Horizon: Is everything we know about the universe wrong? (March 2010)

Even though, I am not a scientist, I found this programme particularly exciting because you look at it from a theistic perspective then the fact that we can’t answer many of these questions is because there is a God out there!

I thought I would share some points I put down;

The first problem with the Big Bang theory…

Is that in any normal explosion, we do not see a uniform temperature forming and all the aspects of the end product look different. However, on Earth we have a relatively uniform temperature range and all aspects look fairly similar.

How was this problem resolved?

The theory of inflation was created. In the theory of inflation the world slowly expands and once a uniform temperature is created, a quick bang occurs and the universe is created.

But what caused the inflation?

Nobody knows.

What is dark matter?

When rotational speeds of galaxies were measured, scientists saw that they were moving way faster than what they expected. This also contradicted Newton’s laws. There simply is not enough gravity for galaxies to be moving at this speed.Therefore, there must be another force like gravity which is causing this.

In particle physics, there are 24 types of particles but according to the concept of super symmetry there are another 24. These other 24 spin in different ways and are invisible (in the sense that they do not emit or reflect light).

Dark matter is almost like an invisible gravity and these invisible particles are claimed to be dark matter. However, the problem is these particles are said to pass normal matter like us all the time so how can they be measured.

Well currently research is being done half a mile underground and last December two unusual incidents might be indicating there is dark matter, However, two incidents is too few to prove anything.

If you are wondering how all of these theories has come about and how scientists know all this – it relates  to maths. Dark matter is the missing piece to what maths predicts and it puts the standard model back on the scene.

However there is another fundamental problem.

Rather than slowing down, as the standard model suggests, there is now evidence that the universe is accelerating in expansion.

The big bang is still banging. And yes you’ve got it there is another dark element to be added. Dark energy. This is the new force powering the universe.

With this as well they do not now what it is. All they know it is dark and expanding. One suggestion is that is could be a type of odd gravity that is making two distant thing repel. And yet this was something that was created to make sense of the mathematical modelling of the Big Bang theory in real terms.

There must be something in nothing. Vacuums and the mere emptiness between galaxies is now said to contain dark energy. It has a weird property too. As it causes the universe to expand, all the gaps are being filled with more dark energy. It is actually increasing.

Sounding simple, here is the creation story so far;

1) Universe starts with a bang

2) Then it suddenly inflates

3)Dark matter forms

4)This helps galaxies emerge

5) Then the universe starts to expand slowly

6) Dark energy takes over – stretching the universe further

Yet, there is another challenge…

There appears to be a distortion in the light coming from energy backgrounds, it seems to be coming from a kind of movement. This does not fit the standard model in the mathematical model and in reality.

All the galaxies appear to be moving in an inexplicable way towards one another on a particular point. It is caused by a mysterious and unseen force. Cosmologists call this the Dark Flow.

It suggest that the universe is part of a multiverse. It also supports the theory of inflation because inflation never completely ends. So what it is trying to say is that in some areas inflation has finished but in others it is still happening.

Could this be evidence that we are not alone?

Is the cosmology changing?

Is the standard model correct?

The programme discusses all of these points in further detail. (Please note I am not a science student and my knowledge of science is limited so some of my information may be wrong. USE THIS INFORMATION AT YOUR OWN RISK!)

Advertisements

Genetic Engineering

Types of Genetic Engineering

In this video I explore – somatic-cell gene therapy, germ-line gene therapy, enhancement genetic engineering (designer babies), eugenic genetic engineering, animal genetic engineering, gm crops, embryo cloning, reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning.

Ethical Responses

In this video I look at what would Natural Law, Utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, Situation Ethics and Christian Ethics say to the different forms of genetic engineering.

As Christian Ethics is so varied I have not included it in the table below 

 

Natural Law

Utilitarianism

Kant

Situation ethics

Somatic-cell GT

☺ Fulfils precept to live

☺ Produces greatest good for greatest number

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Germ-line GT

☺ Again helps fulfil purpose of life and reproduction

☺ Produces greatest good for greatest number

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Enhancement GT

☹ Against God’s design and doesn’t seem to have a purpose.

☺  Makes people happy

☹ It doesn’t make other ‘that’ happy

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Eugenic GT

☹ No purpose in editing God’s design

☺/☹ Depends on the   situation 

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

GM crops

☺ Help solve problem of world hunger which helps to also fulfil the precept of life.

