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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 brennanw (5761) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:57AM (#33448296) Homepage Journal

    This is why I never did well in the higher math classes in college.

    So... I thought gravity required there be something with mass in order to create gravity. Doesn't that mean in order for there to be a law of gravity you need stuff with mass attracting each other? Which requires something, not nothing, so --

    Damn. There it goes again, brain matter all over the wall. Excuse me while I get a spatula.

    • 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 brennanw (5761) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:15AM (#33448536) Homepage Journal

        I'm in the strange position of having reached the realization that essentially, unless I'm willing to devote about 20 years of my life studying the matter on my own I'm going to have to decide to accept it by faith and not by reason. Oh irony, you are so delicious.

        • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:27AM (#33449910)
          Reason would only take you so far anyway. Instead of answering "why" once or twice, science enables mankind to answer it to 5 or 6 levels of depth. That level of knowledge has given most of us life (multiplying the carrying capacity of the planet by orders of magnitude) and allowed us to live better and longer lives, too. But there are no ultimate explanations. Any chain of logic (or causality) must either extend forever and ever, or stop at something that just "is," and both options are nonsensical. (This is equally true whether or not any of the links in the chain are God).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          but the 'faith' to trust an authority is different than 'faith' that really has never had an actual authority.

          the big difference is that scientists can show an audit trail of their thinking; and if its BS, they get called on it.

          anyone can stand up, declare a religion and its essentially untouchable. you can't be argued with since most of mankind of brainwashed to think that you have to 'respect religion' (as a valid institution).

          the two worlds could not be farther apart and the 'faith' that you talk about

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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.

        Of course, when the universe is several nanoseconds old, we're past talking about "creation", aren't we? By several nanoseconds, at least.

        Ultimately, the other side of the singularity that is the Big Bang is unknowable. We can speculation all we like, and pretty much all the speculations are equally va

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ledow (319597)

          "Of course, when the universe is several nanoseconds old, we're past talking about "creation", aren't we? By several nanoseconds, at least."

          Assuming a single-universe, in only the four human-visible dimensions, that came from "nothing" rather than, say, a constantly expanding and contracting universe, or one created via intra-dimensional interactions that are invisible to us in "our" universe, or... etc.etc.etc. Simply saying "this universe looks to be several billion years old" does not negate the possibi

  • by Wormfoud (1749176) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:00AM (#33448344)
    Following your argument that God aka Gravity has always existed...
  • well duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:02AM (#33448360) Homepage Journal

    You could have just said "Hawking Picks Rational Thinking Over Superstition"

    .
  • The true believer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:04AM (#33448390)

    A true believer will just argue that God designed gravity that way for that very reason.

    Personally, I think scientists should stay completely out of the religious sphere. They're not going to change anyone's mind, science and religion mix very badly, and commenting on theological issues only increases the perception among many religious types that science is their enemy/competitor.

    • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:07AM (#33448428) Homepage Journal

      Personally, I think scientists should stay completely out of the religious sphere. They're not going to change anyone's mind, science and religion mix very badly

      True enough, but the religious folks think it's OK to warp science to fit into their primitive belief systems.

      Just look at the Creationist nonsense going on in US schools. This is 2010?!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        True enough, but the religious folks think it's OK to warp science to fit into their primitive belief systems.

        Just look at the Creationist nonsense going on in US schools. This is 2010?!

        Also true. But that seems to be mostly a US thing. Along with televangelists. Most major Christian religions actually accept science and really don't interpret Genesis literally. So evolution is not that big an issue.

        Stephen Jay Gould had it right with the Noma Principle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rotide (1015173)

        True, but I simply don't believe science has any reason to even consider, let alone mention "God" in any fashion. You can't waste time disproving something that no one can prove. The onus here is on those who believe. Basically, science need not worry itself with theological ideas. Just keep learning new facts, coming up with new theories and keep teaching them to the best of your ability.

        If somehow, one day, the paths do truly cross, still don't mention religion. Just put the information out there and

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mr_mischief (456295)

        Isn't saying that you've disproved something that can't be detected or tested by the very definitions of the people you're debating warping science?

        Invoking a being outside the physical laws violates Occam's Razor. Dismissing philosophically something that can't be disproved using the scientific method violates the falsifiability principle.

        If something isn't falsifiable, stating that it is true or false is simply, unscientific. To say that there is a god or isn't a god is unscientific. To say you can't be s

      • Re:The true believer (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfr ... t ['om.' in gap]> on Thursday September 02, 2010 @11:49AM (#33451654) Homepage Journal

        Just look at the Creationist nonsense going on in US schools. This is 2010?!

        It certainly is. But unfortunately the science/religion "debate" is an American disease which has unfortunately infected discourse in most other anglophone countries. This kind of tripe coming from Stephen Hawkings himself is a symptom of just how chronic the infection has become.

        Call me nostalgic, but I seem to recall that in the 1990's, anyone talking about the place of God or Religion in the sciences or indeed politics was viewed as an outlandish crackpot or a cultist of some kind. People seemed to leave their religion at home (I'm talking about countries outside the US). Nowadays, everyone seems to have no shame dropping out juvenile level inanity about creationism or belief in the divine at the drop of a hat.

