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Is Stephen Hawking Right About God?
September 19, 2010
9:11 pm
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Aquarian
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Not only is Stephen Hawking one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, he also enjoys a mystique perhaps rivaled only by Albert Einstein. As Time once commented, "Even as he sits helpless in his wheelchair, his mind seems to soar ever more brilliantly across the vastness of space and time in order to unlock the secrets of the universe."

Hawking's recent comments on God have thus unleashed a torrent of attention. In his forthcoming book, The Grand Design, he comments, "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. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

If you know Hawking's work, these comments won't surprise you. Of course, he does conclude his Brief History of Time with the claim that if we could discover the fundamental laws of nature, "then we should know the mind of God." No religious faith underlies this statement, however. The book as a whole argues that God plays no essential role in understanding the physical universe.

In fact, Hawking's recent pronouncements about God echo the famous comment by the eighteenth-century successor to Newton, Laplace. The emperor Napoleon is said to have asked him, "But where is God in your physics?" Legend has it that the physicist Laplace responded, "Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis."

One can even find the story that explains Hawking's attitude. At one point he was invited to Rome by the Jesuits for a conference on cosmology. In his technical paper he explained the view for which he is famous, known as the Hartle-Hawking hypothesis: although the universe has a finite age (it has not existed forever), there is no t = 0, that is, no first moment of time. If there is no "moment of creation," there is no place for a Creator.

Shortly after delivering his talk, Hawking and the other physicists were invited to an audience with the Pope. The Pope, he reports, told them that "it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God." Hawking quips, "I was glad then that he did know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference."

It seemed to Hawking that the Pope was warning physicists away from the very questions where they could make the greatest progress. To accept that warning and to stay away from these questions would be to sell out as a scientist. It is as if, at that moment, Hawking resolved to have nothing more to do with the God idea. Or, to put it more carefully: he began to use the idea of God as shorthand for whatever would be the final physical theory about the origin of the universe.

Four Possible Answers

Now the $64,000 question: was he right? Cal Thomas gives a simple response on FOX News: scripture says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" So "if Hawking thinks it's all foolishness, isn't that evidence he is perishing?" For many of us, however, important questions of this sort require some rather deeper reflection. Consider the following four possibilities:

First, Richard Dawkins could be right. Shortly after Hawking's conversations with the press, Dawkins hosted his own "webchat" on the topic. His interpretation was predictably much harsher than Hawking's own: "Darwin kicked [God] out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace."

As always, Dawkins' hyper-critical construal of religion brings out the offensive squad for the Religion Team. The second option is that Dawkins is totally mistaken; physics does have need of the God hypothesis. The arguments are legion: the basic physical constants are "fine-tuned" for the emergence of life, which is firm evidence of God's providential ordering of the cosmos. The regularities of natural laws can only be explained by God's character and purpose. The fit between human cognitive capacities and the natural world -- for example, our ability to do mathematical physics -- is proof God meant us to recognize Him in the natural world. In short, advocates claim, the more physics advances, the more evidence there is of the existence and providential care of God.

Hawking's third option falls somewhere between the first two. Science can only work when no questions are off limits. The explosive advances in science over the last centuries have removed physics' dependence on theology. In particular, cosmology supports the "weak" anthropic principle (any universe we find ourselves in must be conducive to the evolution of intelligent life) but not the "strong" anthropic principle (this universe was designed to produce us). Quantum cosmology -- using quantum physics to explain the origin of the universe -- eliminates the need for any external "push" to get things started. Instead, quantum fluctuations, followed by a period of extremely rapid expansion ("inflation"), might be sufficient by themselves to explain the origin of the universe. And finally, Hawking and friends maintain, if an infinite number of universes in fact compose one "multiverse," any biophilic features we observe are merely the luck of the draw in this particular universe. No inferences can be drawn about divine creative intent.

God and Mystery

But there is a fourth position. The truth is, recent developments in science do make conclusions about God more difficult. But do they really render the God hypothesis superfluous?

Here I would push back against Hawking. Religion that would block or control the growth of science should be resisted. But it's simply not true that science has dissolved any role for mystery. As it advanced, twentieth-century physics actually expanded the place for the unknown. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle expresses limits on how fully we can know both the location and momentum of a particle, and the speed of light represents an absolute limit for the speed of information exchange. Limits of knowledge are not excuses for shutting down scientific inquiry and replacing it with answers based on scriptural authority. But they are profound reminders of how much we don't know. Amazing advances in scientific knowledge lie ahead of us. But nothing in the history of science suggests that our knowledge will be limitless. Indeed, Stephen Hawking has been one of the great voices reminding us of this fact.

