Paris Peace Accords 23 Oct. 1991

Sunday, June 8, 2014

John Lennox - "A Matter of Gravity: God, the Universe and Stephen Hawking" [a very educational talk, with TRANSCRIPT]

Nonsense remains nonsense even when taught by world-class physicists.  What serves to obscure the illogicality of such statements is the fact that they are made by famous scientists.  And the general public not surprisingly assumes that they are statements of science and take them on authority.

Dr. John Lennox (3 Ph.Ds) Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, speaking at Cape Town University

Hawking, the world’s most famous living scientist.  Symbol of fortitude having suffered motor neuron disease over 40 years.  Electronic voice synthesizer.  Book / research deals with origin of universe. 

His book A Brief History of Time, showed reticence:  “If physicists were to find a theory of everything, that is a theory that unifies the four fundamentals of nature, we would know the mind of God.“

Stephen Hawking’s latest book The Grand Design, his reticence has completely disappeared:   He challenges the divine creation of the universe.  “Now, it is the law of physics, and not the will of God, that provide the real explanation as to how the universe came to being.  The Big Bang is the inevitable consequence of those laws.  Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Denies Grand Designer. 

Hawking’s grand conclusion: Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.  It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue-touch paper and set the universe going.”

Headline news.  Hawking and Richard Dawkins, the vanguard of the New Atheism.

A grandiose claim to banish God.  After the majority of great scientists in the past have believe in Him, and many still do: Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Maxwell. 

The very fact that there are leading scientists who believe in God, and leading scientists who do not, shows us the simplest notion that science is somehow at war with belief in God is FALSE. 

There is a conflict, but it lies much deeper in: a conflict of WORLDVIEWS (from time immemorial): The Naturalist worldview (the cosmos is all that exists, everything is reduced to mass and energy) vs. the Theistic worldview (cosmos is created, there is a God who created it and maintains it).  Even today, those worldviews colliding in the academy.

Issue is not with Hawking’s science but what he claims to deduce from it.  The Grand Design opens with big questions: How do we understand the world in which we find ourselves?  How does the universe behave?  Did the universe need a creator?
In his very next words, Hawking dismisses philosophy.  The above “questions are for philosophy.  But philosophy is dead.  It has not kept up with modern development of science, particularly in physics.  As a result, scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”
Hawking’s statement about philosophy is itself a philosophical statement.  It is not a statement of science; it’s a metaphysical statement about science.  Therefore because he claims philosophy is dead, he contradicts himself. 

Furthermore, the statement that scientists have become the bearer of the torch of discovery smacks of SCIENTISM, the very widespread view that science is the only way to truth.  That is manifestly false.  If true, then must closed down all social sciences departments.

Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar pointed out the dangers of scientism.  His book Advice to a Young Scientist:  “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare that science knows or will soon know the answers to all questions worth asking.”

The existence of the limits to science is made clear by its inability to answer child-like elementary questions having to do with first and last things.  For instance, what do we are here for?  How did everything begin?  What is the meaning of human existence?   What happens after we die?

Hawking’s flawed view of philosophy leads to a flawed view of God.  “Ignorance of nature’s way led people of ancient times to invent God to lord over every aspect of human life.  This began to change when ancient Greek thinkers began to think in this kind of way… to replace the notion of the reign of the gods with a universe that is governed by laws of nature… according to a blueprint we can someday learn to read.”

Hawking is clearly thinking of God as the God of the Gaps, to be displaced by scientific advance.  But that is not the view of God that is to be found in any monotheistic religion, where God is the author of the whole show.  Nor, the god  of the deist who lit the blue-touch paper to start the universe but retire to a vast uninvolved distance. 

God created the universe and constantly sustains it in existence.  Without Him, there would be nothing there for physicists like Hawking to study.

The conclusion of the Grand Design: Because there is a law of gravity, the universe will create itself out of nothing.

Concentrate on “NOTHING”: no space, time, matter, whatever.  From nothing to something.  What dose Hawking mean by “nothing”?

“Because there is a law of gravity” (there is something: gravity or the law of gravity is not nothing).  He doesn’t mean nothing in the normal philosophical term.  He goes on to contradict himself.

