We’ve made it to part 4 of the Heck with Peter Heck series, which means we are just about half way done with his 7 part video series. If you are an atheist, I hope my thoughts can help you to dismantle some common arguments and fallacies theists like to send our way. If you are a theist I hope my thoughts will help show you that perhaps Heck’s approach is not the best approach to take when trying engaging with atheists.
With that said check out the video below and let’s dive into part 4.
*Sigh* I think we should recap some of the things Heck has said in his previous installments. In part 1 Heck claims there is ample evidence for God. In part 2 Heck argues that the scientific method can neither prove nor disprove an entity who lives outside of Earth’s natural laws, therefore the conversation needs to be a philosophical conversation not a scientific conversation. In part 3 Heck ends with a reiteration that “we have already established that science cannot prove or disprove God.” And now, the entirety of part 4 is about using science to try and prove God.
Excuse me… What?
Heck encourages theists engaging with “God deniers” to “force them to acknowledge the scientific reality that the universe is finite.” In my opinion, this is an entirely fair topic of discussion that atheists and theists should be engaged in. My problem is Heck intentionally, and very thoroughly took science off the table for this discussion on if God is even real, only to throw it back on when he thinks it serves his purpose. The whole thing seems very disingenuous to me. If you say you can’t use science to prove/disprove God, then don’t try to use science to try and prove/disprove God. It is that simple. However since I do think this is a topic worth discussing, let’s go ahead and examine what Heck has to say on the matter.
Heck starts off by complaining that before the general acceptance of the Big Bang, so-called God deniers would generally avoid the difficult topic of how the universe was created by saying it always existed, an eternal universe. Heck doesn’t think this is any more sophisticated than believing in an eternal God who created the universe, but how do those beliefs stack against one another? On the one hand we have a universe we can prove exists (on account that we live in it), but we have an uncertain origin. On the other side we have a proven universe, created by an unprovable entity, who has an uncertain origin. So yes, an eternal universe is a much more eloquent and sophisticated explanation, as opposed to adding an additional unknown in order to solve an unknown.
However, the science does not support an eternal universe, and even the concept of the “big bounce,” the idea that eventually gravity will stop and reverse the expansion of the universe causing it to collapse back in on itself compressing it until it explodes in a second big bang, repeating the processing for all eternity also seems unlikely. Which makes all of this moot.
Since “Einstein and the boys” proved that the universe is finite, Heck believes atheists are in the difficult situation of having to explain how the universe created itself and he wants atheists to answer why that is “acceptable ignorance” to not know what exactly kick started the Big Bang. But Heck ignores that just because we don’t have an answer now, doesn’t mean people are not looking for the answer. “Acceptable ignorance” only happens when you stop looking to educate yourself, for instance if you throw up your hands and say “God did it.” Ignorance is okay, it is okay to say that you don’t know. Ultimately it is the pursuit of knowledge that is important, in 2015 we were able to detect gravitational waves for the first time. An actual ripple in the fabric of space and time! We may never be able “see” the Big Bang, but with our knowledge about gravitational waves, we may now be able to hear it, and learn all kinds of new things.
Speaking of the pursuit of knowledge, you can tell Heck hasn’t actually engaged with any knowledgeable atheists on this subject. I he had, he would know there are well known theories out there, and there are plenty of things someone like Heck would love criticize.
I enjoy this Ted Talk by Brian Greene (given in 2012) on the multiverse. An alternative to the “God did it” solution. If you have the 20 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching it, and then watching other Ted Talks on the universe, and then just getting lost watching Ted Talks.
If you don’t have the 20 minutes to spare right now, the basic premise is our universe is only one of many universes and the reason why life developed in our universe is because our universe spawned just the right conditions for life, whereas most other universes probably wouldn’t be able to support life.
And even though the math seems to support it, and even though many very smart people support it. There are a lot of other smart people who say it is no more verifiable than claiming that God did it (of course we can detect ripples in the fabric of space and time now, so how long before we are able to phase right through it and into the next universe?). So there is plenty there for Heck to pick a part, but instead he chooses to reduce atheists to saying it cannot be understood because it happened a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, that’s right, star wars. This is called a straw man fallacy. Instead of actually dealing with the theories that have their basis in math and science he reduces the argument to something that he can easily knock down. This is one of the most disingenuous tactic you can use while in an argument with someone.
Heck claims that God deniers have no answer for how the universe came into being, and therefore the most plausible explanation must be “God did it.” Except I just supplied an equally plausible answer that has been around for at least the past four years that Heck could have found for himself if he was even remotely interested in educating himself instead of building Star Wars straw man to knock over.
Someday science will figure out how the universe came into existence. I wonder if on that day if Heck will renounce God, or if he will merely say “well, that’s what it looks like when God speaks matter into existence” and move on.
Over the course of 5 minutes Heck says that Einstein and the boys proved that the universe is finite (the Big Bang) and then he claims that the big bang is just a story, no more scientifically verifiable than an eternal God who said “let it be.” Either the Big Bang is proven or it is not proven. You can’t have it both ways as it suits your purpose. This is just another example of a disingenuous tactic the Heck uses and is encouraging other theists to use.