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Note:My Anthropic Trilogy web-book, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion
through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.
A Detailed Examination of Stephen Hawking's Credibility on God
The contention with Hawking discussed here should in no way be taken as disrespect for the great contribution he continues to make in theoretical cosmology or the admiration he deserves for heroically coping with one of the most extreme disabilities imaginable and the inspiration he affords the physically handicapped the world over. Despite his disbelief in any transcendent entities beyond meta-laws, I can imagine his extending his love and thanks to his "lucky stars" for the miraculous gift of life, human consciousness and his unique intellect.
Absence of proof is not proof of absence. - William Cowper (1731 – 1800)
This page presents a detailed examination of Stephen Hawking's latest pronouncements in regards to God from his 2010 book The Grand Design and the August 08 2011, Discovery Channel/BBC airing of the first show in their Curiosity series entitled Did God Create the Universe? that features Hawking's science/philosophy speculations.
Details include reviews of some specific Hawking's work by Roger Penrose, Leonard Susskind and other esteemed physicists - plus additional perspectives from other credible sources. I also comment in regards to The Discovery panel discussion that immediately followed the Curiosity episode.
It is fairly obvious that the Curiosity production selected hosts that combined maximum popularity with associated intelligence- "Join Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams and many more celebrity hosts on the journey for truth..." - to maximize credibility and presents topics in the most provocative way - "God is not necessary" - to enhance publicity and viewership. From subsequent reading reviews I see that the Curiosity show never mentions the controversial M-theory on which Hawking basis his science, a version of string theory that lacks credibility for many high-profile scientists.
Did God Create the Universe? Discovery's follow-up of the Curiosity production with several videos with a physicalist atheistic theme - advancing the philosophy that the universe was created from nothing beyond an entity of energy smaller than a proton that spontaneously exploded 13.8 billion years ago in a Big Bang without the need of any creator God.
I saw the August 08 2011, Curiosity cable show and the followup panel discourse and here's what I took away in regards to what Hawking was proposing. Time stops inside a black hole ergo time does not exist there. The smaller a Black Hole - the higher the energy it contains. At the "instant" of the Big Bang it was a Black Hole no bigger than a proton so all the energy of the universe was contained within its potential and time did not exist. So therefore there was no - "before the Big Bang" ergo no "God" in existence to create the Big Bang. The Hawking Cook Book for creation of the Universe contained three ingredients- matter energy and space. Space consists of both positive and negative (dark?) energy and presumably at the "instant" space started expanding - spacetime was "created".
Eternity A fundamental quality of a "Creator God" concept is the notion of eternal existence as an [entity] being completely independent of "everything else" that exists because God created everything else (in accord with panendeism but against panentheism). If this premise is true, then it follows that God is independent of both space and time, since these are properties of the universe. So according to this notion, God exists before time began, exists during all moments in time, and will continue to exist if somehow the universe and time itself were to cease to exist. The Hawking proposition that equates the non-existence of time in the black hole prior to the Big Bang to the non-existence of "God" has already been ontologically rebutted by both prophetic theological constructs centuries ago and in the non dual traditions for over a millennium.
I fail utterly to see that Hawking provides any more evidence that "God" did not create the Universe than theologists can present that "God" did. In regards to Hawking's confidence that there is no "afterlife" or "heaven" again lacks any defining conceptual context that can range from a veridical reality of a perpetual orgy with 72 virgins (as reward for blowing up innocent beings) to an acausal, non phenomenal ecstatic state of non dual universal consciousness.
The first instance where Hawking fails is that he provides no definition for the term "God". The term has an infinite range of possibilities that extend into non dual consciousness and Maya- perspectives unrepresented in the "integrated" panel discussion. Do You Believe in God The answer to any conversation that begins with the question, "Do you believe in God?" should not be "Yes," "No", or even "I don’t know." It should be "Define God, and then I’ll tell you if I believe that thing exists."
The second instance is failing philosophically. The comment by Stephen Hawking in his book, The Grand Design, that physics has no need of God has caused a stir in the media. It is, in fact, not particularly surprising. Auto mechanics has no need of God, but that does not suggest there is no God. There is no reason why physicalist science should try to even deal with God even in the effort to create a theory of everything.
The science that Hawking invokes to establish his model for the origin of the Big Bang is based on a version of string theory called M-theory that is denigrated by many esteemed scientists.
