Why OEC vs YEC?

by Brian 2. May 2011 18:22

Just when you thought enough blood has been spilled in the Old Earth Creationism (OEC) versus Young Earth Creationism (YEC) debate, here comes another post to stir up trouble. I realize this is one of those insider disagreements we all wish would go away. That is probably why in twelve years of writing on apologetics I have not taken the time to really address the topic. I mean really, what is the point? You say YEC – I say OEC. Do we have to call the whole thing off? So rather than trying to prove billions is truer than thousands in a blog post, I want to share a personal perspective – one that leads us right back to the question: What is the point? What is our objective as insiders when debating the age of the universe?

As most of you probably already know, YEC holds to a literal, consecutive, 24-hour-day interpretation of the book of Genesis and places the age of the Earth somewhere between about 6,000 and 10,000 years. OEC is an eclectic position accepting a much older universe based on the current scientific view. There are all sorts of OEC variations covering a continuum from episodic supernaturalism through telic processes such as theistic evolution. [1] But ultimately under OEC, God is the Creator and the Earth is very old by comparison to YEC.

For the record, I hold a 0.9 OEC view. That is, if I were to rate my certainty in the truth of OEC, it would be 90%. The exact number is not really important. I am reasonably sure but leave the door cracked open for correction. To provide a little background: I was a nontheist until the age of 31 and convinced of an old universe. After becoming a follower of Christ, I was informed by a few amicable believers the universe was actually a few thousand years old. If I wanted to hold to the true interpretation of Scripture, I was encouraged to come to grips with this. At the time, my immature faith was challenged by this view. The epistemic dissonance forced me to take an agnostic position until I could research it further. In other words, I swept it under the rug. But no honest and rational person wants to leave it at that. So I started reading and after a few good books [ii] came to realize I didn’t have to commit intellectual suicide over this issue. I learned how OEC fits within the Christian worldview.

About this same time I took an interest in apologetics and all of the contemporary philosophers I gravitated towards also held an OEC view.[iii] This was refreshing and bolstered my confidence in a rational faith where the age of the universe could finally be put to bed, at least for me. But then one day I received an email from someone who saw an online presentation I did on the Kalam Cosmological argument. One of the assumptions I covered was a 13.7 billion year old universe. The sender politely and succinctly informed me of my apostasy. According to this brother, if I didn’t correct my view on the age of the universe, then I was at risk of eternal damnation. Needless to say, I was taken aback. Was I no longer part of the Church because of my position on the age of the universe?

After exchanging a few emails, I realized this guy was genuinely concerned about my eternal well-being. If it were not for his sincerity, I might have responded differently. After all, from my perspective, YEC is an unnecessary barrier to the Gospel hindering scientifically minded seekers like myself. Would it be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around the neck than to cause someone to stumble over something like YEC? Can we not find some middle ground, I wondered? Unfortunately there is no middle ground when it comes to the age of the universe. You cannot simply take (13.7B + 6K) / 2 and arrive at a compromise. Yet, whether you hold an OEC or YEC view, God is the efficient cause of life, the universe and everything. [iv] This is not to dismiss the exegetical and theological disagreement. But there is consensus on the fundamentals. We have a good deal of common ground.

It is disingenuous to suggest Christian theists are lost in their little OEC/YEC creation debate while contemporary science takes the intellectual high ground. Let’s not forget a few decades ago, science held the now utterly bankrupt position of a static universe while Christian theism was proclaiming a universe that began to exist. Dr. Robert Jastrow, an American astronomer, physicist and cosmologist describes the transition in the mid twentieth century from the predominant scientific view to where we are today:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Christian theists had been far closer to the truth on big-bang cosmology than science had for centuries. This historical fact ought to remind us of how close both groups are to the truth.  But is this enough to resolve the infighting between YECers and OECers? I’m guessing not.

I have already mentioned the unnecessary stumbling block YEC presents. However YEC has its grounds for concern. They claim OEC is conceding biblical integrity to science through the harmonization of an old universe with the Genesis account. Allegedly, what follows is an undermining of theological concepts such as original sin and our need for salvation. Even though I agree OEC harmonization is more challenging than a straight literal reading, I personally do not find it to be a stretch. On the other hand: As one who grew up in an unbelieving family; who surrounded himself with unbelieving friends; who works in the unbelieving world of computer science and who has engaged nontheists over the years; openness to the Christian worldview is more negatively impacted by dogmatic YEC than it is by the harmonization of Genesis with OEC. So once again, what is our goal in this debate? Is it about winning the argument, where my theology is better than yours? Or is it about allowing the truth of the Gospel to work without unwarranted impediment. I agree we cannot sacrifice the truth just because it may be hard to receive. But we ought not be incorrigible about our interpretations either -- especially if they are a stumbling block.

