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Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang 1328

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the there-is-no-god dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that in his new book, The Grand Design, Professor Stephen Hawking argues that the Big Bang, rather than occurring following the intervention of a divine being, was inevitable due to the law of gravity. '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.' Hawking had previously appeared to accept the role of God in the creation of the universe. Writing in his bestseller A Brief History Of Time in 1988, Hawking wrote: 'If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God.'"
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Hawking Picks Physics Over God For Big Bang

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  • by debiansid (881350) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:09AM (#33448460) Homepage
    You're missing the point too. The law of gravity is not created. It is not physical. A good book to read is "The God Delusion". Take a look.
  • by ledow (319597) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:10AM (#33448478) Homepage

    I'm no physicist (far from it) but the reason you have trouble is that you're still thinking in 1800's physics lessons.

    Gravity probably has a lot less to do with mass than you might think. Gravity is basically a "curvature" in space-time - a dent in a rubber sheet for an everyday analogy. It can be caused by the presence of mass, and it can affect mass because it makes the "shortest path" to something shorter (imagine denting a rubber sheet with two marbles close to each other - one will "roll down" the other's "gravity" slope).

    Gravitational lensing is the most prominent evidence for this - we can actually see things that are hiding behind huge space objects (e.g. galaxies, stars close to us, etc.) because the huge object "bends" space around it, so the light gets distorted like it's been through a curved lense - to the light the travel was perfectly straight, but the space it was in "curved" as it went past the massive object. Thus, we are sometimes able to see parts of space that would technically be impossible to see otherwise - we are literally looking "around and behind" large galaxies / stars.

    Then go back several billion years to a time when the universe was nanoseconds old, and its entire mass and energy (and, confusing as it is, space) was crushed into something smaller than the head of a pin. The laws of physics get really "weird" to our eyes at that point and lots of strange stuff happens. The single best source of information for us to explain what happens at that point is probably Prof. Hawking, a modern-day Einstein in this exact field. Given that there are probably a million and one errors in even my simple explanation, and he has a good reputation, I'd say he probably thinks he's correct and there are very, very few people in the world who can actually argue by having a complete understanding of the same facts but a different opinion.

  • by omnichad (1198475) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:21AM (#33448640) Homepage

    Why's this a troll? Occam's razor is not law around here.

  • by kenrblan (1388237) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:32AM (#33448816)
    In philosophy, the situation you describe is known as Pascal's wager. Find more here [wikipedia.org] and here [utm.edu].
  • by RevRagnarok (583910) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:40AM (#33448962) Homepage Journal

    The proper quote is calling not collecting stamps as a hobby....

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:47AM (#33449074)
    I have even better resources for Pascal's wager here [youtube.com] and here [youtube.com]. It's too bad I doubt sheph will think about his own wager.
  • by Beezlebub33 (1220368) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:53AM (#33449202)
    I think the first step would be to define the Gods and describe their features. And then the second step is you can test those for features in double-blind tests. Somehow they cant' seem to get past step 1.
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:56AM (#33449278)

    "Actually, it's exactly the same thing to say that gravity was always there."

    No.

    "I've never understood why hardcore atheists believe that scientific explanations preclude God as a valid concept."

    Definition of 'God' usually requires it to be conscious. And a lot of religions believe in personal God. These concepts do not bring in anything new or worthwhile.

  • Re:God, god, god.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MoeDrippins (769977) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @11:06AM (#33450814)

    > Tell me what pi is.

    The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

    > Obviously if you try to do that, you'll never finish. It's infinite

    No, its crude representation using one of our standard numbering systems is infinite. In my "base pi" numeric system, it's exactly represented as "10".

  • Re:The true believer (Score:3, Informative)

    by the_womble (580291) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @11:50AM (#33451674) Homepage Journal

    You should that religious people have realised that the line of reasoning you describe is fallacious a long time ago.

    For a good look at the issue in a reasonably contemporary book read (physicist) Russell Stannard's "Science and the Renewal of Belief" - look for the discussion of "God of the gaps".

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @12:11PM (#33452110)
    Something created what exists, otherwise it would not exist. Things don't magically pop in and out of existence; there's something that does it.
  • Re:God, god, god.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @12:19PM (#33452272)
    "erp, I never thought of that." And in a puff of logic god ceased to exist
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @01:15PM (#33453494)

    I'm curious how you would describe the reasons for even having a personal code?

    Just like religious people, atheists have various reasons. But I think what it boils down to is that - with the exception of sociopaths - people generally have a sense of empathy and so doing terrible things to other people makes it hard to sleep at night, even with prescription drugs.

