Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science News

Stephen Hawking Says Universe Created from Nothing 1060

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the preparing-hell-for-people-who-ask-questions dept.
mr_3ntropy writes "Speaking to a sold out crowd at the Berkeley Physics Oppenheimer Lecture, Hawking said yesterday that he now believes the universe spontaneously popped into existence from nothing. He said more work is needed to prove this but we have time because 'Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.' There is also a Webcast available (Realplayer or Real Alternative required)."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Stephen Hawking Says Universe Created from Nothing

Comments Filter:
  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker @ g mail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:36PM (#18351287) Journal
    Because when it gets down to the highly theoretical stuff like this that no one will ever truly be able to prove, its not much different than religion. And religions being what they are.. like to fight amongst themselves.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:37PM (#18351297) Homepage
    He used the analogy that they were like bubbles in the water. Ok, where did the water come from?

    This sounds a lot like... *drumroll* blind faith to me.

    This is the same sort of blind faith that most atheists pompously deride the religious for. In fact, based on this summary, it would be called something to the effect of a "load of religious bullshit" if it came from a preacher. Oooh, theoretical physicist says it, so we'll hear him out!

    Please, you're acting like a bunch of laymen waiting for the latest ruling or revelation from the priest.

    *Sigh* Go ahead, mod me down because I actually pointed out the obvious.
  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:38PM (#18351341) Homepage
    Which is more likely?
    1. The universe popped into existence from nothing, or
    2. A complex, intelligent, powerful creature (presumably with a beard) popped into existence from nothing, then one day decided to create the universe from nothing.

    If you chose #2, it's turtles all the way down... ... ...
  • by quasius (1075773) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:41PM (#18351405)
    To be fair, a lot of the fighting comes from stuff like this:

    "If one believed that the universe had a beginning, the obvious question was, what happened before the beginning," Hawking said. "What was God doing before He made the world? Was He preparing hell for people who asked such questions?"

    Now, rediculous stuff comes from the other side as well; but when incredibly smart and esteemed scientists like Hawking make such statements that show an animosity toward and lack of understanding of religion, it might antagonize people. If only people on both sides would stop the cheap shots and name calling...
  • by Guuge (719028) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:49PM (#18351557)
    So it's a bunch of bullshit. Who cares? In a theocracy, Stephen Hawking would be hauled off to jail for suggesting such blasphemy. Shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that he can openly speculate about origins? Hawking isn't telling you how to live your life, or what to think, or who to vote for, or what to teach your kids, or which supreme court justices deserve to die. He's just sharing his little vision.
  • by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:49PM (#18351573) Homepage Journal

    To be fair, this cuts both ways (liberal and conservative). I frequently see comments that people assume are antagonistic and feel that the antagonism is in the ears of the, um, belistener.

    As someone with a fairly good training in physics, I read this statement to be a commentary on Hawking's annoyance with the question of what came before "time" began. Many religious people have attempted to reconcile the Big Bang with Judeo-Christian beliefs by having God be responsible for the Big Bang. I think that such an allusion should not be taken as necessarily antagonistic.

  • by chrisbro (207935) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @02:51PM (#18351613)
    Important difference: He said more work is needed to prove this...

    Though it boggles my mind to think of the research he could be proposing...science with facts to back it up is automatically more trustworthy then religion with no testable hypotheses.
  • From nothing? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KenshoDude (1001993) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:06PM (#18351909)

    I could not determine from reading the article that Hawkings suggested the universe came from nothing. Unless there is something more obvious in the webcast, I suspect this is just a bad interpretation of what he was trying to communicate

    To the philosophical issue of "nothing", I will say this. There is no such thing as nothing! Much has been said about nothing, but insofar as nothing is intended to mean "no thing", then what the hell are we even talking about? Seriously, as soon as you have given a point of reference to something that is suppposedly "nothing", then it can no longer be an instance of "nothing". Evaluate the following statement: "nothing doesn't exist." You should realize that if nothing DID exist, it would no longer be "nothing", but instead be some existent THING.

    The idea of nothing is just a psychological device that humans use to blanket their psyches from the anxiety produced by the unknown and the not understood. The term "nothing" is akin to cosmological terms like "black holes", "dark matter", and "dark energy". I suggest that the real reason these things are "black" and "dark" is because the light of human awareness has yet to illuminate what is actually going on there.

