Hawking closes a gap

Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest physicist the planet has yet known, has published a new book, The Grand Design. In it Hawking has made his strongest-ever assertion against the theistic worldview, by describing the universe as, by definition, not requiring a deity to create it. This closes another gap within which God could hide.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own, in 1992, that undercut a key idea of Newton’s — that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it’s less remarkable that there’s one with conditions for human life.

And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

From there he introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours — and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.

Therefore, he concludes, there’s no need for God to explain it.

This is the anthropic principle — the only reason we recognize this universe as existing, is because it exists in such a way that intelligent life can form. The “god hypothesis” is unnecessary to explain why we’re here, given the possibility of multiple such universes in multiple dimensions.

Naturally, people are aghast, pulling out all the old fallacies to fight back against this assertion. A quick glance at the comments field on ABC’s coverage and you will notice an argumentum ad populum, references to more popular celebrities than Hawking that believe in Christianity, inversion of the burden of proof, and all sorts of special pleading.

As always, in the CNN article, the faithful get a shout-out and the last word is by an Anglican preacher who claims Hawking is not arguing against the Abrahamic God; never mentioned is the fact that he’s arguing against all gods. It’s funny how the evidence points in one direction, and the faithful get the last word despite having nothing but faith in their particular stories to point in the other.

Reminds me of that one time I argued against the concept of astrology, and astrologers complained that I didn’t argue about their specific methods. Good times, good times.

Hawking closes a gap
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42 thoughts on “Hawking closes a gap

  1. 2

    I am sorry, James, but you make no sense. Are you referring to Big Bang, or what? What does exobiology have to do with what either Hawking or Jason wrote?

    The idea that this universe was a result of collapsing or colliding waves/fields/branes is intriguing. Lisa Randall said that the gravity is too weak in this universe to account for its effects and so there must be something additional in either separate dimensions or branes. Michio Kaku implies the same thing. Our universe is the inevitable byproduct of gravity pulling branes together.

    God is not necessary to explain anything any longer, and theodicy was left in the dust long ago.

  2. 3

    Most of what we know about life is just theory. Our understanding of gravity, electricity, nuclear forces, biology, geology, even our understanding of each other – all theoretical. Without some kind of magical, incontrovertible, absolute knowledge, theory is all that is possible. This leaves us with evidence and deduction to choose which theories are valid and which should be discarded. I dare say there is more evidence and deductive reasoning to support Hawking’s theory than there is to support theories of gods.

  3. 4

    Mike, I was very clear in what I said. It’s barely 2 lines long, go reread it and aee if you can wrap your head around the deep complexities of it.

    You can’t compare science and faith, Ray. Science is what you believe in your head, faith is what you believe in your heart. But there is a Bible verse that does support Hawkings claim in John 10:16.

    “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one sheppard”

    We are talking about a guy who healed the sick and came back from the dead. My friends, and think you may need to accept the possibility that Jesus was a bug eyed alien…

  4. 5

    No, indeed, I believe Ray has it right, James. Those religions you believe with your “heart” (which means your emotional parts of your brain) make empirically testable claims, claims which disprove the faith making them when tested. The theories of physicists like Hawking are attempts at reconciling the evidence of objective observation with other, previous incremental increases in the body of human knowledge. These reconciliations make claims which allow these theories to be falsified, and do not demand that they are taken on faith the way that religion does. Instead, physicists are actively working with a sledgehammer to knock down parts of the body of human knowledge that do not “work”. They do not bolster faith claims (e.g. that Jesus existed at all, much less healed the sick and came back from the dead), with other faith claims (e.g. that Jesus was actually an alien).

    And I am with Mike: what does showing that physics does not require a deity, have to do with showing that life exists elsewhere? The only thing Hawking said about multiple planets is that the fact that there’s innumerable exoplanets undermined Newton’s ideas about Earth being special. In the same way, M-theory, multiple universes created by super-dimensional branes colliding, undermines the idea that this UNIVERSE was created in the same way. It was a comparison, and a well-founded one, since Newton was wrong about a lot of stuff.

  5. 6

    My first question with regards to Mike’s head scratching: Where in my first comment am I arguing in favor of a diety?

