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Stephen Hawking's less than reasonable faith

At least as reasonable, if not less so, than my faith in Jesus Christ.

Chuck Colson nails this one:

Western culture has an undeniable fascination with scientists, and with good reason. Patiently using the scientific method, they have brought us many good things, from the telephone to the airplane to antibiotics. And I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the world's first scientists were Christians who were seeking to discover not whether God created, but how he created the universe. Because science is based on the premise that God created an orderly universe. And the scientific method was a Christian contribution to our civilization. But later some scientists, in their pursuit to find the Holy Grail, began to question the God hypothesis. Many today (at least the most outspoken among them) have become determined atheists, insisting that science makes the God hypothesis unnecessary.

Well for a while, Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist at Cambridge, was more in line with the traditional view. In his famous book, A Brief History of Time, he said, "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason--for then we should know the mind of God." Unfortunately, in his new book, The Grand Design and in a companion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Hawking now says God is unnecessary after all.

Hawking and his coauthor, American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, are seeking a so-called "theory of everything" to explain life and the universe. They first address the undeniable reality that the cosmos seems incredibly fine-tuned for life. This reality, called the Anthropic Principle, has led many thinking scientists to make room in their equations for a Creator.

But not Hawking. In The Grand Design, he takes refuge in the unproven, un-testable, and completely theoretical hypothesis that we live in one of a multitude--perhaps an infinite number--of universes, each created spontaneously, run by unplanned physical processes that in a few cases could make life possible. But is this flight of fancy called the multiverse any more scientific than the simpler and more satisfying declaration, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"?

The answer is obvious isn't it?  Colson's point is hammer meet nail dead-on.  Go and read the whole thing.

We who are faithful (but too often flawed) believers in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Savior of the world are usually quick to be ridiculed for abandoning reason and not embracing the scientific method.  Yet this is exactly what Hawking has done... and he will be embraced by the very people who are hair-trigger quick to jump on Christians and other believers (though largely Christians) for our 'ignorant' faith claims.

What a crock of crapola.

In an odd way however, this is an obviously good thing.  Hawking is seeking the truth as are all faithful people.

In the end, it's not so much about reason (though reason is an important component) but about belief ('seeing absent any evidence').  Hawking has just come out and stood up for faith.

God bless him.


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Comments (37)

What I believe Hawking has ... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

What I believe Hawking has done (haven't read the book yet, but have read several synopses) is to show that there is a theoretical construct in which God is not necessary for the universe to exist. Since this is only a theoretical construct that has not been verified, it is not capable of showing that God does not exist. As an example of how this can work, Stephen Hawking is not necessary for theoretical cosmology to exist, but I'm fairly certain that there really is a Professor Hawking.

I'm a Cubs fan. I know all ... (Below threshold)
Roy:

I'm a Cubs fan. I know all about having faith in the unbelievable.

Sorry to rain on the parade... (Below threshold)

Sorry to rain on the parade here, but I believe that, once again, we have science and religion at cross purposes.

Multi-universe theory, although generally considered highly improbable, is in fact scientifically valid. It arises from the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, which states that for quantum particles, certain pairs of physical properties (like position and momentum) cannot be known simultaneously to high precision. The best we can do under those circumstances is to approximate the highest probabilities for the simultaneous value of those quantities. In other words, quantum mechanics doesn't provide finite answers; rather, it provides "most likely" or "highest probability" solutions.

So now you know a little about the strange world of quantum phenomena -- there is a highest probability solution, and a number of "left-over" potential outcomes with lower probabilities. Physicists assumed that over time, these "left-overs" would vanish by collapsing together into a single most-probable state. But about 50 years ago, a physicist named Hugh Everett argued that, instead of collapsing into a single state, the lesser-probability states could possibly be trajectories leading to multiple outcomes spread over multiple parallel universes.

If you consider the fantastically huge number of quantum interactions in a single atom, and then multiply that by the number of atoms in the universe, and then factor in a time scale of 13 billion years (the observable age of the universe) you can get an idea of how many possible universes might exist under this theory.

