Michio Kaku tries to osculate religion, fails miserably

Pardon my French if I emit a loud “Oy, gewalt!”  If you click on the video below, you’ll go to a miserable display of accommodationism by by physicist and science popularizer Michio Kaku (there’s also a transcript at the site). It’s sad to see a man spend down his credibility in such a way.

I haven’t listened much to Kaku, so I don’t know how good he is at popularizing science. Nor do I know anything about his substantive contributions to physics. But this Big Think video joins an increasing number of other religion-coddling Big Think pieces, and it is as the kids used to say, “heinous.” First, there’s this:

Well, when you talk about religion, I like to quote from Galileo. Galileo said, the purpose of science is to determine how the heavens go. The purpose of religion is to determine how to go to heaven. So in other words, science is about natural law. It’s about the laws of nature. While religion is about ethics, about how to go to heaven, how to be a good person, how to earn the favor of God. So you see, as long as you keep these two separate, there’s no problem at all. The problem occurs when people from the natural sciences begin to pontificate upon ethics and when religious people begin to pontificate about natural law. That’s where we get into trouble.

This is simply a rehash of Gould’s NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) hypothesis, and it fails for the same reasons that NOMA failed: most religions aren’t content to completely avoid truth statements (ergo we have creationism among Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and fundamentalist Christians); and religion is not the sole bailiwick of ethics. In fact, religion isn’t even the best bailiwick of ethics, for it corrupts rationality in its attempt to make us do what God wants. So why shouldn’t a scientist be a better judge of ethics than a believer?

But where Kaku really blows it is when he tries to say that there really might be a god, but we just don’t know because adducing evidence for God is simply beyond the ambit of science. Look at this palaver:

Therefore, you ask the question, is the existence of God provable? Well, what is science? Science is based on things that are testable, reproducible, and falsifiable. But you see, the existence of God is not testable. It’s not reproducible. We cannot reproduce God at will. You cannot put an angel inside a box and demand that miracles take place. It doesn’t work that way. That’s why religion is based on faith rather than things that are objectively testable, falsifiable, and reproducible. Now, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. I don’t know. I don’t know if God exists or not. All I’m saying is that science is limited by looking at what is testable, reproducible, and falsifiable. There are areas where you push the boundaries of that, like the Big Bang.

You cannot reproduce the Big Bang. You cannot test the Big Bang. It’s like a detective story. You can only look at the clues, the clues left over from the Big Bang. So to calculate the instant of creation is, in some sense, outside science, because it’s not reproducible. You cannot reproduce the Big Bang. But you can then trace the history of what happened afterwards, like a murder mystery. And that’s where a lot of science is done. And that’s why I say that the existence of God is not within the normal boundaries of science.

I suppose that Kaku would say that the existence of Santa Claus, Bigfoot, or leprechauns are not testable propositions, either. But that’s bogus. As Victor Stenger used to say, “The absence of evidence is evidence of absence, if the evidence should have been there in the first place.” There should be evidence for a divine being who wants us to worship him/her/it, just as there should be evidence for the Loch Ness monster and other superstitiions. But it’s not there in any of these cases. Is Kaku, then, also a Bigfood agnostic and a tooth-fairy agnostic? I think not. To Kaku, God is somehow different from these other fictions.

I need hardly note that the existence of the Big Bang is not outside science: we can test its occurrence in various ways: the expansion of the universe, the signature of microwave radiation left over from it, and so on. So yes, you can test the Big Bang, Dr. Kaku.

This seems to be a man who is so muddled, at least in this video, that he can’t even get science right, much less religion. Once again the Big Think is a Big Thunk.

 

h/t: Kit

158 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted July 2, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Kaku “is the co-founder of String Theory” As in, he and another person founded it?

    IIRC, there were more hands involved.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      There surely was, but he really was among the first few.

      In 1974, Kaku and Prof. Keiji Kikkawa of Osaka University co-authored the first papers describing string theory in a field form.Field theory of relativistic strings. II. Loops and Pomerons

    • darrelle
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Not sure how I messed that up. Try this . . .

      Field theory of relativistic strings. II. Loops and Pomerons

      An example of how ridiculous the world of science journals is, this paper from freaking 1974 still isn’t available without a subscription.

      • Posted July 3, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        If anyone wants to check that paper out, it’s a couple of clicks away: Sci-hub.se

    • rickflick
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I seemed to remember he’d done some important work. Only thing is, he’s now enjoying fame as a talking head, which makes him spout drivel. I used to watch his videos but I now pass them up. They tend to be frustratingly illogical. I always want to shout back at him, but I doubt he reads the comments.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        There are many such sources of terribly inaccurate popular science on the tely. I try not to watch most of them since I frequently wind up yelling at my poor Sony.

      • BJ
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, he’s become some kind of spiritual physics guru whatever. I remember going on a date with a girl many years ago, and she mentioned how much she loves “this physicist, Michio Kaku. Have you heard of him?” I had, but only because I had read about string theory. So, I was slightly impressed and figured maybe she was a bit more intellectual than she let on. Turns out that, no, she was into his videos about spirituality and how physics binds us all together and blah blah. Had never heard of string theory and turned out to be one of the dumbest people I ever tried dating. It only lasted two dates because, after our second date, she was with me the next morning and I was watching a House debate on C-SPAN. A Republican was talking, and she said, “they’re the ones who are bad, right?” That’s when I knew for sure…

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          So much for “Will you still respect me in the morning?” …. huh, Beej? 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

            Heh, that was a good one!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

          Your comment reminded me of a story my brother told me about 35 years ago. He had just started dating a young woman, and the two of them went to see one of the early movies in the Indiana Jones franchise.

          About three-quarters through the flick, Indy was riding in a mine-shaft rail-car, fleeing some bad guys. At some point, the car flew off the rail, encountered several airborne hazards and obstacles, then managed to land squarely back on the track somewhere further down the rail.

          My brother said his date turned to him at that moment and exclaimed, “NO WAY, Joe!” (“Joe” being my brother’s name). He told me all he could think to himself was, “Wait, we’ve been watching this movie for over an hour and it just occurred to you NOW that the events depicted on screen might be less than completely plausible?” He knew right then, he said, that the relationship was as doomed as the temple of the movie’s title. 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

            Hey, I thought the first Indie movie was based on a true story until the ending. I was all like, “wait a second, the Bible doesn’t say opening the Ark would do that!”

            Serious trivia: did you know Omar Sharif was one of the best Bridge players in the world?

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

              Now that you mention it, I recall reading about his proficiency at contract bridge in Dr. Zhivago’s obit a couple years ago.

              • BJ
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 1:49 am | Permalink

                He was ranked in the top 50 worldwide.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 2:56 am | Permalink

            To be fair to the young lady, I think we all hove our limits of credibility (credulosity?) when watching fantasy, or how far we are willing to suspend disbelief, but it’s very subjective and different for all of us. And sometimes quite idiosyncratic.

            For example (picks one at random) – Tomorrow Never Dies – I can accept (as stunts) – Bond and Michelle Yeoh escaping down a skyscraper on a huge banner, and riding a motorbike across rooftops, and the Stealth Ship – but being pursued down an alley by a helicopter which is banked about 30 degrees forwards with its rotorblades almost brushing the sides just drops me right out. Why is that? – I have no idea. Just my imagination will tolerate some things more than others.

            cr

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

              Point taken.

