God, Please Don’t Exist –Stephen Hawking

The apparent teaser on Hawking’s coming Discovery Channel interview:


On “Is There A Creator?,” Hawking notes that on the sub-atomic scale, particles are seen in experiments to appear from nowhere. And since the Big-Bang started out smaller than an atom, similarly the universe likely “popped into existence without violating the known laws of Nature,” he says. Nothing created the universe, so in his view there was no need for a creator. That is his explanation for “why there is something rather than nothing.”

——————————————————————————————————–

Except that, before those particles that were “smaller than atoms” popped  themselves into existence and got the big-bang going –which is an event  that is by itself a contentious topic among physicists because not only  does it clearly violate our modal intuitions, it does also the law of  conservation of energy– “known laws of nature” already existed and likewise had to be inviolable. So, Even if we grant Hawking the premise that particles can pop themselves into existence out of absolutely nothing –a pretty galactic concession, mind you– that still leaves the tiny matter of the “known laws of nature” (some law concerning gravity perhaps?) which need to be left inviolable for anything to be able to pop itself into existence.

This isn’t a God of the gaps argument, it’s a common sense one: anything that begins to exist needs a cause for it’s existence; something cannot come from nothing.

What’s the escape?

Why, redefine the word “nothing” would be one way!

Hawking’s definition of the word “nothing” is like nothing you’ve ever heard of, since it isn’t actually defined the way we would normally understand the word to mean; his “nothing” actually contains an ocean of fluctuating quantum energy, from which particles can get “popped into existence”.

Doesn’t that seem like a really surreptitious way of redefining the word ‘nothing’ so that it definitionally means ‘something’, or is it just me? The fact that the word ‘nothing’, in how it is originally defined, would seem the polar opposite of how Hawking would use the word in his book is just downright bizarre.

This is an example of someone who is scientifically bright, but philosophically dense.

Advertisements

Posted on August 2, 2011, in apologetics, Religion, science, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. “This isn’t a God of the gaps argument”

    Except it is.

    “it’s a common sense one”

    Common sense didn’t give us modern medicine, biology, geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, etc.

    “anything that begins to exist needs a cause for it’s existence; something cannot come from nothing.”

    Then God, which to believers is something, by your own claim must have had a creator. If God did not need a creator, neither did our Universe.

    • The argument that anything that begins to exist needs a cause for it’s existence isn’t a ‘God of the gaps’ argument. It’s a priori.

      “Common sense didn’t give us modern medicine, biology, geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, etc.”

      — Didn’t it? Doesn’t arithmetic, in a fundamental sense, underpin those sciences? Isn’t basic arithmetic something that we are able to intuitively grasp?

      Then God, which to believers is something, by your own claim must have had a creator. If God did not need a creator, neither did our Universe.

      — Why? God, by definition, did not begin to exist. Better read the argument again: anything that begins to exist has a cause for it’s existence. The universe began to exist; via the singularity that caused the big-bang –so it began to exist.

      Inserting a prime mover is the only way to escape an infinite regress. We already know the universe began to exist, so, no, it would be silly to make the universe itself its own prime mover.

      • All semantics, no substance. God of the gaps applies because diligent physicists are constructing hypothetical frameworks for non-divine creation of the universe, and the varying hypothesis will have predictive qualities about our Universe that can be tested. It’s not an abstract philosophical argument over a priori, it’s a gap that you’re hiding in. Enjoy it if you like.

        “Common sense” told us that the world was flat and you could sail off of it. “Common sense” told us that the Earth is the center of the Universe and the stars and planets all revolve around us. If you *really* want to get a kick out of “Common sense”, take a look at what people thought about diseases and illnesses before germ theory. As a civilization we had math for over three thousand years before we outgrew so much of that “Common sense”, so, no, arithmetic isn’t your magic bullet.

        And what a coincidence that God is so specifically defined to avoid a priori . . . wow, how coincidentally amazing.

