Whatever one believes about The Urantia Book, there is plenty of serendipity in the universe. Literally on the day I published “Problems with the Cosmology and Astronomy of The Urantia Book”, I received a link to Tom Allen’s “The Great Debate on the Scale of Orvonton”, one of the issues I discuss in my essay. Mr. Allen does this issue far more justice than do I. For example, he suggests that some of the confusion over The Urantia Book’s terminological usage stems from its describing two different Orvontons: today’s partly finished one, and the future finished version. This is an excellent point that I missed. The time factor, destiny, does help to interpret what The Urantia Book says about this matter. It does not, however, completely clear up the problem.
I have no quarrel with the content of Mr. Allen’s book. He does miss a few things when evaluating Urantia Book claims against modern cosmology (he has republished the book three times, last in 2020, to accommodate just such advances). Type-1A supernova overlap with and supplement the Cepheid variable “standard candle” and have now for some thirty years, but they are not mentioned. It can be argued that what the papers call the Grand Universe is more substantially complete than he thinks [21:1.4]. His argument, that the universe does not look (to modern astronomy) like the papers describe because we are very early in its history can be challenged. He does mention the big bang, but only to dismiss it as one of many mistaken cosmological theories soon to be discarded as have others in the past. I believe this is unfair. Allen fails to accommodate an enormous expansion, since 2000, of evidence in support of the big bang, though to be clear, the Orvonton debate and the origin of the universe issue are not directly connected.
Mr. Allen states his bias explicitly (as a good philosopher should) on page 8 where he says: “I crave philosophically to understand what the Urantia papers say about the cosmology, cosmogony, and cosmography of the universe. I am curious how current astronomy along with early 20th Century history validates or confuses revelatory articulation.” The revelatory status of The Urantia Book over-all is assumed. While the papers do state that the cosmology presented is not inspired, it is assumed to mean something, to represent some truth-fact about the universe’s organization. If what Mr. Allen calls “surface errors” in The Urantia Book’s assertions are in conflict with modern astronomy, our job is to puzzle out what the book is really trying to tell us.
I do not make this assumption. Cosmology and astronomy have made longer leaps since 1965 than they did throughout all of human history prior to that year, including the development of powerful telescopes (optical and radio) in the first half of the 20th Century when the papers were written. Throughout human history down to roughly 2000 all astronomy was electromagnetic (including the discovery of the CMB), light of one wavelength or another. Only since that date have two non-electromagnetic means of sensing the cosmos come into existence, neutrino and gravitational wave astronomy, the former in particular strongly reinforcing cosmology’s conviction in the truth-fact of the big bang.
As noted above, none of this bears directly on Mr. Allen’s exposition of the Orvonton scale issue. If however I am right (I do not insist that I am right) about the deeper absurdity of Urantia Book cosmology (see essay linked above), those problems reduce the significance of the Orvonton dispute to something like the medieval scholar debate over how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.
None of this is to gainsay Mr. Allen’s book. As concerns both the wider and narrower cosmological issues, he has set himself an impossible task. One simply cannot assume what The Urantia Book says is meaningful and contradiction free, and accommodate the discoveries of modern cosmology at the same time.
This delightful little book is written for a specific audience, readers of The Urantia Book, and specifically, readers interested in what The Urantia Book says about cosmology and astronomy.
The Urantia Book describes a [future] highly structured universe still very much in that structuring process. But to present this description, the authors were constrained to reveal it in the cosmological and astronomical language and knowledge of the times in which The Urantia Book was written, more or less the 1930s. Orvonton is a sub-segment of the present and future universe.
What The Urantia Book says about Orvonton suggests it might be the Milky Way galaxy and its satellites. Other statements suggest it includes (perhaps in the future) all the galaxies in our “local cluster”, or the “local sheet” (a peculiar collection of near-by galaxies all lying in a plain), local volume, or up to the Virgo supercluster! None of these collections was understood in the 1930s, astronomers at that time having discovered some of these galaxies but not their spatial relation.
Mr. Allen pieces together the clues leading to various of these hypotheses. He is meticulous and scholarly, carefully documenting all the various lines of evidence from The Urantia Book and evaluating them in relation to both 1930s and modern astronomy. His purpose here is to survey the territory. He does not argue for a particular favorite interpretation. His evaluation if not exhaustive is close to it. Overall a scholarly presentation, and while there are issues here and there with text formatting in my Kindle edition, given the narrow audience for this book, I will not count those against him. Bravo! Good job!
The purpose of this essay is to set the cosmology and astronomy of the Urantia Book against what modern, twenty-first-century cosmology and astronomy observe in the physical universe. I will also argue that even if today’s cosmology and astronomy have got some things wrong about the structure of the universe, there is enough evidence favoring cosmology’s fundamental insights to render the Urantia Book’s cosmology, and much of what it says about astronomy, impossible.
Conventions: The Urantia Book is UB or “the book”. Reference to scientific papers and images are linked. References to sections of the book are signaled by [UB paper:section.paragraph].
Updated on May 26, 2021 to include section “a missing superuniverse”.
SCIENCE AND THE URANTIA BOOK
The Urantia Book (UB) is about God. Its theology (presented primarily in the Forward, papers 1-10 and 99-118) expands human ideas about God, revealing a more nuanced picture than any human-originated theology has achieved. Theology has consequences. For example, if God is good and what humans gain in this life has continuing value personally, there must be some mechanism for expressing a postmortal personality. The UB illustrates this with its story of the ascension scheme coupled with an explanation of universe administration (God the Seven-Fold) terminating in the Creator Sons, which sets the context of our relationship to Jesus, Michael of Nebadon. The book’s last section, “The Life of Jesus”, is perhaps the most remarkable illustration of the relationship possible between man and God ever written!
The UB contains hundreds of scientific assertions. Readers of the book have for some time been aware that much of this science is problematic. In 2017, Geoffrey Taylor re-wrote (updated) “Scientific Predictions of the Urantia Book”, his 1987 paper co-authored with Irwin Ginsburgh. In this paper, he discusses 31 specific “scientific predictions” found in the UB. He compares them to what is known now, confirming (most), disconfirming (a few), or remaining an open question.
Part of the problem of assessing these UB assertions is dating them. UB history holds the text of the book was completed before 1940. If this is true, then any matching discovery made after 1940 would be evidence for the UB’s veracity, at least that its authors made a good guess. The UB was not published until 1955. All of whatever physical precursors existed before that date, the hard evidence that no changes were made during the 1940s and very early 1950s (the original, date-able, notes and printing plates) were destroyed. I mention this because it is a part of what is problematic about “UB science”. I do not attempt in this essay to resolve these issues. What is problematic about UB cosmology and astronomy has nothing to do with these date issues.
Here is a categorization and count of issues Taylor addresses:
The UB contains dozens of “scientific assertions” besides those Taylor mentions, and some of the above might fit different categories. To an extent, he cherry-picks his examples. For example, he makes no mention of this on 65:6.1. “Ever will the scientist come nearer and nearer the secrets of life, but never will he find them, and for no other reason than that he must kill protoplasm in order to analyze it.” The italics never and must are mine because categorical terms like these make the statement false. Biologists have been probing cells and measuring their living processes since the late 1960s! Surely revelators (who could “anticipate the scientific discoveries of a thousand years” [UB 101:4.2]) would know this? Why include categoricals like “must” and “never”?
Besides the “hard science” categories listed above (Taylor’s subject), the UB makes hundreds of statements in the arenas of soft sciences, anthropology, sociology, psychology, even “political science”, but none of these are Taylor’s subjects, nor mine. This paper focuses on cosmology and astronomy because the UB’s description of the mortal ascension scheme rests on these. I will cover the biology of human evolution (another major issue) in another paper.
In paper 101:4.1, The book makes this statement: “Any cosmology presented as a part of revealed religion is destined to be outgrown in a very short time”, and 101:4.2 emphasizes that “The cosmology of these revelations is not inspired.” To me, “not inspired” means the revelators merely adopted and adapted the cosmology, primarily the steady-state idea they found in human sources before 1950. But the book’s morphology of the Master Universe (everything inhabited and not yet inhabited), nor its revelation of “space respiration”, is not to be found in astronomy or cosmology papers of the period. Where did the authors get this material? Except for the steady-state-creation idea, UB cosmology does not reflect scientific consensus or even speculation of the 20th Century’s first half. If “not inspired”, and not a product of early 20th Century science, how exactly are we to understand it? If it seems not to match observation, are we to accord it some credibility merely because it appears in the UB?
Briefly summarized UB cosmology says:
The physical universe is a steady-state creation along the lines of human ideas popular in the first half of the 20th Century. [UB 9:3.4] [UB 42:4.9]
Space, presently filled with material creation, respires in billion-year cycles. A billion expanding (we are currently halfway through such a phase) and a billion contracting. [UB 11:6 whole section]
The material creation is not symmetrical except bilaterally around an axis perpendicular to Paradise. Paradise is an ellipse, and the universe as a whole rotates around paradise (much more on this below). The axis perpendicular to Paradise is the only one close to symmetrical. The other two axes (an ellipse has three) are asymmetrical. [UB 11:7.3]
The physical universe astronomers and cosmologists see from Earth looks absolutely nothing like what the UB describes. What we see cannot be interpreted (rationalized) along lines the UB claims is the case, nor can the UB presentation be aligned to modern observations. It isn’t that the UB is wrong as to details; much of it cannot be made sense-of in the light of present observation, including types of astronomies invented in but the last few decades! At least this is what I now believe.
