Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Now Stephen . . . Really?

I love science. I was honored when my youngest son, Ramsey, graduated last week from U of Washington's astrophysics department (their youngest graduate) and the message read by the presenter (written by my son) that he thanked his dad for giving him a passion for science.

Ramsey is home for a few days. I caught a lecture via Stephen Hawking on Discovery. I knew I had seen it before. I thought it was dealing with some of the fascinating things of cosmology.  I ran out from my bedroom into the living room where Ramsey was watching Seinfield  and told him to switch channels. I returned to bed. There I discovered it was Stephen's lecture to disprove the existence of God.

Actually, the real title of the lecture was along the lines of why quantum mechanics takes away the need for God.

In summary, the main problem, which I've alluded to previously, is what the old philosophers called the prime mover dilemma.  In other words how did anything get here without an starter . . . God in other words.

The way that Stephen handled it was with the issue of time. We know that mass distorts the fabric of space and time. In the incredible density of a black hole, time is distorted to the point it eventually stops. So, Hawking's main point that just after the big bang, all of the physical universe was confined to a point of singularity, that (now get your head around this) is infinitely small and dense. Now in that setting, according to quantum mechanics, time would cease to exist. If there was no time, there could be no "before."  If there is no "before" then there can't be a prime mover . . . or at least a need for one.

I think the classical physicists and philosophers from the nineteenth centuries would break out in laughter to imagine that this solves the problem of atheism. As I said before, all ways out lead to an incredible wall or dilemma  . . . including Christianity. This mind game of Hawking's is an attempted elevator up that wall . . . but it doesn't work.

I had a discussion the next morning over coffee with Ramsey. The quantum answer to the prime mover problem is just the beginning. The other great problem of atheism is meaning. There can be none, unless you take the same irrational leap that the Christians take when they say they know God is there because they have a "God-shaped void" in their hearts.  Nihilism is the only possible, rational conclusion to atheism. There can be no meaning. No ethics, No purpose. A dog turd has the same value as the greatest human accomplishments.  Stephen has no reason to smile. But he did give me a cold night of pondering, and a little doubt, before I came to my senses.


Paul said...

Hi , monist! i thought you might like this! it is certainly relevant to the issue: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=1

written by Philosopher & physicist David Albert.

Congrats on your son Ramsey by the way! i plan to go into the field of science when i graduate from high school next year.

jmj said...

Paul, first of all I'm impressed with your level of thinking for a 17 year old.

Yeah, right on the money. It is the same thing as I'm talking about.

Jaimie said...

That's incredibly interesting. To me, that just means that God created time along with everything else. Since when does God have to be something that makes sense in our universe? Einstein allowed for multiple universes with totally different rules in all of them.

This reminded me of this Stephen Hawking biopic I've been wanting to watch. I'm downloading it now (there's no way to get this legally that I can find...). It's called Hawking, a TV movie from the BBC in 2004, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Woot.

Apparently it's playing on YouTube too.

Philip said...

Hey Mike,
I'm sure you've heard of the Veritas Forum, but I thought I'd just mention it as it has a lot of good stuff on science and faith. It can be found at Veritas.org. I find it useful in working with youth, as young people are always asking the big questions.

Also, as a total aside, I grew up in Cambridge and once went for a jog and ran right by Hawking. I couldn't believe it! My brother went to school with his son, and unfortunately Hawkins got divorced around this time.

Thanks for your article!