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Is this the beginning of deplatforming Stephen Hawking or of an honest evaluation?

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So far, it feels like an honest evaluation:

Once he assumed the mantle of a prophet in the late 1980s, Stephen Hawking would never be ignored. His books were all but guaranteed to sell, whether or not they were well written or even comprehensible. His lectures were typically sold out, with hopefuls packing the aisles to try and get a better look at the famous physicist. He could command an audience like no other scientist; the press and the public would hang on his every word—even when those words didn’t have anything to do with his work on black holes or cosmology, or even betray any deep insight or knowledge.

Hawking managed to convince the public that his opinion always mattered. “[H]is comments attracted exaggerated attention even on topics where he had no special expertise,” wrote Martin Rees, a close friend and colleague of his, “for instance philosophy, or the dangers from aliens or from intelligent machines.” His overweening confidence—and his stubbornness—cost him respect from many of his colleagues, especially late in his career.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Hawking’s transformation into a celebrity, however, was entangled with his disability.

Charles Seife, “The Myth of Stephen Hawking” at Scientific American

But sadly, we never know what the Raging Woke of Cancel Culture, sentenced by a just judgment to endless, visible mediocrity themselves, will try to do.

Note: Yes, Seife has a book just out, Hawking Hawking: The Selling of a Scientific Celebrity (2021).

8 Replies to “Is this the beginning of deplatforming Stephen Hawking or of an honest evaluation?

  1. 1
    BobRyan says:

    Hawking was a brilliant mathematician who never should have entered physics. Had he been focused on math, he could have done some groundbreaking work. He did nothing in physics to advance anything. His Hawing Radiation has never been so much as glimpsed and should never have been accepted without serious testing. Belief in something, no matter how intellectual one may be, is not enough to make something pass the scientific method.

  2. 2
    Ralph Dave Westfall says:

    Very quotable statement in the linked Scientific American article, although for some people it might be considered heresy:

    “Yet a scientist’s trade, the very fabric of his profession, is uncertainty. Almost by definition, a biologist or a physicist or a chemist has a head filled with inaccurate information; even those with the biggest egos realize that much of the knowledge they’ve built up over the years is tentative, incomplete or even outright wrong. Indeed, the scientist’s whole purpose is to reduce that uncertainty by just a little bit. While prophets are always right, good scientists, trained to strive to be a little less wrong, are by nature tentative and conditional.”
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-myth-of-stephen-hawking/

  3. 3
    Viola Lee says:

    That’s a good quote in ways. I see it more as like a frazzled sphere: there is a great deal of core knowledge that is solid and extremely unlikely to change at the center (the earth is roughly spherical, blood carries nutrients to the cells, things fall on the earth’s surface according roughly to d = 16t^2, etc.) However, all of that solid knowledge has increasing circles of less solid knowledge around it, so at the outskirts where new scientific investigation is being done the above quote is quite true.

    Although I’m not sure what is heretical about it?

  4. 4
    EDTA says:

    Never have cared for any of science’s celebrities, and Hawking was no exception. He was like the Michael Jackson of science.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    We found ourselves in a world that came without any manual or user guide. We had to try and make sense of it all from scratch, without any help from anyone who knows more than we do. Science is digging away at the boundaries of our ignorance with whatever tools it has to hand. Yes, there will be mistakes, we will get things wrong but, if no one more knowledgeable is going to give us a hand, what other choice is there?

    In the 14th century, Europe was ravaged by the Black Death – bubonic plague. The people at that time had no idea what was killing them in huge numbers and obviously no way of treating it. I’m sure that, being Christian, they prayed hard for deliverance, for all the good it did them. It wasn’t until around three hundred years later that early science was finally able to get a look at bacteria but not until around three hundred years after that for the first antibiotics to appear. It would have been nice if there had been someone around who already knew this stuff and could have at least given us a head start. Instead, it was slow and painstaking human research that eventually found out what was happening. It’s far from perfect but it looks like it’s all we have.

  6. 6
    Belfast says:

    @Seversky @5
    The ole’ Religion Derangement Syndrome still giving you gip, eh?

  7. 7
    chuckdarwin says:

    What is it with the Discovery Institute crowd’s compulsive need to trash the dead? Is it because they can’t fight back? Or is it akin to a screaming baby looking for attention?

  8. 8
    EDTA says:

    It’s the hype that we’re reacting to.

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