☺ Solving the problem of world hunger outweighs any costs

☺ Imperfect duty to make people happy 

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Animal GT

☺ Humans have dominion over animals so nothing wrong with using them to fulfill the precept of life.

☺ Produces greatest good for greatest number

☺ Kantian ethics is based on the ability to reason so using animals to fulfil imperfect duty is not a problem.

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Embryo cloning

☺ Life is scared so this would be a NO.

☺/☹ Depends on the   situation 

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Reproductive cloning

☹ No purpose in editing God’s design

☺/☹ Depends on the   situation 

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Therapeutic cloning

☺ Helps fulfill purpose of life – to live.

☺ Produces greatest good for greatest number

☺/☹ Depends on which way you argue it

☺ Can be most loving thing to do but pragmatics and costs have to be taken into account.

Sanctity of Life & Abortion

What is the Sanctity of Life (SoL) argument?

The SoL argument states that human life is valuable in itself. According to SoL all life is worthy of RESPECT and REVERENCE and is intrinsically worthwhile. This implies all life is equal and we have a duty to protect it.

Ties with Christianity…

Christians sometimes use this argument to found some of the their ethics (particularly medical ones) because ‘the body is the temple of the holy spirit’. Within Christianity, however, views are divided between the strong and weak SoL argument.

The strong SoL

The strong SoL principle is sometimes known as the pro-life argument, which begins by asserting God is the creator of life, God created us in his image and likeness (Imago dei doctrine). We are different from animals as God blew into Adam’s nostrils not any other animals. The incarnation reaffirms the view that humans are different and that this ensoulment, unique to humans, begins at conception. Abortion then is immoral as God created life and only He can destroy it especially where human beings are concerned because they have a soul.

Further evidence for the strong SoL principle can be found in Exodus ‘Thou Shalt not murder’. Book of Job ‘God gave life, so he can take it away’.

The Weak SoL

This principle is more common within the Church of England.

The principle does not begin by asserting claims about God but rather recognises, there have been advances in medicine hence why the strong SoL argument is no longer suitable. They say that abortion is an extraordinary means (not something which happens all the time) hence can justify terminating a pregnancy. Further evidence to their approach is Jesus’ teaching of love and compassion. 

The Church of England will use this principle when dealing wit situations of rape or where there is threat to the mother’s physical or mental self.

Evaluation

Strengths

– It values all human life, promoting equality and human dignity.

– (Strong) Clearly states that abortion is incorrect in all situations. (Weak) The criteria of rape, damage to mother’s physical or mental self is arguably a clear method of working out whether abortion can be morally acceptable.

– Avoids ‘group’ pressure and power e.g. aborting all disabled babies

– A secular version of this principle (parallels with Kant) can be formulated which suggest that love and compassion should be given to all life and hence should be protected.

– Weak SoL combines all forms of Christian teachings.

Weaknesses 

– Equality – surely some forms of human life are more valuable than other e.g. Mother Teresa’s life is more valuable than Jack the Ripper. 

– It is a difficult and demanding to adhere too, for example, we cannot justify spending money on fertility treatment when we know the elderly and the sick can benefit from the money. Arguably, the theory is not meant for the real world and global politics.

– Strong SoL principle clashes with Jesus’ teachings of love and compassion.

– Weak SoL principle – Any situation can be argued that the pregnancy affects the mothers mental or physical self. Difficult to know true intentions of people.

– Isn’t quality of life more important than sanctity of life?

– If the Imago dei doctrine is wrong, which according to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection is, then so is the SoL principle.

– Peter Singer accuses advocates of SoL of specieism aren’t all life forms equal not just humans.

– Argument cannot cope with conflicts e.g. where only the mother or the child can survive.

– Outdated – not practical for a world where world population is exponentially growing.

– If we are made in the Image of God can we not destroy life like God?

Euthanasia: Sanctity of life vs. Quality of life

Sanctity of Life and Quality of Life in relation to euthanasia.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia literally translates from the Greek as “good death” but it is more commonly defined as the intentional premature ending of life. There are four types.

