Here are the four parts of the Stephen Hawking Episode of “Curiosity: the Questions of Life,” shown last night on the Discovery Channel. The title is “Did God create the universe?” Now if that were the only question, it would be the world’s shortest program, consisting of Hawking uttering one two-letter word.
I haven’t yet watched this, nor have I seen the post-show “curiosity conversation” with Sean Carroll, John Haught and Paul Davies, which isn’t yet online. I’ll put it up when it appears (see Carroll’s post-production remarks here).
103 thoughts on ““Curiosity” with Stephen Hawking”
I found it pretty mindblowing that a program like this was aired. Nature related channels (travel, discovery, history, nat geo, etc) typically run programming like Ghosthunters, Monster Quest, and the like (which is an entirely depressing issue in its own right).
I can’t believe they have a scientist frankly stating that a god is not needed to explain the universe.
(even though they played Hawking giving an appology each time he said there was no need for a god…)
Anyway, good progress!
Thanks for posting this. Sean hasn’t yet (as of this comment) posted it at CV.
I watched the beginning of it, but I had stuff to do so I’ll catch up later. It seemed kind of old hat at first but there were a few things I hadn’t heard about so I’m intrigued. I’m not a scientist but I try to know the major plot points in the history of everything. One of the things fundies hate about science is that “facts” change, which of course is the whole point of the scientific method. Starting this story with a Norse myth was perfect. I also like that they started with eclipses. It drives home the point that things are not always as they appear. That’s another weakness in the “thinking” of believers — they will draw ridiculous supernatural conclusions based on appearances.
It was pretty good even though I thought they could have spent more time actually explaining the physics in a little more detail. The after show round table was fairly interesting. I’m no fan of David Gregory, but he did an adequate job of posing questions and keeping the conversation moving, probably due to the cue cards. Sean Carroll was awesome, witty and forthright. Paul Davies was more reserved in his answers, I don’t know his stance well enough to know if that was normal for him, but he came off as open to whatever answers await, which is a good thing. He did back up Sean a couple of times when I thought it was important. John Haught is a theologian, so I probably don’t need to say this but he trotted out NOMA in about three slightly different flavors while saying that he loves science because it expands his understanding of God. There were a couple of cut aways to Michio Kaku, who I think does great work in his field but seems a little too accommodationist in his leanings. I can’t remember who was in the other cut away clip (probably because I have no recollection of seeing her before), she was a scientist somewhere, but she basically said God and science both rock so let’s all get along. I am slightly bothered by the preview for the next episode that takes on the possibility of surviving an alien attack. For a show called Curiosity, I’d be more interested in talking about alien life existing and how it might evolve before investigating their war-mongering motivations and strategies. Oh well.
From his books and interests, I would put Davies as a deist.
Kaku may do good (?) research (?), but the impression you get from physicists that he is too much of a media hound for their liking.
Davies is a woo-mongering deist of the worst sort, and an Australian dammit. He is a great disappointment because he should know better. He got the Templeton prize in 1995.
I have a copy of his The Goldilocks Enigma, 2006 (aka Cosmic Jackpot ) & it is worth a read just for chapter 9: Intelligent and Not So Intelligent Design – I urge you to borrow a copy
Paul Davies was born in London, England. He now works in the U.S.A.
I understand from the Penguin Books website that he migrated to Australia, but remained a British citizen. However Davies was made a member of the Order of Australia in the 2007 Queen’s birthday honours list so I’m at a loss as to his citizenship now.
Either way us Brits have some responsibility for Woodavies & I hang my head in shame 🙂
I often wonder if Templeton Prize winners splurge out or spread the goodness around among the many people who got them where they are. Same thoughts occur to me regarding other cash awards in the areas that are collaborative
Oops, forgot about that stupid Templeton. Thanks!
Excellent presentation, as one would hope for from Professor Hawking.
He tangentially touched on something that perhaps some of the physicist-types out there might be able to help me understand.
What is the Schwarzschild radius of the universe?
As Hawking pointed out, early in the universe’s history, all matter was concentrated in a subatomic space — far smaller than the Schwarzschild radius. Then, inflation happened and space itself got bigger. But did space ever get bigger than the Schwarzschild radius?
That is, is the universe still a black hole?
There are other obvious questions implied here (What’s going on on the other side of the event horizon in a black hole? What might it mean for a black hole to be inside a black hole?), but I’ll leave those for later….
On the order of 10^25 meters, Schwarzschild radius being about 10^-27 m/kg * the mass of the thing you’re calculating, which is estimated as somewhere around 10^52 kg for the universe. I’m ignoring everything but order of magnitude.
The universe has a lower bound radius of around 40 billion light years, so (order of magnitude) about 10^25 meters. Huh, roughly the same as the Schwartzchild radius. That’s neat.
Anyway, Sean has previously posted on Cosmic Variance about the ‘Is the universe a black hole?’ question and pointed out that, in a black hole, all paths to the future lead to the singularity. But in our universe, all paths to the past lead to a singularity. So, if anything, our universe is a white hole (which is just a time-reversal of a black hole). Read his post here – http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/04/28/the-universe-is-not-a-black-hole/
Thanks for that link. An eye-opening bit for me was this:
That puts a different perspective on things that I think will help shift my thinking on the matter.
The Schwarzchild radius is a function of mass. Given mass, M, packed into a spherical volume less than the Schwarzchild radius, R(M), you will have a “black hole”. Interesting little mentioned factoid: when stars collapse, the same time-dilation effect that would freeze time on the surface of a “true black hole” (ala Schwarzchild) prevents the star (or any inner layers of it) from ever… quite… collapsing… that… far. From the point of view of external observers, the event horizon never quite forms (but gets asymptotically closer all the time, and there is little practical difference between a signal that takes a gazillion years to get out from inside the star verse a signal that takes an eternity).
Anyway, the Schwarzchild radius of “the universe” would be R(M) where M is the “mass of the universe”. One problem with Hawking’s presentation — we really do not have a clue whether “the universe” was ever *quite* that dense. Maybe an “earlier universe” collapsed to almost that density and then “rebounded” to form the present universe.
That certainly would apply to mass outside the Schwarzschild radius at the moment the proto-black-hole gains enough density to become an actual black hole, but it ignores the mass that’s already inside the Schwarzschild radius prior to that point.