        In my opinion, all this jawing about religion in virtually any context is a waste of air, and worse has a divisive, and poisonous effect on our society. We're going downhill ever since we caught this bug from US newsfeeds--as well as the internet--and its only going to get worse until we stop allowing backward opinions from conservative America to pollute our airwaves.

        Garbage like this is why I find myself turning to sources like Russia Today, Al-Jazzeera and China Daily for news. At least the totalitarian regimes don't cater to this pre-Enlightenment prattle. We may as well start reading horoscopes and celebrity gossip than give credence to this crud.

    • by Artifex33 (932236) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:46AM (#33449046)
      The problem is that people use religion to fill the void of what science does not know. If science was never allowed to encroach on religion's territory, all scientific progress would stop. We'd still believe the planets and sun orbited the earth in perfect circles.
  • God, god, god.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:08AM (#33448438) Homepage
    When I have an empirical proof that god exists, I will believe. For the moment, I have empirical proof that gravity exists, and Hawking simply extrapolated the laws of physics to the extreme, then came up with the big bang theory, and the theory still holds today.

    No theist theory holds. It's all there to explain what we can't understand. And when we get to understand, we say "well, you know, God may have played a role anyway"...

    But try to convince 90% of the human race that what I say is true. I may have a hard time.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:12AM (#33448506)

      When I have an empirical proof that god exists, I will believe.

      Ironically, if you get empirical proof that God exists you will not be required to believe... Herein lies the problem.

  • Who's on first? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by werewolf1031 (869837) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:10AM (#33448470)

    "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God."

    I always thought it was a metaphor, as in to "know the mind of God" as he puts it means we'd finally understand everything about the universe, not that we'd know what a literal God is thinking.

    Either some people took Mr. Hawking's statement too literally, or I misunderstood...

    • Re:Who's on first? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Peter Trepan (572016) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:36AM (#33448896)
      I think it's like Einstein's "God does not play dice," or everyone else's "Thank God it's Friday." It's just a turn of speech, and doesn't imply belief in God. Furthermore, when someone like E.O. Wilson professes belief in a god, everyone assumes he means Jehovah -- but "God" is a slippery word, even when you're using it in earnest.
    • Re:Who's on first? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Talla (95956) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:50AM (#33449150)

      I always thought it was a metaphor

      If course it was, this is just a clarification to stop religious extremists from being able to pretend that he supports their god. What I find really interesting in the article is that he supports M-theory. It may be old news, but I wasn't aware of it.

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:29AM (#33448772)

    He may be breaking the laws of physics, in Louisiana

  • Here be dragons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fractal Dice (696349) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:42AM (#33448988) Journal

    Until we can point an exact and computable equation for the entire past, present and future of existence, there will always be unexplored parts of the map. You can fill that void with any assumption you want - from dragons to flying spaghetti monsters, a big fat zero to $God. If you assume that this placeholder is omnipotent and mysterious, that removes all the messy frustration about why it's hiding out in the ignorance section.

    Where you run into problems is that these seemingly harmless placeholders become memes. As you add lore around your placeholder of choice, there is competition between memes. Some survive. Some die. Some mutate. Evolution now kicks in. The placeholders become resistant to being replaced with other placeholders. As people start filling in the map, knowledge itself becomes a threat to the meme and it begins to complete for mindspace in which to live.

    Now this harmless placeholder is, for all practical purposes, a real living thing scratching at your mind from the void beyond knowledge like some quantum virtual particle leaping out of a black hole.

  • by srussia (884021) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:52AM (#33449190)
    Stephen Hawking begging the question.
  • god IS the laws of physics

    god is a metaphor, that some people need to take literally, because not everyone has the mind of stephen hawking, but they still need to understand the world, so mental shortcuts have to do

    the whole hullabaloo over the existence of god is really silly, as soon as you realize that everyone has a different way of describing the same thing

  • by strangedays (129383) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:46PM (#33456094)

    Being a moral atheist is a total win win, compared to being a mere Theist.

    Version 1:

    Dead Atheist: Oh!, um hi God..., didn't think you existed, oops!

    Deity: No problem, it's not like I left any useful clues... Welcome to my heaven.

    Dead Atheist: Nice... How come I qualify?

    Deity: Because you were a moral and ethical being, because you lived by a code of ethics; you understood that love was the right thing to do even in a universe that you had good reason to believe was completely and utterly godless. You were moral because you chose to be, not because you "believed" in some silly magic book; or were too scared, or weak minded, to think for yourself.
    You chose to do the right thing, even when you did not have to; you lived by a moral and honorable code, not by some mythical manifesto of terrorism and fear...

    Dead Atheist: So what happens to all the myriad god followers, "believers", the Theists, martyrs, crusaders, suicide bombers, terrorists, etc?

    Deity: Tricky one that! They are not really worth anything much, because they never thought for themselves ethically speaking... What do you suggest?
    Anyway, no hurry, they can wait outside indefinitely while you decide what to do with them. Welcome to heaven!, go pick yourself out some virgins...
    Etc...

    Version 2:

    Dead Atheist: Hello, Anyone There...! (nothing, nada, zip, zilch, silence, nope...)
    Dead Atheist: Thought So! (vanishes in a sudden total existence failure)

    So........

    Looks like a Win Win to me!

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