Email God vs. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going. Since Stephen is such a smart and famous guy, a world-class physicist, he gets attention when he opines on subjects that are outside the purview of science. It has not kept up with modern developments in physics.
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Yet physical laws on their own cannot create anything; they are merely a description of what normally happens under certain given conditions. This article is based on one that appeared in the Daily Mail, September 3, This article may not be placed on the Internet or reproduced without permission.
According to him, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on earth came into being. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going. In the excerpts I have seen from the book at this writing it is not yet in the shops there are what appear to be a number of misunderstandings and logical errors.
But this is certainly not what any of the great monotheistic religions believe. For them, God is not only to be found at creation; He is the author of the whole show.
God both created the universe and constantly sustains it in existence. Without Him, there would be nothing there for physicists to study. Indeed, just as I can admire the genius behind a work of engineering or art the more I understand it, so my worship of the Creator increases the more I understand what He has done.
It has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly in physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. Apart from the scientistic hubris of this statement, it constitutes wonderful evidence that at least one scientist, Hawking himself, has not only not kept up with philosophy, he does not appear to understand the first thing about it, nor its commitment to the elementary rules of logical analysis.
It is manifestly not a statement of science; it is a philosophical statement about science. Therefore, because it says that philosophy is dead, it contradicts itself. It is a classic example of logical incoherence. Not only that, Hawking, insofar as he is interpreting and applying science to ultimate questions like the existence of God, is doing metaphysics. Saying philosophy is dead is very dangerous especially when you yourself engage in it.
That is not nothing. So the universe is not created from nothing. To presuppose the existence of the universe to account for its existence is logically incoherent.
We were always right to think that persons, or universes, who seek to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps are forever doomed to failure. False Alternatives Because Hawking has both an inadequate concept of God and of philosophy, he blunders into a further series of errors by asking us to choose between God and the laws of physics.
Here he confuses two very different things: physical law and personal agency. The choice he asks us to make is between false alternatives. This is a classic category error. His call for us to choose between physics and God is as manifestly absurd as demanding that we choose either the laws of physics or aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle in order to explain the jet engine.
Both explanations are necessary: they do not conflict, but complement one another. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works but not how it came to exist in the first place. It is self-evident that a jet engine could have not have been created by the laws of physics on their own—that task needed the intelligence and creative engineering work of Whittle.
Indeed, come to think of it, the laws of physics plus Frank Whittle could not on their own produce a jet engine. There needs additionally to be some material around the place that is subject to those laws and that can be worked on by Whittle.
For, not only did scientists not put the universe there, neither did science or the laws of mathematical physics. Yet Hawking seems to think they did. In A Brief History of Time he hinted at this kind of explanation in suggesting that a theory might bring the universe into existence: The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? Scientists expect to develop theories involving mathematical laws that describe natural phenomena, and have done so with spectacular success. However, the laws that we find cannot themselves even cause anything, let alone create it.
It seems to me delightfully ironic that, if I dare mention it, no other than William Paley said as much long ago. Speaking of the person who had just stumbled on a watch on the heath and picked it up, he says that such a person would not be less surprised to be informed, that the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode, according to which an agent proceeds: it implies a power; for it is the order, according to which that power acts.
Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; is nothing. It does not even explain gravity, as Newton himself realized. In fact, the laws of physics are not only incapable of creating anything, they cannot even cause anything to happen. I have never liked the idea of divine tinkering: for me it is much more inspiring to believe that a set of mathematical laws can be so clever as to bring all these things into being.
It certainly has never put any money into my bank account. But if I never put any money into the bank myself and simply leave it to the laws of arithmetic to bring money into being in my bank account, I shall remain permanently bankrupt. Lewis saw this long ago. Of the laws of nature he says: They produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event—it only it can be induced to happen—must conform, just as the rules of arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform—if only you can get hold of any money.
Thus in one sense the laws of Nature cover the whole field of space and time; in another, what they leave out is precisely the whole real universe—the incessant torrent of actual events which makes up true history.
That must come from somewhere else. To think the laws can produce it is like thinking that you can create real money by simply doing sums. Laws give us only a universe of Ifs and Ands: not this universe which actually exists.
What we know through laws and general principles is a series of connections. But in order for there to be a real universe the connections must be given something to connect; a torrent of opaque actualities must be fed into the pattern. If God created the world, then He is precisely the source of this torrent, and it alone gives our truest principles anything to be true about.
But if God is the ultimate source of all concrete, individual things and events, then God Himself must be concrete, and individual in the highest degree. Unless the origin of all other things were itself concrete and individual, nothing else could be so; for there is no conceivable means whereby what is abstract or general could itself produce concrete reality. Book-keeping, continued to all eternity, could never produce one farthing.
Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate in physics, takes the matter further: …the fact that there are rules at all to be checked is a kind of miracle; that it is possible to find a rule, like the inverse square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle. It is not understood at all, but it leads to the possibility of prediction—that means it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done. He says that the existence of gravity means the creation of the universe was inevitable.
But how did gravity come to exist in the first place? What was the creative force behind its birth?
Who put it there with all its properties and potential for mathematical description? It is clearly not part of the universe if it set the universe going. So who lit it, if not God? There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence—why there is something rather than nothing.
In fact, Hawking not only has not got rid of God, he has not even got rid of the God of the Gaps in which no sensible person believes. For the very theories he advances to banish the God of the Gaps are themselves highly speculative and untestable.
Hawking, like every other physicist, is confronted with powerful evidence of design, as he explains in his book: Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration.
That is not easily explained and raises the natural question of why it is that way…. The discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer….
That is not the answer of modern science…our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. The idea here, roughly speaking as there are several theories, is that there are so many universes some suggest infinitely many, whatever that means that anything that can happen will happen in some universe. It is then not surprising, so the argument goes, that there is at least one universe like ours.
From a theoretical point of view, as philosophers that despised race have pointed out, God could create as many universes as he pleases. The multiverse concept of itself does not rule God out. In addition to that, forgetting other universes, the physical constants in this universe are fine-tuned. Here, once more, he moves out beyond science into the very realm of philosophy whose death he announces in the very same book. Furthermore, Hawking claims to be the voice of modern science.
For instance, John Polkinghorne, himself an eminent theoretical physicist, rejects the multiverse concept: Let us recognize these speculations for what they are.
They are not physics, but in the strictest sense, metaphysics. There is no purely scientific reason to believe in an ensemble of universes. By construction these other worlds are unknowable by us. A possible explanation of equal intellectual respectability—and to my mind greater economy and elegance—would be that this one world is the way it is, because it is the creation of the will of a Creator who purposes that it should be so.
But, for the reasons given above, far from administering the deathblow to God, it will give us more even more insight into his creatorial wisdom.
For instance, theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili says, The connection between this multiverse idea and M-theory is, however, tentative. Advocates of M-theory such as Witten and Hawking would have us believe that it is done and dusted.
But its critics have been sharpening their knives for a few years now, arguing that M-theory is not even a proper scientific theory if it is untestable experimentally. Hawking is rightly critical of those with religious faith who regard the fine-tuning of the Universe to suit us as evidence of a supreme designer.
But to use the same argument as evidence of the correctness of M-theory is, in my view, not that much more convincing. But this is not a discord that I recognize. For me, as a Christian believer, the beauty of the scientific laws reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine Creator.
God vs. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking and God