The Grand Design – neither God nor 42

It seems that God, or more correctly disbelief in God, sells books. In recent years anyway. Perhaps since the religiously motivated terrorist attacks in New York nine years ago this week.

So one can hardly blame the publishers for jumping on to the advertising bandwagon with Stephen Hawking‘s latest book The Grand Design (with co-author Leonard Mlodinow).  And I am sure that is what has lead to headlines like Stephen Hawking: God NOT Needed For Creation, Stephen Hawking: God didn’t create universe, Hawking Says God Not Needed to Kick-Start Big Bang; World Freaks Out. Even Somebody’s Going To Hell! Stephen Hawking: “God Not Necessary For Universe To Exist”.

Inevitable advertising hype.

Theological response boosts sales

But perhaps we can blame the inevitable theological response. Or at least point out that they are cutting off their collective noses to spite their faces. The emotional theological campaign against Richard Dawkins and his book The God Delusion published in 2006 helped boost it up the best seller list. And also assisted the flow-on effect of increasing sales of his other books like The Selfish Gene.

So the apparently inevitable theological response to Stephen Hawking and  Leonard Mlodinow looks set to make their new book a runaway best seller. Who was it that said – those who don’t learn from history are set to repeat their mistakes?

Already we have headlines like Archbishop of Canterbury hits back after Stephen Hawking insists God did NOT create the Universe. The Archbishop boldly declared: “Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.” (It will be interesting to compare his ‘evidence’ for this claim with the evidence for Hawking and Mlodinow’s claim in their book).

Britian’s Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks asserted: “Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation… The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the universe came into being.” And Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, added: “I would totally endorse what the Chief Rabbi said so eloquently about the relationship between religion and science.” One wonders why they then get so upset becuase science sets about to explain things like this? Surely they should get busy with their “interpretation” rather than object to the explanation.

To complete the lineup Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “If we look at the universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror.” He (I am assuming not she) is clearly not going to be worried about the evidence.

The book is being released this week and I can already hear the cash registers ringing.

I am the last person to support or attack a book without reading it. And I am not going to join the inevitable ranks of reviewers who are going to post critical reviews based only on the reading of the books tile or headlines and news reports. However, the extracts that have been included in press reports suggest the degree of “poetic license” being used by the publishers, and the hypersensitivity of the theological critics. The relevant quote (from the London Times) was:

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes.

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Rather tame, isn’t it? Surely there is nothing new in that.

My impression is that the book describes how we can develop theories for the formation of our universe, and the authors give their preference to “M-theory.” (He does make clear that “Unlike the answer given in Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘,” they are not supporting “42.”) This will not be to every physicists liking but it does demonstrate that one does not need to bring in theology to explain such things.

Philosophy is dead

A few reviewers have read pre-publication versions of the book have some interesting comments at the Amazon site. One comments that the book made a convincing argument that old-time philosophy had become irrelevant in such areas. Memoiai says:

“philosophy is dead in the sense of answering the most mysterious of life’s questions. It is up to science, and scientific theory, to provide clues to the true answers, as philosophy in its most ancient forms has taken a back seat, but modern philosophy, that of scientific philosophy, has taken root.”

So it looks like The Grand Design gets into the relationship between philosophy and science as well as modern physical theories.

Should be worth reading.

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

Stephen Hawking and the Existence of God.

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178 responses to “The Grand Design – neither God nor 42

  1. In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

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  2. “Philosophy is dead” – – is that a philosophical statement ?
    Speculative cosmology is Hawking’s personal preference, but there is nil direct evidence for alternate universes.
    “It is rather absurd to claim that something came from nothing, and in the time it takes to make a ham sandwich at that.”

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  3. Ropata;

    1: Ever heard the phrase “The king is dead, long live the king!”

    A philosophy that doesn’t learn from and evolve with our increase in knowledge is of course dead. Unfortunately it can still attract adherents. But read what the reviewer said. Simply that the old mythical philosophies are bring replaced by scientific philosophies. So philosophy is very much alive.

    2: You think observation that something has come from nothing (as it must have when the universe formed) is absurd. Just shows how common sense logic is not helpful in considering such questions. Your ability to make a ham sandwich is really of no assistance.

    If it helps I imagine that Hawking also says that there is no change in net terms. The net energy before formation is the same as now – zero.

    3: Be careful talking about nil evidence for something. People have often been caught out on this. Pentode refers to tantalizing evidence in the CMB of a previous universe. In a few years we may be able to detect gravity waves and that will open up an exciting new method of detecting footprints or “fossils” of other universes.

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  4. In a few years we may be able to detect gravity waves and that will open up an exciting new method of detecting footprints or “fossils” of other universes.

    Yet more conclusive evidence for Shiva.
    Exactly as the holy scriptures said all along if you read them very carefully.
    Unless of course…scientists do not discover these footprints,…so then…um…well…yes, that too is what the priests have been saying all along.

    Theology.
    It wins every time no matter how the coin is tossed.

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  5. Pingback: causal chain « fruitful faith

  6. Hawking is a serious scientist who deserves respect for his work in his field…but I’m not happy with his statement..as someone said you can learn many things about physics by reading Hawking, but nothing about God.

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  7. But why aren’t you happy, Amy? Does it somehow offend you? Or make you feel uneasy about your own beliefs.

    All Hawking appears to be saying is that physics is quite able to advance theories/hypotheses for the origin of the universe. And these hypotheses are becoming more structured (and hopefully testable) with time). There is no need to appeal to gods.

    In fact there has never been any need for this. Especially as there is absolutely no structured god hypotheses ever advanced which can compare with the structured scientific hypotheses/speculations which exist.

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  8. I’m quite happy for Hawking and Mlodinow to say what they say – it gets the issue discussed. As I say in my post, I’d like to know if they deal with the obvious next question of where the law of gravity came from.

    But Ken, I’d have thought you’d have taken exception to Hawking’s use of science to support his philosophy? You constantly deride theists (Craig, et al) for their cosmological arguments, but are happy for Hawking to use the same means as long as he emerges with the favourable conclusion? Or is it only the theists who are opportunist in their ‘use’ of science?

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  9. I think you may not understand what the authors have said, Dale. Seems to me that pointing out that science can propose structured hypotheses for the formation of the universe is not very new or controversial. (Many other physicists will disagree with Hawking’s preference for M-theory, of course- but that is beside the point).The newspapers note that no gods are required for this. Again not new or controversial – although some religious extremists may be unhappy about this being noted. However, their knee jerking will help publicize the book – and I am cynical enough to realize the publicists have purposely provoked those knee tendons. Mind you I am happy with their reaction as I love to see such books selling well.

    Buy the book and you will find out what they say about physical laws. My only knowledge of this is Davies’ article which is hardly surprising given his Templeton prize. Shifting the goalposts but it provides a security blanket for some. I certainly have no problem with laws of nature.

    Your comment on Craig etc. is misguided. My criticism here is that theologians misuse and distort science to support their theological arguments. Craig’s cosmological argument, which we discussed here recently, is one example. D’Souza’s distortion was even more blatant. The fine tuning argument is similarly distorted by many theologians. It’s really just a very human process of confirmation bias and distorting evidence to support a preconceived conclusion.

    I will await my reading of the book to find out what the authors say about philosophy – if anything. What I have seen so far mentioned by reviewers seems pretty good to me. After all I have always said that philosophy must be informed by science. So much of old philosophy is really of no use, in fact is misleading. And it is this philosophy that theology adheres to. Modern scientific philosophy is a different matter – it is informed by reality, by science, recognizes the need for validation against reality and is capable of changing as our knowledge changes.

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  10. Richard Christie

    Dale, where did your god come from?

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  11. Ken,
    You said “I certainly have no problem with laws of nature.” Great, I don’t think anyone does have a problem with them. But the question is how they are explained.

    Richard,
    We both get to a point where we start to question the form of the question, don’t we? We both accuse each other of begging the question. Theists can and always will be able to say, “OK, so ‘x’ is the cause of everything, so what caused ‘x’ then?” And atheists can always ask “Yeah, well who made God then?” But of course, most concepts of God (capital G) are such that the God is self-existent.

    As I’ve said before, both theists and atheists believe in some-“t[T]hing” that is as far back as you can go. Some ultimate f[F]act or s[S]ource that cannot be got behind. Theists call this God, atheists call it the universe/multiverse/nature/laws-of-nature.

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  12. …both atheist and theist believe in s[S]omething that ‘just exists’ on it’s own that is un-caused (unless one actually believes in an eternal chain of causality). Atheists believe the uni[multi]verse is self-created (and thus will find Hawking’s term ‘spontaneous creation’ infinitely convenient) – Theists believe that only God is self-existent (and thus will find Hawking’s term ‘spontaneous creation’ to be infinitely too convenient).

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  13. (why not 3 comments in a row!? – sorry!)
    Just to also add that I’m under no illusion that God is ‘my’ God in the senses that a) God belongs to me, or b) that I fully comprehend God. I believe that one of the first things that reason tells us about such a being is that a God would not belong to anyone and couldn’t be exhaustively known.

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  14. Dale, I wouldn’t be so confident on ascribing beliefs. I think all one can really say is that theists believe in a god or gods and that atheists don’t. Pretty obvious and unremarkable.

    Beyond that people will have other beliefs and philosophies and there will be a range of these.

    I personally don’t know yet what the authors are saying or what they mean by “spontaneous creation.” it could have several different meanings which I certainly don’t subscribe to. So I don’t accept you telling me that I find it “infinitely convenient.”

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  15. Richard Christie

    Dale, why question the form of the question? – I don’t need to, I like to keep things simple as there is less chance for a slippery answer. Actually, if you would, please treat that as rhetorical.
    My earlier question, however, was an obvious question (see your first comment in this thread – god, gravity, universe, whatever) .
    Since you accept that your god (i.e. the one that you believe in) is self-existent then it follows that you accept the existence of that state, why then, cannot the universe also be self-existent? Or does that break a rule or something?

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  16. Dale, you surely know what I mean by having no problem with the laws of nature. Philosophically I see them as reflecting the objective existence of matter which has the property of connection and interaction. (And my concept of matter is obviously not the same as the mechanical and naive concepts preferred by theologians).

    Of course explaining their different forms and the values of specific constants requires more investigation and theoretical development. Even speculation. But there is no need to drag in gods – especially as they do no explaining, have no developed hypotheses and cannot be validated (or at least god beliefs don’t allow for testing and validation which means they can’t explain except in the mythical sense). Gods really are of no real use in such investigations. Quite the opposite.

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  17. Just to also add that I’m under no illusion that God is ‘my’ God in the senses that a) God belongs to me, or b) that I fully comprehend God.

    Well at least that part is straightened out in plain English.

    I can’t understand your thinking, Richard.
    Shame on you.

    Why did you so unfairly accuse Dale of claiming that his god belongs to him?
    Dale didn’t say that! Never.
    So why create a strawman and go around insinuating that he did?

    Not only that, but I have to boldy confront you and demand that you provide a quote where Dale claimed that he “fully comprehended” his God.

    Where, Richard, where?
    Hmm?
    Dale never claimed that.

    Stop badgering the man. Leave him alone.
    He’s made it quite clear that his god DOESN’T belong to him exclusively and that he DOESN’T fully understand his god.
    What more do you want?

    Don’t you realise that you are just alienating everybody around here with your strawman attacks and wild-eyed and unfair questions?
    Control your angry atheism.

    What’s your next loathsome tactic?
    Are you going say hurtful things about term “God is self-existent” sounding an awful lot like meaningless self-serving mumbo-jumbo? The sort of bafflegab that theologians regularly use as a sort of “get out of jail free” card for any kind of god at all?

    ;)
    ///

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  18. Just to set things off to a starting point
    does the opening statement –

    “It seems that God, or more correctly disbelief in God, sells books. In recent years anyway. Perhaps since the religiously motivated terrorist attacks in New York nine years ago this week.”

    refer to attack by the christian / jewish fundamentalists who blew up the buildings or the purported other eastern fundamentalist for which there is much less evidence.

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  19. Ken,
    Fair enough especially on my anticipation of many atheists appreciation of the new term from Hawking. But my basic point that both atheists & theists ‘draw the line’ somewhere and say ‘nope, nothing else is needed’. Just didn’t want that point to be lost just because I’d said a few things you didn’t want to endorse…

    Richard,
    I’m more than happy to make the necessary clarifications, including semantic ones (something that requires more patience than many have). Like it or not, we’re stuck with words to describe the ideas we’ve got…

    I only say this because as a brief side point (nonetheless a key one), I’d want to say that a kind of existence a creator would have would be utterly distinct from (and more foundational – more ‘real’) the kind of existence the universe has. Another way to say this is that a Creator of reality would be more Real than reality itself. Anyone who even remotely enjoyed ‘the Matrix’ cannot only get this (even if they disagree), but shouldn’t be annoyed at the linguistic/semantic issues (this kind of talk has frustrated a few atheist conversation partners I’ve had in the past, and I still don’t see why?). :)

    But this kind of ontological distinction (degrees, if you like, of existence) is implicit in the distinction we’re already using when we speak of things that a) are ‘existent’ or b) ‘self-existent’ (or caused or un-caused). So yes, having established such a category (that of self-existence), I could see how one could see it merely as a matter of ‘why can’t the universe belong to this category instead of that one’ – or ‘why is God the only thing that can be in that category?’ But i think the point is to remember that we are starting with the reality of the world/universe around us which we see as ‘existing’, and then working backward in causality from that, setting up the causal regress, which leads us to a ‘more-than-existing’ Cause, etc.

    So I’m happy at one level to merely observe that when an atheist suggests (claims? insists? depending on level of certainty?) that the universe is self-existant, he/she is merely claiming of the universe that which is claimed by theists of a Creator. Then at another level, I would say that claiming this for the universe is a kind of blurring of categories, as it wants to put the one reality into two categories; both ‘existent’ and ‘self-existent’ (or both ’caused’ and ‘un-caused’), which makes less sense than the theist framework of an un-caused Cause being self-existent, which creates and Causes an existent creation.

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  20. Ken,
    Describing the laws of nature do not explain them. To explain something in one category, you have to refer to something in another category. You don’t explain a clock by describing the wood it’s made of, but by referring to something other than the clock. You don’t explain the laws of nature by refering to properties of connection/interaction, but by referring to something other than the law/lawfulness.

    I’m not sure what you even mean by the phrase “drag in gods”. The understanding I have of God is that God is most certainly not to be limited to a mere filler of a gap in scientific understanding. But rather (to stick to most basic expression) is the explanation why anything at all exists, including nature itself, whether lawful or unlawful – having or not having ‘properties of connection or interaction’ (which sounds just like saying again that there are laws of nature – i.e. laws = properties, or tendencies, or patterns of behaviour).

    Hawking has (it seems) claimed (or as you say, repeated a previous claim that is not new) that God is not needed to explain why anything exists. When he (or anyone else) points to physical/natural state/condition/pattern ‘x’ (i.e. the Law of Gravity), then I (and others with sceptical minds) want to point out that this leaves these themselves to be explained. Now, one could assert that this state/condition/pattern is eternal, uncaused, or otherwise doesn’t need explanation, but again, this would be to claim of them what is claimed of God…

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  21. Richard Christie

    I’d want to say that a kind of existence a creator would have would be utterly distinct from (and more foundational – more ‘real’) the kind of existence the universe has.
    Another way to say this is that a Creator of reality would be more Real than reality itself.

    You’re just having me on now, aren’t you?
    I really don’t know what to say to that. Truly Dale, I wouldn’t know where to start.

    when an atheist suggests (claims? insists? depending on level of certainty?) that the universe is self-existant, he/she is merely claiming of the universe that which is claimed by theists of a Creator.

    You’re just winging this aren’t you, making it up as you go along? Sounds to me as if you know your position is untenable so you’re just inventing possibilities to get around it.

    Cedric, if I hadn’t asked you wouldn’t have got this material to mine. ;-)
    Fun clips.

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  22. Richard,
    Any other wording you’d prefer that would keep categories of Caused/uncaused distinct? I thought you’d be able to sustain serious discussion?

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  23. Don’t let the words get in the way… As one theologian put it (Tilich, i think?), “Anyone who says that God [merely] ‘exists’ is an atheist.”

