Response to Hawking on premier of “Curiosity”

Brilliant British cosmologist Stephen Hawking was the premier of a new Discovery Channel series called “Curiosity” last night. Part of his focus was why God is not necessary for the existence of the universe.

A response:

The existence of God is either the most important thing in the universe, or is wholly insignificant. God necessarily possibly exists. It is logically impossible for God to be impossible. The last statement doesn’t prove that God does exist, but it states that proof that God does not exist is impossible to attain.

It is impossible because to know that God does not exist would require a perfect knowledge of the universe and to possess such a knowledge would require one to be all knowing. Therefore to actually know that an all knowing being did not exist, one would have to be all knowing. Therefore, God possibly exists.

If God cannot be proven scientifically, is this a reason not to believe in God?

What is science? Can the validity of the scientific method itself be proven scientifically? It cannot, the scientific method is based on reason and logic.

Demanding scientific proof of the divine as the only justifiable reason for belief is putting faith in a philosophy.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument:

1. It is true that whatever begins to exist has a cause. This is logically and metaphysically necessary.

2. The universe began to exist. There is an abundance of evidence for this in physics, in the fact that galaxies are moving apart from each other, in the expansion of the universe. It’s also logically necessary that the universe had a finite beginning in time.

The idea of an infinitely old universe is logically contradictory, because if the universe were infinitely old, an infinite amount of time would have needed to have passed to get to the present.

3. Given that whatever begins to exist has a cause and that the universe began to exist, it logically follows that the universe has a cause.

This causes would need to be self-existent, non-physical (to be physical is to exist in time as physicality necessitates potential motion and motion presupposes time), powerful, and removed from time.

Hawking can point to vague ideas in theoretical physics to explain what could have caused this expansion, or a reasonable person can acknowledge that a transcendent God fits all of the aforementioned criteria.

I understand that this is not objective proof that God does exist, but belief is reasonable.

The fact that the most logical explanation may very well be a Creator God, and given that God cannot logically be proven to be impossible, it is something worth exploring. A blind assumption that God does not exist is not intellectual, it’s pride.

jrb

1. The Kalam argument in the form given was originated by Al-Ghazali
2. Some of the supplemental rationale for the Kalam argument has been used by William Lane Craig

14 thoughts on “Response to Hawking on premier of “Curiosity””

  1. When you say “god,” what do you actually mean? Do you actually mean Zeus? The Kalam argument doesn’t specify any other traits of god other than as creator of the universe, which doesn’t get you to any specific religion. William Lane Craig, as an apologist, smuggles in the assumptions into his work that the Bible is the true word of god and that Jesus is the son of god and rose from the dead. Kalam proves none of these assumptions. He therefore will twist any work of scientists to fit the conclusions he already holds (because that’s what apologists DO!). That is highly unreasonable and makes his work suspect.

    Craig has stated publicly that even if someone took him in a time machine to prove that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, he would still believe that Jesus had rose from the dead. Craig is not in the business of weighing the evidence even-handedly.

    “If God cannot be proven scientifically, is this a reason not to believe in God?”
    Yes! Evidence of absence is absence of evidence. It’s not proof against God, but it does give us a lack of any confirming evidence.

    “The idea of an infinitely old universe is logically contradictory, because if the universe were infinitely old, an infinite amount of time would have needed to have passed to get to the present.”
    But the idea of an infinitely old God, that makes perfect sense! No contradictions there!

    Additionally, Kalam does not hold on B-theory of time, only A-theory. A-theory of time (aka tensed theory of time) is falling out of favor with most physicists because B-theory (or tenseless theory of time) is more and more empirically supported: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-Theory_of_time

    “Hawking can point to vague ideas in theoretical physics to explain what could have caused this expansion, or a reasonable person can acknowledge that a transcendent God fits all of the aforementioned criteria.”
    You DO know that William Lane Craig has to defer to Stephen Hawking’s work in theoretical physics in order to do his apologetics, right? I don’t understand this mentality of believers to distrust scientists. If anyone has any kind of legitimate scientific authority to describe the beginning of the universe, it’s Stephen Hawking. Don’t trust “reasonable people” with no scientific or philosophical training over one of the most brilliant physicists of our time.

    It should become apparent how ridiculous this argument sounds when you replace “God” with “Zeus”:
    “The fact that the most logical explanation may very well be a Creator Zeus, and given that Zeus cannot logically be proven to be impossible, it is something worth exploring. A blind assumption that Zeus does not exist is not intellectual, it’s pride.”