            • rickflick
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

              Molly Finally Believes – “Don’t you see I’m not a fake!”

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fLlgS6aO9k

            • BJ
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

              Yeah, I will say that I wouldn’t have thought much of that comment. The one in my example was clearly one where she didn’t even know what the two political parties in our country stand for (although who really does, right man? Whoooaaa, heavy) and was just repeating things she’s heard other people say. Well, she wasn’t even repeating things she’s heard other people say, she was just pretty sure she’s heard “Republicans bad” over the course of her life and didn’t know anything else beyond that. It’s almost impossible to be that uninformed in today’s age.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 3, 2019 at 2:35 am | Permalink

          ‘A Republican was talking, and she said, “they’re the ones who are bad, right?” ‘

          But she was right, wasn’t she?

          [vbeg]

          cr

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

            Yeah, my first thought was, “Say what you will about the poor lass’s shortcomings regarding ratiocination, at least her political instincts ran true.” 🙂

            • BJ
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

              I would much rather date (and have dated) someone who disagrees with me on politics intelligently than someone who agrees with me blindly or without knowledge on them. Intellectual discussion is one of my biggest turn-ons. I’ve certainly never rejected dating someone because of their politics. I would reject dating someone because they were racist or super-duper religious, but not because they simply disagree with me.

              I think the idea that people are only compatible with others who agree with them is something that has come up in the last ten years and, like many things in that span of time, isn’t conducive to reducing our polarization. I know plenty of couples who have different politics, and the longest and most productive relationship I ever had was with a conservative Catholic (Catholic largely in name only).

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                I was just joking around.

                For the moment, I’ll desist from any wisecracks about you schtupping the Catholic shiksa, BJ. 🙂

              • Liz
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

                @Ken If you are an atheist, why would you even care to joke about or consider Jewish or Catholic traditions?

                I never knew anyone on here was Jewish until maybe February 2018. No idea. I thought everyone on here was a kid in my grade or a bot who happened to be intellectually and emotionally satisfying. The reality is that Catholic girls can’t marry Jewish boys even if they are both atheist. It’s not a joke.

              • GBJames
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                ”Catholic girls can’t marry Jewish boys even if they are both atheist”

                You mean because “girls and boys” are under age, right?

              • BJ
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                @Liz No disrespect intended (honest), but I must admit that I’m really confused by your comment. I can’t figure out what most of it means. But, regardless, plenty of Jews marry Catholics. Many Jews are only Jewish by blood (unlike other religions, Jewish is also an ethnicity). Just for the record, my lightly practicing Jewish friend is married to a practicing Catholic, and not only do they get along great, but their families do too!

                @Ken Oh please, some of those are the best jokes. I’ve probably heard many of them, but you often come up with jokes I haven’t encountered before. Fire away.

                And I didn’t take your initial comment as serious. It just made me think about something that I’ve been brooding on lately.

              • Liz
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

                @GBJames Yes. That was what I meant.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

                @Liz:

                Don’t tell Ben Stiller or Bill Maher you can’t have a marriage between a Catholic & a Jew. Otherwise, they (and many like them)
                wouldn’t exist.

                I, myself, am the product of an Irish-Catholic/atheist mixed-marriage. And during my dating days, I spent some time as “the shaygetz” in relationships with Jewish girlfriends.

                To me, the whole religio-ethnic thing is a rich vein to be mined for humor; I can’t bring myself to take any of it seriously.

            • Liz
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

              @BJ No disrespect to Ken was intended first of all. It was just an accurate observation that I see. My cousin *learned Hebrew* to marry her husband only because she is so smart and determined. She was Presbyterian. We’re blood. Their first daughter just had her Bat Mitzvah. My best friend got a free pass for being raised naturally atheist or something. She still had a ceremony. I’m not sure how you’re confused but it doesn’t matter. I think the heart of the issue is that I love so many people on here that I would love to meet and will probably never see. That’s it.

              Anyway, I meant this all but maybe I’m wrong.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                No offense taken, Liz, not in the least.

                Plus, I figure, if I’m gonna be a wisenheimer around here, the least I can do is have a thick skin. 🙂

                Happy Fourth.

              • Liz
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                @Ken I’m not sure this is the best time to clarify that I think marriage is a legal document and am half and half about it. (No pun.) Happy Fourth to you, too.

              • BJ
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                Haha I’m sorry, you had me all wrong. I was confused by the language like “bots” and “in my grade.” I wasn’t sure whether it was an intentionally vague comment as some commentary on something I was missing, or something serious, or something else. I genuinely wasn’t really sure what you were talking about.

                Now that I understand, no worries. Like I said, no offense meant. And none taken!

              • Liz
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                It wasn’t intentionally vague. That was how I perceived things at first. I was trying to say it would be really nice to meet you. And so many other brilliant people on here. Maybe someday.

              • BJ
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

                Well, that’s very kind of you. I appreciate the compliment. Maybe Jerry will have a WEIT convention one day 🙂

              • Liz
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

                That would be wonderful. Maybe something like a camping trip but in cabins. We could split up in teams and have a trivia tournament in different subjects. Possibly a free day to do nothing. I don’t know but anything would be good.

              • BJ
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, I am definitely not the type for “roughing it.” I’ll sleep in a tent…if it’s one of those huge mansion-like tents you can walk around inside, and it has rooms and windows and mattresses. Oh, and a generator for air conditioning. I do not do camping. Nuh uh. Don’t like bugs and don’t like being without my “luxuries” (which are really just necessities to me). Even a cabin probably has some spiders and mosquitoes, but I’ll do it if I absolutely must.

                I mean, I’d prefer we do the convention at the Ritz-Carlton at Key Biscayne. My favorite hotel on the US mainland…I’d have to do a feasibility report if it ever comes to that question. I have a feeling the report will just be one page with the word “no” written on it in big letters, unless the Ritz is suddenly offering enormous group discounts.

              • Liz
                Posted July 4, 2019 at 12:07 am | Permalink

                The Ritz-Carlton might be a bit pricey for several nights (3-4 or maybe 5) but we could probably get a discount with a block of rooms. I’d go to Florida in a heartbeat. Other ideas: Colby or Bates colleges which are close to Canada and beautiful grounds. Sort of like a college reunion but we can do our own thing preferably in May when it is still cooler. The other is all-inclusive Jamaica or somewhere in the Caribbean. They have all inclusive food and drink packages for around $500 for 3-4 days. Anything would work for me.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

            Yes. They’re the baddies.

          • BJ
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

            That wasn’t exactly the point 🙂 The point was (1) she wasn’t sure; (2) she wasn’t sure what Democrats and Republicans are; (3) she sure as hell didn’t know what Democrats and Republicans actually stand for; and (4) she was clearly just trying to put together a very rudimentary framework from what she’s heard from conversations around her.

            To have so little information about our political process — even in the 1950’s, to say nothing of the internet age — is bonkers. And to have so little interest in it is just as crazy.

      • Posted July 3, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        “he’s now enjoying fame as a talking head, which makes him spout drivel”

        QFT!