    So terms like "nothing" really only mean... "We intuit that something is going on, but as of yet we cannot fathom what that might be." Instead of saying "we simply don't understand what is going on at this time" we give things an almost occult identity: "it must be dark matter!". This is why, ultimately, I classify science in the same category as religion. When we cannot understand something, we posit a "mysterious force" that we "believe" must be there in order to explain the world that is around us.

    The reason why the "hard problems" of science continue to be "hard problems" is because you cannot solve a problem with the same limited mind that created it. We keep asking "where did the universe come from?" because we still believe that time and existence are linear. We believe that things have a "set beginning" and a "set end". We believe all things are effects of some previous cause. We believe these things so much in the same manner that people used to believe that the Earth was the center of the universe. And just like then, when someone points out that maybe that is NOT the way things actually work, they get branded a lunatic.

  • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:09PM (#18351971)

    I know #2 has some evidence

    Cite some.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:09PM (#18351973) Homepage Journal
    Your subject line begs the question (rather explicitly, with quotation marks) of whether they are real scientists. It seems to me that accepting anything on blind faith is pretty much the antithesis of science.
  • by Guuge (719028) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:12PM (#18352033)

    I think the idea is that #2 subsumes #1, and goes further. Therefore, the probability of #1 is at least as high as the probability of #2. In my opinion, it's pretty silly to take "created from nothing" at face value, as it is not even close to a scientific description.

    But for laughs, let's hear the evidence for #2, especially the part about the beard.

  • by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:13PM (#18352057)
    it depends what you mean by religious.

    Many scientists believe in some form of god, but don't believe in the traditional sense, in religions themselves.

    Catholicism and the many other flavours of Christianity have always been intolerant of scientific advance, even when many of the people behind those advances were themselves ordained priests or at least in service of the church.
    In the middle ages the catholic church took a backward step from more moderate views and fell back on an Aristotelian descriptions for the universe, not because it was right (many knew it wasn't), but because it could be used as a cudgel to halt the advance the new sciences trying to explain the universe, and the somewhat horrific understanding that the void (vacuum), or nothingness, was a real thing, zero existed. They did not like that one bit.

    Obviously that failed to halt the advance of science, but it wasn't a fast loss. It left us with the foundations of the absurd Christian extremism of today where perfectly intelligent people will deny even the simplest truths that the main catholic church has itself now accepted.

    Islam doesn't get off too lightly either. From them we have the ancient Greek writings and understanding, which they expanded upon, bringing us acceptance of the concept of zero, and enriching our scientific vocabulary with new concepts.

    They expanded a great deal of the understanding they saved from the fall of the ancient world, spread it far and wide, then inexplicably turned their back on science, turning into a religion that frowned on anything that might change the balance of power. Most certainly there were powerful individuals behind that change, and Islam has suffered for centuries as a result, because they, unlike Catholics, were unable to work around the problem, Islamic science is a widespread and accepted movement is effectively dead, and has been for a long time. This saddens me greatly..

    I certainly see nothing in my understanding of 'religion' that tempts me to follow their precepts, although as a scientist I continue to believe in god.

    Just don't go asking me for his phone number..
  • Not at all. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:14PM (#18352085) Homepage Journal
    Because when it gets down to the highly theoretical stuff like this that no one will ever truly be able to prove, its not much different than religion.

    You would be right, if and only if Hawking was talking about things that couldn't ever be proven one way or another. At that point, he wouldn't be doing any sort of physics anymore, he'd be somewhere off in that grey area where it borders philosophy and religion. (I call this area "Wankersville", but that's just me.)

    However, there's a difference between something that cannot ever be proved, full stop, and something that can't be proved or disproved right now, due to the limitations of our understanding and our equipment.

    There was a time, as recently as a hundred years ago, when debates about whether light was a particle or a wave would have seemed like wanking. However, they were not -- because we now have an (well, at least a partial) answer to that question, it's just that the theoreticians exceeded the reach of the experimentalists for a few centuries. Debates such as those, which get answered eventually by experimental evidence, are wholly different from debates which can never be settled (and, IMO, are a pointless waste of time that humanity should just move the hell along from).

    It's pretty clear that Hawking realizes that what he's postulating can't be proven or disproven right now, but he's not putting it out there as an article of faith, either; he's saying that at some point in the future, between now and the heat death of the Universe, we'll probably be able to test it experimentally. That's a lot different than religion.
  • by burndive (855848) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:19PM (#18352195) Homepage

    Which is more likely?

