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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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peter l

I have never known why scientists like Hawkins feel the need to bring Religion into his scientific journey,surely he must know that if God exists,he is not going to be found in a test tube or an equation.I am not sure if i am becoming pessimistic in my old age,39,or am able to see more clearly now the reasons behind statements like "Heaven is a fairytale" or "The universe does not need God to exist".These statements sound like book sellers to me,ok i may be pessimistic,lets give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

If Hawkins smashes enough particles together,i am sure he will find unknown particles but not the God particle as he puts it.I found God without the need of a particle accelarator,In The Beginning.The Author of the Bible left me with no pessimism,let us hope that someday,Hawkins can celebrate the greatest scientist of them all.

Eric M.

Carl, I think Hawking makes a common mistake in physics: equivocating the word "nothing." He says, "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing." At first glance, this statement sounds as if he means that the universe(s) came out (notice he uses the word "created") of literally nothing! However, it is clear that whether he speaks of "Science" or "Laws of Nature" or "M-Theory" that what he is actually talking about is not really "nothing" at all but "something."

See also

Bill Vallicella, Notes on Chapter One of Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2010/10/notes-on-chapter-one-of-stephen-hawking-the-grand-design.html

and

Edward Feser, Why are (some) physicists so bad at philosophy?

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-are-some-physicists-so-bad-at.html#more

Ed Peters

..."to light the blue touchpaper"

Huh?

Larry

no one would care what hawkings said if he were not crippled. for some reason the media holds him up as some highly evolved human being because he has over come many obsticles. Theoritical phycists and naturalist like darwin should both stay out of biology. thats where creation comes to life and is proven.
deniers only see what they are looking for.

Laura

Honestly, I think scientist get defensive because our general cultural understanding of science in this United States is very low. It is probably frustrating to be describing something that no one really understands. Secondly, people have no *desire* to understand, which is also frustrating. I think the folks in Theology probably have some experience with this.

Secondly, the 'intelligent design' folks have done a huge disservice to faithful people who do science. It is because of them you have people like Hawkings "sticking his nose" into Theology, because it was kind of pushed onto him.

Whatever Hawkings is playing "fast and lose with" rewind and read some 'intelligent design' mumbojumbo, and you will see what he is reacting to.

The Vatican had a huge conference on evolution and science a few years back-- in 2008 and I am so proud of our Church for doing this. Please note that the 'intelligent design' people and creationist that do 'science light,' such as the Discovery Institute, were not invited.

So yes, perhaps Hawkings is overstepping his place, but I can sympathize with his frustration at the general disinterest and lack of scientific rigor in our culture, and then the harm that the intelligent design folks have done to the true, interesting exchange between natural science and theology.

I think he is responding to the creationists--and the Catholic Church has a much more subtle, much more profound relationship with science. Look at Lemaître, and many other faithful Catholics who do not get into 'fights' with science. Please, let's not roll around in the dirt with the 'creationists.'

Carl E. Olson

Laura: Hawking doesn't indicate in this interview that he is reacting to anything but the questions asked of him; nor do I sense some sort of frustration on his part, although it certainly might exist. My impression, in reading some of his comments in recent years, is that Hawking has long been an atheist, or at least strongly agnostic. But it doesn't matter if he is reacting against this or that: his comments are fairly ridiculous, and they reveal a glaring, even embarrassing weakness in his philosophical reflection and knowledge. Frankly, I don't mind at all that Hawking or Dawkins or other atheists make critiques of Christian belief, just as I don't mind pointing out how consistently poor that critiques are.

Allan Wafkowski

This theoretical physicist sounds foolish each time he speaks on subjects outside of his chosen discipline. Can her really be that lame?

Charles E Flynn

Blue touchpaper:

From http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-cobuild/light%20the%20%28blue%29%20touch%20paper

touch paper
, touchpaper
If someone lights the touch paper or lights the blue touch paper, they do something which causes anger or excitement.
(BRIT, JOURNALISM)
♦ light the (blue) touch paper phrase V inflects
This kind of remark is guaranteed to light the blue touch paper with some Labour politicians.

