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Sunday, September 05, 2010

There is, indeed, a better answer than *Poof* says God

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Rehashing Saturday to-do list.   Worked on fixing Sara's computer.  Made a pick in the Battle of the Sports Forum basketball league (16 teams.   So far I have Kobe and Nash).  Exercised, checked out the semi-broken Kia, watched the White Sox (in bits and pieces) take both ends of a double-header from the Red Sox.  Answered lots of emails.

Noted Hawking's new book which is largely a matter of 180 pages worth of saying nothing miraculously made everything from nothing.  Should Dr. Hawking pass away in the near future there will be a new run on ironic t-shirts, I suppose.  I cannot think of Hawking without wondering how such a strong-willed and determined battler with such a big mind could be so disastrously mistaken?   Did he fall prey to the idea that he is the superior intellect to all others and therefore only he was capable of determining such metaphysical questions couched in scientific terms?  

During the last week I made a couple of blog posts about Darwinists and their adherence to a religion that denies the very precepts they claim to believe - that natural law is the only law and only naturalistic answers can be sought to scientific questions.   But Darwinism is anti-science, for it denies two of the most basic and emphatically proven laws of science.  The Law of Biogenesis precludes spontaneous generation of life and the First Law of Thermodynamics states that there is nothing being created or destroyed, in other words, no spontaneous creation of material things and yet ~ The great faith that is Darwinism...a tribute to *poof* and A comic club does Darwinism...take my primordial soup, PLEASE!

I am not the only one who has seen the complete dichotomy that exists between science and Darwinism.   Stephen Hawking has really put a cherry on top of the "Darwinism is a religion" concept with his rather ironically titled book,  The Grand Design.   Design?  I can hear Richard Dawkins saying, "We don't need no stinkin' Design!"  (photo credit)

I read this post today and thought, yes, I should add that to the end of the last post~

Stephen Hawking His Atheism 09/02/2010
 
— Science reporters are creating sensationalist headlines about Stephen Hawking claiming there is no God.  His new book has a title, The Grand Design, that sounds theistic but in fact claims that God is not necessary because our existence is a consequence of the law of gravity.

    The headlines like PhysOrg’s “God did not create Universe: Hawking” or the BBC News quotelet, “Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe” are misleading because this is not a new position or discovery by the ALS-afflicted physicist, but more of a restatement of his beliefs elucidated in his 10-year-old best seller, A Brief History of Time.  Roger Highfield in New Scientist says, “Hawking hasn’t changed his mind about God.”  In fact, his beliefs are as old as Einstein’s, and Spinoza’s, who believed that whatever we mean by “God” is just a restatement of the laws of physics.  Einstein famously said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”  Hawking told Highfield, “If you believe in science, like I do, you believe that there are certain laws that are always obeyed.  If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence.”  One thing that is new is that Hawking appears to have abandoned the hope that mankind would come up with a “theory of everything” as promised in A Brief History of Time.

    Craig Callender, writing for “Culture Lab” at New Scientist, had perhaps the most nuanced coverage of the latest Hawking-atheism claim.  Reviewing The Grand Design, Callender was doubtful Hawking had achieved his goal of removing a personal, intervening God from the universe.  For one thing, Hawking appears to have cast his dice on M-theory, a future hope for a reality that is only partly glimpsed by various string theories.  M-theory can also mean the set of all current string theories.  For another, Hawking’s confidence relies on an unknowable multiverse.  Callender elaborated,
M-theory in either sense is far from complete.  But that doesn’t stop the authors from asserting that it explains the mysteries of existence: why there is something rather than nothing, why this set of laws and not another, and why we exist at all.  According to Hawking, enough is known about M-theory to see that God is not needed to answer these questions.  Instead, string theory points to the existence of a multiverse, and this multiverse coupled with anthropic reasoning will suffice.  Personally, I am doubtful.    
Take life.  We are lucky to be alive.  Imagine all the ways physics might have precluded life: gravity could have been stronger, electrons could have been as big as basketballs and so on.  Does this intuitive “luck” warrant the postulation of God?  No.  Does it warrant the postulation of an infinity of universes?  The authors and many others think so.  In the absence of theory, though, this is nothing more than a hunch doomed – until we start watching universes come into being – to remain untested and untestable.  The lesson isn’t that we face a dilemma between God and the multiverse, but that we shouldn’t go off the rails at the first sign of coincidences.
Calendar’s critical thinking was refreshing from the other articles’ regurgitations of the Hawking view, but he failed to identify what he meant by “the rails” that he thinks Hawking and his co-author Leonard Mlodinow got off of.  Where do the rails begin?  Where do they end?  What direction are they headed?  How does one know that one is on or off?