    Secondly, my argument with Ray: I believe it is possible that something did happen way back when that spurred the writings of the bible and those writings, translated, retranslated, changed and corrupted are a tale of something significant that happened in our worlds history that is told through the eyes of people who were really inable to comprehend what was happenning but still tried to make a record of it, though tainted with misunderstanding and conjecture.

    (But don’t misunderstand me, I believe it is a possibility but I realize I have a fair shot at being completely wrong on this.)

    Truth is, sometimes Stephen Hawking talks out of his ass. In that same article he also says “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing,” the excerpt says. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.

    The Law of Conservation of Energy states that neither Matter, nor Energy can be created or destroyed, only changed. So for a top Physicist like Hawking to go and blithely make such a wild claim that the universe itself came from nothing all I ask is “I hope you can bloody well support that theory”.

    jthibeault: Jesus wasn’t an alien. He was a bug eyed alien.

  6. 7

    I have to see the flip side and agree that George W. may be right as well. I doubt if I will ever find the answer in my lifetime. It maybe a testament to Bug Eyed Jesus, or just an elaborate Aesops fable.

    It’s called having an open mind. 🙂

  7. 8

    In fact, there are likely MANY events that inspired the many books of the Bible, given how chronologically separated each author was from one another. The Bible is a pastiche of a good number of documents, by a very large number of authors, who cribbed off one another and often cribbed off the same outside source which ultimately ended up not included itself in the Bible when its final New Testament version was compiled.


    You’ll want to pay special attention to the third column, the authors as determined through scholarly study. It varies greatly from the second column, and indicates that the “traditional” interpretation of the authors is very likely wrong. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if half the people attributed as authors never even existed, or if they DID exist, weren’t who the bible-thumpers say they were.

  8. 10

    And your proof of that assertion would be?

    In my estimation, the man is making every effort to support all of his postulates with the best mathematical proof and deductive reasoning he can muster. Just because the media only picks up on his end-result assertions, doesn’t mean he’s fabricating them from whole cloth. Especially not if you look at the whole staircase of science behind him.

    I don’t believe that things are either simply flatly wrong or right. I believe that there are degrees of wrongness. For instance, saying “the sky is blue” is right, but “blue” is a large range, and while the sky is actually cerulean with mottled white spots where clouds are, “blue” is a damn sight closer than “the sky is plaid”. Likewise, even if Hawking is wrong about his postulates, he’s a damn sight closer to approximating reality in his throwing-in with M-theory, than those people that believe God created everything ex nihilo, and that the Earth is a single landmass with four major rivers in a vast disc of ocean that rests atop four literal pillars. You know, as postulated by the Bible.

  9. 11

    I think there is a huge gap, socially, in the confusion of “theories” with results. Nobody really argues that gravity is just “God keeping people on earth and away from heaven” and gravity is “just a theory”because that seems batshit insane. Very few theists just deny science as a whole outright. What they do is acknowledge results. What scientists understand that many theists don’t is that theories can and do produce results. While evolution is just a “theory” there’s no denying that we’ve made square fricking watermelons based on this theory, as it has led us to the entire field of genetics. When we get into theories of the universe itself, multiple dimensions and other planets, things get harder to swallow, as we are so far away from having any results based on these theories even if they are true. The possibility of life on other planets does not have the same impact as finding life on other planets. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.

    Problem is Hawkings stuff is so far into the realm of theory that it’s hard for people to connect to unless they to are also a theoretical physicist, or blindly follow his words assuming his intelligence and track record indicate his theories will create results. And considering this book isn’t even out yet for other scientist to refute (though I am sure many have hands on it early), I’m not going to herald that Hawking has answered it all correctly to end the debate forever. He may, like many geniuses at the tail end of their careers, have gone off the deep end. I don’t know, I haven’t heard other scientists opinion on this, just theists. Do I want him to be wrong? Hell no. But I’m unwilling to go “Hawking said it must be true!” Because he’s not Science Jesus. There should be no Science Jesus.

  10. 12

    I agree with James. Something must have happened during biblical times to spur the writing of the bible. Where I think we disagree is that he thinks that this happening was tainted by misunderstanding and conjecture, and I think misunderstanding and conjecture was the happening.
    See James, even we can find some sort of common ground!