Let’s not forget, theology is constantly evolving. The truth of the Word may be immutable, but our interpretations and understanding are in flux. I’m sure if facebook had an earlier start, the Wittenberg group of 1517 would have been full of posts about the audacity of certain radicals to challenge the theological interpretations of the day. Of course those same radicals opposed the views of heliocentrism [v] and today we have no problem accepting a correction without invoking manipulation through scientism. Yet somehow in the 21st century our reading of Scripture is as good as it is going to get. We have arrived, bearing the true interpretation. We have executed the ultimate hermeneutic resulting in the perfect exegesis. That doesn't seem honest to me.

As a Christian minimalist, I believe we have to keep the door open on matters outside the bounds of mere Christianity, especially when it applies to divisive issues for unbelievers. In contrary interpretations, only one side, or neither side, can be true. That’s why I say I hold a 0.9-OEC view. This not only leaves room for correction, but helps me to be more accepting of those who take the other side. Given Christians are roughly split over YEC and OEC [vi], we simply have to get past this in a way where we are not compromising essentials while at the same time removing obstacles to the Gospel. The fact is; many young college-educated unbelievers are already certain about the age of the Earth and the universe. If because of individual or institutional dogma on nonessentials, or pointless infighting, an honest seeker is turned away from the truth, then this debate has served its purpose well. That is, the enemy’s purpose.



[i] Wikipedia aside, the OEC continuum is not so much literal interpretation through theistic evolution as much as it is from episodic supernaturalism through telic processes including evolution - both over billions of years. YEC proponents typically claim the OEC position sacrifices a straightforward literal interpretation. And, proponents of theistic evolution, such as John Polkinghorne, would probably argue OEC and the Genesis account are in agreement on the grounds the universe began to exist and God is ultimately the Creator.

[ii] Again, I don’t want this post to be about trying to prove OEC over YEC, so what I read and how the arguments helped me conclude the truth of OEC are not relevant here. I’m sure YEC supporters have their list of convincing resources as well.

[iii]  William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler, J P Moreland, to name a few

[iv] Yet another use of a phrase from of the atheist writer Douglas Adams

[v] Luther over the dinner table said “…The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth."

[vi] Based on several polls summarized here -> http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2369785/posts  

ID-101 (Part One)

by Brian 11. April 2011 17:22

What is Intelligent Design? If you ask the average proponent of Darwinian evolution, the answer is Creationism. He or she will say ID is nothing more than a god-of-the-gaps scheme concocted by a bunch of fundamentalist Christians. Ironically, if you ask the average Christian the same question, you’ll get a complimentary version of the same answer! When it comes to a real understanding of ID, neither side has much incentive to do the heavy lifting. It’s easier for opponents to excommunicate Intelligent Design from Science and those who believe in a Creator do not require it as a confirmation – ID is a given. Yet those at the forefront of Intelligent Design are adding to our understanding of the world; certainly more so than critics give them credit and probably less than what most theists think. The high road in this debate is neither ad hominem attack nor tacit support. 

What is Intelligent Design?

Straight from the Discovery Institute, the leading ID think-tank, Intelligent Design is defined as follows:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection[i]

Immediately the skeptic’s dander is up. They will say: ID invokes an intelligent cause, which we all know is God. Since science only deals with natural causes, ID is not science. Of course, this line of reasoning misconstrues the methodology ID scientists might employ with the potential outcome of their research. But critics do not stop here. It is not uncommon for them to introduce two more red herrings: First; invoking an intelligent cause for life and the universe hinders scientific inquiry and discovery. Second, an intelligent cause is beyond scientific investigation and therefore adds nothing to our understanding of the world. I will show why these accusations are false using the following analogy.