    I've even seen an economic argument against things like murder. The fact is that religions tend to codify rules that existed before that particular religion itself did.

  • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:10PM (#33455514)

    But that's passing the buck from the logical argument to the logical system. It still leaves open the question as to whether or not the logical system applies to reality, in which case it is still up to observation to determine whether or not the premises (or conclusions) are true.

    Not quite, because the difference between the modal logics is necessarily metaphysical and can't be decided by observation. The differences relate to what can be and what must be, whereas observation only tells us what is.

    As for the "meaningless statement" issue with regard to omnipotence, if we take the classic one, "Can God make a rock so heavy he can't lift it?" this is far from a meaningless statement, because I can make a rock so heavy I can't lift it (granted, I can't create it from scratch, but I can form it from existing rocks). The statement only becomes ridiculous when you apply the attribute of omnipotence to the god.

    It's not that it becomes ridiculous, it's that it becomes contradictory (and therefore meaningless) when applied to an omnipotent being. "A rock that an omnipotent being cannot lift" is already self-contradictory and so meaningless. Tagging "Can God create" in front of it doesn't give it meaning. It's a category error to think it says anything about the possible omnipotence of God.

    Anyway, even if you don't accept the argument from evil, you still can't demonstrate that a god is actually possible, because to do that you'd have to show how such a god is consistent with the fundamental rules that underly reality, which we don't know. So the assumption that such a god is possible at all is still an unfounded assumption.

    Yes -- but no more so than the assumption that such a god is not possible.

    There's a final problem with this sort of logical argument that makes the whole thing just plain stupid instead of subtle: the whole thing boils down to, "The most amazing thing I can imagine must exist, therefore god exists." And no, that's patently absurd, because there is absolutely no guarantee that just because we can imagine it, it must be possible. This sort of logical argument, in other words, boils down to a play on words to disguise just how ridiculous it is.

    But that isn't what the ontological argument does. The ontological argument refers to the "greatest" thing, and carefully defines "greatest" in such a a way that anything that exists is by definition greater than anything that doesn't. There's a problem with the notion of "greatest" beyond that point, though, which I think is one problem with the ontological argument (is a hearty meal greater than a comfortable bed?) If you can resolve that issue then the ontological argument most certainly leads to something that exists (if anything at all exists) and defines that thing as "God", although (and here's the second problem I have with most proofs of the existence of God) it's not clear that the thing is anything like what anybody actually thinks of as God. In that sense I agree that it's a play on words. It proves the existence of God by redefining "God" to be something it can prove the existence of.

    ZARNIWOOP: But don't you see that people live or die on your word?
    MAN: It's nothing to do with me, I am not involved with people. The Lord knows I am not a cruel man.
    ZARNIWOOP: Ah! You say . . . the Lord! You believe in . . .
    MAN: My cat. I call him the Lord. I am kind to him.
    ZARNIWOOP: All right. How do you know he exists? How do you know he knows you to be kind, or enjoys what you think of as your kindness?
    MAN: I don't. I have no idea. It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. What else do you do? Please I am tired.

  • by Spotticus (1356631) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:19PM (#33455652)
    A photon has zero rest mass, however a photon is never at rest.
  • by ChatHuant (801522) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:31PM (#33455818)

    The fifth elephant wound up as treacle and mineral ores in Uberwald after falling off Great A'Tuin several millennia ago.

    Actually, the elephant mostly wound up as fat strata, with mineral inclusions (former bones and nerves) [Headknock, Year of the Suspicious Moth]. Geologically speaking, the treacle deposits weren't part of the elephant at all; huge areas of Uberwald were at the time a marsh, where a wild ancestor of modern sugar cane grew [Hammersmith, Year of the Dizzy Anteater]. Demonochemical analysis [Ming Po-lu, Year of the Acrobatic Mussel] has shown that treacle is the end result of the slow baking process (or melbaization) of the cane biomass.

    The force of the elephant's fall caused some of the muddy/sugary mixture to splash away. The splashes created the shallow treacle deposits that propelled economic development in previous centuries. Some splashes landed as far as Klatch (creating the sugary sands of Snikerstan, and the treacle glass drops known as nosebreakers) or even in the low seas bordering hubward areas of the Agathean continent (slowly dissolving treacle vents have created their own ecology, of which maybe the most interesting specimen is the Maraschino squid [Twoflower, Year of the Incontinent Water Buffalo]). The treacle mines of Ankh (now exhausted) were also created by such a minor splash.

