Carroll explains Hawking

Sean Carroll gives a nice three-minute explanation of Hawking’s take on the beginning of the universe.  He saves the bad news for religion until the end.


  1. evogene
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Excellent little video, I am very pleased that our colleagues in physics are catching up with our godless biology!lol.

  2. mike m
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks … That was good.

    God doesn’t give a rats patootie about humans.

    • Notagod
      Posted September 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Nothing has always been like that. It has nothing to do with rats patooties though, god is nothing which has no awareness of humans nor anything else.

  3. Heber
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    To me, the question of whether the universe was created on its own or by some other previous or concurrent cause is merely tangential to the existence of a theistic god. Even if Hawkin’s thesis were to state that the universe could not have come about on it’s own; that it needed an external force to push it into existence, how in the world would this suggest the existence of Yahweh, or Zeus, etc…? The argument from frst cause is utterly extraneous to the existence of God, period.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Well, not entirely extraneous, surely? After all, there is scarcely a religion without a creation story. There’s a simple reason for this. If God is not responsible for the existence of the universe, then what is God for? The whole point about the idea of God as creator of the universe is to attribute immense power to God. But if God doesn’t do this, what does God do? And what is the point of believing in a God who doesn’t do anything? Of course, the details of the story depend on the story teller, obviously, but usually, ‘In the beginning God created …’, comes first.

      Great video though, very plainly and clearly expressed. I won’t say I understand how the physics works, but I get the idea that the laws of physics allow for things just to occur, and the quantum idea of the exploration of possible spaces — well, it sounds a lot like natural selection, doesn’t it?

      • Heber
        Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I understand why thesits need to attribute God the quality of a cosmic artificer. However, the intent of my comment was to highlight the fact the whether our universe was self-created or not, this has no significant bearing on the edivence for any of the thesitic gods imagined by theists folks.

        • Eric MacDonald
          Posted September 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Even so, it was not entirely tangential until science could say: ‘But according to the laws of physics, the universe could simply self-create.’ And science hasn’t been able to do this until fairly recently. So, there was always a little gap of explanation left, which gave the theists something to hang onto. The importance of Hawkings’ book — and of course he’s not the first to have pointed this out — is to make it clear that the gap is now closed. That’s why the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi were doing some very quick damage control soon after the book’s launch was announced.

      • Tulse
        Posted September 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Historically various religions have not worshipped creator gods. Certainly the major Greek gods were thought to have come about well after the creation of the world by other beings.

      • Joshua
        Posted September 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        “the quantum idea of the exploration of possible spaces — well, it sounds a lot like natural selection, doesn’t it?”

        In sort of does, but not really. In Feynman’s Path Integral formulation of quantum mechanics, every possible history of a system has a nonzero complex amplitude(complex in the imaginary numbers sense, not the complicated sense) which are all added together. Most of the histories have a certain mathematical property (non-stationary phase) which causes their contributions to mostly cancel with other histories’ contributions, and only those histories that have nearly stationary phase (stationary phase corresponds to the classical motion by Hamilton’s principle, since the phase is proportional to the action) end up contributing to the overall probability. So if you define “natural” as “stationary phase” I guess you can call it natural selection.

        All of this assumes that you have a set of histories that the system can sample, but in the case of the existence of the universe I’m not sure what set you would use. I guess I’ll have to read Hawking’s book to find out.

        On a side note, I agree with the sentiment that even if we didn’t know anything about the laws of physics, it would be of no help to postulate God. If you can ask “why is there a universe, rather than no universe?” you can also ask “why is there a God, rather than no God?”.

  4. Martin
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    If nothing else, as our understanding of the physical universe continues to improve, it leaves less and less work to be done (or to have been done) by a god. If the concept of a conscious god were to be introduced today, in the face of current scientific understanding of the universe (or even just the planet), it’s hard to imagine its being taken seriously. It takes time for new ideas to gain widespread acceptance in any society, and regardless of the evidence it can present, science is competing with a worldview that is deeply entrenched in humanity’s mindset. In that sense religious belief is really no more than a nostalgia, and I’m fairly optimistic that it’s just a matter of time before religion is forgotten completely. It’s important to keep pushing science deeper (through research) and wider (through education) and religion’s role in the world will continue to decline as it’s seen to explain less and less. As Hawking said not too long ago, “Science will win because it works.”

  5. Vincent
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    This must sound very satisfying to those of you with the scientific background to understand the knowledge behind it – but don’t expect any believers to be convinced. It sounds pretty much like: “the universe exists because it can”.

    I prefer to stick to the obvious absence of the supernatural when enlightening others – it’s a powerful meme that sticks in the brain & once you’ve heard it, it becomes an associative thought: think of God & the associated thought of God’s intangibility & absence pops up at the same time. It works. But that’s me, I don’t understand physics.

    I myself believe that when real concrete answers finally come (how it all began), they will seem mundane, perhaps even obvious & conform to basic things that humans have understood for centuries.

    • Posted September 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      “think of God & the associated thought of God’s intangibility & absence pops up at the same time. It works.”

      One way to put this to a believer is, “How does your concept of God differ from a god that doesn’t exist [apart from your claim that he exists, obviously]?” I know some deists speak of a god for whom/which the concept of existence is not relevant, but I think that’s a cop-out. Are they saying “He doesn’t exist or not exist, he just IS”?

  6. Posted September 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Darwin told us how life changes and speciates, Hubble told us that the universe was once a tiny speck at one point then expanded, and now Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, etc. have told us in a more satisfying way how a universe could form out of nothing.

    The fundamentalists will reject it, and the moderates will realize that this is true, and all it does is explain how God did things (I think it might be a little difficult to fit in god in a universe beginning on its own, though)

  7. James Sweet
    Posted September 5, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    “You can still believe in a God, as long as it’s a God who doesn’t DO anything.” Love it!

  8. Posted September 6, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Carroll is a clear science communicator, but if hes going to keep making his own videos, he needs to learn some basic visual composition – for example, the rule of thirds.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Cosmologist Shean Carroll provides brief outline of Hawking’s approach in this video (thanks to Why Evolution is True: Carroll explains Hawking). […]

  2. […] Carroll explains Hawking Sean Carroll gives a nice three-minute explanation of Hawking’s take on the beginning of the universe.  He saves […] […]

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