Home > Cosmic Origins, Quote Mining > WLC Quotes Fred Hoyle

WLC Quotes Fred Hoyle

If there’s one thing that William Lane Craig loves, it’s an appeal to outdated or irrelevant authorities.  So it’s no surprise that Dr. Craig uses Fred Hoyle to promote a specific interpretation of the Big Bang Theory.

Therefore, as the Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang Theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because if you go back in time, you reach a point, at which, in Hoyle’s words, “the universe was shrunk down to nothing at all.”

– William Lane Craig’s opening statement during his debate with Doug Jesseph (1996)

Fred Hoyle was certainly an amazing cosmologist, but he had one major flaw: he was dogmatically opposed to the Big Bang theory until the day he died in 2001. As physicist Ethan Siegel points out on his blog:

The real tragedy is that this brilliant man [Hoyle] simply couldn’t accept new evidence [of the Big Bang Theory] and adjust his world-view accordingly. And so he died in ignorance, clutching onto his discredited theory [the Steady State model], in futility, for nearly the last forty years of his life.

Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean that Dr. Craig’s use of Hoyle is dishonest or incorrect, it’s just a bit sneaky and suspicious.  To get to the heart of the matter we need to look at the source, which turns out to be a textbook Fred Hoyle authored and published in 1975 titled Astronomy and Cosmology. Here is a wider context to the quote (page 658):

Note: the passage refers to a hypothetical triangle where each point represents a galaxy – as time increases the galaxies get further apart.

In the past the triangle was smaller than it is now. In the future the triangle will be larger than it is now. This prompts the question: If we go far enough back into the past, was the triangle ever shrunk down to nothing at all, as in Figure 16.2 [described in above note]? The answer to this is yes, because Q [the scale] was once zero.

The next question is, does the universe actually behave like this hypothetical triangle? The answer to this is no, because this hypothetical scenario only takes area into consideration. Sure, as you shrink a triangle, it will eventually become a single point containing no area. But if we’re talking about galaxies which contain mass, then the density of that point becomes infinite (as does the temperature). Is a point of infinite density (i.e. a singularity) really nothing?  Well, it turns out not to even matter because (quoting physicist Ethan Seigal again) there probably was no singularity:

…the idea that our Universe started from a singularity was a very good one back when we thought that the only important things in our Universe were matter and radiation, but now that we know about inflation, there is no reason to believe that our Universe ever had a singularity in the past.

Of course, the Hoyle’s textbook was written in 1975 which was five years before inflation was proposed, so we shouldn’t really blame Hoyle. However, we can blame William Lane Craig for using a quote that is extremely out of date.

BONUS DEBUNKING

Here is another quote Dr. Craig uses every once in awhile from Fred Hoyle:

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics.

-As used in W.L. Craig’s article on the problem of evil.

This quote comes from a 1981 article titled The Universe: Past and Present Reflections by Hoyle. Interestingly, Craig cuts off the end of the quote which says “…as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”  But it doesn’t really matter, the article is nearly 30 years old and blah blah blah.

…It might just be easier to conclude with a remark Dr. Craig made during his debate (a little more than half-way through) with Keith Parsons concerning the idea of “common sense.”

We really disagree on this idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and look what he said in his last speech, ‘it’s just common sense.’  Boy, your anntenna should go up immediately when somebody makes that kind of appeal because that means there’s a want of an argument.

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  1. erikofmke
    10/02/2011 at 10:49 AM

    We’re still working with Darwinism. Extreeeemely outdated.

    Hoyle’s admissions are valid in the context in which Lane uses them.

  2. Paul Goehring
    03/12/2012 at 7:23 PM

    William Lane Craig may have quoted someone who is dead and didn’t want to accept the Big Bang theory but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. The biggest issue with trying to say that the universe constantly grows and then shrinks again and then grows again is that we have absolutely no evidence of this event ever happening. Also we know that the universe is running out of energy which means that the universe is not an eternal thing.

  1. 07/09/2010 at 3:40 PM
  2. 07/17/2010 at 6:59 PM
  3. 08/28/2010 at 6:33 PM
  4. 03/17/2011 at 4:05 AM

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