As outlandish is it may seem, the mathematics behind the parallel universe interpretation is valid. Of course it's just theory. And I have no idea how it can prove or disprove the existence of God, so I think Hawking is off-base if he is trying to make such a claim. But I'm pretty sure that Colson is just as far off base as Hawking when he proclaims that multi-universe theory is "an unscientific, unproven presupposition." Neither of those claims are true.

There is no Dana only zuul!... (Below threshold)
SillyPuddy:

There is no Dana only zuul!
But more importantly I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to geico. ;)


"As an example of how th... (Below threshold)
the Dane of your Existence:

"As an example of how this can work, Stephen Hawking is not necessary for theoretical cosmology to exist, but I'm fairly certain that there really is a Professor Hawking. "

So, using your logic - God may exist but may not be the creator of the universe.

An interesting point is tha... (Below threshold)

An interesting point is that it is totally impossible to establish when the universe (or multiverse) was created. Given the definition og G0d as omniscient and omnipotent, the world could have been created with you looking at this message on your screen. Of course there is also no way of proving (aside from the Bible) that the world was created at any particular moment in the past and continued on from that moment using the laws that it was created to run by.

The fallacy that there must somehow be an obvious discontinuity is a flaw in the logic of both sides of this "debate". If archeologists somehow find the UL sticker with the warranty for the Earth would only show that this planet was artificially built.

Atheism is as much a (false) religion as any other.

All I can say is that I am right and my religion is true while the rest of you are wrong (:-)

To start with the premise t... (Below threshold)
Rance:

To start with the premise that "many of the world's first scientists were Christians" discounts all the work done by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babalonians, etc. B.C.E.

About a quarter century ago... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

About a quarter century ago Hawking had his heyday of prediction.

1. He proposed black holes would evaporate by the tunneling of virtual particles across the event horizon.

2. That at the point following the big bang the neutrino plasma decoupled, the density of the universe fell allowing other matter to exist, and the first baryons formed, mini-blackholes the size of mountains formed throughout the universe remaining as dark matter.

Well we should have had confirmation by now of these exploding black holes. Hawking is over-rated, IMHO.

In order to know what you k... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

In order to know what you know, you must first know how you know.

Hmmm - Easy to see... (Below threshold)
apb:

Hmmm -

Easy to see which side of the bed ol' Rancid falls out of - it is the highlight of douchebag puffery to attempt to rename B.C. and A.D. into BCE/CE.

I love the morons that attempt to portray Christians as ignorant - the nature of God is improvable, hence the need for belief; our detractors are the same numbnuts that still believe in Obama - who can easily be proven an IQ-challenged dolt.

We who are faithful (but... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

We who are faithful (but too often flawed) believers in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Savior of the world are usually quick to be ridiculed for abandoning reason and not embracing the scientific method. Yet this is exactly what Hawking has done... and he will be embraced by the very people who are hair-trigger quick to jump on Christians and other believers (though largely Christians) for our 'ignorant' faith claims.

Phil Hawkins would be ridiculed if he demanded that one of his (unprovable)theorys replace another theory for which there was a mountain of evidence.

"What a crock of crapola."<... (Below threshold)
dane:

"What a crock of crapola."

Well, there you go. World renowned physicist, refudiated.

Crock of crapola? ... (Below threshold)
914:

Crock of crapola?


Better known as ObamaCare.

"What a crock of c... (Below threshold)
the Dane of your Existence:
"What a crock of crapola."

Well, there you go. World renowned physicist, refudiated.

12. Posted by dane | September 13, 2010 5:51 PM

That was good! It wasn't me who posted it, but it was good...

Today, we are all Dane. </p... (Below threshold)
dane:

Today, we are all Dane.

I have never seen why there... (Below threshold)

I have never seen why there has to be any kind of conflict between science and theology. To the religious, just think of the scientists of not trying to disprove God's existence, but trying to discover how God did what He did -- what rules and laws He set up to govern His universe.

