Stephen Hawking’s Cosmic Slot Machine (Part 2)

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Philosophy, Science, Theology

In their new book, The Grand Design, co-authors and physicists Stephen Hawking (pictured) and Leonard Mlodinow argue that God is not necessary to explain the existence of the universe as we experience it.

Why not?

After all, if you look at the universe it looks suspiciously like it has been deliberately designed with us in mind. This is something that Harking and Mlodinow go into in some depth. They point out, as have many theistic apologists, that the laws governing our universe seem finely tuned to allow the existence of life. There are any number of constants—the gravitational constant, the mass of the proton, etc.—that are set at just the value needed to allow life to exist. If any of these constants were off by even a small amount, life would not be possible. It therefore appears that our universe has been intelligently designed to allow for life, which implies the existence of an intelligent designer.

In apologetics, this argument is sometimes called the argument from design from cosmological constants.

In their book, the two authors try to provide an alternative account of the universe’s origin that does not require an intelligent designer.

In the account they sketch they claim that ours is not the only universe. In fact, ours is only one of a vast number of universes, all of which pop into existence out of nothing as spontaneous creations. What’s more, the laws of physics take on every possible permutation in these universes, so there are vast numbers of them out there where the cosmological constants are different. So there isn’t a single uni-verse but a multi-verse in which every possible flavor of individual universes occur.


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{ 40 comments }

The Pachyderminator September 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

“I wouldn’t even have a problem with it if, at moment of creation, God said, “Let there be every logically possible combination of events!” That would only illustrate his creative ability in an even more robust way than what we see in our corner of creation.”
Perhaps, but it would also completely destroy free will. You would have no choice about anything you do because all the alternative options have been taken by your counterparts in other universes. As far as I can see, this is just a particularly kooky form of determinism. In what sense do you “not have a problem with it”?

The Masked Chicken September 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Nothing like this is remotely true regarding other universes. We have no observational evidence that even a single alternate universe exists.
There is a test of string theory that has just come up that may give us a low energy way to test for strings and branes. David Deutsch, the major proponent of the quantum many-worlds theory might argue that there are some tests that suggest alternate universes.
Their book—startlingly—does not contained any sustained argumentation for this idea. They do point to the work of Richard Feynman—a physicist who in the 1940s suggested that, in some experimental situations, subatomic particles behave as if they are taking every possible path between one point and another.
This is called the sum-over-history model of quantum electrodynamics.
Really, the infinite regress of the Unmoved Mover cannot be defeated by the existence of a multi-verse. Just bracket the multi-verse and start from scratch: who created it.
The Chicken

~Chris September 11, 2010 at 5:05 pm

And this law of infinite universes came into existence by itself ? Zillions of them just dead, because the constants they run by don’t match up for life…. Come on Stephen…. you can’t prove God, so use the your heart to figure out this one, not your head. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Long-Skirts September 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

YAHWEH’S
WINK
The tiny little man
In the tiny little chair
With a great big mind
Created who knows where
He wrote a little book
Called The Great Design
Which means “to plan” out
In a human being’s mind
But if there was no mind
Or human being around
Where came the law of gravity
That keeps us near the ground
Yes, he is of science
Will interpret and apply
“I think therefore…I AM”
And Yahweh winks His eye!

Mary September 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

In the account they sketch they claim that ours is not the only universe.
Talk about wishful thinking.

Leo September 12, 2010 at 4:39 pm

You would have no choice about anything you do because all the alternative options have been taken by your counterparts in other universes
Pachyderminator identifies an interesting issue regarding parallel universes where all alternative permutations exist.
But I don’t think this is what this multiverse theory is saying. I think it is saying that a vast number of initial conditions might exist as separate universes cf a vast number of solar systems in our galaxy with different initial conditions. Not: that of all possible permutations multiplying after a universe has begun.

Leo September 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Until there was sufficient evidence for the Big Bang, it was quite possible to believe that the universe was infinitely old and did not need a First Cause. The Church Fathers and Scholastics were familiar with such ideas. Yet belief in a Creator persisted.
Both the ideas of an infinitely old universe/multiverse and of a universe/multiverse with a beginning are psychologically deeply uncomfortable.
Whenever we think about a beginning we want to ask how? what happened ‘before’? The philosophically naive ask ‘What caused the First Cause/God?’
But when we think about an infinite chain back to the past, we want to ask when/how did this infinite chain begin?

Charlene September 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I hope you don’t mind me coming here and saying this, but I have a really hard time taking Hawking seriously. I can barely manage to care about what he spouts off anymore. Silly? Attention seeking? Much?
Have you see the recent headlines from him? He’s worried about space aliens enslaving mankind, time travel, etc. But, God? No, God isn’t necessary.
Keep worrying about the space aliens Mr. Hawking… I mean, for crying in a bucket. If you think God is superfluous but space aliens are a real existential threat to humanity… Wow. How does that make any sense at all?

