A Reply to Bayani Mills

This post entry is a response to Bayani Mills’ article titled “Divine Insight: NASA and The Guru Granth Sahib”.

There are several problems with his claims, which I refute below. (Italicized text indicates Mills’ original comments:)

1. Guru Granth Sahib states:
“From this primal void, came the moon, the sun and the earth.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p1037

This is wrong.

We know that the Earth, Moon, and the Sun need particular elements to form them – they is not pop in to existence, nor were they instantaneously created.

Big Bang nucleosynthesis refers to the production of nuclei other than those of H-1. Big Bang nucleosynthesis begins about three minutes after the Big Bang, when the universe has cooled down sufficiently to form stable protons and neutrons, after baryogenesis.

Big Bang nucleosynthesis produced no elements heavier than beryllium, due to a bottleneck: the absence of a stable nucleus with 8 or 5 nucleons. In stars, the bottleneck is passed by triple collisions of helium-4 nuclei, producing carbon (the triple-alpha process). However, this process is very slow, taking tens of thousands of years to convert a significant amount of helium to carbon in stars, and therefore it made a negligible contribution in the minutes following the Big Bang.

The formation of the elements that made our solar system took billions of years to come together to eventually form the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon.

RESPONSE:

Here is the problem with what he claims in this passage. To understand the gross misrepresentation of this quote, one must read this Baanee (Spiritual Word) in its full context. This comes in Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Baanee in the Maaroo Raag. Mills claims that the quotation “Form this primal void, came the moon, the sun and the earth” is wrong and refers to the idea that “the formation of the elements that made our solar system took billions of years to come together to eventually form the Sun, Earth, and the Moon.” 

The problem is that first and foremost Guru Nanak Dev Ji is not simply stating that the ONLY thing to come out of the primal void (which as a physicist, I will interpret to be the initial singularity point) was the Sun, Earth, and the Moon. In fact the creationism argument begins exactly a page before in SGGS, on page 1035-1036. One does in fact see a strong indication of a “Big Bang” idea from the lines “For endless eons, there was only utter darkness”. “There was no earth nor sky, no day no night, no moon, no sun, no air, no water, no creation, destruction, no coming/going, etc…” In fact it is very clearly stated that “He created the creation, and watches over it”, “He formed the planets, solar systems, and nether regions, and brought the universe into manifestation”.

Now, Mills’ objection seems to be that these writings are not scientific enough as nucleosynthesis is not specifically mentioned. Keep in mind that Guru Nanak Dev Ji lived between 1469 and 1539. Religions and religious texts/words are meant for the common man to identify with God/some level of spirituality. It would be extremely pointless to tell people living in the 1500s about singularity points and nucleosynthesis since general relativity and particle physics were nowhere near being considered as physical theories at that point. However, if one takes these quotes at face value, they are extremely accurate, in the sense that from the initial singularity, planets and galaxies were created. The “in-between” things like cosmic inflation, anisotropic galaxy formation etc… are left out, but, during that time period, it wouldn’t have made much sense to talk about these things, as no one would have known what they were.

One can, however, see great evidence in the accuracy for these quotes when related to General Relativity. When Guru Nanak Dev Ji says “For endless eons, there was only utter darkness”, he is speaking of a pre-Big Bang universe clearly. The universe (the visible part anyways) is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old. Guru Nanak Dev Ji is giving some credence to before this period in the following sense. To doubt the initial singularity point, is to doubt physics. Our observable universe is taken to be spatially homogeneous and isotropic and described extremely well by the Friedmann-LeMaitre-Robertson-Walker models, which are cosmological models of isometry group dimension 6. The only possible matter distribution implied by the geometry of these models is that of a perfect fluid. From studying the Raychaudhuri equation and applying the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorem, one essentially sees that the universe emerged from a singularity point, for which the expansion scalar was infinite. This means that the metric tensor had the form:

ds^2 = -dt^2 + \gamma_{ab}dx^{a}dx^{b}, where the $\gamma_{ab}$ is the spatial metric, and is set to zero. So, before the big bang, ds^2 = -dt^2!, which from a mathematical perspective says that the pre big-bang universe only had time (many, many eons) and no spatial component whatsoever, which is in perfect agreement with what Guru Nanak Dev Ji and therefore, Guru Granth Sahib Jee claim.