 

Euthanasia can be one of two types; voluntary and involuntary

 

Voluntary = When individual requests for their life to be prematurely ended

 

Involuntary = When the individuals consent is not taken into account – even if the individual can make a consent.

 

There are two methods of terminating a life than can be classified as euthanasia

 

Active – this is when deliberate drugs are given to bring death

 

Passive – this is when drugs and other machinery on which the individual is reliant are withdrawn in order to hasten death.


What is the Sanctity of Life (SoL) argument?

The SoL argument states that human life is valuable in itself. According to SoL all life is worthy of RESPECT and REVERENCE and is intrinsically worthwhile. This implies all life is equal and we have a duty to protect it.

Ties with Christianity…

Christians sometimes use this argument to found some of the their ethics (particularly medical ones) because ‘the body is the temple of the holy spirit’.

Catholicism

 

The SoL principle is crucial to the catholic position. According to Natural Law any form of euthanasia should not be allowed because it conflicts the first primary precept of life – to live the supreme good. However, now it is recognised that not everyone can handle suffering physically and psychologically, it is impractical to assume that. So even though ‘suffering has a special place in God’s plan of salvation’ and it conflicts the primary precept, the Doctrine of double effect can be used to justify some acts. If the intention is to reduce pain by giving medication not to end the individuals life it can be justified as moral. The church distinguishes between ordinary and extraordinary means and euthanasia is an extraordinary means which can occasionally be used.


Evaluation


Strengths

– Avoids ‘group’ pressure and power of using euthanasia for selfish reasons
– Includes Christian teachings of love and compassion

Weaknesses 

– Outdated – not practical for a world where world population is exponentially growing.

– It is unclear then when this extraordinary means can be utilised.

 

Quality of Life

 

The Quality of Life principle essentially uses the ideas about Personhood to argue when people are considered persons and their life is worthwhile living.

 

Daniel Maguire

 

Maguire who is a professor of Theology argues that saying that God creates life and can only destroy it implies that we are his property. He says that we intervene to save and preserve life  and there is no real difference between than and euthanasia because they both have the goal of ending life with a good death. 

 

Peter Singer

 

Singer says we should move away from the SoL ethic because it is leading to people having a low quality of life. An individual can judge them self whether euthanasia is appropriate and if they are in a position where they can’t consent someone else must do it for them depending on the quality of their life which could be measured medically. 

He puts forward five new commandments which he believes we should abide by:

1. Human beings do not possess equal worth

2. Accept responsibilities for the consequence for our actions

3. Bring children into the world only if they are wanted

4. Do not discriminate on the basis of species

5. Respect a persons wishes to live or die

Number 5 obviously tells us how Singer feels towards euthanasia.

Evaluation

 

Strengths

– By focusing on the quality of life, we are approaching the topic more practically  in the 21st century.

 

Weaknesses

-Individuals in Permanent Vegetative State and other forms of suffering can be sometimes seem as a life not worth living. But this has further implication such as that many disabled and handicapped people have a life which is also not worth living – this does not sit well with the vast majority of people.

Ethical Responses to Euthanasia

Utilitarianism

Act: Bentham would use the hedonic calculus to work out what the right thing to do is. Often in cases of euthanasia the pain is so great that Bentham would be for it as euthanasia is produces the greatest good for the greatest number.

Rule: Mill would agree with euthanasia because he held firm beliefs in the sovereignty of individual. He would however, look at each situation individually, e.g. Thomas Hyde who has the same condition as Steven Hawking ALS  would say that even though the body is dead the brain isn’t which is a higher pleasure and so the act of euthanasia would not be acting on the GHP.

 Singer – Singer was very much in favor of the QoL argument saying we should replace the outdate SoL principle with 5 new commandments:

  1. All humans do not possess equal worth
  2. We should take responsibility for out actions
  3. By saying humans are greater than animals we are committing specism 
  4. Bring children only in this world if they are wanted
  5. Respect a persons wishes to live or die

The last commandment particularly forces us to accept euthanasia as a morally permissible act.

Kant

In order to work out Kant’s response to the ethics concerning euthanasia we must explore how they would fit in with the three formulations of the Categorical Imperative.