        🐜

        • rickflick
          Posted July 4, 2019 at 12:44 am | Permalink

          I doubt he knows any quantum field theory. 😎

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    He has written 4 New York Times Best Sellers, is the science correspondent for CBS This Morning and has hosted numerous science specials for BBC-TV, the Discovery/Science Channel. His radio show broadcasts to 100 radio stations every week.

    I don’t know The Big Think, but the fact that they listed the above as part of Kaku’s bona fides, before his actual academic qualifications, makes me think that I don’t want to.

    With regard to his arguments, I don’t see why if the Big Bang Theory is a detective story (I thought it was a sitcom), then God isn’t as well. Here is a classic case, though, of the dog not barking.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure what to make of Michio Kaku. He was a genuine prodigy. Edward Teller came across Kaku’s high school science fair project and was impressed enough to adopt him as his protege. By most accounts he was a person of note in superstring theory and he has published more than 70 papers academically. But his popular science appearances usually give me a charlatan like vibe. A weird mix of brilliant scientist and huckster spiritual guru.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Agreed. His conclusions are often a little too tidy.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Yes. Although he’s vastly more qualified and intelligent, there’s still a whiff of Nye about him.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        There are still many living science popularizers that have stayed credible. But I think most of those have stayed active as research professors (like our esteemed host).
        Maybe there is a danger of having a short career in “doing” science before succumbing to the limelight. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the few that had taken the more risky path and still stayed largely credible. Of course then there was Carl Sagan. I still miss him.

  4. KD
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    What does a monotheistic God have to do with religion?

    Pretty much world-wide, people venerate and worship their ancestors, and the big ancestors pass through legend into myths and get raised up into the sky as gods. I don’t see much implications from science for Confucianism frankly, or shamanism or new age-stuff. Snake oil always sells.

    I don’t want to say monotheism is an ideology, as that is perhaps too one sided, but the typical monotheistic God of Western Civilization (and Islamic Civilization) emerged from a cross between the legends of some Middle Eastern peoples combined with Plato and Aristotle.

    If you are talking about God in the atheist refutation leagues, you are really contesting with Classical Western philosophy (which is much of the work product of Modern Western philosophy). Let’s say you win, God simply dies and gets reincarnated as the People’s Revolution or some kind of racial purity myth, which is a reduction into pure ideology.

    God is fundamentally connected to killing authority, it is right for the state to execute and make war because it upholds the law and the law is from God(s). [So it was historically in the ancient city states. . .] But states are going to keep executing people and making wars, whether God or traditional Western religions persist, and they will continue to kill in the name of something. Stalin knew what he was doing when he revived Orthodox Christianity in the Great War.

    I don’t see folk religion going away, I don’t see Classical Western philosophy losing its draw, and I don’t see killing authority or states disappearing. I can understand the keep your laws off my body sentiment, and the risk to institutional science from religious dogmas (and ethnic narcissism, to the extent it is distinguishable), but I don’t see a “victory” over religion, except as a form of religious victory (otherwise known as “salvation”).

    • prinzler
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Wut?

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      ” Let’s say you win, God simply dies and gets reincarnated as the People’s Revolution or some kind of racial purity myth, which is a reduction into pure ideology.”

      Is that what happened in the Scandinavian countries? Or in western Europe? No, because secularisation was a slow, gradual process, caused by scientific and philosophical argumentation and improving living standards.

      A totalitarian government enforcing its ideology on people from above is very different to people slowly losing their need for a religious comfort blanket. The latter has been happening everywhere in the western world for half a millennium without any sign that people are replacing it with some similarly-pernicious pseudo-religion.

      Basically, the facts of the real world disagree with you.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Well placed jab.

      • KD
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        If I recall, Scandinavia is one of those places on the map that would be goose-stepping and writing in Cyrillic if it weren’t for American cold warriors providing a vigorous resistance to the Soviet threat.

        I find you view of Western Europe being the “real world” rather strange–it is more of an American-run play pen. While NATO is outdated, no one wants to see it go, not even the Europeans, because no one trusts the Europeans not butcher each other without American troops and American Army bases to keep the children in line. Just look at what happened in Yugoslavia.

        Its true, you can have a nice welfare state if someone else provides your national security at their own expense. Children are also well-behaved in a well-run day care, and can buy nice toys if they have a generous allowance and no fixed expenses.

        American hegemony has been pretty good in many ways, but in the days of the Cold War, it was always “In God We Trust” etc. against the Godless Communist threat in the propaganda. Not saying you couldn’t have a well-balanced secular American hegemony that doesn’t spin off into hard nationalism or hard socialism, but not saying you could either.

        As it stands, China has a billion people, and the Chinese model of the one party state teetering between authoritarianism and totalitarianism is likely to have a greater historical influence than the Scandinavian model, if only by virtue of its population, economy and ability to project force. How do we know the China model isn’t our secular future?

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          “If I recall, Scandinavia is one of those places on the map that would be goose-stepping and writing in Cyrillic if it weren’t for American cold warriors providing a vigorous resistance to the Soviet threat.

          I find you view of Western Europe being the “real world” rather strange–it is more of an American-run play pen. While NATO is outdated, no one wants to see it go, not even the Europeans, because no one trusts the Europeans not butcher each other without American troops and American Army bases to keep the children in line. Just look at what happened in Yugoslavia.

          Its true, you can have a nice welfare state if someone else provides your national security at their own expense. Children are also well-behaved in a well-run day care, and can buy nice toys if they have a generous allowance and no fixed expenses.”

          That is the most condescending load of historically demented bollocks I’ve read in a long time. So congrats on that.

          And of course there’s nothing in that spiteful rant that actually addresses my argument. It’s just pointlessly unpleasant.

          As for China, we don’t know that that’s not our future. We don’t know it is either. So what?

          • KD
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            Your argument is that you can have a nice well behaved secular society that doesn’t go off the rails into Jacobinism, look at post-war Europe. [Which I concede is true.]

            My contention is that the peace and security in Europe has more to do with American military bases and an American interest in keeping the local wack jobs out of power than anything else, and that the latent Jacobinism in some secular thought was suppressed indirectly through the exercise of external force and diplomacy, in the absence of which things might very well go off the rails.

            Look at the Trump administration. You can’t find a more profane person on planet Earth, yet he isn’t garnering much support in the atheist community. . . and it could get much worse than Trump.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted July 2, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              “Your argument is that you can have a nice well behaved secular society that doesn’t go off the rails into Jacobinism”

              Yes that is my contention.

              Even if your characterisation of the whole of western Europe as America’s nursery(‘oh for fuck’s sake’ as Eddie Izzard would say) was reasonable, and this broadly secular society existed purely because of the good grace of America – which is the kind of fatuous thesis that a fourteen year old Young Republican would come up with – that would still not be evidence of your initial claim.
              It would simply be evidence that another nation, America, has partnered with western Europe over the postwar period.

              This kind of mutually beneficial relationship is(very broadly) a Good Thing, and again does not support your argument.
              I mean, you’ve already conceded the point by admitting that secular societies a. exist and b. have managed not to descend into either right or left totalitarianisms. The fact that they’ve done so with the occasional help of America is irrelevant.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 3:09 am | Permalink

              Oh ffs, what a heap of jingoistic patronising steaming crap. As Saul said, a condescending load of historically demented bollocks. Also offensive, obnoxious, arrogant and deluded. The sort of attitude that explains everything from the Vietnam War to tRump’s wall.