    1. The universe popped into existence from nothing, or
    2. A complex, intelligent, powerful creature (presumably with a beard) popped into existence from nothing, then one day decided to create the universe from nothing.

    If you chose #2, it's turtles all the way down... ... ...

    I don't know of anyone who believes in a God who "popped into existence." That would imply that he exists in some sort of time continuum. I agree that your definition of #2 dictates turtles all the way down: congratulations on constructing a false dichotomy [wikipedia.org].

    As a theist (specifically, as a Christian) here is my take on God as regards this discussion:

    God is. He exists: this is the ultimate fact. The universe is not God, nor is God contained in the universe. It is perfectly consistent with the idea of God to say that the universe (time, space, matter/energy) popped into existence from nothing, in fact, this is what we have been saying for thousands of years. To assume that this is contrary to the idea of God is to misunderstand God: to confine him to the box that he has created.

    Hawking is doing his best to describe what current evidence indicates about the nature of the universe: he is a scientist, and his goal is to discover *how* events happened: he is not so concerned with *why*, except as they constitute a cause-effect relationship, but then they again become an explanation of *how*. Science can never tell us the purpose of the universe: it is (rightly) not even interested in the topic.

  • by east coast (590680) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:33PM (#18352529)
    And religions being what they are.. like to fight amongst themselves.

    Considering that the atheist crowd likes to throw their hat in the ring too, my guess is that people like to fight in general. Religion is big just because there is so much on the line, not unlike politics.

    Debate and struggle is human nature. Without some new lands to conquest over humanity will likely die out. Boredom will be the cause.
  • Re:Try again. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smallfries (601545) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:37PM (#18352581) Homepage
    No it doesn't. Reread his comment and try again. He says that we will "probably" be able to prove it. So it's not in the pile of things that definitely can't be proven, or in the pile that definitely can be proven. It's in the third pile - todo. The comparison was with religion which is squarely in the first pile.
  • It seems to me that accepting anything on blind faith is pretty much the antithesis of science.


    1. Religion deals with matters that science cannot prove or disprove. Thus being a scientist and being religious are not in conflict with one another.

    2. "Blind faith" is a term that gets (incorrectly) thrown around a lot*. Many people become religious because of some form of evidence presented to them. Evidence that usually speaks to someone on a personal level. Thus those who believe in a religion, believe that they are following something. Whether they are misinterpreting the events around them is a matter for another forum.

    * From a Biblical perspective, the Bible states that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) A dissection of the meaning can be found here [rbc.org].
  • Re:Not at all. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kalirion (728907) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:41PM (#18352661)
    You would be right, if and only if Hawking was talking about things that couldn't ever be proven one way or another.

    That's right. All we need is the technology that would allow us to go back in time to just before the Universe was created, and observe what happens.

    What? You say there was no "time" before the Universe, so no "before"? That could cause problems....
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:41PM (#18352665)
    I have to strongly disagree. The difference between science and religion is that science is based on falsifiable theories. If a theory makes predictions that don't fit experiment/facts, then it is rejected. Religion is instead based on faith, not proof, and faith that is usually maintained even in the face of direct disproof!(e.g. young earth fundamentalists).

    As a well known example of a highly theoretical theory in this general area, there's the Big Bang theory which correctly predicted the cosmic background radiation (as later measured by the COBE satellite).
  • Re:Not at all. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Machtyn (759119) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @03:54PM (#18352935) Homepage Journal
    However, there's a difference between something that cannot ever be proved, full stop, and something that can't be proved or disproved right now, due to the limitations of our understanding and our equipment. With your statement you completely misunderstand many religions. In most religions that believe in an after-life; and, even better, those that believe a supreme being will come (again), religious beliefs will be proven at some point in the future. The interesting thing is, I have received my hard evidence without the need to see the All-Mighty. I can tell you exactly how to reproduce such evidences. Unfortunately, faith is the first action and many people refuse the faith or reject the evidence and can, generally, no longer receive further evidence; or, when they do, they reject that evidence with the first.
  • by Khomar (529552) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:00PM (#18353047) Journal

    Most of the ones that are religious don't deal with the stuff that gets close to religious questions. For instance, those who deal with biology and evolution and such tend to be far less religious, than, say, those who do metalurgy or whatnot.

