Intelligent Design

Hawking Out of His Depth in Discovery Channel Show

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Tonight I finally got around to watching Discovery TV’s “Did God Create the Universe” featuring Stephen Hawking, which initially aired a couple of months ago.  I expected the program to be tendentious and it was, but I hoped it would be challenging, or at least interesting.  Sadly, it was neither.

Hawking begins the show with a now all-too-familiar theme of the new atheists.  Religious explanations must recede before the ever advancing triumph of science.  We see a boatload of Vikings terrified by a solar eclipse, which, they believe, is caused by the wolf god eating the sun.  The Vikings bang their spears against their shields and scream at the sky, and when the sun reappears they are greatly relieved.  The message is unmistakable — unless you believe the universe popped into existence spontaneously from nothing, you are as as ignorant as a Viking barking at the sky trying to scare away the wolf god.  There is no in between.

Hawking says the laws of nature  tell us if we need a God, and then he says the laws of nature are a “description of how things work.”  Certainly one of those statements is true.  As I have argued a number of times over the last weeks, a law of nature is nothing but an “observed regularity,” a phrase equivalent to “a description of how things work.”  How does a description of how things work explain God?  Doesn’t the fact that things always work according to the description itself need to be explained?  In other words, the laws of nature do not explain themselves.  The fact that such laws exist at all is not logically necessary.  Neither is it logically necessary that the laws that do exist should have the values we observe them to have.  Hawking just skips right past these questions as if they are non-issues that need no explanation.  He seems to believe that the laws of nature are indeed necessary instead of contingent as they obviously are. 

Hawking says that physical laws are universal and cannot be broken.  He seems to think that these statements are scientific statements when they obviously are metaphysical statements.  Karl Popper wrote:  “This is the reason why strictly existential statements are not falsifiable.  We cannot search the whole world in order to establish that something does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist.”

Hawking’s statement that physical laws are universal is not falsifiable because we cannot search every place in the universe to test it.  For the same reason his statement that physical law are inviolable is also not falsifiable.  Do not misunderstand me.  The statements may or may not be true.  The point is that their truth cannot be established by means of science.  Astonishingly, Hawking does not appear to understand the nature of his own metaphysical commitments.  Indeed, he does not seem to understand that they are metaphysical commitments at all.

Hawking then gets into the nitty gritty of his argument.  He says that you need only three ingredients to make a universe:  space, mass and energy, and since Einstein proved that mass and energy are equivalent you really only need two ingredients:  space and mass/energy.  He then asserts that space and mass/energy were spontaneously created at the big bang.  He says that we can have the universe for free; it is the ultimate “free lunch.”  The universe “created itself.” 

Of course these assertions are a logical absurdity, because from nothing comes nothing.  Hawking recognizes that viewers are not just going to swallow such outlandish assertions whole.  So he attempts to dress his absurdities up in a scientific veneer. 

First he says that the universe has both positive and negative energy and the total amount of positive energy is equal to the total amount of negative energy.  Then he says that if the energy in the universe adds up to nothing, you don’t need God to create it.  He attempts to illustrate this concept with a metaphor of a man digging a hole and using the dirt to make a hill.  The hole and the hill are exactly equal and cancel each other out.  Hawking does not seem to understand that the metaphor better shows why his conclusion is false.  Yes, the hole and the hill are exactly equal (if we grant the assertion that negative and positive energy are equal; itself a debatable proposition).  Nevertheless, the fact that two things when combined net to zero does not mean the two things are nothing.  The fact that we can speak about them as “things” means they are not.  And it is that existence that must be explained, which Hawking does not even begin to try to do.

Next Hawking turns to quantum mechanics.  He asserts that at the quantum level subatomic particles pop into existence from “nothing.”  At the time of the big bang the entire universe was as small as a subatomic particle.  Then he makes this leap:  If subatomic particles can leap into existence from “nothing,” the universe also popped into existence from “nothing” at the moment of the big bang when it was as small as a subatomic particle. 

Here’s the problem with Hawking’s assertion.  You will note that I put scare quotes around the word “nothing.”  I did this because subatomic particles do NOT pop into existence from “nothing.”  They pop into existence from the quantum vacuum, and the quantum vacuum is not nothing.  This is from Wikipedia:  “According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is “by no means a simple empty space”, and again: “it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void.” According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.”

Hawking is fudging here.  The issue is the classic question from Leibniz:  “Why is there something instead of nothing.”  “Nothing” does not mean the quantum vacuum.  It means “nonbeing.”  In other words, Hawking’s entire argument rests on an equivocation between the quantum vacuum (which he calls nothingness) and true nothingness defined as “non-being.” Hawking does not even attempt to explain how being can come from nonbeing.