The sun, for example, according to Wikipedia has a 3 km Schwarzschild radius, and a two-solar-mass neutron star would have a radius about three times that. So, you’ve got on the rough order of an entire stellar mass already within the Schwarzschild radius before the event horizon forms (or not) beyond that mass. (Yes, the sun isn’t anywhere near massive for either of these states — that’s why the “rough order” qualification. This is back-of-the-napkin territory.)
What’s going on with all that mass on the inside of the event horizon should be a rather interesting line of inquiry, I should think.
Ben, the Schwarzchild radius is also the radius of the event horizon for the same mass. So if you start with any amount of mass that has not yet collapsed to within its Schwarzchild radius, then that portion of the mass which is outside the radius will “never” be able to fall inside the radius because time will effectively slow down “faster” than the mass can “fall in”, so to speak. (reference: Misner, Charles W.; Thorne, Kip S.; Wheeler, John Archibald (1973), Gravitation — that is a hefty tome, apologies, I don’t have it remotely handy here to look up page numbers). I put “never” in quotes there, because “forever” does take a finite time from the point of view of the in-falling matter, but from the point of view of external observers, forever is precisely how long it will take. However, “forever” is also enough time for the black hole (or the almost-but-not-quite-black-hole) to evaporate as per Hawking. So “true black holes” with “true event horizons” (as per the Schwarzchild and similar solutions to general relativity) can never form.
Note that it does not matter how much matter you throw at it in an effort to make the horizon radius larger, because the question of whether a horizon forms at any radius R depends on how much matter is already inside radius R. And if a horizon is “close” to forming at radius R (almost but not quite enough matter already inside), the matter falling in at that point will (from outside point of view) be slowed enough to keep it from ever falling within the Schwarzchild radius.
This is not a fact that gets much press among physicists, let alone the lay audience. It also does not matter from a pragmatic point of view — an eternally collapsing almost-black-hole has exactly the same gravitational effect outside its almost-event-horizon that an equal mass “true black hole” would have. Astronomical observations are indistinguishable.
Physicist don’t really make much of a distinction between “almost” and “exactly” when the difference is imperceptible (not measurable), therefore collapsing stars and galactic cores are regarded truly as “black holes” and no one wastes breath talking about “eternally collapsing blah blah blah”.
BUT (big but) when we start talking about the time stopping at the beginning of the universe (or anywhere/anywhen else), well, there is a big difference between time slowed down, no matter how slow, and time being stopped. Just as there is a big difference between a finite time, no matter how long, and eternity.
I think I might be starting to understand. Is this akin to the twin paradox?
What I’m getting hung up on is that we can (presumably) point to a collapsed star, be confident that its Schwarzschild radius is M kilometers, and that so many years ago, there was G kilograms of mass in that volume of space.
If I’m understanding you correctly, a squashed-to-degenerate-matter observer within that inner body of matter would not yet have observed the events unfolding that we can see from our vantage point that resulted in the formation of the event horizon.
If that’s close to an accurate description, I’ll chalk it up to one of those brain-bending relativistic paradoxes that I still need to warp my mind around….
I’m not sure I would say it is like the twin paradox, but it may be difficult to wrap one’s head around. Part of the reason for that is that relativity (both general and special) are presented in a manner that seems almost deliberately intended to make them seem “mysterious” (this includes physics textbooks).
As to the observer inside a collapsing star… at each radius, starting from the center and moving out, there is almost-but-not-quite enough mass inside that radius to form a “true black hole” with an event horizon at that radius. Time is moving extremely slowly for any observer inside or on the surface of the collapsing star, which means that the process of collapse appears to be happening very quickly from their perspective. Eternity for those of us on the outside is a blink of an eye to them.
The internal observer would in some sense get to see the black hole form in finite (to them) time… except that black holes evaporate in finite time to an outside observer, so it evaporates (before it ever forms a true horizon at any R) in even less than a blink of an eye to the internal observer.
That helps, thanks. It’s what I was trying to articulate.
The energy flux for such an observer must be incomprehensible. In the blink of an eye, first all the energy from the collapse followed by all the energy from Hawking evaporation…again, all in the blink of an eye. Makes the flash of an H-bomb a cold lifetime in Hell by comparison….
“The internal observer would in some sense get to see the black hole form in finite (to them) time… except that black holes evaporate in finite time to an outside observer, so it evaporates (before it ever forms a true horizon at any R) in even less than a blink of an eye to the internal observer.”
Well, if we get back to MTW (which I still haven’t read), that is arguable. And I think that remains. You can see as many alternatives as you have theorists, it seems. The main idea is that a singularity forms, AFAIK.
Btw, that stuff about being “trapped” outside the future horizon is arguable too I think. As you say, since no one would notice a difference in how matter is trapped by an existing black hole if the difference is sufficiently minute, it isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon.
Again, I believe the main idea is that falling in will happen. [I didn’t check that one with MTW, I have other stuff to fall into!]
It’s not a question of observation, but a question of what the mathematics of general relativity actually says. If your initial state does not already contain a Schwarzchild solution, then it never will, for any observer who does not fall into the collapsing star. An observer who falls into the collapsing star would see a horizon in very short time and pass through it. Because there is no “preferred” point of view in physics, it is therefore conventional to talk about “true black holes” as things which can and do exist (“do”, present tense, being used loosely — it’s “present tense” for someone, sometime, somewhere). Also, because there is virtually no external difference between an “eternally collapsing star” and a “true black hole”, you have another reason why physicists just call them “black holes” and ignore the distinction.
MT&W’s Gravitation was written prior to Hawking’s theory of black hole evaporation, so it wasn’t really considered by them that the event horizon might never form from anyone’s point of view.
Yeah, that is an old dozy question. I’m pleased that Carroll’s article is used, it’s the best one I have found so far.
You can start asking about all sorts of key characteristics, but if the physics doesn’t match they don’t mean much.
A related issue is that some of this physics runs up against planck scales, and there are tentative observations from supernova photon spectra and polarization that some of the assumed fluctuations are not happening.
So we will see what we will see.
Thanks to this website, I watched this material.
I was pretty disappointed. Hawking’s conclusion is basically identical to the old Laplace formula: no need for a God hypothesis. That a God hypothesis is unnecessary is certainly something, but by no means a strong evidence against there being a God.