The only people who should feel "threatened" by scientists are the Biblical literalists -- and those, I've discovered, are far and few between.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth with a big bang."

J.

It appears to be another ca... (Below threshold)
Chuck:

It appears to be another case of The Theory of The Month. Over a billion $ were spent constructing the CERN particle accelerator so theoretical physicists can find the God Particle. What they will find is that the God Particle is made up of even smaller particles.

There is no end.

Chuck

God sneezed - watched what ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

God sneezed - watched what happened to the spray - and started laughing. He's been laughing ever since - how else do you explain things like Terry Pratchett's sense of the absurd and the platypus?

God knows how to milk a joke, He does...

Michael,If your in... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Michael,

If your intent was to dazzle us... consider me dazzled... nevertheless, Hawking is peddling a theory he believes in despite his inability to prove that it's true... that's called faith...

Jay Tea,

Not threatened by Hawking or anyone else really... just using the logic he and others use against believers and turning the tables on them...

Umm... Tina... who is Phil Hawkins?

"Because science is based o... (Below threshold)
wtfo:

"Because science is based on the premise that God created an orderly universe."

I'm going to have to call BS on this even if I understand exactly where the author is coming from.

The scientific method requires events to be repeatable, to some extent. That generally means some sort of (relatively) lasting order. And yes, most of our early scientists were Christians of some sort or other - therefore, were you to ask them, that order was imparted to the universe by the creator, God.

But this does not mean that science is "based on the premise" that God created an orderly universe; it simply requires some amount of order, the alternative to scientific method being magical thinking where anything can happen for any reason at all at any time.

Who put the order there, if anyone, is irrelevant to the scientific method (unless of course it's something that starts answering questions in a repeatable manner).

"Oh, sure, science has given us some nice things, but..." Spare us, nobody is buying this. Virtually all the Christian denominations, along with a number of other faiths have, presuming to speak for God himself, thrown hissy fits for hundreds of years over the mere existence of theories that might not fit their narrative. They do this because they are mere men, and it threatens their power, the comfortable mental spaces they've carved out for themselves, or both. This reflects poorly not on God, but on the men, but the men never seem to take the hint.

I have no problem with God, but this is a great example of why the Church so often drives me up the wall. I find it utterly laughable that here we have an organized religion - and Christians, of nearly all of them - trying to both claim some sort of credit for science, and to willfully distort it to construct straw man arguments.

Now, per Jay Tea a few comments above -

"I have never seen why there has to be any kind of conflict between science and theology. To the religious, just think of the scientists of not trying to disprove God's existence, but trying to discover how God did what He did -- what rules and laws He set up to govern His universe.

The only people who should feel "threatened" by scientists are the Biblical literalists -- and those, I've discovered, are far and few between."

Jay Tea, I agree with this entirely. The persistent conflict boils down to people's tendency to want to tell other people what to do, how to live, and what to believe.

Seeing that solving the "Th... (Below threshold)
John S:

Seeing that solving the "Theory of Everything" is centuries away, why does it matter? We'll be dead. In my case, the observable universe will cease to exist in 30 years... maybe much sooner if the administration blunders us into massive food shortages.

But about 50 years... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
But about 50 years ago, a physicist named Hugh Everett argued that, instead of collapsing into a single state, the lesser-probability states could possibly be trajectories leading to multiple outcomes spread over multiple parallel universes.
Except this isn't your grand-father's parallel universe theory.

In the theory Hawking is talking about (I don't know if it's his theory, to be honest), the laws of physics themselves are random. What happens is, every permutation of constants and equations spawns a universe. So, ultimately, the fact that gravity, electromagnetism, and weak and strong forces are so finely balanced to allow matter and life to exist in our universe is just a product of the infinite monkey scenario: One of the universes was bound to have the balance right.

Still doesn't disprove God, though. As there still needs to be a reason for infinite universes to exist at all, as opposed to nothingness.