Finally, Hawking states that time itself came into being with the big bang and from this he concludes there is “no possibility” that a creator exists because the concept of a “before” the big bang is meaningless and therefore there was no time in which a creator could act.  Of all of Hawking’s arguments, this one is the most facile.  Is it really possible that he does not understand that no theist believes God created the universe “in time”?  By definition God exists outside of time.

Hawking is a pretty smart guy no doubt.  But with this show he proved that even smart people can say stupid things when they are out of their depth, and when it comes to metaphysics and even simple theology Hawkings is in way over his head.

20 Replies to “Hawking Out of His Depth in Discovery Channel Show

  1. 1

    Yeah, I saw this show come up on the program list a while ago, but didn’t watch more than a couple of minutes worth — had more pressing matters to attend to that day. Glad I didn’t waste my time.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. 2
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    This is really sad and scary. How can a brilliant mind such as his, that has accomplished marvelous things, make himself look like a blathering fool? That’s the sad part. The scary part is that countless souls will take his absurd metaphysical assertions and swallow them whole without scruple.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    God and Stephen Hawking (John Lennox) – video lecture
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJSi25tB6EM

    Description: Scientist Dr. John Lennox deals with Stephen Hawking and his contention in his book The Grand Design that God was not necessary to create the universe.

  4. 4
    wallstreeter43 says:

    The problem with anyone taking hawking seriously is that most of them do not know is that he used to attend bible study with his ex-wife. From what I read it was only after they seperated (which was his fault because he cheated on her and she still loved him enough to want to be with him after this infidelity) that he seems to drift towards the new atheism remarks.

    Its a shame that a person like can use their clout in the scientific community to try to lead people away from the truth

  5. 5
    mike1962 says:

    Hawkings is a dick, deliberately trying to bullshit the masses. I pity those who are fooled by him.

  6. 6
    NormO says:

    Oh c’mon, if Hawking was babbling on about how great God was, you’d be stumbling all over yourselves posting about what a great scientist he is and how his opinions about God are so terrifically significant.

    He’s entitled to his opinions; that doesn’t make him a “dick”. If you don’t agree with him, take it up on substance.

  7. 7
    GilDodgen says:

    Once the words “science” and “scientist” are invoked, everyone is expected to genuflect and discard all skepticism, no matter how rational or legitimate that skepticism might be.

  8. 8
    DrREC says:

    Half the news posts here are about scientists disagreeing with other scientists.

    Which is wrongly taken as evidence of the frailty of scientific work, instead of the mechanism by which science actually proceeds.

  9. 9
    goodusername says:

    “He says that we can have the universe for free; it is the ultimate “free lunch.” The universe “created itself.”
    Of course these assertions are a logical absurdity, because from nothing comes nothing.”

    –I’m admittedly a bit out of my depth myself here, and I didn’t see this program, but anyway – it has been my impression from previous works and interviews that Hawking was a backer of the “Chaotic inflation” theory. It’s disappointing if the show didn’t discuss this. The “ultimate free lunch” quip originally comes from Alan Guth, one of the developers of the theory. For some reason scientists often describe universes coming “from nothing” in this theory, but really it seems like it would be more accurate (IMO) to say that they are forming from the space and energy (and time?) of a (previous?) universe within the “bubble universe” or “inflationary universe”.

  10. 10
    Eocene says:

    DocRec:

    “Half the news posts here are about scientists disagreeing with other scientists.”
    ====

    Those damn scientists and their petty selfish gene induced jealousies. When will they ever grow up and set the example for the rest of us ???
    —-

    DocRec:

    “Which is wrongly taken as evidence of the frailty of scientific work, instead of the mechanism by which science actually proceeds.”
    ====

    Puleeease, most of the discussions here(and any other Ideologue Pimping blog on the Net) is more about competing worldviews, ideologies, politics and which side in it’s own mind comes off the perceived winner in any meaningless debate meant to go nowhere. In other words this is “What Is Truth?” at it’s lowest.

  11. 11
    Eocene says:

    Interesting!

    Anyone else seeing the sutle evolutionist unholy language creeping in here ???

    Hmmmmmmmmmm???