The idea was presented that equal amounts of negative and positive energies and quantum activity was nothing not only won’t fly with theists, it won’t fly period. It calls three somethings nothing.
Carroll was good, but could have been better. Evidently time constraints did not allow him to at least wonder why any deity vast enough to create the observable universe would care about the beliefs of mere human specks on a mere speck of a planet in an inconsequential solar system in one galaxy among millions. Haught’s retreat to values and feelings as out of science’s purview (NOMA) was nauseating.
Anyhow, that’s my brief take on it.
On the contrary, it’s the ultimate evidence.
There is no need to invoke Thor to explain thunder and lightning; therefore, no Thor. the one-and-only possible place to find Thor is as the force behind thunder and lightning. Once you look for him there and find him missing, there’s nowhere else he could possibly be. He is thus irrefutably proved as non-existend as the herd of angry rhinoceroses stampeding through my office as I type.
Again, you miss the point.
Simply, we already know that, at the quantum scale, particles pop into and out of existence, without cause, and without violating conservation. This is a very well-observed and well-explained phenomenon. We also know that the universe as a whole was quantum-sized in the time immediately following the Big Bang. Einstein famously asked if God had any choice in creating the universe; Hawking’s point is that the Big Bang was no more and no less than an inevitable occurrence of the exact same quantum phenomenon we’ve already observed so well with virtual particles.
This is observational physics, akin to astronomical calculations of orbital mechanics. Any more, insisting that a deity must have set the Big Bang in motion — or even granting the possibility — is exactly as intellectually defensible as insisting that the planets can only remain in motion in their orbits through active divine action.
And if no gods were involved in the Big Bang, then what possible gap remains in which they might hide?
Thanks for replying. I enjoy what you have to say, especially some of your ‘lowest forms of humor’.
As to where you are, I don’t seem to be able to get there from where I am, even after perusing your post. I have nothing to counter it with beyond what I have already said. I have no ego problem with acknowledging that I may not be getting the point.
But if I, a run of the intellectual mill atheist, have trouble getting it (while generally agreeing with what is argued for), how will this be convincing to theists (who hate the idea being presented)?
I hope this is not viewed as argumentative. I am not trying to dissuade you of your notion, but the internet being what it is felt a impulse to respond to ‘your missing the point’ 🙂
Cheers to you also.
I think I might backtrack like this.
Once upon a time, there wasn’t even a plausible explanation for volcanism, and so gods were invoked. It wasn’t until recently that modern geology provided us with a very detailed understanding that encompasses radioactive decay, residual heat from formation, plate tectonics, tidal forces, and the rest; however, there was quite a long period before today when we knew enough to know that no gods were required even though the details remained a mystery.
The same with weather. Long before NOAA satellites and supercomputers that generate ten-day forecasts and long-term climate projections, we understood that lightning is caused by electrical discharges between clouds and the ground, and we even had some incomplete ideas (such as static friction but omitting solar storms) about how it came about — again, without gods.
Today, we’re a long ways away from a good understanding of cosmogenesis, but we do know enough to paint the broad outline and even fill in some of the key details. And, again, no gods are required.
Just as it was unwarranted a century ago to presuppose Jesus as the explanation for the anomalies in Mercury’s orbit before Einstein figured it out, it’s equally unwarranted to presuppose Jesus as the explanation for the Big Bang. We don’t know exactly what the answer will look like, but we do know that it doesn’t involve any gods — just as the answer to “whence sea storms?” isn’t “Poseidon’s wrath,” and wasn’t for a long time before the establishment of oceanography as a discipline.
Does that help?
I needed to stew on this for a while. There was an initial reaction ‘of course, nothing new here to me’, and I felt a bit aggrieved that my communication gave the impression that this needed to be explained to me.
Giving it a little time to reflect, and your input, I recognized that this is the standard ‘God has less and less perceived agency as we learn more and more about the workings of the world’ argument, and that Hawking projected this idea much further along, and that I failed to pick up on how much further this takes the argument than merely echoing Laplace.
So yes, it helped. God (whatever that means) continues to be less relevant and less likely as we learn more and more, virtually to a vanishing point like an asymptotic function. The argument has more force than I at first recognized.
Of course the theist not wanting to get it still won’t get it.
Thanks for bearing with me. I hope I am not still missing something.
You seem to be assuming that there is a real world referent to the concept “nothing”.
To expand, there is an eerie parallel between the concept of “nothing” and the “the set of all sets.”
Russel’s Paradox quite famously demonstrates the problem with the concept of “the set of all sets that do not contain themselves.” At first glance, this set — call it R — is not a member of itself. But, if that’s the case, then it really is. But, if it’s not, then it must be….
A similar problem arises with the “universal set,” the set of all sets. See Wikipedia for details, including set theories that deal with the paradox in various ways.
At the other extreme, consider the condition in which there exists absolutely nothing whatsoever. This would be characterized as existence being congruent with the empty set.
However, the empty set is, itself a set; it is not nothing. Even in the absence of everything else, there’s still the empty set, and it is something. No matter how much we get rid of, we can’t get rid of it all!
Next, consider Sagan’s wonderful description of the Cosmos as all that ever was, is, or will be. From such a perspective, it becomes clear that the Cosmos empirically contains us, and so there is no way in which the Cosmos could possibly have ever been said to be empty, for we are here.
Incidentally, that last observation — that we are still here — is perfectly indisputable evidential proof that there are no omnipotent entities anywhere in the Cosmos, using the exact same logic to prove that it’s impossible for anything other than a “3” to occur in the decimal expansion of 1/3. See if you can work it out for yourself….
But by this “god” what do you mean? How is this god indistinguishable from no god? Cause if you start presuming that this god listens to prayers, makes miracles and intervenes in nature, then you’re well past this line of argument of the “god” of the big bang.
I meant “distinguishable”, not “indistinguishable”, of course.
equal amounts of negative and positive energies and quantum activity was nothing not only won’t fly with theists, it won’t fly period. It calls three somethings nothing.
This conflates three distinct but necessary concepts of a “universe from nothing.” I attempted to explain two of these here, but I’m certain that you’re not alone in this confusion, and your comment deserves a good response.
(1) Starting with literally nothing—no space-time, no energy, no particles—can you get something like space-time according to known physics? (2) Starting with space-time, can you get energy from no energy according to known physics? (3) Starting with space-time and energy, can you get a universe that looks like ours, according to known physics?