2. Guru Granth Sahib states:
“From this primal void, came the four sources of creation, and the power of speech.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p1037

Language has emerged out of the social nature of primates that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years – it was not created.

RESPONSE

It is very difficult to substantiate Mills’ implication that ALL language has emerged out of the social nature of primates. Indeed, quite possibly, the first communication systems were developed and built upon through evolutionary process, but, what are we talking about, here? Note that, the quotation cites “the power of speech”, NOT, the power of “language”. Confusing these two, although, easy to do, in fact trivializes the whole argument. One must take speech to indicate human language and communication. Human beings communicate in very complex methods. There are semantic and grammatical technicalities that must be observed, in addition to the idea human beings can theoretically create new words and sentences adding to the possibly infinitely large set of possible human phrases and words. 

We must also not ignore the fact that language in itself, that is, human language is the result of an intelligible brain that is able to not only produce complex phrases and ideas through SPEECH, but to also from a computer science perspective, accept speech from an external source, break it down, and process that information. From a comparison standpoint, computer engineers have spent billions of dollars in R&D to develop state-of-the-art voice recognition systems, and no one has been able to come close to the level of voice recognition that human beings are able to deal with. This indicates that the brain processes which are involved in human speech and communication which are governed by electrodynamics (mostly, with some quantum mechanics) are extremely complex and intelligible, with the evidence being, that it “just works” out-of-the-box.

So, if we are to look at the original quote of the idea that the “power of speech” was created, then the arguments made here are much more sensible then Mills’.

3. Guru Granth Sahib states:
“You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word! Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow.”

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p3

This is wrong for the same reasons as stated earlier about Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

Water requires hydrogen and oxygen, not available at the beginning of the universe. Oxygen had to be created through the formation of stars. There is no way “rivers” started to flow.

RESPONSE

Again, there are two possible ways to refute this interpretation. One should note that the quote in question on Page 3 of Guru Granth Sahib does not mention the word “river”, the correct Punjabi word is actually Dareeaao. The literal translation of Dareeaao is river, but, without context, it is difficult to interpret this quotation. The following context is extremely helpful. That is, in Guru Granth Sahib Jee, the distinction between a physical river and a “spiritual” river is very clear. When a physical river is being discussed, the word “teerath” is used. Dareeaao is used when Guru Sahib talks about the river being God, and a human being being a fish in that river, i.e., to attain spiritual knowledge.

The second way to interpret this quote is that it is nowhere implied that the river in question here is referring to a physical water-based river. After the initial big bang, in the early universe, a continuum of ultra-relativistic photon particles (With equation of state \mu = (1/3)p) is often treated as a cosmic viscous fluid. Certainly the quote can be interpreted to support the idea of ultra-relativistic flows in the early universe.

The final comment I have on this is once again to consider the time-frame of the historical events. Hydrogen as an element was not discovered until 1756 by Cavendish, and the periodic table of elements in its current form was not formulated until 1869 by Mendeleev. The Gurbani in question from JapJee Sahib was formulated in the mid 1400s. Understanding that in India at the time, the members of lower Hindu castes were barred from studying philosophy or religion, the goal of Guru Nanak Sahib being not only to eliminate the caste system, but to bring all people towards a simple message/interpretation of God, it would be extremely counter-productive to present a theory of hydrogen-oxygen bonding as a result of nucleosynthesis to a population of people that was not even able to read or write.

4. Guru Granth Sahib states:
“The limits of the created universe cannot be perceived. Its limits here and beyond cannot be perceived. Many struggle to know His limits, but His limits cannot be found. No one can know these limits.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p5

This is wrong.

We CAN perceive these expanding limits, in fact we have, and we know that The Universe is 13.7 billion years old with an increasing rate of accuracy.