******

[Dr. Who series reference]


From http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Blue_touch_paper

Blue touch paper was a type of paper fuse for explosives. The second and third incarnations of the Doctor used small amounts of explosive wrapped in blue touch paper to destroy locks. (DW: The War Games, Spearhead from Space)

The fourth incarnation of the Doctor once used a firecracker and blue touch paper to unclog the gas pocket powering the Sacred Flame. He later gave another piece to the Sisterhood of Karn in case it should happen again. When they asked him what the strange symbols meant he told them "light the blue touch paper and stand well back". (DW: The Brain of Morbius)

Kmbold

I hope these atheistic darlings of our day, when they prepare to exit this world, at least reach out for the grace to say, "If You exist, help me to believe", or some such willed acknowledgment. I pray they do. What they are missing now in their lives is the presence of our dear God who is glorious omnipotence, humility, mercy, justice, beauty, honesty, ad infinitum, and Love that knocks your socks off. And the Creator of what they study.

Alessandro

I hope you will read this.
I am Catholic, though I can understand what Hawking is saying here:
"Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in".

By the word "nothing" he means a theoretical state of matter called "vacuum state". It is defined as the state with the lowest possible energy - there are no particles within it. Vacuum is just a theoretical state which cannot be reproduced; but we know scientists are using the concept to disprove a theistic origin of the Cosmos. Quoting from the Wikipedia:
"This hypothetical vacuum state often has interesting and complex properties. For example, it contains vacuum fluctuations (virtual particles that hop into and out of existence). It also, relatedly, has a finite energy, called vacuum energy. Vacuum fluctuations are an essential and ubiquitous part of quantum field theory."

Why is this important? Because - atheist scientists say - these fluctuations would perpetually spawn universes. According to them, since the vacuum is infinite, the number of universes must be infinite. Each possible combination is not just virtual - it's real. So, there'd be a universe identical to ours except for a single particle spinning the other way around, and an infinite number of universes where I've got black hair rather then blond; an infinity of universes where Hitler won the war, or we are reptilians, or I don't exist, or life never appeared in the universe, or the dinosaurs never went extinct, or Spiderman exists. So - Hawking says - we are just one of the infinite random combinations in the universe. Not mere chance, but probability is the "god" of Hawking and others. This is terrible but that's what they are saying. If you read Hawking's words, you may translate it like this:

"Science predicts that an infinitude of different kinds of universe will be spontaneously spawned out of the vacuum state. It is a matter of probability which we are in".

This is the sense of Hawking's word: he was trying to use more plain words, the Guardian not being a community of scientists but a newspaper for ordinary people. But of course, this may also have been a way to invite doubting believers into finding in the inaccurate words of Hawking a reason to abandon religion as the only plausible reason to justify existence.

The only answer I could propose to Hawking is this:
"If science is based on experimental proofs,
but the vacuum state is theoretical and cannot be experimentally achieved
within the boundaries of the universe, and we can't even verify the existence of our worlds without our universe, how can you misinform the readers by giving their truth as granted and scientific?". He would find no answer: no maths, no experiment, nothing at all can "prove" what cannot be proved by definition. Theory remains a theory.

There is just a final provocation to add. If all combinations are possible, then there must be an infinity of worlds where God is real. What makes you, my dear scientist, so sure this isn't one of them? LOL

Charles F

I was once a believer of Science until I grew up and discovered actual scientists. My parents raised me in the culture of science. I went to secular schools and stayed after school for science fairs. Our family even made regular pilgrimmages to observatories and museums. I still remember the joy my freshman biology professor had for his calling, and all those research assistants going around serving the world. Yeah I still have a positive reflection on a great many scientists.
However, Dr. Hawking's Science is just a little too vengeful and old testament for me. Surely Science, if it does exist and I often think it does, wouldn't be so vengeful. Seeking to separate, outcast and even systematically destroy groups of people? I don't recall the books of Pascal and Einstein saying any of that! Science would rather us pursue knowledge of It, encourage logically virtuous lives in accordance to Its rules, and serve to make the world better and in perfect union with It.
And the suggestion that Dr. Hawking makes that we should harness Science, control It and initiate his own vengeful interpretation of It for and against selected groups of people is so incredibly fascist of him. No, Dr. Hawking, I will not worship your Science.