    There is a very notable exception which also makes me wonder if the entire assertion is based on a false premise. Francis Collins [nationalgeographic.com], the leader of the Human Genome Project, is a professing Christian and involved in a field that most would not expect a Christian to be involved in yet alone leading. I highly recommend reading the linked article if you want to see how a Christian views the scientific world. I wonder, sometimes, if the reason why we don't "see" a lot of Christian scientists these days is due to the prejudice of the current scientific establishment.

  • Re:Try again. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 808140 (808140) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:01PM (#18353077)
    It's important to note that when a scientist says "This will be provable someday", what he means is, "It will be testable someday" which in turn means "It will be falsifiable someday." This means, in particular, that he is allowing for the distinct possibility that it will be disproved. Therein lies the difference.

    The Bible contains all sorts of statements that we now know to be false, in the sense that they contradict all available evidence. The religious respond by going into elaborate contortions to maintain their beliefs (see, for example, "God put the dinosaur fossils there to test us"). Scientists change their opinions. For example, before the wave-particle duality of light was understood, it was widely believed that light was a wave -- and because waves travel through a medium (like ripples in a pond, for example) it was widely believed that light also traveled through a medium -- a medium scientists called the "luminiferous aether". Its existance was widely believed in. And yet, experiments showed that this "aether" did not exist. What did scientists do? They changed their minds.

    Religious people never change their minds. Or rather, those that do are called heretics, and up until recently were frequently burned at the stake.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:01PM (#18353083) Homepage Journal

    There needs to be a recognition that many aspects of the human condition are not amenable to any scientific approach. To deny that is to deny music and the arts, and the whole realm of imagination from which such things as hypotheses arise.

    I don't agree. I believe that they are quite amenable to a scientific approach, but that we do not currently have a sufficient understanding of the human thought process in order to apply science to these subjects.

    We don't even know how memory works, so arguably we really don't understand any process involving thought, since memory is inextricably linked with mentation. But all that means is that we're not there yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:05PM (#18353153)
    "So again, it seems to me that claiming to be a scientist when you believe something unprovable is, if not hypocritical, at least inconsistent."

    Then they'd be robots, correct?

    No emotion, no love, no hate. Therefore no one is a scientist.

    Scientist: "My wife loves me and I love her."
    You: "Really, prove it empirically. You're no scientist."

    Here's another example: Prove you exist, that your reality is more than just a mental delusion on your part.

    I've seen you post this crap before. Take a hint from your moniker and go have another drink. Maybe it'll kill that one last useful brain cell of yours and help us all out.
  • Re:Not at all. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jotok (728554) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:06PM (#18353167)
    Please, use the correct language.

    This guy "Science" does not attempt to prove anything. However, observations can be used to support theories against being disproved.

    The issue here is that we cannot yet conceive of a way to test these ideas...so there are no empirically valid observations (as is the case with religion), nor does the history of science in any way guarantee that we'll ever see them. I have faith that we will, and it is that optimistic hope that keeps me interested in science.

    Disputing that science requires any kind of faith at all only shows that a person is unfamiliar with what the word means, and with the history and philosophy of science itself.
  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hedgethorn (859353) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:13PM (#18353327)

    Well, you mention Pascal, who made (in my estimation) one of the most idiotic statements on religion, ever.
    From the Wikipedia entry you linked to:

    "Before entering the criticisms of the Wager, one fair and important thing to note is that Pascal hoped that if the wager doesn't convince unbelievers to become Christians, then it would at least show them, especially the "happy agnostics", the meaning, value, and probable necessity of considering the question of the existence of God."
    The Wager is often taken out of context as a reason to believe that God exists. In the context of the rest of his Pensees, it is more charitable to think that Pascal saw it as a reason to consider whether God exists. In that light, the Wager isn't nearly so ridiculous: if one of my beliefs really could mean the difference between infinite loss and infinite gain, maybe I should indeed give very careful thought to the matter of that belief!
  • The issue is that they believe something which is not indicated by empirical testing. So again, it seems to me that claiming to be a scientist when you believe something unprovable is, if not hypocritical, at least inconsistent.

    As long as one recognizes that their religious beliefs are not supportable by empirical evidence (which is a no-brainer) and do not attempt to force those beliefs into their scientific work, there is no conflict.

