Live-Blogging Curiosity, Hawking, and God

By Sean Carroll | August 7, 2011 12:43 pm

Tonight’s the premiere of Curiosity on the Discovery Channel, featuring Stephen Hawking talking about cosmology and God, followed by the “Curiosity Conversation” panel that I’m on along with David Gregory, Paul Davies, and John Haught. Hawking’s hour-long show is scheduled for 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific, and will then repeat 3 hours later (11E/8P). Our half-hour panel discussion follows immediately afterward — you do the arithmetic.

There’s a lot to say about these shows, and in particular there’s a huge amount that we didn’t have time to say during the panel. So as I sit in front of the TV, I’ll be live-blogging along by adding updates to this post. This will be the early show, so the fun will happen 8pm-9:30pm Eastern. Hey, Nathan Fillion live-tweets during Castle, so why not me? There is also a chat going on at the Discovery site.

The main attraction of Hawking’s program is not that he has disproven the existence of God. Certainly I don’t think he’s going to be changing the minds of many religious believers. His argument is essentially that the universe is self-contained, and doesn’t really have “room” for God (nor any need to invoke a creator). It’s very easy to wriggle free of that conclusion, if you are inclined not to accept it.

But “changing people’s minds” isn’t the only reason to talk about something, even about controversial issues. Religion, like sex and death, is one of those topics where it’s very difficult to simply have a dispassionate discussion without making people uncomfortable. It can happen within a group of similarly-minded people, of course, but once a wider range of views gets involved, it’s hard to maintain comity. (Comedy, on the other hand, is pretty easy.) I don’t mean everyone has to agree — just the opposite. We should be able to talk about things we completely disagree on, while still maintaining level heads.

That’s why I think this episode of Curiosity is potentially important. It’s a forthright statement of a view that doesn’t often get aired in American media. Even if nobody’s mind is changed, simply talking rationally about this issues would be a step forward.

Pre-show update: I should note ahead of time that I was not wearing a tie. Haught, Davies, and Gregory were all wearing ties. But Hawking wasn’t. Maybe atheists don’t wear ties? (Although I’m pretty sure Jesus never wore a tie, either.)

Start: We begin with a disclaimer! These are Stephen Hawking’s opinions, not those of Discovery. :)

4 minutes: I hope the analogy here is clear. “People who believe God made the universe are kind of like the Vikings shouting at the Sun to stop a solar eclipse.”

8 minutes: Snark aside, the message here is a fundamental one. Nature obeys laws! Something that’s certainly not a priori obvious or necessary, but a really profound truth.

14 minutes: I wasn’t able to find an independent confirmation of this story about Pope John XXI condemning the idea of “laws of nature.” (It’s true that he did die when the roof collapsed.) Presumably this refers to the Condemnations of 1277.

20 minutes: The universe is a big, messy, complicated, and occasionally quite intricate place. On the face of it, the idea that it’s all the working-out of some impersonal patterns of matter and energy, rather than being constructed by some kind of conscious intelligence, is pretty remarkable. (But true nonetheless.)

27 minutes: Hey, a tiny ad for Discovery Retreats!

28 minutes: Hawking says Einstein might be the greatest scientist ever. He has long favored Einstein over Newton, I’m not sure why. Hawking appeared on an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where he was a hologram playing poker with Einstein, Newton, and Data. He actually wrote the script, and Newton doesn’t come off well.

36 minutes: Ah, negative energy. Depends on what you mean by “energy,” but this isn’t the venue to get overly technical, obviously. Roughly, matter has positive energy and gravity has negative energy. That’s hopefully enough to help people swallow the crucial point: you can make a universe for nothing. There isn’t some fixed resource, out of which we can make a universe or two, before we hit Peak Universe. There can be an infinite number of universes.

41 minutes: People on Twitter are asking why Hawking doesn’t have a British accent. He easily could, of course; voice-synthesis technology has come quite a way since he first got the system. But he’s said that he now identifies with that voice he got years ago, and doesn’t want to change it; it’s identified with him.

47 minutes: Okay, here’s the payoff. He’s saying that generally we’re used to effects being caused by pre-existing events. (The first step toward a cosmological argument for God’s existence.) You might think that a chain of causation takes you back to the Big Bang, which then requires God as a cause. But no! The Big Bang can just … be.

50 minutes: The point of the black hole discussion is to get to the idea of a singularity, a conjectural point of infinite curvature and density. The Big Bang, in classical general relativity, is also a singular moment. But classical GR isn’t right. We need quantum gravity. Hawking believes that quantum gravity smooths the singularity and explains how there was no pre-existing time. (At least in the TV show, unlike A Brief History, he doesn’t start talking about “imaginary time.”)

56 minutes: Ultimately Hawking’s argument against God is pretty simplistic. He assumes that if God created the Big Bang, God must have existed before the Big Bang, but there was no “before the Big Bang,” QED. It’s easy enough to simply assert that God doesn’t exist “within time” (if that means anything). It would have been better (IMHO) to emphasize that modern cosmology has many good ideas about how the universe could have come to be, so there’s no need to rely on a divine creator.

58 minutes: Final thought from SWH: no life after death! Enjoy it while you’re around, folks. An important message.

Panel discussion starts: Forgot to mention that Paul Davies has shaved off his moustache. Disconcerting.

4 minutes: Also disconcerting: watching myself on TV. Hate it. But I persevere for the greater good.

5 minutes: Here’s Michio Kaku, not saying very much.

7 minutes: Jennifer Wiseman and I were actually grad students together! She’s good people, even if we disagree about the whole God thing.

9 minutes: I come out in favor of basing purpose and meaning on reality. But I’m pretty sure a longer remark was cut off there. Arrrrgh! Nothing nefarious, we intentionally recorded a bit more than they had time to show. But enormously frustrating that there was so little time.

13 minutes: Not sure why we kept talking about the multiverse. Hawking didn’t bring it up, did he?

17 minutes: I thought a lot of what Haught said was not even really trying to argue in favor of God’s existence, but simply expressing a desire that he exist. “God is the grounding of hope” isn’t evidence for God’s existence.

22 minutes: Haven’t said anything completely silly yet, so that’s good. But so little time…

27 minutes: Always time for more Michio!

30 minutes: Arrrrgh again, this time for real: in the live conversation, I had the last word and it was a pretty good one. In the televised program, not so much. Had to end wishy-washy.

Thanks for tuning in. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have the time for a real conversation? But big ups to Discovery for hosting the panel at all — it’s a rare event on TV.

  • Alan

    There was an interesting Discovery episode here about an eminent neurosurgeon’s NDE experience:

    http://science.discovery.com/videos/through-the-wormhole-2-near-death-experience.html

    and here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFvzHEepPQE&feature=related

    where he runs through his condition in detail saying his “entire neocortex, that part of the brain that makes us human, was completely shut down”.
    He also says that his experience during the coma could not have arisen from “laid down memories” in his brain.

    He’s writing a book on his experiences. I am honestly curious about trying to meld this kind of seemingly “evidential” experience with current physics – or is there any other possible physics that may be acceptable in some sense where this could work?

    If the universe can do this stuff where does this leave the God idea?

  • J

    Vikings analogy!? Come on. The question isn’t whether religious people sometimes (incorrectly) assign supernatural causes to natural events. The question is whether there are any supernatural events, by which I mean those not attributable to natural cause. Straw man.

  • David

    ” The universe is a big, messy, complicated, and occasionally quite intricate place. On the face of it, the idea that it’s all the working-out of some impersonal patterns of matter and energy, rather than being constructed by some kind of conscious intelligence, is pretty remarkable. (But true nonetheless.)”

    I’m curious as to how you can conclusively state that the universe is created from impersonal patterns of matter and energy rather than divine intelligence without proof? Is the demand for proof not the reason ID is constantly pooh poohed in our schools?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Science doesn’t prove or disprove anything. ID is pooh-poohed because it’s a crappy attempt at making religion look like science.

  • David

    Science so far is great at explaining a lot except the origin of man and the universe. This is looking like a crappy attempt at disparaging religion

  • Kenny

    David you’re right, the bible never says that the earth is the center of the universe. I think using the wrongful cunclusions of some historical religious leaders is self serving.

  • Matthew D.

    Sean, I missed the first 20 minutes of the show, don’t worry, I have it stored on my DVR. :) Thanks for the live updates.

  • Travis

    Science is actually pretty damn good at explaining the origin of man, evolution is one of the most solid theories in science backed up with mounds of evidence that if people actually thought with logic and reason they would easily see how it makes sense, much more than any type of supernatural explanations.

  • Shara

    I adore this show, and just about most of the stuff that has been put out by the science community really challenging everyday thought… (Now, if you’d kindly get the politicians thinking more, we’d be quite grateful…)

    As I watch this, among the other shows I’ve watched, I have to say, isn’t science a kind of faith in itself?

    There’s a good deal of things we, as the public, have explained to us and told ‘no, really, it happened. Believe me!’ Some explanations in Quantum Physics, black holes, x rays, dark matter, etc have an almost supernatural flavour to them. (especially to those of us without high powered telescopes or major fusion reactors) I’m an oddity, I suppose, in believing faith and science are not things wholly mutually exclusive. Discovery, exploration, expanding how we perceive our world…well..we’ve progressed beyond the use of ‘awareness enhancers’ to do that. (A form of evolution, maybe? ~^_^~)

    There are so many things in this world, and universe, even Hawking can’t fully explain beyond theories.. Stuff we may never answer. (but damn well keep trying!) The us/them mentality between science and religion I find ridiculous, non-productive and hindering to everyone…Especially when both demand a certain degree of ‘faith’ on the part of man. For me, I’ll keep my contented marriage of both, neither based in church or scientist, but my own discovery and reason.

  • bigjohn756

    Unfortunately, the disclaimer probably scared away those who most needed to watch it.

  • Kenny

    I feel sorry for Stephen, because without god, he has no hope. and he’s happy about it.

  • http://yahoo.com Toms

    Finally I don’t feel alone in my view, Ther is no God! Bravest man I know, Hawking is the only hero I know.

  • http://songe.me Alex

    #8, Shara: Science is a set of self-correcting methods and institutions that works to create understanding about the world. A theory is an explanatory framework. The accuracy of a theory is determined by taking the predictions it makes and testing them against the reality observed by observers. This war between the “dreamers” (it does take some degree of creativity, as well as a strong grounding in what is known already) and the “reality checkers” in the scientific community who go in and see if things actually match up. Richard Feynman once said “What I do is imagine things…but I am in a straightjacket. I am constrained by the physical laws which are already established unless I can replace them with something better.”

    The truth of science depends on rigid self-criticism (in the scientist, in the communities, and in the methodology). Not many other system of ideas really requires that kind of checking (mathematics? some branches of philosophy?).

  • Ann

    I feel sorry for Kenny, because he thinks life isn’t worthwhile without false hope, and he’s baffled by the millions of people who are happy without it.

  • https://plus.google.com/102768083585202575587/about Ankush

    It’s the good ole faith vs empiricism panel discussion. Or at least that’s how these discussions usually boil down.

  • http://www.mattmontag.com Matt M

    Haha @ comments on Michio.

  • Michael

    Shara, it’s not an us vs them mentality it’s a this vs that mentality. Science provides evidence for its claims, religion doesn’t. Scientists, or anyone thinking scientifically, form their opinions based on individual facts, discoveries and data which often aren’t very exciting on their own. Science forms conclusions reluctantly and with caveats. Religion, on the other hand, espouses beliefs and conclusions before the facts are in, and often directly in the face of them once they are revealed. There is a very real conflict between the religious and scientific worldviews, and the claims each makes. If it were a matter of faith scientists would never change their minds web confronted with new facts, or try so hard to confirm what they think is probably true. Religion just assumes it got it right the first time. That’s faith.

  • jarod

    on the ‘hill and hole’ analogy, does this imply the existance of a negitive universe? if so can we visit it? i belive it exists but we cannot go from hill to hole.

  • Pingback: Live-Blogging Curiosity | Pharyngula()

  • Adam

    How come SH went through the whole Kalam argument without actually naming it?

  • Kevin

    If you think God has no influence on the workings of the universe, then “Go nuts,” says Sean. FANTASTIC.

  • Krysta

    god should be removed from scientific thought, god prohibits people from asking questions it lets people think they have all the answers which no one dose science asks questions and comes up with theory’s that could possibly answer these questions but there is never a definite answer because we can not prove it. I am an atheist but i have no problem with religious people i just simply believe they should not take part in science and if they do to simply put god aside while working in science.

  • David

    I have such a conflict on this question. To say that the universe was created from ‘nothing’ just doesn’t work for me. But let’s look at it the other way. The universe as we know it today is big, really big, ok, it’s universal. What’s beyond it? That’s the conumdrum, and ‘nothing’ doesn’t work, because ‘nothing’ in this example is ‘something’… So what’s beyond the ‘nothing’? Same question about the theory about the creation of the universe from ‘nothing’. Ok, so there was nothing around the big bang, but was was beyond, or outside the nothing?

  • Cherie

    I here a lot of “if”statements. My question to Hawking is if you are going to displace God as thee ultimatebcreator based on your”ScientificTheory” then how do you explain the biology make up of the human body. We are created in the image of our divine maker “God”. The human body is the most incredible make up of any intellectual invention. There is Nothing in the world today that is created or invented that does not mock some part of the human body functions. Are you saying that the design of the human body was created out of Nothing? It has a very large purpose… Your machine that helps you speak through your mind was created based on the very human body that you sit in, which was created by God. I agree with some of the other statements on this blog. I feel heartache for Hawkings, that he can not get past himself to have any hope or purpose in life. If he fully believes that there is not a divine creator then why does he care to share his theories, after all he has no purpose, right. I will be praying for him.

  • http://people.uncw.edu/hermanr Russ

    It is difficult for people to understand the physics background without understanding 4000 years of physics and mathematics. Physicists have a view and working model of the universe which does not need the assumption of a god.

  • Preston

    Sean, thanks for doing the live blog. I really liked your supplemental explanations.

    The chat/twitter feed wasn’t so good.

  • Shara

    (To everyone talking to me…I’m distracted, forgive.) Yes, but there isn’t much difference between papal ‘fact checkers’ and scientific ‘fact checkers’. Either way, it still demands the individual suspend their own ability to witness and simply -believe-. (Which…is basically ‘faith’)

    Theories, laws, bible verses all have a singular commonality, they are all written by the hand of men, and are words on paper to the average person. (Excluding in the cases where the proof is able to be demonstrated…thank goodness for telescopes appropriately priced for the every day household. Now, if they were as common as bibles…) I never accused the scientific community of the us/them mentality, though, I see it often, especially in atheistic circles. (Granted, more often in ‘religious’ groups…but they outnumber atheists by a bunch.) In any organization based in placing your belief in something you will have your extremist/jerks delighting in simply putting or shutting down anyone with an opposing view…It doesn’t make any one view more or less right, just that individual into a schmuck. (it’s a scientific term..I’m sure >.>;)

    Your average cosmologist probably doesn’t have the full conception on how cardiology works, however, when they’re wheeled into the operating room, they place their faith on those studied in that science to ensure their heart keeps beating!~^_^~ (And even use methods that don’t have 100% survival rates..which would make them theoretically accurate in most situations …but not fully accurate in the reality observed. ~^_^~)

    I don’t think the supernatural/deified beings are disproven per se in this production. So many questions are left behind in it’s wake, so much room for more. (because THAT’s what more means!) I hope that’s exactly what we get…and hopefully more watching.

  • Joe

    Sean, you were great. Thanks for the live updates.

  • John

    Poor Stephen Hawking. Would somebody please tell him that he is over 2000 years behind the times? He thinks that the universe could have created itself, which in itself is an illogical statement. He says that God couldn’t have created the universe, because the pre-existent universe was a black hole, in which time does not exist. Problem is, theologians have known for thousands of years that God exists outside of space and time. God Himself says “I Am the Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and The End.” Hawking only manages to cling to his belief by imagining a puny caricature of a tiny little god that Hawking himself created. What a disappointment. I had hoped a scientist of his stature could come up with something better than mere bubble-gum science. This video gets a big, hairy, cosmic two thumbs down.

  • Jb

    So the big bang created the universe in 0 days

  • Ann

    If Cherie thinks the human body is an incredible design created by an intelligent God, apparently she hasn’t studied the myriad ways it is unnecessarily kludge-filled and defect-prone.

    And since she’s then repeating Kenny’s “Hawking has no hope/purpose” nonsense, I’ll reiterate my response to that:
    I feel sorry for Cherie, because she thinks life isn’t worthwhile without false hope, and she’s baffled by the millions of people who are happy without it. Including Hawking, whose life has a massive amount more purpose than most people.

  • Ann

    John wrote, “God Himself says ‘I Am the Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and The End.’ ”

    To be precise, old human writings claim that one version of the god concept said that.

  • http://mobilewiseguy.com Curtis Matthews

    I like that Mr. Hawkins views on the creation of the Universe was televised and everyone has the ability to debate the existance of a god or not. I am a man of science and I can’t say Mr. Hawkins is completely right about everything but its still better than blind faith.

  • Lagerbaer

    @Sarah

    Yes, theories are written down by the hand of men and women, and so is the Bible and everything else. The big difference is this: Scientists don’t care for dogma, tradition or authority. Einstein was right about some things and wrong about other things and scientists today have no problem accepting the things he was right about and rejecting the things he was wrong about.

    You are right that the average person cannot really go about and rederive all theoretical results and repeat all experiments to demonstrate effects. But the thing is that you don’t have to trust a single authoritative figure. If you believe that quantum mechanics is true, you are putting your trust in literally every single physicist on this planet. Throught the process of peer review, you have thousands of people checking each others’ works . You simply don’t get this scrutiny with religion.

  • Paul

    There are so many questions yet to be answered, Stephen Hawking.’s perspective is scientifically disappointing. Explaining entangled photons is just one baffling minor question that comes to mind.

    To me the ancient Greeks had it right “In God we live and move and have our being.”* It’s kind of like a fish at the bottom of the ocean searching to find the ocean – with it’s limited perspective it will never find it, while the entire time it was swimming in it.

    * St Paul borrowed the idea.

  • Travis

    Hawking is 2000 years behind the times? I forgot that we still have slavery, kill people for being gay, committing adultery and for having sex before marriage. I can’t believe women actually hold jobs these days considering God himself made them inferior to men. You get all of your “Evidence” for your belief from a book written 2000 years ago that has absolutely no evidence to back it up except for eye witness accounts which is also the best evidence for bigfoot, the lochness monster and whatever other imaginary creature out there. Science is the quest for truth and knowledge and everything that is accepted in the scientific community is backed up by scientific evidence not some supernatural fairy tails.

  • Rob

    Shara,
    I think you are missing a very important point. Scientists can show you (and teach you) how they come to their conclusions. They are rarely included in shows like this because the vast majority of the viewing audience cannot understand the mathematics involved. Still, there is no need to just “take it on faith”. There is nothing stopping you from continuing your education, and knowing what they know, learning what they have learned, and doing the work yourself. No faith is required.
    Theologians cannot “show their work”, and therefore demand that you “take it on faith.”

  • David

    I think the big problem is that those who believe in the “god” of science leave no room for religious faith while those who worship the set of rules called religion (not as a relationship or personal faith) assume that belief in science is of the devil.

    Why is it harder to believe that God could have created the earth and built into it the natural laws that guide its function? Travis talked about evolution explaining the origin of man, but can Travis tell us that man indeed is a random product of a primordial soup? How was RNA or DNA made? How did random chance create such a finely tuned machine as the cell?

  • David

    Where does Travis get his own evidence from? For example can someone explain to me why science created man from primordial soup billions of years ago but has had serious issues creating just about anything else? Where are the transitional organisms the earth is still creating or did it just stop at us?

    Why was the earth chosen?

  • Mastershake

    @paul
    So basically wut ur sayin is that we shouldbt search 4 the truth that humans throughout time have questiones

  • http://theamericanheathen.com RJ Evans

    Sean,

    You NEED your own show! If you can’t get one on TV, then consider being a co-host on my show American Heathen®. It doesn’t pay anything (I don’t even make any money for it) but it is once a week for three hours on internet radio. No holds barred, let it rip! :-)
    Excellent job on your part!

    RJ Evans
    ShockNetRadio.com
    TheAmericanHeathen.com
    AmericanHeathen.net

  • Mastershake

    @david
    Theology doesnt answer any of the questions u proposed

  • fred

    Hawking’s assertions are based on reasonable, if amazingly complex, mathematics. It is absolutely necessary to have a fundamental understanding of quantum physics and general relativity to comprehend the logic of his position. To those of us who have this understanding, his assertion is logical, reasonable, and makes good sense.

    Now for the bad news; this is the United States. We produce lawyers and pharmacists, not physicists and mathematicians. The vast majority of our citizens, including those with degrees, have no understanding at all of wave mechanics. It simply cannot be broken down into lay terms for the masses. Therefore, only a tiny population has the knowledge to truly see Hawking’s position.

    “God did it,” on the other hand, requires no knowledge whatsoever. It’s much easier than learning higher mathematics. That’s why it’s so widely-accepted…it’s just easier…

    Show me somebody who understands exactly what the shape of an electron orbital represents, and I’ll show you somebody who can understand Hawking’s reasoning. Otherwise, give them a nice, simple, easy-to-understand sound bite.

  • Rob

    David,
    The answers to your questions do exist. The fact that you are even asking them shows you have no clue. But in order to get fully accurate answers, you should ask a biologist, read a book written by one, or better yet, go to school. You may be surprised at how much there is for you to learn.

  • Travis

    If you want evidence go to http://talkorigins.org/ everything on the site is backed up by peer reviewed scientific journals and it will most likely answer your questions.

  • Joey Young

    I fear Dr. Hawking, although he is apparently brilliant, is unfortunately misled or misinformed. By that, I mean that Dr. Hawking hasn’t taken the question beyond the “black hole”. Okay, time doesn’t exist in the “black hole”. Why is that? And, how did we get the “black hole” and the “laws of nature” to begin with? These haven’t been addressed.

    I’m certainly not an intellectual; but I embrace the simplicity that God IS the everything, and the nothing! Dr. Hawking hasn’t grasped the concept beyond energy, space, time.

    Dr. Hawking, there is time to take it further. Don’t you believe there is a reason for your existence? If not, I’m praying for wisdom for you. You have intellect but lack that wisdom!