Keith

I am just waiting for Dr. Hawkins to tell me - is the Mustang, the Camaro, or the Charger the hottest muscle car?? I think it is the Camaro, especially like the silver one they drive on Hawaii 5-0, but I really want to know what he thinks!!

It is hard to tell who to feel more sorrow for - those who seek out opinions in such odd places or Dr. H for his personal failings. May God have mercy on us all.

Laura

Alessandro, I enjoyed reading you post. Topical, logical, and charitable.

Best,

Jean

Alessandro, thank you for clarifying Dr. Hawking's position. Although the vacuum state is theory today, at some point it may become scientific fact. Even so, it would still fail to disprove the existence of God. All it provides is yet another materialistic mechanism for a materialistic origin, more highly refined than the last, but not as highly refined as the next one will be.

Edward Feser details the limitations of science as a means to understanding reality in The Last Superstition. He traces the source of scientism's serious logical errors to the abandonment of a full understanding of Aristotelian causality, which Feser explains using the example of a red ball. The ball’s material cause is just the stuff it is made from - rubber. Its formal cause is the form, structure or pattern that the rubber exhibits. This would include sphericity, solidity and bounciness. The efficient cause is what brought it into being - the actions of the workers and their machines in the factory. The final cause is its end, goal or purpose - to amuse a child (of any age!). Science as we know it has been defined by its practitioners as dealing only with material and efficient causes; it ignores formal and final causes. It thus cannot explain the nonmaterial world and thus has nothing to say about God or the spiritual life, which is above Science's pay grade.

Charles, I too grew up in a "culture of science" and agree with your take on science versus scientism. However, this secular scientific culture has been living on the capital of the Christian world from which it was born. Therefore, I worry about the phrase "logically virtuous lives" – which we know by experience ends up basically meaning whatever the strongest and most ruthless humans want it to mean.

Alessandro

A special thank for your appreciation to Jean an Laura.
To answer Jean's question:
I must tell that at present I don't see how the vacuum state may ever be proven. To achieve such a condition, in fact, we need a room of space to be entirely isolated from any other particle, which is materially impossible. There are at least trillion neutrines per squared centimeter- elementary particles with such a minimal mass that they can pass through solid matter such as entire planets, and travel slightly slower then the speed of light with just minimal interactions. And there are gravitons, the yet-unidentified particles which vehicle gravity and can interact even with light. These elementary particles fill every place in the universe and would disturb any attempt to reproduce the vacuum state *within* the universe. Also, I don't see how the vacuum state would solve all theoretical problems or rule out God's existence. For example:
(1) where does the vacuum state come from?
(2) If time - as scientists acknowledge - was born in the Big Bang event as one of its dimensions, then there was no time prior to the Big Bang, so how can fluctuations (which are a perpetual change in the state of matter, to tell it in simple words) occur without time?

Sincerely, I even came to the conclusion there's no ontological difference between God and the vacuum state, scientifically speaking. They are both infinite and timeless! The only difference is self-awareness, which is our reasonable explanation for Creation, while scientists can't explain why the vacuum began to spawn universes at a given instant before time existed (a contradiction, it seems!).

Hope this adds new "food" for our minds!