1. Universalization

It would be absurd to say it is logical to universalize a law such as ‘I should help X die’ as that would imply that everyone is being helped to die. A claim like ‘ I should help X die if they are in  terrible pain and request to do so’ makes more sense if you are a Kantian and wish to embrace euthanasia. The problem is euthanasia is essentially form of suicide [assisted] and Kant gives the example of suicide being a perfect duty – something we should in no circumstances do.

2. Means to an end

By committing euthanasia we may be using the ill patient as a means to an end so we may be using it to cut costs, use the medical equipment etc for someone else, to be free of constantly visiting the hospital etc and Kant would say this is wrong. Some scholars however argue that euthanasia uses a person as an end in themselves because one is respecting their wishes. However, the problem is Kant clearly states that suicide is an immoral act and lists it as a perfect duty.

3. Kingdom of ends.

Here Kant says we should as though we were making the maxims into laws of nature and obviously euthanasia could not be a law of nature because it is unnatural and hence immoral.

Natural Law

Natural Law follows similar principles to the SoL principle. One of the primary precepts is to live – life the supreme good. This implies that secondary precepts which are absolute can be formed such as do not kill or commit suicide. As euthanasia is clearly a form of killing or suicide then Natural Law ethicists would be against it. However, it isn’t as absolute as Kant because the principle of double effect exists. If you overdose a patient with morphine with an intention to reduce pain and suffering but the by product is death – this can still justify euthanasia.

Situation ethics

A Christian God is personal one hence each situation should be looked at personally bar an legal rules and regulations. In many of these situations the most loving thing to do is to commit euthanasia and hence euthanasia can be accepted as a situation ethicist.

Religious Ethics

Bible

    • Job “God gives and God takes away”
  • Countless passages on SoL 
  • The body is the temple of the Holy Sprit 

All these hint towards a case against euthanasia

Catholicism

They see abortion and euthanasia as murder and hence it is immoral.

They believe in the strong SoL principle.

Church of England

    • Weak SoL
  • Recognises that in some situations it is necessary

Salvation army 

Direct challenge to Mill because they believe in the sovereignty of God.

 

Analogy

Evaluation of the use of analogy for ‘God-talk’

Strengths

1. Defects the problems raised by equivocal and univocal language

2. Shows religious language is not absurd and can provide some understanding of God.

3. It avoids anthropomorphism.

4. Hick argues that enables to make statements yet still preseve the mysterious element to the Judaeo-Christian God.

5. Affirm the nature of the deity to the believer as well as allowing the believer to believe they are in a purposeful relationship with the deity

Weaknesses

1. If we say John is bad is that also a refection of God’s attribute? How do we know which analogies are appropriate to God.

2. Duns Scotus argues that it is vague and leaves us unable to understand God and his actions.

3. Assumes similarity between humans and God which is difficult to accept if God is an external being which is completely different to humans.

4. In respect to the analogy of proportion, is it really possible to make comparisons between necessary and contingent beings, its like comparing apples and pears.

5. Why bother with religious language if God is mysterious? It is far too neat – is the believer just trying to have his cake and eat it.

6. Patrick Sherry points out the believers usually use religious claims literally not analogically.

An Introduction to Religious Language

What is religious Language?
Religious Language = Specialist religious vocabulary as well as religious, moral and ethical claims.
What are the uses and purposes of religious language?
Religious Language has three functions.
  1. To Expressive: They are used to express feelings and emotions. Peter Donovan argues that religion encourages to discipline their emotions in the right direction e.g. forgive wrong-doers. 
  2. To Performative: To perform an event e.g. a wedding.
  3. To Prescribe: To encourage or prevent people from acting in a certain way.
Difficulties with religious language
  1. It is subjective
  2. Difficult to describe something so out of this world and immaterial.
  3. Is humanizing an effective mechanism of describing something immaterial.
  4. Language is sometimes used univocally. (This means the words used to describe God mean exactly the same as when words are used to describe humans). However, is it fair to say that when we call God faithful we mean the same as when we call a dog faithful?
  5. If on the other hand we use words equivocally – this means that a word used to describe God does not mean the same as if it was used to describe a human. However, then can we ever know the meaning of a word?
  6. The last problem which this whole unit is about is the meaningless/meaningfulness of religious statements. Religious believers claim that religious language is cognitive i.e. it can be verified or falsified but other philosopher dismiss religion on the basis that it is non-cognitive i.e. you cannot verify or falsify it.