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  24. Richard Christie

    Dale, you are just making up categories of reality.
    Out of nowhere, with no evidence at all. It is an exercise that is, as you have put it , all too convenient.
    I can’t have a rational discussion if you just make up alternative realities as you go along.

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  25. Richard,
    So do you think the universe is self-existent or not? I know it’s hard for an atheist to imagine anything other than one all-inclusive universal category, but when some atheists (not you? but if not what do you claim?) claim that the universe is self-existent, they invoke another category of existence, whether they realise it or not. It’s not only convenient… it just may be what we need to sufficiently explain what exists.

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  26. (i ask because you seemed to have no problem with a self-existent universe above, but maybe you do?)

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  27. Richard Christie

    I haven’t a clue.
    But I certainly don’t look to a 3,000 year old book written by bronze-age desert nomads for an answer.

    Tell me, where do you get the concept of your god being on a higher plane of reality than the ordinary reality that the university suffers?
    C’mon. chapter and verse please.

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  28. Richard Christie

    And where did that higher plane of reality come from?

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  29. Richard Christie

    Actually, now I’ve come to terms with the sheer audacity of your answer to my original question Dale, where did your god come from? I realise that you didn’t answer it at all. You merely side-stepped it by inventing a special reality for your god.

    Like an octopus shooting a cloud of ink.

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  30. … existence a creator would have would be utterly distinct from (and more foundational – more ‘real’) the kind of existence the universe has.

    Oh yes, it would have to. Therefore it is. Easy fix.

    It’s just like Thor.
    Thor throws his magic hammer a lot.
    He’d need to be very magical himself to do that.
    Therefore Thor is very magical.
    (That covers a lot of other theological bases too.)

    …a Creator of reality would be more Real than reality itself…

    Gosh Dale, now you sound exactly like those atheists talking about the existence of the universe. Uncanny.
    It was only last week that I read somewhere about how scientists keep on using this mysterious phrase “More real that reality”.
    You hear it all the time in the scientific atheist circles that I hang out in.
    Really!
    That’s exactly how they talk.
    Word for word.

    It’s like anything else.
    Take water for example.
    Imagine water more watery than …Water Itself.
    Or, to make it a little easier to understand….Imagine “water” more “watery” than “Water Itself”.

    (Quotation marks-Never leave home without them! They always add clarity and special meaning to words in English. Always.)

    “More real that reality itself”.
    Yes, that’s the ticket.
    With a little imagination and a modest appeal to science fiction movies, it all makes sense really. It’s so unfair of atheists when they start going on about how it all sounds like total bafflegab and daft word games.
    If only they would see that it’s perfectly ok to be more real than reality itself.
    I get you but those other atheists will just bury their collective heads in the sand at this simple, plain-spoken truth.
    Magicmandunnit.

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  31. Non-Theists vs. Atheists

    Confucianism (unlike Taoism), much of Buddhism and most of the Samkhya of Hinduism are non-theistic: they simply omit the concept of God. Many atheists, however, seem intent on attacking the idea of God.

    Ultimate reality is what is is, whether we think, believe or desire otherwise. If there is a God, not believing does not change that. If there is no God, then believing will not make it so. Mystics seek the universal reality which underlies our conceptualizing and imagining. I was personally introduced to mysticism by a Nobel physicist who said “God is man’s greatest creation.” In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a chapter “To the non-religious.” You do not have to be religious or a believer in God to be a mystic, although most of the prominent mystics were both.

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  32. I realise that you didn’t answer it at all. You merely side-stepped it by inventing a special reality for your god.

    That’s not all he did in the old side-step shuffle. :)
    He also repeatedly set up a strawman “tu quoque” and proceeded to endlessly address that rather than actually stick to the question.

    But my basic point that both atheists & theists ‘draw the line’ somewhere…

    Yes, scientists (atheists?) are just as bad as theists. They are always drawing lines all time. You remember that line you drew, Richard?
    Y’know, the line thingy from…some other discussion somewhere?
    Well, that one! You drew it. Don’t deny it now.

    Umm…
    Ok Dale but…Dale, where did your god come from?

    As I’ve said before, both theists and atheists believe in some-”t[T]hing” that is as far back as you can go.

    Yep, two peas in a pod. Atheists don’t have anything over the theists. Atheists do a lot of “believing” too. Everybody knows that.

    Umm…
    Ok Dale but…Dale, where did your god come from?

    So I’m happy at one level to merely observe that when an atheist suggests (…)
    he/she is merely claiming of the universe that which is claimed by theists of a Creator.

    Yep. Atheists are suggesting stuff. They are making EXACTLY the same claims as theists. EXACTLY THE SAME. Word for word.

    Wow, who knew but…
    Dale, where did your god come from?

    Now, one could assert that this state/condition/pattern is eternal, uncaused, or otherwise doesn’t need explanation, but again, this would be to claim of them what is claimed of God…

    Yes, those pesky atheists are going around asserting stuff. Haha.
    No actual quotes or anything but, hey, take my word for it.
    (Hawking! Yeah, him.)
    That’s EXACTLY what he did. Word for word. Really!

    Whatever…
    Dale, where did your god come from?

    So do you think the universe is self-existent or not?

    (…awkward silence…)

    Pointless question. You have repeatly told us what atheists think/claim several times. Why start asking questions now at this late date?
    You’re “happy to observe at one level”, remember?
    You already know what those atheists are all saying. That’s what you’ve been busy explaining to us all these posts of yours.

    Besides, you shouldn’t answer a question with a question.
    Bad form.
    What was the question again?
    Oh yes…
    Dale, where did your god come from?

    …but when some atheists (not you? but if not what do you claim?) claim that the universe is self-existent…

    There we are, see?
    You knew all along what atheists claim.
    Atheists go around all the time claiming that the Universe is self-existent.
    We say it all the time.
    Just last week in another discussion entirely, Richard himself suddenly blurted out “The Universe is self-existent” for no apparent reason.
    Those exact words!
    Everybody chimed in with words of faith and blind belief because…well…that’s just what atheists normally do.
    It’s our thing. We can’t help ourselves.
    Dawkins, Hawking, Ken, and lots and lots and lots of others go around saying “The Universe is self-existent” ALL THE TIME.
    The proof is out there. Go ahead and google it. The hits you will get will be simply enormous.
    This is the basic credo of Richard and, well, pretty much every atheist you can mention.
    We say it endlessly, again and again and again.
    Ironic really. We’re just like the theists.
    How do we sleep at night?
    Shame, shame, shame.

    Yet all of this doesn’t even come close to giving us a bafflegab-free answer to the original question…

    Dale, where did your god come from?

    …………………………….

    Fun clips.
    I’m glad somebody around here appreciates ‘em. :)
    Were did god come from – By Dr Zakir Naik

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  33. Thinking Matters links to responses by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford; Edgar Andrews, Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London; and James Anderson, Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. Anderson’s response is my favourite:

    “If Hawking really has proven that the laws of nature are logically necessary, that would be a stupendous scientific breakthrough: a dead cert for a Nobel prize. But then why didn’t he publish it in a peer-reviewed scientific journal rather than a popular science book (as The Grand Design appears to be)? Furthermore, if the laws of nature really are logically necessary then our knowledge of them couldn’t be based on empirical observation (despite what we’ve always thought) because empirical observations cannot in principle establish necessary truths (such as the laws of logic and the laws of arithmetic). Our observations can only tell us what actually is the case and not what must be the case.If Hawking thinks there is some law or principle that explains the very existence of the universe, he must have in mind a metaphysical law rather than a physical law. Unless I’m much mistaken, the law of gravity is a physical law. It appears that Hawking intends to leave behind physics (a subject on which he is eminently qualified to speak) and enter the realm of metaphysics (a subject on which he has no particular expertise, so far as I know). It’s more than a little ironic therefore to find Hawking declaring on the very first page of his new book that “philosophy is dead.” If philosophy is dead, why is Hawking now turning his hand to philosophy? No, philosophy is in very good health, despite its frequent mistreatment at the hands of scientists.”

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  34. Richard Christie

    Many atheists, however, seem intent on attacking the idea of God.

    Ron, I can’t speak for “many atheists” but I don’t necessarily attack or dismiss the concept of a god. The concept is fine, it’s merely hypothesis.
    I do however attack the the arguments used to accept that the concept is an absolute reality. The reasoning advanced is invariably irrational.

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  35. Yes, Ropata. It’s just like Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” all over again. Theologians wading in defensively (this time on the basis of a clever advertising ploy rather than a title). All the time cutting off their noses.

    They don’t give a toss about what’s in the book. In fact they will tell us what is without their reading it. And they will tell us what us wrong with their straw men.

    In the process they expose the poverty of their own theology (I won’t flatter them by calling it philosophy) and their own emotional immaturity.

    Scientists working in the field are not going to be distracted from their work long enough to give a stuff about such ranting.

    But good on them (the theological critics). Their response was predictable. The authors’ publicists understood what they were doing. So thank you Ropata, Thinking Matters, Dale. You are all going to help make this book a best seller.

    Come in Matt and Glenn. Where are you when we need you? Aren’t you going to do your bit to boost sales?

    Like

  36. Pingback: God Has Left The Building « The Swapper

  37. Richard Christie

    Cedric, that was some good discourse analysis, but it was late here when I commented on dale’s answers and I have to retract, or at least qualify, my claim that Dale didn’t answer the first question. He did at least imply that his god was self-existent “both atheist and theist believe in s[S]omething that ‘just exists’ on it’s own that is un-caused” although as you point out, he also decided to speak for atheists too.
    But once he accepted the concept of”self existence” or no first-cause creation for his god, he sidestepped the next obvious question : Why can’t the universe have that status too? Suddenly the universe’s reality is inferior to The Reality that god enjoys, presumably there is a rule somewhere that forbids the inferior reality of the universe that status. Hawking proposes that there is no such rule.

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  38. Lots of mocking here (really makes one keen on sticking with the thread – yay), but nobody appears interested in speaking to where the laws of nature came from? God, however, is universally thought to be the sort of being that is self-existent, so we shouldn’t find it shocking that we say God wouldn’t have ‘come from’ anywhere.

    Like

  39. Richard, just picked up your last comment,
    yes, in these matters there seems to be the infinite regress of questions. Something claimed for God, you say, can be claimed for the universe. As I mentioned above, the universe doesn’t look eternal, but looks like it had a beginning (and even M-Theory pushes the question back to the origin of the first universe – or first universe-cluster, or whatever version of the theory, etc.). Everything we see in the world/’reality’ is contingent – it’s principle of existence is in something other than itself. The regress points on to either an infinite chain of contingency or an ontologically distinct entity that has its principle of existence not in an ‘other’, but in its self.

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  40. Dale, I gave what I thought was a sensible philosophical explanation of the source of regularity in the objective world. Importantly one which allowed investigation and elaboration (god ideas never do). Science is on the job.

    And you consider this mocking! You clearly have a fixed agenda and don’t wish to allow yourself to appreciate that others may think deeply about this.

    Gods have long been advanced as explanations for all matter of things. However, these have never been successful and they are no longer seriously considered for such things. Sure some people cling to them for social and psychological reasons but when they use them to “explain” reality they are well outside acceptable domains.

    And it is arrogant to shout down serious scientific consideration of such matters by appeal to ancient superstition.

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  41. Richard Christie

    Arghh, I’m a lay person, some of those words just make my eyes glaze over.
    What is the relevance of what the unviverse looks like when compared to your god, if you can’t even see or describe your god. How do you know your god doesn’t look like he has a beginning? [And, I'll ask, before Cedric gets in first, what color is his beard?]
    I’d agree reality is contingent, in my view that’s almost the whole point of atheism. But deists don’t, they manufacture certainty from nothing, the ultimate creationist sleight of hand.

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  42. …but nobody appears interested in speaking to where the laws of nature came from?

    That’s because everybody already knows that one.
    Think about it.
    If there are laws then it follows that there must be a lawgiver.
    (Or if you prefer, if there are “laws” then there must be a “lawgiver”.)
    So if there’s a lawgiver, then therefore Thor.
    Easy fix.

    It’s the same impeccable logic with that other famous argument.
    Look around at all of creation.
    Just look at it.
    Creation is real. Therefore there must be a….(drum roll please)…CREATOR.
    Therefore Thor.

    As I mentioned above, the universe doesn’t look eternal…

    Yet at least we can all look at it and try and figure it out.
    Maybe it’s eternal…or not.
    That’s something humanity can investigate as opposed to lazily making stuff up.
    The universe is actually out there.

    Can’t really look at an invisible magic person/entity/being/oneness/Other/presence/spirit/insert your own mushy feel-good babble.

    The regress points on to either an infinite chain of contingency or an ontologically distinct entity…

    Therefore Thor.
    (shrug)

    God Doesn’t Exist? Prove It!

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  43. I’m all for pushing the limits and the advancement of science. But as many many others have stated, scientists whose intelligence is not in question tend to think that their expertise carries over into other fields. Philosophy of religion is a serious academic subject with a vast literature so when Hawking, Dawkins, or whoever is the amateur philosopher of the moment venture their opinions they are rightly criticised by the EXPERTS in that field.

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  44. Richard Christie

    Ropata, who issues the membership cards that enable one to enter into the discussion on creation or not of the universe? Is there a test to sit as well?

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  45. If there was no designer, why did Hawking call his book “The Grand Design.” It would seem that he, like Einstein, is an agnostic rather than an atheist. To say that is not necessary for creation is not the same as saying there is no God.

    Why would a just and loving God cause the physical condition of Stephen Hawking. Perhaps the one who balanced it with an exceptional mind. Most healthy people, in good physical condition, do not have Hawking’s brilliance.

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  46. If there was no designer, why did Hawking call his book “The Grand Design?” It would seem that he, like Einstein, is an agnostic rather than an atheist. To say that God is not necessary for creation is not the same as saying there is no God.

    Why would a just and loving God cause the physical condition of Stephen Hawking? Perhaps the God who balanced it with an exceptional mind. Most healthy people, in good physical condition, do not have Hawking’s brilliance.

    I have great admiration for him, even when not agreeing with him.

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  47. Ropata – you have this the wrong way around. It is the theologians who have the arrogance to think they can lecture science about reality (which is not a subject of theology but is extremely relevant to science).

    Who the hell is lecturing us about formation of the universe, the laws of nature, etc. Come on, just because you think you have an invisible friend doesn’t mean that your own prejudices are any more than that.

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  48. Richard Christie

    Dead right Ken.
    EXPERT theologians have been indulging in, as Cedric puts it bafflespeak , for over 4 millenia about the nature of creation and reality and not a single one has come up with answers more authoritative than those of Douglas Adams or Hawking. So much for expert opinion.

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  49. keep building the straw men and bashing them down… ancient, illiterate, mystical fools, poor without the knowledge science gives, imagine a bearded man behind the clouds, and now science has proved otherwise…

    The reality is that humanity in every place and time and of all levels of learning have and will continue to see some kind of ultimate self-existent Cause as a reasonable and meaningful ultimate explanation – and one that leave science completely free to explore, experiment and provide metrical explanatory accounts of what we see.

    And Ken, you didn’t provide an explanation of the laws of nature – but a description of them.

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  50. Richard Christie

    Oh no dale, you don’t get away with saying others avoid answering questions.
    we are still waiting on this: if you accept that your god doesn’t require a creator, why cannot the universe claim the same thing.

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  51. Richard,
    Pantheists, of course, do claim precisely that. My point is not that it cannot be claimed (clearly it is claimed), but that we should at least recognise/agree that it’s claiming the same thing (the quality of self-existence) as is claimed for a God. Everyone seems (correct me?) to eventually get to something that ‘just is’. This is not bafflegab, methinks.

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  52. Dale, I wish you would respect the effort I put into my comments. I did not describe natural laws at all. Come off it. Your unwillingness to engage with that tells volumes, I guess.

    As for your claim of humans always wanting a “self-existent” cause. Crap! You should try up break the habit if speaking for others as it blinds you to the truth.

    I am not speaking for you but I certainly have never felt that need

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  53. It is bafflegab to impose your choice of “just is.” In fact humanity is far more inquisitive. We don’t just accept something as “just is.” We investigate it and find out how it works. We wonder about a fundamental reality and we test for that too.

