God and Stephen Hawking

Whose Design Is It Anyway?

John C. Lennox, Lion Hudson, 2011


p 14 "Has the Grand Master of Physics checkmated the Grand Designer of the Universe?"

In his intro he comments about all the best-seller books about God, from Collins' Language of God to Dawkins' God Delusion.

Comments that Collins (a believer) at the helm of NIH was preceded by Watson (an atheist). There is a mix of believers and unbelievers in the current dialog. Also notes Kepler and the company of great physicists that were believers.

p 14 Ends intro with "It certainly is a grandiose claim to have banished God. .. With such a lot at stake we surely need to ask Hawking to produce evidence to establish his claim. Do his arguments really stand up to close scrutiny? I think we have a right to know.

But we shall never know unless we look and see.

So, let us do just that .."

The short little book is extremely well-written in my view. It is clear, bold, articulate, and exhibits the touch of humor that you become accustomed to with Lennox. He is straightforward in skewering the contradictions and sophomoric philosophy that characterize "The Grand Design". Great quotes to make use of others' thinking. A very bold chapter in defense of the resurrection, which he puts on the point in the discussion of miracles.

1. The Big Questions

p 15 Pays tribute to Hawking's legitimate fame and notes that "A Brief History of Time" left the existence of a Divine Creator tantalizingly open. But in "The Grand Design" he directly challenges belief in the divine creation of the universe with statements like "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing" and "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

p 17 "The Grand Design opens with a list of the big questions .." Those statements "excite the imagination with the anticipation of hearing a world-class scientist give his insights on some of the profoundest questions of metaphysics." "If that is what we expect we are in for a shock; for in his very next words, Hawking dismisses philosophy." He refers to the "philosophy is dead" statement on page 5 of The Grand Design

p 18 Lennox contrasts Hawking's or, I sort of assume, Mlodinow's stupidity with a statement by Einstein in a letter to Thornton where he bemoans the kind of prejudices that arise from an unawareness of philosophy.

p 19 You could hardly say that Lennox minces words in his condemnation of this craziness on the part of Hawking and Mlodinow:
"For any scientist, let alone a science superstar, to disparage philosophy on the one hand, and then at once to adopt a self-contradictory philosophical stance on the other, is not the wisest thing to do - especially at the beginning of a book that is designed to be convincing."

p 19 Cites Medawar for another statement long before Hawking's book that might have warned him against such a stance.

p 20 Cites Collins from "The Language of God" Also Einstein from Jammer's work about the inability to get a moral base from science. Also brings in Feynman's voice against science-derived ethics.

p 22 Points out that after saying "philosophy is dead", Hawking immediately poses the most profound philosophical questions and says "We shall attempt to answer them in this book."

p 22 In a section titled "An inadequate view of God" he gives, as always, an excellent response to the old "God of the gaps" framework in which Hawking cites the ignorance of many gods, gives Greeks credit for disposing of them and paving the way for modern science. As he does in God's Undertaker, he carefully notes the Bible's prior role in "dedeifying" nature.

p 28 "Hawking is surely not expecting us to fall for the common trick of rubbishing religion by rubbishing primitive concepts of God or the gods." Does charge Hawking with confusing God with the gods, and "that leads him to a completely inadequate view of God, as a God of the Gaps who can be displaced by scientific advance."

2. God or the laws of nature?

p 29 Goes back to Hawking's statement "because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing" Again chides him for the "philosophy is dead" remark, and proceeds to show how silly this "nothing" is. He has presumed a law, so a law is not "nothing".

p 30 Hawking's allusion to quantum fluctuations - not nothing, negative energy and positive energy adding to zero -- not nothing.

p 31 As an example of how thoroughly Lennox destroys the "much ado about nothing" -- "It is seldom that one finds in a single statement two distinct levels of contradiction, but Hawking seems to have constructed such a statement. He says the universe comes from a nothing that turns out to be a something (self-contradiction number one), and then says the universe creates itself (self-contradiction number two). But that is not all. His notion that a law of nature (gravity) explains the existence of the universe is also self-contradictory, since a law of nature, by definition, surely depends for its own existence on the prior existence of the nature it purports to describe." "Éso that is what comes out of saying philosophy is dead!"

p 31 Alludes to Adkins "cosmic bootstrap" and Keith Ward's response to it.

p 32 "nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists."

p 32 "Immense prestige and authority does not compensate for faulty logic."

p 34 Hawking asks the question "What is the origin of these laws?" and to the anticipated answer involving God, goes on to comment "However, this is no more than a definition of God as the embodiment of the laws of nature." It's hard to believe that Hawking actually wrote that. Lennox systematically destroys it in two pages of text.

p 36 In section "God or the laws of physics?" Lennox challenges Hawking and Dawkins, etc on the false choice of choosing God or the laws of physics. Quotes Hawking on M-theory creating multiple universes and then discusses the difference between laws that describe and agents who initiate. Good use of this Frank Whittle and the jet engine - both Whittle and science are necessary and complementary. Throws in Newton's Principia Mathematica as another example.

p38 Not just Whittle and science, also required material to work with.

p38 Aristotle's four causes reinforces the complementary nature of the causes. Continues with Whittle and the jet engine as a concrete example. Throws in the Laplace example to emphasize that understanding the jet engine does not require invoking Whittle, but it would be patent nonsense to use that understanding to try to prove the non-existence of Whittle.

p39 An excellent paragraph on the false choice "God or the laws of nature."

