The curiosity conversation: a debate about Hawking, the universe, and God

As Sean Carroll has noted over at Cosmic Variance, he was part of a 20-minute panel discussion, moderated by David Gregory, following the Discovery Channel show on Stephen Hawking and his views of God and physics.  The other participants were theologian John Haught and cosmologist/believer Paul Davies (a Templeton Prize winner).  I’ll put up both parts of the conversation, followed by my take.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Besides the three discussants, there were brief statements by three other people: science popularizer Michio Kaku, astrophysicist and Christian Jennifer Wiseman, and Father William Stoeger.  These people added nothing to the dialogue and I found Kaku annoying in his faux-enthusiastic accommodationism (he suggested, for instance, that God could have created multiverses and string theory).

This is hardly an unbiased judgment, but of the three I found Sean Carroll refreshingly forthright and honest. He refused, for example, to admit that the question of God is completely beyond scientific ken. Here are two of his statements:

“If one of your roles for God is creating the universe. . . .then modern cosmology has removed that.”

“I agree that there are questions that science doesn’t answer. Science tells us what happens in the world and how it happens. That’s a little bit different from questions of purpose and meaning.  But when we get to questions of purpose and meaning, I think it’s very important to base that discussion on reality—on how the world really does work.”

Carroll then emphasized that if you believe in a theistic god, one who intervenes in the world, then that assertion can be judged scientifically, while deism, of course, is outside the bailiwick of science.  When asked about the Big Questions, that is, “questions of purpose and meaning,” Carroll responded that the answers must come from within ourselves, and that we must always base our values of meaning and purpose on reality. (The implication, of course, is that we shouldn’t impute them to god.)

John Haught‘s positions were pretty much in line with what I’ve read by him.  He wants to accept the findings of modern cosmology, but deems them irrelevant to what he sees as the important religious question, “is there a basis for hope?”  He emphasized repeatedly that science  isn’t wired to answer the Big Questions—questions of value, purpose and meaning.

Haught took Hawking to task for trespassing on theological ground, asserting that Hawking “dramatically redefined what science is capable of”, i.e., dismissing the possibility of God. I think that Haught, though, missed the major point of Hawking’s program, which is the Laplace-ian idea that the idea of a god is simply unnecessary to explain the origin of the universe.  If that’s true, then cosmologists can certainly assert that they don’t need the God hypothesis

Carroll asked Haught an excellent queestion: “If God didn’t exist, would the universe be different in any way?”  Haught responded with the only answer he could give: without God, “the universe would not exist.”  But for a theist that is an untestable and unverifiable claim, particularly if the universe could really have originated from the “vacuum state” of quantum physics, which for all practical purposes is creation ex nihilo.

After asserting that a universe-creating God could very well bring the dead to life (read Jesus), Haught backed off of issues about heaven and the afterlife, saying that the question of the afterlife coincides with whether “there is a meaningful outcome to this whole wonderful story that we call the universe.”  That is a weaselly theological answer.  We either live on after death or not, not whether or not (as Haught has emphasized in his writings) everything is getting better.

Finally, Haught made his usual assertion that evidence for God resides in the very fact that that the universe is scientifically intelligible, and that this intelligibility is the big contribution theology makes to science.  He and other science-savvy theologians like to argue that without God there could be no mathematical laws of physics, and no understanding of the universe.  I found Haught rather haughty in his assertion that he’s trying to “save science” by “leaving out the big questions.” That is, scientists overstep their bounds and lose credibility when, like Hawking, they make science-based statements about the nonexistence of God.  He really does think—and I read this just last night in one of his books—that theology makes a meaningful contribution to science, and that contribution is the demonstration that science works.

Paul Davies pretty much hewed to Haught’s line, although he shied away from direct statements about God.  He agreed with Haught that the big mystery of physics—presumably the one that points to God—is this: “Where do the laws of physics come from?”  (I guess these folks aren’t satisfied with the answer that “they are just there—the ineluctable properties of matter.”)  For the life of me I don’t see how the lawfulness of physics (which, after all, is required for us to be observing it in the first place, since we could not exist as organisms without such laws) point to a deity.

Davies stayed away from his personal beliefs, but asserted that the question of an afterlife is not meaningful to him.  He also argued that “miracles are horrible concepts”, but also claimed that religion, despite its truthfulness or lack thereof, does cause people to lead better lives.  He finished by arguing, as did Haught, that science looks bad when scientists (presumably those like Hawking) appear too arrogant. We should lace our arguments with “humility.”

My overall impression: “sophisticated theologians” are backing off of the Big Bang as evidence for god, and perhaps from the anthropic principle as well.  What they now bang on about are the origins of order, the intelligibility of the universe, and the regularity of the laws of physics, which they see as evidence for God.  They are being pushed back into a corner, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer claimed they would if they tied their belief in God to the findings of science.

121 Comments

  1. Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I read Davies’ book about 20 years ago — he’s a good source if you want a, um, sophisticated faith that tries to avoid getting punctured by the more obvious sharp edges created by science.

    Re physical-order-as-evidence-of-God: The universe has to have some level or orderliness in order for life to exist in any form we can imagine. It’s not obvious that the observed level of order is somehow magical, or wildly improbable, or (the usual fallacy) that an otherwise-unevidenced Cosmic Mind is a useful explanation for its existence.

    Re intelligibility: Given that we evolved in this universe, it follows that we are adapted to understand at least some of this orderliness, ie. the universe must be somewhat intelligible. Again: is there something special about the observed level of intelligibility? And of course, things like QM and relativity aren’t intelligible in any straightforward way.

  2. Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    That the laws of physics are “just there” seems like a non-answer to me. A few years ago I would have been fine with it, but lately I’ve come to think that most questions you can ask do, in theory, have an answer.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      Well it is not a non-answer, in that it might well be the laws of physics just are.

