Cosmology Intelligent Design Physics

At Forbes: Claim that Stephen Hawking “lied” about black holes

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Just clickbait or …

The greatest idea of Stephen Hawking’s scientific career truly revolutionized how we think about black holes. They’re not completely black, after all, and it was indeed Hawking who first understood and predicted the radiation that they should emit: Hawking radiation. He derived the result in 1974, and it’s one of the most profound links ever between the worlds of the quantum and our theory of gravitation, Einstein’s General Relativity. And yet, in his landmark 1988 book, A Brief History Of Time, Hawking paints a picture of this radiation — of spontaneously created particle-antiparticle pairs where one member falls in and the other escapes — that’s egregiously incorrect. For 32 years, it’s misinformed physics students, laypersons, and even professionals alike. Black holes really do decay. Let’s make today the day we find out how they actually do it…

What’s odd about this explanation is that it’s not the one he used in the scientific papers he wrote concerning this topic. He knew that this analogy was flawed and would lead to physicists thinking incorrectly about it, but he chose to present it to the general public as though people weren’t capable of understanding the real mechanism actually at play. And that’s too bad, because the actual scientific story is no more complex, but far more illuminating.

Ethan Siegel, “Yes, Stephen Hawking Lied To Us All About How Black Holes Decay” at Forbes

Can’t help but make one wonder how much else in popular science literature is wrong but sells books.

10 Replies to “At Forbes: Claim that Stephen Hawking “lied” about black holes

  1. 1

    Yes, and it wasn’t just Stephen Hawking who “lied”. We have similar evidence for Stephen Jay Gould on punk-eek (racism, etc), or Niels Bohr on wavefunctions, or Lawrence Krauss on vacuum fluctuations, and on and on it goes. If this were literature rather than “science”, we wouldn’t stoop to calling these men names (liars). Rather, we would say, “Their views evolved” or sometimes “they held a complex viewpoint”. Because, frankly, physicists use simple models to develop complex ones, and sometimes interpret complex math using simple models.
    Indeed, it is only physicists who think the Math is infallible, so deviations must be lies. Mathematicians know otherwise. Likewise biologists think the physics is infallible, but everything else in biology is just rule-of-thumb statistics. But physicists know otherwise.
    Ethan Siegel is clearly a physicist, because when Hawking’s models deviated from Hawking’s math, Siegel calls that “lying”. I’m of the opinion that black holes themselves are a lie, being improperly normalized math. So what does that make Hawking’s models of “Hawking radiation”? A virtual lie?
    I think what Ethan and the rest of the 21st century needs, is a recognition that everything we do is an approximation, a model. The best we can hope for is that the model predictions work most of the time, and warn us when they are failing. That’s why physics is an experimental science, not logical dicta. And of course, since we are all observers on this journey together, show some respect to your elders and do not speak ill of the dead. None of us deserve the salaries we draw, and we owe some gratefulness to the field that has suckled us and provided us food. I would have called that humility, but my wife corrected me–its gratitude, she said.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    So when Hawking tries to explain his theory about how a black hole can evaporate by using a greatly simplified model as an analogy, he’s lying. But when ID/C proponents model the cell as a “factory” complete with cool animations designed to emphasize the appearance of design that’s … what?

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    Sev@ almost everyone says ID is lying, misinform etc, google it. ID proponents often get treated poorly and ignored

    Second, Hawking had incredible influence soooooooo this might be a smidge worse then your Parallel there

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Seversky:

    But when ID/C proponents model the cell as a “factory” complete with cool animations designed to emphasize the appearance of design that’s … what?

    Another lie?

    Surely it was not IDists who first proposed the idea of the cell as a factory.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    I don’t agree with Siegel that the more accurate explanation is as easy to grasp as Hawking’s analogy – for the layperson, at least. Zero-point energy, quantum fields and energy gradients in the distortion of spacetime around black holes are more complex concepts.

    And I have no idea when the factory model of the cell was first proposed or by whom but, while it works well enough as an educational tool, it becomes more problematic is when it is promoted as evidence of intelligent design.

  6. 6
    PaV says:

    Look what the American Association for the Advancement of Science has to say about cells and factories.

  7. 7
    chuckdarwin says:

    “Can’t help but make one wonder how much else in popular science literature is wrong but sells books.”

    That one’s easy–anything that promotes “intelligent design theory”

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Hey chuck, when compared to what you have ID is not only vastly superior, it is also testable which is the hallmark of a scientific endeavor. To this day no one knows how to test the claims of blind watchmaker evolution. It isn’t even wrong.

  9. 9

    .

    … when ID/C proponents model the cell …

    Seversky, are suggesting that the cell doesn’t use transcribed memory in order to specify its products among alternatives — or that it doesn’t use a fuel source to power the assembly of those products — or that it doesn’t use transport molecules to recognize and distribute those products after assembly?

    Seversky, does the cell’s production apparatus (giving it the physical ability to specify its products among alternatives) require one detailed description of the lawful rate-dependent aspects of the system — but also a separate description of the rate-independent constraints within the system, those that actually enable it to function as it does? Can you apply the mathematical formulas of the lawful descriptions to the description of the constraints? Can such a system (with the physical capacity needed to specify its constraints) begin to function and persist over time without its constraints in place? If so, would you please explain how? If not, will you not be forced to merely assume your conclusions – i.e. that we “just don’t yet know how”? And Sev, if universal evidence (I.e. the entire content of all documented scientific knowledge) clearly demonstrates that all such systems (where the provenance of the system is known) are always organized by an act of intelligence — wouldn’t your conclusion therefore be an assumption made against universal evidence to the contrary? Indeed, given that there is no test your position can fail and be discounted from consideration, wouldn’t it be a non-falsifiable proposition, and therefore non-scientific? And lastly Sev, if it was a documented fact that this system‘s organizational and physical requirements were clearly predicted (prior to discovery) to require an unambiguous correlate of intelligence, wouldn’t that make the assumption of your non-falsifiable conclusion even more egregious against the proper practice of science — even more so, that you have made a hobby-horse out of attacking people over many years, specifically those who don’t assume your non-falsifiable conclusion against universal evidence to the contrary, and call it science.

  10. 10
    AaronS1978 says:

    @Chuck
    Exactly the same can be said about evolution

    Any time something is put on this site that disagrees with the standard view of Darwinian evolution somebody on this site immediately pops in and says some combination of how this :falls in line, fits perfectly, has no problem, explained by, works just fine, I see no problem with, and is consistent with evolution.

    EVERYTHING
    Is consistent with evolution
    Including things not related to it
    It’s the most malleable theory in existence which doesn’t lend to its strength
    Because the theory can explain why a piece of paper appeared on my desk or it
    Can explain the emergence of life anywhere for any reason and leads to many false positives or false negatives

    This being covered up by “that’s how science works, it’s a process of elimination”

    Or evolution is just an all encompassing philosophy capable of explaining whatever and I can replace the word evolution with God and I can replace the word evolution with Quavo and explain everything that way too

    Replace evolution with the word “change”
    and that explains why everything is consistent with evolution

    How is it not “Clarissa explains it all” the theory

    I know of no theory that has such explanatory power other then genetic determinism,
    Which at least genetic determinism can be criticized and evolution seems to be impervious to any criticism

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