Quote of the Day, By Stephen Hawking

Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. Link,

43 comments:

Mike D said...

I don't like this quote, only because with the phrase "because of a law like gravity" it's impossible to understand exactly what he's talking about. My guess is that his new book will expand on the ideas in chapter 8 of A Brief History of Time, along the lines of Laurence Krauss' lecture at AAI 2009. Regardless, I've pre-ordered my copy! He's a provocative thinker and I'm really excited about this book.

Shane said...

Ah, but why is there a law such as gravity? :-)

The universe is fine tuned for life in the same way that Kilimanjaro is fine-tuned for snowflakes.

cneil said...

Rowan Williams, who is not a renowned physicist but an archbishop, responded to Hawking's ideas yesterday in the London Times:

'Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the universe... It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.'

What arrogant presumption that Christians see the default position on this issue as involving their God! It is no more logical to claim he made 'something out of nothing' than to argue that because there is an Athens there must be a Zeus, or that the existence of tea-shops proves Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot must really be orbiting the earth.

Mark said...

The potential for something is something. Where did that potential come from? Now you have an infinite regression to deal with.

Mike D said...

I liked Laurence Krauss' comment from his lecture at AAI last year:

It turns out, that in a flat universe the total energy of the universe is precisely zero...Because gravity can have negative energy. So, the negative energy of gravity balances out the positive energy of matter.

What’s so beautiful about a universe with total energy of zero?

Well, ONLY such a universe can begin from nothing… And that is remarkable… Because, the laws of physics allow a universe to begin from nothing. You don’t need a deity. You have nothing… zero total energy… and quantum fluctuations can produce a universe.

“Why is there something rather than nothing?”

The answer is… There had to be. If you have “nothing” in quantum mechanics, you’ll always get something. It’s that simple. It doesn’t convince any of those people, but it’s true.

Shane said...

I do still think we need to explain how we get a vacuum in the first place - fortunately, this actually doesn't seem to be *that* difficult, if you accept the view of mathematics as something on which the universe depends, rather than something dependent on the precise configuration of our universe (if you get my drift).

I've tried to explain this a bit on my blog: http://answersingenes.blogspot.com/2010/06/on-nature-of-reality-itself.html but I think Max Tegmark does it better.

If god can change Pi, then all bets are off.

Mike D said...

I'm not sure that we need to explain where a quantum vacuum comes from, because in a quantum vacuum, time functions like another dimension of space – i.e., nonlinearly. So you can think of it like the surface of the earth - it's finite, but there's no starting or ending point. That means a quantum vacuum simply IS. It doesn't come from anything.

GearHedEd said...

cneil said,

"...What arrogant presumption that Christians see the default position on this issue as involving their God..."

Realistically, what other position can they take? Imagine this:

"Archbishop Humpteybump, of the Diocese of Kevorkia, commented yesterday on Stephen Hawking's claim that the universe spontaneously generated itself due to the law of gravity. The Archbishop said,

"I guess we'll have to pack up our tents and go away now, since the answer to the ultimate questions have been finally answered by science."

I for one would welcome such candor, but I'm not holding my breath...

Shane said...

Oh, agreed it doesn't have to *come from* anything, or be "caused", but why a quantum vacuum? Why should such a sucker exist? In my view, a QV (and indeed anything) has to be considered as a *system*. Things do not have properties - *systems* display *behaviours*. The thing about that concept is that systems at the very core do not rely on a "cause" or any material substrate - they "just are" in the same way as the Mandelbrot set "just is" and the sixty-zillionth digit of Pi "just is", whether we like the fact or not. Hence my enjoyment of Tegmark's Mathematical Universe Hypothesis.

GearHedEd said...

Mark said,

"...Now you have an infinite regression to deal with."

There's ALWAYS been an infinite regression.

God solves nothing.

Mike D said...

"why a quantum vacuum? Why should such a sucker exist?"

Why shouldn't it? One could toss that same question toward a deity.

Gandolf said...

Mike D said...
"why a quantum vacuum? Why should such a sucker exist?"

Why shouldn't it? One could toss that same question toward a deity."

Ahh .. but a divine "sucker" is useful for "hovering up" all the faithful.

pink_monkey said...

nom nom nom...i love this.

to be continued.