    What we shouldn’t do us just accept somebody else who imposes their pet myth because it “just is.” That we have to accept it, it can’t be questioned or investigated. It is beyond understanding but we have to accept that these spokespeople know all about it, are in constant communication with it and must be our conduit to the “Truth.”

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  54. Well, Ken, you’ve not represented me well either. I did not say that humans always want a ‘self existent cause’. I pointed out the belief in such a cause happens across places, times and levels of learning, and (just above) that “Everyone seems (correct me?) to eventually get to something that ‘just is’.”

    And I asked the question about the origin or (explanation for) the laws of nature, and you have thus far said the following:

    Philosophically I see them [laws of nature] as reflecting the objective existence of matter which has the property of connection and interaction. (And my concept of matter is obviously not the same as the mechanical and naive concepts preferred by theologians).
    Of course explaining their different forms and the values of specific constants requires more investigation and theoretical development. Even speculation. [followed by an assertion that gods are unnecessary to explain the laws of nature]

    and

    Dale, I gave what I thought was a sensible philosophical explanation of the source of regularity in the objective world. Importantly one which allowed investigation and elaboration (god ideas never do). Science is on the job.

    I see nothing here that explains the laws of nature.

    And Ken, as I don’t want to put words in your mouth, do you think the universe/multiverse/’reality’/the-world/everything caused/created/etc. itself? If not, how do you answer the question of ‘why something and not nothing’? If yes, then can you see that you do claim self-existence for the universe?

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  55. Ken,
    the question of how to know about such an entity is separate from the question of how reasonable it is to believe that such an entity is Real/Existent/Actual/etc. And to me it seems a far more humble approach to acknowledge that we are not all-knowing and that we’ll probably always be so, rather than insisting that we can know anything given enough time?

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  56. But Dale , do you see anything in what I said (and your quote) that describes the laws of nature – as you claimed?

    As I said it was a philosophical explanation – not a scientific one. That is a work in progress.

    As a philosophical explanation it does not require postulating gods, enables further investigation and, to me, seems particularly reasonable.

    The point I am making with it is that the fall back position of “where did the laws of nature come from” is irrelevant. We don’t need gods to explain either the formation of the universe or the laws io nature. Our current explanations, with all their limitations, do a far better job and enable us to investigate further. Gods don’t.

    That’s not to say people shouldn’t have god beliefs. Just that they should not make such overwhelming and unwarranted claims for them.

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  57. Ken,
    these words looked like description to me: “I see them [laws of nature] as reflecting the objective existence of matter which has the property of connection and interaction.” Sounds like just a description of what we see… nature is lawful; examples –> connective & interactive… No explanation of why it is connective/interactive as opposed to disconnected/isolated, etc.

    And sorry, but the whole point is that the ‘where did the laws of nature come from’ question is just as valid and relevant (who determines what is?) as the ‘where did anything come from?’ question.

    Any answer given can of course be subject to merely repeating the question – the regress instantly crops up. The only logical way to end the regress is to postulate a different kind of source/cause. Like it or not, a creator or god simply is a logical final/ultimate answer – it is a valid final/ultimate explanation. This in no way does away with the need for enquiry/investigation/etc. Again, the question of how well we can know about such an entity is a separate question. But it remains logical, valid and reasonable to attribute the existence of the world/universe/etc. to a creator.

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  58. …the question of how to know about such an entity is separate from the question of how reasonable it is to believe that such an entity is Real/Existent/Actual/etc.

    Oh, that’s a good one. :)

    …the question of how to know about Thor is separate from the question of how reasonable it is to believe that Thor is Real/Existent/Actual/etc…

    …the question of how to know about Lao-Tien-Yeh is separate from the question of how reasonable it is to believe that Lao-Tien-Yeh is Real/Existent/Actual/etc…

    …the question of how to know about Atea is separate from the question of how reasonable it is to believe that Atea is Real/Existent/Actual/etc…

    Oh yes, I like it. That’s slick.
    Why can’t atheists see the truth of all this?
    Could it be that they lack…humility?
    Could it be that they are…arrogant?
    Well, yes.

    And to me it seems a far more humble approach to acknowledge that we are not all-knowing and that we’ll probably always be so, rather than insisting that we can know anything given enough time?

    Yes, that’s the ticket.
    The atheist is wrong to think that you are just spouting meaningless bafflegab/nonsense/word games/.
    If only they could understand they lack the proper…humility.
    They are blinded by their arrogance.
    How arrogant they are to insist that that we can know anything given enough time.
    Why do they always claim such an arrogant thing again and again and again?
    That EXACT PHRASE has been used by atheists on this very thread on at least two dozen occasions.
    (There’s no need for you to actually quote any of those times. Don’t trouble yourself. We all know where they appear in the comments. You clearly know what atheists are really saying!)

    They just don’t get it that we don’t know everything and that this will probably be the case. They are always claiming the exact opposite.

    It happens all the time.
    It’s a good job for us all that you have avoided that terrible trap and are suitably humble.

    “the Creator of reality would be more Real than reality itself.”

    Humbleness has given you this deep and profound and wonderous knowledge.
    More real that reality itself. Perfectly reasonable.
    If it’s good enough for science-fiction movies then it should be good enough for the arrogant atheist.

    ATHEIST!!!!!!!

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  59. Any answer given can of course be subject to merely repeating the question – the regress instantly crops up. The only logical way to end the regress is to postulate a different kind of source/cause.

    A different kind of source or cause?
    Ok, how about a magic, sweaty football sock that is more real than Reality itself? Would that work?
    Let’s find out, boys and girls… :)

    Like it or not, a magic sweaty football sock that is “more real than reality itself” simply is a logical final/ultimate answer – it is a valid final/ultimate explanation. This in no way does away with the need for enquiry/investigation/etc. Again, the question of how well we can know about a magic sweaty football sock that is “more real than reality itself” is a separate question. But it remains logical, valid and reasonable to attribute the existence of the world/universe/etc. to a magic sweaty football sock that is “more real than reality itself”.

    Theology. Is. Fun.
    Don’t let anyone tell you different.
    Whitman’s Mind: Dan Dennett on Spin & Deepity

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  60. Richard Christie

    Everyone seems (correct me?) to eventually get to something that ‘just is’.

    Well Dale I will correct you, I don’t end up at ” just is” , I end up at “don’t know, keep looking” and that is definitely not same thing as a god with ready made explanations. So I presume, do many others.

    where did the laws of nature come from
    Ken is dead right again, atheists aren’t claiming an answer for that, deists are. Atheists, or at least scientists, are still looking, a far more honest position.

    Dale, do you accept that the universe has as much right to no first-cause creation as your god has?

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  61. Physics != Metaphysics
    But the boundary between the disciplines is obviously rich in argumentation. Of course an eternally self existent universe is logically possible. Just as much as a non contingent Creator, uncaused First Cause, or whatever. These are all potential answers to “life, the universe and everything”.

    As far as I’m concerned (and many respected scientists and philosophers) the evidence tentatively favours the Creator hypothesis. The fun begins when atheists run around claiming they have the ultimate answer and it’s more “sciencey” than anyone else’s. I’m sorry but it is UNSCIENTIFIC to rule out these hypotheses until the evidence is in!

    To [Ken], science is equated with the belief system of reductionist materialism. In reality, science is the method of observing reality, creating models to describe reality, and testing the models by experiments and further observations that can either support or weigh against those models. For people like Bloom [Ken] to dismiss phenomena with massive collaborated observational and / or experimental support like crisis apparitions (ghosts) and telepathy is utterly unscientific, dogmatic, and in reality no different from the methodology of the fundamentalist religionists he decries who reject evidence for common descent and an ancient earth and universe.

    The biggest reason that the public distrusts science is that scientists distrust science. They prefer to maintain a <a href="“>belief system in reductionistic materialism instead of admitting any observations which do not fit.

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  62. Dale it may be logical, valid and reasonable for you to attribute things to your god. It’s not to me. I have no problem with such different outlooks.

    But I guess as a theologian you are happy to stop there. As a scientist I want to look deeper, compare my ideas against reality and validate any conclusions.

    And I think society these days gives these jobs (origins of universes and laws of nature) to science, not theology. For very good reason as science is successful in these areas, theology is not. Never has been – even when it held political and social power.

    So it is rather arrogant for theologians to whine when someone politely points out that these questions are capable of being understood and investigated without resorting to ancient mythical “explanations.” I guess it shows that theology won’t stick to it’s own magisterium, that it insists on attempting to lay down the law in science.

    I think this makes clear that there is an inevitable conflict between science and religion. How can they be complimentary when we have such interference? And theological interference seems to be part of the religious hubris.

    Regarding your attempt to belittle my philosophical statements on matter. Personally I think it is sufficient to categorize matter as that which exists objectively. That is, interconnection is an inevitable consequence of objective existence. To ask why? is just a silly question.

    I am quite serious about my categorization (and yes I welcome sensible criticisms of it). As I have said here before I think we must have a modern philosophical understanding of matter and materialism. These words are very often used in an old way, a mechanical way, which is not adequate for our current understanding of the fundamental nature of matter.

    Part of the reason for this is that many of the popular philosophies, and certainly religious philosophy, appears to prefer to use an outmoded category because they are either unfamiliar with modern science or have ideological biases against it.

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  63. Richard Christie

    Dale, And to me it seems a far more humble approach to acknowledge that we are not all-knowing and that we’ll probably always be so, rather than insisting that we can know anything given enough time?

    Hang on a minute, that is a mind-bender of a statement coming from a deist.
    I thought believing in a god is supposed to provide all the answers to the big questions. That’s the whole point to believing isn’t it? Believers no longer question, they accept, they believe, they know where the universe came from.
    Stop stealing the atheist’s position.

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  64. As far as I’m concerned…the evidence tentatively favours the Creator hypothesis.

    What evidence would that be?
    Spell it out, this oh so tentative evidence. Don’t leave us guessing.

    …(and many respected scientists and philosophers)…

    No doubt they are respected. No doubt at all.
    If “they” are respected scientists (as opposed to unrespected ones) then the matter is clearly in your favour.
    They say it.
    Whoever “they” are.
    They are “respected”.
    That settles it.
    Or not.

    The fun begins when atheists run around claiming they have the ultimate answer…

    Yes, exactly. You have hit the nail squarely on the head here, ropata.
    Why do atheists go around saying this?
    Why?
    It’s so maddening.
    It’s so obviously fatally flawed.
    Yet (according to my secret sources) Richard has it tattooed on his chest.
    Ken spells out the very phrase “I have the ultimate answer” every time he eats his alphabet soup.
    It’s so childish. It’s completely unreasonable.
    Again and again and again, atheists go around screaching at the top of their lungs “We have the ultimate answer, WE HAVE THE ULTIMATE ANSWER”.
    This very thread is proof of that.
    A casual reading will reveal those exact, damning, indefensible words multiple times in the comments here.
    Scarcely a day goes by on any atheist-friendly blog where atheists don’t claim to have the ultimate answer.
    The madness must stop.
    Shame, shame, shame.

    I’m sorry but it is UNSCIENTIFIC to rule out these hypotheses until the evidence is in!

    Couldn’t agree with you more.
    This is exactly the way to go.
    Never rule out a hypothesis until the evidence is in.
    Never ever.

    A magic, sweaty football sock that is more real than Reality itself.
    There’s a hypothesis that should not be ruled out until the evidence is in.
    It stays firmly on the table.
    Anything else is just unscientific.

    Atheism – How many gods do YOU not believe in?

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  65. Ken,
    please this thread is already pretty crowded (esp. with long you-tube-filled ranting from my favourite commenter to ignore), so please spare me the lectures on why you think theology is the devil. let’s keep the focus on the central issues?

    There are general issues and specific issues. It’s annoying as hell to try to have a conversation about ‘god’ (as generally/broadly as it is possible to think of) and the universe, when people instantly bring up red herrings such as ranting about not being able to know such a being or being inconsistent because we don’t believe in Artemis or Isis. Or the straw man of insisting that any claim of a creator must be anti-science and/or must be claiming the same kind of explanatory ground that science does.

    This thread began about the claim by Hawking (which is not new, as you agree) that the laws of nature necessitate that a universe will create itself, etc. and thus (key statement) we now know that God was not needed for the big bang, or to answer the ‘why something rather than nothing’ question.

    The question that sceptical minds ask is ‘really? if laws of nature explain why something other than nothing, then how do the laws of nature govern a nature that doesn’t exist yet? or better yet, if a lawful nature doesn’t exist ‘yet’ (hard to use time-bound terms when referring to things outside of or ‘before’ time), how would the laws of nature be meaningfully said to exist? In short, how can the laws of nature be meaningfully thought to exist if indeed nothing exists ‘yet’??

    Richard,
    Ah, but monotheism is quite atheistic. and quite intent that no human is omniscient. Contrary to some that insist belief in God necessitates delusions of omniscience, it merely means belief in God – and is quite compatible with science – as we all know, most of the founders of modern science were theists (either muslim or christian or deist or jewish).

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  66. Richard Christie

    Dale, you never answer the questions.
    I don’t care about what you believe other theists or atheists might think or believe.
    My questions have repeatedly been addressed to you. You. Your position.
    Dale, where did your god come from?
    Dale, do you accept that the universe has as much right to no first-cause creation as your god has?
    Since you accept that your god (i.e. the one that you believe in) is self-existent then it follows that you accept the existence of that state, why then, cannot the universe also be self-existent? Or does that break a rule or something?
    Tell me, where do you get the concept of your god being on a higher plane of reality than the ordinary reality that the university suffers?
    How do you know your god doesn’t look like he has a beginning?

    etc

    You haven’t answered a single one of them.

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  67. But, Dale, nothing exists now also. Just in a more stable form. Watch Sean Carroll’s video.

    I think you are making far too much out of a press report. Hardly the best way to understand the claims of a theoretical physicist or cosmologist. Just forget about laws of nature. It’s fanciful to talk about them the way you are. Reality is not that simple.

    All the authors have said is that it is not necessary to postulate gods to explain the formation of the universe. They actually make clear that this is not the same as saying there is no god. Obviously people will have their own beliefs about that. It’s just that they are irrelevant to these questions.

    So suddenly theologians are offended and come down on their heads! Over sensitive.

    Surely these guys are entitled to their beliefs. They aren’t obliged to lie about their science just because a few theologians might be offended.

    And this sort of public display of being offended is really just a childish way of applying pressure. A technique which is fast losing it’s effectiveness as people get tired of such displays.

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  68. Richard Christie

    Ah, but monotheism is quite atheistic. [something missing here?] and quite intent that no human is omniscient.

    monotheism: (n) the belief that there is only one God, as found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

    atheism: (n) disbelief in the existence of God or deities

    Do you have any idea what it’s like to debate with someone who throws this sort of stuff out all the time?
    And for what its worth I didn’t mention omniscience, I said belief provides answers to the big questions.

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  69. Some comments from Amazon reviewers:

    This book, you’ll find as you read, is dumbed down… it’s set in 14 point Times New Roman. For 190 pages, and such a large font, it’s a very quick read

    they are expounding one subjective view of cosmology, and this might come across as overenthusiastic, controversial, or even supercilious, by physicists, other scientists, and philosophers of science, who may not hold these views.

    I was concerned by some of the things that were said at the outset such as “philosophy is dead” – each academic discipline requires years of study and can’t reasonably be dismissed out of hand by someone who is an expert in another field

    But the best review has to be this one:

    This book is one thing and one thing only, it is a press release saying that science is not going to accept the supposed uncertainty thrust upon it by religious groups and even philosophers. Science is willing to say, and defend, the statement that IT is the only and Best means towards truth. To see this book as anything more than that is getting your hopes up, it is a nexus in the zeitgeist [...]

    What this book does, is try to say that the beginning of the universe can be explained GIVEN a set of laws we have come up with. What this book does not say, is how these laws came to be and therefore says little or less about the ultimate origins of the universe. It also offers no proof for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle or Planck length, a principle on which all the arguments depend. [...]

    One might expect a devastating argument for the case of physics, but this is not what you will find. If you want a seminal proof of physics as the final explanation of the universe, you won’t get that either. If you really want to understand, it is useless.