Imagine a forensic scientist who is asked to examine a deceased man in order to find the cause of death. The cause may be natural, or it may be the result of foul play – an intelligent cause. Let’s further imagine the man died from a rare toxin that entered his bloodstream and worked its way up to his heart causing cardiac arrest. Finally, let’s assume the conclusion from forensics, in this case, is murder. If correct, then clearly the efficient and final cause leading to the man’s death was human intelligence and not natural processes. Does this mean the methods employed by the forensic scientist to determine the cause were unscientific? - Of course not. Does this mean further studies in medicine, heart disease or the circulatory system should grind to a halt because of his findings? – Obviously not. What about our understanding of the world? We might not gain scientific knowledge in this case, but we certainly learned something very important – the cause of the man's death.

The attempts by critics to cut ID off at the knees are hardly convincing. But perhaps the work ID proponents are doing really isn’t science. So let’s take a closer look and delve into ID theory to see if we can find something substantive. Foundational to ID is William Dembski’s concept of Specified Complexity which essentially denotes the two hallmarks of design: complexity and a specified pattern. Before I go into this in more detail, it is worth noting there is a vast amount of criticism, disinformation, and polemics on the web from those who loathe anything ID. But what you will not find in the criticism is any recognition of the fact design-detection is something all of us do regularly. If you find an arrowhead in the woods you immediately recognize it as something manmade and not the product of natural forces and erosion. Since on the average critic’s universe, our minds are nothing more than biochemical computers; what sort of processing do you suppose goes on when we see an effect and infer a design cause? Perhaps the process could be discovered, understood and formulated. That is precisely what Dembski and others are trying to do.

The Explanatory Filter

 

Dembski’s explanatory filter is configured to prevent false-positives by giving necessity and chance the benefit of the doubt. This does mean the filter allows false-negatives through, where design is not detected. A good bit of modern-art might not make it past chance for example. That is, the filter might not distinguish an intentional set of splashes of paint on a canvas from several buckets of paint falling off a ladder onto a canvas. Even given this limitation, it's better than a false positive. The following, which I call the mountain archer analogy, explains how the filter works. Imagine an archer shooting an arrow off the top of a mountain down into a valley ten square miles in size. Further, imagine the archer is so high up the mountain, the arrow could reach any spot in the valley below…

·         Hitting the valley is a high probability (HP) and follows necessarily from initial conditions and the law of gravity. The archer could fire over his shoulder, blindfolded, and still hit the valley.

 

·         Hitting one of a small number of trees in the valley the archer was not aiming for is an intermediate probability (IP) – not exactly what one might expect, but certainly within the reach of chance.

·         Hitting a stream running through the valley the archer was aiming for is a specified intermediate probability (Spec + IP) – the filter would chalk this up to chance and register a false negative even though this was a good shot and involved an intelligent cause. But the archer could have been blindfolded and got lucky.

·         Hitting a particular pebble the archer was not aiming for would be a small probability (SP) – but unspecified. There are lots of pebbles in the valley and even though hitting a particular one is a small probability event, it is not unlikely to hit a pebble.

·         Hitting a particular pebble that you had earlier painted a bulls-eye on is a specified small probability (Spec + SP) and would make it through the filter to design. The archer is either an incredible shot or a good magician – either way, we have a design-cause.[ii] No one in their right mind would attribute such an event to chance.

Probabilistic Resources

Dembski introduces the concept of probabilistic resources which include replicational and specificational resources. Probabilistic resources comprise the relevant ways an event can occur.[iii] Replicational resources are basically the number of samples taken. In the above analogy, it could be the number of shots fired. Specificational resources refer to the number of opportunities or ways to specify an event. Using the same analogy, it could be the number of pebbles with bulls-eyes (or some other mark indicating a target.) Obviously, the greater number of pebbles with targets and the greater number of shots fired, the greater the probability of hitting a target. 

Universal Probability Bound

If the marked pebble has a surface area of one square inch, then the odds of hitting it at random are roughly 1 in 2.5e11 or one in 250 billion[iv] - about 3000 times less likely than winning the Power Ball lottery with a single ticket. Even if it may seem impractical, critics would argue that this is still within the reach of chance. This is where Dembski introduces his universal probability bound (UPB) - a degree of improbability below which a specified event of that probability cannot reasonably be attributed to chance regardless of whatever probabilistic resources from the known universe are factored in.[v]  The UPB is 1e150 (one with a hundred and fifty zeros after it.) These odds, by taking the inverse, are so small; it would be about as likely to win the Power Ball twenty times in a row with one ticket each! Something even the contrarian realizes would be the result of intelligence and not luck (i.e. someone is cheating.)

