Monday, May 28, 2007

Extra-dimensional Jesus

How did Jesus pass through locked doors when he visited his disciples after the Resurrection? Hugh Ross, an astronomer and old-earth creationist, in his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, provides a possible reason on page 79:

Though it is impossible for three-dimensional physical objects to pass through three-dimensional physical barriers without one or the other being damaged, Jesus would have no problem doing this in His extra dimensions. Six spatial dimensions would be adequate. He could simultaneously translate the first dimension of His physicality into the fourth dimension, the second into the fifth, and the third into the sixth. Then He could pass through the walls of the room and transfer His three-dimensional body from the fourth, fifth, and sixth dimensions back into first, second and third.

Say that again? Like the words of a Star Fleet engineer in an episode of Star Trek, this paragraph left my head spinning.
The reason why I mention this paragraph is that it doesn’t seem to fit in with the preceding chapters of Ross’ book. In the first nine chapters, Ross does a reasonable job at listing the evidences for the Big Bang model of the universes’ origin. He then argues that the Big Bang model points to the fact that something caused the universe to come into being, and that this something was a creator who is transcendent and who exhibits extra dimensional attributes. Ross’ argument, however, gets a bit shaky in Chapter 10. Ross lists various verses in the Bible that, according to his interpretation, state that God is timeless, transcendent and extra-dimensional. Therefore, the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe. Jesus exhibited extra-dimensional attributes when he walked through locked doors, and a verse in the Bible says that Jesus created the universe. Thus, Ross concludes on page 80:

General relativity and the big bang lead to only one possible conclusion: a Creator matching the description of Jesus Christ. He is our Creator-God.

I could be wrong, but there seem to be large gaps in this line of reasoning. Ross takes it for granted that: (1) the universe had a causal beginning, (2) this cause was an intelligent creator who is still alive today, (3) the Bible accurately describes this creator, (4) the Bible contains historical truth, (5) Jesus existed, (6) Jesus was the creator, and (7) the writers of the Bible – who lived two thousand years ago – used our definitions of space, time and creation when they wrote their texts. Moreover, Ross doesn’t provide any idea of how material objects can actually shift from one dimension to another.
To make a strong case, shouldn’t Ross tackle these issues first?


Laughing Boy said...

I am familiar with Hugh Ross and Reasons To Believe. Of course I can't speak for him, but I think I can respond to your 7 gaps in a manner roughly consistent with his beliefs. If I get a chance to ask him, I'll get back to you with his real answers.

(1) It would be a larger gap in reasoning to assume no causal force. Such an assumption would go against all known scientific evidence.

(2) An educated guess? Is there a better option? (Ross would probably not say this.)

(3) This is faith. We can only know what God reveals of himself and He's revealed himself in nature, but most clearly in Scripture.

(4) This is based on a good deal of historical evidence. Christianity is historically-based; it's about actual events, not philosophies for living. If the events didn't take place it's a load of crap.

(5) This is like #1. You'd be hard pressed to find even a handful of credible historians who deny Jesus' existence.

(6) Faith in scripture. No other way to know this.

(7) I'm not sure what you mean, but I think the general (non-technical) ideas of space, time, and creation have been established for, well, a long time.

Ross doesn’t provide any idea of how material objects can actually shift from one dimension to another.

What if the "object" in question is God?

Have you read Creation As Science? It's pretty straighforward and in it he puts his theories on the line and says "this is what an old-earth-creation-based model would predict and this is what young earth and naturalistic models would predict, let's see what happens." I recommend it.

paul said...

Hi Kevin, allow me to attempt a response to laughing boy.

(1 & 2)How on earth do you arrive at this conclusion? All known scientific evidence? There is no known scientific evidence that proves the existence of a god, yet we have evidence that points to evolution, evidence that points to 'the big bang', and more importantly, evidence that points to the fact that everything IN this world is governed by laws that originate IN this world. To claim that there is a creator, when there is no evidence that indicates as such, is a far greater assumption. If God created, then what created God?

