One God or billions of universes?

Physicist Stephen Hawkings says that there is no need of a deity to have created the universe.  Instead, according to this review of his new book, he posits the existence of billions of universes, at least one of which (ours) happens to have the physical laws that would allow for life.

With that background [a survey of the history of physics], Hawking and Mlodinow get to the real meat of their book: the way theories about quantum mechanics and relativity came together to shape our understanding of how our universe (and possibly others) formed out of nothing. Our current best description of the physics of this event, they explain, is the so-called “M-theories,” which predict that there is not a single universe (the one we live in) but a huge number of universes. In other words, not only is the Earth just one of several planets in our solar system and the Milky Way one of billions of galaxies, but our known universe itself is just one among uncounted billions of universes. It’s a startling replay of the Copernican Revolution.

The conclusions that follow are groundbreaking. Of all the possible universes, some must have laws that allow the appearance of life. The fact that we are here already tells us that we are in that corner of the multiverse. In this way, all origin questions are answered by pointing to the huge number of possible universes and saying that some of them have the properties that allow the existence of life, just by chance.

via Review of ‘The Grand Design,’ by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow..

As some of you readers never tire of reminding me, I don’t always grasp what the scientists are saying.  Can anyone explain this multiple universe theory?  Specifically, what is the evidence for it (or is it just a theoretical construct)?  Isn’t it just a way to account for the fine-tuning of the universe for life without having to believe in God?  And isn’t it more rational and a better application of Ockham’s razor (when in doubt, choose the simplest solution) to believe in a Creator?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Eric Brown

    It is a spin off of the ideas of black holes and also an idea called string theory. With black holes, there is the idea that matter/energy isn’t destroyed – so where does what gets sucked down a black hole go? One theory is that it gets dumped to another place via a white hole, which sort of geysers our junk out there. Also, with string theory, the idea is that weird things with motion and particle mechcanics that we can’t explain could be explained if there were actually other demotions that we can’t see. Pile these two ideas (explained in utter layman’s terms) and you can posit basically multiple universes with differing conditions and laws.

    As for Ockham – that is for being rational. Modern Science assumes no supernatural action, so therefore, no God involved. Hence, seeking the most likely answer isn’t the main concern – seeking the most likely answer that doesn’t involve God in the slightest is.

  • Eric Brown

    It is a spin off of the ideas of black holes and also an idea called string theory. With black holes, there is the idea that matter/energy isn’t destroyed – so where does what gets sucked down a black hole go? One theory is that it gets dumped to another place via a white hole, which sort of geysers our junk out there. Also, with string theory, the idea is that weird things with motion and particle mechcanics that we can’t explain could be explained if there were actually other demotions that we can’t see. Pile these two ideas (explained in utter layman’s terms) and you can posit basically multiple universes with differing conditions and laws.

    As for Ockham – that is for being rational. Modern Science assumes no supernatural action, so therefore, no God involved. Hence, seeking the most likely answer isn’t the main concern – seeking the most likely answer that doesn’t involve God in the slightest is.

  • Winston Smith

    It’s an educated guess. Stephen Hawking may be smart, but he’s not smarter than God, and God is in a position to know exactly how many universes there are, and how much life there is.

  • Winston Smith

    It’s an educated guess. Stephen Hawking may be smart, but he’s not smarter than God, and God is in a position to know exactly how many universes there are, and how much life there is.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I talked with a couple of atheist guys about this in FB. I understood that multiverses don’t play a key role in many atheists’ argumentation, since it lacks enough empirical evidence. The thought itself, though, is appealing to them, as it would give a possibility to bury the idea that someone might have initiated the Big Bang. Lemaitre’s theory wasn’t always popular due to implying that a Beginning seems more observable than the concept of a cyclic/eternal time.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I talked with a couple of atheist guys about this in FB. I understood that multiverses don’t play a key role in many atheists’ argumentation, since it lacks enough empirical evidence. The thought itself, though, is appealing to them, as it would give a possibility to bury the idea that someone might have initiated the Big Bang. Lemaitre’s theory wasn’t always popular due to implying that a Beginning seems more observable than the concept of a cyclic/eternal time.

  • WebMonk

    I didn’t buy the book but I did manage to read the first couple chapters. I didn’t feel like spending $30. I’ll pick it up used sometime.

    Hawking’s main premise for what you’re referring to is indeed that God doesn’t need to exist. However, his reasoning isn’t based on the fundamental philosophy of where everything came from. He is poking at the god which is Earth-centered, and limited in scope to being all wrapped up in what people are doing here and ignoring everything else in the universe.

    It’s a social argument, not a fundamentally philosophical one. He never tries to describe where the multiple dimensions of M-theory come from, for instance. Rather he takes aim at the common views of various theists (including many Christians) that the Earth is the center of the entire universe (at least philosophically) and that everything else out there is just window-dressing for Earth, and that God is focused in the same way. That sort of God would indeed be shown as nonsense by modern discoveries, and that God is who Hawking is tilting against.

    However, the amount of space he puts toward that sort of position is minuscule compared to the rest of the book. It seems to be the part that reporters and opinion writers have picked up on, though.

    Most of the book seems to be educational in design, talking about the current state of cosmological research and theories. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic, at least, based on my own reading of just a couple chapters.

  • WebMonk

    I didn’t buy the book but I did manage to read the first couple chapters. I didn’t feel like spending $30. I’ll pick it up used sometime.

    Hawking’s main premise for what you’re referring to is indeed that God doesn’t need to exist. However, his reasoning isn’t based on the fundamental philosophy of where everything came from. He is poking at the god which is Earth-centered, and limited in scope to being all wrapped up in what people are doing here and ignoring everything else in the universe.

    It’s a social argument, not a fundamentally philosophical one. He never tries to describe where the multiple dimensions of M-theory come from, for instance. Rather he takes aim at the common views of various theists (including many Christians) that the Earth is the center of the entire universe (at least philosophically) and that everything else out there is just window-dressing for Earth, and that God is focused in the same way. That sort of God would indeed be shown as nonsense by modern discoveries, and that God is who Hawking is tilting against.

    However, the amount of space he puts toward that sort of position is minuscule compared to the rest of the book. It seems to be the part that reporters and opinion writers have picked up on, though.

    Most of the book seems to be educational in design, talking about the current state of cosmological research and theories. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic, at least, based on my own reading of just a couple chapters.

  • Amy

    It’s a theoretical construct based on quantum physics and the idea that anything that CAN happen DOES happen somewhere in the multiverse. So in the morning, you can choose to hit snooze, or get up with the alarm — there’s one split. Then you can choose to hop in the shower first or get breakfast first — there’s another split, and therefore 4 universes. Then you can choose to wear the red shirt, or the blue one — another split, 8 universes. That’s an extremely simplistic explanation, but it’s the general idea. All of the universes in the multiverse exist simultaneously, sharing the same space — if you’ve heard about the legends of the Faery world, where they occupy the same space but in a separate world, this will make a little more sense.

    Not that I buy any of it. But it is an interesting theory. I’m more inclined to agree that the simplest explanation is generally the correct one. Multiverses are too complicated to be real.

    I also find it funny that scientists cannot prove the concept of the multiverse, because by their own admission the universes would have to be inherently separate, never to cross paths. Yet they accept the theory as truth, because they want to, because it explains something that they feel can’t be explained in any other plausible way. And these same scientists ridicule the idea of God and faith, saying that they won’t believe in something that they can’t prove scientifically. Hypocritical much?