    You seem to think that the scientific process should consume those who use it. I couldn't disagree with you more. It is just a tool, not a religion in of itself. A tool, I might add, that was developed by the very "hypocrites" you decry.
  • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:17PM (#18353383) Homepage
    To a good scientist, it shouldn't matter what they believe in. You could believe in the FSM. Doesn't matter. Science is about what works, not "truth". I observe something. Is it repeatable? Can I construct a model that predicts other things? Is it the simplest model that predicts the things I want to use?

    That's science. Is light a wave or a particle? Yes. It depends on how I want to use it. Maybe light *is* a wave and a particle at the same time (in a way that I can't visualize). But basically, it doesn't matter what light *really* is. What matters is can I use my model to predict things that I can observe?

    Truth is in the realm of religion. Since I can't prove that anything other than I exist (and I can't even understand the nature of my own existance), everything else is just faith. Maybe you believe there are *actually* particles called electrons circling particles in a nucleus. But that's just faith -- a religion. I personally believe that it's probably something a lot different than that. But the electron thing is a handy way for my human brain to visualize it in a useful way. It doesn't matter what it *actually* is (from a science perspective). I doubt we even have the capacity to understand what the Universe *actually* is.

    If you allow your religious beliefs (even your religious beliefs in science) to get in the way of usefully predicting phenomena, you have left the realm of science. Even the best scientist does this occasionally. It's human nature. But a good scientist should be aware of this and continually strive to discover what's useful over what they believe to be true.
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:20PM (#18353437) Journal
    Even so, using Occam's razor, the set containing option 1 and 3 is more likely than the set containing option 2 and 4, because the latter set is actually a more complex extension of the first, and given two possibilities with no other way to judge, the least complex option is more likely.
  • by fatphil (181876) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:30PM (#18353637) Homepage
    It's a bleedin' analogy, it's not a law of physics. Sheesh.
  • Re:Try again. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaXimillion (856525) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:39PM (#18353767)

    Religious people never change their minds. Or rather, those that do are called heretics, and up until recently were frequently burned at the stake.
    How very american statement...

    What you're referring to is known as Fundamentalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Chris tianity [wikipedia.org]). While it is quite profilic opposition to scientific views in the USA, it is by no means the only way of thought for religious people.

    Religion and Science aren't opposites, and don't nullify each other.
  • Much Ado... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Draconnery (897781) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:52PM (#18353919)
    Actually, it reads like TFSummary was much ado about something wrong. I went to a lot of trouble and such and RTFA'ed, but I don't see anything from the summary in the article.

    I see a mention of "inflation," and a poke at the God Team, but I don't see any mention of "nothing." (If somebody has a transcript, I might be bothered to look for the promised proclamation, but I certainly couldn't find it in the article.) Mr. Hawking has apparently just pretended to have an understanding of the un-understandable problem that sits at the beginning of anyone's understanding of everything: something exists, where nothing used to.

    Sure, the idea of an abrupt Creation, or "Design," of the universe lets us joke about what God was doing before he got around to Creation, but the metaphor of water (or, let's suppose, some kind of cosmic stew) boiling into steam/universes leaves us with the same problem that we had in the first place: where in the [space larger than a universe] did the water/stew come from?

    As I read it, the exact same problem has been reached again - and Religion and Science both require a leap of perfect faith over the gap that is The Beginning of It All.
  • Re:Try again. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:58PM (#18353999)

    Religious people never change their minds.


    For sufficiently ignorant values of "religious", of course. Some religions people never change their minds, but this number is far fewer than you probably think.

    Heretics are labeled not because of religion, but because of the political perversion of religion effected by churches and state religions. Heretics are a threat to a power structure or organization, not religion.

  • Re:Why Do We Care? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) * on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:14PM (#18354219) Journal
    Call me an asshole, but it's what I think.
    I will do no such thing! That's you opinion and you are entitled to it.

    I'm certainly no astrophysicist so I am in no position to evaluate Hawking's theories one way or the other. All I can do is say that I found his book to be well written and entertaining. I don't really care if his theories are bullshit or not because they have opened my mind to ideas that I would have never came up with on my own. I like Hawking because he makes me think. It's the same reason I like the Twilight Zone. Other than making me think, both Stephen Hawking's and Rod Sterling's theories about the Universe have the same effect on my life.

  • Re:Try again. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by electrosoccertux (874415) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:25PM (#18354387)

    The Bible contains all sorts of statements that we now know to be false, in the sense that they contradict all available evidence. The religious respond by going into elaborate contortions to maintain their beliefs (see, for example, "God put the dinosaur fossils there to test us").