Bill Aitchison said...

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And on the first day God said, Let there be the Law of Gravity
And God said, Let there be Spontaneity and Science and Stephen Hawking.
And thereafter God amused itself with parallel universes.

Rob R said...

Uh oh. So They now got a theory (M-theory) that hasn't been demonstrated empirically, isn't agreed upon by all the greatest physics minds in the world, may not stand the test of time, only offers a couple of alternative responses to a couple of reasons for why people believe in God, and of course, like all science, is tentative...

Whatever will we theists do!?

Lvka said...

Something with zero energy is not the same as nothing. Especially when it's governed by laws and possesses properties.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Rob said,

"Uh oh. So They now got a theory (M-theory) that hasn't been demonstrated empirically, isn't agreed upon by all the greatest physics minds in the world, may not stand the test of time, only offers a couple of alternative responses to a couple of reasons for why people believe in God, and of course, like all science, is tentative...

Whatever will we theists do!?"

Maybe investigate it without your superstitious (and defensive) presuppositional blinders.

pink_monkey said...

hey rob, maybe you should tune into the results of the large hadron collider w/ the rest of us. It does indeed offer the potentiality of beginning to validate m-theory, or correcting some errors[right now m-theory IS hypothetical, and it can be effectively argued that it shouldn't be afforded theoretical status w/in science]. This is how science works buddy, we don't just write about what we want to be true.

And when your target is stephen hawking you should just quit. You're attacking one quote from a book length argument that you haven't read. Where have I seen this occur before? Stephen Hawking is regarded by many to be the most intelligent human being alive[despite the slanderous picture that john lennox posted in his ludicrous response to this quote]. found here, but it's a joke...and sorry i'm not going to format the link...copy/paste baby.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html

To mock his physical condition would be a typical theistic rebuttal. Do they ever say something of substance or offer a positive claim that corresponds to direct observation?

Now anyway. There is a good chance that you would misinterpret the statements of Stephen Hawking in any circumstance [because of his intellectual capabilities far exceeding all of ours]. There's an even better chance that you would misinterpret the position of ANYONE, given that you have read one statement from their book length argument.

I know you theists aren't partial to weighing all of the evidence, but please first, shut the hell up. Second, read the actual argument in entirety. Then, if you STILL must, lastly, proceed to ignorantly comment.

Btw, John Lennox is a mathematician who is partial to CS Lewis. Stephen Hawking is a renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Whom do you think has a more thorough understanding of physics and the origins of the universe? The audacity that some have to mock this man is truly telling.

Too bad God didn't reveal this too. You could've one upped the most intelligent man on the planet rob...oh right. revealing the non-existence of himself would be silly. What power did Oz have w/o the curtain?

GearHedEd said...

"Whatever will we theists do!?"

I dunno...learn some math so you can understand the sciences?

That'd be a start...

pink_monkey said...

[to be continued but still nom nom nom]

hey rob, maybe you should tune into the results of the large hadron collider w/ the rest of us. It does indeed offer the potentiality of beginning to validate m-theory, or correcting some errors[right now m-theory IS hypothetical, and it can be effectively argued that it shouldn't be afforded theoretical status w/in science]. This is how science works buddy, we don't just write about what we want to be true.

And when your target is stephen hawking you should just quit. You're attacking one quote from a book length argument that you haven't read. Where have I seen this occur before? Stephen Hawking is regarded by many to be the most intelligent human being alive[despite the slanderous picture that john lennox posted in his ludicrous response to this quote]. found here, but it's a joke...and sorry i'm not going to format the link...copy/paste baby.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html

To mock his physical condition would be a typical theistic rebuttal. Do they ever say something of substance or offer a positive claim that corresponds to reality?

Now anyway. There is a good chance that you would misinterpret the statements of Stephen Hawking in any circumstance [because of his intellectual capabilities far exceeding all of ours]. There's an even better chance that you would misinterpret the position of ANYONE, given that you have read one statement from their book length argument.

I know you theists aren't partial to weighing all of the evidence, but please first, shut the hell up. Second, read the actual argument in entirety. Then, if you STILL must, lastly, proceed to ignorantly comment.