  • Shara

    Lagerbaer -> Having or not no ‘singular authority’ isn’t 100% accurate in either religion or science. How many religions are there with conflicts of thought, and how many without a central figurehead? (Buddhism, pagantastic faiths, some varieties of Christianity, Hindu all come to mind..I think you have specifically Catholicism in mind…it’s not the end all be all faith, nor was it ever the sole faith of the world…pretty cool idea to conquer a good chunk of it, though!) Likewise, with science, there ARE ‘central authorities’ such as in certain countries that limit and even exclude some branches of science, reports. As well, even in universities, labs, hospitals, etc, there are persons ‘of authority’ who can, and will, exclude and edit information. Neither is perfect, just one has has a heck of a lot more time to repress the other and make even more glaring (read ‘stupid’) mistakes.

    Rob – One word answer. Money.

    Believe me, I, for one, would absolutely adore to expand my education and study the sciences… But let’s face facts, such education comes at a cost, and the majority of this planet is in the ‘poor’ range. If the majority of finances were not in the hands of a small percentage of the population, or scientists/doctors/etc were willing to share their knowledge for nothing, (Obviously to the right people ~^_^~) ,maybe the ignorant masses wouldn’t be so ignorant, nor logical, simple and smart solutions to avoid global disaster so difficult to pass through the higher offices of the world’s countries….

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @Cherie #22. I could think of something that you’d think is more incredible than the human body… God. So, by your logic, you must also think that someone as incredible as God couldn’t possibly have just come out of nothing. If you call on God, then what created God? The argument of “God is timeless” is cop-out (unless you’ve got mathematical evidence for it that is as valid as Hawkins’ evidence for his theory).

    This argument is moot though, whether there is a being outside the universe that created the universe has no bearing on the magic that most religious people in the world believe in and the arbitrary rules that they follow.

  • Chuck Doswell

    I now understand why Discovery had the ‘courage’ to air this program – because they were going to give ‘equal time’ in the discussion to those who indulge in religious apologetics! There should be opportunities given for scientists to offer different opinions about TV programs on ‘science’ shows concerning the bible, UFOs, etc. But no … only when we take on the the christian majority is it necessary to give ‘equal time’ for them to offer their handwaving ‘explanations’. In science, it was noted right away on the ‘discussion’ that in science there is no ‘final answer’ – there is no dogma or gospel according to Stephen Hawking. There are no arguments by authority! Science operates very differently from believer apologists, who continue to try to find gaps in the science so their mythical deity actually has a role to play.

  • David

    @ Rob, no need to get smug. I’m sorry but science still has no answers to those questions. The typical arrogant “get a biology textbook” is what i get from proponents of evolution. If science had the answer to those questions we wont be watching a documentary by Stephen Hawking today, it would be common knowledge just the same way we don’t need documentaries to explain gravity . . . its in every physics textbook.

    Travis, i’ve been to talkorigins before, its like me telling you to grab a bible to understand ID. Much of what is on that site is bogus, if they were scientific FACT, there would be no need for the site. Is there a site quarelling over the issue of energy transfer?

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    “And, how did we get the “black hole” and the “laws of nature” to begin with? These haven’t been addressed.”

    Uhh… read a physics book, there’s actual evidence for what he bases his theories on (as opposed to your idea of “God is everything”).

  • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

    Bottom line is that science is actively trying to answer questions that don’t yet have answers. And if there isn’t an answer, please have the intellectual integrity to simply say, “I don’t know,” instead of shoving God in as if that answered anything. Religion has not added to the field of human knowledge but has merely provided comfort to those too insecure with gaps in their own understanding. I would have hoped we as a society would have gotten past the God-of-the-gaps but apparently it’s alive [sic] and well.

  • David

    Since Rob says the answers to my questions exist, i would ask him to kindly explain to us how a primordial soup created the early amino acids and then double helix DNA and WHY we havent used this technology to create more at the bench.

  • john

    It’s too bad this discussion has become a platform for voicing the same old hackneyed creationist arguments, such as “life must have a divine purpose” and “biological entities are perfect, so God did it.” I’d rather live in Hawking’s world of humanist optimism than in one where life’s purpose is constrained by a belief that every question has only one (metaphysical) answer.

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @Dave: “we don’t need documentaries to explain gravity . . . its in every physics textbook.”

    No it’s not. Gravity is much more complicated than what your everyday physics textbook says. By your logic, if God was the answer to everything, we wouldn’t have missionaries going around the world converting people or people of different religions.

  • Anon

    “Religion, on the other hand, espouses beliefs and conclusions before the facts are in ….”

    Unlike Hawking in this case? Where is the proof, when did the “facts come in” that conclusively show that the way that Hawking believes the universe started is actually the way it went? I mean, gee, it’s not like scientists—event brilliant ones—have ever been wrong, eh?

    @Sean: “It would have been better (IMHO) to emphasize that modern cosmology has many good ideas about how the universe could have come to be, so there’s no need to rely on a divine creator.”

    I agree w/this. But even though cosmology has many good ideas (or hypotheses) about how the universe *might* have come into existence, I think it’s a little premature to assert, “Science/Cosmology has proven that God does not exist.” Statements like these only dilute the impression that the average Joe has about the power of science and the scientific method to arrive at truth.

    I am not a religious person, but I have always thought that if God did exist, she would certainly exist outside of space and time as we know it. Whether God intervenes in the world … for that I’ve seen no real evidence, so I’m skeptical. Then again, I’m also skeptical about string theory (even though some of my best friends are string theorists!), so there you go.

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @David “WHY we havent used this technology to create more at the bench.”

    We have created early amino acids from inorganic matter (in fact, they’ve found it in deep space) and if we had billions of years, I’m sure we’d be making the double helix from a primordial soup.

  • David

    mxh, but my physics textbook hasnt told me yet how random chance created gravity. I understand your need to indulge in your blind faith in science but it would be best if you didnt pooh pooh the beliefs of others.

  • mastershake

    @david
    does the bible even mention gravity??

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    “I mean, gee, it’s not like scientists—event brilliant ones—have ever been wrong, eh?”

    He’s got evidence, but I”m sure he’d accept being wrong if any convincing contrary evidence is presented. Religious people, on the other hand, have never been wrong, right?

  • David

    @ mxh, if you are talking about the Miller-Urey experiment then i suggest you do realise that was a joke of an experiment right? Of course under the right (extreme) conditions we are able to generate the most basic of amino acids in the d-form which is practically useless for human existence.

    Are you suggesting that somehow by chance, nature figured out everything from amino acids to DNA, installed it just right despite the fact that a tiny change in the cell’s function is enough to doom an entire organism.

    wow. Nature must be such a remarkable statistician.

  • David

    @ mastershake, i in no way suggest the bible explains science.

  • Rob

    Shara,
    I totally understand about the money, but education does not have to be from a formal classroom setting. This is the internet. All you need is desire to learn, and time.
    But that isn’t even really my point. My point was, there is no faith in understanding scientific explanations. If you were to ask “How do you know that?”, a scientist can give you an answer. A theologian will only have clever rhetoric (at best). No faith.

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    “blind faith” in science? What does that even mean? Just because science hasn’t explained it in complete detail doesn’t mean that I should instead believe in a magical sky being creating gravity.

  • fred

    @David, that’s because your physics textbook is probably a high school or college freshman introductory text. You need to learn all of that. Then, enroll at a local university and take Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, Calculus IV, an introductory modern physics course (probably 300 level) that includes Special Relativity, the Standard Model, and introductory quantum theory. Now you need only to dive head first into quantum theory and General Relativity. That’s going to be at least a couple of classes for each.

    Now you’ve finally arrived at a place where you will see how random chance can create gravity. I know it’s not as easy as “God did it,” but some of the best things are the hardest to achieve!

  • David

    Thanks Fred, i prefer biology to math.
    Spent 5 years at the bench, i kept wondering why we couldnt create amino acids ourselves. Very frustrating . . . considering nature is alleged to have done this spontaneously.

    I guess i’m left with God did it. Fine.

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @ David “Are you suggesting that somehow by chance, nature figured out everything from amino acids to DNA, installed it just right despite the fact that a tiny change in the cell’s function is enough to doom an entire organism.

    wow. Nature must be such a remarkable statistician.”

    Nope, just billions of tries at something that has a really, really low probability. There are billions of planets where it didn’t happen. We just happen to live on one where it did happen. There are also lots of things wrong with cell function and the human body. It’s not “just right”.

  • ThinkAboutIt

    Even if you believe time stops in a black hole (where’s the evidence?), how does that prove there was no time before the Big Bang? How does the “evidence” presented in the program preclude a “Big Crunch” type event that happened prior to the Big Bang?

  • Boleria

    Stephen Hawking talks about time not existing prior to the big bang and on this and a few things him and i disagree dont get me wrong hes a brilliant guy but i personally believe that time in the sense of the universe’s life cycle did not start at the big bang, i do not believe in a beggining of time time by nature is linear. Even if at one point all matter contained within the universe was a single black hole (in which time would be stopped or slowed incomprehensively) time in a linear sense is not eliminated just halted. Causality says that if this was not the beggining of time something caused the universe to exist in this state, some would say this is god and in a way i would be inclined to agree because i believe the universe created itself. To explain this i look to everthing else i can see within the universe as it exists now and the laws of nature science has come to love. I think the answer lies in what i believe is a law of nature, the cycle of “Life” and “Death” creation and destruction that govern the laws of physics. The energy of the big bang perpetually pushes all matter outward from the universe but gravity in its ultimate form combined with massive amounts of matter will eventually pull the universe back together. Near its end the universe would be filled with massive black holes pulling eachother back together until at some point there is too much matter (perhaps a point that still hasnt swallowed all the matter in the universe) the black hole reaches a point of critical mass or swallows absolutely all matter in the universe and takes eons do die in spectacular fashion. This phenomena is the big bang, the most powerful explosion capable within the laws of physics. I believe time is linear and the universe exists in cycles, if there is a god, a being who is all and created the universe he is by very definition the universe itself. Im not asking you to agree with me im just on half a rant decide for yourselves if you have any serious questions drop me a line at

    boleriataashar@hotmail.com

  • Rob

    David says: “my physics textbook hasnt told me yet how random chance created gravity.”

    Who says it has to be random?.Gravity is one of the 4 fundamental forces of our universe. It’s parameters were determined at the Big bang. Not necessarily randomly. But if you were really interested in knowing this, you would.

  • fred

    @David: Biology is tolerable, if you like the bulk of your work to be the cold, scary kind of work that’s devoid of comforting mathematics. At least, if you have learned biology, we can agree that evolution by natural selection beautifully accounts for the amazing variety of life on our planet, right?

  • Shara

    Rob ->*chuckle* Even the internet is littered with large question marks on the basis in fact…Though you can usually tell.

    There is still some degree of faith in science, it’s been wrong before. Sometimes, as well, some scientific explanations either boggle the brain, (see the mathematical ‘explanations’ that take up whole chalk boards.. Just thinking about them causes me brief moments of ‘boggling’..) or are ‘theories’. (Nobody, for example was personally around to witness the Big Bang or spontaneous formulation of life. It doesn’t exclude it from happening, but it certainly blurs both details and subtleties that may seem meaningless but may have tons to do with our universe today.) All in all, it comes out sounding like ‘colourful rhetoric’…

    My position is even now we don’t have all the answers, why eliminate any possibilities when all possibilities are possible? (With the exclusion of my spontaneously winning the lotto tonight…There’s neither a draw nor do I have a ticket ~^_^~)

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @65: It’s hard to provide the evidence you ask for in a one-hour TV show. There is evidence for it. Things like GPS wouldn’t work if engineers didn’t take the same idea into account.

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @Boleria “Near its end the universe would be filled with massive black holes pulling eachother back together until at some point there is too much matter”

    Nope, Steven Hawkins has shown that black holes actually lose energy and dissipate over time (look up Hawkins radiation).

  • Anon

    @mxh: “Religious people, on the other hand, have never been wrong, right?” Of course they have – when did I ever claim the opposite?! mxh, are you trying desperately to shove me into the science vs. religion box?

    As for Hawking’s “evidence,” what, exactly, are you referring to? I am a physicist, so no need to hold back on the technicalities! :-)

    Really, my larger point is simply this: the way that Hawking’s argument for the non-existence of God came across on this show (time did not exist before the Big Bang, so God could not have existed) was so simplistic that I think it did more harm than good, in the sense of bringing in people who are not firmly in one camp or another. As a scientist and astrophysicist, I’m embarrassed that this is they way my profession was portrayed. Really, I can’t wait for next week’s show on our readiness for alien attacks.

  • mastershake

    nature definitely depends on random variables, w/o an astroid randomly crashing into our planet and wiping out the dinos, mammals would have never inherited the world and humans wouldn’t exist

  • Pingback: The SAC Blog » Blog Archive » Curiosity on Discovery: Did God Create the Universe? w/ Stephen Hawking()

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @Anon, I’m not defending Hawkins theories… I’m not a physicist. I am arguing against people who dismiss any evidence from science that goes against their religious views. They find something that a theory can’t explain and instead of working to try to find that answer, they just fall back to “God did it.” It’s a shame. Even if Hawkins isn’t right about his theory, his point that you don’t need a supernatural being to explain nature comes across pretty well.

    … and, unfortunately, the ad for next week’s show makes it pretty unlikely that I”ll be watching this show much in the future.

  • Rob

    “There is still some degree of faith in science, it’s been wrong before.”
    Even when it’s wrong, it still still has the best explanation, given all the available evidence.
    And who figures out that it’s wrong? Scientists.
    How do they figure out that it’s wrong? By discovering new evidence.
    What happens when they know it’s wrong? Old theories are replaced with updated, more accurate theories that best explain that new evidence, as well as ALL the old evidence.
    No faith anywhere.

  • Boleria

    @mxh

    Yes Black holes irradiate and eventually die but hawking also proved it takesup to many times the universe’s current age for this to happen and what happens then? what if matter continues to enter the black hole and increase its gravitational field and mass? is there a point in the mass of a black hole where even the X-rays and other small bits of matter that decay cannot escape? If there is then eventually this would create a situation where a black hole can explode. at what point this critical mass is if it exists would help us greatly understand the phenomena of black holes and the big bang

  • Cherie

    Guardian.co.uk has a statement from Hawkins himself saying that “it would be an ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God” based on if scientist developed a theory of everything. Why is he trying to disprove a God that does not exist if he wants to know the mind of God. Why does anyone try to disprove anything that they do not believe in. Is it not a waste of your own time and effort if you don’t believe in it anyway. I do believe in science and it’s actual evidence. But when it comes from theory, that is all it is Theory…

  • Anon

    @mxh: “I am arguing against people who dismiss any evidence from science that goes against their religious views….”

    Then that would preclude me – which you would have realized if you’d actually bothered to fully read my first comment and think about it for more than 2 secs.

    “Even if Hawkins isn’t right about his theory, his point that you don’t need a supernatural being to explain nature comes across pretty well.”

    I disagree. “You don’t need a supernatural being to explain nature” is *not* the same thing as “Science has proven that God does not exist.” I think that both Hawking and Discover miss the mark by presenting it like this.

  • Shara

    <3 Rob

    You have to have faith! To believe that there's dark matter, you have to believe the guy before you is right about his facts!

    There's large gaps in explaining things on both the micro and macroscale. If you think of ideas and sciences as sheets of cloth in a blanket idea to explain everything, you have to have faith that they are strong enough, if even there, when you sew your science between them to make your quilt. Sometimes those bits of cloth are great cloth, firm and perfect for the square they're in…sometimes they fray, or the piece goes missing, so you have to find another chunk…And sometimes you don't know until you hold up the whole thing it's falling apart.

    I feel that those in both the religious and science communities, there are people willing to leave squares that are falling apart, fraying, or even missing and unwilling to look into the other (ideas) chunks of cloth that will work far better because it disagrees with their personal idea of what the blanket out to look like. (Hawking likes to use analogies, so can I!) Both sides of the argument are guilty, and I feel that the absolute discarding of anything beyond what we can 'see for ourselves' is very similar. In order to deliberately discard ideas is, in itself, an act of faith.. (or maybe anti-faith…Like the hill and the hole, eh? ~^_^~)

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    @ Boleria, from what I understand, at the rate the Universe is expanding, gravity can’t bring everything in the universe together. I don’t think Hawking radiation (yikes! I’ve gotta get to sleep, I’ve spelled his name wrong like twenty times so far) is x-rays and “bits of matter that decay” escaping. I think it has to do with spontaneous creation of particles and antiparticles near the black hole. I’ll have to look it up.

  • Chris

    @DiscoveryChannel, we don’t want your one-sided biased opinions. Keep them to yourselves and stop trying to brainwash the World with your nonsense!

  • http://irrelevantprocess.blogspot.com mxh

    OK, Anon, you got me. Reading your first post makes more sense (sorry, I was on a roll with the responses). I’m only against people assuming that God exists because science can’t explain everything. I haven’t studied cosmology and can’t really comment too much on who’s theory on the origin of the Universe is more correct (all I know is that they’re all based on some evidence, so they’re all more correct than “God did it”).

  • Rob

    “You have to have faith! To believe that there’s dark matter, you have to believe the guy before you is right about his facts! ”

    But I’m not going to believe him just because he says so. He has to be able to demonstrate how he has come to that conclusion. And then other experts in his field have to review his data, and reach the same conclusions. Only then will I start to think he might be on to something. No faith.

  • Shara

    Anyway, tis late in the far east coast of Canada…Thanks, folks for the discussion but the bed beckons…

    I hope those thinkers and movers out there reading keep pushing us to ask questions! Your work helps make the future look brighter …for all of us! ~^_^~

  • andyo

    Anon #79

    “You don’t need a supernatural being to explain nature” is *not* the same thing as “Science has proven that God does not exist.” I think that both Hawking and Discover miss the mark by presenting it like this.

    So what would this god that is not needed to explain nature actually do? How is a god that doesn’t intervene in nature distinguishable from no god?

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Huh, I didn’t know that Hawking had wrote the script to that seen in Star Trek. That’s slightly surprising especially given that Hawking turns out to win at the end which makes it seem a lot more self-aggrandizing but still highly amusing. (And I suppose when you’ve accomplished that much it is ok to portray yourself as winning a card game against Einstein and Newton).

  • andyo

    Cherie #78

    Guardian.co.uk has a statement from Hawkins himself saying that “it would be an ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God” based on if scientist developed a theory of everything. Why is he trying to disprove a God that does not exist if he wants to know the mind of God. Why does anyone try to disprove anything that they do not believe in. Is it not a waste of your own time and effort if you don’t believe in it anyway.

    The “mind of God” phrase from Hawking has been misinterpreted for decades now. AFAIK he mentioned it in ’88 in A Brief History of Time first, if not before. It’s not a new statement, and if you read the book, it’s clear that it’s an allusion of Einstein’s own mentions of “god”, which is not a personal god.

    The god that he’s disproving is one that meddles with nature in any way, such a personal god that cares for us and listens to prayers, and makes miracles. Even one that doesn’t do that, but jump-started evolution would fall in that category.

    I do believe in science and it’s actual evidence. But when it comes from theory, that is all it is Theory…

    Then you should read more science and inform yourself what “theory” in science actually means.

  • Rob

    I feel sorry for Stephen Hawking. He’s just relying on his unproven assumption that the Viking Wolf-god was not really eating the sun. How sad for him to have no hope that yelling at it will bring the sun back. I will pray for him that he might gain some wisdom.

  • http://naturalpatterns.net Eric_of_Manchester

    Paul Davies made a comment concerning where the laws of nature came from. He also mentioned the internal order of the universe. These are important things to consider because they point to the existence of Mind. In other words highly ordered entities suppose the existence of an intelligent being.

    One aspect that was not brought up was the nature of time. It would seem that Dr. Hawking is assuming that there is only one type of time. In other words we may grant that time is gradient meaning that there are areas of the universe that contain a higher ‘density’ of space/time than others. However, we have not proven, I don’t think, that there is only one type of time. There are different types of matter and energy. Why should we assume there is only one type of time?
    Looking at the quantum side of things we see particles violating times’ arrow, no?

    The time that we normally perceive is thru the lens of events. Past the event horizon, we must either say there is no time or there is a different type of time at work here.

    Is it possible that there are two types of time, one where events occur and another where the present laws of nature exist; i.e., a present time?

    Just thinking out loud.

    Kind Regards…

  • amphiox

    if you are talking about the Miller-Urey experiment then i suggest you do realise that was a joke of an experiment right? Of course under the right (extreme) conditions we are able to generate the most basic of amino acids in the d-form which is practically useless for human existence.

    David, first of all, the Miller-Urey experiment was most certain NOT a “joke” experiment. You are parroting a standard creationist falsehood here.

    Secondly, you do realize that the Miller-Urey experiment was only the first of a LONG SERIES OF REPEAT EXPERIMENTS under a VERY WIDE RANGE OF STARTING CONDITIONS, which, as a whole, readily demonstrated that basic amino acids are easily spontaneously produced under a WIDE VARIETY of abiotic conditions, in both the d and l forms. And these amino acids have been shown to spontaneously link up into short polypeptides in those same (wide) sets of conditions as well.

    Hell, we even know that a variety of amino acids form spontaneously, and exist, in space.

    Spent 5 years at the bench, i kept wondering why we couldnt create amino acids ourselves. Very frustrating . . . considering nature is alleged to have done this spontaneously

    Whut? Organic chemistry has developed many different ways of producing all the amino acids, from a variety of starting materials.

    Anyone who has done more than a year or two of basic organic chemistry labwork should know this. That you apparently do not makes me seriously doubt the veracity of your “5 years at the bench”. What kind of bench???

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Cherie, there are a lot of issues with what you are saying. First, please understand that the word “theory” doesn’t to scientists mean what you think it means. It isn’t a guess. “Theory” has a variety of meanings but the most relevant one in scientific contexts is a well-established hypothesis with broad explanatory power. Thus for example, when scientists are talking about the “atomic theory” they don’t mean a vague guess that matter is composed of atoms. (Insert obvious “I’ve Got a Theory” jokes here.)

    Your statement about Hawking talking about “God” seems to confuse different meanings of the term. It seems pretty clear that Hawking is talking metaphorically when he talks about the mind of God.

    Finally, regarding your question if it is a waste of effort to try to “disprove” things one doesn’t believe in- scientists are interested in finding out about the world around us. So scientists examine hypotheses and ideas. If an idea is popular, it isn’t a waste of time to try to examine it to see if it holds any water. And if the idea doesn’t hold water, it makes sense to let people know. I don’t know about you, but if I had a deeply incorrect viewpoint on something, I’d like people who know better to tell me otherwise. Moreover, if we all try to share data and arguments as much as possible, that makes us all more likely to be correct. The path is long, and we shall never reach complete certainty, but we do edge closer and closer to truth and understanding. That is why Hawking cares.