  11. 13

    What does God have to do with Stephen Hawkings theories of postulates? I am not talking about God, I am talking about a man who creates slef fulfilling prophecies such as his mind blowing revelation of “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,”

    You think that original thought came up when he was watching “Dances with Wolves” or “Avatar” (one being a rip off of the other as well, ironicly) and he further goes on to say that rather than actively trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, humans should do everything possible to avoid contact.

    So he says that there is probably life out there but lets just lie low and try never to prove this theory. Bomb SETI ASAP. You see the circular logic here? And instead of anyone saying “hey, just a sec…” they all slap him on the back and say “GENIUS! I never would have come to that conclusion”

    And this latest nonsense of “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing,” the excerpt says. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” As I said before which was convieniently ignored in favor of famous “well what has God done for us lately” smokescreen, I call bullshit because it completely flies in the face of The Law of Conservation of Energy.

    I conclude. Stepehn Hawking is full of shit.

    So yeah, maybe there is a habitable planet, maybe there isn’t, maybe there is alien life, maybe there isn’t. You want to convince me? bring me a plant, a bug, a chest burster, a Metalunan, ANYTHING AT ALL LIVING THAT IS NOT OF THIS EARTH! Then you’ll convince me.

  12. 14

    I should also point out that Hawkings views on extra terrestrials mimic the advice to Earth from Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. “Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror.” I don’t know how I feel about this, but I think it makes him awesome. Am i decrying from my arguments on this serious topic by saying so? Probably, but damnit if I didn’t need to point it out. 😀 FLASH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

  13. 16

    Um, I’m talking about Hawking because he’s talking about God. Whether you were talking about it or not. See, the thing is, creationists often play “hide-the-God” by saying, “we don’t know how the universe was created, but (scientific gobbledygook about science saying science couldn’t be the answer), therefore there had to be a “prime mover”, therefore the Abrahamic God whose son is Jesus was totally it”. The importance, to me, about this hypothesis of Hawking’s is that the only reason people put God in that gap is because they believe science CAN’T answer the question. Hawking showed a potential path through which science CAN answer that question. Thus closing the gap. In the same way as, a long time ago, the argument was, “science can’t explain the beauty of a rainbow or the uniqueness of a snowflake, therefore God must be creating them”, until both were explained scientifically.

    I agree that he’s a doomsayer when it comes to discovering other intelligent life in the universe. The thing about finding other intelligent life is, we’re not terribly likely to be able to traverse the distance isolating such pockets of life. MAYBE there will come some far-flung future technology like Warp Drive, and MAYBE we’ll get shields against the cosmic rays that would tear our DNA to ribbons, but don’t hold your breath. Those technologies may not even be feasible within the scope of our universe’s laws of physics. I’d suggest that contacting alien life is not going to have the kind of deleterious effects that Hawking thinks. And other scientists took him to task for those pronouncements of doom and gloom, make no mistake. Take for instance Phil Plait.

    The “big idea” inside this argument is that these laws of physics — which exist external to the actual “laws”, which are approximations written by humans of how reality behaves — are indicators that something can affect something else. M-theory doesn’t postulate that everything was created from absolutely nothing — it’s actually a mathematical impossibility to have absolutely nothing, in fact, and still be able to create a universe. And if a deity was behind it, that would mean there wasn’t absolutely nothing. In fact, the whole quantum argument is that stuff appears and disappears in our three dimensions from other dimensions (not meaning the classic “parallel universes” Sliders-type dimensions, meaning other dimensions we can’t access within the scope of our own universe). There’s pretty interesting mathematical indicators, much of which I don’t understand, that show that this universe is eleven-dimensional and that what spewed forth from the Big Bang was matter that was already here, but static, because the branes that collided to extrude our universe out into our three dimensions hadn’t yet collided. The thing that might have caused the initial spark of our universe was the collision of several branes. If there is such a brane-universe, many such universes could exist. The laws of physics in them could be very different. Only the ones that allow intelligent life to arise, would have people capable of making the assumption that it was all unique creation. Some of those people will try to figure out how things ACTUALLY got created, and they will get called “full of shit” for doing so.

    M-theory is complicated, and I don’t know how it will eventually be falsified if it turns out to be incorrect, but I guarantee you it’s not totally full of shit and making it all up out of some attempt to put one over on everyone. You should read up on it.