If there were a God/god, it... (Below threshold)
Bob:

If there were a God/god, it is extremely unlikely that a small group of humans (Jews or Christians or Muslims or whatever) would have a direct line to the mind of God/god, having a unique insight on what He/he wants. It also makes no sense to suggest that an all seeing, all knowing, all powerful God/god would have any need for lowly humans to constantly praise or worship Him/him. Or that a supposedly all loving God/god would condemn those who fail to believe in Him/him to burn in hell for eternity. Or that we are all in need of salvation that can come only through the blood sacrifice of God's/god's son.

Whatever the limits and drawbacks of scientific inquiry, at least it is based on observations and evidence. Its theories may be wrong but they have been and will continue to be challenged and changed through the application of inquiry and reason - not so-called divine revelation. The idea that humans are rational is incompatible with the suggestion they should practice religion based on belief without evidence (a/k/a "faith").

Re: Bob"Faith and ... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

Re: Bob

"Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You get further with both, than you do with just one." J Michael Straczynski

Well, heck. I know that whe... (Below threshold)
Murgatroyd:

Well, heck. I know that whenever I have a question about cosmology, I always rely on the opinion of convicted-felon political advisors with a liberal-arts backgrounds. They're particularly good at evaluating Riemannian manifolds, you know.

One little problem is that Colson is so freakin' ignorant that he gets the definition of the Anthropic Principle exactly bass-ackwards:

They first address the undeniable reality that the cosmos seems incredibly fine-tuned for life. This reality, called the Anthropic Principle, has led many thinking scientists to make room in their equations for a Creator.

Wikipedia has a concise definition:

In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Some proponents of the argument reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life. As a result, they believe that the fact that the Universe's fundamental constants are within the narrow range thought to allow life is not remarkable.

In other words, the universe has the characteristics that make us possible because if it were different, somebody else based on those different characteristics would be observing it and marveling that the cosmos was so finely-tuned for their kind of life and intelligence. Or life and intelligence would be impossible, and nobody would be observing it.

Colson's claim reminds me of Bill Cosby's story about dating a philosophy major in college. She would wander around asking deep questions like "Why is there air?" Heck, any phys ed major knows the answer to that one! There's air so you can blow up basketballs, and footballs, and volleyballs!

As far as I'm concerned, the best proof for the existence of God is Benjamin Franklin's dictum: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." And any holy roller teetotaller who wants to take away my God-given right to drink beer is a minion of Satan in my book.

#20 Actually the statement ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

#20 Actually the statement that modern science is premised on the belief that God is a God of order is factually correct.

Ask yourself, why did the Chinese develop printing, gun powder, the compass, the loom and never reap the benefit that the west did from them. In the west these became tools to publish and disseminate knowledge, the canon and modern warfare, empires that circled the globe and global trade, and the industrial revolution and ultimately computers.

The answer is cultural. Chinese culture taught that the universe was ultimately unknowable, where western, essentially Christian, culture(when we are talking renaissance and industrial revolution that is the case like it or not) saw these as tools to understand how God had ordered the universe. The universe and God could be understood because God was a God of order. In Biology the entire concept of taxonomy (organizing plants and animals etc into kingdoms, phyla, groups and orders etc) owes its existence to this belief.

Today people are largely ignorant of he role that religion played in creating the first universities. People are spoon fed tales of Galileo and taught to believe that the church has always and forever been against science. That has not always been so. Most of the worlds great universities were founded by the church or by men of faith for the purpose of advancing human understanding. Today's academia hates religion so much they would attempt to erase that history.

As for Hawking's recent load of crap (and crap it is): He is approaching his death. He desperately wants to be credited for unraveling the greatest mystery of all time. He has leapt to advance a theory that is based not on any real knowledge, but rather based on supposition. THe result is that his theory does not explain the universe but offers multiple explanations for it. It is deliberately vague and predicts nothing. It ignores many of the issues that have arisen in the last few decades that demonstrate serious flaws in Einstein's theories. These flaws have lead physicists to assume the existence of 11 physical dimensions despite there being absolutely no evidence of any of heir existence. They make these assumptions because "the math works out that way".