  • David

    Hawking is trying to make us believe that God cannot exist because the universe created itself.

    Even if it is possible for matter or energy to create itself in our universe, and I’m not sure that it is, I still don’t buy this explanation.

    -David

  • amphiox

    “You don’t need a supernatural being to explain nature” is *not* the same thing as “Science has proven that God does not exist.” I think that both Hawking and Discover miss the mark by presenting it like this.

    Science does not “prove” that God does not exist. What science has done is repeatedly demonstrate that God is not necessary in order to explain X, for a continuous series of X’s, on a steady, stepwise regression all the way back to the singularity of the Big Bang itself.

  • amphiox

    And I suppose when you’ve accomplished that much it is ok to portray yourself as winning a card game against Einstein and Newton

    Considering that they were playing a 20th Century version of the card game with 20th Century rules, it would have been unrealistic for anyone other than Hawking to have won!

  • Jim

    In the show, there is a statement that all galaxies had red shift, and so all galaxies are traveling away as the universe expands from earth’s vantage point. That indicates to me that earth must be somewhat in the center of creation. That is interesting to me.

    Also, from my way of understanding from what Dr. Hawking said was that God could not have created the universe because time and space did not exist before creation. I believe that from my reading of the bible, in Isaiah 42:5 it says, “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it;”. He was there, not Dr. Hawking.

    I also have no problem believing that God who created the earth and the universe, existed before time and space. He created space and he created time, like an artist paints a picture. He is infinite, almighty and omniscent. I pray that you all that hold the view that God was unnecessary and therefore not there, that you all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus before its too late. We have such a short life span, and you should enjoy life, but the life hereafter is a lot longer.

  • amphiox

    “There is still some degree of faith in science, it’s been wrong before.”

    Shara, (and any others who have been making similar arguments) you are fundamentally mistaking scientists with science. Scientists have been wrong before. Scientists do indeed have faith, and non-scientists do indeed often take the word of scientists, on faith. That’s because both scientists and non-scientists are human beings are faith is an integral part of human psychology. But when anyone, scientist or not, takes anything at all on faith without evidence, they are not doing science.

    Science is an ongoing process that progressively moves from wrong to ever less wrong, from partly right to ever more close to completely right. It is inherently self-correcting, and is fundamentally, the antithesis of faith.

  • andyo

    David #94,

    Even if it is possible for matter or energy to create itself in our universe, and I’m not sure that it is, I still don’t buy this explanation.

    Do you prefer “god did it” as an explanation? How does that explain anything?

  • amphiox

    In the show, there is a statement that all galaxies had red shift, and so all galaxies are traveling away as the universe expands from earth’s vantage point. That indicates to me that earth must be somewhat in the center of creation. That is interesting to me.

    Your understanding is incorrect. In an expanding universe, ALL points are moving away from ALL others. You would observe red shifted galaxies no matter what your starting point for observation is. You’ll see it if you’re on earth. You’ll see it if you’re in the Andromeda galaxy. You’ll see if if you’re orbiting a pulsar 12 billion light years away from earth.

    There is no center.

  • amphiox

    Of course under the right (extreme) conditions we are able to generate the most basic of amino acids in the d-form which is practically useless for human existence.

    The so-called “extreme” conditions of the first Miller-Urey experiment were the conditions of the known atmosphere of Jupiter, which at the time was presumed to represent the primordial atmosphere of all the planets when they first formed. It’s only the, per volume, most common planetary atmospheric condition in the entire solar system.

    We now know that the primordial earth’s atmosphere was different, overall, more neutral and less reducing, which does greatly reduce the yield of amino acid production. But, the amino acids are still formed, and, even more crucially, early earth was positively peppered with local microenvironments, such as volcanic vents, where similar reducing conditions were prevalent locally. And, not surprisingly, it is in these locations where we currently hypothesize abiogenesis to have occurred. (And this does not include the fact that amino acids and other organic building blocks are abundant in space and could have been delivered to the earth rather than forming in situ).

  • http://none Jonah Wahrman

    In the 8 pm program, Hawking uses the analogy of a man digging a hole, piling the dirt into a mound and getting a hole that looks exactly like the mound concluding, therefore, that the hole is the negative image of the mound, and so, they cancel each other out ( the hole represents the negative energy of the space of the universe and the mound represents the positive energy of what is in the universe. Therefore there is no God.

    I posit that the spade digging the hole is God creating the positive and the negative energies in the universe!

    Read the first chapter in Genesis in the Hebrew original and tell me the meaning of “tohu va’vohu”!

    And don’t give me the King James or any other translations. As an Italian saying goes, “All translators are traitors!”

  • amphiox

    “There is still some degree of faith in science, it’s been wrong before.”

    It’s actually extremely rare, except in very, very old examples, where science was completely wrong. Instead, what happens is that the science of the time is partially wrong, and partially right, and as science progresses, it figures out where it has been partially wrong, and thus becomes less wrong, and more right.

  • Jim

    The following statement seems unbelieveable to me, maybe its the late hour,

    “Your understanding is incorrect. In an expanding universe, ALL points are moving away from ALL others. You would observe red shifted galaxies no matter what your starting point for observation is. You’ll see it if you’re on earth. You’ll see it if you’re in the Andromeda galaxy. You’ll see if if you’re orbiting a pulsar 12 billion light years away from earth.

    There is no center.”

    If I am orbiting a pulsar 14 billion light years out. I would be on the edge. Could I not look toward the center of the universe and see blue shift as the galaxies travel towards mine? Could I look out past the edge and see black nothingness?

    How do they do the rewind and come to the conclusion that the “big bang” started at one point? There would have to be a point of singularity or there would be no big bang expansion.

  • Yves

    Why can’t we be also curious about the spiritual realm? This aspect of our universe is real but difficult to explain scientifically. It is undeniable, many have seen and experienced it.

    If we would accept that dimension, and look further into it, maybe we could find some missing link with artifacts we are discovering from ancient past as well as connecting all those religious believe throughout history around the world.

    I admit, religious instances throughout history has distorted and negatively influences our discovery of how the universe has been created and why it has been. Even Jesus rebuked the leading instances of the Jewish faith when He came into this world. It is also evident that the religious instances following His event on earth did exactly the same if not worst.

    Unfortunately, He still is the pivotal person in history that promised that after we dye, we get a free trip to the after life for eternity, (no time in the spiritual realm) . In the gospel of Luke chapter 16, Jesus tell a story about the after life with “Lazarus and the rich man” where the message is to follow what God as said in the Holy Scriptures if we want to get into the right place in the after life dimension.

    This aspect of our lives doesn’t and shouldn’t affect our appreciation of His self sustaining creation as He as created the laws the program demonstrate.

    I must conclude that history repeat itself from the story of the garden of Eden where knowledge without loving our maker if keeping us away from Him whom promised us to live with Him for eternity.

  • Ariel

    I’m wondering if anyone has even considered that Augustine in AD 397 made the same conclusion that Hawking did, except that Augustine concluded that God exists outside of time, and therefore created ‘time’ along with the universe. Along the same thought, it would be rational to consider that God would have created the laws of physics (a la the Anthropic Principle) along with the universe and time itself.
    Considering that the ‘singular dense entity’ that started the Big Bang would have been constrained by those laws of physics (i.e. speed of light, gravitational constants, etc.) it’s worth wondering where did those constants come from?
    In Genesis 1, the Bible says God created light. It didn’t mean that He created a light source, but it stands to reason that God created the physical laws governing light, which all of our reality seems to be based upon (time, space, matter, life) and put it in several neat constants. I suppose if Hawking had to answer how those constants came to be, it might be unscientific to say “Just Lucky, I guess”.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    @Jim, No, you won’t see a blue shift and you won’t be able to look out. If it helps matters, imagine an ant on a balloon and the ant can only understand things in two dimensions. Now, as we blow up the balloon, the balloon expands, and the ant will see how every feature on the balloon gets farther and farther apart. But there will be no edge. You are in a similar situation to the ant on the balloon but the surface is instead three dimensional. This analogy has other problems as well such as the fact that the manifold which is space isn’t actually embedded on anything but as a rough analogy it should work.

  • John

    Hawking says that the universe began as a black hole with almost infinitesimal size and a very large mass, yet he never explains where this black hole came from. Who made this mass? How could a black hole, with almost infinite gravity- suddenly explode? Hawking wants us to take it on faith that God (if He exists) could not possibly do this, because there is no time inside a black hole. But how could a black hole explode? So Hawking has a religious belief in this explosion [religious- because he offers no scientific rationale] he just wants us to take it on faith, -since he is the scientist and he knows- that this is what has happened.

    Hawking has made himself into a religious huckster trumping up his new brand of religious belief- a belief in a creation that created itself. Next, we’ll hear about his new perpetual motion machine! Gee, I wonder if he will patent it. We can call it “Hawking’s perpetual violation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics”.

    This is not science, but just a new religion based on pseudo-scientific myths, fables and legends.

  • Rob

    “If I am orbiting a pulsar 14 billion light years out. I would be on the edge. Could I not look toward the center of the universe and see blue shift as the galaxies travel towards mine? Could I look out past the edge and see black nothingness?”

    Actually, no. The way I understand it, the observable universe (as much as we can see from Earth) has a radius of about 46 billion light years. So, 14 billion light years away from us is not even close to the edge. And, since the universe is expanding in all directions, all distant galaxies will be moving away from you, no matter where you are.

  • http://naturalpatterns.net Eric_of_Manchester

    Concerning what Ariel mentioned about Augustine; it has always amazed me how much the ancients knew that we are just now discovering. I suppose what is really neat is that there is a type of knowledge that doesn’t require experiment. Einstein didn’t do experiments to discover Relativity. He wasn’t doing theology either. He was using a type of natural philosophy as did Augustine to disclose some of these basic truths of nature. I’m not advocating that science abandon it’s method, but perhaps it should re-discover what natural philosophy can offer considering the amount of dead ends and infinities popping up in physics.

  • http://Nelc.livejournal.com NelC

    Jim, there is no edge. The universe is hyperdimensional, and in a dimension outside of the three we perceive the universe is folded back on itself.

    As an analogy, imagine a balloon decorated with stars. As it inflates, the stars get further apart at the same rate. When it’s inflated, there is no edge for any particular star to be near. Which star is at the centre? None of them, since the centre is inside the balloon, and there is no centre on the surface. If you extend the surface of the balloon into three dimensions, then the universe is curved in a direction we cannot perceive, the ‘surface’ of a hypersphere (or possibly a hyper-torus).

  • Michael

    I am quite disappointed in that Curiosity lacked the ultimate curiosity. Dr. Hawking laid out how the universe did not need a creator, or indeed could have had a creator. Yet, you never asked the inverse question of the theologian. Did God need a creator? That is the counterpoint question to the entire show! I understood Dr. Hawking’s reasoning and would have loved to hear analogous reasoning from the religions representative.

  • andyo

    Yves #104,

    Why can’t we be also curious about the spiritual realm?

    Because there’s no evidence that it exists and it’s not even needed for the universe to function as it is known to function.

    This aspect of our universe is real but difficult to explain scientifically.

    How do you know? In fact it’s pretty well explained by neuroscience and psychology.

    It is undeniable, many have seen and experienced it.

    Many have seen and experienced bigfoot and alien abductions.

  • Marc

    If it is a scientific fact that there is a multiplicity of black holes in the universe and a there is scientific consensus that time and space are relative constructs, I fail to grasp Dr. Hawking’s assertion that the so-called Big Bang was an unprecedented event in the space time continuum. I have the utmost regard for Dr. Hawking and while I may empathize with his conclusion, I fail to understand his insistence in the primacy of our universe above all other possible or accomplished events…

  • Darth Dog

    Congrats Sean. This is a heck of a lot of comments. I guess you got good visibility through the program. Certainly seems to have attracted a lot of fundies.

    Great job on the comments. It seemed like you were cut off more than the other two commenters. Oh well. Life isn’t fair. Still, I loved “go nuts”.

  • Amy

    Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.

    Beginning – indicates the creation of TIME
    Heavens – indicates the creation of SPACE
    Earth – indicates the creation of MATTER/ENERGY

    According to my Bible, God is an immortal being for whom time does not exist. Kudos to Stephen Hawking for proving via science what I’ve known all along.

  • H-Bomb

    @103 – If I am orbiting a pulsar 14 billion light years out. I would be on the edge. Could I not look toward the center of the universe and see blue shift as the galaxies travel towards mine? Could I look out past the edge and see black nothingness?

    Others have answered this, but it might deserve some repeating. You are not standing still in your orbit. You are also moving. And since expansion occurs in all dimensions, not the linear fashion you are describing, things would still be moving away from you. So, red shift, not blue.

  • Marc

    If it is a scientific fact that there is a multiplicity of black holes in the universe and a there is scientific consensus that time and space are relative constructs, I fail to grasp Dr. Hawking’s assertion that the so-called Big Bang was an unprecedented event in the space time continuum.

    It is intrinsic to the human condition to question our existence vis a vis the concept of divinity. Yet this line of inquiry is the cosmological equivalent of ethnocentricity and is therefore necessarily biased.

    I have the utmost regard for Dr. Hawking and while I may empathize with his conclusion, I fail to understand his insistence in the primacy of our universe above all other possible or accomplished events.

    The evidentiary absence of paradigm will continue to be the line in the sand for scientists and theologians alike…

  • Michael

    @107 John – “Hawking says that the universe began as a black hole with almost infinitesimal size and a very large mass, yet he never explains where this black hole came from. Who made this mass?”

    The explanation lie in the section on quantum mechanics which indicated that since particles have been observed appearing randomly in experiments the same behavior would be possible for the singularity based upon the science and math involved. This would provide an explanation consistent with the observed universe and the laws under which it operates.

  • Ricalloo

    I thought the program itself was ostentatious. From my point of view, it was essentially Hawking trying to disprove God. I’m not certain that should be the role or science. He came across as a little bit pretentious. The entirety of the ‘Science vs. Religion’ debate is itself ludicrous. Leave religion to the philosophers and science to the scientists. I do not understand why scientists are so hell bent on disproving God, as this entire episode seemed to be dedicated to doing. Alternatively, why are religious people so hell bent on trying to tangibly prove God’s existence? Science should worry about understanding nature while religion should be for people with faith, which doesn’t need any proof.

    Part of the problem is, and it is getting very annoying to hear over and over, that the past persecution of scientific discovery by religious institutions has created this inability to come to a mutual understanding. The same story of Galileo is used over and over again. Forgive me if this insults anyone, but I feel it is akin to how white people are forbidden to say the “N” word without coming off as racist. Scientists will always turn to these past events and claim religion is for incompetent morons. Anytime someone of faith stands up and says, “God created it,” they are instantly degraded and put down. By that token, religious people have to understand not everyone is capable of having blind faith. They need discernible proof to believe in something. A logical mind demands it.

    The Bible, Koran, or Torah are not physics textbooks and should not be treated as such. They are directives on how one should live their life and treat others. A physics textbook is an explanation of how and why things in nature work.

    In full disclosure, I am a man of faith. However, I do not point to science and call it witchcraft. I embrace it because I like to marvel at God’s creation. I want to know how it works. I do not need some “missing link” for me to believe in God. It is 100% faith. I completely understand how someone would need perceptible evidence, as I have questioned my own beliefs many times. However, if I were to take my life in a purely logical manner, I find I have little to no value. With few talents and limited intellect or physical abilities I know my life would garner more worth as an organ donor. I’m sure my body parts could save the lives of many people. My faith, though, tells me that my life has value because I was created by God and I should respect that. Some may find this very idea to be idiotic.

    There are many reasons why someone might have faith in a religion. It might seem incoherent, illogical, unreasonable, or even downright stupid to someone with a purely analytical mind. However, we humans have used faith for millenia to comfort us and give us hope. It has even been used to control and hold societies together, for better or worse. Perhaps, from a scientific point of view, religion is merely an adaptation from evolution to allow us to perceive reality and have cognizance without drowning in sorrow. If that is true then I will gladly use this evolutionary ‘gift’ to keep me going as long as my faith holds out.

  • Michael

    @amy 115 – “Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth”.

    Genesis is an ancient text written by human beings and does not provide evidence for any god. The fact that it says it was inspired by god does not strengthen this claim since anyone can claim inspiration from god in any text they author. If I claimed that my text was from god would you believe that?

    Whoever wrote Genesis was trying to answer the same question as scientsts but created a very simple, unprovable explanation in the biblical verse you quoted on par with the ancient explanations for thunder and solar eclipses. . If you study Old Testament biblical history according to our current understanding of the peoples who wrote it you will get a much different perspective than you likely get in church or through your own reading.

  • Jon

    I take it from the comments that Sean doesn’t like Michio Kaku. Anyone know the reason why? I only know him from Physics of the Impossible and SciFi Science.

  • Michael

    @119 Ricallo

    In reality there are religious people who do equate religion with science. Consider the creationists or intelligent designer propoents. They openly reject science they do not understand because it collides with their view of the universe. And since their god is always correct, science must be wrong. If these believers were isolated and ineffectual I would not be worried. But they have major influence on our country’s sciience education. Consider the state of Texas. There are active attempts to include religions ideas into the science curriculum and there are legislators and individuals in the state board of education who support this. Textbook providers look to Texas as a primary source of input for textbooks because of the sheer size of the student population. Those same textbooks are then used throughout the rest of the nation.

    We must continue to promote science in public dialog, including shows such as this. At a minimum, we need to educate the public about the methods and veracity of science Science drives innovation and innovation drives economic growth, advanced medicine, technology developments, and so forth. God can never do that. If we relied upon god for our explanations of nature, we would be a vastly different society.

  • H-Bomb

    @122 – I take it from the comments that Sean doesn’t like Michio Kaku. Anyone know the reason why? I only know him from Physics of the Impossible and SciFi Science.

    If I had to guess, it might have something to do with his wishy-washy stance on religion in science. Or perhaps it is that he (Kaku) does not have a problem working the extreme fringes of his science in mediums like Coast to Coast AM.

    Of course, I have no idea. It might just be that if they were going to keep going back to him, then he should have been on the panel.

  • Phil

    Here’s a picture of, I believe, Michio Kaku relaxing while listening to the musician beside him after he was done with his TV appearance.

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lp8d6deCe21qk2xnco1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1312868231&Signature=DVuYfARd%2FOtJIulG2ppaMlWoJHI%3D

  • Phil

    “The Big Bang can just … be.”

    This makes no sense. What caused it? A pre-existing universe? Is there any evidence for it?
    Did the big bang come from “nothing”? Doesn’t make sense.

    ” Hawking believes that quantum gravity smooths the singularity and explains how there was no pre-existing time.”

    Yes, and I believe in God. Both Hawking and I have no evidence for our beliefs.

    “Ultimately Hawking’s argument against God is pretty simplistic. He assumes that if God created the Big Bang, God must have existed before the Big Bang, but there was no “before the Big Bang,” QED. It’s easy enough to simply assert that God doesn’t exist “within time” (if that means anything). ”

    Well, Sean, why don’t you try reading some works from a few notable theologians or other thinkers for how something like this might make sense. Just because it’s not a scientific statement, doesn’t mean it can’t make sense.

    “It would have been better (IMHO) to emphasize that modern cosmology has many good ideas about how the universe could have come to be, so there’s no need to rely on a divine creator.”

    Face it, if multiverse ideas were true, then that would drastically reduce the need for a creator of our universe. If our universe is the only one, then you still have to explain how it managed to come into being. You can’t create a universe from nothing, because if there’s nothing, there are no laws of physics, no symmetry principles, no concept of energy and, hence, the argument using the idea that the total energy content of the universe is zero is not a valid argument. Laws of physics mean absolutely nothing if nothing exists in which those laws work. Does Hawking suppose the universe existed in that infinitesimally small state (governed by quantum gravity) for an eternity before something in quantum gravity triggered inflation and the Big Bang? If not, then SOMETHING had to have created that initial state. Of course, if a God explanation is not desired, then the only solution is a multiverse, for which we cannot obtain any evidence for. Therefore, my belief in God holds as much water as Hawking’s beliefs about the magical M theory and the multiverse.

    BTW, that photo was clearly a joke. :)

  • H-Bomb

    So, Phil, are you using the Kalam Cosmological Argument? Might I direct you to a little video for your viewing pleasure about the KCA? It might help with some of your difficulties. Or not.

    http://youtu.be/baZUCc5m8sE

    Also, it wasn’t Hawking who brought up the multiverse. That was Kaku in the panel. Please at least direct your rebuttal to the correct argument.

  • Anon

    @amphiox (#94): “Science” has done no such thing … at least not all the way back to the Big Bang. This is Hawking’s claim, and before it can be looked upon as science proper, other experts must examine the evidence and reach a consensus as to whether it supports the theory or not. To my knowledge, this hasn’t happened yet.

    Also, it is worth remembering that “science” does not exist as a separate entity from “scientists,” who are, of course, fallible.

  • http://www.darkbuzz.com Roger

    If I had watched this without knowing anything about cosmology, I would conclude that cosmologists are morons. Hawking and others said foolish things and made foolish arguments. Medieval theologians probably made more sense.

    Some viewers may think that there is mathematics to justify what was said. They have been tricked. There is no math to back up what Hawking said.

  • Phil

    H-Bomb: “Also, it wasn’t Hawking who brought up the multiverse. That was Kaku in the panel.”

    Yes, I know Hawking didn’t bring up the multiverse. That’s not important. I was trying to explain something and the multiverse idea was in my explanation. Just because I also mentioned Hawking doesn’t mean I was associating him with the multiverse idea.

    “Please at least direct your rebuttal to the correct argument.”

    I wasn’t forming a rebuttal to a specific person. Go back and read what I wrote, you’ll see.

  • Phil

    #129, H-Bomb:

    I will watch the video you linked to tomorrow. It’s late. What I was saying was that if there was no “parent universe” from which ours came to be (i.e. no “multiverse”), then either the “singularity-resolved” state (as described from the correct theory of quantum gravity) from which inflation and the big bang occurred for our universe had existed for an infinite amount of time (whatever that means within the context of the correct theory of quantum gravity), OR it didn’t. If it didn’t, then that “singularity-resolved” state had to be created somehow. My opinion is that it had to have been created by something “supernatural” because we are assuming that there is no “parent universe” producing this state from which our universe was born and assuming that the singularity-resolved “seed” didn’t exist for an infinite amount of “time” prior to the Big Bang. Why? Because you can’t get a universe from nothing. Sure, you can get virtual particles from empty spacetime, but you cannot get a universe from pure nothing. So if you want to avoid this “supernatural” option, you need either a “parent universe” or that second option I mentioned. The former, to my knowledge (which, I will humbly admit, is not very large even though I have some advanced physics training under my belt), is not testable (like the God hypothesis) and has no scientific evidence in its favor (also like the God hypothesis). The latter has to be a prediction from the valid quantum theory of gravity. Thus, the God hypothesis is as much a valid position as a natural one, for which there is no evidence.

