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Big Bang Theory, Galaxies, Expanding Universe Concepts, God & Theology – Part 2 by Donald Reinhardt, March 25, 2012

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 "The Grand Design" by Hawking and Mlodinow discusses the big concepts of astronomy, physics, and the universe. A comprehensive summary and review of the book "The Grand Design" is available. In this article we will highlight and discuss many of the interesting questions which arise in the science-philosophy-theology debates on the  ideas proposed in "The Grand Design" and these are reviewed and discussed here in Part 2 of our discussion on the subject of  Big Bang Theory, Galaxies, Expanding Universe Concepts, God & Theology – Part 2. The first of this series is titled and linked here: Big Bang Theory, Galaxies, Expanding Universe Concepts, God & Theology – Part 1.

 "The Grand Design" Asserts that Science Beats Philosophy - Debate and Conflict

Hawking and Mlodinow believe only science can answer questions about reality, laws, being, and existence. They also believe that the thinkers in philosophy are dominated and surpassed by "scientists who have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge."

Philosophers, theologians and theists object to Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s statements for they believe that they best can establish what philosophy and science each can do and cannot do. They affirm that their philosophical and theological ideas also are important to any and all debates of "The Grand Design."

Ten Philosophical and Theological Questions about "The Grand Design"

These are ten questions that Hawking and Mlodinow did not ask or answer in "The Grand Design" book. These questions are presented here to stimulate thinking and discussion on the subject.

  1. Can science prove or disprove the existence of God by experiments? Why or why not is this so?
  2. In the "Big Bang Theory" of "The Grand Design" how is great order and design of the entire universe achieved? How can all of the complex, organized and intricate life forms and their complex interactions on planet earth result from unintelligent, intense heat, energy and power in an inflating-exploding cosmic chaos called the expanding universe?
  3. Is it reasonable or is it unreasonable to propose or hypothesize that a grand design might or could involve an actual, creative, powerful and intelligent designer? Why or why not?
  4. Is it possible for an energy or a force such as gravity to be an intelligently-directed force?
  5. If professional scientists, philosophers and theologians are all considered to be rational thinkers and they use logic and reason, then is it possible for scientists to be reasoned and logical in their conclusions, and for philosophers and theologians to be reasoned and logical in their conclusions, and for each side to reach different conclusions about the existence of God or intelligent design or both? Can these differences be reconciled or will they never be reconciled?
  6. Is an atheistic mathematician or natural scientist a better, more logical thinker than a theistic mathematician or natural scientist? Why or why not is this so?
  7. Is an atheistic mathematician or natural scientist a better, more logical thinker than a theistic philosopher or theologian? Why or why not is this so?
  8. What is truth, if there is truth, and how can truth be determined if it does exist?
  9. Is it logical to believe that scientific determinism actually determines or prescribes the present and future universe and correlates with Hawking's and Mlodinow's belief that humans do not have free will?
  10. If there is no free will, then can all crimes be considered non-prosecutable and non-punishable since "criminals" have no free will and they are, therefore, only unfortunate victims of improper, inordinate scientific determinism?

Science and Philosophy — Functions of and Different Views of Grand Design and the Universe

Natural sciences involve studies of the physical, measurable, material world. Natural sciences use scientific methods of
scientific observation and hypotheses, experimentation and ultimately data and conclusions  to discover confirmed laws (such as gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear energy and other forces, genetics, heredity).

Natural sciences and philosophy use logic, reasoning and inductive and deductive thinking in their studies. Therefore, the strength and "truth" of the natural sciences rest exclusively in scientific methodology, scientific results and scientific findings — all of these scientific concepts relate to the material, measurable, real, sensual world.

Philosophy and theology also employ logical, critical thinking and ideas. Similar to natural science, philosophers, theological scholars, and theistic thinkers use inductive and deductive reasoning. These thinkers explore extra-material concepts such as: God, faith, love, thoughts, spirits, and paranormal concepts and phenomena.

Philosophy and theology do not use the scientific method because they do not measure or determine what the natural sciences measure and determine – material things and phenomena that are measurable. How can anyone measure or weigh an actual, true and real idea, thought, love, dreams, visions, memories? Yes, there are electrical impulses and conductions and hormonal changes occur during thinking and love, but can the very nature of these phenomena be fully described by physical measurements alone?

In summary, the natural sciences and philosophy-theology each use reason and logic to evaluate and make determinations. However, each discipline is limited as to what it can show or prove and each has unique, specific competencies and limitations.

Being, Natural Laws and Realities in "The Grand Design"

Scientists seek truth as facts, laws, or theories validated by experimentation as in modern quantum physics and "M Theory". M theory, for example, proposes that many universes could be created out of nothing.