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    goodusername you state:

    it would be more accurate (IMO) to say that they are forming from the space and energy (and time?) of a (previous?) universe within the “bubble universe” or “inflationary universe”.

    yet we find this:

    Are Many Worlds and the Multiverse the Same Idea? – Sean Carroll
    Excerpt: When cosmologists talk about “the multiverse,” it’s a slightly poetic term. We really just mean different regions of spacetime, far away so that we can’t observe them, but nevertheless still part of what one might reasonably want to call “the universe.” In inflationary cosmology, however, these different regions can be relatively self-contained — “pocket universes,” as Alan Guth calls them.
    http://unitedgeorgians.blogspo.....-same.html

    “The prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist remains today as secure as ever—indeed, more secure, in light of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem and that prediction’s corroboration by the repeated and often imaginative attempts to falsify it. The person who believes that the universe began to exist remains solidly and comfortably within mainstream science.” – William Lane Craig
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....38;id=6115

    Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4170233

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    “The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation is impossible without a beginning.”
    Alexander Vilenkin – from pg. 35 ‘New Proofs for the Existence of God’ by Robert J. Spitzer

    Genesis 1:1-3
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

    And if we look for a entity that is transcendent of space-time mass-energy, so as to provide a satisfactory answer for the transcendent origin of the universe we find:

    ‘Pure transcendent information’ is now shown to be ‘conserved’. (i.e. it is shown that all transcendent quantum information which can possibly exist, for all possible physical/material events, past, present, and future, already must exist.) This is since transcendent information exercises direct dominion of the foundational ‘material’ entity of this universe, energy, which cannot be created or destroyed by any known ‘material’ means. i.e. First Law of Thermodynamics.

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment. (This experiment provides experimental proof that the teleportation of quantum information in this universe must be complete and instantaneous.)
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    These following studies verified a ‘controlled’ violation of the first law of thermodynamics:

    How Teleportation Will Work –
    Excerpt: In 1993, the idea of teleportation moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the world of theoretical possibility. It was then that physicist Charles Bennett and a team of researchers at IBM confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. — As predicted, the original photon no longer existed once the replica was made.
    http://science.howstuffworks.c.....ation1.htm

    Quantum Teleportation – IBM Research Page
    Excerpt: “it would destroy the original (photon) in the process,,”
    http://www.research.ibm.com/qu.....portation/

    Researchers Succeed in Quantum Teleportation of Light Waves – April 2011
    Excerpt: In this experiment, researchers in Australia and Japan were able to transfer quantum information from one place to another without having to physically move it. It was destroyed in one place and instantly resurrected in another, “alive” again and unchanged. This is a major advance, as previous teleportation experiments were either very slow or caused some information to be lost.
    http://www.popsci.com/technolo.....-computing

    Unconditional Quantum Teleportation – abstract
    Excerpt: This is the first realization of unconditional quantum teleportation where every state entering the device is actually teleported,,
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cont.....6.abstract

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    It is also very interesting to note that the quantum state of a photon is actually defined as ‘infinite dimensional’, as well as ‘infinite information’, in its uncollapsed quantum wave state:

    Wave function
    Excerpt “wave functions form an abstract vector space”,,, This vector space is infinite-dimensional, because there is no finite set of functions which can be added together in various combinations to create every possible function.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ctor_space

    Quantum Computing – Stanford Encyclopedia
    Excerpt: Theoretically, a single qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,,
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....tcomp/#2.1

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1) — Concept 2. is used by Bennett, et al. Recall that they infer that since an infinite amount of information is required to specify a (photon) qubit, an infinite amount of information must be transferred to teleport.
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    It should be noted in the preceding paper that Duwell, though he never challenges the mathematical definition of a photon qubit as infinite information, tries to refute Bennett’s interpretation of instantaneous infinite information transfer in teleportation because of what he believes are ‘time constraints’ which would prohibit teleporting ‘backwards in time’. Yet Duwell fails to realize that information is its own completely unique transcendent entity, completely separate from any energy-matter, space-time, constraints in the first place. Moreover This following recent experiment, on top of the previously listed ‘conservation of quantum information’ papers, pretty much blew a hole in Duwell’s objection to Bennett, of teleporting infinite information ‘backwards in time’, simply because he believed there was no such path, or mechanism, to do so:

    Physicists describe method to observe timelike entanglement – January 2011
    Excerpt: In “ordinary” quantum entanglement, two particles possess properties that are inherently linked with each other, even though the particles may be spatially separated by a large distance. Now, physicists S. Jay Olson and Timothy C. Ralph from the University of Queensland have shown that it’s possible to create entanglement between regions of spacetime that are separated in time but not in space, and then to convert the timelike entanglement into normal spacelike entanglement. They also discuss the possibility of using this timelike entanglement from the quantum vacuum for a process they call “teleportation in time.” “To me, the exciting aspect of this result (that entanglement exists between the future and past) is that it is quite a general property of nature and opens the door to new creativity, since we know that entanglement can be viewed as a resource for quantum technology,” Olson told PhysOrg.com.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....ement.html

    It should also be noted that the preceding experiment pretty much dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s as far as concretely establishing ‘transcendent information’ as its own unique entity. Its own unique entity that is completely separate from, and dominate of, space-time, matter and energy.

