for the course, right?

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I agree that is true at times. You can often learn more about a subject with google and good judgement than anyone but an expert in that particular facet can come up with out of thin air. However, it is really tough to know where you are on the Kruger-Dunning curve. As to your example about smoking, the Seventh Day Adventists were certainly ahead of the curve on that one as well, also with other health habits. However, at the time little was known of the risk and lung cancer was rare. There were also no seat belts in that era, and shiny chrome knobs on the car dash wound up imbedded in numerous skulls. For vaccines, the recommendations come from dreary statistical analysis in the CDC or other agencies, not the drug companies, and such questions are balanced as in how many cases of vaccine caused problems are worth the benefit of how many life-years at what cost per life year? Tough decisions. Glad I am not in charge.
In any case, it is not limited to science. Ask your pastor how many times well meaning but woefully ignorant parishioners come up to them to explain some passage of scripture (often with some heretical concept attached…) I’ve probably been guilty of that in the past as well. That is not to say doctors and pastors are not oftentimes arrogent themselves, and refuse to recognize their blind spots. As the great philosopher Dirty Harry once said, “I man has to know his limitations.”

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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