    Even more alarming, Calendar asserted that Hawking’s position risks perspectivalism – an anti-realist ontology that asserts multiple independent views of reality are possible, each one model-dependent, each one hopelessly incomplete.  “This radical theory holds that there doesn’t exist, even in principle, a single comprehensive theory of the universe,” Callender explained.  “Instead, science offers many incomplete windows onto a common reality, one no more ‘true’ than another.”  This philosophy, he warned, leads to “an alarming anti-realism” that would seem to preclude any defensible position by Hawking or anyone else, because “not only does science fail to provide a single description of reality, they say, there is no theory-independent reality at all.”  Indeed, it sounds indistinguishable from postmodern relativism.  What may be true for Hawking would not be true for you or me, so why even do science?

    Hawking’s assumption that laws of nature will produce guaranteed results may be vulnerable to falsification, undermining much of his world view.  The Economist printed an eye-opening story that suggests the fine-structure constant, itself dependent on several physical constants, may vary from place to place in the universe, contrary to the assumptions of most physicists for centuries.  If so, it has other consequences – that measurements of the universe’s age and distance scale might also vary, and that humans might occupy an even more privileged location in the cosmos than previously acknowledged.  Sounds like a “Grand Design” beyond Hawking’s limited view.  For more of a taste on what cosmologists can and cannot know, see the debate about dark energy theory in New Scientist, “Void that is truly empty solves dark energy puzzle.”  (If you thought a void was empty by definition, it takes a theoretical physicist to provide the necessary circumlocution.)  Surprises in cosmology in just the last decade should make it seem dubious that any living cosmologist has a firm grip on reality.
You may have noticed that we added a long-overdue “Philosophy” chain link.  Many of our entries over the past decade have needed this tag.  Perhaps some day a volunteer can help add it to the back issues where appropriate.  It will include philosophy of science, history and sociology of science, and related topics that do not necessarily invoke theology (though it is arguable that philosophy, logic and reason themselves cannot be isolated from the presupposition of an all-wise, independent, immutable Mind).  A good lecture series that explores perspectivalism as a running theme in the history of science and philosophy is the Teaching Company product Science Wars by Steven Goldman (see Resource of the Week for Dec. 19, 2009).
    A simple principle can make you wiser than Stephen Hawking.  Not necessarily smarter, but wiser.  It’s the ability to spot the self-refuting fallacy and its relatives: arbitrary beliefs, begging the question and unargued presuppositions.  While Hawking was busy typing away on his speech synthesizer telling us God is out of a job because the laws of nature will do all the work, he was invoking mind, reason, logic and intelligence.  None of those are laws of nature.  They deal in the rational realm of concepts.  What’s more, the concept of a “law of nature” is loaded with questions begging for answers: are laws of nature decrees of God, or mere observed patterns in experience?  In what realm do laws of nature exist, and how do they impress their will on mindless reality?  What do we mean by the fine word “nature” in the first place?  Hawking cannot employ a concept he cannot justify.
    Even more devastating to Hawking’s view is that he started with something – laws of nature and a multiverse – instead of nothing.  Then he had the gall to tell us it explains why there is something instead of nothing.  The late Francis Schaeffer reminded his students that theists can turn the tables on atheists who love to invoke the “Who made God?” argument by pushing back on the “something” that they typically presume already existed: e.g., where did the laws of nature come from?  Where did gravity come from?  Where did the multiverse come from?  Schaeffer insisted that secularists cannot tell us that the universe came from nothing unless they mean nothing nothing: no laws, no fields, no quantum energy, no categories, no mind, no evolution – really nothing.  He would illustrate it by drawing a circle on a blackboard and announcing that within the circle was everything that is.  Then he would erase the circle.  Stephen Hawking’s failure to go all the way back is the latest incarnation of the “Get your own dirt” joke (see Humor Page).
    Once again, Hawking and his followers cannot defend their world view without stealing goods from the Judeo-Christian smorgasbord.  One cannot get something from nothing nothing, and if something material pre-existed, it cannot be eternal by the law of entropy.  Also once again, the evidence for creation (suggested by their “anthropic reasoning” and Callender’s amazement at our luck at being alive, as if “pure dumb luck” constitutes a scientific explanation) is overwhelmingly evident to everyone.  For all his brains and education, therefore, Stephen Hawking is a fool (“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” for ignoring the abundant evidence for God (Romans 1:16-22).  A fool is arbitrary or inconsistent, or both.  As such, a fool can prove anything, and therefore can prove opposite things.  That’s what fools do (see Alice in Wonderland and 04/26/2010).  If you understand this, and are therefore wiser than Hawking, help him and his followers gain some wisdom.  How?  Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Pray also for Stephen Hawking.  The Lord has been longsuffering with the poor sophoxymoroniac (02/02/2008 commentary), whose disease normally would have taken his life many years ago.  Pray that he will see the light in time.  Wouldn’t it be great to imagine him fully restored to perfect health in heaven? Next headline on:  MediaPhysicsCosmologyOrigin of LifeMind and BrainPhilosophy of ScienceDumb IdeasBible and Theology