(3)Where has God revealed himself in nature? And you say faith, but what of Muslim's who have faith? Tibetan Monks have more faith in their left pinkies than most Christians do in the entire bodies, yet Christians boldly claim that the Bible is God's true revelation? Faith is far too convenient an excuse for a lack of rational answers.

(4)"if the events didn't take place, then it's a load of crap". Ah, laughing boy, and there we hit the crux of the matter, and the reason that I left Christianity. It's either all true, every last word, phrase and event, or the whole thing is bogus. Disprove just one tiny aspect, and everything comes tumbling down. You say Christianity is historically based, yet these is no indisputable evidence of the existence of Jesus, nevermind the fact that there is no proof of the biblical flood, King Solomon, Kind David...the list goes on and on. Yes, there certainly are facts that are historically accurate, but of course there would be if the book was written in that time. If I write a paper listing who the American President was in 2007 and who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2007, yet say that aliens landed in Hawaii on May 1st 2007, how does that make everything I say biblical truth?

(5)That's not entirely true, and even if it were, proof of the man doesn not equate to proof of what was written about him. Every historical figure in history has had many things written about them that are not true. If Jesus did exist, that certainly does not mean that what is in the NT is what he actually did and said. What about the Gnostic gospels?

(7)That's completely false. Einstein's work completely revised our notions of time and space, and yet he lived in the 20th century. Every day we learn more about space, and every day our preconceptions are tested and often proven false. What people in biblical times understood as science is NOT what we understand today. You cannot seperate what is technical and non-technical when defending someone who claims that Jesus has mastery over six dimensions.

As for Creation As Science, when someone who is not a Christian comes out and says this book is an excellent piece of rational, deductive literature, then I may take it seriously. But as long as it only finds support amongst a faith that is based on the irrational, unprovable, illogical and inaccurate, I'll take my chances elsewhere.

Lui said...

No one knows how the universe got started, or, if it has always existed in one form or other (a serious possibility, however counterintuitive it is to us primates) why it changed to start the Big Bang. Invoking deities with all manner of magical abilities goes nowhere towards answering these deep, exceedingly difficult questions. I have also read that quantum mechanics allows for uncaused events (don’t ask me how, I have no idea, but apparently the evidence for the validity of quantum mechanics is very strong).
It seems to me that the deity is always able to dodge serious scrutiny by morphing any ability or attribute to make it a constantly moving target, able to dodge the objections that are raised to counter claims to its existence. Whenever a problem is invoked, a new feature is invented for him: "He doesn't need to be complex in the way Dawkins supposes in his ‘Ultimate Boeing 747’ argument because he's made of one substance…but he has all the faculties of an unimaginably powerful and intelligent conscious agent", "God works in mysterious ways", etc. (we are never told how the person making these claims actually comes into possession of this esoteric knowledge). Invoking a self-confessedly gargantuan mystery to explain other mysteries is a dead end. Science is at least humble enough to admit when it doesn't have the answers. Its advice is "keep looking". Religions claim to have the answers already, but the methodology (if it can even be called that) it deploys for getting these so-called answers are so open to, and in fact utterly dominated by, human bias and chauvinism, that we have to wonder how anyone can think that science and religion have "converged".

HeIsSailing said...

Ross makes a common mistake amongst scientists who are Creationists. They take the idea of extra spatial dimensions, which is either 10 or 11 depending what math you use, and make those extra dimensions the realm of the supernatural. I recently posted a reply to another blog on a similar topic, so I will quote from it here.

Here is why this does not work:

When string theory was first proposed and made popular in the 70s, the idea of extra dimensions was quickly seized upon by Christian apologists, who, in my opinion, had little idea what was meant by the idea. They claim that these extra dimensions are the realm of the supernatural, and that they cannot be perceived by us in our 3 dimensional world. Much like Mr and Mrs Flat (whom Ross steals from Abbot's book 'Flatland' frequently), who can only see Mr Cube as a square projected onto their flat plan, we can only perceive God as a simple projection of his true mega-dimensional self onto our 3 dimensional plane. From this higher realm, God can poke and prod our world as if we were fish in a bowl.