    What you will get, is an inordinate amount of stated facts and unexplained claims. The easy things are overly explained and the difficulties are not addressed at all. For example, they spent pages on the anthropic principle which should be self evident given a few simple statements and basically gave no treatment of M theory whatsoever despite the fact is apparently is the theory that subsumes his premise! [...]

    Simply read the last three pages of this book which seem to contain, the argument for the entire purpose of the book. Positive energy and negative energy are not even brought up until the last 3 pages yet they play a critical role. Apparently a black hole which, while being formed, approaches more negative energy than positive energy, somehow switches to positive energy and voila, this is supposed to show that the universe is balanced in terms of positive and negative energy. [...]

    What a hideously confusing conclusion. It should have been an entire chapter with summary.

    As for the prose itself, It is utterly dry, overly concise and without personality. The occasional attempts at humor are becoming redundant and out of place in such company. We have come to expect it in a Hawking book despite the fact it adds nothing. [...]

    It gets its 2 stars for its cultural importance.

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  70. Richard,

    Dale, where did your god come from?

    As you suspect, and as my comments suggest, I believe that an ultimate creator would of logical necessity be self-existent, and thus not have “come from any ‘where’ “.

    Dale, do you accept that the universe has as much right to no first-cause creation as your god has?
    Since you accept that your god (i.e. the one that you believe in) is self-existent then it follows that you accept the existence of that state, why then, cannot the universe also be self-existent? Or does that break a rule or something?

    If we’re talking about a) the universe that appears to have a beginning, and b) the concept of an ultimate creator which could not logically have a beginning (and at the same be an ‘ultimate’ creator).

    Tell me, where do you get the concept of your god being on a higher plane of reality than the ordinary reality that the university suffers?

    Well, the quality of self-existence would seem a ‘higher’ (or perhaps ‘lower’ in the sense of more foundational – if you prefer that metaphor?) kind of existence than that which universe enjoys (you say ‘suffers’).

    How do you know your god doesn’t look like he has a beginning?

    Clearly ‘look’ is metaphorical, as I don’t believe in a physical (and thus visible) God. But to the eyes of reason, again, an ultimate creator would have no ‘beginning’.

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  71. Ken,
    The request is not for Hawking or any others to ‘lie about the science’ to appease theological enquiries. It’s merely for them to ask the logical next question of how the laws could be said to be the reason for the existence of something rather than nothing, if nothing existed yet – including the laws?

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  72. Richard Christie

    Dale, you only answered the first question. Of the remainder:

    If we’re talking about a) the universe that appears to have a beginning, and b) the concept of an ultimate creator which could not logically have a beginning (and at the same be an ‘ultimate’ creator).

    (a) is simply a hypothesis. And no one can get past (b) with any amount of rational reasoning. And that is because the justification you raise in (b) is simply irrational, logically inconsistent and devoid of an evidential base. It’s the theological get out of jail free card; you simply invoke an ultimate creator and then refuse to go near the question of where it came from. I find it an intellectually cowardly and dishonest line of reasoning and I can think of no other description for it. It lies at the very heart of what I object to in religious belief systems.

    Well, the quality of self-existence would seem a ‘higher’ (or perhaps ‘lower’ in the sense of more foundational – if you prefer that metaphor?) kind of existence than that which universe enjoys (you say ‘suffers’).

    So it’s simply your idea then, I suspected it might be.

    But to the eyes of reason, again, an ultimate creator would have no ‘beginning’.

    OK, invoking the get out of jail free clause again.

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  73. I find it an intellectually cowardly and dishonest line of reasoning and I can think of no other description for it. It lies at the very heart of what I object to in religious belief systems.

    Yes.
    All of them.
    Any and all religious belief systems are equally well served by Dale’s bafflegab. Bafflegab is more multipurpose than a Swiss Army Knife.
    It can wriggle and squirm around any obstacle.
    Even the prayer thingy.
    The best optical illusion in the world!

    It’s annoying as hell to try to have a conversation about ‘god’ (as generally/broadly as it is possible to think of) and the universe, when people instantly bring up red herrings…

    Oh come on Dale.
    Do you believe in God or just some kind of fuzzy generic vague ‘god’ thing?

    If God can be self-existent then surely ‘god’ can?

    Or a magic sweaty football sock?

    I believe that an ultimate creator would of logical necessity be self-existent, and thus not have “come from any ‘where’

    Let’s take this one as a good example:
    This “ultimate creator” (as opposed to a penultimate creator) seems to have it’s bases all neatly covered. It needs to be self-existent so as to avoid coming from somewhere…so therefore it’s self-existent.
    ‘Cause it has to be.
    So there!

    Cool. Great. Go with what works for you.

    It’s just that the same EXACT LINE OF THEOLOGY works beautifully well for a magic sweaty sock, or Thor, or the FSM etc.
    It’s a perfect fit.
    Dr Zakir Naik can just crib your notes and go off and promote his brand-name god. All he has to do is switch the labels around.
    Effortless.

    …people instantly bring up red herrings such as ranting about not being able to know such a being…

    Did anybody actually say that here or are you just making stuff up (again) about what you think “those atheists” are “really saying”?
    If you have a genuine objection to something specific, then do us all a favour and actually provide a quote.
    A quote.
    Not your personal liberal dollop of self-serving, dishonest strawmannery.
    Quote the actual phrase that is hopelessly flawed.
    That would be something new from you.
    Draw the scales from our eyes.

    …or being inconsistent because we don’t believe in Artemis or Isis.

    All of your theological mumbo-jumbo could be easily co-opted by any other religion without any real effort at all.
    Ranting about red herrings doesn’t save you from looking awkward and shabby.

    The exact same logical reasoning that allows ordinary people to not lose any sleep over worrying about whether or not Kali exists is the exact same one that allows them not to get too worked up about you brand-name god.

    When you finally start thinking seriously about why you don’t believe in Thor or Artemis or Sky Woman then you’ll have figured out why other people don’t believe in your god.

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  74. I have to laugh out loud at Cedric’s antics.. the spastic contortions some people go through to deny even the possibility of a divine Creator. BTW Cedric, claiming the “ultimate answer” is exactly what Hawking/Mlodinow are doing. See the title of this post!

    Richard, “Where God came from” is actually a change of subject, we’re talking about causes of the universe, not causes of God. God does not obey your reductionist materialist rules, He is God! The arguments Dale makes are perfectly logical, you haven’t defeated the self-existence of God in the slightest. Merely raised some personal objections.

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  75. BTW Cedric, claiming the “ultimate answer” is exactly what Hawking/Mlodinow are doing. See the title of this post!

    The title is “The Grand Design – neither God nor 42″

    (..awkward silence…)

    So?
    What’s your point?

    Imagine how much better this would be for you to actually provide a DIRECT QUOTE from Hawkings or Mlodinow where they actually say ” we have the ultimate answer” as opposed to you wishing they has said it and being forced to put your own private spin on things by playing word games with…the titles of blog posts.
    Stupid.
    (facepalm)

    The same total lack of critical thinking skills that allowed you to get ripped off when you bought that magic tap water of homeopathy and then foolishly credited it with curing your sea-sickness is the same lack that allows you to blithely accept the bafflegab of the “self-existence” of imaginary sky daddies and put real, tangible money in the collection plate.

    “Where God came from” is actually a change of subject, we’re talking about causes of the universe, not causes of God

    Yeah, Richard, get it straight.
    It’s ok to talk about the causes of the Universe (which we all know was caused by God) but we not here to talk about the causes of God. That’s a TOTALLY DIFFERENT SUBJECT.
    TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
    THERE’S JUST NO WAY YOU CAN LOGICALLY AND REASONABLY MENTION THEM IN SUCCESSION!!!!

    So there!

    God does not obey your reductionist materialist rules, He is God!

    Yeah, He is God. Yeah!
    He gets a “get out-of-jail-free-card”. A really big one.
    So yeah!

    The arguments Dale makes are perfectly logical, you haven’t defeated the self-existence of God in the slightest.

    Yep, shame on you Richard. You haven’t proved that God doesn’t exist.
    Again. The self-existence of God remains undefeated.

    Sounds familiar.
    Hmm.

    …the spastic contortions some people go through to deny even the possibility of a World Turtle.

    Richard, “What’s under the Turtle” is actually a change of subject, we’re talking about foundation of the world, not the foundation of the World Turtle. The World Turtle does not obey your reductionist materialist rules, He is The World Turtle! The arguments Dale makes are perfectly logical, you haven’t defeated the self-existence of The World Turtle in the slightest. Merely raised some personal objections.

    Yeah, it all sounds very familiar…

    Let the atheists know!
    It’s turtles all the way down.

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  76. Dale – I repeat. Nothing exists now either – only in a more stable form.

    This attitude reminds of the discussions between Neils Bohr and Albert Eistein. Bohr responded to Eistein’s comment that “god does not play dice” with “who are you to tell god what to do.”

    Sure, they are being metaphorical – actually a great use for the god word.

    But here we have Dale telling god what to do. When there is “nothing” you can’t allow there to be “physical laws.” What understanding of physics do you have which allows you to dictate to someone like Hawking on his subject?

    Of course, none. Just the emotional reaction to someone who suggests they can pursue their investigations without recourse to a belief in your specific god.

    As I said before, Dale, reality is more complicated than you imagine (and yes than you can possible imagine probably).

    And this is the problem of theology. The theological hubris imagines that it can dictate what reality should be like. It tells god what is allowed, what to do.

    The history of human thought shows this constant struggle between a desire to tell god what to do and a desire to find out the truth by interrogating reality. A desire to dictate what reality is and a desire to accept reality as it is.

    It is naive to think the former tendency died out with the scientific revolution. True, the idealist/theological philosophy had to be prised away from scientific investigation to unleash that revolution. But that philosophy has not died out. It continues to shout and threaten from the sidelines.

    So we have the spectacle of theologians telling theoretical physicists and cosmologists that they are wrong about their physics and cosmology.

    Thank goodness scientists can these days pursue their honest enquiry without facing house arrest or the stake.

    But the hysteria unleashed by reports of an upcoming book shows there is a danger from this old philosophy which we need to resist. At this stage of the game, though, I suspect Cedric may have the right approach. Maybe ridicule will help keep it in its place.

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  77. Richard Christie

    I suspect Cedric may have the right approach. Maybe ridicule will help keep it in its place

    Well it may include some amount of confirmatory bias but I find Cedric’s comments and observations cut to the chase every time. If the concepts thus exposed are ridiculous then ridicule is in order. If he comments on other blogs I’d appreciate a heads up.

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  78. Richard Christie

    Pat covers most topics raised in this thread

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  79. Maybe ridicule will help keep it in its place.

    The voice of sweet reason is a wonderful thing.
    No question.
    Yet there is always room for humour and ridicule.
    Always up for a giggle.

    For example: Ridicule helps people give up their belief in Santa Claus.

    If a small boy declares his faith in The Big Fat Jolly Guy in class, the tittering laughter from from his classmates causes a very quick re-assessement of their position.
    Deep, pondering laborious analysis is unnecessary in this case.

    Theological bafflegab is a target-rich environment. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

    …a Creator of reality would be more Real than reality itself…

    The giggle factor on this particular piece of waffle is sky-high. You can’t really parody a statement like this. It parodies itself.
    Repeating it verbatim is the best way to display just how ridiculous it is.

    Grown-ups shouldn’t talk like this.
    Nor should they swallow this worthless mumbo-jumbo whole and then give actual reality-based MONEY to priests every Sunday.
    That’s great for the priest but not so good for the people that actually work for a living.
    It’s a con. It always has been.
    The priests never give a refund to the gullible.
    When you leave the Church, the priest does not give you a nice little refund check.
    It’s just a case of “See ya ’round sucka!”

    The respective gods they build their temples to may fade into history but the money doesn’t magically come back nor does the wasted time from individual lives.

    On a positive note, I discovered a wonderful person called Greta Christina.
    Her analysis of the atheist movement is (IMHO) spot on and very funny. I was delightfully surprised to hear many points that you have mentioned before on your blog.

    In a tongue-in-cheek way, if anybody was interested in the dreaded “Athiest Manifesto”, this is probably the closest they will ever come to it.
    Enjoy.

    What Atheists Can Learn from the LGBT Movement :: Secular Student Alliance 2010 Annual Conference

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  80. Ken,
    “So we have the spectacle of theologians telling theoretical physicists and cosmologists that they are wrong about their physics and cosmology.”
    Not so. The actual case is that philosophers of science will be identifying where physicists/cosmologists go beyond the data – i.e. when they say ‘no god needed’. The data says nothing for/against any G[g]od[s]. And I suspect it won’t be just theologians who point this out. I’d even not be surprised for some atheists to agree.

    Richard,
    You say, “the justification you raise in (b) [that an ultimate creator could not logically have a beginning] is simply irrational, logically inconsistent and devoid of an evidential base”

    Care to point out why this is ridiculous (and thus deserving of ridicule)? Are you saying it is silly to suggest than an ultimate creator would not have a beginning? Are you saying it is mental suicide to suggest that a First Cause wouldn’t (be definition) have no causes before it?

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  81. Dale – you really must check word for word what the authors say. For example this from USA Today.
    “We’re not saying there is no God, we’re saying there is no need for God to explain the universe,” says Mlodinow. “The views in the book are scientific ones.”

    So all this hysteria over nothing?

    Scientific data doesn’t say anything for or against gods because there are no structured god hypotheses – for very good reason.

    This is why I say debating the objective existence of gods is a mugs game. Live and let live on that one.

    But we do know that gods exist in peoples’ minds. That is amenable to forming hypotheses and testing. And this is a very fruitful area of study.

    As for philosophers of science commenting on the book. As far as I know none have yet. Perhaps being connected with science they prefer to read it first – they recognise the importance of real data.

    But theologians have gone berserk. All because scientists have said what we have all known for a long time – gods are not required to explain reality. And they are telling these authors they are wrong (without giving them the respect of reading their book). You yourself are lecturing them about the nature of physical law!

    Now, I have not seen anything reported/quoted on the content of this book that I disagree with. However, I am sure I will not agree with everything in it. But I will wait until I have read my book to make any criticisms I have.

    Having said that I welcome all the publicity you and your mates have given it. I just wonder what has happened to Glenn and Matt – they are usually not so backward at coming forward to explain science to us.

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  82. Richard Christie

    Care to point out why this is ridiculous

    Simple. It’s ridiculous because you require a creator for the universe (the real universe, the existence of which is verifiable ), but not the creator you construct (totally invisible and whose existence is impossible to verify ) Your justification? because you say so, that’s all.

    No other reason. You create and accept, i.e. believe a creator hypothesis which has, as its central tenet, the claim that it isn’t a hypothesis at all but is, rather, a reality.

    It’s nonsense. An example of the big self-deception, or lie, that lies at the heart of the act of belief in something without evidential basis.

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  83. Ken,
    I’ve not ‘lectured’ anyone on the nature of physical law – i’ve asked the obvious question that anyone who thinks will naturally ask – how can gravity (a physical law) exist or govern when no physical universe yet exists? (note this is different to asking why there couldn’t be a cause prior to a First Cause).

    Richard,
    I am open minded, and have tried to steer well clear of language of 100% certainty here. I’ve opted for the language of the ‘concept’ of a First Cause or uncaused Cause or ultimate creator. These concepts don’t break any rules of logic. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t let your complaints about belief and/or certainty distract from the question of whether or not it’s mental suicide to suggest that a First Cause wouldn’t (by definition) have any causes (causally) prior to it. To ask ‘But what would have caused a First Cause?’ is to ignore the word ‘First’.

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  84. Richard Christie

    I am open minded, and have tried to steer well clear of language of 100% certainty here.

    That’s extremely disingenuous.

    You believe in a god that you also believe is the creator of the universe.
    That’s an act of certainty.

    No?

    Am I wrong?
    Let’s get it straight then, reply please, with none of the weasel words used so far. [arghhh, Who would have thought that at this stage we would still be struggling to get you to declare your position in a straight forward manner.]

    Do you believe in a god? Is your god the creator of the universe?

    Careful…there’s no such thing as half belief. Belief doesn’t work that way. So be sure to phrase your answer with maximum wiggle room, you wouldn’t want to make it a simple yes or no, would you?