      It might not be a satisfying answer for you, but that is not the same as it not being an answer.

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      And I think its a valid question to be asked, but it seems that most of the people asking it presume that they are because of a god, in particular one that was incarnated as a semihistorical 1st century Jewish cult leader.

      I mean, I could understand it better if were a deist making the argument, but there are so many things that Christianity implies like souls, heaven, hell, miracles, etc, that are pretty much *not* evident, that it seems really disingenuous to presume all of that exists just because questions of the early universe haven’t been answered.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      I think that in principle there must be some point at which the possibility of explanation breaks down. Whatever reason one proposes for the existence of the laws of physics must itself have reasons, and so on, and so on. It’s turtles all the way down.

      (Of course, postulating a sky fairy that exists by fiat is no solution, either.)

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      I suppose much of the problem comes with the way we’ve historically conflated human (and godly) edicts with natural laws, as evidenced by use of the same word. Try as we might, it’s tough to get away from use of “Law” to mean “a rule that must be obeyed”. I think this is where theists consistently get it wrong (perhaps there should be a scientific Law formulated to describe this).

      If you remember that scientific “Laws” are merely descriptions of repeated events, then you have put the horse in front of the cart again. To think of natural Laws as these abstractions that all stuff must obey is the result of metaphysical gobbeldy-gook, the baggage of history. As Stenger has related so eloquently:

      …the laws of physics, at least in their formal expressions, are no less human inventions than the laws by which we govern ourselves. They represent our imperfect attempts at economical and useful descriptions of the observations we make with our senses and instruments. This is not to say we subjectively determine how the universe behaves, or that it has no orderly behavior. Few scientists deny that an objective, ordered reality exists that is independent of human life and experience. We simply have to recognize that the concept of “natural law” carries with it certain metaphysical baggage that is tied to our traditional, pre-scientific modes of thought. …The first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy, results from there being no unique moment in time. Conservation of momentum follows from the Copernican principle that there is no preferred position in space. Other conservation laws, such as charge and nucleon number, also arise from analogous assumptions of simplicity. For the mathematically inclined, the conserved quantities are generators of the symmetry transformations involved.

      This is why Laws “just are”. To think otherwise is to think that regularity itself required construction… which is an extremely bizarre assertion if you think about it carefully enough.

    • CW
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      The reason that it seems like a non-answer is that is the response to a nonsense question. The laws of nature don’t “come from”.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        Could you please try to be more succinct next time? Thank you.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        It reminds me of a kid who keeps asking “why? why? why?” at every step, even after the question has become nonsensical.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          oops. relevant bit is 7 minutes into the clip.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

          Can’t watch the video just now, but having been both a child and a parent, the scenario is familiar to me ;-). One of the outcomes is that the parent eventually says “It happens by magic”. Of course, any child over about 6yo recognizes this isn’t an answer, it’s a blow-off. Daddy either doesn’t know the answer (but doesn’t want to admit it), or is tired of the Why Game (or recognizes that it was never anything but a bed-time delaying tactic).

          I think that every form of “God did it” is logically equivalent to “It happened by magic”. The causal answer to why physical laws are what they are, or why the universe exists, may very well be permanently unavailable — but this never provides a warrant for positing divine activity.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      I agree with a lot of the points people above have expressed.

      On Sasqwatch’s point: If a law is just a description of repeated events, can we not then ask why those events repeat at all? I understand that if f=ma wasn’t true today just as it was tomorrow, life wouldn’t be able to exist and we wouldn’t be here to ask the question. But it’s still a valid question why f doesn’t equal something else tomorrow (or if you wanted to make it more basic, ask why electromagnetism is 10^36 times stronger than gravity, and not, say, 10^35). And why is pi the ratio between a circle’s circumference and diameter- why not some other number?

      I’m open to either the possibility that these questions have answers, or that the “natural laws” can be understood in some way that makes these questions dissolve away (much like the concept of contracausal free will dissolves away the more you think about it). But to say “it just is” and call that an answer, is, I think, wrong. Consider the idea that there may be universes with different physical constants and laws. Once you step outside the only universe you’ve ever known and consider that there are different ways of doing things, cosmically speaking, it becomes a valid question to ask why our universe does things one way and not another.

      Lastly, if you’re ready to say “it just is,” aren’t you claiming to alreay know that there is no answer? How could you possibly know that?

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Lastly, if you’re ready to say “it just is,” aren’t you claiming to alreay know that there is no answer? How could you possibly know that?

        Being willing to accept there may be no deeper explanation is not the same as accepting there is none.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          I’ve already stated that I think there is a “deeper explanation,” though I very well could be wrong.

          My quarrel is with anyone who claims to know that there isn’t. Seems like universe-of-the-gaps to me.

          • BradW
            Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

            I really, really dislike it when scientists make an absolute statement about how things are.

            It seems to me the saner approach would be to say that right now it appears to us, with our admittedly limited current knowledge, that that is the way it is but . . ..

            Perhaps another way of saying the same thing is that there probably absolutely are no absolutes, but then how far does that regression go?

          • Matt Penfold
            Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            Yes, but you do not offer any reason as to why you think that. Unless you think it really is answers all the way down.

            • Posted August 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

              That’s what this comment is.

              Point me to where you offered evidence that the laws of physics “just are”?

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        My (limited) understanding of the situation is that these are legitimate questions (except the pi one, which merely entails understanding what a definition is). Perhaps there has been some “drift” in certain quantities as the universe(s) has(ve) evolved; how could this be detected? (and why would something like that be happening?) These are all good questions.

        But that’s different from the situation where the answer one is seeking is because symmetries exist. (for example, why a Law of conservation of charge exists at all). Why SHOULD there be left-handed AND right-handedness?

        Well… why SHOULDN’T there be such a thing? Symmetries exist just… because. Ooooh.