              “an American interest in keeping the local wack jobs out of power”

              Spectacularly failed in your own country, hasn’t it?

              cr

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 6:11 am | Permalink

                +1, and not just for quoting me

          • KD
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            “That is the most condescending load of historically demented bollocks I’ve read in a long time.”

            So you regard it as a total coincidence that Europe manages to tear itself apart from 1914 to 1918, then again from 1939 to 1945, and then gets along peacefully thereafter once America locates a number of military bases in Europe and starts the NATO treaty?

            Or Joseph Stalin was a nice guy who would never invade another sovereign nation to gain territory (he just carved up Poland because he was scared of Hitler), and so American military deterrence was completely unnecessary in containing the Soviets?

            • Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

              Arguably the European Union has had a much greater influence than U.S. military presence. Who wants to fight with each other when you’re united in diversity … and free to trade and move and work.

              Which is one of the reasons that #Brexit is so worrying.

              🐜

    • Sastra
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Let’s say you win, God simply dies and gets reincarnated as the People’s Revolution or some kind of racial purity myth, which is a reduction into pure ideology.

      Secular ideologies rely on factual claims concerning the world. All things considered, then, it is easier to attack an ideological myth than an ideological myth which piggybacks on a religious myth. The first is vulnerable in the way supernatural justifications are not.

  5. Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I once heard Victor Stenger argue that the Big Bang was neither big nor a bang and this was right about the time that “Inflation” was replacing the somewhat misleading original name for it.

    Since he passed away there seems to be a dismissal of that notion. I do hear or read about inflation a lot, but it seems public religionists and scientists alike are really attached to the whole Big Bang idea even though the science is moving more and more in Stenger’s direction. What am I getting wrong?

    • Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      “I once heard Victor Stenger argue that the Big Bang was neither big nor a bang …”

      Well it wasn’t “big” in the sense that everything that is the all observable universe today would then have been very, very small. And it wasn’t really a “bang” (it wasn’t an explosion, and it definitely wasn’t an explosion in pre-existing space, and it didn’t really make a loud noise). So the name is indeed a bit misleading.

      “… and this was right about the time that “Inflation” was replacing the somewhat misleading original name for it.”

      “Inflation” is not an alternative to “Big Bang”. The inflationary model of the Big Bang is a version of how the Big Bang happened.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Thank you, I’ve just reread Stenger’s God Hypothesis – which I’ve been putting off for a while for other areas of study. I did note he now refers to it as The Inflationary Big Bang which I think on the whole is an improvement, but nevertheless the expression itself, The Big Bang, seems to feed into the religionist’s need to construe that a Big Bang and a Singularity prove there was a Creator God at the “beginning” of it all. Of course, the Big Bang says nothing about the universe having a so-called beginning, but it certainly is misunderstood that way. So, in other words, whilst scientists have made great progress in refuting Creationists like William Lane Craig’s pseudoscientific appropriation of the term, the convenient use of it by physicists continues to mislead and exacerbates the confusion.

        Your explanation was extremely helpful, but am I missing something else?

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I think you pretty much covered it. When it comes to religion Kaku is full of it.

  7. Historian
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Although clerics and theologians of certain religions will assert that religion is based on faith, they cannot help themselves in trying to provide proof or evidence of the veracity of their faith. This is why they are always trying to “prove” to non-believers and people of other religions that theirs is the true one. They use the perversion of reason to persuade others because if religion were based strictly on faith, belief in Santa Claus would be as valid as believing in Jesus. No belief, as weird as it may be, would be less “true” as any other. So, religion based on faith self-contradicts itself and the effort to apply logic and reason to convince others always intellectually fails. I imagine that many readers of this site have had discussions or debates with religious folk who have tried to prove to them the truthfulness of their religion. I have had several throughout my life.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget that religions are often just as eager — or much more eager — to prove their claims to people who already buy into them. Before secularism comes doubt from within. I’ve met many people of faith who kindly reassure me that they’d never be rude enough to try to convert me who nevertheless routinely advance the most pathetic arguments and tell the most amazing whoppers to each other.

      One which is both is the assertion that nonbelievers are close minded fools best left alone. How kind.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        Love that last line. But it is true, the religious inclined seem to be unaware of their attempts to grind out another wonderful idea you had heard before.

    • Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      “. . .if religion were based strictly on faith, belief in Santa Claus would be as valid as believing in Jesus. No belief, as weird as it may be, would be less “true” as any other.”

      This seems a popular line of reasoning on this thread, but I don’t really follow it. It would be like saying, “You can’t say that Hamlet is a great work of literature because I could just as validly say that “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is a great work of literature.” “Just subjective”? I’d never say that subjectivity is truth, but I would say that any truth worth living by must have an element of the subjective. The rest is “just objective.”

      • Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Yes, and any assertion about the universe worth living by must have an element of the objective, which seems to be missing in your claim that every bit of matter in the cosmos is infused with a spirit.There is not an iota of evidence for that (unless you redefine “spirit’ as “electrons” or the like), and therefore it’s not worth living by.

        As for your comparison of two songs with Santa versus Jesus, it doesn’t make sense, because the former comparison is subjective, while claims about the latter (Jesus/God existed, was crucified and resurrected, and so on) are claims about reality, and are not subjective.

  8. Dominic
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    See also this from the BBC –
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000614f

    Last part to come this Friday

    • Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I don’t think I can bear to listen to another one. The smacking sounds of the commenters osculating the tuchas of faith are too loud.

  9. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Michio Kaku … It’s sad to see a man spend down his credibility in such a way.

    When did Michio Kaku acquire any credibility to spend down? Too much time devoted to mumbling wide-eyed guff to a Discovery Channel (other purveyors of bullshit are available) film crew ; no remaining credibility.

  10. NinetyEight
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    His professional output was competent if not of great historic import. ‘Co-founder of string theory’ is somewhat overstating things but he did make early contributions.
    As a popularizer, I do not know what it is but I cannot listen to him for more than a few sentences before he says something that gets right up my nose, either an overly inaccurate metaphor or some inane philosophizing. It is possible this is just me and others may not be bothered similarly.

    • Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      Exactly. The same thing when you try to read his books. He’s no Sean Carroll, that’s for sure.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I picked up one of his books a long time ago. Put it down shortly thereafter.

  11. Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Kaku is a reputable scientist unlike, say, Deepak Chopra. I think what we have here is a rather inelegant statement of NOMA more than an endorsement of religion. Kaku says he is agnostic.

    I do take issue with this statement: “The problem occurs when people from the natural sciences begin to pontificate upon ethics…”

    Why should ethics be beyond scientific investigation? Why is understanding the source of ethical beliefs “pontificating”?

  12. Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    “The absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”

    In point of fact, it isn’t. The absence of evidence may well be evidence that the tools you are using to arrive at evidence are limited. If the only tool you have is a flashlight you will be able to find evidence of whatever the beam of the flashlight falls on, but you won’t find evidence of anything beyond the beam. To conclude that therefore nothing beyond the beam exists would be an example of hubris, a word from the Greek that always implied a breach of limits.

    • Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Did you read the quote? It said that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence IF THE EVIDENCE SHOULD BE THERE. That implies that we have some tools that could detect possible evidence.

      Please respond to what I said, not a truncated version of it.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Stenger’s statement is very close to a Bayesian statement of the problem, I think.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        “Please respond to what I said, not a truncated version of it.”

        To say that the evidence “should be there” is to assume that the tools of science can account for all of reality—which, of course, is to beg the question.

        If, as I suggest, the tools of science are limited in what they can detect, then the evidence shouldn’t necessarily be there, nor should we be surprised when it isn’t.

        I might add that to believe that science can account for all of reality is as much an act of faith as to believe in God, since neither claim is testable, reproducible, or falsifiable. We pick our poisons.

        We will never agree about this, of course, but you did ask me to respond.

        • Posted July 2, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          The question is, as reader Peter N said in this thread, WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE TO TAKE THIS QUESTION SERIOUSLY? His comment:

          What’s frustrating is that this “god” thingy is nothing but words. If we could just stop talking about it, there would be nothing there. Preachers and theologians, by the clever use of words, have concocted some mysterious cause or force or influence that, by definition, can’t be examined but must be respected. I refuse to play along.

          So let’s just not say that we’re agnostics about God, as with Kaku’s (and your) attitude, we should be agnostic about all sorts of things whose existence should be detectable (e.g., telekinesis, telepathy, etc.) but isn’t. We don’t profess agnosticism about cheese-eating creatures on the Moon (after all, there may be a layer of cheese a few hundred feet deep), or any other manner of nonsense.

          As for science not being able to account for reality, it is at least the only reliable way to establish what is real. There’s no other way that I know of. And the scientific method is not a faith like religion; it is set of tools whose value has been established by trial and error, as I argue in my Slate article “No faith in science”.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

          “To say that the evidence “should be there” is to assume that the tools of science can account for all of reality”

          No, science doesn’t claim to know all of reality. Science discovers aspects of the Universe incrementally and knowledge is provisional. The believers tell us characteristics of their God. These characteristics suggest God should be accessible to scientific observation. When no evidence appears we are justified in rejecting the God hypothesis.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

          Claims have been made by religions.
          Claims that ought be able to be tested.
          Before it was realized just how relentless the scientific method would be, there was always “yeah, that may be explainable, but you will never explain X”
          And then of course X bites the dust.
          And, we have a god of the gaps.
          Tiny slivers of a possible place to see a god.
          But by then it is done. No God.

          But, the ‘other tools’ you may ask?
          Prayer, mediation, revelation and the like, maybe there is something there.
          Nope, all there is there is a range of incoherent subjective contradiction that leads to a myriad of incomparable ‘truths’ or ‘gods’.
          Nope, that method clearly doesn’t work, so what do we have left.

          Nothing.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

            Not so much incomparable but incompatible.

            (Auto correct)

    • rickflick
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      No one has ever seen a Bigfoot. While we can’t conclude from this that Bigfoots do not exist, we can say that if there was a population of Bigfoot in the Rocky Mountains it is likely someone would have seen one. Therefor no observations can be taken as evidence they are less likely to exist.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        No one has been able to prove they have seen Bigfoot. But many have claimed to have seen one. The fuzzy pictures and lame footprints don’t cut it, of course.
        As in many things, there is the Xkcd cartoon regarding on the matter of Bigfoot, the Loch ness monster and UFOs have been quietly laid to rest by the telling lack of pictures on cell phone cameras.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          Exactamundo. When I was but a wee tadpole, the word was that Santa’s reindeer could be heard thumping the roof…if you could only stay awake long enough. I never could.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      We have extant the tools needed to say there is no “god” or supernatural force that interacts with the physical world at the level of human experience.

      Really, seriously.

      • Posted July 2, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        “. . .we don’t understand high-temperature superconductivity, or for that matter human consciousness, or a cure for cancer, or predicting the weather, or how best to regulate our financial system.” –Sean Carroll

        Thanks for the link, Ken. I’ve read Sean Carroll before and find him a bit slippery—e.g., as when he equates “materialism” with “naturalism,” begging the question of whether all things in nature are material.

        In the above quote from the source you provided, notice how he tries to slip in, almost parenthetically, “or for that matter human consciousness,” as though it were on a par with high-temperature superconductivity, a cure for cancer, of regulating our financial system. It isn’t, of course, nor is it a “manifestation of the underlying laws” of physics.

        Carroll never comes back to consciousness in the article, but glibly lumps it in with all the other things that science has learned or will learn by applying the laws of physics. It just ain’t so. Seriously.

        • Posted July 2, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          Whew, I can’t imagine a worse hell than the limbo these religious cretins live in.

          It would be something out of Dante if he’d read Kafka…

          I’m sorry. At this point, our only hope is they die-off of natural causes. Thus, is evolution.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

            Hope your animadversion to “religious cretins” wasn’t directed at mirandaga personally.

            He might not be so hot on politics 🙂 (and can be a bit soft on the supernatural sometimes), but Gary Miranda is one of the most thoughtful, articulate, and unfailingly polite commenters we have around these parts.

            • Posted July 3, 2019 at 1:56 am | Permalink

              Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ken, and right back at you.

              • Posted July 3, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

                mirandaga who? Was he the guy who ran the Inquisition? Haha!

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

          Unless one is a mind/brain dualist, Gary, then the brain — whatever its emergent properties may be — is still subject to the known laws of physics. And any forces — supernatural (or otherwise) — capable of affecting brain function (and, thus, capable of affecting an emergent property such as consciousness) would be detectable by our available tools of physics.

          Those tools of physics have not detected any such forces, and no such forces need be hypothesized to explain observation. Accordingly, our best available model of reality excludes such supernatural forces.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

            Yep, and you can test it.
            Go poking material things into a material brain and you will get a response in immaterial consciousness.

          • Posted July 3, 2019 at 1:54 am | Permalink

            “Unless one is a mind/brain dualist. . . .”

            In which case, I might well be a dualist (which is OK—I’ve been called worse things), but I don’t think so. Rather, as a pantheist I believe that all matter is infused with a single spirit: matter is the what individuates and spirit is what unites. So I suppose you could call me a “diversitarian monist,” though that’s a mouthful and I wouldn’t advise it. 😊

            • Posted July 3, 2019 at 10:48 am | Permalink

              What, exactly, is your evidence that “all matter is infused with a single spirit”? And what is that “spirit”? How do you know that, say, a rock has a “spirit”?

              It you say that there is no evidence for your pantheism, and it’s just a faith you have, then you are simply making claims without evidence, and, as Hitchens said, claims without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. What you profess is a kind of religious belief.

              Note that this is different from the scientific claim that “all matter contains electrons”, because that claim can be tested.

              • Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

                “It you say that there is no evidence for your pantheism, and it’s just a faith you have, then you are simply making claims without evidence.”

                There’s plenty of evidence for my pantheism, but it’s experiential not scientific. What I or anyone says about God, spirit, etc. has to be tested against one’s own experience, just as it does with a poem or other work of art: it either resonates or is found lacking. As I said elsewhere on this thread, I’d never say that subjectivity is truth, but I would say that any truth worth living by must have an element of the subjective. The rest is “just objective.”

              • Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                And my own “lived experience”, as well of all of science, contradicts your claim. You are repeatedly making claims about reality that are subjective, and no different in kind than that claims from people who think they are Napoleon or that Jodie Foster loves them. Subjective experience is not “truth” except in the trivial sense that “person X feels this way”. That is not anywhere near enough evidence to support a strong belief, and your claim should not be taken any more seriously than John Hinkley’s claim that he “knew” that Jodie Foster loved him. All you can claim is that “I feel that all matter contains a spirit” (and you don’t define that), and there is no reason for any of us to take that claim seriously.

                If you can’t adduce any evidence for pantheism beyond your “experience that everything in the world has a spirit”, then please stop adducing it here, as it’s no different from a religious belief, and I often ask believers for evidence that what they accept is true.

                And you seem to be mistaking “subjective feeling” for “evidence”.

                End of discussion.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                It is true that I have tinnitus. I experience tinnitus. I can’t show anyone. People who have tinnitus know something of my experience. A doctor might find simple questions or technology to help support the claim. If I am lying, and simply lie on the questionnaires, that might be one thing. But there eventually would be some inconsistency- a dietary peculiarity, an occupational exposure, an imaging technology- to suggest with more likelihood that something doesn’t add up.

                So I think with simple questions and measures – that is, asking the right questions and doing the work, an intense “lived experience” claim comes well within the realm of falsifiability or at least somewhere where we can say it’s below the detection limit.

              • Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:31 am | Permalink

                Interjection. The belief that a spiritual essence pervades matter is called animism and is not, to my best understanding, part of pantheism. At least not pantheism of the Spinozian sort. Spinoza was a monist but also a materialist. I associate animism with paganism and shamanism.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

                @mirandaga:

                “Experiential” evidence (if we may call it that) is liable to lead one astray, so must constantly be checked against the tools provided by the scientific method.

                For the longest time, for example, direct human experience suggested that the earth was flat and stationary and that the sun moved across the sky in the daytime and disappeared at night.

                That perception, which still comports with most people’s daily experience, was demonstrated to be wrong by the tools of science, and so has given way to a better model of reality.

                Is there some basis for accepting that human “spiritual” experience is any more reliable?

            • Posted July 5, 2019 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

              @Ken KuKec

              “Is there some basis for accepting that human ‘spiritual’ experience is any more reliable [than our debunked experience that the world is flat or that the sun rotates around the earth]?”

              A good question, Ken, and my apologies in being so slow in attempting a reply; not sure how I missed it.

              The short answer is “No, it’s not any more reliable,” but I should elaborate. If you say “We hold these truths to be self-evident—that the world is flat and the sun rotates around the earth” you’re making an assertion about physical reality, one that can, as you say, be “checked against the tools provided by the scientific method.” If you say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” you’re making an assertion about spiritual reality, one that may or may not be true but that, true or false, is not amenable to verification by the scientific method.

              And if we’re talking about an individual (as opposed to collective) assertion about spiritual reality, the above point is even more relevant. For example, a belief in a benevolent God based on one’s spiritual experience (and I don’t count indoctrination as “spiritual experience”) might be shattered by the death of a beloved child, but it’s not likely to be be abandoned because the scientific method uncovers new evidence that there is no benevolent god.

              So to address your question about reliability: both kinds of assertions are subject to error and revision and both allow for varying degrees of certainty—keeping in mind, of course, that certainty and rightness don’t always go hand in hand. Take me, for example: I’m often wrong but I’m almost never uncertain. 😊

              • Posted July 5, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                I’m sorry, but you are still mistaking whether someone has a belief in some reality (with the “belief” being the reality) and the reality itself. You can abandon a belief in god because your child dies, but that itself does not disprove a god. The death of millions of innocent people without any obvious reason, however, argues against the common belief in a theistic and loving god.

                By the way, you have offered no evidence for your pantheistic belief that some numinous spirit pervades all matter in the universe. It may be true that you BELIEVE that, but that doesn’t provide a lick of evidence for such a spirit. So I will ask you, as I ask religious people posting here, to adduce evidence, beyond your mere belief, for your pantheism. I believe I asked you before what kind of spirit you’re talking about, and what the evidence for that spirit is, but I don’t recall your answering.

              • Posted July 5, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                “I believe I asked you before what kind of spirit you’re talking about, and what the evidence for that spirit is, but I don’t recall your answering.”

                Respectfully, Jerry, you can hardly fault me for not answering given that you you closed your comment with “End of discussion.”

                In any case, I think you’re right: I’ve tried to make the distinction between experiential evidence and scientific evidence as clear as I can, and you’ve made it very clear that you don’t consider experiential evidence to be “real” in any sense of the world. I will admit that I probably should have made a distinction between animate and inanimate matter when talking about pantheism, but that hardly resolves our basic impasse.

                Thanks for taking the time to reply and, as always, for hosting this stimulating site.

          • Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

            “Unless one is a mind/brain dualist”

            But isn’t that ruled out in the same way? The ways the dualistic immaterial mind could interact with the material brain are similarly constrained.

            🐜

        • GBJames
          Posted July 3, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

          “whether all things in nature are material”

          What else would they be? Even fictions are the consequences of creatures behaving according to the laws of physics and chemistry in a material universe.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

            I think it means things like processes are not material- consciousness is a process – an operating system as used is a process – you can’t touch it as a tangible object.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

              It’s all dependent upon a material substrate, all subject to the known laws of physics. At no level need magic (viz., the supernatural) enter the equation to account for the results.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Yes of course, but I emphasize the distinction because I think this is where certain ideas drift off into outer space – like those from religion.

                some “things” like our continuous personal experience, “using a computer program”, or “the atomic theory of matter” are intangible. It is true that material objects in the real world explain them etc. Does that mean “the atomic theory of matter” is a material? I’d say no, but I think this is where the notion that _not_ everything is “material” comes from. I am personally fine with that, but this notion of an important distinction between material and immaterial is persistent….

                I’m a little lost now, so I’ll need to check the comments again…. and the original post too…

              • rickflick
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

                In a material universe, there are objects (matter) that occupies time and space. These objects are prone to move. When they move, they move according to the laws of nature. The movement of matter constitutes processes (intangible) given names by us humans. So, for example, Darwin’s famous theory describes a process by which objects (organisms) move about in such a way as to promote certain shapes and behaviors over others. A thought is the movement of chemicals in the brain. Objects moving is what a material Universe consists of. You can add relativity and quantum mechanics as an exercise, but you end up with the same thing.

            • GBJames
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 7:32 am | Permalink

              Combustion is a process. Saying it is “not material” is simply to ignore the fact that it is material stuff transforming according to the laws of physics and chemistry.

              I do not think this is what those who assert the inability of science to explain everything (as Mirandaga does) are saying. They (IMO) are trying to find a gap within which a deity can be sought.

    • Liz
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      This might be helpful. This is the 3rd paragraph from the bottom.