First, these extra dimensions are a result of the mathematics involved if string theory is used as a model for unifying the fundamental forces. *If* they exist, the extra spatial dimensions (either 10 or 11 total, depending on the math you use) are curled at the quantum level, and do not exist in our macro-level, just like any of the quantum rules of physics. According to recent experiments which used a torsion balance to test inverse square laws (which can only apply in a universe of 3 spatial dimensions), it has been confirmed that the extra spatial dimensions must be smaller than 44 micrometers.

D. J. Kapner et al., “Tests of the Gravitational Inverse-Square Law below the Dark-Energy Length Scale,” Physical Review Letters 98 (2007): 021101.

So what Christians are doing when they invoke the extra dimensional argument, is saying that God and the entire supernatural realm is confined to the quantum level. Talk about a misunderstanding! Is this how God interacts with us? On the subatomic level? I thought he stood *outside* of spacetime altogether? No, I just don’t see how those proposed extra spatial dimensions work as linking the supernatural realm with something scientific.

Ross and fellow scientists should know better than this. I don't know if they are misinformed (which I doubt - they are intelligent men) or disingenuous.

Laughing Boy said...


1-2) I didn't say all scientific evidence proves the existence of God, but that believing that the universe was uncaused (by whom or whatever) would be a greater leap. We're talking probabilities not absolute proof (which is unobtainable).

3) God is revealed in nature everywhere, as Voltaire wrote: If the heavens, stripped of their noble imprint, Could ever cease to reveal Him, If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him, Whom the sage proclaims, and whom kings adore.

Faith is worthless if the object of that faith can't deliver the goods. And yes, faith is far too convenient an excuse for a lack of rational answers.

4) There's no indisputable proof for anything, Paul. Christianity or any other truth claim can't be dismissed by saying there is no proof, but that there is proof to the contrary. Over the course of time there have been many claims that events and peoples discussed in the Bible never existed only for archeological evidence to be subsequently uncovered.

5) True, but how do we go about trying to find out what's true and what's not? If it matters to you then it's no good just taking a "leap of faith" in either direction without some research. And if we apply that method to the gnostic gospels what do we discover?

7) You might have a point where Ross is concerned, but the writers of the Bible did not need an Einstein-ian understanding of space and time to record what they saw. That's what I meant.


If quantum mechanics proves that events do not need a cause then I've got philosophical problems I need to address. But why is it better to trust science without understanding that to trust God without understanding? Ross makes it perfectly clear (maybe not in this book, which I haven't read, but nearly everywhere else) that science should indeed keep looking and we should follow where the evidence leads. If it leads to the end of Christianity then so be it; nobody wants to believe a lie.

Flatland drags in the middle but it's otherwise a very good book. For Abbott the dimensionality was a contrivance (I think) built to discuss the supernatural not to explain it. I especially liked the part where the 2D narrater and his 3D guide attempted to confront the 1D point who knew of nothing but himself, upon hearing the narrator's voice said, "Ah, it's only me!"

Laughing Boy said...

RE: Quantum mechanics, this seems like an interesting read:
Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics by John S. Bell.

Laughing Boy said...

Sorry, I didn't gather these links together in one comment, but here is an article regarding quantum mechanics some of you might find interesting. Rather than quote it and pretend to understand enough to comment on it I'll let whoever is interested read it for themselves.

paul said...

laughing boy.

1-2) You didn't answer the question. I said, if a creator exists, then who created the creator? Your answer would be that the creator is the beginning and was not created. Yet if I say that matter exists, because it is matter and does not have a creator, you'd label my claim as ludicrous? How is it a great leap to assume no creator?

3) Whilst that's a lovely and poetic quote from Voltaire, it is purely an opinion. Show me one example in nature of something that reveals God? You may look at the night sky and see evidence of benevolent creator, I look at the same sky and marvel at chaos and chance.