        You tell me… why WOULD it be possible that certain places in the universe be more “privileged” with respect to other places? If that ain’t the case, the situation is translationally invariant and BINGO: you got another couple “Laws” on the books.

        Some things just “are”. Like symmetry.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        You’re asking some bad questions. You may as well ask “why is a circle not a square?” There is no sensical answer to “why is 1 not 2? and why will that be true tomorrow?”

        Laws are essentially emergent properties of the fundamental universe. Why do flocks of birds and schools of fish move like a single entity? It certainly looks for all the world like it’s directed, choreographed, controlled.
        But it’s not. The behavior simply emerges from a few simple rules- fly about this far away from your friends, fly away from hawks, fly towards bugs- and nearly identical size, speed, maneuverability, neurological responses, etc.

        • Tulse
          Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          The behavior simply emerges from a few simple rules

          And those rules arise because…?

          Even if laws are “emergent properties”, there are other properties of the “fundamental universe” that are not emergent (those laws are describing something). And it is perfectly reasonable to ask why those properties exist.

          • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

            “‘ The behavior simply emerges from a few simple rules’

            And those rules arise because…?”

            Because swimming/flying close maximizes survival but if they flew/swam any closer their wakes would interfere; because the ones that flew towards hawks or away from bugs rapidly became extinct. Etc.

            • Tulse
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

              You’ve missed my point, which is that there is clearly structure in the universe (as your explanation indicates). Not everything can be emergent, as emergent properties have to emerge from something else. And that something else still needs an explanation.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          Nonsense. Go ahead and ask me why a circle is not a square – I can give you the answer.

          You apparently can’t give an answer to my question, and so there must be something wrong with the question? I don’t think so.

          Your emergent property example is a bad one, in that it’s an example of something that requires an explanation and we have one.

          • Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

            I’m curious: tell me why pi is the number it is, and not some other number.

            • Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

              Dunno. What’s your point?

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:00 am | Permalink

                Tim Martin: “And why is pi the ratio between a circle’s circumference and diameter- why not some other number?”

                My point is that the above question, rephrased, is: “what is a definition”? Pi is DEFINED as the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter, where the system used in defining the circle is an idealized (Euclidean) mathematical construct. Pi (the exact irrational number) does not exist outside of our heads. It’s not floating out there somewhere. It isn’t God-given. We made it up.

                That it is extremely useful is a CONSEQUENCE of the fact that there are oscillating bodies out there that we can measure and describe (including the constituents of mass/energy itself). You seem to have not known this, by asking the question.

                It is the exact number that it is by definition, in other words. Do you know what a definition is?

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

                I see. So I guess the pi example is a bad one.

                Is there any reason to talk about this bad example further, seeing as how it no longer applies to the conversation?

          • Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps a better geometric conundrum would be “why does the square exist at all? What causes ‘squareness’?”

            I suppose that’s rather like sasqwatch’s symmetry example.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        I’m trying to imagine God setting the value of pi, and finding it hard to imagine what that would mean.

        GOD: {DEEP GODDY VOICE} Hmm, how about 3.2? No, too easy. Just 3.0? – they’d like that in Tennessee/Indianan/Alambam/Oklahoma. 3.16227766..? Hmm, that‘d get them wondering on Jerry Coyne’s blo^h^h^h website. Na, I’ll stick with 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812848111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196… or thereabouts. {/DEEP GODDY VOICE}

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the laws of physics are ‘just there’ and therefore we dont need to look answer the question ‘Why are those laws of physics there’ is wrong.

      However after reading the replies, there were point made about Pi, where Pi just is.

      Am I making a category error? Can the physical laws of physics just be like Pi just is?

  3. GBJames
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    “weaselly theological answer”

    One of these words is unnecessary; repetitively redundant.

    • BradW
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Which would you take out; “theological” or “answer”?

  4. Aaron Novick
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Deism isn’t really outside the domain of science. We can evaluate it for its explanatory power (it has none) and its simplicity (it invents beings for no explanatory power), both vital considerations in scientific reasoning, and on those grounds conclude that it is a worthless (i.e. scientific merit-less) theory, and reject it on those (scientific) grounds.

    • H.H.
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Thank you for making this point. I agree entirely. Science rejects all supernatural explanations. This idea that “science has nothing to say about deism” is nonsense.

      • BradW
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        RAMEN!!!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:41 am | Permalink

      Or the universe/multiverse is closed by Hawking self-sufficiency and natural.

      Same thing as using predictivity and simplicity, only picking a winning theory. The difference being that in the first “deism vs natural” case a religious can say “but of course deism isn’t science”, in the latter “deism+natural vs natural” case it _is_ science (but bad science).

  5. Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    ###
    Yes, I also get the impression that the ‘sophisticated’ theologians are backing away from big bang science & it will be interesting to see where they scurry to next when we lift up a few more floorboards in the laws-of-nature house.

    The answers to the most interesting questions in cosmology ~ namely…

    Why are the laws of physics (& the
    universe itself) intelligible to us & mathematics so effective?
    Why are the laws the way they are & do they have to be?

    …are only going to be discovered via rational inquiry (observation – hypothesis – experiment – & repeat) & that is the gap that theology / philosophy cannot bridge

    ###
    THE PROGRAMME:

    Will my PC explode if I put Haught through Google Translate ?