      “And that’s it! Those pieces give you the important low-energy description of any theory of a single scalar field, no matter what new particles and crazy nonsense might be going on at higher energies. Of course we don’t work at strictly zero energy, so the “irrelevant” parts might also be interesting and useful, but Wilsonian effective field theory gives you a systematic way of dealing with them and estimating their importance.”

      How Quantum Field Theory Becomes “Effective”
      Posted on June 20, 2013 by Sean Carroll
      http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/06/20/how-quantum-field-theory-becomes-effective/

    • Bruce Lilly
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Modus tollens (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_tollens) is one of the most useful tools of propositional logic. It is the basis of falsifiability. The general form is:

      If P, then Q; not Q, therefore not P

      Specifically as it applies to deities (and leprechauns, Bigfoot, unicorns, etc.):

      If a deity exists, then there should be ample valid, relevant, verifiable, publicly-accessible, credible evidence; there is no such evidence, therefore there is no deity.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

        Modus tollens is a fancy name for rolling the eyes, scratching the chin, shaking the head sadly. 😎

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

          I thought the chin-scratching part was modus ponens, which shows you how little I know about propositional logic. 🙂

          • rickflick
            Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

            Modus ponens: if p then q , and the antecedent p holds, then q. Well, damn! You’re absolutely right! 😎

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted July 3, 2019 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        This is an interesting comment.

        It becomes clear, though, that certain lofty notions like a personal deity are proposed to leave no evidence. Yet, at the same time, everything is asserted to be evidence- the beautiful sunset, a newborn baby. I’m not sure which reasoning is breaking down in those cases, but clearly something isn’t adding up.

        • Bruce Lilly
          Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          Something which is “proposed to leave no evidence” may be unfalsifiable, and if it is not falsifiable it does not constitute a scientific hypothesis; it is a bald assertion. Moreover, something which leaves no evidence because it does not interact with the universe has no explanatory power. And as the late Christopher Hitchens wrote: “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

          Merely claiming that something is evidence does not make it so. Evidence needs to be (at minimum) credible, relevant, verifiable, and publicly-accessible. “Revelation” during an epileptic seizure, for example, isn’t evidence of much other than the fact that a brain produces unusual perceptions during such a seizure. That fails credibility, verifiability, and public accessibility (probably relevance also) for much else.

          Occam’s razor also comes into play; the nature and causes for a sunset and a baby are known and are sufficient explainations without resorting to superfluous supernatural entities.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink

            I like the example of tinnitus – it is very obvious to those who have it, but I don’t see how anyone can prove they have it other than, I think strictly speaking, asserting the fact. It might be due to damage to ear components that either are too small to detect, or that machines have not been developed to detect yet – because there’s no compelling reason to do so.

            • GBJames
              Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

              I would think tinnitus would be detectable, in principle, as particular types of neural activity found in people with certain types of damage to the inner ear.

              • ThyroidPlanet
                Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

                maybe MRI – fMRI – but I think that’d be like going to the moon to get some soil for your garden.

            • Bruce Lilly
              Posted July 9, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

              Tinnitus provides an example of three additional characteristics of claims and evidence for claims.

              First, “I have tinnitus” is a natural claim, whereas “There’s an invisible demon blowing a whistle that only I can hear” would be a supernatural claim. The supernatural claim raises additional questions, requiring additional evidence.

              Second, there is the matter of evidence proportionate to the claim. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” as the late Carl Sagan said. Corollaries include: ordinary claims require only ordinary evidence, and mundane claims require very little evidence. As tinnitus affects 15-20% of people (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156), “I have tinnitus” is a rather mundane claim.

              The third matter to consider is the effect of belief in the claim (regardless of the truth of the claim). Belief in the claim that someone has tinnitus has few consequences; as Thomas Jefferson said (in a slightly different context) “it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” On the other hand, belief in the claim “There is a deity (or organized crime boss) and unless you give 10% of your income to my organization you will be tortured for eternity (or he’ll break your kneecaps)” fails to meet the Jeffersonian characteristics of a benign belief in a claim. Although it is usually desirable to find truth (i.e. knowledge as distinct from mere belief), it is less important in the case of inconsequential beliefs than it is when there are serious consequences.

  13. Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    What’s frustrating is that this “god” thingy is nothing but words. If we could just stop talking about it, there would be nothing there. Preachers and theologians, by the clever use of words, have concocted some mysterious cause or force or influence that, by definition, can’t be examined but must be respected. I refuse to play along.

    Over the millennia the god idea has evolved in a very Darwinian fashion to adapt to diverse and ever-changing intellectual environments. Most species have gone extinct. Some strains like Wahhabi Islam flourish in certain ecological niches by exterminating rival beliefs, while milquetoast liberal Christianities linger in the crevices of our scientific knowledge and in the characteristic flaws of our cognitive abilities. But they’re all just noise.

    These god viruses have the potential, like the flu, to evolve “superbug” variants that can do great damage. Scientific thinking is the most effective “vaccination” against this “virus” and to protect ourselves and each other we all need to get vaccinated. It’s disheartening to see a prominent science communicator like Kaku wasting his platform to muddy the waters like this.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Big Sub

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Also we can’t reproduce Neanderthals, T. Rex, the Roman Empire or Abraham Lincoln, so we really don’t know with 100.000% certainty if they ever existed.

    • Bruce Lilly
      Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      We don’t know anything with absolute certainty. But we know many things with sufficient confidence that for practical purposes they can be considered certain.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        yes – and I also wonder about Kaku’s claim “You cannot reproduce the Big Bang.”

        I am not a physicist, but aren’t some parts of the big bang somehow reproducible? Iust like we cannot reproduce evolution, we can test parts – like what they do with directed evolution. And, though reproducibility is essential for science, there must be limits. We cannot reproduce the evolution of Homo sapiens, but we just saw the other month evolution of flightless rails. By that, we might say evolution has been reproduced, and in principle, the same might occur with Homo sapiens, but that is a ridiculous science project to actually propose.

        and also, Kaku’s claim is for this particular moment. I wonder if there were phenomena that scientists claimed 100’s of year ago were not reproducible, but by today’s standards, are.

  16. CJColucci
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Whether science has anything to say about anything we might call “religion” depends on what the religion in question says. It is a trivial exercise, and many have engaged in it, to create a religion that does not say anything that science can grab a hold of. In that trivial sense, science cannot prove or disprove, or even do much to assess the likelihood of, that kind of religion. To the scientifically minded, there would, of course, be no good reason to believe whatever such a religion asserts, but someone could satisfy whatever emotional needs such a religion might address without having to believe or assert anything actually contrary to science.
    How prevalent is such a religion? I don’t know, though I suspect that it is more common than we think.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure about that at all.

      I don’t think any such religion even exists – for the very simple reason that religion is a product, and in a buyers’ market no-one’s going to choose a product that has absolutely no connection whatsoever to objective reality.

      A religion that makes no empirical claims whatsoever, that doesn’t impinge on scientific territory at all? That doesn’t exist.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I can think of several religions/spiritual views which try to make God so rarified, so Other, that there’s little if nothing to rationally deal with — when it’s being put forth to and by the skeptical side. But as soon as the advocates start waxing lyrically over the implications and the worship — bam! Comprehensible content.