Btw, John Lennox is a mathematician who is partial to CS Lewis. Stephen Hawking is a renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Whom do you think has a more thorough understanding of physics and the origins of the universe? The audacity that some have to mock this man is truly telling.

Too bad God didn't reveal this too. You could've one upped the most intelligent man on the planet rob...oh right. revealing the non-existence of himself would be silly. What power did Oz have w/o the curtain?

Shane said...

John Lennox is, I fear, both highly over-rated and rhetorically dishonest. His "God's Undertaker" book is a classic object lesson in underhand and manipulative tactics, but it is interesting if you want to see just the sorts of intellectual juggling that some people will get up to to rescue their little gods. Yes, he rates CS Lewis, so he's certainly not *very* clever - Lewis and Lennox are two countrymen of mine of whom I am not terribly proud.

However, back to the matter in hand: LVKA says: Something with zero energy is not the same as nothing. Especially when it's governed by laws and possesses properties.

Which would be fine except that by the time we get to here, we no longer have a "thing" - we have a *SYSTEM*. A system is a purely mathematical entity, like the Mandelbrot set or an instance of the Game of Life or the Fibonacci sequence. And *then* you explicitly do NOT need an external agent to bring it into being. The Fibonacci sequence was still true when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, and the sixty-zillionth digit of Pi will be the same sixty-zillion years from now as it is today. The "properties" (i.e. behaviours) of a system are mathematically determined, and do not depend on a physical substrate, since the parameters of this are subsumed within the system itself.

Go Tegmark! :-)

GearHedEd said...

Lvka said,

"Something with zero energy is not the same as nothing..."

He said zero NET energy. There's a big difference.

GearHedEd said...

Or, from the quote,

"...zero TOTAL energy..."

which is the same an zero NET energy.

Lvka said...

I know what total energy is...

Again: since when did something with zero total energy became the same thing with nothing? And since when does nothing possess a non-empty set of non-null properties, like gravity, and what not?

GearHedEd said...

I guess we'l both have to read the book, eh?

Brad Haggard said...

I think this is a prime example of one of Loftus' double standards. He raises this quote as proof against the KCA when there is no empirical evidence behind it. We haven't even run the experiments yet, and suddenly this is the answer.

I'm willing to sit back and wait on the results as well, as long as the empty rhetoric ceases.

GearHedEd said...

Brad Haggard must have missed this...

Russ said...

Brad Haggard,
You said,

I think this is a prime example of one of Loftus' double standards. He raises this quote as proof against the KCA when there is no empirical evidence behind it. We haven't even run the experiments yet, and suddenly this is the answer.


One does not need Stephen Hawking citations to know that the Kalam cosmological argument(KCA) is invalid. It functions purely as an intentional philosophical magic trick, much along the lines of arguing from the esteemed premise that a particular god is "a being than which nothing greater can be conceived." That's pretty heady stuff for a god to be since it is also claimed to be as plain as the nose on your face.

In Craig's exposition of the KCA - 1) whatever begins to exist has a cause; 2) the universe is a whatever; 3) thus, the universe has a cause - we are asked to rely on intuition. Intuition? In a couple of his debates I've heard him claim it to be "intuitively obvious" that "whatever begins to exist has a cause." This is a baseless assertion. Intuition is useless as a tool for extracting an accurate understanding of the world. You and Bill Craig will follow your group intuitions in accepting and defending Bible god, while those without group predispositions for Bible god have entirely different guiding intuitions.

Intuitions fail us all the time. One-in-a-million longshot phenomena happen regularly among us seven billion earthings. Even one-in-a-billion's pop up now and again. But everyday man's intuition is likely to tell him that happenings with long odds are "impossible." So convinced will he be of the impossibility of rare events that he will accept that their occurrence is miraculous, especially when the notion of miracles are propped up by his social group.

Russ said...

Brad Haggard,
The failure of intuition to provide correct insight into reality is constantly reinforced when the man on the street is asked straightforward mathematical questions, especially statistical ones. You're a math teacher, Brad, so you will appreciate how abysmally intuitions fail in this area. How many people must we bring together to have 100 percent certainty that two of them share a birthday? Even when primed by telling them that there are 366 possible birthdates, they still fail to grasp the question, and, thus, fail at intuiting the answer. Ask them to more fully exercise their intuition - how many people must we bring together to have 50 percent probability that two or more of them share a birthday? for instance - and the uselessness of intuition as a means for accurate everyday understanding is obvious.

