Chuck Missler and the Existence of Infinity

Along with my (slow) endeavor of exploring and critiquing the ideas undergirding intelligent design, I want to resume a project I started a while back that involved addressing the claims of Chuck Missler.  As I have previously mentioned, Chuck Missler is a well educated man.  That being said, I also get the strong impression that Missler pretends to know a lot more than he really does.  What annoys me the most is that he seems to present himself as an expert in, well, just about everything.

In his Bible studies, Missler lectures his flock on everything from cosmology to quantum mechanics to information theory and beyond.  Missler has everything figured out it seems, and, while he might deny it, presents himself as having just about everything figured out.  It’s shocking that he hasn’t been awarded a Nobel prize.  Listening to his talks, one cannot help but be impressed by the depth and breadth of his knowledge.  However, once one gets over the dazzle of Missler’s apparent expertise in everything, one begins to pick up on very questionable claims and ideas.  Most of the time Missler alludes to very deep ideas, but glosses over them to spare his audience the details.  OR, maybe Missler really doesn’t know or understand the details.  This is my suspicion, which is motivated by several cracks in his intellectual veneer amounting to questionable claims on his part.

The first issue I’d like to address regards the size of the universe.

ObservableUniverse

Missler is fond of proclaiming there are two central mathematical concepts that we don’t find in nature: Infinity and randomness.  I’ll save randomness for another post.

Does Infinity Exist?

Certainly infinity exists conceptually, but the question is whether it describes anything real.  In particular, Missler focuses on size.  This can go in two directions: (1) small scale infinity, and (2) large scale infinity.

Small Scale ∞

Most people are familiar with number lines.

Numberline

For our purposes we can focus on the interval [0,1].  We can cut this interval in half and get [0,\frac{1}{2}].  This can be cut in half again to get [0,\frac{1}{4}].  In fact, we could carry out this cutting procedure indefinitely, always obtaining a new interval [0, \frac{1}{2^{n}}].  This means that we can make the interval as small as we like.  Put differently, we can cut the interval infinitely many times in the sense that there will never be a limit to the number of times we can cut the interval in half.

Now suppose that our interval [0,1] models a length in space-time, say an inch.  If the correspondence were true, then it would follow that space could be indefinitely halved.  According to Missler, this is actually not true.  It turns out that there is a limit to smallness in space-time.  In other words, there is a smallest distance.  This distance is known as the Planck length, which is defined by

\ell_{p} = \sqrt{\frac{\hbar G}{c^{3}}}

where \hbar is Planck’s constant, G is the gravitational constant, and c is the speed of light.  This length is exceedingly small, a mere 1.6\times 10^{-35} meters (approximately).  Missler is fond of saying that if at any point you divide a distance into lengths smaller than \ell_{p}, then you lose locality, the thing you are cutting is suddenly everywhere all at once.  What he concludes is that our reality is actually a “digital simulation”, terminology he uses purposely to insinuate that our world is created by God.  Such loaded language seems to be characteristic of Missler.

So, what is the nature of this mysterious length?  Where does it come from and how do we know it is the smallest length?

The Planck length has profound relevance in quantum gravity.  Put differently, it is at this absurdly tiny scale that quantum effects become relevant and the question regards how gravity behaves or should be understood at this scale.  Both general relativity and quantum field theory must be taken into account.  The definition of the Planck length now makes sense since the speed of light c is the natural unit that relates time and space, G is the constant of gravity, and \hbar is the constant of quantum mechanics. So the Planck scale defines the meeting point of gravity, quantum mechanics, time and space.

Theoretically, it is considered problematic to think of time and space as continuous because we don’t appear to be able to meaningfully discuss distances smaller than the Planck length.  Unfortunately, there is no proven physical significance to the Planck length because current technology is incapable of probing this scale.  Nevertheless, current attempts to unify gravity and QM, such as String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity, yield a minimal length, which is on the order of the Planck distance.  This arises when quantum fluctuations of the gravitational field are taken into account.  In the theory, distances smaller than \ell_{p} are physically meaningless.  Two “points” at distances smaller than \ell_{p} cannot be differentiated.  This seems to suggest that space-time may have a discrete or “foamy” nature rather than a continuous one.  Unfortunately for Missler, however, we just don’t know at this point.  Thus, the declarative nature of his claims are hasty.

Nevertheless, even if this turns out to be the case, the question becomes: what follows from that?  As mentioned above, Missler is fond of saying that the universe is a “digital simulation”.  Certainly the term “digital” would be apropos, but his use of “simulation” seems loaded and dubious.  “Simulation” suggests that this world isn’t the “real” world.  It suggests that our world merely imitates some meta-world.  Of course, Missler purposely uses the term as a way to smuggle in a simulator.  That simulator is God, and the meta-world is the spiritual world.