      • CJColucci
        Posted July 2, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        I think a fair number of people who think they profess some specific religion don’t really believe anything more than: (1) there’s Something Out There; and (2) therefore, we ought to be nice. They may listen to intriguing folk tales illustrating these points, but they don’t get into disputes with people who have different folk tales making the same points. Science can’t really engage such stuff.

    • Posted July 4, 2019 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      I agree, except for the last sentence. And for that matter, unless I misunderstood him, so does our host!

      Basically, Jerry is taking Kaku to task for not noticing that science-immune varieties of religion are a tiny minority. They both agree that such things are possible.

      To my mind, that makes the “debate” a lot less of a debate, since Kaku never claimed that A LOT of religions are science-immune. Or if he did, it wasn’t quoted.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 4, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        So, maybe the point is that since some (few?) religions are compatible with science, many more people could switch to those cults and become kosher too. If people shift from orthodox and fundamentalism and move into soft Protestantism, or C of E, the world will become a better place.

  17. Posted July 2, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “Is Kaku, then, also a Bigfood agnostic and a tooth-fairy agnostic?”
    Sadly, I think he might be agnostic on such things, or at least he would say to his audience that we cannot disprove their existence.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      He would probably proudly proclaim his Big Foot and Tooth Fairy agnosticism in front of a group of nervous Big Foot and Tooth Fairy believers.

      Seems to me there’s a whiff of Little People Argument in Kaku’s approach.

  18. peepuk
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    “So why shouldn’t a scientist be a better judge of ethics than a believer?”

    I still believe good science is value free and cannot overlap with fictional moral claims. In my opinion scientists and believers have both no moral knowledge. The only way moral conflicts can be resolved is by violence, deception or compromise, and not with rational arguments.

    Rationalist morality often ends in utilitarianism/consequentialism/humanism, I think they are as unconvincing as religious morality. (I’m a moral skeptic)

    Still, embracing NOMA means embracing deception because religion contains no extra knowledge besides that what science has discovered and when there is a conflict, religious opinion is always unjustified.

  19. Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I find the automatic “related” entries hilarious:

    1. ‘Michio Kaku embarrasses himself, says that the laws of physics and the behavior of subatomic particles reflect “the mind of God.”’

    2. ‘Michio Kaku gets human evolution all wrong on The Big Thunk’

    When he appears on a documentary, it’s low-quality “tabloid” pop science verging on pseudoscience, where he can be seen emitting implausible speculations.

  20. Posted July 2, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    None of this is really surprising, just follow the money. If Michio Kaku comes out as an atheist it all dries up. We might as well ask why Oxford, Harvard, and Yale still have Theology departments? Because there’s gold in them thar doctoral programs.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      To this day, my Oxbridge college has more Professors of Theology than of Physics.

  21. Posted July 2, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    There is no reason to believe that there is or can be only one big bang. Consequently also there is no reason to categorically rule out the artificial creation of one.

    (“Baby’s first hubble volume.”)

  22. A C Harper
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Therefore, you ask the question, is the existence of God provable? Well, what is science? Science is based on things that are testable, reproducible, and falsifiable. But you see, the existence of God is not testable. It’s not reproducible. We cannot reproduce God at will.

    So there could be magic dragons or invisible unicorns or faeries. Or even the Devil, demons or djinns. And the god struck have no way of asserting that these unprovable entities exist or not.

  23. John
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I think science does a pretty good job of showing that there is not some beneficent hand guiding things. If that is true then it would seem an investigation into God’s existence is very much within the boundaries of science

    • rickflick
      Posted July 2, 2019 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      It’s hard to say. God is often defined as a loving and beneficent being, but with adverse evidence wouldn’t religionists simply back-peddle to a deity who is usually beneficent but who is easy to enrage and hard to placate?

    • Posted July 3, 2019 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      If a unified phenomena culminated across a wide array of scientific disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, quantum field theory, Standard Models and Laws of physics, and the historical record indicated anything that even hinted at a single divine master builder at the very apex of creation of the universe and life on Earth then most assuredly there would be a vigorous investigation into that Supreme and Divine operator. And indeed over the eons, there has been a remarkable effort that unfortunately developed into an array of superstitious dogma, supernatural pseudoscience, and entirely false epistemologies, such as astrology, alchemy, theology, haruspicy, human and animal sacrifice, etc. Others led to great advancements in science, algebra, philosophy, politics that over the years would move the God element from their explorations because it was discovered to be a hindrance.

      Case Western once did a survey of over 20 years and some 20,000,000 scientific peer-reviewed papers and found 150,000 published on evolution alone. Out of those 150,000 papers published by credentialed scientists, 80 attempted to present a theory of Intelligent Design. Needless to say, most of these were submitted by Christian fundamentalist mechanical engineers. I don’t think we need to add that none of these papers were considered by the Nobel committees. I assure you that if there was a there-there, indeed, there would be a rigorous investigation. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

  24. Posted July 2, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    With aging sometimes there are innumerable ways of ‘stringing’ yourself out! unfortunately. I sympathize but frayed at the edge is ‘knot’ where i, we, need or want to go. Mr Kaku needs help to drop the apologitics and forward science ( NOT half cut science) into the 21st century. This is NOT a choice its essential.

  25. grasshopper
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I became greatly enamoured of string theory when writers like Kaku and Brian Greene began to popularize it. I found their books exciting reading, and educational because their explanations included accessible expositions of the history of quantum theory. Beyond that though, string theory is highly speculative, and tended to appeal to mathematical beauty. However, its hypothetical keystone, supersymmetry, has failed to be confirmed by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at energy levels which should have been sufficient to confirm aspects of it. String theory seems to moribund.

    There is good reading on the topic at Not Even Wrong

    As an aside, Not Even Wrong, has a link to a nice article about the “rolls-royce” of blackboard chalk.
    https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/just-in/2019-06-14/chalk-market-where-mathematicians-go-get-good-stuff

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted July 3, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Interesting, fun little link. Retrospectively it’s obvious that the poor quality of my school’s chalk is the only thing that held me back from mathematical greatness.

  26. rickflick
    Posted July 2, 2019 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of the rolls-royce of chalk. Maybe I’ll get some for a friend.

  27. Posted July 3, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Physicists… cosmologists… he sounds like Brian Cox…!

  28. Posted July 24, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, none the religious/science comments from Kaku or Galileo reported above are in error.
    I thought you were philosophically educated.
    One cannot prove certain things in nature, nor certain claims by humans. God on one hand and the singularity that is the supposed beginning of the BBT. Evidence for scientific things are and can be supportive of scientific claims, but they do not prove anything to the ultimate. That is why theory is called an inductive exercise.
    I am not a friend of Kaku’s popularization of nonsense like BBT, but his statements are not incorrect. As a good Humanist I would think you can see the reason for tolerating our religious friends, while at the same time not backing down on our reasons for not believing in their illogical conclusions about Nature and its supposed origins.
    THERE WAS NO ORIGIN TO THE UNIVERSE. IT IS INFINITE IN SIZE AND DURATION TO THE BEST OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. ONE CANNOT PROVE INFINITY.
    George

    • Posted July 24, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      LOL, we have a new commenter who calls me philosophically uneducated, makes a number of questionable statements, and then ends with CAPSLOCK!

      This dude wasted his one shot at a comment. Wiedersehen!


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