But what does Dembski mean by: regardless of whatever probabilistic resources from the known universe are factored in? Here he is basing his probabilistic resources limit on the product of the number of elementary particles in the known universe (1e80) repeating every instant (1e45 per second [based on Plank time]) since the beginning of time in seconds (1e25) = 1e150. This seems like overkill, but apparently, you need this to overcome skepticism.[vi] But do we really need this much overhead? Take for example the estimated number of grains of sand on all of the beaches on earth. Say I traveled to a random beach and dug down and marked a single grain of sand. Now if you go to a random beach anywhere on earth, to a random spot, dig to a random depth (up to 5 meters), and grab a random grain, the odds of it being the same grain as the one I marked are estimated at one in 7.5e18. A rational person would never believe this would happen by chance. Even so, those odds are 131 orders of magnitude better than one in 1e150. The rational position is to realize there comes a point where theoretical possibility must give way to a practical possibility. The odds one in 1e150 are not zero, so a specified, small-probability event at this scale is not theoretically impossible, but it is rational to conclude its practical impossibility.

So far Dembski’s filter appears to be sound. But there is another criticism from detractors: affinities and constraints in the probability landscape can create the appearance of design completely by chance. Say for example the archer shot multiple arrows at random each with a long string of equal length. The resulting semicircle pattern on the valley below might be considered a design-cause since it is unlikely such a pattern would emerge at random. But this criticism obviously fails to recognize how in this case the probability landscape is greatly reduced by the constraint (the string) so that each event necessarily falls within a semicircle swath in the valley below. But perhaps there are laws governing the universe where affinities and constraints shape chaos into order. In a future post, I will try to tackle this and the other foundational principle of ID – irreducible complexity. It is when specified complexity meets the real world things get tricky.



[i] http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php#questionsAboutIntelligentDesign
[ii]This analogy does not take into account Dembski’s universal probability bound of 1e-150 which is over 138 orders of magnitude more stringent than the odds in this analogy

[iii]The Design Inference, William Dembski, pg.181

[iv] This assumes an equal probability of hitting any location across the valley below which in real life would not be the case – for example, if you could hit the corners you could likely land outside the valley as well.

[v] ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy (1999)

[vi]This seems straightforward in terms of replicational resources but I do question the validity of also including specificational resources here. Samples repeated as quickly as physically possible in every conceivable location in the universe since the big bang does seem to set an upper limit for replicational resources, but I do not see the relation to how specifications can be varied. Imagine every elementary particle in the universe has a piggyback random number generator cranking out 200-digit numbers one every Plank-time since the big bang. One would reasonably expect that the significand of the square root of two had not been generated out 200 places. But what about the irrational square roots of any positive integer and their significands to 200 places? I’m sure SETI would consider a binary transmission of 200 digits of the square root of two to have an intelligent cause – but what about the square root of 3 or 7, etc?

The Grand Design

by Brian 15. March 2011 21:18

When we think of apologetics, case-for arguments come to mind. But sometimes the apologetic enterprise is about guiding towards what is true by steering away from what is false. As C. S. Lewis wrote: Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.[i]I can think of no better example of this in recent months than a response to the book written by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Having just finished The Grand Design (TGD), the primary message of the book is still very clear in my mind: Science is the only means of discovery; philosophy is dead; God is unnecessary.

One would expect minimal impact from facile rehash sprinkled with the words quantum mechanics. But throw in the media support for Hawking and anything attempting to undermine theism these days, and I am not so sure. When the new philosophy is addressed by the greatest scientist in the world, you have mass appeal ad verecundiam. Though sales of TGD are not likely to surpass Hawking’s previous book, A Brief History of Time (which sold over nine million copies), many will read this new work and be influenced by it. And even though I’ve seen a good deal of criticism online, I am also seeing a lot of positive posts on Amazon and Goodreads. Christians might fail to recognize the potential impact here. A pastor of a large church could preach to a different congregation each week for his entire career and not convey a perspective to as many individuals as just one popular book like Hawking’s last one. Do the math!

To be fair to the authors, I should tell you parts of the book were good. I enjoyed the physics and cosmology overview as well as revisiting some of the moments from science history. I also appreciated the author’s strong affirmation of cosmic fine-tuning. But the rest of the book was downright sloppy and in this blog I intend to cover what I thought were the most egregious areas.

  • Traditional philosophy is dead. The oracle of the new philosophy is the scientist.
  • M-theory is our best hope for a unified theory
  • The Hartle-Hawking no boundary model does away with the cosmological argument
  • The multiverse does away with the teleological argument from fine tuning
  • Realism is dead. Antirealism is in.