  2. @hktelemacher

    God of the gaps does not apply because the Kalam cosmological argument is a philosophical one. In the absence of any evidence for us to distrust our modal intuitions, then we should consider it a priori that anything that begins to exist has a cause for it’s existence. No matter how you would love bandying about your beloved science and it’s imaginary ability to develop a naturalistic “framework..for the construction of the universe”, I believe it’s impossible since from nothing, nothing comes. The process by which nothingness can create something certainly isn’t a gap in our understanding. This is like you arguing that it’s possible for married bachelors to exist, we just don’t understand the process by which they can go about existing. Ridiculous.

    While common sense gave us all those ridiculous things, it has also emancipated us from them. You’ve only really said a whole lot of things that amount to absolutely nothing.

    Yes, that’s how God is defined; He is definitionally the maximally greatest being. Funny you try to argue against something the definition of which you don’t even have an atom of knowledge about.

    • Luckily for you (and the rest of us) science does not rest on your ability to believe or comprehend:

      http://io9.com/5731463/are-virtual-particles-for-real

      “And it’s not just in force calculations, either. Even in the so-called vacuum, virtual particles pop into and out of existence all the time, but they do so in pairs. At this very moment and all around you, electrons and their anti-particles, positrons are being created and, about a billion-trillionth of a second annihilated again. The same is true (with even shorter lifetimes) for virtually every other possible set of particle/anti-particle pairs.””

      “Common sense” did not emancipate us from “Common sense”. Science emancipated us from Common sense. It was the scientific observations of scientists like Galileo that helped us understand that the Earth revolves around the sun. Leeuwenhoek (another scientist) kick-started microbiology that gave rise to germ theory. If it were left up to Common sense we’d still be living in the dark ages, and likely all in Europe at that, never having developed the scientific understanding that the world is round to supplant the Common sense “fact” that everyone knew that of course the world is flat..

      And just because you have a definition for something doesn’t somehow make it true just because you’ve defined it. A big LOL for that one. Turtles, all the way down.

      • These “particles” can only pop into existence in a vacuum of quantum energy. You might want to actually read Mr. Hawking’s book. He, and celebrated physicist Lawrence Krauss admit that there is no philosophical “nothing”. Nothing is quantum energy and fluctuations. From this “nothing” can particles pop into existence.

        And I’m getting tired of your pedantic stretching of this minor and irrelevant point. Logic, or “common sense” if you prefer, is what underpins all knowledge. It’s what makes the scientific method work.

        And, no, pitting your beloved science against a couple of misunderstood beliefs of yore, along with some chest-beating and foot-stomping, doesn’t make it out like you’re talking any sense.

        And just because you have a definition for something doesn’t somehow make it true just because you’ve defined it. A big LOL for that one. Turtles, all the way down.

        — Just because you think I was arguing that my definition of something makes it true, doesn’t make it true that that was actually what I was arguing. So, a “big LOL” for that one.

        If you want to argue against something, then at least know what it is you’re arguing against. Any mid-wit would have gotten this.

      • Wait, because I want to make sure I get this crystal clear . . . you’re trying to use Hawking to argue against my point? aaaahahahahahaha! You might want to re-read your own original point, Hawking obviously agrees with non-divine creation of the Universe, and whether we’re talking about a recycling Universe or a collision of higher-order dimensions, or some other scientific hypothesis, you’re still hiding in a gap. We already know that the inspiration for Genesis has no connection to reality without the most bizarre twisting of language (days=billions of years, the order of described creation, etc., etc.) so you can argue a priori all you want but people who understand even a minimal amount of science already reject Genesis as a literal work and therefore the God of that literal fairy tale. Most these days try to reconcile a God that “inspired” a non-literal Genesis but at that point the furious backtracking has already begun. But at its core science has already invalidated the God of the Bible so even if you won a philosophical a priori argument, surprise!, you’d have to end up with something other than Christianity.

        Common sense does *not* make science work. Common sense is folk knowledge, oral tradition, sometimes validated by religious authority (Earth is the center of the Universe reinforced mankind’s special place in the Universe, for example). Science, on the other hand, is rigorous recorded observation compared to hypothetical frameworks to establish measurable, repeatable experiments that validate or invalidate hypothesis. It is the *total opposite of common sense*.

