Was Stephen Hawking (1942–2018) right to object to the Kalam cosmological argument?
|March 19, 2018||Posted by News under Fine tuning, Intelligent Design, Naturalism|
The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from particular alleged facts about the universe (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that particular beings or events in the universe are causally dependent or contingent, that the universe (as the totality of contingent things) is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, that the Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact possibly has an explanation, or that the universe came into being. From these facts philosophers infer deductively, inductively, or abductively by inference to the best explanation that a first or sustaining cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists that caused and/or sustains the universe. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal is to provide evidence for the claim that God exists.
From Evan Minton at Cerebral Faith (2014), we read,
Although he’s a great scientist, I and many others find him to be poor when it comes to philosophy. Hawking made the self-refuting statement “Philosophy is dead” not realizing that that statement is itself a philosophical statement. The sentence “Philosophy is dead” is a philosophical statement. It certainly isn’t a scientific statement. No scientific test could be done to prove it’s validity. It’s philosophical and is therefore, self defeating. However, that logical mistake is not the focus of this blog post. Rather, the focus of this blog post is on his objection to the Kalam Cosmological Argument. … If you’ve never heard this argument for creation and God’s existence before, click on this link before you continue reading. While Hawking concedes that the universe began to exist (the second premise). He seems to disagree with the first premise (Whatever begins to exist has a cause), or if his disagreement isn’t with the first premise, at the very least it’s against the conceptual analysis of what the cause of the universe is (An Uncaused, spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, supernatural, personal cause).
Hawking said in “The Grand Design” that:
“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.” More.
Asked for a comment in ight of Hawking’s recent death, experimental physicist Rob Sheldon replies,
The argument Hawking made is really quite simple, and illustrated with some 3-D objects that illustrate the 4-D spacetime.
a) Einstein’s hyperbolic spacetime is often represented with a horse’s saddle. But since we are also claiming that the universe expands from a beginning, a trumpet bell works even better. So the consensus is that the universe began as a point, and then expanded like a trumpet bell. If you start with two parallel lines drawn near the neck of the bell, you will see that they diverge as they approach the opening. This is the characteristic of hyperbolic spacetime.
In analytic geometry the distance between two points is written (x^2 + y^2 + z^2) =R^2, , where x,y,z are coordinates. In Einstein’s spacetime we needed to subtract off the fourth coordinate: R^2- (ct)^2 = constant, where “t” is time, and “c” is the speed of light. From trig class in high school, we know that this is the equation of a hyperbola, one of the “conic sections” achieved by slicing a cone with a bread knife.
Why is time subtracted instead of added?
Because it is a “special coordinate” that only has the units of length if we multiply by the speed of light, “c”. (e.g. 60mph x 1 hour = 60 miles.) And in order to keep the speed of light constant (Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity), we had to create a distance measure that subtracted “ct.” You’ll have to take my word for it, but Einstein’s fame came from producing this weird geometry where Euclid doesn’t work, but instead spacetime must be hyperbolic.
b) Now if we replace t –> j*t, where j= sqrt(-1), then we have “imaginary time”, with the “j” making the time imaginary. This has no physical meaning, it is just a mathematical trick. Because when we plug it into the distance formula from Special Relativity, it gives us:
R^2 – (jct)^2 = R^2 + (ct)^2.
It changes the sign from subtraction to addition, and the geometry from hyperbolic to spherical. Now spacetime looks like a ball instead of a bell!
What does Hawking do with this?
Well, what Hawking hates is the sharp end of the trumpet bell. Recall that the universe had a beginning, so the bell shrinks down to a very sharp needle point. Hawking absolutely hates that beginning, so he cuts the needle off the trumpet bell, slices a ping-pong ball in half and caps the end of the bell with it. Lo-and-behold, a safe and harmless space-time with “no sharp point for the beginning”.
Uhh, what happens at the border between the ping-pong ball and the trumpet bell?
Magic, we stitched it together without any seams.
Umm, the whole contraption is the same length as the one with the needle point, so why doesn’t this one have a beginning too?
Because the ping-pong ball is a sphere, so there are an infinite number of starting points, Viola, there can be no unique starting point!
Hmm, and what happens to Special Relativity when you are in the ping-pong ball region?
Well, obviously special relativity doesn’t work, time doesn’t work, causality doesn’t work, physics doesn’t work—but hey, the universe doesn’t draw blood any more! You can’t have security without taking some liberties.
Then to address a common question: what is this “eternal quantum state” and is it applicable to “actual infinities”?
That’s all window dressing to rename the lipstick on the pig. This spherical spacetime is a pig, and whether it is eternal, temporal, finite or infinite doesn’t change the fact it is an ugly honker with no basis in reality or physics. It is right up there with multiverses in its metaphysical ontology, and no amount of adjectives like “quantum”, “imaginary”, or “eternal” can fix it. Because its only purpose, its “raison d’etre” is to avoid a beginning of the universe, and it doesn’t even do that job very well as you can see by staring at the ping-pong ball.
See also: Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, passes on at age 76
At Forbes: Science lessons Stephen Hawking never learned