Cosmology is a purely observational science. The universe “happened” (slowly or suddenly), once, sometime in the past, and continues to the present day. We cannot experiment by setting initial conditions and seeing what sort of universe emerges from them. What cosmologists do is look. Having well understood the physics of light and the effect of gravity on it, they propose various theories about how the universe got going (like steady-state) and ask: “what are the consequences (to the light we observe) of that theory”? Dozens of theories have been tried (including those suggested by UB readers trying to rationalize the UB picture with present observations), and only the Big Bang survives. The Big Bang’s consequences (the first of many, the Cosmic Microwave Background temperature, calculated 10+ years before it was found), is the only theory that survives all, and I mean all the tests (see note on Big Bang evidence at the end of the essay).
STEADY STATE versus THE BIG BANG
The big bang was, 100 years ago, a nascent cosmological competitor to the millennia-old idea that the appearance of matter in the cosmos is an ongoing process, new matter, hydrogen (or perhaps protons, neutrons, and electrons), slowly appearing throughout the universe. This “steady-state” creation would forever produce new material for the formation of stars and other entities, yielding today a universe of unknown size and age, possibly infinite and forever!
In 1953 George Gamow contributed to the debate. Given the controversial (until the mid-1960s) notion of a big bang roughly ten-billion years ago (a then-best estimate based on tracing apparent recession speed of distant galaxies backwards in time), Gamow reasoned that there should be a left-over, cold, cosmic microwave background of roughly 7 degrees Kelvin (the CMB) throughout the universe. In 1965 the CMB was discovered accidentally by two Bell Labs engineers trying to figure out why they couldn’t get rid of a constant noise at 2.72 degrees Kelvin from a new, very sensitive antenna. The first “big evidence” for the big bang was not that distant objects appear to be racing away from one another (a steady-state creation also expands as more matter is added), but that there is a cold-light at 2.72548±0.00057 K coming from every direction we look.
A singular origin is the only reasonable explanation for the phenomenon of this light. Since the 60s, numerous “other phenomena” whose observation can only be explained by singular origin, evidence upon evidence, has piled on to support the idea. As might be expected, at least into the last quarter of the 20th Century, “Steady State” aficionados suggested other explanations. All had (as good scientific theories must) testable consequences. The tests all failed, while the big bang has survived every test of its theorized outcomes. I bring up the big bang here not to hawk it (I list some independent evidentiary lines at the end of the essay), but because it has implications not only for the matter of “steady-state creation”, but also the UB’s other cosmological assertions, space respiration and the shape (morphology) of the creation.
As concerns “steady-state”, the UB tells us that the Infinite Spirit can slow down energies to the “point of materialization” [UB 9:3.4]. Presumably, this is the source of all the matter in the universe. Any light produced by this process would cool as the universe expanded (the book tells us we are in an expanding phase due to “space respiration”). But since matter creation is constant, we would expect the temperature of such light to vary as we look across the sky. It would be warmer coming from “newer regions” and cooler from “older”. Yet all the background light we see (strictly “listen to” with radio telescopes as it has cooled down to microwaves) had to begin simultaneously. To hypothesize that, nevertheless, light from creations at different times all happens to hit Earth at 2.725 degrees Kelvin from everywhere is ad hoc.
SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE
The UB’s biggest problem is the shape of the universe (the Maltese Cross 11:7:3), its declaration that there is an upper and lower limit to “pervaded (the material creation) space” (11:7.6). A related problem is the missing consequence of a mass, Havona and its surrounding gravity bodies, “as great as the seven superuniverses (the presently inhabited “Grand Universe”) combined” [UB 12:1.4], not to mention the very existence of a different, “non-pervaded space” constituting a sort of reservoir to and from which pervaded space flows. The UB description, if authoritative, would have evident observational consequences. Given the UB picture, if we look in all directions from our position in space, we should see different things. In a direction outward along the plain of creation (as the UB tells it), we should see lots of galaxies (the “outer space” universes). But in a direction perpendicular to this plain (up or down), we should see nothing at all beyond our superuniverse. Even accepting a rationalization by UB readers that our galactic supercluster (see ASTRONOMY below for discussion) is the real superuniverse, we should see nothing beyond it.
Moreover (I thank my friend Charles Lamar for pointing this out), if we look in a direction above or below the center of our galaxy, above and below what the UB claims is the center of creation lying somewhere behind it, some substantial angle of arc would be a view at and through non-pervaded space. What would non-pervaded space (not to mention some mid-space zone that must also intervene [11:7.3]) do to the starlight coming from its other side? The UB provides no clue to this answer, but the only thing these regions could possibly do, if our observations are to be believed, would be to so manipulate the light that the universe of galaxies on its other side look like the universe we view in every other direction!
So what do we see? We see what cosmologists call an “isotropic universe” that is also homogenous on very large scales. meaning “the same in every direction” In every direction, we see billions of galactic clusters and streams of galaxies out to 10+ billion light-years. Even our supercluster is but one of billions of them in every direction (see illustration in this link). Every dot of light in that image is a galaxy or cluster of galaxies, and this is what we see in every direction we look. Moreover, even if this illustration (after all, a computer construct based on observation) is not quite right, what is indisputable is that what we see is the same everywhere! In every direction, including towards the Milky Way’s center there are galaxies and galactic clusters at all distances everywhere. Even if individual estimates of distance are considerably mistaken we cannot be mistaken about the shape of the overall distribution.This fact alone makes the UB picture of a bilaterally symmetrical universe unbelievable.
Some astute reader is going to object and say that the universe may not be precisely isotropic. There is in fact some evidence that matter-density in one axis is greater than in the axis perpendicular to it. But the difference is two percent. Material density along the denser axis is two percent greater than in the perpendicular axis. Two percent is nowhere near the all-and-none difference that follows from the universe architecture portrayed in the UB!
Suppose the UB has deliberately provided a fantasy cosmology (possible, if not likely even given the astronomical knowledge of the 1920s and 30s) on which to rest its description of the mortal ascension scheme? The problem is that what we see is so vastly different from what the UB describes it is impossible to reconcile the two architectures. Furthermore, astronomers on a world a few billion light-years from earth would observe, from their world, the same isotropic universe we detect from ours. A universe that appears isotropic from every position within it hasn’t any center! The whole of the UB ascension scheme ultimately rests on Paradise at the center of everything, a center that doesn’t appear to exist. Now one might argue that we cannot assume another position from which to view the universe. We have good reason to believe the universe would appear isotropic from any place in it, but we cannot know this. There are, or would be, other consequences to what we see if Havona existed.
THE HAVONA GRAVITY PROBLEM
This issue of a center (and what the UB says about it) is integral to the book’s “shape story”. The central universe, Paradise, the billion Havona worlds, and the “dark gravity bodies” surrounding it, are said to contain mass “far in excess” of the entire Grand Universe [UB 12:1.4]! That’s a lot of mass! I’m tempted to bring up the matter of gravitational waves here, but I demure. It is possible (being no physicist), the arrangement of a central mass surrounded by two rings of “dark gravity bodies” orbiting in opposite directions [UB 14:1.8] is set up precisely to cancel (by interference) the enormous gravitational waves that, otherwise, we would surely have noticed (and do not) coming from some particular direction in the sky. But while I can speculate my way around missing gravitational waves, there would be other consequences of such a mass.
According to the UB, Havona is presently on the other side of our galactic center (we are not told how far), where dust obscures what would otherwise be a view of a massive dark body occluding everything on the far side of it [UB 15:3.3]. Whoever constructed this part of the UB cosmological fantasy did not understand the effect of mass on light. Even if no gravitational waves emanate from Havona, the central universe has gravity [UB 11:8.7].
While we cannot see directly through the center of our galaxy (we do see behind the dust in X-ray light, but what is visible are stars yet in our galaxy), we can see above and below the central band. What do we see? We see the same thing we see in every other direction, billions of galaxies out to more than ten billion light-years! But that is not what we would see if there was, lying behind the central band of the Milky Way, a collection of bodies whose mass was equal to the whole of the grand universe. All the light coming from stars (superuniverses and outer space bands) on the other side of Havona (setting aside the issue of looking through non-pervaded space discussed above) and just above and below the Milky Way’s central band would be bent towards us and appear compressed together. What we would see is starlight fused into a bright band (see this image of a black hole lensing a galaxy lying somewhere behind it. Now imagine that instead of a single galaxy, we saw the light of thousands smeared out by the gravity of Havona), a halo of light surrounding an empty (dark) region. We do not see anything like this.
Although our view through our galactic center is hazy and the few stars we resolve are within the Milky Way, whatever is beyond the galaxy, it cannot be a mass-collection as great as the rest of the Grand Universe combined. Any large gravitational mass would still distort the light coming from stars (galaxies) on its other side. In short, and again what we would see looking in that direction would not look the same as what we see looking in the opposite direction. But what we see is the same. There cannot be a mass such as the UB describes somewhere on the other side of our galactic center.
