August 7, 2009

Ron Hellings: Joseph Smith and Modern Cosmology

The following are my personal notes of the presentations. They are incomplete and likely contain mistakes, omissions and especially spelling errors. FAIR plans to provide full transcripts and recordings, and I encourage checking them out. This one was too complex to live-blog, as you will see. 

Ron Hellings bio here

This is an exciting time to be doing cosmology, we are mystified and profoundly confused. We know less than 5% of the universe. Also, 20% is dark matter which we know a little about, but the remaining 75%, dark energy, whatever it is, will require a revolution in our understanding of physics when we figure it out. We have some models and some information but we are trying to figure it out. Some suggest that Einstein's entire theory will be overturned at some point. Ideas that ten years ago were considered crackpot are now being published in prestigious journals.

This is no time for anyone to be criticizing anyone's beliefs based on what cosmologists know.

Lord Kelvin: (1900)
"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." 

-Well there were some things he didn't know, and he didn't know he didn;t know them. Like special, general relatively, quantum mechanics, black holes, elementary particles, etc. So he was wrong though remarkably bright. Humility is needed.

Joseph Fielding Smith (1961)
"It is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet."
-Well, this is not correct. How can he be wrong like this? Well, he didn't understand, and didn't understand what he didn't understand.

If you ever see what appears to be a conflict between science and religion, can you think of at least TWO places where the problem might lie? [laughter]

Say something worthwhile, and keep nonsense to a minimum.

“Thy mind, oh man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanses of eternity. None but fools will trifle with the souls of man. Thou must commune with God"- Joseph Smith

Joseph knew some things about the cosmos and tried to explain it to the saints in a way they could understand. For example: Joseph said: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter but it is more fine or pure. NOT: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter. But it coupleth to a different metric." In other words, he had to express his understanding in the language he had available at his command.

D&C 88:
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

  8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

  9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

  10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

  11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

  12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— 
Well, the light here does';t seem to fit into my understanding of electromagnetic radiation. So I will not proof-text, I will try to address things on the correct terms. 

[My notes were erased for this part, JS talking about matter always exists, can be organized and reorganized, but that's it.] It seems JS was talking about what we might call energy today, which wasn;t understood at that time as we understand now.

Intelligences exist one above another, there is no end. Intelligence or spirit had no beginning nor end. No such thing as immaterial matter.

Cosmological principles we glean from these statements:

Matter energy is conserved.
Everything is matter-energy
The universe is infinite and eternal.

Of course, JS could have picked this sort of thing up from Lavoisier's Conservation Law.

However, perhaps from Newtonian Cosmology (all massive objects attract all other massive objects with a force. Universe is static) According to this, the universe must be infinite and homogenous. However, we discover the universe is unstable. No way that JS was just reproducing Newtonian cosmology.

Mormon cosmology from 1840-1930, Mormons were more accurate than other religions generally
-Matter-energy is conserved. By this time, heat, fields, etc. became realized as part of this. Everything was matter-energy, and universe is infinite and eternal.

What happened in 1930 that changed all that? Enter the era of modern cosmology.

The Hubble Relation. Learned to see distances in megaparsecs, discover velocity of other galaxy in relation to us.
Where did universe come from? Scientific atheists? Not an exact answer, but they do agree that JS was wrong [laughter].

He referred to the New Mormon Challenge book from Copan and Craig who argue that the big bang are like creatio ex nihilo. etc. and critiqued that view. He noted their views were about 20 years out of date regarding big bang cosmology. Discussed cosmic evolution, etc. He talked about temperature problem and a flatness problem to explain how the Big Bang is being reevaluated using concepts of curved space.

OK, well I am giving up on this one and refer the reader to the full paper, which I am thoroughly enjoying!


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