    Best Hair Award goes to Kaku

    Carroll talks (not so) common sense & maybe he is too civilised & polite to shine a light on the muddled & evasive words of his fellow panellists

    I looked up the Roman Catholic theologian Haught. I had not realised that he testified in Kitzmiller v. Dover. He was an expert witness for the plaintiffs & his opinion (acc to Wiki) broke down into a nice piece of fence-sitting

    1] The effect of the ID policy adopted by the Dover School board would “be to compel public school science teachers to present their students in biology class information that is inherently religious, not scientific in nature”

    2] Materialism, the philosophy that only matter exists, is “a belief system, no less a belief system than is ID. And as such, it has absolutely no place in the classroom, and teachers of evolution should not lead their students craftily or explicitly to … feel that they have to embrace a materialistic world-view in order to make sense of evolution”

    My favourite quote was from Haught: “I am trying to save science here..” LOL ~ I presume that remark was for the benefit of the equally muddled, delusional (or dishonest) followers of his ridiculous & poisonous ‘faith’

    • BradW
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      The “anti-materialists” fascinate me. What have they ever become aware of or learned without the presence of “materiality”?

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        They’ve probably imagined things, and, for some reason, think their imagination isn’t material.

  6. yesmyliege
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    “…the regularity of the laws of physics, which they see as evidence for God….”

    So, presumably, God actively maintains that order (presuming the anti-correlate, that a godless universe is, by definition, inherently and constantly disordered) rather than just creating it and walking away. Otherwise, we might see bits of surprising chaotic disorder everywhere. (God can’t even keep with the wiles of Satan, let alone a disordered Universe.)

    Supplicative prayer must therefore work by God selectively tweaking a little disorder here and there, if only to help Johnnie get a hit in the baseball game. So, surely some supplicative prayer to, say, change, in an obvious way, the arc of a giant pendulum in a public square would not be too much to ask for, would it? Is six months enough time frame?

    • Tulse
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Of course, if the universe did not have regular laws, but we still existed, that would be even better evidence for the existence of a god, since maintaining our ordered state in an otherwise chaotic, lawless, ungoverned universe would be far more miraculous.

      In other words, heads they win, tails we lose.

  7. truthspeaker
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    “John Haught‘s positions were pretty much in line with what I’ve read by him. He wants to accept the findings of modern cosmology, but deems them irrelevant to what he sees as the important religious question, “is there a basis for hope?” He emphasized repeatedly that science isn’t wired to answer the Big Questions—questions of value, purpose and meaning.”

    Those aren’t the Big Questions, those are the Little Questions.

    • daveau
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Those are silly questions. Hope is a natural phenomenon, a function of the brain. Science. No gods involved. Next question?

      • Bernard J. Ortcutt
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. Was the thought that they were going to discover the Hope particle at the LHC? That entire line of questions and answers was too stupid to be believed. As for meaning, value, these are things that should be studies by the cognitive sciences and naturalistic philosophy, not by physics.

    • Marella
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Hope for what? More chocolate? Then yes, there is a basis for hoping that there will be more chocolate. Life after death, not so much.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        Given that Heaven sounds like it’d be feckin’ well stuffed to the gills with smug, self-satisfied believers who are either ignorant or apathetic of the eternal suffering of any friends/family who didn’t believe the same things as them, I’d take a chunk of nice dark coverture right now, in this temporary existence of mine, over that ghastly eternal nightmare any day.

  8. Egbert
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    One of the large mistakes that cosmologists are making is taking the question of God too seriously. This lights up the theologians gleefully, because it makes them look legitimate and part of a debate.

    Hawking’s documentary is clearly supposed to provoke, but in doing so, his explanation is actually ignored and the opposition is given some kind of legitimacy and authority which diminishes anything he said.

    These are the tactics that theologians and religious people use to close down discussion and anything that contradicts their claim to authority.

    People like Paul Davies are useful idiots that help shut down doubt and therefore discussion and free thought.

    We don’t sit around and discuss fairies, why on earth are we pretending that God is any different.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      Nobody kills or is given tax breaks in the names of fairies.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Egbert #8 wrote:

      One of the large mistakes that cosmologists are making is taking the question of God too seriously. This lights up the theologians gleefully, because it makes them look legitimate and part of a debate.

      No — it’s the opposite situation here, compared to evolution/creationism. The general cultural assumption (at least in the U.S.) has been that atheism is “ridiculous” at best and pernicious at worst. When atheism is presented as legitimate and part of a debate, theologians lose. They would much rather have a social situation where apologetics are only an academic matter, since belief in God is the normal default and atheism a fluke, a bizarre aberration.

  9. Sastra
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    What they now bang on about are the origins of order, the intelligibility of the universe, and the regularity of the laws of physics, which they see as evidence for God.

    Let’s make this ‘order’ as simple as possible, in order to see where the astonishment arises. Take A=A. A thing is what it is. Given that we have picked out something we call A, then we have picked out something called A. It is what it is. Or even … let’s get daring … it isn’t what it isn’t.

    It must be a miracle! HOW could that be explained without a supernatural mind forcing reality to be like that???

    I am perplexed over what theists must think is the natural, normal, necessary state of existence. Total chaos, all the time — if not nonexistence. Anything else is unexpected.

    I suppose one way to ensure you keep seeing God everywhere is to lower your standards on what constitutes a miracle, and increase your sense of wonder to the point where even the obvious and self-evident totally throws you for a loop.

    Loopy theology.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Theists usually do have comically low standards for proclaiming something a miracle. I’ve witnessed many a theist describe an event that was completely in the realm of natural possibility as a “Miracle! God knows wut hez doin, telluwut!”

  10. Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    It’s not religion that makes people lead better lives, but social support networks. If religion per se is what made people lead better lives, then we would expect the most religious places to live to also be the best places to live. The opposite is actually true. Subsequently, people who are not religious but have the same social support networks as the religious would lead horrible lives… which, is also not true (see Denmark, Scandinavia, and other culturally Christian – but not believing Christian – countries).

    • Liln
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Scandinavia isn’t a country, it’s the name of a region. The Scandinavian countries are Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

      [/OT]
      :)

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I saw that after I hit the post button :/

      • Kharamatha
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        Denmark?! Never!

        That pile of sand hasn’t been part of the peninsula for millions of years!

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

          … or at least since they stopped brewing drinkable beer.

