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Peter Woit on Sean Carroll and science as religion

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As exemplified in Sean Carroll’s new book, The Big Picture,

From Columbia mathematician Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong:

The last chapter of the book begins with a description of Carroll’s early experiences in the Episcopal church, which he was quite fond of. I also had such experiences (I was an altar boy for several years at an Episcopal church, the American Cathedral in Paris). Unlike Carroll, I was never a believer, but just figured this was one of quite a few mystifying things that adults got up to, and that it seemed I had to go along with it until I got older. Thinking back to those days, I was struck by the realization that I recognized the tone and a lot of the content of Carroll’s writing. It very much sounds like a sermon, one evangelizing the good news not of Jesus, but of science, and is aiming for much the same effect: “I want to shiver with awe and wonder at the universe”.

My own point of view on all of this is that I just don’t think theoretical physicists have anything useful to tell the average person about meaning and morality, other than that it’s a mistake to search for it in our discoveries about physics. I don’t understand why we’re increasingly seeing texts promoting physics as inspiration for how to live (for another recent example among many see here). I’m with Steven Weinberg, and his famous line

The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.

Given that, the best advice to people who come to physicists looking for the meaning of life seems to me to politely tell them that they’re looking in the wrong place and asking the wrong person. More.

Carroll’s stuff may be nonsense but it is secular superstition – just the kind of nonsense that sells:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

See also: Multiverse cosmology: Assuming that evidence still matters, what does it say?

and

In search of a road to reality

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4 Replies to “Peter Woit on Sean Carroll and science as religion

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    The reason they look to physics is because they hope to find in physics no evidence for Christ or God. In other words that its not so complicated it could not of created itself.
    These tailless primates really think they understand how the universe works and so how it was created.
    Until they know how it works/its essence its not reasonable they know how it was created.
    A line of reasoning.

  2. 2

    My two cents on this.
    Woit’s position was a development of the Enlightenment as it emerged from Medieval Synthesis. It had to shake off the remnants of religion in order to operate freely. This is a metastable state of world history, and very difficult to perform. It requires almost a schizophrenia or a cut corpus callosum, to separate material from spiritual.
    Carroll’s approach, which turns out to be the default state of human existence, is exemplified by Blaise Pascal’s dictum “There is a God-shaped vacuum in everyone that can only be filled by God himself.” So after the Enlightenment successfully shed religion, Carroll shows how it found a new one.
    But both positions are wrong. Woit, because he is schizophrenic and self-lobotomized, and Carroll because he made up his own god. Which as just about everyone realizes, is synonymous with “idol”, and idols consume their creators, because the positive feedback of making something in your own image drives the worship to the rails. What we need, what Pascal understood, is a God who is not us, but outside us, and therefore not susceptible to idolatry.
    And that is impossible to do–like not thinking of pink elephants–we only succeed when we aren’t trying. Maybe its time for Woit and Carroll to get reacquainted with the Reformation.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    I’m with Steven Weinberg, and his famous line

    “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

    C S Lewis would counter:

    “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

    Weinberg, an atheist, also honestly stated this:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    The fact that the constants of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true, we observe,,,”
    (Weinberg then comments on the multiverse conjecture of atheists)
    “No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. I mean,, the (multiverse) theory would be speculative, but we don’t even have a theory in which that speculation is mathematically realized. But it is a possibility.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video
    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

    of related note to this quote by Weinberg, “Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?”, is this:

    Cantor, Gödel, & Turing: Incompleteness of Mathematics – video (excerpted from BBC’s ‘Dangerous Knowledge’ documentary)
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1119397401406525/?type=2&theater

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine.”
    Kurt Gödel – As quoted in Topoi : The Categorial Analysis of Logic (1979) by Robert Goldblatt, p. 13

    The mathematical world – James Franklin – 7 April 2014
    Excerpt: the intellect (is) immaterial and immortal. If today’s naturalists do not wish to agree with that, there is a challenge for them. ‘Don’t tell me, show me’: build an artificial intelligence system that imitates genuine mathematical insight. There seem to be no promising plans on the drawing board.,,,
    James Franklin is professor of mathematics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
    http://aeon.co/magazine/world-.....-be-about/

    The Limits Of Reason – Gregory Chaitin – 2006
    Excerpt: Unlike Gödel’s approach, mine is based on measuring information and showing that some mathematical facts cannot be compressed into a theory because they are too complicated. This new approach suggests that what Gödel discovered was just the tip of the iceberg: an infinite number of true mathematical theorems exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.
    http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/sciamer3.pdf

    also of note:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    A Professor’s Journey out of Nihilism: Why I am not an Atheist – University of Wyoming – J. Budziszewski
    Excerpt page12: “There were two great holes in the argument about the irrelevance of God. The first is that in order to attack free will, I supposed that I understood cause and effect; I supposed causation to be less mysterious than volition.
    If anything, it is the other way around. I can perceive a logical connection between premises and valid conclusions. I can perceive at least a rational connection between my willing to do something and my doing it. But between the apple and the earth, I can perceive no connection at all. Why does the apple fall? We don’t know. “But there is gravity,” you say. No, “gravity” is merely the name of the phenomenon, not its explanation. “But there are laws of gravity,” you say. No, the “laws” are not its explanation either; they are merely a more precise description of the thing to be explained, which remains as mysterious as before. For just this reason, philosophers of science are shy of the term “laws”; they prefer “lawlike regularities.” To call the equations of gravity “laws” and speak of the apple as “obeying” them is to speak as though, like the traffic laws, the “laws” of gravity are addressed to rational agents capable of conforming their wills to the command. This is cheating, because it makes mechanical causality (the more opaque of the two phenomena) seem like volition (the less). In my own way of thinking the cheating was even graver, because I attacked the less opaque in the name of the more.
    The other hole in my reasoning was cruder. If my imprisonment in a blind causality made my reasoning so unreliable that I couldn’t trust my beliefs, then by the same token I shouldn’t have trusted my beliefs about imprisonment in a blind causality. But in that case I had no business denying free will in the first place.”
    http://www.undergroundthomist......theist.pdf

    Agent Causality (of Theists) vs. The self refuting Blind Causality (of Atheists) – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1118356054843993/?type=2&theater

    Moreover, when the agent causality of Theists is rightly let ‘back’ into the picture of physics, as the Christian founders of science originally envisioned, (instead of the self refuting ‘blind’ causality of atheists), then a empirically backed unification between Quantum Theory and Relativity is readily achieved by the resurrection of Christ from death:

    “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.”
    – Kurt Gödel

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1143437869002478/?type=2&theater

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    also of note:

    Special Relativity and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1113745045305094/?type=2&theater

    (Entropic Concerns) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead is the correct solution for the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/1121720701174195/?pnref=story

    Shroud of Turin: From discovery of Photographic Negative, to 3D Information, to Quantum Hologram – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/1119619634717635/?pnref=story

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