While perhaps not UB cosmology’s biggest problem, space respiration is a big one. Briefly put, the volume of “pervaded space”, the horizontal arms of the maltese cross, respires, expands and contracts, in alternating one-billion year cycles [UB 11:6], presumably expanding and compressing the material creation along with the space it occupies. Contraction does not result in a “big crunch” (everything gets crushed together, generating a new big bang), but rather a partial inspiration (contracting) for a billion years before expanding again. Neither the UB nor modern cosmology hints at anything like a mechanism that could drive this process. We are told only that “non-pervaded space”, the vertical section of the maltese cross, also contracts and expands inversely with the pervaded zone. As with other such assertions of the revelators, we are left only with the reasonable assumption that God knows the trick.
Even if real, we cannot measure space respiration directly. We have not been observers on Earth long enough to witness a transition from contraction to expansion (our present condition). If, however, our understanding of how light behaves in an expanding universe (red-shifted), and how it would behave in a contracting universe (blue-shifted), is correct, the alternating expansion and contraction would appear to have visible consequences we do not observe.
There are two issues with space respiration. The first is again the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background light. The UB never says how old the physical universe is. Most readers take it to imply it is older than the 14.8 billion-years cosmologists believe it to be. But even given our age estimates, there would have been seven complete respiration cycles (seven out, seven in, and presently a eighth expansion). It might happen that the universe’s background light is currently at 2.725K (setting aside the consequence of steady-state creation at different times noted above) given a universe that is expanding and contracting in two-billion-year cycles. But remember that the calculated temperature (in 1953 before the CMB was discovered and measured), only four degrees Kelvin off the measured temperature, was based on a model universe expanding continuously for roughly ten billion years.
Even if we assume the universe expands over-all, each expiration leaving the universe a little bigger than it was when the prior inspiration began (more matter being created over time), it seems extraordinarily coincidental that the measured temperature of the light is very close to the theoretical result of light from a big bang and continuous expansion of 14.8 billion years! That coincidence is problematic.
The coincidence regarding the background light’s temperature is not the only observational consequence of space respiration. Suppose we take two very similar stars, A and B (same mass, composition, history, and spectrum), both a few billions of light-years distant, but star B is one billion light-years farther from Earth than star A. Both stars exhibit red-shifted light because we are presently in an expiration (expansion) phase of the respiration cycle. But on its journey to Earth, star B’s light experienced an extra period of blue-shift (being one-billion light-years more distant) than star A. When star B’s photons were as far from Earth as star A, B’s light would be a little bluer than it would, had it not traveled that extra billion years during a contraction phase. Compared to A, star B would appear a little bluer than it should(remember they are identical). By our theories, it should be a little redder being one-billion light-years more distant.
To be clear, star B’s light would still be red-shifted but less red-shifted than star A. When star B’s light, the light we see today, reaches us, its redshift distorts towards the blue. It would appear closer than it is because our theory of light says that “less-red means closer”. Half of the millions of galaxies we see with our telescopes in every direction (roughly those at odd multiples of billion light-year distances from us), would be a little bluer than our cosmological theories predict. From our viewpoint, their cosmological distance would appear closer (less red) than they are.
Looking outward from Earth, for every two-billion light-year increment, half the stars in every direction would appear closer to us than they should! There would appear to be rings, like tree-rings, extending every other billion light-years outwards for as far as we could see. The rings would be an optical illusion, a mirage, an artifact of the stellar spectrum given our current theories. But given our present ideas, the illusion of such rings would be unavoidable and noticeable to astronomers and cosmologists if space respiration were a fact. But we do not see such rings, an illusion that space respiration, if real, would impose on our viewpoint. Space respiration, like the maltese cross, is a fantasy.
According to the UB everything in the universe, other than Paradise, is rotating. Indeed, every layer of the material creation from Havona outwards, the Grand Universe and the four outer-space levels, rotates in a direction opposite the layers adjacent to it [UB 11:7.9]!
There is nothing in the big bang theory that would impart rotation, angular momentum, to the universe. Most cosmologists do not believe the universe is rotating. Imparted by the big bang, rotation would leave a polarization fingerprint on the background light, the CMB. Cosmologists have looked, but see nothing of this so far. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. In fact there is recent evidence that rotations around multiple axes is possible (see link), while the UB claims but one axis (the semi-symmetrical axis perpendicular to Paradise). Nothing of what has been seen would suggest opposite rotations at different distances from us.
Alternate rotation of successive space-level bands would surely be noticed. Between the Grand Universe and the first outer-space level, the additive effect of rotation in opposite directions would have dramatic effects.
First, within a band, the proportion of galaxies rotating in the direction of band motion would be greater than the differences observed. Between bands, an even greater, alternating, difference would stand out. We would expect more rotation in one direction in nearby space, one-hundred-million light-years, and a billion light-years distant, more in the opposite direction. The small statistical variation in rotation randomness detected (see link above) makes no mention of variation by distance, nor does this earlier paper looking at a single-axis rotation. Second, and much more obviously, all the galaxies in the next outer-band approaching us would exhibit blue-shifted light, while those moving away from us would be more red-shifted than universe expansion could account for.
Despite some controversy over universe rotation as a whole, there can be little doubt the UB claim of alternating directions-of-rotation cannot be true. By any measure of distance, the lack of systematic difference in the color of light produced by bands of galaxies rotating in opposite directions is an irrefutable falsification of the UB claim.
DARK MATTER AND DARK ENERGY
There are two problems in modern cosmology, dark energy and dark matter, that are not mentioned directly in the UB, but bear commenting on in relation to what the book does say. Dark energy (say cosmologists) is what pushes space apart yielding the galaxy recession observations made since the 1920s. The UB has space respiration which has problems discussed above. On the side of physics and cosmology, there is the quantum vacuum, which at least (despite controversy) points at a solution to the dark energy problem.
Dark matter is another problem. It arises from our observation that the stars in the outer areas of a rotating galaxy are moving as fast as stars nearer the galactic center. This violates our understanding of how gravity works. Unless that is, there is much more gravity in and around the galaxy than we can measure by adding up all the stars and gas we detect. “Dark Matter” was proposed (in 1933 by Fritz Zwiky) as a solution to the problem. Think of it as a sort of stand-in for “we do not know what but it has gravity”.
The UB, tells us about entities, “Master Physical Controllers”, “force organizers”, and “Power Centers” [UB 29 all] whose job might just possibly include making that strange behavior happen, some sub-system of their larger-scale organization. Unlike space-respiration, unless one day dark matter is directly detected, there is nothing to be observed that would permit us to tell the difference between the action of controllers and force organizers or dark matter.
Dark matter is among the few cosmological problems not directly informed by the cold light of the CMB. But that light does pose an issue for controllers and other entities organizing physical matter as portrayed in the UB. The cold light is a fingerprint, left by the past, on the present distribution of galactic clusters we see throughout the visible (Earth’s “cosmic horizon”) universe. That fingerprint, plus momentum and gravity (including dark matter), all floating on dark energy, explains the present distribution of all the matter in the visible universe.
Unless the real goal (at least to the fourteen-billion-year stage) of the entities revealed in the UB is the present isotopic and homogeneous distribution we observe, they aren’t doing very much besides turning galaxies into pinwheels. To be sure this is not specifically a problem for UB cosmology as the matter of dark matter lies for the moment beyond our grasp.
In a hierarchy of “big science”, astronomy falls below cosmology. Cosmology is about universe origins and structure over-all. Today, on Earth, cosmology is focused on the background light. Astronomy is about the light of stars, not the background. In this essay, and the UB, the two disciplines cross over in the implications of space respiration and alternate-band-rotation. But those ideas are found nowhere in modern cosmology or astronomy other than the possibility of some over-all universe rotation, and the notion of a permanent, gravity-driven reversal of expansion into a “big crunch” and new big bang.
There is a lot of astronomy in the UB, much of it problematic. As with cosmology, the problem is what the UB says conflicts with our observations. Here, I refer to a more “local neighborhood”, hundreds-of-thousands of light-years and up to a few hundreds-of-millions, but not billions.
What exactly corresponds to the superuniverse of Orvonton? Tom Allen has written “The Great Debate on the Scale of Orvonton” addressing this question in a far more thorough and systematic way than I do here. He also makes a point about time. It is quite reasonable to suppose that the book speaks of two different Orvontons, one as it exists now, and the other as it will exist in the far future. The UB does not differentiate between these, but Mr. Allen’s point is worth bearing in mind in the discussion below.
The UB usually implies Orvonton is the “Milky Way Galaxy”, the issue being what counts as the Milky Way? Our superuniverse is about five-hundred-thousand light-years across [UB 32:2.11]. Now introductory astronomy texts will say the spiral arm galaxy we think of as the Milky Way is about one-hundred-thousand light-years across, but that does not include the now-discovered dozens of satellite galaxies orbiting the spiral part. If Orvonton includes all of these, five-hundred-thousand light-years is a fair (possible) estimate.