Terence September 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

For years Athiests have been telling us that miracles are impossible. Yet now we are supposed to subscribe to the biggest miracle of all. The spontaneous creation of the Universwe from nothing.

jp September 13, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Keep worrying about the space aliens Mr. Hawking… I mean, for crying in a bucket. If you think God is superfluous but space aliens are a real existential threat to humanity… Wow. How does that make any sense at all?
Makes a heck of a lot more sense than the multiple absurdities the Roman Catholic Church spouts.

bill912 September 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Wow, jp! I’m so in awe of your maturity and intellect! Not to mention, your class!
Did it make you feel better to express your bigotry?
P.S.: You wouldn’t care to state a few of our “multiple absurdities” so we can refute them, would you? Or don’t you have the belly for honest discussion as opposed to drive-by potshots?

Charlene September 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

“Makes a heck of a lot more sense than the multiple absurdities the Roman Catholic Church spouts.”
You’re funny. I used to be a pretty nasty and vocal atheist, myself. That being the case, I’m well acquainted with the absurd.
Again, if you have trouble believing in God, but multiple universes, space aliens, and time travel are not a problem for you, I’m not sure how to counter that. Really, wow is all I can say. Not “how dare you” or “are you completely bonkers”…just…wow.
It’s even more amusing to hear about space aliens, multiverses, and suck-like from people who can’t fathom God due to a lack of evidence. I’m pretty sure that’s ironic.
I’ll pray for your conversion. It’s a lot nicer on this side of the fence. :)
No worries and no offense taken. I’ve certainly been there. Good luck. Hope you find your way home, it’s cold and lonely out there without God.

jp September 13, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Well, nothing fails like prayer, (hint, one of the (many) absurdities)
“No worries and no offense taken. I’ve certainly been there. Good luck. Hope you find your way home, it’s cold and lonely out there without God.”
Nahhh, gotta decline, you know, prefer that reason and rationality stuff and the “calm sunshine of the mind” to that swamp-like fetid, undergrowth of superstition and unreason you inhabit.

jp September 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

“Did it make you feel better to express your bigotry?”
Yes it did.

Charlene September 13, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I majored in psychology. Which means two things: 1) I need to go back to school if I ever want to work a paying job. 2) I’m not very impressed with the human capacity to reason or perceive reality. To use the vernacular, we suck at it.
Fetid undergrowth of superstition? You’re funny.
I used to say silly things like that all the time. Believed them, too. Thought I was really smacking down those foolish theists. Thought I was an intellectual powerhouse because I’d made it through my sophomore year in college and received an A in World Religions 101 and Philosophy class 102.
Watch out for those space aliens… :)

bill912 September 13, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I guess we know the answers to my above “P.S.” questions.

Charlene September 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I promise not to feed the troll anymore, by the way.
In all seriousness, I wish people like Hawking would stop with this nonsense. It really does reek of publicity-seeking.
Look at me! I have something important to say!…”BEWARE OF ALIENS!”
Hmm, well, they paid a little attention that time. Let’s try again.
Look at me! I have something important to say!…”TIME TRAVEL!”
Hmm…Let’s try again.
Look at me! I have something important to say!…”GOD IS IRRELEVANT!”
Oh, yeah, that’s the ticket. Maybe I can sell a few books with this one. After all, it works for that Dawkins guy all the time. And I’m WAY smarter than him.
Sorry, sorry, it’s just funny. Sometimes, it is hard for me to tell what is satire and what isn’t. I have a bunch if science blogs, news outlets and the Onion on my news feed. Sometimes I really can’t tell the difference at first glance.