The answers are: (1) a definite maybe, (2) and (3) and unqualified certainty.
Hawking addreses this in his “what causes a river chain of reasoning”.
The answer comes down to the statement that physics causes everything, even the creation of the universe from literally nothing (1). This leaves absolutely no gap for a god to fill because there is no time or space for a god to create the laws of physics. The universe has operated according to physics since it emerged from literally nothing, leaving not even a chance for god to create even the physics.
This gets to Sean Carroll’s point: if theologians believe in some god that doesn’t exist in time or space and never has any influence whatsoever on reality, then fine, “go nuts,” as Carroll put it with a perhaps unintended double meaning. But such a god is unfalsifiable nonsense that has nothing to do with the idea most believers have about God.
Yet such a nonsensical irrelevant God is the only kind allowable under our current physical understanding.
You may as well say that God cannot exist.
I’m not so sure about the sanity of the concept “nothing” here (neither is Carroll, btw), but I note that one of those are not necessary; FRW universes (of which standard cosmology is one example) is zero energy.
The flatness of space is a hint, but you have to circumvent or delouse the global energy problem in general relativity. Either way works fine, and gives the same result.
I watched, and I find the conclusions reached an abuse of physics. It boils down to Hawking claiming that the laws of physics preclude a “gap” for God to hide in. Unfortunately he does this by extrapolating physical laws to a time and circumstance well beyond anything testable. Conclusions such as “time did not exist” or “the universe was the size of a proton” at the big bang are simply not justified. At best we can say that the universe *might* have arisen as a spontaneous quantum fluctuation, but when physicists are honest, we really have to say “we really don’t know”.
For example, current cosmological models require an event known as “rapid expansion” — something that requires physical processes which we know nothing about. In other words, whatever processes were going on at the “moment of the big bang” (if such a moment occurred) and shortly thereafter involved *unknown physics*. We don’t really know if there was a singularity, and if there was, we have no idea what kind of process could have expanded that singularity into a universe (at best we have guesses, suggestive models, and the like).
Also we do not even know the extent of the universe. The “observable universe” might have once been compressed to the size of a proton, but we have no idea how much more universe is out there (just in the completely conventional sense of stars, galaxies, empty space, etc.) We don’t know if the *whole* universe was compressed, or if just some local portion of it was compressed. It could well be the case that there are vast and unobservable reaches of the universe undergoing a process of local oscillations of “big crunches”/”big bangs”. And it is entirely possible that the “crunches” never reach the point of “singularity”.
As to time stopping at a singularity. We have no actual examples of this. To the best of our knowledge real “black holes” are collapsing (note the tense) stars, and for the same reasons that time stops on the event horizon, they never stop collapsing from the point of view of an external observer (i.e., you & me). The star never quite become a “true” black hole ala the Scharzchild solution, although it gets so close as to be effectively indistinguishable (unless you have a gazillion years in which to do your experiments). For a black hole to have an actual horizon on which time is absolutely frozen, it must have already existed for an eternity (it could not have started as uncollapsed matter a finite time in the past). We can suppose such black holes might exist somewhere — but there is no reason to believe any actually do. So there is no reason to believe such an event horizon, complete with frozen time, existed at the beginning of the universe.
What is wrong with just saying “we don’t know what happened circa 14GYA, but there is no evidence requiring an intelligent creator”, much like what must be said regarding abiogenesis? There is still a “gap” for religious types to stuff their god into if they want. It is disingenuous of Hawking (he’s either fooling himself as to how compelling his arguments are, or else he is engaging in deliberately provocative hyperbole) to claim that current evidence and theories close the gap.
I guess claiming that “time was stopped at the singularity, so there was no time in which God could have acted to ‘start’ the universe” makes compelling television in a way that “we don’t know what the hell happened back then” does not.
I think Hawking wanted to show that for the first time in the history of humankind we have a viable answer to the question “Where did the Universe come from?” that doesn’t require a miracle. Segments of that answer are conjectural and may later be emended or replaced by better supported explanations, but the point is do have a potential explanation that can get us from nothing to everything without once needing to invoke a god.
But we’ve never really needed god to explain the beginning of the universe. “God” as an arbitrary label for “first cause” explains nothing and introduces an unnecessary and unsupported assumption that there was a “first cause” (as opposed to “no cause” or “infinite regression of causes”).
Speculation about the nature or absence of a “first cause” has always been possible and does not require quantum mechanics, general relativity, or cosmology. And since we really don’t know what happens at the energies and densities of a big bang, nor the true extent of the universe in space, this is all still just speculation.
I think that average viewer will take away from the show “brilliant physicists say that the laws of physics rule out a creator”. They don’t. They just don’t rule a creator *in*. It’s the status quo all over again.
Yes and no. The argument from design was always fallacious, but it took the theory of evolution of to offer a compelling alternative explanation. That’s why Dawkins says evolution allows one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist–fulfilled in the sense that we don’t have to simply reject the theists’ answer, we can replace it with a better answer.
Yes, in the absence of evidence, ghosts will always be a poor explanation for that sound that goes bump in the night. Yet it’s even better if we find the source of the noise was a shutter blowing in the wind.
So god-of-the-gaps arguments are always fallacious, I agree, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out each time another gap has been paved over.
But that is just my point, we have not (yet) closed the cosmological gap. Hawking closes it with speculation. And that is what I think is disingenuous.
What we do know, we have known pretty confidently for several decades: go back about 12 billion years, and all the matter and energy of the *known* universe was compressed to an extremely dense plasma which expanded and cooled.
Attempting to speculate on how it expanded or where it came from is purely speculative. Applying known laws of physics to this speculation requires extrapolation to circumstances where we know those laws break down, are incomplete. Claims about time not existing or causeless quantum fluctuations are pure guesses. We don’t close the gaps with guesswork.
Me: “speculate… purely speculative.”
I’m sure I had a more elegant sentence in mind that I rewrote halfway through, then forgot to rewrite the the first half. lol.
Sure we can! On certain topics all hypotheses might be speculative, but that doesn’t mean they are all equally valid. If there is a noise in a dark house and Person A says “That is a ghost” while Person B says “It’s probably the wind,” the second answer is still superior because of Occam’s razor. Hawking doesn’t need to disprove god as an speculative explanation (nor did he set out to do so), he only needs to provide a more plausible explanation.
