Science in Christian Perspective


Letter to the Editor

On Crenshaw's Second Letter

 

David F. Siemens, Jr., Ph.D.
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384

From: PSCF 47 (March 1995): 67

In his letter (Perspectives 46:3, p. 218), Robert E. Crenshaw demonstrates a comprehensive ignorance of the nature of the universe. Why then respond to him? The main reason is that, otherwise, people seeking understanding will think that publication of his letter in a recognized journal gives him credibility.

Crenshaw tries to force the universe into a Euclidean structure, though he gives no indication that he is aware of so doing. The last plausible attempt to do this was Whitehead's 1922 The Principle of Relativity. Whitehead was a brilliant geometer, arguably the greatest of all geometers, whose theory was soon found to be unacceptable. The only plausible structure today requires an incredibly complex modification of a four-dimensional Riemannian geometry.

What difference does the geometry make? A partial answer may be given without a course in advanced mathematical theory. Consider a ten-inch line. If it is straight, "What is the midpoint of the line?" can be answered fairly easily, depending on the level of accuracy required. But if the line is the circumference of a circle, the question cannot be answered, no matter the level of accuracy. One cannot reply that the circle has a center, for the question is not about the two-dimensional circle, but strictly about the closed line.

Now imagine 60 of these circles, evenly placed so that each passes through the same point, A. Properly, the number of circles should be infinite, much too much to imagine. Point A is clearly not the center of any of these circumferences. Now imagine 30 lines drawn through A and the points opposite to point A of each of the pairs of circles. Now, using each of these lines in turn as axes, rotate and duplicate the structure in 6 steps, though the number of steps should also be infinite. If we pick any of these many circles and move along it consistently from point A, we will eventually come back to point A. Is A, then, the center? Only of our illustration up to this point. To make things more nearly Riemannian, we need to specify that the opposite points, the ones forming the sphere-like surface of our imagined structure, are all the same point. In other words, what we have imagined as a surface is all tucked in, so that there is no outside. No one should feel chagrin at not being able to imagine this. On the other hand, no one may claim, "I'm on the outside," for he or she has not produced the completed structure. Further, no one may reject this, for it is a necessary logical consequence of the basic postulates of Riemannian geometry.

Unfortunately for any attempt to think in Riemannian terms, our imaginations are strictly Euclidean, for they are formed from our experience. We cannot detect the deviation from strict Euclidean parallelism produced by the earth's gravitational field. The much greater mass of the sun deflects the grazing light from distant stars approximately 0.0005 , about the angular width of a quarter viewed from a distance of two miles. The problem of the scientific description of the universe is further complicated by the need for four dimensions, whereas we are visually, tactually, and auditorially restricted to three sensory dimensions.

"Big Bang" was invented to poke fun at Gamow's theory. It remains because no one has come up with a better term. It is totally misleading if understood as an explosion, which has an origin and a spreading shock wave. Cosmologically, there was no explosion. Additionally, the effects of detonations develop within Euclidean parameters. But our spatio-temporal creation is Riemannian. So the expanding universe, from the minute originating ylem through the present enlargement to its distant future, has neither center nor boundary, making Crenshaw's description of a diameter reaching across it nonsense.

Clearly, Crenshaw's vision of the blessed dead proceeding to the Omega point is absurd, for there is no such Alpha/Omega point, except perhaps in the quixotic sense that every point in the universe has equal claim to being its center. Even if there could be a unique location remaining, there would be a monumental problem, for spatial movement is so restricted that transit time would be billions of years, a hope hardly blessed. Can one get out of this bind by claiming that the soul is not so restricted? Only if one can explain why and how a non-spatial soul has need of a spatial destination.

For all non-specialists trying to understand cosmology and related matters, the best simple introduction is George Gamow, Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland, reprinted in Mr. Tompkins in Paperback. The author was the brilliant theoretician who formally developed the Big Bang theory, and also wrote science fiction. The latter book has been repeatedly reprinted, most recently in 1993.