  14. 17

    James, Hawking is spending a book explaining these ideas. Are you really saying he’s full of shit based on your lay understanding of a less-than-sentence-length quote of an excerpt of his explanation without waiting for the rest of it?

  15. 18

    Of course Hawkins’ book proves nothing. There is no more hard evidence for Hawkins’ own wild fantasies than the rather silly notion of a god. The latter idea being merely a legacy of the many superstitious myths passed down from primitive peoples.
    Firstly let me point out an irritating and very common popular misperception . Stephen Hawkins is NOT a scientist.
    He is a theoretical physicist and in common with others of his kind (Brian Greene and Lee Smolin, for instance) must properly be viewed as a science fiction writer who mostly uses the simple language of mathematics for his works.
    You see, science is an evidence-based domain.
    And there is not the slightest shred of hard evidence for, say, the eleven spatial dimensions at present favoured by string theorists. Or of the “branes” beloved of Hawkins. I am not knocking these people. The world needs dreamers. Science fiction, whether written in mathematics or natural language, is a playground of the imagination from which important ideas that correspond to the real world sometimes emerge. But until any ideas are backed up by evidence they are certainly not part of science.
    But to address the main topic, Hawkins’ latest natural language interpretation, “The Grand Design”. We at last see him starting to break away from the quasi-religious mindset, strangely so common among theoretical physicists. Unfortunately he then launches back into the SF realm of “M” theory. Not only is this completely devoid of evidence, it, like the Everett model of parallel universes, is extraordinarily extravagant.
    This contrasts with the evolutionary model of our observed universe which is described in my book “Unusual Perspectives”. Although certainly allowing of the speculation of a multiplicity of universes, UP offers much greater parsimony, and, for its primary theme, a solid evidential basis.
    My present work “The Goldilocks Effect” is a rather more straightforward treatment of this evolutionary model and will be soon ready for publication. Meanwhile, “Unusual Perspectives” is available in its entirety for free download from the eponymous website.

  16. 19

    the same reason a new Athiest pounces on any visable figure in the science community gives an opinion arguing against and grand design. Even if he is a manic depressive in a wheel chair? GO TEAM!

  17. 20

    You know, I knew you were going to take that tact on it because you would try to distract from the obvious fact that the whole reason to hoist Stephen Hawking upon this pedastal as a poster child for anti-creationism (I don’t know if that is an actual term, it just kinda came out on the fly) was to in fact garner ATTENTION for the New Athiest Movement.

    Now let me tell you why I find it deplorable.

    He is a genius, make no mistake but try and focus for one minute and follow this chain of logic: Theory of the Brane Universe-Brilliant- The possibility that the laws of physics would be radicly different than the laws we understand in the universes-Genius. But to venture the opinion that all life the elvoves in the universe would push and fight over the last piece of cheesecake at the buffet? And this is his OPINION, not any scientific conclusion except he used life here on earth as a basis for that conclusion. The broad mindedness of his genius is hard to fathom. The narrow minded pessism he has demonstrated on his belief of life in general as of late is equally hard to fathom.

    I cannot begin to imagine the personal conflicts the man has had to and continues to endure that has led him to this conclusion. But to put it in child terms, this physicist is wandering around like Eyore in the 100 acre wood. And from what I have read of his opinions, I do not think calling him a manic depressive is far off the mark. I can’t say whether it is related to his handicap, but you can see the shift in his personal belief to what some would consider to be more…negative. To assume that there is no evidence of grand design is to assume that you know what the designer is intending to do and the methods required to accomplish it. Our existence very probably is just incidental and is probably as meaningful as a chili fart only with a shorter duration (To the relief of the rest of the cosmos).

    He is a sharp mind trapped in a shattered body and that is indeed a sin for which if there was a God he would deserve a swift kick in the nuts for. And to take the anguish that this man is suffering internally and hoist him up as your poster child for anti creationism is well, in your terms…a Class act.

    You used another mans pain to bring attention to yourself. Bravo.

  18. 21

    James, I have no problem following your argument, which is more than I can often say for your comments. I still find it disgusting. Leaving aside for the moment the prejudicial comments about atheists who dare to express themselves in public, ateempting to diagnose someone as mentally ill based on their published writing is…unethical at best. Suggesting that this is an natural consequence of life in highly challenging circumstances is appalling. Intimating that the only reason anyone looks up to him is because he supports a worldview they like…yeah, done now.