These mathematical notions are not only not intuitive to the man on the street, but his intuitions about them do not guide him in reasoning about them. Yet, William Lane Craig expects that a person's intuitions about everyday experience with cause and effect should guide him to an accurate understanding of the quantum realm where everyday experience and intuitions are useless. Though it is known that ordinary intuition is not applicable in quantum mechanics Craig will insist otherwise to his audiences. Craig's "intuitively obvious" notion is not at all intuitively obvious. It is not known and it cannot be casually intuited that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Craig's premise does not hold. He has been informed by many a physicist, yet he still makes his claim. The KCA is invalidated without referring to Stephen Hawking.

John is not working a double standard here, Brad. Can you say that you or Craig have a better insight to the nature of the physical world than does Hawking? John shared this quote from a man who has much deeper insights, much better intuitions, about the ultimate structure and nature of the real world than all but a handful of human beings. Specifically, Hawking has much deeper insights, much better intuitions into the universe than either you or Craig.

You said,

I'm willing to sit back and wait on the results as well, as long as the empty rhetoric ceases.

It would be hard to find a more empty rhetoric than a line of reasoning that starts with a baseless premise, wangles its way to the universe having a cause, and, then, finagles a line from there to Craig's (deep breath) beginningless, uncaused, timeless, personal, changeless, immaterial, spaceless, omniscient and omnipotent Bible god. This is as empty as rhetoric can get, and the "intuition" he asks of his minions is not their intuition, it is only what he tells them it is. Scant few Christians take their religion seriously, and still fewer Christians will have considered Craig's thought that "whatever begins to exist has a cause" to the extent that they will have developed intuitions about it. What's more, Craig's rhetoric is one more piece of evidence showing that "truth" has nothing to do with religion, and that whatever begins in the mind of William Lane Craig is unaffected by "truth." Craig tells us to let intuition be our guide. For answers more reflective of the world as it is, I'll take Hawking's intuitions over those of the disingenuous Craig every time.

J. K. Jones said...

I have the book from our local library. I note the comment on page 181 of "The Grand Design": “…perhaps the true miracle is that abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes [the universe].”

Logic itself is a miracle, alright. Universal, abstract laws are reflectiosn of the mind of God.

Shane said...

So god can't change Pi... Sounds like "god" I'd being used as a word for mathematics. Which is OK, but entirely impersonal, and theism dies. I can live with that.

Brad Haggard said...

GHE and Russ,

I honestly hear a lot of bluster about the KCA, but it needs to be pointed out that the Standard Model is presently of of the most well-evidenced models in astronomy, and even in science in general. Our error bars are very precise. The implication of our empirical observation is that the universe began as a singularity.

Hawking's theory is a cogent mathematical model, but as of now has no empirical support. That is what bothers me, that Loftus claims that he only believes stuff based on evidence, and this model, as a matter of record, has no evidence.

In a debate I heard him say that he can accept Vic Stenger's calcluation that the universe has a 60% chance of tunneling into existence as a brute fact. He believes this in the absence of any corroborating evidence.

Further, Russ, I recognize that certain intuitions we have about the nature of the universe are wrong (such as your intuition that I'm a math teacher, which I'm not sure where it came from). Obvious examples would be relativity and time dilation. But if you want me to reject a common intuition, then you have to produce evidence to the contrary. What evidence would you marshall to attack the law of causation? I can't even imagine how you would go about that, especially metaphysically.

So let's say that the LHC produces evidence that confirms Hawking's imaginary time model of the universe. That weakens premise 2 of the argument, but not until such a time as the evidence is produced. As it stands, that premise is supported by current science, so I bristle at the chest-thumping that highlighting a quote like this from Hawking produces in skeptical circles. It is, IMHO, a double standard.

Shane said...

The KCA fails regardless of whether the universe had a beginning or not. The Fibonacci sequence has a beginning, but does not require an antecedent state.

Brad Haggard said...

Shane,

I might just be dense, but how would a mathematical pattern have an "antecedent state"?

Shane said...