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  85. Dale – you have been very definite in telling me that my philosophical explanation of regularity in nature was not an explanation but a description. I certainly took it as lecturing – especially as you refused to listen to what I said, let alone consider it.

    You are confusing actions with “law.” Gravity is not a law. Gravity is the force which exists between massive objects. Obviously that force is zero when there is no mass present. However the underlying nature of it probably still exists. There are still fields although they are unexcited.

    The relationship between the force and the mass is part of the regularity of nature. We can express that as a law – quite irrespective of there being any mass present. We can have the relationship existing without any law. In fact the law itself did not exist until about 400 yrs ago.

    There is a lot of confusing rubbish spouted about “laws of nature.”

    I am coming to see this confusion about “laws of nature” to be similar to “objective morality.” And, in the end, these arguments are used by theologians to “support” their claims of their god’s existence. That is their only interest.

    When scientists like Hawking and Mlodinow talk about “laws of nature” they have a different meaning – their requirement is different. After all, they are trying to understand reality, not impose a pre-existing myth on it.

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  86. Well it may include some amount of confirmatory bias but I find Cedric’s comments and observations cut to the chase every time. If the concepts thus exposed are ridiculous then ridicule is in order.

    (Blushes. Shuffles feet in an awkward shy manner.)

    Aw shucks. Twern’t nuttin.

    Nothing I say is originally from me, of course.
    (Except for the odd slip-up or oversimplification.)

    Whatever I know, I outrageously stole from some very fine people.
    The real masters of good argument are the regulars that hang out at Pandasthumb.org
    The forum section called ATBC (and the never-ending “Uncommonly Dense” thread) is especially lively.

    They take every single dopey religious comment or rant that ever comes their way and perform a slow, loving autopsy on it that is wonderous to behold.
    Step-by-step.
    Line by line.
    Their patience is infinite. Censorship is almost unheard of.
    Any wierdo YEC (for example) will not only be welcomed to the site, they will be given their own devoted thread to hang out for as long as they like.
    The saga of AFDave is…legendary.

    And the Avocationist one is rather funny too.

    Once you get addicted to tard, you never really come back.
    It’s a great community. I lurk there all the time.
    Every so often, I’ll chip in with a comment or two. ;)

    Like

  87. Richard,
    “You believe in a god that you also believe is the creator of the universe.
    That’s an act of certainty.”

    Sorry, but belief and absolute certainty are not the same thing. Whilst there is not ‘half’ belief, there are degrees of belief. Degrees of confidence in a person, thing or idea. Again, don’t let this side-issue distract from whether or not it is intellectual suicide to suggest that a First cause (by definition) would not have any causes (causally) prior to it. Can you agree that this is not illogical?

    Ken,
    Well, you’re a soil scientist, not a cosmologist, so ‘lecturing’ you on the laws of nature is different then lecturing hawking, etc. What’s more, you were offering a philosophical account, and neither of us are philosophers. Can we not have a discussion about these things? The ‘lecturing’ complaint is a distraction…

    (For clarity, I’ll comment [in brackets] within your statement about gravity, etc.)

    “Gravity is the force which exists between massive objects. Obviously that force is zero when there is no mass present [or... that force is non-existent with no mass present?]. However the underlying nature of it probably still exists [I can understand how it could?]. There are still fields although they are unexcited [Again, I can't see how?]. The relationship between the force and the mass is part of the regularity of nature. We can express that as a law – quite irrespective of there being any mass present [wouldn't it be more accurate to simply say that we observe gravitational force between massive objects - and that because we've never observed the absence of matter, we cannot say that 'fields' or the law is in any way actual, real or existent without matter??]. We can have the relationship existing without any law. In fact the law itself did not exist until about 400 yrs ago.”

    The above is not trying to leave room for God, but merely trying to make good statements about what we can know through observation and what we can not.

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  88. ((edit: should read “[I can't understand how it could?]“))

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  89. ((and quite apart from me lecturing about laws of nature, I’m asking questions…))

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  90. Dale – it is difficult to have a substantial discussion about these things when neither of us has the mathematical background to do so. Personally I take a lot on trust when I read what the experts say about such things. To a degree I rely on philosophical understanding to join up the gaps. And I personally don’t reject what the experts say just because it doesn’t accord with my macroscopic preconceptions of the world. I think “common sense” considerations and logic often prevent people from understanding these sort of subjects.

    If a particle or force is an excitation in a field – which is my current understanding – that field still exists (possibly has to exist as part of “nothing”) whether the force or particle is manifested or not. Frank Wilczek writes about this in his book Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces. That is – when a particle disappears it is the excitation, not the field, which disappears.

    You might not “see how” but that is understandable. This is counter intuitive because we didn’t evolve to see these things. If we had evolved in that microscopic world where the fields are manifested we probably would “see how.” We would see the seething activity in “nothing.”

    I can only repeat my last bit as I don’t think you understood it. I was trying to get through the fact that laws are human constructions and don’t have any objective existence in themselves. This is often confused by those making the theist argument:
    “The relationship between the force and the mass is part of the regularity of nature. We can express that as a law – quite irrespective of there being any mass present We can have the relationship existing without any law. In fact the law itself did not exist until about 400 yrs ago.”

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  91. Ken,
    Thanks, and good point that neither of us have the relevant expertise. My understanding is that M-theory is void of observational support (from R. Penrose here), so it very much is working with theoretical models. I, like you, enthusiastically support the scientific project, even when theoretical, and naturally celebrate the development of these ideas.

    I did follow your statement on the gravitational relationship being there even before we called it a ‘law’ 400 years ago. I still think the idea of quantum (or other kinds of) fields and activity without matter is going further than we can observationally say. ((feel free if you can be bothered to provide clarification/detail on Wilczek’s ideas))

    For me, it seems that the statement ‘god is not needed to explain the existence of something and not nothing’ is a) woefully beyond anything we can infer from current/best scientific observation, and b) is dependent on theological conception in which G[g]od would be rather equal to a gravitational force/field – and thus would be ‘replaced’ by it.

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  92. (i’ll keep watching the thread and try to respond as able, but I’m aware of how much time I’m spending on this one…)

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  93. Richard Christie

    Dale, did you happen to overlook this?

    Do you believe in a god? Is your god the creator of the universe?

    Gee, one might even get the impression that you avoid issues.

    And don’t be absurd, if you believe in a god then you are certain of its existence. Otherwise you only accept the possibility of its existence.

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  94. Richard,
    Short answer: “Yes, I believe God is the creator of all that exists.” (this was not ever in question was it?)

    My comments regarding certainty are not unique to me – I thought you’d be familiar with strong/weak versions of both atheism and theism (as well as agnosticism)? I take quite seriously the idea that humans are not omniscient, and that means in one very real sense, we cannot purely ‘know’ or be 100% ‘certain’ of anything (i.e. that solipcism isn’t true). But I must suggest that it is you that is raising this tangent about epistemology.

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  95. ((edit: ‘solipsism’))

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  96. Richard,
    Can’t help but notice you seem to have avoided answering this from me? “Again, don’t let this side-issue distract from whether or not it is intellectual suicide to suggest that a First cause (by definition) would not have any causes (causally) prior to it. Can you agree that this is not illogical?” If not, please explain what logical rule it violates?

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  97. I have actually posted something on Frank Wilczek tomorrow – related to concepts of matter and materialism. However there are links to his book and some videos and a podcast.

    Yes, I am aware that M theory has yet to be tested. Now wouldn’t it be nice when this obligatory comment was also made whenever any god based creation myth was advanced as an alternative. There are a couple of points on this.

    1: It is really not a scientific theory – more a hypothesis or advanced scientific speculation. However, this is a considerable advance on any god-based creation idea. None of these have advanced to the stage of a structured hypothesis and I don’t expect they ever will. Basically because that is not their role and I think it silly that theologians ever get into the situation of advancing them as scientific alternatives as they have over this book. But I think this is just part of the never ending battle between science and religion.

    2: Like most ideas in science I suspect that M theory is wrong – at least in parts. That’s how science works and we discover they are wrong when tested against reality. This enables their correction and proposal of  modified or new theories much closer to true reality.

    Obviously I must follow this by saying if I am pretty sure that a structured hypothesis like string theory is wrong (at least in parts) then I am pretty convinced that a vague unstructured god-based hypothesis based on myths is sure to be wrong. I am certainly not going to use a different criteria to please theologians.

    3: There is a bit of mythology around string theory that implies it could never be tested. This is wrong and based on the idea that huge energies are required to probe such small entities. However, there are a number of concrete proposals for testing aspects of string theory. Measurement of the change of gravity at small distances, the testing of specific quantum entanglement effects, and the detection of super symmetry at the LHC.

    So statements on ideas not being tested does not mean this is impossible – ever.

    4: My take on the comments by Penrose is that he doesn’t share Hawking’s liking for M theory. The reference to lack of testing would probably be just as valid (I suspect) for any alternative (although Penrose has some interesting ideas of his own regarding what came before the big bang, had suggest ways of detecting these effects in the cosmic microwave background and suggests that some of this evidence may have been picked up.)

    Notice, Penrose is not at all disagreeing with the comment that no gods are required to explain our universe. It’s just that he seems to prefer a different theory to that Hawking likes.

    Regarding vacuum activity in the absence of massive objects. Sure this is probably inferred and mathematically shown. But I also understand that vacuum energy has been experimentally detected as the Casimer force in the last 15 years. As Brian Greene says: “There is now little doubt that the intuitive nature of empty space as a static, calm, eventless arena is thoroughly off base.”

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  98. how hopeless.. Ken should change the tagline of his blog to “the author goes berserk when someone mentions intelligent agency”

    i know you’re all very keen to be right but honestly Hawking’s book is pathetic

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  99. So “Hawking’s book is pathetic”. Great review Ropata.

    But have you read the book? Or do you make such definite conclusions without bothering about the evidence?

    The book might well be crap. It wouldn’t surprise me – I have read one negative review (NYT). But I will make my mind up when I have read the book.

    Mind you I have noticed a theological tendency to review books based purely on a title – or direction from their religious leader (who also hadn’t read the book).

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  100. Ken,
    “…I think it silly that theologians ever get into the situation of advancing them as scientific alternatives as they have over this book. But I think this is just part of the never ending battle between science and religion.”
    Alternative!? Scientific alternative!? That may be how you insist on seeing it (to sustain a conflict narrative), but for modern theology the two explanations are not in conflict.

    On Brian Greene’s statement, does it not refer to existing empty space in the universe (which we can observe and detect forces/energy within), or the idea of ‘nothing-space’ outside of or prior to our universe (which we have not and cannot by definition observe or detect, etc.)??

    Ropata,
    That extreme of a judgment on the book might be best reserved for after reading the book? One might say this about some of the isolated statements (esp. the puzzling ones about god not being necessary – which goes waaaaaaay beyond anything the physical data can say), but not the whole book???

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  101. (cross-posted w/ Ken – who I strangely find myself agreeing with – just on that one specific extreme statement about the whole book)

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  102. Richard Christie

    Dale,

    Can’t help but notice you seem to have avoided answering this from me? “Again, don’t let this side-issue distract from whether or not it is intellectual suicide to suggest that a First cause (by definition) would not have any causes (causally) prior to it. Can you agree that this is not illogical?” If not, please explain what logical rule it violates?

    That misrepresents the point. The thread is about Hawking’s position: that the universe doesn’t require a creator to exist, or, I assume, to begin.

    His critics seem invariably to be those who have a vested interest in there being a creator for the universe, although most are more happy to be upfront about that interest than you have seemed to be.

    It is illogical to require a creator for the universe but not a creator for the creator of the universe Your position and presumably that of the creationist theists who criticise Hawking is illogical. You simply have no justification for requiring a creator for one and not for the other. You get get around the truth of the dilemma by arrogantly and arbitrarily declaring the argument over – by inserting the word “first” in front of the word creator for the universe. Who says we are only allowed one turtle? Or, Hawking’s position, any turtles at all? You allow your god to be self-existent but don’t allow the same for the universe (or Time) , which is essentially the same arbitrary and arrogant position. You just make it up, I find the reasoning so self-servingly dishonest that it’s nauseating.

    But at least we are making some sort of progress. You (finally) front up and state that you believe in a god that is a/the creator.
    The next obvious question, given your flexibility on the certainty issue, is :

    Are you certain?

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  103. This is really strange given the context: “for modern theology the two explanations are not in conflict.” WTF are these theologians attacking Hawking and his proposed ideas for then? They are creating the conflict. They are attacking the science because it doesn’t include their god. Because it doesn’t need their god! Because that alternative is not needed (and doesn’t pass muster anyway). I think they are clearly maintaining that conflict (and Hawking’s publicists are taking advantage of that).

    Now notice you are demanding evidence for vacuum energy before the big bang. No I don’t think we have it yet. I suspect that this sort of evidence must await our ability to detect and measure gravity waves. Currently we rely on inference of a well structured theory which has been confirmed in other ways.

    Now where is the evidence for your alternative? Actually where is the structure for it? Where is the logically supported inference? Can you actually find more than a few people who accept your particular formulation of your alternative?

    Really you can’t demand evidence for scientific ideas while thinking it is OK to avoid evidence for your own and expect others to accept them. Demanding they are accepted as defaults!! Or even suggest that you are somehow immune to this requirement – that you have a free pass.

    Let’s all have evidence, or accept the need to eventually map against reality, for all our ideas.

    Interesting the way you say Hawking’s statement went waaaaay beyond the evidence. Obviously in your world the default position must be that a god is required to savage any explanation and you don’t need any evidence for that.

    The very antithesis of science. And thank goodness we have got beyond that sort if thinking. We don’t need theologians telling us what is required in our science.

    My take is that any talk of god is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond the evidence.

    And surely it is a good default position to not propose entities for which there is no evidence and which explain nothing. Just because a few followers of ancient myths might be upset

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  104. Richard Christie

    And I’d like to register my objection to the term self-existent. I’ve been using it only because I’ve assumed it means “always existed and not requiring creation” and it required fewer keystrokes. But it looks suspiciously like theological jargon to me, I can’t find it in the dictionary at hand.

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  105. Richard Christie

    Dale, I think I’ve been a little unfairly using you as a proxy target for the critics of Hawking’s ideas who are mentioned in Ken’s post.
    I totally disagree with the philosophical position on creation you hold and Ive been frustrated at much of what I consider to be your obfuscation in this thread but I made an error in not crediting you your initial statement

    I’m quite happy for Hawking and Mlodinow to say what they say – it gets the issue discussed.

    So I do so now, and apologise for the hostility.

    Like

  106. Ken,
    Whoa buddy. Go back and look at my tone throughout. The lecturing, preaching and demanding have not come from me. Just questions – some of which you found annoying, but I cannot help that.

    I ask questions about the statements not necessarily from a theological perspective (though you assume I do), but from a philosophical/logical angle. The event horizon of the big bang is a rather large observational wall, and I merely am speaking to this.

    When a statement like ‘god is no longer needed because of “x” ‘ is made, I don’t think we should be shocked that the interest of some theologians or philosophers of science is raised. From a publicity standpoint, if I were the publisher, I’d have let those parts of the book out first too!

    The claim that Hawking goes further than the evidence can go is a claim safely made within the discipline of philosophy of science – of which I have an interest in as a lay person. As a Christian, naturally, I’m interested in all this too. But I am capable of asking my questions (as I have during this entire thread) from a philosophical/logical perspective (i.e. ‘Really, how can that be?’) rather than from a defensive/reactionary apologetic one.

    I’ve tried to focus specifically on the question of the laws of nature and particularly how gravity can be active without any matter to act upon. Asking genuine questions out of genuine interest. And because I happen to be a Christian, I get asked a barrage of questions which assume that I must think I have 100% (omnicient) epistemic certainty of God’s existence or that God would be the sort of being which would (apparently) have exactly the same kind of ‘evidence’ (what… like physical evidence? cut off a bit of God and put it on a petri dish?) that there is for our own existence. This is precisely why I rarely ever comment here now-a-days…

    Having said this, I will thank Richard for his apology just above.

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  107. @Dale Campbell | September 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm: | “As I’ve said before, both theists and atheists believe in some-”t[T]hing” that is as far back as you can go. Some ultimate f[F]act or s[S]ource that cannot be got behind.”