  • Amy

    It’s a theoretical construct based on quantum physics and the idea that anything that CAN happen DOES happen somewhere in the multiverse. So in the morning, you can choose to hit snooze, or get up with the alarm — there’s one split. Then you can choose to hop in the shower first or get breakfast first — there’s another split, and therefore 4 universes. Then you can choose to wear the red shirt, or the blue one — another split, 8 universes. That’s an extremely simplistic explanation, but it’s the general idea. All of the universes in the multiverse exist simultaneously, sharing the same space — if you’ve heard about the legends of the Faery world, where they occupy the same space but in a separate world, this will make a little more sense.

    Not that I buy any of it. But it is an interesting theory. I’m more inclined to agree that the simplest explanation is generally the correct one. Multiverses are too complicated to be real.

    I also find it funny that scientists cannot prove the concept of the multiverse, because by their own admission the universes would have to be inherently separate, never to cross paths. Yet they accept the theory as truth, because they want to, because it explains something that they feel can’t be explained in any other plausible way. And these same scientists ridicule the idea of God and faith, saying that they won’t believe in something that they can’t prove scientifically. Hypocritical much?

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Imagine we live in the middle ages, and no one knows why the moon is able to stay “up in the air,” and the Christians believe it is simply because God holds it up there. Along come the scientists with the theory of gravity to explain the motions of the moon and all celestial bodies. The incorrect response is “Isn’t this just a way to account for the complex cycles of the moon without having to believe in God? Wouldn’t Occam’s razor dictate that we just continue to believe in the simplest explanation?” The fallacy is that a complex solution for something we had once believed simple is somehow a reasonable line of attack against God’s existence.

    Multiple-universe theories are not new, though they are still extremely rough and hypothetical. But regardless of how far we are able to judge of its correctness at this early stage (as was true of gravity at some point) the question we should be asking ourselves is, why do we Christians continue to buy into the lie that our God is somehow too small to accomodate every new scientific theory? Perhaps it is because we too often take the intellectual low road of marrying God with our current understanding of His creation, and our pride keeps us from admitting it.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D

    Imagine we live in the middle ages, and no one knows why the moon is able to stay “up in the air,” and the Christians believe it is simply because God holds it up there. Along come the scientists with the theory of gravity to explain the motions of the moon and all celestial bodies. The incorrect response is “Isn’t this just a way to account for the complex cycles of the moon without having to believe in God? Wouldn’t Occam’s razor dictate that we just continue to believe in the simplest explanation?” The fallacy is that a complex solution for something we had once believed simple is somehow a reasonable line of attack against God’s existence.

    Multiple-universe theories are not new, though they are still extremely rough and hypothetical. But regardless of how far we are able to judge of its correctness at this early stage (as was true of gravity at some point) the question we should be asking ourselves is, why do we Christians continue to buy into the lie that our God is somehow too small to accomodate every new scientific theory? Perhaps it is because we too often take the intellectual low road of marrying God with our current understanding of His creation, and our pride keeps us from admitting it.

  • nqb

    “Multiverse” theories aren’t really new and I’m happy to hear that Hawkings and Mlodinow don’t focus on it as much as the reporters are saying. Modern Big Bang Theory includes an “inflationary period,” for example, that could have generated “bubbles of matter” that have different properties, one of which we’re living in. I don’t know exactly what’s behind this the theory they present here.
    My impression has always been that most physicists find multiverse explanations unsatisfactory as well. Physicists perceive an inherent beauty in the universe that is worth study at a fundamental level. If all we’re studying is some random assembly of natural laws and particles, that’s not as exciting.
    I think physicists would make very good Lutherans in the tradition of Bonhoeffer and his rejection of a “God of the Gaps.” (Dr. Veith, I’m afraid I would sooner classify your argument as God-of-Gaps than Ockham’s razor.) I think Christianity has really failed scientists in some ways by telling them that looking into the origins of the universe is a very bad thing. But there is a lot of compelling evidence for the Big Bang and such, and Christianity would generally have scientists not look at it, which would unfortunate. What is it about the universe that points toward a Big Bang beginning? What can we learn by studying this model? These are very interesting and potentially useful questions that Christianity tends to denounce instead of teaching how to ask them faithfully.
    Sorry for the digression. And true, Christianity isn’t the only faulty party, but maybe we (I speak as a Christian here) can do something to change the relationship.

  • nqb

    “Multiverse” theories aren’t really new and I’m happy to hear that Hawkings and Mlodinow don’t focus on it as much as the reporters are saying. Modern Big Bang Theory includes an “inflationary period,” for example, that could have generated “bubbles of matter” that have different properties, one of which we’re living in. I don’t know exactly what’s behind this the theory they present here.
    My impression has always been that most physicists find multiverse explanations unsatisfactory as well. Physicists perceive an inherent beauty in the universe that is worth study at a fundamental level. If all we’re studying is some random assembly of natural laws and particles, that’s not as exciting.
    I think physicists would make very good Lutherans in the tradition of Bonhoeffer and his rejection of a “God of the Gaps.” (Dr. Veith, I’m afraid I would sooner classify your argument as God-of-Gaps than Ockham’s razor.) I think Christianity has really failed scientists in some ways by telling them that looking into the origins of the universe is a very bad thing. But there is a lot of compelling evidence for the Big Bang and such, and Christianity would generally have scientists not look at it, which would unfortunate. What is it about the universe that points toward a Big Bang beginning? What can we learn by studying this model? These are very interesting and potentially useful questions that Christianity tends to denounce instead of teaching how to ask them faithfully.
    Sorry for the digression. And true, Christianity isn’t the only faulty party, but maybe we (I speak as a Christian here) can do something to change the relationship.

  • Tom Hering

    Scientists who are atheists, or theists of some sort, or just spiritual in some way, want to discredit Genesis as a man-made myth. The irony is that the theories they want to replace Genesis with are entirely the work of man’s mind. Inarguably.

  • Tom Hering

    Scientists who are atheists, or theists of some sort, or just spiritual in some way, want to discredit Genesis as a man-made myth. The irony is that the theories they want to replace Genesis with are entirely the work of man’s mind. Inarguably.

  • nqb

    Tom @8, I imagine this statement being made by one of your scientists:
    Christians who are creationists want to discredit science as some man-made system. The irony is that the beliefs they want to replace Science with are entirely the work of man’s mind.

    I think both statements are unfair.

  • nqb

    Tom @8, I imagine this statement being made by one of your scientists:
    Christians who are creationists want to discredit science as some man-made system. The irony is that the beliefs they want to replace Science with are entirely the work of man’s mind.

    I think both statements are unfair.

  • Tom Hering

    nqb @ 9: Nah. Saying the theories of scientists are entirely man-made is a statement of plain fact. No “discrediting” going on there at all. The issue is whether or not Genesis is also entirely man-made. Or Divine revelation through Moses.

  • Tom Hering

    nqb @ 9: Nah. Saying the theories of scientists are entirely man-made is a statement of plain fact. No “discrediting” going on there at all. The issue is whether or not Genesis is also entirely man-made. Or Divine revelation through Moses.