About two million light-years from the Milky Way is the spiral galaxy Andromeda and its collection of satellites. Is Andromeda another superuniverse? If it is, the fact that our two galaxies and their satellite collections are careening towards one another at thousands of kilometers an hour should be troubling. It will take millions of years for them to collide, but in the UB’s picture, they shouldn’t be drawing closer to one another at all but preceding in an orderly orbital fashion around the central universe! The UB says Andromeda is not yet inhabited [UB 15:4.7]. If anything, to our telescopes, it looks at least as well organized as our own Milky Way. Why should a well organized star cloud so close to us, in particular compared to all other galaxies in our super-cluster, be uninhabited when we, clearly, are not?
There is another curious thing about the Milky Way and Andromeda. There aren’t any other big galaxies anywhere within a few tens-of-millions of light-years. Some hundred randomly scattered smaller galaxies are in this region, our “local galactic cluster”. Beyond the “local cluster”, there are some hundred-thousand other, mostly small, galaxies and other local clusters out to one-hundred-million light-years! This collection, our super-cluster, is not distributed smoothly in its space but looks more like a chaotic three-dimensional ink-blot. It is called Laniakea, and this link is a computer rendering of it.
This region of space, a bubble some hundred million light-years across, looks nothing like the UB’s description of Orvonton, its ten grand divisions [15:3.4, 41:3.10] and so on. If the UB refers to the far future, it isn’t clear about it, especially if astronomers have supposedly identified eight of the ten divisions [UB 15:3.4]. This would have to mean “future Orvonton” and the eight identified divisions the few near-by galactic clusters identified in the 1930s. Some UB readers have seized on the hundred-thousand figure for the number of galaxies in the super-cluster (a rough estimate which could be substantially high or low, we do not know) and suggest that these galaxies are really what the UB calls “local universes”, the domains of individual Creator Sons. What ever part of the superuniverse these entities represent, they will come to look like the UB description in time.
Entertaining this idea for a moment explains the present chaotic distribution of the super-cluster if it can be shown that some order is being imposed. Is Laniakea more organized today than it was a billion or so years ago? We do not know of course, but our limited observation of relative motions does not suggest any ordering pattern and can seemingly be explained purely by gravity. It might also be that the UB is just plain inconsistent! Moreover, the speculation about entities around our galaxy, all the way out to the super-cluster, does not explain why, looking outward, widening our focus beyond a few hundred million light-years to a billion or more, we do not see one or a few super-clusters around us, but thousands of them in all directions. According to the UB, there are empty spaces, bands of lessened activity, in between bands of galactic creation, the “outer space levels” surrounding the Grand Universe [11:7.7]. Our view reveals nothing like this. To be sure we observe gigantic voids, empty space distributed like holes in Swiss cheese, but nowhere laid out in neat concentric circles.
A NOTE ON THE GREAT ATTRACTOR
The Great Attractor is not a part of UB cosmology or astronomy. It does, however, illustrate what readers sometimes do with bits of space news in effort to reconcile the UB with observations. Some decades ago, shortly after Laniakea’s discovery, it was also discovered that the entire supercluster was moving together in a definite direction and speed that was not, at that time, explainable. The term “great attractor” (GA) was coined in the early 2000s by Lynden-Bell as a stand-in for whatever it is that is pulling us along, at the time, an unknown gravitational source. Some UB readers speculated that the GA was Havona. I have already noted the effect on our observations that Havona would impose, and in the last few years, the GA has proven explainable after all.
There are not one but two Laniakea-sized superclusters out ahead of us in our line of flight, one a hundred-million light-years ahead of Laniakea, the other a hundred-million beyond the first. By contrast, behind us, in a direction opposite these two superclusters, there is a void, a bubble of mostly nothing some five-hundred-million light-years wide. Two superclusters lie in one direction, with nothing to counterbalance their gravity in the other. That explains both the direction and speed of our motion.
A MISSING SUPERUNIVERSE?
If the shape of the universe is the UB’s biggest problem cosmologically speaking, nothing more illustrates the book’s internal inconsistency better than this issue of Orvonton. The UB does not tell us if superuniverses evolve together or if number one somewhat precedes two, and so on down to number seven, Orvonton. Either way we should, from our perspective in Orvonton, see two (at least) other superuniverses, number one out in whatever direction we are moving, and number six on our other side.
If the Milky Way is Orvonton, then Andromeda is a natural candidate for one of the other inhabited superuniverses. But there is nothing comparable to Andromeda on the other side of us, and moreover, the UB explicitly denies Andromeda is inhabited! If Andromeda is not inhabited it cannot be superuniverse one or six. What then of Laniakea, our enormous hundred-million-light-year-spanning supercluster? Surely it is possible there are uninhabited regions of Orvonton, but of the hundred-thousand or so galaxies comprising Laniakea, the two largest and most obviously developed are Andromeda and the Milky Way.
If Laniakea is Orvonton, then there are two other superclusters (Shapley the nearest) out in one direction, but nothing, a gigantic empty void, in the other. If Shapley is superuniverse number one (we are moving in its direction), there is nothing to Laniakea’s opposite side representing number six. Perhaps Orvonton is even bigger than Laniakea? Astronomers have recently mapped a gigantic supercluster, outside Laniakea, that wraps more than half-way around it they call the “south pole wall” (see link). Such speculation can go on forever, but long before we reach the south polar wall we have left Orvonton’s association with the Milky Way far behind.
No matter what collection (the local cluster, the local sheet, and so on) we suppose might be Orvonton the selection of what would have to be universe numbers one and six would be arbitrary. No matter what we want to call inhabited superuniverses, however we group the galaxies, everything around them would have to be “outer space” and so moving in a direction opposite to our counter-clockwise rotation around Havona. We do not see any such behavior anywhere. The entire Laniakea cluster is moving in roughly the same direction.
The two scales, billions of light-years and hundreds of millions of light-years, are problematic for the UB. Neither should look like it does. Below these scales, in the millions of light-years and less, what the UB says is equally problematic.
If the Milky Way is Orvonton, even at five-hundred-thousand light-year across, the local universe of Nebadon is only one-hundred-thousandth part of it [UB 15:13.1]. Even were the Milky Way a sphere half a million light-years in diameter, each local universe would have a diameter considerably less than ten-thousand light-years (5.3 thousand by my calculation, but let’s be generous). Inside its volume must be ten-thousand system and one-hundred constellation headquarter collections (100 constellations each with 100 systems) [UB 15:2.4, 15:2.5]. Each system would be only a few hundred light-years across (500 by my calculation see below and note on the calculation at end of essay).
The UB claims that these headquarters worlds are lit by suns that give light but no heat [UB 15:6.3, 15:7.1], but it also says that the people of these worlds can see ordinary stars external to the headquarters. If they can see out, we can see in. Astronomers have mapped every star within a thousand light-years of Earth in every conceivable electromagnetic wavelength from the X-ray to the infrared. If, in the volume encompassed by that radius from Earth, any stars radiate visible light but no infrared, we would surely have noticed. A system-headquarters collection of 50 worlds [UB 15:7.5] with multiple suns, of any sort, only a few hundred light-years distant would stand out.
If the Milky Way is really the local universe, and Laniakea is the superuniverse, the nearest system headquarters could be thousands of light-years distant, and we have not mapped every star out that far. But there is no support for this idea in the UB. The book’s “Milky Way” is bigger than our Milky Way, by a factor between two and five (diameter, not volume and depending on where one draws the satellite boundary), not the two-hundred times required by associating Orvonton with Laniakea! There is only a convenient coincidence, astronomer’s estimates (which could be far off) of about one-hundred-thousand galaxies in Laniakea.
Below the galactic scale, there are, in the UB, many troubling assertions about stars. Astronomers estimate our sun will remain stable for another four or five billion years. The UB says twenty [UB 41:9.5]. This discrepancy is nothing like the all-or-nothing universe morphology problem. If stars act on (or are acted upon) energies we cannot detect (next paragraph), they might well extend the stable life of a star.
The book says that “ordinary sun(s)” can give out heat and light for trillions of years [UB 15:6.4]. Not only is this in conflict with modern astrophysical theory supported by observation, but it contradicts the twenty-five billion figure in paper 41. To some extent, the contradiction depends on what is meant by “ordinary suns” (see below on red-dwarfs). The book also says that suns, under certain (otherwise unspecified) conditions, transform and accelerate “energies of space which come their way established space circuits” [UB 15:6.4], implying the sun’s heat is being utilized, or augmented, in ways that should impact our observations. If stars, our own and others around us, are so affected by these energies their lifetimes extend by one or two orders of magnitude, our measurements of their light would be inconsistent with our astrophysical theories.
Astrophysics deals with the physics of stars, what makes them tick. The UB’s brief description of the process is consistent with what was known in the 1920s & 30s and remains true, if over-simplified, today. The UB description includes the special role of carbon in the fusion process [UB 41.8.1], something first proposed (by George Gamow) in 1923. The first sentence of this paragraph is put interestingly: “In those suns which are circuited in the space-energy channels, solar energy is liberated by various complex nuclear-reaction chains, the most common of which is the hydrogen-carbon-helium reaction.”