In Christ,

Alessandro

David K. Monroe

Perhaps Charles is being a little bit satirical, no?

john ignacio

hmm, I didn't read any of these that made much of any case for why Steven Hawking was incorrect in his assertions. Consider this...90 trillion non human organisms co-exist on the human body with an estimated 10X as many bacteria cells as human cells. Do you know yours? their type? Their exact numbers? Their cultures, beliefs, names? Do they know you? Are you their universe, their god? Is each human another universe to another enormous human microbiome? As far as we know, we're so advanced beyond single celled organisms that they could in no way conceive of our totality. Who then are we to conceive to totality of God? Who is man to anthropomorphize God? Do your bacteria conceive of you as an enormous grey bearded bacteria? What argument have any of you to make for why God could not be the purity of Physics that Steven conceives of him as? If Steven Hawking sounds foolish for speaking outside of his chosen discipline, then how do you think you sound for attempting to speak of him, or of science?

Jean

"Consider this...90 trillion non human organisms co-exist on the human body...As far as we know, we're so advanced beyond single celled organisms that they could in no way conceive of our totality."

You're right, John. I don't "know" the organisms that engulf my body, precisely because I'm not God even if they mistakenly think I am. I'm merely their home, their environment, their universe if you wish. For Christians, “God” is not the same as the universe. Pantheists may disagree.

"Who then are we to conceive to totality of God?"

I have a hunch Thomas Aquinas answered that for you 700 years ago. I wish I could tell you exactly where to find the answer among the thousands of pages Aquinas left for us to ponder. Of course, philosophy and theology being sciences in their own right, there are lots of other geniuses in these fields to consult and Ignatius Press is a great resource for those works.

"What argument have any of you to make for why God could not be the purity of Physics that Steven conceives of him as?"

I'm not a physicist and the events of billions of years ago are not very accessible to my puny brain, which prefers the simplicity of the here and now. I'm not a philosopher either and my clumsy effort will not satisfy your important question, but please consider this: At this very moment my fingers strike my keyboard and words appear on the screen. As I type, my stubby wrinkled digits exhibit potentiality only, they can't actualize themselves. They're dependent on the motions of my hand and arm muscles, which move because of the functioning of my nervous system, which depends on all sorts of simultaneous molecular events. These events depend on the atoms from which the molecules are composed along with gravity and the other forces of which Dr. Hawking knows infinitely more than I do. Each level in this moment is contingent on the next deeper level, yet the series is not infinite. At some point down the chain we come to something that is not potentiality needing to be actualized by something else. Philosophically this is referred to as Pure Actuality, eloquently described by Aquinas with no need for gray beards or thrones in the sky, even back in the 13th century. Some of us call this God and we have the audacity to talk to one another about it despite the limitations of human thought and language.

It's not about doubting the possibility that God is the "purity of physics"; it's about an unwillingness to limit God to being only that. Dr. Hawking is not attempting to conceive of God but of a physical process. It's not his fault that he's deified by people who fervently desire that the scientific creation story become the universal creed. It's kind of funny that while this story can undergo endless permutations, it always seems to end the same way - with scientists and bureaucrats as the self-appointed arbiters of absolute truth. Of course, it's not really a new story at all; you could say it's quite ancient.

"Who is man to anthropomorphize God?"

Give him a break, he's only human. He's comfortable speaking about reality and its mysteries in metaphors and analogies, sometimes poetically, sometimes not. Yes, it's ultimately self-centered. Thankfully God embraces our limitations and teaches us in parables - stories with analogies we can relate to. Only a literalist takes them literally.

"If Steven Hawking sounds foolish for speaking outside of his chosen discipline, then how do you think you sound for attempting to speak of him, or of science?"

While I cannot begin to imagine the joy and triumphs, much less the heartaches and longings that have shaped Dr. Hawking’s spiritual views, they are ultimately his personal opinions. Being a highly intelligent and fascinating public person, many people will take his opinions on both science and faith as authority, even when he knows no more - and perhaps much less - than the average Joe on the latter. When he speaks ignorantly and condescendingly of "fairy stories" and posits cowardice as a condition for religious belief, it's not surprising that believers react negatively. Fairly or not, Dr. Hawking's comments cause him to be lumped in with well-publicized atheist bullies who demand that the rest of us take sides in their personal rebellion against their childish straw god, the joke god pieced together from their distant memories of an incomplete catechesis.