The show never claimed that everything there is to know about the Universe has been discovered. It merely set out to answer the question “Do we need to invoke god to explain anything?” And the answer to that question is “no.”
There’s nothing dishonest about that.
I think a biological comparison is most apt.
Miller and Urey didn’t give us a theory of abiogenesis; indeed, we still don’t have one. But they did demonstrate that we should fully expect that any successful theory of abiogenesis will be a natural theory.
Similarly, Hawking hasn’t given us a theory of cosmogenesis, and any such theory may well be a long time coming. But we can now be equally certain that it will be entirely natural.
In both cases, enough of the broad outlines have been firmly sketched in stone such that we know what sorts of theories simply will not at all fit with the observable facts. The Milky Way was not spurted out of Hera’s breast, and no other gods were instrumental in the origins of any other large-scale cosmological features, including the observable universe itself.
We know much more in the decade old standard model. Especially the end state of eternal expansion is assured,but we have also a phase of inflation before the old big bang universe.
Itr can very well be eternal inflation. I think Hawking’s argument comes out essentially the same (gravity is forced upon you by consistency).
I agree with this.
I find the conclusions reached an abuse of physics.
I disagree—the show reminded me of a physics question my four-year-old asked the other evening.
“Where do up and down come from daddy?” she asked. “Gravity. The earth pulls you down. The other direction is up.” “Why doesn’t my towel fall down?” she asked. “Newton’s Second Law,” I said, “the earth pulls it down, and the towel bar pulls it up with the same force so it doesn’t move. Hang from my arm and you can see what it feels like.” “Ha ha!”, she said when I put her down standing. “Now what force is holding you up?” I asked. “The floor on my feet?” “Yes.”
“What’s holding the floor up?” she asked. “The house.” “What’s holding the house up?” “The ground.” “What’s holding the ground up?”, she asked. “The ground beneath that.”
She was satisfied, so we stopped there. But had she kept going, we would have arrived at a discussion directly analogous to a physics-based conclusion that God cannot exist.
What holds up the ground beneath the ground that holds up the ground? If the earth were flat, then this could go on forever, except it couldn’t because we know that we’re not infinitely heavy, so a flat earth consistent with finite weight would require some “prime cause” of holding things up.
But the earth is round, so my kid’s original question ultimately ends at the center of earth, where nothing is required to hold that up.
All the current theories of the universe’s origins are analogous to a round earth—which doesn’t need a “prime cause” explanation that holds everything up—not a flat earth, where some kind of first cause underneath everything is necessary.
This is why Hawking’s show and conclusions are perfectly reasonable, even if we don’t yet know all the details before Planck time or about dark energy.
Your analogy does not hold up. We have good reason, from all sorts of observations to expect things like gravity and pressure to work all the way down to the center of the earth. And by analyzing all the forces involved, we understand why the earth maintains its shape and things like the ground more or less stay put.
(What, btw, do you tell your daughter if she asks “why is there gravity?” and “why does the towel rack push up on the towel”… you can talk about mass and curvature and electrons and forces, but ultimately the chain of why’s comes to a point where hopefully you say something like: “I don’t know, but maybe someday you can figure it out and tell me.”)
Working backwards in time to “the beginning” we *know* that our fundamental physical laws do not hold up. Example I already provided — you have to work backwards through the period of “rapid expansion”, and we do not have any idea what forces drove that process. This immediately tells us that we are on thin ice if we want to take the current state of the universe and out best models (i.e. equations), plug in time equals 12 billion years ago, and then expect to get anything meaningful. It is as if you get near the center of the earth and the rules of gravity and pressure no longer apply and you have to tell your daughter “well at the very center of the earth, we don’t really know what holds things up, because the rules that work up here near the surface don’t work down there.”
The point of the analogy is that when you get to the center of the earth, you don’t need any ground “beneath” the earth’s center to hold up the (weightless) center, just like with current cosmological theories, you don’t need any “prime cause” “before” the universe to create it.
We don’t know where gravity comes from any more than we know that all the laws of physics won’t change from quantum to classical on my next birthday. But based on current knowledge, we don’t expect that understanding the cause of gravity will change the fundamental conclusion about a place for a god to create physics. I agree with the basic point that we don’t know until we know, but we do know an awful lot, and it’s not too soon to begin drawing tentative conclusions based on what we know right now.
Aside from the offhand statement that we don’t everything, which will always be true anyways, can you identify any physically viable cosmologies that make room for a supernatural creator?
I still think we must keep in mind that, while “I don’t know” is still the correct answer, it must be suffixed with, “…but I have some good ideas, testable hypotheses even, and there isn’t any room at all in any of them for primitive superstitions such as Set masturbating the universe into existence or Jesus speaking it into existence.”
That’s the take-home point.
Hawking’s explanation of the Big Bang as analogous to virtual particles is coherent, plausible, testable, and far superior to anything ever offered by religion. He may be worng, but no more worng than Ptolemy with a big dash of Miller-Urey — and that’s the worst-case scenario.
Well, the standard cosmology goes back way before that. That physics is valid all the way.
The only difference is that inflation somehow lives in a world of particle worldlines (since that is enough to describe its physics thus far), and spacetime emerges somewhere during the inflation/reheating phase.
Now you can complain that we don’t know the full physics of inflation yet. But we don’t know the full physics of gravity or particles yet either.
We can still go back all the 13.8 Gy with the new cosmology. Putatively it goes back before that; but Hawking has other ideas.
This is a reply to all three of the above replies to me.
First this isn’t about Thor, or whether Jesus walked on water.. we’re talking about rejecting even highly impersonal and/or abstract notions of “creator”.
One last shot at making my position clear. Take abiogenesis as an example. Suppose we had mountains of biological and fossil evidence for evolution in general and common descent in particular. Well we already do have mountains of evidence, but suppose we have even bigger mountains of evidence — but all of it limited to macroscopic and cellular level observations. In other words, suppose we have only the vaguest evidence and theories about atoms, molecules, and chemistry. Now, we could certainly hypothesize things like self-catalyzing molecules and molecular evolution, but with extremely limited knowledge of chemistry, these would just be hand-wavy guesses. While I agree a rational person would take the “molecular evolution” hypothesis more seriously than a “creator”, it would not be enough to “close the gap” on abiogenesis and thus force the creationists to hide their god in the “gap” of “where did atoms and molecules come from?”