  • http://www.uath-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Seems to me that they have had to redefine universe, to not mean universe in order to support their theory. Mulitple universes seems like an oxymoron to me.
    That said, I sort of get this idea of multiverses, as long as they are not called universes. I am just left wondering why and what the evidence is. Maybe I’ll pick the book up used in a couple months. I’ve watched the PBS documentaries on this stuff. Interesting enough, though I’m not sure convincing. On the other hand the way they describe parallel universes etc. is in someways how I have often thought of heaven and hell so…
    I don’t know of any Christians though who think God is ignoring the rest of the universe. He may have his focus on earth, being as his son died here and rose on the third day to save its inhabitants, but that is a far cry from ignoring the rest of the universe. And I’m not sure how positing another universe fixes that problem at all.
    I think Eric Brown has it.

  • http://www.uath-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Seems to me that they have had to redefine universe, to not mean universe in order to support their theory. Mulitple universes seems like an oxymoron to me.
    That said, I sort of get this idea of multiverses, as long as they are not called universes. I am just left wondering why and what the evidence is. Maybe I’ll pick the book up used in a couple months. I’ve watched the PBS documentaries on this stuff. Interesting enough, though I’m not sure convincing. On the other hand the way they describe parallel universes etc. is in someways how I have often thought of heaven and hell so…
    I don’t know of any Christians though who think God is ignoring the rest of the universe. He may have his focus on earth, being as his son died here and rose on the third day to save its inhabitants, but that is a far cry from ignoring the rest of the universe. And I’m not sure how positing another universe fixes that problem at all.
    I think Eric Brown has it.

  • Tom Hering

    nqb, the problem may be the way I’m using “man-made.” I simply mean “made by man – the work of man’s mind.” Scientists who discredit Genesis mean something additional by “man-made” – “falsehood born of ignorance.”

  • Tom Hering

    nqb, the problem may be the way I’m using “man-made.” I simply mean “made by man – the work of man’s mind.” Scientists who discredit Genesis mean something additional by “man-made” – “falsehood born of ignorance.”

  • nqb

    Tom @10, sorry I actually want to first amend my comment @9:
    Christians who are creationists want to discredit the big bang as some man-made system. The irony is that the beliefs they want to replace the big bang with are entirely the work of man’s mind.

    My point is that you likely would call much of the Koran man-made than gravity. And while, yes, the Theory of Gravity is a ‘man-made’ description of gravity, you would presumably call the Koran more ‘man-made.’ Well, how are non-Christians supposed to distinguish between the Bible and Koran? And aren’t we simply trying to discredit the Koran as myth? I guess I sensed hostility in your charge against scientists but I don’t think you’re really being fair. I understand your point, and scientists would agree theories are man-made but say they are less man-made than fiction (e.g., the Bible and Koran).

  • nqb

    Tom @10, sorry I actually want to first amend my comment @9:
    Christians who are creationists want to discredit the big bang as some man-made system. The irony is that the beliefs they want to replace the big bang with are entirely the work of man’s mind.

    My point is that you likely would call much of the Koran man-made than gravity. And while, yes, the Theory of Gravity is a ‘man-made’ description of gravity, you would presumably call the Koran more ‘man-made.’ Well, how are non-Christians supposed to distinguish between the Bible and Koran? And aren’t we simply trying to discredit the Koran as myth? I guess I sensed hostility in your charge against scientists but I don’t think you’re really being fair. I understand your point, and scientists would agree theories are man-made but say they are less man-made than fiction (e.g., the Bible and Koran).

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Atheists may claim that the Genesis story is “entirely the work of man’s mind,” but it’s not inarguable, like the multiverse “theories” of scientists.

    Furthermore, Christians don’t have “beliefs they want to replace Science with.” That notion is atheist propaganda.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Atheists may claim that the Genesis story is “entirely the work of man’s mind,” but it’s not inarguable, like the multiverse “theories” of scientists.

    Furthermore, Christians don’t have “beliefs they want to replace Science with.” That notion is atheist propaganda.

  • Tom Hering

    “… scientists would agree theories are man-made but say they are less man-made than fiction (e.g., the Bible …” – nqb @ 13.

    Unless the Genesis account is not fiction. But then we get back to the issue of whether or not Genesis is Divine revelation, and how one can know that. Atheist scientists are, I’m sure, loathe to accept anything they can’t determine by their methods.

  • Tom Hering

    “… scientists would agree theories are man-made but say they are less man-made than fiction (e.g., the Bible …” – nqb @ 13.

    Unless the Genesis account is not fiction. But then we get back to the issue of whether or not Genesis is Divine revelation, and how one can know that. Atheist scientists are, I’m sure, loathe to accept anything they can’t determine by their methods.

  • Tom Hering

    “Atheist scientists are, I’m sure, loathe to accept anything they can’t determine by their methods.” – myself @ 15.

    On second thought, maybe not. Is the multiverse theory falsifiable?

  • Tom Hering

    “Atheist scientists are, I’m sure, loathe to accept anything they can’t determine by their methods.” – myself @ 15.

    On second thought, maybe not. Is the multiverse theory falsifiable?

  • Porcell

    nqb: Christianity would generally have scientists not look at it, which would unfortunate.

    Some Christians object to physical cosmology, though many understand that the Bible was not intended as a scientific treatise. Also, not a few Christian scientists have no problem reconciling any form of physical cosmology with the Judeo-Christian religion including Genesis.

    Going back to Augustine, Christian theologians have understood that Genesis is a profound religious document, that was never intended to be a physical scientific treatise.

    Hawkings and Mlodinow are involved in a metaphysical argument from naturalism that in itself is a dubious proposition. What is more self-evident, that the universe[s] was created physically out of itself, or that God is the Creator of it?

  • Porcell

    nqb: Christianity would generally have scientists not look at it, which would unfortunate.

    Some Christians object to physical cosmology, though many understand that the Bible was not intended as a scientific treatise. Also, not a few Christian scientists have no problem reconciling any form of physical cosmology with the Judeo-Christian religion including Genesis.

    Going back to Augustine, Christian theologians have understood that Genesis is a profound religious document, that was never intended to be a physical scientific treatise.

    Hawkings and Mlodinow are involved in a metaphysical argument from naturalism that in itself is a dubious proposition. What is more self-evident, that the universe[s] was created physically out of itself, or that God is the Creator of it?

  • Tom Hering

    “Going back to Augustine, Christian theologians have understood that Genesis is a profound religious document, that was never intended to be a physical scientific treatise.” – Porcell @ 17.

    Of course not. Question is: whether or not Genesis is history.

  • Tom Hering

    “Going back to Augustine, Christian theologians have understood that Genesis is a profound religious document, that was never intended to be a physical scientific treatise.” – Porcell @ 17.

    Of course not. Question is: whether or not Genesis is history.

  • Porcell

    Tom, I doubt that Genesis was intended as empirical history in the way that modern historians understand the term.

  • Porcell

    Tom, I doubt that Genesis was intended as empirical history in the way that modern historians understand the term.

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell, what do you do with Christ’s acceptance of Genesis as history?

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell, what do you do with Christ’s acceptance of Genesis as history?

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    So Hawking and his friends have avoided the question of origins by positing an infinite number of universes in a gigantic multiverse, and claiming we have won some kind of cosmic lottery by coming into existence in one of the univereses that can support life.

    Ok….

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    So Hawking and his friends have avoided the question of origins by positing an infinite number of universes in a gigantic multiverse, and claiming we have won some kind of cosmic lottery by coming into existence in one of the univereses that can support life.

    Ok….

