Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Nothing

Glenn Fairman takes on Stephen Hawking and what he calls "Scientism" in a piece at the American Thinker entitled The Theory of Nothing. I do take a certain exception to what Fairman calls Scientism in that the same things that Hawking claims to show God doesn't exist, I find prove he does. Can I take my proof to court? No, of course not, and neither can Hawking. In the end, one must believe, or not, because of Faith. I have felt the hand of God moving in my life. I am sorry that a great man like Stephen Hawking has not. But that is a small quibble, and Fairman is entitled to his opinions. Fairman:
Indeed, why the intense human desire to "know:” to find meaning, to love, to connect with the transcendent "other?" Yet, if mind and quark are the byproducts of merely sterile molecular bodies in motion, why meaning at all? What prompts the search for origins and astral mechanics when material either exploded into being from nothingness or continues to drone on in cataclysmic cycles with no teleological end or significance? If introspective human lives are accidental absurdities, what relentless existential drive moves us to discern a consistent harmony within the cosmos, a character antithetical to naturalism’s presumption of hostile indifference?
But from the perspective of Scientism, the metaphysical questions are DOA. What cannot be empirically poked or prodded is not only outside the purview of intelligent inquiry, but beneath its sphere of interest. If science is the exhaustive study of causes and mechanics, then why is its program so narrowly focused on the epidermal to the exclusion of a transcendent first cause. Why is an anxious yet aloof science either fearful or unwilling to consider possibilities that might unify and grant coherence to the grand vision? Focused against the backdrop of these questions, this supposed "most intelligent man in the world of science," and those if his ilk, seem trapped in a hall of mirrors -- wrapped in a hermeneutic cocoon of their own construction.
Fairman sees Scientism as he calls it, as somehow antithetical to the Spirit filled life of Faith. Yet that wasn't always so. When Newton propounded his laws of motion, he did not think he was doing anything other that explaining the nature of God's design, Likewise Copernicus, and even Galileo did not view their discoveries as anything more than an explanation of what God had created. Even Einstein had a belief in a rational universe because God is rational.  Science is a only tool, a method, a technique, for understanding the world around us not through anecdote and superstition, but through evidence that is put to the test. A scientists observes a phenomenon, creates a theory to explain it, test the theory by designing appropriate experiments, then publishes his findings. For science to be valid, it must be subject to proof, which means it can be proven false. Indeed, the fact that a theory can be s falsified is the hallmark of true science, and an attitude that everything we think we know is only a theory is the mark of a true scientist.  Circular reasoning and theories that can not be proven false have no place in science.  But then, science can only go so far.  It is a tool, not an ideology.  It is one, and only  one, way of seeing the world.  Indeed, that is what got Galileo into trouble.  He too tried to claim more for his discoveries than could be claimed, and the Church slapped him down.

Around 10 years ago, I stumbled upon a book,entitled The Victory of Reason by Robert Stark that made a case that freedom, capitalism, science and technology all came about because of a Christian belief that the universe was rational, because God is rational.  If God is rational, then it makes sense to interpret the Bible as rational.  Certain social changes occurred as a result of evolving Christian culture that encouraged cooperation, the idea of one gaining profit from his own labor, the growing belief in the dignity of the individual, eventually the end of slavery in the Christian world, and so on that made the development of science and technology possible.

Fairman again:

If science, as understood by Hawking, means the end of philosophy, then it also means the end of ethics: that same ethics that (ideally) battles the destruction of the tender and voiceless for the shortsighted benefit of some misbegotten utilitarian good. Hailing himself as the de facto champion of brute fact over discarded value, Hawking becomes the poster boy of desiccated inquiry that is emblematic of modernity’s mental labyrinth - where deluded raw sensory intelligence, divorced from Right Reason and theistic moral vision and virtue, leads the pursuit of knowledge into a waterless desert of quantitative abstraction. In truth, it is not Scientism’s poverty in apprehending the world that is so objectionable; it is the insistence that its contemptuous methodology has uncovered all that there is to see...
If the truth be known, human science as we know it could not have flourished as the product of a wholly naturalistic mental construct. Indeed, how could an unordered brain come to the conclusion that a magnificent logic, undergirded by an elegant mathematics, was to be the ruling principle erupting from the frenzy of a feeble cosmos? Having been mysteriously spawned as bastards of such cruel chance or necessity, what compelled man to attempt the derivation of physical laws and coherence from naturalism’s subsumed prima facie chaos? Without an a priori intuitive capacity for material transcendence or even the possibility of discerning the complex motifs of pattern and design, are we not as orphans abandoned in a self-contradictory jungle -- where speed, strength, violence, and clever rapacity are the primary “virtues” selected for? Fortunately, for us and for Hawking, naturalism is an untenable theory. It cannot adequately explain the inception and fine-tuning of the universe, and it surely cannot adequately explain the man who values.
What Fairman is noting here, and it is quite true, is without Christianity (and without the gun) the world belongs to the young, the strong, and the most aggressive. Everyone else must either submit, or be killed. In such a world, there is no time for speculation, there is no process for open communication. Indeed, these things are the last thing the local warlord wants. In the end, I don't think it is so much science that is the problem, as it is Hawking's belief that he is his own higher power.   Fairman has hit the nail squarely on the head when he speaks of "These myopic antagonists of an intelligent Designer...?" I pray that before he dies, Steven Hawking, the beneficiary of so much Christian grace, will wake up to the realization that he has been working all along for Him, expounding His great design.

Update, 9/11/2016:  I was thinking about this in the shower this morning when I remembered the Infinite Monkey Theorem I hearit years ago during a statistics course (so that is a LONG time ago) and it involved the infinite monkey typing the complete Sonnets of Shakespeare, but the effect is the same. Little noticed, however, is that while the monkey would surely eventually do it, purely by accident, the time it would take would be more than the age of the universe. Similarly, the chance of the accidental development of life, much less self conscious life that can conceive of a transcendent being is so vanishingly small as to sound absurd.  If it were any other topic, Hawking or any other scientist would have cried Occam's Razor and concluded that an Intelligent Designer created the universe and the life we enjoy.

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