But this is what Hawking is doing with physics. “Time did not exist” and “the big bang started with a causeless quantum fluctuation” are just guesses. They are not even particularly good guesses. They are not nearly as good a guess as self-catalyzing molecules and molecular evolution for abiogenesis (even if we had much less knowledge of chemistry and molecules than we do now).
Because these are just guesses, they do not rule out anything. Hawking’s guess happens to have “no cause” for the beginning of the universe, and “no time” for a creator to do anything. And he uses “no cause” and “no time” in particular to rule out a “creator”. But there are many other guesses, equally compatible with known physics, which do not include “no cause” and “no time”. So using “no cause” and “no time” to bolster his argument against a “creator” is intellectually dishonest.
I watched it last night. We’ve seen this all before, but I thought it was a good accessible summary for people like my parents who want to know why I don’t believe in God (Mom), and insist that “something can’t come from nothing.” (Dad)
The discussion afterwards was just too neutral for me to care. John Haught was way too “god is love”, “god is hope” to be pinned down to anything. Sean Carroll was good, as one would expect, but conceded that there are aspects of humanity about which science has nothing to say. Sam Harris would have taken exception to that. Paul Davies covered the accommodationist view, but was more pro-science, even though he abstained on the whole creation question. I forget if he said we don’t know, or we can’t know, which is an important distinction.
Nevertheless, the whole thing was pretty pro-rationalism, and finally something worthy of being on a Science or Discovery cable channel.
I don’t want to imply that Carroll isn’t a naturalist. One of his best lines was something on the order of: “When looking for answers to these kind of questions, it’s helpful to have them based in reality.” Maybe he just meant that Physics wasn’t always the best tool. Biology and Neurology might be able to address them, though.
I understand what he said as a counter to Haught, who said that science has no place in questions of purpose and value. I think his reply was saying that if the whole basis of theology is made up (does God exist), then it isn’t going to lead you to good answers on purpose and value.
Thanks, DD. I’m working off what I remember from last night. I was pretty tired, as I watched the late version, and could easily have misunderstood. I still have it on the DVR.
Sean live-blogged the panel discussion as well. It seems he got an influx of first-time-in-a-science-blog TV audience, judging from the comments. Many can’t even spell Hawking’s name right, which would be OK if they didn’t pretend to know the guy’s ideas better than actual scientists.
Okay… so here’s my take. I should note at the start that I’m a layman. At best, I can be called a science fan. I am studying to be an Anthropologist (I’m an undergrad), so that’s something, but it’s not Physics. I’m merely warning you so that you know who you’re dealing with.
I think Hawking may have been playing a little too much with knowledge we just don’t have *right now*, but I also tend to think that future revelations will only prove Hawking right… maybe not about there being no time before the Big Bang (I’m a fan of M-Theory, myself), but about how we simply don’t need God to explain how everything got here.
I have always thought that science and religion were in perpetual conflict (though not by design). They may have started out being indistinguishable, but they are not the same thing and, indeed, in my mind, they compete for the answers to *all* questions. And the reason why science wins is not because it immediately jumps upon an answer, as religion does, but because when it finds an answer, it immediately questions the answer, looking for more. As such, science is always improving, always finding the “best answer”, then making it better.
I think we can say today, with a certain degree of reasonable, that no God was needed to create the Earth and the life in it, including us. And it’s only perhaps an atom less reasonable to say that our solar system was “created” naturally, as well.
Indeed, based upon what we know of what’s been called “Stellar Evolution”, I think it’s reasonable to say that the “constructs” within the universe (the galaxies, nebula, black holes, stars, planets, etc) are naturally-born, with no creator needed.
Why is it wrong to extrapolate back and say that the same is most likely true for the origin of our universe itself? It’s common sense to me, when everything else has a natural origin, that the universe itself would also have a natural origin.
As to the after-discussion, it just pissed me off. The deck was stacked against Sean Carroll. They would have done well to bring on at least one other atheist… maybe even Stephen Hawking himself. What I had hoped for, honestly, was to see a panel, like they had, but with Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking also present. It would have been interesting to see Michio make his assertions and have Stephen respond.
Michio Kaku himself appealed to NOMA, saying that whether or not God exists is entirely outside the purview of science. Please forgive the language, but I’m so sick and tired of this bullshit it’s actually begun to tick me off every time I here it (in case you’re wondering why I let something like this stress me: willful ignorance seriously pisses me off immensely, and this idea seems to me to be willful ignorance).
To me, at least, science can best be described as the tool we use to answer questions about the nature of reality. If there is a God, then he/she/it is most certainly part of reality, and, as such, effects the nature of reality. Therefore, the question of God’s existence is no more outside the purview of science than the question of a star’s existence. If God exists, then science will find God eventually. We may see the year 4000 before we even know how to begin answering the question, but it is not a question science cannot answer.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that if there truly is a question science cannot answer, then the question is a meaningless one because it’s subject is not part of reality; or, otherwise, is not *real*… and, therefore, not worth bothering about, since, as it’s not real, it has no bearing upon reality.
So if science is the tool we use to answer questions about the nature of reality, but the question of God’s existence is outside the purview of science, then, by definition, God is not real.
Of course, you’re free to accept or reject my definition of science as you please… I make no claim to it being the actual definition. It is merely how I like to describe science, and that is all. But yes, to be fair, it does effect my view of all this.
Michio Kaku gets to me, too. Why is he always the go-to science guy? I’m sure he knows his field, but he just drives me nuts with his new-agism. Why can’t they get Brian Cox or somebody?
In his field, he’s brilliant. I love his show Sci-Fi Science, and when he’s talking about String Theory, Multiple Universes, and so on, it’s fascinating to hear what he has to say. I’m just sick and tired of his stance on the God question. It is, in my mind, horribly dishonest.
He is a brilliant media guy. His reputation among physicists seems to revolve more around that than his putative science.
I always wondered about that. What is his reputation amongst physicists?
Google Scholar says he publishes next to nothing except books 2010-2011.
I thought he was published as a scientist. So he’s mainly a popularizer.
Michio Kaku must have a good agent. He also gets a lot beyond what’s known in a way that annoys me.
Feynman’s speculations were more interesting because they were built from solid & they were light on the adjectives. Feynman is/was the “less is more” man. I would have loved a pint down the pub with him.
Now this I have to agree with. Feynman always knew what he was talking about. He wasn’t afraid to challenge ideas, and his speculations were grounded in reality.
Excellent series. Sort of Like “cosmos” Fine and a great way for the learned and lay person to get excited about science, the universe and evolution. Cheers, david
Unfortunately, the next episode is “Alien Invasion: Are We Ready?”.
If that is to be the set-up for the rest of the season, then the opening episode was merely hook that delivered failed promises. I certainly hope Curiosity sticks to bigger questions, like Do We Have a Soul?, What Are Emotions?, What is Consciousness?, Who Are We Really?, What Is Reality?, etc (and other questions about the nature of our reality). I’m not really interested in Sci-Fi hypotheticals like possible Hollywood-style alien invasions.
Curiosity was billed as a show asking (and attempting to answer) “tough” questions. The first episode lived up to extremely well, I think, to that. I don’t think the second episode deal with a tough or even particularly interesting question, so I’m hoping that’s just a fluke. I’m hoping to see more tough, controversial questions tackled in the future. Let Hollywood decide whether or not we’re “ready” for an “alien invasion”. That is neither tough, nor important.
Voice of Stephen Hawking ~ The vocal precision & clarity of Benedict Cumberbatch who also played him in the BBC drama Hawking (2004)
Composer ~ Sheridan Tongue was too ‘portentous’ for my taste
The whole deal was over-produced. I prefer simpler fare ~ fewer distractions
** I was very glad that the devalued terms “awesome” & “wonder” didn’t crop up, but I suppose they will in further non-Hawking episodes
** They should have got Eric Idle on board for the Viking sketch
** I enjoyed the Tennis analogy that distinguished universal
& local (human) laws
** Hawking said that matter/energy + space are the only ingredients required to build a universe ~ this surprised me & I will need to think about that
** No mention of entropy in the programme at all. Maybe it was implied somewhere & I missed it
** Hawking seems to accept a singularity, but that’s not necessarily so as I understand from other sources
** Hawking contends that there’s no ‘before’ the big bang singularity (& thus no time for god to create inside), but that assumes there WAS a singularity. And, if there was it doesn’t rule out ‘our’ big bang & ‘our’ time budded from some (probably) non-accessible platform that has its own dimensions including time
The programme was worth it for the Vikings, the tennis & the sense of release when it finished ~ no more cinematic music !
– Entropy may (Carroll) or may not (Linde) be important. Fluctuations may well obviate the need for initial low entropy; eternal inflation may well do the same.
– Singularities may (Hawking) or may not (Linde) be important. Fluctuations may well obviate the need for initial singularity; eternal inflation may well do the same.
– Hawking is one of the people behind the “no boundary” condition of the universe, where an initial singularity only appears to be so; they glue a curious topology onto the later time behavior. So his singularity may be ‘without singularity’.
Yes, it is confusing.
Hi there Torbjörn good stuff thanks. You make me feel that contemporary cosmology hasn’t yet ‘Dopplered’ beyond my observable universe
Can you inflate this for me or provide a link ? :
I didn’t have anything handy, so hastily and with hope it is a start:
A graphic picture of the gluing. That will at least illustrate my vague words.
I couldn’t get a reference, but his wikipedia page has a discussion and putative pointers.
I think the diagram in your first link is a time-like singularity
I dug up THIS Wiki on Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems & it says this in part:
This seems to contradict what he said in the programme ~ but the incoherence is in my mind & not in that of the genius I’m sure ! 🙂
Thanks for posting these Jerry, I would’ve found ’em eventually, but this is so much easier. 🙂
Did anyone notice* a brief Tardis sound at about 1:00 in part four. Hawking says, “…in our daily lives things don’t simply materialize out of the blue.” Thought that was apropos, even if it wasn’t intentional.
*didn’t read all of the comments here, maybe someone noted this already. If so, sorry.
Re the Tardis noise: Not quite, but close; probably as close as they could without risking the wrath of the BBC! (Coincidentally, iirc Cumberbatch auditioned for the role of the Doctor, but Moffat cast him as Sherlock instead!)
So Hawking’s voice double was the same guy who played Sherlock in that modern version? I really loved that–saw it here on Masterpiece and can’t wait for more. They did a super job and thought the part well played.
(I tend to not recognize many actors). For a second at the beginning, I thought the voice was Patrick Stewart–disappointed when I listened more closely.
I can’t help thinking that semi-Tardis sound was done on purpose.
You once posted a Hawk picture here & so I sometimes pop over to look at It’s So Much More Than Grass when I’m alerted to a new post. I think you should post more nature photographs or upload to Flickr ~ you have the eye. I particularly like your flowers.
see lINK re Sherlock
Thanks Michael, I haven’t had much time to post–very bad blogger am I.
I was just out with my camera this morning. Maybe I’ll post some when I have time.
I appreciate the encouragement.
Go for it !
I thought it was pretty offensive that a show expressing an atheistic opinion had to have another show follow it, to dilute what was said. How many shows go by where a theistic view is expressed which atheists are never offered an equal chance to refute?
Somebody else posted that they thought it was amazing a show like that made it on TV. It was. It was amazing; I’ll give it that.
That bugged the poop out of me as well. You would think that modesty would have prevented Haught from offering his opinions on the implications of cosmology against those of Hawking and Carroll. Really, who cares what that guy has to say! There was almost an entire show on American TV that didn’t make time for false equivocation – almost an entire show that didn’t present well-evidenced science and complete BS as equal competitors. I guess we’ll still have to wait for that landmark moment.
The theologian was so offended that anyone would apply science to the question of god, rather than pure guesswork! It was hilarious.
Some questions are just too important for real answers. The theologists’ credo.
You could tell Haught was on the defensive the entire time, though. He was angry that Hawking would dare to disrupt the peace pact called NOMA and deem the question of god’s existence to fall within the scope of science. But that’s exactly what more and more scientists are coming to realize. NOMA is dead. Belief in the supernatural is unsupportable and responsible adults have a duty to say so. Haught said he was concerned about science overstepping its bounds, but what really scares him is the idea that fewer and fewer intelligent scientists are willing to allow pious nonsense to continue unquestioned.
Haught’s performance could be fairly characterized as pitiful. His response to a jaw-dropping exposition explaining nearly the entirety of space and time from the very beginning to the end was an effort to “save physics from itself”. Physics appears to be doing very well without the theologians “help”, thank you very much.
I should thank the University of Phoenix for sponsoring a show that I found to be worthwhile and enjoyable, but I really did a facepalm when during a show about the Big Bang an ad appeared that said:
Either the curiosity or the learning broke down in that ad.
Hawking would respond with a 2-letter word … like ‘ja’?
If you’ve missed the ‘after party’ — the panel discussion & talking heads whose names are dropped (above) —
hosted by David Gregory, here it is in two parts:
Thank you ~ interesting
Will my PC explode if I put Haught through Google Translate ?
Best Hair Award goes to Kaku
Carroll talks (not so) common sense
I looked up the Roman Catholic theologian Haught. I had not realised that he testified in Kitzmiller v. Dover. He was an expert witness for the plaintiffs & his opinion (acc to Wiki) broke down into a nice piece of fence-sitting
1] The effect of the ID policy adopted by the Dover School board would “be to compel public school science teachers to present their students in biology class information that is inherently religious, not scientific in nature”
2] Materialism, the philosophy that only matter exists, is “a belief system, no less a belief system than is ID. And as such, it has absolutely no place in the classroom, and teachers of evolution should not lead their students craftily or explicitly to … feel that they have to embrace a materialistic world-view in order to make sense of evolution”
My favourite quote from the ‘after party’ was from Haught: “I am trying to save science here..” LOL
For religious people today, Christians in particular. (I am myself one) More and more people are accepting of some undeniable truths like laws of nature in these videos. Believing in Heaven isn’t necessarily what its all about. Knowing that you are a human who can freely choose and make choices and have responsibility for them in any situation is just as much of my idea of God than a being who is controller of everything. Being moral and having an attitude of “ought to do things” bc it is right is God.(to me) i really enjoyed this. Thanks
Charles Darwin supported that human beings were evolved from apes. Could apes speak in human languages? Certainly! None of the apes could speak in human languages. As none of the apes could speak in human languages, how could human beings be evolved from apes?
Oh, I don’t know… Could it be that human language developed as humans evolved?
(Well, it sure beats “Why are there still apes?”!)
If human language were developed when human beings were evolved, why should there be too many different languages and dialects from human beings?
If human beings were evolved from apes, why is it that some races of human beings have blue or even green eyes pupils and yet apes could only have either black or brown eyes pupils?
If human beings were evolved from apes, how could there be so co-incidence that male ape and female would convert to human beings at the same time to speak in the same language? Not only that, our human languages are entirely different from apes. Not only that, none of our human languages would sound the same as apes? As none of our human beings could understand apes’ language, how could human beings be evolved from apes?
If human beings were evolved from apes, how could it be that the initial conversion of apes could develop to the extent that many different races of people speak in many kind of languages? There are more than 100 kind of different human languages in this world and this could not be found among apes.
OBviously human beings could not be evolved from apes or else we could find all kind of human languages among apes.
Obviously, you understand neither (human) evolution nor linguistics not the timescales involved.
Humans diverged from other apes at least 6 million years ago. Modern human language developed in Africa prior to the dispersal of humans from Africa only around 50,000 years ago. And since then — in that very short period — human language has diverged greatly, far more than you think: As of 2009, SIL Ethnologue catalogued 6909 living human languages. Linguistic change is far, far quicker than genetic change! (So much so that you’d struggle to understand an Englishman from just 1,000 years ago.)
Over millions of years, Homo’s vocal chords, throat and mouth has changed considerably from that of our ancestral (and therefore modern) apes, making different vocal articulations possible. There’s nothing in evolution to suggest that there should be any close similarity between human’s and other apes’ vocalisations.
Oh, and your comment, “how could there be so co-incidence that male ape and female would convert to human beings at the same time?” Again this just underscores your ignorance of evolution: At any time, there is more variation within the living population than there is between parents and children. And speciation isn’t something that happens in a single generation: There’s no simple “conversion”.
* nor the timescales involved.
* … mouth have changed
Do you observe all the apes? All apes speak the same sound whether they are from Africa or Western countries or even oriental countries. None of the apes speak in different sounds? If you would see an ape speak in English, you will shiver and scare.
Or do you hear any human beings speak in apes’ voice? If no human beings could speak in apes’ voice or could understand what they speak, how could human beings be evolved from apes?
Today you speak in English. Would you’ll great grand grand…children speak in another type of new converted language through language’s evolution? If no, how could there be evolution in languages?
The answer to “Would you’ll great grand grand…children speak in another type of new converted language through language’s evolution?”
Is….. YES! Go back to the time of your Great great (3, 4 5 greats) Grandparents and both their written and spoken language would sound strange to you (but still understandable). This is only going back to the 1800’s. There are many words being used today that were not used or used differently even just at the time you were born. If you go back to the time of your Great (50 greats) grandparents, about 1000 years ago, then their language (“Old English”) will not be understandable to you. “English” of 1000 years ago is a very different language than “English” of today. And look how Australian, Canadian, American, and British English are somewhat different today.
I choose to answer this particular point for you, because I hope it is very easy for you to see your mistake, once it is explained. Languages change and evolve very quickly. In less than a lifetime we can see significant changes. In the written form of language, this process of languages evolving is well documented for thousands of years. The Romans of 400B.C did not write (or speak) the same “Latin” as the Romans of 0A.D. or the Romans of 400A.D.
If you do not understand what is wrong with your other points, we could also explain, patiently, but it would take longer. Hopefully, if you see your mistake about languages, then you will begin to question whether your other points can be answered just as well.
I will also point out to you that different groups of apes do make different sounds (I mean different groups of the *same* species). Many animal species (not just primates) that use sound to communicate have different “languages” in different places or from one group to the next. Whales and dolphins are examples, as well as various apes and monkey species.
Well said, s.k.graham, well said!
(Except… “0A.D.”? I think you’ll find 1 B.C. was followed by 1 A.D.!)
Does anyone have English subtitles? Thanks!
How/where can I buy this video??
Video is not available at present .please up load again.Thanks.
Excellent show, need to get a copy of this to show to a few people, well done on showing this to the world, everybody need to watch this, and get life into perspective. congrats hope to see more of these type of doc on tv