Gamow won a Nobel prize in physics for his discovery of this process. All-stars, at least all-stars very roughly similar to our sun, undergo the same carbon-catalytic reaction. Perhaps all those we see are circuited, but more problematic, the parameters of our equations and their theoretical results exactly match our observations of stellar behavior without having to account for gaps where contributions from “space-energy channels” had any impact. If undetectable energies were affecting solar output, the stellar spectrum should not be what our equations predict, and we observe.
There is no astrophysical evidence that any of the tens of thousands of stars we’ve examined and cataloged are affected by anything other than their gravity, pressure, temperature, and metal content reflected in their spectrum. The first three determine the rate of hydrogen fusion, while the metals content, in conjunction with ongoing gravitational contraction [UB 41:8.2], determine what happens after the hydrogen supply is nearly exhausted. Our sun, says the UB, will undergo a period of stable decline as long as it’s present middle age and youth combined, a total of over fifty billion years [UB 41:9.5]. Do encircuited suns decline? If so, is encircuitment the difference between the UB’s fifty-billion-year stable life and decline, and the more disconcerting six-to-eight billion-years before, in the estimate of astrophysicists, our declining sun becomes a red giant and swallows the orbits the inner planets? The UB tells us that some suns go on forever [UB 41:7.7].
Modern astronomy does recognize that the most common stars in the universe (perhaps half of all-stars) are red-dwarfs and some astronomers believe such stars might shine for a trillion years (a hundred-billion being a more commonly cited figure) given only the hydrogen with which they begin their lives. Still, the red-dwarfs we observe and have cataloged match our theoretical predictions, again having nothing to do with unknown “energies of space”. They appear to use their fuel as we would expect, given their mass, temperature, and so on.
We also know that such suns are electromagnetic nightmares not suitable for biological evolution as we imagine that process. But what the UB considers habitable and what present science thinks are “habitable limits” are very different (see UB paper 49). Unlike the stars, galaxies, and universe shape, neither our concept of life nor our extrasolar planetary astronomy is up to the task of comparing what we observe to what the UB says is the case. Holding judgment in abeyance, however, is not simply to accept the UB. Like the “Maltese Cross”, space respiration, and alternate-rotations, we have to assume that God (and his agents) could foster such radical living forms. All the same, worlds without atmosphere [UB 49:6] hosting living beings may be as much a fantasy as the other three problematic claims noted above.
There are issues with UB “space science” at every level, and the problems get worse as one goes up in scale. Whether our sun is stable for six billion or twenty-five-billion more years is immaterial to our short lives on Earth. The superuniverse problem is a little worse. If a seraphic transport can travel three times light speed [UB 23:3.2] and spiritually advanced mortals awaken three periods (Earth days?) after death [UB 49:6.8], then the system headquarters can be, at most, three light-days distant (this conundrum well noted by readers fifty years ago). Given that our nearest stellar neighbor is four light-years away, I should not have to explain why there can be nothing as significant as a system headquarters (fifty worlds and some number of suns) so close to us.
Other calculations produce similarly problematic results. There are one-billion systems in Orvonton (100,000 LU x 10,000 systems/LU). Even if we assume Orvonton is a sphere (very generous) with a radius of two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand light-years, the average radius of each system could be no more than two-hundred-and-fifty light-years (see note at the end of the essay on this calculation). Although out of reach for a three-day trip at triple-light-speed, that distance is close enough for us to detect a collection of so many worlds and suns.
Moving up the galaxy scale to supercluster, the conflict between the UB and present astronomical data gets worse. George Park is one of the “UB astronomers” who introduced the idea that Orvonton is the Laniakea supercluster spanning nearly one-hundred-million light-years, ignoring the UB’s plain statement of Orvonton’s size (500,000 light-years). John Causland also has a presentation on “UB Astronomy”, which he introduces by noting that the book’s claims do not match modern observations, but, he says, if we look at what is said in the context of 1920s cosmology, the book makes sense. That isn’t quite true. Even in the 1930s astronomers understood enough about the physics of light, and telescopes were powerful enough, to reject UB claims about space respiration and alternate-rotations if astronomers had become aware of them. Back in those days, the book’s assertions about planets, suns, and even the Milky Way, plausible-seeming for the average educated reader, would be rejected by real astronomers. In particular (and especially), the “maltese cross”, the idea of a bilaterally-symmetrical universe, is not to be found in the cosmological literature of any period.
Acknowledging the “times of the writing”, however, does not address the bigger problem: modern observations at both astronomical and cosmological scales make much of what the UB claims is the case not merely implausible, but impossible! There is nothing about Laniakea that looks like the UB’s description of a more-or-less orderly super-universe, and as we pan out to a view billions of light-years across, the universe seems nothing like what the UB describes! Not only are there millions of superclusters in every direction, but there isn’t the slightest evidence of a massive gravitational center in any direction!
UB theology is centered on God, who is spirit. But God himself resides on Paradise, which has to be the center of the physical universe! In the time-space realms, the UB informs us, spiritual beings live on physical worlds [12:8.1]. We cannot elide the headquarters location problem by suggesting that collections of architectural worlds (and in particular their suns) cannot be detected with our physical instruments. Where are they? Moving up in scale, we have the problem of reconciling the UB picture with an isotropic and centerless universe originating in a big bang and now cooled down for near fifteen-billion years.
Our theories of the big bang well describe everything we observe in the physical cosmos given an age of fifteen-billion years. All the present controversy surrounding the big bang is about what happens in its first three seconds! Three seconds marks the time of nucleosynthesis, the formation of protons and neutrons, nuclei of hydrogen, helium, and a little lithium, from the quark and radiation soup. Despite many unknowns, the structure of the present universe we see follows comfortably from our theories beginning with nucleosynthesis! To suggest that all our evidence-based conclusions are an illusion is not credible, revelatory claims notwithstanding.
These cosmological and astronomical issues do not render post-mortal survival and ascension impossible. The UB’s God certainly has the power to arrange for survival and ascension into and through the universe as we perceive it, not to mention creation via a big bang. If the revelators could forecast our scientific progress for the next thousand years (their record is terrible less than 100 years out), why make up this fantasy universe architecture, and why say so much about cosmology and astronomy that today, only 66 years after publication, is so obviously false? If the revelators were not permitted to reveal the big bang, why make up a fantasy? Why not merely tell us about the soul, post-mortal personality reconstitution, the general nature of descendent personalities, and so on without embedding the descriptions in a fantasy universe?
My theory is that it all has something to do with drama. One purpose of the book’s ascension story is to drive home the truth that perfection in God’s terms is a long educational process. If the revelators merely described the survival mechanism without a physical stage on which all plays out (not to mention many now-unlikely-to-be-true statements about the physical and biological history of Earth — a subject for another paper), the UB would be half its size. Readers would come away with little in the way of appreciation for the scope and complexity of the process. In short, the authors created a fantasy universe to emphasize the drama and adventure of the ascension. The purpose of the fantasy universe is literary!
______ A few notes ______
NOTE: Evidence for the Big Bang
Assuming the big bang, the temperature of the “first light” (photons) in the universe (the Cosmic Microwave Background [CMB]) was calculated in the early 1950s (by Russian physicist George Gamow) and found, in 1965 to be within four degrees (Kelvin) of its predicted value. Importantly this radiation is identical (down to ten-thousandths of a degree) in every direction we look, impossible if UB cosmology were true.
Assuming the big bang, physicists (in the 1970s) realized there must be a background neutrino temperature a little cooler than the background photon temperature. This difference is due to the universe becoming transparent to neutrinos three seconds after the big bang, while photons are not liberated from the radiation for three-hundred-seventy thousand years (see the “recombination event”). The neutrino background temperature was measured in 2010 and found to be one-one-hundredth of a degree off its predicted value.
Assuming the big bang, the pressure of the early universe would cause compression waves to bounce around through the initially very dense and hot universe; literally reflecting off the limits of the universe at that time. Sound is a compression wave, and this prediction means that the expanding universe would have “rung like a bell” for a period. As the universe expanded, the wavelength of these echoes lengthens their frequency drops. Eventually (at recombination, see link above), the density of the expanding universe drops below the value required to support compression waves leaving a frozen wave, a small density gradient in the distribution of matter reflected in the microwave background. Cosmologists predicted the frequency and amplitude of this frozen wave (and its first few harmonics) in the late 20th Century. In the first decade of the 21st Century cosmologists measured both to be exactly what was predicted (see “The Music of the Big Bang”  by Amadeo Balbi, and these links [graph], [article]).
When instruments became sensitive enough, cosmologists found tiny differences (ten-thousandths of a degree) in the CMB. The big bang theory says these small differences, mapped accurately enough, should predict the present distribution of galaxies (the slightly cooler spots being where galactic clusters would form). Such accurate mapping was achieved in the 2010s, and the map does indeed predict precisely where galactic clusters are found today.
The distribution of stars, their color and size, along with our calculations of stellar life well matches (it is what we would expect to find) a roughly fifteen-billion-year-old universe!
Item (1) above was the first evidence of the big bang. Items (2-4) would be extraordinarily coincidental if the big bang is not real.