    As far as I know, atheism doesn’t require anything “ultimate”. If I’m wrong, atheists, please speak up.

    Does “ultimate” have any known physical specification, or is it an imaginary concept that begs the same old question as where god or the universe came from?

    For extra credit: What is the point of speculating about what lies beyond the limits of current knowledge unless the speculation suggests either 1) a testable hypothesis, 2) a best seller, or 3) a marketable self-help product?

    Poor Richard

    Poor Richard’s Almanack 2010

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  108. Dale – I don’t know where this “whoa buddy” and need for self justification come from. Are you upset because I asked for a level playing field? That all those proposing explanations should be asked for their evidential reason, a structured hypothesis and acceptance of an eventual need for validation?

    I personally don’t see any point in playing a game where the two sides have different rules and ways of scoring. If a proposition is advanced it should be justified. And one should not claim a position by default, as you appeared to in your last comment.

    Religonists seem to have the belief that they can make silly claims and not expected to be challenged on them. Not here.

    The statement by Hawking was extremely mild and obvious. There was absolutely nothing in them. Gods are not required to advance hypotheses for the formation of the universe. That is actually true for any scientific theory or hypotheses. Newton may have resorted to such vague hypotheses 400 years ago when all else failed (he was an out and about materialist in most of his science). But he was shown to be wrong in those few instances.

    Until there is a credible structured god hypothesis there is just no justification for including them in science, and strong reasons not to.

    Of course Hawking goes much further than the evidence in talking about M theory. He is a theoretical physicist – he is doing his job. And anyone advancing theories for the formation of the universe must go beyond the evidence. That is not a problem. Speculation is an important part of science. More important is the need for validation. The fear with string theory has been the suggestion by some that validation is not possible and that we should live with it. Scientists would hate that situation and I personally don’t think it has come to that.

    We don’t look at speculations produced by Hawking or anyone as facts. We know what they are. This is science not a religion.

    And we don’t want outsiders like theologians trying to stop our scientific speculations. For obvious, well substantiated, reasons.

    Dale – I am very unhappy at the way you throw the words theologians and philosophers of science together. I can understand theologians being upset with scientific speculations. It is their job to justify god beliefs, not discover truth. But what the hell should a philosopher of science be concerned about? What has Hawking done wrong from a scientific perspective?

    I think philosophers of science would get very upset if they looked into the detail of Hawking’s proposal and found a step which said “then a miracle occurs” or “god did this then”. Some of them may have though it was OK for Newton to do that – but it is not accepted today.

    Dale, you seem to be working hard to pull science back. To restrain science. Hence concern about Hawking’s speculations. Or, more correctly concern that Hawking didn’t include your god in those speculations. So this effects you attitude to such work.

    You pretend concern at “the event horizon of the big bang” – but somehow your pet belief about the formation of the universe is not effected by that. And it is a red herring. You surely know that we understand in detail the process occurring back to fractions of a second and yet this “event horizon” in terms of direct observation is 300,000 years.

    The “event horizon” for observing the past on the earth is this very instant and yet we can develop well validated theories going back billions of years.

    Now, Dale, I am completely unconcerned about your having god beliefs. Repeatedly I have said that I worked alongside other scientists very well despite their different religious beliefs. Never any problem. So I know religious people don’t necessarily have the need to attack scientific work, or even scientific speculations, in the way that has happened over Hawking.

    At the same time I am completely open to debating issues like this. But just as scientific speculation must have an evidential starting point and provide avenues for testing and validation (at least eventually) we should demand that of any other contenders for explanation of the formation of the universe.

    So you just can’t advance a god hypothesis to explain the formation of the universe and deny the need for any evidence, structure or validation while at the same time (quite correctly) asking these of science.

    What about a level playing field.

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  109. @Ken | September 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm: “I think it is sufficient to categorize matter as that which exists objectively. That is, interconnection is an inevitable consequence of objective existence.”

    I prefer to say matter as we know it is a category of phenomena–something observed.

    We may or may not know anything about what matter is, objectively, in and of itself (Ding an sich); but we know it when we see it because it fits our definitions and meets our criteria. This allows us to create iPods and Mars Rovers, so its cool. Its a good thing.

    The people who fret because we don’t know what matter is ULTIMATELY have too much free time.

    Poor Richard

    Poor Richard’s Almanack 2010

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  110. Ken,
    you’re not talking to me – where have I suggested that physicists should include ‘…and then god did this bit…’ in their theories? If you were consistent, you’d also agree that physicists shouldn’t include ‘…oh and god is not needed in any of this…’ in their theories either. which is kinda the point.

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  111. @Richard Christie | September 8, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for posting the Pat Condell “Why debate dogma” video. My sentiments exactly!

    Poor Richard

    Poor Richard’s Almanack 2010

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  112. Don’t be so defensive, Dale. I wasn’t attributing that to you. I was saying that today philosophers of science worth the description would criticize such inclusions as not science – even though Newton lapsed in this way a few times.

    Yes I agree that one does not, these days, need to point out a god is not involved in physical theories (other areas of science such as anthropology and history may sometimes require it). And I have really never seen it in basic scientific writing. God references do, of course come up, in popular science books. Davies probably does it the most but of course the Templeton foundation finances that sort if behavior in his case and theologians applaud.

    However, as you agree when it comes to selling books a bit of “godmongering” can get publicity and sales. And I welcome theologians knee jerks as it helps sell popular science books. However, it is going a bit far when people (not you of course) react by calling Hawking “arrogant and ignorant”, “self-appointed academic elite”, “deluded”, “a broken, ill and crippled man”, “narcissist”, a victim of “the Darwinian delusion”. That “science is an empty path bereft of meaning”. that “the scientific materialists day is over, and Hawking, their champion, deserves not our wrath, but our pity.”

    All in one article of 2 pages! And all a hateful reaction to a very mild and true comment Hawking made. Just for telling the truth.

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  113. Poor Richard – Answering your question: “As far as I know, atheism doesn’t require anything “ultimate”. If I’m wrong, atheists, please speak up.”

    No. Atheism is simply the belief on no god(s). Completely minimal. Can’t really say any more about an individual from that label.

    One would have to pursue an individual’s beliefs further to answer that sort of question in specific cases.

    There is a tendency, however, to impose all sorts of beliefs on atheists. usually coming from people who aren’t atheists themselves.

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  114. Ken,
    thank you for clarifying that your venom was not loosed on me. Having said that, is it a little bit unfair of you to excuse the ‘godmongering’ of this book whilst criticising the ‘god-suggesting’ of similar books by christian scientists?

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  115. ‘godmongering’ is a term borrowed from the NYT review. I am not aware that I have criticised or excused this in any book. If anything, I think it may be a little bit crass for someone like Hawking to participate (but he has done this many times before) but I certainly expect it from his publicist.

    If you are referring to Davies, I had absolutely no problem with it in the specific book I was thinking of. It was only one of many mechanisms he considered, all rather vaguely.

    While he got the huge monetary prize from Templeton I am not sure that I would call him a “christian scientist.” When he makes concessions to the religious I find him quite fluffy (as I do Hawking) but in general I think he does a great job popularising science.

    I am sure I commented on Ken Miller’s book some time ago – can’t remember my criticism there (perhaps his use of fine tuning arguments?). I am sure I had some but I have criticisms of almost any book I read. And yes I would criticise a blatant use of science to advance a god belief. That would be me being honest. Just that I can’t remember doing it.

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  116. I am open minded, and have tried to steer well clear of language of 100% certainty here. I’ve opted for the language of the ‘concept’ of a First Cause or uncaused Cause or ultimate creator. These concepts don’t break any rules of logic. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t let your complaints about belief and/or certainty distract from the question of whether or not it’s mental suicide to suggest that a First Cause wouldn’t (by definition) have any causes (causally) prior to it. To ask ‘But what would have caused a First Cause?’ is to ignore the word ‘First’.

    I am open minded, and have tried to steer well clear of language of 100% certainty here. I’ve opted for the language of the ‘concept’ of a World Turtle being the foundation of the world. This concept doen’t break any rules of logic. That’s all I’m saying. Don’t let your complaints about belief and/or certainty distract from the question of whether or not it’s mental suicide to suggest that a Foundational World Turtle wouldn’t (by definition) have any foundation (causally) under it. To ask ‘But what’s under the World Turtle that is the foundation of the world?’ is to ignore the word ‘foundation’. :)
    I “heart” theology.

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  117. Cedric, if you are trying to explain why the First Cause concept is incorrect I suggest actually posing a few arguments instead of dribbling on about turtles, unicorns, or sweaty socks. Whatever you want to call it, the First Cause is a classic cosmological argument.

    OK
    The core problem with Hawking’s book, and M-theory (as I understand it) is that it requires all possible universes to exist simultaneously.

    This requires
    a) something to come from nothing
    b) things to happen without a cause (i.e. a universe)

    Having offended some of the basic precepts of logic and the scientific method, Hawking goes even further and proposes that INFINITE somethings to come from nothing. His book is just an attempt to regress the prior cause of the universe back to a multiverse.

    Hawking is wrong because:
    -Universes are not spraying all over the place
    -Something does not come from nothing (well, there are tiny fluctuations of spacetime but they do not ‘exist’ in the usual sense)
    -Everything observed by science has a cause

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  118. Ropata, you seem quite oblivious to the fact that any theory of the formation if the universe must take into account formation from nothing and without cause.

    You say your god did it. And that’s the full sophistication if your “theory.” No better that attributing it to anyone else’s god, ravens, old socks, turtles. What right have you to say your theory is any better than that of Maori mythology, North American first people mythology, etc?

    Hawking is putting his money on a theory which, while being speculative and unlikely to be true, at least in part, is at least well structured. In the end this sort if idea can be tested – it doesn’t rely on faith and require commitment despite evidence. And there are a number of scientific ideas which can also be advanced.

    The important point he made is that we can advance such well structured hypotheses without relying on mythical creation stories.

    The fact that he has been so emotionally attacked for pointing out the obvious really discredits these theologians. They just have nothing to contribute, do they? They can’t explain something from nothing or causes whereas the scientific speculations can and do.

    And, Ropata, your willingness to demonise both Hawking and the book without reading the actual book says more about you and your way of thinking than it does about the unread book.

    Something you should be ashamed of. But haven’t we seen this silly knee jerking before?

    This silly reaction is one of the reasons so many people are turning away from religion.

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  119. You say your god did it. And that’s the full sophistication if your “theory.”
    No, the Kalam argument is well developed if you checked my link. Never mind, here’s another one.

    This argument says nothing about the nature of the first cause. That is the job of theology. Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights, and the tools of philosophy in order to make the case for the nature of that first cause. Perhaps I haven’t made this difference clear, because people here seem to be muddling concepts.

    I agree that traditional creation stories must be viewed as myth, not science. Yes emotional attacks aren’t the most logical form of argumentation, but if an argument holds moral and emotional force, I think it should still be addressed.

    I am not demonising, I am critiquing – – I see lots of hyperbole from your side however

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  120. So you say your god did it and your evidence is the assumption of your gods existence! No structure there us there?

    Well I know some people who assumed the existence of their raven who is responsible for the creation. Their first cause. Sounds just as good to me! And they have some theologians (shamans) to provide the proof. They have history which they assure me us verified and they certainly demonstrate spiritual Insights on the whole matter.

    Come off it Ropata. Not very sophisticated is it?

    Now put that alongside the overwhelming evidence for relativity and quantum mechanics. Theories you verify every day by the technology you use. This is what Hawking has used as the evidential basis for his ideas.

    And incidentally he doesn’t go around bad mouthing books he hasn’t read which makes you a demonstratably very unreliable advocate for your beliefs.

    I am aware of the kalam argument and it’s logical faults as well as the opportunist distorting of science it’s advocates use. You should take Le Maitre’s advice on that one.

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  121. Richard Christie

    Ropota, those links are risible. They merely illustrate that the writer neither understands the concept of infinity or the nature of the paradox outlined by Hilbert.

    Tell me, what do you get when you add any real number to infinity?

    Again, the author in the second claims that not being able to reach the limit or bound of infinity means it cannot exist. That is the entire argument put forward:

    The second mathematical argument for the claim that the universe has a beginning draws on the idea that an actual infinite cannot be created by successive addition. If one begins with a number, and repeatedly adds one to it, one will never arrive at infinity.

    [Therefore the infinite cannot exist.]

    Is this nonsense typical of philosophic argument?
    Iinfinity cannot exist because it’s …

    wait for it…

    because it’s…. infinite!

    Boy that’s a strong argument.

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  122. Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights, and the tools of philosophy in order to make the case for the nature of that first cause.

    That’s great ‘n’ all but…why did you single out your own brand-name god for preferential treatment?
    It works just as well for…a sweaty, magic football sock.

    It really does.

    Take it step-by-step.
    Completely seriously.
    Voice out an objection when I make a logical flaw or perhaps create a strawman.
    Ready?

    Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence…

    Sounds good. By all means, let’s take an assumption. Assumptions can be very interesting.

    Theology takes the assumption of a sweaty, magic football sock’s existence…

    So far so good.
    All we’ve both done is make an assumption. No harm there just as long as we both understand that it’s just an….assumption. A whopping, jaw-dropping, stop-the-presses assumption.

    Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence, historically verifiable events…

    Ok, so now “historically verifiable events” is added to the mix.
    Could possible mean anything depending on what somebody’s standards are of “historically verifiable events” as evidence of the existence of their own personal god/gods. Lots of religions go for that tactic.
    Let’s go with “the universe exists”.
    That’s standard fare for every religion that has ever existed. That’s why there’s a zillion and one creation stories out there.
    (Though by all means, suggest ANY other example you care to mention. It doen’t really matter. Historical “special places”. Prophecies that came true. Scientific facts woven into mystic text. Ancient military victories. Miracles witnessed by the multitude. Terrible disasters etc. etc. etc.)

    Let’s see if that works…

    Theology takes the assumption of a magic sweaty football sock’s existence, historically verifiable events…

    Yep, so far so good.
    To continue…

    Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights,….

    Spiritual insights?
    No sooner said than done. There’s a wonderful smorgasboard of spiritual insights out there. Lots of people have them. All the time. From all cultures. The Greeks, for example, relied upon people with epileptic fits to chip in with a spiritual insight or to to get a message from the gods going.
    Glossolalia is acknowledged by multiple different cultures as a tried and true telephone line to the Divine. It’s also great fun at parties.
    Ok.
    So, that makes it…

    Theology takes the assumption of a sweaty, magic football sock’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights,….

    And finally….

    Theology takes the assumption of God’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights, and the tools of philosophy…

    Tools of philosophy?
    The more tools, the better!
    Philosophy has always been enlisted in the service of religion.
    Any religion.
    So that gives us…

    Theology takes the assumption of a sweaty, magic football sock’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights, and the tools of philosophy…

    So, with all this at our fingertips, could we make a case for the “nature of that first cause”?

    By all means….
    Ready?

    Theology takes the assumption of a sweaty, magic football sock’s existence, historically verifiable events, spiritual insights, and the tools of philosophy in order to make the case for the nature of that first cause.

    Therefore sweatymagicfootballsockdidit!
    Theology is fun.

    Now I agree with you ropata, this is indeed “dribbling on”.
    This is genuine dribble.
    Dribble with a capital “D”.

    Only, it’s not MY dribble.
    I don’t claim ownership. I didn’t think it up.
    I just stole it.
    I plagiarized it.
    Word for word.
    Thought for thought.
    No structural modifications in the logic at all.
    It’s exactly the same as the original.
    The only modest difference is in the switching around of the labels.

    This is not my dribble.
    It’s yours.
    We’re all asking you to take a napkin and wipe it off your face.
    It makes you look odd and (quite frankly) people are beginning to stare.

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  123. (got bored and thought I’d insert image i had in my mind)

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  124. ((oops image posting didn’t work – thot it would))

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  125. No, the Kalam argument is well developed if you checked my link.

    Well, that’s true.
    It is indeed “well developed”…by the Muslims.

    (…awkward silence…)

    In the 9th century.

    (…more awkward silence…)

    Are you really sure you want to support your belief in your god based upon an argument that was originally created to prop up…a different god?
    This might not be a good move.
    The irony factor of YOU voluntarily offering up this particular argument, given the whole “co-opting and relabeling” thing that I’ve done on this thread repeatedly is…well…awesome.
    Truly awesomely ironic. :)
    Behold the magic of the Intertubes….