    More supporting evidence for the transcendent nature of quantum information, and how it interacts with energy, is found in these following studies:

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    It is important to note that the following experiment actually proved that information can be encoded into a photon while it is in its ‘infinite dimensional’ quantum wave state, thus destroying the notion, that was/is held by many, that the wave function was not really ‘physically real’ (Everett; Many Worlds) but was merely ‘abstract’. i.e. How can information possibly be encoded into a entity that is not physically real but is merely abstract? It simply would not be possible!

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.,,, Quantum mechanics dictates some strange things at that scale, so that bit of light could be thought of as both a particle and a wave. As a wave, it passed through all parts of the stencil at once, carrying the “shadow” of the UR with it.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    Now, I find the preceding to be absolutely fascinating! A photon, in its quantum wave state, is found to be mathematically defined as a ‘infinite-dimensional’ state, which ‘requires an infinite amount of information’ to describe it properly , can be encoded with information in its ‘infinite dimensional’ state, and this ‘infinite dimensional’ photon is found to collapse, instantaneously, and thus ‘non-locally’, to just a ’1 or 0? state, out of a infinite number of possibilities that the photon could have collapsed to instead! Now my question to materialistic atheists is this, “Exactly what ’cause’ has been postulated throughout history to be completely independent of any space-time constraints, as well as possessing infinite knowledge, so as to be the ‘sufficient cause’ to explain what we see in the quantum wave collapse of a photon???

    John 1:1-5
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    The following articles show that even atoms (Ions) are subject to instantaneous quantum teleportation:

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    But to reflect just a bit more on the teleportation experiment itself, is interesting to note that scientists can only ‘destroy’ a photon in these quantum teleportation experiments. No one has ‘created’ a photon as of yet. I firmly believe man shall never do as such, since I hold only God is infinite, and perfect, in information/knowledge.

    Job 38:19-20
    “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?”

    Further reflection on the quantum teleportation experiment:

    That a photon would actually be destroyed upon the teleportation (separation) of its ‘infinite’ information to another photon is a direct controlled violation of the first law of thermodynamics. (i.e. a photon ‘disappeared’ from the ‘material’ universe when the entire information content of a photon was ‘transcendently displaced’ from the material universe by the experiment, when photon “c” transcendently became transmitted photon “a”). Thus, Quantum teleportation is direct empirical validation for the primary tenet of the Law of Conservation of Information (i.e. ‘transcendent’ information cannot be created or destroyed). This conclusion is warranted because information exercises direct dominion of energy, telling energy exactly what to be and do in the experiment. Thus, this experiment provides a direct line of logic that transcendent information cannot be created or destroyed and, in information demonstrating transcendence, and dominion, of space-time and matter-energy, becomes the only known entity that can satisfactorily explain where all energy came from as far as the origination of the universe is concerned. That is transcendent information is the only known entity which can explain where all the energy came from in the Big Bang without leaving the bounds of empirical science as the postulated multiverse does. Clearly anything that exercises dominion of the fundamental entity of this physical universe, a photon of energy, as transcendent information does in teleportation, must of necessity possess the same, as well as greater, qualities as energy does possess in the first law of thermodynamics (i.e. Energy cannot be created or destroyed by any known material means according to the first law). To reiterate, since information exercises dominion of energy in quantum teleportation then all information that can exist, for all past, present and future events of energy, already must exist.

    Logic also dictates ‘a decision’ must have been made, by the ‘transcendent, eternal, infinite information’ from the primary timeless (eternal) reality ‘It’ inhabits, in order to purposely create a temporal reality with highly specified, irreducible complex, parameters from a infinite set of possibilities in the proper sequential order. Thus this infinite transcendent information, which is the primary reality of our reality, is shown to be alive by yet another line of evidence besides the necessity for a ‘first mover’ to explain quantum wave collapse.

    The First Cause Must Be A Personal Being – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4813914

    As a side light to this, leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger has followed in John Archibald Wheeler’s footsteps (1911-2008) by insisting reality, at its most foundational level, is ‘information’.

    “It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.” John Archibald Wheeler

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    music:

    Steven Curtis Chapman – God is God (Original Version) –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz94NQ5HRyk

  14. 14
    IDunno says:

    Honest question here. Hawking stated that energy was spontaneously created at the big bang but doesn’t this contradict the first law of thermodynamics which says that energy can neither

  15. 15
    IDunno says:

    Published too soon. The first law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only change form. So when someone like Hawking states that energy was created how do they reconcile their statement with this law?