    • Jeff
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      That’s your problem. It’s not faith in God that is the problem. It is faith in religions. Man made organizations that many people subscribe to as a fad or a way to fit in, or a way to receive comfort in time of need.

      It’s like in the Bible with the pharisees. They were the most “religious” people alive. They puffed themselves up with pride and acted like they were better than other people. They wanted to throw stones at the prostitute.

      The same thing is happening today. People joining religions for a sense of elitism and a large majority of atheists are buying it hook line and sinker, using them as the “standard” for what a Christian is. When Christ came he turned that on its head and showed people what a real Christian should act like.

      • daveau
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Huh? You mean like this:

        “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

      • adamkuntavanish
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Human-made religions based on human-made books and human intuitions. If you haven’t shown evidence of God, you can’t say that people are failing to have genuine faith in it.

        And the pharisees were following the admittedly barbaric practices laid out in Mosaic law. There couldn’t have been Christians before Christ, so how the hell were people supposed to know what a “real Christian” looked like? And it’s not as if there weren’t others espousing themselves as the Messiah with similar tricks, so you can’t really blame people at the time for not taking him as seriously as you would have liked them to.

        • Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          “And the pharisees were following the admittedly barbaric practices laid out in Mosaic law”

          And you need to do some reading besides the NT (like Josephus). The Pharisees were actually the liberal brand of 2nd century Judaism, not the legalistic caricature that they’re made out to be in the NT. That legalistic caricature is actually evidence that the gospels were written far removed from the time period of Jesus; a time when the only two competing camps for the inheritance of “Judaism” were Rabbinic Jews (descendents of the Pharisees) and Christians. Of course competing groups are going to strawman their only opponents.

      • yesmyliege
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        So true!

        A Real Christian(TM) should curse trees not bearing fruit out of season, and love Jesus more than one’s family or else suffer unbearable torment forever in a lake of burning sulfur.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        You totally missed the point of my post. It’s the social support networks that are the “benefit” of religion. Someone who is without any social support networks but believes in a god is still in pretty poor shape.

        Why add entities unnecessarily? God is irrelevant for the good of “religion”. An atheistic church would have all of the same sociological benefits as a theistic one.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        God is a man-made concept. Having faith in him makes even less sense then having loyalty to a man-made organization.

  11. Chris aka Happy Cat
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Needs moar fisisists.

    Maybe I’m cynical, but I doubt any scientific discoveries will kill the God of the Gaps. That gap may narrow over time, but it runs deep. The sophisticated theology pretties up the edges with lots of bows and lace, but it’s still a dark rift filled with willful ignorance.

    I was glad Carroll didn’t back down, though I would’ve given 1,000 Kakus in exchange for one Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      1,000 Kakus. It sounds like the result of a particularly strong laxative.

  12. TheMuse
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    When I hear serious scientists discussing the possibility of creating baby universes in the lab to test hypotheses about our own universe it does not take a lot of imagination to wonder if our own universe could have had its genesis in a similar such scenario. I am not postulating a benevolent or interventionist God at all. I’m just saying I don’t think we know nearly as much as we think we do. Perhaps the physical laws of our universe that gave birth to the stars, planets and ultimately us just are and have always been but to say that we definitively know this to be true strikes me as hubris.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      That’s the main reason you hear scientists, particularly cosmologists, pretty much never claim definitive or absolute knowledge of anything.

      In my experience it’s the hubris of priests and theologians – claiming to know not just that a god exists, but that it’s their god, that they know his name and know what he wants – that sticks out like corn in an onion patch.

  13. Kevin
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    As ever, “hope” is a code word, meaning “whether or not my consciousness remains intact and coherent after I die.”

    It’s death-cult nonsense is what it is.

    For the record, the answer is “no.” And for the record, the concept of an eternal after-death is quite abhorrent once you get around to considering how damned LONG eternity is.

    5 billion years and the sun consumes the Earth. That’s not even the knife’s edge of eternity.

    3 trillion years or so and our universe is nothing but undifferentiated photons (in one model). And that’s still just the bare edge of eternity.

    Eternal existence would make even an eternal being like a god go insane. Who in the world would want such a thing.

    Hope. Yeah, sure. Hope all you want. There’s still no pony under all that manure.

    • Doug
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but wouldn’t another 50 years or so of health and good living be nice? That’s all I want, 50 years of afterlife.

      • Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        How many marvelous things are there to see and experience in this universe? How much fascinating stuff is there to learn? How long would that take?

        That’s how long an afterlife should be.

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          One of the reasons I suspect for why people lust after the Rapture is because they simply want to see the end of the story, and I think that’s the saddest part about death, that you’ll never get to see what happens in the future.

    • derekw
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      For the record, the answer is “no.”
      There were some interesting scientific theories presented on one of those ‘Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman’ with regards to conciousness/souls after death being propagated via quantum entanglement.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, now I know not to watch that show.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:51 am | Permalink

        As Tegmark shows, decoherence destroys entanglement in liquids far faster than nerve cells makes them. So no entangled minds to propagate.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:52 am | Permalink

          Actually, that is “than metabolism makes any entanglement” (if it does), since it was a consideration on any cell machinery, not specific cellular functions.

  14. Thanny
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I always love the humility bit.

    “We’re insignificant bits of chemistry on a tiny rock in an immeasurably vast universe.”

    “How arrogant! We’re the special creation of an omnipotent being who loves us and created this entire universe just to place us in it. See how humble I am?”

  15. Dr. I. Needtob Athe
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    “Where do the laws of physics come from?”

    That’s what I call the “Cosmic Congress” fallacy. The way I see it, it amounts to conflating two entirely different means of “law.”

    There are laws in the everyday sense, which are asserted by authorities and which individuals are required to obey under threat of punishment. Such laws are plentiful in the Old Testament and other holy books, where the supposed authority is God, as well as in modern society. It seems plausible to me that many religious people only understand “law” in this single sense.

    But there are also laws in the scientific sense, which are generalizations about how the Universe behaves.

    The “where do the laws of physics come from” argument sounds very similar to the argument that evolution is “only a theory”, which also conflates the everyday meaning of a word with its scientific meaning.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      But one can reasonably ask why the universe demonstrates certain kinds of regularities (or any regularities at all).

  16. vel
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    unsuprisingly, all of the theists here seem to be taking Pascal’s Wager. They are all absolutely sure that it is “their” God that created the universe, etc.

    And I have plenty of hope, and not based on magic sky fairies. Mankind can be horrible but they can be good. I can hope for that. I have plenty of meaning without being a sycophant to a vicious primitive deity. I have no problems answering those questions that theists claim can’t be answered without their superstitious beliefs

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      I also have hope – hope that the human species will gradually become less brutal and more compassionate. This hope is based on the fact that, in the first world at least, societies have become more just. Even with tragedies like Palestine and Iraq writ large and even though social progress doesn’t move equally fast in all parts of the world simultaneously, the general trend for humanity has been away from dogma and brutality and toward reason and justice. When I consider how things were in my own country of Australia a mere lifetime ago, compared to now, a quantum leap has occurred. Go back a century, two centuries and way back to England 500 or 1000 years ago, and we have come a long way with regard to civil rights, justice, medicine and political reform.

      Don’t get me wrong though, there’s still enormous scope for positive change here and abroad. But I’d take living here, now over living 500 years ago, anywhere, any day.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Ditto.

  17. Alan
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Physics tells us that we are embedded in a reality deeper than the one we experience through the normal senses. And people have had experiences during non-ordinary states of consciousness, NOSC, which for them has clearly shown that this reality is more real than the present one we are sensing now.

    These are distinguished from dreams (except perhaps “great” dreams and telepathic dreams), hallucinations, drunk states and the like, which have a less real feel to them and seem to be just distortions, although some dreams are very clear.

    If the mind has veridical perceptions during NOSC, or it is absolutely clear to the experiencer that their experience is more real than any of the other states (better maybe than even “great dreams”) and also that there seems to be no way these experiences could be those laid down in memory (like remembering where your car keys are!), then I think one can tentatively conclude that the mind is accessing some kind of higher reality.
    So the mind becomes a window to another reality.
    So one test of the “realness”, in the physical sense and perhaps as described by some future physics, of a higher reality, especially if veridical perceptions occur, is this more real feel to it. Dangerous idea?

    In physics when some kind of “information” is gained, say a during particle collision where effectively information is exchanged, there has to be a commonality between the two interacting objects. The less commonality, the less interactions. So neutrinos (no charge and almost no mass) pass through the Earth without interactions (barely).

    But if the mind is roaming through this “landscape” in this higher reality and gaining real information (I know of a physicist who trying to model reality but including “information spaces” tied to all the other extra-dimensional stuff precisely because he takes these experiences seriously) and there is no way these are experiences laid down in the brain’s memory (and bringing this information back) then there must be a commonality between this mind and the landscape.

    It is like a mind roaming through some “great mind”. A few ideas.

    • Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      If the mind has veridical perceptions during NOSC [etc, etc, etc….]

      And if the mind is just inventing stuff out of neurological oddities, then what?

      Any way of telling which of the two it’s doing?

      • Alan
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        Veridicality is key here. There are many during NDE studies – larger than many realize. Interesting is the Pam Reynolds case:

        http://www.near-death.com/experiences/evidence01.html

        or this by a senior neurosurgeon (pick this up at 02.45):

        The sense of being more real and gaining knowledge not obtained normally hint at mind/body separation. And certainly the neurosurgeon is convinced of this, implying an “afterlife” realm.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Alan #17 wrote:

      So one test of the “realness”, in the physical sense and perhaps as described by some future physics, of a higher reality, especially if veridical perceptions occur, is this more real feel to it. Dangerous idea?

      No. That’s not a test. There are already a natural neurological explanations for why we sometimes experience sensations of “realness,” one-ness,” “profundity,” and “loss of self” which involve only the physical states of the brain. You’d need a way to rule out this more likely possibility before you can claim to have evidence of some deeper or higher reality.

      • Alan
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Not if you have veridicality as well – gaining known facts by non-ordinary states as in the Pam Reynolds NDE case.

        But these veridical cases are often combined with a powerful sense of experiencing a “higher reality”. This implies it might be important to trust this sense.

        Imagine this – you are unconscious but wake up learning something, an incontrovertible fact that no one would dispute that you could know by ordinary means – verified by multiple witnesses. No-one could doubt this but you have had no “experience” during your unconscious state. You just wake up with this knowledge.

        Now imagine that you have an experience combined with gaining this type of knowledge and the experience ties in very closely to that knowledge “bit”.
        Then you MUST trust your experience especially if it is combined with a sense of being “more real”.
        “Realness” then becomes a measure of this higher reality is my point and cannot be dissociated from the knowledge gained.

        There is a further point here. Suppose you have an experience of some apparent “higher reality” and it feels more real than normal experience as well, but nobody can verify it. If “realness” is a measure then that “reality” probably exists.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

          “Imagine this – you are unconscious but wake up learning something, an incontrovertible fact that no one would dispute that you could know by ordinary means – verified by multiple witnesses”

          I can imagine that. I don’t know of any cases of this actually happening, and yes I did read your link.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            There’s more about the Pam Reynolds case here:

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html

            • Alan
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

              There is ongoing work on NDEs. The AWARE study is an international scientific collaboration, many doctors/scientists – see horizonresearch.org – peer-reviewed result out next year but updates are on this site as well.

              Interestingly a radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long has written “Evidence of the Afterlife” from his large studies – see nderf.org

              He has also quite openly stated that this “higher reality” exists and discusses “nine lines of evidence” for this. Time will tell.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

                Yes, there is ongoing work. And they still haven’t found any evidence of an afterlife.

                People under anesthesia sometimes dream, hallucinate, or both. That’s all there is to it.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            Oh, wait, “unconscious”? I don’t have to imagine that. It happens all the time. People can hear and feel things while unconscious that they remember later.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      “So one test of the “realness”, in the physical sense and perhaps as described by some future physics, of a higher reality, especially if veridical perceptions occur, is this more real feel to it. Dangerous idea?”

      Not dangerous, irrational.

      People who suffer from extreme hallucinations report that they feel very real. I’m talking actual psychotic hallucinations, not the visual distortions from recreational drugs.

      Human perceptions, as you pointed out, are not completely reliable and do not give a complete report of the reality within and around us. The feeling that an experience “seems real” is no more likely to be reliable than any other human sensation.

      • Alan
        Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

        “The feeling that an experience “seems real” is no more likely to be reliable than any other human sensation.”

        But combined with veridicality, as I said, distinguishes certain experiences from hallucinations. So “realness”+veridicality implies higher reality. Hallucinations do not get info. from outside the brain.

        Now the doctor (academic neuroscientist) in the link above however, Alexander, had an experience which was only the “realness” part. Does one then discount this? He explains, after ruling out all neuroscience explanations, that the experience was completely separate from the brain – not hallucination and could not account for it from “laid down memories” in the brain.
        And he confirms this “higher reality”.

        Lets be clear what physics says – reality is greater than what our normal senses pick up, a known fact.
        A cosmologist, Bernard Carr, who knows about these phenomena, is trying to mix “information space” with the multidimensional physics that is currently accepted. A mixed but expanded space where these phenomena can occur.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          “But combined with veridicality, as I said, distinguishes certain experiences from hallucinations. So “realness”+veridicality implies higher reality. Hallucinations do not get info. from outside the brain.”

          Nonsense. Of course hallucinations get info from outside the brain – through the senses.

          “Now the doctor (academic neuroscientist) in the link above however, Alexander, had an experience which was only the “realness” part. Does one then discount this?”

          Yes.

          • Alan
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

            OK, I will try one more time.

            1. If a person gets veridical information while in an altered state, say an NDE and brings this back to their “normal” life, while also seeing this during this state, how to you account for this? There are NDE cases, Pam Reynolds for instance.

            The implication is mind/brain separation.

            2. You seems to be also discounting the expertise of the neuroscientist above. What are your grounds for this as he has ruled out all normal explanations and I suspect is in a far better position to evaluate this? He had this experience and is an expert in this field.
            Please give an explanation.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

              “1. If a person gets veridical information while in an altered state, say an NDE and brings this back to their “normal” life, while also seeing this during this state, how to you account for this? There are NDE cases, Pam Reynolds for instance.”

              Pam Reynold’s heard people in the operating room talking while she was going in and out of consciousness. There’s nothing extraordinary to account for. There is no implication of mind-brain separation. Her brain was working the entire time.

              “2. You seems to be also discounting the expertise of the neuroscientist above. What are your grounds for this as he has ruled out all normal explanations and I suspect is in a far better position to evaluate this? He had this experience and is an expert in this field.”

              He seems to be claiming that his subjective experience of “realness” is evidence of something. He obviously doesn’t have much expertise in the areas of human perception and cognition.

              • Alan
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

                I think you are unaware of the timeline and details involved in the Pam Reynolds NDE case.

                1. Note that she is having powerful experiences when the blood is drained from her head and her body temp. is lowered to 60 deg C.

                2. She heard nothing because clicks from earphones are used to check brain stem operation. Eyes also taped shut.

                3. Note the comments from the the operating neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Spetzler and cardiologist Dr. Michael Sabom.

                4. The “realness” of the experience is also notable, when no experience should be possible.

                5. Again, what are your grounds for disregarding the opinion of a renowned academic neurosurgeon and his own NDE, which he considers clear evidence of a “higher reality” beyond the brain.

                Physics does, after all, postulate much more to reality than our “everyday” experienced reality.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pam_Reynolds_(singer)

                and

                youtube.com/watch?v=WNbdUEqDB-k

                for Pam Reynolds and the two doctors comments.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

                You have been misinformed about the timeline off events in the Reynolds case.

                Brains keep working even when the body is chilled to slow metabolic function.

                “Physics does, after all, postulate much more to reality than our “everyday” experienced reality.”

                But it doesn’t postulate that we can sense that reality with our brains, unconscious or not.

              • Alan
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

                To reply to your post below.

                “Brains keep working even when the body is chilled to slow metabolic function.”

                Pam Reynolds had no blood in her head yet had tremendous clarity of experience.

                And read Dr. Michael Sabom’s account and listen again to the comments of Dr. Robert Spetzler in the link I gave.

                On a different note there are many cases of “shared-death experiences” where a carer also sees some of what the patient sees. Dr. Peter Fenwick has studied these. Difficult to explain conventionally as in many cases light phenomena are dually experienced.

  18. yesmyliege
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “…then I think one can tentatively conclude that the mind is accessing some kind of higher reality….”

    That’s a very bad conclusion. Do you have any formal scientific education?

    • Alan
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Astrophysics degree then particle physics postgraduate. Did David Bohm’s quantum theory course a while back at Birkbeck then stayed on at uni. after. Yourself?

  19. Catherine
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you for creating this site and for the content and commentary you provide. It helps me while I’m buckled into the Bible Belt.

  20. JJFB
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Please explain how it is not a fatal flaw to Hawking’s theory that as spontaneous creation can happen more than once or multiple times concurrently, that this necessarily implies a higher dimension outside the Big Bang in order to house these multiple events of creation, and therefore, there must be a “time” before the Big Bang to accommodate other events of spontaneous creation which means “time” did not begin with the Big Bang and thus it is entirely appropriate to ask “what caused the Big Bang?”