Hi Brad, the initial state of the Fibonacci Sequence is 0,1. This state does not have an antecedent state. It needs no "cause". The next state is 1,1 followed by 1,2 then 2,3 and so on. The FS is effectively an iterative function that "evolves" as it rolls. An instance of the Game of Life is too, albeit slightly more complex, and it is very seriously argued by some that our universe is also an iterative state/function structure. It requires no "host" reality other than pure mathematics itself, and even simple Boolean logic at that.

Shane said...

Hi Brad, the initial state of the Fibonacci Sequence is 0,1. This state does not have an antecedent state. It needs no "cause". The next state is 1,1 followed by 1,2 then 2,3 and so on. The FS is effectively an iterative function that "evolves" as it rolls. An instance of the Game of Life is too, albeit slightly more complex, and it is very seriously argued by some that our universe is also an iterative state/function structure. It requires no "host" reality other than pure mathematics itself, and even simple Boolean logic at that.

Brad Haggard said...

Shane,

Are you equating mathematical formulas with ontology? I think that is my disconnect.

Shane said...

Hi Brad,
Actually, kinda yes :-) I think it's unavoidable. I have tried to explain it in a wee bit more detail on my blog here; I accept that this is a difficult notion to get the old skull round, but I think it makes sense. It does also mean that all possible universes must "exist" at least as mathematical abstracta, but then that is effectively what "possible" means. Some analytical philosophers, such as Plantinga and Leftow and Swinburne have confused "possible" with "conceivable" - these are very very distinct concepts, because while you may be able to conceive a "wrapper", it is not usually possible to conceive the whole thing right down to the necessary level of detail that encapsulates it all, unless you are dealing with a very simple universe, like a "Game of Life" universe.

As a minor aside, it is this fact that shows that the Anselmian ontological argument is utter tripe, but that's by the by :-)

Enjoy!

Shane said...

Oh fiddlesticks - my link bombed. Try this instead...

Comments welcome!

GearHedEd said...

Brad said,

"...I honestly hear a lot of bluster about the KCA, but it needs to be pointed out that the Standard Model is presently of of the most well-evidenced models in astronomy, and even in science in general. Our error bars are very precise. The implication of our empirical observation is that the universe began as a singularity."

Whle the stahdard model describes much, it still has a few loose ends.

"Precise modern models of the Big Bang appeal to various exotic physical phenomena that have not been observed in terrestrial laboratory experiments or incorporated into the Standard Model of particle physics. Of these features, dark matter is currently the subject to the most active laboratory investigations.[50] Remaining issues, such as the cuspy halo problem and the dwarf galaxy problem of cold dark matter, are not fatal to the dark matter explanation as solutions to such problems exist which involve only further refinements of the theory. Dark energy is also an area of intense interest for scientists, but it is not clear whether direct detection of dark energy will be possible.[51]

On the other hand, inflation and baryogenesis remain somewhat more speculative features of current Big Bang models: they explain important features of the early universe, but could be replaced by alternative ideas without affecting the rest of the theory.[notes 7] Discovering the correct explanations for such phenomena are some of the remaining unsolved problems in physics."

Big Bang wiki

Premise 2 of the KCA says

"The Universe had a beginning."

While this is trivially true (The Big Bang is a "beginning" of what we know as 'spacetime'), there is currently no knowledge of whether there were earlier states of the universe previous to the Big Bang event.

nate said...

Just so everyone is aware, it's a little more difficult to begin understanding the origins of this universe than reading Genesis Chapter 1.

Quandry said...

nate said...
Just so everyone is aware, it's a little more difficult to begin understanding the origins of this universe than reading Genesis Chapter 1.

It is also a little more difficult than reading Hawking.

The ancients hung their theory of origins on an omnipotent force which they 'knew' existed but could not explain. They called it "God".

Stephen Hawking hangs his theory of origins on an omnipotent force which he knows exists but can't explain. He calls it Gravity.

Shane said...

The solution to all of this, and the Fine Tuning fallacy is of course mathematical universes. it's not that all possible universes CAN exist, but that they DO exist as mathematical possibilities, just like all points on a line between A and B. However, from the "inside" of such a mathematical object, any intelligent substructures (like us) will of course perceive it as real, and marvel that it has apparently been "tuned" to allow them to exist. Like snowflakes on Kilimanjaro.