        A “couple of misunderstood beliefs of yore”? Are you kidding me?? Before the scientific method became the dominant method of understanding the world around us pretty much everything humanity knew was “common sense” and pretty much all of it was wrong. Weather, disease, the success or failure of harvest, similarities and differences between people and cultures . . . but put all that aside for the moment. The scientific method has brought mankind *so much*. Modern medicine allows us to live *significantly* longer than people lived just a couple hundred years ago. We can cure or manage diseases that were fatal. In the next decade we’re going to be able to give blind people their sight back, allow many of those who have been paralyzed to walk again, obtain cures or vaccines for more and more types of cancer–and these are the upcoming advances that rest on so many of the amazing things we already have from science. *None* of these things are possible from “common sense”, only through the rigorous application of scientific discipline that often tells us that what we thought of as common sense was wrong, and trying to make some out-there claim that somehow basic arithmetic is common sense therefore all science is common sense is just ridiculous on its face. I sleep easy knowing that any reasonable reader going over our exchange would reject your position out of hand.

        Turtles, turtles, turtles.

  3. @hktelemacher

    Wait, let me get this straight, you think I believe the Genesis account was literally how the universe came to be? You would be scoring points among young-earth creationists like Ken Ham with pedantry of that sort, but not with theistic evolutionists like me. And of course Hawking agrees with a non-divine creation of the universe, where on earth are you slippity-sliding into? I never argued otherwise. And all those “scientific hypotheses” you just cited aren’t even hypotheses insofar as they can’t be tested. You are referring to some theoretical mumbo-jumbo that’s somehow related to string-theory, multiple dimensions and infinite universes, right? Nope, I don’t have enough faith to believe in that clap-trap –to echo an overtly used theistic retaliatory cliche– and as it happens, a lot of other scientists don’t too. (Lawrence Krauss would be one).

    My point was, and has always been, whatever your big brain can contrive, an infinite regress is inescapable without an uncaused cause. This isn’t a “gap” in our knowledge that must be plugged in just the same way the process of creating married bachelors isn’t too.

    When I said common sense, I did not mean “folk knowledge”. I meant that sense which is common to all (or at least most) rational agents, which is logic. The notion that earth was the center of the universe isn’t based on “common sense” but religious dogma, so, no, you’re wrong again. What makes you think that when we “establish measurable, repeatable experiments that validate or invalidate hypothesis” we are getting closer to truth? You think there’s any logic to that? What do you think is one thing that makes the scientific methodology work?

    Your subsequent paragraph is just more pedantry, harping on the myth that I meant “folk knowledge” when I said common sense.

    But this is just begging to be pointed out:

    and trying to make some out-there claim that somehow basic arithmetic is common sense therefore all science is common sense is just ridiculous on its face.

    Except that that’s not the “claim” i was making. The claim I was making is that science has some fundamental components to it, and that when divorced, would make the whole project useless. One such component is logic, which, as it were, seems to be something common to all rational agents. You could at least GET IT RIGHT this time.

  4. “The notion that earth was the center of the universe isn’t based on “common sense” but religious dogma, so, no, you’re wrong again”

    Noooooooooooooo, the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe was based on the “common sense”–casual, non-rigorous observation without scientific method. Under such conditions the sun gives all appearances to a person as circling the flat disk that is the Earth, and the stars rotate around the stationary observer. It is only when scientific process and tools are applied that common sense is revealed to be wrong. Religion adopted the common sense (and persecuted early scientists who disagreed) because it fit with the idea that Man was “special” in the Universe.

    “What makes you think that when we “establish measurable, repeatable experiments that validate or invalidate hypothesis” we are getting closer to truth?”