NOTE: Calculation of System (for example Satania) radius. Assume Orvonton is a sphere of radius 250,000ly
Find cubic light-years in Orvonton (radius of 250,000ly) Pi(2.5x10e5)e3 = 4.9x10e16 = culyOrv
Find the cubic light-years in a system. There are 1 billion systems in Orvonton (100.000 local universes times 100 constellations times 100 systems (4.9x10e16/1x10e9) = 4.9x10e7 culySys
Find radius cubed of system (culySys/Pi) = 15,605,095
Take cube root of radius-cubed for radius = 249.9 light-years!
In 2014 William Dembski published “Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information” what he calls (in the introduction) a capstone on a trilogy that began with “The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities” (1998) and continued with “No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence” (2001). In the first two books Dembski spends his time building an argument about the unlikelihood of even simple life’s “information content” assembling itself accidentally on the Earth of some 3 to 4 billion years past.
Considering the Earth could only have supported any conceivable life as recently as 4 billion years ago, life appeared rather soon after supportive conditions developed. Dembski concludes (and you can read the books to follow the math) the probability of that much information assembling itself in that little time is about 1 x 10^-150. The same basic principles hold true for life’s evolution to its present forms adding an extraordinary amount of extra information along the way. Dembski understands Darwinian mechanisms. He carefully evaluates their capacity to assemble such an information pyramid by accident given the possible range of chemical interactions that occur among all the molecules of the nascent biological Earth on up to the present day. He shows again that it is incredibly unlikely for evolution to have been nothing but an accidental combination of mutation and selection.
In his third book Dembski goes on the offensive and focuses not on the unlikelihood of accidental life and evolution to present forms, but its impossibility. He does this by adding to his previous analysis a principle understood and accepted by today’s physics community; “Conservation of Information”. The concept is simple enough. A given system of mass-energy with boundary conditions (including energy flow) cannot express more information than was put into it somewhere.
To see how this all plays out over the history of the universe is the purpose of this essay. Dembski misses something important by leaving open when exactly the information needed to specify life (and next evolution) is added. Dembski happens to believe in a Christian God so he has no problem with the idea of information added to the world at life’s origin. But he leaves open the possibility the information comes not from God, but perhaps aliens. Also open is the notion the necessary information was there at the beginning, at the big bang, leading to a panpsychism, or for that matter that we are living in a computer simulation (another version of aliens) adding information as the code grinds on.
What Dembski misses (or fails to appreciate properly) is that the fundamental discoveries of physics point to a late introduction of the information needed to assemble genuine life. It is my aim here to fill in that gap. Beyond this, Dembski goes on to note that our only experience of information-creation or addition to the world is our own intelligent designs. If information is conserved, and its only source is intelligence, the universe’s initial information must come from some intelligence somewhere. Again this leaves open the possibility of super-aliens, computer simulation, or God. If Dembski is right that information is conserved, then either the universe’s information originates in some intelligence or it was all there from its beginning. If it was there from the beginning, if it was a part of the physical universe at the big bang, where in physics is it found? Does what physics finds at the beginning provide for everything from stars to conscious observers?
Information as understood by physics is of three types, Shannon information, Kolmogorov information, and semantic information. I review these more extensively in my books. A brief summary will do here. Information in all these forms is exclusionary. A hypothetically information-less collection of matter energy, displaying no behavioral regularities, contains within itself a well-nigh infinite potential of future possible states. But there is no such collection because the nature of matter-energy and the regularities we observe depend on information. Information, beginning with its first expression in “natural law”, restricts present potentials and future possibilities. Our universe, its fundamental material regularities, allows everything from black holes to consciousness, but the possible future states of a present state anywhere in the universe, or for the whole universe, are not infinite.
On a cosmic scale, the specific history of our universe cannot have been much different than it was given its initial information. A stable universe of undifferentiated energy, mint-jelly, or Boltzman brains is ruled out of genuinely possible histories. Information configures matter-energy in some way. This is an important characteristic or property of information, more particularly its causal effect on matter-energy, and is understood and accepted by modern physics.
Claude Shannon developed formula for computing the quantity of information that could be unambiguously (clearly received) over a communication channel having a certain bit rate (number of detectable state changes per second) and some amount of noise. No information channel is noise free in the real world thanks to the second law of thermodynamics. Shannon information isn’t about any particular message, but about how much message a channel can carry. Capacity might be measured over time as it is in digital communications and radios, or in some other measure, for example the length of a DNA segment or a chromosome. The exclusion principle comes in trivially here. A particular message on a channel excludes other messages on that same channel at the same time or in the same place.
Kolmogorov information is about the complexity of a message. The message BBBBBBB is less complex than the message BCADFGE. We can re-write the first as 7B while the second requires all 7 characters in the correct order. Notice that the message FGCBAED is a different message but has exactly the same complexity as BCADFGE. Something like CCCABBF is intermediate in complexity because 3CA2BF requires only 6 characters to specify a 7 character message. Again we note the exclusivity property. Any one message of any complexity excludes all others.
Semantic information concerns what a message (information) means. Normally associated with human mind semantic information is plausibly characteristic of consciousness in general. Life, even without consciousness, displays metaphorical meaning. This meaning is metaphorical because life doesn’t apprehend it. Rather meaning is imputed to life by consciousness, and seemingly always by human consciousness. Importantly to physics, there is no semantic meaning, metaphorical or otherwise, in nonliving, material process. The purposelessness of material mechanism reflects its lack of semantic meaning. “Purposeless mechanism” and “absence of semantic meaning” are two sides of the same coin.
Information expresses itself, one way or another by configuring matter-energy whether the flow of electrons on a wire, persisting patterns, or a recognition of significance (meaning) of a configuration to consciousness. We are now in a position to understand the connection between information, life, and the big bang.
Information, the potential-reducing patterning of some chunk of matter-energy, expresses itself differently depending on boundary conditions, and energy flows. Boundary conditions reflect information in the wider chunk of matter-energy that has causal input on expression in the bounded chunk. Theoretically that would be everything in the past light cone of the inner most bounded chunk, but this is often so vast a space and time that we ignore most of it. The word ‘chunk’ here refers to the matter-energy of some particular region of space and through some bounded time. Every expansion of view to wider and wider spacetime chunks encompasses more matter-energy configured by information whose expression is in turn influenced by even wider chunks. ‘Causal effect’ is a function of forces, fields, with which matter-energy both brings about and with which it interacts. For my purposes, it matters not whether we view matter-energy as the product of fields (as in quantum field theory) or fields as a product of more fundamental matter (charged particles). Both views rest on the same fundamental information.
The first boundary conditions of our universe are the particular qualities of the forces describable in information theoretic terms. These forces restrict what can happen at any given “next instant”. When we gaze into the heavens what we see, the stars, galaxies, clusters, clusters of clusters, interlocking streams of clusters going on as far as our telescopes can peer. At the largest scales, distribution of these substructures appears random, but just inside the largest scale, there is clearly an expressed arrangement. The matter-energy of the universe is not distributed randomly at all scales. Our particular arrangement, can be described as a measure of complexity; Kolmogorov information. That state, any given “state of the universe”, changes into new states. The entire universe has a capacity, a limit, at which the evolving information expression advances. There is a limit to the rate at which change in the universe takes place. The universe has a Shannon information limit.
Cosmologists and physicists have long recognized the structures of the universe are, over-all, a natural outworking of a tension between positive energy expressed as temperature and pressure and negative energy known by its more common name, gravity. A cold cloud of hydrogen gas and dust floating around in space has more entropy than the star which eventually forms from it. It is gravity (negative energy) that reduces entropy in the gas cloud by consolidating it, restricting the freedom of its individual atoms to be anywhere in the much larger region of space that was the cold cloud. At cosmic scales, gravity is the great reducer of entropy. It does this by folding space around mass. Mass migrates inward (falls) toward the center of the folding which happens to be always what we call the “center of gravity”.
Taking entropy out of a system like this makes it more difficult for photons to escape it. Folding space compresses electromagnetic forces (constraining photons) heating the contracting gas producing more rapid particle motion, raising temperature, and increasing pressure. Eventually the gas heats up enough that fusion occurs and the resulting release of positive energy balances ever-present negative gravitational energy. But why does the balancing out occur here at this point? Why isn’t gravity strong enough to overcome fusion and keep folding space until a black hole forms more or less immediately?
The balance occurs at fusion, and gravity and pressure combine to make all the structures of the physical universe, thanks to the cosmological settings. The causal regularities we call “natural law” rest on the settings. The settings (there are some 20 of these seemingly arbitrary values among them the “cosmological constant”, the value of the “Higgs field”, the “fine structure constant”, and the “proton-electron mass ratio”) limit the ways in which matter-energy can interact. The particular interactions that occur are a reflection of the settings under boundary conditions holding at any given place and time. The settings are the minimal information present at or shortly after the big bang.
The star balanced at fusion expresses the same information as the cold gas cloud from which it formed. Both are deterministic expressions, patterning in behavior, of the same settings. At the opposite end of the size scale from stars, at the building blocks of matter (the fundamental particles of the present Standard Model) to molecules the same settings restrict behavior. At the small scales the important forces are the electromagnetic (molecular scale), and the strong/weak forces (nuclear scale). The same settings pattern matter on a different scale from the cosmological under differently relevant, microscopic, boundary conditions.