In the interview, Dr. Hawking says, "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." The philosophic debate about the brain versus the mind has been ongoing for hundreds of years. The advent of computers has changed the terms of the debate and it’s far from over, but things aren’t looking good for the materialists at the moment.

As for belief in heaven, if you think about the ramifications, it’s far from comforting. I can see why some would prefer the eternal blue screen of death to being confronted with the face of eternal Love itself. Believer and nonbeliever alike face a great mystery. In the meantime, we have to deal with this world. Christ warned us that if we followed him, we would be hated. The peace of Christ on this earth is not for the faint of heart; ask the saints. Whether we speak of this world or the next, Christian beliefs hardly constitute "a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Alessandro

I greatly enjoyed Jean's latest post.
Nevertheless I would like to add some personal answer to John Ignacio.
"If Steven Hawking sounds foolish for speaking outside of his chosen discipline, then how do you think you sound for attempting to speak of him, or of science?"
I may answer there's no science at all we can contradict. I am perfectly in agreement with the major theories of the scientific community such as the Big Bang theory, general relativity and quantum physics. But Mr. Hawking is going far beyond the boundaries of true science when he offers disputable theories as if they were a paradigm of science.
When Christians are asked "Can you demonstrate there's a God out there?" we obviously say "No, of course. It's up to faith". But scientists won't admit their belief in an atheist beginning of the universe out of the vacuum state has no proof either. They will tell you it's obvious a God can't exist. While the rest of science relies on experimental demonstrations, the vacuum state can't be proven, for example.

Science is more complex as we can even imagine. A scientist observes some effect of the universe the current theories find it difficult to explain. Then he writes down a mathematical exposition of his conclusions. But that's not enough. The theory, in order to be proven, must give what we call "predictions". If these predictions are found to be experimentally proven, that's how the theory becomes a paradigm.

For example, Einstein's general relativity was able to explain the anomalous movement of planet Mercury, so that his theory was able to solve a problem Newton's gravity theory hadn't been able to. But that wasn't enough. Einstein's formulas predicted some effects such as the relation between energy and mass (E=m*c^2), the intimate dependence of time on speed gravity (the more the mass or the speed, the slower time flows), and the power of gravity under certain extreme conditions to bend light. Experiments were conducted and confirmed all his predictions. Two identical and synchronized clocks travelling on two planes at different speeds gave different times, as predicted; and the occultation of a star by a planet formed a ring of light around the planet which is the bent light of the occulted star. So, I can safely say general relativity is correct.

But how can we call "science" those theories Hawking proposes to rule out God's existence? We just can't - so Mr. Hawking isn't just making "bad philosophy" - he's making "bad science", which is of course a dangerous problem.

Also, he considers the soul as if it were a material entity, but that's not what we believe. No test will prove the existence of the soul. I remember a similar flow in another scientist, Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack, who once claimed (more or less) that she never found God in exploring the sky with a telescope. That's such a stupid statement I can't even stand it. God is outside of time and space. The soul is outside of the physical realm. This is the cold concept "everything is matter" which science has introduced in this world and which supports the current immoral system.

Jean is right in saying Christians react angrily at the accusations of Hawking et al. We do it because we are accused of what we never did.

May God help his family in defeating the cancer of bad science.

Keith

I won't add much to this discussion except to thank Alessandro, Jean, and some others to address these issues in a coherent manner. If anything professionally, I am a scientist - physics and astronomy were my game. But the shallow remarks of some scientists make me ashamed.

Loretta Shalosky

someone once said, "I'd rather believe in God and find out I was wrong than not believe and find out I was wrong". What a surprise awaits the non-believer!

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