Large Scale ∞

The more questionable of Missler’s claims regards the size of the universe.  He brazenly declares that we have discovered the universe to be finite.  This is just flat out false, and such carelessness makes me question his credibility.  It is likely that he is simply confusing the observable universe with the universe proper.  There is no doubt that the observable universe is finite.  It is estimated to have a radius of 46 billion light years and due to expansion grows ever larger.  However, this does not necessarily imply that the universe proper is finite in size.  Sir Roger Penrose, one of the most respected mathematical physicists in the world, says, “it may well be that the universe is spatially infinite, like the FLRW models with K = 0 or K<0.” (see The Road To Reality, p. 731)

Note: FLRW models refers to  Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker models and K is a density parameter governing the curvature of the universe.

Even a quick search on Wikipedia reveals that, “The size of the Universe is unknown; it may be infinite. The region visible from Earth (the observable universe) is a sphere with a radius of about 46 billion light years, based on where the expansion of space has taken the most distant objects observed.”

In fact, the possibility of an infinite universe is the stuff of some multiverse models.  Max Tegmark, a mathematical physicist at MIT puts it this way:

If space is infinite and the distribution of matter is sufficiently uniform on large scales, then even the most unlikely events must take place somewhere. In particular, there are infinitely many other inhabited planets, including not just one but infinitely many with people with the same appearance, name and memories as you. Indeed, there are infinitely many other regions the size of our observable universe, where every possible cosmic history is played out. This is the Level I multiverse.

Tegmark goes on

Although the implications may seem crazy and counter-intuitive, this spatially infinite cosmological model is in fact the simplest and most popular one on the market today. It is part of the cosmological concordance model, which agrees with all current observational evidence and is used as the basis for most calculations and simulations presented at cosmology conferences. In contrast, alternatives such as a fractal universe, a closed universe and a multiply connected universe have been seriously challenged by observations. Yet the Level I multiverse idea has been controversial (indeed, an assertion along these lines was one of the heresies for which the Vatican had Giordano Bruno burned at the stake in 1600†), so let us review the status of the two assumptions (infinite space and “sufficiently uniform” distribution). How large is space? Observationally, the lower bound has grown dramatically (Figure 2) with no indication of an upper bound. We all accept the existence of things that we cannot see but could see if we moved or waited, like ships beyond the horizon. Objects beyond cosmic horizon have similar status, since the observable universe grows by a light-year every year as light from further away has time to reach us‡. Since we are all taught about simple Euclidean space in school, it can therefore be difficult to imagine how space could not be infinite — for what would lie beyond the sign saying“SPACE ENDS HERE — MIND THE GAP”? Yet Einstein’s theory of gravity allows space to be finite by being differently connected than Euclidean space, say with the topology of  a four-dimensional sphere or a doughnut so that traveling far in one direction could bring you back from the opposite direction. The cosmic microwave background allows sensitive tests of such finite models, but has so far produced no support for them — flat infinite models fit the data fine and strong limits have been placed on both spatial curvature and multiply connected topologies. In addition, a spatially infinite universe is a generic prediction of the cosmological theory of inflation (Garriga & Vilenkin 2001b). The striking successes of inflation listed below therefore lend further support to the idea that space is after all simple and infinite just as we learned in school.

So, it seems that unless Missler knows something all other physicists don’t, he is being much too hasty and cherry picking possibilities to support what he wants to be true.

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“Hidden Treasures” (Missler) – Hidden in Plain Sight

Missler’s first “hidden treasure” is nothing less than a hidden message buried within the proper names of the genealogy given in Genesis chapter 5.  From what I have learned of Missler, he seems quite enraptured with the idea of codes and hidden messages in the Bible.  This isn’t surprising, however, given his background in cryptology and information science.

Right away one has to wonder why God would bother with hidden messages.  What function would they serve?  The answer, it seems, goes back to the introduction and the importance of prophecy.  A hidden message that also predicted some future event is certainly very interesting and reduces the chances of  being “fulfilled” on purpose.  So, is this what Missler has found, evidencing “supernatural engineering”?

Missler notes that it takes some work to “find” this particular “hidden message” and he isn’t joking.  He claims that one needs the original roots of the Hebrew names in question and this is somewhat reasonable, though it makes for a more difficult decryption.  After some looking of my own, however, it seems that one cannot look up these roots just anywhere.  Missler’s bibliography for this chapter consists of six references (see below), one of which is another book written by him.  This leaves one wondering how much support there really is for his conclusions.  So , what exactly is this “hidden message”?  In Genesis chapter 5 we are given the following genealogy:

1: This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
2: Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
3: And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:
4: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
5: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
6: And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:
7: And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:
8: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.
9: And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:
10: And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:
11: And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.
12: And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:
13: And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:
14: And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.
15: And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:
16: And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:
17: And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.
18: And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:
19: And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
20: And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.
21: And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
22: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
25: And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:
26: And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
27: And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
28: And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
29: And he called his name Noah, saying, This name shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.
30: And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:
31: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.
32: And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

For the “message” we need only the names. In total, there are 13 names in this passage, but Missler claims we need only the first 10.  They are:

Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan (some say Kenan), Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah

Missler stops here even though the text goes on to mention the sons of Noah, namely Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Now, Missler’s whole premise here relies on the significance the Hebrews attached to names.  Today we simply pick names we like, but the Hebrews chose names based, in part, on their meaning.  Here’s a rundown of Missler’s analysis:

Adam – man
Seth – appointed
Enosh – mortal, frail or miserable
Kenan – sorrow, dirge or elegy
Mahalalel – the Blessed God
Jared – shall come down
Enoch – teaching or commencement
Methuselah – his death shall bring
Lamech – despairing
Noah – to bring relief

If put together into a sentence, this would read:

Man is appointed mortal sorrow; but the Blessed God shall come down teaching that His death shall bring the despairing relief (or rest).