"Yet this is essentially what many scientists (and others) do with God. They define the range of questions that science is permitted to ask in such a way that God is excluded from the start; and then they claim that God is unnecessary, or doesn't exist. They fail to see that their science does not answer the question as to why something exists rather than nothing, for the simple reason that their science cannot answer that question. They also fail to see that by assumption it is their atheist world-view, not science as such, that excludes God."

p 40 Invokes Paley in a powerful way to help make this point.To Paley's statement adds "Quite so. Physical laws cannot create anything. They are a description of what normally happens under certain given conditions."

p 41 Picks on Paul Davies for making a statement implying causation by laws.

p 42 Even brings in C. S Lewis from Miracles to argue against laws as creators.

p 43 Invokes Feynman about the origin of rules in nature.

p 44 Quotes a letter from Einstein to a school girl to make the point that for Einstein the fact that the laws of nature could be mathematically formulated was a constant source of amazement that pointed beyond the physical universe.

p 44 Quote from Sandage on the something rather than nothing.

3. God or the multiverse?

p47 Lennox gives Hawking credit for pointing out the many evidences of fine-tuning that gives the impression of a Grand Designer, to which he replies "Of course it does; it fits like a glove - because there is a grand designer." But he points out that Hawking's answer to the "apparent miracle" is the multiverse.

p48 Points out in passing that the multiverse does not rule out God, its not "God or the multiverse" - another false choice.

p50 Cites Polkinghorne as critical of the multiverse.

p51 "M-theory" is Hawking's proposal for the TOE, but Lennox cites Hawking's collaborator Page as stating that it wouldn't displace God. M-theory is just an abstract theory, not a creator.

p52 "an attempt to get rid of the Creator by conferring creatoral powers on something that is not in itself capable of doing any creating - an abstract theory."

p52 Quotes a clever review by Tim Radford of The Gaurdian, 18 September 2010 "In this very brief history of modern cosmological physics, the laws of quantum and relativistic physics represent thing to the wondered at but widely accepted: just like Biblical miracles. M-theory invokes something different: a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. This force cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it's a big mystery. Remind you of anybody?"

p53 Cites Paul Davies on the multiverse.

p53 Cites colleague Oxford physicist Frank Close "M-theory is not even defined .. we are told 'No one seems to know what the M stands for.' Perhaps it is 'Myth'" "I don't see that M-theory adds one iota to the God debate, either pro or con."

p54 Cites Jon Butterworth of the Large Hadron Collider "M-theory is highly speculative and certainly not in the zone of science that we have got any evidence for."

p54 Quotes Roger Penrose about Hawking book and M-theory

p56 Section on "Modeling reality:the nature of perception" where he deals with the part of The Grand Design (p42) that starts with "There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we call model-dependent realism .."

p56f Lennox again cites Penrose in his review of Hawking, who takes a very dim view of all this. He includes a fairly lengthy quote of Penrose's distaste for such a subjective view of nature.

p60f Fairly lengthy discussion of the reality of what we perceive, whether we perceive it directly, which touches on epistemology and Representative Theory of Perception. After about seven pages of that, including a lengthy quote of philosopher Roger Scruton, he comes down to question why, if Hawking & Mlodinow are not real, did they write the book. Also skeptically assesses those who espouse relativism on all truth except that they are passionately trying to get us to perceive.

p66 I'm not at all sympathetic with any of this "model-dependent-reality" mumbo jumbo, so I liked the quote of Davies from Third Way on the reality of physical law.

4. Whose design is it, anyway?

p67 Details the final chapter's slide off into the discussion of the Game of Life, and he is as unimpressed with that as I am, except that he states respect for the game itself, which I don't know enough about to do.

p71 Hawking uses the game to argue by analogy that a system of laws could create our universe. But Lennox counters that the analogy not only completely fails but shows the exact opposite - that something akin to the development of a universe took an enormous amount of intelligent activity to create, and he has therefore introduced a strong argument for intelligent design.

5. Science and rationality

p73 Bemoans the fact that Hawking and many others presume an intense conflict between science and religion, and he, as I, strongly disputes that.

p73 Cites Crick's 'just a bunch of nerve cells' soliloquy in "The Astonishing Hypothesis" and then Darwin's Doubt. Then cites Polkinghorne's challenge to such extreme reductionism.

p75 Lennox's response to Polkinghorne: "Precisely. There is a patent self-contradiction running through all attempts, however sophisticated they may appear, to derive rationality from irrationality."

p75 "The very existence of the capacity for rational thought is surely a pointer: not downward to chance and necessity, but upward to an intelligent source of that capacity."

p78 Beginning of a strong affirmation of the Resurrection. He makes strong use of C. S. Lewis's "Miracles" in the discussion.

p76 Section on support for existence of God from outside science - history as example- gets to Hawking's scientific determinism - which negates free will and makes miracles impossible.

p81 Cites Polkinghorne's Science and Theology on the free will issue.

p81 Starts discussion of miracles and the laws of nature. Cites Dawkins' comment on resurrection from The God Delusion.

p91 ".. it is only belief in a Creator that gives us a satisfactory ground for believing in the uniformity of nature (the inductive principle) in the first place." Cites C. S. Lewis in Miracles to argue against total determinism and naturalism.

p92 Notes that is is odd that Hawking believes in the multiverse and rejects miracles. Cites Paul Davies to expand on that oddness.

p92 Lennox's cryptic summary "If Stephen Hawking is going to avoid God, perhaps the multiverse is not the wisest hiding place after all."

p94 Notes that Hume concluded that an intelligent author was at work.











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