The Grand Design Review by Roger Penrose Published: September 4 2010 In my opinion, this reflects an incompleteness in current quantum theory, as was also Einstein’s view. It is likely that any "completion" of quantum theory to an objective picture of reality would require new mathematical ideas of subtlety and sophistication beyond even that of Einstein’s general-relativistic space-time, but this challenge is addressed to future theorists’ ingenuity and does not, in my view, represent any real threat to the existence of an objective universe. The same might apply to M-theory, but unlike quantum mechanics, M-theory enjoys no observational support whatever.
Roger Penrose - Famed mathematical physicist - perhaps the highest-profile scientist to comment on the Hawking-Mlodinow book so far, characterizes it as "misleading," because the M-theory that is the basis for the claims on God is "not even a theory", "hardly science", but instead merely "a collection of hopes, ideas and aspirations" that have "absolutely no support from observation".
Astronomer Paul Davies - in his review in the U.K. Guardian, agrees that there may be no compelling need, based on current physical theories, to presume that a supernatural being created the universe. But when it comes to the laws that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters. Davies elaborates as follows [Davies2010a]: "So is that the end of the story? Can the multiverse provide a complete and closed account of all physical existence? Not quite. The multiverse comes with a lot of baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs, a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging sweeping "meta-laws" that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain unexplained -- eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god."
Peter Woit, mathematical physicist and author of Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law [Woit2006], is highly critical of the Hawking-Mlodinow book's presentation of M-theory as the definitive theory of everything, and is even more critical of the book's comments on God in light of the status of this theory. He notes that the Hawking-Mlodinow book begins with the following explanation of what makes a good physical model [Woit2010, quoting from Hawking2010]: A model is a good model if it (1) Is elegant; (2) Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements; (3) Agrees with and explains all existing observations; and (4) Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.
Woit notes that the book fails to acknowledge the fact that M-theory satisfies none of these criteria. Woit then comments on the treatment of religion in the Hawking-Mlodinow book [Woit2010]: One thing that is sure to generate sales for a book of this kind is to somehow drag in religion. The book's rather conventional claim that God is unnecessary for explaining physics and early universe cosmology has provided a lot of publicity for the book. I'm in favor of naturalism and leaving God out of physics as much as the next person, but if you're the sort who wants to go to battle in the science/religion wars, why you would choose to take up such a dubious weapon as M-theory mystifies me.
Hamish Johnston - a British physicist agrees with Penrose's and Woit's assessment of the status of M-theory, and is very concerned that the comments about God in the Hawking-Mlodinow book will hamper efforts by the British physics community to defend their funding in the face of serious threatened budget cuts [Johnston2010]: Hawking explained that M-theory allows the existence of a "multiverse" of different universes, each with different values of the physical constants. We exist in our universe not by the grace of God, according to Hawking, but simply because the physics in this particular universe is just right for stars, planets and humans to form. There is just one tiny problem with all this -- there is currently little experimental evidence to back up M-theory. In other words, a leading scientist is making a sweeping public statement on the existence of God based on his faith in an unsubstantiated theory.
Black Hole Wars by Leonard Susskind - Yet another preeminent physicist who challenges Hawking's scientific credibility specifically in the nature of Black Holes- the critical aspects by which his conclusions regarding God are drawn.
The Panel Discussion
The Discovery panel discussion that immediately followed the Curiosity episode was moderated by David Gregory, who usually hosts MTP. The panel was composed of Sean Carroll as the hard-boiled atheist ("It’s not just a coincidence that we are theoretical cosmologists who happen to go around arguing that God doesn’t exist.) Paul Davies, the astronomer who was willing to entertain the possibility of "God" if defined with sufficient abstraction, while John Haught is the theologian who is sympathetic to science.
The opportunity to advance dialog to present an integrative perspective on the God issue was a total miss in that the panel consisted of only an avowed atheist physicist, an agnostic scientist whose abstract "God" was never proactively clarified and a Christian theist. Curiosity seemed unable to resist the temptation to feature a stereotypical "straw man" caricature adopted from the prophetic religions - viz. an omniscient, omnipotent, anthropomorphic being who monitors, judges and rewards or punishes humans according to HIS revealed moral laws - the least likely model for synthesis with any scientific notion of reality - rather than to venture into the broader noetic or noonsphere realms along the lines of Zen Buddhism's atheistic Satori, the non dual supreme spirit of Vedic Brahman or the various models for Cosmic Consciousness and Integral Spirituality. This selectivity seems a deliberate effort to lubricate a rational rejection of a "God" concept that aggravates the divide between the atheistic versus theistic mindsets that have characterized the God Wars in America over the past half century.