  • Spy

    There is one big flow(I think )in Hawking’s theory. When he said that sub-Atomic particles appear to come out of nowhere and then disappear only to have reappeare somewhere else. In his demonstration there was time, he claimed that in the beginning there was no time so how could anything happen at all if theres no time yet? Unless sub-atomic particles move in and out of time. just saying.

  • Phil

    H-Bomb:

    “It might help with some of your difficulties. Or not.”

    :) Oh you are so witty.

  • http://www.darkbuzz.com Roger

    “@David, that’s because your physics textbook is probably a high school or …”

    I have read the advanced textbooks and taken the classes. The arguments given by Hawking (and Sean) are crap. There is nothing scientific about them. Like no. 75, scientists and astrophysicists should be embarrassed about being represented by charlatans.

  • Warren Brown

    Reply! Did God create the Universe? Please read!

    Dear David Gregory; There is no greater message then what I have received from the Lord God of All. God literally spoke to me “yes” God has a Voice.

    On 4-21-09 God the Father Through Christ His Son By the Power Of the Holy Spirit. Consumed and Spoke to me. P.S. I was In heaven Just at the Sound of his Voice. The Heavens and the Earth were removed and Only Gods word remained. I had no Body, No form, Not Eyes, ears, Mouth or Even a breath in me. One minute “I was” and the next minute “I was Not” and all that remained was God. This is what God the Father Through Christ His son by the Power of the Holy spirit said.

    “In the beginning there was adam and eve and they fell due to there pride. There is good and bad in all the world and good can be brought forth from the bad. Going on to say we are in the 5th chapter of a 12 part chapter in the history of mankind. Things are going to get worse before they get better. There is One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and all other churches are “Offsprings”. I have gone ahead and sent the Holy Spirit throughout the Whole world.” Word Of God” After God spoke to me, He asked me to Go ahead and stand and open my eyes. The Lord God filled me with the Holy Spirit.

    I am proclaiming the truth in which God Chose to reveal. God may have revealed it to me; yet it effects the whole world. That is why I am revealing it to you. For the Love Of God and Man.

    See the Signs the Holy Spirit has been revealing since the Apparition!

    P.s. It doesn’t take a mathematical/Scientific genius to figure it out.

    1.The cross of Christ remained in Haiti earthquake 2.New zealand christ church shook twice 3. Hurricane Igor flooded Corpus Christi=Body Of Christ 4. Lightning struck 6 story tall statue of Christ in ohio. 5. 7 missing hikers found in Zion next to Virgin! 6. Halo Cloud Over russia that appeared is identical to the one that appears in a 1486 painting called the “annunciation”. 8. Chille earthquake in conccepion occured on the anniversary day the Immaculate conception appeared to st. bernadette in 1858. 9. Japan Earthquake-Tsunami-Nuclear Meltdown/Japan= “Land of the Rising Sun” Earthquake=Mankinds failure to believe in and Love the One true God and Christ his Son.Tsunami=Baptism Nuclear Meltdown=The Fire that is going to sweep the earth when it is all said and Done. 10. Iceland Volcano-5-21-11 Judgement day – false prophecy – False Doctrine-False Teachings= Provoking Gods Wrath 11. 5-22-11 Hurricane-Joplin Missouri= Bible Belt=St.Johns Hospital=St. Mary’s Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church “The Cross Remained” Repent Repent,Repent.

    It will all continue till all the world goes to believe. God never Lied. Neither Am I.
    God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are my witnesses.
    Where nothing is hidden!

  • Tanya

    Phil says: “This makes no sense. What caused it? A pre-existing universe? Is there any evidence for it? Did the big bang come from “nothing”? Doesn’t make sense.”

    Okay….I think Hawking is saying since the universe requires energy and space to exist and the total energy of the universe is actually zero when the negative energy (gravity?) is calculated in, then the effect of space (and therefore time) is the apparent seperation of this positive and negative energy. Its this ‘flux’, for lack of a better (or more educated) term, the universe spontaneously expanded resulting in space-time. The argument for causation is therefore negated if something can indeed come from ‘nothing’.

    The scientific method has proven to be the most consistent and reliable way to obtain knowledge. For centuries religion has gone to great lenghts to prevent scientific inquiry for this very reason. If religion claims to have the ‘truth’ then science is within it’s bounds to test the validity of those claims.

  • Scott K

    Dr. Carroll. I was very impressed by your showing tonight. I could tell that you wanted to almost laugh at some of the questions….and responses.

    Is this your only blog, or is there any other way for us truth seeking athiests to read your works.

    Thank you. Scott

  • Phil

    “Dr. Carroll. I was very impressed by your showing tonight. I could tell that you wanted to almost laugh at some of the questions….and responses.”

    Why? Because you think Dr. Carroll is an arrogant atheist like you are? Maybe your arrogance influenced your mind so that you merely imagined seeing Dr. Carroll want to almost laugh.

  • Phil

    @138, Tanya:

    “Its this ‘flux’, for lack of a better (or more educated) term, the universe spontaneously expanded resulting in space-time.”

    Do you know if there were any research papers explaining this idea? It’s just unclear. I mean, what exactly “expanded” to result in space-time. It’s space that’s expanding, so you need spacetime to exist before you have an expansion.

    “… then the effect of space (and therefore time) is the apparent seperation of this positive and negative energy.”

    What kind of separation? Physical separation? Are his arguments based on research that fleshes out these ideas more exactly. Just curious about this.

    “The scientific method has proven to be the most consistent and reliable way to obtain knowledge.”

    Does the scientific method have anything to say about whether God exists?

    “For centuries religion has gone to great lenghts to prevent scientific inquiry for this very reason.”

    That’s a very common, but incorrect belief. For example, Christianity and Islam have recognized the value in scientific inquiry, and both religions made great contributions to science over the centuries. Of course, both religions made their bad mistakes, but your statement is false despite being commonly held.

    For example, “The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts” by Edward Grant.

  • FixedGR

    I personally neither believe nor discount the existence of some god/goddess. (the non-intervening variety). Nor do I believe (don’t mean to sound condescending) that the majority of humans (many which are in some way or another part of a religious organization, or blissfully ignorant), would even be able to fathom what that god is? Is it an entity? A non-local consciousness? A deity that promises hell if we are not baptized or “saved”?

    The only problem that exists with god being a consciousness is that it is impossible to be analyzed, sampled, observed, etc. Which leaves it a complete mystery. (It’s better this way I think).

    I look at it this way: I think as the cosmos as being a god, the sun as the seeds, the earth as the goddess and the moon as a midwife. Remember that if it wasn’t for the moon life on this planet would have been completely different (no tidal pools). It’s my way of looking at things with respect to what i can see, touch and feel.

    As far as Curiosity is concerned… bringeth MOAR!!! Cheers

  • Phil

    @Tanya, #138,

    For an excellent review of the book I mentioned (“The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts”) as well as a discussion of the contributions to science during that time, have a look at:

    http://cburrell.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/grant-the-foundations-of-modern-science-in-the-middle-ages/

    You will not be disappointed. The reviewer also has a PhD in particle physics.

  • bad Jim

    Medieval arguments for God are about as reasonable as medieval notions about physics, which is to say that they are completely useless. There’s no reason to take them seriously. That’s an ad hominem argument, to be sure, but it’s a sufficient reply to an argument from authority. Aquinas and Aristotle were ignorant, arrogant and wrong.

    If your notions about the universe are such that they cannot explain the workings of everyday devices, like the flash memory on your cell phone, you really should not be weighing in on cosmological questions. Whenever you get the impression that better-educated people are laughing at you, one thing that you really ought to consider is the possibility that they know something you don’t.

  • http://Nelc.livejournal.com NelC

    Phil @138, if you’d like a technical explanation for the expansion of spacetime, I believe you’ll find it in Hawking and Ellis’ The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime. Less technically, you could try Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and A Briefer History of Time. My explanation: Spacetime itself is what expanded. There was no space or time ‘before’ the universe; there was no ‘before’, nor anything to expand into.

  • Anon

    @andyo (#89): You’ve missed the point entirely.

    As I wrote to amphiox, Hawking’s hypothesis about the origin of the universe is just that, at this point: an idea, something he chooses to believe. Cosmologists can come up with a thousand and one ways of explaining how the universe might have come into existence without the need for God, but until these hypotheses are vetted by the scientific method (which requires experiments and evidence), they are not “science” in the same sense that Newton’s theory of gravitation is, for example. So “science” has not proven anything here – what we have is simply a man with an interesting idea that may or may not be supported by the evidence.

  • Jessie

    A wise man once told me that IF there is a Supreme Being (God) that created the universe, then Men’s egos are so arrogant to believe that they can comprehend and explain such a Supreme Being. For me I have always been a fan of Mr. Hawkins; however, it’s extremely sad that Mr. Hawkins doesn’t believe in some kind of higher intelligence, that there isn’t a purpose to our existence. Can Science prove “Faith”? It’s a Human thought, and feeling…. But why? Has the Scientific world become so egotistic that they believe they have the answer for everything? Then answer this; Who created the “Laws of Nature” or even the components that created the “Big Bang”?

  • andyo

    Anon #89, you’re right that these are hypotheses, but they’re not the same as just believing in “god did it”. These are mathematically sound (as far as I’ve read from cosmologists) and also falsifiable in principle, if not in practice because of technological barriers.

    Also, this is the god of the gaps you’re proposing. And assuming you believe in this god, well, what else does she do besides setting off the big bang? If nothing else after that, then what’s the difference with not believing in her?

  • Trevor

    The proponents of science have “shot themselves in the foot” by broadcasting abstract views which are largely incomprehensible to the vast majority of viewers. The net result may be that the arguments will be discussed by a few and ignored or distorted by most. No doubt the creationists will be delighted that this programme will have done little to dislodge widespread faith in their position. Indeed it may even be strengthened by the ridicule that will no doubt follow. The blind faith that creationists exhibit, even without any credible evidence, is a stronghold unlikely to be shaken by the esoteric thoughts of scientists, no matter how celebrated they may be.

  • andyo

    Jessie, you understand you’re the nth person here saying the same thing? There are responses to posts like yours above so I won’t bother with the “it’s extremely sad” condescending BS.

    Can Science prove “Faith”?

    Science can explain why the brain does belief and faith. Is there any reason why it shouldn’t?

    It’s a Human thought, and feeling…. But why?

    Because we didn’t evolve to not be gullible. Evolution shapes organs (the brain) just well enough to survive and procreate, not perfect. We can know better now, and what is sad is that people willingly deny this benefit by choosing to still believe in superstitions.

    Has the Scientific world become so egotistic that they believe they have the answer for everything?

    Please cite ANY scientist like Hawking who has said that they have the answer for everything. And is the religious world so egotistic that they believe the creator of billions of galaxies which have billions of stars and planets to care about each person among billions of a species that hasn’t even been on earth for 99.995% of the time it’s had life?

  • mrgriswold

    Someone made a comment that went, “science checks its facts–religion doesn’t.” Uh-huh. Science is a process, not some sort of intellectual institution–a process of observation, hypothesis, testing, and re-evaluating. With all due deference to the show’s producers and their efforts to blame all past incorrect theories and outlooks on “religion,” it was the scientific process that gave the world the flat earth, the earth-centered universe, the sun-centered universe, the steady-state universe, and so on. All these were theories based on observation and insufficient information.

    The intensely brief existence of particles in the quantum background is not analogous to a universe springing into existence uncaused out of nothing. Particles do not spring into existence from “nothing.” They come into being as particles out of the quantum background energy state CAUSED by quantum variations in that energy. They are CAUSED, not spontaneous, and they come into being out of SOMETHING, so there is yet another reason why this phenomenon is not isomorphic to the special’s model of creation.

    Now, who can spot all the logical fallacies in the statement “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing”? And if the universe came into being as Hawking attempts to describe, how is it that it happened to have the dozens of finely-tuned characteristics necessary for life? While I am suspending some levels of skepticism in the expectation there is more to the story the producers couldn’t get into the special, I thought the special was riddled with factual and logical error. Hawking and the producers have simply moved the pea and hope the viewers don’t look under the other shell.

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  • Purbrookian

    Jessie, if you can’t even get Stephen Hawking’s name right, nobody’s going to read your arguments. Which, of course, are fatuous.

  • Rob

    I’m seeing a lot of comments along the lines of: “It’s not possible that the universe formed out of absolutely nothing. There MUST have been something that existed for the universe to expand out from.”

    Maybe so. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that’s true. How does it follow, then, that the existence of the universe must be the result of an intentional act?
    Why is it impossible for that to be a natural event?

    Show your work.

  • http://www.hereticalwisdom.net Matthew A Petti

    Mr. Hawkings makes a case for the non-existence of God to the masses of under-informed viewers who cannot take into account the myriad unanswered questions of science nor can they fathom the depth of the ongoing research. Quantum mechanics isn’t something that can be discussed matter-of-factly in a one hour program. Many unknowns still exist and the “theories” are exactly that.

    Conversely, it is true that man has created god in his own image by attributing all unexplained things to a higher power of understanding and knowledge. In the long curious search for answers science has observed and delineated many of the laws of Nature that were previously unexplained. This doesn’t disprove the existence of God. In fact, it is quite egocentric to imply that God does not exist when considering all that remains undiscovered.

    In order to denounce the existence of God, science would have to provide answers to everything with no more questions–Omniscience, which would yield Omnipotence. Only then would we have the “mind of God” that Einstein referred to often. Only then would our society reflect the power of all-knowledge and be united in understanding.

    I find it disconcerting that Discovery would air a program that exploits the uninformed with the imbued sense of concrete evidence. The program that aired afterwards, “Into the Universe” was ego-maniacal, in my opinion, because it discussed the existence of life as a random unison of particles over time when this is one of the major stumbling blocks in science’s attempt to disprove God.

    For the uninformed, the program should have stated clearly that life in the single cell itself is so complex that the random generation of life is mathematically impossible. That is a fact. I am sure that many were offended by this apparent subversion of their long-held contentions and beliefs.

    I, however, welcome the argument with fervor. Bring it on!

  • JimV

    I guess it is the nature of faithists to repeat the same old, long-discredited ideas over and over, just as it is the nature of science to probe questions and demand evidence and discard discredited ideas. If some wonder why some atheists seem grumpy, having to answer the same foolish “gotcha” questions over and over will do that to a person, but one more time:

    This universe is not finely-tuned for our kind of life. Our kind of life can exist where? On Jupiter? No. On the Sun? No. On Venus? No. In space? No. You don’t have an electronic calculator with enough decimal digits in its display to show the number of zeroes needed to express the fraction of this universe in which our kind of life can exist.

    If you think it’s some kind of miracle than there is even a minuscule fraction of a universe where life based on liquid water chemistry could exist, you’re wrong, because studies by Dr. Stengler and others have shown that in fact a large range of physical constants other than those this universe has could also support such life.

    But ultimately your problem is a lack of imagination which makes it inconceivable to you that other, better, more intelligent, robust and widespread kinds of life could exist in other, better-tuned universes. You are Douglas Adams’s puddle of water, which thinks it is special because the hole it fills matches its shape so exactly.

    Back on topic, all an hour with commercial breaks could possibly do to summarize thousands of years of science is to suggest a few main ideas: the negative energy embodied by space with a gravity field (which I first read about in Dr. Guth’s “The Inflationary Universe” many years ago, but have not heard much of since, and which Dr. Carroll seems to have some reservations about), the uncausal nature of quantum mechanics (the best example which most people would be familiar with, it seems to me, is the radioactive decay of an unstable nucleus, which happens with a probability distribution but no known trigger), virtual particle creation in a vacuum, and the lack of time and space at a singularity (which Dr. Carroll points out is not precisely understood due to the lack of an accepted theory of quantum gravity).

    These do not amount to overwhelming proof, even of what I take to be Dr. Hawking’s actual premise, that the laws of nature as we know them are sufficient to explain the creation of this universe, but they are evidence – to those like Dr. Hawking who understand them in detail. If there were vastly more time, the experiments and observations which support them could be explained, but still this will not convince those who wish to believe in a god, however unnecessary that god may be. What convinces me personally, above all, is that the theists have no good evidence on their side, for their god hypothesis, and their defense (aside from those with delusions of hearing god’s voice) consists of the same arguments one could adduce to insist that the existence of Santa Claus cannot be disproved.

    And all of that will seem arrogant to them. One always seems arrogant when commenting on foolish behavior of others, but to leave such behavior unremarked also has dangers. All I can say is that I know I have been foolish myself, on many occasions, and I know there are people much smarter than myself, including Dr. Hawking and Dr. Carroll.

  • JimV

    Just a brief follow-up, since I see another discredited idea has been presented here in the time it took me to type that last comment, then I will leave the field to others.

    Anyone who has a mathematical proof that cells are too complex to have been randomly created through the workings of nature should a) present this proof to any scientific journal and await their Nobel Prize, but b) first watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg

  • John J. Bannan

    Besides all the Catholic Church bashing and atheistic propaganda espoused by Mr. Hawking’s television program, I do have a big problem with Mr. Hawking’s proposal. Mr. Hawking does not explain why there are laws of nature, nor does he explain why there is a multi-verse to begin with. Essentially, Mr. Hawkings is saying you can’t ask “why” something happened, if there is no time. Consequently, he posits that as there was no “time” in the singularity from which the Big Bang originated, you can’t ask what caused the singularity – it simply came into being – like some quantum particle. Neat trick, but unsatisfying. Mr. Hawkings claims there is no “time” inside a black hole, and yet, “time” can certainly exist outside the blackhole. Indeed, blackholes move through space – and in my opinion motion is the same thing as “time”. If blackholes can move through the galaxy, time exists around the blackhole whether the blackhole likes it or not. Mr. Hawkings does not address the obvious problem with a spontaneously created singularity, that there can be more of them – outside the singularity’s space in a higher dimension where time can exist before the existence of the singularity. I imagine string theorists, who posit the existence of 11 dimensions – are very upset with Mr. Hawkings’ claim, as that would put all of them out of work. I believe Michio Kaku made this objection to Mr. Hawkings’ claim pretty clearly in the program. Also, Mr. Hawkings did not explain how anything that is infinitely dense and infinitely small, such as a singularity, could result in our finite world. Pretty big contradiction there, which he failed to address. It should seem obvious that the multi-verse exists, as there is no reason to believe there could only be one Big Bang, and therefore, there must have been multiple Big Bangs and therefore a multi-verse. Mr. Hawkings’ theory must reject the existence of the multi-verse, and yet, there is very good reason to believe the multi-verse exists. Why are the laws of nature one way, and not another? Simple – there are multi-universes where all the possible laws of nature are tried out. We simply live in the one universe that just so happens to have our particular set of laws. In a multi-verse of infinite possibilities and higher dimensions, who’s to say God does not exist? Mr. Hawkings’ theory is missing the larger picture of higher dimensional space, and therefore, is a grossly incomplete theory.

  • Farhad Keyvan

    These types of conversations are a good diversion from real issues facing us like the current status of the economy.

  • Charles Ames

    During the panel discussion, you guys touched on the idea that religion and science address different questions, but I wish you has pursued this thread further.

    Scholars of comparative religion will tell you that, historically, all religious traditions have served four functions:

    1) Cosmological: To present a model of the universe, addressing questions such as “when should I plant my crops?” and “how did we get here?”

    2) Sociological: To carry the moral order of a society and affirm a system of values that give a society its structure and tell its members how to participate.

    3) Psychological: To help individuals confront the universal challenges of human life, such as maturity, aging, and death.

    4) Mystical: To connect individuals to the ultimate mystery of being, namely “is this all there is?” and “why are we here?”

    The first two, cosmological and sociological, must vary with the times. For example, science has entirely displaced the clergy on providing useful answers to questions about how the universe works. The fact that religion traditions have not been updated to incorporate a modern understanding of the physical world is what makes them seem, to many, archaic and out of touch.

    However, the last two categories are much less sensitive to the times, so the things religion has to say on these issues are as relevant today as they were when the religions were first formed.

    Religious people often come across as if they feel that, if science invalidates a cosmological statement made by their religion then that would invalidate the entire religious tradition. That’s a shame, since I believe they end up focusing their energy on defending outdated cosmology, rather than on making the “main message” more accessible.

  • vel

    @ Farhad, yep, everything in teh world is a conspiracy to get people to not think about the economy. <rolling eyes) Got a local columnist who is sure that the focus on getting kids not to be obese is just a conspiracy to ignore the economy too. Seems like anytime someone doesn't like a issue being discussed, someone shrieks "but think of the children".

  • Smith Powell

    Sean, thanks for being on the program. Despite the flaws in the show and the panel, it was great to see the ideas discussed. It seemed to me that the simple idea that we no longer rely on gods to explain the trajectory of a tennis ball or to explain an eclipse of the Sun and that we can now extend the same kind of thinking to the origin of the universe was an excellent one.

    The brief cut-and-paste format of the panel discussion was disappointing. How nice it would have been to have heard an extended conversation that was on point.

    Secondly, it was very difficult to follow the comments made by Haught and, to a lesser extent, Davies. What do they believe?

    Finally, the discussion suffered from the premise that the only god under discussion was the Christian god–kind of a cultural chauvinism and a real blind spot in the discussion.

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  • http://www.hereticalwisdom.net Matthew A Petti

    @JimV–you seem to be taking it too personally that the fact remains that God has neither been proven or disproven. I view it from the absolute sense. If there is no absolute on either side of the argument then there is no absolute solution. Perhaps arguments should be relegated to their individual disciplines.

    I stand with the assertion that when we absolutely answer that question we will know everything there is to know and hence there will be no argument–just the peace and happiness that comes from the power of omniscience.

    Until then, everyone has a belief and is entitled to it without condemnation and short-sighted (in the absolute sense) judgment.

  • andyo

    I see you can tell pretty much how informed people are about Hawking’s ideas by the way they spell his name. It’s not usually the case when people are criticized, but somehow with Hawking (as well as Dawkins and PZ Myers!) it seems to be a common theme.

  • susan foster

    I’m pretty much in love with you now, Sean. Thank my non-existent God, you were on that panel.