At first, this seems pretty impressive.  Missler, however, takes it to be quite a bit more, namely evidence of “supernatural engineering”.  He furthermore states that “This punctures the presumptions of many who view the Bible as a record of an evolving cultural tradition…”  But why?  From here I’d like to proceed in two directions.  First, is there really a hidden message here or does it take some “massaging” to get the desired result?  Second, even if we entertain this conclusion, does it really suggest a supernatural origin or is there a perfectly good natural explanation?

Hidden Message?

To see if there really was a hidden message I went to Crosswalk.com, a Christian website which has Bible study tools allowing one to look up original Greek and Hebrew words, even their roots.  Here’s what I found:

Adam – man or mankind
Seth – compensation [or from its root] to put, set, lay (hand upon), appoint, fix, set mind to, to constitute, make like, perform, to take one’s stand, to lay waste, to be imposed, be set upon
Enosh – man, mortal man, person, mankind
Kenan – possession, [from root] nest, to make a nest
Mahalalel – praise of God
Jared – descent, to go down, march down, to go or come down
Enoch – dedicated, [root] to train, dedicate, inaugurate
Methuselah – man of the dart or man of the weapon
Lamech – powerful (from an unusual root of uncertain meaning)
Noah – rest

Although some are a direct match with Missler’s translation, it is still significantly harder to see any coherent message.  One would imagine that if a divine being such as God had intended for their to be such a message, then there would be no doubt or ambiguity.  Yet, even Missler concedes at the beginning of this chapter that

“The meaning of proper names can be a difficult pursuit since a direct translation is usually not readily available… views concerning the meaning of original roots are not free of controversy and variant readings.”

With such an admission, it seems rather disingenuous to conclude the chapter with a verdict of “supernatural engineering”.

So, it isn’t clear that there really is a hidden message at all.  Nevertheless, provided that Missler’s translations are valid with respect to accepted scholarly understandings of potential meanings, it is interesting that such construction can be made.  For the sake of argument, then, let us tentatively assume that there is a “hidden” message.

Evidence of Supernatural Engineering?

Supposing that there is significance to the order and meaning of the names in Genesis 5, it seems that it would only be a “hidden” message with respect to gentiles.  As mentioned above, the Jews attached great significance to names and their meanings.  It is therefore hard to imagine that this “hidden” message would not have been plain as day to Hebrew readers.  Jewish writers were also fond of structure.  That is, there was significance to special kinds of literary structure.  So, this “hidden” message may have just been a clever literary device.

But what about the fact that it proclaims the Christian gospel?  Isn’t this a prediction of Jesus?  It is certainly easy to see why a Christian would be quick to conclude such a thing.  But notice that this particular message is quite vague.  Much of Jewish religious thought concerned itself with notions of apostasy and redemption.  Furthermore, the author of Genesis is already thought to preempt the gospel in Chapter 3 when God speaks to the serpent about one in the line of Eve that will bruise the serpent’s head.  This is called the proto-evangelium.  It is therefore not that surprising that the author would follow this theme by encoding this idea within the significance of names in the very line that was supposed to bring about the bruiser of the serpent’s head.

One could object that it is highly unlikely that these 10 people would have just the right names by accident, therefore God must have superintended it all.  While it would be unlikely, such an objection relies on the assumption that these 10 people were actually real historical figures.  But given that there is absolutely no evidence or reason to accept this and significant evidence to the contrary (even many Christians believe Genesis to be myth) it is reasonable to take this genesis account as merely a cultural myth whereby the figures and hence the names were engineered by the writer of Genesis to fulfill a literary purpose.  Far from being a prediction, then, later Hebrew writers simply constructed the story of Jesus (whether in part or in full) to coincide with all that they understood from the Old Testament, including this “hidden” message.

Missler’s Bibliography for Selection One
Missler, Chuck, Cosmic Codes – Hidden Messages From the Edge of Eternity, Koinonia House, 1999.

Jones, Alfred, Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990.

Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh, The Living Torah, Maznaim Publishing Corporation, Jerusalem, 1981.

Pink, Arthur W., Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago IL, 1922.

Rosenbaum, M., and Silbermann, A., Pentateuch with Onkelos’s Translation (into Aramaic) and Rashi’s Commentary, Silbermann Family Publishers, Jerusalem, 1973.

Stedman, Ray C., The Beginnings, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1978.