See also Non Dual Theism/Atheism - Exploring the levels of divine concepts in the dual and non-dual spiritual/philosophical traditions. Beyond the prophetic theistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islamism, the questions regarding how various dual and non-dual philosophies of the contemplative traditions should be categorized as theistic or atheistic ascend into exquisitely fine-tuned opinions as to what requisites qualify God concepts.
The science that is fundamental to a sense of reality is seething with uncertainties: the Copenhagen Interpretation regarding quantum events and whether a human observation is necessary for the universe to exist, the anthropic principle, the mystery of the cosmological constants, the contradictions between the realities of classical and quantum physics and the various efforts to discover a theory of everything. String Theory - presently has no more credibility or chance for evidence or experimental proof than theories for the existence of a supreme consciousness. The nature of consciousness itself is synonymous with the God question and traditional science has virtually zero evidence to even begin creating theories for its reality. Only "new scientists" like Bohm, Penrose, Hameroff and Stapp have proposed paradigms for consciousness involving conscious photons and light, along with the experimental observations of visionary scientists like Gao Shan - so unless you are open to these "fringe" sciences, your reality paradigm leaves consciousness (like the 800 pound gorilla in the room) in limbo.
Sean Carroll Live-blogging by the "hard boiled atheist" in the discussion panel following the first episode of the BBC Curiosity Series on the Discovery Channel- Hawking, and God. The commentary provides a compendium of some insightful public perspectives.
Other Resources Reflecting on Hawking's Scientific Credibility
Sean Carroll On Dawkins forum post August 2, 2011 - agrees that Hawking provides the final answer as to why God does not exist.
Science Meets Religion Is it true, as physicist Stephen Hawking and other scientists have claimed, that modern physics removes the need to believe in God? by David H. Bailey 11 May 2011 - Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, in their 2010 book The Grand Design ...open their work with the provocative claim, "Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead" [Hawking2010, pg. 5]. What's more, the book contains numerous jabs at belief in God, such as "the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit [pg. 165], and "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going [pg. 180]. In any event, it is unfortunate that Hawking and Mlodinow were not content to leave readers with at least an open-minded view towards God and philosophy, as Hawking did in his earlier book A Brief History of Time, which concluded, "If we find the answer to [why the universe exists], it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God." [Hawking1988].
International Society for Science & Religion Hawking is not far from God - His hypothesis is closer to theology’s than he realizes, argues Keith Ward. But Professor Hawking does mis-state what orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theologians assert about God. He seems to think, for example, that they think of God as "lighting the blue touch-paper" to get the universe started. They are also supposed to think that the whole universe, with its billions of stars and galaxies, was created just for the sake of human beings. It is a pity he thinks this; for it makes him fail to note the amazing positive convergence between traditional theological beliefs about God and modern cosmological beliefs about the origin of the universe. The first strand of a doctrine of creation is that a timeless reality exists, and from it one or many space-times arise. I think modern cosmology makes such a hypothesis intelligible, and ironically it even forms part of Professor Hawking’s hypothesis that this cosmos arises from a non-material and non-temporal realm of "laws" that generate physical and temporal reality.
Fundamentally, Hawking bases his argument on M-theory, an extension of string theory, where 11 dimensions are calculated to exist; our 4-dimensional spacetime is therefore only part of the story. The first step in proving the foundations of M-theory could come from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) where supersymmetry particles
Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics Smithsonian Magazine Jan 2015 by Brian Greene - Evidence that the universe is made of strings has been elusive for 30 years, but the theory's mathematical insights continue to have an alluring pull. Parallel developments in cosmological thinking ...suggests that the Big Bang may not have been a unique event, but was instead one of innumerable bangs spawning innumerable expanding universes, called the multiverse. Wth or without string theory, the multiverse is a highly controversial schema, and deservedly so. It not only recasts the landscape of reality, but shifts the scientific goal posts. Questions once deemed profoundly puzzling—why do nature’s numbers, from particle masses to force strengths to the energy suffusing space, have the particular values they do?—would be answered with a shrug. The detailed features we observe would no longer be universal truths; instead, they’d be local bylaws dictated by the particular shape of the extra dimensions in our corner of the multiverse. Most physicists, string theorists among them, agree that the multiverse is an option of last resort. Yet, the history of science has also convinced us to not dismiss ideas merely because they run counter to expectation. If we had, our most successful theory, quantum mechanics, which describes a reality governed by wholly peculiar waves of probability, would be buried in the trash bin of physics. As Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg has said, the universe doesn’t care about what makes theoretical physicists happy.