Secondly, “the universe can and will CREATE ITSELF” – X creates X presupposes the existence of X to account for the existence of X; logically incoherent; self-contradictory; to presuppose the existence of the universe to account for the universe sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland, not science.  Universe came from a nothing that turns out to be a something; the universe creates itself: 2 distinct levels of contradiction in one sentence.

Moreover, Hawking’s notion of the law of nature, gravity, explains the existence of the universe is also contradictory since the law of nature depends on the prior existence of the nature it purports to describe.

Central assertion of Hawking’s book, then appears to have TRIPLE self-contradiction.

Absurdity of desperation of contemporary attempts to create the universe from NOTHING. 

Physicist Laurence Krauss: “Surely, nothing is every bit physical as something, especially if it is to be defined as the absence of something.”
This is sheer nonsense.  The universe is something physical so nothing the absence of the universe is physical  – ABSURD. 

Philosopher David Albert: “Krauss is dead wrong.  And his philosophical and religious critics are absolutely right.  If what we formerly took for nothing turns out in closer examination to have the makings of proton and neutrons and tables and chairs and planets and solar systems and galaxies and the universe is in it, then it wasn’t nothing.  And it couldn’t have been nothing in the first place.  And the history of science, if we understand it correctly, gives (gets?) us no hint of how it was possible to imagine otherwise.”

The point is that a quantum vacuum is not nothing.  [More quoting from David Albert.]  Even Krauss admits in the end: “Empty space is complicated; it’s a boiling brew of virtual particles and it is not nothing.”

John Lennox to Alan Guth (a father of cosmology) at MIT-Harvard Club:  “Alan, there’s a problem here.  People are confused about NOTHING.  You don’t mean the nothing you talked about in physics is not philosophical nothing; it’s not the absence of being.”  Alan responds: No, it isn’t.

Is it too much ado about nothing?!

What all this goes to show: Nonsense remains nonsense even when taught by world-class physicists.  What serves to obscure the illogicality of such statements is the fact that they are made by famous scientists.  And the general public not surprisingly assumes that they are statements of science and take them on authority.  Thus, very important to realize that statements by a scientist are not necessarily statements of science.  Immense prestige and authority does not compensate for faulty logic.

The worrying thing is this illogical notion of the universe creating itself is not some peripheral points in these major books; it appears to be the key argument.  And if the key argument is invalid, in one sense, there’s little left to say.

Hawking’s faulty concept of God, as the god of the gaps, now begins to make a further mistake, which is characteristic of the contemporary debate and causes a great deal of confusion: If you think of God as a placeholder—the more science, the less God as science begins to fill in those gaps, you will inevitably forced to make a decision between God and Science.  The problem there is not so much their concept of science, but their concept of God.  In Hawking’s case, he asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics.  Hawking: the multiple universes arise naturally from physical law. 

What is being confused here are two very different things:  a super natural being is an agent who does something (e.g. God of the Bible, He s a Personal Agent).  Dismissing such agency, Hawking ascribes creative power to physical law.  But physical law is not an agent.  It’s a category mistake: he’s confusing two entirely different kinds of entity: physical law and personal agency; so that the choice is between false alternatives.

When it comes to matter of EXPLANATION, there are different levels of explanation.  God is an explanation of the universe but not the same kind of explanation nor in competition with explanation given by physics and cosmology.

Example: Let’s explain a JET ENGINE.  One person explains with laws of physics and engineering.  Someone else: Sir Frank Whittle invented it.

To suggest that these two explanations (law of physics/engineering AND Sir Frank Whittle) compete with one another or contradict one another is nonsense.

Two KINDS OF EXPLANATION (i) LAWS and mechanisms, (ii) AGENCY – do not conflict, but COMPLEMENT.

When Newton discovered law of gravitation, he didn’t say he no longer needed God; no, he wrote PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA (the most famous book in the whole history of science), expressly with hope to persuade the thinking man to believe in God.

Law of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but not how it came to be in the first place.  Self-evident that the jet engine could not be created by the law of physics on their own; needed the creative intelligence of Whittle.  Laws of physics plus Whittle could not have produced a jet engine on their own; also needed to be some materials, some objects.  MATTER may be humble stuff, but it is not produced by laws.

Helps us clear a further misunderstanding: Science concentrates on material causation: HOW does the jet engine work?  WHY question as it relates to function (Why is valve here?)  But it does not ask the WHY question of PURPOSE.

[Quoting Laplace]

Where gravity came from?  Hawking claims from M theory.  However to say a theory or physical law could bring a universe into existence is to misunderstand what theory and law is.

Mathematical laws are a description of what normally happens under certain given conditions.  Law: The sun rises in the East.  But obvious this law doesn’t create the sun.  LAWS are descriptive and predictive, but NOT CREATIVE.

Similarly, Newton’s law of gravitation does not create gravity, or the matter on which gravity acts.

What is more, when we think of this notion that science is the only way to truth, Newton’s law of gravitation doesn’t tell you what gravity is.  No one knows what it is. (Energy, light – laws do not explain what these things are.)

Great Power Culture Authority that science has.

Newton’s law of motion never caused a billiard ball to race across the green table; laws can help us to analyze the motion, but they cannot CAUSE the motion.  Often missed.  Ex. Paul Davis: Don’t like the idea of divine tinkering; for me, more inspiring to believe a set of mathematical laws can be as so clever as to bring all things into being.

But “mathematical laws bringing them into being”??!

Simple arithmetic 1+1=2 never brought anything into being; certainly never put any money into my bank account!

CS Lewis with characteristic clarity: law of nature produced no event…

Theories and laws do not bring mass energy into existence.

Hawking, Krauss failed to answer what they set out to answer: Why is there something rather than nothing?

Allan Sandage, father of modern astronomy: “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos.  There has to be some organizing principle.  God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence why there is something rather than nothing.”

Like other physicists, Hawking is confronted with powerful evidence of design in the universe and he admits it.  Our universe and its laws appear to have been designed, tailored made to support us, and if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration.  That is not easily explained.

Raises the natural question WHY IT IS THIS WAY.  Recent discovery of FINE-TUNING of many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this GRAND DESIGN is the work of some GRAND DESIGNER. 

That is not the answer of modern science!  Our universe seems to be one of many each with different laws. 

Clearly, Hawking recognizes a grand design; devoted an entire chapter to these spectacular examples of fine-tuning, both laws of nature and the constants associated with fundamental physics.  Evidence he gives is impressive, and certainly fits in with what he calls the “old idea” that this grand design is the work of some grand designer.

Of course, it does.  It fits like a glove, because there actually is a Grand Designer!  Idea of Grand Designer is certainly old, but the question to ask is not its age but WHETHER IT’S TRUE.  

Simply saying it’s old may give false impression that what is old is necessarily false and has been superseded.  And secondly, can give the erroneous impression that no one holds it today.  But some of the finest minds do hold it, including some of Hawking’s collaborators.  The conviction that there is a Grand Designer, God the Creator, is held by millions, if not BILLIONS, of people, vastly more than those who hold the atheist alternative.  But of course, these things are not to be decided on statistics.

Now, Hawking’s answer is not the Grand Designer but the MULTIVERSE, that there are several or an infinite number of universes it which anything that can happen will happen.  Thus, not surprising there’s one like ours (universe).

Again, Hawking is arguing FALSE ALTERNATIVES: God or the multiverse.  But as philosophers have pointed out: God is capable of creating more than one universe.

Hawking explains why things are the way they are: M-Theory

Don Page (physicist): Even if M-theory is fully acknowledged theory, does not imply God did not create the universe.

Hawking’s claim to be the voice of modern science gives a false impression, since there are weighty voices who disagree with him, e.g. Sir Roger Pemrose (his major collaborator) writes of multiverse: “It’s overused… an excuse for not having a good theory… M-Theory is very far from any testability… collection of ideas, hopes, aspirations.”  According to Pemrose’s estimation, M-Theory is hardly science.  Please note, Pemrose’s criticisms are solely scientific, do not arise from any religious conviction.  (He is a member of the British Humanist Association.)

John Polkinghorne:  There’s no access to these other universes, I am tempted to add that belief in God seems to be a much more rational option if the alternative is to be that every other universe that can possibly exists does exist, including one in which Richard Dawkins is the Archbishop of Cantebury and Billy Graham is voted the Atheist of the Year.

Review by Tim Radford of The Grand Design, in which Hawking ascribes the creation of the cosmos to the natural laws and to various theories, including the M-Theory:

“In this very brief history of modern cosmological physics, the laws of quantum and relativistic physics represent things to be wondered at but widely accepted: just like biblical miracles. M-theory invokes something different: a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. This force cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it’s a big mystery. Remind you of Anybody?”

Hawking in attacking religion feels so compelled to put so much in the Big Bang Theory, a theory suggested by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître.  Even if non-believers don’t like it, it resonates POWERFULLY with the Christian narrative of CREATION: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  That is why before the Big Bang gained currency, so many scientists, including the editor of Nature, John Maddox in the 1960s, were keen to dismiss it since it seems to support the Bible’s story.  Some still like Fred Hoyle clung to Aristotle’s view of the eternal universe without beginning or end.

The Bible which has been quietly asserting for millennia that there was a beginning has proved to be correct.

Hawking believes there’s a deep seeded conflict between science and God.  This is not a discord I recognize.  For me as a Christian believer, the beauty of the scientific law… the breath and the sophistication and integrity of His creation…

If Hawking is right, that we are nothing more than collection of atoms, that not only undermine belief in God, but undermine the very rationality we need to study science, and undermine belief in atoms themselves.  Indeed, if this reductionist belief is true, how would we know it?!  If the brain is merely the end product of a mindless, unguided process, then there’s no reason to believe in its capacity to tell us the truth.  The main reason why I discount atheism.  Not so much because I am a Christian but because the logical conclusion of the reductionist worldview is to leave rationality without justification.

Whereas, if we look in the other direction, our capacity to do science, that is for rationality thought, is certainly a pointer not downward to chance and necessity merely, but upwards to an intelligence source of that capacity. 

We live in an information age.  Language-type information is very much connected with intelligence.  A few letters spelling our name in the sand, we deduced upward to intelligence.  Semiotics.  That’s just a few letters of our name.  But when we observe the BEWILDERING complexity of the human genome of 3.5 BILLION letters in that four-letter chemical alphabet, all in the right order, with the same kind of semiotics dimension coding for the protein, I find it rather curious that people instead of inferring that intelligence must be involved whatever natural processes are immediately discount what they would never discount under any other circumstances.

Hawking’s atheism, and that of Richard Dawkins, undermines the rationality then that we need to do science.

[Great Q&A with challenging questions]

Q: “irrefutable evidence there is no God”

A: PROOF is only in mathematics; not in even in the natural sciences.  When I talk in the natural sciences it’s EVIDENCE.  Now, “irrefutable” means evidence cannot be knocked down any other way, but we’re dealing with WEIGHING THE BALANCE OF THE EVIDENCE.  There’s no irrefutable evidence that my wife loves me, and we’ve been married for 44 years, but I put life on it.  God is not a theory; He’s a Person.  The evidence we demand for a person is much more sophisticated.  There’s powerful EVIDENCE that God exists: the FINE-TUNING argument.  The issue:  Is the cumulative evidence enough?

Q:  Surely, a Designer need a designer.

A:  Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion: absurd to be in a Creator, because who created the Creator?  Infinite regress.  “Who created X?”   A complex question: in the question is buried an assumption that closes down the possibility without you sometimes noticing it.  If titled “Created God Delusion”, we already know created gods are delusion, what we called “idols”.  Here’s the point:  the question “Who created the Creator? bypasses the question, Is there an Eternal Uncreated Creator?

Q: Discount other religions and their ideas of God?

A:  Investigate the EVIDENCE.

Q: How do you go from that to a Personal God (and the God of Christianity is essential the question)?

A:  Yes, there is a gap: from Intelligence out there to a Personal God; look at all suffering in the world?  Columbia Univ. lecture on 9-11.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; the Word was God.”   “The Word became human and dwell among us.”  Either nonsense or something in it.  

Answer relies on evidence, not of only the scientific kind, but also from other disciplines: history, literature.  Evidence: OBJECTIVE (science, history) and SUBJECTIVE (experience).  How do we get to know a person?  REVELATION.  Not if the person not speak; unless a person reveals him/her-self to us, by speaking to us, the WORD.

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