  19. 22

    Good. I was worried you might keep circling those wagons around your fragile argument. I don’t blame you for taking this stand, if you were to admit that I am right, that would deal a blow to your argument and cost your argument credibility. So yes, by all means, tear me down while I smile knowingly and say…nothing more about it. The elephant in the room says it for me.

    And you, by the way, are not an atheist, not in the strictest sense anyways, but a splinter group of a New Atheist Movement, or “Extreme Atheist” if you can stomach the term. Athiests who aggressivly try to denouce divine creation.

    We cannot agree on how not to believe. It’s kinda laughable but there it is.

  20. 24

    What’s fragile about pointing out that Hawking agrees with one aspect of my worldview? What’s disgusting about making a point of talking about atheism, one of the major themes of my blog, in order to bring it some semblance of normality? And what’s more disgusting, that I am willing to see Hawking as a human being who came to a worldview through reason, or you, who assumes that his handicap must be the reason he came by his worldview?

    “New Atheism” is just atheism that isn’t willing to be relegated to the closet. That’s all. It’s not about demonizing creationists, it’s about not letting their voices go unanswered. You know, since they’re not afraid to try to demonize us and keep us out of the public discourse.

    Whatever you’re so offended by, get over yourself, man. Seriously.

  21. 25

    Bloody Hell!
    Now theoretical Physics isn’t a science either!
    It’s glorified science fiction? Am I going to be allowed to call anything science after these asshats are done?
    Contrary to popular myth, the “quasi-religious” mindset is not “so common” among theoretical physicists. The language we have available makes it extremely tempting to borrow religious language, but that certainly does not make physicists “quasi-religious” any more than biologists talking about scarce resources are “quasi-economists”.
    What possible motivation could some obscure writer of science-fiction masquerading as science have for painting scientists as purely science fiction writers?
    Hmm….I wonder.

  22. 26

    Wow James,
    What does that even mean?
    That Stephen Hawking is wrong because he is in a wheelchair?
    That I can respect the opinion of one of the greatest scientific and mathematical minds of my generation EVEN THOUGH he is disabled?
    Classy buddy, real classy.

  23. 27

    I’m not offended. if anyone should be offended is is Hawking, to have one quote to be trumpted for youe cause.

    And I have no desire to argue the point any more than I have. I have about as much chance to convince you ofwhat you did was wrong as i have of winning the Lotto Max. I have made my point and i stand by it 100%.

    I mentioned before that I tried to follow the teachings of the Tao te Ching and George W said (And this was way back from the “Why I do what I do’ thread from May 17th) “As an aside, railing against “organized religion” and then spouting Eastern Mystical Gobbledygook seems a little perplexing. A delusion is a delusion, yours just hasn’t done much damage yet.”

    This, proved to me, that George W is one of the smartest fools I have met. Under Wiki, the teachings of the Tao are in fact, an Atheist belief. But where we differ is that where you try to convince people by debate and scientific fact, the Tao is more of a “lead and convince by example so that if people come around to your way of thinking, it is under there own terms” not because it was verbally bashed into their heads.

    You created this site for debate and every time you make a post I get notified on facebook to come read and offer my thoughts. On some topics we have agreed in the past but on this one we do not. I still stand by my arguement 100% and thre only thing I am willing to apologize for is possibly disgusting Stephanie enough that she lost her lunch, to which I apologize for costing her what might have been a very good meal.

    If you don’t want me here, if you don’t want my input, because this is not the last time I will play “devils advocate” then just say so. I won’t come back.


  24. 28

    So sorry to misinterpret you James.
    You were in fact saying that us “New Atheists” only like to point to Stephen Hawking BECAUSE he is disabled. My bad.
    Just because someone doesn’t believe in God does not mean that they are personally conficted. Theist continually point to atheism as being some vacuous state of self denial.
    It is not. Atheism requires nothing more than enough common sense to see that God concepts are an antropomorphic projection on questions with hard answers.
    Your arrogance to assume that someone must be disturbed to have a different view than your own is tasteless.
    People who “hoist up” Mr. Hawking do not do it because or in spite of his handicap, and for you to imply that is the case is both intellectually untenable and disgusting.

