Physics and the Uncaused First Cause

Christian physicist Frank Tipler, via Stephen Hawking, offers an update on St. Thomas Aquinas:

In 1966, Stephen Hawking published his first — completely valid — proof for the existence of God. Over the next seven years, he followed this with even more powerful valid theorems proving God’s existence.

So how did Hawking, who successfully proved God’s existence, remain an atheist? Simple. He simply denied that the assumptions he used in his proofs were true. As a matter of logic, if the assumptions in a proof are not true, then the conclusions need not be true. What assumptions did the young Hawking make? He assumed that the laws of physics, mainly Einstein’s theory of gravity, were true. In the summary of his early research, namely his book The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, Hawking wrote:  “It seems to be a good principle that the prediction of [God] by a physical theory indicates that the theory has broken down, i.e. it no longer provides a correct description of observations.”

Hawking then began working on quantum gravity, in hopes that God would be at last eliminated from the equations. Alas, it was not to be: God was even more prominent — and unavoidable — in quantum gravity than in Einstein’s theory of gravity. In his latest book, The Grand Design, Hawking has pinned his hope of eliminating God on M-theory, a theory with no experimental support whatsoever, hence not a theory of physics at all. Nor has it been proven that M-theory is mathematically consistent. Nor has it been proven that God has been eliminated from M-theory. There are disquieting signs (for Hawking and company) that He is also unavoidable in M-theory, as He is in Einstein’s gravity, and in quantum gravity. . . .

The alert reader will have noticed that in the above quote, Hawking did not actually use the word “God.” But this is what he really meant. To see this, let us recall just what the word “God” means.

Consider the opening words of the (original) Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the omnipotent Father, Maker of all things visible and invisible.” These words give the basic definition of “God” used by Christians and Jews: God is the Cause of everything, but He Himself has no cause. God is the Uncaused First Cause. In his Second Way, Thomas Aquinas proves the existence of the Uncaused First (efficient) Cause, and Aquinas concludes, “to which all give the name ‘God’ (quam omnes Deum nominant).”

So now let us return to the theorems of the young Hawking. By following the history of the universe back into time — in other words, by following the causes of the current universe back into time — Hawking proved that all of these causes had a common cause; a common cause that did not itself have a cause. This common cause was an Uncaused Cause that was beyond the control of the laws of physics, beyond the control of any possible laws of physics. Rather, the entire universe began at this Uncaused First Cause.

In exactly the same way that Aquinas used the word “create,” we can say that the Uncaused First Cause, whose existence was proven decades ago by Hawking, “created” the universe.

Hawking called this Uncaused First Cause a “singularity.”

But given the properties of this “singularity,” it is God.

via Pajamas Media » Proving the Existence of God.

A physicist on Hawking’s self-creating universe

Physicist Stephen Barr discusses Stephen Hawking’s recent book, explaining his arguments, explaining what physicists mean by multiple universes, and, finally, explaining why none of this diminishes the case for God at all.  Instead of my trying to paraphrase or quote from what was said, you can just read it yourself:

Much Ado About “Nothing”: Stephen Hawking and the Self-Creating Universe | First Things.

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?

Scientists on aliens & things beyond our ken

What is significant in this story is not that super-scientist Stephen Hawkings now believes in aliens–and warns us not to go looking for them–but the statement by the astronomer royal:

The  aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.

The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries. Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.

Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.

“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”

The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.

One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.

Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” . . .

Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon.

So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances.

Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.

Hawking’s belief in aliens places him in good scientific company. In his recent Wonders of the Solar System BBC series, Professor Brian Cox backed the idea, too, suggesting Mars, Europa and Titan, a moon of Saturn, as likely places to look.

Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding. “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”

via Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking – Times Online

Yes, Lord Rees! It’s called theology.


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