Thursday, August 04, 2005

How old is the universe?

When Intelligent Design people talk about the staggering complexity of the simplest cell Darwinists talk about the staggering amounts of time available for this complexity to happen in. In David Attenborough's answer on the Today program he did precisely this:

"Now if you’re a scientist you say “okay we’ll go looking and investigate this.” and bearing in mind that there were at least two thousand five hundred million years before these molecules became a part of animals as we know them, two thousand five hundred million years in an enormous length of time in which you can get molecular evolution."

These sort of numbers (2,500,000,000 years) come from calculations to do with radioactive decay of various sorts I gather.

Whenever I hear these sort of statements (especially when they are proclaimed in a condescending "don't you know even that" sort of fashion) I ask myself how much we really know about the moment the universe began to be.

The physicists like Stephen Hawking will give you a moment by moment account of the details down to the first picosecond after the start..... but what about this start?

How much do we really know about it?

How many experimental universes have we made in the laboratory so far?

Do we know exactly what the chemical and physical properties of all the ingredients of the universe were at the moment they started their existence?

The most essential piece of equipment for a scientist is the ability to own up to what he does not know.... only when we face our own ignorance can we begin to think properly about reducing it!

Lets see a little humility about the scattered fragmentary and in some cases contradictory nature of our knowledge of our own origins and the origins of the wonderful universe that we live in.


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