Just like medieval astronomers trying to predict the orbits of the planets around the Earth and creating suborbit after suborbit to describe the motions of the planets because the "math worked out that way", until someone daring enough came along to propose that the planets orbited the sun and then it became obvious that the orbits were elliptical and science then could move forward again.

Science is at a similar juncture. Physicists have pursued a path of inquiry that supposes facts not in evidence. They attack anyone who would point these truths out. They cannot explain the universe so they push forth a theory that explains nothing but claims to have the answers. Until someone from their own ranks gets enough courage to point out the simple truths and put forward a more rational explanation science will continue to be stuck.

The fact is that in the real world people already know that relativity doesn't work. GPS is based on the assumption that relativity doesn't work. If relativity were applied to the problem GPS would never have been created. Relativity would predict that you could not synchronize multiple clock moving independently of each other at different speeds in different direction. Each clock would tick at a different rate to every other clock. Synchronization would be impossible. But they are synchronized. Scientists close their eyes and ignore the truth.

In the same way they will tell you that any force must have something that mediates it. Light travels with photons, air pressure and water pressure are exerted by the molecules of air and water. Yet gravity is a force that acts at a distance and is mediated by nothing. Physicist will also tell you that any force has to act over time, but gravity acts instantaneously. No one is trying to resolve this problem. They are trying to explain it away. they are trying to exempt it from all the other rules they are created because they are too dim to figure out the real answer. In a very real sense today's academia has became the very church they decry, silencing real discovery and promoting BS explanations of the universe that have no basis in demonstrable fact.

Sorry for the rant.

Once you consider the "self... (Below threshold)
BlueNight:

Once you consider the "self-starting" universe, you have to ask, where did the laws come from which make self-starting universes possible? In brane-theory, where did the branes and the laws governing them originate? In multiverse theory, where did the laws and energy originate?

As long as you've got materialism, it's always going to be "turtles all the way down."

Bah, jim m. You start out w... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

Bah, jim m. You start out well, then midway through, you go completely ignorant.

GPS is based on the assumption that relativity doesn't work.
If that is true, then why were the clocks on GPS satellites set to tick at different rates than the ground stations at launch? Why do their onboard computers calculate relativistic effects as per Einstein's theory, and make adjustments on-the-fly? If relativity didn't work, those adjustments would mean that all of our navigation would be growing more inaccurate every second.
Light travels with photons, air pressure and water pressure are exerted by the molecules of air and water. Yet gravity is a force that acts at a distance and is mediated by nothing.
You might want to look up "graviton."
Physicist will also tell you that any force has to act over time, but gravity acts instantaneously.
Gravity travels at the speed of light. Any physicist that did not get his degree out of the bottom of a Crackerjack box will tell you that. The thing that acts instantaneously is quantum entanglement.
The problem is that Science... (Below threshold)
Phil Snyder:

The problem is that Science and Faith are designed to answer two different sets of questions. Science answers "how" and "when" rather well. Faith answers "who" and "why" rather well.

When it comes to the origins of the Universe, neither Science nor Faith can be proven the same way an algebraic theorem can be proven. While Professor Hawking's theory has a lot of math behind it, it is math used to describe his theory.

"the premise that "many of ... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

"the premise that "many of the world's first scientists were Christians" discounts all the work done by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babalonians, etc. B.C.E."

The practice of 'science' is a recent development, post-enlightenment. The Romans and Egyptians obviously achieved great engineering feats, but the proto-scientists among the Greeks(Archimedes lived in Syracuse) established no lasting discipline. The Bab[y]lonians are better regarded as mathematicians.

"The scientific method requires events to be repeatable..[implying]some sort of (relatively) lasting order."