~~~~~~~~

It is amazing that Hawking has managed to stay alive for so many years in spite of a deadly ailment that has felled bigger and stronger men much faster than Stephen.    I can imagine the remarkable freedom within his spirit that he would experience if he was to be released from his worldview prison. 

But no one speaks for God better than God himself.   It just so happens that my reading schedule brought me to this Psalms last night, after I had written the blog.   I will let the Creator God have the last word today:


Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.
 1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
       the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

 2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
       night after night they display knowledge. 

 3 There is no speech or language
       where their voice is not heard. 

 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
       their words to the ends of the world.
       In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 

 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
       like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 

 6 It rises at one end of the heavens
       and makes its circuit to the other;
       nothing is hidden from its heat. 

 7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
       reviving the soul.
       The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
       making wise the simple. 

 8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
       giving joy to the heart.
       The commands of the LORD are radiant,
       giving light to the eyes. 

 9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
       enduring forever.
       The ordinances of the LORD are sure
       and altogether righteous. 

 10 They are more precious than gold,
       than much pure gold;
       they are sweeter than honey,
       than honey from the comb. 

 11 By them is your servant warned;
       in keeping them there is great reward. 

 12 Who can discern his errors?
       Forgive my hidden faults. 

 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
       may they not rule over me.
       Then will I be blameless,
       innocent of great transgression. 

 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
       be pleasing in your sight,
       O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But Darwinism is anti-science, for it denies two of the most basic and emphatically proven laws of science. The Law of Biogenesis precludes spontaneous generation of life"

Wrong. The Law of Biogenesis precludes the spontaneous generation of complex forms of life. Anti-science folk and those who haven't bothered acquainting themselves with this subject like to take this to mean that this law precludes the spontaneous generation and gradual evolution of extremely simple forms of life, which is what current abiogenesis research examines.

"and the First Law of Thermodynamics states that there is nothing being created or destroyed, in other words, no spontaneous creation of material things"

Actually, in other words that would mean that everything has always existed. Certainly not something that clashes with what "Darwinists" say, not least because it is completely irrelevant to Darwin's theory of evolution.

You don't have much ground to stand on here, certainly none at all to show that "Darwinism is anti-science"...

"and yet ~ The great faith that is Darwinism...a tribute to *poof*"

Sorry, but to believe that Darwinism rests on a *poof* is a strawman argument, a misrepresentation. There also seems to be a bit of projection involved, since Genesis is full of one *poof* after another (none of which matches today's scientific observations, btw), not including the God himself who started the ball rolling, who is amazingly complex and yet whose origin can not be accounted for - so there's another *poof*.

radar said...

"Wrong. The Law of Biogenesis precludes the spontaneous generation of complex forms of life."

Wrong. You do not know your science. This law was applied to all life including microorganisms.

"and the First Law of Thermodynamics states that there is nothing being created or destroyed, in other words, no spontaneous creation of material things"

Actually, in other words that would mean that everything has always existed. Certainly not something that clashes with what "Darwinists" say, not least because it is completely irrelevant to Darwin's theory of evolution.


Way wrong. All of the material world is devolving from energy to entropy. We therefore hypothesize and made laws that stated that the Universe was running down from a state of energy to that of complete entropy - heat death. The fact that it is running down from more to less energy and from less to more entropy means a beginnning...and an end.

Finally, my *poof* has a First Cause and yours is nothing. I have God, a figure documented thoroughly if not always accurately down through the years of human history, a God who left us an account of what He did and when and why. I have a cause and an effect. You have nothing.