  • John J. Bannan

    I think Michio Kaku said it best during the program that people will be arguing about whether God exists for the next 1000 years. Obviously, Mr. Kaku did not accept Mr. Hawking’s premise, otherwise, there would be no need for 1000 years of further argument as Mr. Hawking supposedly wrapped it all up last night. Mr. Hawking did not admit the weaknesses in his own argument, made no attempt to point out its difficulties, flaws or uncertainties, as anyone or any scientist committed to the truth would have. Mr. Hawking presents his atheistic view as a scientific certainty, which it most certainly is not, but really only the “opinion” of a man with perhaps an atheistic agenda or an agenda of self-aggrandisement as one of the greatest scientists of all time, or both. His “simplest” explanation for the existence of the universe has holes in it, and therefore, is not an explanation.

  • Byron

    Just curious…in his closing remarks, Stephen Hawking stated that for his one life, he is grateful. Umm, in his Godless universe, who is he grateful to?

  • Phil

    @ H-Bomb, #129,

    I saw the video you linked to.

    Ok so the “Big Bang phase” was argued in favor of the Big Bang singularity as being something more to do with reality and what happened at the beginning of our universe. That still doesn’t address the points I mentioned above. Big bang phase or singularity, you still need to explain how it came about, either by using a multiverse that has always existed, or by supposing that the “Big Bang phase” had existed for an infinite amount of time before the Big Bang, inflation, etc. The latter possibility does not make sense because how exactly does the universe spend an infinite amount of time, followed by the Big Bang? How do you traverse an infinite amount of time? So either space and time had a beginning, or there is a multiverse. If space-time had a beginning, it had a beginning from nothing. No natural processes exist in “nothing”, therefore no natural processes can produce a “Big Bang phase” (as she calls it) from nothing. Hence it must be a supernatural cause.

    She talks about loop quantum cosmology and how it evades Big Bang singularities. Loop quantum gravity, mind you, has many objections against it from many top physicists. For example, LQG does not incorporate any new degrees of freedom at the Planck scale. It attempts to just quantize pure GR, which will not lead to a consistent theory because one cannot quantize gravity while leaving out all the other forces of nature. There are many more objections against LQG. Just go to some blogs authored by well-known quantum field theorists. They’ll show you the way. So her arguments using LQG are pointless. She shows the cover of a Scientific American magazine as if such a publication means the theory is correct. Scientific American will publish anything if it will sell more issues.

    She mentions string theory and something else, but fails to elaborate. Have string theorists been able to explain or calculate the values of the constants we measure in our universe. No. But it does predict a multiverse which allows you to get any kind of universe you want and, therefore, renders string theory an untestable theory since, with a multiverse, you can get anything you want out of the theory. Not to mention the fact that the existence of an infinite number of universes is an untestable idea.

    You can form any kind of “model” you want that explains where the Big Bang came from or what happened “before” the big bang, but it doesn’t mean your favorite model has anything to do with reality. Does their “model” follow from a theory of quantum gravity that unifies all the other forces and particle, that has testable predictions? Not that we know of.

    She talks about eternal inflation. If eternal inflation happened, there should have been bubble collisions. They looked for signs of bubble collisions in CMB data. They found nothing. It seems to me that this idea of pocket universes has no evidence for its favor and is unobservable. Besides eternal inflation isn’t exactly a requirement for inflation, nor is the traditional model of inflation the only solution to the problems that inspired the idea of inflation in the first place. Nor do we know what the “inflaton” is.
    She also showed a snippet of a paper that allegedly shows that the universe could pop out of literally nothing. Literally nothing? OK, so what is the natural mechanism through which a universe can pop out of literally nothing? Quantum mechanical tunelling? But the laws of quantum mechanics (as well as all laws) do not exist in some Platonic realm ready to act. They require something to exist on which to act. And if, somehow, the universe can pop out of literally nothing, why does the universe have the laws that it does and not some other laws, the values of the constants of nature it has and not some other values, or why does the universe have 3 spatial dimensions rather than 2? If the universe popped out of literally nothing, there must be some intelligible law that governed the popping out process. Why that intelligible law rather than some other intelligible law? Who or what came up with this law? All these objections are reasons to regard the idea that a universe can pop out of “literally nothing” are pure nonsense.

    There was an interview with Alan Guth in which he mentioned quantum tunelling. Quantum systems can make a discontinuos transition from one state to another. But “literally nothing” is not a quantum mechanical state. If you have nothing, you have no quantum mechanics, no laws, no nothing! If you have literally nothing, why can’t “nothing” be an eigenstate that just evolves to itself: nothing? Arguments like this from Guth make no sense. You can’t use natural laws to describe how “literally nothing” can turn into something! Why is this so difficult to understand? It is as if physicists are so into their work, they think they can apply it to something that makes no sense whatsoever.

    For more about how one can have God as a creator, without the need for a creator of God, as well as explanations for other sorts of seeminly impossible characteristics of God, read some famous works by actual theologians and thinkers, not physicists. Physicists are not the only people you should listen to. There are other kinds of thinkers out there. For example, Thomas Aquinas.

    So this video shows nothing.

    So the moral of the story is that, scientifically, we have no idea what happened. But from nothing comes nothing, hence only something “supernatural” can cause something to come from nothing. As long as that option is still open, there will still be room for a creator.

  • Gunner B.

    Does anyone have a link to the panel discussion? I missed it, and I really wanted to see it.

  • natural cynic

    To John @ 167 and others with critiques that Hawking did not present the whole story: This program was only one hour, what can you expect? If you try to explain one thing more clearly, another gets shortened and others get omitted. And maybe your answer is on the cutting room floor [or more literally snoozing on some hard drive]. That’s the director’s fault. That’s why this kind of program is only a taste, you have to make the effort to fill in the gaps.

  • John J. Bannan

    To Natural Cynic @171, I don’t think the “gaps” in Mr. Hawking’s theory lie on the editor’s floor. Mr. Hawking’s theory is quite simple, really. No time before the Big Bang, therefore, no need to explain what caused the Big Bang. The big problem with his theory is that it does not take the multiverse into account, does not explain why the laws of nature are the way they are, and indeed, makes no attempt to explain why laws of nature even exist. Indeed, his comparison of the universe to a blackhole is even more problematic. We know blackholes exist while “time” itself continues to exist for us. By the very analogy Hawking uses, this suggests a “time” outside the universe in the multiverse or higher dimension. It is also painfully obvious that if a Big Bang could happen once without a cause, it could happen more than once as there is no mechanism to prevent it happening more than once. This, in turn, presupposes a multiverse, which Hawking simply failed to address in this television program. Well, you can’t explain existence without also explaining the multiverse. So, Hawking fails. Hawking could say there is no evidence of a multiverse, and yet, his own theory must admit the possibility of spontaneous creation happening more than once or even multiple times concurrently in a higher dimension which means there must be a multiverse. Accordingly, Hawking’s own theory damns his own theory. If I am missing something, please explain what I am missing. I will not simply believe that Mr. Hawking has some sort of explanation for this dilemma and I should trust that the solution exists. I am sure Mr. Hawking saw this program before it was aired and could’ve made the appropriate corrections before I happened to see it, and therefore, I rather doubt those corrections even exist.

  • Anon

    @andyo (#148): “These are mathematically sound (as far as I’ve read from cosmologists) and also falsifiable in principle, if not in practice because of technological barriers.”

    Science requires that your claims be falsifiable in practice; otherwise, it’s not science. Full stop. This is precisely the reason that science has been so successful.

    “…you’re right that these are hypotheses, but they’re not the same as just believing in ‘god did it’.”

    I never said they were. Why are you so concerned with trying to prove that believing what Hawking does about the origin of the universe is better than believing in God?

    “And assuming you believe in this god, well, what else does she do besides setting off the big bang? If nothing else after that, then what’s the difference with not believing in her?”

    Suppose that scientists were able to prove that parallel universes, which would never affect our lives, existed. Would you still be asking “what’s the difference” then?

    @JimV (#156): “If there were vastly more time, the experiments and observations which support them could be explained…”

    If only that were true, JimV, if only! But no, there is no more evidence for Hawking’s claim at this point than there is for some of the most speculative parts of string theory.

    I don’t really have a problem with Hawking being speculative – hell, if I’m going to follow someone down a rabbit hole, Hawking is probably a better choice than most. I *do* have a problem, however, when such speculation gets presented to a general audience (that lacks the background to make up its own mind) as “science” – which is the way it came across on this show (just look at many of the comments here.)

  • Owlmirror

    I don’t have time to address any of the other comments, but I’m a bit confused by the claim that Hawking wrote the script for the episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation.

    The production information for the episode, Descent, is of course on-line, and Hawking has no credit for either the story or the teleplay, nor is he mentioned as having contributed towards the content of the episode in the notes.

    It’s possible that he was an uncredited contributor, though, since the notes do mention that there was a joke based on technically obscure physics, which he may well have suggested to the writer.

    So… I dunno.

  • andyo

    Anon #173,

    Science requires that your claims be falsifiable in practice; otherwise, it’s not science. Full stop. This is precisely the reason that science has been so successful.

    If they were falsifiable in practice right now, they wouldn’t be hypotheses anymore, and we’d know. All science has to pass through this stage, so are you saying it’s not science until the cycle is fully realized? There’s a difference between a scientific hypothesis and “god did it”. You don’t think that being mathematically sound and being in principle falsifiable is different than magic?

    I never said they were.

    It was implied in your message, whether intentional or not. Or else why even mention god in your criticism? Do string theory critics mention a god alternative when they say it’s flawed?

    Why are you so concerned with trying to prove that believing what Hawking does about the origin of the universe is better than believing in God?

    I’m not trying to prove anything, I’m just responding to criticisms brought up by others. Just to be clear: you think that it isn’t better? So, ARE you making an equivalence between Hawking’s hypothesis (and others) with “god did it” or not?

    Suppose that scientists were able to prove that parallel universes, which would never affect our lives, existed. Would you still be asking “what’s the difference” then?

    If science were able to “prove” that a non-intervening god set off the big bang, I would be interested. But science isn’t in the business of “proving” magic. The god “hypothesis” is nothing of the sort, it’s not a hypothesis, it’s just an assertion.

  • Doug

    I found it quite interesting that Mr. Hawking in the last few minutes of his presentation acknowledged the grand design of the universe and denied the existence of a designer. He was also grateful for the opportunity and privilege to study this design which requires someone to be thankful toward. I am thankful to my parents for my existence and thankful to Jesus for my destiny. Perhaps he is not so settled in his convictions.

    Popular religious thought today places the Creator outside of His creation which includes time. Therefore it is bogus to suggest God did not have time to create the universe. He is not constrained by time. He is eternally in the now, yesterday, today and forever (all time references for our finite perspectives)

    Altogether, the presentation brought forth very interesting facts; it’s the conclusions that baffle me.

  • mrgriswold

    Yes, Dr. Hawking’s sometimes tacit admission of design…well, the good Dr. has spoken on that. I believe he says that all of matter may well be determinate, but the question of whether we are determinate is irrelevant since we can never know the Determiner. I cannot now prove Dr. Hawking will meet the Determiner, but believe he will.

    I maintain, who can refute the obvious logical fallacies in the statement, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing”–Stephen Hawking. Who or What decreed the law of gravity? From where did the Information come? The problem of the creation and destruction of information is something that has tripped up Hawking before, IIRC.

    Science is a process. Religion in its purest form is a type of science, an attempt to explain the state of things through information, observation, hypothesis, testing, and evaluation. Neither is religion all theistic. Some of the most religious people I know are atheists. Sometimes religion does bad science, in a manner of speaking. Sometimes scientists do bad science and worse religion. Sometimes either hypothesizes from insufficient or incorrect information or fails to surrender disproven hypotheses.

    Good religion does not negate good science. But good science will expose bad religion, and of that I have no fear. Bad science, well, that will usually expose itself. Those of you who merely proclaim, “You people are just too stupid to comprehend this wonderful science that can’t be exposited in a mere hour” need to find a shorter horse, so to speak. Dude, you can make almost any point effectively in an hour, including most quantum effects, for almost any reasonably intelligent person. Many well-qualified scientists take strong issue with Dr. Hawking’s conclusions.

    I expect that, should mankind still exist in this dispensation 1,000 years from now, when some of today’s “best” theories are bandied about, people will exclaim, “Did they really believe THAT? Wow.”

  • Craig

    I think its annoying that John Haught evaded your question about whether the world would be different if there were no God, by essentially saying that he couldn’t even imagine that possibility. He basically thinks that nobody should talk about God until they have learned to slyly evade questions.

  • Ben Zalisko

    Sean,

    You were fantastic! I’m a student organizer and public debater and it was almost creepy how much what you said was almost identical to what I’ve written on the subject. I’ve certainly got to look more into what you’ve written.

    I had two take-aways from the discussion. First, David Greggory seemed to think that Hawking has just come up with atheism. He seemed to have no idea how long and how in depth this kind of discussion has already been going on and how little impact Hawking’s statements will have.

    Second, no one pushed the theologian on Christian doctrine. Haught seemed to be touting Tillich’s version of god, which is fine, but the elephant in the room is how he draws a line from God as existence itself to believing that the human son of God was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again after 3 days to purge all who believe in him of sin. This certainly falls under the category of a historical, scientific claim for which there is no reliable evidence. So much for NOMA.

  • Phil

    @ 179, Ben Zalisko,

    ” This certainly falls under the category of a historical, scientific claim for which there is no reliable evidence.”

    Actually, check out this lecture by Dr. Peter Williams entitled “New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts” using some nifty arguments and some statistics.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Ylt1pBMm8

    It’s very interesting! Of course, I’m not sure if this constitutes reliable evidence (probably not). :)

    But if you really want to learn how the God you mentioned can be compatible with the ideas in the Gospels, check out some highly regarded theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, and others. That is, if you care to learn about this in more detail (rather than be satisfied with your incomplete view of the relations between God and Christianity).

  • Roger

    I just watched about the last 20 minutes of the show, so maybe I missed something, but I have a question. If there was no time in the universe’s initial state, then how could anything ever change? It seems to me that for anything to change at all there must be some kind of time.

  • Owlmirror

    But if you really want to learn how the God you mentioned can be compatible with the ideas in the Gospels, check out some highly regarded theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, and others.

    No theololgian, no matter how highly regarded, provides either logic or evidence that the God that they “prove” to exist with logical fallacies and word games is the same God that is in the Bible.

    And “compatibility” can be a pretty broad concept. A “God” that is compatible with being both a person, and not being a person, simply demonstrates that anything is “compatible” with a logical contradiction, or with making stuff up.

  • Samuel Prime

    I remember Hawking and other scientists saying that the laws of physics break down in the extremes of black holes and certainly in singularities like the Big Bang. If so, then there isn’t much physical basis to go on in ruling in or out a Creator for the universe (or multiverse). In particular, very little basis for the claim in the program that at the Big Bang time ‘stops’ or had no ‘before’, a result which is derived from theoretical equations (not saying that time does not slow down in a gravitational field, treated classically). For indeed, even in relativity you can have two different times: proper time and improper times as measured by other reference frame. (And what of the time within the larger multiverse?)

    Also, it is possible that time too has its own “quantum fluctuations” since we really can’t say that Delta-t is exactly zero, according to the uncertainty principle — esp. in small enough scales where quantum effects ought to be allowed (so far as we know). And finally (sorry to bore you!), I’m most unpersuaded by arguments about creation or existing out of “nothing” – which to me point to a semantic problem than an actual empirical one.

    Anyway, thanks Sean for your insights and the fair way by which you treated the issue.

  • Farhad Keyvan

    @vel, I didn’t mean it that way. I am a long time supporter of Sean and fight against religious fanaticism and belief in the super natural.

  • Hugh Campbell

    I want to know what Sean said at the end that was cut off.

  • Anon

    @andyo: I’m not interested in talking to someone who thinks he knows better than I what I am saying. I’ve made my position very clear in my comments; it’s a lot more nuanced than this atheists vs. believers world view that you are trying to force on everything.

  • Hugh Campbell

    Farhad, why do you find it necessary to “fight against” religious beliefs? I am not a believer but I find no desire to fight anyone or anything when it comes to religious beliefs….everyone is entitled their opinion.

  • Hugh Campbell

    I would like to know what Sean said at the end that he says was cut out of the program.

  • Martin

    “”John Says:
    August 7th, 2011 at 6:34 pm “”

    Dear John,

    That is the best reply I’ve heard on this forum! That is so true! Virtual particles are nothing more than a theory. Where is the proof of them? How can atheists demand proof of God when they haven’t even supplied proof that He can’t exist.

    I’m sorry to stay Stephen Hawking is about as stuck up a physicist as one can get. He always HAD to mention that he shared the same Cambridge Math Chair as Isaac Newton. What a stuck up arsewipe, no wonder he’s an atheist; he believes he’s above everybody, even God.

    LOL!

  • Samuel Prime

    In chapter 3 of Hawking’s famous book A Brief History of Time, he said:

    “In fact, all our theories of science are formulated on the assumption that space­time is smooth and nearly fiat, so they break down at the big bang singularity, where the curvature of space­time is infinite.”

    As such he would seem to have very little physical basis to make the conclusions he made regarding time at the singularity. So no one knows — we are still far behind in possession solid knowledge on this frontier (though we have many theories).

  • mrgriswold

    Samuel Prime says:

    Also, it is possible that time too has its own “quantum fluctuations” since we really can’t say that Delta-t is exactly zero, according to the uncertainty principle — esp. in small enough scales where quantum effects ought to be allowed (so far as we know).

    Indeed, I am not sure modern theories of physics forbid more than a single dimension of time, either. Going with the modern flow, if the math permits it, it must exist! :-^

    But more seriously, I think any God figure would probably exist not just in at least one additional dimension of space, but also an extra dimension of time (at least one) most likely perpendicular to the one in which we live.

  • Owlmirror

    Virtual particles are nothing more than a theory. Where is the proof of them?

    You could look it up. Virtual particles.

    How can atheists demand proof of God when they haven’t even supplied proof that He can’t exist.

    You can’t supply proof that Santa Claus “can’t” exist, or the Easter Bunny, or any nonsense ever dreamed up by humans.

    If you believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, or all of the nonsense ever dreamed up by humans, simply on the basis that no “proof” that they can’t exist has been supplied, then you’re a moron.

    If you believe in God on the basis that no “proof” that God can’t exist has been supplied, but not in any of the other nonsense, you’re a moron and a hypocrite.

  • Owlmirror

    But more seriously, I think any God figure would probably exist not just in at least one additional dimension of space, but also an extra dimension of time (at least one) most likely perpendicular to the one in which we live.

    Lovely. So in order to conjecture an invisible person with magical superpowers, you still need to conjecture some sort of time and space and meta-laws existing anyway.

    Why not conjecture the time and space and meta-laws, and cut God out?

  • Martin

    “You can’t supply proof that Santa Claus “can’t” exist, or the Easter Bunny, or any nonsense ever dreamed up by humans.”

    If you believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, or all of the nonsense ever dreamed up by humans, simply on the basis that no “proof” that they can’t exist has been supplied, then you’re a moron.

    If you believe in God on the basis that no “proof” that God can’t exist has been supplied, but not in any of the other nonsense, you’re a moron and a hypocrite.

    A thousand years of philosophy says that I’m not a moron. Sure, go ahead rely on the atheist’s crutch, the Dawkins Easter Bunny/Zeus quote, but I’ll stick with pure reason and say that nothing physicists have revealed about the natural world contradicts the Grand Designer. In fact, that’s my point exactly. Science has nothing to say about religion, except that a few bad men have ruined atheists’ views of religion during the Enlightenment era. I won’t stop until Stephen Hawking himself admits that the reason he’s an atheist is because of a personal vendetta with the Watchmaker.

  • Owlmirror

    A thousand years of philosophy says that I’m not a moron.

    A thousand years of philosophy is not proof that you’re not a moron.

    Sure, go ahead rely on the atheist’s crutch, the Dawkins Easter Bunny/Zeus quote

    It has nothing to do with Dawkins, for pity’s sake. It’s called argument by analogy. If you don’t know what an analogy is, you have no business claiming that you’re not a moron. If you think that Dawkins was the first to come up with analogies, or with analogies like that, you’re definitely a moron.

    Good grief.

    I’ll stick with pure reason

    Hah!

    and say that nothing physicists have revealed about the natural world contradicts the Grand Designer.

    That’s not “pure” reason. That’s rejecting reason.

    You want to believe in a “Grand Designer”, despite having no evidence for this alleged “Grand Designer”, so you believe in spite of the evidence, and in spite of reason.

    Science has nothing to say about religion

    Whenever religion makes empirical claims, science can say something about those claims.

    I won’t stop until Stephen Hawking himself admits that the reason he’s an atheist is because of a personal vendetta with the Watchmaker.

    Hahaha!

    OK, you’re not just a moron, you’re completely nuts.

    You want a cosmologist to admit that he’s got a “vendetta” against some imaginary being that only exists inside your own head?

  • Phil

    @ #182, Owlmirror:

    “No theololgian, no matter how highly regarded, provides either logic or evidence that the God that they “prove” to exist with logical fallacies and word games is the same God that is in the Bible. ”

    And how do you know this? Have you read any of there works? Is the only valid logic mathematical and scientific logic? Obviously, these theologians are basing their arguments and logic on premises. I wasn’t saying that these theologians can prove that God exists, only that it is possible that IF such a God exists, it can be the Christian God as described in the Gospels.

    “And “compatibility” can be a pretty broad concept. A “God” that is compatible with being both a person, and not being a person, simply demonstrates that anything is “compatible” with a logical contradiction, or with making stuff up.”

    Excellent point. This point, and the teaching of the Trinity, is dealt with in great detail in Thomas Aquinas’ works, such as the Summa Theologia. I suggest you pick up a copy and read through the parts that deal with the Trinity if you want to know more about how the two concept CAN coexist. But be warned, reading through that stuff is not for the faint of heart, so give yourself some time and an open mind. :)

    Cheers!

  • Owlmirror

    And how do you know this? Have you read any of there works?

    Their works. Yes, I have read some of Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Ockham, Plantinga, Craig, Swinburne, Gödel…

    Is the only valid logic mathematical and scientific logic?

    Well, logic does need to be sound in addition to be valid.

    Obviously, these theologians are basing their arguments and logic on premises.

    On utterly ludicrous premises.

    Hey, I can base an argument and logic on the premise that wishes are horses, and logically conclude that beggers can ride.

    But that doesn’t mean that the premise is true, or even sane.

    I wasn’t saying that these theologians can prove that God exists, only that it is possible that IF such a God exists, it can be the Christian God as described in the Gospels.

