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Saturday, October 09, 2010

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It seems confusing to me to say that natural laws would explain the origins of the universe; what are these laws operating on "before" the universe came into being? And why are natural laws being thought of in this sort of "prescriptive" sense? Why are they not merely useful descriptions of what is normally the case?

The second chapter "The Rule of Law" may shed some light. But don't hold your breath.

It's confusing to me too, Steven. http://dailypundit.com/?p=39188#comment-253077

I liked so much to read it!

I wrote something about founded on Vedanta Sutra here:

http://www.leonardovalverde.com/a-causa-material-do-universo-vedanta-fisica-stephen-hawking/

Sorry because it was wrote in portuguese, but nothing that the Google translate can't solve.

And I like so much your site!

Thank you, Leonardo.

My favorite instance of language abuse was when the authors told us that particles in motion "acquire information."

It appears there are the mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics, and there are competing physical interpretations of those formulae. There is also considerable debate about whether quantum indeterminacy is epistemic or ontic.

Would we have been aware of this after reading "The Grand Design?" This deficiency amounts to intellectual dishonesty in my book. Given model dependent realism, I'm not even sure what the authors are trying to tell us. Certainly not much about the world we experience.

Enough of my armchair philosophy. Cheers!

I don't know, David. I didn't have a problem following Hawking's logic.

1. Because the law of gravity exists, God is not necessary to explain why the universe exists.
2. But, why does the law of gravity exist?
3. Because if the law of gravity didn't exist the universe wouldn't exist;
4. Hence, ergo, therefore, God is not necessary to explain why the universe exists.

Best Regards,
John H.

John,

Thanks for your comments. They have helped me develop my thoughts on this a bit more.

Question for you:
I am curious why Hawking accepts #3 instead of the converse: if the universe didn't exist, the law of gravity wouldn't exist. Perhaps this is a key to understanding his metaphysics? He obviously thinks some natural laws are more than mere bookkeeping for physical events in the universe.

My response:
I will agree that the argument to explain the universe without God is valid; however, after coming to terms with the author(s) my reconstruction of their claims became quiet modest.

When physicists say nothing they usually mean the quantum vacuum. Hawking would then be arguing that the law of gravity explains why something popped out of the quantum vacuum. Does the law of gravity exist? Does a quantum vacuum exist? If so, why yes instead of not? On their own terms, they may have shown why something exists rather than nothing; however, I think the authors are being intellectually dishonest when they claim to have really answered any ultimate questions. Really what they've shown us is why some things exist instead of merely a quantum vacuum.


Cheers,
David

Hi David,

My post was somewhat in jest, because as you noted using an effect to prove a cause that proves the effect seems somewhat circular, to me, and doesn't really advance the argument.

Why do I exist?
Because you had parents.
Why did I have parents?
Because you exist.

… or something to that effect. But I only had one semester in formal logic, so what do I know.

As to your other points, I really don't know what to make of his motives. Hawking is not an idiot and I have a hard time imaging he lacks basic reasoning skills, but who knows. Does he really believe he answered the "age-old questions," people have been asking? Does he believe mankind has been asking for millennia, "how did the universe spring-forth from the quantum vacuum?" Does he think theists have been claiming physicists haven't been able to explain that happening without positing God? Does he think he solved the uncaused cause riddle?

I really don't know what to make of his position in all this. Others have said he's never read a book on philosophy, so maybe he really doesn't know the questions. I kind of doubt that, though. I believe he knows he can't answer the big questions, so he trivialized them. I also believe he considers himself to be on par with the giants like Newton and Einstein, however his failure to make any serious scientific contributions somewhat belies that opinion, and trivializing what are very important questions to a large portion of humanity is further proof of his lacking in giant-ness.

Sorry for the rant.

Best Regards,
John H.

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