4)Ah, but Science admitts where Science erred. And it then incorporates that knowledge. Religion scoffs at any attempt to discredit it, and NEVER admitts that a claim is wrong. Which seems the more reasonable to you? And more capable of being accurate in the future? True, nothing is provable, not even the fact that I exist. But at some point, one has to decide upon a manner in which one will conduct themselves in this life, and what their framework will be in order to attempt to make sense of this world. I choose the framework that, if God exists, he gifted me. That of the rational, and the logical. And when belief in a claimed truth completely opposes that framework, do I reject the belief or the framework?

5)Research into the Gnostic gospels does not disprove their validity. The Councile of Nicaea compiled the NT based on faith, and the belief that certain gospels were inspired by God, and others not. There was no rational basis for their choices, only what they believed to uphold certain doctrinal beliefs.

7)Agreed. Yet instead of gaining a greater understanding of the bible as time marches forth, more and more questions and confusion arises. And on a tangent that does relate somewhat, why is there nothing in the bible that cannot originate from the minds of man? Or, at least, that could not originate from the minds of man in that time. If the authors of the bible were truly being 'dictated' to by God, why would they need to be able to comprehend what God was telling them?

Laughing Boy said...

Paul, sorry for the delay. I haven't had a chance to reply till now, and this is going to be my last response. These comments are very wide ranging and I don't have the time to give adequate responses. I hope we can discuss a more focused topic in the future.


Perhaps I should restate my premise more precisely using Liebniz's terms: Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

To explain the existence of contingent things we must either resort to an irrational infinite regress or to a self-existant, necessary thing. Or we could postulate, as you have (for the sake of argument I assume), despite all we know to the contrary, that matter "just is". So, yes, I am comfortable labeling your "claim" as exceedingly less likely than mine; as would Plato, Aristotle, al-Ghazli, Maimonides, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, and many more of the greatest thinkers of the past and present.

I look at the same sky and marvel at chaos and chance.

If the universe were truly a place of chaos and chance then science would be impossible. Science is not impossible. Therefore, the universe is not truly a place of chaos and chance.

Whilst that's a lovely and poetic quote from Voltaire, it is purely an opinion.

If Voltaire's opinion is of no value to you why should I offer mine? I'm no expert. Here are two expert opinions from two well-known scientists, both of whom are (or were) openly critical of religion:

Paul Davies: "The laws of physics seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all...It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe...The impression of design is overwhelming."

Albert Einstein: "The harmony of natural law...reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

Religion...NEVER admits that a claim is wrong

Does "Religion" still denounce Copernicus?

There was no rational basis for their choices, only what they believed to uphold certain doctrinal beliefs.

First, if the Early Church Fathers chose only what upheld certain pre-established doctrinal beliefs, then those pre-established doctrinal beliefs were the rational basis for their choices. Your approval is not the test of rationality.

Second, your claim is inaccurate. If meeting certain doctrinal standards was the only criteria for inclusion into the NT canon, then all works that met those doctrinal standards would have been included. Some works that met those doctrinal standards were not included in the NT canon.* Therefore, meeting certain doctrinal standards was not the only criteria for inclusion in the NT canon.

*The Shepherd of Hermas, The Epistle of Barnabas, The First and Second Epistles of Clement, some works of the Apocrypha, and others.

Regarding the Gnostic texts: Christian critics often say that the Gospels can't be trusted as an accurate record of the life of Jesus since they were written 30 or so years after his death, then they turn around and say we should trust the gnostics which were written another 70+ years after the Gospels.

Links to books. You may not think these books have any validity since they were written by Christian (despite their education and credentials), but before you can claim that the Christian perspective is irrational, you should know what it is.

Yet instead of gaining a greater understanding of the bible as time marches forth, more and more questions and confusion arises.

First, since you mentioned earlier that there is no evidence that David ever existed, look up information about Avraham Biran's 1993 discovery of basalt tablets from the 9th century B.C with an inscription that commemorates a military victory by the king of Damascus over "the king of Israel and the house of David."