Dan Wilt (critique from christian perspective) Hawking was explicitly changing the scientific game, and taking it into the realm of fact statements about unknown metaphysics. When people make fact statements about things they simply don’t know about, we call them ignorant, or worse yet, fundamentalists. Then, he began to conjecture about "Why", and "Meaning" as if it were a scientific conclusion - a strange direction for a man so committed to the language of objectivity and the scientific method.
Physics Forum Interesting criticisms of Hawking making grand conclusions from speculations regarding the nature of the singularity at the Big Bang moment "when time was created". Main rebuttal to criticisms was poster complaining that majority of comments were from first-time posters and that they were making "philosophical arguments rather than "scientific - apparently missing the irony that Hawking's inference that God does not exist is purely a philosophical opinion that has no more credibility than any brilliant ontologist that believes in a "god" or non dual reality.
Richard Dawkins Forum One of Hawking's ideas was 'imaginary time' - there was no beginning, and time appeared smoothly from a space dimension. Other physicists (Andre Linde) have suggested that our apparently linear time split off from what was originally a time loop.
Do the new athiests speak for science III? Science, Religion & Politics Examiner, 2011 by Patrick McNamara. [My take on] an interesting discussion among the four major figures of the ‘New Atheism’ movement, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens (aka The Four Horsemen)...there is reason to believe that religion is a sui generis phenomenon –not reducible to other categories of experience. If religious experience is distinctive then natural selection or cultural selection or both very likely shaped the brain/Mind to facilitate such experiences. In that case it is either a category mistake or beside the point or obsfucatory to call religious experiences delusional. A proper scientific approach to religion respects the facts before us and these facts tell us that we are dealing with something that has its own phenomenology and its own laws of functioning.
Wired 02 September 2010 Hawking and God - Internationally famous physicist Stephen Hawking has gone back on his previous beliefs about the creation of the Universe, stating in a forthcoming book that physics, not God, made the Big Bang. Hawking has long held the position that while the Universe is governed by the laws of science, those laws were created by God. He said in 2008 at an event with the Pope, "The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws."
Overview of the Issue of Science and Belief in God
Does Science make Belief in God Obsolete? Thirteen essays by authors highly qualified in the fields of physics, biology, philosophy (theist and atheist), psychology, religion and science communication - render pro, con, maybe and it-depends opinions.
Science vs. God: does progress trump
faith? by Wynne Parry, 2012. Three out of five scientists do not believe in God, but two out of five do, said John Donvan, opening a debate on the issue of science and religion. The debate focused on a modern, mainstream interpretation of religion and God, rather than a fundamentalist take - so there was no discussion of creationism or a literal interpretation of Scripture. Theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss and professor of nuclear science and engineering argu that science has rendered religion moot in oposition to the views of author and former policy analyst, Ian Hutchinson and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer who find scientism inadequate for decisive conclusions.
Perspectives On Reality Paradigms by Maya-Gaia
Cosmic Consciousness is science closing in? An examination of the scientific evidence for the notion that our consciousness is a continuum of a conscious cosmic matrix and some of the controversy it has generated.
Theosophical Synthesis Presenting resources to explore issues in the tension between science/spirituality and evolution/creation and to examine possibilities for finding common ground and synthesis.
Meta New Physics Links to Vedanta & New Physics Metaparadigm, Some online articles and papers exploring the pros and cons for the effort to compose a synthesis between metaphysical (primarily Vedantic) and new physics concepts for modeling a consciousness metaparadigm.
Anthropic Synchronicity as a phylogeny of a living universal matrix - a Meta-Gaia - its myriad features - each an essential element in the cosmogenic function of an evolutionary continuum that gave birth to a lifeform with the level of intelligence we humans are imbued with - an anthropic retrodiction of the Selfish Biocosm Hypothesis.
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