Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stephen Hawking!

I'm half-amused, half-depressed to hear what is apparently the first thing to come to mind to Stephen Hawking when asked about God:

“What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God,” Hawking told Sawyer. “They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.”

It's the Pale Blue Dot move all over again. Aka, "If humans are so special, why are elephants so damn big?" I wonder how Hawking would react to someone mentioning that Deepak Chopra must have more salient insights on the origin of the universe, on the grounds that Chopra has more fans.

Edit: Also.. accidental? Seriously, accidental?

Of course, there's also this line.

When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

Will win? They're fighting?

Of course, this is where it becomes important to start really examining those terms: Science. Religion. Authority. Reason. Observation.

Someone who says "Science will win against religion!" is like a magician on a stage. It can be impressive, but only until you get onstage and look around with a careful eye. Then you see what's going on, smirk, and head back to the casino to play more Texas Tea.

3 comments:

The Phantom Blogger said...

When Feser wrote his articles against scientism, a blogger named The Rustbelt Philosopher wrote this critique, that I posted a link to in the combox of a Feser article:

"Quoth Edward Feser in one of the most philosophically banal articles I've read in a good while, 'the culture at large seems beholden to an inchoate scientism—"faith" is often pitted against "science" (even by those friendly to the former) as if "science" were synonymous with "reason."' His argument is a disproof of scientism ('the [rarely-held] view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge') so you can sorta kinda see why he might have wanted to make such a disproof relevant, but this is an out-and-out moronic thing to say. He knows full well that 'the culture at large,' and especially the skeptical part thereof, doesn't act 'as if "science" were synonymous with "reason."' The best-publicized conflict between religion and science is that the findings of the latter contradict the predictions fo the former, and it's fantastically dishonest of him to pretend otherwise (especially because he's smart enough to know better)."


To which an Anonymous person commented in the Feser combox in reply:

"Does any one else see the irony here? The guy squeals about how intellectually dishonest Feser is, because we all know that the skeptics out there aren't beholden to naive scientism. Then he goes and writes this:

"The best-publicized conflict between religion and science is that the findings of the latter contradict the predictions of the former..."

I had no idea that religion was in the empirical prediction business. Perhaps Rusty could enlighten us by describing some of the "predictive hypotheses" made by "religion?" So Rusty complains about Feser's dishonesty, then he turns right around and dishonestly pretends that religion is nothing but a bad empirical model of the universe.

In essence, then, he is contrasting some vaguely-defined body of "religious claims" with the predictive success of science, and treats all of this nonsense as if it were just obvious. And these comments simply confirm the charge of inchoate scientism.
Skeptics are always tossing out these facile "Science says!" "Religion says!" comments without thinking about what they are even saying. They are almost always written on autopilot, having been repeated so many times that have become embedded in their cognitive muscle memory."



The funny thing with a lot of these people is that they criticize the adherents of a religion for having a literal interpretation of religious texts, when the people that are the most likely to read religious texts literally are the atheists themselves, and then they'll claim that through looking at it this way, we have proof that the religion is false, when its contradicted by empirical studies.

PS. I've just noticed that you put my Blog on your list. I really need to get it up and going, I just haven't had the time but I will, within the next couple of weeks.

Crude said...

Consider my adding you encouragement, then. Clearly you follow enough of these discussions - add your own input!

And, apt comment from that poster. 'Science says!' 'Religion says!' But as I says (ha ha), once you sit down and start sussing out the meanings of these terms, it's all very unimpressive.

Crude said...

Incidentally, a grimly humorous quote that speaks to Hawking's talk of "science, which is based on observation and reason." with emphasis added:

In fact, uncertainty looms over Hawking’s entire legacy. Unlike Einstein’s theories, which have been confirmed many times by experiment, Hawking’s ideas about singularities and black hole evaporation will probably never be observed. There is a small chance—Hawking himself puts the probability at less than 1 percent—that the Large Hadron Collider, the enormous new particle accelerator near Geneva, might detect miniature black holes. If Hawking is right (and for the sake of those who fear the LHC might spawn a planet-devouring mini black hole, he’d better be), those black holes would evaporate almost as soon as they appeared. Such a discovery would validate one of Hawking’s signature insights and could easily provide the tangible evidence needed to snag a Nobel Prize.

Of course, there's also his 'top-down cosmology' ideas, where there's no unique history to the universe and we 'select' our history by existing.

My point here only being that, not only does looking deeper at these terms highlight the problems with Hawkings' terms, but the guy is coming from one of the fields where questions about whether or not the ideas are really 'science' abound.