    Right. They wave their tiny hands and make believe that that’s enough of an “argument” to reach the conclusion that they want to reach.

    Hey, it’s also possible that IF such a God exists, it can be Santa Claus as described in The Night Before Christmas. Or it can be Zeus as described in Hesiod’s Theogony. Or they can be the Elder Gods as described in Lovecraft’s Mythos stories. Or it can be a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater, described in The Purple People Eater.

    Because anything is “possible” if you don’t actually care about grounding your premises on empirical fact.

    This point, and the teaching of the Trinity, is dealt with in great detail in Thomas Aquinas’ works, such as the Summa Theologia.

    Why is Aquinas waving his tiny hands better than anyone else waving their tiny hands? Oh, right, because you like the Christian myth, and you want to believe in it. That makes so much sense.

    Pfft.

    I suggest you pick up a copy and read through the parts that deal with the Trinity if you want to know more about how the two concept CAN coexist. But be warned, reading through that stuff is not for the faint of heart, so give yourself some time and an open mind.

    Please. Aquinas cannot make his nonsense plausible unless you presuppose it being true — just like any other believer in any other mythology.

  • Owlmirror

    I suggest you pick up a copy and read through the parts that deal with the Trinity if you want to know more about how the two concept CAN coexist. But be warned, reading through that stuff is not for the faint of heart, so give yourself some time and an open mind.

    ..and wouldn’t you know it, I was right. Here’s Aquinas on the Trinity. All he does is throw away out all of the garbage logic that he used to conclude that God is this incredibly abstract and practically meaningless entity, and start using the garbage logic of quote-mining scripture and pre-existing theololgical presuppositions.

    He’s waving his tiny hands, and making exactly as much sense as a classical Greek using the same sort of argumentation to say that well, you wouldn’t think that Zeus would turn himself into a swan in order to have sex with someone, but the myths say that Zeus turned himself into a swan to have sex with Leda, so it must be that Zeus can indeed turn himself into a swan to have sex with someone.

    It’s utterly ludicrous nonsense, and it’s ludicrous that anyone takes that nonsense seriously.

  • Anon

    @andyo,

    You know, reading over your comments again, it’s clear to me that you really don’t have a good understanding of how science or the scientific method works. I wonder, are you a scientist? I have been one for 20+ years, so let me give you the skinny: Science does not place any restrictions on what constitutes a valid hypothesis. This is a good thing and again, one of the reasons that science has been so successful. Your hypothesis could be that God exists, that little green men live on Mars … whatever the hell you wish to investigate. The one thing that your hypothesis must be, however, is testable; you must be able to make predictions, collect evidence to confirm these, and provide enough information so that others can reproduce your results. If you cannot do this, then your hypothesis has no hope of being accepted as science, even if your name is Stephen Hawking.

    You, for whatever reason, do not appear to believe in God. Maybe you don’t believe because you’ve seen no evidence to support the claim that God exists, maybe you have other reasons. Whatever your reasons, that is your choice. You seem to feel that Hawking’s hypothesis is a better explanation of the origin of the universe than God. Do you feel this way because of science? Do you understand the science that Hawking is basing his claim on … even a little? You are certainly free to value Hawking’s explanation above one that invokes God, but if you do so that has NOTHING TO DO WITH SCIENCE, because “science” has not yet vetted Hawking’s claims.

    As a scientist, I was trained to keep an open mind. I see no value in trying to convince someone to adopt a view that I hold for which I HAVE NO EVIDENCE. If I want to convince the general public that a world view based on science is better than one founded on religion, I’m going use actual science, not speculation that has yet to be proven.

  • Phil

    Owlmirror,

    You’re acting way too hostile to me. You’re a complete waste of my time. And since when was Godel a Christian theologian anyway? You probably NEVER read any of the writings of those theologians. Have a good night.

  • Phil

    You must have tiny hands yourself, which you hate. You probably wish your hands were bigger. Which is probably why you’re so obsessed about Aquinas, as well as other Christian thinkers, having tiny hands. Do you have evidence that their hands were tiny?

    That’s the last minute I waste on you.

  • co

    Phil, Owlmirror is making perfectly valid points, whereas you’re arguing from authority, playing the martyr, and pooh-pooing cogent and apt arguments. *All* Eulenspiegel is doing is pointing out that you need to do something other than cry “read theologians!”.

  • Owlmirror

    You’re acting way too hostile to me.

    I’m not hostile to you. I’m hostile to nonsense. I’m sorry you take nonsense so personally.

    You’re a complete waste of my time.

    And vice-versa.

    And since when was Godel a Christian theologian anyway?

    If you can’t figure out how to write “Gödel”, write “Goedel”.

    You haven’t heard of Gödel’s ontological proof via modal logic? He never published it, probably because he realized that it was as silly as any other “proof” of God.

    You probably NEVER read any of the writings of those theologians

    I think you’re probably a liar too.

    Have a good night.

    You too.

  • Owlmirror

    Which is probably why you’re so obsessed about Aquinas, as well as other Christian thinkers, having tiny hands. Do you have evidence that their hands were tiny?

    Yes. Size is relative. In relation to the size of the universe, humans are tiny, and so are their hands. Theologians are humans, so their hands are tiny in relation to the universe as well.

    QED.

    See? That’s logic that is both valid and sound.

    That’s the last minute I waste on you.

    Feel free to ignore me while I point out the utter stupidity of theolology.

  • Phil

    “If you can’t figure out how to write “Gödel”, write “Goedel”.”

    Oh right! I forgot. Same thing with “Schrodinger” and “Schroedinger”. Thanks, now please chill out and stop calling people morons!

  • bad Jim

    Old joke: why do radio announcers have small hands?

    Wee paws for station identification.

  • mrgriswold

    Owl, just keep spewing arrogant semi-knowledge and you will convert more and more people away from your position. The existence of extra dimensions of time as well as space is in fact permitted by the mathematics and many qualified theoreticians have theorized it.

    If your position is so certain, you do not need the arrogance.

  • Alan

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • EF BARRETT

    I guess Stephen Hawkings has come full circle. With the whole univers staring him straight in the face,, he comes down to ‘Nothing’…
    Nothing,, is the answer.
    I guess if thats the case his anology is is or means ‘Nothing’.
    I uded to think he was so far intellectually above most of us, but, now I see him as lost as lost can be…
    I’m sure his ‘folowers and belivers’ look at him as the Guru or even Godlike,, but that anology left me honestly laughing,, outloud.
    Here is a man that has spent all of his life studying, observing and aquiring knowledge.
    A man that has all day and night to ‘think’, to ‘analyze’, to understand,, and what in the world does he finally come up with “NOTHING” !!!! and Absolutelly “NOTHING”
    And NOTHING more….
    And his followers praise him for it…. For NOTHING …

    There is a very appropriatte phrase written for this, it fits SO WELL..

    “Leviticus 8 16 thru 17″

    E.F.Barrett

  • réalta fuar

    Meh. Wouldn’t watch it even if it was running here since I have no interest in the subject. I AM interested in whether or not serious physicists are embarassed to appear with Michio Kaku though?

  • Gene

    If there is such a thing as “emergent” or “imaginary” time, that certainly constrains the possible Gods. Still, I don’t see how the concept makes sense, nothing happens without time,.. right?

  • Phil

    @ 210 realta fuar,

    Why would serious physicists feel embarrassed to appear with Michio Kaku? He’s the father of string field theory, you know.

  • Owlmirror

    Owl, just keep spewing arrogant semi-knowledge and you will convert more and more people away from your position.

    I’m baffled as to what you think my position is, given that you don’t seem to be addressing anything I actually wrote.

    The existence of extra dimensions of time as well as space is in fact permitted by the mathematics and many qualified theoreticians have theorized it.

    Case in point: Where, exactly, did I suggest that there was anything wrong with that?

    If your position is so certain, you do not need the arrogance.

    Because only religious people are allowed to be arrogant?

  • rararoadrunner

    I watched the episode of “Curiousity” with great interest, and, having watched episodes of “Through the Wormhole” previously, I was wondering if Professor Hawking was going to duck the question as is done in the programme hosted by Morgan Freeman: whew! What a relief! Hawking takes what he knows and runs with it, no apologies! Way to go!

    How do we know about the Big Bang? By extrapolating backward from the expanding universe until we can extrapolate no more: a relatively simple model based on direct observation (and one which has to have been modified somewhat when we inferred the acceleration of the expansion over time: since acceleration never occurs without a force behind it, we were able to infer the existence of dark matter/negative energy…again, based upon direct observation).

    It’s easy to get wrong the hill/hole analogy: it’s of the simultaneous existence of positive energy/matter and its negative twin. What is there before it? Neither positive nor negative: zero, zip, nada.

    So, although what existed before the big bang is like a black hole in that time stops beyond it, so that there is no “beyond it,” it’s a much deeper hole than the extant black holes, because it simply isn’t possible for anything to have existed before it. Not an easy concept for us to grasp…but one inferred from direct observation. No faith needed: just the ability to derive one’s concepts from observation. Such is science.

    Now if Hawking can demolish the “first cause” shibboleth without resorting to the maths which undergird the concept (which he does, brilliantly, in his books and also in “Curiosity,”) how much easier it is do knock down the “intelligent design” totem! Look, if humans are purpose-built by a Creator, why do we have an appendix, which is worse than useless in humans…but vital to vegetarian simians, such as gorillas? (Hint: it’s an evolutionary remnant of a simian rumen). Why do we breathe through our mouths as well as our noses, when two separate sets of plumbing, one respiratory and one digestive, would preclude the risk of choking to death? What intelligent designer would purposely build in a death trap when it could so easily be avoided?

    See what a clean blade Occam’s Razor really is? Use it to shave unnecessary concepts off every day, your mind will thank you!

    So, where does that leave us? Well, on the one hand, the argument that it’s an economic question has some merit: while the internet has knocked down the knowledge barrier somewhat, it still takes some time to chip away at one’s ignorance via the internet…and since we spend most of our time trying to earn a living, and the balance in living itself, that doesn’t leave very much time for most of us to expand our knowledge.

    That don’t explain the allergic reaction quite a lot of people have to having their dogmas questioned, however: we have actually been taught that faith in our bosses, whether economic or ideological, will be rewarded…and heresy will be punished. Our supposed love of liberty is, in too many cases, a fig-leaf behind which can be found a deep fear and hate of any real liberation: freedom will prove “us” right and “them” wrong…heaven forbid the reverse!

    The fig leaf is getting thinner and more tattered as we speak (or write): soon enough, the lines between those who seek liberation and those who fear and hate it will be clearly drawn. Dialogues such as this, I hope, help to clarify that distinction.

  • Owlmirror

    “Leviticus 8 16 thru 17″

    And he took all the fat that was upon the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and their fat, and Moses burned it upon the altar. But the bullock, and his hide, his flesh, and his dung, he burnt with fire without the camp; as the LORD commanded Moses.

    ?

    Some religious people aren’t just arrogant; they’re completely insane.

  • Nancy

    Anon’s comments seem to me to make the most sense. All of us, including scientists have their own perspectives which influence their work and/or theories. You can not say scientists follow only the facts. They often draw conclusions that cannot be drawn based on the physical evidence. This seems to be the case with Dr. Hawking. I disliked the air of proven evidence given to his theory, although I realize the show was not very long and there were constraints.

    I would have preferred to have an all scientific panel, who could have shown the problems with his theory. I do not believe a non-physical God can ever be proven or dis-proven,based on physical principles.

    I do believe that there is enough circumstantial evidence in philosophy, near-death experiences, inexplicable healings and phenomena and the hard sciences to incline one towards belief in God.

    I respect those who do not share my belief although I confess I have a hard time understanding how they get along believing they have no definitive purpose for existing and no existence after this life .

  • Owlmirror

    There’s something vaguely narcissistic in thinking that you do have a definitive purpose in life, that comes from an invisible person with magical superpowers. Presumably, the “definitive” purpose of most of humanity has been to live brief lives filled with pain and die in agonizing illness, because God thinks that suffering and death is a good thing.

    On the other hand, if there is an existence after this life, why don’t those who believe in it just kill themselves? This existence is temporary; the supposed afterlife is supposedly eternal. So why not just get the temporary stuff over and done with? Why dither around living, when you could be afterliving?

  • Phil

    Owlmirror,

    Can you tell me how to write “Goedel” with the character corresponding to “oe”? I’m trying to search for how to do it, but no luck. Are you using an html command?

  • Owlmirror

    @Phil: I use HTML entities; typing “G&ouml;del” in the comment box will result in “Gödel” being displayed.

    [“ouml” stands for “o-umlaut”, of course]

    More HTML entities here:

    http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp

    You can also Google for “HTML entities” to find more lists of more obscure characters, most of which use only numbers to encode them, and don’t have an obvious name. Not all of these will display; you also need a Unicode font that supports them.

    You could also use the character map tool, or copy and paste.

  • Mato

    Thank you all for the entertaining discourse. I love science! By it humans discover how incredibly orderly this chaotic universe is. (Or should I say how chaotic this orderly universe is)… Anyways, by science the “truth” of matters can be found out and discovered.

    But wait…truth cannot be discovered via science because “truth” exists in the philosophical realm. Science helps us discover “facts” that all of us can agree on. I guess that’s why all scientists don’t all agree when it comes to understanding the origin of the universe. Because Science doesn’t “speak,” “know,” or “tell” us anything. Scientists speak, know, or tell us things. And once scientists begin to tell us the “truth” about something they exit the scientific realm and enter the philosophical (or theological) realm. That’s why in the show Mr. Hawking (or the announcer) used the terms “we know” or “science knows” but in the end of the show Mr. Hawking said “I BELIEVE.” Because he was intellectually honest and realized he exited the scientific realm and entered the philosophical realm when he gave his personal opinion and not a scientific fact.

  • Chad

    Not sure if this was posted yet, but when you posited the question “If God didn’t exist, would the universe be any different?” (or something like that), you threw a big ‘ol hand grenade that was sorely needed in that show — it hit right to the heart of the matter. I loved the look on Haught’s face. Priceless.
    You’re right – not enough time to talk about this content in a heavily edited 1/2 hour. You did your best to cut to the chase on the topic with the time you had and your answers were spot on.

  • Phil

    @221, Chad,

    Here’s the answer to your question. If God didn’t exist, yes the universe would be different. Jesus would not have existed and, therefore, Christianity would never had existed. :) Hope that helps.

  • 2l8natn

    Wait just a damn minute! The inter-universal clock runs forever. Always has; always will.
    note;
    The inter-universal clock derives its time from the motion of infinite universes.
    And one more thing. Unlike the red-shift of the car racing down the road in a straight line,
    the light from an expanding universe is old and could be bent by cosmic gravity or some such thing resulting in bent laws of physics, not to mention color distortion.

  • EF BARRETT

    “OWLMirror”
    Your looking in the wrong bible version;;

    Try The King James Version “Ecclesiastes 8: 16″

    16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night,

    then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it

    Not all things come in the form of ‘Logic’.
    We see and understand, know and feel logically and intuitionally.
    We think and feel.
    Our brains are even constructed that way.
    Half logic, half intuitional.
    The most closed minded people I have ever met are scientists.
    They see only ‘logic’.
    They ‘cant’ think out of that box.

    They math before beauty.

    E.F.Barrett

  • Owlmirror

    Your looking in the wrong bible version;;

    I looked at the bible verses that you referenced. If they were wrong, you got them wrong. Own your mistake. Take responsibility.

    Not all things come in the form of ‘Logic’.

    That’s something that a crazy person would say.

    They math before beauty.

    What does that even mean?

    Look. You obviously have a huge problem writing words and sentences in the English language. Maybe the problem you have with scientists is also your problem, in understanding what they are saying.

    Or to put it in other words: You make no sense. Science tries to make sense. Maybe what you think is sense is really nonsense, and what science does really does make sense.

    Think about it. It may hurt your head, but try.

  • Anchor

    “…then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it”

    And having NOT “discovered” or “found” anything, despite all the laboring and no matter how wise one may be in the “attempt to know it”, does anybody seriously think this drivel that basaically shuts down every instinctive aspect of curiosity and pursuit of knowledge ostensibly gifted to us – however incomplete and tentative – and perhaps the most important criterion that most of us associate with the human condition, really entitles anyone with a smidgeon of reasoning left intact to suppose this to be an argument FOR the existence of an ineffable agency that is by definition unknowable, and a refutation of the efficacy of rational thinking and reasoning, let alone the scientific method?

    Is THAT how come 5000 years of monolithic religion REVEALED all of those nifty things like the nature of those mysterious lights in the night sky as being stars and planets, the existence of atoms and molecules, the genetic basis of life and its evolution, the nature of the 4 fundamental forces and the subatomic players involved, etc, etc., etc…

    Oh. Wait.

    No, religion was busy doing something completely different. Instead of listening to the putative products of the almighty for a clue, it busied itself with handling the much more practical issue of controlling the minds of the illiterate masses, whichy has today evolved into a political attempt to preserve control over the population.

    So?

    If this pathetic passage is to be digested, what does it mean to believers?

    The interpretation they give is WEIRD:

    How come believers “know” so much about this agency, which they themselves insist cannot be known and whose recreational products (ACCORDING TO THE SIMPLEST INTERPRETATION OF THIS PASSAGE) are themselves unknowable or intrinsically indecipherable by “wise men”?

    Don’t you people actually R-E-A-D your holy books? Aren’t you ever once even slightly embarassed at the monumentally glaring contradictions between what it ACTUALLY says and your convenient [mis]interpretations? Do you people really think that human intuition and creative imagination is diametrically opposed to reasoning and the operations of logical and rational thinking, or does not synergistically support and inform scientific analysis and reasoning? Are you people really that obtuse and dull-witted?

  • Anchor

    Following this thread and seeing the baloney blo0ssom has at last pushed me over the edge.

    To Phil, mrgriswold, Martin and others who are so stunningly static and irrevocably welded to their theistic views, dismissing whatever additional consideration or perspective anyone else may pose to them or the discussion: At least Owlmirror doesn’t stoop to the ignominious tactic of trying to pass off a blatant con-artist’s trick by redefining a word or concept in order to acquire the objective of appearing to be correct, as Phil does so slickly in his post #169, after lecturing everyone on the true meaning of ‘nothing’ and its alleged impotence, and goes right ahead and, abracadabra, presto-changeo, turns it into a ‘SOMETHING’ by calling it SOMETHING ‘supernatural’, then calls that SOMETHING SUPERNATURAL a creator. Same tricksterism and shoddy logic Aquinas and other theologian “thinkers out there” employ.

    Owlmirror has steadfastly maintained and adhered to a rational examination of your claims with an abundance of integrity.

    You, on the other hand, just don’t like it if anyone provides a dissenting view, grope hideously to shield yourselves with false arguments from authority and popularity, cast false aspersions of personal attacks exactly like a schoolyard brat given to bullying, have the monumental termerity to presume physicists or atheists are unaquainted with the writings of theologians and philosophers, and dismiss the efficacy of science by casting doubt on the power of reasoning. Shameful. Stupid and just plain dumb are other perfectly serviceable words that come readily to mind that amply and accurately describe your hijincks.

    BTW: @mrgriswold post #207: evidently you have a mighty fine talent for focusing what those with an irrational appetite might find digestible. Alas, for you and your ilk, there is a giant and growing population of good folks and no doubt represented in the readersahip here who trust rational arguments, and who will therefore recognize where the stink comes from and readily accept Owlmirrors’s arguments (BECAUSE they are rational) over yours and your fellows (BECAUSE they are utterly irrational and demonstrably false, as I have just shown) without batting an eyelash.

    Methinks the rational contingent will win this one.

    You guys are disgraceful. yea, even on the eyes of god.

    Or don’t you guys subscribe to consistency either?

  • Anchor

    @Phil#169: So, basically your argument is to magically transform the definition of ‘nothing’ into ‘something’, abracadabra, call it SOMETHING ELSE (‘supernatural’), and in turn call that supernatural something a ‘creator’ which can then be held responsible for causing the universe – simply because you have, uh, demonstrated that nothing is actually something.

    I’m sorry, but I am not impressed let alone persuaded by that poor excuse for an ‘argument’.

    I would not even qualify it as a legitimate argument. It’s not just a bad argument. Major violations of logic make it a nonsense.

    Why not just throw out all the intermediary abracadabras, identify the ‘creator’ as nothing and conclude that a creator doesn’t exist? Wouldn’t that be simpler?

    In case you have trouble obtaining independent reasons for why one may consider a creator non-existent, why not give another good look at Thomas Aquinas and “other thinkers out there” in all their tedious loftiness and remind yourself how their definition of the creator is almost unanimously characterized with terms such as “Perfect”, “Almighty”, “Omnipotent”, “Omniscient” and generally Infallible, all of it offered with the DIVINE CERTITUDE one might more cautiously restrict to a GOD.

    Then tell us how such attributes so strongly reflect and abundantly characterize all other somethings that meet our experience within the realm of existence.

    Do tell us how the many products of a perfect creator are all perfect and without flaw. Then tell us how or why a flawless creator doesn’t incorporate imperfection in his recreational products.

    Then, by all means, do tell us how nothing is perfect but god, and go on to explain how god and the perfection of nothingness cannot be the same ‘thing’ . (if perfection is a ‘thing, it must be God with a capital ‘G’, yes?).

    Tell us how you know nothing can’t be unstable, then show us how its stability cannot indicate perfection, then explain why we can’t imperfectly not exist.

    Oh. Wait. Ok, yeah, you get to go through the whole orbit of circular reasoning all over again. Simply flash your magic handy-dandy all-purpose logic-slaying ‘supernatural’ ray gun, and all is well in a jiffy, and what was once “NOTHING” is now a “SOMETHING”.

    THEN tell us how your ‘argument’ remains an “open option” (that is, a SOMETHING) which leaves room (that is, a SOMETHING) for a creator (that is, a SOMETHING).

    Tell us how you know so much about ANYTHING that entitles you to turn nothing into something.

    Tell us how you arrive at your conclusions with the certitude of a god, with a purity exemplified by the infallible perfection of an almighty creator.

    Indeed, tell us how you manage to carry on your contradictions without ever being bothered by them. (THAT would probably be the most psychologically instructive part).

    We’re all (if fallible) ears. (So very sorry, but we cannot in our conscience identify ourselves with a god)

    Why not let us have it? Come on. Ready, aim, fire. You know the drill. Let’s have it right between the eys. Quit pussy-footing around. What REALLY restrains you and Martin and others from giving us what you REALLY SO BADLY WANT ALL US BACKWARD-TYPE PHYSICISTS AND SCIENTISTS AND DESPICABLE ATHEISTIC TYPES TO KNOW? Please relieve our considerable anxieties over the possibility that you guys aren’t shying away from your intellectual responsibilities to correct our liberall world-wrecking sensibilities and chronic misconceptions. Lord knows (as you claim to ‘know’) that atheists aren’t to be trusted with anything like integrity or a respect for the truth, right?