  • http://www.uath-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Pat @ 21,
    That is what they think. All they really have done is push the question of Aristotle’s Demiurge back a few “verses.” It no more explains why we are here than Atlas standing on a turtle’s back.

  • http://www.uath-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Pat @ 21,
    That is what they think. All they really have done is push the question of Aristotle’s Demiurge back a few “verses.” It no more explains why we are here than Atlas standing on a turtle’s back.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And just as there can be a “God-in-the-gaps” (just invoking “God” for whatever we can’t explain), there is also a “Science-in-the-gaps” (saying that science will come up with the explanation later).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And just as there can be a “God-in-the-gaps” (just invoking “God” for whatever we can’t explain), there is also a “Science-in-the-gaps” (saying that science will come up with the explanation later).

  • Gerald

    Bror@11 wrote, “On the other hand the way they describe parallel universes etc. is in someways how I have often thought of heaven and hell so…”
    I agree. Many have portrayed heaven as being “up there” and hell as being “down there.” But where is “there”? Is heaven up in the stratosphere or on Jupiter or somewhere deep in outerspace? Is hell in the center of the earth? These are not helpful ways to think of heaven and hell.
    Paul writes that Christ “ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10) and, interestingly, that God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Heaven as “another dimension”? Baptism as a glimpse of this “other dimension”?
    Yes, such things are beyond our understanding, and pursuing speculation is dangerous. But interesting, nevertheless.

  • Gerald

    Bror@11 wrote, “On the other hand the way they describe parallel universes etc. is in someways how I have often thought of heaven and hell so…”
    I agree. Many have portrayed heaven as being “up there” and hell as being “down there.” But where is “there”? Is heaven up in the stratosphere or on Jupiter or somewhere deep in outerspace? Is hell in the center of the earth? These are not helpful ways to think of heaven and hell.
    Paul writes that Christ “ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10) and, interestingly, that God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Heaven as “another dimension”? Baptism as a glimpse of this “other dimension”?
    Yes, such things are beyond our understanding, and pursuing speculation is dangerous. But interesting, nevertheless.

  • nqb

    Fantastically put, Dr. Veith! I read Hawking and Mlodinow’s editorial (an adaptation from their book) in the Wall Street Journal a couple days ago, and they seem to say, “If we didn’t have this multiverse possibility, we would be forced to believe in a creator.”
    So maybe Hawking would even say that up until recently atheists have had no or very little scientific footing, though they tend to tout adherence to science more than anyone.
    I agree that people are clinging to these multiverse ideas too soon and too rigidly (I recall Dawkins loves the idea of multiverses), but I don’t think Christians would do well to sweep the ideas under the rug or hope that they just go away. Christians especially shouldn’t say that multiverses are too complicated to be true (I realize this isn’t exactly what you were saying, Dr. Veith). Even wrong ideas (Newton’s three famous laws, for example) can be extremely beneficial and insightful.

  • nqb

    Fantastically put, Dr. Veith! I read Hawking and Mlodinow’s editorial (an adaptation from their book) in the Wall Street Journal a couple days ago, and they seem to say, “If we didn’t have this multiverse possibility, we would be forced to believe in a creator.”
    So maybe Hawking would even say that up until recently atheists have had no or very little scientific footing, though they tend to tout adherence to science more than anyone.
    I agree that people are clinging to these multiverse ideas too soon and too rigidly (I recall Dawkins loves the idea of multiverses), but I don’t think Christians would do well to sweep the ideas under the rug or hope that they just go away. Christians especially shouldn’t say that multiverses are too complicated to be true (I realize this isn’t exactly what you were saying, Dr. Veith). Even wrong ideas (Newton’s three famous laws, for example) can be extremely beneficial and insightful.

  • Porcell

    Tom, at 20, where in Scripture does Christ accept Genesis history, as we moderns understand it?

  • Porcell

    Tom, at 20, where in Scripture does Christ accept Genesis history, as we moderns understand it?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So, is it okay to look forward to being free of this sinliverse and being wholly in the holiverse? Is the Christian in this life delivered into a mediating saintandsinnerhybridverse? Just curious.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    So, is it okay to look forward to being free of this sinliverse and being wholly in the holiverse? Is the Christian in this life delivered into a mediating saintandsinnerhybridverse? Just curious.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Be of good cheer: somewhere out there in a parallel universe, Dr. Hawking is an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Be of good cheer: somewhere out there in a parallel universe, Dr. Hawking is an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bryan (@27), I’m disappointed you didn’t make the obvious joke about the Bibleverse. Tsk.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bryan (@27), I’m disappointed you didn’t make the obvious joke about the Bibleverse. Tsk.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    No one’s saying much about Joel D’s comment (@6), so I’d like to recommend it to those who haven’t read it.

    Myself, I find this topic well beyond not only my decent (but hardly extensive) scientific knowledge, but also what I’m merely interested in. I have to wonder, frankly, if that’s not true for most of us here (not including, it would seem, WebMonk or NQB).

    I just don’t understand the desire of modern Christians to respond to every modern argument that challenges their worldview, especially when it occurs via a framework they do not understand. I mean, if you’re an orthodox Christian with an understanding of the cosmological concepts being bandied about, by all means, have at it. But if you’re not, the odds are pretty good you’re just going to embarrass everyone who is current in such topics. Of course, this also holds true for the non-Christian masses as well, who will gladly glom onto this book as proof that their pre-existing biases are now somehow even more correct, without really grokking what is being discussed. But I don’t feel particularly compelled to call them out.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t discuss such things — I’m not trying to criticize the existence of this post. But let’s be honest about our own understanding, yes?

    Finally, WebMonk (@4), I wouldn’t be too hasty to jump on “reporters and opinion writers” for focusing on the question of God’s existence. After all, here is the copy from the book’s page on its publisher’s Web site:

    When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation?

    The most fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and of life itself, once the province of philosophy, now occupy the territory where scientists, philosophers, and theologians meet—if only to disagree. In their new book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.

    A succinct, startling, and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform—and provoke—like no other.

    Pretty wispy copy, that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    No one’s saying much about Joel D’s comment (@6), so I’d like to recommend it to those who haven’t read it.

    Myself, I find this topic well beyond not only my decent (but hardly extensive) scientific knowledge, but also what I’m merely interested in. I have to wonder, frankly, if that’s not true for most of us here (not including, it would seem, WebMonk or NQB).

    I just don’t understand the desire of modern Christians to respond to every modern argument that challenges their worldview, especially when it occurs via a framework they do not understand. I mean, if you’re an orthodox Christian with an understanding of the cosmological concepts being bandied about, by all means, have at it. But if you’re not, the odds are pretty good you’re just going to embarrass everyone who is current in such topics. Of course, this also holds true for the non-Christian masses as well, who will gladly glom onto this book as proof that their pre-existing biases are now somehow even more correct, without really grokking what is being discussed. But I don’t feel particularly compelled to call them out.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t discuss such things — I’m not trying to criticize the existence of this post. But let’s be honest about our own understanding, yes?

    Finally, WebMonk (@4), I wouldn’t be too hasty to jump on “reporters and opinion writers” for focusing on the question of God’s existence. After all, here is the copy from the book’s page on its publisher’s Web site:

    When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation?

    The most fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and of life itself, once the province of philosophy, now occupy the territory where scientists, philosophers, and theologians meet—if only to disagree. In their new book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.

    A succinct, startling, and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform—and provoke—like no other.

    Pretty wispy copy, that.

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell @ 26, are you trying to limit the discussion to definitions you’ll accept? So we’ll go off into an argument about what history is and isn’t? And my question to you @ 20 can go unanswered?

  • Tom Hering

    Porcell @ 26, are you trying to limit the discussion to definitions you’ll accept? So we’ll go off into an argument about what history is and isn’t? And my question to you @ 20 can go unanswered?

  • Porcell

    Todd: I mean, if you’re an orthodox Christian with an understanding of the cosmological concepts being bandied about, by all means, have at it. But if you’re not, the odds are pretty good you’re just going to embarrass everyone who is current in such topics.

    While we might not understand the subtleties of cosmological thought, when Hawkins and Mlodinow argue that there is no need of a deity to have created the universe, then any serious Christian understands that their argument has shifted from empirical or theoretical physical science to an unproven metaphysic assumption that is perfectly debatable.

    Basically you’re arguing that when sophisticated atheistic or agnostic scientists argue against a Creator, then Christians must defer from argument unless they fully understand the science. This is nonsense. Once these scientists cross the line to metaphysics and religion, then it is fair for Christians, Jews, et al to question them.

  • Porcell

    Todd: I mean, if you’re an orthodox Christian with an understanding of the cosmological concepts being bandied about, by all means, have at it. But if you’re not, the odds are pretty good you’re just going to embarrass everyone who is current in such topics.

    While we might not understand the subtleties of cosmological thought, when Hawkins and Mlodinow argue that there is no need of a deity to have created the universe, then any serious Christian understands that their argument has shifted from empirical or theoretical physical science to an unproven metaphysic assumption that is perfectly debatable.

    Basically you’re arguing that when sophisticated atheistic or agnostic scientists argue against a Creator, then Christians must defer from argument unless they fully understand the science. This is nonsense. Once these scientists cross the line to metaphysics and religion, then it is fair for Christians, Jews, et al to question them.

  • WebMonk

    tODD, thanks for pointing that out. I should include advertisers and publicists in my list along with reporters.

    Perhaps there is a lot more disproving-God material in the book than what I read. Like I said, I only read the first couple chapters and a few paragraphs scattered through the rest of the book. I very easily could have missed something.

    Just based on the small and non-random portions I read, Hawking isn’t making much of an effort to disprove God’s existence beyond a few drive-by statements.

  • WebMonk

    tODD, thanks for pointing that out. I should include advertisers and publicists in my list along with reporters.

    Perhaps there is a lot more disproving-God material in the book than what I read. Like I said, I only read the first couple chapters and a few paragraphs scattered through the rest of the book. I very easily could have missed something.

    Just based on the small and non-random portions I read, Hawking isn’t making much of an effort to disprove God’s existence beyond a few drive-by statements.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@32), please. Would that it were only the “subtleties of cosmological thought” that were being missed by most people discussing this book!

    “Basically you’re arguing that when sophisticated atheistic or agnostic scientists argue against a Creator, then Christians must defer from argument unless they fully understand the science.” Oh, well then! Please, be my guest, explain for us all your understandings of the argument put forth by Hawkins and Mlodinow, and where they have gone wrong in handling the evidence. Help me to understand what their thesis or theses are, and where they went wrong, scientifically. By all means, engage Hawkins and Mlodinow in their argument and display for us your understanding of cosmology.

    I still argue that it is important to know the limits of one’s own understanding when engaging in debate. Would anyone here even attempt to make a counter-argument to a thesis made entirely in Finnish (other than you Snafu; sorry, but I just picked the hardest language I know)? I doubt it. Why? Because we don’t know the language. And it’s very difficult to respond to points made in a language you don’t understand. Well, someone may say, I have read a translation of this Finnish argument made by a man who once vacationed for two weeks in Helsinki (the equivalent of reading about science in the mainstream media)! Bully for you, but I don’t trust your translation.

    We are not called as Christians to respond to every argument that is made against our faith. We are told to have faith like a child. Yes, we are also told to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” but guess what? My answer will not in any way involve quantum physics or cosmology — or, for that matter, evolution. I doubt yours will, either.

    So I will not waste my time attempting to rebut an argument against my faith that I do not understand — whether written by a Finn or a cosmologist. I will leave that to those to whom God has given the respective gifts of mastering Finno-Ugric languages and theoretical physics. Because such Christians will actually be able to make cogent rebuttals, and not simply utter the equivalent of “nuh-uh”. Of course, I agree with the gist of “nuh-uh”, but I’d be embarrassed offering that up as a rebuttal to anyone knowing something about the topic.

    And when I am giving you a lecture on humility, you know you are in a sorry state.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@32), please. Would that it were only the “subtleties of cosmological thought” that were being missed by most people discussing this book!

    “Basically you’re arguing that when sophisticated atheistic or agnostic scientists argue against a Creator, then Christians must defer from argument unless they fully understand the science.” Oh, well then! Please, be my guest, explain for us all your understandings of the argument put forth by Hawkins and Mlodinow, and where they have gone wrong in handling the evidence. Help me to understand what their thesis or theses are, and where they went wrong, scientifically. By all means, engage Hawkins and Mlodinow in their argument and display for us your understanding of cosmology.

    I still argue that it is important to know the limits of one’s own understanding when engaging in debate. Would anyone here even attempt to make a counter-argument to a thesis made entirely in Finnish (other than you Snafu; sorry, but I just picked the hardest language I know)? I doubt it. Why? Because we don’t know the language. And it’s very difficult to respond to points made in a language you don’t understand. Well, someone may say, I have read a translation of this Finnish argument made by a man who once vacationed for two weeks in Helsinki (the equivalent of reading about science in the mainstream media)! Bully for you, but I don’t trust your translation.

    We are not called as Christians to respond to every argument that is made against our faith. We are told to have faith like a child. Yes, we are also told to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” but guess what? My answer will not in any way involve quantum physics or cosmology — or, for that matter, evolution. I doubt yours will, either.

    So I will not waste my time attempting to rebut an argument against my faith that I do not understand — whether written by a Finn or a cosmologist. I will leave that to those to whom God has given the respective gifts of mastering Finno-Ugric languages and theoretical physics. Because such Christians will actually be able to make cogent rebuttals, and not simply utter the equivalent of “nuh-uh”. Of course, I agree with the gist of “nuh-uh”, but I’d be embarrassed offering that up as a rebuttal to anyone knowing something about the topic.

    And when I am giving you a lecture on humility, you know you are in a sorry state.

  • Pete

    tODD (@30) about Joel (@6) is right on. It seems to me that the bigger and more complex our understanding of reality gets (multiverses vs. a mere, outdated universe) the more likely the existence of and omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God becomes.

  • Pete

    tODD (@30) about Joel (@6) is right on. It seems to me that the bigger and more complex our understanding of reality gets (multiverses vs. a mere, outdated universe) the more likely the existence of and omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God becomes.

  • Louis

    Joel D – good comment. In general though, when it comes to scientists, especially popularisers, transcending into pilosophy, I often find that their footing becomes quite tenious. For instance, from some excerpts that I’ve read, some feloows become quite ridiculous, carrying on in a way that would make an average philosopher shake their heads in dismay. And the same goes the other way round…. There are really very, very few polymaths around anymore. More’s the pity. Of course, I say this as a scientist.

  • Louis

    Joel D – good comment. In general though, when it comes to scientists, especially popularisers, transcending into pilosophy, I often find that their footing becomes quite tenious. For instance, from some excerpts that I’ve read, some feloows become quite ridiculous, carrying on in a way that would make an average philosopher shake their heads in dismay. And the same goes the other way round…. There are really very, very few polymaths around anymore. More’s the pity. Of course, I say this as a scientist.

  • Porcell

    Todd, again, in arguing against Hawkins and Mlodinow’s metaphysical assumption, one need not know the complexity of their physical points.. Einstein argued on metaphysical ground that God doesn’t play dice with the universe, something I quite agree with, though I have at best a foggy understanding of his physics.

    You and WebMonk are basically arguing a rather snobbish point that we ordinary mortals need to shut up when scientists venture onto the subject of religion and metaphysics.

  • Porcell

    Todd, again, in arguing against Hawkins and Mlodinow’s metaphysical assumption, one need not know the complexity of their physical points.. Einstein argued on metaphysical ground that God doesn’t play dice with the universe, something I quite agree with, though I have at best a foggy understanding of his physics.

    You and WebMonk are basically arguing a rather snobbish point that we ordinary mortals need to shut up when scientists venture onto the subject of religion and metaphysics.

  • WebMonk

    Just to toss in a couple corrections to scattered statements above:

    Multiverse theory in some ways is “just” theory, however it is the best way, so far, to explain details which we see in the universe. It is not just a way to account for the fine-tuning of the universe for life without having to believe in God.

    None of the multiverse theories have universal support among scientists. It’s an area of development and unsettled theories looking for support. Some theories have some support, but none have total support.

    There are different types of multiverse theories – some with relatively limited number of universes, some with massive numbers of universes (10^500+), some with essentially infinite universes. The infinite universe theories are the most tenuous ones.

    Multiverse theory != every possibility is true somewhere. ‘nuf said.

    The term “universe” is a bit fuzzy at times. Ostensibly it can mean something like “all that exists”, in which there obviously couldn’t be more than one universe. In the context of multiverse theories, the term is used more to refer to a discrete collection of dimensions, energy, and matter. While there are connections between various postulated universes, there are generally no interactions.

  • WebMonk

    Just to toss in a couple corrections to scattered statements above:

    Multiverse theory in some ways is “just” theory, however it is the best way, so far, to explain details which we see in the universe. It is not just a way to account for the fine-tuning of the universe for life without having to believe in God.

    None of the multiverse theories have universal support among scientists. It’s an area of development and unsettled theories looking for support. Some theories have some support, but none have total support.

    There are different types of multiverse theories – some with relatively limited number of universes, some with massive numbers of universes (10^500+), some with essentially infinite universes. The infinite universe theories are the most tenuous ones.

    Multiverse theory != every possibility is true somewhere. ‘nuf said.

    The term “universe” is a bit fuzzy at times. Ostensibly it can mean something like “all that exists”, in which there obviously couldn’t be more than one universe. In the context of multiverse theories, the term is used more to refer to a discrete collection of dimensions, energy, and matter. While there are connections between various postulated universes, there are generally no interactions.

  • WebMonk

    No Porcell, I would suggest that we need to shut up when we talk about the science of what scientists are talking about if we don’t understand it. One can go do the work and come to an understanding, but until then people disgrace themselves by making statements on things they don’t understand.

    Have you read the book Porcell? Do you know ANYTHING about it beyond what publicists and reporters have written about it? Have you even read an analysis by someone who has actually read the book? Do you know that it is actually “a metaphysical argument from naturalism that in itself is a dubious proposition.”?

    Let’s hold off on bashing it until we actually have some good information on it.

    Like I said earlier, my impression was that they were putting forward the more personal and less strictly logical argument that the universe/multiverse is insanely more complicated than anyone thinks, and believing in a creator God who is all focused and wrapped up in Earth and humans is nonsense.

    I disagree with him, but he isn’t making the sorts of arguments that people here seem to be bashing him about, and it’s silly to bash him for things he isn’t promoting.

    That part which I mentioned was only a small fraction of the more generally educational approach the book took in trying to teach its readers about the current state of affairs in theoretical physics. Mainly it seemed to be educational and focused on the science of the issue. The metaphysical parts of the book were definitely few and far between and were not anywhere close to being central to the book.

  • WebMonk

    No Porcell, I would suggest that we need to shut up when we talk about the science of what scientists are talking about if we don’t understand it. One can go do the work and come to an understanding, but until then people disgrace themselves by making statements on things they don’t understand.

    Have you read the book Porcell? Do you know ANYTHING about it beyond what publicists and reporters have written about it? Have you even read an analysis by someone who has actually read the book? Do you know that it is actually “a metaphysical argument from naturalism that in itself is a dubious proposition.”?

    Let’s hold off on bashing it until we actually have some good information on it.

    Like I said earlier, my impression was that they were putting forward the more personal and less strictly logical argument that the universe/multiverse is insanely more complicated than anyone thinks, and believing in a creator God who is all focused and wrapped up in Earth and humans is nonsense.

    I disagree with him, but he isn’t making the sorts of arguments that people here seem to be bashing him about, and it’s silly to bash him for things he isn’t promoting.

    That part which I mentioned was only a small fraction of the more generally educational approach the book took in trying to teach its readers about the current state of affairs in theoretical physics. Mainly it seemed to be educational and focused on the science of the issue. The metaphysical parts of the book were definitely few and far between and were not anywhere close to being central to the book.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@37), I find it a little ironic that you are now the one arguing for some romantic notion of egalitarianism, given how much you’ve railed against such in the past. Funny how the same man who argues that some people are “intellectually superior” to others suddenly gets his knickers in a wad about “snobbish”ness when someone implies that he should stick to subjects he knows at least something about.

    Fine, Peter, display your ignorance for all to see. As I see you’ve done quite well when you say that “Einstein argued on metaphysical ground that God doesn’t play dice with the universe”. Do you have any idea what Einstein was talking about? Do you? Oh, that’s right, you don’t need to. Your comments here are the equivalent of a “Nietzsche is dead” bumper sticker.

    I will say two things from my own limited understanding of what Einstein actually said: (1) He was not in the least arguing from a “metaphysical” stance, but purely from his struggle with quantum mechanics, and (2) Einstein appears to have been wrong.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@37), I find it a little ironic that you are now the one arguing for some romantic notion of egalitarianism, given how much you’ve railed against such in the past. Funny how the same man who argues that some people are “intellectually superior” to others suddenly gets his knickers in a wad about “snobbish”ness when someone implies that he should stick to subjects he knows at least something about.

    Fine, Peter, display your ignorance for all to see. As I see you’ve done quite well when you say that “Einstein argued on metaphysical ground that God doesn’t play dice with the universe”. Do you have any idea what Einstein was talking about? Do you? Oh, that’s right, you don’t need to. Your comments here are the equivalent of a “Nietzsche is dead” bumper sticker.

    I will say two things from my own limited understanding of what Einstein actually said: (1) He was not in the least arguing from a “metaphysical” stance, but purely from his struggle with quantum mechanics, and (2) Einstein appears to have been wrong.

  • Porcell

    John, in that Burke’s Corner post, Burke writes:

    Hawking makes a particularly startling claim – that “philosophy is dead”. From Plato and Aristotle to Maimonides and Aquinas to Kant and Hegel, Hawking dismisses how the human mind across cultures and millenia has reflected on transcendence and humanity’s place in a vast universe. Hawking’s lack of humility before this endeavour is staggering.

    Hawking is indeed arrogant when he pontificates that philosophical and transcendent thought has been replaced by advanced “science” and is dead. He’s basically parading his scientific knowledge and trying to intimidate anyone who questions this. People like Todd and WebMonk fall hard for this.

    Burke’s Corner is based on Edmund Burke, the conservative philosopher who understood that both scientists and French Revolution radicals were about displacing religion and traditional society. Burke would have none of this. Neither should we.

  • Porcell

    John, in that Burke’s Corner post, Burke writes:

    Hawking makes a particularly startling claim – that “philosophy is dead”. From Plato and Aristotle to Maimonides and Aquinas to Kant and Hegel, Hawking dismisses how the human mind across cultures and millenia has reflected on transcendence and humanity’s place in a vast universe. Hawking’s lack of humility before this endeavour is staggering.

    Hawking is indeed arrogant when he pontificates that philosophical and transcendent thought has been replaced by advanced “science” and is dead. He’s basically parading his scientific knowledge and trying to intimidate anyone who questions this. People like Todd and WebMonk fall hard for this.

    Burke’s Corner is based on Edmund Burke, the conservative philosopher who understood that both scientists and French Revolution radicals were about displacing religion and traditional society. Burke would have none of this. Neither should we.

  • Porcell

    Todd, I’m far from arguing any sort of egalitarianism; Rather that intelligent religious people have every right to question scientists who wander on to religious or metaphysical ground.

  • Porcell

    Todd, I’m far from arguing any sort of egalitarianism; Rather that intelligent religious people have every right to question scientists who wander on to religious or metaphysical ground.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Hawking’s argument is rather shallow. I hate to say that about such a brilliant man, but it is true. Hawking’s idea is not even original, as others have argued basically the same thing.

    He says that we don’t need God as a creator because the laws of physics (e.g. gravity, quantum mechanics) are sufficient to account for the origin of the universe. However, the only thing that Hawking has done is put the questions addressed by the cosmological argument back a step. Where did those laws come from? Did the laws create themselves? Have they always existed? Why are there laws at all? Or where did the multiverse come from? Has it existed forever? Did it create itself too?

    Either the multiverse and its laws have existed forever, they created themselves, or they were created by something outside of the multiverse. The first option leads to the question “then why is there something rather than nothing?” Additionally, it has no empirical evidence. The second option is considered by almost all to be absurd. Even if universes can pop into existence out of nothing, which has not been demonstrated, did the laws that allow this to happen create themselves? The third option is the theistic option, and is at least as rational, and in the minds of many philosophers, more rational, than the other options.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Hawking’s argument is rather shallow. I hate to say that about such a brilliant man, but it is true. Hawking’s idea is not even original, as others have argued basically the same thing.

    He says that we don’t need God as a creator because the laws of physics (e.g. gravity, quantum mechanics) are sufficient to account for the origin of the universe. However, the only thing that Hawking has done is put the questions addressed by the cosmological argument back a step. Where did those laws come from? Did the laws create themselves? Have they always existed? Why are there laws at all? Or where did the multiverse come from? Has it existed forever? Did it create itself too?

    Either the multiverse and its laws have existed forever, they created themselves, or they were created by something outside of the multiverse. The first option leads to the question “then why is there something rather than nothing?” Additionally, it has no empirical evidence. The second option is considered by almost all to be absurd. Even if universes can pop into existence out of nothing, which has not been demonstrated, did the laws that allow this to happen create themselves? The third option is the theistic option, and is at least as rational, and in the minds of many philosophers, more rational, than the other options.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kevin (@44), I wasn’t sure I really understood Hawking’s comments on God, not having read the book and knowing almost nothing about M-theories, but I had thought the same thing.

    That said, do you know if Hawking addresses the questions in your second paragraph? Of the three options you list in your third paragraph, does the new book appear to argue for any of them? Based on the media spectacle, it would appear that Hawking argues against your third option.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kevin (@44), I wasn’t sure I really understood Hawking’s comments on God, not having read the book and knowing almost nothing about M-theories, but I had thought the same thing.

    That said, do you know if Hawking addresses the questions in your second paragraph? Of the three options you list in your third paragraph, does the new book appear to argue for any of them? Based on the media spectacle, it would appear that Hawking argues against your third option.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    tODD (#45),
    I’m sorry, but I have only read articles, not the real thing, so I don’t know whether he addresses these issues (i.e. the cosmological argument for the existence of God) or not.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    tODD (#45),
    I’m sorry, but I have only read articles, not the real thing, so I don’t know whether he addresses these issues (i.e. the cosmological argument for the existence of God) or not.

  • WebMonk

    Porcell, I suggest you REALLY need to read the book. The guy on that Burke’s Corner blog took that “philosophy is dead” quote COMPLETELY out of context.

    I did happen to read that paragraph and was a bit startled. I then continued to read and actually followed up on what his whole point was rather than selecting three words out of a whole chapter.

    Philosophy is not claimed to be dead. He is saying that philosophy is insufficient to answer the biggest questions of humanity and that a basis in scientific understanding in needed to answer those questions. It’s a questionable but not outrageous position.

    CAN NO ONE ACTUALLY READ THE *BEEP*ING BOOK BEFORE THEY COMMENT ON IT?!?!?!?

  • WebMonk

    Porcell, I suggest you REALLY need to read the book. The guy on that Burke’s Corner blog took that “philosophy is dead” quote COMPLETELY out of context.

    I did happen to read that paragraph and was a bit startled. I then continued to read and actually followed up on what his whole point was rather than selecting three words out of a whole chapter.

    Philosophy is not claimed to be dead. He is saying that philosophy is insufficient to answer the biggest questions of humanity and that a basis in scientific understanding in needed to answer those questions. It’s a questionable but not outrageous position.

    CAN NO ONE ACTUALLY READ THE *BEEP*ING BOOK BEFORE THEY COMMENT ON IT?!?!?!?

  • WebMonk

    With tODD and KevinN (and contrary to Porcell’s claims about me) I don’t think Hawking puts forward a solid argument against the existence of God. Like I said, his statements that God is not needed weren’t put into strong and precise structures of arguments, but were more of side-commentary.

    He never touched on why the branes of dimensions exist at all, so like KevinN said, his argument only pushed the question back a step. He’s not a philosopher and his philosophical arguments aren’t rigorously or precisely stated.

    Based on the little bit I read, I would guess that he would go for the eternal existence. The word “eternal” has some weird connotations since some/many of the posited dimensions exist outside of the time dimension (and if I understand branes correctly in my very limited way, some dimensions intersect the time dimension at some points but not at others). So saying something has always (a time-laden term) existed gets a bit fiddly.

    I think he would hold that the multiverse exists eternally in the same way Christians hold God to have existed eternally.

    That’s strictly a guess, though. He didn’t touch on that in what I read.

  • WebMonk

    With tODD and KevinN (and contrary to Porcell’s claims about me) I don’t think Hawking puts forward a solid argument against the existence of God. Like I said, his statements that God is not needed weren’t put into strong and precise structures of arguments, but were more of side-commentary.

    He never touched on why the branes of dimensions exist at all, so like KevinN said, his argument only pushed the question back a step. He’s not a philosopher and his philosophical arguments aren’t rigorously or precisely stated.

    Based on the little bit I read, I would guess that he would go for the eternal existence. The word “eternal” has some weird connotations since some/many of the posited dimensions exist outside of the time dimension (and if I understand branes correctly in my very limited way, some dimensions intersect the time dimension at some points but not at others). So saying something has always (a time-laden term) existed gets a bit fiddly.

    I think he would hold that the multiverse exists eternally in the same way Christians hold God to have existed eternally.

    That’s strictly a guess, though. He didn’t touch on that in what I read.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I took a course in Plato under Raphael Demos, an excellent professor of classic philosophy and natural religion. He was intellectually the most rigorous of my professors. Demos basically argued that contemporary scientific cosmology misunderstood the relation of the physical universe to the concept of being as understood by Plato, Aristotle, and other western philosophers. Since then I’ve read several books on cosmology by brilliant contemporary scientists on cosmology and found Demos’ view to be amply confirmed.

    He, also, claimed that the view of naturalism that truth is contained only in the theoretical and empirical study of physical science is badly flawed, even when as in the present case of Hawking and Mlodinow, God is placed in the gaps. Classic philosophy’s exploration of being is far more fruitful than contemporary scientist’s speculative forays into cosmology. Essentially they attempt a scientific explanation of the universe that is by its nature probably an impossibility. Veith’s observation of science in the gaps is astute, as the gaps of any of these “scientific” cosmologies are of necessity rather wide.

    I shall probably read The Grand Design, mainly to understand what modern scientific cosmology is up to, though I don’t expect the book will have anything serious to say about the true creation of the universe, something that ultimately has to be taken as a matter of faith.
    Demos, by the way, thought Plato came very close in his thought about the good to the Judeo-Christian conception of the good, though he, personally, happened to be a religious skeptic.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I took a course in Plato under Raphael Demos, an excellent professor of classic philosophy and natural religion. He was intellectually the most rigorous of my professors. Demos basically argued that contemporary scientific cosmology misunderstood the relation of the physical universe to the concept of being as understood by Plato, Aristotle, and other western philosophers. Since then I’ve read several books on cosmology by brilliant contemporary scientists on cosmology and found Demos’ view to be amply confirmed.

    He, also, claimed that the view of naturalism that truth is contained only in the theoretical and empirical study of physical science is badly flawed, even when as in the present case of Hawking and Mlodinow, God is placed in the gaps. Classic philosophy’s exploration of being is far more fruitful than contemporary scientist’s speculative forays into cosmology. Essentially they attempt a scientific explanation of the universe that is by its nature probably an impossibility. Veith’s observation of science in the gaps is astute, as the gaps of any of these “scientific” cosmologies are of necessity rather wide.

    I shall probably read The Grand Design, mainly to understand what modern scientific cosmology is up to, though I don’t expect the book will have anything serious to say about the true creation of the universe, something that ultimately has to be taken as a matter of faith.
    Demos, by the way, thought Plato came very close in his thought about the good to the Judeo-Christian conception of the good, though he, personally, happened to be a religious skeptic.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel

    Louis (@36) Thanks – I agree that scientists’ forays into philosophy are clumsy and Hawkings does in fact illustrate that point by appropriating multiverse theory as an argument against theism. As I said, “the fallacy is that a complex solution for something we had once believed simple is somehow a reasonable line of attack against God’s existence.” Hawkings makes leads the way into this fallacy by using multiverse theory as he does – it makes no more sense to do this than it does to use the theory of gravity as an argument against God. In my comment @6 I am trying to prevent us all from following him into the same fallacy by using God as an argument against multiverse theory. (Again, would it have made sense to use God as an argument against the theory of gravity when it was first introduced?) There are, in fact, reasonable grounds for multiverse models that have nothing to do with the divisions between theists and atheists. It’s kind of sad and disturbing to see the level of reactive snark and ignorance on display in many of these comments, but I at least partly blame Hawkins’ book (or at least its reviewer) for being a poor and misleading introduction to the subject.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel

    Louis (@36) Thanks – I agree that scientists’ forays into philosophy are clumsy and Hawkings does in fact illustrate that point by appropriating multiverse theory as an argument against theism. As I said, “the fallacy is that a complex solution for something we had once believed simple is somehow a reasonable line of attack against God’s existence.” Hawkings makes leads the way into this fallacy by using multiverse theory as he does – it makes no more sense to do this than it does to use the theory of gravity as an argument against God. In my comment @6 I am trying to prevent us all from following him into the same fallacy by using God as an argument against multiverse theory. (Again, would it have made sense to use God as an argument against the theory of gravity when it was first introduced?) There are, in fact, reasonable grounds for multiverse models that have nothing to do with the divisions between theists and atheists. It’s kind of sad and disturbing to see the level of reactive snark and ignorance on display in many of these comments, but I at least partly blame Hawkins’ book (or at least its reviewer) for being a poor and misleading introduction to the subject.

  • Anonymous

    “One God or billions of universes?”

    Why must it be an either/or?

  • Anonymous

    “One God or billions of universes?”

    Why must it be an either/or?

  • WebMonk

    Right on anonymous.

    Joel, I made it through just over 3/4 of The Grand Design and I didn’t find anywhere yet where Hawking makes the claim that a multiverse disproves the existence of God.

    In fact, as I’ve made it most of the way through, I’ve come to the opinion that Hawking probably didn’t write much of it as Mlodinow did. The style of writing is significantly different than that of A Brief History of Time.

    I think the description on the cover and publicist advertising was created to catch more attention than it was to accurately portray the book.

  • WebMonk

    Right on anonymous.

    Joel, I made it through just over 3/4 of The Grand Design and I didn’t find anywhere yet where Hawking makes the claim that a multiverse disproves the existence of God.

    In fact, as I’ve made it most of the way through, I’ve come to the opinion that Hawking probably didn’t write much of it as Mlodinow did. The style of writing is significantly different than that of A Brief History of Time.

    I think the description on the cover and publicist advertising was created to catch more attention than it was to accurately portray the book.

  • ptl

    Hey WebMonk….now you are just catching on to the “business” of marketing these sorts of books to the no-math-no-scientific background, general public….this is just entertainment for them and making the authors a pretty nice bundle in the process…you should not take it so seriously either, hopefully?

  • ptl

    Hey WebMonk….now you are just catching on to the “business” of marketing these sorts of books to the no-math-no-scientific background, general public….this is just entertainment for them and making the authors a pretty nice bundle in the process…you should not take it so seriously either, hopefully?

  • WebMonk

    Oh, I know that’s what the design is like, it’s just that this book seems to have suffered from a much worse than normal media-attention-grabbing-popularization dust cover dramatization.

    And, of course, the blogosphere and reporters jumped onto the dustcover and never bothered to look at the book. From what I read, it’s because the book is a bit on the dull side of things. Much more exciting to blast back and forth about the dust cover.

  • WebMonk

    Oh, I know that’s what the design is like, it’s just that this book seems to have suffered from a much worse than normal media-attention-grabbing-popularization dust cover dramatization.

    And, of course, the blogosphere and reporters jumped onto the dustcover and never bothered to look at the book. From what I read, it’s because the book is a bit on the dull side of things. Much more exciting to blast back and forth about the dust cover.

  • Udaybhanu Chitrakar

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “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.”
    - Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. 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.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

  • Udaybhanu Chitrakar

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “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.”
    - Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. 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.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?


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