Monday, August 26, 2019

The Grand Design: Is God Unnecessary?

"To explain our existence on the planet Earth, Hawking and Mlodinow simply claim that there are many planets so one must have the conditions necessary to support higher life forms. This statement is both naive and unscientific for we have enough information about the requirements necessary for a planet to support higher life forms that we are able to do a rough estimate of the probability of finding even a single planet like the earth. Many of the required parameters can be found in the book Rare Earth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee....The astrophysicist Hugh Ross has done a rough estimation of the probability of finding a single earth-like planet by chance based on 322 parameters known to be necessary if a planet is to support higher life forms. He has taken correlations and longevity factors into account as well as the fact that there are at least 1022 planets in the visible universe. His order-of-magnitude calculation comes up with a probability of 10-282 for finding one planet capable of supporting higher life forms in the entire visible universe. Hawking and Mlodinow are wrong. Even with a lot of planets we should not expect to find one suitable for our existence purely by chance.

Finally, in regard to the laws of physics that seem to be finely-tuned to allow life to exist, Hawking and Mlodinow appeal to M-theory, the most recent and encompassing string theory. String theory proposes that the fundamental entities that make up our universe are "vibrating strings of energy." M-theory holds a lot of promise as a scientific theory, including the development of a consistent quantum theory of gravity, which has been an elusive goal for about 100 years. M-theory requires that there are 11 dimensions of space-time. M-theory has about 10500 possible configurations, and allows for the possibility that there are many universes. If ours is just one of many universes (a multiverse), with different laws and parameters of physics in every different universe, then just by chance one of the universes would have the laws and parameter falling in the necessary range to be able to support life. We are here because we happen to be in the right universe. There are many problems with proposing M-theory as the solution to the anthropic principle problem. Of course, the first problem is that, as with the no-boundary condition, there is no scientific evidence that M-theory is true, so a belief in M-theory is not based on science at all. Second, there are few, if any, definitive predictions of M-theory. For instance, we don't know if any of the "other" universes would actually be created or just have the potential of being created. When The Grand Design was published there was overwhelming criticism that M-theory would be invoked as the answer to the anthropic principle problem. For instance, in Scientific American, John Horgan wrote, "M-theory, theorists now realize, comes in an almost infinite number of versions, which "predict" an almost infinite number of possible universes. ... Of course, a theory that predicts everything really doesn't predict anything... Hawking is telling us that unconfirmable M-theory plus the anthropic tautology represents the end of that quest. If we believe him, the joke’s on us."1

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Grand Design is that the attempts made to support Hawking's and Mlodinow's case are, in many cases, simply unsophisticated, unsupportable, naive, and even fallacious. I believe that in a college class on logic, philosophy, or religion, this book would receive a failing grade. For example, the question is posed, "Are there any exceptions to the laws of physics?" or "Are miracles possible." The answer given is, "…the modern scientists answer to question two [exceptions to the laws of physics]…is…a scientific law is not a scientific law if it holds only when some supernatural being decides not to intervene." This is a clear example of the logical fallacy of "begging the question." Hawking is dismissing miracles outright because they don't fit his preconceived definition of what science is. If this were your answer to the question of miracles in a logic class I guarantee you would get an F.

Consider also the quote from the book mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or someone as smart as Stephen Hawking, to realize how ridiculous this statement is. Gravity works within the space-time dimensions of our universe so it is impossible to invoke gravity as the cause of our universe. The physicist Gerald Schroeder wrote, "Therefore if the laws of nature created the universe, these laws must have existed prior to time; that is the laws of nature would be outside of time. What we have then is totally non-physical laws, outside of time, creating a universe. Now that description might sound somewhat familiar. Very much like the biblical concept of God: not physical, outside of time, able to create a universe."2

Many scientists and scholars who read the book The Grand Design were extremely disappointed that the arguments presented were poor and simplistic. In The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote, "The real news about The Grand Design is how disappointingly tinny and inelegant it is."3 I'm tempted to quote dozens more of the negative reviews to emphasize my point, but I'll let you look them up if you need more persuasion.

Once again, we see that the conclusions most consistent with the known facts from scientific observations and theoretical calculation are that the universe seems to have a transcendent beginning and seems to be designed with humans in mind, two ideas consistent with the teachings about the God of the Bible. This attempt by Hawking and Mlodinow in The Grand Design to circumvent such straightforward conclusions is entirely inadequate, illogical, and invalid. If you are looking for reasons to make God "unnecessary" you will have to look elsewhere."

1 comment: