Posts Tagged 'atheism'

Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part III)

 

[Read Part I and Part II for background]

Stephen Hawking is doubtless a very intelligent man, but in his most recent book The Grand Design (surely a title that is supposed to be ironic) he has shown that even the most intelligent of scientists can write like a fool, and this monograph will become a classic for that very reason. He followed up his inanities in an interview on Larry King Live on September 10, 2010. It is now evident to all (if anyone was hitherto in any doubt) that Hawking’s brilliance is in a very narrow field indeed, apart from which he gropes and stumbles like a drunken man. Early in his book he announces

Philosophy is dead. It has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly in physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.

As William Lane Craig has remarked, such a verdict is

not merely condescending, but also…outrageously naïve. The man who claims to have no need of philosophy is the one most apt to be fooled by it.

Indeed, Hawking and his sidekick Mlodinow proceed to show just how ignorant they are of philosophy, theology, the philosophy of science, the history of philosophy, the history of science, and general science itself. In the Larry King Live show Hawking was asked who his hero was, and why, to which he responded:

Galileo, the first modern scientist who realized the importance of observation.

Well, you can have who you like as your hero, of course, but the historical claim about Galileo is utter rot. He couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of Kepler, for one. Galileo was a second-rate scientist in the main, who continued to his dying day to deny gravitational force as constraining bodies to rotate around the sun, clinging to an Aristotelian idea that celestial bodies ‘naturally’ moved in ‘perfect’ circles because they were not acted upon by a centripetal force, and he refused to accept Kepler’s careful observations and tabulated data that planets were subject to gravitational pull and moved in ellipses. He likewise refused to believe that the sun and moon caused the tides, as Kepler showed, because he denied extraterrestrial gravity. Apart from his last work, under house arrest, on mechanics, the myth of Galileo’s supposed greatness is the deliberate invention of atheists, communists and other anti-Christians, who have cunningly warped history since the nineteenth century to promote a ‘conflict thesis’. Mighty interesting that Hawking, who has built his reputation on pushing cosmic gravity into the absurd, without observational corroboration, should have as his hero one who denied extraterrestrial gravity and who often espoused dogma over meticulous observation.

But if philosophy is dead, it is dead only in the mind of Stephen Hawking, where it was delivered stillborn, or smothered at birth. As someone has said, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if ‘scientific’ conjecture is all Hawking has by way of explanation, it does the crudest of jobs, riding roughshod over and mangling all understanding, rationality and logic, so that he ends up making puerile statements unworthy of an intelligent man. Just as, by definition, ‘Intelligent Design’ is not a scientific hypothesis because it deals with causes outside the realm on natural science, likewise a physical explanation cannot be an explanation for a metaphysical problem.

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Ocean Acidification Scam

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The evidence is inexorably mounting that the climate alarmists have been taking us all for a ride. It is only be a matter of time before their agenda is exposed as one of the biggest con tricks of all time. Thus they are already scrambling to breathe new life into the CO2 emissions scare. It will become obvious (by the passage of years if nothing else) that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not, after all, cause any significant climate change, thus it will be necessary to blame CO2 (and hence man) for some other catastrophic event. So, prepare yourself for the coming “ocean acidification” scam.

The media have already entered the fray with lying narratives that sound like science fiction scripts, warning about the catastrophe of ‘acid oceans’ and ‘toxic seas’. The BBC have churned out headlines such as ‘Marine life faces ‘acid threat”, ‘Acid oceans ‘need urgent action” and ‘Acidic seas fuel extinction fears’. Newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and the Times have got in on the act with scary headlines such as ‘Mussels face extinction as oceans turn acidic’, ‘Pollution to devastate shellfish by turning seas acidic’ and ‘Acid seas threaten to make British shellfish extinct’. Just recently, it has got all the more strident: the Sunday Times (March 8, 2009) chimes in under the headline The toxic sea:

Each one of us dumps a tonne of carbon dioxide into the oceans every year, turning them into acidified soups — and threatening to destroy most of what lives in them.

And from the Guardian (March 10, 2009) under the headline Carbon emissions creating acidic oceans not seen since dinosaurs:

Human pollution is turning the seas into acid so quickly that the coming decades will recreate conditions not seen on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs…The rapid acidification is caused by the massive amounts of carbon belched out from chimneys and exhausts that dissolve in the ocean…the pH of surface waters, where the CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere, has fallen about 0.1 units since the industrial revolution, though it will take longer for the acid to reach deeper water.

Note the continual use of the word acid. Yet there is not the slightest possibility that seawater will turn to acid, or even become mildly acidic, so this is drivel. Note also the claim that pH has changed by 0.1 units over the last 200 years: it was not possible a hundred years ago, never mind 200 years ago, to measure pH to the accuracy necessary to support that assertion, so it’s just posturing. Finally, notice that CO2 is branded ‘human pollution’, though CO2 is an entirely natural and absolutely essential nutrient for plant photosynthesis, without which all life on earth would certainly become extinct very quickly.

As an aside, we should note that if lower alkalinity per se were so unfavourable to shellfish as is claimed then we would have no freshwater shellfish and snails – but we do. The freshwater mussel has lived for thousands of years in waters that are genuinely acidic and with highly variable pH, not only seasonally, but geographically. With spring snowmelt and high rainfall, the pH of rivers and lakes can fall to below pH 5, and experiments have shown that mussels can survive this acidity indefinitely without any deleterious effects to their shells. Note: a pH of 5 has 1,000 times as many ‘acidic’ H+ ions per litre as seawater, and 100 times more than pure water. This is not to say that sea creatures can survive in fresh water – they are adapted to a radically different saline environment – the point at issue is that the idea of a small change in ocean pH due to increased dissolved carbon dioxide having a deleterious effect on marine shells of living organisms is not as obvious as the alarmists make out.

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Atheist Mythology

Every belief system has an account of origins, and atheism is no exception. Narratives for atheists include the Big Bang (origin of the universe) and evolution (origin of variety and complexity of living organisms). Instead of man being formed out of the dust of the ground by God, man is formed out of the dust of the ground by evolution. It never ceases to amaze how those who espouse naturalism can poke fun at the Biblical account of origins, and yet be unable to see the ridiculous nature of their own position.

One who has studied a great deal about mythology is Raphael Madu. In his work African Symbols, Proverbs, and Myths: the Hermeneutics of Destiny he refers to earlier work by Earl MacCormac in Metaphor and Myth in Science and Religion, and Madu points out (footnote, page 96):

Because men have traditionally assumed a dichotomy between myth and science, it might be shocking to talk of scientific myths… Scientific explanations are known for being falsifiable and thus temporary, but to forget these qualities of science and assume that they are absolute and final, is to create a myth. The dissimilarity between religious and scientific myths is largely on the level of content. While the former are replete with descriptions of legendary heroes and deities, the latter are filled with mathematical symbols and references.

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Christianity and Science

It is commonly believed that there is a war between modern science and Christianity, but such a view has long been discredited by historians and sociologists. No less a figure than Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, notes that

In the late Victorian period it was common to write about the “warfare between science and religion” and to presume that the two bodies of culture must always have been in conflict. However, it is a very long time since these attitudes have been held by historians of science.

Moreover, Gary Ferngren, a professor of history at Oregon State University, adds that

Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour.

It is certain that there is a war between Christianity and atheism, but to portray the Christian faith as being at war with science is nonsense, because the Christian faith pursues, embraces and delights in all truth, since it teaches that all truth is from God. Natural science is simply one aspect of the universe of truth: the truth about the natural world, which God created and upholds. Accordingly, there can never be any truth or fact found by natural science that is inimical to the Christian faith. Neither is there, strictly speaking, such a thing as ‘Christian science’ because such a term implies that truth can be institutionalized, whereas truth is universal, and should be universally disseminated and applied.

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Islam and Science

Scholars always have to come up with some new thing, and currently in vogue is the alleged contribution of Islam to modern science. This myth is based on a historical prejudice against the western Middle Ages (a very old term, originally coined as a term of deprecation) and the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, in order to introduce such terms as Renaissance (from the moribund or dead) and Enlightenment (from the benighted and dark). The use of such value-laden terms is part of the propaganda, or ‘narrative’, as the Postmodernists would have it, but having written off the period from AD 500 to 1500 as one of profound darkness and ignorance, it is embarrassing and inconvenient for historians to find increasing evidence that there were significant scientific and technological advances in Christendom during this period. For those who wish to keep up the pretence of the narrative, it has become necessary to invent an external agent as the source of learning, and as Islam arose during this period it is easiest and most convenient to hitch the wagon to that.

That, however, is a perversion of history. It is true that there was development of astronomy, medicine, mathematics and chemistry in the so-called Golden Age of Islam (another loaded descriptor); the question is, what had these to do with Islam, and what did Islam do with such disciplines? The answer is that they had practically nothing to do with Islam, and Islam ultimately destroyed them. The rise and fall of ‘Islamic science’ is closely mirrored by the rise of ‘atheistic science’ in our own day. Atheistic materialism has done a smash-and-grab raid on everything nurtured on Christian foundations, and claims to be the only ‘real’ science, yet is in the process of destroying science, as did Islam. Neither atheism nor Islam have a satisfactory philosophical basis for science, and they develop authority structures against ‘heterodox’ thinkers and practitioners. How Islam destroyed science will be dealt with in a future post.

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Phoney War

The premise that science and Christianity are in conflict is without foundation. Many atheists have a vested interest in promulgating the idea, to the extent that it has become a myth. As with all propaganda, if a falsehood is repeated long enough and often enough it erodes and eventually supplants the truth.

Vocabulary is very useful in propaganda. At school I was correctly taught that the period known as the ‘Dark Ages’ is called thus by historians because there are few extant writings from that period – its history is dark and obscure for us. This is the view of sensible historians, but unscrupulous popularizers, and those with particular axes to grind, would prefer to put it the other way around, that the ages were ‘dark’ because the populace were superstitious and unlearned. By pushing this line, it becomes easier to get acceptance of the word ‘Enlightenment’ to describe the so-called Age of Reason in the eighteenth century, as if light came in and dispelled darkness when ‘reason’ was elevated to the highest authority, displacing divine revelation. But, of course, this ushered in unitarianism, deism, and eventually atheism, which, from a Christian worldview, were wandering in ever-increasing darkness, the blind leading the blind so that both are now fallen in the ditch.

Edward Gibbon, described by the historian Franco Venturi as “The English Giant of the Enlightenment” makes a good examplar of a prejudiced historian in his famous and highly influential work in 6 volumes (1776-88) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Not only does Gibbon excoriate Christianity for its enfeebling effect on a virile civilization (a theme recapitulated with a good deal less learning and erudition in the nineteenth century by the philosopher and God-hater, Nietzsche) and for supplanting “the great culture that preceded it”, but he also describes the Middle Ages as “the triumph of barbarism”, which is an utter travesty. Gibbon ignorantly writes off the Roman Empire that continued in Byzantium for a thousand years after the western part of the empire was overrun in the fifth century as “a tedious and uniform tale of weakness and misery” which bequeathed nothing to posterity, and his definition that “wars, and the administration of public affairs, are the principal subjects of history” is excessively narrow. To Gibbon’s credit, he did immense research on primary sources, but this simply makes his end product the more blameworthy. As J.C. Stobart pointed out

…this is one of the cases which prove that History is made not so much by heroes or natural forces as by historians.

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Encircling Gloom around Science

Aristotle (384-322 BC) was undoubtedly a genius, but continual feeding off his ideas beyond their ‘sell-by date’ ultimately impeded the development of modern science. The problem was that his works were held in such high esteem that they became an almost unshakeable orthodoxy, defended and imposed by authority. We find that those natural philosophers who stood against authoritarianism before the Reformation were the ones most likely to be making progress in the sciences – but they had to keep their heads down (we will make mention of some of them in future posts). From the Reformation onwards, Protestantism’s rejection of the authority of the Roman church, which had espoused Aristotelianism in the natural sciences, and which, by Aquinas, had infused Aristotelianism into its theology, liberated men to follow where the evidence led them – both in the natural sciences and theology.

Today the scientific world has more or less entrenched itself back into the mode of the bad old days. Those who have the power now exert it to defend the ‘orthodoxy’, to suppress evidence that undermines the orthodoxy, and to punish ‘heretics’ who dare to question the prevailing orthodoxy. The methods used include ridicule and ostracism, of course, and extend to refusal of access to the media, dismissal from post, and denial of resources (monetary and equipment). One can pretty much marginalize a scientist out of existence by dismissing him from his job and denying him the means to function, and the opportunity to publish his results. If anyone denies this is going on, just send a comment to this post, and examples will flow by the dozen.

To exemplify how far modern science has fallen from the reason that gave birth to it and succoured it, one need only go back to before the 1930s. In the late 1920s, science took a false turn and lost its way (as will be demonstrated in future posts), from which it is now racing headlong into an abyss. But until the late 1920s the following, delivered in a public lecture in 1926, was mainstream belief by men of science:

If anyone is able to contemplate the universe in all its magnificence and interlocked beauty and variety, and come to the conclusion that nothing higher than mankind exists in it, I cannot envy him his common sense. The universe is shoutingly full of design, plan, intention, purpose, reason, and what has been called Logos. Without it was not anything made that was made. Not only the heavens, but the earth; not only the flowers, mountains, sunsets, but every pebble, every grain of dust, the beautiful structure of every atom, proclaim the glory of the Being who planned and understands it all.

So spoke the physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, FRS (1851-1940), who closed out his days at the time that science was entering a darkening gloom. Lodge was the pioneer of radio (he was the first to demonstrate sending a message by radio, at Oxford in 1894) and had been awarded the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society in 1898 (so in such illustrious company as the devout Christian physicists Faraday, Maxwell and Stokes etc). He was professor of mathematics and physics at University College, Liverpool, and first principal of the new Birmingham University.

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