    Because it enhances our understanding of the world we live in, and is the *basis for all scientific advancement that we benefit from*. If I have a hypothesis that makes a prediction which can be tested by observable, measurable, repeatable results, what kind of a messed up worldview doesn’t consider that approaching a better understanding of our Universe?? What kind of screwed up semantics is it to say well are we getting closer to *truth* . . . your truth? Biblical truth? Truth as far as I am concerned is what results from the process of science, as best as we are able to determine it. The rest is just made-up gobbledygook that means all different things to all people and whatever people can think up because there is no way to falsify it. “Oh noes, you can’t test God that won’t work!” If you pray and it works then hallelujah!! If it doesn’t work (despite the Bible saying it should) then it’s part of God’s plan. Randomness=God, apparently, again because it is untestable . . . and that’s supposed to lead to truth?? Again, totally messed up.

    • Thank you for harping, yet again, on the falsity that I meant “folk knowledge” when I used the word common sense, despite my repeated clarifications that I did not.

      you say:
      ” If I have a hypothesis that makes a prediction which can be tested by observable, measurable, repeatable results, what kind of a messed up worldview doesn’t consider that approaching a better understanding of our Universe??”

      — WHY AN ILLOGICAL ONE OF COURSE! A WORLDVIEW THAT’S DEVOID OF *LOGIC*! You still don’t get it do you? Did you read my previous response where I said logic makes the project of science doable? Anybody home? (It seems you answered a rhetorical question, buddy boy.)

      you say:
      “Truth as far as I am concerned is what results from the process of science, as best as we are able to determine it. The rest is just made-up gobbledygook that means all different things to all people and whatever people can think up because there is no way to falsify it.”

      — The truth value of a proposition isn’t dependent on anyone’s ability to prove it. Many things are true whether we can prove it or not, whether we can have evidence for it or not, whether we can subject it to the “process of science” or not. Your verificationism is self-refuting, as you really ought to know; the notion that only verifiable propositions are meaningful is a notion that is itself unverifiable. So, yeah, good luck with that.

      Your subsequent sentences are just strawmen that aren’t worth my time.

  5. “The truth value of a proposition isn’t dependent on anyone’s ability to prove it. Many things are true whether we can prove it or not, whether we can have evidence for it or not, whether we can subject it to the “process of science” or not. Your verificationism is self-refuting, as you really ought to know; the notion that only verifiable propositions are meaningful is a notion that is itself unverifiable. So, yeah, good luck with that.”

    No, you’re right, screw it. Since things can be true without evidence or the ability to test then then just whatever anyone thinks, therefore truth. And since any truth can be with or without evidence, with or without proof, all truths must be equal so who can rely on science then? Let’s just start closing all the hospitals down, close all the observatories down, close all the labs, all our power plants, let our cars sit to rust . . . let’s just huddle around a campfire in the dark and talk about how useful truth is–you can discuss “Tides go up, tides go down, nobody knows why, therefore God!” with O’Reilly. I think that’s a great plan. Before you starve to death at least you can say you were searching for truth.

    Regardless of your opinion of whether science reveals truth or not, science is reliable because it is repeatable. Call it truth or not truth or whatever the hell you want, you seem to be very hung up on philosophical nothingness and defined terms having very specific meanings so they can support your conclusions.

    • Look at your logic:

      a. “Since things can be true without evidence or the ability to test”

      (example. The statement: ‘the universe has multiple life-cycles’ has a truth value of ‘true’ or ‘false’ whether we have the ability to test the proposition or not.)

      therefore:

      b. “then just whatever anyone thinks, (is) therefore truth (sic)”

      and

      c. ” all truths must be equal”

      and

      d “Let’s just start closing all the hospitals down, close all the observatories down, close all the labs, all our power plants, let our cars sit to rust . . . let’s just huddle around a campfire in the dark and talk about how useful truth is–you can discuss” (LOL!)

      Now, notice that ‘b’ and ‘c’ and ‘d’ has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH ‘a’!!!

      Read the above again for more lulz.

      you say:
      “Regardless of your opinion of whether science reveals truth or not, science is reliable because it is repeatable.”