Some scientists such as Hawkins and Mlodinow also believe that M Theory science removes the need for a creator, originator, intelligent designer, or God. "The Grand Design" proposes these basic questions as directly quoted here are:

  • "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
  • "Why do we exist?"
  • "Why this particular set of laws and not some other?"
  • "What is the origin of laws?"
  • "Are there any exceptions to the laws, i.e. miracles?"
  • "Is there only one set of possible laws?"

Hawking and Mlodinow suggest that if God is the author of these laws, then God either can or cannot suspend natural laws. They believe that only the laws exist and God does not exist. But here the authors simply say the laws cannot be suspended as a matter of their own belief and faith.

 Can science prove or disprove the existence of God by the scientific method? Since science can only measure the material and the tangible science can never prove that the immaterial or spiritual exists because science only sees what it can measure and record. Therefore, a scientist will say that reality is that which I can detect, determine or measure and record and demonstrate. If something exists that is immaterial but real then science would not be able to measure this real and immaterial being. This question of something being real and immaterial at the same time is important for any debate. Many scientists say if it is not measurable it is not real. Again, how do we measure a real thought or idea in our minds or even love itself?

Finally, if an intelligent God is the creator of anything whether a law, a force or an energy could such a creator actually suspend, nullify or obliterate what was created? That is another important and debatable question.

"The Grand Design" – Scientific Determinism Rules and Free Will is Denied

Hawking and Mlodinow believe in scientific determinism of the universe. Scientific determinism  would mean, if true, that a complete set of laws determines both the past, present and the future of the universe. This means that everything is locked in and set according to these laws, forces, energies and determining factors. The authors believe that scientific determinism means that humans do not have free will.

Hawking and Mlodinow personally believe that animal and human choices, decisions and outcomes are complex chemical-physical events which are programmed in such a way that all human actions are determined and not freely chosen. In other words, events, behaviors and actions are all set and function according to the chemistry, physics or biology of all things that exist – they are all programmed like robots and there is nothing more, nothing less.

The authors assert that human determinism and lack of free will issues are so complex as to be mathematically unpredictable or indeterminate, yet they are real. This, however, creates a dilemma for if this "lack of free will" issue is too complex and complicated, then natural science and mathematics may never be able to prove or disprove the theory or hypothesis of the lack of free will. This is an important idea – can something be too complex to prove or disprove by scientific measurement? If this is so, then the possibility exists that free will is truly “free” and that free will is not a programmed and predetermined will. Scientific determinists would not like this idea, but they would have to design the proper experiments to determine and prove that determinism is true. The brilliant scholars Hawking and Mlodinow concede that these experiments may never be possible. If this is so, then it means that free will would always be a valid hypothesis or truth unless and until proven or disproven scientifically.

If science cannot do or design experiments to prove or disprove a hypothesis, then further speculation and debate always will be in play. Everyone should be able to agree with that statement.

"The Grand Design" of Theories, Universes, Miracles

"The Grand Design" discusses the reality of scientific laws and processes such as: Newton's force of gravity, the electric and magnetic force discoveries, Maxwell's light as an electromagnetic wave, Einstein's special relativity with no absolute time, no absolute rest, and where space and time are connected as space-time of a fourth dimension.

Einstein proposed general relativity as a theory and situation where space-time is curved and distorted because of mass and energy. This distortion of space-time by mass would cause black holes and gravitational waves.

Quantum theory, developed by Richard Feynman explains how quantum electrodynamics (QED) works and how objects have many multiple histories. Force fields are described with bosons (force particles such as a photon particle) and fermions (matter particles such as electrons and quarks). M-theory theoretically allows 10 to the 100th power different universes and each universe can possibly be unique with different laws! That concept by itself is overwhelming and beyond human comprehension.

The Big Bang Theory & Hypothesis and Design in the Universe

The Big Bang theory or hypothesis (inflation of the universe hypothesis) proposes that about 13.7 billion years ago, give or take about 200 million years, a very dense and hot small core ("Planck size of a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter") exploded forward and outward and continues to inflate and expand. Think of this size, this heat and this event. It is startling and almost unbelievable as you repeat the sentence portion in your mind and imagination: a very dense and hot small core ("Planck size of a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter") exploded forward and outward and continues to inflate and expand. The Big Bang was the smallest in size and now is the greatest in size and expanding!

Hawking and Mlodinow say this: "Were it not for a series of startling coincidences in the precise details of physical law, it seems humans and similar life-forms would never have come into being" ("The Grand Design"). What do these statements by Hawking and Mlodinow mean to philosophers, theologians and theists? These statements actually seem to suggest and indicate to these scholars that the "startling coincidences" point to design by a creator who is intelligent and it is God who is the explaining truth. Why if something is highly improbable as happening by chance must it still be said that it happened by chance rather than a designer's intelligent intent? The answer for scientists is that we only measure the physical world and that is the only world we see and evaluate. Nevertheless, as humans our logical and rational thinking should always direct and lead us toward the right and proper paths of straight and sequential thinking.