Traditional philosophy is dead
Right at the outset the reader is hit with an astonishing paragraph:

“What is the nature of Reality? Where did all of this come from? Did the Universe need a creator? … Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.[ii]

Hawking has a Ph.D. in natural science and Mlodinow a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Although neither of the authors are experts in philosophy, we should expect men of their caliber to at least have a cursory understanding of the field. Two of his three opening questions are primarily philosophical! A good philosopher will draw from science in answering these questions, but it is naïve to think a good scientist could tackle them without philosophy. I was so taken aback by this opening statement my mind grasped for some kind of plausible explanation for their position. But after reading the book and wading through one bad assumptive argument after another, it does appear the authors wandered out of their league. Here is a sample of what they try to embark upon in this book relying heavily on (or falling squarely in) the domain of philosophy:

  • Model-dependent realism (which is an odd sort of scientism + antirealism)
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Are the laws of physics prescriptive or descriptive?
  • Scientific determinism, freewill and the reality of miracles
  • Ontological relativism and observer-created reality
  • Applying aesthetics in determining the superiority of theories
  • The extrapolation of Feynman’s sum over histories into an ontological model

Since there is practically no new science in TGD (it rehashes what has been known for years, and even decades), one can reasonably say the novel material in this book is almost entirely philosophical! So what audacity for the authors to start out with the claim, philosophy is dead.

They like M-theory; the no-boundary model and the multiverse
I will not attempt to argue the merits of m-theory, which has been around for about 15 years.  It is worth noting however, some of the world’s leading theorists in the field hold this work-in-progress very tentatively [iii]. The jury is still out for string theory as a whole and m-theory in particular. But then don’t take my word for it, see Hawking and Mlodinow’s own words:

“People are still trying to decipher the nature of m-theory. But that may not be possible. It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation.[iv]

Yet despite the tentativeness of ten-dimensional string theory and the uncertainty of the very nature of m-theory, the authors base a large part of their metaphysical worldview on it by applying their particular physical interpretations to these models with no observational support[v] and then gratuitously extrapolating.

In TGD we also see the 1983 Hartle-Hawking no-boundary proposal reheated. Again, there is nothing novel here. It is the same quantum gravity idea proposed in Hawking’s last book[vi].  Using imaginary numbers for the time variable allows Hawking to round off the beginning point of the big bang singularity. In TGD, the authors describe this by using the South Pole as an analogy. The South Pole is much like any other point they say, and nothing is south of the South Pole[vii].  Therefore, no absolute beginning to universe is necessary – problem solved. Even though a physical interpretation of this mathematical trick using imaginary numbers is tough to swallow, we’ll see how the authors believe model-dependent realism takes care of this. For more information on the Hartle-Hawking model and how it applies to the cosmological argument, check this out.

Then we get to Hollywood’s favorite from cosmology – the multiverse. Paul Davies’ treatment of this in The Goldilocks Enigma is far better than what is presented in TGD. So I won’t go into too much detail as you can read more about it here. I was surprised though by the author’s metaphysical extrapolation of Feynman’s mathematical path integration tool into an ontological model. They write (and note the tangential defensiveness):

Some people make a great mystery of this idea, sometimes called the multiverse concept, but these are just different expressions of the Feynman sum over histories[viii]…The multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.

Apart from the brash dive into metaphysics from the so-called new bearers of discovery, the physical interpretation is dubious at best. Simply because a particle could take more than one path from A to B, as described by Feynman’s path-integration, doesn’t mean a particle actually takes all possible paths.  Feynman and others might assume they do, for the purposes of applying the tool, but the paths are not observable. The idea a particle actually takes an infinite number of possible paths is just one physical interpretation of the mathematical model – and an odd one at that.

In the double–slit experiment Feynman’s ideas mean the particles take paths that go through only one slit or the other; paths that thread through the first slit, back out through the second slit, and then through the first one again; paths that visit the restaurant that serves that great curried shrimp, and then circle Jupiter a few times before heading home; even paths that go across the universe and back.[ix]  Really?!

The authors fail to mention other interpretations and leave the reader thinking Feynman’s sum over histories substantiates the multiverse. This get’s downright funny when you consider model-dependent realism which essentially says for Hawking, a particle actually does take all possible paths. But for someone else who interprets the same mathematical models differently, the particles do not – and neither interpretation can be said to be more real than the other!

So that I am not accused of argumentum ad ignorantiam let me be clear in saying that I am not claiming m-theory, Hawking’s quantum-gravity model and the multiverse are false because they haven’t been proven true. What I am saying is one cannot leap from tentative mathematical models to one’s preferred physical interpretation with no observational support and then leap again to profound metaphysical conclusions without doing so hastily and gratuitously. And you certainly cannot do it without entering the realm of philosophy!That is precisely what has been done in TGD.

Let’s get real
Hawking and Mlodinow’s model-dependent realism was by far the most bizarre part of the book for me. Here’s how they describe it:

 

It [model-dependent realism] is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other, rather, we are free to use whichever model is more convenient…According to model-dependent realism; it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.[x]

 

The authors give an example by comparing the 13.7-billion-year-old-universe model versus the young-universe (literal Genesis interpretation) model and say the old-universe model is more useful, but still, neither model can be said to be more real than the other[xi]. Ha! I’d love to hear how the new-atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins feel about the idea their perspective is no more real than the creationist’s! But seriously, the authors come across disingenuous here. Are we really supposed to believe Hawking and Mlodinow do not consider their interpretation more real than the creationist’s? Furthermore, the authors appear to equivocate with their terms: model, theory, physical-theory and hypothesis. They seem to use them interchangeably. But regardless, the statement: If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other, seems to disregard other factors for weighing a proposed explanation for an observed phenomenon, like: simplicity, scope, fruitfulness, conservatism along with testability[xii]. Such evaluation would involve meta-science, which may be why it is overlooked.

The fact is, one of the two hypotheses; the 13.7-billion-year or the literal-6-day-creation, is more real than the other! A careful reading of the author’s statement “one cannot be said to be more real” might lead one to conclude they are being somewhat reasonable by suggesting the problem is merely epistemic – that is to say, one is more real, we just do not know which. But that is not what they are claiming. Hawking and Mlodinow are saying neither model is more real ontologically. The authors are antirealists and reject the notion of an observer-independent world[xiii]. There is only one reason I can think of for them to choose this route: They recognize the huge gulf between their tentative mathematical models and the profound metaphysical statements they make. The only way to bridge this gulf is to do away with realism altogether and then judge their models using a narrow scientific perspective. By disregarding the philosophy of science, they can ignore qualities like conservatism which would compare and contrast their metaphysical conclusions with other knowledge-systems to see how well they hold up.

In conclusion, Hawking and Mlodinow set out on a very ambitious journey to make their case for what they believe are the answers to some very profound metaphysical problems. Why is there something rather than nothing? The authors do not answer this and only present one possible view as to why there is something rather than something else[xiv]. Is God unnecessary? According to TGD, He should be replaced by some sort of cosmic life principle, a First-Law, Physics (with a capital ‘P’); or a Force which is more at home with Star Wars than reality. Has cosmic fine-tuning been addressed? No. Although the book does a good job in emphasizing the problem, they leave the reader with the dubious multiverse – a hypothesis Roger Penrose has said is worse than useless in explaining the anthropic fine-tuning of the universe. Finally, just when I thought postmodernism was dead, it is resurrected by scientists!



[i] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1949), 50

 

[ii] Location 42 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[iii] Go to http://afterall.net/clippings/491891 for excerpts from Roger Penrose. Also see Paul Davies in the Goldilocks Enigma.

 

[iv] Location 1179 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[v] Roger Penrose - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/bdf3ae28-b6e9-11df-b3dd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1FVNqJmyB “M-theory enjoys no observational support whatever”

 

 

[vi] A Brief History of Time pg. 136

 

[vii] Location 1361 of 2387 Kindle edition (also in A Brief History of Time pg. 138)

 

[viii] Location 1383 and 1659 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[ix] Location 731 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[x] Location 61, 436 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[xi] Location 483 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[xii] Schick, Theodore; Vaughn, Lewis (2002)

 

[xiii] Location 351, 412 of 2387 Kindle edition

 

[xiv] They never address creation from real nothingness – a quantum vacuum is not nothing

About the author

I am a Christian, husband, father of two daughters, a partner and lead architect of EasyTerritory, armchair apologist and philosopher, writer of hand-crafted electronic music, avid kiteboarder and a kid around anything that flies (rockets, planes, copters, boomerangs)

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