RESPONSE:

This quotation shows an extreme lack of scientific understanding and maturity. There is no physical way we are able to perceive the limits of the universe, precisely because of special relativity! We are only able to see to the horizon of the universe, which respect to the large-scale structure of the universe is just a small fraction of what the entire universe is. The visible part of the universe is 13.7 billion years old, but, we have no idea what is beyond that, as attempting to do so, would require an observer to travel faster than the speed of light, which of course, is not possible. 

Perhaps in a more disturbing fashion, the physical theory that governs the large-scale structure of the universe, general relativity, is a covariant theory, and allows for a multitude of coordinate systems to describe a LOCAL topology of the universe. However, these local coordinate systems are defined in the neighbourhood of a point in the pseudo-Riemannian spacetime manifold in a tangent space. General relativity makes absolutely no requirements of a global connectivity structure of the entire manifold. We don’t even know (and have no foreseeable way of testing) whether we live in a toroidal/spherical/etc… universe.

On the microscopic scale, our best theory is quantum mechanics, which is not a physical theory at all. It is an entirely probabilistic theory, that is a tool we use to make measurements on systems which we cannot directly observe without changing the physical properties of the system under observation. Quantum mechanics has offered interesting philosophical arguments into how the microscopic world works, but, has been very limited in demonstrating any serious insights into the behaviour of quantum particles.

Another problem with claiming to perceive these expanding limits, is to claim that we understand how quantum mechanics and general relativity fit together. There is no foreseeable test that would allow one to favour string theory over loop quantum gravity and vice-versa.

The key point is that the universe, though, has made all these things work, that is, fit together. Quantum mechanics just works in a peaceful coexistence with general relativity, we should know, we’re dead centre in the middle of it! We, as human beings, are struggling to figure out how these things work the way they do.

5. Guru Granth Sahib states:
“Creating the sun and the moon, He infused His Light into them. He created the night and the day; Wondrous are His miraculous plays.”
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji p1279

This is wrong.

The moon does not emit light, it reflects the light from the sun. We can even demonstrate how it happens.

RESPONSE:

Again, I believe Mills is taking unofficial translations too literally. “Infusing His light into them” is a poetic way of saying creation. Sikhs believe God to be without physical form. The simplest physical entity that is without mass is a photon, which is light. Particle physics tells us that photons are the “force carriers” of the electromagnetic force, that is, electromagnetic interactions occur via particle interactions with photons. The electromagnetic force holds matter together. From this perspective, this quotation is also scientifically accurate. 

However, once again, it is perhaps the simplest and most correct explanation to say that “infusing light” simply means creation, which is certainly valid in the sense of the sun and moon being made after the big bang, however long that “after” may have been.

In closing, I would like to say that I think it is extremely dangerous to take unofficial English translations out of context, and then to try to offer scientific arguments to disprove them, especially when the scientific arguments used are hollow as demonstrated above. I also think that the Mills has ignored the vast correctness in historical predictions that The Guru Granth Sahib Jee has made.

1. Guru Granth Sahib clearly describes the big bang, the universe, emerging from a singularity point. It also talks about the universe being formed after billions and billions of years after the big bang.

2. Guru Granth Sahib has stated there are 8.4 million species on Earth. A recent article (“http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/aug/23/species-earth-estimate-scientists“) talked about how biologists using advanced computer simulations have estimated that there are 8.7 million species on Earth, a 3.45% difference in prediction that was made more than 500 years ago!

3. From a historical perspective, Guru Nanak Sahib’s revelation of when the Muslim Emperor Babar would leave India is dead-on accurate and is recorded in Guru Granth Sahib Jee.

4. Although not in Guru Granth Sahib Jee, the 10th Guru’s Scripture/Baanee, the Dasam Granth, in particular, the Kalkee Avataar, gives a bone-chilling description of the current times with respect to things like immorality and corruption. It is quite remarkable when compared to today’s society just how remarkable those predictions were, given that they were made more than 400 years ago.

There are many more such predictions and valuable information that the Baanee in Guru Granth Sahib has to offer all of mankind, which should be appreciated and researched, and not discredited in some amateur fashion.

Sincerely,

Ikjyot Singh Kohli

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