In science or medicine when the probability of something happening by chance is less than 1 in 10,000 or 1000,000 it is considered improbable and unlikely to have occurred by chance. However, atheistic and agnostic scientists are more than ready to discount the idea that although it is highly improbable for planet earth to be so perfectly suited for life and the planet contains so much diverse, interactive life this is still only and simply a result chance, random events and processes. Thus, improbability means nothing unless it favors your preconceived notion of what something should be. If someone says I will never believe in intelligent design then everything must occur by chance alone. This effectively rules out any chance of an intelligent designer. In conclusion, this means that even scientists can be biased and are not totally objective or congruent in their thinking. Probability and statistics are tools of thinking, they are not final ideas. Scientists walk in their own faiths and ways as to the way something happened or is happening. 

"The Grand Design" – Answered and Unanswered Questions

Hawking and Mlodinow clearly state that the laws of nature tell us how the universe behaves but do not answer why it behaves the way it does. The authors summarize how the physical universe is composed of various objects and the energy of space is constant and independent of both time and position. Since there is positive energy in an isolated body surrounded by space (i.e. the vacuum of the universe), work and energy are required to assemble that object. Hawking and Mlodinow next ask "if the total energy of the universe must always remain zero, and it costs energy to create a body, how can a whole universe be created from nothing?" Here they turn to gravitational energy as negative energy that can be balanced by the positive energy in all the formed objects in the universe. They then conclude that because there is a law and a force like gravity the universe can and will create itself from nothing.

This spontaneous creation they propose is the reason there is something real rather than there being nothing and this, they believe, explains why the universe and we exist. The question is what or who created the gravity that does the creating of the entire universe from nothing? M theory is presented as the "most general supersymmetric theory of gravity", "M theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe" and M theory is the unified theory that the authors believe Einstein sought. The authors affirm that "If the theory is confirmed by observation...We will have found the grand design".

Here are some possible answers to the 10 questions above that Hawking and Mlodinow did not ask or answer in "The Grand Design":

  1. If God is a spirit or immaterial being then science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God by experiments. Science can only deal with the material, measurable world.
  2. The "Big Bang Theory" explains heat, light, gravitational energy and cosmic chaos but not the universe's profound order and design that has occurred as though created by an intelligent designer.
  3. It is possible and rational, knowing all the current scientific evidence, for a grand design to be the product of an intelligent designer or God.
  4. It is possible that the negative energy or force known and measured as gravity is directed by intelligence and designed to perform as such.
  5. It is possible for scientists to be reasoned and logical in their conclusions, and for philosophers, theologians and theists to be logical in their conclusions, and for each side still to have a different opinion about the existence of God.
  6. Atheistic mathematicians or natural scientists are no better or worse logical thinkers than a theistic mathematician or natural scientist as long as members of each group are objective, accurate, precise and logical in their thinking.
  7. Atheistic mathematicians or natural scientists are neither better, nor more logical thinkers than a theistic philosophers or theologians as long as no one tries to manufacture truth or distort truths.
  8. Some say truth is absolute, others say truth is relative. Truth is what coincides with what is perceived as correct and honest reality. Truth is what conforms repeatedly to normal, intelligent minds, tests and evaluations.
  9. Scientific, natural laws determine the universe as scientists and others commonly know and understand it. Although Hawking's and Mlodinow's belief is that humans do not have free will, many argue that there is a free will and humans are responsible for their actions.
  10. Without free will any crimes would simply be unfortunate accidents of people who cannot otherwise act responsibly. Hence these people would be victims of their peculiar scientific determinisms and manifest those bad scientific determinisms as their specific types of lack of free will. This is all peculiar indeed for humanity never declares criminal "not guilty" due to lack of free will "only not guilty due to insanity."
Scientists, philosophers, and theists continue to discuss and debate these issues as they seek the real, true, and actual First Cause(s). Dean Overman in "A Case for the Existence of God"  clearly addresses many of the issues presented here.
The first article of this discussion is linked and presented here in Part 1 and concluding and important ideas are discussed in Part 3.

Acknowledgment: This copyrighted article is an updated and expanded analysis of the original copyrighted article published by me (Donald Reinhardt) at Suite101.com and entitled and linked there as:  The Grand Design, Science, Philosophy, Theistic Debates & Ideas | Suite101.com http://donald-reinhardt.suite101.com/the-grand-design-science-philosphical-theistic-debates--ideas-a286076#ixzz1q5kXu8sH



Sources:

Barrow, J.D. 2011. "The Book of Universes", W.W. Norton & Co. , New York. (ISBN 978-0-393-08121-3)

Dierkes, C. "Stephen Hawking and the Design of a Flawed Argument". Accessed 18 September, 2010 @ BeamsAndStruts.com.

Hawking, S. and L. Mlodinow. 2010. "The Grand Design", Bantam Books, N.Y. (ISBN 978-0-353-80537-6)
Overman, D.L. A Case for the Existence of God. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, 2010. 229 pp. ISBN 978-0-74256313-1.