Then Google these: The Ebla Tablets, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Cities of Mari and Nuzi, The Code of Hammurabi, The Hittites, The Moabite Stone. Then read this for other more discoveries (The Qumran Scrolls and the David Inscriptions are mentioned here, too, but all the others are unique.)

Why is there nothing in the bible that cannot originate from the minds of man?

1. If the Bible is God's Word to Man it would hardly have been worthwhile for God to fill it with incomprehensible ideas, would it? On the other hand, how comprehensible is the Trinity (one being in three persons), or the Incarnation (one person, fully God and fully human), or the co-existence of Free Will and Predestination, or why evil exists in a world ruled by a loving, omnipotent Creator? But let me get this straight. Christians are criticized for defaulting to "the Bible says" regarding some beliefs they can't fully comprehend. Now you've opened up a new front, criticizing the Bible for not teaching enough incomprehensible beliefs!

2. What's the criteria for deciding what could or couldn't have originated from the mind of Man?

3. How could a person write down something they can't comprehend? The Bible doesn't claim that the authors went into a trance in which God disengaged their minds and moved their hands for them.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Laughing boy.

Thanks for taking the time to respond . I know you won't reply to this, but I felt I needed to make one final comment. Also, thanks for responding in a reasoned and measured way, I've seen way too many debates like this degenerate into name-calling and sickening generalisations. We are both in search of the truth, and of understanding. And in that light, I must always be open to having my mind changed, or accepting when someone makes a claim that makes more sense than what I may have first thought.

Firstly, for every theist who has used the Leibniz quote as an argument for, there is an atheist who has refuted it. There are more than enough examples of refutations on the net, I'm not going to go into them here. If you would like me to list great thinkers of the past who would disagree with Leibniz, I will. It's easy to list names to support one aspect of a theory, but less easy to find within that list of names an independant set who actually agree on the basis of a world view. I don't see Descartes and Leibniz sitting down for a cup of tea, happy in the knowledge they both share the same wisdom.

"if the universe were truly a place of chaos and chance then science would be impossible"
Are you then saying that chance does not exist? Nor chaos? I know it seems that claiming existence of one denies that of the other, but this is not true. A great many scientists and mathematicians would disagree with you. "Apparent randomness whose origins are entirely deterministic. A state of disorder and irregularity whose evolution in time, though governed by simple exact laws, is highly sensitive to starting conditions: a small variation in these conditions will produce wildly different results, so that long-term behaviour of chaotic systems cannot be predicted. ..."

Voltaire's opinion is of no value to me because I am not engaging in a debate with him, I'm engaging in one with you. You label Davies and Einstein as experts, so I assume you give credence to what they say.
Paul Davies: "Anything can come out of a naked singularity--in the case of the big bang the universe came out."
I tend not to use quotations to back up an argument, as they are so easily taken out of context, but since you have set the precedent.....

As for my claim that religions never admit fallibility, you'll find that whenever they are proved wrong, they tend to distance themselves from those proved wrong, and in many instances will claim that those members were never truly a part of the fold. Ask a Xian about the Crusades, and you'll be provided with the stock answer that those involved were not truly following Xian doctrine, or that humans are indeed fallible. Those who disagreed with Copernicus were therefore simply human; it was their error, not that of the religion they ascribed to.

As for Nicaea, when I use the term 'a rational basis', my point is that if you analyse what was excluded, reasons for exclusion were based upon doctrinal differences, and not upon any proof that all else was fake or provably incorrect. Secondly, those works you list as being in doctrinal agreement are only so in certain aspects, whilst in others they disagree strongly, or they raise other issues that the early church might have been hard pressed to explain. The Epistle of Barnabas, for example, would make the inclusion of the OT as an example of God's covenant with the Jews a contradiction. I say again, that the NT was compiled by men with a very specific goal in mind, and a predisposed view on many of the manuscripts that were not included.
I have never claimed to support the gnostic gospels, so your other point has no impact.