    No, the religious nut-cases do that. They are the ones you always hear about in the media. You don't hear about the millions of reasonable, open-minded religious people who are capable of realizing that the Bible doesn't actually say how old the earth is and Genesis 1 was meant to be poetic rather than a scientific account of how God created the universe.

    On top of that, and I should mention I am not a...biblical/religious/whatever Christian expert, all of the "statments known to be false" that I've heard referenced here on Slashdot and in other discussions about similar topics, have all been verses taken anywhere from slightly to grossly out of context from what any unbiased reader simply reading along would come to understand as the meaning. In all the cases, though, however small the contextual misunderstanding, it's been one large enough that anyone who knew much about the bible would be able to point out the misunderstanding and debunk the argument.

    From what I've seen so far, there are dangerously few people who actually bring a solid argument to the table that takes more than 10 seconds to deal with. Most of them are just something they heard their friend say, who got it from some webpage that was so grossly biased it was laughable to say the least. There's one I can think of right now that is something like "1000 & 1 fallacies in the bible" that I saw someone on /. link. I took a few minutes or so to glance through a random assortment of 20-ish of these so called fallacious statements in the bible and none of them were anywhere close in interpretation. I'm not saying any sort of divine knowledge is required to understand the verses' meanings, but if you're not going to even quote the surrounding sentences, let alone more than a half sentence, you can't expect to come away with more than a half truth.

    This reminds me of a joke I heard about a man who didn't care about context. He prayed to the Lord, "Father, please give me a message", dropped his bible on the floor, and placed his finger on a random verse on the page. It read "Judas went and hanged himself". He dropped his bible again, placing his finger on some point in the page. This verse said "Go and do the same." He was sweating by now, afraid of what was next. So one last time he read a random verse from a random page and it said "What you do, do quickly." Point is, you can come away with some pretty crazy ideas about the bible if you don't take more than five seconds to figure out the context.
  • Re:Try again. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sunburnt (890890) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:31PM (#18354469)

    Technically he's right. There is only one thing that can absolutely be proven. Cogito ergo sum. I exist. You might not though...

    Not true: mathematical theorems are true (capable of absolute proof) within their own axioms, and mathematics requires a priori axioms. As Wittgenstein might say, this means they convey no information, but simply recapitulate their axioms in increasingly complex forms.

    The same condition does not apply to experience, thus leaving room for the skepticism that puzzled the mathematically-inclined Descartes. Yet the "cogito" has a notorious problem, along the same vein as Wittgenstein's analysis of mathematical truth: "I exist" is necessarily true in grammar, because of the assumptions made by "I." It conveys no information in language, and is a phenomenological report, no more provably true or false as a condition of existence than numerous competing phenomenological or grammatical analyses that posit the non-existence of a "I" (Buddhism is a ready example.)

    The cogito sure does "make sense," though, and this is because experience suggests it.

  • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:40PM (#18354607)

    If you haven't experienced these _yourself_, you have valid NO FRAME of REFERENCE.

    If you have experienced these yourself, how do you know that a near-death experience or out-of-body experience wasn't a neurobiologically-based phenomenon, and that what you saw as a past life wasn't an construct of your imagination?

    Does not the objective truth depend on the subjective experience?

    What guarantees that objective truth comes from subjective experience?

    (Note: if you want to be a solipsist about this, fine, but you'll have to live with some others not taking you seriously.)

  • Re:Try again. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheGreatHegemon (956058) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:50PM (#18354755)
    No, the religious nut-cases do that. They are the ones you always hear about in the media. You don't hear about the millions of reasonable, open-minded religious people who are capable of realizing that the Bible doesn't actually say how old the earth is and Genesis 1 was meant to be poetic rather than a scientific account of how God created the universe. I have karma to burn, so here we go. The difference isn't poetic. It's just plain wrong. Creation as described in the bible, taken literally or poetically, still cannot measure up to any common scientific theories on the matter.
  • Re:Try again. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @06:03PM (#18354909) Journal
    I think you have the wrong piles. Science puts things into three piles:
    1. Things we know are wrong (i.e. can disprove). These are called either lies or obsolete models, depending on the context.
    2. Things that we don't yet know are wrong (i.e. those which can have experiments tested to falsify them, but so far no experiment has given contradictory results). These are called theories.
    3. Things that we can never know are wrong. These are called religion.
    None of these are 'right' and none can be provable. Gradually things move from set 2 to set 1, until set 2 asymptotically approaches an accurate model of the universe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @06:09PM (#18354989)
    I will lay down money that there is not a single believer in the FSM who would not recant their belief if the were commanded to do so or die.