    Kalam Cosmological Argument (1/2)

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  126. …if an argument holds moral and emotional force, I think it should still be addressed.

    Morality? Emotion?
    Moral force? Emotional force.?
    Umm….
    What about actual evidence? When does that get a look-in?

    The trouble with arguments with moral and emotional force is that “the other guy” has got lots of arguments with those exact qualities to prop up their own personal brand-name god.
    Lots and lots and LOTS of arguments.

    God does not obey your reductionist materialist rules, He is God!

    You know, you’d make a very good Muslim with that attitude.
    (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
    No need to change a thing.

    “…I preferred using ‘the Greater’ to the ‘the Greatest’, as it is commonly used. Allahu Akbar literally means, “Allah is Greater” with the comparative mode. Yet, this does not mean that He (Glory be to Him) is not the Greatest, nor does it mean that there is anything that is put in comparison with Him. This is because when the Muslim says it, he means He is “Greater” than anything else, which, consequently, means He is the Greatest. This use gives more influence. This may be why it is used in Arabic this way, otherwise it should have been used as “Allahu al-Akbar”, in the superlative mode. Surely, Allah Knows best.”

    Yep. It works.
    “Allah is greater than anything else”.
    Presumably, this includes being greater than “reductionist materialist rules”.
    The perfect rejoinder!
    (shrug)

    God does not obey your reductionist materialist rules, He is God! The arguments Dale makes are perfectly logical, you haven’t defeated the self-existence of God in the slightest.

    The self-existence of god?
    Logical arguments?
    Moral and emotional arguments that should be addressed?
    No problemo.

    Enjoy.
    ( I certainly did. It sounds really, really, really familiar somehow. Wierd, huh?)
    Proof of Existence of God – Proof of Self Existence – Dr. Sayed Khalil Tabatabai

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  127. Richard Christie

    “No, the Kalam argument is well developed if you checked my link.”

    Well, that’s true.

    Well developed or not, Kalam’s argument is rubbish.

    For example from Ropata’s link:

    If the past were infinite, then it would not just take a long time to the present to arrive; rather, the present would never arrive.

    This is a fallacious argument, because it assumes a starting point to infinity (i.e. a beginning) from which to approach the present through time. That starting point violates the very definition of infinity. All that can be argued with a consistent logic is that there is a finite period between any past point on the continuum and the present.

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  128. Well developed or not, Kalam’s argument is rubbish.

    (sigh)
    These angry atheists.
    Why can’t they just adopt ” a far more humble approach”?
    After all, Kalam’s argument is no doubt supported by “many respected scientists and philosophers”. That should be as good enough of a reason to accept it as anything else!
    Humility, Richard.
    You lack humility. ;)
    //////////

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  129. Dale – we don’t directly observe “gravity” but we can infer, and of course validate, its existence as a force. Gravitons, while inferred have not yet been confirmed, they are hypothetical. But we are actively looking for them.

    I guess most of our (useful) knowledge today is indirect, inferred, and usually validated.

    However, some things are indeed speculation. Although this usually means not tested or verified. A speculation can have a good evidential grounding as does Hawking’s in relativity and quantum theory. To be useful it also needs good structure.

    I think speculation is a very necessary and valuable part of the scientific enterprise. But it is the area where most ideas are usually wrong (and proved so by testing against reality) – but that enables progress. In fact drives progress in a way.

    So if find those wowsers who react to statements like Hawking’s recent one, by pointing out the obvious (there is not evidence for it – it has not been tested) realy don’t help – except for those who are in denial.

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  130. These questions about the infinite and the ultimate origin/cause/fate etc. of the universe are very large in proportion to the amount of empirical evidence to support one conclusion over another.

    Why not start with a smaller, more concrete problem–

    Like: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    PR

    Poor Richard’s Almanack 2010

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  131. Monotheists, Deists, even Polytheists usually agree that everything originates with the First Cause. No need to go nuts over Islam. Sorry I’m not keen to engage in further nitpicking of the details of apologetics, suffice to say that these arguments can be explored in far more detail by people such as William Lane Craig.

    If Hawking is allowed to postulate the primal multiverse (sans evidence) as the ground of all being, then it is egregiously hypocritical for a person claiming to be “open minded” to then deny the alternative notion of an intelligent agency, especially given it has a lot of evidence!

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  132. But, Ropata, you are denying that right to Hawking. So who is the hypocrite? He certainly hasn’t denied it to you. He doesn’t rant and rave because if something you have said!

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  133. Ropata – problem with theologians is they start with the conclusion they wish to prove. Consequently they fall into the trap of confirmation bias and selection.

    Craig is very prone to that as you can see if you analyse some of his quote mining. He just loves to quote, and distort, scientists as if they support his god beliefs.

    And example I raised with Matt in our discussion on Godless cosmology.

    Craig quotes Vilenkin:

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).”

    Of course Craig he is arguing for a universe with a beginning and a cause (his god). But commentators have caught him out on this one too; Apparently two paragraphs later Vilenken says:

    “Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God… So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist. As evidenced by Jinasena’s remarks earlier in this chapter, religion is not immune to the paradoxes of Creation.”

    Of course Craig doesn’t quote that – not sufficiently honest.

    Trouble with elevating people to become heroes is that you inevitably find they have feet of clay.

    best to think for yourself.

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  134. Golly gee Batman! So far I am
    * denying people their rights (where did I do this? pls quote)
    * ranting and raving (really? why not compare my wordcount vs Cedric)
    * elevating people to be my heroes (but if Hawking was my hero that would be OK?)
    * not thinking for myself (because i agree with WLC and disagree with Hawking?)

    Like

  135. Monotheists, Deists, even Polytheists usually agree that everything originates with the First Cause.

    And SweatyMagicFootballSockists too. Everything originates with First Cause. Everybody’s doing it. No argument here.

    No need to go nuts over Islam.

    The only person going “nuts” over Islam is possibly you. Nobody else.
    You brought up the Kalam argument. Not us.
    You are the one that thinks boldly declaring that “Magic invisible sky person is greater” as a rejoinder is a smart move.
    Allahu Akbar away, baby! ;)
    You want to convert to Islam because they make arguments that you yourself completely support and make?
    Cool. Go for it. Enjoy.

    Sorry I’m not keen to engage in further nitpicking of the details of apologetics…

    What?
    Do you really think that declaring “He is God”, lazily mentioning support from mysterious “scientists and philosophers” and throwing a couple of lame Craig links at us is “nitpicking details of apologetics”?

    You’ve done bugger all, man!
    You’ve spouted vapid crap from start to finish.
    You have brought nothing to the table for which you can be proud .
    Nothing.
    Why give us links to some other guy and then run off?
    What’s the bloody point?
    Can’t you at least demonstrate that you understand the Kalam thingy yourself under your own steam?
    That you have made yourself aware of the multiple, long-standing objections to Kalam and you reject them because of some special insight or something?
    As it stands, Kalams Argument is stone-cold burnt toast and your personal brand-name god is utterly indistinguishable from all other zillions of presumably false gods that have been made up over the millenia by frauds and the deluded.

    suffice to say that these arguments can be explored in far more detail by people such as William Lane Craig.

    Why should he bother when he can just crib his notes from Dr. Sayed Khalil Tabatabai? No need to re-invent the wheel.

    Craig is very prone to that as you can see if you analyse some of his quote mining. He just loves to quote, and distort, scientists as if they support his god beliefs.

    One of the lowest forms of life is a creationist quote-miner.
    Scum. The lot of them.

    Famous Creationist Quote Mining

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  136. Ken
    Craig isn’t quote mining – he’s using a concrete parts of Vilenkin’s paper to build his argument. The other paragraph seems to be Vilenkin’s speculations and questions, not facts or conclusions.

    But I know it’s more fun for you guys to impugn motives and indulge in a smear campaign. I think Matt exposed your bias and muddled thinking, shame you didn’t engage with him in a sensible way, you might have learned something

    Like

  137. Selecting parts of a book, and ignoring other very relevant parts because they don’t support you bias, is classic quote mining. It’s also relying on the authority fallacy – misrepresented.

    And it is classic Craig. As a theologian this is the way he works – thinking that he can “prove” something via logic alone – and then using shonky logic anyway. Never any attempt to validate against reality – which is the final arbiter.

    Ropata, check back on my discussions with Matt. He is usually (inevitably?) the one who fails to engage – pulling out as soon as he is challenged. Pity as there is quite a lot we could develop in discussion.

    Like

  138. Pingback: An unnecessary being? | Open Parachute

  139. Speaking of validating against reality, Hawking has been known to do dishonest mathematical tricks.

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  140. Ropata – you realise that to claim “Hawking has been known to do dishonest mathematical tricks” is actually a very serious charge. Dishonest manipulation would open a practitioner up to charges of scientific misconduct – with the possibility of withdrawal of papaers and other disciplinary action -up to dismissal. (Have a look at my posts on Hauser for a recent example of this.)

    Now I realise you guys have this week elevated Hawking to0 a demon the ranking of Dawkins – so it is permissible to distort information and tell lies about him (bit like lying for Jebesus). However, in the interests of fairness could you

    Pride a detailed description of the dishonesty
    Provide a reference to any publications involved
    Provide information where this charge has been laid, and what action was considered or taken.

    Or is this just someones claim or opinion. Not substantiated and possibly, just possibly, advanced because that person felt Hawking was a threat to their religious beliefs?

    In fact – isn’t that your motive?

    I am, always open to information – but provide something factual, not innuendo.

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  141. More detail, as requested:

    Hawking and Hartle’s no boundary proposal begins by adopting a grossly oversimplified model of the universe. Then the authors make time imaginary, and prove in their terribly restricted model that the universe has neither beginning nor end. The flaw in the exercise is that the authors never go back to real time. Thus the notion that the universe has neither beginning nor end is something that exists in mathematical terms only. In real time, to which we as human beings are necessarily attached, rather than in Hawking’s use of imaginary time, there will always be a singularity, that is, a beginning of time.

    In an obviously contradictory statement in A Brief History of Time, Hawking actually concedes this point. What we are seeing in this situation is Hawking versus Hawking. I view the following statement as Hawking speaking in his right mind: “When one goes back to the real time in which we live, however, there will still appear to be singularities . . . In real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to space-time and at which the laws of science break down” (first edition, page 144). Only if we lived in imaginary time (not coming soon to a neighborhood near you!) would we encounter no singularities. In real time the universe was created ex nihilo 12-15 billion years ago.

    Henry F Schaefer

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  142. Yes, I am aware of the apologist quote. But I asked for the evidence of dishonesty, not a motivated & unreliable religious opponents position.

    Hawking will argue that the “imaginary time” is actually more real than the “real time” we observe. That Feynman’s original labeling was unfortunate.

    The Hawking/Hartle model is just one of a number of scientific models explaining the origin of the universe. It may not be correct – chances are it is not (most ideas in science are wrong – we have yet to test or validate that particular one).

    But isn’t it dishonest on your part to accuse Hawking of dishonesty? Without any evidence at all. Come off it – you don’t understand the model or any scientific critique of it. All you have to go on is quote mining – and disreputable quotes at that. Schaefer does not work in this field. His sole concern is religious. He wants to “prove” the existence of his god. He is doing apologetics not science.

    Notice he doesn’t advance any hypothesis of his own? None at all. How pitiful is that? Thinking he can win by default his argument that his god did it (that is the sum total of his, and your, model).

    So ask yourself what would your Jebesus do. Would he defame an honest scientist by accusing him of lying with a dishonest trick?

    Surely he would not be so cowardly? If he really existed and was half as moral as some claim.

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  143. Pride a detailed description of the dishonesty.
    Has got website article.

    Provide a reference to any publications involved
    Umm, has got website article?

    Provide information where this charge has been laid, and what action was considered or taken.
    Me have website article!!! Why you be so mean?

    Or is this just someones claim or opinion. Not substantiated and possibly, just possibly, advanced because that person felt Hawking was a threat to their religious beliefs?

    Oh yes. That sums it up nicely.
    It’s uncanny how Ken has guessed the sordid details even before ropata gave the source of his accusation.

    So where did ropata get this unfounded and malicious charge from?
    Leadership U.
    Wow.
    You linked to Leadership U. :)
    Oh but what is Leadership U? Well, this is how they describe themselves…

    “Leadership U includes resources from the high school to research levels, with an emphasis on the scholarly.
    A multi-disciplinary vehicle to help reach professors, students and other thinkers with the best in Christian thought on a variety of compelling issues
    a growing community of apologists for the historical Christian faith who are engaging their culture on a variety of fronts.
    A current-issues-based approach to the deeper issues facing humanity (e.g., evil and suffering, morality and ethics, public policy, philosophy, origins and eternity)
    Get the Latest Updates
    If you wish to stay informed about the culture, the campus and your faith, you will want to receive our announcements of fresh new material, as it is made available at Leadership U. This is a free service, and will inform you each time a significant update is made.
    Contact Information
    Leadership U. is a project of Christian Leadership Ministries, part of Campus Crusade for Christ, International.

    Feel the dumb.

    It’s moments like this that make the internet worthwhile.
    What’s your next trick, ropata?
    Are you going to link to AIG for your information on Evolution next?
    How about linking to Jenny McCarthy’s site for information on vaccines?
    Does that sound like a plan to you?
    Global warming? Well, there’s always Monckton’s website. (The SPPI)

    You have swallowed Shaefer article.
    (An article, for frack’s sake. On the internet.)
    What is wrong with you? Don’t you have any science standards at all?
    Before blindly believing Shaefer just because he’s some “expert”, what about actually demanding some peer-reviewed research or something?
    Shameful. Truly awful.

    Evolution vs. Creationism:Experts vs. Scientists-Peer Review

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  144. @ropata | September 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm | In real time, to which we as human beings are necessarily attached, rather than in Hawking’s use of imaginary time, there will always be a singularity, that is, a beginning of time.

    If this singularity is a feature of the “real world” rather than imagination, and someone has proved there must “always be a singularity”, does that mean you have empirical evidence of them–measurements–in compelling abundance for statistical confidence?

    Or is the singularity just as imaginary as the eternal perpetuity?

    Does anyone have empirical evidence one way or the other, or is this a mental masturbation contest?

    Poor Richard’s Almanack 2010

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  145. Richard Christie

    It’s a contest and so far, Ken, Cedric and I are winning it, hands down. ;-)

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  146. You’re really clutching at straws in this attempt to discredit Schaefer, author of 1250 scientific publications, appearing in journals such as Nature, Astrophysical Journal, Journal of Chemical Physics or the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

    Schaefer is an experimental scientist, Hawking a theoretical speculator.

    There’s no point continuing with this foolishness.

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  147. You’re really clutching at straws in this attempt to discredit Schaefer…

    Nobody is discrediting Shaefer, you steaming ninny.
    “Discrediting Shaefer” doesn’t enter into it.
    It’s your crappy logic that’s discredited you.
    YOU!
    Look at the mess you’ve created.

    “Schaefer, author of 1250 scientific publications, appearing in journals such as Nature, Astrophysical Journal, Journal of Chemical Physics or the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
    Schaefer is an experimental scientist…”

    Yeah.
    So what?

    Why should anybody give a wet fart?

    You are bedazzled by his baubles. That’s not science. That’s not how you go about resolving a scientific issue.
    That’s an awful way of thinking.
    Bad, bad, bad, agonizingly bad. :(

    Would you accept this kind of argument from somebody else on a different science subject?
    Think about it.
    Fred Singer has baubles too. Do you want to roll over and become a climate denier?
    Dr. Peter Duesenberg has baubles too. You you want to believe that HIV has nothing to do with AIDS?
    Newton was big on alchemy. The guy had baubles coming out of his ears.
    Do you think alchemy is peachy-keen?

    Don’t you see what you have done?

    “Argument from Authority is an informal logical fallacy, formally known as argumentum ad verecundium, where an participant argues that a belief is correct because the person making the argument is an authority. The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following:

    1.Person A claims that P
    2.Person A is a respected scientist or other authority
    3.Therefore, P is true.
    This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant.