I claim that the Xian perspective is irrational, because I DO know what it is. I was a Xian for almost 20 years, and studied theology and doctrine full time for 3 years. I don't make outrageous claims like that unless I believe that I have the knowledge and background to prove them.

Given, perhaps I overstated my claim about David, but I did so to make a point. Yes, there are artifacts that speak of his existence, but nothing to backup the biblical account of him. What is truth and what is propaganda? Beside which, this doesn't answer the question I posed re: biblical confusion in the present time. You may argue that the more we learn from science, the greater the indications for a Creator. Be that as it may, you cannot disagree that as we delve deeper into the workings of the universe, it only raises more questions about the bible and its veracity. Creation, the ark, the crucifiction; the more we learn about this universe we inhabit, this world and its laws, the more question arise. Would it have hurt Genesis to say that the stars were created before the earth?

You misunderstand me. I did not say 'incomprehensible'. Obviously that would be a contradiction. Firstly, I understand, hypothetically, that God was revealing himself to a people who had a very specific and limited worldview, and that the revelation would have been given in a way that would ensure its transcription would not be altered as a result of not being able to comprehend a concept. You say that God did not use them in a puppet-like fashion, or at least claim that the bible does not say so. Yet how else could they transcribe something that you claim is as incomprehensible as a Trinitarian God? Perhaps because the concept was not a new one and had been seen before in other religions? Which leads me to my next point, that there is actually nothing incomprehensible about either a Trinitarian God or Free Will or Incarnation. Have you ever read accounts from people who have used highly potent chemicals such as DMT? Users tell of experiences beyond what your average human is capable of understanding, yet I don't see any rational thought that supports that any of these experiences are anything other than vivid hallucinations. All I am saying is this: the bible is supposedly for all Xians through out all time up until the Second Coming. It is extremely effective as a guideline for the peoples of the time in which it was written, yet beyond the spiritual claims, I don't see any relevance to our present society. As science and technology make the things we thought impossible possible, we discover more and more a terrible silence from the bible. Cloning, genetic manipulation, the list goes on and on. And please don't provide some vague interpretation of a Genesis verse or a Ten Commandment. If God truly does reveal his instruction, that revelation should be ongoing, not confined to the pages of an ancient manuscript. And please don't say that prayer is his ongoing instruction, as that as yet another aspect of Xianity that cannot be proved. So, I am in fact not claiming that the bible should be teaching more incomprehensible facts, only that it doesn't actually teach any. Xianity is not the only religion to lay claim to strange and otherworldy doctrine.

What couldn't have originated from the minds of man? Well, if there had been specific mention of the Horsehead Nebula, that would be impressive.

How can a person write down something they can't comprehend? I think I have already answered that.

Lastly, apologies to Kevin for taking his comments forum hostage, and also, I have assumed that you are indeed a Xian. If my assumption is incorrect, I do apologise. And to reiterate, my words have purely been in the form of a debate, and one which I have enjoyed. Thanks.

paul said...

Apologies, that's me above. Didn't mean to post as anonymous.

Lui said...

"If quantum mechanics proves that events do not need a cause then I've got philosophical problems I need to address. But why is it better to trust science without understanding that to trust God without understanding?"

Because quantum mechanics at least works. Its predictions have (apparently) been stunningly accurate. We are therefore on firm grounds to say that we can tentatively accept it with a high degree of confidence, until such evidence comes in that it is overthrown.

"But let me get this straight. Christians are criticized for defaulting to "the Bible says" regarding some beliefs they can't fully comprehend. Now you've opened up a new front, criticizing the Bible for not teaching enough incomprehensible beliefs!"

There is a difference between things that are simply incomprehensible for which no evidence exists, and things that are incomprehensible to those not trained in the field but that clearly yield compelling results and predications that come true. The Bible seems a stunningly small-minded, parochial work for something dictated by a super-intelligence.

"2. What's the criteria for deciding what could or couldn't have originated from the mind of Man?"

Something so incredible that no one at the time could have known about it. There are many, many amazing things that have been revealed by science that could have made their way into the Bible.