  16. 16
    lars says:

    Finally, Hawking states that time itself came into being with the big bang

    Did Hawking give any basis for this assertion?

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    Yes, he says the proto-universe at the big bang was like a black hole, and time stops in a black hole.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    BTW, I don’t think anyone disputes that physical time came into existence at the same time as the universe. Thus, that part of Hawking’s analysis is uncontroversial. His assertion that God is bound by time is controversial.

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest:

    How Atheists Take Alexander Vilenkin Out Of Context – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/user/dr.....aemfYmusSY

  20. 20
    Timaeus says:

    Good post, Barry.

    From time to time a brilliant scientist shows himself also deep and thoughtful in philosophy, theology, literary criticism, etc. But most of the time, brilliant scientists are brilliant only in their scientific specialty, and only average (if even that) in most other intellectual endeavors.

    Hawking belongs in the “most of the time” category. Outside of mathematical physics, he has no obvious intellectual talent, and certainly he doesn’t have any talent for philosophy and theology.

    Einstein, also hailed as a brilliant mind in his day — often regarded as the epitome of genius itself — had at most a pedestrian mind when discoursing on philosophical and theological matters. His opinions in those areas were of the middle-class kind that one could find among half-baked intellectuals anywhere. But Einstein was a Plato, a Maimonides, or an Aquinas in comparison with anything I’ve heard Hawking say.

    You argument about Hawking’s equivocation regarding “nothing” is bang-on. When he says that we can get universes out of nothing, Hawking is either deliberately misleading the public, out of a desire to combat belief in God, or he is intellectually confused by his own equivocation.

    An additional difficulty is that, if one were to try to derive knowledge of God from the latest discoveries of science, modern cosmology is not a good science to choose. It changes almost yearly. One cannot read the science news without discovering, several times a year, claims that major aspects of cosmology — quasars, black holes, the big bang, dark matter, dark energy — need to be radically rethought or perhaps even abandoned, due to new measurements which show that X can’t possibly account for what it was supposed to account for. Why would one base one’s theology (or worse, one’s personal faith) on a field as mercurial as this?

    By contrast, one doesn’t read science headlines like: “Flash! Science now proves that iron is really a non-metal!” or “Faraday proved wrong about the existence of a relationship between electricity and magnetism,” or “Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood debunked by scientists at the Wistar Institute.” A theology based on basic electromagnetic theory, or on the classical modern discoveries in physics, chemistry, physiology, and anatomy, would have some wings to fly with. A theology based on very tentative areas of science, such as cosmology, or evolutionary theory, or string theory, or chaos theory, is going to be as tentative as the science from which it extrapolates.

    In short, even if everything Hawking says about the physical universe is true, his theological and philosophical pronouncements are vacuous nonsense; and it is questionable whether the entire field of intellectual endeavor in which this genius has occupied himself is stable enough to provide a secure basis for any extrapolation from science to metaphysics. I certainly would not care to revise any of my religious beliefs or theological formulations on the basis of the speculations of Hawking (any more than I would revise them based on the speculations of Mayr, Dobzhansky, or Dawkins). But if I were to revise my theology based on Hawking’s science, I would make my own extrapolations; I would never rely on his.

    It is so amusing, Barry. We are told over and over again that scientists should stay out “fields” in which they have no training. We are told that Behe should stay out of evolutionary theory because his “field” is not biology but only biochemistry. We are told Dembski should stay out of evolutionary theory because his “field” is probability theory, not biology. But when Hawking pronounces on matters of theology and philosophy, the entire world of science journalism opens its doors to him, and broadcasts his most casual obiter dicta as if they are profound truths. Yet Hawking is far, far less competent to talk about God than either Behe or Dembski are to talk about evolutionary theory.

    The double standard is plain for all to see. If you are against conventional religious belief, if you are against the idea of design in nature, you can say anything you want about fields in which you are ignorant and untrained, and no one will complain about your violation of specialist boundaries. If you hold to the reigning secular humanism practiced by the so-called “elite” scientists, you can get away with spewing any crap that you like. And what Hawking spews about God and creation out of nothingness is crap, sub-academic, sub-intellectual crap, and should be identified as such.

    Einstein’s sophomoric ventures into theology were bad enough, but they do not appear to have been animated by hostility to religious belief as such; but Hawking’s apparently more calculated strikes at religious belief, based on a theological understanding even more naive than Einstein’s, is beyond even the most generous tolerance levels that a theologian or philosopher can extend to dilettante materialist scientists. The world needs to be told that Hawking is completely incompetent to speak on the subjects he is addressing.

    Good work, Barry.

    T.

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