Richard Dawkins may wish to use Hawking's comments to define science as the arch-rival of religion. Returning the compliment, religious commentators proclaim death to science in the name of religion. Careful observers will note that Stephen Hawking's language has been more irenic. Still, he continues to proclaim that progress in science rules out any notion of God.

But here the great physicist overreaches himself. When believers use claims about God to handcuff science, they act wrongly. But no such conflict is produced when we recognize that deep mysteries lie beyond the limits of scientific knowledge. Religious faith has its origins here, beyond the bounds of empirical demonstration. To declare this region empty of the divine is as much an act of faith as it is to find God here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-cl ... 07496.html

The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

September 20, 2010
1:08 am
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Stephen Hawkins has the same problem as Dawkins. Science and such reason and logic will not make us a better or more moral peoples. It will dress us in better clothes, better homes, cars, appliances, tools..but it will not make us better peoples.

This simplicity is totally avoided while extolling the glory of science but once you catch it you will note it by its absence.

Thanks,
Orangetom

September 20, 2010
1:23 am
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greeney2
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Would you trade your life for his, if you were given the anwser "if God exsists", but only after the trade?

September 20, 2010
1:28 am
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No, I would not trade my life for his. For it is obvious that I have a different calling. I find nothing of interest in his life nor glorious Nor useful, Nor simple.

I dont have to be given the answer after any trade...for I already know the answer.

Thanks,
Orangetom

September 20, 2010
2:19 am
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Ninor
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"greeney2" wrote: Would you trade your life for his, if you were given the anwser "if God exsists", but only after the trade?

I wouldn't trade my life for his, and I doubt he'd trade his for mine. I'm happy in my life, and he seems pretty happy in his.

I don't exclude the possibility of god, and from what I've read of Hawking, neither does he ... he however says that the existence of the Universe is possible without a god.

September 20, 2010
2:21 am
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greeney2
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Sorry Orange, I realized replying right under you it looked like I asked you, the question as really for Aquarian. I'm in agreement with your answer however.

It got me thinking about the fact Hawking is a genius of his own kind, and on a scale of 1-10 he has to score 25 for overcoming adversity. Who wouldn;t think, living the life he has with such a disease, and climbing such a high mountain was less than remarkable. I have no doubt his studies, that are way beyond me are no less than genius, and maybe a level few have reached in our lifetime. I would have to question how many people in this world do just a great, if not greater things, that are never herd of. Lets face it, Hawking sticks out, because he is this twisted figure, strapped into a wheelchair, contorted up, and wired to a computer to talk. That gets everyones attention, and in this world of political correctness, we don't want to offend the handicapped, so he is elevated to the smartest human ever. Lets just say for the sake of argument that that is true, he is the smartest human to ever exist.

How many people have you known in you life, that were the most remarkable people in their fields, but didn;t have the common sence to blow their nose? My Daughters first Orthopedic Surgeon was one of them. A genius in the Operating room, preformed miracals on so many children he was chief staff at childrens hospital orthopedic wing, renouned professor at UCLA Medical school. If you saw in in his office, you would not let him touch your kid. He had a head nurse tht spent her days in near heart attacks, guiding him like a child from room to room. He was truly a bumbling, confused, out of touch, had to be led by the hand all day long. In the operating room he was a different person, but in the office a wreck.

The point is the highest IQ people, many times lack the skills to do the most remedial of things. They are lost completly on people skills, or simple common sence decisions, yet in their fields they own it all. They are so literal in their thinking, that abstract thoughts do not compute to them. While the doctor could see bones sticking out of a 3 year old, and be cool as a cucumber, he could not guide himself in simple office activity.

We love to watch the Big Bang Theory, where the nerds are all geniuses, but all 4 lack social skills, or stuggle with something. The main character so literal, he is oblivious to feelings or tact, and to him, its totally logical or nothing. Life is just a mechanical excersize with everything in an order, and anything abstract has no place. Consequently his life has no social or spiritual component, no expressions of feeling, and what feeling he has, are not understood. He has no concept of understanding feelings in others. He doesn;t have a clue, is only logical like Spock. .

That is how I see Hawkings in a way, a genius in his field, but may not have a clue about concepts that are not proven through science or math, totally lost in social matters, probably not having a very full social or spiritual life. The only thing he could do is emerse himself in his education and research in his life. He may know the secrets of the universe, but may be lost talking about evryday things.

September 20, 2010
3:36 am
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Greeny2,

That is how I see Hawkings in a way, a genius in his field, but may not have a clue about concepts that are not proven through science or math, totally lost in social matters, probably not having a very full social or spiritual life. The only thing he could do is emerse himself in his education and research in his life. He may know the secrets of the universe, but may be lost talking about evryday things.

I've heard the same said about olde Albert. Albert Einstein. Great in his field but socially inept.
Somehow I dont think I would trust Albert or Steve to explain the workings of my scooter or maintaining my dryer or stove. Nor would I be willing to trust my life to them or any members of my family. That's just the way it is when you have been out here and taken the measure of many men.