    In Uberwald most of the sugar cane was caught under the carcass of the elephant; as a result, Uberwaldian treacle deposits (whose size is estimated to be over 100 greater than all available treacle in the rest of the Discworld, [Lord Sweettooth the Lisper, Year of the Annoying Bullfrog, as revised by the Fifth Dentists' and Candymakers' Conference of Bonk, Year of the Emasculated Ant]) are deeply buried, and difficult to reach.

  • Re:Here we go... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @04:49PM (#33457006) Homepage Journal

    Gravity attests to its existence by evidence of its effect, and we aren't quibbling about whether or not gravity is. But while it is well-known, do you have a good working definition of the force of gravity? Or are you merely restating its effects?

    Nothing wrong with that, but do we have any scientific methods to actually 'see' the forces we are aware of? we can measure them, but to 'see' them? The four natural forces I am aware of, strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational, are actually only three apparently - the electroweak, electromagnetic, and gravitational. My knowledge of physics is constantly being revised as we identify and speculate on new, previously unknown things.

    Sadly, God, the God of the Bible, already states that He cannot be seen by humans, His close presence is too much for us. So we won't be getting any physical evidence for you by His presence, though if He is in fact omnipotent, He could make Himself known to us directly. He doesn't seem to want to, and hasn't since Moses' time, and He hasn't given physical evidence of His existence since, well, now that you ask, since the last time someone was healed on Earth by miraculous means, and upon request. Which was probably a few minutes ago, most likely somewhere in Africa or South America, though that happens elsewhere.

    Just a bit of research myself into 'proofs' of miraculous healings left me with the problem that even very credible reporters (Dr. Alexis Carrel, for instance) [wikipedia.org] are most always ostracized and denigrated, and their previous accomplishments and reputation discarded. It's a neat trick, discredit the evidence by repudiating the reporter in spite of their previous reliability. Of course Carrel had other issues, but he did win a Nobel Prize. While you would think, as I did and still do, that miraculous healings would be big news, in fact they are universally challenged (as they should be) and dismissed without hesitation. Sadly, too many charlatans are out there faking healings. Since this is a matter of faith, it will be a point of contention between you and I. And this problem afflicts Science also.

    But the Bible is not as old as the Bronze Age, as it is first based on the Torah, much of which is held to be written in Moses' time. The first five books refer to Creation, the first covenants, and establishment of Israel. Of old literature, early Greek or Mycenaean works are more or less contemporary to Moses.

    I was taught that the Iliad and the Oddessy were both written by Homer. This has been in dispute for some time now. The dispute over authorship of the Bible is not even so simple, as it is also a dispute over authorship of the Torah. You'll have to argue with my Jewish friends over that one. They believe they have a history of their people in the Torah, and that's the end of it.

    But this is all now faith. I'm stuck with no hard proofs to show you, I know. When we better understand gravity, we will have more to discuss.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @07:01PM (#33458680) Homepage

    And atheist scientists continue to try to use science to suggest the nonexistence of an omnipotent being.

    No. Scientists continue to use science to describe and understand the universe. The omnipotent being theory is just one of theories that they have examined and discarded as implausible.

    An omnipotent being, by definition, could render itself immune to all forms of detection, including detection by scientific/rational deduction.

    And, therefor, there is no point in attempting to prove its existence. Yet believers continue to do so.

    In the end, therefore, it's faith one way or the other: faith that there is no God, or faith that there is.

    Wrong. Lack of faith in the existence of God does not imply faith in the nonexistence of God: it does not imply the presence of any faith at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:14PM (#33460112)

    Actually in modern physics, all forces are result of Gauge symmetry of the universe. For example, Electromagnetism comes from local O(1) Gauge symmetry, which is the symmetry that says not only are you free to multiply the field describing a particle by any complex number |z|=1, you are free to multiply by any complex function |f(x)|=1 of space time coordinate x and the field would describe the same thing.

    The point is. Instead of thinking of the forces as ad hoc existence that some would say created by god, we now think of them as result of symmetry of the universe. Surely one can still argue god is responsible for the said symmetry, but that's just the same old historic moving-the-goal-post response from theists.

  • Re:God, god, god.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Asgerix (1035824) on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:35AM (#33463824) Homepage
    No. "1" is always 1 in any number system, independent of the base. "10" is always equal to the base. In this case, pi squared would be "100", pi cubed would be "1000" and so on.

    Compare with base 10, in which "10" is 10, "100" is 10 squared and "1000" is 10 cubed.

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