Science assumes we do not have a priviledged frame of reference hence the caution of the "anthropic principle". That events are repeatable is not a premise but an expectation from experience.

That Bacon and Newton were father's of the scientific method and that their Christian faith was a motivation to look for order in Nature is unexceptable.

Doh, "unexceptable" should ... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

Doh, "unexceptable" should be 'unexceptionable', damn.

Rance suggests that to star... (Below threshold)

Rance suggests that to start with the premise that many of the world's first scientists were Christians discounts all the work done by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, etceteras - Before Christ.

Nope.

If that was true, Rance, The author would have started with the (actual) premise that "all of the world's first scientists were Christians."

And didn't you miss Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble from your list of pre-historic and pre-Christian telephone, antibiotics and computer-inventing rocket scientists?

Jschuler,Yes GPS s... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Jschuler,

Yes GPS satellites did have their clocks synchronized and those clocks do tick at different rates. Take some time and look up Lawrentzian relativity which was the theory that was used to set those clocks. Under einsteinian relativity every clock would tick differently relative to each other and at different rates so synchronization would be impossible. Under Lawrentzian relativity the clocks would tick differently dependent upon their relative position within the gravity well. Thus they could all be synchronized as they all existed with the same relative frame.

Yes some scientists posit the existence of the graviton. Many reject it. Go into any college physics class and ask the professor how fast the force of gravity acts and he will tell you "instantaneously". Einsteinian relativity requires that answer because it demands that nothing can propagate faster than the speed of light. Gravity obviously does, but scientists avoid the obvious by creating an even bigger problem declaring that the force of gravity acts outside the boundaries of time.

"Gravity travels at the spe... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Gravity travels at the speed of light. Any physicist that did not get his degree out of the bottom of a Crackerjack box will tell you that. The thing that acts instantaneously is quantum entanglement. "

Wrong. It is well established from observation that gravity propagates faster than the speed of light. Planetary radar ranging data showing that the direction of Earth's gravitational acceleration toward the Sun does not coincide with the direction of arriving solar photons.

If gravity propagated at the speed of light then the gravitational acceleration of the earth toward the sun would coincide with the direction of the photons arriving from the sun because they travel at the same speed. But the sun has already moved from its position by 9 minutes by the time those photons arrive. Yet the earth does not get pulled in the direction of the photons, it is pulled in the direction of where the sun actually is. So gravity cannot travel at the speed of light.

This fact has been confirmed by direct observation. Scientists refuse to allow that anything can have a speed faster than the speed of light so they settle for instantaneous. Here we have a clear case of scientists ignoring facts in order to preserve the foundations of the physics that they have built careers upon. They are less interested in truth than they are making the math work and preserving their academic positions.

For those who deny that it its effects are instantaneous the number has been pegged above 2x10E10 times the speed of light.

jim m, if what you say rega... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

jim m, if what you say regarding GPS is true, it would mean that, contrary to all expectations, lorentzian relativity can be experimentally distinguished from special relativity. That's quite astounding. And to think, all these physicists know this, and use it on a vital, extremely public system, but not a single one has published a paper remarking on it. (The reason SR wins out over LR as a theory is SR recognized that only a portion of the theory of LR was sufficient to explain relativistic effects, and you didn't need the concept of "the ether." Otherwise, mathematically, SR and LR say the exact same thing.)

As for the speed of gravity, you are very much mistaken. http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/GR/grav_speed.html

Did you folks know that Mr.... (Below threshold)
stewart:

Did you folks know that Mr. Hawking once won first place in the Special Olympics 400 meters Crawl, Roll, and Slobber?

I really enjoyed this conve... (Below threshold)
ron:

I really enjoyed this conversation. Even the snarky comments.
Let me posit this. Jesus says that in my fathers house there are many mansions.We all take that to mean big homes. I just wonder if it was about dimensions. There are many other mentions of multiple heavens. Just thought I would make a statement for God. I don't think it possible to rule out multiple universes without ignoring the bible. Should make some wonder what those old men knew.




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