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      A “higher” reality outside the Big Bang would not necessarily have time as a dimension.

      • JJFB
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        How can M-theory claim that the collision of two branes caused the Big Bang, and then Hawking claim that nothing caused the Big Bang? Are branes nothing?

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:59 am | Permalink

          Brane collisions is but one possible M-theory cosmology, there are others.

          In many cosmologies spacetime emerges after some singularity, which means a different sort of “time” than pure quantum physics time. These things are not yet well understood.

          That doesn’t affect Hawking’s claim of self-sufficiency however. He has for example proposed the “no boundary” condition, which removes any need for pre-emergent time.

        • JJFB
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

          It seems that Mr. Hawking’s theory hedges on the existence of “imaginary” time and that such “imaginary” time have no boundary. For Hawking to make a claim that the universe has no cause because time did not exist before the Big Bang required him to at least present his argument for “imaginary” time and the no boundary condition in his television program. Clearly, Hawking is speculating that “imaginary” time exists and that the no boundary condition is true. Accordingly, his opinion that the Big Bang had no cause is pure speculation, and he should not have presented his speculation as scientific fact. I could just have easily said that “imaginary” time has a beginning and end, and that therefore something must have caused “imaginary” time to exist.

  21. mikeyB
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I think you’d have to go back to Liebnitz or Descartes to find a truly great thinker in which religion was also integral to their worldview and style of argument. Don’t think it is possible after 1859, since after that the last vestige of an argument – from design collapsed.

  22. Claimthehighground
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The very last comment (by Davies) in the second video bears re-watching: “Science can get a bad press by scientists appearing to be too arrogant and taking on more than they should; so it’s as well to lace definitive statements with a certain amount of humility.” This is said of science which deals with empiricism and rational thought.
    Replace “science” with “religion” and “scientists” by “the religious” and you would have a mob storming the studio to burn Davies as a heretic. Why they chose to end their program with this sop to religion is disconcerting and sad. Oh, and too predictable.

    • Bernard J. Ortcutt
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      It’s the attitude of “Let’s not stick our necks out because we’ll make the religious hate science.” It’s pretty much the standard accommodationist line and it’s completely intellectually dishonest.

  23. john
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    The theologin says that as a matter of principle science has nothing to say about the existence of god and yet the more he learns about science and cosmology the more he learns about god. Which is it?

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Good catch.

  24. Jim Mauch
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear God I want to scream in disgust at your proclamations that the infinite mysteries of the universe proves your existence and therefore your existence makes it necessary to intervene in the world to create these mysteries. I’m sorry but if you want to intervene in the creation of the universe and creation of life you had better present me with some real empirical evidence of your existence. If you can’t come up with it then but-out of the real world.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      Dear God, I thank you every day for giving me the intelligence to not believe in you.

  25. Anthony
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I think the issues are succinctly dealt with here:

  26. Kharamatha
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Barren.

  27. TomZ
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Haught’s question of if “there is a meaningful outcome to this whole wonderful story that we call the universe.”

    Yeah… WE’RE IT!!! We’re not waiting for it to happen, it’s already here, it’s our lives, and the lives of all life that’s ever been.

    We are the outcome of distant stars that were born from gaseous accretion discs, lived for MILLIONS of years, and then died in supernova explosions and crossed the void to form us. WE are the outcome, better: the continuation, of the wonderful story of the universe. Haught and his ilk cheapen that process by saying it’s not good enough. He’s wrong. It’s all life, that’s ever been or ever will be, that is the “meaningful outcome of the universe.”

    I pity those that can’t see this.

  28. GregFromCos
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The more of Hawking’s attempts to appeal to the masses, the more I think he’s too simplistic. I watched this and just thought it was silly. He just seems to miss very large issues, often in the things I’ve watched.

    It would seem to me that his same proof for God not creating the Universe, could be used to prove the Universe could have never been created. If at some point the universe was “smaller than a proton” and completely at rest. Then something had to have happened to cause it to get out of that state.

    Also he says that “time” did not exist outside of the Universe, but is that technically true? I think we could say that “our time” did not exist. But we simply cannot know that another form of Time does not exist outside of our Universe. Can We?

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think god created the Universe, I just find Hawking’s explanations to be very weak and over simplistic at times to the point of missing very big questions.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      Hawking certainly knows how to take advantage of his condition to make his life simpler. But to scientists honor, neither he nor others are reluctant to make debate.

      No, he doesn’t miss any of that, because he has made a carrier of considering such tough questions:

      If at some point the universe was “smaller than a proton” and completely at rest. Then something had to have happened to cause it to get out of that state.

      But that is Hawking’s point, physics doesn’t work that way!

      There simply is no such thing as “completely at rest” in quantum physics and fluctuations, including such that takes the system out of states, happens incessantly. So no “cause” but simple causality of quantum systems.

      Also he says that “time” did not exist outside of the Universe, but is that technically true? I think we could say that “our time” did not exist. But we simply cannot know that another form of Time does not exist outside of our Universe.

      What I said in another comment suits:

      “In many cosmologies spacetime emerges after some singularity, which means a different sort of “time” than pure quantum physics time. These things are not yet well understood.

      That doesn’t affect Hawking’s claim of self-sufficiency however. He has for example proposed the “no boundary” condition, which removes any need for pre-emergent time.”

  29. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    “Where do the laws of physics come from?” (I guess these folks aren’t satisfied with the answer that “they are just there—the ineluctable properties of matter.”)

    Paraphrasing:

    An atheist before Weinberg could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for cosmological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’

    I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although cosmology might have been physically tenable before Weinberg, Weinberg made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled cosmologist.


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