    What other “tact” was I going to take with your flippant little 35 word diatribe? You are making ridiculous claims, and when someone calls “bullshit” you accuse them of pouncing on the wrong point. Guess what James?
    It was your only point, and it is ridiculous.
    Just so you know….

  25. 29

    I never said to stop posting, just because we disagree. But if you say something people disagree with, I’m not going to hold them back from calling you out either. And on this point, I honestly think you’re wrong. Not just wrong, but in the wrong.

    It’s not a huge stretch to say that Hawking is probably an atheist, and that his throwing-in with M-theory lends credence to it, and that M-theory refutes the uniqueness of this universe as a divine creation the same way that the existence of exoplanets refutes the divine and unique creation of Earth.

    And my tying such new ideas into my worldview, on my blog, is most certainly something I will do, repeatedly, any chance I can. This is my blog. It is where I synthesize and present my opinions for public consumption. If you challenge me on those opinions, and someone says you’re being a dick about it, I’m not likely to disagree with them, especially not if I feel you’re being a dick about it too. This is not a demand that you stop posting. But if you play devil’s advocate, don’t be surprised when people take you to task.

  26. 30

    That is entirely fine, I have big shoulders. And being considered a jerk is never a suprise.

    You suspicion on Mr Hawkings belief isn’t without merit, however I feel that his personal emotional state may also be influencing his opinions. he has been more negative lately, that’s a fact. Is it because of his discoveries, or is because of some inner turmoil that we are not aware of. That is a consideration as well. And when quoting someone, it’s important to look at the big picture so that your argument cannot be compromised like I attempted to do here.

    I know you, George W and Stephanie Z, think I am wrong, and I am cool with that. Comforted, in fact. But there will be others who will come by and read this thread who are not so hardline.

  27. 31

    Seriously James?
    Your dislike of me stems back to me wiping the lipstick off the turd of the quasi-religious self-help poetry slam you call your belief system?
    People criticize my belief system every single day; I defend it, but I don’t get personally bruised by it.
    I took issue with you for replacing overtly religious Christianity with quasi-religious philosophical gobbledegook and announcing to the world that it makes you so much more enlightened than us New Ateists. Replacing organized religion with self-help eastern mystecism is still a “religion”, especially if you cannot allow criticism of it. Ancient traditions are not better or more correct strictly because they are ancient. Nor are they better because they are novel in modern Western Society.
    You know what? I may truly be a fool. I may be disasterously wrong on religion. But I can lay out a pretty solid case for why I believe what I do. I am also well within my rights to respect the opinion of someone evryone but you agrees is one of the finest minds of our age.
    Nobody said that they don’t want your opinion around here. I, for one, am happy to see your comments, and have on occasion gotten something of value from reading them. This particular exchange is not one of those occasions. Why does everyone threaten to leave when people disagree with them? Disagree with me. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.
    I have to my knowledge used exceptionally strong language with you on three occasions. The first time was about the Tao, the second was during the ridiculous Economics debate, and the third was here. In each of those cases, I found you to be exceptionally wrong, and commented accordingly. On this particular issue, you have outdone yourself. Your argument is moronic, and you know it. That’s why you are refusing to argue for it and why you are threatening leaving.

    And James,
    My dad told me once, and you proved it to me again in the economics thread; “if you don’t want people to get your goat, don’t tell them where it’s tied.” Solid advice.

  28. 33

    I didn’t respond to this obvious self-serving bit of spam because it’s very likely Peter Kinnon’s “Unusual Perspectives” book reflects many ideas we all believe presently (though I haven’t bothered to read it, free or not — the 0.9 Time Cube level website made my eyes bleed and I couldn’t muster the will to download the likely Microsoft WordArt-laden PDF). From the synopsis he just gave of his newer book, I don’t see anything that contradicts M-Theory or any other topic of conversation in The Grand Design. Just because the “evolutionary model of our observed universe” is fairly easy to prove (by stretched definitions of the word “easy”), doesn’t mean anything you’ve said DISproves any of Hawking’s theories.