      — I agree. But what on frigging earth has that got to do with the fact that there are propositions that hold a truth value for which we cannot have evidence for either way? Nothing. The proposition that the earth is round has a value of ‘true’ despite that people during the dark ages had no way of ascertaining its truth value. Was this proposition meaningless back then, but meaningful now?

      you say:
      you seem to be very hung up on philosophical nothingness and defined terms having very specific meanings so they can support your conclusions.

      — I get that a lot. Usually from people who are philosophically bankrupt. I’m reminded of when Dawkins told Craig that the age-old question ‘what’s the meaning of life’ was an utterly useless one. You, like Dawkins, have your own philosophy, it’s just a very bad one.

      • “But what on frigging earth has that got to do with the fact that there are propositions that hold a truth value for which we cannot have evidence for either way? Nothing. The proposition that the earth is round has a value of ‘true’ despite that people during the dark ages had no way of ascertaining it’s truth value.”

        Because people who hold propositions without evidence make decisions based on what they believe to be true regardless what the evidence says, and that affects everyone. You treat truth and propositions as if they are wholly abstract with no practical impact on the world, but even in your example that is shown not to be true. The people of the dark ages, given their sophistication, did not ascertain that the world was roughly round *and that mattered* in their decision-making.

        Take your position on theistic evolution. Theistic evolution defies the idea that evolution occurs from natural processes, and by even its stringent supporters is not a hypothesis that is testable. I’ve read some stuff on ID supporters trying to take the idea of “irreducible complexity” and reduce it to an actual mathematical equation that therefore would have some predictive quality but so far what has emerged from that has been a pretty arbitrary collection of numbers. Now, evolution deriving from natural processes–random mutation shaped by natural selection–is a Theory that has predictive qualities that are important because science relies on that predictability. If the world is run by theistic evolution then all predictive qualities of evolution are crap and can’t be relied upon because there is an intelligent agent out there who causes the system to become unpredictable.

        But scientists who work in evolutionary biology know that it has a very high degree of predictability in a framework without an intelligent agent. That reliability matters.

        So, again, if you want to hold tight to philosophical nothingness and concepts as if you hold they key to some higher truth while ignoring the reality of what those things equate to–how we make decisions, what we can rely on in this world–and calling the diligent work of theoretical physicists working on equations for string theory and multiple dimensions “mumbo jumbo” (whose work, by the way, isn’t made-up whole cloth from scratch but based on extensions of previously-peer reviewed work) . . . to me that’s just sad.

        “I get that a lot. Usually from people who are philosophically bankrupt.”

        If you get that a lot, maybe it’s less that all those other people are stupid and more that you should be looking for a closer-to-home common denominator in those exchanges.

  6. @uktelemacher

    We are pretty much talking in circles now.

    Some things to clear up though:

    you say:
    “Because people who hold propositions without evidence make decisions based on what they believe to be true regardless what the evidence says, and that affects everyone.”

    — Yes. But that doesn’t change reality, now does it? Despite that bleakness, the fact of the matter is that there are propositions that have a truth value for which we cannot have evidence for either way. No amount of appeals to emotion will change that fact. Godels theorem has already proven this (if you really need mathematical certainty that the verificationism you seem to hold so dear is a philosophical dead-end.)

    And, no, theistic evolutionism doesn’t defy the notion that evolution through natural selection took place. It simply posits the idea that God was the one who set the evolutionary algorithm to play.

    you say:
    If you get that a lot, maybe it’s less that all those other people are stupid and more that you should be looking for a closer-to-home common denominator in those exchanges.

    — Fair enough. I will keep this in mind.

    ps: I love science. It’s scientism I feel queasy about, especially the militant kind. It’s just as fundamentalist as the religious right, sometimes even more so.

    And, other scientists call string theory and multiple universe theories ‘mumbo-jumbo’ too. It isn’t a personal affront to those scientists who work diligently (yet come up with crap).

  7. Just caught this one, it’s on topic and worth a watch:

    Even touches on the definitional tactics, but so much more, and pretty current.