When mass-energy at a macroscopic scale is somewhere in thermodynamic equilibrium its state expresses the information present in the settings under that equilibrium. For the expression to change, to evolve, boundary conditions must change. That change rests causally on the flow of energy through the system. Change is also inextricably bound up with time. The seemingly simple notion of time is anything but simple. Is time something fundamental, perhaps even more fundamental than space (Unger/Smolin “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time” 2014), or does it emerge from (and amount to) an averaging (as temperature is an averaging of molecular velocity) of the change in the quanta of space (Carlo Rovelli “Things Are Not as they Seem” 2016)? Does time exist at all, perhaps being nothing more than a meaning (semantic information) consciousness associates with measuring the rate of change (Julian Barbour “The End of Time” 1999). For purposes of this essay, nothing depends on this controversy. Time, one way or another, is an ingredient of every boundary condition and energy flow throughout the universe at all scales.
Significantly, when change occurs ordered patterns emerge. A star is ordered in this way compared with a gas cloud We note the same phenomena in columns of bubbles rising in the simmering water in a pot. The ordering in all of these cases is the result of a coupling between the settings, the boundary conditions, and energy flow. For my purposes below, I lump energy flow into the boundary conditions but the reader should always be aware that if changes in information expression are occurring, energy is somewhere flowing through the system. There are a few scientists who claim this emergence of order is enough to explain the eventual appearance of life, but this cannot be true. As I discuss below, life exhibits a new kind of ordering that never appears in non-living phenomena; and ordering requiring information not present in the settings directly though of course it remains consistent with them.
All the phenomena of the universe from the layout of the galaxies and down to the behavior of atoms in crystals and amino acids directly express cosmological settings under different boundary conditions, and these in turn also rest on the settings. The settings are the information present at (or within a second) of the big bang. They are information because they do what information does, they restrict or exclude possibilities by constraining what they pattern. The behavior of quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons, or the effect of gravity, isn’t random. The settings restrict the values of the forces and those constrain the behavior of everything else from quarks to superclusters.
The limits, patterns of behavior, vary as conditions change, the changes themselves “caused” (some would prefer “unfold into”) by those same regularities. Two seconds after the big bang all the settings were already in place. The strong, weak, and electrostatic forces had to exist as they now do for there to come into existence protons, neutrons, electrons, and a few nuclei of helium and lithium. Given the enormous pressures and tempretures of the environment (boundary) of the big bang in its first seconds, the building block particles where the expression of the settings. Given 14 billion years of evolution, we have the universe of today, an expression of the same settings. Up to a point.
If the Conservation of Information theorem is correct the information respresented by cosmological structure or molecules had to be put into the universe as it has evolved over time, or it had to be there at its beginning. Cosmologists today mostly believe that this information was in fact all present from the beginning, or at least within a few microseconds of the big bang. Physics and cosmology has convincingly shown the settings plus gravity explain the present structure of the cooled down universe. Granting that all of this information was present at or near the beginning from where did it come?
At first cosmologists thought perhaps the values had to be what they now are; not arbitrary but rather forced out of the boundary condition of the big bang. But a hundred years of theoretical effort to derive them has failed to prove the necessity of these particular values. The now fashionable answer is the values sprang (quickly evolved) into their values purely by accident, by sheer coincidence. Recognizing the improbability of this, cosmology and physics have spawned many theories of multiuniverses (Max Tegmark “Our Mathematical Universe” 2014) in which the settings take on all manner of random values. The idea is that given billions of such universes, it is not inconceivable that one would occur in which the settings took the values we observe. That they did so here makes the eventual appearance of observers possible and it should not be surprising that observers find themselves existing in such an unlikely universe. This idea, called the “Anthropic Principle” (Brandon Carter Krakow symposium 1973, Barrow and Tipler “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” 1987), must be at least trivially true. Since we exist, it must be possible for us to exist within the constraints (remember information restricts possibilities) of the cosmological settings.
Of course there are plausible “intelligent alternatives”. God might have constrained the settings to obtain the physical universe we occupy, a physical universe supporting eventual life and consciousness. A few honest physicists have noted the unlikeliness of the settings would not be surprising if there is a God. Besides God, the intelligent alternatives coming from science have tended to pure science fiction speculation of super-aliens (effectively demigods) or perhaps computer simulations (also implying super-aliens). Such speculative alternatives all involve beings like ourselves only having far advanced cognitive abilities and technology. Such beings either live with us in our universe or inhabit their own universe outside our own. Either way, all the cosmological origin questions remain. But multiuniverse theories require only more physics; perhaps other physical universes of some sort. This is why the science community prefers such otherwise unverifiable speculations. But they are not better explanations. They do not, for example, extend to consciousness very well.
There is something more to notice about information re-expression based solely on the settings and evolving boundary conditions. All of these expressions, that is everything governed primarily by gravity as the source of negative energy, electromagnetism, or nuclear forces are repeating structures. Every proton is identical to every other proton, and all the galaxies, while differing widely in specific shape and size are gravitationally bound rotating collections of stars very often influenced by a large central black hole (dark matter is a part of the boundary conditions forming and maintaining these structures). If you consider any given cubic meter of a star’s interior at some distance between its center and periphery, it is much like any other cubic meter of that same star at the same distance from the center.
At almost the opposite end of universal size scales, the most informationally complex structures are homogeneous crystals and relatively simple organic molecules like amino acids which themselvs will form crystal structures under the right boundary conditions. There is a large negative entropy difference between a freely floating gas of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, and an amino-acid composed of those same elements. But that reduction, purchased in the molecular case with the energy of electrostatic bonds, is nothing more than a structure that arises automatically thanks to the settings under particular boundary conditions. From the crystallization of water (ice) to the formation of amino-acids, as with gravity, entropy reduction is associated only with the production of regular repeating structures whose variation depends solely on the nature of the settings and boundary conditions which are themselves the result of the setting and their own larger-scale boundary conditions.
This situation changes dramatically when we look at life. Galaxy formation, stars, and amino acids are an immediate response to entropy reduction caused directly by gravity or electrostatic forces under specific conditions. Once any of these arise they become stable. Only changing boundary conditions alter their stable states. Even dynamic but presently stable stars are in a stable equilibrium condition with pressure balancing gravity.
But living systems differ from any nonliving information expressions in several ways. Their stability is never merely a simple equilibrium, but rather the product of many interactions dynamically reducing entropy in the living organism over all. Of course living processes cause entropy increase in the environment, the boundary within which life operates, and there are living processes that spend heat in support of neg-entropic mechanism. Life exhibits a persistent battle against entropy and is never in internal equilibrium. If a living organism comes to complete equilibrium, or its entropic activity dominates, the organism dies. More importantly, life’s neg-entropy mechanisms achieve their effect not by the simple surrender to the consequences of the settings but rather to active mechanisms that map or translate information from one form into another. Living systems are filled with little engines that map information from one form into another reducing entropy in the system over all as a by-product. No comparable mechanisms exist in the nonliving cosmos.
The most familiar of these living mechanisms is the multistep interaction chain, associated with many intermediate structures themselves built up out of the same process, of mapping information in DNA to proteins. Obedient to the Conservation of Information theorem, this creates no new information. Rather, information is mapped from one expression to another. But the mechanism itself, a mapping engine, is new. None of this works apart from the limits imposed by the settings. But unlike stars, life’s entropy reduction is not a direct outcome of the settings, but of an entropy reducing transfer of information from one form to another.
The complexity of life frames a further limit on the space of possibility within the restriction imposed by the settings. It amounts to new information besides the settings alone. A protein’s biological functionality is not merely the result of its electostatic forces, but also its physical shape. True, the shape is the result of electrostatic forces, but an identically force-balanced molecule of a different shape will not work. Many differently shaped molecules might have identical force balances. The biological activity of a particular shape is a restriction not found in the settings alone. Life’s information is a restriction on top of a restriction and that demands more information. Where did this more come from?
Once again science, this time biology down through chemistry to physics, declares that it was all, like the settings, a lucky accident. Yes, they admit, unlikely, but not impossible and if it hadn’t happend on Earth, we would not be around to comment on it. In his first two books, Dembski explains just how unlikely such an accidental assembly is; thousands of different translations, hundreds of thousands of molecular arrangements, functioning as an integrated system, a living organism. In his third book Dembski argues that the information difference between nonliving processes and the simplest conceivable life (simpler than anything we find on Earth today) could not possibly come to exist accidentally. If life’s arrangement cannot be a direct product of the settings alone (the only information present in the big bang and throughout the evolution of the nonliving cosmos) its accidental appearance would be a violation of the Conservation of Information principle. What Dembski misses (at least I do not remember him mentioning it) is that life’s entropy reduction mechanism, complexity translation, is nowhere else exhibited in the interactions of the nonliving cosmos. From intergalactic clusters to amino acids none of the accumulated information is carried through translation mechanisms. It is all the immediate expressions of the settings under specific conditions.
For science to declare the one “life origin” event we know of is an accidental product of the settings plus boundary conditions directly is question begging and most scientists know this. “Accidental” is not a valid generalization from a single observation. Even if life on Earth originated on Mars (some cosmologists do assert this is a possibility), the question of how Mars’ life began still stands. Plausibly however, life-harboring planets around other stars are effectively isolated from one another. Life on such worlds originates and evolves independently.