The Masked Chicken September 14, 2010 at 6:13 am

Nahhh, gotta decline, you know, prefer that reason and rationality stuff and the “calm sunshine of the mind” to that swamp-like fetid, undergrowth of superstition and unreason you inhabit.
Except, JP, that you have demonstrated neither reason nor rationality. You have demonstrated a superstition – that if you believe hard enough, God will vanish.
Catholics love a good intellectual barroom brawl. We so seldom get a good challenge anymore.
Hawking is part of the modern British scene which has become so socially entropic that there is no truth anymore, but rather, a conspiracy of egos. Dawkins pronounces; Hawking pronounces, etc. It seems that almost all of England has lost all faith, including faith in reason and replaced it with spineless appeasement. Did you know that in England it is illegal to carry any defensive weapons on the street if one is attacked? One poor person on a flashlight forum I frequent was begging people to tell him of a good flashlight that he might buy for his wife to blind an attacker (hint: there isn’t one outside of a laser, which would be considered a form of assault).
They have bought into so much political correctness and multiculturalism that they cannot see that reason thrives on dogmas and the challenge to dogma. Take that away, and everyone becomes his own arbiter of truth.
As Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote:
Not even philosophers argue today; they only explain away. A book full of bad logic, advocating all manner of moral laxity, is not refuted by critics; it is merely called “bold, honest, and fearless.” Even those periodicals that pride themselves upon their open-mindedness on all questions are far from practicing the lost art of controversy. Their pages contain no controversies, but only presentations of points of view. These never rise to the level of abstract thought in which argument clashes with argument like steel with steel, but rather they content themselves with the personal reflections of one who has lost his faith, writing against the sanctity of marriage, and of another who has kept his faith, writing in favor of it. Both sides are shooting off firecrackers, making all the noise of an intellectual warfare and creating the illusion of conflict, but it is only a sham battle in which there are plenty of explosions but never an exploded argument.
Ultimately, Hawking has made the mistake of ignoring the Aristotelian Four Causes: material, efficient, formal, and final – most particularly, the final cause. A universe does not become a universe without a final cause. Without a final cause, then one may say that the universe is not or exists not. Now, since God is the God who is, he is not required to make something that is not. All Hawking is arguing is that God did not make a universe that is not. That is obvious.
Let Hawking accept final cause. Then, his argument is seen for the contradiction it is. He wants an aimless universe created to no purpose and then says that God did not make this universe. Fine, but that is not the universe that he lives in and it does not prove anything about whether or not God made this universe. He is arguing that a God who is not made a universe that is or rather, a God who is made a universe that is not. Both violate the Law of Non-contradiction.
I highly recommend the book, The Last Superstition, by Edward Fesser for a more in-depth treatment of the Four Causes. The Wikipedia article on the Four Causes is wrong in explaining their relation to science as the article isn’t really discussing final causes in that section, but a type of efficient cause in disguise.
The Chicken

jp September 14, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Thank you Christopher Hitchens, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
This global cult is truly rotten and depraved to the core:
http://www.slate.com/id/2267098/

David B. September 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

“This global cult is truly rotten and depraved to the core”
…And we have a nominee for the most irresponsible generalization and gross misrepresentation of the year.

bill912 September 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Maybe he’s looking in a mirror. Anyway, he amply made my above point. There’s no point in feeding him; just pray for him.

jp September 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

“As if almost timed to coincide with its publication, and with the impending arrival of Ratzinger on British soil, the recent disclosures of the putrid state of the church in Belgium have thrown the whole scandal into an even sharper relief. Consider: The now-resigned bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, stands revealed by his own eventual confession as being guilty of incest as well as rape, having regularly “abused” his male nephew between the ages of 5 and 18. The man’s superior as head of the Belgian church, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, has been caught on tape urging the victim to keep quiet. A subsequent official report, commissioned by the country’s secular authorities, has established that this level of morality was the rule throughout the hierarchy, with the church taking it upon itself to “forgive” the rapists and to lean upon their victims. Very belatedly, a few months ago, the Belgian police finally rose from their notorious torpor and raided some ecclesiastical offices in search of evidence that was being concealed. Joseph Ratzinger, who had not thus far found a voice in which to mention the doings of his Belgian underlings, promptly emitted a squeal of protest—at the intervention of the law.
Robertson’s brief begins with a meticulous summary of the systematic fashion in which child-rape was covered up by collusion between local Catholic authorities and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, an office that under the last pope was run by Ratzinger himself. (So flagrant was this obstruction of justice that many senior Catholic apologists have now started to blame the deceased pontiff in an effort to excuse his deputy and successor, all the while continuing to put forward Pope John Paul II as a candidate for sainthood!) The brief continues with a close examination of the Vatican’s claim to be a state, and its related claim that statehood confers legal immunity on the pope, even in gross cases of abuse of human rights. Without undue difficulty, Robertson shows both claims to be laughably void and based, furthermore, on a history of disgraceful collaboration with dictatorship and sheltering of wanted criminals.”
I think here we stare into the face of evil incarnate.

Leo September 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I suppose it is normal for the publishers of a book book to do all they can to maximize publicity by providing sensationalist quotes. They are trying to make this a Christmas best-seller.
Hawking is even quoted as saying that Philosophy is redundant – he is in good company – over the last 2,500 years many philosophers have thought that their philosophy made all others redundant!
The best mass media coverage I have so far seen was on Channel 4 News of a sensible discussion between Prof Alister McGrath (PhDs in Molecular Biophysics and Theology (theist)) and Prof Jon Butterworth Physicist (atheist), interviewer Jon Snow (vicar’s son). Try to ignore the howler by the science correspondent Tom Clark confusing relativity and relativism!