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Orangetom

September 20, 2010
3:59 am
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Halfabo
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Hawking is right about one thing, we don't have to know God to study the physical world. Science is a great tool for gaining knowledge of the physical. We can see what a thing is made of, down to the atomic level. We can know how it is formed, how it develops and what all of its functions are. But, that is where science is limited. Science cannot see beyond the physical world. For that you need a completely different set of tools.

For the Pope to tell him that any part of scientific questioning is off limits is purely ridiculous. Hawking can speculate all he wants about how the universe came into being, and about what caused the "Big Bang". The limit there though is that none of his theorizing can be tested nor proven. It is just speculation. And it is no more valid than saying God created everything.

Science is perfectly adequate for studying the physical. Where science fails to be of any use is when it attempts to explain spiritual matters. The physical is only a very small part of reality. Spiritual understanding reaches far beyond science. When the spiritual aspects of the universe are understood, it can be seen how spirit effects the physical.

War is a good example of where science fails. You can make use of political sciences, sociology, psychology, any of the social sciences you want to use. But, until you understand that war is not a physical problem so much as it is a spiritual problem that is effecting the physical world, then you will only understand a small part of the reasons for war.

Hawking may be able to imagine how the universe came into being without the need for God. But, it is still just imagining. Viewed from a spiritual understanding, it is impossible for the universe to exist without God.

I know of no spiritual person who would try to limit the use and understanding of science. I do however that many scientific people do vehemently want to limit the use and understanding of spiritual matters, and how those spiritual things effect the physical world. Why do you suppose that is? Jesus told us why.

Gal 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

You can use science to try to understand the physical world. And you can be satisfied with the understanding that science is able to provide. But, if you want a deeper, fuller understanding, you have to also see the spiritual part of the universe. For those who are satisfied with the limited understanding of things provided by science. I have nothing against them and understand why they do so. I also understand those who are more concerned with spiritual things and how they effect the physical world.

Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

September 20, 2010
4:29 am
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I think that a-lot of Hawking's dissertations reveal the general "unease" many scientists feel about science and its relevance in the future. There is no doubt though that Hawking does question the current paradigm among religious people and that paradigm is that, following Hume's argument as an example, everything that is in current existence has a cause and effect, but that cause must be confidently reaffirmed and ascertained. For the most part, as far as physical sciences go (quantum mechanics, physics, etc.), the tangibility of God cannot be quantified...and that is what Hawking is talking about. He also goes on to assert that the Universe can be self-moving, in that it "creates itself", although that would require acknowledging that the Universe had to exist even before existing; a good point Hume would bring up constantly. Maybe there's a scientific refutation to this, I don't know.

Some postmodernists want to argue that science is "coming to an end" in some respects. It is "coming to an end", according to these postmodernists, because science investigates (or tries to investigate) what can't be experimentally tested.

Here's an interesting interview transcript from:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/gergen/july ... _7-26.html

JOHN HORGAN: Now, there are some scientists who’ve actually created very elaborate theories that argue that we’re not alone, that it’s inevitable that there’s life elsewhere. Some even say that there’s life very much like us, conscious, intelligent life that’s even created science like ours. Now, I think this is really science fiction. It’s, it’s just elaborate speculation. There’s no proof. The only way we’re going to know that life exists elsewhere is if we find it elsewhere. And, unfortunately, that’s a very difficult thing to do.

MR. GERGEN: So your point is it’s not that there are not major questions still to be answered.

JOHN HORGAN: Right.

MR. GERGEN: We don’t know what causes life itself.

JOHN HORGAN: That’s right.

MR. GERGEN: We don’t know what causes consciousness, as you point out. We don’t know whether there’s life elsewhere. We don’t have the final answer. You keep talking about the one unifying theory.

JOHN HORGAN: That’s right.

MR. GERGEN: Your argument is it’s not that those questions don’t exist. It is that science probably can’t find the answers.

JOHN HORGAN: I don’t think so.

MR. GERGEN: Testable science?

JOHN HORGAN: Right. I mean, what happened before the big bang? Why was the universe created in the first place? Why does the universe have these laws of physics and not some other laws? Why did the history of life take the course it did, rather than some other course?

The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

September 20, 2010
4:45 am
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sandra
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Greeney, I'm sure you are right in that S Hawking doesn't have much of a life outside
of a complete commitment to his scientific researches and its a good point- how much of an
opportunity does he have to experience many other areas in life.

orangetom, you could say those things again.

Halfabo, beauteous. Had a good flow going why'd ya stop? 😛

Nothing more to add, just liked the reading.

Op I'll have to read that interview now that Aquarian posted.

“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

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