Anonymous said...

"Wrong. You do not know your science. This law was applied to all life including microorganisms."

No, it's true. What you call microorganisms here (scientists of the time were aware of bacteria) are also in fact complex forms of life. Which is something you keep pointing out on your own blog, so why are you even attempting this argument? You must already know your reasoning doesn't add up.

"Actually, in other words that would mean that everything has always existed. Certainly not something that clashes with what "Darwinists" say, not least because it is completely irrelevant to Darwin's theory of evolution."

"Way wrong."

Nope. It would mean that, and it doesn't clash with what "Darwinists" say etc.

"All of the material world is devolving from energy to entropy. We therefore hypothesize and made laws that stated that the Universe was running down from a state of energy to that of complete entropy - heat death. The fact that it is running down from more to less energy and from less to more entropy means a beginnning...and an end."

I see you've chosen not to pursue the argument and have instead shifted to discussing the 2nd LOT. May I take it you've conceded the argument?

"Finally, my *poof* has a First Cause and yours is nothing."

No, you don't have a First Cause. You've substituted a hypothetical entity that you claim doesn't need a First Cause.

"I have God, a figure documented thoroughly if not always accurately down through the years of human history, a God who left us an account of what He did and when and why."

By that logic, every other creation mythology and religious text out there is valid as well. Try again.

And since you bring it up, where was God not documented accurately?

And that's aside from the fact that the "what He did and when" (at least when interpreted literally) doesn't match observable evidence.

"I have a cause and an effect. You have nothing."

You have an untestable hypothesis, no more. You're simply not playing by the same rules as you dabble in pseudo-science (sadly based on numerous strawman arguments) when it suits you but evade the rigor of the scientific process when it doesn't.

Name some testable predictions in which YEC can be confirmed scientifically. And show us how they're confirmed. I see you haven't managed this simple step on your blog yet.

You've already been presented with numerous testable predictions in which the theory of evolution can be confirmed scientifically, and how they're confirmed. If memory serves, you opted not to respond.

That's what I mean by not following the rigor of the process. Anyone with an open mind would see the dearth of testable predictions made by YEC and the abundance of them on the side of the theory of evolution and reasonably conclude that the theory of evolution and an old Earth are far more likely conclusions to draw.

Incidentally, I'm still puzzled by your obsession with *poof* when *poof* is so clearly the process that God used, as described in Genesis, and is so clearly not the process described by the theory of evolution.

Jon Woolf said...

Anonymous wrote: Which is something you keep pointing out on your own blog, so why are you even attempting this argument? You must already know your reasoning doesn't add up.

Unfortunately, he doesn't. Radar suffers from a flaw common among the intellectually arrogant: he can't see that he is just as vulnerable to the classic fallacies as his opponents are. This post provides a perfect example, as he wallops Stephen Hawking for allegedly committing all kinds of logical and philosophical fallacies, then quotes the following with a straight face:

A simple principle can make you wiser than Stephen Hawking. Not necessarily smarter, but wiser. It’s the ability to spot the self-refuting fallacy and its relatives: arbitrary beliefs, begging the question and unargued presuppositions.

There is no better example of "arbitrary belief, begging the question, and unargued presupposition" than YEC.

Chaos Engineer said...

The Law of Biogenesis precludes spontaneous generation of life and the First Law of Thermodynamics states that there is nothing being created or destroyed, in other words, no spontaneous creation of material things and yet

That's kind of an unusual interpretation of Natural Law. The usual assumption is that these laws are just human descriptions of the universe based on fallible human observations, and we can rewrite them at any time if we get new information.

So it's not completely ridiculous for scientists to say that the Law of Biogenesis can be broken under prebiotic conditions, or that the Laws of Therodynamics don't hold at the quantum level or inside a singularity.

But it sounds like you're saying that these laws are beyond questioning, that it's absolutely impossible for life to be formed from non-living materials.

That's theologically interesting: If God creates the Law of Biogenesis, and then immediately turns around and *poofs* some dust into Adam, isn't he breaking His own law and calling Himself a liar?

And if we can't trust God to play fair with the laws of physics and biology, then aren't the laws of morality and salvation equally at risk? (That's kind of depressing, but it does explain why so many Creationists seem so crabby all the time.)