    So, while you are at it, you can teach us all how to cheat just like you do, and transmogrify the meaning of a word into its very opposite, like nothingness into somethingness, you know, just to give YOU something to do in terms of that all-important political exploit on behalf of your god, so that us throwbacks can catch up to your impeccable standard of unimpeachable forth-rightedness (= how to get away with cheating by denying one is ludicrously mistaken).

    Don’t beat around the bush: TELL US IT IS OKAY TO DEFINE ‘NOTHING’ AS ‘SOMETHING’ under the auspices of your magical ray-gun tactic of invoking the ‘SUPERNATURAL’ every time you encounter any legitimate puzzle that threatens to hurt your brain.

    But mark this possible alternative: Why shouldn’t the ‘supernatural’ – by definition lying OUTSIDE the jurisdiction of ‘SOMETHINGNESS’ – plausibly be considered ‘NOTHING’? For extra credit, explain why your logic is less dilapidated – or more cogent – than that employed in this far simpler conjecture.

    And even as you’ve spent all that time and effort enlightening everyone on the nature of NOTHING, then immediately contradict yourself as you demonstrate before our very eyes how self-evidently and pathetically WRONG you are, you are moved to pile it on further with dismissmive snuffs at physicists and readers here, exhibiting the temerity of admonishing them (“Why is that so hard to understand”?) on their alleged congenital lack of comprehension over what is so blazingly obvious to you and nobody else this side of the Deity, whilst zooming yourself to stratospheric heights of audacity in the suggestion that none of us have ever read Aquinas or “other thinkers out there” — is more than sufficient indication of a charlatan’s fevered and hysterical mien, devoid of the slightest particle of scientific integrity, rationality, or ordinary human sincerity.

  • Phil

    @ Anchor,

    So, did the narrator make the argument that the universe came into being from nothing? Or was the point that one cannot talk about a cause because time itself came into being with the Big Bang, so there was no “before” in which a cause occurred?

    Unfortunately, the show didn’t make it clear that we really know nothing about the laws of physics at that tiny scale (quantum gravity). Hence, the statement that the universe could have come into being without violating any of the KNOWN laws of physics is incorrect since we don’t know what those laws are at that tiny scale.

    Sure, one can say that the total energy of the universe is 0, so a universe can pop into existence without needing any energy or violating energy conservation. But if the universe, for example, came from “nothing”, then why did the universe come into being at all? The total energy of “nothing” is 0 as well. Thus, why isn’t there still nothing? And one cannot make the argument that the universe could have popped into existence from nothing as a result of quantum mechanics, because there IS no quantum mechanics if there is nothing. And even if, somehow, the universe could have come into being from nothing, why THESE laws and constants, and not others?

    So I’m surprised that, to my knowledge, the show didn’t mention the multiverse idea which could resolve these questions by saying there may exist a “universe-generating” mechanism that can make a universe from a pre-existing universe. If a multiverse had always existed “for all eternity”, that could completely do away with the need for a “first cause”. One could just say that the multiverse had always existed with the set of laws that it does, laws which also include some sort of universe-generating mechanism. But that still doesn’t address the question, “Why those laws and not others?” Unfortunately, our knowledge of the laws of physics is still incomplete, so we cannot say for sure whether such a mechanism exists, nor whether other universes exist.

    All they referred to was the notion of virtual particles randomly coming into existence from the vacuum of space-time, but this is just an analogy. The vacuum of space-time is not nothing. It is part of the universe.

    So concluding that these ideas render a creator unnecessary is, in my opinion, misleading and incorrect.

    If the universe came from nothing, then on what grounds can we say that the universe arose from a random quantum fluctuation? If there’s nothing, literally nothing, then the idea “quantum fluctuation” makes no sense — it doesn’t even exist, it’s not possible. If you have nothing, you stay with nothing.

    Does there exist a being which transcends space and time? No? Why not? Can you use science to answer the question?

  • Owlmirror

    And one cannot make the argument that the universe could have popped into existence from nothing as a result of quantum mechanics, because there IS no quantum mechanics if there is nothing.

    You cannot make the argument that God created the universe from nothing, because there IS no God if there is nothing.

    If you redefine “nothing” to mean “God, and nothing else”, then cosmologists are free to define “nothing” to mean “the laws of quantum mechanics (and whatever other fundamental physics is necessary), and nothing else”

    And even if, somehow, the universe could have come into being from nothing, why THESE laws and constants, and not others?

    Obviously, they’re what they are because that’s what they are.

    So concluding that these ideas render a creator unnecessary is, in my opinion, misleading and incorrect.

    Only if you reject the principle of parsimony. But I understand that that’s a popular move among theists.

    If the universe came from nothing, then on what grounds can we say that the universe arose from a random quantum fluctuation? If there’s nothing, literally nothing, then the idea “quantum fluctuation” makes no sense — it doesn’t even exist, it’s not possible. If you have nothing, you stay with nothing.

    And the same argument holds for God, only more so.

    Does there exist a being which transcends space and time? No? Why not? Can you use science to answer the question?

    You can use the principle of parsimony to argue that no being which transcends space and time has been shown to be necessary to explain anything, and cut that sucker out.

  • rararoadrunner

    What does it mean to say that something “exists” outside space and time? Seems to me that to posit this is to abuse the verb “exist” (and to admit, without saying so, that nothing could have existed before the Big Bang…unless we give a whole new meaning to “exist” that allows such a possibility).

    Another notion of the believers that I take kinda personally is the notion that life can have no meaning outside their system of belief: just because the believers cannot conceive of subjective meaning outside of their belief systems don’t mean that we unbelievers feel so bereft! I have a family, loved ones, and a whole planet full of folks who lend meaning to my life…no need for a belief in the supernatural there! Furthermore, I personally enjoy living way too much to throw it away…unlike too many believers, I don’t see me getting out of this life alive! So, please, spare me the “life has no meaning without God” BS!

    A concept I would like to offer is that with which Dan Brown concludes his Robert Langdon trilogy: that is, that the Founding Fathers regarded God not as a supreme Being, but as a supreme Symbol of the good (in line with their Masonic thinking about the efficacy of symbols)…this would explain their peculiar ambivalence to the concept (can’t wait for The Lost Symbol to come out on the big screen, BTW…do so hope Tom Hanks reprises the part!)

    OK, unbelievers, buck up: you’re not alone. If you believe anything, believe this: there’s a lot more of us out there than you might have been led to believe!

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  • EF BARRETT

    I think the big bang has been described as an explosion of energy,,, ‘light’… It filled the universe,, creating it as it expanded…

    Interesting,,, God’s ‘1st words’ spoken, “Let There Be Light” !!!

  • Phil

    “You cannot make the argument that God created the universe from nothing, because there IS no God if there is nothing.”

    By ‘nothing’, I mean no space, no time, no matter, no energy, no fermions, no bosons.

    “If you redefine “nothing” to mean “God, and nothing else”, then cosmologists are free to define “nothing” to mean “the laws of quantum mechanics (and whatever other fundamental physics is necessary), and nothing else””

    Ok, but the laws of physics do not exist in some Platonic realm, outside of space and time. The laws are something we invent/discover as the pattern by which the world works. If there is no world, there are no laws of quantum mechanics or physics.

    “Obviously, they’re what they are because that’s what they are.”

    And that’s not an explanation. And that definitely doesn’t explain why the laws of constants of our universe are so well-tuned to allow for the possibility of life to evolve.

    “You can use the principle of parsimony to argue that no being which transcends space and time has been shown to be necessary to explain anything, and cut that sucker out.”

    Even if you can show that God is not necessary to explain anything, you haven’t shown God doesn’t exist.

  • Phil

    You need a being that transcends space and time in order to create space and time from a state that did not have space and time. That is, if there is no multiverse, and our space and time had a beginning, then you need a being that transcends space and time to create our universe because the laws of physics do not somehow exist outside space and time, so our universe couldn’t have been caused by a “quantum fluctuation”. Nor have you answered my question, “Why something rather than nothing if the energy content of nothing is still 0?” Hawking’s explanation is not an explanation at all.

  • EF BARRETT

    This ‘argument’ goes into eternity….

    Belief in God is Not Something you can choose to do…

    Those that believe in A God,, simply believe in him, and not out of proof or logic.
    But out of Faith.
    Faith is a Gift..

    Those that do not believe in a God,, CANNOT believe in A God…
    They are bound by ‘logic’ , they are hard wired to think in only ‘logic’
    they cannot open up the intuitive side of themselves, they dont and they cannot understand that..
    They do not have the gift of Faith.

    Faith comes in only 2 ways,, either you are given it freely or it is prayed for…
    If you dont believe in a God its hard to pray for.
    Others may pray for you…
    Those that do believe, simply believe.
    They need no logic for his, its just there, they ‘know’ it to be true.

    This is impossible to understand for those without faith or unbielevers…

    Hawkings simply ‘gives up’.
    He’s always wanted a simple equation to explain everything.
    He cant find it, he never will, no one will…..
    He’s given up and explained it as ‘Nothing’..

    “and the more the wise man will say he knoweth it, he will not be able to find it”

    E.F.

  • 2l8natn

    It’s my humble opinion that an understanding of the “Documentary Hypothesis”
    is pre-requesite to any discussions of “Creationism”.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/jepd_gen0.htm

    Note that historically “J” preceded “P”. Additionally the form of the creation account
    in ch. 1 of Genesis is identical to the form of the Babylonian “Enuma Elish”. Now factor
    in the Babylonian Captivity which obviously influenced the Priestly Writer and
    compromised his work. Most christians think of a whore in the service of Satan when Babylon is mentioned. So much for divine inspiration.

    Consider also that Emperor Constantine saw the need for a redactor to to tie up a few
    loose ends.

    Search on-line “Prolegomena to the History of Israel” by Julius Wellhausen,
    read section 1 of ch. 8. “J” stands closer to the fountain.

  • Owlmirror

    By ‘nothing’, I mean no space, no time, no matter, no energy, no fermions, no bosons.

    Except that you also mean, in addition to that, some ill-defined something that (purportedly) isn’t anything in that list, but is an invisible person with magical superpowers, one of those superpowers being the power to “make” everything in that list.

    Ok, but the laws of physics do not exist in some Platonic realm, outside of space and time. The laws are something we invent/discover as the pattern by which the world works. If there is no world, there are no laws of quantum mechanics or physics.

    Same argument could go for God: “God” does not exist in some Platonic realm, outside of space and time. “God” is something you invent/invoke to explain the world. If there is no world, there is no God.

    While I agree that the laws of physics are discoveries, they are discoveries about how space/time/energy/matter behave. One of those discoveries was that while “spontaneous creation/annihilation” is not the general rule at the macro level, it does happen at the subatomic level.

    Generalizing from that, it is conjectured that a lack of space/time/matter/energy can also support spontaneous creation/annihilation — which is exactly the role conjectured for your invisible person with magical superpowers, only more parsimoniously.

    Presumably the “law” that allows this simply exists — not in a Platonic realm, but as a meta-law of reality.

    If you cannot explain where “outside of time and space” is for your invisible person with magical superpowers to “exist” there, why are you getting so upset at the notion that maybe there’s just a law of physics there, instead of an invisible person with magical superpowers?

    And that’s not an explanation.

    Would you prefer it if it were said to be ontologically necessary?

    And that definitely doesn’t explain why the laws of constants of our universe are so well-tuned to allow for the possibility of life to evolve.

    I would have thought they’re “well-tuned” to allow for hydrogen. Life is more or less a tiny fluke in the universe at large.

    Even if you can show that God is not necessary to explain anything, you haven’t shown God doesn’t exist.

    You don’t understand parsimony, do you?

    Even if you can show that Santa Claus is not necessary to explain anything about Christmas, you haven’t shown that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

  • Phil

    Yes, you can show that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Just look all over the Earth for him, look up all over the sky on Christmas Eve. If you don’t see Santa flying with reindeer, nor find Santa all over the Earth with a slew of powerful satellites that can see the surface and through the surface, then Santa doesn’t exist. You’ve used science to show he doesn’t exist.

    One cannot do this to show God doesn’t exist.

    So why not be an agnostic?

    Anyway, you cannot get anything from nothing and if science somehow is consistent with the idea that our universe was born from nothing, then there must be something transcending space and time that created our universe. That is, if your fundamental theory does not allow for the existence of other universes and if your fundamental theory doesn’t allow for an initial state of our universe that had always existed “before” the (classical) Big Bang singularity, then how do you explain the origin of the universe?

  • Owlmirror

    [After submitting multiple times and having the comment vanish, I think I may know what was wrong. Trying one more time:]

    Yes, you can show that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Just look all over the Earth for him, look up all over the sky on Christmas Eve. If you don’t see Santa flying with reindeer, nor find Santa all over the Earth with a slew of powerful satellites that can see the surface and through the surface, then Santa doesn’t exist. You’ve used science to show he doesn’t exist.

    Congratulations. You’ve proved that you can’t see Santa Claus with the naked eye or with the current satellites in orbit. You haven’t proved that he doesn’t exist.

    One cannot do this to show God doesn’t exist.

    You can look with the most powerful telescopes, and prove that God hasn’t been seen with those.

    So why not be an agnostic?

    I am an agnostic. But I’m also an atheist, because I don’t believe there’s a God, because no-one has shown any good reason to believe that there is one.

    Anyway, you cannot get anything from nothing

    Since God is not “nothing”, this applies to God as well.

    if science somehow is consistent with the idea that our universe was born from nothing, then there must be something transcending space and time that created our universe.

    That’s more or less what cosmologists like Hawking are saying. It’s just that “something” is a fundamental law of physics, not an invisible person with magical superpowers.

  • Gordon Tatro

    It was a great show and I was really excited to watch the panel discussion after (more please).

    My Comments:

    First: Hawking did fine with mention about Aristarchus but then he went and said that Galileo was the one who purported the heliocentric solar system (over the geocentric system); did Hawking forget about Copernicus or is he favoring Galileo because they have like birthdays (I hope not)!??!! In a Google search of “Galileo” it had mentioned that he (Galileo), “…supported the Copernican system”. Copernicus had his work published when he was on his deathbed: “On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres” (http://www.historyguide.org/earlymod/dedication.html) for fear of a heresy persecution. Galileo then became more vocal about the sun-centered solar system (and improved on the Copernican system having concocted his new invention—the telescope) and too because he knew the Pope (name?) quite well and was frequently invited to the Popes’ functions and inner circle of friends. Galileo got in trouble later when there was a new Pope and when Galileo had made a play/book about the problem between science and religion, with two characters: one, himself, the ‘smart-and-intellectual’ character and the other called “simpliceo” was made out to be the a simple-headed dunce and was directed at the Pope and the Catholic church. The Pope was NOT amused! Anyway…there is more to the story of a heliocentric solar system than just Galileo recanting his ‘heresy’ and then (supposedly) mumbling under his breath: “and yet it moves”!! Frankly, Galileo was lucky to only receive, house arrest.

    Second: I was disappointed that no one gave the ‘history’ behind the term: “Big Bang”. Basically (and please do look into this); cosmologist Fred Hoyle (considered to be an atheist—at least at the time…) had a derisive talk with Georges Lamaitre, ridiculing him for his idea of a “primordial atom” (a sort-ta Finnish creation story of their “cosmic egg”). Lamaitre can be seen in “images” (via google) discussing with Einstein, singularity event mathematics. So what’s wrong with Georges (he was a cosmologist and mathematician and graduated—did studies–at MIT)? ANS: George was a Belgian Catholic priest! Check out the only book he wrote: “A Day without Yesterday” and Google, “Georges Lamaitre”. Georges’ idea of a cosmic egg or “primordial atom” hints to something of design (perhaps the energy is imbued with information at the beginning event?). In any event the Big Bang was not big and there was no bang if anything it was low entropic, orderly, and high heat…and falls outside of our current understanding and seeing as how the heat is bleeding out (WMAP about 2.7 degrees K) then it seems that a heat-death via a cooling of the expanding universe will be the demise of man and blend all information into a state of uselessness (high entropy of information=heat stabilization, information loss, and too the end of all order which allows for the processes of life). You still have to pay your taxes though!

    Third: This idea of something out of nothing just does not swallow (throw all the mathematics at me you want), there is something basically ‘off’ about it. Although I must be ready to back-peddle as what is it that the information bleeds away to—just the rim of a black-hole? It looks like in an expanding universe the conservation of energy is violated: if it is expanding it will rip apart; if it is curving back on itself then we are in for a big crunch; and if it is doing neither, but has a nearly perfect Euclidian flatness then…aren’t we lucky?! And ‘who’ balanced the pencil on its point for all these billions of years? It is too WEIRD—it’s the greatest science fiction novel ever written with the concluding sentence being “and it’s true”! Everything that is, cannot come from everything that is not. I actually have about 10 books about the topic of “nothing” (one of these days I’m going to buy one and the pages will be blank—and it will serve me right!). As most of us should know at the atomic level there is more space in an atom then there is substance and that perhaps (for sure) that space is fixed only by the uncertainty of the electrons’ orbital. But still aren’t there going to be forces in that space? ANS: we know there are forces: weak force, strong force and etc but there also comes into my head (from some odd corner…cough cough; sorry!) the idea that information and relationship are also forces. There becomes a point where that which we take for granted as ‘substance’ ends with abstractness and knowledge (information)…. Memories (of past events and experiances) are powerful and yet cannot be measured but can be utilized to make future/present decisions. Many abstract concepts in life we hold as very dear; very important: integrity, honesty, courage, love etc etc…but not one of them have the empirical ability to be measured. I believe that there is something in those words (nothing, something, everything) that is a problem and it has bent our reasoning for hundreds of years. The problem is…that which is common to all those words: the word “thing”. What if there really is no such ‘thing’ as a “thing” and that all such things are just energy which at its basic is not-measurable (in our friendly condition of dimension: length width and depth) but can (or should) only be measured like that before the energy condenses out into matter as states E=MC^2? Matter is just energy by the square of light speed and frankly, we are not really sure what light is! And seeing as how light plays a big part in figuring out what matter is (and we ARE matter—our bodies are at least) then we NEED to know more about light!! Anyone want to consider how many times the Bible mentions light (sorry to wiggle in that book…but those folks back then also had similar questions and concerns!)?!! We use the word “thing” like the ancients used the word aether. A water wave is only a wave because of the water that is displaced but a light wave is different and needs no medium to travel through…of course this is (in part) the dilemma of the two-slit experiment.

    Two quick questions:
    1) Why can’t the ‘stuff’ that goes down a black hole come back somehow as invisible dark matter or energy and be the cause of the force which is expanding the distances between the galaxies (stretching the fabric of the universe)? This would be fitting with the conservation of energy…but it would require a very slowly closing (not expanding) universe (I think) and too, we are back to: “What is the universe expanding into?”
    2) If one can recognize a situation of “information” (like walking down a perfect undisturbed beach and seeing; “S.O.S.” written in the sand) then one knows without doubt that some intelligence placed it there…regardless of seeing any footprints or not and even if one understood what the letters meant? Don’t we recognize information in the cosmological constants and cycles of “Nature” Like the proton-proton chain or CNO Cycle? if so…then why cannot there be an intelligence behind that information which also designs up the relationships that we see in the sciences? If there were no order, purpose, design, repeatable occurrences then there would be no reason to ‘do’ science…in fact I believe it would not even exist (there can be no concept of science…in a condition of chaos).

    Sean Carroll…GREAT JOB! I especially appreciated your open mind and easy going talk…. Keep up the good work

    Gordon Tatro

  • Phil

    “Congratulations. You’ve proved that you can’t see Santa Claus with the naked eye or with the current satellites in orbit. You haven’t proved that he doesn’t exist.”

    But you can also figure out what kind of gravitational waves Santa emits every Christmas Eve while he’s flying in the sky delivering presents to children. If no gravitational waves are detected, then Santa doesn’t exist. Since everything that exists in the universe couples to gravity, that’s a sure way to determine that Santa doesn’t exist.

    “You can look with the most powerful telescopes, and prove that God hasn’t been seen with those.”

    But God transcends space and time. That’s why he was able to create the space and time of our universe. So you can’t find him with those powerful telescopes. :)

    So, since we know nothing about what the fundamental theory of physics is (the theory that will, presumably, allow us to progress through the issue of the origin of our universe as much as science can allow us), it is misleading and incorrect for Hawking to say that the known laws of physics render a creator unnecessary.

    How do you know quantum mechanics (or whatever) can exist without a universe there? What does “quantum mechanics” govern? General Relativity governs the curvature of spacetime and how objects move through spacetime? What does GR govern without a universe? What does quantum mechanics govern without a universe? The equations and principles of GR do not transcend spacetime because it is a theory of spacetime. Likewise, quantum mechanics does not transcend space and time because QM governs the behavior of subatomic particles, which can only reside in space and time.

  • Owlmirror

    But you can also figure out what kind of gravitational waves Santa emits every Christmas Eve while he’s flying in the sky delivering presents to children. If no gravitational waves are detected, then Santa doesn’t exist. Since everything that exists in the universe couples to gravity, that’s a sure way to determine that Santa doesn’t exist.

    I’m sorry, who says that Santa is massive enough to emit gravity waves that are detectable?

    But God transcends space and time. That’s why he was able to create the space and time of our universe. So you can’t find him with those powerful telescopes.

    You could say the same about Santa Claus. What does “transcends space and time” even mean, that God does it and Santa can’t?

    So, since we know nothing about what the fundamental theory of physics is (the theory that will, presumably, allow us to progress through the issue of the origin of our universe as much as science can allow us),

    But we don’t know nothing. We know enough about physics to make reasonable conjectures.

    it is misleading and incorrect for Hawking to say that the known laws of physics render a creator unnecessary.

    Not at all. Hawking is being parsimonious in positing that the physical laws for universe-creation will be the same as or very similar to those that allow virtual particles.

    How do you know quantum mechanics (or whatever) can exist without a universe there?

    Why shouldn’t they exist? How do you know that there is an outside to space-time where a God could exist, but laws of quantum mechanics cannot?

    The equations and principles of GR do not transcend spacetime because it is a theory of spacetime. Likewise, quantum mechanics does not transcend space and time because QM governs the behavior of subatomic particles, which can only reside in space and time.

    I wasn’t aware that God had died and put you in charge of the domains of the physical laws.