    Example 1:
    Protagonist: There’s nothing necessarily immoral about atheism.
    Antagonist: Well, my parents said that there is, and they wouldn’t lie to me, so you must be wrong.
    Example 2:
    Antagonist: That actor who plays a doctor on TV just recommended this particular medicine. It must be effective!
    Example 3:
    Antagonist: Aristotle said that heavier objects fall faster than light objects. Therefore it must be true!”

    Top 25 Creation Fallacies 1of3 – ExtantDodo

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  148. Ropata – The fallacy from authority – selective at that. You guys are very prone to that.

    This guy is not an experimental scientist in the appropriate field. Cosmology is not his field – his authority is no better than yours here.

    And you continue to ignore the fact that you and he attempts to argue from default. You have not got a structured hypothesis. Only “god did it”. Not even speculation properly, let alone experimental.

    Desperate and pathetic straw clutching. You have done absolutely nothing to justify your cowardly charge of scientific misconduct. Nothing.

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  149. Richard Christie

    Cedric- Ray Comfort eh, I recall him annoying lunch time crowds in Cathedral Square, Christchurch almost 30 years ago. He was truly awful then too. It seems that he has since established a career bamboozling the dim of wit in the land of the free, home of the brave.

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  150. Ropata – let’s consider how relevant Schaefer’s knowledge is to Hawking’s theories.

    Now Schaeffer is a chemist – has an impressive number of publications in chemistry (this usually indicates a senior position where staff are obliged to include their supervisor’s name on authors lists).

    But let’s do a search of Google scholar to find how relevant his publications are to Hawking’s work.

    * Number of scientific publication relevant to cosmology and the universe – ZERO

    *number of publications referring to Hawking – ONE.
    This is a book entitled “Science and Christianity:
    conflict or coherence?” Strictly not a scientific publication.

    The book received a favorable review by the Discovery Institute. Not surprising as Schaefer is a fellow of that creationist organisation.

    Schaeffer is also one of the signatories of the Dissent from Darwinism list. My analysis (see Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?) of that showed the overwhelming proportion who signed this list did so for religious reasons, not scientific.

    I think it is safe to assume Schaefer’s hostility to Hawking and scientific cosmology arises from his religious views, not scientific views.

    If he had a valid scientific criticism to make of the Hawking/Hartle model he would have published that in a scientific journal – not a discredited religious apologetics site.

    So your reference to him as an “an experimental scientist”, in bold no less, is dishonest. The large number of publications suggest to me that he no longer does any experimental work in chemistry himself. But he clearly has never and doesn’t do any work in cosmology worthy of publication anyway. And he has clearly never made a critique of Hawking which would pass peer review in a scientific journal.

    OK – the relevant thing of course is how and why you use Schaefer as your authority. It’s not because he has any relevant expertise or authority in this area – you aren’t quoting him on chemistry.

    No, it is the apologetic ghetto problem (see The ghetto of apologetics “science”). This is where you guys have a list of “safe” scientists to use as authorities. These work for or with creationist and apologetics organizations, do their own quote mining and make this available to Christian sycophants. It’s called “reinterpretation research.”

    Pure confirmation bias – you trust these guys as “authorities” against any number of credible working scientists.

    So your authority may be a good, even excellent, chemist. But in cosmology he has absolutely no authority.

    But he is your man because he is a creationist willing to give a “sciency” air to his religious claims. (It’s called prostitution).

    Ropata, don’t you feel even a bit ashamed using this guy against Hawking?

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  151. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxJQe_FefxY]

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  152. Cedric- Ray Comfort eh, I recall him annoying lunch time crowds in Cathedral Square, Christchurch almost 30 years ago.

    Christchurch? Oh yes, he’s a Kiwi.
    For some reason, I thought he was a fellow Aussie.
    I must have been thinking of that other cretin, Ken Ham.

    Well, since you mentioned Ray Comfort, it’s obligatory to mention his big banana.
    Atheists nightmare debunked. Ray Comfort/Kirk cameron

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  153. Richard Christie

    Ha ha, but wait, Richard Dawkins admits he’s a Ray Comfort fan

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  154. FYI there is a somewhat more sensible debate at Glenn’s blog

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  155. Pingback: Not about Einstein | Open Parachute

  156. I am the author of a book exploring the interconnections between quantum physics and Buddhist philosophy (www.quantumbuddhism.com). It took 10 years to research and write so is detailed and extensive. In the last chapter I give some elucidation to the implications of quantum theory for theology. The publication of Hawking and Mlodinow’s book has prompted me to start work on my next book – The Grand Designer: Discovering the Quantum Mind Matrix of the Universe. I have written an introductory essay which shows that ‘The Grand Design’ actually proves the necessity of a primordial awareness which some theologians identify with God. The Grand Designer essay is available at http://www.quantumbuddhism.com/GrandDesigner.pdf

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  157. So much effort has gone into discrediting people, so little into engaging the actual critiques of M theory and Hawking’s tendentious speculations. Typical thread on “plummetting parachute”!

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  158. Do you feel confident enough with your maths to critique M Theory ropata?

    Be my guest. I am waiting with bated breath.

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  159. Go back through my comments, you might notice there’s a pattern…
    1) atheist makes claim X, “therefore” there is no God
    2) theist says “hang on, the conclusion does not follow, because of Y as demonstrated by references A and B”
    3) atheist attacks A, ignores B, changes subject, somehow misses the actual point that was made, then assumes he has “won”

    Critiques of MTheory

    Actually M-theory is just the latest iteration of string theory, with membranes (hence the M) substituted for strings. For more than two decades string theory has been the most popular candidate for the unified theory that Hawking envisioned 30 years ago. Yet this popularity stems not from the theory’s actual merits but rather from the lack of decent alternatives and the stubborn refusal of enthusiasts to abandon their faith.

    M-theory suffers from the same flaws that string theories did. First is the problem of empirical accessibility. Membranes, like strings, are supposedly very, very tiny—as small compared with a proton as a proton is compared with the solar system. This is the so-called Planck scale, 10^–33 centimeters. Gaining the kind of experimental confirmation of membranes or strings that we have for, say, quarks would require a particle accelerator 1,000 light-years around, scaling up from our current technology. Our entire solar system is only one light-day around, and the Large Hadron Collider is only 27 km around…

    M-theory comes in an almost infinite number of versions, which “predict” an almost infinite number of possible universes. Critics call this the “Alice’s restaurant problem,” a reference to the refrain of the old Arlo Guthrie folk song: “You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant.” Of course, a theory that predicts everything really doesn’t predict anything, and hence isn’t a theory at all. Proponents, including Hawking, have tried to turn this bug into a feature, proclaiming that all the universes “predicted” by M-theory actually exist. “Our universe seems to be one of many,” Hawking and Mlodinow assert.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=cosmic-clowning-stephen-hawkings-ne-2010-09-13

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  160. Go back through my comments, you might notice there’s a pattern…
    1) atheist makes claim X, “therefore” there is no God

    The pattern is established only by the voices in your head.

    What atheist around these here parts has made the claim that there is no god?
    Give the quote.
    Focus on what people actually write.
    Stop misrepresenting people and creating strawmen.
    It’s very dishonest of you.

    The “Straw Man” Fallacy

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  161. So, Ropata – you clearly don’t feel confident enough to make a critique of string theory in any of its manifestations. So you resort to copy and past.

    Your objection to Hawking has nothing to do with this book’s discussion of and speculation about M theory. You simply object to his uncontroversial comment that no gods are required to reach an understanding of, or to propose hypotheses for, the formation of our universe.

    Now, I have an objection to some of the authors’ presentation of epistemology in this book – particularly their “model-based reality.” I explained this here or on Glenn’s blog. I can understand the necessity of such an approach at the “cutting edge” as it were but find the authors examples in justification naive and misleading. (Glenn would have loved them though because it would have given him a reputable quote for his claim that “Galileo was wrong.” However, I think he remains blissfully ignorant of the irony of his objection tho this book).

    You are unable to discuss the maths of string theory (few of us here could credibly) and you ignore my critique of the philosophical problems this book has. All that worries you is the authors” uncontroversial statement of the bleeding obvious – no gods are required.

    Hence the silliness of your contribution to the discussion.

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  162. Clearly my simple, quoted critiques of string theory were beyond you. You have also made an incorrect assumption about my mathematical background. It is unsurprising that naturalistic premises lead to a naturalistic cosmogony. And yes I do object to people like Hawking and Dawkins making grand pronouncements of the death of God but following up with books of nonsense.

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  163. No, your copy and pastes were not beyond means I have seen them before. But they were mathematically irrelevant surely.

    If your maths background is up to critiquing string theory – go for it. Mine certainly isn’t. In fact it is sometimes said that the main contribution made by string theory has been new maths.

    But if you have mathematical objections why bother copy and pasting a comment like John Horgan’s for Christ sake?

    I suspect you cannot produce anything sourced from hawking or Dawkins pronouncing the “death of god.”

    Your rants reveal a sad system of beliefs which is intolerant of anyone elses opinion but which is unable to provide it’s own justification. So you resort to self revealing silly statements of hatred against others instead.

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  164. Actually Hawking wrote “philosophy is dead” and “God is not necessary”, and Dawkins says God is a delusion. So my summary was accurate and your pedantic objection was unnecessary. Just like your demand for a mathematical thesis to disprove M theory. And I have no idea why you need to resort to name calling tactics in a discussion of the merits of a scientific theory.

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  165. So nobody said a god was dead as you claimed! Thought not. After all if you don’t believe in a god it is rather silly to claim it is dead, isn’t it?

    And neither Hawking or Dawkins are silly – far from it.

    Ropata, there is no discussion here on the merits of a scientific theory – and why should there be. It’s not as if the book claims M “theory” is much more than interesting speculation. It describes it as “a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists.”

    The only issue is that you and your theological mates have your noses out of joint because the book simply states the bleeding obvious. That formation of universes “does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.”

    After all, those who claim otherwise never support their claims with a structured theory or evidence – only a creation myth. And there is plenty of those around.

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  166. Actually Hawking wrote “philosophy is dead” and “God is not necessary”, and Dawkins says God is a delusion. So my summary was accurate and your pedantic objection was unnecessary.

    Hahahaha.
    Loser. :)

    Seriously, ropata, you are a joke.
    Why do you have to lie and twist words all the time?
    You have created a strawman.
    There’s no way you can do a “work-around” on this.

    This is what you said…

    Go back through my comments, you might notice there’s a pattern…
    1) atheist makes claim X, “therefore” there is no God

    Then later, you said…

    …And yes I do object to people like Hawking and Dawkins making grand pronouncements of the death of God…

    A tissue of lies.

    Some conveniently un-named mystery atheist in some comments around these here parts made the claim that “there is no god”?
    Didn’t happen.
    It’s a lie.
    You are a liar.

    Hawkings (or maybe Dawkins??) made grand pronouncements of the death of god? Really? Not just one pronouncement, oh no.
    According to the voices in your head, they said so…multiple times.
    Wow.
    Only…
    It didn’t happen.
    It’s a lie.
    You are a liar.

    Actually Hawking wrote “philosophy is dead”…

    If he wrote this…then quote it and attack it if you want to.
    Go for it.
    Nobody’s stopping you.
    It’s the decietful stawmen you set up to knock down that make you lose any credibility.

    Claiming that someone said “Philosophy is dead” is not that same as claiming that someone said that “there is no god” or “god is dead”.
    Not even close.
    Basic English literacy fail.

    Claiming that someone said “God is not necessary” is not that same as claiming that someone said that “there is no god” or “god is dead”.
    Not even close.
    Basic English literacy fail.

    Claiming that someone said “God is a delusion” is not the same as claiming that someone said that “there is no god” or “god is dead”.
    Not even close.
    Basic English literacy fail.

    So my summary was accurate and your pedantic objection was unnecessary.

    Only in your bizzaro world.
    Get a life.
    Stop the word games.
    Don’t “summarise”.
    Nobody cares about your creative, interpretative “summaries”.
    A casual observer can spot them for being strawmen a mile off.
    Your pants are on fire.

    To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

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  167. Nietzsche is the originator of the phrase “God is dead”. Go look it up. (The current “new atheist” rabble are not worthy of untying his shoelaces). I take it that you guys concede the substance of my comment because you’re obsessing over trivial semantics. So Ken’s comment nobody said a god was dead as you claimed was incorrect and I’m sure Cedric will apologise for all the rude things he has been writing.

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  168. Holy-crazy-monkey-on-a-stick!
    What the hell does Nietzsche have to do with anything?
    This is the first time you have brought him up.

    What do you think you are doing?
    Do you really believe that belatedly bringing up Nietzsche somehow saves your sorry, worthless ass?
    Dolt.

    You said…

    … atheist makes claim X, “therefore” there is no God…

    No mention of Nietzsche at all here.
    In fact, you only mentioned your comments.
    Maybe here, maybe in some other thread.
    (You were very vague).
    Nobody here, or anywhere else, has argued that “there is no god” with you (in comments or otherwise).

    Go back through my comments, you might notice there’s a pattern…

    Nope. The only “pattern” in the comments has been the voices in your head.
    Nobody has said that “there is no god”.

    …And yes I do object to people like Hawking and Dawkins making grand pronouncements of the death of God…

    So here you are talking about Hawking and Dawkins.
    Nietzsche is conspicuous by his absence.
    Did Hawking or Darwin talk about the “death of God”?

    (…awkward silence…)

    Nope.
    Kinda stoopid of you.
    Or just plain dishonest.
    Yet maybe this is you “just kidding”?
    Remember how you were “just kidding” when you talked about “atheists hating god”.
    That was a deep-down dumb thing to say.
    On so many levels, it was brain-dead.
    Yet, you were “just kidding” or so you claimed.

    This agonizingly dumb “god is dead” comment that comes only from the voices in your head forces a re-assessment as to whether you were really “just kidding” or not about the ‘atheists hating god’ nonsense.
    Stop lying.
    Grow up.

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  169. This “he said, she said” stuff is useless, only a small mind would find it more interesting than the actual discussion of Hawking’s book. It seems Cedric’s discovery of logical fallacies in youtube has not reduced the offensive expulsions of ad hominem textual diarrhoea. Nietzsche is not “nobody” so Ken’s comment that nobody has said a god was dead as you claimed was wrong. Simple enough, I suppose your cognitive dissonance is really pressing on the frontal lobe today.

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  170. Ropata, nobody here or in the book has said a god has popped her clogs until you did. So it’s rather desperate to clutch at that straw.

    But it is good the hear you think discussion of the book is important, I have made a specific criticism of the naive way the authors justified their “model dependent reality”. I am keen to hear your response to my criticism.

    How about it, ropata. What about considering the actual book itself? Or have you not bothered reading it?

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  171. I will get round to it one of these days. It was fun arguing about it though.

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  172. But of course you weren’t arguing about the book ropata. You couldn’t as you hadn’t read it. You were arguing about a simple non-controversial statement in a press report. Because it upset you. All the theological criticism has been the same – irrelevant to the book’s real content.

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  173. My comments were either directly about the book, or responding to points raised in the reviews of the book. Hawking should not be immune from criticism, and a great portion of the criticism is not an assertion of theism, rather it is from other physicists, you would have realised that if you actually read my comments.

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  174. ropata – “My comments were either directly about the book” - you mean you were commenting on a book you refused tor read? How can you?

    “responding to points raised in the reviews of the book.” How can you respond if you don’t know how valid the points were?

    “Hawking should not be immune from criticism” – Of course not. But ignorant criticism is stupid, isn’t it? One should actually read the book before criticising.

    Mind you – having made you criticisms you are then wide open to people responding.

    Or do you think that you have a get home free card? That any criticism of you is “offensive?”

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  175. The book makes some pretty big claims and I was responding to those. It’s silly to keep avoiding the actual philosophical arguments being made by attempting to disqualify the person making them

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  176. I actually find I agree with the philosophical claims – after having read the book. We have discussed some here and I think your criticisms were based on ignorance.

    The problem is that some people read headlines or out of context extracts and do not understand the points being made.

    Then again some people are so sensitive that they must always interpret such comments the wrong way.

    The book is excellent for what it is. A brief, general, very accessible, book describing current physical understanding. It doesn’t pretend to be a text book or provide details, by any means.

    I recommend it as such.

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