    One of the chief ways you can tell someone’s a self-shilling crank on the scientific or philosophic parts of the internet, is that they compare themselves favorably to certain intellectual giants (e.g. Hawking, Galileo, or Einstein). One of the chief ways you can tell someone’s a self-deluded crank is if they have delusions of being superior to these intellectual giants.

  29. 34

    Done. Though, you should have had the ability to edit it. Unless it denies that ability to anonymous comments…? Going to have to experiment with that a bit, methinks.

  30. 35

    James Carey: You suspicion on Mr Hawkings belief isn’t without merit, however I feel that his personal emotional state may also be influencing his opinions.he has been more negative lately, that’s a fact.Is it because of his discoveries, or is because of some inner turmoil that we are not aware of.That is a consideration as well.And when quoting someone, it’s important to look at the big picture so that your argument cannot be compromised like I attempted to do here.

    Do you honestly believe that Jason’s argument was “compromised” because you pointed out that Hawking is in a wheelchair? Or that he might be depressed?
    My theory is that Stephen Hawking has been an atheist for a long time, and facing the quote-mining of religious folks is trying to stop being exploited as an example of a God-fearing scientist. So James is perhaps half right, that Hawking would be/is appalled, but with the exact opposite group of people.
    Unlike James though, I would like to back up my theory with facts. Google “Hawking believes in God” and see how many of the first few pages claim that he does, or direct you to a site which has a quasi-religious quote by Hawking. I also found a quote from Hawking in 1989 which seems to be the exact same sentiment we are arguing about here.

    What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. [Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989]

    I think this shows that Hawking has not taken a more recent “negative” take on a God concept.
    James has done nothing to compromise anyone’s argument here, just had a hissy fit that Hawking closed a gap on sentimental deist quotemining.

  31. 37

    Just to clarifya couple of points:
    The dreamings of theoretical physicists have value as ideas but until shown to reflect observed properties of the real world they are certainly not science.
    There is thus an important distinction to be made between theoretical physics and physical theory.

    The former is mathematical science fiction. Sometimes, as in “The Grand Design”, roughly translated into natural language.

    The latter comprises our best understanding of the ways of our universe within an evidential framework. A quite different animal. The vastly important realm of experimental and applied physics

    On my last check a little while back I discovered over 30 TOEs.
    Mostly mutually exclusive. Mostly inherently lacking any real testability.
    There are indubitably many more. Some simply daft. Some, like those presented by Bill Christie and Petra Horava, having considerable plausibility.
    But only one (or a small related subset), of any of them can be right. So how, until there is an evidential bases, can they be considered to be anything but guesses? Some obviously more intelligent and parsimonious than others.
    We should not sneer at guesses anyway.
    They are one of the most important aspects of the evolution of ideas and, as pointed out in my books, the consequent evolution of technology.
    But, until reaching fruition they just ain’t science.

  32. 39

    George W,

    it wasn’t my inetention to make this issue about me, or about you and I. I want to continue this discussion but I am going to take my reply back to Jason’s thread “Why I do what I do” and not drag this topic further off base, if that is reasonable. I never got a chance to finish that argument anyways.

  33. 40

    Theoretical physics is science. Using existing theories and observations to postulate possible theories and observations is still science, just that it is not fully vetted by the facts at the time of postulation. If these theories were not to be vetted but instead dogmatically accepted as fact then theoretical physics would be a pseudo-science.
    People who refuse to accept theoretical physics as a science are usually people who use “bad poetry”, misplaced analogies, and logical fallacies to postulate what they think should be the case, and are resentful when their hypotheses are laughed out of court. They believe that their “fantastic and groundbreaking” ideas are on par with theoretical physics, that their ideas deserve to be given special consideration. The problem is that analogies aren’t perfect, poetry unprovable, and fallacies easily spotted.
    Theoretical physics is not science fiction, it is testable hypotheses of how the universe interacts, it is not poetic, fanciful, or imaginary; and where it is those things it is quickly set aside.
    Please don’t conflate Stephen Hawking’s popular writing with his science. He is brilliant at both, but not one or the other.

  34. 41

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    – Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

  35. 42

    On top of the fact that you’re defining “universe” differently from anyone else in this conversation, are you aware that you’re making far more assumptions than Hawking is?

    I look forward to seeing your work pass peer review and enter the discourse. When that happens, we can talk.

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