  8. PHILOSOPHIA PERENNIS.

    The Old Lady’s TORTOISE (Hinduism) and DRAGON (Taoism) are symbols for WAVE (energy), both are analog with MAGEN DAVID (Judaism). “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is the metaphor, and also similar with allegory of rituals Thawaf circling around the Ka’ba and Sa’i oscillating along “the sinus” Marwah-Shafa (seven times) during the Hajj pilgrimage (Abraham). CROSS (Christian) and SWASTIKA (Buddhism) are symbols for “Balance of Nature.”

    “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME – From the Big Bang to Black Hole” by Stephen W. Hawking is the best scientific interpretation of AL QUR’AN by a non believer. It is also a “genuine bridge stone” for comprehensive study of Theology. Surprise, this paradox is a miracle and blessing in disguise as well. It should be very wise and challenging for Moslem scholars and others to verify my discovery, for then we should know the Mind of GOD.

    I am just “ordinary people,” so would you mind correcting my point of view. Thank you.

    • I don’t exactly know why you would think those memes somehow validated those worldviews on account of some vaguely shared similarities. Many archetypes seem to be universally understood and are ubiquitous in a lot of myths and storytelling.

      And I find it very odd you would say that Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History Of Time’ was a “non-scientific interpretation” of the Quran. I don’t know why you would think that.

      The Bible, on the other hand, does not make claims of being based on science. When Jesus said the mustard seed was the smallest seed, He was wrong; we now know of ones that are smaller. But the fact of the size of the seed is irrelevant as He wasn’t setting out to teach botany; He was making a point about how even just a little faith can take you a long way.

  9. AnsweringScience

    The fact that you guys were arguing the geocentric and flat-earth theories back and forth proves to me how little you know of the history of science.

    As for the geocentric theory:
    Firstly, before the discovery of the telescope and it’s utilization by Galileo mankind had every right to believe in a geocentric universe for reasons other than a ridiculous religious dogma. With using primitive sciences’ most important tool (the eye) no causes for doubting the geocentric world are raised. Calenders were created using this model (which we use to this very day) and astrologists followed a predictable pattern if the stars/planets/galaxies that were but luminous specs at the time. They were all virtually pinned to the heavens except the planets (thus they were known as wanderers in latin), those would slightly twist around an axis.
    Another observation made by Aristotle (whoms’ works were the corner stone of church scientific beliefs) were the fact that if the world was heliocentric why didn’t the stars shrink as grew further away from them and enlarge as we grew closer? Such was the behavior of objects on Earth.
    And yet great thinkers such as Copernicus and many muslim scholars wrote about a heliocentric model long before Galileo existed. Copies of such manuscripts were available to the christian public long after the church was powerful and still scientist everywhere agreed on the geocentric model because it was scientifically logical.
    Then comes Galileo using his COMMON SENSE to understand what he saw in the telescope. But Galileo can’t disprove Aristotles’ obstacles even with a telescope. Also he states that the planets revolved around the Sun in perfect circle (because he himself was philosophical perfectionist) which was disproven by the scientist at the time (of course it is believed that he arrogantly deliberately disregarded Keplers’ work at the time) and on top of all of that he insulted the pope in his second book (the church didn’t ban his works and that of Copernicus until he did that in his second book discussing the matter of his discoveries)!
    Hundreds of years later when we had powerful telescopes we saw how stars change size as we move towards and away from them.
    It was never a matter of religion. Only logic and science that failed us at the time.

    As for the flat-earth theory:
    Many people didn’t believe in a flat-earth actually. They simply couldn’t it they wanted to work. Sailors navigated the see, followed stars and saw ships coming mast-first. But most people weren’t deep-sea sailors and even more people didn’t sail at all. In fact it simply didn’t matter to most how earth look like. But the few sailors that did had to operate on such basis if they wanted to navigate the sea.
    To make it clearer, why didn’t people strive for developing the steam engine after Heron of Alexandria created his steam-engine temple muse? Because they had slaves to do the work. The ancients just didn’t care about things they could live without and how the earth looked like was all the same to them.
    Again, not religion at all.

    I hope this helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: