Posts Tagged 'Stephen Hawking'

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.

Continue reading ‘Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part III)’

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Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part II)

Hows, Whys, Wherefores, and Miserable Refuges

Woman teaching geometry, from Adelard's translation of Euclid

[See Part I for introduction]
Adelard of Bath (or Athelhard, AD 1080-1160) is sometimes known as the first English scientist. In his classic work Natural Questions he states:

I will detract nothing from God; for whatever is, is from him and by him; yet not even this is said vaguely and without due care, as we must listen to the very limits of human knowledge: only where this utterly breaks down, should we refer things to God.

In common with Christians down through the ages, Adelard sought natural answers to natural questions as far as such studies could be taken. Natural Questions is a dialogue between Adelard and his nephew in which he asks, ‘Why is there a rainbow in the heavens?’ His nephew replies that it is a sign of God’s promise not to flood the entire earth again. Adelard says

Of course that’s what God said and of course God put the rainbow there, but that doesn’t explain the rainbow. That is an example of a miserable refuge from a real philosophic explanation…I know God did it! But that’s not natural philosophy [i.e. science], that’s theology.

Continue reading ‘Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part II)’

Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part I)

Stephen Hawking 'speaks' once again 'ex cathedra'

We consider the 2010 book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (screenwriter for Star Trek: the Next Generation), but first we must lay some groundwork. For ease of digestion this post is split into three parts, the first two parts being introductory.

Intelligent Design and the limits of science

To start with, here’s an old chestnut: is ‘Intelligent Design’ a scientific hypothesis? Well, it is a hypothesis, and a most intelligent hypothesis, held by the brightest of minds for thousands of years, that something with the appearance of design (which even atheists admit) is actually designed. Whether or not it is true, it cannot be denied except by the most churlish that the inference is a reasonable one. However, if we deliberately limit the term ‘scientific’ to natural science, wherein scientific hypotheses have natural explanations exclusively in terms of natural phenomena from within the natural world itself – a closed system where there is no external causation, or where at the very least external causation is beyond the scope of scientific explanation – then according to this definition intelligent design cannot be a scientific hypothesis.

But so what? All this means is that science is deliberately limited in explanation, and deliberately so limited by definition. Primary causation is not only outside but also incomprehensible to scientific enquiry, so primary causation, even if true, cannot offer a ‘scientific’ explanation. Without access to the designer’s original plan, as it were, where could the hypothesis of intelligent design take us from a ‘scientific’ perspective? It has no explanatory power, no predictive capability, no falsifiability within the self-defined and self-limiting ‘scientific’ realm. As an example, if I tell you in all truth that the jet engine was designed by Frank Whittle, what does that fact tell you about the jet engine other than that it was designed by Frank Whittle?

Continue reading ‘Hawking’s Grand Delusion (Part I)’

The Atheist Delusion

There has been a torrent of books by the so-called New Atheists in recent years, diatribes from the pens of biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006), journalist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great, 2007), writer Sam Harris (The End of Faith, 2004) and their ilk. Whatever their expertise in their specialisms, they have arrogantly marched forth into the fields of their own incompetence, and thereby done us all a great favour in showing that the New Atheism spawns intellectual pygmies of the philosophy of religion. As philosopher David B. Hart has remarked,

A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects, and to understand the consequences of that rejection. Among the New Atheists, there is no one of whom this can be said, and the movement as a whole has yet to produce a single book or essay that is anything more than an insipidly doctrinaire and appallingly ignorant diatribe.

Their writings have drawn back the curtain to reveal the clanking machinery, the hollowness and the intellectual bankruptcy of the New Atheism. For this we are forever grateful, and when their other ideas have been discarded and relegated to footnotes, historians will surely point to their feet of clay displayed by their poor judgment, their bias, nastiness, ignorance and inability to structure logical argument in their writings on religion. As Hart confirms:

The best that we can now hope for [from New Atheists] are arguments pursued at only the most vulgar of intellectual levels, couched in an infantile and carpingly pompous tone, and lacking all but the meagerest traces of historical erudition or syllogistic rigour: Richard Dawkins triumphantly adducing “philosophical” arguments that a college freshman midway through his first logic course could dismantle in a trice…

The author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker can never again be taken seriously as a clear thinker: he has well and truly shot his bolt and missed his target.

Continue reading ‘The Atheist Delusion’

Large Hadron Collider or Loada Hypothetical Codswallop?

Due to a fault, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Geneva is out of action for some months. The problem was a magnet quench, or more precisely the magnet quench was a result of some deeper underlying problem. A small energy perturbation can cause a tiny region in the field coils to stop superconducting, then the heat generated from ohmic losses due to the very large currents flowing causes massive local heating which, like an avalanche effect, very quickly heats the whole field coil out of the superconducting state. This almost instantly boils off hundreds of kilogrammes of liquid helium. These things occasionally happen with large superconducting magnets, for example in MRI scanners used in hospitals, and they are both expensive in the cost of replacing the helium, and in the downtime associated with getting things up and running again.

So much for this expensive, but fairly trivial and routine setback. I’m much more concerned about the hype generated by physicists to do with the LHC. Obviously, a lot of exaggeration has been used to secure the tremendous funding for this in the first place – possibly as much as 10 billion US dollars equivalent by the time this monster starts giving interesting results. One wonders whether the BBC are simply relaying CERN press releases, or whether they are being spiced up by an over-zealous science editor.

It goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. From their BBC News website they make the following statement about the collisions experiments by the LHC:

Scientists hope it will shed light on fundamental questions in physics.

That’s absolutely fine. Spot on. That’s a statement of fact we can all sign off on. However, the statement

The LHC is built to smash protons together at huge speeds, recreating conditions moments after the Big Bang

is only partially acceptable. Yes, it is built to smash protons together at huge speeds (statement of fact). But No, it cannot be stated as a fact that it will recreate conditions moments after the Big Bang – that’s a statement of belief. Do you see the problem? The ‘Big Bang’ is merely one theory about something that happened a very long time ago. As such, the coming into being of the universe is itself one of the fundamental questions in physics. It is begging the question to state that the LHC will re-create conditions that persisted after the Big Bang when the very existence of a Big Bang is an unproven theory. Every age has its pet theory about origins, and this one will probably look very silly in a hundred years time. Continue reading ‘Large Hadron Collider or Loada Hypothetical Codswallop?’


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