    Look; we already have proof of the existence of virtual particle creation. All that’s necessary is either a different application of the same law to allow for space-time creation, or a slightly different law that does that when there’s no space-time.

  • Phil

    “I’m sorry, who says that Santa is massive enough to emit gravity waves that are detectable?”

    Any mass can give off gravitational waves which are, in principle, detectable. We just need the technology to do it.

    “You could say the same about Santa Claus. What does “transcends space and time” even mean, that God does it and Santa can’t?”

    Santa has a body and a beard, which takes up space and time. He travels through space and time, and he handles presents, which take up space and time. Thus, he does not transcend space and time. Santa needs spacetime in order to exist (if he did), God doesn’t. Why? Because God created spacetime.

    “But we don’t know nothing. We know enough about physics to make reasonable conjectures.”

    So you think it’s reasonable to say that the universe came into existence from nothing? Sure, we do know plenty of physics and our physics knowledge allows us to explain pretty much every experiment we can perform at the moment. But we still don’t know what physics or the universe is like at the Planck scale and we need to know this to determine what exactly happened at the Big Bang “singularity”. We don’t know what happened because we don’t have the proper theory. We need to know what physics is like at every energy scale up to the Planck scale and, at present, we don’t have the technology needed to perform experiments that probe that scale. So we don’t know anything that we need to know to settle the issue of the origin of the universe.

    “Why shouldn’t they exist? How do you know that there is an outside to space-time where a God could exist, but laws of quantum mechanics cannot?”

    So describe for me in what form do the laws of quantum mechanics exist. What are their origins. What are they made of? Why those laws and not just classical laws? I’ve already explained why I think it’s incorrect to think of those laws as somehow existing without a universe in which (and on which) to act. I don’t what else to say. :)

    “I wasn’t aware that God had died and put you in charge of the domains of the physical laws.”

    The equations and principles of GR together form a theory of spacetime and how matter and energy distort that spacetime and how objects move through that spacetime. It is a very useful tool that allows us to describe our universe and make accurate predictions. It is only valid within a certain domain (i.e. in that domain where quantum effects can be ignored). So it’s useless to talk about GR as somehow transcending space and time, as if it can exist outside of spacetime. Any scientific law or principle is something that applies to the physical system for which it is used to describe. Without any physical systems, the law or principle can do nothing. That’s as true for Newtonian mechanics as it is true for GR or QM or QFT or even the fundamental theory of physics, whatever it may turn out to be.

    God didn’t put me in charge. That’s the way it is if you care to look at it.

    “Look; we already have proof of the existence of virtual particle creation. All that’s necessary is either a different application of the same law to allow for space-time creation”

    Spacetime creation from what? Out of what? The universe consists of spacetime and all the particles (fermions and bosons) that interact within this spacetime, and the spacetime also interacts with the fermions and bosons. What creates spacetime? So far, physics has shown us that all there is is spacetime, and a bunch of particles, some of them matter particles and some force-carrying particles. That’s all. So what will create spacetime? The virtual pair production is just an analogy. Particles appear out of the vacuum of spacetime. Particles are made, not from nothing, but from the zero-point energy of spacetime.

    “or a slightly different law that does that when there’s no space-time.”

    Slightly different? If you hope to accomplish that feat, it would take more than a slightly different law. And what will this “law” or “mechanism” act on in order to create spacetime? What does this law describe if there’s nothing around to describe? What is the system? All we have are particles within spacetime. Take away spacetime and you’re left with nothing.

  • Phil

    In my opinion, the only kind of space-time creation is space-time creation from a pre-existing spacetime. Unfortunately, we do not have at our disposal a definitive theory of Planck scale physics that allows us to calculate what happens at that scale. We only have prospects (i.e. string theory, “M-theory”).

  • SnarkyTart

    although i respect Mr. Hawkings’ mind and brilliance, I am slightly surprised he would come off soo arrogant and myopic on his definitive conclusion that -‘there is no God, and heaven does not exist.’ I still look forward to his future revealations within the scientific community, however, it seems to me, since he couldn’t prove the existance of a devine hand at work, he set out to disprove it.

  • rararoadrunner

    Hawking, like Einstein, Marx, and so many others before them, is very careful before he ventures an hypothesis: he knows that science cannot prove anything, only disprove hypotheses (hence his caution about contacting extraterrestrial civilisations more advanced than our own, based on how less-advanced cultures have fared when contacted by more-advanced ones on this planet: he’s not saying that they will be hostile…merely that we assume their benevolence at our peril).

    What Hawking is venturing is a disproof: namely of the hypothesis that God created the universe. This, he maintains, is far easier to disprove than the nonexistence of leprechauns, unicorns, etc. somewhere in the universe, because it’s the whole package we’re talking about.

    Again, Hawking’s disproof rests on recursion, or extrapolation backwards: it simply isn’t possible for anything, anything at all, to have existed before the Big Bang. Not an easy concept for the human mind to wrap itself around…but one directly inferred from the experimental evidence.

    I’m not gonna waste my time or breath trying to convert one single believer: I know they live and breathe their parallel universe of belief.

    What I will do, however, is defend my POV against them, and help reassure unbelievers: you are not alone…they have their God, we have each-other.

    Faith is a great gift, eh? Let me draw you a picture I would like to see as a bumper sticker:

    It’s of the RMS Titanic, going down. Caption: “Captain Smith Had Faith”…

    Finally, let me lay a concept on you from Harlan Ellison: when belief in a god dies, the god dies. Where are Zeus and Thor and Huitzilopochtli nowadays? Why, they’ve lost their following…

    …It’s not for nothing that the Romans feared the new monotheistic mystery cult of Christianity: they understood that monotheism is but one god away from atheism.

    Thank you, monotheists, for preparing the way for atheism! The pleasure…is ours.

  • rayg

    Maybe Hawking’s not as smart as he thinks. Saw analysis of flaws in his theory at andhow.blogspot.com

  • Owlmirror

    So you think it’s reasonable to say that the universe came into existence from nothing?

    It’s more reasonable than saying that God created the universe from nothing.

    So we don’t know anything that we need to know to settle the issue of the origin of the universe.

    If we did, cosmologists wouldn’t be conjecturing different scenarios, now would they?

    So describe for me in what form do the laws of quantum mechanics exist. What are their origins. What are they made of? Why those laws and not just classical laws?

    In what form does God exist? What is God made of? Where is outside of spacetime that God supposedly exists? What is God’s origin? What did God do to create spacetime, and how did he do it, and why did he do it that way and not some other way? How do you know that God exists as a person, and is not just the laws of physics?

    I’ve already explained why I think it’s incorrect to think of those laws as somehow existing without a universe in which (and on which) to act.

    But you’re fine with positing a God which exists without a universe in which and on which to act!

    I don’t what else to say.

    How about realizing that you’re making less sense than Stephen Hawking?

    Spacetime creation from what? Out of what?

    What does God create spacetime from? What does God create energy from? What does God create laws from?

    See, you end up having to answer the same questions that cosmologists do, and you posit more entities that require even more questions.

    The virtual pair production is just an analogy. Particles appear out of the vacuum of spacetime. Particles are made, not from nothing, but from the zero-point energy of spacetime.

    And can you prove that there was no zero-point energy before the big bang?

    If you hope to accomplish that feat, it would take more than a slightly different law.

    And yet you hope to accomplish everything with a God that purportedly “exists” in no space and no time with no laws at all. What does existence even mean, in that case?

    And what will this “law” or “mechanism” act on in order to create spacetime?

    What does God act on in order to create space time?

    What does this law describe if there’s nothing around to describe?

    Where does God exist, if there’s nowhere for God to exist?

    What is the system? All we have are particles within spacetime.

    Which means that there’s even less of a system for God to exist in.

    Take away spacetime and you’re left with nothing.

    Which is unstable, say some cosmologists, and therefore you can get everything from nothing with the physical laws that govern that instability.

  • Phil

    I’m not really sure what God is made of or how He created the universe from nothing (assuming the universe WAS created from nothing). If you want to learn more about God, in what sense God transcends space and time, and what kind of existence He has, check out the writings of some theologians, Thomas Aquinas. ;)

    I have no idea how our universe was made (if it was made through natural processes), and regardless of how much sense the notion of a God creating it makes, it also makes no sense to suggest that the universe came into existence from nothing, as I explained above.

    If there is no multiverse (and we don’t know the answer to that without knowing what the fundamental theory is, which Stephen Hawking doesn’t know), then, no, there was no zero-point energy before the big bang because if there is no multiverse then our universe did not come from a “parent universe”. Therefore, no zero-point energy from which our universe could have been born.

    Where did you come across the notion that “nothing” is unstable? Was this worked out in a paper somewhere? I’m curious. It would be interesting to know why they concluded that “nothing” is unstable rather than stable. I mean, when you say that something is unstable it would imply (I think!) that there is some process which can turn that unstable state to a stable state. But stable and unstable with regards to what? Energy? But with “nothing” there is no concept of energy. There is nothing. Or do they mean that “nothing” is unstable under tiny perturbations of “nothing”. How do you perturb “nothing”? If there is “nothing”, then there is nothing around to do the perturbing. “The physical laws that govern that instability”? But this brings me back to my point. If there is “nothing” there are no laws. So it would be interesting to read and figure out what they meant.

  • Owlmirror

    I’m not really sure what God is made of or how He created the universe from nothing (assuming the universe WAS created from nothing).

    Why even bother pretending that God is even a viable hypothesis, then? An incoherent thing made of an incoherent nonsubstantive substance that incoherently acts on nothing at all is just incoherence squared, cubed, and raised to ever higher powers of incoherence.

    If you want to learn more about God, in what sense God transcends space and time, and what kind of existence He has, check out the writings of some theologians, Thomas Aquinas.

    I have. Thomas Aquinas commits multiple logical fallacies and uses stupid word games to come to incoherent and illogical conclusions.

    Thomas Aquinas didn’t know anything about the actual universe, let alone about God. He just filled his works with sophistry and bullshit.

    I have no idea how our universe was made (if it was made through natural processes), and regardless of how much sense the notion of a God creating it makes, it also makes no sense to suggest that the universe came into existence from nothing, as I explained above.

    It makes much less sense to suggest a God, as I explained above.

    If there is no multiverse (and we don’t know the answer to that without knowing what the fundamental theory is, which Stephen Hawking doesn’t know), then, no, there was no zero-point energy before the big bang because if there is no multiverse then our universe did not come from a “parent universe”. Therefore, no zero-point energy from which our universe could have been born.

    Or in other words, there was no zero-point energy because you say so. The argument by fiat remains a logical fallacy.

    Where did you come across the notion that “nothing” is unstable?

    It’s quote from Frank Wilczek.

    http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/why_is_there_something_rather_than_nothing

  • rararoadrunner

    It was from the philosophic challenge to the religion of its day that science arose: philosophers asked the questions, and science began to supply what answers it could to those questions…answers which began to supplant those which religions had supplied (as well as supplanting its own answers with ones that took more observations and experimental evidence into account: since science doesn’t argue from authority, its authorities could be challenged, its paradigms changed, and hence science advances. Aristotle was a great scientist, as was Newton…but we have witnessed advances beyond them via successful challenges to their theories by new ones which fit the data better than theirs did or could).

    Science supplies two kinds of answers: on the one hand, to the question “what existed before the Big Bang,” it doesn’t merely reply “nothing:” the experimental evidence implies that nothing could have existed before the Big Bang (and as any good Daoist could tell you, nothing is not to be sneezed at!)

    The other kind of answer it supplies is to questions like “define the nothing that existed before the Big Bang:” a seemingly straightforward philosophical question, but one that science shows is about as answerable as “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “what is at the place where a circular road ends?” It’s like “if everything that exists was caused by something else, and God exists, what created God?” This is analogous to the “shicho,” or endless ladder trap in the game of Go: better to recognise it for what it is, and stop such fruitless pursuit before it begins.

    It’s not that science can answer all philosophical questions, in particular normative ones: it can, however, help to clarify our analyses of such questions…and to help us to clearly distinguish between questions that have a normative (i.e. judgmental) element from those that do not.

    Having shaved with Occam’s Razor this AM, always happy to supply a pinch of parsimony to the recipe!

    Back to you!

  • Phil

    I read Stenger’s piece and I’m not sure what he’s talking about because he’s using kind of vague language. Have you looked at his books. They look interesting to read, but do you know if he references physics papers when he talks about “nothing” and about results suggestion that “nothing is unstable”.

    For example, he says, “In some models of the origin of the universe, the vacuum undergoes a spontaneous phase transition to something more complicated, like a universe containing matter.” But the vacuum isn’t nothing. What does he mean by ‘vacuum’. If by ‘vacuum’ he means the traditional physics definition, then he’s not, strictly speaking, talking about the origin of the universe here, but the origin of the matter and energy in the universe. So it’s vague statements like these that want to make me look at the papers he’s drawing his information from to gain a more accurate and precise understanding of his position.

    Another example:

    “Then why is there something rather than nothing? Because something is the more natural state of affairs and is thus more likely than nothing-more than twice as likely according to one calculation. We can infer this from the processes of nature where simple systems tend to be unstable and often spontaneously transform into more complex ones. Theoretical models such as the inflationary model of the early universe bear this out”

    Again, I want to look at the paper containing this calculation. I say this because it’s one thing to say that something is more likely than nothing (whatever that means in your paper), but it’s an entirely different matter to say that there exists a process by which ‘nothing’ can spontaneously transform into ‘something’ because ‘something’ is more likely. Presumably, if there’s ‘nothing’ (no matter, no energy, no space, no time) then what kind of process can transform ‘nothing’ into ‘something’? Just because, in nature, you observe simple systems being unstable and transform into more complex ones, doesn’t mean you can extend that idea to ‘nothing’ transforming into ‘something’ because ‘nothing’ is less likely than ‘something’. It’s an analogy which may not necessarily apply to ‘nothing’ and ‘something’. But I understand that he is using this for the purpose of explaining this stuff to people, which is why I’m wondering if he has referenced the papers he came across somewhere.

    But thanks for sending that link to me. I looked up his books on amazon, and they do look interesting even though I’m a theist.

  • hjslynch

    assume what dr. hawking says is true and that there is no time in a black hole. assume likewise that his statements about the big bang originating from something with properties similar to a black hole are true. this makes it seem possible that his statement about no “before” might also be true and therefore the possibility of no god being involved in creation for lack of time to do it might be correct. however, consider the following about black holes – at least the ones we are familiar with: the black holes in our universe were not here at the time of the big bang, but formed sometime after that. therefore, there was a “before” for these black holes, even though time may be stopped in them currently. i wonder if this is not a possibility for the thing which was the origin of our big bang.

  • Byron Mathis

    i have just watched the curiosity show with steven hawking…one question sticks in my brain and that is what about the collective conscienceness of the entire universe? when man looks at what really is…in the beginning was the “thought” and the thought was with God and the thought was God…I know many will say that i have substitued thought for Word but the real translation is thought. maybe on a quantum level thought is the real motivator…of course there are those that will say that thought is merely a chemical reaction in the brain but maybe the brain is just a type of electro chemical receiver that allows the thought process to manifest itself in this corporeal world. imagine if you will a dimension outside of time and space where our physics have no meaning…i am not talking about the twilight zone but a place where pure thought and eternal mind can create out of nothing, something… for those of you that are deep thinkers…think about this…how does one get the idea for inventing? or what about inpiration? laws are continually being modified by those who have vision…what if the only thing that limits us to do anything is our own mind making the limits…what if all we had to do is believe…now what is meant by believe…believe would be the ability to be sure about what ever you could think or dream you could manifest in this material world…in order for that you must have faith…and faith is the assurance of things hoped for…again this is on a quantum level assuming that the mind could operate on such a level…the only boundaries are those that we create…i wonder if someone walked up to steven hawking and said steven would you beleive in God if this collective conscienceness could come to you and make you whole again…would he beleive then or would he just try to explain it away with science….i know this may seem a cruel scenario to project but what if? of course you have all heard this analogy… could you take all of the parts of a fine swiss watch and put them in a box and shake it long enough that it would come together to be a working watch with out a designer or one to put it together.? then why is it so hard for some in this world to accept a master builder of all we see and experience in this corporeal world which we have just began to experience again this time around?…things have order and order demands one who gives them…just a thought but if we as a species could ever hope to move on to the next level then we are going to have to put more faith in a supreme creator that is in the mind and the mind of all but gracious enough to give each the opportunity to be indivdual…both light and dark, postive and negative both alive and dead both on and off…by the way is there a midpoint between on and off? i think once once you have found that then you will find God since God is all and one at once which is finite and infinite….consider this paradox of mathematics….there are an infinite amount of points between to fixed points on a number line….is that not saying infinity can lay inside a finite lenth? we need to rewright the math just a little dont we or do we?

  • R Man

    Though not my favorite science popularizer, I do agree with Michio Kaku’s comment regarding multiverse hypothesis;

    To my understanding the possibility of there being a multiverse is one of the latest cosmological insights and it does away with the notion that everything including time started with the big bang. After having been practically taboo for a long time the question “what happened before the big bang?” is now a scientifically valid question.

    So there may well have been something (including time) before the big bang, so that Hawking’s argument that God could not have created the big bang because there was no time for anything (including God) to exist before the big bang, does no longer hold.

    To me the problem is summarized nicely by Davies:

    “Either you have an unexplained god, or you have unexplained laws.”

    The issue there is that “god did it” does not explain the laws, nor does it explain anything of scientific importance. The laws on the other hand – although themselves unexplained – do in turn explain a whole lot of things (possibly including why it is that people do have religious beliefs).

  • Pingback: God and Cosmology Conversation | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()

  • 2l8natn

    No matter how sophisticated the telescope there’s always a limit to how far we can see.
    Beyond that lies infinite deep black space, filled with infinite possibilities. Odds are,
    what we think is wrong and therefore a waste of time.

    As fiction, scripture should give one wisdom (seen through GODs eyes) not knowledge
    (seen through mans eyes).

  • Last Word?

    Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.

    Richard P. Feynman

  • d.f.downey

    Hawking is an extremely arrogant, desperate man who wants to believe he has solved the secret of the universe before he dies. Notice I used the word believe. Because despite all the formulas, all the science, it still comes down to what you believe. He makes a pathetic argument as he angrily shakes his impotent fist at the sky and in effect sings in the words of the Book of Mormon(the play), “hasa diga eebowai” or f**k you god! As I have taught my son there are two immutable rules of human existence, i.e. Everything is magic and everyone is full of **it. Sky and Telescope magazine has the humility to print a feature in every issue where they show something they published 25, 50 and 75 years ago . Invariably it has proven to be less than correct. While science can bring us to a point that is 99.999999999-% correct (or at least believable), it can never arrive at the absolute. At least.. that’s what I believe.

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    “Hawking says Einstein might be the greatest scientist ever. He has long favored Einstein over Newton, I’m not sure why. “

    Hhmmm…. Difficult to compare them since the societies they lived in were so different. Newton has gravity, optics, calculus and of course the whole idea of mathematical philosophy; Einstein has the photoelectric effect, SR, GR, old quantum theory, Bose-Einstein statistics, his early work on thermodynamics. How does one compare such accomplishments?

    In some sense, I think that many of Newton’s ideas would have been found at most not much later by others (and in some cases this happened—see the dispute with Leibniz about the calculus). That’s true of some of Einstein’s stuff as well, particularly SR, but if Einstein hadn’t come up with GR, we might have had to wait much longer. Einstein himself said that the only time in his life he was really revolutionary was with his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

    But aside from science? Newton spent a huge amount of time with occult and religious stuff: alchemy, biblical chronology etc. He never married; whether he was celibate or the “greatest whoremonger in London” I don’t know. He spent the latter part of his life as master of the mint. Einstein played the violin quite well, was politically active, appreciated female company and, although it was ultimately futile, never gave up working in science, spending the last 30 or 40 years of his life in search of the unified field theory.

    In whose shoes would you rather be?

  • http://www.nothingsomething.com KL

    You all understand that nobody is taking the time to read these opinions, right?
    Your thoughts are all a bunch of farts in a storm.
    There are no gods. There are gods.

    ∞ YES ∞ NO ∞

  • http://None Robert T. Bobar

    I assume that Discover is well aware of what exactly Stephen Hawking had stated in The Discovery Channel’s The First Episode of Curiosity titled “Did God Create The Universe”.

    Stephen Hawking makes the argument that since time itself didn’t exist therefore God would have no time to create the universe in. He said it’s from science :) But this introduces a subtle paradox that can best be shown using this challenging statement:

    “If God had no time to create then also The Big Bang had no time to Bang, what is good for the goose is often also good for the gander as well. Give Up.”

    Yet we know the universe did not always exist because stars keep time like candles by using up their fuel and dying. It is even more mind boggling to realize that time itself cannot possibly be infinite since time would never be able to tic down to the present time from an infinite past.

    About about in circles we go !!!

    Your mission should you choice to accept it, is to find a solution to this paradox.

    To find out more about my view points please feel free to visit my discusions:

    http://answers.yahoo.com/my-activity

  • http://None Robert T. Bobar

    I assume that Discover is well aware of what exactly Stephen Hawking had stated in The Discovery Channel’s The First Episode of Curiosity titled “Did God Create The Universe”.

    Stephen Hawking makes the argument that since time itself didn’t exist therefore God would have no time to create the universe in. He said it’s from science :) But this introduces a subtle paradox that can best be shown using this challenging statement:

    “If God had no time to create then also The Big Bang had no time to Bang, what is good for the goose is often also good for the gander as well. Give Up.”

    Yet we know the universe did not always exist because stars keep time like candles by using up their fuel and dying. It is even more mind boggling to realize that time itself cannot possibly be infinite since time would never be able to tic down to the present time from an infinite past.

    About about in circles we go !!!

    Your mission should you choice to accept it, is to find a solution to this paradox.

    To find out more about my view points please feel free to visit my discusions:

    http://answers.yahoo.com/activity;_ylt=AtRg8ZtS2LRpCQt.DeXfMfnsy6IX;_ylv=3?show=ed16380f11d628bdeac10227c45df672aa&view=public

  • davd

    Scholars!! If logic is virtualized well we end up with horse-shit for brains from the religious to the secular scholars agreeing horse-shit is logic.They can’t decide if it should be lavender or rose scented is all. Whom even pays attention to scholars, Shit for brain wanna be scholars.

    The world is like a spewing gusher of oil out of the mouth’s of milliions of gargoyles dressed up in scholar suits. A superficial film floating in front of the eyes now on a global scale turning minds into shit for brains. Oh we are so doomed…..

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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