What a discovery of genuine life on the planets of other stars would mean depends on what we find. Finding something indisputably alive but much simpler than the simplest life on Earth, would lend credence to the view that initial assembly might be accidental. Perhaps some life is so simple (something true also of long vanished early life on Earth) that it is not so unlikely after all. But if what we find on one or even dozens of other worlds is that all life is complex, different perhaps but on the same order of complexity as the simplest life on Earth, the hypothesis of “accidental appearance” gets all the more problematic. If, as Dembski claims, the chance of life springing into being accidentally on Earth is 1 x 10^-150, it is half as likely to have happened twice, let alone multiple times.
The rest of Dembski’s argument is straightforward. Human beings, observers in the universe, know of (that is experience and observe) only one source of new information in the universe; intelligent agency. For materialists to claim that this too, that is what we experience subjectively as intelligent agency, is nothing more than an outcome of the settings and boundary conditions, begs the same question as regards life. The “only example one has” of anything cannot be the ground of a valid inductive generalization. If the only life we ever find is complex enough to be highly unlikely there are only three possibilities. The absurdly unlikely happened, there is something fundamental that we are missing in physics, or life’s information came from the outside, from intelligent agency. In all my writing including this essay I have taken for granted there is not something fundamental missing in physics.
Physics may not be finished thanks to the problem of unifying gravity and quantum mechanics, but it has nailed a few fundamentals. It has adequately dispensed with the idea there is an “invisible force” that pushes physical regularity toward the assembly of living information. We find nothing of this in classical physics or quantum mechanics. If physics is correct as concerns its own causal closure, then life’s information had to be added at a place and time when boundary conditions were supportive. If some intelligent agency acted at life’s origin (perhaps on many worlds) then the same agency’s action, to fix the settings, at the big bang would not be at all surprising. The settings are fixed as they are in support of [eventual] developing boundary conditions conducive to life’s origination.
This notion must also apply to life’s evolution on Earth to the point of emerging consciousness, and in particular a personal consciousness (discussed at length in other essays on the blog). Over a mere 3 billion years an amazing quantity of new information (Kolmogorov complexity) assembles from primitive cells to organisms having subjective experience. Subjectivity at least begins with the higher animals, but it makes the transition into “observer status” only in human beings. Animals observe their environment in the sense of integrating sensory experience in a subjective gestalt. But being an OBSERVER implies more than mere observation, it implies recognition of meaning implicit in observation but not of the observation as such. This brings me to final consideration of semantic information.
Semantic information, taken most broadly, is prelinguistic, but not preconscious. A lion easily distinguishes between a zebra and the tree next to it. It grasps the zebra is potential food and the tree is not. The discrimination between zebra and tree has meaning to lion consciousness. Given memory and subjective experience an association links ‘zebra’ to the relief of hunger. Semantic information is transferred not by translation from one physical carrier to another, but from some such physical state to a subject. Meaning is meaning to a subject. Compared to biological information, semantic information is one step further removed from the settings. Many discrete sets of biophysical states ground a particular persisting consciousness, while different conscious experiences follow from similar biophysical states. Semantic information is largely independent of the physics underlying it and exists only to consciousness.
The uncoupling of semantic information from physical information continues in human consciousness. A zebra means [potential] food to a lion whether it is hungry at the moment or not. Both lions and humans apprehend meanings in this way, we are after all animals. But human beings not only apprehend meanings, they also abstract and evaluate them. Abstraction and evaluation combine to suggest meanings not immediately apprehended. This (and our volitional power to control our bodies) underlies our capacity to put new information into the world, literally to pattern matter-energy restricting its future potentials. Humans alone are capable of adding information, arising in subjective abstractions, to the world. Lions are not. We create art, and airplanes. Flying airplanes are like biological activity in the outcomes of information mapping engines. A successful mapping creates not only a biologically active molecule, but one that functions in a role specified by biological demands. A flying airplane signals a successful combination of semantic information and physics (purposeless mechanisms resting on the settings) whose proper role is specified by subjective intent to build a flying machine.
In a living cell there is nothing in the chain of events from DNA to a shaped protein that relies on anything other than the basic forces whose fundamental information, present at the big bang, is the settings. In this case, the electrostatic forces are dominant, but everything has its effect on the outcome. There does not appear to be anything in life that originates outside the physical world. As with the settings, once information is put in somewhere, life’s day-to-day operation exhibits nothing but outcomes explained by the forces (settings), and boundaries now including life, that cell, itself. But life’s delicately balanced self-maintenance does not address the issue of how its information originates. If the Conservation of Information theorem is true, then not only was its accidental assembly unlikely, it is impossible.
Individuals are free, of course, to believe life’s origin and evolution was accidental. But the argument that they were nothing of the kind is clearly plausible, even reasonable compared with much speculation from materialists. When we arrive at human beings, a new power springs from life through consciousness. Not only is there a mapping from some physical “state of affairs” to a meaning apprehended in consciousness, but uniquely, humans can map abstract meanings from consciousness to the world. Abstraction capable language marks the final separation between information and the settings.
The word ‘palo’ in Spanish means ‘tree’ in English. Either might refer to some particular tree or to the class or kind ‘tree’, and both are equally compatible with the settings and boundary conditions up through all of biology. All human languages are of course compatible with human biology everywhere on Earth. Expressing a single abstract meaning in different languages demonstrates the complete decoupling of semantic meaning from the settings. Completing the decoupling begun with life and continued in animal consciousness grounds both human free will and our power to create information.
This capacity, the free-willed intelligent creation (by arrangement of matter-energy) of new information, demands new information. If everything that happens in the universe expresses information, such novel power rests on information not previously present; information added not to matter-energy directly, but to consciousness. I go into what this implies in more detail in my books and the blog essay “Why Personality?”
All the information from the settings to life, supposing they come from outside physics, might conceivably (however implausibly) be the work of aliens, or perhaps we live in a computer simulation. Consciousness poses a special problem because unlike the universe and life, it is plausibly both real and nonmaterial. A corollary of life’s physical nature is that living process isn’t intrinsically conscious. Nothing about biology, however complex, suggests an emergence of subjective experience. It isn’t clear that any subjectivity can emerge from a causally closed physics; not even accidentally given infinite time! Human consciousness poses an additional problem. Even the highest animal consciousness does not display an ability to configure the world in novel ways based on new meanings conceived first (and not merely apprehended) in consciousness!
Human beings can shape the world based on thoughts whose origin has little direct connection to immediate sensory experience or memory. Of course our creative thinking includes apprehended meaning. But human creativity goes beyond experience to first postulate new, associative meanings, and then test their validity (truth content) by configuring physical subsystems that function (like shaped proteins) in their intended roles. Art, philosophy, and technology are all predicated on the validity of meanings originating in consciousness.
If aliens did this, from life (at least) to subjectivity capable of original creation, directly or in a computer simulation, they would stand in relation to us much as religion’s claims for God. Not entirely, for it is not an entailment of the alien hypothesis that aliens be for example omnipotent. If however we live in the matrix, a computer simulation, then omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence within the context of the program are reasonable inferences.
If the aliens are a product of this universe, the matter of the settings, and how the alien life started and evolved, appears. The alien hypothesis settles no philosophical issues. If aliens created the universe itself, and it is not a simulation then their universe must be something outside, apart from the physical as we see it from inside our universe. Even if one insists this outside is physical it cannot be “our physical”. There must, in this view, still be something outside our universe. But none of this matters because if any of these speculations are even remotely true, then something or someone added information, at least beginning with life if not the big bang, to the universe, our universe! It doesn’t matter if the agency is divine or not or if the information came from aliens inside or outside the universe. It isn’t necessary to assume that this agency must be purposefully intelligent. But evidence at least suggests that it exhibits all the characteristics of purposeful intelligence as we observers experience it.
If any of this speculation is true, physics must still give up the idea that “no such information came from anywhere”. There is some irony here. The speculation taken most seriously by the materialist community is that all we know as our world was genuinely an accident; precisely the “no information from anywhere” hypothesis. The irony is that this hypothesis is the one least supported by all the evidence, even the purely material evidence of life. Life is the first, partial decoupling from the settings. That decoupling depends on information not present in the settings. If the Conservation of Information theorem is true, life’s information had to come from somewhere other than physics.
There is nothing in physics, nothing in the strict causal closure of the physical that is incompatible with information coming in from the outside. Purposeless mechanism (a valid insight of physics) and purposeful information added by an intelligent, at least intelligent seeming, source are not incompatible. This is almost a trivial truth as concerns human experience. We configure purposeless mechanism (mechanism of the physical world) with our own purposes all the time. Our entire technological history not to mention art, science, and philosophy begin with that ability. If physics and intelligent agency get along as we experience them, and if our universe is everywhere basically the same, there is no reason to insist that agency characteristic of intelligence did not add information to the universe possibly starting with the big bang. Only an agency outside the universe explains everything, where all the information came from, including the universe, the settings. Physics cannot address itself to the nature of that agency because whether it is physical or not, it is not a part of our universe.