I think it would be better to just say, "Well, we know there was a time when there was no life, and we know that there's life today, so the so-called Law of Biogenesis can't be true in all cases. We just need to figure out situations in which the law can be broken. We could do experiments with self-catalyzing chemical reactions, or maybe other people can think of other experiments we can run."

highboy said...

Anonymous:

"No, you don't have a First Cause. You've substituted a hypothetical entity that you claim doesn't need a First Cause."

Wrong. "First Cause" refers to the scientific concept of every effect having a cause. Since science can only study the natural order and there was no natural order before "poof", then the "cause" is outside the natural order, or in other words, supernatural.

"By that logic, every other creation mythology and religious text out there is valid as well. Try again."

Actually no, since no other religious text can even touch the Bible for reliability. Many on this site have made half assed attempts to engage me on this issue and promptly ran away from the topic.

"You have an untestable hypothesis, no more."

"Incidentally, I'm still puzzled by your obsession with *poof* when *poof* is so clearly the process that God used, as described in Genesis, and is so clearly not the process described by the theory of evolution. "

The process of evolution has nothing to do with "poof" which may explain some of the confusion.

Chaos:

"That's theologically interesting: If God creates the Law of Biogenesis, and then immediately turns around and *poofs* some dust into Adam, isn't he breaking His own law and calling Himself a liar?"

No, and so the rest of your speculation is equally wrong. God creates laws for man, breaking them doesn't call Him a liar. Furthermore, He didn't declare the Law of Biogenesis was a law, humans did.

As we've discussed before, regardless of how old you think the earth is, science by definition can only trace the chain of cause and effect back so far. Supernatural by definition has to exist, otherwise "poof" never happened and we aren't here.

highboy said...

It is more than ironic that one of the poster children for strong atheism went stark raving mad over the idea of a world without God.

Anonymous said...

"Wrong. "First Cause" refers to the scientific concept of every effect having a cause."

Let me stop you right there. There is no "scientific concept of every effect having a cause". There may be a philosophical one, but not a scientific one. This seems to be a rather muddled YEC rephrasing of Newton's 3rd Law of Motion ("every action has an equal and opposite reaction").

"Actually no, since no other religious text can even touch the Bible for reliability. Many on this site have made half assed attempts to engage me on this issue and promptly ran away from the topic."

At the very least, you're engaging in a logical fallacy here. It's also possible you're engaging in a rhetorical sleight of hand, but I'll assume you're playing straight.

The logical fallacy being that if some parts of something are correct, that therefore all of it must be correct. If we can verify, for example, that figure X or location Y in the Bible actually exist(ed), then all parts must be true, including Genesis.

But not only is Genesis not shown to be reliable, it actually clashes with observable evidence. So there's that. If you want to argue that Genesis must be true because, say, parts of the New Testament have been confirmed by other evidence, then your logic would be faulty.

"The process of evolution has nothing to do with "poof" which may explain some of the confusion."

Exactly, evolution has nothing to do with *poof*, but Radar keeps pretending it does. How ironic the title of this blog post is: "There is, indeed, a better answer than *Poof* says God" - seeing as the first book of Genesis is full of one *poof* after another. Why does Radar insist on projecting this article of faith on other people when they believe nothing of the sort? From a debating standpoint, it seems fundamentally dishonest.

"Supernatural by definition has to exist, otherwise "poof" never happened and we aren't here."

Seems to me our current lack of understanding of the universe saddles us with an impossible question to which we then have to find a way out of that. It's generally based on the notion that.

1. The universe exists.
2. There must have been a time when the universe did not exist.
3. How did the universe come to exist?
4. Nothing natural could have done it, therefore something supernatural must have done it.

The weak chain in the argument is #2, which is completely speculative, a mere assumption. We simply don't know enough to make this assertion or to draw conclusions from it.

Anonymous said...

"It is more than ironic that one of the poster children for strong atheism went stark raving mad over the idea of a world without God."


Who went stark raving mad?

Jon Woolf said...

Tangentially related is this very seriously-cool link I just ran across. Research chemists have found a way of producing self-assembling molecular solar cells. They took a bunch of bits and pieces from different sources, threw them together in a witches' brew, and watched the pieces spontaneously self-assemble into tiny solar cells. What they do once they can do again, so "self-assembling" also means "self-repairing."

Note what is not included in these solar cells: any source of instructions or information. These are not biological cells. There's no DNA involved. The researchers didn't plan this result; indeed, they didn't even expect it. Where, then, did the complex structure of the final product come from?

Anonymous said...

I believe the technical term is *poof*.