    A believer's willingness to die for their beliefs bears no particular relationship to the correctness (or incorrectness) of those beliefs.
  • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @06:35PM (#18355307)
    The Bible contains all sorts of statements that we now know to be false, in the sense that they contradict all available evidence.


    The Bible contains statements that we know to be false because they contradict each other. For instance, compare the first chapter of Matthew with the second chapter of Luke, both of which have the genealogy of Jesus. How come there are missing generations mentioned in one of them but not on the other? A man can have several sons, but not several fathers. Therefore, at least one of the gospels, either Matthew or Luke, or both, is proved by the Bible itself to contain false statements.

  • Re:Try again. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SashaM (520334) <<msasha> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @07:08PM (#18355685) Homepage

    Not true: mathematical theorems are true (capable of absolute proof) within their own axioms

    Descartes would ask - how do you know the rules of logic are correct (obviously, I mean in the physical, not logical sense)? What if all humans share the delusion that logic is correct? Theorems are merely the selective application of the rules of logic on a set of sentences.

    With the "cogito", however, I can't find a way to argue, because by arguing, I would be proving my own existance.

  • by hazem (472289) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @07:50PM (#18356151) Journal
    To quote Don Hirschberg, "Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color."

    Then Asimov had some nice ideas:

            * I prefer rationalism to atheism. The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism, thus you don't have to waste your time in either attacking or defending.

            * If I am right, then (religious fundamentalists) will not go to Heaven, because there is no Heaven. If they are right, then they will not go to Heaven, because they are hypocrites.

            * There is no belief, however foolish, that will not gather its faithful adherents who will defend it to the death.

    Why is it, I wonder, that people who believe in God, and particularly Christians, insist that anyone who does not is still religious? Are they so insecure in their beliefs that they must force some kind of belief system onto other people - even if only in their own minds? Why is it they insist that asking, "where is the proof?" formulates a religious belief?
  • As for theories... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by brado77 (686260) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @08:00PM (#18356293)
    ...having one basically is an admission that you don't know, or won't acknowledge what is.

    "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

    There's no need for theories, or conjecture. Take a look around -- creation screams. No one times nothing equals everything? That is an impossibility no matter how you slice it.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @08:18PM (#18356471) Homepage
    Also, the universe is bounded by nothing, therefore, infinite in every direction.

    This is way simpler in 2D, so for a moment assume you can't grasp elevation, only a flat earth. Now, you can walk in a straight line around the earth never hitting a bound and yet you can go infinitely far - you'll just be walking in circles because there's a dimension you're missing. The same can happen in 3D space - you set out in one direction, but even if you travel in a straight line, space curves.
  • by LinuxIsRetarded (995083) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @10:36PM (#18357543) Homepage

    I strongly agree with your statement. Many of my classmates don't like to speak with me, or even "look down" on me for my un-Christian views. In addition, I've had multiple girls refuse to date me simply because I'm not Christian. Although one could argue that the girls are using that as an excuse to just not date me, I'm talking about the cases when I've become very close to the girl, and the next logical step would be to date. Whatever the case may be, I certainly have heard people at least claim that they don't want to spend time/go out/talk with me because I'm not Christian. People think it's wrong to discriminate based on race, but when discrimination occurs based on religion (on a small scale, I'm not talking about the holocaust), it's suddenly justified because that's part of the religious doctrine?
    Funny- I've had the opposite experience. I became a Christian several years into my software engineering career. As a result of my acceptance of Christ, I lost several friends. Since then, my opinions on non-spiritual matters have been rejected by certain individuals merely due to my belief in Christ. My intelligence has been called into question simply due to my religion. Heck, some moron [slashdot.org] even claimed that I suffered a stroke! Yet somehow this is justified because it's part of atheistic doctrine. I can guarantee you that many women won't date me because I'm Christian because (a) I won't sleep with them outside of marriage, (b) I choose to donate large sums of money to charity rather than shower women with extravagance, (c) I believe aborting a fetus is murder, ... and the list goes on. Now do I cry "prejudice"? Of course not. Why date someone who adamantly opposes what you stand for? I stand for Christ; non-Christians stand for something else.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

Working...