    First of all, God can definitely be proven to have contradictory properties, and beings cannot exist if they have logically contradictory properties. This is why I asked at the beginning what you mean by “god.” For example: Many people posit an all-perfect god that wanted to create life on earth. Perfect beings do not have wants, because they are perfect. Additionally, the problem of evil has yet to be solved by anyone who believes that an all-good, all-powerful god is logically compatible with the existence of evil in the world. (Plantinga’s free will defense doesn’t cut it, either.)
    Your argument isn’t going to convince someone who isn’t already convinced. You have to be able to look at your argument from outside your beliefs and judge it the same way an agnostic would. You’re presumably agnostic about Zeus and every other god that was ever invented, so use that perspective when you write if you want to be persuasive.

  2. “A blind assumption that God does not exist is not intellectual, it’s pride.”
    One could also make the exact opposite conclusion — a blind assumption that God does exist [even when it is impossible to prove] is not intellectual, it’s pride.

    Throughout history, cultures all over the world have tried to figure out things about the world and what lies beyond. And whenever they reached the brink of what their technology allowed them to comprehend, their solution was to instead turn to the cop-out for scientific thinking: God.

    This is also evident when analyzing the origins of our universe: Scientific evidence supports the Big Bang Theory, but people want to know what actually caused *that* to happen. And some, like many others before them in history, turn to “God” as an explanation for the things they do not comprehend.

      1. I’m not really sure what it would take for me to believe in that. I get that you’re referencing Anselm’s ontological argument. I don’t necessarily think that for each person, what they imagine as the “greatest conceivable being” would actually entail the same being. Take for instance, Easterners, whose idea of the greatest conceivable being would be different from most Westerners and their concept of God. So I’m not sure if we would actually get anywhere with that definition.

  3. Explain exactly what game I am playing, please? I asked you to define your term and you did, and I answered your question. I need to know what you’re talking about. If two people agree they believe in God, what are the odds that they REALLY agree? Ask 10 people you know that believe in God how they define God. You can’t get them to agree. That is why it is important to me to know what we are talking about!

      1. Now we’re getting somewhere. For me it would take some kind of a consensus among most cosmologists that that was in fact what had happened, because I’m not an authority on those matters of the universe. How they come to be convinced of it doesn’t matter much to me, but the evidence would have to make it into science. Maybe there are some super-intelligent alien beings that invented a supercomputer that can simulate entire universes, and our universe is a simulation inside their machines. But we have no way to discern that as of right now, so the question is interesting, but we have no way of knowing the answer, and we don’t even really know how we COULD know the answer. What would it take to convince you that our universe is really a simulated world in an alien supercomputer?

      2. By definition, the natural is always more plausible than the supernatural unless we have exhausted all possible natural explanations. We can never exhaust all possible natural explanations, so it is never more plausible that a supernatural explanation could supersede an unknown natural explanation. This is borne out by historical evidence, because as Jared pointed out, there has never been a time when a natural explanation has been discarded in favor of a supernatural explanation, but cultures used God all the time as a cop-out for something they couldn’t explain naturally, but later became explained by science. For instance: lightning is explained by electricity instead of Zeus, the diversity of life is explained by evolution and not an intelligent designer, etc.

  4. Just so we’re clear, the unfalsifiability of the god hypothesis places the burden of proof square on the shoulders of the person making the argument for god. To have an unfalsifiable hypothesis is not to have an equal plausibility between “so” and “not so,” and this is especially the case when you have no evidence.

    Even so, from the virgin birth to resurrection to the concept of “sin” to Noah and the ark (depending on how deep one’s Biblical literalism runs), it’s a long, complicated, tortured logic chain from a “first mover” to the Christian God, which — as far as I can tell, and correct me if I’m wrong — is actually the sort of god that you are making arguments for, Josh.

    1. Jason, I’m not sure exactly what your point is in reference to a burden of proof. I feel like it’s a statement that is logically necessary: to objectively know that an all knowing being does not exist would take an all knowing being to objectively possess such a knowledge. I understand that the statement doesn’t prove that God does exist, I don’t know if that’s what you thought I was saying?

      While you know that I do believe in Christianity, I don’t see that being germane to this post. I said nothing about that, and was only trying to argue that their is a creator.

      jrb

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