JM September 15, 2010 at 4:57 am

Found something online today for ya, Jimmy:
http://shirt.woot.com/
(Shirt changes every day, so make sure you look at the “Square Dance” shirt from 9/15)

The Masked Chicken September 15, 2010 at 6:52 am

I think here we stare into the face of evil incarnate.
This has what to do with Hawking (the topic of the post)?
If you haven’t read them, Da Rulz are the rules for conducting discussion on this discussion board. Ranting about child abuse in a post about Hawking is rude. You have not demonstrated an ability to argue on point, which would substantially support your claim that you prefer reason to, o that swamp-like fetid, undergrowth of superstition and unreason.
The Chicken

BobCatholic September 15, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I think that dice should be used as the symbol for Atheism. After all, they worship the Cosmic Dice (random chance) who made us :)

Gregory Williams September 16, 2010 at 6:41 am

I vaguely recall a pair of fuzzy dice hanging on the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon and Han Solo was cast as the ‘atheist’ foil.

John September 17, 2010 at 8:07 am

“It therefore appears that our universe has been intelligently designed to allow for life, which implies the existence of an intelligent designer.”
Playing the Devil’s Advocate for a moment, it may mean that our ability, as humans, to exist in the universe is merely coincidental.

The Masked Chicken September 17, 2010 at 9:03 am

Playing the Devil’s Advocate for a moment, it may mean that our ability, as humans, to exist in the universe is merely coincidental.
Which is another way of saying random or accidental or without Intelligent Design. That is merely stating an opinion, not advancing the discussion. How could you prove it were coincidental?
The Chicken

John September 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

How can you prove it is not? Who has the burden of proof?

SouthCoast September 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

“I vaguely recall a pair of fuzzy dice hanging on the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon “. Actually, I think that may have been in Spaceballs, not Star Wars!

jp September 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

RULE 1-VIOLATING MATERIAL DELETED.

jp September 18, 2010 at 11:44 am

RULE 1-VIOLATING MATERIAL DELETED.

jp September 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm

JP HAS SHOWN THAT HE CANNOT “PLAY NICE” AND IS HEREBY DISINVITED FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE BLOG FOR REPEATED RULE 1 VIOLATIONS.

JL September 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

“The despicable, lying and cowardly Ratzinger”
You left out “Nazi”. Try harder next time.
Hawking’s “theory” of multiple universes to explain the statistical impossibility of the formation of human life is very similar to Richard Dawkins’ crackpottery that aliens seeded life on the planet Earth. Dawkins will believe in intelligent design, but only if it’s aliens doing the designing and not God. Similarly, Hawking claims that the “multiverse”, arbitrarily created by “gravity” (???), somehow gives rise to so many universes that gosh, humans just MUST have been created in one of those universes. I think someone should tell Hawking that if there just has to be a universe in which humans exist, then there has to be a universe for unicorns and leprechauns. And, gasp, there’s a universe for “Heaven”, too! Ask Hawking to prove that Heaven doesn’t exist in another universe and see him bluff his way out of the rhetorical corner he’s painted himself into with his “theory”. Stick with physics and stay away from metaphysics, Hawking.

The Masked Chicken September 20, 2010 at 6:31 am

Richard Dawkins’ crackpottery that aliens seeded life on the planet Earth.
Actually, this is called Panspemia and was not originated by Dawkins. Even if panspermia were possible, God could have used secondary means to bring life to earth.
If one is going to refute Dawkins, at least do it for something he has originated.
Also, Heaven is not material, hence, it does not reside in a universe.
The Chicken

Gregory Williams September 20, 2010 at 9:47 am

Southcoast:
http://www.egosystem.com/starwars/anh/anh06.htm
I got the nature of the dice wrong, but other geeks (besides me) noticed the dice in the Falcon. And I loved the dice in Spaceballs. Thanks for reminding me of that fun movie!

The Masked Chicken September 20, 2010 at 10:53 am

I vaguely recall a pair of fuzzy dice hanging on the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon and Han Solo was cast as the ‘atheist’ foil.
Are people who drive automobiles with dice hanging from the mirror the atheist counterpart of those driving with rosaries hanging from the mirror? I suspect it more likely that Solo was a gambler who frequented seedy bars and casinos and that is what the dice symbolize.
The Chicken

Greg Williams September 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

Master Chicken, I think you’re right about the dice. But, I got the idea that Han Solo was written as the non-religious foil from this line of his:
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Does my idea have merit?

The Masked Chicken September 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

That was just probably a statement “in character”.
The Chicken

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